Why do I have this unsettling feeling that what I'll lay eyes on this weekend will slam me down and blow me away.
In a couple days, I'll be barraged by the moving image. I'll soak in a shadow play (the oldest storytelling device and the first "moving image," on cave walls), an experimental horror film, an international art broadcast and a multimedia audiovisual noise show.
This synchronicity is, in part, the work of Art Detroit Now. Thursday, May 8, through Saturday, May 10, one hundred galleries, universities and museums in a dozen cities across the metro Detroit area will host special events and opening receptions to promote unity in the arts. Endless choices turn each of us into a de facto curator of our own weekend.
We have some influential art players to thank — print collector Marc Schwartz, gallery owner Susanne Hilberry, Oakland University Gallery Director Dick Goody and CCS Center Galleries Director Michelle Perron, to name a few. They joined together a couple of years ago with a mission to revitalize our art, artists and galleries. Re-framing the perception of a "small," "fractured," "disparate" art scene was Step 1.
"Sometimes I feel like nothing's going on, and we have our hibernation period," says artist Nicola Kuperus, who's performing at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Friday night. "I love it when there are things happening. Of course, it all happens at once."
In a way, Art Detroit Now makes it harder, rather than easier, to cover the scene, since so many events occur simultaneously across three counties, rather than on one street or even in one neighborhood. But the few folks who hop religiously to almost every event in town probably aren't the target audience. It's the rest of metro Detroit — those who don't usually check out art, who might be buoyed by the idea of being part of something bigger — that Art Detroit Now is after.
Cruise at your leisure or participate in a guided, costumed gallery crawl by bike, organized by The Center for Creative eXchange and Detroit Bikes! The tour begins in front of the DIA at noon Saturday, traveling to galleries and shops in Eastern Market, New Center East, Woodbridge, Cass Corridor and the Cultural Center before returning to the museum at approximately 4 p.m. (www.centerforcreativeXchange.org). Russell Industrial Center, meanwhile, will run a shuttle service to get patrons across town. (Call 313-363-8333 for details.)
Art Detroit Now is moving in the right direction, albeit not very far yet (let's be honest, all they had to do was decide on a logo, call a bunch of places and print posters, and they've been a group for two years). But projects are under discussion: a major public art commission or possibly an art fair. Real progress can be made here, more than just with a tri-county cocktail party, to electrify our exhausted art economy.
FRIDAY, MAY 9
Detroit Institute of Arts' lecture hall
5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900. 7 and 8:30 p.m., $8
It's distinctly American that nature scares us. Think about it: While most classic Italian horror films take place in huge interiors — a castle, movie theater, boarding school, hotel or mansion — American slasher flicks are set outdoors, at Camp Crystal Lake or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's rural compound, for instance. Just as Italians feel oppressed by gargantuan symbols of their history (the Pantheon or the Coliseum), our uncharted territory has always threatened us.
Nicola Kuperus grew up in the thumb of Michigan and recalls that when she and her friends wanted to freak themselves out they would just wander into the woods. That means the idea for a distinctly "Midwestern horror" was wading around in a dark corner of her mind for a few decades before her creative partnership with Adam Miller brought it ashore.
Inspired by full-color photos that Kuperus snapped to accompany a new release of three 7-inches, the trio ADULT. (Kuperus, Miller and a computer) presents the 37-minute experimental short horror Decampment. It's loosely about "a woman's transmigration to a society of deceit." The showing will be accompanied by a live ADULT. soundtrack: claustrophobic and nerve-racking.
"It has been this strange progression moving in this direction," Kuperus says. "I think we both have been disenchanted with everything about music production — how you have to wait a year before something comes out and then it ends up getting leaked right before it's released, and then you have to do all this press. What's really fun with this film," she says, "is that we're controlling all that. The first time you see it, is the first time you'll see it."
SATURDAY, MAY 10
555 Gallery's Red Room Lounge
884 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-894-4202. 6 p.m., free
"Communicating and understanding what is happening on a global level is one of my greatest inspirations," says artist Kt Andresky, organizer of Press/Play, who often collaborates through mail art and interactive art. "I have been using new technology within my art for the past three years to document simultaneous current events and synchronized happenings." Andresky reached out to 24 artists representing cities around the world (Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, LA, Portland, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rome and others), inviting them to prepare a five-minute broadcast through the Internet telephone program Skype, documenting their respective scenes. These transmissions, which will air live at 555, allow us to grasp, at least for a moment, that we are each an integral part of a creative whole. And there's no better proof than the event kick-off at 5:15 p.m., when, through a Web stream, artist Aadika Singh performs live in New York, projecting her art and herself onto Andresky's body in Detroit.
REHEARSAL FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF MU
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622. 9 p.m., $5
In conjunction with the opening of the much-anticipated Considering Detroit and Considering Architecture: Sustainable Designs from Detroit, Monster Island (currently musicians Cary Loren, Matt Smith, Mary Alice, Aliccia Berg and Jamie Easter) presents a shadow play, with a light show and live accompaniment.
Mu, Loren explains, comes from the writings of Madame Blavatsky, who places it in the Pacific some 50,000 or more years ago: "She says that civilization grew out of root races and beings took the form of humans, then the island sunk and the groups inhabited nearby islands. We're telling the history of shadow theater from prehistory to the island of Mu to the beginning of cinema — how it traveled through different cultures like Indonesia, India and China, and was revived in 1890s in Paris when the word 'avant-garde' was first used in a text written about shadow theater."
DEMONS WITH RODGER STELLA
SICK LLAMA, HELICOPTAIRE SANGLANTE APETECHNOLOGY AND OTHERS
Bohemian National Home
3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606. Doors at 9 p.m., $5
They turned around and around again like looping tapes, walking the rocks as if traversing their own art.
Artist Alivia Zivich says the new imagery presented by visual music group Demons (Nate Young, Zivich and Steve Kenney) incorporates footage from their trip to see Robert Smithson's elemental earthwork "Spiral Jetty" in Utah, shot while they were on tour last November. Zivich poetically describes the experience: "The high-intensity sunlight of the West makes for a scene that doesn't seem of this planet, a stark white saltscape against the black rocks of the jetty."
The prolific artists/anthropologists in Demons always have some new, strange spell to cast on the audience through a sensual collage of sound and on-screen imagery. They piece it together on the spot with vintage synths and vintage photos, junkyard organs and trashy videos, finagled radios and mucked-up paintings. Saturday presents a special collaboration with Birmingham, Ala., musician Rodger Stella on his Moog Theremin. Sick Llama (Heath Moerland of Fag Tapes fame) and Helicoptere Sanglante (Parisian Hendrik Hegray) also perform, as well as locals Tyvek (angular no-wave rock), Apetechnology (robotic sculpture and animatronics by artist Chip Flynn), and DJs Brad Hales and Smokedawg.[email protected]