Monday, November 29, 2010

Massive art involving tens of thousands of individuals and best seen, in many cases, from outer space.

Indian kids creating a humongous elephant.
Bill McKibben's recent article in Grist, talks about the massive art coming out of the 350 initiative. The name, 350 Earth, points to the number of parts per million that most scientists agree is an acceptable upper level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Today the level is about 390 parts per million.

When I saw these images, it reminded me that more than a decade ago, I was working on a NEA grant (along with corporate sponsorships) to underwrite a series of site specific art that could not be completely seen by one person, nor could they be completely experienced in the first person.   It was not about the environment, in fact most of the works were about the self delusion that comes from our deepest beliefs be they faith, passion, politics or simply intuition, the fact remains that if one approaches these beliefs rationally they simply don't hold water.  

The art works I wanted to create could only be experienced second-hand.  Many observers needed to share their piece to put these jigsaw like works together and in most cases the media would need to gather those stories (and hopefully images) to piece together the complete work of art.  It was a heady piece for sure.

One of the art works was to be deep under the ocean and only a few submarines and a couple divers would ever see it in person, and they would only see a small part, but they could photograph those pieces and if those were to be assembled, one would experience the work of art.  Another piece was a mystery story told on billboards spread across the United States on Route 50.  A few truckers or cross country drivers might actually see all of the billboards, but for the most part, multiple travelers would need to work together to piece the facts and discover how things started or how things turned out. (Depending on whether they saw the beginning, middle or end.)  Another work from that series was three massive drawings created in a desert that could be glimpsed from outer space. To see the complete drawing, one would need to layer the three images one on top of another.  One aspect of the series that I was particularly liked was that for it to succeed, the media had to be willing to connect the dots.  

...but I digress...these works from the 350 "Art for Climate" series are born out of ....

350eARTh: Art for the Climate from on Vimeo.

....the site-specific environmental works from the 1970's. Works such as Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, Walter De Maria's Lightening Field, Michael Heizer's City or Trisha Brown's laundry piece with dancers climbing in and out of a string of clothes hanging 20 feet off the ground in an alley during the Judson movement. Then came Christo and Jeanne-Claude's gigantic orange-wrapping series, James Turrell's Roden Crater and more recently Andy Goldsworthy's prolific "temporary" outdoor works that we only see because they were photographed.

The elephant from India other images in this post involve tens of thousands of people and can, in many instances, only be seen from outer space.
"Solar Sun" by The Canary Project -- Cape Town, South Africa
This enormous Solar Sun was created in Cape Town, South Africa, out of 70 high powered solar "cookers".   After the event, the parabolic stoves were donated to the Khayelitsha community where many people do not have access to electricity.  
"350 Cool Roof" by Molly Dilworth -- New York City, USA
What a "cool roof." Molly Dilworth used reflective paint to create an outline of the NY and NJ coastline after a 7 meter rise in the sea level. The building is a school in the new Times Square Plaza in NYC. The solar sun and cool roof actually deliver a climate solution. Each of the solar stoves will last for 10 yrs and require no fossil fuels. The reflective paint on the roof saves the mid-town school by reducing the need for air-conditioning.
I suspect that this is a spot where windmills would work marvelously.
Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic
The image above reminds me of Katrina.  It is a picture of a person standing on their house to avoid a flood. The work was created in the Dominican Republic and this is a satellite image. One can only imagine the massive scale of this one!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow day or Ahhh L-I-F-E

Woke up for my morning run and look.  This marvelous fine powder is falling on Seattle.  

This is the first snow of the year.  I have to get out there!

The air is chilly at 5:15am.  

First stop is Starbucks.  By the time I get there, my deaf friend, Joe Heller, is already at the counter writing a note about his brother, whom he'd like me to meet but whom doesn't rise as early as us.   Joe and his brother are living in the Morrison up the street from me.   I write back as I don't know sign language, and offer to come by the Starbucks later next weekend so I can meet his brother.  

Using numerous scraps of envelopes and packaging pulled from the recycling bin, we continue the note writing for a while and he tells me that when he was 34 he fell into an elevator shaft, broke his neck, ribs, arm and hip and over three days managed to climb out.  I am sure every word is true as Joe is frank, honest and open in a lovely way I am trying to emulate.  He has been homeless most of his life but now he and his brother have spots in the Morrison Building up the street.  I want to know how it is that he survived to share this riveting story but my window for running is tight. I need to hit the pavement so that I can get back to the house before Simone and Naomi wake up.   I write, "Joe, we'll have to pick up the thread another time.  See you tomorrow morning bright and early.  I'll be waiting on pins and needles to find out how you survived?" 

...And out I head into the crisp white city.   

Suddenly it dawns on me, what if I never heard the rest of Joe's story.  It could happen.  

My friend Kay Nosler, died last week.   There is much I don't know about her.  She read voraciously and got out to plays, music and lectures so there was always a great deal of material for us to ponder and I miss those conversations.  It was like we both had balls of yarn we would knit together between laughs.  One ball of yarn was a story we heard on NPR, another was an interview on Charlie Rose and another was a story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and together we'd weave those into a lasting discussion about our experience of life lately.   Suddenly I miss her so much that I can't swallow and the air keeps going out and not going in...but I keep running and sort of move through waves of collapsing lungs until they hit some limit and inhale so much that I feel dizzy...then it smooths out.  Jogging through mourning seems to work for me.   It is what I did when Keith Grinstein died, Italo Scanga, the dancers, all the way back to when my father died.  

Which leads me to another reason I am writing this morning.  We had a particularly marvelous dinner party at the Tower last night.  Martha Enson, Kevin Joyce and their daughter Ruby as well as Monica, David, Annabel and Sophie Stephenson came over.   I loved how eager we all were to discuss and share and learn about each other ...we glanced (or I should say "lanced') the top of dozens of stories and I am eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to gather up those plots (so much was happening in each of our lives) and continue the discussion.   

What a nice feeling.   

Ahhh  L-I-F-E.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Honestly, are you honing in on the virtues or letting them slide?

My good friend Valerie Tarico writes a monthly column about developing virtues.  She starts each post with a note about the particular character trait including a few quotes to ponder, discuss and share and then ends with an example of how one might teach that particular "virtue" to their kids.

Here is what she said about Honesty:

Character Corner: Honesty — musings, quotes, and parenting tips from

by VALERIE on JUNE 16, 2010
Naomi Lahaie and Gwen Hampden
Laura remembers feeling humiliated when, as a child, she was caught in a lie.  But her daughter Julie, age eight, seems almost indifferent when confronted with evidence that she has been dishonest. Last week, for example, Julie went to her friend Anna’s house two doors down without permission.  She turned up home an hour later, saying she had been in the back yard the whole time. 
Laura knew otherwise (she had called Anna’s mom), and she asked probing questions. But Julie stuck to the lie.  When finally confronted with the evidence, Julie just screamed that Laura always spied on her and didn’t let her do anything.
What is honesty?
Honesty is saying what we know or suspect to be real, even when we don’t like the consequences. It is also much more.
Because most deception is actually self deception, true honesty requires that we recognize our natural human penchant for fooling ourselves. In particular, honesty requires that we guard against self-serving biases: our tendency to seek confirmation for what we already believe while ignoring contradictory evidence; our tendency to put blame on others and take credit for ourselves; our tendency to think that what is good for us is good for the world and even to make the gods themselves in our own image.
Honesty is a lifetime process of catching ourselves in falsehood and, however reluctantly, turning away from it.
Five Quotes to contemplate, discuss and share.
Bringing it home to your kids
1.  Rather than focusing on lies, focus on trust, integrity, and self awareness, the virtues you are working to build.  
2. Don’t “test” your child’s honesty.  When you know he or she has committed an infraction, simply state what you know to be true rather than probing for a confession.  Then move on to talking about natural and logical consequences or motives and feelings.  Or, if emotions are too heated, suspend the conversation till all can calm down.
3. Preschoolers frequently blend fantasy and reality.  Rather than treating this as a lie, label it imagination:  “Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?”  “That would be so fun!”  You can turn it into a game with an even wilder story of your own. 
4. All cultures sanction “white lies.”  Don’t expect perfect self disclosure from your children any more than you do from yourself.  If you want honesty about things that matter though, do make trust a core family value. 
5. Model a balanced pragmatic approach to personal faults.  Perfectionism is the enemy of honest self appraisal.
6. Acknowledge how difficult honesty can be at times.  Reward honesty with respect.  Partner with your child in problem solving to rebuild trust.
    Simone Lahaie at the Cafe Vita's pizza oven
If you enjoyed Valerie's post, here are a few others to check out on her wisdom commons site:

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    "Failure is Impossible"

    Mary Hannick, 100, holds up her "failure is Impossible" bag at a luncheon
    celebrating Susan B Anthony's birthday (2/15/1820) and the Women's Right to Vote.
    MAX SCHULTE - staff photographer for Democrat and Chronicle

    My friend Roberta Riley and I have been emailing back and forth about hiring actress Debbie Dimitre or perhaps actress and playwright, Rachel Atkins to perform their profound pieces about the fight for the vote (the woman's suffrage movement) at a gathering of some sort. I was thinking we could comb the assisted living facilities for women who would like to join us and share their stories as to where they were when it was announced that women received the right to vote.  

    Online I found a note and picture from a story written by Sean Dobbin about Mary Hannick.  Mary is remembering that day.  She was 11 years old and didn’t quite grasp the significance of the occasion, but will never forget her mother’s shouts of joy. 

    “You’ve never heard such exhilaration as we had in our house,” said Hannick.   “My mother sang every word she said that day, and when she did go to vote, she took me and my younger sister with her so we could see what it was.”

    Roberta Riley said that she thinks the suffrage movement used brilliant transformative tactics that would be inspiring to progressives in these trying times of divisive politics.  Hmm... Another good reason to dig up the history of emancipation.