Returning to my sometimes pastime of fantasy house hunting for a property to house our “art b and b,” I discovered this gem. Three hours from New York City. Thirty-six thousand square feet. A steal at $1.2 million. Oh the things we could do there. Amsterdam Castle is already a bed and breakfast

Built in 1894 by the state of New York for the National Guard, Amsterdam Castle is a 36,000 square foot private residence listed on the National Register of Historic Places. New York originally built 100 of these armories, of which nearly 50 are still in use by the National Guard. Other “sister” armories uses include a military museum (Saratoga), art gallery (Manhattan East Side), and a concert hall (Albany). This armory was decommissioned in 1995 and is the only armory converted into a home. This home has two guest wings available for bed and breakfast accommodation. - HistoricProperties.com

    Here’s what I’m “rolling out” this summer with the Parrish Art Museum.

    The “Parrish Road Show” is an innovative exhibition and program series created to generate transformative convergences between artists, visitors and diverse members of Long Island’s East End community. The series will feature four artists’ projects and related programs that will be sited in atypical public spaces from the open landscape, to businesses and public parks. The Museum is commissioning new works by regional artists (temporary projects, site-specific sculpture, public works, or performances) that will activate spaces not normally associated with art exhibition, and consequently encourage unexpected encounters with art.

    The “Parrish Road Show” is designed to broaden the traditional understanding of the function of an art museum, opening up a new dialogue to deeply connect creativity to everyday life. 

      When I was 16, I was working at the New York Boat Show at the Coliseum watching over the 26′ outboard boat with which my dad (with help from my brothers) had crossed the North Atlantic the summer before. Across the aisle were Kathleen and Curtis Saville, a quiet couple, with an infant, watching over their 25′ boat with which they had rowed across the Pacific a year earlier. I remember talking with the Saville’s and learning they had departed from Peru in 1984 and by the time they arrived in Australia a year later, Kathleen was pregnant! They wrote a book about the experience, Pacific Voyage: Rowing 10,000 miles in 392 Days (now out of print). And this wasn’t their first Ocean crossing; in 1981 they had rowed across the Atlantic, making Kathleen the first woman to successfully do so. Today I decided to “google” the couple, and learned that Curtis died in 2001 in the Eastern Desert of Egypt while on a solo desert mountain expedition. Clearly theirs was not an average life.

      On the site www.oceanrowing.com, I found this memorial tribute to Curtis Saville:

      Curtis’ other expeditions include exploratory mountaineering along the Virginia Glacier on the South East edge of Baffin Island in the High Arctic.  This was part of the Canadian Polar Continental Shelf Project.  In addition, Curtis Saville was a French horn player.  Educated a Juilliard School of Music (B.A.) and Yale University (M.F.A.);  he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in La Paz, Bolivia in the 1960′s and taught music and writing. 

      Kathleen and Curtis Saville in 1987

      Generally when someone has accomplished a remarkable feat, you’ll find other remarkable achievements along the way. In February of this year, John Fairfax, the first man to row solo across the Atlantic in 1969, died at the age of 74. Fairfax’s obituary in The New York Times reads like an early 20th Century adventure novel.

      At 13, in thrall to Tarzan, he ran away from home to live in the jungle. He survived there as a trapper with the aid of local peasants, returning to town periodically to sell the jaguar and ocelot skins he had collected.

      He later studied literature and philosophy at a university in Buenos Aires and at 20, despondent over a failed love affair, resolved to kill himself by letting a jaguar attack him. When the planned confrontation ensued, however, reason prevailed — as did the gun he had with him.

      In Panama, he met a pirate, applied for a job as a pirate’s apprentice and was taken on. He spent three years smuggling guns, liquor and cigarettes around the world, becoming captain of one of his boss’s boats, work that gave him superb navigational skills.

      In Werner Herzog’s 2007 documentary film Encounters at the End of the World, Herzog visits McMurdo Station in Antarctica and meets a handful of extraordinary people for whom working in Antarctica is but one adventure they have experienced. When I first saw this film I thought it might have been partially fabricated (how could Antarctica attract so many daredevil poets and amateur philosophers?). But the more I learn about “seeker” personality types, the more I realize that their most publicized feat is usually far from their only one.

       

        Film and video-maker friends, Bogliasco Foundation wants YOU to apply for a fellowship on the Italian Riviera. What are you waiting for?  April 15, 2012 is the deadline for the winter-spring semester 2013.

        Located in the village of Bogliasco, the Liguria Study Center provides residential fellowships for qualified persons working on advanced creative or scholarly projects in the arts and humanities. The Study Center is one of the few residential institutions in the world dedicated exclusively to the humanistic disciplines: Archaeology, Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Classics, Dance, Film/Video, History, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Theater, and the Visual Arts.

        I recently joined the Bogliaco Fellowship Advisory Committee, and would like nothing more than to see more moving image artists take advantage of this singular program!

        Bogliasco Foundation Brochure

          Visitors checking out Markus Kayser's "Sun Cutter," a low-tech version of a laser cutter that uses pure sunlight, focused by a ball lens, to repeatedly cut programmed shapes in up to 0.4mm thick plywood.

          Intimate Science,” the exhibition that I curated as part of my Warhol Curatorial Fellowship, opened on Friday, January 20, 2012 at Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, the campus gallery expertly run by Astria Suparak. Several hundred people turned out (during a snow storm) to see the work of BCL, Center for PostNatural History, Markus KayserAllison Kudla, Machine Project, and Philip Ross. The crowd was a mix of artists, architects, technologists, and mycologists– the latter thanks to the abundant examples of reishi sculpture and architecture by Phil Ross and a reception sponsorship from the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club. Both Phil and Allison gave talks the day before; Phil talked about the possibilities for mushrooms as building materials, batteries, and a substitute for petroleum based plastics. Allison talked about how her time living in Bangalore coincided with her research into algorithms embedded in living systems; one example of this is the “Eden Growth Pattern,” a surface fractal found in both urban sprawl and bacterial growth, and in Allison’s work on view, Capacity for (urban eden, human error).

          Allison Kudla explaining "Capacity for (urban eden, human error)" which uses a computer controlled four-axis positioning table to "print" intricate bio-architectural constructions out of live plant cells. The algorithmically-generated patterns drawn by the system are based on the Eden growth model and leverage mathematical representations of both urban growth and cellular growth

          "Capacity for (urban eden, human error)" installation detail.

          The Center for PostNatural History's 3D Transgenic Mosquito display features Anopheles stephensi mosquito specimens, developed at U.C. Irvine and genetically altered so that they cannot carry the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium.

          Phil Ross hands around a mycotecture brick. Made from reishi mushrooms, these bricks are entirely renewable, non-toxic (read edible), lightweight and stronger than cement.

          In BCL's "Common Flowers" genetically modified "Moondust" cut flowers are reanimated as living plants using plant tissue culturing techniques, with the intention to create an open source population.

          The day after the exhibit, Mark Allen of Machine Project presented a three-part workshop titled, “Mind reading for the left and right brain.” In part 1, participants learned to solder in the process of building a personal galvanic skin response meter (aka a lie detector); in part 2, they developed their “intuitive” abilities with psychics Krystal Krunch, Asher Hartman and Haruko Tanaka; and in part 3, they learned to operate and perform with a simple audio looping device called an Earbee, designed by Sara Roberts. The video below gets at the mind-altering group experience of this full day workshop.

          My personal galvanic skin response meter (lie detector) made with Machine Project. A watchful third eye is etched into the circuit board

          On Friday night, we got a sneak preview of the soon-to-open Center for PostNatural History storefront in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Rich Pell walked us through the darkened hallways of the center, which had the atmosphere of a Victorian sex parlour meets natural history museum.

          Rich Pell, director of the Center for PostNatural History about to take us on a sneak preview of his transgenic museum

          Transgenic specimens under lock and key at Center for PostNatural History

          Ultimately, “Intimate Science” looks at artist-initiated research in a scientific or technological area, and notes the dramatic shift from artists operating on the periphery of research to conducting research themselves. The artists in the exhibit have a sustained and intimate relationship to their studies (for example, in Phil Ross’ case, he has been working with ganoderma lucidum or reishi mushrooms both in the field and in his studio lab for 16 years), and contribute in a meaningful way to cross-disciplinary discourse. I first heard the term “Intimate Science” used by Roger Malina, astrophysicist and editor of MIT’s Leonardo (a 40 year-old peer-reviewed academic journal on the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts). Malina suggests that this type of practice parallels Mode 2 Science, which emerged in the latter part of the 20th Century: a type of scientific knowledge production that is interdisciplinary, problem-focused and context-driven, responsive to the social environment, and interactive (involves non-specialists). Social practice and artistic research operate under the same principals. And when artists become scientists, the lines of inquiry pursued become quite expansive.

          Read the Intimate Science introductory text below.

          The most recent manifestation of artists working at the intersection of art, science and technology demonstrates a distinctly autodidactic, heuristic approach to understanding the physical and natural world. Intimate Science features artists who are engaged in non-disciplinary inquiry; they aren’t allied to the customs of any single field, and therefore have license to reach beyond conventions. This kind of practice hinges on up-close observation, experiential learning, and inventing new ways for the public to participate in the process. And through their engagement with “intimate science,” a more knowledgeable public might well be able to influence what research is supported and adopted by the larger culture, and the walls of science can become more transparent.

          For four months in the fall of 2010, I worked at a cozy desk in the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon as a research fellow hosted jointly by the Miller Gallery and the STUDIO. On a daily basis, students, faculty and visiting artists would stop by my front row seat at this frenetic concourse of technoscience dispatches.

          While my initial line of inquiry was artists embedded in scientific or industrial environments in the 1960s, I began to uncover a new narrative — a tactile shift in discourse and practice between that moment and this one. While artists two generations ago were dependent on access to technicians, labs, computer time or manufacturers to realize works of scientific or technological complexity, those I was presently meeting had far greater agency to conduct this kind of work themselves. Even ambitious endeavors such as independent biological experiments, materials research and micromanufacturing can be conducted by today’s working artist — and not at a naive or removed distance.

          Roger Malina, physicist, astronomer and executive editor of Leonardo, a leading journal for readers interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts, describes this direction as “intimate science.” He writes:

          “In an interesting new development in the art world, a generation of artists [is] now collecting data about their world using technological instruments but for cultural purposes. Shared tool-using leads to overlapping epistemologies and ontologies. These artists both make powerful art and help make science intimate, sensual, intuitive.[1]”

          And unlike the rare “Leonardo” polymath of the Renaissance, contemporary artists who operate across disciplines employ the expertise of the network: the network, not the individual, is encyclopedic. The Internet has provided unprecedented access to shared knowledge assets, materials, fabrication processes, microfunding, and audiences. This exhibit examines how networked communication and open source culture have contributed to this shift from artists aiding science to doing science, and the impact this imparts on the way scientific knowledge is acquired, utilized and disseminated.

          BCL (Tokyo)
          In Common Flowers/Flower Commons (2009), BCL (Georg Tremmel + Shiho Fukuhara) bio-hacks Suntory’s genetically-modified “Moondust™” cut flowers — carnations bio-engineered to have a blueish purple petal color — back into living plants with the intention of creating an “open source” population of these flowers.

          Center for PostNatural History (Pittsburgh) is a project spearheaded in 2008 by Rich Pell with the objective to advance “knowledge relating to the complex interplay between culture, nature, and biotechnology.” It is a singular natural history museum that is concerned with “PostNatural” varieties of life normally excluded from scientific taxonomy, i.e., transgenic organisms that have been altered by humankind via selective breeding, genetic engineering, or other methods of biological tampering.

          Markus Kayser (London) takes notions of sustainable micromanufacturing to the extreme through projects like his Solar Sinter (2011), which combines a custom-made 3D printer with solar power to transform sand, on site in the Sahara, into glass forms, and Sun Cutter (2010), a low tech ‘laser cutter’ that makes objects by focusing sunlight into a beam powerful enough to cut through plywood.

          Allison Kudla (Seattle) combines computer fabrication technologies and plant tissue culturing to make living installations. InCapacity for (urban eden, human error) (2009) she uses a custom-built computer controlled four-axis positioning table to “print” seeds and algae into a delicate architectural pattern, which she describes as biological material in collaboration with an engineering mechanism.

          Machine Project (Los Angeles) is a “not-for-profit arts organization and community event space dedicated to making specialized knowledge and technology accessible to artists and the general public.” Machine describes its terrain as encompassing “art, technology, natural history, science, music, literature, and food,” and more. Machine’s style of presenting promotes hands-on engagement and engineers atypical collisions between different branches of knowledge.

          Philip Ross (San Francisco) works in the realm of “biotechniques.” He makes sculptural and architectural works from plants and fungi, and videos about micro-organisms. His “mycotecture” series is an experiment using reishi mushrooms as a sustainable construction material. He is also the facilitator of DIY biology events via CRITTER — a salon he founded for the natural sciences.

          Andrea Grover was the 2010 Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Research Fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery and STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.

          A densely illustrated publication, New Art/Science Affinities (2011), accompanies the exhibition. Co-authored by Grover, Régine Debatty, Claire Evans and Pablo Garcia, and designed by Thumb, the book features more than 60 international artists and collaboratives.

          1 R. Malina, “Intimate Science and Hard Humanities,” Leonardo Vol. 42, No. 3, page 184, 2009.

            This opening paragraph from the Roy McMakin: Middle exhibition brochure from Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is the best definition of art I’ve read in awhile.

            Walk into a room and in a matter of seconds (on a subconscious level) your mind identifies and categorizes every major thing that is visible: there’s a person on the right (female, white, forty years old); there’s a group of geometric wood objects (furniture: table, chairs, bookcase); there’s a spherical object on the table (vase: ceramic); and a hole in the wall with an overhanging section (architectural features: fireplace, mantle). This reaction is not only the way in which we orient ourselves to the world, but also a fundamental human survival skill, ingrained into our consciousness by millions of years of evolution. When something unusual, outside of simple categorization, is thrown into our field of view, we pause, look, and consider. These anomalies are usually figured out rather quickly, but the man-made ones that we continue to come back to with questions—sometimes for centuries—fall into another category: art. – Richard Klein, exhibitions director

            You can download a PDF of the entire essay here.

            From LA Times "When is a chair is not a chair" Photo credit: Jason Schmidt

              We have the "slow food" movement, why not the "slow thinking" movement?

              I finished reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and rushed it back to the John Jermaine Library for the next person waiting in line to read this NY Times Top Book of 2011. (If you don’t want to read it, just check out this amazing illustration by Eva-Lotte Lamm and you’ll get the gist.) Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, has spent his career studying the psychology of judgement making. He describes dual cognitive processes at work in the human mind as System 1 and System 2; the former is an intuitive, automatic process of judgement (think gut reaction and mental shortcuts), the latter an analytical, rules-based slow process (think Math problems and SAT questions). These two systems work in concert to arrive at answers. I have sometimes mistakenly assumed (operative word here) that System 1 is a good place to reside most of the time – making decisions based on instinct and flow – but this book has radically changed my position. My take is that reliance on the kind of involuntary cognition that comes with System 1, while good for primitive man deciding which kind of large cat is going to eat him, has lead us to the present polarization of politics, and the media’s ease of manipulating information with little accountability. The media has a heyday with System 1 at the expense of the planet. As a population, we tend to be lazy when it comes to fact-checking and reasoning, despite the abundance of sources for such purposes. Overuse of System 1 thinking makes people susceptible to any news item that confirms one’s belief system and assumptions (we are especially vulnerable to the dominance of System 1 on hot button subjects like global warming, terrorism, patriotism) regardless of the facts. This is why I’m so attracted to science today, the field which holds a monopoly on System 2 thinking and “truth,” provided research isn’t funded entirely by private industry. There’s a compelling article that touches on this subject, “The State of the Scientist” by Steven Shapin in SEED.

              “The increasing alignment of science with commercial institutions carries a risk: the loss in the public mind of the idea of an independent scientific voice — not truth speaking to power but power shaping what counts as truth.”

                Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi will go to heaven

                My Italian grandmother used to say, “On the road to heaven, you’ll have to eat all the food you’ve wasted.” As a child, I imagined choking down every curdled glass of milk and maggot ridden fish filet like a contestant in some Japanese game show. The image was extremely effective, and for the most part I cleaned my plate.

                On this Cyber Monday, another image popped into my mind: What if everything I bought from this day forward was with me FOREVER? What if every unfinished meal, children’s toy, ink cartridge, sofa, TV, handbag, appliance, CD, cell phone, computer and so on, I’ve ever owned was with me for life? Would I be inclined to buy more things if there was no way to dispose of what I already had? Since my Grandmother’s generation, Americans have doubled the amount of waste we produce daily–  now 4.43 pounds per person each day. That means, my actual weight (120 lbs.) plus all the garbage I’ve disposed of (67,103 lbs.) is hovering around 67,223 pounds. I’m Cyber Monday obese.

                  After departing the intrepid Aurora Picture Show, I dreamed about creating a new breed of artist residency program– one that wasn’t a non-profit per-say, but more of an art bed and breakfast. As a result, I started pouring over historic properties for sale on the Eastern Seaboard, from Lighthouses to island retreats. We ended up in Sag Harbor, NY in a bungalow named “The Anchorage” where we’ve hosted at least a dozen artists on weekend vacations. A good in-between, but my dream of something more full-time is still in the future. In the meantime, I came across this incredible project in Canada: Fogo Island Arts Project (discovered again, on the blog Dezeen). Saunders Architects of Norway has designed the first of six artist’s quarters, inspired by fisherman’s houses, and perched above the coast line. The Fogo Island project also includes the design of a 29-room inn for artists and visitors.

                  According to Dezeen, "Similar to local fisherman’s houses, the studio sits on stilts and is clad in rough-sawn pine and whitewashed spruce on the interior... The building generates power using solar panels, treats its own waste and uses both rain and grey water."

                    I often lament that the design of two things has not been markedly improved in the last 100 years: BEDS and CINEMAS. But this is a beautiful exception to the latter: “Curtain Call,” a cinematic environment by the artist/architect/designer, Ron Arad for Roundhouse, London. Read all about it on Dezeen.

                    Ron Arad's "Curtain Call" as covered in Dezeen