Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman
Wildflowers (2006)
Duration: 24' 30"

Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas video Wildflowers (2005-2009) may sound like a classical radio documentary from a distance, based as it is on a number of interviews with non-profit workers and activists in Detroit. But something is wrong. Over the voices that talk about idealistic work, depressing statistics and individual fates resulting from lack of politics in the old automobile town, there is a beat - a rasping abrupt rhythm that destabilizes the logic of the stories being told. And instead of pictures of those talking, the soundtrack is accompanied by animated text. Normally, a classical documentary has a voice over, a voice that leads an implicit credibility to the visual material; a voice that reads a text that gives meaning to what we see. Another classical technique of the documentary genre is the interview, in which the person is presented in a portrait format, while the interviewer is out of the picture. A face arouses credibility in the same way as a voice over connects the parts of the story into a whole. Bergman and Salinas call Wildflowers “text animated portraits” that reveal unusual people in difficult situations. This text animation is reminiscent of an advertisement board from the 1950’s but instead of commercial commodities, it draws our attention to political and social messages. The artists give the following reason for their work: As we have seen in New Orleans, the systematic dismissal of large populations of people is a chronic issue in the United States (and beyond), but Detroit may be the most extreme and extended scenario in the nation. Generally speaking, there are two sorts of activists: individualists who work from utopian processes outside the system, and pragmatists who address immediate issues one at a time. In both cases, their efforts are effortlessly marginalized by the mainstream. In the following videos Detroiters articulate their battles and give human voices to the “grassroots”.

In Wildflowers the message is intensified, while the focus on the individuals is erased. We therefore interpret the situation according to how the different voices come over, independent of appearance, ethnicity and habitus of the persons concerned. The work gives case details a voice, strengthens the rhetorical points by means of the visual text and generates a scenario where the issues at stake are made potent. This transforms Wildflowers into visual radio.

-Tone Hansen, curator, director Henie Onstad Art Centre. Oslo.

Interviews:
Ron Glotta: labor lawyer, author and progressive leader. Grace Lee Boggs: legendary civil rights activist, author, Marxist.

Asenath Andrews: principal Catherine Furguson Academy For Pregnant and Parenting Teens.

Lumika Bufkin: student Catherine Furguson Academy

Paul Weertz: science teacher, urban gardener, Catherine Furguson Academy.

Brother Rick Samyn: Cappuchin monk. Founder of Earthworks Urban Farm at Cappuchin Soup Kitchen.

Marcia Lee: full time volunteer at Earthworks and Cappuchin Soup Kitchen.

Kathy Milberg: founder of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision.

Reverend Jim Holley: founded a high school, pharmacy, health clinic and sandwich shop at the Little Rock Baptist Church.

Ron Scott: co-founder of the Detroit branch of the Black Panthers, founder of Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.

Steve Tobocman: (D) state representative, Southwest Detroit, 12th district.

Lucy Harrison: leader of American Indian Health and Family Services of Detroit.