Magic in the mundane?

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Over the weekend, I walked with my friend and collaborator Shoshana Gugenheim from the Portland Steel Bridge, on the corner of NW Oregon Street and Interstate Way, to Director's Park in the heart of Portland's downtown. We walked shoulder-to-shoulder, in-step, in silence.  Like one entity, my left hand was at my side, still, mirroring hers which rested on a satchel. My right hand felt the momentum or her right hand, together they swayed with intention propelling my feet forward. Right. Left. Right. Left. Both of us keenly aware of the other and our surroundings. Both of us listening and absorbing: The smell of coffee from a cafe on the corner. A woman's perfume. A loud conversation about tomorrow. A crow swooping down to land on the top of a lamp post. I heard the gentle tap of it's claws touching the aluminum armature as a truck passed, thundering down Taylor Street. Negotiating directions and intersections, a change in elevation and traffic felt curious. When we walked beyond each building's shadow, sunshine filled our eyes. Together we squinted. Left and then right. Left then right.  

tkramer_LAB_steelbridge

We were experimenting, playing, wondering...actively wandering. How do we inhabit public spaces? What does civic engagement mean? What are the political consequences of our presence? What are the consequences of public silence? What would it be like to walk together, in-step through the bustle of a city? What would it require to remain together? Would anyone notice our unity? What does it mean to combine our efforts? Combine, at it's linguistic origin comes from the prefex "com," which shares it's meaning with "co," means with or together and "bine" means two. Two people. Two sets of arms. Two pairs of legs. Two bodies. Together. 

Last February, during our "Walking Tour of the Olympic Sculpture Park," Eric Olson and I publicly shared a set of scores or simple instructions that were set to site-specific sculptures or places throughout the park. Standing on a walking path just a 100 feet from Jaume Plensa's 2011 sculpture Echo we instructed the audience to, "Identify a rhythm in your environment. Using your voice or body, echo this rhythm. Repeat. As we walk toward the sculpture spontaneously repeat." 

Photograph by Jonathan Vanderweit. Orbiting Together. Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. 2018

Photograph by Jonathan Vanderweit. Orbiting Together. Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. 2018

In this period of listening, mirroring and echoing I found myself giggling with Celia, a 4 1/2 year old friend of mine. Her little feet pattered on the pavement with certainty as she grinned up at me. With focus, I smiled back at her and tried (with all my might and attention) to step in sync. My short steps and her big steps, my foot lightly settling to the ground, matching the sound of her confident stomp.

While walking with Shoshana, I recalled this moment. Sometimes the inspiration for my future work is hidden in my body. I only see it when I am brave enough to act on my vision, impulse or intuition.
 


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Social Works

I've been reading....

tkramer_readingtable_dec2017

(left to right; top to bottom)

Float: Variations on the Right to Remain Silent by Anne Carson
The Lure of the Local by Lucy R. Lippard
The Choreographic by Jenn Joy
What We Made by Tom Finkelpearl
Choreographing Difference by Ann Cooper Albright
Draw it with your eyes closed: The art of the assignment by Dushko Petrovich & Roger White
Performing Monuments by Mechtild Widrich
One Place After Another by Miwon Kwon
Theory/Theater: An Introduction by Mark Fortier
Small Acts of Repair by Goat Island
Standing in Space by Mary Overlie
Social Works by Shannon Jackson
This Very Moment by Barbara Dilley
School Book 2 by Goat Island


How am I different because you are here?


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Who do we choose to let in?

Since September, I have been spending one morning a week meditating with inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary. Our sits occur in the chapel. Before entering through security I lock up my belongs: car keys, phone, wallet, hair clips, scarves (and other items which could be used as a weapon against me). Then I exchange my ID for a red badge with my picture on it. Inmates are separated by security level and if necessary their gang unit. Some weeks, I sit with the men in minimum security. The air inside the concrete passageways before and after each checkpoint is cold and stagnant. Other weeks, I sit in medium. Here the passageways are outside in the elements, surrounded by mazes of chainlink fences and razor wires. We pass through numerous gates: #8, #9, #32, #29, #17, #16. As if inside a institutionalized forrest, I could not yet find my way out without my guide. I haven't honed my instincts enough, yet; maybe next week. At each juncture, one of many gates slide open as if by magic. Security observes us from above. Two females slowing walking, careful not to move with too much purpose or mission; we wouldn't want to be seen as a threat. We are seeking an opportunity to sit in silence with a group of men who label this as some of the only silence they experience inside this fortress. 

I've continued my work with the five silent structures of Fort Lawton. Videographer Jack Leonard has rendered old video I took in 2015 to create a mock-up of a four channeled installation.  Each video will be projected on one of four walls of an enclosed room. When you step inside the room you would be virtually transported outside, surrounded by the four walls of a structure whose exterior is publicly maintained with care and yet whose interior is inaccessible and uninhabitable. The doors are locked with a dozen deadbolts. The windows have metal and plexiglass facades. Where I am able to peer through the foggy yellow plexiglass, I can see the floors inside covered with broken glass, dust so think it looks like dirt and cobwebs, so many cobwebs. The air inside must be stagnant. I wonder, should the final videos be filmed during four different seasons?  I wonder, do pedestrians ever consider the silence inside these structures. And I wonder, is representation enough for me? 

What would make absence more visible?  What would cause a person to pause and question how permeable there own interior world is to the external one?  What might inspire someone to question personal, structural and systematic incarceration? And would they consider the actions that led to this moment?

Who do we choose to let in?

 

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How do we 'respect'?

While at the Washington State Penitentiary this past week, one of the inmates shared an acronym that he uses daily. These are words he lives by and hopes his kids will too. I find it to be a powerful guide for those of us who do creative social practice work within communities. 

RESPECT
R - Relax
E - Explore
S - Smile (welcome people in and accept them)
P - Participate (engage fully)
E - Evaluate (assess your impact)
C - Compensate (adjust based on your evaluation)
T - Teach (share what you learn)

Shared with his permission. By request, he remains anonymous. 



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Rest

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Why do you hurry? What are you hurrying toward?

I have come to see the necessity for creative breaks... rest. For the past few months I've intentionally stepped away from the active process of doing my creative work. During this time, I focused on my internal somatic experiences and took the precious moments I typically to fill with creative problem solving, to respond to spontaneous curiosities. I've been reading books, working on our tiny farm of a back yard, chasing my toddler through the sprinkler, watching light refract through the water at the local pool, taking bike rides through wheat fields, meeting with friends, cooking, canning, eating fruit fresh of the tree, sitting, enjoying warm night air....  life things. 

After these periods of rest, I see new creative projects emerge (often clearly formed) and I awe at how interconnected my creative work is with daily life. And how important it is to rest and let seeds germinate. 

An aside:  While doing research earlier today I happened upon this software/programing article that (is very dry and academic but STILL) stretches my imagination!  "Accurate and Efficient Gesture Spotting via Pruning and Subgesture Reasoning

 

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12 (suggested) Acts

1.
Blow into a straw.
Blow into a straw submerged in a glass of water.
Blow into a straw submerged in a trickling stream.
Blow into a straw submerged in a pond.
Blow into a straw submerged in a quickly flowing river. 

2.
Press your entire body against a parked car with its engine running. 

3.
Place your throat against the belly of a dog
that is basking in a pool of sunlight.

4.
Pedel a bicycle
with your hands on the pedals.

5. 
Locate a grassy knoll.
Position your body so that your back sinks into the earth,
and your head points downhill.

Take 10 deep breaths.

Move 10 inches downward.

With eyes open,
look to the sky.
Over your right shoulder. 
To the space between your tailbone and the earth.
Over your left shoulder.
To the sky again. 

Repeat, this time with eyes closed
and the bottom of your feet leading.

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6. 
At the grocery store, mimic the walk of the first person you encounter in the produce department. 

7.
Turn on an electric toothbrush.
Gently press the bristles against the crown of your head.
Then the soles of your feet.

8.
Take a walk barefoot through a park.
Collect every fallen leaf, stick, seed, trash or rock
that touch your feet.

9. 
Tie  a string to your ring finger for 24 hours. 
Every time you notice it's presence:
       a.) pause
       b.) notice the temperature of the air against your skin
       c.) imagine that the nearest stranger's movements release the tension in every muscle in your body. 
Return to your previous task. 

10.
Go to a coffee shot. Buy a cup of coffee. Find a seat alone.
Once seated begin to drink your beverage. After each sip, 
re-position your sits bones by moving less than a 1/4". 

11. 
Lay on your back on a carpet floor.  Clasp your bag, satchel or purse
in your arms.  Roll about without allowing it to touch the ground. 

12. 
Breathe. 

Dedicated to to Nickels Sunshine and the Spring Whitman Somatics cohort. 
Written in May, 2017



 


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A tour at the pace of my 1.5 year old

Six months ago, I moved to Walla Walla with my partner and one year old son. Walla Walla is a vibrant small town in rural Eastern Washington, nestled among expansive agricultural fields and the Blue Mountains. The pace of life here is unhurried. And the pace of life with an 18 month old is dawdling.  

What if I were to give a tour of my town, my new neighborhood as I experience it? 


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Time out for happiness

"The Gilbreths [created systems for more efficient labor because they] wanted the increase in productivity to result in greater happiness for all.  After all, if we are saving time by being more productive, what will we do with all the extra time or goods produced?  We should use them to be happy, owners and workers alike." -David Merkel

Georgetown Steam Plant workers in early 1900's. Seattle, WA

Georgetown Steam Plant workers in early 1900's. Seattle, WA

 

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18 types of elemental motion

An excerpt from Wikipedia (Feb 26, 2015):
 

Therbligs are 18 kinds of elemental motions used in the study of motion economy in the workplace. A workplace task is analyzed by recording each of the therblig units for a process, with the results used for optimization of manual labor by eliminating unneeded movements.

The word therblig was the creation of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, American industrial psychologists who invented the field of time and motion study. It is a reversal of the name Gilbreth, with 'th' transposed.

A basic motion element is one of a set of fundamental motions required for a worker to perform a manual operation or task. The set consists of 18 elements, each describing a standardized activity.

  • Transport empty [unloaded] (TE): reaching for an object with an empty hand. (Now called "Reach")

  • Group (G): grasping an object with the active hand.

  • Transport loaded (TL):moving an object using a hand motion.

  • Hold (H): holding an object.

  • Release load (RL): releasing control of an object.

  • Preposition (PP): positioning and/or orienting an object for the next operation and relative to an approximation location.

  • Position (P): positioning and/or orienting an object in the defined location.

  • Use (U): manipulating a tool in the intended way during the course working.

  • Assemble (A): joining two parts together.

  • Disassemble (DA): separating multiple components that were joined.

  • Search (Sh): attempting to find an object using the eyes and hands.

  • Select (St): choosing among several objects in a group.

  • Plan (Pn): deciding on a course of action.

  • Inspect (I): determining the quality or the characteristics of an object using the eyes and/or other senses.

  • Unavoidable delay (UD): waiting due to factors beyond the worker's control and included in the work cycle.

  • Avoidable delay (AD): waiting within the worker's control which causes idleness that is not included in the regular work cycle.

  • Rest in peace (R): resting to overcome a fatigue, consisting of a pause in the motions of the hands and/or body during the work cycles or between them.

  • Find (F): A momentary mental reaction at the end of the Search cycle. Seldom used.

 

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A response to my sketch: between

In early May, I shared a sketch titled, between.  As further response to and exploration of the questions that lead to that work, I composed the following piece employing Anne Carson's 'short talk' poetry form.   The work consisted of a plaque, posted on an informational sign post situated at the intersection of two diverging paths. This sign post was one of a series of 10 for a piece titled, Short Talks, Short Walks that was displayed at Smoke Farm for the Lo-Fi Arts Festival // Ad Hoc.  An intimate performance corresponded with each post and was enacted during the festival.
 

Short Talk on Pairs

Socks are worn in pairs, usually matched.
Brackets are always used in matched pairs.  
When writing, brackets can be used to inject or
set apart text. They can denote an idea related to
but separate from the original idea discussed.
Empty brackets indicate omitted text.
Before I leave the house I put on my shoes.

Press your hands together in front of your chest.  
Pause. Separate them slightly. Pause. Repeat.

 

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Silent structures: A performance score

The following text is an excerpt from the performance score for my Aug, 23 2014 work, Five Silent Structures

1. How do our daily rituals activate a building?
2. What is lost when a space is constrained?
3. How does a structure (a home, a shelter, a refuge) transform our bodies.
4. How do our bodies and the spaces we inhabit break silence? 


The body is
:  building. structure. flesh. waiting. being. past. future
The building is:  body. structure. canopy. awaiting. being. history. tomorrow

The body is a building.  A building is a body. 

We are extensions of the buildings we inhabit, the places we know through repetition and time.   Through our daily lives we enact the process of being with these spaces.  Through this performance we will enact the process of being with these spaces attentively.  The Fort Lawton structures are restricted, vacant, and empty.  They contain histories of use but are now silently observing the world, patient and overlooked by most.  Create silent spaces in yourself that mirror the spaces within these buildings.  Stand with them as you might stand with a dear friend experiencing deep struggle, a family member undergoing incarceration, or a loved one incarcerated: constrained by limitations that prevent them from enacting their basic humanity.  Become observant, patient, perceptive, generous, and open.

HISTORY: Fort Lawton is a place of watch.  To be of watch over the sea.  To protect.  To guide.  A community which shares a single mission. 

AIMS: Listen.  Observe

PROMPTS:
-Move in straight lines
-Stop, slow.  Turn. Always use intentional rotation
-Non-striving
-Eyes slightly downward OR on the structure
-With each turn, minimum 30 seconds still.  Only head and eyes shift, slightly and intentionally
-Once a parallel begins, must move the entire duration of a structure.  Keeping distance between the same at all moments
-Only look up/ at structure when facing it with your shoulders and heart
-Enter a door at an exact 90 degree angle.  Be present with it, silent and non-moving for at least 30 seconds.  Touch optional.
-Must leave building after approach?
-Be as a rolling video camera is: attentively and without judgement.  Yet, have the investment of someone who knows each structure as a builder might, or a parent who birthed this structure and cares for it like a child.

"make meaning from the fragments we get, which are also all we get" -Anne Carson.


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Short Talk on Housing

For days these words have been resting on my tongue, slowly dissolving.
The lines have begun to settle into my hips. 

Here is one thing you can do if you
have no house. Wear several hats -
maybe three, four. In the event of rain
or snow, remove the one(s) that get(s)
wet. Secondly, to be a householder is a
matter of rituals. Rituals function
chiefly to differentiate horizontal from
vertical. To begin the day in your house
is to ‘get up’. At night you will ‘lie
down’. When old Tio Pedro comes
over for tea you will ‘speak up’, for
these days his hearing is ‘on the
decline’. If his wife is with him you will
be sure to have ‘cleaned up’ the
kitchen and parlour so as not to ‘fall’ in
her opinion. Watching the two of
them, as they sit side by side on the
couch smoking one cigarette, you feel
your “heart lift’. These patterns of up
and down can be imitated, outside the
house, in vertical and horizontal
designs upon the clothing. The lines
are not hard to make. Hats do not
need to be so decorated for they will
’pile up’ on your head, in and of them-
selves, qua hats, if you have understood
my original instruction.
— "Short Talk on Housing" by Anne Carson

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On the creative practice and making

Writings and radio conversations that investigate the creative practice and making processes.  Worth further investigation.

The Power of Two by Joshua Wolf Shenk
In Praise of Copying by Marcus Boon
What is Original, TED Radio Hour on NPR
Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work by Anne West
Creative Block by Danielle Krysa (the Jealous Curator)
Imagine, How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
Steel Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Art and Fear: Observations on the Pearls (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles
Education for a Socially Engaged Art by Pablo Helguera

Essay Collections:

EDUCATION: Documents of Contemporary Art published by MIT Press
ART SCHOOL (Propositions for the 21st Century) edited by Steven Henry Maddoff
THE STUDIO: Documents of Contemporary Art published by MIT Press
PARTICIPATION: Documents of Contemporary Art published by MIT Press

For continued research...

list started on May 1, 2014
last updated on July 8, 2014


 


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Quietest Place?

What are your places of rest and solitude? Where do you find quiet? Where is quiet located?

The Art Assignment is a really rad weekly video series produced by PBS Digital Studios.  It's a sophisticated, playful, fun program hosted by curator Sarah Urist Green and author/vlogger John Green. The Art Assignment takes you around the U.S. to meet artists and solicit assignments from them that anyone can complete and then post on their website:  theartassignment.com

It's a genius series (and curiously happens to mirror the model of assignment making that I have in my own studio practice *grin*).  The newest episode really sings to me.


Jace Clayton, aka DJ /Rupture, challenges you to take a walk from where you live and find the quietest place. Once you're there, take it in for a moment and then make a short video or take some photos there.

(The Art) Assignment:  Quietest Place
EPISODE 5 INSTRUCTIONS

1. Go outside and talk a walk from where you live or are staying at the moment. 
2. Continue until you’ve found the quietest place possible.
3. Take a moment to absorb it. Then document the place through photography or video. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment.
4. Fame and glory. (Your work might be featured in an upcoming video.)

Artworks mentioned include John Cage’s 4’33” (1952/53) and Charles Baudelaire’s essay The Painter of Modern Life (1863). 

 

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