Monday, April 27, 2009

view from above

a few things lately have me thinking about this easily accessable sense of place (and subsequently self) that strangely comes from the macro method of google mapping. (i've got ideas formulating for a summer project exploiting google maps with the pen tool...) apparently, the latest news from australia is that "a melbourne man has completed a six-month-long quest to turn topography into typography" with a google maps alphabet. some of the letterforms are much more successful than others, but the idea of being able to totally re-interprete places that we traverse daily (or places we'll never actually visit, for that matter) within minutes from such a radical birds eye view is certainly enticing.

(it actually reminds me of some arial photography from a professor here at mica. some of those prints are hanging in the lobby of the gateway, and i was puzzled for so long trying to figure out if it was a painting or something digitally manipulated. turns out it's neither...)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

can i go back, please?

only part serious. i'm really feeling finals this go around... and all of the sudden baltimore weather is ridiculously hot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

here's some california for ya

snapshots so far. (i'm planning on getting up early to see the sunset tomorrow. we'll see how that goes...)

from the top: kayak crossing, the beach at night, keynote musical guest, mlk quote at steinbeck center in salinas, boats, observations of the open city, rock climbing, the craziest sunset colors i've ever seen, before falling asleep on a bus, color palate continued

ps. sorry for all these posts at once. i finally just sucked it up and payed for some wireless at the hotel.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

fully armed and ready to go

to california that is... for the second national community arts convening. (it was at mica last year, and this year is being hosted by california state university monterey bay.) this could be exactly what i need right now. or it could drive me even more crazy. there is a 50/50 chance. but i'm going into it optimistic.

i made some little studio baltimore booklets with a summary and link to the blog. there are four versions, each with a different quote on the back. they're words that resonate with me, and my definition of community arts. (or social practice, or public art, or participatory practice, or whatever you want to call it.) i get to go on this crazy excursion because over the winter i submitted an abstract for a text about this ever shifting investigation through the lens of studio baltimore. i just wrote it because i figured i had something to say. and if my writing was selected, it was selected. i assumed the paper would go on to california and i would stay in baltimore. i had no ideal it would actually entail a stipend that would allow me to actually attend the convening. (if you ever want to read it, in it's almost second-to-final stage, the link is in this line up.)

so here i am. on to cali. and i'm finding it suprisingly easy to just pause everything and pack up and go.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the beginning of a bad idea

going to see the midnight performance of hair (as if the weekly quota of mica nudity wasn't met at the fashion show last night...) when i have to leave for my flight at 4:30 in the morning. it should be a good one. i'm already impressed that everyone involved could commit to making a musical amid the crazy demands of classes. and maybe self-induced jet lag will catch me less off guard. maybe.

Friday, April 17, 2009


for my latest, site specific, concrete culture assignment, i ended up going back to the alley and bringing every liquor bottle back home with me to fill with concrete and return. i had been getting so bogged down with options and motives, that working with something that was already there felt like the right move. i'm not sure if this was how it was interpreted in the critique, but i was going for making a gesture. something open ended, that had plenty of meaning, but wasn't overly political. you could look at the bottles (from the comfort of your home) and think of the replacement of liquid with concrete as reflective of the burden alcohol becomes on individuals and, in this case, a community. or you could look at the bottles (as you piss in the corner next to them) and wonder how they got there and if the same thing will happen to the syringes soon. i like that i've made something that will have such an unpredictable life. and after class today, i think it's a project i want to dwell on a little more before moving on. maybe i'll walk back in a week, assess the situation, and grab another round of bottles.

Friday, April 10, 2009

something different

ever since i found out about braddock it has seemed a place of unbelievable fiction. i've never been to the bourough in pennsylvania, but i buy into the story it tells unabashedly. who wouldn't root for a decaying ghost town with a young hip mayor that has the zip code tatooed on his forearm and a plan for revitalization centered around art? the story of braddock is unreal. when the steel industry collapsed in the 1980's, 90 percent of the population left. (right around the time of the crack cocaine epidemic.) now, one of it's greatest assets is the very fact that it has lost so much. (detroit anyone?) or, moreover, the fact that the people who have stayed are so stubburnly unwilling to write it off. the new mayor makes no guarantees that it will be easy, or a success. instead, its power is in becoming a "laboratory for solutions to all these maladies starting to knowck on the door of every community." any city has something to learn from the braddock case study.

today braddock became a little more real. one of the artists it boasts of attracting with its abundance of cheap space visited mica, josh tonies. according to the lecture description, "his current work explores transient structures ...the non space, a theoretical space that is not connected to history or identity. his landscapes are reflexive to patterns found in the systems of our mental environment. his work responds to excessive information and excessive space." artist statement ambiguity aside, i was intregued. josh showed us one video in paticular that i thought totally rocked, and talked about things happening in braddock like transformazium and the matchwood festival (aka matt wellin's undercover summer life).

anthropogenic prospects from Joshua Tonies on Vimeo.

i don't know. it was nice to see something different.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

day-glo the day away

cool collaboration between mica's soon to be graduating mfa candidates and baltimore's globe posters.

Friday, April 3, 2009

fool in the rain

studio baltimore starts tomorrow. i should be freaking out right now. but i'm not. i've put all these pieces are in play, now it's just a matter of really letting go. and seeing what happens.

my mind is totally ready to go.

in concrete culture this morning we went to go look at an allyway that the group might do site specific work in. (an interesting move with the most rain i've ever seen in baltimore falling from the sky. we nearly got washed away.) site specificity brings with it a whole new can of worms for me. i really have no idea what i will do. (which is one thing about studio baltimore... i get to dump that responsibility on someone else.) what do i want to bring to this space? a piece that provides awareness? a piece with an actual function? a piece that is completely open ended non-objective? a piece that sits on a conceptual high horse? a piece that emphases something that is already there? a piece that says nothing at all? a piece that promps something else in the viewer? a piece that just gets plopped down? and so on...

the thing that sucks is i am easily influenced. especially with words. (tara called that one last year...) this semester (and lately it's been heightened) i've had so many different outside elements pulling me in different directions. it's not as existential a meltdown that i'm doubting the core of who i am or where i stand. but i find that it's forcing me to hone in on what exactly i'm getting at even more.

i remember reading "doubt" in tragedy junior year and loving the author's introduction more than the play itself. i don't really know if i'm allowed to copy and paste this all... but i couldn't edit it down any further. it's all good.

"What’s under a play? What holds it up? You might as well ask what’s under me? On what am I built? There’s something silent under every person and under every play. There’s something unsaid under any given society as well.

There’s a symptom apparent in America right now. It’s evident in political talk shows, in entertainment coverage, in artistic criticism of every kind, in religious discussion. We are living in a courtroom culture. We were living in a celebrity culture, but that’s dead. Now we are only interested in celebrities if they’re in court. We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment, and of verdict. Discussion has given way to debate. Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? Maybe it’s because deep down under the chatter we have come to a place where we know that we don’t know… anything. But nobody’s willing to say that.

Let me ask you. Have you ever held a position in an argument past the point of comfort? Have you ever defended a way of life you were on the verge of exhausting? Have you ever given service to a creed you no longer utterly believed? Have you ever told a girl you loved her and felt the faint nausea of eroding conviction? I have. For a playwright, it’s the beginning of an idea. I saw a piece of real estate on which I might build a play, a play that sat on something silent in my life and in my time. I started with a title: Doubt.

What is Doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There’s the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. I know my answers to many questions, as do you. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? Who’s your best friend? What do you want? Your answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so. Because under that face of easy response, there is another You. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consciousness has no choice but to give way.

It is Doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he’s on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seem at first like a mistake, like you’ve gone the wrong way and you’re lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present.

There is an uneasy time when belief has begun to slip, but hypocrisy has yet to take hold, when the consciousness is disturbed, but not yet altered. It is the most dangerous, important, and ongoing experience of life. The beginning of change is the moment of Doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a lie.

Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time.”

fletcher told me the other day that if you end the day with more questions than answers, you're in good shape. i couldn't relate more with that imbalance lately. and for someone who is used to knowing, it's a weird feeling. i don't really like ending the day unsure. but it certainly keeps things moving forward. i'll embrace the search.

edit: i just realized i should have posted this with the mention of the ally above, which is actually behind my teacher, sarah doherty's rowhome. coming to baltimore by way of san fran, she made this act of investment, by cleaning up the trash/needles/etc. and coloring in each crack with this bright blue chalk.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

some old friends

our next assignment in type II is to compile a book of student generated book reviews using a grid structure. (which i'm actually really excited about...) each person in the class makes a recommendation to add to the collection. naturally, i thought of bruce mau. massive change is another one of those books that sits on my shelf just looking good; the mere knowledge that it even exists, and that i own it, is enough to excite me. but i re-realized when i pulled it out just how damn good it is. and it's funny how the meaning has changed from my senior year of high school to my sophomore year of college. i don't think i had any idea back then that i would ever find myself this wrapped up in the design world. now, every word from the introduction holds more weight because it is even more of an affirmation for what i'm doing. (or think i will do in the future.)

another pivitol discovery (thanks donaghy) from senior year was ideo design. and over the weekend i found the nightline video (up on youtube all of the sudden) that introduced me to their deep dive process for the first time. it was perfect timing for a rediscovery: my text for the community art convening was due sunday night, and it was sort of a missing link for my motivation with the studio baltimore project. of course i would look at the city and think of how every facet can be redesigned to function better. it's not so much that i'm an idealist (but that helps). it's not so much that i pity the people that design could help (but there is, without question, an element of service.) and it's not so much that everything that isn't perfect is a problem (although i am a perfectionist. and a former fpser.) it's more that i know anything can be edited. in my head, making adjustments and improvements in the places we inhabit is as simple (and enticing) as getting the right letter spacing and leading on a body of text. as with design, it becomes a matter of usability and accessibility. (and aesthetics.) the overarching design of things is exactly what massive change is getting at, too.

"for most of us, design is invisible. until it fails. in fact, the secret ambition of design is to become invisible, to be taken up into the culture, absorbed into the background. the highest order of success in design is to achieve ubiquity, to beocme banal... most of the time, we live our lives within these invisible systems, blissfully unaware of the articial life, the intensely designed infrastructures that support them. accidents, disasters, crises. when systems fail we beocme temporarily conscious of the extraordinary force and power of design, and the effects that it generates. every accident provides a brief moment of awareness of real life, what is actually happening, and our dependence on the underlying systems of design. massive change is an ambitious project that humbly attempts to chart the bewildering complexity of our increasingly interconnected (and designed) world... we hope to make evident the design decisions that go on and are made manifest accross disciplines. massive change is not about the world of design; it's about the design of the world."