May 31, 2009

ALLOY Conference 1970

One notable event that operated as a think-tank/networking opportunity/celebration of community was the ALLOY conference, organized by Steve Baer with Barry Hickman, March 20-23, 1970. It was a weekend event conducted at an abandoned tile factory near La Luz, NM between the Trinity bombsite and the Mescalero Apache reservation and was framed as a conference on new building technologies. Participants were welcomed from a variety of local and national communes and the Whole Earth Catalog was invited to report on the weekend’s events. Discussion at ALLOY ranged from concrete to cardboard to 3M tape to dope to evolution to magic and it entertained questions like “What sort of research do we do to use the technology in order to improve our minds?” and “Am I this 6-foot body or am I something else that could exist beyond it?” Very little of the information in the article is useful or cited, and the piece functions more as testament to the fact that something happened, that people attended, and that a particular spirit was in the air. This manner of stylistically relaying incomplete information is perhaps exemplary of the moment’s priorities. Although inspired by the idea of an information network, the connections being made were primarily social, ideological, aesthetic.

Some outtakes from the article:
"New Mexico is the center of momentum this year, and maybe for the next several. More of the interesting communities are there. More of the interesting outlaw designers are.

Baer had in mind a meld of information on Materials, Structure, Energy, Man, Magic, Evolution, and Consciousness, so he invited individuals with amateur or professional interest in these areas to take responsibility for their coverage in the discourse.

150 people were there. They came from northern New Mexico, the Bay Area, New York, Washington, Cardondale, Canada, Big Sur, and elsewhere. They camped amid the tumbleweed in weather that baked, rained, greyed, snowed, and blew a fucking dust storm. Who were they? (Who were we?) Persons in their late twenties or early thirties mostly. Havers of families, many of them. Outlaws, dope fiends, and fanatics naturally. Doers, primarily, with a functional grimy grasp on the world. World-thinkers, drop outs from specialization. Hope freaks."

I've come in contact with the man who owns the old tile factory and will visit the site this summer. I'd really like to know more details about the ALLOY conference and consider what the present-day equivalent might be. ALLOY 2009? What information would be shared? What would the format for the conference look like? Who would be there? To what end?

Mildred's Lane

Mildred's Lane is a 96-acre compound in the upper Delaware River Valley region of Pennsylvania near New York City. I have not been there but am inspired deeply by the website for this project that is a historical archive, an art school, and a camp where artists can live, make, and research differently.

The place is named for Mildred Steffens, who was born here in 1902 and later farmed the land with her husband and family. When they died the land and house remained as ghosts until the property was discovered by J. Morgan Puett, Mark Dion, Nils Norman and Renee Green in 1998. Mildred's Lane is now a museum and a Historical Society, devoted to archiving this woman's extraordinary life. It is also a site for innovated cultural production and collaboration.

Mildred Lane's website describes their endeavors as a
"revolutionary rigorous rethinking (the 3 Rs) of the contemporary art complex." It is a place to "collectively create new modes of being in the world -- this idea incorporates questions of our relation to the environment, systems of labor, forms of dwelling, all of which compose an ethics of comportment – and are embodied in workstyles. As a participant at Mildred’s Lane these issues will be negotiated daily through the rethinking of one’s involvements with food,shopping, making, styling, gaming, sleeping, reading, thinking and doing. This is a program and a place where a work-live-research environment is developed to foster a rigorous engagement with every aspect of life."

Many artists have contributed works to The Mildred's Lane Historical Society and Museum including a set of hand-made canoes by Bob Braine, works by Jorge Colombo, Brian Conley, Gregory Crewdsen, Mark Dion, Moyra Davey, Sean Foley, Hope Ginsburg, Jeffrey Jenkins, Iain Kerr, Julian Laverdiere, Matt Mullican, Nils Norman, Michael Oatman, J. Morgan Puett, Rebecca Purcell, William Purcell, Alexis Rockman, Jason Simon, Allison Smith, Spurse, Jeffrey Valance, Amy Yoes and many others.

J. Morgan Puett will be in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts this coming fall and collaborating with various institutions around the Bay Area. Keep an eye out for her and her work!

May 22, 2009

Santigold is a hit

I do not want this blog to be a log of my daily happenings, nor do I intend to review much of everything I experience, but it should be mentioned that Santigold ROCKS. I saw her tonight at the Warfield and was massively impressed by the collision of styles, the ingenuity of form, and also her authentic spirit. Her performance tonight (strengthened by that of her nerdy-fabulous band) was a mash-up of Michael Jackson, Devo, and Britney Spears with a curious mix of all things hip. The show was ecstatically entertaining to the wildly diverse crowd -- there was even a small mosh pit during one of the more rowdy tunes -- and was a true exhibition of stage talent and female gusto. At one point Lulu and I turned to one another and said, "This might be the future of music!"

May 21, 2009

this beginning has been a long time coming

Something is about to start, yet it's not exactly the beginning.

For years I've had conversations about making a place. Nearly everyone I meet is somehow accomplice to the building of this place (which may actually, one day, be a network of places, each distinguished but somehow linked). By sharing ideas, notions of failure, potential model projects, and infectious enthusiasm about this place often referred to as "the farm" or "the commune," a vast community of commoners are talking about how to survive the failing economy, how to live a little more green, how to travel between places, how to build something that is a reflection of collective potential. These on-going conversations have evolved over the years from whimsical fantasy to urgent action. We speak of buying land together, building our own houses or rehabilitating vacant buildings, learning to make electricity and vegetables, tearing down fences, repurposing foreclosed suburban cul-de-sacs, sharing resources like cars and tools, creating movement between places and people, and always always making time and space for art.

It's funny how time works. Three years ago, I wrote my master's thesis about Drop City, a vibrant art project-turned commune in southern Colorado from 1965 - 1973. Enrolled in the curatorial practice program at California College of the Arts, I wanted to write about expanded art practices and their affect on an emergent counterculture. There was very little written then about Drop City and communes were sheepishly unhip. I felt lost in time and knew very few young people interested in both the history of communalism and its possibilities for the future. It seemed that all of my best friends were at least 60-years old. All of this has since changed. It now seems very important and exciting to think about building places that are both about building and about place. The conversation about building places has become exponentially more inter-generational, sophisticated, practical, fun, as well as accepting and interested in failure. This blog is an attempt to help cultivate this conversation, while moving from thinking and talking into real DOING. In lieu of having land or an immediate opportunity to build this proverbial place, I will create a blog.

I will soon leave San Francisco for the Rockies where I will teach about these art-and-place, art-and-life things at the University of Colorado while continuing my research around the Colorado communes. I hope to return to the Bay Area, but am leaving myself open to whatever unfolds... these days feel like new beginnings. I'm not sure what will happen in the coming months, nor is it clear to me how this blog might function but I feel very certain that incredible things are happening each day. These deserve to be documented and shared, analyzed and celebrated. If I cannot yet make a place with hammer and nail, perhaps I can make meaning from the events and thoughts of my days. One thing is certain: this beginning has been a long time coming.