back to the future Part 11

We left early in the morning, avoiding closures and goodbyes.
I am not a goodbye person and under the circumstances, leaving things open seemed the best thing to do.
Don't know when and if I'll be able to come back to Detroit. Don't really know if the ones I met will be there when I have the chance to do so.
I assume and speculate on the future of this city but predictions are founded on mostly temporary facts and practices and the transitory features of Detroit do not hold space for a prefixed outcome.
Detroit is it's people and they are for sure not a homogenic bunch of individuals. Their actions will determine their future as well as the city's. Some will leave and others will come, some will visit and some will stay.
Nine weeks is not three years, but three years is not ten and so on.

What Joao stated regarding our return to the Netherlands is that "we are not going back but forward". It's a "back to the future" kinda thing, realizing that "to" embeds "with", "in" and "on".

I guess Michael J. Fox's current Parkinson state is a visual interpretation of that shaky state of being back and forth, in and out of the past and future. Shaky is the new now.

Detroit is the city of leaving.
Detroit is the city of the future.
Detroit is the city I spent nine weeks of my life in.


party bus

Having to re-thing on how to construct a social event that evolves around an object, but still stay true to our non-tangible performative practices, we came up with an idea of hosting a final tour around the city on a bio-diesel bus.
The YES FARM became a bus station, and passengers had to obtain a ticket from a temporary stand inside the space.
We decided on three travel routes and planned four bus rides, inviting all the people we had encountered during our stay in the city.

All passengers were given a questionnaire to fill in while they were waiting at the YES FARM station. Questions evolved around the notions of "living in Detroit" and "leaving from Detroit" and worked as a starting point to our discussions on the bus.

While on the bus, we decided to stop beating around the bush and pose themes of discussion in a slightly more explicit manner than before. We chose to be as laconic as possible and generate fruitful conversations among the passengers. We mostly listened allowing members of the group to reflect on each others' statements.

The tours were recorded and the responsibility of visual documentation was passed to the passengers. A photo camera was given to a member of every group allowing to capture stills of what was happening inside as well as outside the bus.

Recordings as a well as additional photos will be posted shortly.


for the living and the leaving


as we prepare to make our last performance, we read each other horoscopes, and the scorpio's one says all about what we are intending with our work...

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Most discussions on TV news shows involve

so-called experts shouting simplistic opinions at each other. They may

provide some meager entertainment value, but are rarely enlightening. In

contrast to these paltry spectacles were the salons at Paris's Cafe

Guerbois in 1869. A group of hard-working artists and writers gathered

there to inspire each other. The painter Claude Monet wrote that their

discussions "sharpened one's wits, encouraged frank and impartial inquiry,

and provided enthusiasm that kept us going for weeks . . . One always

came away feeling more involved, more determined, and thinking more

clearly and distinctly." That's the kind of dynamic interaction you should

seek out in abundance, Scorpio.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): *Allure* magazine sought out Luca Turin and

Tania Sanchez, the women who wrote the book *Perfumes: The A to Z

Guide.* "What are the sexiest-smelling perfumes of all time?" they asked.

Turin and Sanchez said Chinatown was at the top of their list. Their

explanation: "If wearing Opium is like walking around with a bullhorn

shouting, 'Come and get it!', Chinatown is like discreetly whispering the

same thing." The Chinatown approach is what I recommend for you in the

coming weeks, Pisces.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): A Chinese company reached out to me by email

today. The message began, "As the leading professional conveyor belt

manufacturers in Shanghai, we present to you our very best sincere

regards, desiring to find out if there is a chance for us to be your top-rate

conveyor belt supplier." I wrote back, thanking them for their friendly

inquiry. I said that personally I didn't have any need of conveyor belts

right now, but I told them I would check with my Leo readers to see if

they might. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you see,

you're entering a time when it makes sense to expand and refine your

approach to work. It'll be a good time, for example, to get more efficient

and step up production. So how about it? Do you need any conveyor



Drawing Marathon @ THE YES FARM

Blake and Ben came up with the idea of a drawing marathon and an exhibition at The Yes Farm for this weekend. We have been working putting the place into shape to host the artworks and the guests.

Three rooms were cleaned and freshly painted and a stage in the main hall was set to facilitate the community's School Of Rock.

School Of Rock is a summer program initiated by Tim and the children of the Farnsworth community. Once per week the kids would "squa"t Tim's house, practicing on how to play the drums, form a band and perform on stage.

We took the task of fixing the stage, painting the background black, adding lights and dark curtains.

The School Of Rock will be performed on Saturday during the painting marathon.

On Sunday The Yes Farm throw a raffle where people could buy raffles for 1$, take part in a lottery and if their number would come up they could choose to take home one of the drawings exhibited at the space.


making your own fuel (and leave ukraine in peace for a winter or so)

today we met jeanne, one of the most wonderful women i have seen.

she, besides many other things, creates her own fuel from a garage that she traded for a diesel truck.

she has been setting her fuel space for a couple of years now, and has processed waste organic fuel into vegetable oil that can be used to power diesel engines, diesel generators, and oil heating systems.

i contacted her, about the possibility of making a biodiesel station for the yes farm, and her reply was 'why dont you come to work with me? it took me a while and about 50 g's to put all this together. i'm happy to exchange company while doing it for the passing of knowledge i have gathered...', i hear through the phone.

so i talk with eric, the guy that saved the muffler, and we both went down to jeanne's garage, and his eyes where shinning with the imagination for all the potentialities that cheap vegetable fuel brings.

he starts talking about diesel generators that are usually used in welding workshops, and the shift between fossil to vegetable fuel, the possibility of using it on oil heating systems for the winter (in detroit winter temperatures can go down to -29º c) and last but definately not the least, the application to cars engines.

he has the mechanical knowledge of how generators and engines can process the fuel and produce energy, which is complementary to jeanne, that holds the knowledge of how the chemical process of transforming waste organic fuel into biodiesel.

i think to myself 'if these two persons meet and start working together, will be a great synergy, a 1+1=3...'

somehow, back here in the states, there are very few diesel cars. most diesel engines are only found in trucks, with a few exceptions, while back in europe is pretty much standard that cars run on diesel. the european concern resides in the fact that diesel pollutes far more than a free lead gasoline engine, and the fact of not possessing many petroleum primary resources.

even natural gas is coming from the East Block. Pipelines maps reveal foreign politics, and winter conflicts.

after some google research, and finding out that the first biodiesel car was invented back in 1893, one cannot but wonder why it was never developed.

right now, i'd love to see a detroit diesel v8 engine installed in shubhabah and start off working a day a week with jeanne and make fuel for the van, besides some more for a diesel generator for my own home, and maybe even start saving some fuel for this coming winter. and daydreaming continues...

i come back to farns and talk about this with some people, and they all apreciate the idea, but dont seem very entusiastic about it. i wonder why... why not jump on the idea and start working together. dont know if its because detroit moves slowly, that everyone is busy with sorting themselves out, on a everyday basis, that disables them to combine efforts.

maybe its my naivity as an accidental tourist, but i cannot stop being amazed with jeanne and her energy in creating a better future with her shinny eyes, and generous smile.

in my second day working, i meet rick and his girlfiend, anna, that are helping jeanne out. we get our first trouble solving. one of the pumps is not working, that is supposed to transfer the waste oil from the settling storage, into the machine that warms and stirs it up, separating the water from the oil, the first process, transforming waste oil into veggie oil... actually in summer, jeanne runs her mercedez turbo diesel just on that.

though in winter, with the cold temperatures, the oil tends to freeze, needing to be diluted with some kind of spirits. the biodiesel is produced by adding methanol and methaoxide (fuel used for racing cars and highly toxic).

none of this technology is new, there has been others doing it all over the place.

i'm interested in it, due to its bare necessity as a survival and political act of defying a system, wether its capital or governmental, that has been establishing a form of progress in a non-relyable and non-sustainable usage of petrol, rather than supporting a cheaper and more planet friendly way of producing energy.

or in a more simple way to state it, breaking the status quo you MF!!!!

be kind, rewind

During the Makers Faire'10 in Detroit Ford's Museum, I was working with Andrew, Den Hag'cker I call him, cous' he was born in Den Hague (NL) and his family moved to Michigan State when he was 4 years old.

Makers Faire is an initiative to demonstrate to a larger audience how technology can take different forms in our everyday life. Den Hag'cker is working with OmniCorpDetroit, a new initiative for electronic hacking, ranging from music making machines to bicycle powered batteries used in small cars they put together, passing through Tesla coils.

During the Makers Faire, OCD decided to teach children how to circuit bend toys.

I proposed a complementary activity, which turned out to be antagonistic to the concept OCD proposed, the simplified activity of how to make something out of nothing. By picking up objects that can be commonly found in the city's garbage (a broken radio speaker, an abandoner car speaker, a ghetto blaster subwoofer) I showed kids how to make their own speaker-piano. The intention behind was to dismystify and revealing how sound is produced, having the speaker connected to the 9 volt battery and by interrupting the circuit with various metal objects, and their movement, producing different sounds with, literally, your hands on it.

While back to circuit bending,

Circuit bending a toy, is basically opening up an electronic toy, and look at the chipset inside. By touching different circuits while the toy is playing, the sound will bend. after mapping the circuits that create interesting sound bends, oneself can start soldering them and make some custom changes.

One of the children was utterly cheerful because there was an animal farm sounds toy which she hated and finally she could open it up and hopefully, make something else out of it.

She started by saying that she had never done this before, and that it was the first time she was ever opening up a toy.

Den hag'cker and I were a bit confused how a kid never opened up a toy, something so usual to our childhood. We started questioning why and when did objects became so sacred, far from human touch. A nostalgia trip to our childhood made us recall all the things that we opened up, and messed around. How many radios, toys, broken electric tools, tv remote controls that we 'profaned' while disassembling.

While nostalgia tripping to memory lane, we both started to realize when was it, in the last 20 years that kids stopped opening up electric objects and tweaking them.

We both agreed that, somewhere after the invention (and application to most everyday technological objects) of the microchip, mechanical parts went beyond human touch, due to their reduced size.

The conception of micro, of the barely visible made all those mechanical parts out of touch and out of range from amateur ([French, from Latin amātor, lover, from amāre, to love.]) ability to re-work, and re-cycle, all those mechanical objects.

Towards the end of the 20th century, most things in society started to implode, to become immaterial, invisible and far from being tangible, reducing human agency, the ability to do. I don't remember from who is this quote from (I got it 2nd hand from a friend Mirko Winkel), but I always found it truly revealing: ' if the 20th century was one marked by explosions - of population, of atomic bombs, of information; the 21st century shall be one marked by implosions!'

The question me and Den Hag'cker ended up with was 'how to bring the immaterial back to the realm of the material?', 'how to actually regain 'ability to do' in a sacred world of the object, which abjects the subject?'

After we asked ourselves that, an uncomfortable silence settled in...

gardening & art summer classes

Kt and a summer class of arts and gardening

"Education in the largest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense, education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another."
wikipedia resource

Earlier on our residency we posted an entrance regarding the demolition of the Ferry Pulbic School.
It has become quite clear that to put down a closed school is far less "complex" than having to pay taxes and preserve it.

Dave on a recent talk claimed that his effort to purchase abandoned buildings fell short since they always come with "demolition estimation costs" and demolition practices benefit the state and a small but well protected industry. The so called "demolition prize".

We tend to perceive education to take its most common form under the roof of a school. Living for two months in Detroit we re-discovered diverse educational platforms which focus on passing out skills, enhance mutualism, raise awareness and responsibility, address locality and possibly build an alternative economy practices .
Spread in various "roofs" and initiated by various organizations and individuals these acts respond to the failure of the state to preserve and advance Detroit's educational system.

Wayne State University and University of Detroit Mercy seem to be the only mega foundations promoting Detroit as an educational mecca. On the other hand Universities are just stations in someone's career and therefore embed within the act of temporarily living and subconsciously the act of leaving.

This summer Kt has been teaching art and farming in three locations around Detroit. We "invited ourselves" to her classes and I managed to attend her last teaching sessions in two of the locations.
We came up with a game of drawing your favorite fruit or vegetable
on a paper ribbon, mixing the ribbons and pass them on as "hats" to every one participating. Each kid had to make four questions in order to guess what fruit or vegetable he/she was.
While still difficult to prevent children from looking at their "hats" the game focused on working on the right questions such as:
am i a fruit?
do i grow in our garden?
do i grow above ground?
do i grow on a tree?
am i yellow?
am i round?

The process of discovering could help them identifying with the object, break it down in forms and shapes, understand the value of the process of growing (gardening) and playfully perform a dialogue of passing out knowledge without the authoritarian overview of the teacher.
Everyone would hold the responsibility of sharing a common set of knowledge (the secret of what is on their friend's hat) and as a unity, by simply answering with a yes or a no could transcend that knowledge to the individual making the questions.

While talking to Joao about our experience, he brought up the term homo ludens introduced by Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga.

Huizinga does not mean that “play turns into culture”. Rather, he sets play and culture side by side, talks about their “twin union”, but insists that “play is primary”.

wikipedia resource

How to perform shameless ruin porn in order to compare two cities...

In the issue of November/December 2009 of Kaleidoscope magazine, Joao found an article that was titled: Is Detroit the new Berlin?? In the article, Chris Sharp, the author, referred to a common perspective of Detroit as 'the new Berlin' within the art world. It is this kind of perspectives that deny any uniqueness of a place like Detroit, and its initiatives that actually succeed in creating a new strategy that is based on the actual situation, both hyper-local as on a city-scale. At the same time, this perspective romanticises the whole Berlin situation, without actually knowing about the ins and outs of the origins of the current situation and the policies that are behind it. The article was accompanied by some photo's of Corine Vermeulen, which were totally appropriated in order to enhance the 'spectacle-factor' of the Detroit situation by which many people are so enticed. Recently, I've been to Berlin, and to illustrate how easy it is to make any comparisons, assumptions, references like this, I performed some hard-core, shameless ruin porn. Here's a little visual result of it.

(as a reaction on an older post on this blog by Joao: 'Betsy needs a new love', 07.09.2010. This is Brunhilde... she needs love too, you know)

yes, community gardens too....

....... and as a final moral message from Berlin.....

Goodbye now. Sweet dreams....!


Reflective reading on SOUP event or 2nd research on composing social events.

photo by Kate Daughdrill

On Sunday night one hundred twenty people honored with their presence the 7th version of SOUP, increasing participation in relation to the previous event to double.

Invited by Kate and Jessica we worked towards the composition of a social event, evoking interaction and increasing the dialectic process within the already existed format.

photo by Kate Daughdrill

Confronted with the surprising high number of participants we lost our tight line of thoughts but managed to preserve the most precious of our aims - emergence of collective dialogue.

Siting down to listen to the documentation recording, looking back on what worked and what not, working towards the upcoming dinner @ 555 we formulated a critical response following the narrative of the night.
















Check the audio documentation on the post below.

audio recording of SOUP event, with timecode for easy listening

a preliminary study on hosting dinners and food for thoughts, and first encounters with engagement art

(or why we are looking for a balance between intervention and integration)

Soup audio documentation by anonymous bystanders

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// timecode :

00:00:00 //waiting for the soup to get cold

00:01:16 //'are we recorded?'

00:02:19 //joao and nicos double checking script for evening, after realizing that the audience number was double than usual

00:04:24 //smoking a cigarette outside mexican bakery, 4330 West Vernor Highway

00:06:06 //'got to give a lil'congo up there man'

00:06:16 //'hey, er.. you wanna crawl under that truck tomorrow?'

00:07:38 //preparing to start

00:08:04 //looking for a frying pan to hit on

00:09:39 //beginning announcement

00:13:15 //one hundred and twenty persons serving soup, salad and desert

00:21:09 //joao meets mark and jake

00:22:20 //'what kind of soup is this?'

00:26:29 //niko joins the conversation with mark and jake

00:29:48 //'the last piece of bread...'

00:30:43 //joao gets niko's bag from under someone's bottom

00:31:25 //'thank you guys for ... '

00:32:29 //nikos and joao look for the right moment to start the show talk dinner

00:32:48 //two unknown persons talk about sitting devices

00:33:21 //joao, miserably, attempts to get audience attention by playing the piano

00:33:36 //dutch eric saves the day by whistling, which joao and nikos dont know how to do

00:33:42 //'hello! its us again.' nikos and joao start the show talk dinner

00:36:17 //the idea of agency - a sketch and a question, third parties and communities

00:40:55 //a (failed) attempt to go high-fi and the uselessness of a microphone

00:41:45 //an everyday life performance of taking care

00:42:47 //re-arrangements of space, inability to use a microphone-part 2 and 'it has been five weeks...' - a series of interrupted acts and thoughts

00:43:38 //urban farming in detroit and over there, when art becomes social intervention and alternatives it creates

00:45:05 //'lets quit the high-tech shite' ... giving up on the microphone and the simple act of talking louder

00:46:38 //'a better future...'

00:48:30 //on staging social events and so-called realities

00:51.33 //quoting 'art in america' and recalling the experience in D, doing and agency

00:54:17 //skype sounds in the back, promising an unexpected appearance

00:54:44 //actually it's not that different at all

00:55:19 //'necessity is the mother of all invention'

00:58:52 //mistranslations, rephrasing ones thoughts, and how to agree on disagreeing

01:03:50 //'entitlement mentality', 'the system has failed us' and 'who's teaching our children?'

01:05:53 //'one last comment and lets go for the soup proposals'

The failure of poetics (or where is Andrew when you need him)

During our sixth week of residency we found ourselves locked in four walls building the context and format of our FOOD FOR THOUGHTS dinner event at the 555 gallery.

Avoiding being explicit and trying to evoke a certain sub-text to our talks and narrations we made a clear distinction between "doing" and "acting".

Doing involves a practice of being part of everyday narratives, introducing dialectics within these narratives and eventually have a reflective approach towards them. Our doing bears within the awareness of the capillary waves it creates and our need to gain control over them, for the benefit of maintaining our initial ethics towards a community that has placed trust on our temporal existence in Detroit.

Acting refers to a practice of those who don't vanish. It is a practice we have chosen not to engage ourselves to, due to the temporal nature of our stay. Acting is the outcome of an equation of adding diverse practices/strategies that complement each other under a common aim - that of "re- building" Detroit.

Our doing attempts among other things to function as a catalyst, as a mediated force to communicate those practices to those involved in the acting.

We have put our trust on poetics to give a format to our discussions and construct a deeper layer to our story-sharing.
The poetics failed us creating merely repetition, suspicion and miscommunication of our intentions.
We therefore need to rethink on how we construct a reflective social event in relation to the Detroit context. I am not saying that we necessarily have to be explicit, but nevertheless bring the sub-text to the surface.

Our doing here is a learning process, not predefined and certainly not easy.
As Drew successfully pointed out there are two types of temporal inhabitants in the city of Detroit - those with a mission and those with a need to experience/search and therefore work towards a fruitful input. We do feel we fit to the description of the latter rather than the former.
Anyone objected to that please feel free to comment.

set and reset

after the last days of work and documenting, we are back to blogging, and rediscovering where we stand.

a set and reset, evoking my days with Eva Karczag.

these two items (horoscope from rob breszny, given to me by Elyce Semenec, an american artist i met in Berlin, and a Sam Roberts video, shown to me and Nikos by Eric Fro, the american artist we met here in Detroit), actually symbolize very much were we stand.

Ps: sorry for the name dropping, but they stand as references to persons that have given us a'lot!

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Every year smokers toss away over four

trillion cigarette butts, fouling the environment terribly. But recently a

few Chinese scientists embarked on the seemingly impossible project of

finding value in this noxious waste. Collecting up big piles of discarded

filters, they developed a process to extract chemicals that are effective

at preventing corrosion when applied to steel pipes. Your assignment,

Pisces, is to accomplish a comparable miracle: Turn some dreck or dross

into a useful thing; discover a blessing in the trash; build a new dream

using the ruins of an old pleasure.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): The film *Avatar* hammers out such

vehement anti-military, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist themes that it

could have been endorsed by the leftist rock band Rage Against the

Machine. And yet it's the highest-grossing film in the history of the world.

One critic marveled at its popularity in even the most conservative areas

of America, noting that it got "a theater full of people in Kentucky to

stand and applaud the defeat of their country in war." Your assignment in

the coming week is to do what *Avatar* has done: Try to make sure that

your opponents and skeptics are entertained by your message -- maybe

even excited and intrigued.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Paul, a fortune-telling octopus in Oberhausen,

Germany, had an amazing run of success predicting the results of World

Cup competitions a while back. His technique? His handlers gave him a

succession of choices between two tasty morsels, each representing one

of the teams in a given match. The treat he picked to eat was the team

whose victory he prophesied. I wish I could access his expertise to help

me sort out your upcoming decisions. It's really important that you not

over-think the possibilities, but rather rely on simple gut reactions. Why

don't you pretend you're an octopus, and imagine that each choice you

have to make is symbolized by some food item. Ask yourself, "Which is



License plates for Shubhabah

Last night Carl came by with the license plates for the Expodium van.

This morning we "dressed" Shubhabah with the official papers and took her for a spin around the city.

For the first time since Bart and Luc left, we got the chance to listen to music while driving. It was some weird epic theme, flirting between Apocalypse Now and West Side Story.