Practical steps

I said last time that I would be working on a response to all the countless influences and occurrences here in Detroit. Well, here is how I am going to do it.
The purpose of our nine weeks here in Detroit is... in fact I don't need to explain that, it's written in the box on the right: shrinkage, urban models, and all that. Make of that what you will.
But what should all that mean for me personally? What sort of practical contribution should I be making to the debate? How am I to repay the investment Expodium has made in sending me here?
These questions have been torturing me to an unreasonable degree during the last few weeks - and to some extent, ever since I got here, and even before.
Jonas asked me something similar when we were in Chicago: what exactly is the point of foreign residencies, aside from the obvious gain in experience (and free travel) for the participating artist(s)? What do people living in the place visited have to gain from it?
My answer at the time was that even simply being in contact with like-minded individuals from other countries is a benefit in itself. For example, I live these days in the Netherlands, despite that not being my home country. I am quite certain that I never would have even considered making the move there if I had not come into contact with a great many foreigners whilst living in Scotland. At the end of the day, I was tired of being the only native in a conversation; I wanted to be the exotic one. And life has gone pretty well since then.
But it is not enough for me to simply be the quaint European on the block for a few months. I want to do something meaningful with the experiences I have undergone here, and do it before I go. Which gives me just three weeks.
I have been thinking about what sort of form that would take. I have decided to produce another performance of a similar sort to the work that I have made in Utrecht, in the Museumkwartier last year and Kanaleneiland earlier this year. The free-form nature of such an outdoor event, which gives me the opportunity to give my very personal response to a number of things which have come to mind, seems well-suited to the environment here. Additionally, there are many interesting public spaces which would lend themselves well to such a piece.
Of course, the problem lies in selecting and arranging the use of such spaces. And it is here that I have met with a lot of frustration recently.
I really wanted to do something at the nearby General Motors plant, which lies on the border between Detroit and Hamtramck. However, trying to communicate effectively with such a large corporation has been an exercise in futility. After three weeks, numerous e-mails and phone calls, and a visit in person, I finally received a clear answer today: no, can't be done. I could expend yet more effort trying to reverse this, but objectively speaking, my energies can better be directed at other things.

I have had slightly more success with another venue - the huge book warehouse of John K. King on West Lafayette Street. I sent them an e-mail yesterday, and today made a personal call at the store. The lady I spoke to was very friendly, said she'd read my mail, and would contact me at the beginning of next week. We'll see.
In the meantime, I'm writing, writing, writing. It is slowly beginning to take on some sort of coherent form. With luck, the coming two weeks will be more fruitful than the last.


Interesting links about Detroit...

I guess we could also see this blog as an intro to Detroit for outsiders and for
European artists in residence to come...so I will just post some links to the history of
Detroit Techno and the city in general for people who wants to know more.
For people who are about to come, already here in body or in spririt.

Here a link about the Detroit Electronic Music festival...sometimes called Movement,
at other times it is called something else. I came a bit too late for this one, usually held in the end of may, could maybe be great start for the 9 week air period.
Knowing that for a LOT of Euro people who wants to come here, Techno is one of the great reasons...
This link is nice because it is just one liners and gossip from all the Detroitian Techno legends who with tears in their eyes could for the first time make mom and pop understand what a monster that they have unleashed on the rest of the world. This was the first time, that average people in Detroit could kind of grasp how HUGE techno is outside of Detroit (and USA).


A nice documentary about Techno music (from Detroit).
With a lot of insider gossip and jealousy
which makes you understand a lot about the city and the scene.
Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May got to become best friends after Kevin knocked Derrick May out with a couple of punches!!!!
Funny to see how slick Derrick is, you can kind of understand that someone wants to punch him out, but also very charming of course.

(part 1 of 9)

Underground Resistance documentary (10 min),
Where you get a feel for their anger with the world of corruption and decay
but also the love for the music
and the political dedication and general passion...VERY good!


A very nice and well produced video documentary about the legendary Richie Hawtins
(aka Plastikman from Windsor, across the river...). Very informative about Detroit techno
and scene...very good!
Also nice is the different vibe of white boy Richie and Mad Mike Banks,
They compliment each other to tell the same story...but different!!!!


Ok French documentary on Detroit Techno, but everyones speaks English...


Critically acclaimed docu. about the rise and fall of Detroit by Julian Temple, who also did
a couple of very famous Sex Pistols film...very beautiful!


Johnny Knoxville (of Jackass fame) tried to go against the grain and NOT do a classical film about Detroit...i.e. "ruin porn", crime, decay and how BAD things are in Detroit.
But an uplifting Detroit LIVES! film...
(by the way "ruin porn" is not what I first thought it was...it means people who are obssessed with taking photos of ruins in Detroit (usually Europeans or defenitely "out of towners",
much despised by the locals, who are quite sensitive about it...and quite sensitive about a LOT of things.
Despite Johnny's good intentions to "do the right thing" it STILL backfired...
The Detroitians were pissed off that most people who were interviewed for this film where "New York Hipster"people with money who just moved in to poor Detroit to escape the high loft rents of Williamsburg.

Oh well...at least Larry Mongo is in the film, he IS from Detroit and never left!
Even people FROM Detroit who lived in New York for two years!!! and then came back are suspect in the eyes of the die hard Detroitians
They're a VERY hard crowd to please...

I am trying to tell people in Detroit to chill out a bit and not be soooo pissed off all the time.
In Amsterdam we also get tons of American tourists coming to smoke pot with a VERY one sided interest in what Holland has to offer. If we would go and be pissed off in Amsterdam the whole time about it, we wouldn't have any energy left!

Detroit people needs to relax and accept that the ruins are unique in the western world and that that is partly the reason why people come here in the first place (and spend money)
so chill out a bit and just go with the flow!

We are all very sorry that we were not born in Detroit and that we weren't here when the car industry broke down, or that we haven't lived here since 1973 or...or...or...
We apologize for ALL that, but we will still come to Detroit to take photos of your ruins.

So BACK OFF!!!!...local angry guy....You're blocking the view of the ruins!!!!



Letting it all in

This week, Jonas has placed some really great posts, very sharp and to the point. This is a hard act to follow. Of the course the longer I leave it the more difficult it will become - so here goes.
I am not at all interested in writing about the art world, the music world, or what either of these things has to do with Detroit. As I have said, Jonas is doing a great job, but not one that I am going to assist with.

Instead, I am going to mention some personal reflections on being here. Yesterday, I said to our visiting friends from Chicago that I felt as if Detroit was a syrup in which you needed to allow yourself to be soaked, seeped, for some time in order to be able to make some sense of it. This is about as good a description of my time here as I can think of.
You must let it attack you with its wilful indifference, let people on the street shout at you with their off-key, mixed-up, half-bullshit, half-profound, loud-mouthed statements. Get irritated by everything, everyone, yourself most of all. Get impatient. Eat unhealthy. Get sick and disgusted, get drunk, fall asleep, wake up, make coffee and try again. Be humble. Listen to everything, everyone, feel the reality of others. Make it your own.
It has become even more unbearably hot and humid than it already was. This gives a special quality to the streets during the day, since they have become even more deserted than before. And it creates an extra reason to be outside, alone, hearing the noise of your own shoes on the pavement, with a sound which does not echo but which is immediately absorbed in the thick summer air.
I have had enough of the van. Instead I am cycling as much as possible. This is not a very popular way of travelling here, which makes it all the more worthwhile - and in this heat, the cool breeze against your body as you go is certainly to be preferred to sitting in a vehicle.
On a bike, you become much more aware of the relative silence of the city, of its emptiness, and of its particular smells - cinders, flowers, decay, grilled meat, dust, trees, stale frying fat, cigarette smoke, hot asphalt, burning metal, rubber, gasoline, and disinfectant. Some of these will overlap with any American city, others with any city anywhere, but the particular combination, or better yet composition - for order, relative frequency, distance, and intensity are important - is essentially Detroit. You must feel it repeat, like the wheels of a train over worn rails, a mantra, something which repeats its own name until it has no meaning beyond a sound, and a dull sensation of a thing which has become slowly and stealthily familiar. And then you are in the belly of the beast.
The city drifts by in flashes of Wendy's, CVS, “Checks Cashed”, Comerica, “No standing this side of sign” attached to one of countless bent signposts, all of which are constructed from the same form of perforated steel, with a continuous series of holes from top to bottom at (I suppose) one-inch intervals, giving the streetscape the temporary appearance of something made from a giant grown-up construction kit, as if the real thing will be constructed later based upon this prototype. Here good road, there bad road - watch out all the time. Concrete, of the sort which has been filled with rough aggregate, crumbles as biscuit, as if it was made to do so, as if its aesthetic qualities as ruin were to be given equal consideration to those when new; so designed Albert Speer the Berlin of the thousand-year Reich. With some success.
Passing through downtown on the evening of a ball game, and I am surprised and irritated by the presence of meat-headed white guys, heading purposefully for the Hard Rock Café. “From the suburbs” is what people here would say of them, rolling their eyes and feeling good about themselves. I guess that's okay.

I have shaved all the hair off my head. Partly to deal with the heat, and partly because I felt the desperate need to do something; I feel as if the city's sticky lethargy is infecting me in some untreatable way. As I did it, I felt like laughing like a maniac.
I'm still slightly shocked by my own appearance in the mirror. I feel a little as if I have unleashed some unpredictable monster, as if bad things may come of this. I can't place this individual on a bike in Amsterdam, passing under the trees in the Vondelpark, buying vegetables at the Ten Katemarkt, on the Noordpont staring at the barges heading for IJmuiden. I seem too vicious for that, too hard, brutalised, suspicious of compromise. I am trying to construct a value system for myself here which can fit with what it is all around me, and yet still be my own. I need to find some new form of English; the one I know is not fit for purpose, full of useless words and lacking in all the right adjectives. Meanwhile it's just sounds. Sounds and heat, sweat in my eyes, silence, frustration and the passage of time. I am working on a response.


My (THE) problem with community art...and why William Burroughs EAT Superflex any day of the week!!!

Last night our new found friends from Chicago came to visit us in our little house on Farnsworth street in Detroit.
We talked a lot about art,
and again (as it often does here in the midwest) the discussion turned to the virtues (or not) of community art and audience participation. Kevin was talking about an artist colleague of his who did a project where she would install plastic containers at the toilets of friends and collect their left overs to produce manure, which she would then later return in a cup, ready to be used in the nearest flower pot.

We talked about how LONG she would be able to sustain this practice and if that was important or not for the project.
Or if it was maybe enough that the art worked on a more metaphorical, symbolic level.
Apparently this woman was also a great communicator and had managed to get support from powerful people (Patricia Arquette) in high places (Hollywood).
Surely this could be a very useful, green and worthy art project with many possible positive benefits for mankind and the planet as a whole?

And it is usually around this point in the discussions surrounding community art that I fall asleep spiritually and mentally .
And it's not ONLY because I am a mean spirited, jaded cynic, who can't value utilitarianism.
But because it is sOoOOoOoooOOooooo different and alien from my own experience of art and culture.
If I look at my own experience of culture I think about what was important to me, what changed me as a human, and what helped me to develop.

I value and respect Greenpeace, the Red Cross (and the Crescent) or Médecins Sans Frontières
just as much as the next guy. I just don't think it's art, and I don't think that they see it as art either. It would take some truly hardcore relational aesthetics guy or girl to claim that as an art piece.

There were very few utilitarian reasons for me to listen to Sex Pistols or Throbbing Gristle,
or read books by William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski or Jack Kerouac,
or laugh myself silly reading Robert Crumb....au contraire!
There was NOTHING healthy about it.
Which of course was partly the reason why I got into it in the first place.
Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that people listen to Death Metal or experimental Jazz for any hidden health reasons?

But it DID help me to become a more complex person, it did challenge my beliefs and it did force me to open up to new ways of looking at the world.

And it DID fuck up my mental hard disk and after that I can't process information and ideas in the same way as I did before and I think that's all you can ask of art.

Here in the midwest (as I have written about before) a lot of the little support there is for art, is tied to educational projects.
I have no problem with this, I TOO teach, but I don't call it art!

In the 60's and 70's there were huge debates in Europe and USA.
Usually from a leftist perspective.
Wasn't it time for the artists to FINALLY get off the fence and make themselves useful for the workers and join the revolution?
Every artist and writer joined either the Communist party or the RAF, except Salvador Dali who just wanted to make preeeeeecious GOooOoOOOLD!

"Make yourself useful, go into Bijlmer and help some poor Suriname kids".
Was the mantra (until very recently) from Dutch politicians who felt that maybe they could finally get some economical and social returns from the artist parasites that they had subsidized for much too long.
I am already doing this by the way, but for other more "culturally perverted" (=sound) reasons.

Now the calls come from the cultural right
(or maybe the cultural nihilists would be a more correct description).
Go and entertain Henk and Ingrid in Apeldoorn
(the Suriname kids are of course out of fashion).

I don't mind being useful or utilitarian, but I rather call that teaching, lectures or workshops
to be able to keep my art free, dirty and perverted.

And if you haven't paid attention, most poor, uneducated people ALSO prefers their culture dirty and nasty.
See Baile Funk in Brazil and Gangster Rap in the States, aso...
And they find it condescending when we honkies come up with another well meaning
Do Good-er project in the Bijlmer, Rio or Detroit.

So let's keep REAL culture SICK n NASTY and leave the Do Good-erism to Greenpeace.
And if you absolutely can't restrain yourself and just HAVE TO DO SOME GOOD...
just call it a workshop and you're off the hook....

Peace Out!!!!

Jonas Ohlsson reporting form Detroit thanks to Expodium

Clarifications for Non Dutch/European people...and idiots!
Superflex=Danish art collective who builds water wells in Arica.
William Burroughs=American, anti drug and homo writer.
RAF= Rote Armee Fraktion (German leftist terrorist group from the 70's)
Suriname= Dutch ex. slave colony country, north of Brazil, now independant and free.
Henk & Ingrid=an imaginable ideal couple of "normal Dutch people" in Holland, used by right wing manipulator Gert Wilders in his propaganda against multiculturalism.
Apeldoorn=small town in Holland, representing "white trash country" in this text...
as opposed to...
Bijlmer="The Watts" of Holland, south east suburb ( ex. ? ghetto) of Amsterdam consisting of 100 000 people, 80% black, mostly from Suriname, Aruba, Curacao, Saba (all ex. slave colonies of Holland) and Nigeria and Ghana. Plus some honkies....
Médecins Sans Frontières=Doctors Without Borders.
Who for the last three decennias have fought a global, bloody turf war against NWW=
Nurse With Wound.


More Techno and Race...

So last night we went to see Underground Resistance play for free in Highland park.
They did a very jazzy set under the name Timeline, with a saxophone player and
a slick, flowy guy on keyboards. It was a nice mix of techno and free jazz. After that the
revelation of the night came on, DJ Al Ester. Swinging and dancing like a madman,
he played a very housey set, with singing divas and all, but the way he mixed it, and how
much fun he had with the FX's and taking out the high's, mid's and low's in a super synchronized
set was a true joy! After that the highlight of the night was supposed to be Juan Atkins
"the Godfather of techno" as he was announced, who was part of the legendary "Belleville Three", the other two being Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. But this was a sad, sad affair to have to watch, Juan couldn't mix two tracks
together to save his life, and he dropped records on the floor, had the needle skipping back and forth on a track for bout 20 seconds (which is a loooooooong time if you're DJ ing in front of a extremely knowledgeable crowd (I am not talking about me here...hehehe)).
A couple of times UR's manager Cornelius, who was the MC of the night between the acts had to try to save his ass, by encouraging people AND Juan to get into it again. Juan just looked lost and looked as if he was suffering more than we did. I TOO mix like shit, but at least I do it because I think that is they way it should sound, it is part of my "vision" (or lack of it) and I am really into it while DJing, but with Juan it was just painful. He seemed to be totally somewhere else. He fucked up a reunion of "the Belleville 3" at Awakenings in Amsterdam, by mixing like crap and just not being present. It was extra sad because you could really feel the potential of the music, the track selection was awesome, his own mega hits
as Cybotron "alleys of your mind" and "cosmic cars" and Kraftwerks "numbers" boomed out of the system, and for a moment you felt "wow" this is why I came to Detroit, to be able to hear Juan Atkins pump Kraftwerk into a beautiful summer night at Highland park. But the overwhelming feeling was one of sadness. Well at least Underground Resistance and DJ Al Ester was blockrocking!!! After that we went to the incredibly sleazy temple bar in the most run down part of town, an AMAZING bar! So the night was still perfect in the end.

I was talking with a Dutch artist who now lives in Detroit,
as we were dancing in front of the stage.
We were SOooOoooo surprised to see so few people at the festival.
If you have Underground Resistance, Juan Atkins and DJ Al Ester (trust me he is one for the future) playing for FREE on a warm beautiful summer night in Vondelpark, you would probably be able to get more than 80 people to show up???!!!
Ok..earlier in the evening there were more, and it also had to do with Juan Atkins crappy set, but STILL???!!!.

One of the reasons that she came to Detroit was her love for techno, the same as me.
And it's a story often told, Detroit Techno is HUGE in Europe and Asia but has soooo little support in Detroit itself (or the rest of USA for that matter).

Last weekend I went to a Chicago house picnic festival IN Chicago.
The 21st annual edition of the Chicago House Music picnic and it was PACKED!!!!
Even though you had to pay 10 $ to get in, 1000s of people were grooving and dancing to Frankie Knuckles and the Chosen Few among others.

And what was also very interesting, I was the ONLY white person at this picnic, I am serious!!??
Here...check this video from last years picnic and try to spot any honkies...


I don't know why race, class and music is so interesting to me, but you could make tons of anthropological studies on this subject and it would be very revealing. Rio de Janeiro was another very interesting case, with its Baile Funk, Samba and Bossa Nova, but Brazil is much more racially mixed than Europe and USA.
The Brazilians that we had living with us in Bijlmer last summer in Flatstation were shocked to see the extreme separation between the very black Bijlmer and the very white grachtengordel,
they couldn't believe it!

see for more information...




Anyhow...So Chicago house music has MASSIVE local, black support and Detroit very little local, black support. At the Underground Resistance concert, there was a bunch of De.Bug t-shirts and European football shirts (soccer), which made you suspect that at least part of the audience were European fans who had come a long way to see this spectacle.

So why does Chicago House connect and Detroit techno not?

While in Chicago we also went to see Moodyman, a DJ using the Chicago sound, though originally from Detroit and according to his wikipedia page...

"He is outspoken on the current state of dance music, decrying the lack of black techno and the white domination of the genre."


"An outspoken voice in the normally non-confrontational world of electronic dance music, Moodymann (Kenny Dixon Jr.) is committed to keeping a distinctly black imprint on techno and house."

So for all of us who thought house was..."one nation under a groove" where race, gender, class and sexual orientation would all be absolved into one fruity love juice drink.
Moodyman is again bringing RACE into the mix!

I once read a very interesting little piece about house music in De Appels F.R David publication
where someone wrote a piece about house music debunking the myth of all the love bullshit, saying something like...house was born out of an atmosphere of racism, homophobia, transvestites trying to save enough money to go to Brazil to do sex changes,gay prostitution, drug addictions, and suicides...so this "love dream" surrounding house music needs to be at least more nuanced. If someone knows who wrote this text I am happy to include the name
(I couldn't find it) in this text.

After the Moodyman concert me and Chris had a small after party together with two black transvestites and a white gay guy in their very tiny appartment.
Stumbling out into the bright day light the morning after, I thought we had a very fitting ending to a night out in Chicago, sampling the local house music scene.

But I DO have a little theory as to why Chicago is so succesful and Detroit less so when it comes to hooking up to local (black) support. Chicago house music is much more linked to soul, gospel and R n B. Tons of screaming little divas who sing on top of the house tracks, so the links to other classical black forms of music is very clear. Detroit Techno's VERY obvious flirtations with Kraftwerk (especially) and European (white) electro pop and new romantic music (as they called it in the UK). Takes the music into an another direction, less rooted in classical black music forms.

Detroit techno is much less connected to classical black music styles such as Gospel and Soul. On the other hand it is very much connected to the ideas of "Afrofuturism"that you can find in the works of Sun Ra, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Funkadelic & Parliament, Africa Bambaataa or even Grace Jones.

There is something very sad about the state of music, if we STILL have to discuss race and music, as in...
Can black people sing the opera and country music?
Can white people techno?
Can white people rap and sing reggae?

Just like we whites know what we mean by a whigger (me?!), someone who totally wants to jump into blackness, Detroit techno kids could possibly be seen by the local black population as bounty's
(brown on the outside, white on the inside).
But this is not something I know enough about, but I will research this further here in Detroit.
The problem with this kind of knowledge is that it is often not spoken out loud, it is a gut feeling, and maybe something that you would not say to a white person (if you were black).

But on the other hand these stereotypes DO play a role and to try to totally ignore this debate would do a disservice to the development of music and the ideas surrounding it. In the case of Techno I think that black Detroit Techno stars are TOTALLY accepted in Europe and no one even thinks of race
as an issue in techno, whereas in Detroit I get the feeling that the black population in general thinks that the local techno kids got a bit TOO close to European electronic music, as if they were not proud enough of "their own" musical heritage.
Almost like a sort of betrayal, and of course betrayal is different if you are part of the majority
i.e. whites going black, than if you are a supressed minority, blacks switching to white music.

But to even be able to TALK like this we would have to accept certain musics as "white" and "black" and I think this could be very dangerous. BUT...on the other hand it could ALSO be dangerous to NOT see the history of music and its links to its past. How could you understand reggae or hip hop OUTSIDE a context of racism and the history of the oppression of black people?
I guess it is important to understand where a music comes from and its roots and history, but music is in its essence is universal and it explains why hip hop now works as a great vehicle of expression for oppressed people all over the world, be it Banlieu kids of Arab descent in Paris or Palestinians in Israel.

And I think THIS brings me back to my old argument...Europeans are VERY good at contemporary art for A REASON! Which is also why Indonesians in general are less good at it, but good at other things, such as shadow puppetry for example. And this is NOT meant as a racist statement that Indonesians can never get good at art, or that white people can't rap. Everyone can get good at anything...BUT, you need to live in an environment that stimulates that growth
where you can develop, and compete against the best. That Eminem could get good at rapping growing up in Detroit does not surprise me, or that Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson could get impulses from abroad AND at home and develop a scene that later influenced the rest of the world.

And this is where racism get's confusing when I give lectures. When I for instance say...if you lived in New York in the 80's with the possibility to listen to KRS one and Public Enemy,
and having radio station playing hip hop 24/7 chances are GREATER that you too could become a good rapper, no one has a problem with that.

But If I say that...if you grew up in Europe with the Dokumenta, the Venice bienale, amazing museums where the best of the best are collected and discussed, with newspaper articles on a daily basis discussing art shows, with the best artists, critics, collectors, galleries and so on aso...chances are that you will become a GREATER artist faster in Europe than in Indonesia, who lacks the necessary infrastructure to feed this necessary development...then I often have a problem and people accuse me of racism.

The chances of there being TRULY great contemporary art outside of Europe and USA is smaller, just as there are slim chances of there being fantastic samba bands outside of Brazil, NOT impossible, but less probable.

This is the problem we now get when we debate the globalization of every art biennial, we need THIS many artist from Sudan, THIS many women, this many gays and this many peadophiles and rapists, it just doesn't automatically create quality.

And in general I think this is the most amusing aspect of the Venice biennial for instance, to see the amount of crap art from Uzbekistan or Iran. Would it be possible to assume that democracy is neccessary to create good art? Probably not...Brazil did amazing stuff during the fascist era, China is also doing amazing art. In the case of China you could also add that they have different taboos than in Europe, which creates a interesting grey zone (from OUR perspective) the by now very famous performance "I'm gonna eat a little fetus with a glass of chardonnay" would not be possible in Europe. So so much for freedom in the democratic world hehehehe...
So here the west and the east are complementing each other in the taboo world.
In China the artists can't talk about Tibet and democracy, and in the west we are not allowed to eat fetuses or use dead AIDS women on ice in our installations, but we STILL get by.

But of course, every year the gap is closing, and the best way to increase quality is to let the Sudani artists compete with the best of Europe, just look at football.
And this is also why it is such a good idea to have artists in residencies, to spread the knowledge.

BUT...also infrastructure is necessary, if there are no contemporary art museums in Sudan, or art magazines, or artschools, or critics, or galleries, or biennials, or or or....HOW are they gonna get good? And if there is no critical mass who is interested locally it doesn't HAVE to be a HUGE dilemma. Look at Detroit techno, but it would help!

But on the other hand, what is the problem if not every country in the world are good at contemporary art, I am sure that they are good at other things. If they have drive and fantasy they have to get rid of their energy somehow.

At the Sao Paulo bienial last year there was this HUGE debate of how underexposed the Nigerian artists were, or the Sudanis or the Angolans and I basically said...well maybe you should get GOOD at art first and THEN we can talk!

Of course I know that this is a radical thing to say, but imagine if we would come with quotas for the next reggae sunsplash festival in Kingston!!! You don't have ANY artists from Mongolia, zero reggae artist from Poland and no gay white dancehall stars...what's up????!!!
We would get laughed out of town!!!

So to the all the Nigerian artists of this world I say, you want to participate in the next major biennial in Europe? Then make sure that you create a good art scene where you live, start art schools, galleries, debates, art magazines, radio programs, academies and so on...
create a critical mass, create a scene...Just like they did with Baile Funk music in Rio de Janeiro
or with Kwaito music in South Africa or Kuduro in Angola or Dancehall in Jamaica or Country music in Nashville and so on aso...
Or to quote KRS one "If you can't rock your own neighbourhood...". And of course this will take time and money, but it is not really about money, as we have seen in the examples mentioned above.

Of course it is also unfair to compare art and music, since we can't upload installations, paintings or sculpures and send them as MP3's as of yet.
So music has an ENORMOUS advantage in how fast ideas can spread over the world,
with a decent internet connection you can be on top of all the developments in music ALL over the world. We are not there yet with art. Which is the reason why London, Berlin and New York will REMAIN art centers for the forseeable future. Whereas in music, Rio de Janeiro, Angola and South Africa can EASILY overtake London or New York in musical invention and probably already has.

Of course, developments in the art world is also related to first world power, racism and economy also. Look how hard women had to fight to enter the art world, but they did it and the developments in Europe have been very succesful on that front...

Ok I am blabbering on...I don't really know what I am saying, but that is why I am saying it...
to find OUT what could be the truth...so please feedback me with ideas and critique.

finally I will give you two links to an old Detroit Techno argument...

1. Underground Resistance- AfroGermanic

celebrating the links between Germany, Detroit and Africa...
And as a piss take off that, another Detroitian (DJ Ass ault), who is basically just ripping up that argument with his hit "Nigga Music", which the first time I heard it... I just thought it was a bad/good joke, but if you understand the heated debate about techno music and race here...it is much more subtle and deep than I first thought.

2. DJ Assault-Nigga Music

Jonas Ohlsson reporting from Detroit, thanks to Expodium in Utrecht!


Five days in Chicago

We have just returned from a little side trip to Chicago.
It's about a five hour drive to the west, on a route which took us past the suburbs of Detroit, through rural Michigan, down into Indiana, and across to Illinois. Even an hour outside of Detroit seemed a world away: twisting roads which wound their way between lakes, forest, and small towns with well-kept houses. This dealt with my confusion as to why Michigan has a Republican governor, a state of affairs which seems perverse in Detroit.
Later we switched onto the Interstate, which although much faster was a lot less interesting. I had some romantic ideas about taking a road trip in America, but the reality – here at least – is not so different from the motorway/snelweg/autobahn/autopista in Europe. I guess driving across the desert or through the mountains would be quite spectacular, but neither of those is anywhere near here.

However, the entrance into Chicago is impressive; as the road crosses the Illinois state line and rises up onto the huge steel bridge of the Chicago Skyway (they like to give roads dramatic names here), the skyscrapers of the city centre suddenly appear in the distance, draped in mist. To the east stretches the enormous blue surface of Lake Michigan, an area of water one and a half times the size of the Netherlands. The road then plunges down between the streets, joining with another to become a busy fourteen-lane highway to the downtown area.
It was already obvious from the volume of everything – traffic, buildings, advertising, industry, trains, and people – that this is a very different city to Detroit. It is also much more racially mixed. For the first time since arriving in the US, I have seen significant concentrations of white people.
All these things serve to give it quite a different character. Although Chicago seems on the one hand to be a city on the move, where business (for some at least) is booming, it also lacks the slow, quiet, easy-going feeling of Detroit.

In many ways, Chicago agrees with the expectations I had of America, expectations which have been confounded here in Detroit. In that respect, it is far less interesting.
That being said, I enjoyed our time there. We had a great time staying at the Co-Prosperity Sphere space of Ed and Rachael Marszewski in the district of Bridgeport, met some interesting people, and saw some great art at the Art Institute of Chicago. And we swam in Lake Michigan.
More than anything however, our time there has given a valuable sense of perspective to the experience of being in Detroit. After almost a month it is easy to forget that life here is very far from normal, and also easy to become irritated with some of its idiosyncrasies. I have returned to Detroit with a whole new sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for this weird, weird city. It's good to be back.


Storms and magazines

Last week, I bought three old copies of “Life” magazine from a bookshop in Ferndale: one each from 1948, 1958, and 1968. Twenty years of American history, bracketed.
What struck me the most is the weird version of reality presented in the advertisements, and to a lesser extent in the editorial content, of a perfect, white, middle-class America, where everyone's material needs could easily be met and the scope for further technological improvement of domestic life was unlimited. So long, that was, as gender, class, and race roles were strictly maintained. Objective accounts of history present another picture.
What were people thinking? Did anyone really believe any of this? Or was hypocrisy silently accepted as a necessary requirement for an orderly society?
This got me thinking a lot about how far we have come, or how far we have not come. As the media of the 1940's peddled the stereotype of the perfect wife preparing the perfect casserole, we are now bombarded with images of a hyper-optimised, performance- money- and status-obsessed ideal lifestyle.

Detroit is interesting because it is hard to be fooled by such promises here. It is sometimes described as the West's first post-industrial city, but it's post-a-lot-of-things too. I see a life after corporate capitalism here, where the big-name retail outlets don't bother to set up shop, advertising is conspicuous by its general absence, and a generally slow pace of life has taken hold in response to the practical difficulties involved in getting things done – an example of which will follow.
Detroit is the end. But it is also the start of something else.

On Saturday afternoon, unable to deal with the sticky heat on Farnsworth any longer, we headed over to Belle Isle for a swim in the river. We were not the only ones with this idea.
But almost as soon as we were in the water, everyone was told to get out again. There was a storm coming; it is not a good idea to be in the water when lightning hits.
Very soon the water was empty, and most people decided to head home. And so we were left with the beach to ourselves, and a fantastic view of the storm coming in over the downtown area in the distance. Soon the Renaissance Center (headquarters of General Motors) and the rest of the city was invisible, as if it had just melted into the sky.
Then suddenly, without warning, the storm hit Belle Isle beach. We were struck by a wave of hailstones and sand whipped up by the wind, giving us just a few moments to grab our things and run back to the van before everything was blown away. With everybody inside, we slammed the doors shut and waited for the worst of the storm to die down. We could not see more than a few metres outside.
Leaving Belle Isle was made difficult by the heavy rain, fallen tree branches, and the huge number of people trying to do the same thing. As we finally made it back towards the East Side, our way was continually blocked by fallen trees and flooded roads. About an hour earlier, we had been sitting in bright sunshine.
By the time we reached home, an eerie calm had descended, along with a strange yellow glow in the sky. It felt like the end of the world.
Besides the fallen trees, all the traffic lights in the area had stopped working, along with the internet connection of everyone on the block. It was four days before we were online once again.

In the meantime I have been doing a lot of reading, cycling, and sitting on the porch. Here's to the offline life.


Trying to cruise down the street in our Dodge RAM monster, but the storm (see images from Chris) took down so many trees, it was hard to get home. And don't expect the fire dept. to sort things out for you. If you don't have chain saw massacre machine at home your on your own!

The violent nature of the Americans

The violent nature of the Americans.
What we thought would be a quiet night of wining and dining turns ugly after an argument over dessert (cherry pie).


Space out in Holland...It's not an option!

When we came here two weeks ago there was a literal Dutch invasion of Detroit,
Expodium was here, as well as Partisan Publik and Fonds BKVB and
their artists in residence hangers on.

The locals were understandably perplexed and wondered why so many Dutch people were suddenly interested in Detroit.

One of the reasons concerns urban space and freedom (or the lack of it).
In mega densely populated Holland every square meter is planned, booked and spoken for.
The relatively new situation in Detroit of urban shrinkage, frees up so much space,
space that can now be redefined.

I always had a theory about the Dutch
The reason why they legalized prostitution and drugs were not only for economical reasons,
even though the Dutch really likes money and are good at making it
( but not as good as the Swedes...njä njä njä njä njääää=teasing 1).
The prime reason for it was the lack of chaos in their surroundings.
The Dutch had controlled everything that would have been called nature in thee olden days,
even the ocean was cut up into small controllable grachtengordel, polder pieces.

In Sweden I sometimes go into to the enormous forests just to feel small and get a bit scared.
It puts me in place and in awe...
Nature is something uncontrollable, the forest (and nature in general) is a symbol for the unconscious, for "the other", for the unknown...
There is nothing scary, wild, or uncontrollable in the Dutch landscape
(except ganja smoking Italian tourists on bikes)
and THIS fact created the need for some semi legalized wildness in the form of "ladies of the night" and drugs...Until recently I also used this theory to explain the great love for culture that the Dutch used to have. Culture as the unknown...wild, scary, thought and emotion provoking.
How scary and unknown can a musical get??!!

If we take away the mind expanding possibilities in Holland of drugs, hookers and culture I think Holland will have collective panic attacks on a MASSIVE scale in a very near future.
People will realize how small and claustrophobic Holland is.
The new powerful political right is doing everything in its power to make Holland even smaller, to make the Dutch bitterballen walls come closing in...they come closer...and closer...
and closer...and....WHUAAAOAOOA!!!!!

Focus on your breathing Jonas!!!

I came to NL as a Swedish western allochtoon in 1996,
and since I come from a richer country than Holland (njä njä njä njä njääää=teasing 2)
I am in the unique allochtoon situation that no one will think I came here for the money or for the social security checks (they're MUCH fatter in Sweden).
So I think I can afford (hehehehe...) to be blunt and speak freely.

I don't have a right to vote in Holland, but I voted FOR Holland 15 years ago when I moved here, with my life, my time, money, ambitions, passions and dreams.
So I DO have a right to be critical.
Holland NOW is not the Holland I came to 15 years ago.
But I will stay and fight.

Thatcher, Reagan, Bush...Rutte?!

(famous MC5 song which made Detroit famous as the pre punk city...
Iggy and Stooges also helped out, hence the name, Detroit-Rock city!)
see here...

Politically I also think it would be a good idea to stop focusing on Wilders.
VVD is hiding behind Wilders and not the other way around and now the new right in Holland can let all their wet little neo con dreams become a reality. Wilders is not the problem, we have populist right wing manipulators in every country, massaging the assholes of all the "Henk & Ingrids" of this world. The weak CDA (the warm "socialist" christians of the right) and the strength of the VVD is the problem.

But also...as artists and culture makers...
let's spend some time for a little bit of self reflection and self criticism too.
After the murders of Pim & Theo, Holland suffered one of their greatest trauma in recent history....how many of us artist did anything to deal with that drama in our art?
How many of us didn't just continue with our own discourses,
when maybe this could have been a good time to get hip to the now.
But we better get hip to THIS game quick though, otherwise the only option left will be...
tune in, turn on, drop out!

But even that won't work....Wilders, Donner, Zijlstra and Verhagen wants to shrink Holland mentally into an even smaller hobbit country...and there are not enough drugs in the world to MIND EXPAND our way out of that dark, tight, scary shithole.

So our only choice is to fight back hard.
Let's GO!!!

C U on the other side....