June 1, 2018

Manal Shoukair’s “Elevate” @ Hyperallergic

DETROIT — Inside an abandoned church, a membrane stretches dreamily across the space, forming a false horizon within the four walls. The scrim is fleshy, dancer-grade mesh in a neutral color, and it was installed in the space by interdisciplinary artist Manal Shoukair, with the help of her friends, as part of her final thesis project at the College for Creative Studies.

The surrounding neighborhood, which penetrates the space visually and at times physically through its blown out windows, is just north of Detroit’s upscale Boston-Edison district, the main corridors of which are lined with lavish mansions built during the heyday of retail empires in Detroit. By contrast, the homes surrounding the church on Muirland are modest little boxes in various states of entropy — many occupied and in reasonable condition, others a bit rag-tag and wanting some upkeep, some burned completely out or boarded up — and of course the vacant lots that hold only the memory of a long-gone structure. This place has, thus far, escaped the notice of realtors and developers, and so has yet to be assigned a catchy new neighborhood name — though as Shoukair’s installation attests, the area has already come to the attention of local artists. Several years ago, not too far off from this deteriorating church site, a sprawling former industrial campus on Midland was converted into “The Factory” — an independent art facility that has hosted massive survey exhibitions of large-scale painting and sculpture. Everything in the area seems to convey a sense of transition, either toward something new, or away from what was.

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