Sunday, September 4, 2016

Street art

Today I went into Detroit to see the Heidelberg Project. This is street art on a block of Heidelberg Street. It was started and is maintained by Tyree Guyton. Though it has now been around for 30 years this is the first time I've been to see it, even though it has been mentioned many times in the local paper. I went now because Guyton said it is time to slowly dismantle this exhibit and move on to other things.

This neighborhood started its long decline after the 1967 riots in Detroit. Many lots on this street (and many surrounding streets) are now vacant. Guyton has expanded into these lots. There are perhaps 3-4 occupied houses on this block that aren't involved in the Project. And a few other houses that are.

This is one of those houses:

I got the impression that the art keeps changing. Guyton will replace one installation with another or respond to something that happens on the street. Here are some of the current installations. A few will get an explanation

I didn't realize right away that the roof of this house is skewed to the walls.

An installation like this makes Guyton's critics claim what he does isn't art, it is junk. This kind of stuff brought lots of objections from neighbors. That prompted two different Detroit mayors to order demolition of a few of the houses, which were carried out. The two piles of bricks had likely been the corner supports for the porch of a house.

In 2013 and 2014 there were many fires and seven of the houses in the Project burned. Investigators determined it was arson. Guyton vowed to continue on. This house was one of those hit. The main part of this house was clearly burned, leaving the foundation. Stuffed toys are attached to the foundation. Inside on the basement floor are scattered blue shoes.

A big theme on the street at the moment are paintings of clock faces. Here are several. There are many more up and down the block. I'm sure part of the meaning is Guyton saying it is time to end the Project. I heard Guyton say "What do you want to do with your life?" … "I can say I've done it. It is time to move on."

This installation appears more artistic and more permanent. It is a sundial. One stands in the circle and the shadow indicates time. I was there at about 2:00 and my shadow did indeed stretch towards the little circle with the two stones, one white and one black, at the right in this image.

Guyton spends many days on the street greeting visitors. I talked to him briefly. He asked if I had any questions. I suppose as a lament I said I had one he probably couldn't answer. Why hadn't I come to visit his street in all the time it has been here. He replied, "I do have an answer. Your time is now." He made me realize I was doing something I had long ago determined was a useless exercise – lamenting the past and wondering what things would be like if I had done things differently.

And that reminded me of an incident from last summer. I was in Dad's hospital room with my oldest brother. Dad was asleep. I'm sure brother was feeling frustrated at Dad's condition and that the cancer wasn't caught sooner. I'm sure he was also annoyed that one of us wasn't constantly at Dad's bedside, which he had come to do. He asked me, "Given what you know now, if you could do it over what would you do differently?" With the benefit of hindsight I'm sure he wanted me to say that I would have gone with Dad to his doctor appointment and argued him into the proper tests or taken Dad to the ER, where they did get the diagnosis right. But I didn't. I reviewed the previous six months and came up blank. Later that day I realized what I should have said is, "I'm sorry, I don't play those kinds of 'what if' games. They're useless."

One more photo. In the same block is the home (or maybe studio) of artist Tim Burke. He has his own work in front of his house and in his yard. Several places on his brightly painted house are the words, "This is not part of the Heidelberg Project." The style of art is quite different

Here's the link to the Project webpage and another to the Wikipedia page.

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