Friday, April 24, 2009

'Euro Invasion Retreats'

Taken from Gina Reichert/Mitch Cope's Power House Report:


What a strange couple of weeks. What a strange month! Gina and I feel like we got run over, beat down, sucked dry. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it because we did, were just a little fried out, burnt up and crispy creamed.

Not sure what happened. I think we learned a lesson about having people come and “work in the neighborhood”. Not sure how to explain what happened or didn’t happen, or what we thought should have happened. Not trying to be vague, just confused. That said the fine young men and women of apparently controversial Detroit Unreal Estate Agency were productive in cleaning out a couple vacant lots, painted a building to be painted further and put a down payment down on a building and mapped and photo documented several blocks in the neighborhood!
Somehow the neighborhood seems less friendly this week. Maybe it’s just the warming of the weather that brings out the rats, fires, garbage, and druggists, prostitutes, weirdos or maybe it’s just me. Most disheartening however is that there has been an increase in break-ins, including our good friend John’s house who had His two back doors kicked in and lost some irreplaceable jewelry that he made during his jewelry days. Although he has a beautiful German Shepherd - Lexy, for security, she was of no help. John suspected someone had been feeding her at night for about a week as she stopped being interested in breakfast, but he thought it was the neighbor kids throwing her scraps. In reality someone might have been trying and succeeding to befriend her before the big heist. She is a very sweet dog although she still is young enough that she could be trained to kill future intruders.

I tried replacing his back door, but as usually with these old houses as soon as you take something apart you reveal years of problems. In John’s case it’s the rotting and sinking of the back porch. We discussed jacking it up and sure enough as I crawled under the porch to see what was up, there was already a jack under there with several things wedged in on top of some shaky cinder blocks which are on top of sand. I’m not sure if we can improve on that system in the near future so my idea was to just add to the top of the porch. If it keeps sinking, just add another layer to the floor. Eventually maybe it will become a solid mass and then it will be done! Why fight it, unless a new foundation is poured, which isn’t going to happen. John didn’t want me to finish the job until we fixed the sloping floor so I boarded up the unfinished back door and put a 2×4 behind the other broken back door for security.

With the dissatisfaction of not being able to finish that job I started taking apart the windows and front door of the Power House. Finally getting back to actually doing some physical work on the Power House, although the anxiety of wanting something finished probably is not the best attitude when doing rehab. Today after three days of working on the front door it’s in and it’s level and it works, but still no locks yet. Since everything was built together and hasn’t been replaced since 1924 except for Home Depot door that was slapped on before the bank sold it to us, everything else is dry rotted or too badly chewed up from previous fixes to reuse. I spent half the day carving out a new threshold while the Bosnian brothel across the street looked on and made fun of my constant tinkering and leveling. Finally after much fussing the threshold sat neatly into the spot where the old one laid for 85 years. Now I need spray foam to seal the deal. So I boarded up the door opening and headed back home for a sandwich before getting the spray foam and a beer.

Before I could go though I had to check out the daily neighborhood house fire. Today it was a fire on McDougal. I have always found fires to be strange community events, even as far as they are tragic. Today I just found this tragic even though it was a vacant home. Someone is setting fire to these vacant homes for fun, is all i could think, but the next house is not vacant. I had no desire to talk to anyone of the many who crowded up and down the street to watch and trade information as I usual do.


On my way back I witnessed a weird car accident where a car full of kids getting out of school clipped an SUV tearing off the plastic front of the truck and rolled into a parked car. It seemed as if they had no breaks, they just kept going, hitting things, finally running into a parked car. It was one of those weird scenes where the occupants of the car seemed to be in a trance as their car went out of control.

Back home I sit and write this note and drink beer with the cats, it’s all I can do.

The PHOTO is of Lado, from Georgia, one of the Dutch Art Institute students embarking on his project “What is your Future of Detroit?”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Chandelier

'We want our street lights on'

[photos: Corine Smith-Vermeulen]

Chandelier constructers, garbage collectors, pruners and painters: Berenika Boberska + Mitch Cope + Christian Ernsten + Edwin Gardner + Joost Janmaat + Gina Reichert + Jeroen Visser + ...

The meadow

'We want our garbage gone'

Garbage collectors, pruners and painters: Berenika Boberska + Mitch Cope + Christian Ernsten + Edwin Gardner + Joost Janmaat + Jeroen Visser + ...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New homeowners at 13167/9 Moran?

Last weeks' local projects

This selection of projects executed in the Hamtramck area during the last two weeks includes work by Jimini Hignett, Raymond Huizinga, Corine Vermeulen-Smith and Femke Lutgerink.

Corine Vermeulen-Smith and Femke Lutgerink set up a local free photo studio for a week. They took photographs of neighbors and interview them for their stories.


Raymond Huizinga photographed the neighborhood of Hamtramck. He photocopied the photos and exhibited them on ramdomn buildings. The grey-ness of the mini exhibitions exemplified according to him the ruined state of the old city of Detroit, and the confusionment of the photographer who tries to tackle it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Migrating from Hamtramck to Warren

Historically lots of homeowners from the Hamtramck area moved out to Warren. For examples Polish families have strong roots in both neighbourhoods. Currently also Bangladeshi and others are migrating from Hamtramck to Warren, as, for example, the former owners of the house of Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope on Klinger Street.

Though culturally strongly related the spatial outlook of Warren is quite different from Hamtramck area. With the GM Tech Center and the new city hall as its centre of gravity, a well organised grid of wide streets make up the city. The residential areas with range houses are flanked with strip malls. In the historical part of the town the Kuhnhen Brewery is worth a visit.

Friday, April 17, 2009

We want our city back

The poetry reading curated by Monika Berenyi and Cecilia Costa featured poets and artists from Detroit’s Artists Workshop, Alternative Press, Broadside Press, and Lotus Press, including Detroit poet laureate, Naomi Long Madgett, John Sinclair, Melba Joyce Boyd, Bill Harris, James Semark, George and Chris Tysh, and others.

This beautiful evening’s reading was part of Monika and Cecilia's local oral history project dedicated to the collective history of Detroit’s poetry and print culture from the 60's and 70's. One of the highlights was definitely Melba Joyce Boyd's reading of her poem 'We want our city back'.

We want our city back

We want our city back.
We want our streetlights on.
We want our garbage gone.
We want our children
playing on playgrounds,
but not with loaded guns.
We want to retire
by the river
and raise collards greens
in abandoned fields.
We want our ancestors
to rest in peace.
We want our city back.

We don't want law and order.
We want justice and jobs.
We don't want small business.
We mean serious business.
No more Mom and Pop wig shops.
No more Mickey D's
rappin with the homies.
No more Dixie Colonels
serving Kente cloth cuisine.
No more taco supreme.
No more indigestion or
quick-fix politics.
We want our city back.

[First two verses]

Presentations and Poetry Readings at MOCAD

Last night about 120 people attended the presentations of artists and architects and the poetry slam at MOCAD. A photo impression..