Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mailing DADA to Flint

The latest post from MTAA's flint mi x10 has appeared. We are looking forward to the responses from the Flint Public Library and our partners, collaborators, and friends. 

It’s the end of January and this afternoon, for $17.27 from a Brooklyn shop, I sent the book off to Flint. Should be there Thursday. Next up, horseshoes and pumpkin seeds. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flint Public Art Project Finalist for ArtPlace

(Flint, Michigan, January 18, 2012) The Flint Public Art Project has been named a finalist for support from ArtPlace, an unprecedented private-public collaboration of nine of the nation’s top foundations, eight federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts, and six of the nation’s largest banks. ArtPlace supports creative placemaking with grants and loans, research and advocacy. The Flint Public Art Project joins 128 other organizations in 68 cities working to transform their communities by driving vibrancy through investments in the arts.

The selected projects represent the best of the more than 2,000 applications from across the country. Finalists were chosen for their potential to have a transformative impact on community vibrancy. Proposed projects run the gamut from temporary art spaces to permanent performance venues, from music festivals to art walks and from streetscaping to artist residencies.

 “This new round of applications shows that there is serious momentum building for creative placemaking in the U.S.,” says Carol Coletta, president of ArtPlace. “These artists and designers are an undervalued asset for kick-starting momentum in our communities. And in this economy, it’s hard to imagine why any community wouldn’t deploy every asset it has for success.”

ArtPlace expects to distribute $15 million in 2012. This year’s grant recipients will be announced in May. Last year, 34 organizations received a total of $11.5 million.

The full list of finalists can be found at

Participating foundations include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation and an anonymous donor. In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council. ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Participating institutions are Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.

CONTACT: Tim Halbur
(415) 948-1398

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Flint Owl Letter

The latest post of flint mi x10 has appeared. We are reposting it here with permission from the artist.

On December 18, 1871, W.L. Bancroft sent the president of the Flint Library Association a box containing a folio edition of “Birds of American” by naturalist and painter John James Audubon. This set of hand-coloured life-size prints is still in the collection of the Flint Public Library today. The wonderfully verbose letter of donation from Bancroft concludes with wishes for the library’s future to be “as harmonious the notes of the sweetest in his songster list of nature’s melodists.”

With the goal of writing a 
letter of donation to Kay Schwartz, current Director of the Flint Public Library, Bancroft’s note acts both as guiding dove and cumbersome albatross. How can on compete with “songster list of nature’s melodist?” I’ll be lucky to escape without typos.  

Here is the note I’m sending with the donation of the National Gallery of Art’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue. 
Dear Kay Schwartz, 
Director of the Flint Public Library

My name is Michael Sarff and I am an artist living in Brooklyn, New York. In the early 90’s I attended school outside of Detroit. On the weekends during that time, I liked to clear my mind by driving around Pontiac and Flint.  For some reason, I found it calming.

At the beginning of this year, I started a project called Flint MI  x10. Over the next 12 months, I would like to produce and install 10 artworks remotely in the city of Flint. The works are built in collaboration with the people in the city. You can find out more on the project and look at the ongoing documentation at

I would  like to begin the Flint MI x10 project with this work.

“Give the Flint Public Library a singed hardcover copy of the National Gallery of Art’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue. “

It would be an honor if you would accept the donation of this book to the general lending practices of the Flint Public Library. As someone who had little access to artworks growing up, books and magazines gave me a first experience with and information on art. It is my hope that in the donation of this catalogue on DADA, an art movement that impacted the way I understand art and the world, the gift of information and access is passed on. 

If the donation is accepted, it would be wonderful if someone at the library could contact me when the catalogue is available on the shelves. In some initial contact with members of the Flint arts community, I understand they would like to check the catalogue out when available and hold some public readings / performances with this text. 

In W.L. Bancroft’s 1871 donation letter to the Flint Library Association of the folio edition of John James Audubon’s “Birds of American”, he closes with wishes for the library’s future to be “as harmonious the notes of the sweetest in his songster list of nature’s melodists.”  I would like to end by echoing this wish for the Library, the City and the people of Flint. 
My Best Regaurds, 

Michael Sarff of MTAA

So, this is the letter I will place in the box with the book next week and mail off to Flint. I hope to post some pictures of the box and of mailing it out. After that, I guess the work is in the hands of the city.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flint Hardcore c. 1985

Incredible documentation of Flint hardcore scene of the 80s at the Flint Underground Music Archive. Under "Live" listen to Dissonance at the Ukrainian Hall in 1985, for instance, under "Images and Stories," read through zines with short reviews of the Crucifucks and 7 Seconds (Edge City #1, 1984), and James White and the Blacks (The Scam #1, 1983), look at show flyers, read stories about discovering this thriving subculture in the city.

"I heard about a show (Army of God and Political Silence?) on TNP and mentioned it to a few sketchy punk rock types from school. Some of these guys were already quite adept at sneaking out of the house, getting drunk, and spending the entire night at hall shows. I, being an extremely nervous lad, could only muster enough courage to ride my bike around the small parking lot. There I saw a really scary pack of malcontents dressed in denim and leather (including Wiz, R.I.P.) hanging out, obviously up to no good. I was fucking intrigued."

Don't miss the show announced on the site.

The Return of the Flint Hall Show!
8 BALL DEATH (Battle creek)
THE STANDOUTS (Swartz Creek)

Saturday, January 14th
Bands start at 8PM
Five Bands, Five Bucks!
Woodbridge Union Hall
906 Woodbridge St, Flint, MI

Sunday, January 8, 2012

On Dada and The Public Library of Flint

With the need for x10 to depart from somewhere, let’s start with #2
#2 Give the Flint Public Library a singed hardcover copy of MOMA’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue

Let us start 161 years ago in America in what will become the city of Flint. On March 22, 1851 a group of women, concerned about the lack of cultural and educational opportunities in their community, met at the home of Maria Smith Stockton. As a result of the meeting, the group adopted a constitution written by Sophia Gotee Jenney that established the Ladies Library Association. 

Let us now move the clock forward 65 years from that meeting in Flint and look over to Europe on the brink of WW1. In Switzerland we see the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire, the spiritual birthplace of the art movement DADA.

Cabaret Voltaire - Under this name a group of young artists and writers has been formed whose aim is to create a centre for artistic entertainment. The idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists will come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds. -Zurich, February 2, 1916

Now, move forward in time again. Move 95 years later and West to America. In a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York in the Fall or 2011. I’m sitting at my laptop writing down 10 artworks that I would like to build in Flint. I want to start by sending a gift to Flint. This gift should be able to be held and brought home by anyone in the city. The gift can be a book. It should be  a ridiculously large book.

Move forward in time to now. Now for me is 5:51 pm on New Year’s Eve 2012. This will be the past for you. Looking up from laptop, I see MOMA’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue
Now backwards in time a few years and a few miles West to the Museum of Modern Art. I’m wondering around the DADA show. So much stuff. So much text. It’s hard for me to focus on anything but the fact I’m wandering around a museum. Works come in out of focus. I’m happy when I recognize an artwork without reading the text. I might be with my ex-girl friend. She loved to wander around museums with me. I can’t remember. I do remember covertly filming Duchamp’s optic disk. If I find the video buried on some old external hard drive, you will see it below. If not, it is also lost. 

Forward in time and back to a public Library in Flint. In a few weeks, someone will read an email explaining that a person in Brooklyn would like to donate a book about European art movement. Maybe the email says the book is part of an art project called Flint, MI x10. Maybe not. Some people get turned off by that stuff. They think it’s a con or something.

Not sure. Let’s stop for now and write that email in 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Begin, Begin

In the early 90’s, I studied sculpture at a grad school outside of Detroit. The school, Cranbrook, was a good fit for me. Although sitting in my studio reading and building all day long was great, the school itself was a bit isolating. Built in the mansion district of Bloomfield Hills, the school is literally a walled in utopic mid-century Arts and Crafts garden with a seemingly minimum one hour drive to escape. Once the cold and snow started (mid-November), only an occasional run to the distant 24 hour big box lumber supple store seemed worth it.

As it was my first time away from home and I had art on my mind, the isolation seemed fine. When I did get restless and needed to escape the garden, I would jump in my station wagon and drive North to the flea markets in Pontiac and Flint. Walking the maze of aisles lined table after table with worn and used stuff calmed me. Objects and people felt solid there in a way the big box lumber store or the walled in academy did not.

One night last fall I ran into a friend in Brooklyn. She said she was working on a public art proposal for the city of Flint. We talked about the city and I told her about the flea market and the winter skies. She asked if I was interested in contacting Stephen Zacks who was organizing some projects in the city. After dragging my feet a bit, I emailed Stephen and told him about my work in the collaboration MTAA and my fondness of Flint. I said I was interested in remotely sending Flint a set of public sculptures and performances. He sounded interested and said if I could fund it myself, he could offer some help with resources and contacts in the area. I said perfect and sent him this list of possible artworks.

So, for the next 12 months, I will be thinking of the city and people of Flint Michigan. I have no order of production for the list of 10 artworks nor detailed plan for them at this point. I do have a faith in a process. I have a site, a goal, some people, the Internet and, as 2012 is a leap year, 336 days. I hope to post here once a week or so to let you know how it is going.

If you are near Flint and would be interested in working on one of the projects or just want to say “hey”, send an email to mriver (at)


10 projects for Flint, MI in 2012 produced and installed remotely in collaboration with citizens of Flint Michigan and MTAA

1. Design, fabricate and install a temporary public flag for Flint, MI with name, foundation date (1855) and current population (102,434) of the city.

2. Give the Flint Public Library a singed hardcover copy of MOMA’s 2006  DADA exhibition catalogue.

3. Attempt to move Flint’s default Google map marker out of current parking lot location to City Hall.

4. Forge and install horseshoe for a public space.

5. Fabricate and install a signed bowling ball at Flint bowling alley.

6. With seeds culled from friends Catskill  garden , plant rouge pumpkin in a Flint public park.

7. Install two folding chairs facing each other in a public space.

8. Hang sheets to dry on clothes line in a public space.

9. Respond to “the pasta is terrible” comment on Google Maps for Chevy In The Hole.

10. Send mayor a telegram with the URL of the Flint Mi x10 of project website.