Special Relativity, History, and Detroit

I’m marking this in the to read fully later category: Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which concludes that space and time are relative (i.e., they depend on the motion of the observer who measures them) and light is more fundamental than either.  To take this a step further, studies have shown that people don’t evaluate the past and future in the same way.  Everything that is behind a person (time/object) is perceived as further away than what’s in front of that person even if the distance is measured to be exactly the same.

The link between space and time is fascinating especially when I think about many of the conversations that I’ve had about the city of Detroit so far this summer.  What does the past tell us about the present?  What if this past is so far away that many of the people who once inhabited the space no longer do; claiming the space and its history for a new generation.  Most people want to talk about the past: the history of a specific building, the back entrance of the stadium their grandpa always used, the events that took place there, and especially the Riots of ’67 (also called 12th Street Riots).  There’s no doubt that the 12th Street Riots marked the tipping point in race relations in Detroit and shaped many of views of the city during its steady decline.  In August, a film based on the story of the riots by Kathryn Bigelow called “Detroit” will make its premiere.  I wonder what the goal of the film is and can’t wait to find out.  Like many, I’m curious about the public image that this will bring about a city that is still in the midst of recovering.




GM Plaza

Watch the water dance.  No, actually don’t watch it.  Listen to the water dance.  Imagine that the wind is not blowing the hardest it has been all week.  Imagine each molecule has its own purpose explained as it hits the pavement with a slap.  The kids, the visitors supply the background, the context, for the journey from river to stream to this stream.  This stream.  This stream of variation, variant energy, multiplicity of reason, action and reaction and release down the drain, down the tubes, down below, downtown where fear is there even as it is being remade into promise.

The Fountain at GM Plaza

A short study I filmed as part of research about site-specific performance and urban environments.

Richard Long

I’ve been thinking lately about the performative possibilities of walks, especially in the form of tours, as a way to heighten awareness of the seemingly mundane and uncover the true nature of space and place.  Artist Richard Long provides an interesting starting point for this.  Several of Richard Long’s works are based around his response to environments that he has walked in.  Often times, his sculptures are made from found materials taken directly from those environments or by deliberately changing the landscape.   A Line Made by Walking is one of his formative pieces beginning to answer questions of impermanence, motion, and relativity that much of his work is concerned with.  In a field near his daily commute, he walked forwards and backwards along a line until it became visible adding a performative element to his land art and veering from his usual sculptural works.  Richard Long went on to make a series of many, many more walks, which were always made according to some structure such as a geometrical plan, mileage, number of days or something else.  He wasn’t responding to historical aspect of place and the structures for the walks he created were arbitrary, creating empty rituals.  He would return to the gallery and exhibit photographs, maps, and sculptural works based on these walks, which makes me wonder who was the intended audience and if the performance was end goal or documentation.  I’m leaving this link of some criticism of his work because for me it brings up questions of productivity and purpose.  Should an artist’s career be dedicated to constantly pushing boundaries or can one hyper-focus on variations of a familiar theme?  Is there something to be gained from habitual repetition?  The article still brings me back to questions of who these works are intended for as the experience would be much different if he created a line by walking with a group of people.  The individuality of the pursuit is a very intriguing aspect.


If you’re in Detroit, you can see his work Stone Line, which is currently exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the Contemporary wing.





Scott Hocking is a visual artist from Detroit whose work focuses on site-specific installations using found objects and stunning photographic documentation of the city.  He was recently commissioned by the Knight Foundation to create SIGNS, a site-specific work throughout the city of Detroit that makes use of old metal armatures of former business signage.  Using the armatures as a base, he will install plastic advertisement signs inspired by the history of the building and community.  I’m very excited to see this project go up later this year and hear more about the research behind it.

Photo via scotthocking.com

Seriously, check out his website.  He has a wealth of information about his past projects, which gives a really insightful overview of how he has progressed and molded his thinking over the years.  And on his contact page, he has links to all his friends!



I’ve started scouting locations for my next project, which uses Detroit’s landscape to inspire and provide structural basis for site-specific performance.  During some of my theoretical research I came across a quote by Michel de Certeau, a French scholar who combined history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and the social sciences.

“space is a practiced place.  Thus the street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers.  In the same way, an act of reading is the space produced by the practice of a particular place: a written text, i.e.: a place constituted by a system of signs. ” – Michel de Certeau

A place holds potential for activation by others but remains neutral until it is acted upon. At least, that’s what I’m gathering. It reminds me of what I find so exciting about a blank stage: anything can happen if you make it so. The walking space can be transformed into the jumping space. The waiting space can be transformed into the love space and so on forever.

Venus Rising at Tangent Gallery


Catch an excerpt from “The Working Perception” on March 19th at the Tangent Gallery as part of Venus Rising: All Women Art Exhibition!

Tangent Gallery/ Hastings Street Ballroom
715 E Milwaukee St Detroit, MI 48202

Schedule of Events
7pm: Doors Open

7pm-11pm Live & Body Painting demonstrations

8-8:30pm: Live performances

9-9:30pm: Fashion Show

10-10:30pm: Live Performances

25% of all the proceeds from the event will go to Alternatives for Girls , which is an organization that provides resources for homeless and high-risk girls and young women to avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and to make positive choices in their lives.

Thanks Fringe! What’s next?

Thank you for cutting the cheese with me, laughing along, and rockin’ out in Chicago and Detroit!

If you missed the show, there are still a few opportunities in the works.  In late October/ early November, The Working Perception will have a live studio audience shoot at CTN Ann Arbor.  The official day and time as well as how to reserve your spot will be announced next week.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos taken by Allison Hetter of opening night in Chicago.  Stay tuned for more video and photos of the both Fringe shows.