Repository of objects by Nina Bianchi



The late experimental filmmaker and pioneer of underground cinema, Jack Smith, was once asked “Have you ever thought of another type of society?” His response, in part, was:

… Like in the middle of the city should be a repository of objects that people don’t want anymore, which they would take to this giant junkyard. That would form an organization, a way that the city would be organized…the city organized around that. I think this center of unused objects and unwanted objects would become a center of intellectual activity. Things would grow up around it.

If the world is equal to Smith’s “city,” Detroit is the repository of objects.

I’ve been living and working in Detroit for 10 years as an independent designer, artist, and educator. I see both design and education as integral tools in developing new systems of thinking, making, and living in the city.

As I was born in Metro Detroit, staying here wasn’t exactly a choice, as my family and my roots are grounded here. In my teen years, like many other native Detroiters, I couldn’t wait to get out of “this city.” I also knew early on that I didn’t want to become entrenched in the failing auto industry or eternally claw up ladders from one job to the next. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the alternative opportunities in Detroit that I see now. This is due in part to the fact I have found that we, Detroiters, tend to strive to make our own opportunities, to compensate for the opportunities that aren’t made for us.

Jack Smith’s idea of what a city can be frames my thoughts on “Making Detroit.” In a global context, Detroit has been through many cycles of discard, depletion, disownership, disenchantment, and disenfranchisement. Since I began working here as a designer, I have predominately dedicated myself and my work to the goal of collaborating with like-minded makers on positive projects that produce sustainable results, which in turn impact our culture, economy, and infrastructure.

This ongoing process has changed me permanently. It has given me a new idea of what “design is” and what “design means.” Defining my work is a constantly evolving process which leads me to look for what Malcolm X referred to as “some kind of homemade education.”

Bio: Nina Bianchi is a interdisciplinary designer practicing in Detroit since 2000. She teaches Graphic Design at the College for Creative Studies, is a member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, and the newly founded Detroit hackerspace, OmniCorpDetroit. For more information, email Nina, or visit /

Making Detroit: Changing the story

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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