May 20th, 2007
“We were gone almost a month and everything was sensual. Everything was erotic. It’s the gift of travel, where everything is infused with meaning, compressed, so you begin to see the golden strand that weaves life together. You are in a constant state of awe.” ~Terry Tempest Williams
see you when I return. if you live in the south of spain maybe i will see you.
May 18th, 2007
the above image was inspired by a member of the “wreck this journal” group on flickr who shared the wonderful technique of blowing a drop of ink across a page using a tube or straw, (in this case it was a bic pen tube). what’s brilliant about it is you never know what it will do, you have little control over that ink.
the resulting image sort of sums up my state of mind.
loose ends, loose ends, paperwork, interviews, one last one today, mailings, emails and more emails, taxes, illustration work.
these are the things my days have been about for the last few weeks.
i am winded and in need of some down time. some filling up. i think i’ve even forgot how to write, my brain is so full of other things. unimportant things. things that have nothing to do with survival or the earth.
i got my first copies of ‘wreck this journal’ this week. i am loving it even more than before and destroying my own copy in little bits every few hours. it is strange that i will not be here when it is released in a couple of weeks. not be around to see how the world receives it. but it is for a good reason.
on sunday we are off to spain and morocco (after months and months of waiting). no agenda. none. just to wander and eat and sleep wherever we end up. a bag on my back and some new foods in my belly. a bit of spanish wine. a guidebook with pages folded down, a few important words underlined. words in a language different than my own, like pension, pescaderia, playa. i will have my journal. an old paperback novel by graham greene, with pages buckled from being left out in the rain. maybe the herman hesse, though I’m trying to travel light this time. i always seem to find myself loaded down with books, wanted to bring my favourites as if they are friends coming on the journey with me. how could i leave them behind?
i have no idea who I will be when I return. travel always changes you and the new places fuse themselves into your being somehow affecting the way you see your life. but you can’t know how before you begin. just like the ink.
this would probably be a good time to share more words of herman hesse on the subject of wandering.
“Over this brave small road, the wind blows. Tree and bush are left behind, only stone and moss grow here. Nobody has anthing to look for here, nobody here owns anything, up here the farmer has neighter hay nor wood. But the distance beckons, longing awakens, and through rocks and swamp, snow, they have provided this good little road, which leads to other valleys, other houses, to other languages and other men…..
But I smile, and not only with my mouth. I smile with my soul, with my eyes, with my whole skin, and I offer these countrysides, whose fragrances drift up to me, different senses than those I had before, more delicate, more silent, more finely honed, better practiced, and more grateful. Everything belongs to me more than ever before, it speaks to me more richly and with hundreds of nuances. My yearning no longer paints dreamy colors across the veiled distances, my eyes are satisfied with what exists, because they have learned to see. The world has become lovelier than before.
The world has become lovlier. I am alone, and I don’t suffer from my lonliness. I don’t want life to be anything other than what it is. I am ready to let myself be baked in the sun till i am done. I am eager to ripen. I am ready to die. ready to be born again.
The wold has become lovelier.”
excerpted from Wandering by Herman Hesse
May 4th, 2007
a batch of seed bombs drying in the sun. working with clay gives me the urge to partake in a primitive ritual of some kind. faces painted with red paste. dancing around a fire.
a morning walk revealed a small cropping of wild leeks. you can often smell them before you see them. I picked some to eat for lunch. foraging in the wild often involves using many senses. soon the sumac will be in bloom and I will make tea from the bright red fuzzy berries. i have a new woods to forage in which could yield some new things. i must pull out the euel gibbons. nature is always providing food if we choose to see it. you have to become a kind of detective, scanning the ground and sniffing out clues.
another quote from fukuoka, (this book full of great stuff):
“I believe that if one fathoms deeply one’s own neighborhood and the everyday world in which he lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.”
this is exactly what I am trying to get at with the guerilla art book/work. it involves fostering a deep connection with your city/town by getting down close to the ground and paying attention to all that goes on. observing it’s nature, noticing the patterns, and at times documenting them and sharing them with others. i am looking for ways to connect in a very direct way (and take ownership of) this place where i live. this connection is not limited to only the woods but to urban spaces as well. especially to urban spaces, as these are usually where we feel most disconnected.
this week I will be dropping many of these seed bombs on abandoned lots in my town. and from that moment on, everytime I go downtown and walk by these places and see wildflowers growing I will feel like they are a part of me, (instead of the usual feeling of sadness that comes from seeing places that are abused, laden with garbage and abandoned by the former inhabitants).
reading fukuoka i am learning that vegetables can grow very successfully in areas with weeds. that will be my next experiment. my thinking is that while i am not attempting to try and feed everyone in the city, I am demonstrating an idea. that it is possible and feasible to grow food everywhere. how strange to be walking and see a squash patch growing next to an abandoned industrial site.
who would have ever believed a hundred years ago that growing vegetables could become in itself a revolutionary act?
May 1st, 2007
while digging in the library once again i found another book i’ve been searching for, “the one-straw revolution” by masanobu fukuoka. it is one of these gems that sadly is out of print (though i did manage to find a used copy for $30 on amazon), but his ideas seem to me crucial and relevant to the world we are living in now. Mr. Fukuoka developed a method (or should i say “non method”) of “natural” farming. As the book describes it “farming as simply as possible within and in cooperation with the natural environment, rather than the modern approach of applying increasingly complex techniques to remake nature entirely for the benefit of human beings.” At some point he began using the term “do nothing”.
“My way was opposite. I was aiming at a pleasant natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder. “how about not doing this? How about not doing that?” –that was my way of thinking.”.
His methods advocate no machines, no prepared fertilizer, no plowing, no chemicals, non of the standard techniques employed in today’s modern agricultural world. And his farm would yield as much food as a modern farm of the same size, (but with much less effort). Masanobu believed and demonstrated that the land would provide rather easily if you did not upset the natural balance of things, effectively working with nature instead of trying to tame it or control it. He asked, “what is the natural pattern?”
It is important to note here that the Japanese language is much subtler than english, and the term “do-nothing” has no english equivalent. when he uses the term “do-nothing” it is not meant to be taken literally, there is in fact a certain amount of work to do on his farm, but that is to say much less work than would be involved using modern techniques. In this context I interpret “do-nothing” as “do-less” or “not controlling”.
So as I’m reading this book I am realizing that for the last few years this is the exact method I have been advocating and using myself with my approach to work. Without knowing it, I have been giving lectures based on a “do-nothing” approach to illustration and design, employing terms like “don’t promote”, “ignore your audience”, “fuck the money”. A recent interview I did goes into this a little more, (it’s not out yet). This is not to say I “do nothing” to promote my work, you do have to put things out in the world so that others can see and respond to them. But I do feel strongly that all of the techiniques, calculating, obsessing, entering contests, trying to get awards (annuals), wanting to be a rockstar in your field, trying to land “the” great job, trying to be like someone else who is successful, trying to target your portfolio, trying to be cool, and schmoozing, don’t actually help to move your career forward. If i look back over the course of my career so far, it is only when I stopped trying to do all of those things and focused on the work that the good stuff started to happen. only when I relinquished control to some extent and focused on the things that moved me did I start to attract some kind of success. And this method of “doing the opposite” of what I was taught required much less effort in the long run. (i think i wrote in the how article that instead of sending out hundreds of mailers, as the tell you to do in art school, i sent out a few here and there to places I really responded to.)
so i guess the questions that i learned to ask myself where, “what the hell makes me want to stay up all night so I can work on it, forgetting entirely about the fact that sleep exists as a possiblity?” “what makes you get up in the middle of the night to scribble something down?” “what is in my nature?” (NOT “what should go in my portfolio?”, “how do I target an audience?”, “how do i get more work?”) none of the artist’s whose work i respond try to ‘target an audience’.
What if we were to contemplate the opposite? What if we let the seeds grow on their own? Water them a bit if needed. leave the pruning shears behind.
“To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin further and further from the center.”