DIA visit

28 01 2012

My dad and I stopped by the Detroit Institute of Arts yesterday. It was packed–more packed than one would expect an art museum to be on a Friday night. A positive sign for Western culture? Perhaps.

I’ve been visiting the DIA since my days at Montessori school, but I’ve found that my ongoing study of history adds another dimension to the art and artifacts on display. Two weeks ago, for example, I had to read a few excerpts from the Roman Emperor Augustus’ Res Gestae.

Imagine my surprise when I ran into Rome’s First Citizen last night:

His nose destroyed by an unfortunate plastic surgery addiction, Augustus would only appear before the Senate wearing a surgical mask

A 3-D film installation entitled “plant” was the main reason we made the trip. I won’t try to describe it in detail (it was pretty bizarre), but essentially, its creators took thousands of photos of the decaying Packard plant and used them to build some rather trippy digital composites.

I’m not an art critic, but I did appreciate the very strange work. I think.

As a lifetime Metro Detroiter, I know what the Packard plant once was; that historical concept shapes the way that I view it today.

But imagine that you lacked any knowledge of Detroit’s history–there is little or nothing about the Packard plant’s ruins that might inform you of its past. All of the machinery is gone; even the Packard signage has been ripped from the building. “plant” is disorienting enough to destroy that context and force viewers to contemplate the ruins on their own.

Another interesting note–I spent some time at the Bentley Historical Library on Thursday. I’m investigating the origins of Detroit’s cultural institutions for my history colloquium paper (it’s intended to be a sort of “senior project” that takes an entire semester to research and write).

So what was I examining Thursday? Original plans for the DIA and Detroit’s Cultural Center. Pretty cool.

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