Friday, May 22, 2009

Small writer's cabins: A COMPETITION [follow up from January]

Here are some images from the web.

I am in discussion with T.K.Davis (Nashville/UT Knoxville) about a Writers Cabin competition: building small retreats will be an immediate way of attracting to YB some creative people.

To expand a little.

1. Specifications
Imagine a single room, 8x10' with built in desk. Could be some reference to Michael Pollan, Heidegger's hut, other famous writing places (see January blog).Must be able to be built off site, and set onto blocks on site. Ideally I would like to specify some heating and cooling standard, such as solar fan, so well insulated it hardly needs heating, and solar powered lighting/electricity. But I do not want to totally stifle other forms of creativity. We do need to say something about what we are looking for. Originality, playfulness, eco-friendly, pleasure-to-work-in. I am interested in conceptual integrity/style/innovation etc. But trumping all such considerations these must be places/spaces that can themselves inspire focus and creativity in those using them - writers, songwriters, academics - an interesting challenge for a designer. Total insulation is great, but not in itself inspiring. And there are some fascinating looking spaces that would be very distracting to work in. Option to visit YB and check out possible sites.

TK says that UT Knoxville's architecture department has an inside 'construction platform' on which such a cabin could be built. This reinforces a certain intensification of the challenge being posed here: Given these parameters [8' x 10', plus x,y,z...] what is your IDEAL writing space? Constraints function like sonnet form in poetry - opening up creative freedom.

2. Stages/dates
I would LIKE to start now - give people the summer to make something. We need first to solicit some reasonably detailed designs (incl. materials budget) so we could select half a dozen (!!!) and give the budget to go ahead and actually build. (What budget would be reasonable?) I am hoping the terms of the competition could involve YB keeping the end products, while offering the builders/designers some numbers of free weeks accommodation in their own (or other people's) cabins over the coming years, and website exhibition. Installation sometime in the Fall. There could be various categories of winner: most green, most creative, cheapest!. All would be featured with pics etc on the website, offering a showcase/virtual gallery for the final product, ideally one which one could walk around.

3. Entrants/Publicity
In principle anyone could enter- architecture/design students, architects (& green builders) in Nashville/Knoxville and elsewhere - but practically they would need to be within reasonable trucking distance (on a standard 6x12’ trailer). Could publicity be done via email lists?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interdependence Crunch Time

Chris left Tuesday, and (as a goodbye gift?), Berzerker presented us with a decapitated finch on the back doormat. What is the proper response to such a gift? I left it there until this morning when I shook the whole mat, feathers, corpse and all into nearby bushes, hoping I had measured gratitude appropriately. The mat was clean again. One hour later, in the same place, there is a chipmunk, seemingly sleeping. What to do? Can Berzerker and I ever really communicate? I like the IDEA of gifts, but ... And what is the sub-text? Is he complaining about the cat biscuits (not REAL food - THIS is real food!!). Or is he saying, "I don't actually NEED yr cat biscuits - don't insult me - look what I can find on my own!". Or, "Hey - just something I caught on the fly." Or "See. I'm keeping the place vermin-free, as per contract." So how long do I leave the chipmunk on the mat? If I leave it there, might it suggest I haven't seen/appreciated it? If I remove it, where to put it? In the bin, in far away bushes? Should Berzerker be able to work out what happened to it? If I move it too quickly, will B feel the need to replace it ASAP. What would each of these options mean to him? Help.


Update. Tamias Striatus was being visited by flies. This trumps all consideration of cat/man etiquette. I threw it far into the woods. In the course of doing this a whole new and deeply disconcerting dimension opened up. Mr. Chipmunk was already exhibiting rigor mortis. This suggests that he had not been killed immediately before being placed on the mat, but sometime before, and the BODY HAD BEEN MOVED. Could Mr. B have been waiting for me to move the finch before replacing it with the chipmunk. Could he have a store of such carcasses lined up under the porch? "Your move Woody!" What game is he playing? Help!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Declaration of Interdependence

"Eleven score and eleven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that, in their elevation above Nature, and their struggle to master it, all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that proposition, or any such project, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a monument to those creatures who here and across the globe have been sacrificed to this tragic cause.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow-this ground. Countless speechless creatures, indeed species beyond number, whose like we will not see again, have consecrated it with their blood, far above our poor power to add or detract. The earth will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it must never forget the tragedy and the suffering to which we here bear witness. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to healing the harm that our predecessors, with the best will in the world, so confidently advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their lives - that we here highly resolve that these living beings, human and non-human, shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under Gaia, shall have a new, more embracing, more generous birth of freedom, and that the earth shall not perish by a myopic government of the human, by the human, for the human." [DCW/2008]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Aeolian art

I am dreaming of:

1. An acoustic version of a Chris Drury cloud chamber. I found a Canadian guy, Greg Joly ( who makes harmonic sanctuaries - similar idea. It could actually overlay the camera obscura effect with integrated sound resonance. Could this be done without electronics by passing the light through water/oil that was being vibrated with sound? Extracts from Joly's wind harp CD @

2. An acoustic dimension (with drilled holes) to my solar spiral sculpture piece, a cross between Spiral Jetty and Lightning Field, being planned for New Mexico. The drilled tubes would 'echo' Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels!

For an example of these sounds, check out

There is a new sculpture based on these principles near Burnley in UK : Burnley's Panopticon, Singing Ringing Tree, in a stunning windswept location on Crown Point, designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu

And I have discovered a wonderful wind artist in Holland, Robert Valkenburgh, one of whose works is imaged above. "The instrument ... has twelve bamboo organ pipes, 3mtr. long, with altogether 127 sound holes, positioned in a spiral around the tubes, so that no matter the direction of the wind, there are always a few notes to be heard." His website is

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Walking in the other man's shoes

I do not need to grow my own food to eat well. But if you try, you learn something. (And you can eat better!) After hours struggling with clay dirt, and intermittent heavy rain, trying to hold back weeds in favor of the squash, melon, corn, and tomatoes that we favor, snatching lunch and keeping working, so much becomes a whole lot clearer. I find myself sympathizing more than ever with the poor whites photographed during the dust bowl, and depression - gaunt, tired, anxious, and unkempt, often standing outside their wooden shacks, like like Steinbeck's Tom Joad whose family (in Grapes of Wrath) had to leave their farm and travel across country to find work. I made a whole series of choices - how deep to plant, whether or not to wait until the soil was drier etc etc. If I was wrong, I would have wasted some time, but I would not starve. But imagine depending on your crops actually succeeding. There is something to Hegel's sense that the slave has something over the master, perhaps an unmediated relation to nature. But if I were working for someone else, revolution would only be held at bay by fatigue. As things stand, while my capacity to walk a little bit in the other guy's shoes has been enhanced, I know I am cheating the real. But I am getting a REAL work-out, up and down, lifting, hauling, digging etc. so unlike the meaningless muscle exercises in the gym. And I am seeding the chance of some incredible, rare, not-in-the stores heritage vegetables for later in the summer. But WHO am I when I make this garden? I thought of Tom Joad, but only when the dirt was getting under my nails. Mostly I thought of my mother and her plant stand, and above all her father, Frank, who was a market gardener, and who grew the best tomatoes. Interestingly however, he was not a romantic. He grew Moneymaker because they were a reliable cropper. Whereas I am growing yellow, beefsteak, Kellog's Breakfast, and many many more varieties I have never heard of. For the taste and the look.

Google Earth meets Yellow Bird


From Barn to Gallery: Stage One

I just ruined the day for 13 goats, by evicting them from the barn they have come to call home. A 16' section of heavy duty stock fence now seals off their entrance. I tried to explain to Buddy what was happening, and he accompanied me to the bull pen behind the barn, and the old chicken coop which I opened up. I only hope he got the message, and can guide the goats into their new 'suggested' quarters. Next step - evict the pigeons. Dung, guano - it all has to go in the name of art!

But then I had two disturbing thoughts:

(1) That I am turning back art history in a big way. Surely dung is IN!! Look at this: "Painter Chris Ofili won England's 20,000-pound Turner Prize in 1998 for some paintings spruced up with elephant dung from the London Zoo. [...]Other folks aren't taking Ofili-style art so well either. In December 1998, Reuters reported that Ray Hutchins, a "professional illustrator, has shown the British art world what he thinks of the dried elephant dung-wielding painter who won Britain's top art prize," the aforementioned Turner Prize captured by Ofili. How did he show the world? The 66-year-old man dumped a wheelbarrow full of bovine scat on the steps of London's Tate Gallery, where Ofili was then displaying his award-winning "art." "

(2) Only yesterday I was sketching a five year plan for YB, in which each year would be dedicated to one sense. Smell will need some serious thought. Flowers, yes. And then I was thinking - goats! But now I seem to be into smell reduction!! Am I just a hypocrite? No the goat smell will be there, just in a different place.

Green Light Church

There are various ways forward in registering as a Non Profit Organization. It turns out that becoming a church is the least complicated path, if one could swallow it! The IRS is apparently pretty reluctant to question what kind of religion you profess, and it seems worshipping nature is just fine. I guess this springs from the First Amendment respecting Freedom of Religion. Trouble is it would really put off some of my friends, and, I expect, some potential donors. Nonetheless I did discover that one favorite name - the Green Light Church - is available as a .org website, which is (to me at least) astonishing. Green light has three crazily overlapping senses: (1) An eco church (cf. green fingers); (2) Aldo Leopold's reference to the green fire fading in the eyes of an old wolf he had just shot; (3) The green light in the sense of "the church that likes to say YES". But I think we would have to have regular worship sessions. Would collective gardening count?