DETROIT — “There’s something weirdly comforting about knowing there’s a load of cities in the world that are in the same situation,” said Chloë Brown, who took a moment away from installing her multi-media piece, “Dancing in the Boardroom (Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up)” (2013) to speak with Hyperallergic about the resonance between Detroit and the post-industrial city of Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom. Brown’s piece is a film shot in Stoke-on-Trent’s abandoned Spode factory, once the economic powerhouse of the blue-collar working town, and maker of the iconic Blue Willow dinnerware that is collected worldwide. The short weaves together Stoke-on-Trent’s economic collapse and resulting industrial ruins, and ends with a kind of redemption by way of Northern Soul dancing.
Dancing in the Boardroom is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) as part of the winter program for the DEPE Space Residency. But Brown, who is an artist-researcher, considers this work part of a much larger contribution to Topographies of the Obsolete, an ongoing research project among Northern European art schools, started by the Bergen Art Academy (KHIB), which examines the cultural fallout in areas of economic collapse. Brown describes cities like Stoke-on-Trent as, “being in the grips of becoming post-industrial, whereas Detroit has been in the process for a while,” but does not struggle to draw connections between the two. In fact, in 2015, she decided to push her project to the next level by gathering research in Detroit, which manifests elsewhere in the exhibit.