DETROIT: Dlectricity

31 Oct

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The buzz had begun months earlier; articles in local publications, postcards on counters, something new was coming to Detroit. We were about to find out what happens when you combine 35 local, national and international artists with the historic architecture of Midtown Detroit; throw in a few projectors, lots of extension cords, and there you have it: Dlectricity!  Billed as Detroit’s nighttime exhibition of Art and Light we couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.

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As soon as we approached Midtown we could feel the excitement; none of our usual parking spaces were available, the sidewalks were packed with people all headed towards Woodward; word had gotten out. Finally parked, we joined the crowds walking towards the light; it was everywhere! Coming up Hancock we encountered our first group of displays; Frontier Town created a camp of illuminated tents, children flocked inside playing with the effects of light, a little further up a small park of glowing amber light flowers sprouted from the ground. We were drawn closer to Woodward by the maze of thin light sticks that resembled glowing blue cattails. We paused on the sidewalk for a moment to decide what direction to walk; I was astounded by the number of human beings walking around the streets of Detroit on a crisp fall evening, and in the dark no less… I have to say I was totally impressed by the attendance at this inaugural exhibition. Further North on Woodward we stopped to check out a cool installation; a string structure located inside Wayne States Welcome Center reacts to motions made by passers-by through interactive light projection, just around the corner in a series of windows, screens displaying classic films are the backdrop to live performances. Something big was going on at the Detroit Public Library, we were about to see for ourselves.

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As we walked along the lively avenue we could hear music in the distance, bunches of people were gathered in front of the Detroit Public Library watching what appeared to be a movie projected onto the facade. In a technique known as Projection-Mapped 3D Animation, the artists are able to create a film that actually ‘fits’ an individual building, it’s incredible! “Knowledge Is Power” tells the human story of knowledge from cave painting to the invention of books, the age of electricity all the way to the rise of the internet. We stood at the library gates as images of fire crept up the building, suddenly it was a sea and a boat sailed by, the building was transformed into an ancient greek structure, then a library stacked with huge volumes of books, all the while music played creating the mood, it was fantastic. The DIA was simply lit and elegant as pedestrians flocked to her steps and stood on the porch. In front of the Rackham Building on Farnsworth a series of lit up bicycles tell the story of a bike ride gone terribly wrong, the Michigan Science Center was turned into a canvas for a video projection called Whale; taking up three panels on the exterior you feel as if you are underwater viewing an enormous whale. 

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Turning south on Woodward there was much more to see. The top three floors of the Garfield building were illuminated with random images and multi-color designs while word messages travel across the top edge. Earlier in the evening a Light Bike Workshop was held, followed by a bike parade, many of the participants could be spotted riding around Midtown. The former Agave restaurant, vacant for years, was brought to life with images of people going about their business projected onto the windows. Everywhere you looked there was light, movement and activity. An astronaut wearing a Red Wings jersey floated up high on a structure, the entire side of a steam plant was aglow in text messages generated by attendees. Orchestra Hall and the Max Fisher Music Center building was glowing in red, pink, blue and yellow; architectural details that may be overlooked were now distinctly apparent. One of the coolest exhibits took place on the side of Orchestra Hall; in what was called “Max Cast” the south wall of the building was turned into a giant screen streaming the live performance going on inside, a show titled “Cirque de la Symphonie”. There we were, sitting on a curb in Detroit,watching and listening as the DSO played enchanting tunes and world-famous cirque acrobats bend and twist into seemingly impossible poses, those assembled around us gasped and applauded in unison. The night was a magical one, made up of sights straight out of artist’s imaginations and shared by thousands of folks eager to take part in what Detroit has to offer; I can hardly wait for the next Dlectricity…..

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It was late and we had yet to have our dinner, we had been meaning to get back to Small Plates since the ownership change and interior make-over, so that was the plan. We were lucky enough to score a table near the expansive front windows; greeted immediately by our waitress, we quickly scanned the menu. The premise of the restaurant is to promote communal dining by offering a wide selection of small sharable dishes or “plates”.  After we placed our order we had a chance to look around; the walls are painted black, several graffiti pieces by Shades decorate the walls along with work by other local artists. The bar extends further now and was busy with patrons both eating and drinking, the place has a great vibe. Our small plates began arriving, first to hit the table was the hand-cut fries, served with sides of malt vinegar and a spicy aioli, they were really good. Thankfully the Pretzel Sliders and Hudson’s Maurice salad followed quickly along with the skillet cornbread. The sliders were wonderful, I especially like the pretzel buns. The salad was unique in that the greens were dressed and the other items were cut in chunks and lined the side of the good-sized bowl. The cornbread had just the right amount of crunch on the outside and was still moist inside, served with a side of black beans it made for a tasty combination. We ate and we drank, our waitress was a delightful mix of friendliness and great service. I couldn’t help but inquire about dessert; while I was longing for the Key Lime pie, I just couldn’t do it. We’ll have to come back soon and give the desserts a try!

One Response to “DETROIT: Dlectricity”

  1. Barbara Dorda November 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Great review – I am really enjoying your posts. I wish I would have shared that experience with you!

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