Ice Tree 1, Ice House 0

I drove by the much-talked about Ice House today. I was not impressed.

It didn’t help that half the ice had melted from the roof. But I just didn’t find it compelling. Covering an empty home in ice is a novel idea, and it draws a crowd, just like those homes that go overboard with Christmas lights and life-size Nativity scenes. But it doesn’t mean a thing.

The Ice House, half-melted after a sunny day in Detroit.

The fact that two Brooklyn-based artists were able to do this just reminds me how little Detroit’s East Side is valued. Within a block of the house, you’ll find burned out homes, old tires dumped on the side of the road, and stretches of sidewalk completely overgrown with ground cover. There are also a lot of friendly, hardworking folks trying to make a living. I don’t see the Ice House — or any of international media coverage it’s received — connecting with any of that.

What’s more, it’s not even the prettiest ice sculpture in Detroit! That honor goes, of course, to the Belle Isle Ice Tree, a Detroit tradition since the 1960s. I’m a big fan of cutting edge social art, but I think I’ll stick with the home favorite this time:

The Belle Isle Ice Tree -- a wonderful sight, even at dusk on a cloudy day.

2 thoughts on “Ice Tree 1, Ice House 0

  1. Greg Holm

    I feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion and certainly wouldn’t suggest you feel one way or the other in regards to our installation. But to say that is was a “community-insensitive” project would be the farthest thing from the truth.
    We employed those from the neighborhood, fed, befriended, and even helped a woman and her family buy a house. Aside from the kind regards on the far east side, we asked nothing in return. And it is with a similar admiration and respect that we feel for all of those in Detroit. I am not just “some Brooklyn artist” I am a Detroiter and have been defending the city I love for a long time.

  2. Cooper Post author

    Hi, Greg. Thanks for responding.

    I’ve been following your blog, and I know that you’ve gone out of your way to be of service to the community: feeding the homeless, setting up a family in another foreclosed home, and, ultimately, deconstructing the Ice House to re-use the materials. I’m sorry for not mentioning that in the original post because you deserve credit for it.

    What I’m skeptical of is the message of the installation itself. If, as I’ve read, the Ice House is intended as a commentary on the foreclosure crisis and “contemporary urban conditions,” I’m not sure it’s succeeding. Sure, it demonstrates how devalued land and property on the far east side have become. But it seems to me that it confuses what’s really going on there.

    It’s kind of like using a photo of the Packard Plant to illustrate the problems at GM and Chrysler. It’s an evocative symbol, but it doesn’t fit the story. The Packard Plant isn’t falling apart because the auto companies didn’t care about quality and built too many SUVs. It’s been abandoned since the 1950s because the city has been deindustrializing for decades. Similarly, the house you bought might have been foreclosed, but I’m not sure it fits your story line. Yes, coating it in ice makes for some stunning photos. But I’m just not sure it works as a symbol or serves a broader good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>