ericamerylthomas [at] gmail [dot] com

in conversation with

Added on by Erica Thomas.

We all dread updating CVs but sometimes it can be a nice exercise to help us remember what we've actually accomplished. Earlier this week I was looking through old projects to see what needed to be added and I dug up this zine, which includes a short interview I did with Gina Reichert of Design 99 in Detroit. Design 99 is a small collective of sorts that does work in the intersections of art, design, architecture, community organizing and city planning. I invited Gina to be one of our guest lecturers for the 2011/12 series at Portland State University. Her projects are definitely worth a deeper look on her website, The full interview text is below.

in conversation with design 99.jpg


E: How would you explain your art practice to your mom?

G: We make stuff in our neighborhood, sometimes with houses or around houses or around the idea that we can do more with the houses we have. We've started making video work as a way to show people what it is we do in our neighborhood. People pay us to talk about our work and make new work in museums, sometimes galleries. Yes, we can pay most of our bills this way.

E: What about your practice is specific to Detroit and what projects or ideas do you think would work anywhere?

G: Our projects are site specific, meaning wherever we work we adapt to the situation. Most of our work happens to be in Detroit, and so directly reflects the situation right here. But our work makes plenty of sense elsewhere and we've done installations and projects in other places, from Chicago to The Netherlands. I would note that all cities have issues like Detroit, maybe just not at the same scale. But more likely they are in areas that aren't usually talked about or others might not know about them unless you are from that specific neighborhood. 

E: Do you actively seek participation from your neighbors and others in the community or do you prefer to make work that draws people in on their own?

G: We make work that confuses and amuses our neighbors. Our studio space is in our neighborhood. Our work elicits conversation and instigates dialogue, but does not directly involve them in the making.

E: What are you reading right now?

G: I've been reading Dr. Seuss's "ABC" quite a lot. Just finished "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is an amazing story of medicine and race and family structure. But mostly we read Craigslist postings and newspapers.