PLUME Issue 3: Reuse

Page 1


Reuse Featuring

PLUME Fall ‘22

a publication

College for Creative Studies

disrupt linear research


Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library Photo Essay S. NorthrupRenewal Interview K. PowersAbundance Interview A. KempRemediation Article O. DablsMythology PLUME is
by the
Library connecting community to information. It aims to
models by offering a uniquely interconnected approach to resources stemming from one
conceptual point. PLUME is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and was established in 2021. 201 E. Kirby Street Detroit, Michigan 48202 313.664.7642 Cover photo courtesy of Kayla Powers List CCS LibraryResources Contents

Editor’s Note

In many ways, the task of addressing the climate crisis is a Janus-faced endeavor, stretching out in opposing directions and yet inseparable in its dual philosophies. One face looks urgently ahead, tasked with envisioning new futures for the oncoming ecological realities of the climate crisis. In Issue 2: Ecofuturism, we considered this forward-thinking perspective, building a case for the transformative power of creative practice as a tool for future climate action.

The second face keeps the past in view, considering ways in which old forms, materials, and habits can be restored or repurposed. This second face traffics heavily in the language of pragmatism, making ingenious use of what is available to bear creative fruits. In PLUME Issue 3: Reuse, we turn ourselves toward the past, delving further into the overlapping and intersecting spheres of art practice and climate action. Our intention is for this issue to serve as both foil to and

extension of the path laid down by Ecofuturism - the other side of the coin, if you will.

In considering the past, we will explore the circular nature of reuse, unpacking the tensions that are held between acts of consumption, activism, and transformation in artistic endeavors. In the spirit of our previous issue, we will continue to offer a collection of resources that originate from both within and without the college. Through a now-familiar format of images and interviews, voices from a thriving community of Detroit makers, storytellers, and activists are situated alongside a curation of complementary library resources. Through this combination, we hope to inspire readers to consider new meanings for objects and spaces that, on their face, are presented as discarded or expended. Through this reframing, we can begin the regenerative work of crafting alternative realities from the resources we have at hand.

PLUME Fall ‘22
Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
PLUME Fall ‘22 “Continuously Non-Stop Forever” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20”

R enewal

I am most interested in questions of love, lust, loss, and desire, especially the feelings that we secretly harbor for one another. My work explores these ideas through personal and collective memories, actual and constructed experiences, and tangling and untangling the very loose threads that connect us.

I often employ found objects and appropriated images and texts, which are preloaded with history and meaning, in addition to my original material. I see this as a form of cultural shorthand toward my personal visual vocabulary, an attempt to communicate with others while filling in the blanks of memory and persona. I reproduce and manipulate these preexisting objects and images through assemblage, collage, re-photography, hand-sewing, mold-making and casting, and other means. Throughout all my work there is a sense of material reuse and renewal.

Temporality is very important to me, not only because of my work with film and video, which inherently deal with time, but in the pursuit of making fleeting thoughts, emotions, and smells more concrete than they are in the performance of our lives. The inclusion of religious and popular iconography in my work considers these parallel forms of worship while aiming at a larger sense of function and design. Through the construction of self-portraits, personal landmarks, and mash notes to an unfulfilled American Dream, I am selfmythologizing, while exploring objects

and actions that might seem remarkably unremarkable on their own.

Alongside this work, I also write queer smut and sad boy poems about the palpable but momentary thrills and deep longing that seem inherent to desire, cruising, hook-ups, missed connections, actual relationships. There is often a knowing remove to the voice, but the situations are intimate, raunchy, sweaty, hot, filled with genuine tenderness and humor, real emotions and bad decisions.

I pull from lived experiences, popular culture, and scraps of language. Song lyrics, half-remembered novels, movie quotes, text messages, and overheard conversations connect my personal memories to the collective Consciousness. In a more direct and much more physical way, my use of cut-up vintage war and adventure novels as the physical material for my poems makes the implicit, explicit. It’s death and disco, a fluid connection, raw, natural, never-ending.

The zine format seems like the perfect vehicle for this material. They feel special, or at least intimate, while remaining common, cheap, vernacular.

Scott Northrup is a visual artist, writer, curator, and educator living and working in Detroit, Michigan. He also Chairs the Film, Photography, and Interdisciplinary Art + Design programs at the College for Creative Studies. @scott_northrup

Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
PLUME Fall ‘22
“Coverings” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20”
“Costumes” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20” Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
“Unknown Caller” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20”
PLUME Fall ‘22
“It’s death and disco, a fluid connection, raw, natural, never-ending.”
Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
PLUME Fall ‘22
“Almost Ready” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20”
Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
“Tarantula” - S. Northrup, 2021, analog collage on board, 16x20”
Fall ‘22 PLUME Reclaimed Textiles: Techniques for Paper, Stitch, Plastic and Mixed Media K. Thittichai TT699 .T457 2014 Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space S. Alaimno HQ1190 .A4 2000 Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse S. Brown TT507 .B693 2016 The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency T. Moyer & G. Harper N8217.E28 N49 2011 The Modern Natural Dyer K. Vejar TP919.V45 2015 Sustainable Materials, Processes and Production R. Thompson NA2542.36 .T49 2013 Photo Courtesy of Kayla Powers

A bundance

As a place-based fiber artist, Kayla Powers creates ecologically focused textile art with the intention of exploring the common threads of our shared humanity. She works exclusively with locally foraged dye plants, positioning her work in a precise moment in time and place. Her work has been exhibited in fine art galleries, a natural history museum, public parks, and on the side of an old liquor store.

Interested in exploring the intersection between art and ecology, we decided to have a chat with Powers about the evolution and intention of her work.

PLUME: Could you tell us a little bit about your history as a fiber artist? Were you drawn first to weaving or the horticultural aspects of your practice?

Kayla: They kind of both happened simultaneously for me. I went to Western Michigan and I studied art history. When I graduated, like most recent undergraduates, I wasn’t quite ready to jump into the next thing, so I got a job working on an organic farm in Kalamazoo. At the same time, I started taking a weaving class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. I was learning about weaving as well as about growing plants at the same time. That turned out to be a really formative, educational experience for me.

Then I kind of meandered along that path, working on different farms, getting really interested in growing. I became a certified master gardener and I worked on a biodynamic ginger farm. I became really interested in the growing practices as well as different place-based fiber traditions. So those two things really developed at the same time for me.

P: Could you describe your vision and mission as an artist?

K: That’s another thing I’m sort of working to hone in also, because I like the thought of my work being educational. I like the thought of showing a piece and people being inspired by the fact that they’re dyed with plants, and maybe looking at plants around them differently. Maybe, recognizing ourselves as a part of the natural world, that might be a stretch, but that’s a dream. I also want to take a little bit of that pressure off myself and know that I’m making something that’s very beautiful to me, and it feels very much like I’m making what feels right, what’s of the season of the land. I’m sort of reinterpreting the things that I’m seeing in the way that I’m experiencing the world.

I’m in school right now at Cranbrook. I’m doing an MFA in Fibers and we talk a lot about art. Sometimes I think my work

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a Publication by the CCS Library

can come off as a little bit too accessible or too pretty, but I’ve really come to peace with that. I think that we could all use more beautiful things in the world. I certainly enjoy being challenged and pushed to question what I’m doing, but I know that sometimes the simplest thing is the most beautiful. I think my work is often very simple in that way, I’m not trying to complicate it in order to get the message across.

P: Could you tell us more about the relationship between your work and the community of Detroit?

K: That is something I think about all the time, and I haven’t really found a great way of weaving that into the work. I’m a transplant here. I moved here five years ago. When I came from Oregon, I was foraging for plants in these epic, gorgeous places, like the Willamette Valley overlooking the Columbia River, which is so beautiful. When I came to Detroit, I thought, “oh no, I won’t be able to forage for plants anymore”, but as I was walking around the east side in the “vacant lots,” I found that there’s actually so much plant and animal life in this city.

The natural world is thriving here, it’s abundant, and so a part of my work became recognizing and celebrating the abundance of the plant world here in the city. That has actually allowed me to connect with people who have likeminded pursuits; I’ve gotten in touch with

a lot of cool urban farms and gardeners. I’ve gotten to teach workshops at the Lafayette Greens Downtown and I like to work with different growers who are growing plants that I don’t have access to from foraging. In the future, I hope to be able to offer drop-in workshops for anyone that wants to come.

I’d say that another aspect of engaging with the city, because I’m really focused on the natural world and celebrating that, has been getting into public art. A couple years ago, I did a public art installation on the Dequindre Cut where I dyed twelve tapestries that I had hand-woven, and they were all dyed with locally foraged plants. It was installed on the Dequindre Cut for a whole month during September. Bringing something like that to the public spaces was so exciting for me because normally that would be in a white box gallery space that can sometimes be intimidating, even for myself to go into. It doesn’t always feel right for the work. More recently, I installed a bunch of quilt banners that I made, they’re all dyed with plants, on the telephone poles at a farm pretty close to my house in the north end.

So while I am very interested in being a good community member in the city, I certainly see that there’s opportunity for more involvement. One thing I’ve learned about Detroit is you’ve got to take your time, you’ve got to go slowly. Which makes sense to me. I look forward to deepening that connection to being a

PLUME Fall ‘22

place-based artist in Detroit even more.

P: How do you see your work contributing to the practice of reuse and regeneration?

K: While my practice is more sustainable, there is a lot of water use, but natural dyes are definitely more renewable than synthetic dyes. Sustainability is the baseline, but then to add to that to make my work regenerative, like you’re talking about, that’s been the new goal. Trying to find ways to give back. Not that I can’t continue taking at a sustainable amount, but I’d like to also contribute to the ecosystems that I’m so reliant on, that are so generous to us.

One thing I’ve been doing is bringing native wildflower seeds with me when I go foraging, so that I’m giving a little bit back in the process of taking. I’m also really clocking in the miles when I’m walking around, and looking at the plants. I’m never taking the first thing I see. I’m never taking all of a specific type of flowers that I see. I really spend a lot of time getting to know the place. I’m getting to know when certain plants are blooming, and if I cut down those flowers, the plant will grow back even more. Some plants need to be pruned in order to be healthier. That’s one way that I like to think of as contributing to a regenerative ecosystem.

In terms of reuse, I do use a lot of secondhand fibers and fabrics and yarns. I’ll go to Value World and thrift stores

around here and get fabric and use those. I think that really contributes to the life of fabric as an end result. Like, if it’s a quilt I’m making, it has this added layer of a story that comes with some history, like a textile that has been used and loved for a long time. Those are two of the ways. I also have a garden in my backyard and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the most rewarding experience to have the rhythm of every day watering and weeding and observing the plants.

P: Do you ever plant anything specific in your garden with the intention to use in your work?

K: Oh, definitely. Yeah, this garden, especially this year, is pretty much like 50/50 dye plants and vegetables. Some of the unique things I’m growing for dyes are the Japanese Indigo. I also grow Madder Root, which is a really special dye plant, you have to give it at least three years in the ground before harvesting. I’m growing Coreopsis Marigolds, I’m growing Murasaki this year – that’s a purple root that’s used for dyeing all sorts of things.

Kayla Powers is a self-taught fiber artist and trained horticulturist based in Detroit, Michigan. In addition to her art practice, she has taught workshops in Detroit and Portland, Oregon. @kayla.powers Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
PLUME Recycling Spaces: Curating Urban Evolution E. Waugh NA9000 .W38 2011 An Atlas of Recycled Landscapes M. De Poli SB472.45 .D428 2014 Reimagining Sustainable Cities S. M. Wheeler HT166 .W93 2021 ebook Fall ‘22 Photo Courtesy of Andrew Kemp

R emediation

Situated in the Northeast corner of Detroit, the Poletown East neighborhood is often defined by its destruction. Seized by eminent domain in 1981 to provide land to build a General Motors plant, the neighborhood as it existed was effectively razed – homes, businesses, and churches were demolished in anticipation of the plant’s construction, which was soon followed by a long-despised city incinerator.

And yet, as is uncommonly commonplace in this city, the neighborhood began to care for itself and its land in spite of formal disinvestment. Arboretum Detroit, a non-profit organization dedicated to reforesting the urban landscapes, is one of many agents facilitating care in this blighted neighborhood.

We spent some time with Arboretum Detroit’s president, Andrew “Birch” Kemp, discussing ecological rehabilitation and the task of urban reforestation.

PLUME: Looking at the spaces you’ve created, you’ve filled multiple city blocks with trees. This is an enormous undertaking. How did Arboretum Detroit get started?

Birch: We started just planting trees on our own land, because that’s what we do. I’ve been planting trees for most of my life. We decided to start a nonprofit so that we

could actually buy more land and plant more trees faster, really. It gave us the ability to work with the land bank and get land cheaper and get grants for trees. Now we’re in our fourth year and we’ve had four major projects.

P: That’s amazing to have such a natural progression of work that was already ingrained in your daily practice. What was the first project you took on?

B: Treetroit One is the first project we did on Earth Day 2019. We bought four lots on the next block and built a little park there. We planted trios of trees, because the only thing that was there after they demolished the house was three spruce trees on the corner. The motif was to plant in threes to honor that. Plus, planting trees together is better. I think they prefer to be together; I think that the science proves that they’re better together.

P: Absolutely. There is so much we are starting to understand about the unseen networks that trees share between one another. What about planting together benefits trees?

B: Trees will physically support each other, but also share resources like sugar through the mycelial network. I’m really into having the space be a place to demonstrate that.

Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library

We’re working on a two-year project right now called the Circle Forest. A big part of that project is planting the trees in circles and actually scouring out a trench for the trees to go in – imagine a twenty five-foot diameter circle that we actually fill with better soil and mycorrhiza that will help trees communicate and support each other.

P: There is a quote from your website, “This patchwork of forest is laid over the history of city blocks that will safely mature in perpetuity for all Detroiters.” That is a profound way to frame the role that community and sense of place play out in your work. Why was it important for you to plant in Detroit?

B: My whole life I’ve just been in love with Detroit. To be able to do something here was always an honor to me. When I was twenty-three I bought my first house and I planted my first tree in Detroit. It felt like I was making a long-term difference for this city. Detroit is the center of the universe to me.

This arboretum is kind of different because it’s a winding park, right? Because we could get four lots here and four lots there, four lots blocks away. Our goal is to connect them so that it is one thing, but it’s not really contiguous.

P: I feel like that’s becoming of the landscape of Detroit and its physical sprawl. Are there other ways that reforestation in a Detroit

neighborhood has been unique?

B: In this neighborhood, the GM plant was built through eminent domain and they moved something like fifteen hundred households. The landscape of our neighborhood is the result of that move. The people who could leave did, because of the Detroit incinerator.

Now, as we dig the holes for the trees, we encounter all kinds of urban detritus. We could throw it away, but I’ve been building these cylindrical stupa sculptures that we fill up with the stuff that we’ve mined. They’re evidence of what it takes to plant a tree in Detroit.

There’s something called tree time, because trees are slow and they follow the seasons. The stupas are really there to bring in the human time - here’s bricks and concrete that were made by humans and then left by humans.

P: It’s interesting that there are elements to the Arboretum that are physically circular for practical reasons – like planting in threes, the construction of the Circle Forest, or building the stupas – but there is also a thematic circularity in the Arboretum’s motto “Help Us Help Trees Help Us.” What role do you see circular environments having in reforestation of urban spaces?

B: I do think that fits really nicely. There is a circular nature to thinking about what was here and what we hope to see here

PLUME Fall ‘22

in the future. This area was trees, and we hope for it to be trees again. Right? That’s the goal. The landscape has been clear-cut, bulldozed, houses built, houses burned, houses torn down. That’s a hundred-year cycle right there.

Now we’re remediating on the surface but also underground. We’re doing a lot that’s going to support the trees terraforming and changing the landscape. But as we’re evolving, I think our motto would be more “Bringing Trees to the People and People to the Trees.”

P: What does bringing people to the trees look like for Arboretum Detroit?

B: The idea behind the Arboretum was to amplify my energy for trees by helping other people plant trees. The idea behind the nursery is that I can bring the trees here for everybody else to plant. Even if we plant ten more acres here, it’s still tiny. But here’s what I can do. I’m getting old and digging is work. I still love it, but I can only do that so fast. If every spring I can get five people to plant twenty trees each in their yards, this neighborhood becomes so full of trees. I’m sure we’re already the most diverse neighborhood in terms of tree canopy, or we’re going to be. In our neighborhood, this nursery has put out over three hundred trees.

I also want to encourage people to replicate what we’ve done. If there could be one person in every neighborhood

who could be “the tree guy,” in one hundred years they could be completely filled with trees. We could be the most forested city in the world, we should be. There’s no reason we should be mowing these lots – it’s ridiculous the amount of energy wasted and money spent by the city of Detroit to mow vacant lots. It doesn’t take anything to let it all grow, so let it all grow. The trees will come, they’ll be here in two years. Before you blink, you have a forest.

Birch Kemp is the Executive Director and President of Arboretum Detroit, a non-profit based in Detroit, Michigan. @arbdetroit

Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
PLUME Fall ‘22 Zulu Beadwork: Talk with Beads H. Dube NK 3650.5 .S6 D83 2009 The Art Of Placemaking R. L. Fleming NA9052.F54 2007 Foundation: Transforming Found Objects into Digital Assemblage S. Drate N7433.8 E956 2003 Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America I. X. Kendi & K. N. Blain E185.F625 2021 Black Art: A Cultural History R. J. Powell N6538.B53P69 2021 Wild Beads Of Africa B. Steinberg NK5440.B34W47 2017 Photo Courtesy of Olayami Dabls

M ythology

Although he objects to being called an artist, for the past twenty-five years Olayami Dabls has created installations, murals, sculptures, and other works of art at Dabls MBAD African Bead Museum on Vinewood Street off Grand River Avenue on the west side of Detroit.

He was conscripted into the army in 1968, which allowed him to complete his GED and attend college. Dabls attended Highland Park Community College, whose curriculum focused on Black life and experiences.

For fifteen years Dabls worked as a curator and Artist-in-Residence at the African American Museum. When the African American Museum moved to Detroit’s Cultural Center neighborhood, Dabls decided to start a museum of his own.

“I don’t want to be a member of the American Museum Association. Those organizations were too restrictive for what I was doing,” Dabls said. “When I [founded the museum], the goal was to teach a mythological history to Black people, like the Europeans have a mythological history about themselves, you can’t do that if you’re a member of another organization.”

The building that houses the museum is a work of art itself, covered in murals made

of mirrors, wood, and brightly painted shapes and textures. Next door to the museum, two lots that once stood vacant now hold a maze of large installations and sculptures made from found materials. To create this space with intention, Dabls thinks deeply about how symbols are used in different cultural contexts, as in his installation, Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust.

“[The installation, Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust] is a metaphor that deals with the relationship between Africans and Europeans over the last 500 yearstold through four characters,” Dabls said. “But no one is saying ‘Dabls is pushing a Black view.’ You could just come here, enjoy, without realizing that I’m using found objects to communicate a very serious story in a certain way that they can palate it. So I’m able to talk about these things without getting pushback and people wanting to fight.”

Part of what makes the MBAD Museum unique is Dabls’ radical convictions and an ethic of care and curiosity. While Dabls’ work tackles deep themes, it is not didactic or forced.

“The goal is not to educate you and alienate you and have you not come back again,” Dabls said. “The goal is to meet you on a common ground. If you want to

Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
Olayami Dabls

just sit and talk about the pretty colors, you know, I can sense that. And that’s where people come in and want to talk about the symbolic nature behind everything here. Then I can go there, because you’ve given me permission when you ask the question.”

The process of creating a mural begins with sheets of plywood that are then painted. Slowly, across forty feet of plywood, an image is constructed by layering paint and found materials - a larger pattern and image begins to emerge. To Dabls, materials and their unique properties carry as much weight as the finished piece.

“Once I began to study traditional African use of materials, I discovered that everything that was used had a purpose that was hidden. For instance, if you look at what’s here, you may not consider the wood, how significant the tree is to us. You may not understand that there are pieces of iron in here. None of this stuff is reused, it’s just used in a way that the West is not used to using.”

Visitors as well as the surrounding neighborhood are incorporated into his sculptures. Discarded materials are transformed and become artworks that in turn tell stories of material culture and history. When asked about his work, Dabls doesn’t describe himself as an artist. He describes himself as a storyteller.

“All history is always presented by people

we call artists,” Dabls said. “But mostly in their own culture, they are not called artists. They are storytellers, they are anything other than an artist. So when you define the term art, it’s a European term, based on a couple of European artists from the 1900s.”

Dabls reminisces on philosophy, history and the idea of the future.

“Holding onto ideas about the future is funny because it will never be what you think,” Dabls said. “Looking back is a commentary on the idea that you gotta study your past in order to move forward.”

Olayami Dabls is a visual storyteller based in Detroit, Michigan. He is the founder and curator of MBAD African Bead Museum. @olayamidabls

PLUME Fall ‘22
Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
“I discovered that that everything that was used had a purpose that was hidden.”
PLUME Fall ‘22 R esources CCS Library Public Art Encounters: Art, Space and Identity M. Zebracki & J. M. Palmer N8725.P83 2018 Public Art Now S. Wang N6498.I56P82 2016 The Everyday and Everydayness J. Mehretu N6537.M42 2021 The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability W. McDonough TD794.5 .M395 2013 Emotionally Durable Design J. Chapman TS170.5 .C36 2005 S. Strasser HD4482 .S77 1999 Group Efforts: Changing Public Space G. Browning NA9053.S6 G76 2015 Product Design For the Environment: A Life Cycle Approach F. Giudice TS171.4 .G48 2006 Re:Purposed M. McLendon N6494.C63 M35x 2015 Urban Ecology: Detroit and Beyond Design For Environmental Sustainability C. Vezzoli TS171.4 .V49 2008 Detroit: Field Notes from a Wild City F. Klose TR724.K56 2021 Print PLUME Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash K. Park HT241.P372005


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Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse

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Sustainable Design: An Educational Imperative

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Art and Garbage A. Ponte ISSN: 11249064

Promoting Recycling, Reducing and Reusing in the School of Design

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Creative Upcycling: Reconnecting People, Materials and Place Through Making

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Recycling as Creativity E. Mears


Issue No. 3 a Publication by the CCS Library
Issue No. 3 Fall ‘22 PLUME a Publication by the CCS Library
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