Skirting issues

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Even in the multifaceted blogosphere, the tu-tu times is something of an anomaly. No chronicling of obsessions, no armchair quarterbacking, no links to breaking news stories, no rumor-mongering, no marketing.

A year in the planning, the blog covers the one-shot art insurrection of two anonymous Detroiters who targeted the city’s controversial “streetlight shrouds.”

Installed two years ago at a cost of $1.2 million, the shrouds were supposed to protect the wiring inside — and to improve the look of — 21,000 Detroit streetlights.

Back when Metro Times first covered the issue, Detroit deputy chief operating officer Al Fields told us the shrouds were generating “positive input from the neighborhoods,” and that the initiative was having “an effect on the visuals.”

In reality, the shrouds could be raised with ease, rendering them useless in protecting copper wiring from scavengers. And as for appearance, after just one snowfall many of the plastic covers were cracked wide-open by the plows rolling past.

The artistic response to this appeared last month when, in the wee hours of Monday, Nov. 7, these two tu-tu pranksters girdled about 20 downtown light poles with ballet skirts, transforming the covers from gray and dull to pink and tulle, adding another layer of absurdity to the whole fiasco. The decorative garb lasted about 24 hours. By the time polls opened on Election Day, they were gone.

But for three weeks afterward, the duo stuffed Metro Times’ own news boxes and racks in spots across the area with 2,000 facsimiles of our paper’s cover page picturing the tutu-covered shrouds.

The blog was used to broaden exposure even further, with the artists posting the faux covers online and then extending the parody by taking the text of news stories and substituting the words “to,” “too,” and “two” with the word “tu-tu,” thus lampooning “the $1.Tu-Tu million project intended tu-tu protect streetlight poles.”

The teasing tone tickled our funny bones tu-tu much.

Asked about the guerrilla art attack and the purpose behind it, the artist we talked to explains, “It seems a little obsessive about one small issue, maybe, but it’s just one thing that is one of the most ridiculous among the broader issues, because so much money was spent, they didn’t work, it was ridiculous. So it’s something to poke fun at and raise awareness about. The main thing was to raise awareness about how dysfunctional things are. They’re just a cover-up of a problem. People are stealing this wiring because they’re poor and they need to sell it. That they’re resorting to stealing it from light poles is sad.”

This unusual use of a blog to document guerrilla art has not inspired a lot of online discussion. Only two comments have been posted to the blog.

“Unfortunately, this was the first blog that I’ve ever been a part of,” our tu-tu source says. “The comments mostly came in via e-mail, so that was a little unfortunate. But maybe there will be a comeback at a different time. See what happens.”

Despite the lack of online discussion, the duo seems satisfied with their effort. As our tutu source told us, “First and foremost, before making any political statement, it was just to make people laugh and smile. The first reaction from everyone was smiles.

“That was just such a great thing.”

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About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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