Michael Zadoorian is the author of two novels, The Leisure Seeker (William Morrow, 2009) and Second Hand (W.W. Norton, 2000), and a story collection, The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit (Wayne State University Press, 2009). He is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts, Columbia University’s Anahid Literary Award, the Michigan Notable Book award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been published in The Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, American Short Fiction, North American Review and Detroit Noir. Born and raised in Detroit, he lives in Ferndale, Michigan.
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Presented as part of the Art X Detroit 2015 Visual Arts Exhibition, Boofland Babylon is a multi-media installation and collaboration between Cary Loren and Michael Zadorian, and is based on a photograph of Zadoorian’s childhood in which he met many local Detroit children’s TV hosts on a float during the Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1963.
A large “altar piece” of pop-culture memories will be created in a triptych of hanging banners. Norman Zadoorian’s Thanksgiving Day photograph will be the central banner, flanked by two photographic collage banners made by Loren that overlap and mash-up memories of Detroit and pop-culture from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Underneath the banners is a life-sized sculpture on stage, loosely organized and inspired by the album cover art made by artist Peter Blake for the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. Stand up figures, inspirational objects and a monitor showing a short film will be contained on the stage. Two vitrines nearby will contain additional archives from Loren and Zadoorian.
On display will also be a small retrospective of rarely seen photographs by Norman Zadoorian (Michael Zadoorian’s father), who was a professional photographer working in Detroit mid-century. These photographs offer a rare view of Detroit, giving a historic and foundational element to the project—as well as being a deeply personal connection.
In this new installation, Loren and Zadoorian explore autobiographic material thematically connected to their youth, pop-culture and Detroit History. During weekly meetings and self-interviews, they’ve collected stories, experiences and objects reflected in the display, which will also be presented in a small pamphlet to be given away at the event.
Boofland Babylon is about time, memory, humor, symbolism and a very specific regional history of Detroit. It is both autobiographical and operates in a larger social arena; it covers experience and culture commonly felt and witnessed by baby boomers who grew up during the ‘50s and ‘60s in Detroit.
As the son of a photographer, I grew up surrounded by images of moments caught out of time. For me, there’s a kind of magic involved with photography that continues to excite and haunt me. It’s certainly affected me as a writer. Fiction to me is often a collection of moments not unlike a bundle of old photographs. Sometimes they’re in chronological order, other times shuffled together randomly, in the way time twists our recollections. The moments that we remember (and sometimes those that we don’t) are often the ones that shape our lives most profoundly, whether we know it or not. Those moments are most exciting to explore in fiction, whether they’re wondrous, horrible or seemingly mundane. As with photography, sometimes you’re not sure which kind of moment you’re observing until later. Creating those moments is one of the most difficult things to do in fiction.
This is part of our experiment with my father’s photography. Cary and I are exploring the nexus where culture, photography and memory meet. For us, they definitely meet in Detroit. In the streets, the people, the cars, the pop culture, the music and what was transmitted through the airwaves. In my writing career, Detroit has always been extremely important to me. The Detroit my father photographed is perhaps even more so because it is the Detroit that I remember. To go through these images, now darkened and curled with the patina of time creates a kind of frisson. We see how the city has changed, how it has grown, how it has broken apart, how it is coming back together in a new way. And through that lens, we see how we’ve changed.