Obama and civic Detroit
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Obama and civic Detroit

25/01/2009

As a north-western European, there seems an obvious failure of political leadership at the civic level, with little thought in city hall as to how Detroit might be reimagined if it is not a car producing factory town. It makes one more content with economic initiatives like Brainport in Eindhoven or civic cultural ambitions in other European cities that are steered by democratic local government. Here landlords and private investors seem ridculously short termist, if art as a regeneration tool is mnetioned it is in terms of artists themselves providing the payback directly , not investing in a longer term process of tramsformation through gentrification etc. The artist initiative 555 for instance is being thrown out of their building before any glimmer of improvement to the economic conditions. Instead, their literal investment in the building in terms of cleaning and structural improvements will perhaps squeeze out a tiny profit for the shortsighted landlord. While I am very dubious of the critical value of the longer-term, planned economic instrumentalisation of art, at least it offers space and resources for artists to produce their own critical frames in the meantime – which is often enough to produce some excellent new work. It is also odd that this imaginative civic vacuum is happening at a time when there is certainly a new sense of political agency coming from the Obama government, combined with its apparant desire to remake the democratic context by speaking directly to constituencies and demanding an emotional change in social relations and senses of mutual responsibility. It is beginning to be inspiring to be in the USA again. Early days…but oh so much better than the last 20 years of end of history, triangulation, war on terror and all the rest of the crap excuses for exploitation.