Museo aero solar

Years ago, after Chaos Congress, Rubin insisted we go to some art show. I, as always, preferred to stay at home — whatever continent, country, city home might be in that day. But Rubin can be lovingly persistent. It would be worth it. It would be beautiful. We went, mere hours before I boarded a plane from somewhere to somewhere else.
blue-haired willow has her back to the camera, focused on a large transparent orb. Children play in the orb, suspended on a clear sheet of plastic. black lacing holds the orb in place. Rubin took this picture, and Willow is fond of Rubin.
Biosphere was a study in liminality to me, suspended spaces tethered to more commonly understood as habitable floors and walls. Perfectly clear water in heavy plastic and vast space define in clarity and iridescence. It was a liminal future, an in-between home, the moment the wheels leave the runway. The terror of my anxiety and the complete love for the possibility of Something Different, wrapped up in the moments of stepping into the future. In short, Rubin was right.

Jump forward a few years.
When Pablo invited me to Development and Climate Days in Lima, I was glad to go. Even before the deeply pleasurable and productive Nairobi gig with Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and Kenya Red Cross, I trusted Pablo to have spot-on inklings of the future. Maybe all that climate forecasting has gotten into his social forecasting as well. His efforts around serious games resulting in their now being generally accepted, he told about an art-involved step to get people to think about the future differently. Something about plastic bags, and lighter than air balloons. Would I be willing to, in addition to my talk, document their process of creating a Museo Aero Solar for others to participate and replicate? Of course – distribution of knowledge, especially with illustration and technology is kind of my jam. It would also help me venture into the city.

I arrived at 2a to a deserted city and a vast and rolling Pacific out the cab window. I cracked jokes with the driver based on my poor grasp of Spanish (“ehhhh, Pacifico es no muy grande.”) He humored me. And in the morning, mango that tasted like sunlight, and instant coffee, and the Climate Centre team of whom I am becoming increasingly fond. And a new person – the artist Tomas, with whom Pablo and I ventured to an art space to join the already-started process of community building and art creation, large bags full of plastic shopping bags ready for cutting and taping. Pablo eventually had to go spend time at COP20, I relished not going.
a phone-camera captured image of a pamphlet instructing how to create a museo aero solar. it instructs the collecting, cutting, taping, and combining of plastic bags.
I took such specific, ritualistic care with each plastic bag. Cut off the bottom, cut off the handles, cut a side to make a long rectangle. Lay it gently on top of the pile, pressing down to smooth and order. Pick up the next bag. Feel it on my hands. The crinkle, the color. Smooth it out. Cut. Place. The sound of tape being pulled, torn, applied, and stories told in Spanish. The slow joining of each hand-cut rectangle. I smiled, to dedicate so much care to so many iterations of things which are the detritus of life. Francis laughed with me, saying she felt the weight of each one. A heavy statement for something so light. Tomas walking around, constantly seeming to have attracted a bit of plastic bag handle to his heel, no matter how many he peeled off, a persistent duckling of artist statement.

We went to the Lima FabLab to speak to a hackathon about making a GPS and transponder so we could let the creation fly free without endangering air traffic. And this time I saw it from the outside – seeing Tomas speak to a group of self- and community-taught Peruvian coders, and seeing their faces display disbelief and verge protection against the temporal drain of those outside your reality. Then, as he showed step by step, and finally an image, that these can fly, their cousins can lift a person, grins break out. Peoples’ hearts lift, new disbelief replaces the jaded. There is laughter and a movement to logistical details.

And then we took it to the D&C venue, and it worked.

I imagine what Pablo must have gone through, to get bureaucratic sign-off on this. No metric of success. No Theory of Change. Him, fighting tooth and nail for a large and hugely risk-adverse organization to trust fall into the arms of a community, an artist, a facilitator, and a game maker. And they did. And it changed the entire event. People in suits crawling into this cathedral made of plastic bags, each individually cut and added with love to the whole. A pile of fancy shoes outside the entrance, like a ballroom bouncy castle. People’s unabashed joy watching art some of them had made become a room, and then lift off to become a transport.

This future we want — it’s hard work, it can seem impossible. But it’s right here, we made it. It works, and it is beautiful.

I brought up ways for other people to participate. In a beautiful act I would associate with Libre ethics, the Lima crew have opened up not only our stories, but our process. We want you to join us. We want you to be a part of this future, and it means hard work. The fledgling wiki and mailing list can be found here. I hope you hop on.

Show me your scars

I had a great time the other day – a friend loaned me his SV so I could go for a ride. I excitedly grabbed my jacket – the same one I had cut off of me on November 1st, and stitched the sleeve back up. And I noticed that my scar showed through the zipper area. That got me to thinking. How many people retain the clothes they were violently injured in? Can you see your scars through them? I want to see. The amazing Libby Bulloff has offered to help me out with this (ie, I have no artistic talent but she has loads). I’d interview the models about how they got the scar, why they kept the clothing it occurred in, and how it has affected their everyday life. Hit me up at willowbl00 at gmail and include “show me your scars” in the subject line. And please do pass it on. Obviously preferred if folk are in Seattle. If there are enough interested parties, we’ll put on an art show.

Some thoughts on Exit Through the Giftshop

Watched Exit Through the Giftshop with Pip, Monica, and Josh last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it – the humor, involvement, art, story. Dialoge natural enough to be an actual documentary, clever enough to make you question if it actually is.

I took two main thoughts from it. I don’t think they get along with each other, but here goes:
1) MBW is a manifestation of the graffiti community as seen from people in other arts communities. It’s pulling from previous iterations of artistic ability to do something many see as degenerate and/or offensive.
2) Graffiti is like hacking in the way parkour is like hacking. Breaking systems other people take for granted. But a web dev taking the course of actions a hacker did months before is not hacking. It’s working on a (newly) established structure. That to me is the difference between MBW and the artists he looked up to. But because he wanted to be perceived as one of those artists instead of as his own thing, he didn’t hack (way of making things work in an unexpected way) but rather was a hack (someone who throws together shit content in order to have content). (See the internet for copious examples of both).

Now onto graffiti. I grew up in a family of architects and German engineers. I believe architecture lives up to the term “frozen music” it used to be called. It is art. And whether or not art itself should be defaced is a whole other argument as it involves grey areas of history, politics, new artistic statements, etc etc. That’s why art is so fascinating to me – because it is so fraught with nuance.

But then there’s all this architecture out there that’s crap. Or abandoned. Or both. And I love graffiti on that. It’s like dumpstering a plank or a canvas someone else did some attempt of art on and doing something new, something yours, on it. I’ll leave you with this, because I think it’s amazing. And please do watch Exit, if you haven’t already.

I love you, Seattle


What they fail to tell you is that while it does rain for part of nearly every day, the rest of the time is only slightly overcast, and sometimes even sunny.

Phone interview went well. Face-to-face interview in the upcoming week, and another possibility started up Monday.

The people here are awesome. Went to an art show opening last night, corp goth and well-dyed hair as far as the eye could see. Warms my little heart.