Mar 22, 2010

PLAND is launched! Off-the-Grid and on the web.


Contact: Erin Elder



TAOS, NEW MEXICO - Announcing the formal launch of PLAND, an off-the-grid residency program that supports the development of experimental and research-based projects in the context of the Taos mesa. PLAND was conceived of and founded in July 2009, when creative trio Erin Elder, Nina Elder, and Nancy Zastudil banded together to acquire a small parcel of land near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge. The arid plot is currently void of amenities such as water and electricity, with terrain defined by sage brush, chamisa, and breath-taking vistas of open sky. The region is home to alternative communities including the Taos Pueblo, several Earthship developments, and a scattering of off-the-grid homesteaders. 

The three founders describe PLAND as:

“A program that focuses on open-ended projects that facilitate collaboration, experimentation, and hyper-local engagement. We do not hold expectations about prescribed outcomes. We privilege process over product. We believe artists can do amazing things when supported and encouraged in new contexts. We believe that no context exists like that of the Taos mesa.

We find our inspiration in a legacy of pioneers, entrepenuers, homesteaders, artists, and other counterculturalists who – through both radical and mundane activities – reclaim and reframe a land-based notion of the American Dream.”

During Summer 2010, PLAND will host a motley crew of thinkers and doers in a series of work parties, idea-testing workshops, and inaugural project-based residencies in order to transform the land into a more inhabitable outpost while challenging artists to create, experiment, and produce their own work within this unique context. These activities are funded in part by The Idea Fund and supported by the hard work of students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

For more information visit


Erin Elder is an independent curator, writer, and teacher interested in collaboration, sense of place, and expanded notions of culture. Her research has focused on Drop City, the first of the ‘60s era artist-built communes and continues to do research and write on the countercultural activities of the American Southwest. She has produced projects with a variety of institutions including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, W├╝rttembergischer Kunstverein, Creative Time, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. She currently teaches experimental art practices at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Erin holds dual self-designed BAs from Prescott College and an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts. She enjoys hiking, hot springs, and building forts. She has recently learned the art of making wine from scratch.

Nina Elder is an artist who examines the visual evidence of post-industrial culture, and its distinctive cycles of production, consumption, and waste. Her work is concerned with banality and the proliferation of commonplace objects. She scrutinizes the aesthetic mitigation that often camouflages sites of production, use, and disposal. Her artistic inquiry responds to the friction between humanity, the natural world, and industrial proliferation. Nina's research is executed through hiking in the Rocky Mountains, exploring factories, mines, and dumps, reading Western novels, and while driving down desolate highways. In 2009 Nina received her MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and she holds a BFA in Painting from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has exhibited across the nation, including California, New Mexico, New York, and South Dakota. 

Nancy Zastudil is an independent curator and freelance writer whose research focuses on collective art practices that operate in the service of revolution and social progress. She held the position of Associate Director of the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts from Fall 2007 - Spring 2010; has collaboratively curated exhibitions in numerous cities including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston; and is co-founder of Slab, an exhibition method that collaboratively facilitates artists' projects and events. She is managing editor of the forthcoming art journal 127 Prince; is co-editor of On the Banks of Bayou City: The Center for Land Use Interpretation in Houston (March 2009); and her interviews and reviews have been published in Proximity Magazine, spot, …might be good, and Curating Now. Nancy holds a BFA in Painting and Drawing from The Ohio State University and an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts. She is a WWOOFer, a barefoot-running marathon enthusiast, and lover of cowboys.

Join us on Facebook!

Mar 19, 2010

It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Going

I'm about to have my first Houston experience -- beginning tomorrow and lasting for 9 days -- centered around an exhibition called Proposals for a Socialist Colony. This project is particularly exciting because it was spawned by this-here blog, Red Legacy. While I've always heard weird, unsightly things about Houston, I'm terrificly excited about this trip as I believe it will be a gathering of radical artists, each invested in recreating the world through the practices of art.

Here's a little preamble for the exhibition:

In the mid 1800’s a box of national archives went missing during the Archive War causing Skydive’s land to revert to its original deed. It stipulates that the land be granted to any group starting a socialist colony on the property. The works in this exhibition are proposals for this new colony. They contribute a variety of perspectives on the fruitful paradoxes that reside in the quest for individual freedom and the necessity for social contracts, collective processes and their sometimes authoritarian implementation.

Mounted in Houston, Texas, the exhibition is set against a backdrop of the state’s historical independence from Mexico and the United States, and in which a libertarian spirit persists and is legally protected. There are no zoning laws in Houston: any enterprise can exist within any building or neighborhood. The premise of this exhibition takes advantage of this lenient civic stance (without it the proposed colony could never exist), to designate a zone for debate about where personal necessity ends and public life begins, and what role self-organization can play in the development of collective processes.

An Exhibition of Proposals for a Socialist Colony has been built fromproposals for systems, tools, communities, communications, resource use, historical research, democratic gestures, implementation, and a public relations campaign. To produce this project the artists and curators engaged in a collaborative practice, where artists could operate as organizers and decisions were subject to the group.

My project for the exhibition is called Each Campfire Lights Anew and is the second in a series that considers Hakim Bey's notion of the Temporary Autonomous Zone in the construction of momentary communities and ad hoc spaces. Sunday evening I will take a group of University of Houston students camping and we'll build a campfire. It will be unscripted to an extent, but I've prepared a grouping of rounds that I intend to teach the group to sing. We'll roast marshmallows and tell stories -- the students have been asked to read Bey and prepare their responses in the form of a campfire offering. Remnants and influences of this initial campfire will show up elsewhere throughout the week. In a sense, the campfire provides a spark for many other things/groups/ideas/happenings/collaborations/conversations/loves... More about my project here:

An Exhibition of Proposals for a Socialist Colony presented by Skydive Office of Cultural Affairs at Project Row Houses and is organized by Sasha Dela, Benison Kilby, Elysa Lozano for Autonomous Organization, and Nancy Zastudil. Artists include: BAW, N55, Aharon, Amy Balkin, Zanny Begg, The Copenhagen Commune, Chto Delat/What is to be Done?, Jos├ę Filipe Costa, Erin Elder, Amy Franceschini, Alex Lockett, David Mabb, Anna Pickering, The Public School, Jon Sack, Temporary Services, Chin Xaou Ti Won, and Duncan Wooldridge.

Hope to see your round the campfire this week!

Mar 15, 2010

NORAD, our biggest local oddity

Since moving to Colorado Springs, I've become (re)enchanted with some of the local oddities. We have a fake cave dwelling, Santa's Workshop (a north pole-themed amusement park), a castle-like shrine to Will Rogers, a cog railway that takes tourists to the top of Pikes Peak where a donut shop and other curios await. There are thousands of attractions within a day's drive of Colorado Springs and countless festivals (like the annual Coffin Race in Manitou Springs or the famed Fruitcake Toss) to entertain and amaze. Getting its start as a resort town, Colorado Springs has always thrived on tourism. We have one of the only 5 star hotels in the state, one of the best zoos in the country, and ready access to astounding parks, views, mountain drives, waterfalls, historic towns, and much more.

One of the weirder (yet nearly invisible) oddities in Colorado Springs is NORAD, which is essentially a military base inside of Cheyenne Mountain. North American Aerospace Defense Command was built in the 1960s during the height of the Cold War to protect the Arctic from attack. It has since been repurposed to fight the drug wars and the war on terror, but was decommissioned as a military base in 2006.

Although it is supposedly unused today, it still boasts a crown of blinking red lights atop Cheyenne Mountain, creating an ever-present constellation in the night sky. If you live in this town, you've wondered about NORAD at one moment or another. Its scale is hard to determine and public access is forbidden. The power of NORAD may have something to do with satellites and lasers, but it is also empowered by collective imagination. As children who grew up at the foot of NORAD, we used to speculate what it was like inside and what sorts of activities went on therein. I imagined that NORAD filled up the entire underside of Cheyenne Mountain, that cities on giant springs housed millions of radars and maps and men who never saw the light of day. At one point I feared that NORAD could read my mind, that it was tracking my thoughts or watching me through the light fixtures.

One of my new favorite things about Colorado Springs is a program on Radio Colorado College called The Big Something. I've started receiving their daily email posts because they include free songs, local announcements, public interest stories, newsy tidbits and more. Its another local oddity that makes me proud to live here.

This week The Big Something notified readers that Popular Science Magazine has recently made their entire 137-year archive available online and although the collection is not yet searchable, the editors of TBS found an illustrated article about NORAD just before construction was completed in 1967. I suggest you read the article yourself as it discusses the massive bomb-shelter still housed inside our "lumpy" mountain. You still can't pass through its 43-ton steel doors, but this article will give you entry into one of our nation's strangest Cold War oddities and the logic behind the continent's "most elaborate and important" defense installation. Read it here

I like to imagine a new future for decommissioned NORAD. What might it become? With numerous military bases being repurposed as parks, artist residency centers, historic landmarks, and more, I wonder what can be done with one of the world's largest and most outdated bunkers? Perhaps NORAD -- the inter-mountain luxury hotel, the artist commune, the underground farm, the world's largest movie theater, the greatest planetarium ever -- will become another favorite local oddity. Even though NORAD is now defunct, this village inside a mountain still conjures the imagination.

Mar 14, 2010

Smash. Rot. Wait.

For a recent student-faculty exhibition at UCCS, I decided to teach myself to make wine from scratch. Smash. Rot. Wait is one in a series of projects that utilizes Do-It-Yourself techniques to produce everyday objects. Encouraged by the process and outcome of this project, I will continue to make wine from foraged seasonal fruit.


3-4 lbs fresh fruit

2-1/4 lbs finely granulated sugar

1/2 tsp acid blend

1/2 tsp pectic enzyme

1/8 tsp grape tannin

7-1/2 pints water

1 tsp yeast nutrient

1 crushed Campden tablet

1 package wine yeast

3-gallon bucket (for primary fermentation)

3-gallon glass jar (for secondary)


racking equipment

wine bottles

Pick only ripe berries. Combine water and sugar and put on to boil, stirring occasionally. Wash and de-stem berries. Put in nylon straining bag, tie, put in botton of primary fermentation container, and thoroughly crush berries in bag. Pour boiling sugar-water over berries to set the color and extract the flavorful juice. Add acid blend, tannin and yeast nutrient. Allow to cool to 70 degrees F. and add crushed Campden tablet. Cover primary with plastic wrap secured with a large rubber band. Add pectic enzyme after 12 hours and wine yeast after additional 12 hours, resecuring plastic wrap each time. Stir daily for a week, replacing plastic wrap if it looks like it needs it. After a week, remove nylon bag and allow to drip drain about an hour, keeping primary covered as before. Do not squeeze bag. Return drippings to primary. Continue fermentation in primary another week, stirring daily. Rack to secondary, top up with water and fit airlock. Use a dark secondary or wrap with brown paper (from paper bag) to preserve color. Ferment additional 4 months, then rack again and bottle into dark glass. Drink after one year.