November 8, 2016

“Beware of the Dandelions” @ Art in America

In Detroit, just north of where the I-94 freeway cuts across Van Dyke Street, neatly separating several up-and-coming eastside neighborhoods from a stretch of no-man’s-land that remains determinedly godforsaken, a message is scrawled across the side of a dilapidated garage: “they tried to bury us but they didn’t know we’re seeds.” The message and the setting are emblematic of a particular strain of resistance to Detroit’s recent comeback narrative. Out here, it is still a struggle to rend survival from the chaos. As powers that be move to reorganize Detroit, what becomes of the communities who have held it together through a time of abandonment? What becomes of the individuals who cannot conform to the new order? What place, what tools, what vestige of old Detroit, a suffering but sovereign city, remain for them?

The answer comes in the form of a story. Set in a dystopian twenty-fourth century town-a future, as with most science fiction, just far enough away to comfortably critique the present-Beware of the Dandelions tells a tale of corporate hegemony and grassroots resistance. Presenting a story arc that plays like the plot-building sequences in a video game, the animation by graphic designer Wesley Taylor recounts the Dandelion Revolution-a populist uprising that seizes control of a factory-farm village where most able-bodied citizens are locked in a cycle of indentured servitude to the “planetation’s” production of genetically modified apples. We see the townspeople, largely of color, debating whether to take radical action or try to change the system from within. We see the brutal maintenance of the orchards, where regulations reject all but the most perfect specimens, wasting the rest. A woman working the line collapses from hunger.

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