What does the funk music of Parliament-Funkadelic and Detroit’s North End have in common?
A taste of each is currently on display in France — 4,000 miles away from East Grand Boulevard.
Duminie DePorres, a local guitarist who has been inspired by the funk genre and has performed with Parliament-Funkadelic front man George Clinton; and DJ Los, a hip-hop artist and son of P-Funk percussionist Carl ‘Butch’ Small, are participating in Saint Etienne Design Biennale.
What’s Saint Etienne Design Biennale?
It’s an annual worldwide conclave for the arts and design community. This year’s theme is “working promise.”
DePorres and DJ Los are joined in France by a local firm called Akoaki, which is led by Anya Sirota and Jean-Louis Farges. The quartet are part of a cultural collaborative called Oakland North End Mile Project. Other partners include: Detroit Afrikan Music Institution, Oakland Avenue Urban Farms Detroit, and Detroit Cultural Council.
“We are excited to be a part of the Saint Etienne Design Biennale representing Detroit,” said Sirota, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “Our exhibit ‘Out of Site’ is a set of three design installations that show how form and form-making can signify something meaningful in an urban space.”
How do historic music venues located on the North End and Detroit’s old west side fit into “Out of Site”?
“Our exhibition is a collaborative effort between our partners that includes a design sculpture that represents the once prominent Detroit African-American music venues the Phelps, Apex Bar, and Blue Bird, transformed into a hybrid shape and showcase in an urban farm landscape,” Farges added.
Phelps Lounge and Apex Bar were all-the-rage institutions nestled on Oakland Avenue, the North End’s main business thoroughfare. The Blue Bird Inn, which was located on the city’s west side on Tireman Road, was a hot spot for bebop jazz. Although their doors were open longer, each venue’s heyday was during the 1950’s and ‘60s.
Out of Site’s second exhibit is known as Mothership, which is a futuristic designed spaceship inspired by George Clinton. Mothership is a “symbol of mobility, transformation, and a catalyst for social change in the North End community,” Sirota says. The third exhibit is a “triumphal institutional arch” made of interlocking pieces of local architecture, elements of contemporary arts, famous costumes, and flora.