Monthly Archives: January 2015

Rambling alert! Saturday, January 31

January 26, 2015

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Saturday, January 31
Gallery hours 1-6; ramble leaves at 2
Public Pool,
3309 Caniff Hamtramck 48212

In collaboration with Picnic Club Detroit’s Picnics in the Polar Vortex show underway at Public Pool in Hamtramck, we will be taking a hike at 2:00 this Saturday, January 31. (Please note the day! This ramble will take place during gallery hours on Saturday, not on Sunday as most rambles do). Our destination is the I-94 Industrial Renaissance Zone, where Picnic Club held its very first picnic in April of last year. We’ll be returning to see what’s changed on this urban prairie as the seasons have passed. Where we once rustled through brush participating in the “Birdwatching Within the Barricades” picnic, we’ll find a scene rendered unrecognizable by more than a mere layer of snow.

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The zone has recently received considerable attention from people other than birdwatchers and urban explorers. As the city aims to develop the area into the industrial park it was intended to be in the first place, cleanup efforts seem to have overtaken some of its charms. Lear and Penske, Crain’s reported last month, are eyeing the spot with its attractive financial incentives in mind.

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Out of ten picnics in ten months, two picnic locations have been lost to development. Since only three picnic spots have been places with no official designation or concordant protections, like other places we’ve visted — Rouge Park, the Belle Isle aquarium, the course of the Peoplemover, two Picnic Club members’ residences — the extinction rate of these places is much higher than the numbers seem to say. The other development casualty is the amply forested site we enjoyed during “A Human Geology” picnic. The trees and grasses and ecosystems that intervened after the former Piquette plant burned in 2005 have been bulldozed.

Cataloging and chronicling these changes is an essential reflection that establishes history and informs our future use of land and other resources. We document these spaces in our photos, artifacts, memories, so that when they vanish they leave some trace. Moving between, through, and around these spaces, we document them in the tactile muscle memory of our bodies. This is the importance of our picnicking and rambling, examining and experiencing these places before they shift into their next stage of being.

The forecast is chilly, so please come prepared for weather! Your thermos should be full of some kind of hot beverage, and your hands should be full of mittens, or whatever keeps the frostbite at bay. Expect a 5-6 mile ramble — we’ll be returning to the gallery before it closes at 6:00. As always, walking is free and open to the public. Hope to see you this weekend.

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See also:
Picnic Club Detroit’s synopsis of “Birdwatching within the Barricades”
Scott Hocking’s decade of photo documentation
Crain’s “Lear, Penske eye move to city industrial park”

Detroit Toolkit

January 23, 2015

The observant pedestrian may notice that there aren’t many street sweepers in this city. To some, this lack of city service is a benefit. The streets are full of things, and the things are full of stories. These stories get spilled out of dumpsters, filtered through holes in pockets, run over by cars, kicked to the curb — ultimately left for dead. As much as garbage can resemble treasure, these things might, to the right roving thing-finder. I’d halfheartedly taken up and discarded collections of them in the past, always ultimately throwing out the knife blades and the eyelash curlers gleaned from downtown alleys, the sockets and wrenches rusting in outlying streets. Instead, for one month, I humored my thing-finderly tendencies and let the items accumulate.

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The result is the December 2014 Detroit Toolkit. The toolkit is currently at Public Pool in Hamtramck, honored to be part of Picnic Club Detroit‘s retrospective of its inaugural year of picnics. The toolkit represents the resourcefulness of Detroiters, the mindset of always doing the best that can be done with what can be had. More than I realized, this was a study in the extent to which the objects sought influence the objects found. While the toolkit came into being because of all the stray items I regularly see, December yielded an unusual number of knife sightings. (Pro tip: the shrubbery outside Comerica Park is a hotspot for crappy pocket tools of all stripes, probably discarded by forgetful attendees who didn’t want to make the trek back to their distant surface lot to leave the item in their car. Did they mean to retrieve them after the game? Who knows. Dogs will sniff out their own conclusions.)

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Not all tools were ideal candidates for the collection. The obsolete cellphone, broken jingle bell, ugly silverware — I carried them into the gallery in a cardboard box, looked at them, and carried them back out to the dumpster. The toolkit is as complete as time and place permit. My only regret is that I rarely saw syringes when I was out alone, and no walking companion would let me pick up one of them when we were together — Detroit’s needle to go with the thread.

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Visiting hours for the Picnics in the Polar Vortex exhibition are 1-6 PM every Saturday, with varied dreamy picnic programming going on each week. This Saturday is about “Ideas for Creative Leisure,” a workshop for generating “both inspired and mundane ideas for recreation.” If I’m not out rambling the daylight away as usual, this is where you’ll find me. It’s also a great chance to browse the Picnic Club library and spend some time with the photos and artifacts in the gallery. If gallery hours aren’t enough, the toolkit is for “sale”! Have you always wanted a bunch of miscellaneous hand-selected garbage and to take me on five walks of your choice? Yes? Let’s talk.

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