On the ground floor of 3000 East Grand Blvd. in the heart of New Center, Detroit, people from all walks of life gather to visit the world’s only techno museum. The walls are packed full with photos, synthesizers, recording devices, and albums documenting techno music’s humble beginnings in Detroit and the impact that the beats created there have had on the world. One piece stands out in particular: a full page comic declaring “SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT DETROIT.” And frankly, it’s hard not to.
On May 21st, just down the road from the museum, the Detroit-Berlin Connection hosted a conference entitled “The Potential” in cooperation with Your Mom’s Agency, Wunderbar Together, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the Goethe Institute Chicago. The exchange is the brainchild of Dimitri Hegemann, founder of one of Berlin’s original Techno clubs and a lifelong ambassador for the Detroit-Berlin Connection. Hegemann’s club, Tresor, was one of a handful of establishments that gave young Berliners a space to celebrate and foster collaboration in a newly reunified Berlin. According to him, “Reunification took place on the basement of the dance floor to the sound of Detroit techno.”
At the conference, speakers from Detroit, Amsterdam, and Germany, convened to discuss the role of a nighttime economy in Detroit and the relationship between art and a city. Among the panelists was the Detroit native, Berlin resident, and illustrator of the “SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT DETROIT” comic, Alan D. Oldham. Alan grew up in Detroit, where he made a name for himself in the 80s and 90s as a producer, DJ, and radio host before moving to Berlin. A frequent flyer on transatlantic routes, Oldham still plays a critical role in fostering the relationship between Germany and the United States and encourages dialogue between the two countries. He recently performed at “From Germany to LA” in Los Angeles, one of the nationwide Wunderbar Together opening events.
The following day, Oldham and three other producers conducted a hands-on workshop for students at Detroit’s Communication and Media Arts High School, showing them methods and approaches to making music and allowing the students to make sounds and rhythms of their own. The students spent the afternoon making beats, dancing, and singing: a true representation of the vibrancy of the City of Detroit and a celebration of Wunderbar Together.
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