31 May 2006

May Urban Camping Spots

May's urban camping spots involved a lot of house-sitting, which is my favorite way to be nomadic.

I even like it better than couch-surfing and sleeping in airports!

When my friend, Iris, urban camped in Canada, she said she found it difficult to get used to the energy of each new house.

I, however, love that process!

If I could have lined up the perfect 12-month urban camping spree, it would have been to have had 12 of my friends each pick a different month to go on vacation and then let me stay in their houses while they were away.

This month I stayed 4 nights at my friend Aden's house; 7 nights at Frans' and Phia's house while they were in France; and 20 nights at Johan's house while he was in the Philippines.

Two more months to go!

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26 May 2006

Music is the Nomad's Seed

When I was in Rotterdam just over a week ago, my friend, Mary, called and excitedly said, "You have to come over and see the new sculpture we just had delivered from Ingrid!"

Ingrid was an art student Mary met over 20 years ago.

After art school, Ingrid went to law school to study international law, specifically the rights of nomadic people.

The sculpture's title is, "Music is the Nomad's Seed."

Sitting on top of a stone pillar taken from a demolished church is a bronze sculpture of a nomadic instrument.

When Mary said that she bought it 12 years ago, I pictured the sculpture traveling around for the past 12 years, but it was actually the logistics of delivery (it's about 300 pounds) that created delays.

The guy who owns the urbancamping.com URL is Jason Schadt. He is a hip hop emcee, producer, video artist and traveler.

From his site, he says,
" What is Urban camping? Well, it is a state of mind.

It is the exploration of culture in an urban setting, reflecting on nature as it is manifested in the city environment.

Urban Camping is collaboration and experience on a global scale.

It is inspiration and focus for all Nomadic Addicts on a musical, spiritual and cultural quest.

It is a place for us to exist in and to build together on a worldwide level."
Visit Jason's MySpace.

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24 May 2006

Which Version

A version is a description or account from one point of view, especially as opposed to another.

I saw The Da Vinci Code on Friday. The film version is slightly different than the book version.

In the book, she finds her brother at the end of the film and the man who was supposedly her grandfather, really is her grandfather.

We were trying to figure out why the changes occurred between the different tellings of the story.

One of the friends in our movie group, Mika, recently gave a presentation at our research colloquium on how Matthew's account of the gospel differs from John's account of the gospel.

Our friend argued that Matthew made use of literary devices in his version that consistently convey the authority aspect of Christ's persona, while John made different choices to describe events.

As our movie group had dinner after the film, I told Mika that it would be a fun artistic device, or trend, if stories were always told in different versions, not just two versions (e.g. book vs. movie), but maybe a minimum of four versions (e.g. the gospels).

I was thinking of many things.

Since the movie and Mika's research were both of a religious nature, my mind went to how many different paintings I had seen of the Apocryphal Judith with Holofernes's head. (versions: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.)

I was also thinking of the Lomo camera that my friend, Adi, told me about years ago.

It has four lenses so when you aim at your subject, you never end up with one photo of that moment.

When you take your shot, you always end up with four sequential frames in your picture.

I was thinking about the Geisha Movie installation that I made a few years back.

During the second weekend of the showing, I invited an opera singer, storyteller, comedian and performance artist to use their own medium to improvise on the subject matter of the installation.

Maybe we could have something called 'version art'.

Wait, let me Google that ... nope, no trace of it on Google ... still room for it to become a trend or movement ...

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23 May 2006

I Made Houses For Them

Last week, I jokingly remarked to my friend, Lotte, that the two well-dressed, very petite women rushing past us looked somewhat like dolls.

Lotte laughed a bit and asked me if I had played with Barbie dolls as a kid.

I said that I had.

She said, "What did you do with them? I made clothes for them."

I said, "I made houses for them. We had a stack of carpet squares, each the size of a doormat. I would lay out about 10 of them and use whatever doll furniture we had to design a huge house for them."

As soon as I said this, I wondered if the not-so-philosophical-message that 'the universe was trying to tell me' from the whole house-sitting, house-dreaming, doll-house making experience is simply that maybe I should have gone into interior decorating.

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19 May 2006

What You See --> Not What You Think You See

I had a high school art teacher that raised her voice when she said, "Why are some of you painting mountains? We don't live by mountains. How do you know what they look like?"

I come from Illinois, also known as 'The Prairie State,' the same state about which I heard the following joke, "This land is so flat, you can watch your dog run away for days."

My friend, Aden, recently asked me how one learns to draw.

I told him that when I teach beginners, the first lesson is my attempt to get them to draw what they see and not what they think they see.

To do this, I cut up a black and white face into squares so that they cannot see the whole picture.

I only show them one piece at a time and try to get them to notice the relationships between the shapes and values within each piece.
Each piece is simply a combination of white, gray and black shapes.

A large part of drawing is mastering the skill of accurately measuring the shapes and values seen within the object one is drawing.

After they finish each piece, I secretly tape them together.

It is always a thrill to watch their faces when I show them the finished picture they have drawn of Salvador Dali.

They were so busy learning to see shapes and shades of values, their mind could never think, "I don't know how to draw faces."

Even those of us who have quite a bit of practice in drawing will often look at our drawings upside down or in a mirror to get another perspective on how well we are measuring the relationships between the shapes and shades in our drawing.

It takes a lot of practice to accurately draw what we are seeing before us.

Our eyes 'know' that the face before us can be expressed in a combination of two-dimensional shapes and shades, but our mind 'knows' that the face before us is three-dimensional.

So, part of the practice of being an artist (at least when we are trying to draw a likeness of the face before us) can be the struggle to stay out of the world of what our mind tells us is true and stay in the world of what we are observing to be true.

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18 May 2006

I'm Finally Reading Walden

I downloaded a copy from www.gutenberg.org. Thoreau didn't live during a time when mobility was much of an option, but he's certainly interested in simplicity and perspective.

Some of my favorite quotes so far:

"When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turnout to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields ...

... Here is life, an experiment to a great extent untried by me ...

... Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant? We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology! -- I know of no reading of another's experience so startling and informing as this would be ...

... I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do ...

... So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant."


When I went to visit my family this summer, I bought a book at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

It's called, Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live In It by Thomas de Zengotita.

It caught my eye because of my desire for seeing the real world instead of cocooning at home and watching the world through TV.

He says, "We are most free of mediation, we are most real, when we are at the disposal of accident and necessity." p. 14

It also caught my eye because he talks about the post-modern idea that we have all these 'options'. It's a nice contrast to Thoreau's time-period and concept.

De Zengotita says,
"But mediated people everywhere know that identity and lifestyle are constructs, something to have.

The objects and places and mannerisms that constitute our life-world are intentionally representational.

What cultures traditionally provided was taken-for-granted custom, a form of necessity -- hence of reality.

Options are profoundly, if subtly, different, and so are the people who live among and through them.

And this holds even if you never exercise those options, even if you cling to some tradition.

You know you could be different, and so, perhaps, you cling more desperately.

Fanaticisms flourish in an atmosphere of unlimited choice.

But most people are cool with it. At least in the blue states. And Europe.

The slang expression 'whatever' distills the essential situation into a single gesture.

It arose and caught on because it captures so precisely, yet so flexibly, the Janus-faced attitude we assume as we negotiate the field of options that so incessantly solicit our attention and allegiance.

On the one hand, it's a party, a feast, an array of possible experiences more fabulous than monarchs of the past could even dream of -- it's 'whatever,' as in yippee!, as in whatever you want, whatever you can imagine; you can eat whatever, see whatever, hear whatever, read whatever, even be whatever.

'No limits,' as the SUV and the Internet ads all promise.

On the other hand, an environment of representations yields an aura of surface -- as in 'surf.'

It is a world of effects.

This is another existential consequence of the fact that representations address us by design.

We are at the center of all the attention, but there is a thinness to things, a smoothness, a muffled quality -- it's all insulational, as if the deities of Dreamworks were laboring invisibly around us, touching up the canvas of reality with digital airbrushes.

Everything has the edgeless flowing feel of computer graphics, like the lobby of a high-end Marriott/Ramada/Sheraton -- the sculptured flower arrangements, that glowy, woody, marbly, purply, cushioned-air quality.

Every gadget aspires to that iPod look -- even automobiles.

The feel of the virtual is over-flowing the screens, as if the plasma were leaking into the physical world.

Whole neighborhoods feel like that now, even when you're standing in the street.

Especially 'historic neighborhoods.'

It's as if the famous ones -- like Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Quincy Market, parts of York and Canterbury -- have all been subjected to the renovating ministrations of the same giant company with one idea, the Red Brick, Gray Stone, and Iron Filigree Restoration Corporation.

And as for little towns and villages with some claim -- any claim -- on our attention, well, I wish I had the copyright for those signs, painted in Ralph Lauren green or blue with the gold trim and the gold inlay of Gothic script.

I mean, how did so many people in so many places decide to hang those out at the same time?

Was that Martha Stewart's fault too?

Even what's left of the wilderness can have this virtual feel (see chapter 6).

It's as if nature was succumbing to all the times it has been depicted in travel tales and adventure movies and nature shows, to all the times it has been toured and photographed and otherwise used -- not, in this case, for raw material, but to provide an experience.

Here's a measure of how far into the natural realm virtualization has penetrated -- one of my favorites, cross-indexed under Subtle.

At the little zoo in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, one building is given over to a sequence of exhibits that illustrate the concept of an ecological niche -- you know, flora and fauna from a rain forest, an Alpine meadow, a desert, a wetland, etc.

Very educational. Perfect place for bio students on a field trip.

And guess what the Prospect Park Zoo calls the building that houses this exhibit?

'The Hall of Animal Lifestyles.'

I just love that one. Options everywhere -- even animals have options.

And that's why, like so many expressions of mediation, the 'whatever' gesture is a dialectic.

As reality and representation fuse into a field of options, opposing tendencies arise like shadows.

Haunting the moment of 'I can experience whatever I want' is the moment of 'What difference does it make,' because this moment, the moment of the shrug, is essential to our mobility among the options.

We need mobility among the options because they are only representations.

And that means they are no more than they appear to be.

And so they are never enough.

And that's why more is on the way. Always.

That's why trailers are better than movies.

That's why you are always already ready for the next show, even before this one is over.

That's why, in the midst of a fabulous array of historically unprecedented and utterly mind-boggling stimuli -- whatever.

So mobility among the options in a virtualized environment gives to human freedom a new ironic character.

You are completely free to choose because it doesn't matter what you choose.

That's why you are so free.

Because it doesn't matter.

How cool is that?" pp.14-17
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11 May 2006


I am completing a Masters degree in Discourse and Argumentation Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

I am attracted to the topic partly because I am interested in the meeting ground between different viewpoints.

I've enjoyed the opportunity to take a closer look at the history, theory and practice of how this is accomplished.

Yesterday, G. Thomas Goodnight was our guest lecturer.

He talked about introducing uncertainty when he explained Plato's ancient concept of 'aporia'.

He said that a good argument will give you 'confusion' because confusion leads to reflection.

Post-modern terms from A-D defines aporia as,
"Wonder and amazement before the confusing puzzles and paradoxes of our lives and of the universe. Socrates and the other ancient philosophers tried to evoke the philosophic spirit in young men by awakening their aporia, not by simply providing answers to these puzzles."
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10 May 2006

Mosaic Realism

My interest in options, deconstructing and reconstructing, and fragmentation are all related.

I've explored this in my artwork through the use of 'pattern', 'pieces', 'layers', and 'focus'.

The following was a text I made for an exhibit called Extra Parts:

PATTERN is more than just decorative repetition ... life is full of patterns ... weather patterns ... speech patterns ... behavior patterns ... whenever something happens over and over again there is pattern ... pattern is repetition ... or pattern is structure like DNA ... the design that holds fragments or pieces together ...

... everything in life is made up of smaller PIECES ... the cells of the body ... the individuals of a community ... the abstract elements of an idea or memory ... there is a type of mosaic realism where pieces shift ... deconstruct ... reconstruct ... regroup ...

...pieces shift or are stacked up in LAYERS ... viewing the pieces means experiencing a temporary realism ...

... looking at the way things 'really are', it is only possible to FOCUS on one spot ... one piece or one grouping of the pieces ... if one continues to look she sees the peripheral issues ... the connecting pieces ... the related groupings ... no one piece or group is complete ... every grouping of the pieces is temporary ... if the pieces continue to be grouped in the same manner there is pattern ...

My belief in this sort of mosaic realism is why I like to try to be so aware of the perspective I am holding.

The urban camping experience always ensures I am not taking my viewpoint for granted.

Even though it is sometimes uncomfortable, I find that 'introducing uncertainty' is the first step to moving on to another outlook post.

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09 May 2006

Published in the Cape Cod Times

Just heard today that Ariel Brewster's article on urban camping was published in the Cape Cod Times sports section on 20 April 2006.

The "Outside" section editor published it and said he got a very positive response from the readership; people were interested.

He gave it almost a two-page spread. Yahoo! Maybe we will hatch more urban nomads!

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08 May 2006

Deconstruct / Reconstruct

Last week, my friend Hikmet told me that he was curious about why I was complaining about the uncertainty that I had introduced into my life this year.

That struck me as a good question. My answer has something to do with wanting to deconstruct my life and then reconstruct it again.

You can take a watch apart to see how it works, but if you want to use it, you have to put it back together again.

I always find the deconstruction phase refreshing, but if it goes on for too long, it's just confusing.

As this year comes to a close, the desire to re-group is getting stronger.

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03 May 2006


A friend of mine teaches organizational behavior to graduate students.

One of his challenges is to get the engineers in his class to wrap their minds around the 'soft science' he is teaching because they are so used to viewing work problems, issues, and maybe the world from a very different, analytical perspective.

Recently he told me that he was going to introduce the story of my urban camping experience into his lesson as an example of how it's possible for someone to 'examine their script' without needing to give up 'their viewpoint'.

He is going to tell them about how I have been examining by housing script this year and reached a point where I was ready to go back to my 'perfect little house'.

As I listened to how he was going to relate the story of my experience to his students, I was struck by how impossible it is for me to put my nomadic experience into words.

I write about it. I talk about it. But I can't completely explain how it feels.

It's something you will only 'know' by doing. The knowledge is in the experience.

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02 May 2006

April Urban Camping Spots

3 more months to go! April urban camping spots were as follows:

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