In Dialogue with Mike Kelley Researching Michigan Avenue

Kerstin Niemann - Inge and Erwin at FILTER.jpg
Inge Nabuurs and Erwin van Doorn.jpeg
Inge Nabuurs and Erwin van Doorn mapping Michigan Avenue.jpeg

Artist duo Erwin Van Doorn and Inge Nabuurs from Eindhoven (the Netherlands) spend three weeks in the fall of 2017 at FILTER Detroit. Accompanied by 39 reproductions of framed collages of Mike Kelley ́s „Morgue“, which they brought from the Van Abbemuseum ́s contemporary collection, they researched and explored the context of this particular work series relating it back to his home town Detroit. Just before his death Kelley worked with the Van Abbemuseum on an audio guide translating the collages into a more contemporary context – he never finished. The artist duo took up the idea of an Audiologue while establishing a dialogue with the city of Detroit sharing and hosting the reproductions of Mike Kelley`s work. Within their three weeks work period they mapped Michigan Avenue as one of the major streets leading into the city and out to the suburbs cutting through different communities of the city of Detroit towards the suburb Westland, the childhood home of Kelly.

Back in Eindhoven the artists worked intensively on their gathered materials and impression dwelling deep into the history that combines contemporary art making, modernity in relation to the socio-economic connections between America and Europe. Their intensive studies of Kelley ́s work in US institutions as well as in European art collections lead them to form and shape their Detroit findings to produce „Zwischenlandschaften II“ a video installation and performance, as part of a series which they refer to as „Game piece“.

In October 2018 they presented „ZLSIII feat. Mike Kelly / Franz West, a performance and video installation presented at the Boghossian Foundation at Villa Empain, together with experimental dancer (Eleni Ploumi) and a classically trained percussionist (Kjell de Raes) they performed the Game Piece with . The location, Villa Empain, well chosen once hosted the historical Franz West / Mike Kelley show in 1999. (Link to Villa Empain). Marta Hrecznyj, long-term FILTER Detroit resident, art enthusiast and graphic designer supported the Inge and Erwin ́s production of the Game Piece in Brussels. Please read her review, who as a Detroiter accompanied the production and performance on site in Brussels and Eindhoven in 2018. (Link to Kaput Magazin)

From the 15ht until the 21st of March the video installation „Zwischenlandschaften III“, a monologue densely constructed with images, landscapes and quotes referencing work, history and context of Mike Kelley`s „Morgue“ series, is screened in the auditorium of the Van Abbemuseum. After that it joins the collection presentation „The Way Beyond Art“ featuring the works from Kelley’s Morgue series. (Link to Van Abbemuseum)

For more information on the artist and their work please visit:

Florian Joanna and Lew in front of the FILTER Detroit house, October 2018

Florian Joanna and Lew in front of the FILTER Detroit house, October 2018

Joanna Warza, Florian Malzacher, + Lew


October 2018

Family Research Stop-Over

Curator couple Joanna Warsza and Florian Malzacher and their son Lew came to stop by in Detroit for three days. The Berlin based family previously visited Chicago and Pittsburgh on their research travels.

As part of the visiting artist and curator program at Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute Chicago, Joanna Warsza, gave a lecture with the title: “Outside of the Institution´s Protective Walls.“ Among others Warsza has been the Artistic Director of Public Art Munich from 2016-2018. She considers herself as a city curator. Her partner, Florian Malzacher is a curator for visual and performative arts, a theater critic, and he worked e.g. as curator (dramaturgy) for the festival Steirischer Herbst from 2006 until 2012.


Ricardo Bachmann & Kimara Hungerbach


Kimara Hungerbach & Ricardo Bachmann


August - September 2018

Bang of Urban Districts (BoUD)

Detroit, as well as other cities in the United States, has experienced massive transformations in terms of labor, space, and availability of capital.

Kimara and Ricardo, two researchers with a focus on the social impacts of design, have embarked on a project called "BoUD - Bang of Urban Districts", which involves observing ever-changing communities and the human effects experienced by these transformations.

During their three months stay in the city of Detroit they want to analyze and film its diverse urban districts, as well as the human channels in which information, wisdom, and knowledge are exchanged or isolated. Three areas of human networking and how they impact local societies to enable growth will be explored: Creativity // Digitalization // Social Work.  

Their goal is to create bonds and dialogues to cities like Detroit in dealing with effects of modern transformation caused by the shift from an industrial society to the post-industrial-information age. They have a meaningful interest in the concept of social realities and how it can be re-examined. 

Kimara Hungerbach, based in Berlin, Germany, studied and works in the field of visual communications, and utilizes video and photography as her medium to demonstrate conceptions concerning human conditioning. She is interested in decontextualizing specific aspects of differing societies to explore unrealized biases that will provide a critical reflection into structures of existing hierarchies of power. Based in Hamburg, Germany, Ricardo Bachman studies a range of societal topics while using photography and installation art as a tool to illustrate these concepts visually. He ascertains the various levels of our aesthetic perception, the creative processes that have permanently influenced design and, above all, the potential of cross-border possibilities at all layers of society.


Ulrike Behrendt and Daniel-Simon Helbich


Ulrike Behrendt & Daniel-Simon Helbich


June- July 2018

Garden Transformation

Ulrike Behrend a former ceramics student at the art academy Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle, Germany, and her partner Daniel-Simon Helbich, an experienced machine builder and art activist from Leipzig, stayed for five weeks at FILTER Detroit.

Their reason for coming was to experience a city for a longer time period during their three months road trip though the US leading them from the east to the west coast. As part of their residency at FILTER Detroit they tamed the weeds and unwanted tree seedlings in the backyard of the residency. Despite the hot summer weather they turned it into a  decent piece of earth, ready for growing vegetables, fruits, and flowers in.

Besides gardening they biked the city and got to know the neighboring art projects. In the final week of their stay they build a composting toilet for Popps Packing.

Recent Residents in front of FILTER Detroit

Recent Residents in front of FILTER Detroit

Front Porch of Detroit in the background.

Front Porch of Detroit in the background.


Garden Transformation

Ulrike Behrendt und Daniel-Simon Helbich  |  June-July 2018

FILTER Backyard after cleaning.jpg


Julia Brunner and Stefan Endewardt


April - May 2018


Kotti-Shop went traveling to Detroit in April 2018. The performance, music and art theater HAU (Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin) in cooperation with FILTER Detroit invited Kotti Shop to do research in Detroit.

Working in an open dialogue with the art(s) in the project space and beyond has, according to Julia Brunner and Stefan Endewardt, “Actively served as a point of connection between local residents and members of the area’s artistic and cultural scene. For the past decade, Julia and Stefan have organized, curated and initiated the programming of Kotti-Shop, in what they describe as an “experimental, non-profit art and project space in Berlin.” Together with neighbors, other cultural workers, architects and designers they implemented a space of orientation and activity, especially to establish a continuous relationship with neighbors and its surrounding community.

Julia Brunner, a storyteller, author and sound artist, has produced several radio features and is a photographer besides her involvement in Kotti-Shop. Together with Stefan Endewardt, a trained architect who´s work addresses the areas of tension between art, architecture and cultural education, she stayed for two weeks of research travels in Detroit.

During their stay they connected to other project spaces that work with and within community, in the field of art, music, architecture and the everyday, such as One Mile, Popps Packing, the Hinterlands, Detroit Free Market or others.  During their research time while talking, walking, and experiencing different communities in Detroit, they engage in what they call multilogs of the urban. Figuring out what is it that is valuable to a community of people and how these values are enacted can be found while listening to the different voices, discussions, needs as well as desires that people express while they strive to improve their quality of living.

Back in Berlin Julia and Stefan produced a travel diary “ Kotti-Shop On Air #2 Berlin-Detroit“, which was aired on

During the HAU festival „Detroit-Berlin: One Circle“ (5/30 -6/2/18), Kotti-Shop presented results of their residency together with SuperFuture and Halima Cassells as well as Free Market Detroit in an outdoor installation (mixed media and videos), called „Transphäre“.



States of Transition: Art in the Contexts of Detroit, Baltimore and Hamburg


2011 - 2012

Detroit is a Starting Point

This collection of texts, thoughts, encounters, statements and interviews by artists, makers, researchers and pioneers has been assembled as the result of a series of research travels to the city of Detroit, and Baltimore as well as Hamburg conducted in Fall, 2011. Considering the possibilities and limits of contemporary art and its circulation within museums, cultural institutions, commercial galleries and urban lifestyle networks, this booklet intends to look at the intersections of where art and creative social engagement meet and how this affects the transformation of urban space in the different cities.

This booklet should give you insights from the point of view of art-makers and supporters.

Who and What

Kerstin Niemann: Who and what drives artists, makers and art organizers in cities like Detroit, Baltimore or Hamburg? 

Steve Hughes: Turning Dirt Without a Shovel

Sille Storihle: Anecdotes from Detroit

Liza Bielby and Richard Newman: Unintentional Pioneers – The Hinterlands’ Liza Bielby and Richard Newman

Interview essay between Chido Johnson and Kerstin Niemann: Art and Art production in Detroit

Gary Kachadourian: Working the Land

Sue Spaid: Does the Top Need the Bottom?

Hugh Pocock: “Whats Art Got To Do With It? ……Got To Do With It?”

Volker Kirchberg: Arts, Culture and Urban Development in Hamburg – Employments and Exploitations

YOU CAN ORDER THIS Booklet via Email,, for a prize of 10 EUR plus shipment.

Thanks to the Goethe Institute for the research travel grant for curators, without which I would have not been able to spend time in Baltimore and dwell in the artistic scene of Detroit. My heartfelt appreciation goes to all the artists, makers, doers, dwellers, shapers, initiators, citizens of Detroit, Baltimore and Hamburg. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and reflections about your city.


Learning from Detroit


May - August 2013, Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany

With Mira Burack und Kate Daughdrill, jessica Care moore, Susan Goethel Campbell, Tyree Guyton (The Heidelberg Project), Scott Hocking, Steve Hughes, I.T.U. mit Danielle Aubert und Maia Asshaq, Karin Jobst, Chido Johnson, Living Archive FILTER DETROIT (Fieke van Berkom, Cordula Ditz, Nina Könnemann), Gilda Snowden, Submerge: featuring Underground Resistance and Corine Vermeulen. 

Installation view Kunstverein Wolfsburg

Installation view Kunstverein Wolfsburg

What does Wolfsburg and Detroit have in common? Both are so called “motowns” or “autocities” referring to their importance as manufacturing bases of the automobile industry. According to this fact their inhabitants depend in several aspects on the economic development of this industrial sector. The current economic situation of both cities show two different outcomes of urban evolution and two different approaches to deal with turning points in economic development. While Wolfsburg overcame the crisis by restructuring the Volkswagen-group and by renewing its concept of urban space the US-American Detroit copes with its economic decline in a very different way: The citizens are self-managing the crisis.

installation detail by Scott Hocking

installation detail by Scott Hocking

What precisely can we learn from Detroit, a city that has the reputation of a shrinking city par excellence? According to Robert Venturi’s book “Learning from Las Vegas”, which became an incunabulum of postmodern architecture and urban planning one could put the thesis that there is in fact much to learn especially from those sites which in contrary to their “bad” images find very original solutions for urban problems that seemed to be unsoluble. A shrinking population and the collapse of the infrastructure can offer a chance for new forms of communal life and collaboration or even of the entire society and lead to the conclusion that a smaller city could be a better city, particularly if the active commitment of the citizens is supported. Urban gardening and urban farming are popular in Detroit. Most citizens use the open space, the empty houses and former factory sites to assure their food self-supply or to turn it into art work and to experiment with it. The increasing number of this neighbourly community art projects equalises the build-up of a new branch of production in which the citizens determine the parameter of their quality of life themselves and shape them with artistic means.

The group show “Learning from Detroit“ provided an insight into the present artistic and cultural movement of the city. It presented not only long-term residents and new ones or short-term in Detroit living artists and artist-groups but also development-processes of cultural collaborations with non-artists. The city itself, its history as an industrial site and its changing, dynamic structure has been the starting point and the substance for many of the shown artworks. Following his residency in Wolfsburg, Detroit-based artist Scott Hocking, developed an artwork that refers to both cities. Chido Johnson expanded his artistic approach by offering a “Wire Cars-Workshop” to the citizens of Wolfsburg.

Chido Johnson, Wired Car Workshop

Chido Johnson, Wired Car Workshop

12 artistic positions have been shown at two venues: the Kunstverein Wolfsburg located in the castle of Wolfsburg and the CITY GALLERY, a smaller project space of the Kunstverein Wolfsburg, in the city centre. The artworks contain the whole range of artistic media such as painting, photography, installations, sculpture and performance art. The group show “Learning from Detroit“ was developed in collaboration with FILTER a platform for international contemporary art based in Hamburg. Since three years initiator Kerstin Niemann manages a house on Moran Street under the name FILTER DETROIT which provides research residencies and is a place for exchange for artists, thinkers and other cultural professionals coming from in and outside Detroit. The project “Learning from Detroit“ is also a collaboration of the Kunstverein Wolfsburg and the Institute of Contemporary History and Citymarketing (IZS) as a part of the celebration activities of the 75th anniversary of Wolfsburg. The framework program organized by the IZS includes different DJ-acts (Detroit-Techno, Motown-Soul etc.), an urban gardening-day, a screening of citymarketing image films and a reading about the structural development of Detroit. Lokale Liaison – the education program of the Kunstverein Wolfsburg cooperates with the IZS for the development of a research exhibition that will be presented at space for friends at the Kunstverein Wolfsburg.

Stupor @ City Gallery

Stupor @ City Gallery

Opening: Thursday, 23rd of May, 7pm, 

Spoken Word Poetry Performance The Missing Project: Pieces of the D” by jessica Care moore and “Developments of Detroit Techno and the city’s influence on music and its artists” a DJ-Lecture by DJ, producer and sound designer Mike Huckaby

Performance by jessica Care moore

Performance by jessica Care moore

With kind support of:

Niedersächsiches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur

U.S. Consulate General Hamburg

WOB Wächst Mit Mir

Beeindruckend Jung 75 Wolfsburg