Fate of the Machinery

My family's monetary wealth was generated by an industrial auction business that operated from 1951-2002. A main component of this work involved appraising and auctioning the equipment of thousands of factories, closed throughout the history of post-WWII deindustrialization and financialization.  Every week, their company, Norman Levy Associates, would place Sunday advertisements in the Detroit News/Detroit Free Press for upcoming auctions The gallery-based project originated as a personal endeavor in the microfilms of the Purdy Kresge Library at Wayne State University, when I systematically went through every Detroit Free Press/Detroit News issue, isolating and capturing every ad the company placed from 1951 through my birth in 1984. These advertisements democratically listed every item that was for sale, and I wanted to reckon with each tool, press, cash register, work station. The ads began with the sale of small drug stores, print shops and small plants during 1950s suburbanization and white flight, became larger factories in the late 1960s and 70s, and full-company corporate liquidations during the mergers and acquisitions wave of the 1980s. Honey Krust Bakery, Jean's 5-Cent Store, Gordon's Men's Wear, Climatrol, Rand, Chrysler, NCR, Boeing were small blips on the squeeling microfilm reel of newspapers that got thicker and thicker as years passed.

The Fate of the Machinery was a gallery-based project at 9338 Campau in Hamtramck, Michigan from September 10-October 12, 2015. During the first week of the show, the gallery was open while I installed and sculpted the long chain of advertisements into a long chain resembling, at different points, DNA, market growth charts and quilts, thousands of staples keeping them precisely in place, but creating the illusion of flying off and sliding down the 100 foot wall in a working memorial to jobs lost and money gained.

On the opposite wall of the gallery, I presented a manuscript of transcripts and photographs. The backbone of the manuscript was a play I created by compositing recorded conversations that I initiated with my family. The conversations interrogate family beliefs about the accumulation of wealth, racism, segregation, and our collection of European antiques and mid-century American paintings. I invited viewers to interrupt the text by writing on the manuscript.

During the course of the project, I hosted topical conversations in the gallery and interviewed people from white suburban backgrounds about their relationships with their families. The project culminated with a group reading of the play.