With open auditions ending March 31, the Detroit-based interactive art and light festival Dlectricity is quickly approaching.
Hosted by Midtown Detroit Inc., Dlectricity is a Nuit Blanche, or a nighttime arts festival. It’s scheduled to coincide with the Detroit Design Festival in September.
Its goal is to stimulate a discussion about the effects of public art on the surrounding community with various installations throughout parts of Midtown Detroit.
Thirty-five local, national and international artists will participate in the event, creating installations viewers can interact with. Each installation is designed specifically for the location in which it is placed.
Wayne State professor Cristobal Mendoza, whose work has been displayed at the Biennial of Video and Media Arts in Chile, created one of the most memorable installations of Dlectricity.
Mendoza’s piece, called “Notional Field,” was displayed at the Welcome Center and consisted of illuminated strings that morphed and flowed, mimicking the viewer’s pattern of f movement.
“The overall experience was fantastic,” Mendoza said. “Detroit is not really known for its pedestrian traffic, so it was almost surreal to see Woodward overrun by throngs of people on foot. Beyond the art and the activities, Dlectricity transformed the neighborhood and likely the way many nonresidents view the city.”
Although several stationary art pieces were displayed, Dlectricity did not solely consist of them. “OPEN”, a performance created by WSU dance professor Biba Bell, used light to trail the movements of a dancer as they moved through a specific environment.
“The effect was a world of its own — all light was manipulated by the dancers, who had multiple flashlights, as well as two dancers who worked projectors on their backs,” Bell said. “Lots of people seemed to be a bit mystified by the whole experience — being out in the neighborhood, the many installations, the questions around art and its reception.”
Bell teaches at New York University and WSU. A doctoral candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU, Bell has been presented at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, as well as several other events and showplaces throughout the United States.
The number of people who migrated to Midtown during Dlectricity had a great economic impact on the community and helped excel the previous work done by its host, Midtown Detroit Inc.
“A Nuit Blanche-type event does a lot for the neighborhood, animating it, bringing visibility and creating a space for exploration and intrigue,” Bell said.
Midtown Inc. is a nonprofit development agency that has helped raise more than $50 million for various parks, community gardens, public art plans and other beautification projects throughout the vibrant Detroit neighborhood.
“Even with the rain on Friday, people still came out, and seeing them come back, with an audience of around 75,000 people … It was unbelievable,” said Annmarie Borucki, special projects manager at Midtown Inc.
One piece called “I See You,” presented by Apetechnology, consisted of glowing robots that roamed the streets, interrupting random viewers and forcing them to interact. If the viewers walked away, the bot would follow and mimic their movements, forcing them to take part in the action.
“That was the artist’s point: to see how humans interacted with these glowing bots,” said Alexandra McKendrick, WSU student and Dlectricity attendee. “You could not just simply be a bystander; the robots would not allow it.”
Dlectricity is more than an outdoor art exhibit — it is a portrayal of the passion that is seen in WSU students, faculty and staff.
“Having a relationship (with) WSU is a natural partnership for Dlectricity, and a number of WSU spaces were included for installation/performance,” Bell said. “It is also set up like a treasure hunt, walking through neighborhoods looking for luminescence.”
Mendoza also offered encouragement for students, both art and non-art oriented, to experience Dlectricity.
“You don’t have to be part of the art community to enjoy art,” Mendoza said. “Appreciating the positive aspects of the urban landscape is something that the WSU population should practice, and Dlectricity is a truly unique way to do so.”