‘Dancing in the Boardroom’ – Chloë Brown’s solo exhibition announced in Detroit

Still from Dancing in the Boardroom by Chloe Brown

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit (MOCAD) will present the United States premiere of Chloë Brown’s Dancing in the Boardroom (Turnin’ My Heartbeat Up) video work and her large drawing From Alfred Street to Temple Street, Detroit. Dancing in the Boardroom uses the music and dance of Northern Soul to explore issues of class and hierarchy within the post-industrial landscape of Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom, a city once known for the production of ceramics. Shot in the disused Spode ceramics factory, the video explores connections between the post-industrial cities of Stoke-on-Trent and Detroit, and asks what happens when the economic engines of a city slow down, but the people don’t?

Northern Soul is a uniquely British genre that began as an underground club movement in the late 1960s. It arose out of the escapist desire of largely white working class young adults who worked all week in mundane jobs, often in factories such as Spode, but at the weekend, often travelling hundreds of miles to north of England venues, they danced until the break of dawn to raw, rare, emotional soul music produced in America’s industrial heartland. These records were often commercial failures when they were originally released in the United States, but those failures, and their resultant rarity, came to define Northern Soul.

The film aims to articulate an emotional response to post-industrial ruins such as those of the Spode factory and by bringing together seemingly unconnected things: people, places, music, and dance, it creates a friction that leads to new readings that have optimism, not despondency, at their core.

Much of the music revered by Northern Soul devotees was recorded in Detroit in the 1960s in the wake of the huge success of Motown. As Detroit has also become synonymous with the effects of post-industry, it was natural for Brown to turn her focus to Detroit. Initially unable to visit, she began walking down the streets of Detroit remotely via Google Maps Street View. This resulted in an ink drawing entitled From Alfred Street to Temple Street, Detroit, which charts a route through Brush Park, ending at the Masonic Temple on Temple Street. The drawing is almost 30 feet in length and takes the form of a scroll that re-imagines the route as a topographical observation and makes connections between the once grand houses at one end of the route, the empty plots and often derelict warehouses and factories in between, and ending at the world’s largest Masonic Temple, the location of numerous Masonic Lodges, which for Brown symbolises a secretive, exclusively male authority.

This exhibition has been organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and is curated by Amy Corle, Curator of Education and Public Engagement. Chloë Brown will give an artist talk on Saturday 16 January 2016 at 1300.

Chloë Brown is an artist and Senior Lecturer/Course Leader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, living in Sheffield, UK. She has an MA in Sculpture from Chelsea College of Art, London (1994), and a BA in Fine Art from the University of Reading (1987).