April 24th, 2007
what is on my wall today

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.

Apr 24 2007
2:24 pm
tanaya writes:

I understand the blogging/internet conversations that are going around. I too feel it.
Hopefully for many of us who are feeling a “disconnect” we can find ways to reconnect. I know that Melba at justbeconnected.com is trying to work on doing just that.
I am happy that you are starting to find some balance with it for yourself. That is the key, I guess. Everyone needs to just find what works best for them.
Enjoy your lazy artist day! :)

Apr 24 2007
2:46 pm
Summer writes:

Thank God I am not the only one who is thinking about life off-line. I’ve actually seriously considered quitting blogging all together. All the things you list are true. I only use the internet 3 days a week, but on those days I really feel a change. I also miss the intimacy of “real life” when I am plugged in. Thanks, Keri. We need more discussions on these topics.

Apr 24 2007
2:48 pm
robinv writes:

I was wondering how you felt about this subject being the visual artist that you are. I have done art all my life, off and on. I realized a few weeks ago, how off it has been. It is tough to get going again in a busy instant gratification world.
What I like about your blog is that you are always seeking something. I love Ed Abbey, but hadn’t thought of Desert Solitare for years. The same with Herman Hesse. I am happy that you give us these bits and pieces every few days.
Today at lunch I was sitting in the park, sketching a tree listening to Tom Waits. It made me very happy.
(my dice this morning came up “dream purposefully!”) thanks

Apr 24 2007
3:25 pm
Rachael writes:

Hello. I was recently introduced to your blog, and am really enjoying it so far.
I sometimes feel the internet gets in the way of “real life” and its constant use can be a source of unhappiness for me. There is definite value from stepping back from the internet and time spent on the computer. I really notice how drained I feel after an extended period of working/surfing on my laptop.
Right now I’m trying to take a break from Flickr – not uploading new content or checking out my contacts photos. I’ve been on the site for almost three years now, and though it’s been a source of many good things, often it can be just the opposite. The same can be said for blogging.

Apr 24 2007
3:33 pm
Kira writes:

Oh, I totally agree. I used to be online all the time, posting to blogs and such…then I started a job that didn’t require me to be on the computer as much, and slowly weened myself off it. I adore being more in the now than on a computer, and while I do use it to communicate with most of my peers, I find that staying away from the computer allows me to live more, find pleasure in nature, and be more creative. Yesterday, I laid outside on the grass and stared at the sky through the branches of a tree while my puppy chewed my shoes. What can top that?

Apr 24 2007
3:37 pm
wish studio writes:

i agree, as hard as it is to admit. i guess that is why i am searching for ways to be more creative and connected in the real world :) another great reason i would love to host a meet, greet and inspire, with you as the star! p.s. i am meeting kimberly wilson this june, and so excited. have you two met in person?

Apr 24 2007
3:45 pm
Michelle writes:

You hit the nail on the head, Keri. I have found myself saying of late, “while I was reading a blog” or “my blog friend”. Now, of course, this is valid…but it cannot take the place of phone calls, handwritten letters, lunch dates, etc.
I find myself needing to take a break…long, short who knows, but a break is needed.
Thanks for pushing the envelope!
Michelle in Asheville, NC

Apr 24 2007
3:46 pm
Cam writes:

This was a perfect read for me today! I’ve been spending a lot of offline time lately – at the beginning not by choice as my arms started to hurt and I was forced to not sit by the computer. But once I got used to it, it felt so good! Like you say, the first hours are hard and then it gets easier and easier and now that my arms are better I’m almost a bit sad that nothing’s stopping me from sitting here for hours on end. But reading this, I feel like taking delibarate time off too. Thank you!

Apr 24 2007
3:51 pm
Penny writes:

The other day we went for a hike. The minute I stepped onto the trail I felt as if I were closing the door on my ‘real’ world. All the “to-do’s” were gone, all the noise and confusion of modern life were gone. Computers, as with any machine, have brought a dimension to my life that it didn’t have before. I’ve ‘met’ people and stayed in touch with people in ways that I could never do without that internet connection. But everything in moderation as they say and getting away from it is NOT a bad thing either. Hey and while we’re on this type of subject – what is with people and their cell phones (oh don’t get me started on that). Thanks for your thoughtful posts and for sharing your feelings and thoughts with the rest of us.

Apr 24 2007
4:12 pm
Catie writes:

I absolutely agree that one can become very involved online. It’s easy to just click away two hours without even thinking. A person certainly needs to find balance in all aspects of life.
My experience with the Internet has not been about being disconnected from people. The Internet has brought people in my life. I’ve met a lot of people through the Internet. Not all of them have turned into lasting friendships, but they have all taken me out of the house and for strolls and meals and conversations face to face. I think the really great thing about Internet friends is that there’s always someone to visit!

Apr 24 2007
4:58 pm
happy little atom writes:

Yes, I agree. I stared teaching yoga to kids so that I could reconnect with the real world. In fact, I haven’t blogged on my blog in over six months. When I started writing a book nine months ago I felt like I could only give the computer so much time. And now that the book’s almost finished, I am ready for a break from the screen.
I’ve started having computer-free Sundays where I reclaim my girl breakfast self, my hiking self, my music-playing, lazy reading, backyard gardening-apple-eating in the sunshine, soul stomp, bike riding beautiful non-typing self. My hands, my arms, they thank me. My spirit, it thanks me.
I think the online world is a lot like the offline one: things come in waves. What once inspired us (blogging, research online) my not always inspire us. Sometimes you have to open a new window. And I don’t mean the online kind :)
Thanks for your beautiful blog. I poke in every once and a while and it’s such a treat.

Apr 24 2007
5:02 pm
Di Hickman writes:

totally agree about the internet! Last Wednesday our internet went ‘poof’ couldn’t get it back abviously a problem with the service provider. It was gone from 10 – 4, 6 hours! How would I manage! That totally made me think! I rely on it WAY TOO MUCH! Instead I spent time creating, cleaning and generally embracing OFFLINE activities.
The whole experience made me realise I am way too dependant on it.

Apr 24 2007
5:08 pm
Amber writes:

Can I believe I chased the Male Pregnancy Link? Sheesh.
You’ve got me thining. Again. Some More. Still. Always.
Thanks for this. I think I’m going to do some pencil and paper thinking about what I could do with all of my home “affairs” to limit the amount that they are computerized. I hate turning into a computer zombie and that’s exactly what happens when I spend too much time behind a screen. And I hate feeling trapped by not being able to do something without using the electric box.

Apr 24 2007
5:24 pm
j writes:

perhaps I, of a somewhat older age,am quick to notice how much of life one misses when staring too long at a screen. that being said, i also enjoy many things in moderation – the internet being one of them. And the -oh,yes!- moments the web can bring. e.g. when I came across
your podcast (myself and another comment writer)had just one of those moments. I was wondering if you could just slip the info on the ‘one book organization method’ under the door or leave it on a park bench or
align the stars so that they point toward the information and we will take it from there. Sometimes what you find on the internet can help in so many ways. Thank you, sorry to bother you as I quietly, tiptoe-ily,back away.

Apr 24 2007
5:43 pm
wendy writes:

No he’s not really pregnant. Please read below as per Snopes.com
Claim: A man who has had an embryo implanted in his abdomen is engaged in the world’s first human male pregnancy.
Status: False.
Origins: The possibility of a man’s
Oh, baby becoming pregnant has been the subject of more than a few works of speculative fiction and comedy, and the topic was given some sober consideration in the media after the British weekly New Society ran an article discussing specifics of the procedure in 1986. It could be done, New Society reasoned, if an egg were fertilized in vitro and implanted in a man’s abdominal cavity. The embryo would have to attach itself to a major organ, the man would have to undergo hormone injections, and the child would have to be delivered by caesarian section, but it was possible, they speculated. (The child would have to be male, though, or else the necessary hormone injections would effectively castrate the male host.)
The dangers of such a course of action are far too high for the idea to be taken as anything more than a bit of scientific “what if” entertainment, however. Although some women have successfully given birth to children conceived outside the womb, ectopic pregnancies are quite dangerous, and nearly all ectopic embryos are removed soon after diagnosis. For a man to attempt to carry a child to term in such a manner would be an unacceptably high risk (especially since the placenta would have to be left to decay inside the man’s body after he gave “birth,” as its removal would result in major haemorrhaging).
Now, fourteen years later, people have begun to wonder about the web site at http://malepregnancy.com, which purports to chronicle the efforts of one Lee Mingwei to carry off the “first human male pregnancy.” The site hosts video clips of “Mr. Lee,” an ultrasound video of his “baby,” an “interview” in which he explains why he’s doing this, a discussion of how male pregnancy is scientifically possible, and a chat room where visitors can discuss the “social implications” of male pregnancies.
Is this for real? No. It is, like its sister site at http://www.genochoice.com (where you can “Create your own genetically healthy child online!”), an exercise in speculative fantasy. Follow the links from the “Credits” section, and eventually you’ll find a disclaimer which reads:
This site (“Site”) was created to be an exploration of a very likely scenario that may one day result from new advances in biotechnology and infertility treatments. The Site itself does not provide actual commercial services, and the information contained on the Site is not represented as being factually accurate. This is a fictitious web site created by a single artist.
(You can also read profiles of Lee Mingwei and his collaborator, Virgil Wong, on the web.)
Perhaps some day these concepts might indeed become reality, but for now they exist only within the realm of fiction.

Apr 24 2007
5:46 pm
keri Smith writes:

i actually am aware of that. i think it’s an interesting art piece and wanted to share it so people could explore the process of discovery on their own.
exploring the site and trying to figure out if it is real or not is part of the experience.

Apr 24 2007
5:46 pm
keri Smith writes:

i actually am aware of that. i think it’s an interesting art piece and wanted to share it so people could explore the process of discovery on their own.
exploring the site and trying to figure out if it is real or not is part of the experience.

Apr 24 2007
6:16 pm
m writes:

Wow ! really interesting post.
I’d like to reiterate that I’ve met really great people including one of my best friends through the internet.
BUT I’m also aware that I want real live juicy conversations encounters and I often am isolated by the computer. I’ve started this week to make an effort to pick up the phone and speak to people rather than just send an email

Apr 24 2007
6:51 pm
Alison writes:

Love the Dechamp quote.
It got me thinking. Motherhood has led me to that kind of existence, where my life is my art, my kids and home are the products and the way I tackle each day is made up as I/we go along. A bit of writing, acting, painting and sewing provide the outside inspiration and the creative feeder material that keeps the private work colourful and interesting (to me and the kids). It’s not fashionable to consider it a ‘life work’ but I love it.
And yes… while cyberspace can inspire it can also distract from the projects at hand.

Apr 24 2007
8:04 pm
melissa writes:

thank you for this post- i have been mulling over these ideas a lot in my head lately, so it was great to see them written out so coherently on your site.
You never fail to make me stop, think, try to make a change.

Apr 24 2007
9:41 pm
Marilyn writes:

I suspect many of us have had feelings similar to yours somewhere on the disconnect spectrum. It can be hard to find a good balance. There are times when I can’t WAIT to get away from the computer…for many of the reasons you listed. The irony for me is that this once-removed medium has opened me up to so many ideas and projects (some from others, many self-created) that I might not have ever considered if I hadn’t made the connections I was making online. I have found online connections a fabulous stimulus for…you know…that THING (creativity). Which makes me explore MANY more avenues for expression in my ‘real’ life. And maybe that’s the sort of balance I’m seeking…where both ‘worlds’ can be portals to expression and connection.

Apr 25 2007
4:26 am
marloes writes:

The Dharma is everywhere, also in the dirts of the internet. Like a lotusflower blossoms in the mud. Maybe it’s a nice practice to be aware you’re sitting behind a computerscreen, in the same way like you can sit in your garden. What is it that sits here? What is it that sees? Is there a difference?
I’m moving my domain to another host right now. My website is totally blank at the moment. I like it, I think I’ll keep it that way for a while. :)

Apr 25 2007
5:07 am
Sarah writes:

I agree with you. I see the internet and all it offers as a wonderful thing which allows me to research almost anything instantly, but I also regard it as just one tool amongst many. Nothing can substitute for the physicality of a person, or indeed, a book. And it can exercise a tyranny: the very instantaeneousness which makes it so fantastic (and of course the wide reach – yesterday I had an exchange with an illustrator in Brazil, who I would not otherwise have met) is also a reflection of Western Anglo-American culture’s drive to do more, now, more quickly. Emails must be responded to; leaving a message on a forum encourages me to go back, to see if someone has replied yet, and on it goes. Like everything else, imo, it requires balance: otherwise it can assume the status of a god.

Apr 25 2007
6:19 am
tidia writes:

I used to chat a LOT, but for a few months ago I somehow got fed up with the small-mindedness of certain people and stopped chatting, completely. I only used my computer when I needed to read my email or look up someting on the net.
Strange it seems, but I haven’t really felt at all better after this change. I thought I would be doing some other things in stead of sitting in front of the computer. But no. My apartment is still just as messy as it was before. I don’t read. I don’t watch TV. I don’t do crafting or write or draw. I don’t do anything of what I thought I would be doing. I just don’t feel like it.
What do I do then? – Well, mostly I just wait for bedtime to come. I have the TV on but I can’t concentrate on watching. I smoke a lot. I pop out on the balcony every other minute for a cig.
Still, I won’t go back to the chatting I used to do, because even if I miss all the nice people there, I’ve just had enough of all the idiots. Somehow I still feel that my life is worse than it was before quitting the chatting.
In fact, I feel quite miserable :(

Apr 25 2007
6:46 am
Goddess of Leonie writes:

I totally and utterly agree, and have been striving for this balance in my life too.
Thank you for being honest and real about it, too.

Apr 25 2007
8:50 am
switchsky writes:

Oh wow….did this one hit me over the head!
Thank you for being kinder and more philosphical about the topic than my husband was this morning.

Apr 25 2007
9:50 am
Michelle writes:

Keri, you rock! You have so eloquently and succinctly diagnosed what has slowly and insidiously happened to my own life over the past 7-8 years. I can’t remember when we actually got the internet, but before it happened, our personal lives were computer-free, and I’ve recently been trying to remember what life was like before this time-sucking distraction came along (and what were we doing with all that free time?). Luckily for us all, spring is here urging us to get out of the house/office/whatever and go muck around in the dirt. In fact, I think I’ll wander down to the river on my lunch break. :)

Apr 25 2007
12:56 pm
maureen writes:

hi keri-
i love this post!
i am impatiently waiting for the day this spring when my “contract” with my internet provider is up. beyond the disconnection from day-to-day/in person life, it’s really quite a scam monetarily. i’ll be checking your blog when i’m at the public library.
thanks as always-

Apr 25 2007
1:29 pm
Jeanne Rhea writes:

I had written about this in a blog post in December. http://artfortheheart.blogspot.com/2006/12/price-of-being-connected.html
Even though I am completely conscious of the time I am spending on the computer, I am gradually learning to search out those sites that resonate with me in some way and I am limiting my time to those. I use the internet esp. to research or find answers to that odd question that I would have to make a trip to the library to find the answer. And that saves a lot of time, but the more important part is that I actually do find the answer with little effort. Maybe I know way more than what I really need to know about something—but who knows—maybe it will come in handy some day.
I have an online friend from Finland and I keep in touch and she has come to the US to visit me. It is one of those “I can’t imagine having never known her.” feelings. So being connected can enrich our lives.
The best part of being “connected” is the ability to see what other artists are doing, the inspiration from all of the writings, photos, etc. Still, I reach a point that I must do my own creating and the computer goes idle for awhile. All of the bombardment (self-imposed) of the media is too much and I must resort to my own thoughts and attempt to connect with those in my day to day life.
Balance, common sense—just what we need in our lives.
Thanks for this post—WONDERFUL!

Apr 25 2007
1:52 pm
polly writes:

keri, what was the name of the book you found this quote in? i’m curious and want to delve further. thanks, polly

Apr 25 2007
1:59 pm
keri Smith writes:

hi polly,
here is a link to it:
buddha mind in contemporary art

Apr 25 2007
1:59 pm
keri Smith writes:

hi polly,
here is a link to it:
buddha mind in contemporary art

Apr 25 2007
2:42 pm
Kat writes:

i’m still thanking my stars for finding a “connection” with you because you are a natural and very inspiring teacher . two days ago, we had a blackout here in thornhill. at first i whined about not having internet connection but quickly turned grateful for the “quiet” it brought – i was able to sit on the floor with the little one and play with dinosaurs and dominoes, although a bit forced at that moment, brought a much needed (re)realization. a good online friend (!) suggested a timer, for starters, to slowly get off the fast webtrain.
and yes. sadly, (or thankfully!) the pregnant man story is a hoax, i must add, a very creative one!
as always, thanks for sharing and “awakening”, keri.

Apr 25 2007
11:17 pm
Feli writes:

Dear Keri, thank you for bringing this up! I think many of us today need to realise that we need to strike a balance in this area. : )
As a matter of fact, what I’m going through in my student internship right now completely depicts a pretty bad situation on your point of diminished contact. My boss, who sits less than 2 metres away from me, “talks” to everyone in our very small office only via MSN messenger. Minimal contact is done on a personal basis and the atmosphere in here is so dead because of this “MSN culture”. I believe People need interaction! So, this really is very uncomfortable for me.
As such, I agree fully that we need to moderate time between the digital and living world sometime. I would hate to see another office as dead as this one!

Apr 26 2007
9:22 am
Debbie writes:

I have to tell you, my husband and I had this conversation the other night while watching Antique Road Show. You are probably wondering how it came up during the show, but we starting talking about “stuff”. We compared to before how each object had a purpose and today how everything is mass produced. Unlike now,in 50 years most of what produced today would have no worth b/c none of it has any real use, it is all just noise, esp. all the technology. We spend so much time and energy being on the computer, watching TV, talking on a cell phone (esp. in the presence of someone else) that we really miss out on what is important. How many sunsets do people miss b/c they have to watch the news? Or is your email so important that miss watching your child sitting on the floor playing or drawing? Don’t get me wrong, I feel technology is great, but I think we abuse it to the point where we are just really missing out. I think everyone needs to step back and see what is really important to them.

Apr 27 2007
8:39 am
mahima writes:

Yes, I have found this to be true lately. The internet is a fascinating place and it has so much to offer, including instant connection with people who think like you, appreciate your work, etc which is harder to find in a day in real life.
And there is so much to inspire, sometimes I find that I get caught up in “getting inspired” or hours i.e. no actually doing/creating anything myself. Which is fine.
But it is important for me to acknowledge that sending that much time online on a regular basis takes me farther away from “life” which defeats the purpose of my art and writing.

Apr 27 2007
10:15 am
Karen Beth writes:

This article is amazing. Love it!
I have been feeling this same way lately. I know that I spend way too much time on the computer and so many aspects of my life (and – dare I say it – my health?) have dwindled because of it. Yet, it is hard to break away. It is a habit so deeply ingrained in me that when I do try to unplug, I find myself with absolutely NO IDEA what to do with myself.
Sad, I know.
I love this article and totally relate. Thank you so very much.

Apr 27 2007
10:26 am
meg writes:

what a wonderful post! thank you so much for reminding us to take a closer look at the lives we lead. sometimes everyone just needs a push. i’m currently a student in my senior year of college and am completely guilty of being attached to “the outside world” through my laptop. from keeping in touch with friends by chatting and e-mail to myspace to typing papers and doing research, it seems i spend most of my time, free or otherwise, online and the thought is quite alarming… i grew up without television and because of that was introduced to so many different activities, crafts and books, the things of a rich, fulfilling existence… only to be attached and 100% available all the time, by e-mail and cell phone. after careful contemplation, and encouraged by your wisdom and the beauty outside my front door, i will make a diligent and careful effort to disconnect — to turn of the phone, the laptop, the t.v. and to pick up my books, my journal and head outside to sit in the sunshine amongst the birds and the green grass. afterall, this is what makes life, right?

Apr 28 2007
12:27 am
Intuitive Creativity writes:

I have really been looking at the need to do and create so much. A lazy artist day is just right for filling the well and living life in the present is a creative endeavor unto itself.

Apr 30 2007
2:16 am
Kate writes:

I also think blogs have the capacity to really inspire, if you are feeling alone or that your voice is silenced in the loudness of the world.
I think, as you said, its all about a balance. Spending time away makes you a better person. Reading other blogs has the capacity to do the same, in moderation.

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