Motor City Cribs

Tim Caldwell is a Detroit pop culture historian, no doubt. In a city that casts its amazing history off like this week's trash, a guy like Caldwell keeps colorful bits of our past from becoming incinerator smoke.

Caldwell, among many other things, is the urban spelunker of Detroit. For decades the dude's been going into open abandoned buildings to discover what artifacts live within. His obsession with exploring abandoned buildings started at the tender age of 8 when the youngster went through the old Wyandotte City Hall shortly before it was demolished (and got a little talking-to from Downriver cops).

Tim's memorabilia collecting tends to focus on the weird or cool aspects of pop culture ("the weirder the better," cracks Caldwell) — we're talking Detroit-centric cast-off treasures involving movies, music, bizarro photography, horror, magic, burlesque, fire-and-brimstone gospel, wacky business signs and folk art. His Hamtramck apartment is, essentially, a Detroit history museum unto itself — one crammed with humor.

Caldwell is also an accomplished collage artist who, to this day, still uses old-school cut-and-paste techniques (no Photoshop here, Jack!). After bailing on what was then called the Center for Creative Studies, Caldwell began making his Cal Schenkel-inspired collages for use as fliers in the height of Detroit's early '80s hardcore explosion for pioneering acts such as Negative Approach and the Necros. Not surprisingly, the former Film Threat associate editor is also a video artist whose layered projection of film clips have accompanied performances by Derrick May, Carl Craig and the Demolition Doll Rods.

Though some might accuse him of being a culture-vulture, Tim smirks, "Somebody's gotta be the undertaker — and I'm not afraid of rats, snakes, spiders or bums."

See Tim Caldwell's art at the Chopper Show Detroit (which he's also curating) on Saturday, August 9 at the Corktown Tavern, 1617 Michigan Avenue, Detroit. Go to for more info.

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