Kunsthalle Detroit: / Slideshow

The Director of the Kunsthalle Detroit, Tate Osten, talks to TiP about the inaugural exhibition Time and Place – a show that explores the city in all its dimensions.

‘Time and Place’ revolves around the state of Detroit as a city. Why is this important to you as a curator and for the Museum as a new institution in Detroit?

Today is the time, and Detroit is the place because of the unique past and present of the city. Detroit has enormous past significance as the most ‘capitalist’ city in America, yet today it is humble and raw, lacking in solid cultural matter. A cultural and social intervention though an influx of art into the city could, I feel, draw international attention to Detroit, triggering economic advancement and beginning a new era for the former glorious capital of the automobile industry.

As a curator it was absolutely necessary to indicate a point in time when community and mass media would stop talking about change, stop depicting ruins of Detroit and start acting. This is indicated even in the titles of the works included in the exhibition. For example, The Sound and the Fury, Touch and Go and Reset. I wanted to demonstrate the ability and the determination of the local community to converse with the cultural leaders of the world.

The Kunsthalle Detroit is the first ever museum solely dedicated to multimedia and light based work. Can you explain a little about the decision behind this?

We want to create an institution that belongs entirely to the 21st century. Technology and the visual arts have been inadvertently merging for the past hundred years and now the virtual visual arts are taking a defining position in worldwide cultural development. Light-based works (specifically, art projects involving light emitting technologies and ‘green’ sources of energy) are a perfect example of the future symbiosis of art, economic progress and environmental architecture. Art and design also merge in light-based works, which is extremely important for urban planning, reconstruction and revitalisation of cities like Detroit.

The curatorial statement explains that the exhibition creates a ‘hyper-simulacrum of reality’ can you expand on how and why this is manifested?

William Kentridge’s animated film Felix in Exile famously implements an ‘erasure technique’ where by erasing drawing after drawing, new layers of images are created with traces of the old left behind. The artist denotes our inability to completely wipe out history, accentuating the ever-present memories of the past. We can connect this artistic method to the ever-evolving urban landscape of Detroit where traces of the erased past often physically resurface.

Fragments of reality, flashbacks, thoughts, hopes, dreams and nostalgia all materialise in the 4-channel film project by Tim White-Sobieski’s The Sound and the Fury where the artist superimposes and transforms the relationship of the human being with the postmodern city’s metamorphosis. Almost existential, the imagery of this work transmits a feeling of being lost in the chaos of reality, a world of logical contradictions, where life gets deconstructed and shuffled.

Altogether, the projections of 11 videos on the first floor cover the walls almost entirely, and construct an infinite moving field with multi-layered cross-references to Detroit’s reality.

What is the future for Detroit – how do you see the city evolving?

There are two options: death and life. I foresee life. Comparisons to the Chelsea area development in New York and to Berlin’s regeneration seem to resonate here in Detroit. I think arts, empowered by communication with the world, will create a whole new contemporary culture scene in Detroit. This scene will attract investors and young talent to the city; small businesses will start growing and fill economic gaps and holes. Detroit will host a vibrant international art community and will become one of the desirable destinations of cultural tourism; it will be reborn.

What’s next for the Museum?

TransLUMINALE Biennale – we are brainstorming a biannual event, 2-3 months long, dedicated exclusively to light-based art and design. Parallel to the Festival of Lights in Lyon, France, and Luminale in Frankfurt, Germany, we will be the first and only biannual light event in the United States. The event will take place in a different state every two years, commencing in Michigan. We are planning to organise the first edition of TransLUMINALE Biennale in November–December 2012.

Also, there are a number of great international projects, exhibitions in transit, collaborations with other kunsthalles and museums in Europe and the United States.

To find out more information on the Kunthalle Detroit visit: www.kunsthalle-detroit.org