ICYMI: Detroit's art scene now has a scholarly magazine focused on it

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Here's something unusual: We entirely missed one of the most interesting Detroit art publications of the last couple years.

Launched last year, in March 2015, it's called DetroitResearch. Somehow, our copy of this year's Spring/Fall issue was lost in the mail, and we've only just received a replacement copy here. It's a hefty sucker, weighing in at around 2 pounds, crammed with writing and photography about "post-studio art, choreography, ceramics, music, performance, and critical theory."

The publication comes with a hifalutin mission statement: "DetroitResearch, a journal of Art + Critical Studies, aims to product art writing of the highest caliber in a beautiful and contemporary design." It's also probably the only periodical to have been put out with support from the Knight Foundation and the College for Creative Studies.

It's part of a crop of magazines focused on art in Detroit, but DetroitResearch is the most scholarly. This issue, bearing the subhead "on dance," devotes special coverage to performing art in Detroit.

Take the opening salvo of this issue: It’s not just a piece about dance. It opens with an introduction by editor Michael Stone-Richards, which leads into an essay by dancer Biba Bell, another by Liquor Store Theater creator Maya Stovall, a bit of salty critical theory, a conversation between dancers, and so much more that it either becomes fascinating or bewildering.

To be perfectly honest, much of it calls to mind the sort of writing that usually leaves us somewhat cold. Ask artists to write and you usually get “artists’ statements” — in which artists generally try to weave together magic words into incantations whose enchantments seldom work outside an academic context. (To be fair, what writers could sculpt or paint an explanation of what they do?)

But such ivory tower excesses would seem to be brought back down to earth by the inimitable Stone-Richards, who, as editor of this tome-like journal, has a knack for choosing a variety of voices.

Of course, everything he writes shimmers with erudition. Just the first page of a Stone-Richards piece might draw together hip Detroit culture, historic architecture, as well as references to ancient Greek culture and outré filmmaker Maya Deren. (What? No room for Michel Foucault?)

Is it too much? Sometimes. And yet, with it’s combination of academic scrutiny and street sense, it’s likely a welcome antidote to such magazines as Art in America or Dwell, finding a Detroit-like middle ground worth occupying. (Certainly we haven’t read a piece that uses the phrase “for fuck’s sake” while making references to Derrida and Wittgenstein before!)

Whether the prose is your cup of tea, there are hundreds of great photos that are every bit as good as the images that grace less sophisticated magazines.

Interested? Curious? It's available at detroitresearch.org, $35, or $25 for students or low-income purchasers.


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