The Brewster Douglass Projects were demolished last year, but Detroit and what’s left behind of them is anything but a ‘blank slate’. This is a documentary about the first public housing for low income Americans, takes an unconventional look inside the historic buildings, introducing the viewer to lifelong residents, activists who fought to keep the projects open, and squatters – themselves former residents – who struggle to stay warm through Detroit’s harsh winter. The film is a response to the ‘blank canvas’ narrative that has been perpetrated by local and national media campaigns about Detroit.
In 1935 Eleanor Roosevelt came to Detroit to break ground on the Brewster Homes, the first public housing project in the country built for black people. Seventy-five years later, half of the neighborhood has been demolished and redeveloped. The other half stands windowless and seemingly vacant. This 27 minute documentary takes an unconventional look inside the historic buildings, introducing the viewer to lifelong residents, activists who fought to keep the projects open, and squatters – themselves former residents – who struggle to stay warm through Detroit’s harsh winter.
The film is a part of an installation programming for ArtXDetroit at the Museum of Contemporary Art which opens April 10th-April 26th. “A Requiem for Douglass is a ritual comprised of many rituals. This interactive video and sculpture installation invites participants to perform the rite of salvaging a brick from the late Brewster-Douglass housing project. (The Brewster-Douglass was the first low-income public housing development in the country, demolished throughout 2014.) Arranged in the form of one of the iconic Douglass Towers, a sculpture of bricks initiates a series of videos when touched. The activated videos present a display of seven rituals performed at the Douglass Towers during their demolition, as well as the demolition itself. The installation lasts as long as there are bricks remaining.”
This project was created by Oren Goldenberg as the final iteration of his series The Future is Changing: Rituals for Spatial Change. Oren Goldenberg is a video artist and producer based in Detroit. His work ranges from experimental dance to political satire, social documentary to feature film, multi-media installations to fake kickstarter videos. He is the owner of Cass Corridor Films.
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