A world without cars? Let’s see – that’d be about a hundred years ago. So why would young pioneers of the 21st century bite the exhaust pipe that feeds them? Artists of the Motor City – identified ... no, defined by the automobile – making art that’s the equivalent of broken glass on the highway or of sugar in your tank? Leapin’ Lamborghinis! Throbbin’ Volvos!
Opening this Friday at detroit contemporary with a Gala Charity Preview, the "Third Annual North American International Anti-Auto Show" features car-cultivated installation, video, sculpture, drawing, photography and collage by 18 artists from Detroit, Hamtramck, Ann Arbor, Windsor, Chicago, St. Paul, New Orleans and Bratislava, Slovakia (!). These auto-immune works have been specifically created with the idea of a long, hard look at the machine that made Henry Ford famous, Lee Iaccoca a household name and Ralph Nader the rough-riding equivalent of Che Guevara.
The parking lot for this 10-day conceptual traffic jam, detroit contemporary gallery, has built its reputation on just such concentrated layerings of visual art, performance, film and video projections and postindustrial music. This "anti"-show is no exception.
Poets get behind the wheel on Friday the 21st, with readings by Vievee, m loncar, Pete Markus, John Rybicki, Sarah Peters, Kim Webb and Kristin Palm that are bound to slash your tires. Also along for the un-drive-by are actors William Boyer and Leah Price with an original theater piece. Then completing the evening’s head-on collision with the motor mentality are films by, among others, Bill Hazel and m loncar.
On Saturday the 22nd, electronic music splashes across the front and back seats of your aural vehicle, making the head swim and the spine tingle, a perfect stimulus to memories of hour-long blow jobs and window-clouded straddlings in lovers’ lanes across America – not all uses of the car being destructive.
But lest we forget the real destination of this trip – the art itself – there are works here that pierce the night of our auto-unconscious like high beams on a country road. Alexa Horochowski’s "Heartbreak Highway" series tells a story for lovelorn travelers by means of poetically suggestive road signs. Tim Halley’s "Kauseway Kruiser" installation puts the viewer in the solipsistic driver’s seat, emphasizing the ego-on-wheels nature of private motoring. And Christopher Saucedo’s "Fool’s Challenge" hyperfetishizes the auto body, taking the industry’s obsession with design and color a zany step beyond.
There’s an immediate humor in Jenny Schmid’s cartoony, caricatural drawings that works as an antidote to the real pain of her "Bike Wreck or Your Mamma Drives a Car" installation – a look back in anguish that provokes trembling unto laughter. And in Dave Toorongian’s photos of motor icons, such as the Uniroyal Tire or a flying(?) Flubbermobile (pictured) that could only have come from Detroit and its environs, gritty history becomes instant nostalgia.
The opening gala on the 14th features grub and libations, plus car karaoke ("Fun, Fun, Fun") hosted by WDET’s Ralph Valdez and Woodward Magazine’s Sarah Peters (tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door – call 313-898-4ART for reservations – proceeds donated to Michigan Rails-to-Trails Southeast Michigan Greenways).
If you need a jump, these folks have the cables. But blessed are those who’d rather walk or take a bike.George Tysh is Metro Times' arts editor. E-mail him at [email protected]