First impressions are always the most funny ones. The ones that give shape to your frame for understanding all things one is gonna encounter. Now my first impressions here were as one could expect: the USA really does look like all the images one knows from TV and movies: huge cars, big people, many ads along the road, and those dinners and delicatessen we all dreamt of. The car we drive in here swallows a 120 litres of gasoline. When the battery run empty some guys, each one of them weighting at least what us three weight together, helped us out at the gas station. And to finish the story at the gasstation: they did serve some awfully good Mexican food. So actually now new impressions there.
But than to something that did strike me. We all know Detroit’s notoriety as the town where things, to say the least, didn’t exactly go as once planned. Economies failed, corporations decided to leave town & fuck over all their employees & their families, and hence the drop in population size from over 2 million to a mere 800.000 at the moment. I suppose everybody reading these lines heard about the word ‘ruin’ porn– the eagerness of seeing and preferably photographing the abandoned and deserted desolate and sometimes halfly burnt houses, so no need to dwell upon that – but what I did not realize is this: when these houses, factories, and other lots were taken down the sites weren’t developed and thus the town has an enormous amount of empty space. And Detroit already looks like a spacious town to me, having grown up in busy neighbourhoods in Europe. Every direction one looks shows open space. So even though Detroit is a big town it has a village feel.
Lethargy of living in limbo
And connected to that feeling is the very citylike idea of a village being more relaxed, more connected, more community like than the towns most people live in today. But than, for some among us who did grew up in villages, those little towns also had the dready long afternoons where nothing was gonna happen and you did know at beforehand. Numerous were the afternoons when homework was done and you didn’t know what else to do. That in some way also is the Detroit experience. It is the quietness of a post conflict zone where new life has yet to gain shape. It is the limbo time in which we don’t now what tomorrow will bring. It is the spacious surroundings that are so wide we don’t where to start filling them in. It’s the lethargy of not knowing where to start ‘cause there is so much to be done. It is the poetry of longing for a future finally starting.
Customs this time went pretty well... although... Friso was picked out of line this time, and was lead immidiately to a back room for interrogation. Actually it wasn't that bad, but they didn't quite get how Friso would stay for nine weeks at someones home who he didn't even met yet. And the main thing: "we just want to make sure that, if you get hit by a car, you won't be a burden to our society".... Well, what to say about that?
And just when things for me looked to be really smooth this time -i went past the customs officer without too many trouble- just before really entering i was asked to again have my luggage checked. This officer asked me some questions: "what are you in Detroit for? For how long will you be staying?", and then: "why do you have so many layers on man?". I replied that it was indeed a little warm. The officer continued: "if you have so many layers on we of course think that you are hiding something from us. What are you hiding?". So i had to open my hoody and then the guy said something that i did'nt quite get, except for the word "belly", so, of course, i lifted my sweater and showed the guy my bare naked belly..... "Don't show me that man!!" he shouted, and i was released to go in to the country. So my belly did the trick this time. Will remember that for the future.
As a follow-up of their previous three translation stations, all based on their experiences in Detroit, Nikos Doulos and João Evangelista presented their fourth and last one that this time takes place in de Utrecht area of Kanaleneiland. The translation stations are stops in the process in which experiences and knowledge that are obtained in Detroit, are tested in a new context. Expodium instructs the artists it sends to Detroit to physically get their hands dirty and realise projects that are entrenched in the urban situation in Detroit. This method is used in Kanaleneiland as well. That’s why Translation Station #4 focused on finding an appropriate way of applying knowledge that is obtained in Detroit, to the social context of Kanaleneiland.
Nikos got in contact with newcomers in the area during his stay: artists that have come to live in the area and found themselves confronted with the fact that they have to do ‘something’ in the area. The urge or capability however to act collectively is practically non-existent, as Nikos found out. His contribution to this evening thus existed of a performative presentation and slide show entitled ARE YOU PEOPLE?, in which he, together with Mai Linh Ly and Koen Marks (both living in Kanaleneiland), explained why collective feeling doesn’t emerge, what does make it emerge and what their actions were, based on the findings of Nikos. The action that came out of their experiences during last month is the so-called NIGHT WALKERS.
NIGHT WALKERS is a group of artists and inhabitants of Kanaleneiland. They carry out hikes at night in order to, collectively, explore new peculiarities in the area. On this evening too, a night walk took place with a focus on ‘spaces of tranquility’ in the area. The route took us to the promenade along the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, via the Sayidina Ibrahim mosque to the St. Antonius hospital and to the Eyüp Sultan mosque.
João Evangelista presented a service-project – SERVICE LAUNCH - from which he will try to instigate a collective response. Based on his knowledge obtained in Detroit about producing bio-diesel, he gave a ‘cooking work shop’. João constructed a bio-diesel lab in the apartment to give a demonstration on how to make bio-diesel. The presentation was filled with references to power relations, political tendencies and alternative economies. During stirring the mixture of methanol, hydroxide and vegetable oil, which took about twenty minutes, the audience could ask questions.
With his service João focuses on the community of vintage Mercedes owners. Within that bunch, there is already some interest in the bio-diesel lab. The upcoming period, João will pass the knowledge about bio-diesel production on to inhabitants of Kanaleneiland in order to create a collective around the lab. The lab is made mobile in order for it to travel with the inhabitants who are interested in continuing it.
Both presentations of the projects are moments in the trajectory of locatie:KANALENEILAND. The upcoming weeks both NIGHT WALKERS as the bio-diesel lab will be continued.