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?
found this quote in the library yesterday in a book about conceptual artists with a buddhist perspective. in it I read about artist Lee Ming Wei, whose work is based on issues of trust and the ‘art of living’, (art about daily life). this thread that runs through my own process these days. (if i told you about some of his work you would not believe me, so go read about it for yourself. okay, i’ll give you a hint, he is pregnant! yes, it’s true. read about it here.)
i have been conducting a little experiment of my own, though not nearly as daring. it involves designating large periods of non-computer time and documenting them in my journal. the results after two weeks with a couple of days off during each are rather startling. i hesitate to share them here with the knowledge that some of you may not like hearing them, as i am critiquing the very medium in which you are currently partaking, and quite possibly enjoying. the truth is, i enjoy it too, immensely. but lately i have started to see ways that it is taking from me more that it is giving, and this belief has been echoed by several web friends who have found it necessary to take an extended break from not just blogging but the internet.
the main issue, a common thread between many of us, is a disconnection with life in the real world. symptoms:
-diminished contact with friends and family (speaking in person or on the phone with them has dwindled or is non existent, social life greatly limited over time) this one seems to directly co-relate to an increase in ‘web friends’. while these relationships are also great, they are not the same as speaking on the phone or having lunch in a public place.
-diminished participation in/with nature
-zoned out feeling (disconnectedness)
-large portions of time in each day unaccounted for (productivity greatly affected in all areas of life, house cleaning, creativity, work, etc.)
Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire talks about the limitation of the machine, he is referring to any number of mechanical gadgets, and says that they tend to separate a human from their environment. while trying to write one evening he describes using a generator to produce light,
“I have cut myself off completely from the greater world which surrounds the man made shell. The desert and the night are pushed back–I can no longer participate in the them or observe; I have exchanged a great and unbounded world for a small comparatively meager one.”
If I am to be honest here, (which is always my goal), i will admit that this is what often results in using the computer, this cutting myself off from the world. How ironic that the premise of the medium is a network that connects us to other humans. but there is little to do with nature and the earth here, this is just one small aspect of the human species, (and not available to all).
before you get your back up over this (as I’m sure some of you will), i should explain that i am only seeking some kind of balance with it for myself. a return to moderation (as when I started). this weekend I went to a garden center and spent much of my time planting and covered in dirt. It felt so good to be outside again in the sun. I sit surrounded by pots of daisies, geraniums, lobeilia, basil and rosemary. my house is cleaner, i am reading more, and i feel more at peace than i have been for months. (the first hours are marred by a tense feeling, of needing to go do work, the urge to check email. after several hours this starts to fade and over the course of the day i feel myself becoming more present in the world.)
by the end of the weekend, going back to the computer feels uncomfortable. today i wish to pack a bag and wander aimlessly about. i have been watching the films of charles & rae eames again and feel the urge to try my hand at a film. nothing fancy, just documenting things in my environment.
in the words of duchamp, today “I am a lazy artist.”
and it’s the best thing in the world.
The sun has come out and I feel almost as if it is something entirely new and foreign, something i need to explore further to understand it’s ways.
yesterday i painted a chalkboard on my wall. one dollar worth of paint has made my life infinitely better. i have always had chalkboards in my studio, but i love that this one is permanent, that you actually write on the walls, (i am contemplating doing the entire wall). i feel as though i am drawing on my house in the manner of simon, (do americans know about simon?). for years i have wanted to live in a house where all of the things in it were actually drawings. I always loved the sets in the stop animated Paddington Bear series from the 70′s, nothing is more beautiful than a three dimensional drawn version of the london subway in black ink, (complete with moving escalator).
my first inclination is to draw a door on my wall, some kind of portal to another world. or maybe a window. or a shelf with photos of my family.
this week i am reading the Death of Ivan Illych by tolstoy, (if you are canadian you may already know why i have chosen this.) Author Yann Martel (Life of Pi) announced in an article in the Globe and Mail this week that he decided that our prime minister needed more stillnes, and so every two weeks he is sending him a book to read. Upon hearing about this I laughed quite a bit. And then i thought let’s be honest, couldn’t we all use that? I’ve decided that I will read them all too, assuming I haven’t read them already.
(If you are one of the few left who hasn’t read Life of Pi I highly recommend it. I warn you, I was white knuckled through half of it, and one scene grossed me out more than any scene in any book i have read. i still can’t think about it too much.)
This weekend I read a book of letters from Edward Abbey. his process of writing books sounds similar to my own:
“I always write in a kind of blind stupor anyway, with only the dimmest awareness of what i’m trying to say or do. The shotgun method, i call it: write many, many books in all directions, without taking much aim, and maybe just maybe at least once–you’ll hit something. It worked for shakespeare. mark twain. who else?” ~Ed Abbey (fr. Postcards from Ed)
I have spent the morning doing interviews, the first of many in the next while. Those of the email variety are very time consuming, I find i must limit the amount of them I do so I can get my own work done. while I enjoy doing them as it helps me articulate my process but I must admit I am not one for reading anything in ‘question and answer’ format. I am not sure why this is, never could read plays either. I will only do it if it’s someone I really want to know about. I think it’s because it’s a rather unnatural format, and the ones that are the most successful become conversation more than an interview. a back and forth dialogue.
I have come to understand that I cringe at the mention of the word “art”. what is it this thing that we keep talking about? Actually it’s more than cringing, there is a phyisical sensation combined with a realization that I want nothing to do with it whatsoever. It’s been like this for the last couple of years and I’m only now figuring out why through doing these interviews.
When we talk about art we are often referring to a finished product of sorts, a painting, a sculpture, a book, a documentation of something, the medium that the ‘artist’ has used to capture an experience. This is probably just a semantical issue, have we confused the medium with the message? It is my belief that it is actually the experience of life that inspires the work which is the art. All to often I think people focus too much on the medium, which in my opinion is kind of irrelevant. Not kind of, completely. The real question to me is, “what inspired someone to express themselves?” What is the idea? The artist needs to ask the question, “What moves me?” not “should i use red or blue?”
I am not saying that there is not work where the medium is integral to the expression, but only that it is not really the main focus for me in terms of communicating an idea. I am enjoying contemplating that idea that there is no such thing as a finished piece of “art”, this is just an illusion created by a world that connects it with commerce and turns it into a commodity. Can anyone ever sell an idea? or a process? is it possible?
i am more inclined to take thoreau’s perspective that “art” might be more about “painting the very atmosphere and medium through which we look” than a physical manifiestation.
for an installation piece i would like to see a large room with people engaged in really mundane acts. tying shoes, feeding a baby, eating chips, washing the floor.
or maybe that defeats my point. maybe better to just do those things and call them art.
or just go about living and not call it anything.
Art, then, is an increase of life, a sort of competition of surprises that stimulates our conciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent.” ~Gaston Bachelard (fr. the poetics of space)
A recent podcast I did with Hip Tranquil Chick, (aka Kimberley Wilson). (run time is just under an hour, I’m a bit of a slow talker, prone to pauses between words.)
in the interview I mention masanobu fukuoka the inventor of seed bombs, who I discovered through my gardening expert/friend Gayla.
still on the couch. but the fever has gone. if only this cough would go away.
time to put some thoughts down here. no, wait. first make tea and then take the laptop outside and write in the sun. yes. back in a minute.
current research obsessions
presentation zen (link via swissmiss.)
digital ethnography, watch video “the Machine is Us/ing us”
ten things i have learned by milton glaser
the wreck this journal site is going crazy! thank you so much for all your participation.
Reading in the bathtub is close to a form of praying for me.
Most times I am guilty of thinking too much, wanting to control the outcome of my days, wanting to be productive, wanting to finish the list, wanting to be “that” person who is doing all the things that I want to do with my life.
But “that” person is as human as I am. “That” person struggles too with all of the same things, mood swings and fears and sweat and messy mind and the feeling of not doing “enough”.
Today I made a new list:
-feel the warm socks on my feet after they come out of the dryer
-eat something that is decadent
-read a book in the bathtub
-spend some time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling
-smell the wet earth even though you are grumpy because it is still raining.
-look at the sky a minimum of ten times, and really study it, like it was a painting
-leave the clean laundry in the baskets
when the bath is full I slip into it book in hand. sometimes I stay there reading for hours, pausing every now and then to do a “warm up” by adding new hot water, (often several times). I like it to be hot enough that you can see the steam coming off the top, windows covered and dripping with moisture. I don’t like to get my book wet so I try to dry my fingers on a towel before I turn the pages (I don’t know why I do this but it seems a part of the ritual). On a couple of occasions I have dropped the whole book in the bath, (my copy of “Alias Grace” is forever swelled and stiff after a nights reading a few years ago).
In the bathtub I have only a couple of tasks. To read until my fingers are prunes, and to scrub my body, freeing the millions of dead skin cells as if they are all of my controlling thoughts. I rub them off with the facecloth and they float on the surface of the water having lost all of their weight. I then wipe the sides of the tub, watching as my cells rapidly circle the drain before exiting permanently.
While in the tub I find the words that want to come out of my body, which have been lost for many days now. But when I sit down to write, they don’t come out as directly as I had hoped.
What I wanted to tell you about was that feeling of being warmed by the bathwater, of cheeks that are red and overheated. I wanted to mention the quality of light that comes in from the window, and tell you how it makes patterns on the wall which i would like to trace with a pencil. And also what it feels like to rub dead skin off of that piece of skin just under your ankle while you read a story about a man who has traveled to the sea in search of his past.
I wanted to mention that sometimes the little things that make you feel most alive may not be all that pretty. Many times they involve mud, dead skin, cold air, things that are broken, things that are lost or missing, things that are scarred, things that are covered in layers of dust, things that are buried, things that you are trying to hide from others.
Especially that last one.
“The idea is to turn even familiar actions into everyday celebrations, to make vivid the common, to separate every moment from the next, as experimental films do, so that spontaneity is allowed to break the dead hand of habit.” ~Samuel A. Eisenstein
assignment for the day.
while on a stroll collect ten versions (or more) of a chosen object. document them in some way.