Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Devil's in the Details

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Hey, Details. Don't do us any favors, OK?

A "Critical Eye" piece in Details recently offered a handful of breezy, drive-by puff pieces on some of our local movers and shakers. Entitled "The Rust Belt Revival: What's Happening in Detroit, Michigan," the brief piece has some photos and profiles of some of the usual suspects, including Mitch Cope, Jerry Paffendorf, Phil Cooley, Nathan Faustyn and more. No doubt it was an attempt to show the world all the interesting things happening in Detroit.

Except Details' "Critical Eye" apparently doesn't see anything black.

That's right, a piece about the comeback of Detroit, a city that is overwhelmingly African-American, doesn't feature so much as one black person. Even the people in the background of the photos are white.

And in Detroit, all white ain't alright.

In fact, the oversight is so glaring that the piece is rated "Zero Stars" and capped with overwhelmingly negative commentary from readers.

One reader named Samanthabkln posted, "According to the US Census Bureau, this is Detroit's demographic breakdown as of 2010: White persons, 10.6 percent ... Black persons, 82.7 percent ... Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, 6.8 percent ... So why is it that you are only interested in covering 10.6% of Detroit's population? What about the people of color that represent 89.5% of the city — and who are doing a lot to contribute to the growth and revival of the city?"

Another problem is that whoever wrote this doesn't know the history of Detroit — an era we should probably call BC (Before Corktown). You might also know it as the "blank slate" school of reporting on Detroit. In other words, before these new local institutions cropped up, Detroit was an empty wasteland without much of its own culture. For example, of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the article happily burbles this nonsense:

THE MUSEUM THAT CHANGED A CITY: When it opened in 2006 in a former car showroom, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit signaled a radical approach to urban development: With its deliberately raw interiors and an exterior swathed in graffiti, MOCAD acknowledged, rather than obscured, the Motor City's rough history.

First of all, what the fuck is so radical about repurposing a space? Isn't that what happened in, um, Soho and Tribeca? (As to how the museum "signaled" this, we don't understand. The museum doesn't have a signaling system, to the best of our knowledge.) As one poster pointed out: "Hey, sometimes a museum is just a museum and it doesn't 'change a city.' Get over yourself."

This nonsense continues:

It has since helped foster the growth of one of the country's most thriving arts communities ...

Is that so? I think even the people at MOCAD would be surprised to hear of their work fostering the growth of Detroit's art community. After all, the space was set up mostly as a much-needed landing pad for international contemporary artists to show their work to Detroit, with local artists only given occasional attention, to help keep the museum's mission pure.

Let's be clear: We love MOCAD. We have friends who work there. We love Phil Cooley. We share drinks with Nathan Faustyn and Brandon Walley. We are amused by Jerry Paffendorf. Mitch Cope is a great guy. And we love this city.

But if we see one more drive-by piece like this, the next reporter who comes to town is getting a Detroit-style ass-kicking.

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