Aesthetic geographies of race: Detroit’s Heidelberg Project (Tyree Guyton)

Authors: Erin Siodmak*, Hunter College, City University of New York
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, United States
Keywords: art, Detroit, aesthetics, race, development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Gallier B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper takes seriously the sociological and spatial relationships between artistic practices, aesthetic regimes, and new urban development through a discussion of The Heidelberg Project, a site-specific installation in Detroit by artist Tyree Guyton. The Heidelberg Project grounds my analysis of the dynamic ways in which aesthetic capitalism and racial atmospheres operate through, against, and around artists, artistic objects, locations, and discourses. The aesthetic phenomena that surround art, and that art contributes to, resonate with processes of “redevelopment” and “renewal”—but also their interruption. Performative art forms do not simply express, represent, or communicate information, but are productive of political aesthetics. Thus the form that art takes matters in relation to the forms of value and wealth production in that moment: art is both context and agent of creation. Complicity with capital, colonialism, or appropriation through, for example, processes of gentrification, exclusion, or history-making, even when resistance is the intent, may often be unavoidable. But aesthetic, sensory experience offers visions of worlds—our own, others’, or worlds that do not (yet) exist and, indeed, herein lies one of art’s greatest potentials: to envision and materialize a range of possible futures/worlds—for better or for worse—that may become directly emergent in our present.

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