A collaboration between photographer Ernestine Ruben (born 1931, U-M Stamps School of Art & Design, BSDes ’53) and video artist Seth Bernstein (born 1984), this film situates viewers at the heart of the cavernous space of Willow Run, the now-defunct industrial manufacturing complex in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Ruben’s grandfather, Detroit architect Albert Kahn, designed the building in the 1940s for the efficient production of B-24 Liberator planes during World War II. Emboldened by her personal connections to the site, Ruben has sought to generate new life for Willow Run beyond the building’s current stagnant existence. The film Willow Run combines photography and music to create an altogether new perspective on this historically significant place.
Using images created during Ruben’s 2013 visit to Willow Run and featuring an original score by award-winning composer Stephen Hartke (born 1952), this film seeks to create a new sensory experience of the once-productive historic site. Both the imagery and music in the film deftly respond to Willow Run in its current inactive state and to memories of the building during the height of its productivity decades ago.
Willow Run was screened throughout the duration of the exhibition Ernestine Ruben at Willow Run: Mobilizing Memory, on view from March 11, 2017 through August 20, 2017 in the Photography Gallery.