DI at MOCAD—Update from the Detroit Phonographers Union

Building upon the work of DI’er Rebecca Tegtmeyer (Urban Renewal) that investigates the highways in Detroit’s landscape, Ben Gaydos and Julia Yezbick (as the Detroit Phonographers Union) recorded audio of spaces divided, interrupted, bisected, and plowed over by highways in Detroit. The sound of the highway is a pervasive part of Detroit’s sonic environment; one that we learn to quickly ignore. However, these sonic intrusions are like radio static, telling of a longer history of urban renewal interventions that destroyed neighborhoods, lives, and cultural districts. Let the incessant drone of rubber on pavement be a reminder to learn from our past mistakes.

photo 2

During the week of 9 November, 2014, we recorded sounds in key communities that had been affected by the 1-75 urban renewal highway projects of the 1960s and 1970s. Those included: Mexicantown and Delray in Southwest Detroit, Black Bottom and the Brewster Douglas Projects in Paradise Valley (which no longer exists). Using binaural microphones which simulate the 3-dimensional auditory experience of the ear, we crossed pedestrian bridges in each of these communities bisected by the highway.

photo 3 (1)

photo 2 (1)
Using the audio from these excursions, on Saturday, 15 November, we performed a 4 channel live-mix in the gallery space. The lightly edited field recording compositions were then installed in the gallery attached to maps drawn by DI members, providing a sonic element to our collective inquiries on Detroit.

DI at MOCAD—Update on Different Data


Work continues at MOCAD—
mapping unknown spaces near the Museum,



creating and analyzing a collection of typographic typologies,



and much discussing.

We presented at the Wayne State University Humanities Center Fall Symposium, re: the City, on Friday, October 31.

A new addition to the project came in from Gabrielle Esperdy: Motor City/Brick City Comparative Ecologies, Part 1, Geographies of Drinking, Detroit & Newark.

Here is a view of our working/exhibition space, as it was this week,

and a view across the room of the museum staff and planners setting up for an event at MOCAD this past Saturday.

DI at MOCAD—Writing the Essay, Different Data


Yesterday, we (Joshua Singer, Rachele Riley, Dan McCafferty) arrived at MOCAD in Detroit. We started to work on our contribution to the DesignInquiry DesignCity DEPE Space residency exhibition. Josh is mapping urban graphic language (typography, visual signs, graphics) and its connection to a process of gentrification. This map extends the research focus of his Ad-Hoc Atlas. During the drive back from our presentation at Michigan State University, Josh said that gentrification was:

“…the ecological process of successive displacement of cultural and economic groups and interests where one powerful group displaces the next, the previous group preparing the environment for the next, enabling, voluntarily or involuntarily, their own demise.”

Rachele is working with data collected by Data Driven Detroit (D3) in their recent ‘Motor City Mapping Parcel Survey.’ She is mapping spaces described in the D3 report as ‘unknown’ (Their use is unknown). She hopes to reveal why a map of unknown spaces might be useful. What is the best way to visualize the potential that lies in these kinds of gaps? Are they all the same? Why is their use ‘unknown?’ Does it relate to abandonment, or what other transitions can be observed? This map extends her research and creative project The Evolution of Silence which maps the activity of war, a restricted and secretive area, and transformation over time.

With these maps, we hope to generate knowledge and to develop a methodology for discovery that can extend to other cities and places. More updates will follow.

Here are some pictures from the DEPE space residency at MOCAD as it appeared on Monday. All participants are adding to a growing installation of work. Here you see work by Ben Van Dyke, Rebecca Tegtmeyer, and others—including a video by Rachele that animates post-it notes from the February expedition, mixed with video capture made from Josh’s Detroit dérive:

We added a 360 degree view of Detroit radiating out from MOCAD. Josh stitched together screen shots from Google earth for the print:

DI at MOCAD (Press Release)


DesignInquiry kicks off ‘Year of Agitation’ at MOCAD in Detroit
October 15, 2014 to January 1, 2015


(Detroit, MI)
Initializing the group’s ‘Year of Agitation’ with design work that questions the status quo, DesignInquiry will install a changing series of visual/verbal/performative design research works in the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) as part of the museum’s DEPE Space Residency Program. MOCAD’s Department of Education and Public Engagement (DEPE) enables adventurous, multidisciplinary programming in which the museum and city of Detroit function as sites for investigation and experimentation. Opening October 15, the first installment will be a dynamic compilation of work by DesignInquiry participants, entitled ‘Writing the Essay.’ As an overview of the residency, visitors can expect to participate in a series of experiential community workshops, deviant lectures, hybrid films, experimental meals, and unpredictable performances. DesignInquiry’s Fall 2014 alternating exhibition project at MOCAD will be open to the public from October 15, 2014 through January 1, 2015.

DesignInquiry (DI) is a collective of designers, thinkers, and makers devoted to researching design issues in intensive team-based gatherings and publishing its outcomes. In February 2014 the group conducted an expedition project in Detroit at the community space, Ponyride, to investigate fail/success cycles and the creative ecology of cities. In Detroit, DI partnered with local-, national-, and internationally-based designers and artists, from North America and the UK, to explore the current cultural activity in Detroit. The DI gathering offered an opportunity to discuss the leadership and community engagement that is integral to shaping Detroit’s vibrant cultural landscape. As a follow-up to the February expedition, DesignInquiry will return to Detroit to develop the next phase in this project through its multi-project/multi-participant exhibition at MOCAD. More information will follow on upcoming changing events as they are scheduled to take place. In keeping with the ethos of DesignInquiry, chaos will be applied to an evolving participatory process of creating an exhibition, and informed by passionate agitation of design norms.

October 15–24, 2014
‘Writing the Essay’—work by participants of the Detroit Inquiry: Ben Van Dyke, Rachele Riley, Joshua Singer, Rachel Fishman, Emily Luce, Denise Gonzales Crisp, Rebecca Tetgemeyer, and more.

‘Responsive Exhibition’ by Ben Van Dyke (ongoing)—immediate curation, in which the work is being made as it is installed.

October 28–Nov 2, 2014

‘Different Data for Mapping Detroit’s Cultural Landscape’—a hi/lo-fi data mash-up and workshop/exhibition by Rachele Riley, Joshua Singer, Patricio Davila and Dan McCafferty

Upcoming projects include:
November 2014

‘Detroit Gold Record’ by Lincoln Hancock—conveying the aspirations, consciousness, and potentials of the city and its inhabitants at this pivotal moment of rebirth through sound and graphic design.

‘Urban Acoustic Ecologies’ by The Detroit Phonographers Union (Ben Gaydos and Julia Yezbick) a series of sound pieces composed of untreated and unprocessed location recordings in and around Detroit.

‘Detroit/Food/Ephemera’ by Emily Luce—investigates food systems as a success/fail practice.

December 2014

‘Dissertation Project Print Shop’ by Stacy Asher, Chris Fox, Catherine Watson

and more.