The Battle Over Technos Origins
I visited the museum in December and decided to start my journey where the East Grand turns southwest around General Motors' new electric vehicle plant. The boulevard runs along Detroit's north side like a conveyor belt and is filled with landmarks from the city's historic past. GM headquarters was located three blocks west of rooms 3000-2000; Henry Ford's first Model T factory was located two blocks southeast of the museum on Pickett Avenue. There are no signs at Expo 3000 to welcome potential visitors. They make an appointment, appear in the red brick box of the building and knock on the blue door leading to the headquarters of the Underground Resistance. The door was opened by John Collins, wearing glasses and a black turtleneck. He behaved like a teacher and spent the first minutes of our conversation trying to figure out if I was coming to listen or suspect.
The museum itself is the size of a small gallery and is located on the ground floor of the headquarters of the Underground Resistance. There are several recording studios upstairs, and artists have come and gone during my visit. On one side of the room is a chronological account of techno's origins, beginning with its philosophical underpinnings: a photograph of a smiling Coleman Young, Detroit's first black mayor; album covers for Kraftwerk and Funkadelic; Photographs of Nichelle Nichols and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek costumes. (The series' futuristic utopia and Nichols' groundbreaking role as Lieutenant Uhura play a big role in the technological ethos.) Banks, one of the founders of the Underground Resistance, stepped out of the back room where he was watching the World Cup game. met friends and greeted me warmly when I arrived. When I met him, he was wearing what I recognized as a Detroit uniform: waterproof Carhartt work boots and overalls soaked through years of construction work.
As Collins and Banks led me into the room, I saw that the exhibits were beginning to paint a fuller picture of Detroit's music community. There was a dusty copy of Techno Rebels, The Complete History of a Genre by journalist Dan Siko; collections of recordings by artists distributed and promoted by Submerge over the years; a blue Michigan toilet with " TECHNO " written on it; and various works by Detroit artists, including Ron Zachry's Detroit Babylon. In the painting, two nuclear reactors sit in the gray distance like an alien hourglass, an image that pays homage to the 1966 Fermi-1 meltdown featured in Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson's "We Almost Lost Detroit." “In Zahri's work, the reactors are powered by two Roland 808s. The machines make up the bulk of the 3000 exhibit. Behind a glass window at the rear of the museum is an antique lathe that produced vinyl masterclasses. spaces, giving techno its own flavor and origin to each piece, and dominated by a showcase of vintage drum machines and synths (Korg PolySix, Roland TR-727) that create a wall of tech trophies that make sense.
There's even a box of Hot Wheels-sized toy cars and a photo of a flamboyant eggplant Pontiac, a badge of cultural heritage you adopted in Detroit as a newborn. Banks came up to me, looking at the photo. “I was too young to go to Vietnam, so when they were recruiting the kids and asking the adults, I would walk around the neighborhood asking if I could buy their cars if they were messing around.” he said yes. Banks is a born comedian and storyteller, but she went from wild to dark in telling this story. According to him, the purple muscle car belonged to a dead neighbor. He bought the car from the boy's parents and kept it in top condition for decades.
Collins led me to an office against the wall in the middle of the room. It simply says "Future" and the exhibition is filled with photographs of babies and portraits of school-age children from an underground family of resistance. It's more of a shrine than an exhibition, a hopeful vigil for the impact of music in Detroit and the community it continues to nurture. Raised by a small crocodile clip, a written message challenges the mission of the Underground Resistance:
Alexei Azariy was waiting for me under a canopy in front of MOMEM . It was a gray December day in Frankfurt, and when we met him at noon, minimal lighting gave way to monochrome twilight. He was wearing a large knitted hat and overcoat, and he was sobbing, just recovering from the cold.
MOMEM sits in a sunken plaza under the main watchtower, as if someone has decided they need a chat hole in the middle of a major city. The Christmas market was in full swing when I was there, with tourists and locals alike nibbling on crispy sausages and sipping mulled wine from ceramic mugs, the steam making the whole scene look like a Christmas card. You have to look for MOMEM to find it, and I turned around a few times until I found the right ladder. A group of men in nothing but stone-coloured jackets stood in the square, talking quietly and smoking cigarettes.
This space has recently been occupied by the Frankfurt Children's Museum; Azaria's team removed the walls and painted everything black to create the feel of an underground club. A few weeks before my arrival, MOMEM Frankfurt organized an exhibition about DJ Sven Väth, and visitors could listen to records from his personal collection. I visited them after the exhibition ended, so the space felt like an office space between tenants. I asked Azaria if he considers MOMEM a museum in the traditional sense of the word. “I want this place to be an institution of club music culture,” he replied. "I want this to be a place where young people come together, get inspired and learn about club culture and the past, present and future of electronic music." I started to wonder if I was stuck on semantics. Museums are a particular model, and traditionally they are equally reliquaries and schools, on the scale of the Louvre or on the more modest scale of MOMEM or Exposition 3000. Those inside also have a strict curatorial definition. allowing visitors to understand how concepts flow and collide. Musical genres, of course, are not defined as museum pieces. Borders are fluid and controversial.