Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman
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
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
-Tone Hansen, curator, director Henie Onstad Art Centre.
Ron Glotta: labor lawyer, author and progressive leader.
Grace Lee Boggs: legendary civil rights activist, author,
Asenath Andrews: principal Catherine Furguson Academy For
Pregnant and Parenting Teens.
Lumika Bufkin: student Catherine Furguson Academy
Paul Weertz: science teacher, urban gardener, Catherine
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
Reverend Jim Holley: founded a high school, pharmacy,
health clinic and sandwich shop at the Little Rock Baptist
Ron Scott: co-founder of the Detroit branch of the Black
Panthers, founder of Detroit Coalition Against Police
Steve Tobocman: (D) state representative, Southwest
Detroit, 12th district.
Lucy Harrison: leader of American Indian Health and Family
Services of Detroit.