On an August afternoon in Detroit’s Banglatown—so named for the sizable Bangladeshi population—artists, designers, and property developers gathered in the garden of Kate Daughdrill’s Burnside Farm, plucking spring rolls from a picnic table made of beams salvaged from the burnt-out home next door. The lunch included a planning discussion for the third edition of Culture Lab Detroit, an annual design and urbanism symposium happening next month. It was business as usual for Daughdrill, who operates Burnside Farm out of her home and garden. Purchased for $600 in 2011, the house is just one of the many instances of artists and activists who’ve approached the desolation of the Motor City as a blank canvas.
A few weeks ago, artists of different generations and pursuits gathered in Istanbul for the Istanbul International Arts & Culture Festival (IST.), a weekend of free conversations and art exhibits—the stuff that brings together luminaries from fields as diverse as architecture, literature, and millinery.
Once a small series of workshops, IST. is now an international affair; past guests include Zaha Hadid, Gore Vidal, and Courtney Love. And if this fifth annual event proved anything, it’s that the art scene in this timeless city is fresher than ever.
In a few hours, a conference room on the fourth floor of Mexico City’s Hilton Reforma will swing open and the third day of the Material Art Fair will commence. But it’s five a.m., and I’m on the sixth floor, in the heated indoor pool, with about five near-naked and naked artists and a bottle of mescal bobbing in the shallow end. None of us has a room here. Lenin said you can’t trust artists because they can navigate all levels of society. In this case, that means all floors of the Hilton.
The evening began yesterday at a Mariachi bar. I proceeded to a store selling giant micheladas that had the mouthfeel of a Papa John’s pizza in a cup. Then I went to a grimy rave. Then to the end-of-the-world wealth of a penthouse party in Polanco where the free sushi meant that at least two people were doing blow off of chopsticks, and where, in line for a marble bathroom indecorously coated in piss, I met a Spanish developer named Iggy who was building an entire village with Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss architecture firm, on a stretch of virgin Mexican coast. After that, I picked up more mescal and sat on the desolate, please-abduct-me corner of a Centro Histórico street, pulling from the same bottle now bobbing in the Hilton pool’s shallow end.
Read the rest at The Paris Review (Published May, 2014)