DETROIT — Pieces of a clay pot. An old medicine bottle.
These random household items, plucked from the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) by Wayne State history sleuths, will be transformed into works of art.
MOCAD partnered with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Department to conduct an excavation on the museum’s grounds as part of an ongoing art exhibit entitled “All Monsters” by Chicago native Jan Tichy.
The exhibit is located in Mike Kelley’s “Mobile Homestead,” a full-scale replica of Kelley’s 1950s ranch-style home in Detroit. Kelley, who died in 2012, worked with a variety of media and is considered to be one of Detroit’s most influential artists. He asked that the ground floor rooms of the home be used as a community gallery and gathering space.
Crystal Palmer, youth program coordinator for MOCAD, said the exhibit is inspired by Kelley’s band, Destroy All Monsters, and the fact that “Mobile Homestead” explored themes similar to Tichy’s pieces.
“So he did this whole series called ‘Educational Complex,’ where he was building models, very, very precise models of schools that he had been to since elementary all the way to his college career because the sites were very formative for his art, career and knowledge,” Palmer said. “Yet it was also a place where he experienced all forms of trauma. So he’s kind of weaving these, his own personal narratives into these buildings, these structures, and this is kind of like a branch off of that ‘Educational Complex’ body.”
Kelley’s childhood memories were not the only traumas to take place on this land, however. The plot where “Mobile Homestead” sits is adjacent to the site of what was once a women’s prison and a place that housed homeless women and children, said Krysta Ryzewski, a professor of anthropology at WSU.
The professor said Tichy wanted to incorporate the land’s history into his piece.
“He thought that archaeology might be a really interesting way to connect with the art that’s on display in his part of the homestead,” Ryzewski said. “So we thought it might be a way to dig underground and bring up the stories of this property and the people who used to live here and utilize the space and many of those people are not known to Detroit’s history.”
The artifacts will be used by MOCAD’s Teen Council to create new pieces, but before that can happen, Ryzewski said, WSU’s Anthropology Department will document them.
By studying these findings, a new narrative of what took place on the land emerges, Ryzewski said.
“We are literally excavating other histories that have been rendered inaccessible because of the changes to the landscape and Detroit over time.”
Tichy’s “All Monsters” will be on display until Jan. 23.