Cars, punk, jazz & deities
Three visionary collectives find a common Detroit ground
Published: September 12, 2012
In fact, at the opening reception last Friday worlds intermingled ecstatically — black and white, hipsters and hip, old and young — most movingly, literally around Ibn, as the Ogun collective and anyone else who cared to join in formed an improvised dance and drum circle ritual around a wheelchair-bound Pitts, surrounded by the work he helped inspire. Voices and rhythms and movement locked into a groove so powerful that frankly, if you weren't moved, you didn't have a heart.
The exhibit itself continues on from the Ogun room, through a "Resource Room," an immersive collection of works and artifacts that commingle the aesthetics, totems, ephemera and work representing Ogun and DAM.
It acts as a kind of interpretive Rosetta Stone, stuffed with imagined cosmology triptychs, UFOlogy-inspired works, shrines to Afrofuturism, Sun Ra, the AACM black music organization, Coltrane, with circus sideshow banners featuring undead creatures, and video loops including everything from black arts pioneers to Star Wars' Lando Calrissian.
From this gloriously chaotic room, you pass into the cornfield itself. Cornstalks line the hallways and walls and the throb from the exhibit gets louder, the smell of stalks evoking autumnal sensations.
Here lies the centerpiece of the exhibit, the show's namesake experience. A set of three — for lack of a better term — art cars, parked in MOCAD's main space. But these are no mere frivolous art cars. They are, as Lashley noted, the collective fetish objects of this synthesized tribe of urban bushmen.
One features the guts of a piano under its hood and tom-tom drums mounted out the back window for kicker speakers. Lights flash, drumbeats throb. A protective ring has been crafted around each vehicle. Around one, a ring of sand has been sculpted with egg cartons and bottle caps to resemble a kind of alligator skin.
Another features Dabls' mirror collage aesthetic, glinting light from jagged shapes, ever-changing with Apetechnology's sound installation and animatronic motion. It is ringed, protected by ground-up tire rubber.
Hanging near the cars are Levon Millross's fantastical headdresses. Truly, these pieces represent a visual synthesis of the collectives' cultures. They are the finery that would be worn by the drivers of these wayward chariots of the gods. Meticulously crafted from both "found" and created materials, the three floating wearable sculpture works take shape from discarded circuit boards, iridescent spray foam eruptions and papier-mâché collages, hanging at eye height, beckoning the viewer to imagine donning the garb.
Meticulous, artfully sprawling, infinitely changing with light and sound, Vision in a Cornfield is that rarest of exhibits that truly harnesses the best from its participants and demands engagement from even casual visitors. Proof positive that what they've captured here is more than the sum of its parts.
Or, as Lashley put it straight: "You must respond. Understand?"
Chris Handyside is a former Metro Times editor and longtime contributor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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