If you’d like to participate, please let us know any of the following:
1. What do you think (or hope, or fear) you will personally be doing in the future? And when you think it will happen by? (Will you buy a condo in Union Square in 2043? Will you have twins in 2011? Will your unborn child become a famous pianist in 2074?)
2. What you think (or hope, or fear) Somerville will be like in the future? (Will there be hi-rise apartment buildings in Davis Square by 2047? Will the plague strike? Will your neighborhood be gentrified? When?)
Tell us a story! Draw us a picture! Make us a map!
All participants will receive full credit for their images, concepts, stories, and data.
We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . We hope to hear from you!
All predictions received by December 31, 2009 will be included on our website, and in our printed timeline. Everyone who makes a prediction will get a copy of the timeline.
This project is organized by Tim Devin, and is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council.
A woman walks down the aisle of the grocery store. She is followed by three other women. They are wearing matching wigs, and singing about the things the first woman is buying.
In a gray, padded cubicle, an office worker opens up a corporate-looking envelope. In it is a formal letter urging him to submerge an enclosed capsule in hot water, so see which “exciting safari animal” it will turn into.
During evening rush-hour, a woman stares down the subway tracks, listening to her headphones. A man approaches her. He hands her a handmade pop-up book. The book is about a woman wearing headphones, and staring down the subway tracks during evening rush-hour.
Welcome to the nutty world of artistic interventions into daily routines.
–Felicity Fenton’s backup singers–
For “Backup” (2008-ongoing), Felicity Fenton hires anonymous women she finds on Craigslist. For the first performance, three of these women accompanied her while she shopped for groceries. The women wore matching wigs, and sang about Fenton’s purchases. “Strange men whistled,” Fenton tells me over email, “some people ducked out of the way (due to the cameras) and lots of people continued to go about their daily task like nothing ever happened.” And a security guard told them they had to leave.
(Image from Felicity Fenton's website)
A year later, she performed it again, this time writing lyrics and dance moves for her backup singers, and providing them with matching outfits. When one of the singers cancelled at the last minute, Fenton had to take her place. Now short an audience, Fenton called a friend, and talked him into doing his own laundry while the singers serenaded him instead.
“Performance always cheers me up. It changes the tone of the day — completely. I dedicated a performance to something I usually take for granted…It felt as though I was praising the grocery and laundry gods for an hour.”
Fenton is currently planning a few more performances of the piece. These will most likely involving cleaning her house, and driving in traffic. With backup singers.
“It’s common to feel impatient or bored by things we do every day – brushing teeth, eating, making the bed, laundry, shopping, driving – and all the time it takes to do these things becomes convoluted and lacks presence because we think of the time as useless. But it’s not useless. We have to do these things, so why not find a new way to make them enjoyable? Art does this for me.”
–Chris Barr and the Bureau of Workplace Interruptions–
Groceries and laundry can be boring, but at least you only have to do them once a week. Work, on the other hand, happens a lot more often than that. Luckily, there is Chris Barr’s “Bureau of Workplace Interruptions” (2006-ongoing). Visitors to the Bureau’s website can sign up to have Barr or a volunteer from the Bureau interrupt their work-day.
“You know how receiving flowers at work can put a buzz on the rest of the day?” the website reads. “So do we. That’s why we create surprise, the kind that slices through the banal and opens up new places for your mind to wander. .. [W]e hope to invigorate some of the time you spend at work in order to create new experiences and possibilities outside the flow of capital.” All interruptions are guaranteed to not get you in trouble with your boss, too; the Bureau’s website stresses that their actions won’t be noticed by any of your coworkers.
Most of these interruptions take the form of emails. For instance, one volunteer who goes by the name Agent ChrisTwo invited an office worker to write a rap about his job. ChrisTwo starts him off:
“Yo, Yo, First City Loans is where Jason works,
His work is hard, have’n to give loans all day to jerks,
The office is nice but his cubicle is cramped,
the bathroom is clean but the floor is always damp.
Another volunteer, Agent J, advises an office worker to confess her sins to her coworkers. “Please, don’t feel judged by me; I’m an atheist,” Agent J goes on to explain to the recipient. “We would like to hear back from you, though, to see if this has had any impact on the dynamics of your work-relationships.” Documentation of these and other interruptions are available in a database on the Bureau’s website.
“I think what is important,” Barr tells me over email, “is not just stealing time, but a recognition that contemporary labor utilizes and exhausts our communicative and cognitive functions. So, the important thing to me is to insert non-saleable communications into those channels.”
I also like to interrupt people during their daily grind. My “Everyday Exchange” (2008-ongoing) involves paying visits to participants while they shop for groceries, commute to work, or do their laundry. During this visit, I give people a small work of art I’ve made, or a poem I’ve written, that is specifically about this particular routine of theirs. My visit, and the gift I bring along, are meant to make their routine a little more interesting.
(From my website)
I base these gifts on conversations I have with the participants beforehand. During these conversations, we tell each other about our daily routines. For me, these conversations are the crux of the project. One of the reasons I started the “Everyday Exchange” was to get people to discuss and examine daily routines—both theirs, and someone else’s. I’ve found that no one really talks about these things, because they don’t want to bore anyone. But this reluctance can only cut them off from a number of interesting observations.
Because these routines actually can be very interesting. For example, who else is on the train with you, and what are they doing? (Do they look bored? Bothered? Are they checking each other out?) Or when you go grocery shopping, do you always buy the same things? (Some people do. Others don’t.) Our routines can be very interesting—if only we would pay enough attention to them every once in a while.
I asked Fenton if laundry and shopping were different for her as a result of her project. “Yes!” she told me. “I value those mundane acts more than I did… It’s pretty amazing what happens to the brain when you become microscopically fascinated by things before you.”
“Backup” added a bit of magic to Fenton’s routines. The performances also made the grocery store and laundromat a little more interesting for everyone else around her.
Despite the different agendas behind them, each of these three pieces produces a similar result: a blip of surprise, or wonder, in an environment usually fuelled only by boredom.
A couple of weeks ago I took a nice bike ride from my place up to Sunset Junction to meet a friend for lunch. Very nice ride by the way, I had forgotten Sunset has a bike lane, so I didn’t actually feel like my life was in danger the whole way there. Anyway, on the way home I came down Second Street and came across the nice new pocket park (I guess you’d call it? Lawn?) on the south side of the brand spanking new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters building. The new building is by AECOM (used to be DMJM, but maybe they found that acronym to not be corporate sounding enough?) and is really surprisingly pretty fantastic. I don’t mean surprising for AECOM, corporate joking aside they do some pretty great work and I know some talented designers who work there, but surprising to me that the headquarters for the LAPD could come out just so damn nice and open and become a part of the urban fabric so smoothly. Of course, the biggest thing is the landscaping, and the conscious choice to give the public the south lawn as the aforementioned mini-park. So now there is this great little lawn on Second Street that I totally want to play croquet on, and the rest of the site is well developed and meticulously planted. Maybe the police will take Rise Industries up on a game or two? I will try to overlook the use of decomposed granite on the upper levels instead of concrete in order to defeat skateboarding on those sweet stairs and handrails. I guess all building developers will always hate skateboarders.
I can see that this building is an exercise in trying to revamp LAPD’s image, to give downtown a very open, transparent building with inviting grounds and hope that the message translates to the organization it houses. If so, we will see how that goes. It’s certainly a great gesture. Also on site is a series of dark bronze, abstracted animal-ish sculptures by Peter Shelton which were the topic of some controversy last month. Apparently Chief Bratton hates them… as does LA Times writer Steve Lopez. I was particularly fond of them myself, especially in the context of downtown LA. Head over there and take a look for yourself though, as they read better all lined up as a kind of progression. Then chill out with a book on the new lawn, maybe some good LA Noir like Raymond Chandler or something, right?
This past weekend Michele and I headed down to Long Beach to install her video and check out this years crop of sound works installed for their annual audio-art festival. The show was bigger this year, and a good crowd showed up, but I didn’t find much work I found interesting this time around. Last years show was a real stand-out to me, got to see if I have photos lying around of that I can post later. There were a few things this year that grabbed my attention of course, notably D. Jean Hester’s field recording style audio tour of the SoundWalk (which made me want to carry a mic and headphones around everywhere I go), and Flora Kao’s sound sculptures. Michele’s video installation too of course, but I may be a bit biased towards that one.
Down there we met up with Rise member Mike Feldman and some others friends in the music industry, and talked a little about what failed to capture our attention this time around. We came to the conclusions that there was a bunch of work that had some technical things going on, but failed to bring any conceptual drive to it, and a bunch of work that was more traditionally “fine art” with sound added as an afterthought or not really bringing anything to the work. That and the usual sprinkling of works that either are rehashing of older artworks (when is an homage merely a copy?) and stuff that just didn’t work out at all. The event is so large that we may have missed a third of it altogether, so perhaps there was more out there which would have impressed us. I really wish it could extend to two days, as now its getting a bit large to take in during the course of one evening. Criticism aside, it really is a fantastic event every year – pretty amazing to see/hear sound art taking over a whole neighborhood for a night, and to run into little projects in every little nook and street corner. If anyone else was there and has some other project to point out that I missed, leave it in the comments please.
My new video/sound installation, i dream in your language, will be presented at this year’s SoundWalk, “a one-night event of sound installations by over 50 local and international sound artists.” Works are spread throughout the area encompassed by Broadway, Atlantic Avenue, Ocean Boulevard, and Elm Street with a sound corridor on 1st Street that will connect the East Village and Pine Avenue. The art is exhibited in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces. Mine will be at Phantom Galleries on the southwest corner of 3rd and Elm Ave.
SW09 PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:
Aaron Drake / After School Program / Alexander Jarman / AMO / Amy Ling Huynh / Andrea Dominguez / Bekkah Walker / Braden Diotte / Caroline Chang & Kyoung Kim / Clowns and Fetuses / D. Jean Hester / Divine Brick Research Sound Projects / Double Blind / Elisabeth McMullin & Kegan McGurk / Erin Scott / Eric Strauss / FLOOD / Flora Kao / Francene Kaplan & Ryan Hunt / Gary Raymond / G. Douglas Barrett (Buffalo) / Gintas K (Lithuania) / HOLLOW BODIES / HumanEar / j.frede / Iris Lancery & Cyril Marche (France) / Jeff Boynton / Jeff Rau / Joe Newlin / John Kannenberg (Chicago) / Joseph Tepperman & Dorian Wood / Julia Holter / Justin Varis & Kevin Ponto / Kadet Kuhne / Karen Crews & Brian Hendon / Kari Rae Seekins / Leah A. Rico / Lewis Keller / Machine Head / Madelyn Byrne, Randy Hoffman & Ellen Weller / Mark Cetilia & Jon Coulthard / Michele Jaquis / Mitchell Brown / MLuM (Singapore/USA) / MPG Interactive Arts / Noah Thomas / Object Control / Ori Barel & Gil Omri Barel / OTONOMIYAKI / Paula Mathusen / phog masheeen / Phil Curtis / Phillip Stearns / Redux / Sander Roscoe Wolff / Scott Cazan / Small Drone Orchestra / smgsap / Song-Ming Ang / Steve Craig / Steve Roden / Steven Speciale / Stuart Sperling / Tamara Mason / The Hop-Frog Kollectiv & Friends / The Carolyn Duo / Tom McDermott / UEM / Warren-Crow + Warren-Crow
Start Time: 05:00 Date: 2009-10-03 End Time: 10:00
A couple of video clips from Osborn’s Park(ing) day park last week.
I made a little ambient soundtrack of cow noises and crickets and birds so everyone could get a feel for the pasture. I the first video here you can hear it a little bit.
And a few photos for good measure. We had a great time out there, telling people about parking day, and giving out the cow balloons and flowers at the end of the day. The only problem for me was that I didn’t get to bike around LA to check out all the other parks around town. I will have to be satisfied with the summary of this years event on their web site.
The representatives from Johnnie Cochran’s law firm stressed this morning that JC (yes, he did compare Cochran to the other JC) didn’t want to be remembered by his infamous statement during the OJ Simpson trial. Instead his legacy should be that of stressing the importance of education. In fact it was at this school, originally named Mt. Vernon Jr. High, that Cochran learned the art of debating. The reason for my visit to the school was to celebrate the unveiling of several new murals created by Raul Paulino Baltazar (Otis BFA ’09) and Melly Trochez (current MFT/Art Therapy student at LMU). Raul has extensive experience as an arts educator, particularly with at-risk youth, and completed the Teacher Credential Preparation track of the Artists, Community and Teaching Program at Otis, then under the direction of Jerri Allyn. Although he was not one of my students, I was eager to support him and see what he’s been working on for the last year.
The morning began with presentations by Principal Schmerelson, Johnnie Cochran lawyers (who volunteer time mentoring the schools aspiring debaters), and Raul and Melly. The two fielded questions from the audience of family, friends, press, teachers and most notably “the top” students at the school who will be trained to give murals tours to their peers. One student apologized on behalf of the school for those who threw rocks and soda bottles at the muralists while they began their project. Apparently, once Raul and Melly engaged the students and community in the planning of the mural, they gained their respect and as evidenced by the tour of the school. One school security guard remarked “Isn’t our school wonderful? The students no longer deface it with graffiti!”
All and all the presentations were inspiring and encouraging. The principal referring to Raul and Melly as “World Famous Artists,” the Buddhists monks chanting in front of “The Five Harmonious Friends or Brothers” mural, and Raul encouraging the students to touch the mural on the basketball quart as a gesture of good luck. However, I was surprised by Melly’s choice of words when she tried to encourage female students to push themselves, by stating that through this emotionally and physically draining process she learned “I have my limits. I can’t do everything a man can do.” And I was disappointed to see a few low res images and at least one typo in the brochure produced by Hugo Hopping, who’s supposed to also produce a catalog for the project. But those minor details did not detract from the overall experience of the colorful and complex designs, with diverse symbolism and styles, representing the rich diversity of both Los Angeles and the student body at Johnnie L. Cochran Middle School.
Appointments can be made to see the murals by contacting Principal Scott M. Schmerelson (323.730.4315). You can also call or email Raul himself, but I won’t post his contact info here.
Friday Sept, 18th PARK(ing)* Day LA happens once again around Los Angeles. At Osborn we will set up a park on Brand Blvd. in Glendale to dream of a Bucolic Tomorrow – complete with hammock, meadow and cows. Sort of. If you have the time, explore the various parks scattered around town (It makes a great bike excursion) and stop by ours to say hello. Check PARK(ing) day LA’s website and map for more information and locations.
*I do not understand why designers need to break up words with brackets or parenthesis or inappropriate capitalization and I think it’s gotten out of hand.
Bruce Nauman, Untitled (Leave the Land Alone), 1969/2009
This weekend started off with a trip up to Pasadena to see Bruce Nauman’s unrealized 1969 project finally realized for the Armory Center for the Arts’ 20th Anniversary. We went to a viewing location hosted by Side Street Projects, and watched as five planes criss-crossed the sky, outputting fluffy cloud dots which resolved into the text “Leave the Land Alone”.
It was interesting to us the change in context for this work, from its initial response to the land art projects of the 1960’s to today where it could reasonably be assumed it was a green/ecological statement referring to land use and global warming.
After watching them etch the sky in gigantic letters for four passes and catching up with a few friends who also showed up, we headed off to Side Street Projects’ campus further up in Pasadena to check out their Armadillo (a FEMA trailer converted by MIT students into a vertical garden which Side Street won), their wood shop buses, and their collection of air-stream trailer offices.
One of my crazy friends and his crazy artist friend did something either really stupid, or completely brilliant. They launched a replica of a Revolutionary War submarine in the East River, very close to a British Cruiseliner, the Queen Mary 2. Art or Terrorism, or just a stunt?