Metropolitan Observatory for Digital Culture and Representation (MODCaR)

Imaging Detroit



For the city that spawned the term “ruin porn,” sources for a positive self-image have been hard to come by. Recognizing that image-making can be used constructively in Detroit’s economic and social recovery, three professors at University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture — Anya Sirota, Mireille Roddier, Jean Louis Farges — organized Imaging Detroit, a 36-hour outdoor film festival held in Perrien Park to engage residents in debating their city’s public image. Fifty documentaries about Detroit (selected from hundreds of international submissions to an open call) were screened back-to-back inside a complex of temporary plywood structures, followed by lively panel discussions. This pop-up agora turned the park into a vibrant civic space for public dialogue, drawing passionate citizens, artists, architects, academics, writers, urbanists, and policymakers alike.

Accessibility, Community, Economy, Information, Pleasure, Sustainability
6 months
16 organizers + 32 discourse jockeys + 50 filmmakers
Problem - negative perception of Detroit
Solution - temporary festival, mediatheque and pop-up agora