I don't understand DJs. Or more accurately, I don't understand the idea of the DJ as a modern-day rockstar. The fact that glorified button-pushers such as David Guetta and Calvin Harris can command hundreds of thousands of pounds to essentially press play and pump their fists enthusiastically in time with the music (or not) completely baffles me. To the point that it almost makes me want to give up on mainstream music altogether. The truth is that anyone with half a brain could learn how to use Native Instrument's Traktor in an afternoon, and perform with equal proficiency to some of the most famous performers on the planet that same evening. Try doing that with a piano or a guitar! Maybe that's the appeal? Or maybe it's a reflection of our rapidly devolving culture. Either way, I'm getting way off topic here, because I'm not here to talk about the state of pop music, I'm here to talk about funky spaceships!
Akoaki, the Michigan-based architecture studio founded by Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges, has created a startling aluminium pod based on the conceptual spaceship invented by Parliament-Funkadelic mastermind George Clinton. The “Mothership” is a dramatically angular DJ booth designed to be used at pop-up events and funk concerts in Detroit's North End neighbourhood, an area of the city with serious musical heritage (as home to many artists who ended up signed to Motown, a record label Clinton actually moved to the area to write songs for). The idea behind the intimidating structure was to create a mobile disco that referenced the musical history of the city, whilst providing a ground-breaking and eye-catching performance platform for funk performances and community events.
Akoaki has created a startling aluminium pod based on the conceptual spaceship invented by Parliament-Funkadelic mastermind George Clinton
The pod is constructed from an aluminium paneling system that can easily be assembled and transported. It's been decked out in polished gold vinyl and dichroic film on the outside, with car customisation techniques creating the structure's eye-catching polygonal shell. Perhaps a nod to Detroit's legacy as the Motor City? It's supported by a base and frame of steel tubing, and encases a metal mesh platform just over a metre above ground level. The pod houses a rack of top-end DJ equipment (table, mixing desk, laptop and speakers), all of which has been tailored to suit performers of all skill levels, because contrary to my earlier protestations, I'm aware that talented DJs do exist. They just don't tend to get played on Radio 1 these days. The structure is built from sixteen water-jet-cut aluminium panels which have been bolted together to create a polygonal shape. Smoke machines and colourful psychedelic lighting have also been included to create the impression that the pod has “Just landed.”
The Mothership was created to mark to start of the O.N.E. Mile project, which seeks to bring together architects, designers, and artists to revive the public spaces along the area's historic Oakland Avenue for a series of year-long experimental cultural events. The structure made its live début during a free launch event last October, where 12 past and present members of Parliament-Funkadelic staged a live concert in a garage on Oakland Avenue. Since then, the mobile unit has been used for various events around the city. Sirota is one of a number of individuals working on the O.N.E. Mile project as volunteers, supported by various arts organisations and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She believes that the city's reputation for poverty has led to a programme of “Blight removal,” with developers coming in to clean up neighbourhoods and make them more appealing to new buyers.
The Mothership was created to mark to start of the O.N.E. Mile project, which seeks to revive the public spaces along the area's historic Oakland Avenue
Sirota said that left unchecked, these broad renewal plans “Threaten to erase important historical vestiges that connect Detroit and its cultural innovations to a greater national legacy.” She calls The Mothership a physical reminder of this legacy and “An icon that says important things happened in Detroit and its outlying neighbourhoods.” Rather than generic plaques, she hopes that it will serve as a “Living reminder that Funk music literally started here.” Anyone else hoping the idea of creating a bespoke performance structure referencing a city's musical heritage will catch on? Maybe a yellow submarine in Liverpool or a gigantic flannel shirt in Seattle?
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, musician and P-Funk fan from Kidderminster in the UK. He would give his left nut to have a go in the Mothership!