Dlectricity festival of light, art to enliven Midtown

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Nighttime in Detroit is about to get nuts.

Dlectricity — Detroit’s answer to Paris’ nuit blanche, or “white night” — will transform Midtown between Kirby and Canfield into a crazy quilt of light, art and sound Friday and Saturday evenings with works by 36 international, national and local artists.

Kicking things off Friday will be a raucous, New Orleans-style parade around the Detroit Institute of Arts, the “King of Arms,” created by Brooklyn artist Rashaad Newsome with the Gabriel Brass Band and the Cass Tech High School Marching Band.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about being part of this,” said a clearly geeked Newsome. “What you’re doing here is just so cool.”

Saturday that much-loved rolling art display, the Light Bike Parade, will return with thousands of tarted-up bicycles and bicyclists blinking and strobing along a 4-mile route through Midtown and down Woodward.

Curious how this illuminated magic all gets pulled together, The Detroit News touched base with artists behind three of the more unique projects:


Get set for extreme wonkiness.

Locals Chip Flynn and Leith Campbell, the daft geniuses behind Apetechnology, have collaborated with Hollywood set designer Leo Garza to create the impressively named, “Shadows of Slendrotron (The Monkey God’s Great Leap).”

This robotic performance piece will be staged outside the Detroit Film Theatre, with a simplified version of Thai shadow puppets projected up against the wall.

These three metalheads have collaborated before, but “Slendrotron” will be their most complex creation so far.

“Normally we just go out and roll our robots around and have them do their particular tricks,” Campbell said. “This is the first time we’re bringing it to full robot opera.”

Animating the production will be the Apetechnology percussion section, featuring Thai nipple gongs — yes, that’s the name — as well as three timpani drums and an entire pentatonic scale of black metal tone bars.

Striking each and every one will be little robotic hammers, all acting in beautiful concert.

The nipple gongs, which are tuned to specific pitches and hang on two large racks, are particularly impressive.

“Chip’s got a gong problem,” Garza said. “he can’t stop buying them. He’s got a thing for metal. He’s internalized the whole industrial aesthetic.”

Performance art and faith

Another illuminated performance with roots in shadow puppetry comes from Angela Eastman and Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo, two Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate students who teamed up with Brooklyn DJ and musician Maxime Robillard to create “Every Side of Here.”

From left, Leo Garza of the San Francisco Bay area, Leith Campbell of Grosse Pointe Park and Chip Flynn of Detroit among some of the metal puppets and scenery at Apetechnology in Detroit on Sept. 14, 2017. Apetechnology is presenting The Shadows of Slendrotron (The Monkey God’s Great Leap), a robotic theatre production inspired by the aesthetic of traditional Javanese shadow puppetry and gamelan orchestra, at Dlectricity outside the Detroit Film Theater. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

It’s high-concept performance, seeking to explore the nature of the sacred and how the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — celebrate that.

Where Apetechnology’s performance relies on a complex set of computers and control boards, “Every Side of Here” creates gorgeous effects from a distinctly low-tech source — the overhead projectors your teacher might have used in geometry class.

“As that technology became obsolete,” said Duncan-Portuondo, a fiber student who works in stained glass, “it opened it up as an artistic medium.” In this case, he’ll push broken bits of stained glass across the projectors to shed kaleidoscopic colors on the freestanding arches Eastman built where the shadow puppets perform.

The performance will take place in front of First Congregational Church.

“So we have sound, movement, projected light, crafted sculpture and theater,” said Eastman, summarizing things. “There are a lot of overlapping elements, but each individual one is very simple.”

Nighttime warriors

Eric Zimmerman is one of the “Star Tours” stunt men who will engage in light-sabre fights throughout Dlectricity Friday and Saturday.

What after-dark urban festival wouldn’t be more fun with Jedi knights engaging in light-saber battles?

That’s the concept behind “Star Tours,” organized by Detroiters FaShon Vega and Wayne Ramocan, and which will stage choreographed fights both nights from 9-10 p.m. at Woodward and Warren.

After that, however, the eight warriors — all professional stunt actors — will go rogue.

“They’ll start splitting off from the others to make the most of the fights,” Ramocan said. “We’ll be all over — behind Seva restaurant, and if the sheriff’s department is friendly enough, we might even be in their front yard. We might push the limits.”


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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy


7 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday

Woodward Corridor between Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit


Don’t want to take your car? Lyft is offering a 25-percent discount with code DL317.

Complete schedule can be found on dlectricity.com