Monday, August 26, 2013

Creating Detroit

Architect and radio host Damian Farrell (right) and me in the studio of WLBY 1290 AM in Ann Arbor for the taping of a segment of the Lucy Ann Lance Show on design in Detroit.
Last week I was in Ann Arbor to tape a segment of the Lucy Ann Lance Show called "Damian on Design," which runs on WLBY 1290 AM radio in Ann Arbor. It features architect Damian Farrell and looks at the ways the aesthetics and function of design impact the way we live. I was speaking mainly about College for Creative Studies and its role in the revitalization of Detroit. We got into other subjects as well. You can watch a video podcast of the radio segment below:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Remembering My Woodward Dream Cruise

Culture Industries Inc (Vince Carducci, creative director). 1998. Seditious Soundbite (Version P/A). Installation view (photo: John Carlson; digital image: Vanessa Miller).
In the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to do one of the Woodward Avenue artist's billboards, which at the time were commissioned by Revolution, a gallery project. I was still in my suit-guy iteration as director of marketing and corporate communications for what was Standard Federal Bank (now part of Bank of America). The phrase, "The solution is to become part of the problem," is a detournement of the 1960s admonition that if you're not part of the solution then you must be part of the problem. Twenty-plus years of working in the corporate world taught me that in fact there isn't really a lot of upside to being part of the solution. If your boss gives you a really crappy job to do and you do it, your reward is typically to get an even crappier job to do the next time. Indeed, a recent survey suggests you may actually have more job satisfaction the more of a slacker you are.

The billboard has always been one of my favorite projects, and I used to regale myself with it as I sat pushing paper at my desk, entertaining visions of worker bees on their way into their offices in the morning being inspired to embrace a minimum-performance ethos. (Alas, if only I could have followed my own advice on that. Truth be told, I still haven't learned.) The layout and typographical treatment were done by CCS alum Bill Seidenstecker, who was an art director at BBDO Detroit where I was his major client. (As the Jenny Holzer truism has it, "Abuse of power comes as no surprise.") The actual painting was done by a sign guy from Hazel Park. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember his name and I can't seem to locate the invoice I paid, though my recollection is that the hit was $500 for time and materials. (Also in the abuse of power department are the fact that the original photo was shot by the husband of one of my staff members at the Bank and the subsequent digital image was created by the digital imaging specialist at CCS.)

The billboard was featured in the revised edition of Art in Detroit Public Places by Dennis Alan Nawrocki and David Clements published in 1999. (However, it doesn't appear in the third edition that came out in 2008.) It's also reprinted in the catalog for the MassMOCA show "Billboard: Art on the Road: A Retrospective of Artist's Billboards over the Last 30 Years."