How to Rust is a postindustrial fable told in iron, rocks, and wood. It takes as its starting point an installation built out of repurposed materials that spans several vacant lots alongside Ford Freeway in Detroit, Michigan. The installation, “Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust” is the work of storyteller Olayami Dabls which he fashions as a metaphor for the forced assimilation of Africans to European culture and language. Here Dabls’ appropriation of the postindustrial landscape becomes a commentary on the half-life of Fordism, where the relationship between cultural production, history, and place is being forged anew, revealing larger truths about how we mythologize a former glory and shape an imagined future.
Julia Yezbick is a Detroit-based filmmaker and anthropologist. She received a PhD in Anthropology and Critical Media Practice from Harvard University in 2016. Her work has been shown at many international festivals including the Berlinale-Forum Expanded. She is the founding editor of Sensate, an online journal for experiments in critical media practice, and co-directs Mothlight Microcinema. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.