Kitchen folk

Jul 13, 2005 at 12:00 am

It may be difficult to see the shape of Detroit when you’re living here, but it’s pretty nice to know that in such culturally diverse places as Geneva, Utrecht, Barcelona and Bangkok, local people are getting to know where and how we really live. We can thank young artists Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas for that. Two years ago, the Barcelona-based husband-and-wife duo created projects about our city. This month, they are exhibiting one of those works, “Yarning Detroit,” at About Art Related Activities, a contemporary art center in Bangkok.

Bergman is a native Detroiter married to Salinas, who hails from La Rioja, Spain. Their collaborative creative efforts are based on documenting cultural practices in a folkloric tradition, including ideas about contemporary popular culture, and take the form of drawings, spatial installations, sound installations and electro-acoustic music.

In addition to these ongoing projects, the couple operates a record label, Lucky Kitchen, recording and releasing works by artists and musicians who delve into found sound, electronic music and post-jazz forms.

In “Yarning Detroit,” Bergman and Salinas portray the peaceful lives of ordinary local citizens. Theirs is an image of a city that works, plainly, for its people, instead of an overblown myth of some Gotham City gone wrong. The installation features interviews with Detroiters who have benefited from the regional chapter of Habitat for Humanity. According to Bergman, Carl McGruder Sr., a 71-year-old sign painter, was the first owner of a Habitat-sponsored refurbished home here. In the exhibition, Salinas and Bergman show images of McGruder’s commercial painting and a portrait of the man sitting in his new home at his piano, in front of a unique set of wooden wall shelves that he built to hold his wife’s quaint collection of salt and pepper shakers. This portrait emphasizes his pride in his new place. “River Rouge” the duo’s other Detroit-based project, is another installation with sound recordings and drawings, based on the River Rouge area.

Bergman’s and Salinas’ art is about the tradition of folklore itself as much as it is about the tale that’s told. This is why their work is so strong. Any great storyteller knows to forget all the fluff — depth of character is what makes the story. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see the attraction to Detroit. For more info on Lucky Kitchen, check out

Rebecca Mazzei is the arts editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]