January 6th, 2007
life experiments (continued)

it seems i have touched on a hot topic, which i am enjoying exploring further:
washington post article about a group of families who decided to not buy anything new for a year. (suggested by celeste, link from sarah, thank you both.) jeff and i are thinking about doing this one starting next month. i’ll keep you updated.
an excellent blog on simple/green living and sustainability, the worsted witch. I really enjoyed reading her notes on voluntary simplicity gathered from various sources that discuss the concept not as a way of living in ‘blind denial of the material side of life’ but instead as Richard Gregg (a student of Ghandi’s teaching) puts it, “It means an ordering an guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.” like that.
past life experiments by friends and family
1. my husband and his friend once ate only grilled cheese sandwiches, chips and a pickle for every meal for one week. just to see if he could do it. he did.
2. another friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons which shall seem obvious) consciously shit his pants while driving, to see what it would be like. it was not good.
3. my friend kris watched the same film everyday for two years (it helped him sleep). the film was Dr. Strangelove by stanley kubrick. he did an art piece based on it, you can see it here.
4. i did eat a large amount of orange things for one week. i read that if you eat a lot of foods with beta carotine your skin will turn orangish. i wanted to see if it was true. it didn’t work.
5. i have two friends who drank their own urine as an experiment. apparently it is good for your health. i do not wish to find out.
6. my husband (who is appearing quite a bit on this list), shaved his head into something called “the ring of fire” on numerous occasions. this consists of a solid ring of hair making a full circle on the head and face (including head hair and beard hair. what’s interesting about it is to make the circle correct, you must shave a bit off of the front of your hairline.) this one is an experiment on letting go of your looks for a time.
7. of course you already heard about the public dancing, and the not shaving for six months. believe me, there’s a lot more where that came from.
8. sleep in public places. have done this on trips across the country, you CAN pitch a tent in most places without much notice. the challenge is mostly a psychological one. public napping is also a good exercise.
some more ideas to add to the list
-day of silence, (submitted by littlepurplecow), i love this one! much easier when you work from home.
-walk backwards day
-independence day (from rama the great), remind yourself that you are entirely free to do whatever you want. Brilliant!
-cook all your food from scratch (from alana). I think i do this already but i like the idea of getting big sacks of basic supplies and using only those.
-have tea with stranger day (invite someone out you hardly know.)
-walk everywhere week, (i’ve read about people who didn’t ride in a car for years on purpose).
-walk randomly using dice
-read books based on themes. for example:
*travel the world by reading a novel about each country (someone i worked with at Nicholas Hoare did this.)
*read authors alphabetically (alternate: read only authors with last names that begin with “S”)
*read only red books for one year
*choose one book and read only other books that are connected with it somehow (through citations, or research done on the book, about the author, etc).
*read indexes only
*read page 153 in every book you pick up
-choose a place to travel to by randomly throwing a dart at a world map.

Jan 7 2007
3:48 pm
Lorra writes:

Oh weird! I am just planning to do the reading of a book about each country (not necessarily a novel). How neat! There are a few ideas here that appeal to me. Thanks!

Jan 7 2007
3:59 pm
Michelle writes:

I’ve been reading The Worsted Witch also and am thinking about doing the same experiment as The Compact Group in SF. An online support group – what do you say:)
I loved what you wrote about Christmas and things being handmade and not from a mall. It’s such a wonderful thing – noble even in these times. I made a few things for people but they didn’t seem to go over with any aplomb? Ah well, I’ll keep trying.
Keep us posted on your experiment!

Jan 7 2007
4:51 pm
Soren writes:

So I’m assuming you really meant PUBLIC napping, but I’m trying to think up a life experiment that would involve “pubic napping”… or maybe that’s just enforced celibacy?

Jan 7 2007
5:41 pm
Sophie writes:

Love those kinds of expirements. Some of the idea you listed I’m planning to do myself. One I’ll be beginning right now will be ‘read page 153 in every book you pick up’. Wouldn’t it be nice to do this for a certain time and write down which words appeal to you the most on that page 153…I’l be making a list. Nice journal ‘exercice’ too :)

Jan 7 2007
5:47 pm
kyran writes:

i think i love the dart-to-the-map getaway plan best.
these suggestions remind me of how i try to approach lent (in years that I am being mindful): not necessarily as an exercise in deprivation for deprivation’s sake, but as an opportunity to stretch out of one’s comfort zone for personal growth.
a few years ago my dreams led me to put my long hair up for the whole 40 days. it sounds silly, but it was a real sacrafice of vanity. I felt very exposed and vulnerable without one of the principal “props” of my persona. On Easter Sunday, I wore it long and loose and tossed it about gratuitously, while tossing back champagne and strawberries.
I’d be a wretched nun.

Jan 7 2007
6:25 pm
jerusha writes:

yes, the worsted witch is wonderful. so glad you discovered it! ;)

Jan 8 2007
7:17 am
Amanda writes:

There is a book called NOt Buying It that goes through a year with a couple that decided to not buy anything.

Jan 8 2007
9:59 am
MJ writes:

70′s and early 80′s performance art is full of this kind of thing…Life Art.. This is one of my favorites http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2002/09/year_of_the_rop.php
My husband who is onsessive about whatever he is into at the moment got into making carrot juice…he drank so much of it his skin turned orange… It is true…

Jan 8 2007
11:02 am
Rhian writes:

I’ve been a long-time admirer of your work and long-time lurker here, but reading your journal entry sparked something off. i had heard about the compacters before but didn’t check them out. the washington post article mentioned the freecycle network, which i googled and was surprised to find a british chapter. i was even MORE surprised to find out there were thousands of members in my area. i’ve joined my local group and plan to exchange things as soon as possible. thank you for mentioning this in your journal :)

Jan 8 2007
1:11 pm
penelope writes:

“2. another friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons which shall seem obvious) consciously shit his pants while driving, to see what it would be like. it was not good.”
—a good reason not to buy a used car. hee.
I chose the college I went to by closing my eyes and pointing at my acceptance letters. I do not recommend that. The choosing a place to travel by the same means is a much safer bet. :)

Jan 8 2007
4:20 pm
Rachel writes:

A stupid question- does not buying anything for a year include food, gas, movies, etc.? That would be pretty hard- but extremely admirable.

Jan 8 2007
6:21 pm
fog writes:

you could eat a lot of beets. it produces pink poop!

Jan 8 2007
7:47 pm
malaika writes:

#1 sounds perfect! i love grilled cheese so much. every time i eat it i am convinced my belly is smiling too!

Jan 8 2007
9:10 pm
himavant writes:

nice post. again, i elaborated in my post :-) thanks for inspiration..
enjoy Buy Nothing Year!

Jan 9 2007
12:49 am
Juli writes:

My husband and I haven’t watched TV for over a year. Yes, we do turn ON the TV to watch DVDs, but nothing else. In fact, we didn’t own a TV for six months last year. It greatly improved our time communicating and reading. Good stuff.

Jan 9 2007
8:14 am
kathryn writes:

I was also wondering about #8 – pubic napping? I’m assume this is a typo. I do like public napping though :)

Jan 9 2007
9:36 am
rachel writes:

Hey Kerri have you heard of the book “Living the Good Life”? It’s about an Austrlian couple who tried to not buy anything for a year, and grow most of their own food. They made their own goats cheese and even grew their own coffee beans. The book is great because they are very realistic about it, they allow themselves some bcaksliding days where they have a chocolate etc.
here’s the link to the couples website… http://www.lintrezza.com

Jan 9 2007
4:31 pm
kristin writes:

cheers to the green movement!
i love to read your thoughts on this
and the ideas you have listed.
it also reminds me of yoga and the practice
of tapas (heat). can’t wait to read more.

Jan 9 2007
4:47 pm
herhimnbryn writes:

Hallo K, haven’t been here for a while and whe I do visit you give me so much to read, contemplate and leads to follow. Having moved from a 3bedroom victorian townhouse in the uk to a 1bdrm house on half an acre in Oz, many of your thoughts struck home. We were fortunate in that we could change our lifestyle and your words have given me much food for thought. Thankyou.

Jan 9 2007
5:19 pm
[a} writes:

thanks for sharing these ideas, because i am definitely going to use some!~xoxo~

Jan 9 2007
6:10 pm
Michelle writes:

You are amazing. I want you to know that I check your blog regularly and everytime I find myself in awe of who you are, and how much I wish to be like you. You have inspired me, beyond reason. You just may have changed my life, as extreme or odd as that might sound. Your list of 100 ideas (now still currently at 95) has given me an appreciation for this world in a new way. Weekly, I have been referring to your list in my journal and I plan on completing all 100 (which you will eventually have) this year. It was one of my many resolutions for the New Year.
Hope all is well, keep up the good work. You are one of my biggest inspirations and role models, Keri Smith.

Jan 10 2007
2:48 am
Sarah e. Smith writes:

This post had me cracking up! Especially Number 2 (literally) on your list of things that your freinds have attempted…oh goodness! You would love the book ” This Book Will Change Your Life” by Benrik…i think it wouldbe right up your alley after reading this post. :) Lovely college! oh, and Happy New Year!

Jan 11 2007
2:39 pm
ellie writes:

this year me and friends are travelling the world through food. Yum! There will be a map with flags to mark the places we’ve consumed food from and our journey’s progress!

Jan 12 2007
1:24 am
mel writes:

Hi Keri,
I like your thought-provoking ideas. However, please explain how you can promote the concept of not purchasing anything new???
You have illustrated books that are highly marketed by hard-working personnel of your publishers’ house who would want people purchasing them—yet you promote the contrary.
I have commented on your blog that it was a great idea to purchase your “Tear Up This Book” for my six-year old, as she totally loves it. And am thinking of purchasing more to give as bday gifts to her friends. But … hmmm, this is not kool by your standards (?).
There are honest people out there with high, ethical standards who work in the marketing industry. Somehow, perhaps my interpretation is way off left field, but you seem to be against advertising, or marketing in general (?), which is based on some of your postings.
Have you done some packaged goods illustrations? Would you accept such projects?
I’m not trying to be mean in anyway, but I think your motives are inconsistent with your work.
Love to hear your side.

Jan 12 2007
12:07 pm
celeste writes:

so interesting to see people read a little something and freak out…similarly to your adfree blog response it sounds like. um…those of you who are taking the buy nothing year so literally…
you are (i’m assuming here) a free agent. you can buy the things you need (food, gas, etc). buy nothing is really an exercise in understanding what the difference is between need and want. or a means to a goal. when we first began the process we were living in an intentional community where we shared a lot of things (garden tools and hardware store type things –drills, saws, etc). then we knew we were going to grad school, so wanted to save as much money as possible. this all evolved…to save time and money I did all my errands on my way to or from work — I “had” to drive, it was 22 miles to work. So, when I wasn’t at work (weekends, evenings) I got to be with my sweetie and/or in the studio.
Of course, we want you to buy our books, our art, our independently created work. we want you to think about what you buy. You can buy three books from an independent bookstore (or directly from the author) instead of the random things (you don’t really need-more candlesticks, nailpolish, purses) you throw in the cart at Sprawl Mart or Bullseye. that’s what you learn very quickly with this exercise. of course, you sign up for the experience you want. (loosely spoken, some of us don’t necessarily “sign-up” for buy nothing, that’s what they have to experience).

Jan 13 2007
11:03 am
keri smith writes:

I didn’t see this post until now, i am rather surprised by the intensity of it. Mel, my role/work as an artist is about questioning the status quo and investigating things in an experimental/experiential way. On a personal level this means creating experiences of heightened awareness which may result in a new perspective. Often you will hear me suggest “trying the opposite” of what you would normally do in a situation, just to see what happens.
What i am proposing in this circumstance is an experiment in doing something that would shift the way I/we percieve (for example) purchasing, consumption, production of goods, limiting oneself, etc. With most of these experiments it is impossible to know how it might effect you until you try it. This is something I am considering for myself on a temporary basis, I am not telling you that you should do it, or as you suggest that it is not “cool” to purchase products, (this has nothing to do with cool or not cool). For me this is about personal growth.
Just because I am an artist who has created products does not mean that I am not allowed to question the workings of culture at large.
I would like to add that part of doing these ‘life experiments’ has to do with approaching life in a more lighthearted way.
In terms of advertising, I would ask you to please read the FAQ on the adfree blog site as it presents my position in a succinct way. a quote from it (paraphrased):
“Believing that corporations need to have their presence in public life limited is perfectly compatible with working for those corporations. I am drawing a line around a space I deem inappropriate for corporations to inhabit. I am not willing to move my line for money. I am happy to work for them within what I consider appropriate boundaries.”
What continues to amaze me about this whole experience is how upset people get because I am questioning of all things advertising and consumption. i am constantly shaking my head in dismay.
no more apologies folks. this is who i am and what I believe in.

Jan 14 2007
7:53 am
keri smith writes:

unfortunately i have had to close the comments due to an excessive amount of comment spam. it is threatening to shut the site down if left unattended.
if you would like to comment on this post please do so on the most recent post.

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