LAND OF FREEDOM
Land of Freedom HD-film 31:49 min
is a film that explores what can grow out of the financial catastrophy that has ruined The Motor City, Detroit during the past decades. The industrial and financial collapse has dramatically changed a city that was once one of the most booming cities in the US. Detroit was once a proven symbol of the success of capitalism and was at the forefront in terms of the development of a black middle class. In sharp contrast, Detroit today is one of the most unproductive and under-priveliged cities in the US. Crime,
poverty, unemployment and a collapsed health and educational system are evident everywhere.
Drawn by the possibility of artistic and intellectual freedom, cheap housing, and free studio spaces, Detroit has begun to attract individuals interested in creating new ways of living, away from the globalised economical world. These individuals have started filling
the gaps of the deserted areas by means of urban farming. For them, Detroit opens up the possibility to create a new kind of American dream out of nothing.
Land of Freedom evolves around a group of white artists who have each taken the initiative to settle down in the primarily Afro-American district of Farnworth street, East Central Detroit. We meet visual artist KT who is the founder of the art collective The Yes Farm, urban farmer Emilie the Poet, and Monk, who grew up in the neighborhood. The girls in the collective are admired by Larry D`Mongo, «King of the underground», who
shares his insight on Detroit’s rise and fall, and analyses the importance of what the urban farmers are doing as a counter movement to the global food industry and as comunity builders.
As activist artists and urban pioneers KT and Emilie use urban farming as an artistic strategy to create a sustainable way of living for themselves, hoping to influence the poor neighboorhood to use urban farming as a way out of poverty. Trying to free themselves from the global market, the urban farmers have developed an exchange economy, where they trade food from their gardens for goods and services. When they do use money for buying and selling goods they try to keep as few links between the product and the customers as possible in order to keep the money flow within their own circles. What is particularly striking is that the quantity of food they produce is so minimal. This
makes us question how controlled we all are by the global economy, and how much it influences all aspects of our western life.
The artist-farmers appear to be ready to live the consequences of their ethical values, in their aim to liberate themselves from the global
economy that governs the surrounding society. But watching their attempts also makes us wonder whether the new model of life they propagate is possible. When we see the urban farming ideology of sharing knowledge and tools in action, in a scene where the farmers are teaching young girls the survival skill of slaughtering rabbits for food, the practice proves to be more demanding than imagined. Monk voices other doubts about urban farming as a model for a future society, explaining that for him and his black community having to grow your own food is too tained by the memory of times of slavery when home farming and exchanging services were part of an involuntary exclusion from society.
Extract from Land of Freedom (Detroit) 2012
Photography & documentation
Copyright 2023 Siri Hermansen