Today in the storied Motor City, artists show a different survival through design, an approach where light becomes a concept, where the most mundane materials are ennobled, where recycling becomes the ultimate solution...

Le Figaro, October 18.2017


"Today's innovators must create a new era. A time that none of the edges will touch the old, "said Kasimir Malevich. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the futurists, the surrealists, the Dadaists impose a speech far from the pre-established forms and dominant academicism. They write a new story where the chronology is upset. The avant-garde artist appears among the Fourierists. He is a citizen and participates in the construction of the future society. Armed with utopian ideals and political convictions, he questions the great figurative heritage of Western Art and rejects morality and beauty. It is an overtaking of Art itself.

Today, in the United States, the experimental is played in Detroit. Since Detroit was named a city of design by UNESCO in 2015, it was invited to the Biennial of Saint-Etienne this year in September, a festival in which Matali Crasset has also participated, and is gaining credibility. Here, a new form of aesthetics is needed. Far from clean lines - imperfection, recycled materials, absurd forms and craftsmanship are the key words, asking the question, "what is to be done?"

Chris Schanck, in response to questions about capitalism, wants to bring new codes: "After a series of major crises and abandonment, Detroit is an Eldorado to imagine a new mode of work. I want to give birth to another space, to imagine a different future, and symbols for all. "  After leaving New York, Schanck settled in the Motor City, and made his way to the Cranbrook Academy of Art, in a suburb of Detroit. The school is a reference in the world of art. A symbol of the innovative current of the modernism era, and what will be called, later, the international style. Few people know it, but the designer Eero Saarinen, the Eames and Florence Knoll all studied there. This school was founded by George Gough Booth, a philanthropist, and appealed to the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. Both Booth and Saarinen were inspired by English crafts of the mid-nineteenth century, they hoped to get rid of bad taste and the mass production that had established in the country. They believed in a sustainable and ethical aestheticism. Like Chris Schanck in his studio in Hamtramck - one of the most multicultural neighborhoods in the city - where he experimented with materials. And not just any materials - Polystyrene. "I immediately felt connected to this easy texture to carve. I invented this process, so I do not have to wonder if, historically, it makes sense. I can do what I want with it. If the first phase of the creation is very easy and intuitive, the second is team work. Resulting in shapes that are surprising and in very bright solid colors. They evoke organic matter, degradation. They seem to boil, melt, go to pieces. Are they inspired by Detroit? Without a doubt. The chaos that started it all has inspired more than one to grow and find a solution, to take risks. "Here, there is no market for us artists, but we persist. Goals and inspirations seem more pure and sincere. This is where I again believed in art. People are very open-minded," Schanck says when asked why he decided to stay here while his works are on display at the Friedman Benda Gallery in New York. And we must believe that the city is still full of resources. For his new project, he went for a walk in his neighborhood after the winter and noticed urban wood and metal farm structures and a scarecrow. The processes, born of the Do It Yourself movement to which the inhabitants were forced, pushed Chris Schanck to transfigure this local language in design. This system, this way of creating, gave birth to a shelf with white gold finishes, transforming ordinary matter into luxury furniture. Here is his strength. In the same neighborhood, his friend, Jack Craig, bought a neglected house, as is the practice here, and built his studio in the basement. A real laboratory. Though minimalist, his PVC furniture is confounding. Tables with a wooden or marble top reminiscent of precious stones, sea green or purple, seem made of a material so noble that no one would imagine
one second that they are plastic. The result is disturbing. Especially since he finds his material on the street, in abandoned houses or warehouses. "When I go to these places, nobody is used to seeing people like me. They are intrigued and give me advice. For marble, just ask the right people to have it for free." This material appeals to Craig so much because he responds to it's philosophy. Marble is primitive, it is modern, it has no precedent. He likes to break it down, to go back to the origins to interact with the first phenomena by inventing a new language. "I think of the subject as if I were a stranger, as if I had never seen it before. Recently, Craig diversified and conceived bronze and concrete lamps. Deposited drop by drop on the structure, the bronze takes on the appearance of algae or climbing coral, like an exoskeleton.

Gross Refinement

The same atmosphere exists in the Thing Thing studio, collectively, Simon Anton, Rachel Mulder and Thom Moran. For them, Do It Yourself is a philosophy. Everything is made from plastic products that they recycle into their design. There is no shortage in a city known for its waste. They shred the plastic products, cut them into small pieces, and then sort them by color. The most intriguing is without a doubt the oven they have made themselves. "We cook our object in a mold like a roasted pig for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 390 ° C. " After five years of experimentation, they now have their method down. Whether it's the bench,the candlesticks, or the pillow lamps, look like a terrazzo of a thousand colors. It is above all playful, imaginative design where imperfection makes sense. "Sometimes,
they come out too cooked, but we love the rendering. We see the errors, the process."

In the same studio, Patrick Ethen plays with light and creates installations with LEDs and lasers. Light is for him an intangible, ethereal matter. "It plunges us into another world. Light is something very emotional, it affects our mood, our attention, our sleep cycle. I think light has the ability to resonate with people in a very deep way, like when
we look in the embers of a campfire - calm, meditative, source of experience. "With his training in architecture,
he also learned design, a competence, according to him, universal and applicable in many areas. "It gives me the excuse to have fun, to push the boundaries and tackle various projects that may not be natural to me. "

If the galleries are still few, Isabelle Weiss is one of the first to start the business. She has just created NEXT: SPACE, a platform to bring designers together, and intends to open a showroom to exhibit and sell their work. Amongst the design Weiss works with we find the amazing Reuleaux's Guest table by Elizabeth Leah Born and Mario Francois Isenmann, [of zuckerhosen]. "A moving creature, like an earthly crustacean, born of a conversation about contradictions. Behind a very refined carapace lies the secret of craftsmanship. " A table with beveled gold feet and 170 porcelain encrusted loops under the wooden tabletop. These rings are reflected and play with the brightness of gold. The designers wanted to return the spiritual dimension to gold. "We try to point out the refinement, but also the raw aspect of our spaces. We want to be above all honest. Just as the very spirit of Detroit. It's an exciting time to live, because artists tend to redefine the utilitarian object by rebelling against the model
of mass production. "

- MARGOT GUICHETEAU, Le Figaro. October 18.2017