This short video encapsulates some of the things we are expressing in our 24 hour logs of mobile phone data. Many of the reflections are about how our phones impact us and those around us, specifically our interpersonal relationships. This video has over 40 million views thus far, which shows just how much it struck a nerve with people.

Hi all,

So I saw this story in The New York Times the other day that intrigued me and I have been meaning to post about it for a few days now. Forgive the delay. 

An artist group called “Fallen Fruit” recently built what is apparently the first “public fruit park” in all of California.  It’s basically exactly what it sounds like: a park full of fruit that the surrounding community can access and eat from. 



Photo Source: New York Times

The part of the story and project that I found most interesting is that the while the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Fallen Fruit began the project, there “is an understanding that the community will be involved in the upkeep.” Because of this, a local county official notes, “it may not work” in the long run. 

I want to follow this story in the long run, because I am curious if the members of the community will actually follow through with said upkeep…or let it die. The park has been constructed in order to build a stronger sense of community in the area (and to get people eating healthier) so it would depressing (and gross) if the park were left to literally rot. To keep it alive would presumably involve a large amount of community members to keep it going, not just the few interested parties mentioned in the article, so the optimist in me wants to believe will come together and pull through. I don’t know what the urban agriculture scene is like in L.A. overall, but I’ve seen various community gardens (Fallen Fruit says they’re trying to go beyond just the idead of “community gardening, btw) in New York since I’ve lived here. As someone who has gotten a little sick of the drudgery of the city recently, I think they are get thing to encounter, though I’ve never actually been a part of one. I can’t say I have a green thumb, but maybe it’s time to get one. 

As Ateqah and Hugo’s “At the Table” project exemplified, food can be an unexpectedly great unifier and conversation starter, so I wish this project the best of luck. 

P.S.: Anyone take place in any community gardening/urban agriculture anywhere in NYC or taken place in one elsewhere??? Curious to hear about any experiences, good or bad… 


Wow what an amazing class that was with Wafaa Bilal! Like Nathanael I took extensive notes throughout his talk and our discussion at the end, and going over these again this past week it was easy for me to identify several main ideas/comments that had the strongest impact on me. What’s interesting is that not all of these were major points within his presentation, or even ‘points’ at all: some were simply small passing observations that I felt gave me very intimate (and thus unique and powerful) insights into his work.

I wanted to explore this further, to look at the relationship between these takeaways and the genre of interventionist performance art as a whole. In other words, to see how his commentary could be applied to another work. During his talk several other artists and their performance pieces came to mind, but one in particular: Marina Abramovic and her works The Artist is Present (March-May 2010) and her Rhythm series (1974).

Marina Abramovic is a conceptual-performance artist who has been making art since the early 1970s, just as the genre of performance art itself began to really take off. In March – May 2010 MOMA held a major retrospective of her work, the biggest performance-exhibition MOMA has ever seen. The retrospective included detailed documentation and re-enactment of a collection of her past works from the past four decades. Yet the main attraction was a new piece by the honored artist herself. Named accordingly, The Artist is Present, the work was a performance in which Abramovic sat motionless in the museum atrium for the entire duration of the show (a total of more than 700 hours). Opposite her was an empty chair in which visitors were invited to sit and return her silent gaze.

Wafaa Bilal made a point of distinguishing between performance art that is interactive and performance art that is dynamic, and emphasized the importance of the artist-performer’s own body (particularly its movement) to achieve both of these states within the spectator-participants.  As he phrased, “the body in motion triggers something in the viewer… body language tends to activate the audience’s body.” Both Bilal and Abramovic seek to push the limitations of their body, often to the point of suffering, on multiple levels. Bilal revealed that Domestic Tension (2007) “emerged from a need within to break myself physically and emotionally.” Abramovic’s 1974 piece Rhythm 0 – the last in a series of Rhythm works – also involved surrendering all power to her audience. In place of a loaded paint-ball gun, Abramovic’s audience had a selection of 72 objects with which to induce either pleasure or pain within the artist. These included a feather, a flower, honey, scissors, a scalpel, a whip and a gun and a single bullet. The time frame was significantly smaller (6 hours as opposed to 31 days), yet the potential for serious damage was much higher. In addition, Bilal’s attackers could hide behind the detachment and anonymity of the system, whereas Abramovic’s aggression was immediate and first-hand. She described “I felt really violated: they cut up my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away.”

Both of these works are clearly examples of what Bilal termed “Dynamic Encounters”: platforms with which all end states are unknown the narrative is kept open. Abramovic’s The Artist is Present is another – considerably less violent yet equally intense – instance of a “dynamic encounter” between the bodies of the performer and the audience. Here there were no invitations for torture, no props (except for the table and pair of chairs), and no “active” performance. In fact the piece was defined by her lack of movement, so that all that really existed was the direction and concentration of her gaze. The audience members typically mirrored her stillness, yet they were in no sense unmoved. Many that participated were moved to tears: one artist collated a whole blog of such portraits as they sat openly crying opposite Abramovic. Thus instead of a “body in motion”, she embodied an absence of motion, which with its peculiar gentle ferocity, may have been more powerful than handing them a weapon.

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It is here that I will remind you of the question that I posed to Bilal at the end of his presentation, requesting him to expand upon his experience of this balance between control and submission between the artist and the audience throughout the duration of his performances. He replied by saying that it was necessary to release control during a piece for it to have an open narrative, and thus exhibit dynamic encounters. However what I find interesting is not when both these artists chose to let go of their power, but when it was forced upon them, and the implications of these two instances. For Bilal in Domestic Tension this occurred the day that the system broke down from overdrive and he was without gun-fire for a considerable time. Whilst it may have appeared that this was his first encounter with any ‘power’, as he was no longer a victim/target, it actually represented a moment where the platform which he had set up (controlled), and in which he had chosen to be passive, now no longer existed. So the question was in what alternative system was his body to inhabit now? He described feeling a sense of loss for the firing of the gun, which in turn invoked deeper personal losses, as he said “The gun was my company in the space, as soon as it was silent there was no need to think about my safety so I put down my guard and emotion came flooding in.” (This was really moving to hear for me.) Each gun shot for Bilal can be likened to each stranger opposite Abramovic. Whilst they may be somewhat ‘passive’ in their respective performance, and the narratives somewhat ‘open’, both their presence and unfamiliar identities are constants. So for Abramovic her true loss of control came when the person who sat down in front of her was someone she knew, and for that matter, very, very well. On the last night of the show her former lover-collaborator of fourteen years, a man who goes by the name of Olay, was the one returning her gaze. For the first time it was she that broke down in tears (however momentarily). The footage is extremely moving, the link is below.


The last aspect I wanted to touch upon briefly is the connection I see between Abramovic’s The Artist is Presence and Bilal’s Third I Project. In Third I Project, the importance of subject and capture device is inverted: the system, (not the image) is the work. It is the fact that a camera is surgically inserted into his skull, and is programmed to take photos every minute for a year, each one uploaded instantaneously to the Internet. The images, however interesting and often unexpectedly beautiful, are somewhat inconsequential. I believe Bilal’s ‘third I’ can be aligned with Abramovic’s presence in her work, as the title itself too suggests. The artist’s situation (within the gallery, with an open invitation to audience members to sit and share her space for as long as they wish), is the work’s system. What she looks like, what the table and chairs are like, who the participants are, and how they react, are all part of the work, but of less significance. With Third I Project Bilal also talks about the convergence of surveillance and sousveliance: the notion of “returning the gaze”. This is certainly a large component of Abramovic’s work, both literally and metaphorically. In performance art there is often a disconnect between performer and audience, and the gaze is primarily uni-directional (audience onto performer). However in The Artist is Present, Abramovic’s performance is precisely what Bilal termed “returning the gaze”. However Abramovic is also aware that in this exchange of gazes, the hierarchy of artist over audience collapses: they are both objects of each other’s gaze. In this way, Abramovic is as Bilal described himself: “also a victim of surveillance, because you can’t control it.” We are all simultaneously surveyors and victims of surveillance.

Here’s the link to the video of Ulay and Abramovic and the blog of tearful audience members, both incredibly moving.

PS. Lady Gaga went.

Expectation for final crit

Radhika Subramaniam – Curator of the Shelia Johnson Center coming as a critical reviewer

write the final like a grant proposal
what has been done, what you have studied and considered, what your intervention is

(SAMPLE GRANT PROPOSAL STRUCTURE – something from my notes in another class, you’re welcome!)
Introduction, Background, Summary, Need, Mission – show that you understand the problem, the context and that your project is valuable and needed
Treatment (for media content projects) – a compelling visual or chronological description of the finished project
Personnel, Board of Advisors, Partnerships, Organizational Structure or Affiliations – show that you’ll have the crew, team, advice or support you’ll need to complete the project
Process, Timeline, Benchmarks – show that you’ve thought about how you’ll complete the project
Audience, Stakeholders, Outreach, Distribution – show that you know your potential audience and have a plan to reach them
Budget – show that your project is realistic and that you have the knowledge and skills to make it happen
(Obviously you should adapt this for your project)

Sample finals from the Civic Media Class in Zotero: here

six groups for crits, will group thematically

10 minutes to present, a few minutes for Q/A

Caroline Woolard

Game to find who has what abilities, who needs what

The process is the message

— will post the PDF if people want it

Bartering is something that I often forget to consider and it was interesting to read an article dedicated to thinking about ideas behind bartering and gifting.  I liked that Humphrey and Hugh-Jones brought up the point that bartering is often seen in a negative light (p.3) but there is a lot more to consider behind the ideas of currency, bartering, and gifting .  I also found the mention of Marx’s analysis of capitalism to be interesting, where he saw objects being alienated and the aim becoming accumulation in ‘commodity transaction’.  They disagree with this point and I think I probably fall somewhere in the middle.

The typical thrift stores and flea markets came to mind when I was thinking of examples of a barter-style system.  I also thought of suburban neighborhoods where one neighbor borrows a spade or a “cup of sugar” with the expectation that they will work to support each other without taking advantage of their relationship (especially since they see each other so often).  I also thought about the ways in which technology has changed some possibilities for bartering.  Craigslist makes it easier to share information with strangers to exchange goods.  These are interactions that can occur once and then never happen again and without much of a policing presence some people have taken advantage of the system.   A small town outside of Chapel Hill, NC established its own currency, which is based off of the dollar.  It is not exactly barter, but it emphasizes interactions in the local community and creates a network in which to share information.  It also establishes a stage for credit as you use the plenty as a type of bartering money for local businesses and services.  This system often later enables actual bartering and has in fact.  For example, watching someone’s goats for a week led to use of their beach house in the summer for a week.

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I think I first learned about bartering as a form of sustainable economy when I was watching Youtube videos of New School professor Rick Wolff speaking during Occupy Wall Street. He mentioned going in to a coffee shop and get coffee beans buy exchanging them with a bread one has made. A that time it was very idealistic to me, because it seems to me the effort that is put into making the bread is not efficient enough in getting a small merchandise such as coffee. But at that time I didn’t realize the cultural exchange and many other forms of communication that could be made possible by non-monetary exchange.

In the Caroline Humphrey essay it pointed out that the beneficial feature of such exchange is that the buyer and the seller and becomes equal. Both sides can choose of enter, value the deal, and leave freely. There is also no criterion on the outside, referencing to the fall and rise of the market.

I am reminded of a overwhelming orange harvest in Taiwan a few years ago. The news reported that due to the mass amount of oranges, the price of the orange got extremely low. Many farmers couldn’t even get profit from the harvest. It seems of ironic to me that a good harvest became a tragedy. As a consumer I am willing to pay the regular price if the quality stays the same, and my decision shouldn’t be affected by the mass market. In cases like this, consumers loss their power to exchange as a buyer.

To me, the participatory element of bartering releases consumers from the ideology of subjective values. It also allows the distinction of different culture values be revealed, as the Humphrey essay has suggested “socio-economic relations between groups are actually essential to the reproduction of cultures.”

Will Trade My Brain for Info is a website also encouraging free education by the exchange of ideas. The design is to connect people teach each other skills through emails or other online platforms. However free sites like this began to pop up, I also see a large amount of participants just wanting to obtain good from others and not willing to give back. Its does not only apply to the lack of monitoring responsibility over the internet. Last year, in a Brooklyn farm share I joined, often participants did not show up to volunteer in exchange of the cheap vegetables they received. I began to wonder what applications or interventions will be needed for building a culture where it is not only important “to receive” but to “provide”.

A description from Wikipedia on misunderstanding of bartering between the Indians and Europeans:

Relationship between Europeans and Indians

It was often hard for Europeans to understand the Native American customs of trading. On encountering a native tribe, the Europeans would often be offered fur, food or other items as gifts. The Europeans would then feel no obligation to assist the natives against their enemies, which was the purpose of the gift-giving, from the native perspective. The Europeans never did catch on and were frequently viewed by the natives as welchers on the implied pledge of alliance they’d entered into by accepting the gifts. After observing that Europeans were just as eager to trade with their enemies as themselves, the natives did eventually get the picture.

Hi all,

Caroline Woolard will be with us today, and we had discussed some alternative reading materials –  I’m not sure if these ever got sent out! 

She suggested that we could check out the following – feel free to skim if you’re interested! (They’re very short – if you haven’t had a chance to do the Humphrey reading, this might help.

See you in class!

Ok I realize our class on “Rethinking Participation and Community” was a few weeks ago, but having thoroughly enjoyed Miwon Kwon’s article, I’ve been doing a little additional reading in the genre of site-specific art, particularly how it’s evolving. So I thought I’d finally share my findings with you.


It seems that since it’s popularization in the 1970’s the genre of site-specific art has been highly problematized by artists and critics. Underlying this approach is a contemporary notion of ‘site’ as unfixed, transient and active. Starting with Miwon Kwon, I looked at several other theorists in this field; mostly Nick Kaye (informed by Michel de Certeau) and James Meyer. Each of these critics takes a different approach to the new profile of site-specific art, but all are based on the changing nature of the ‘site’ itself. Nick Kaye defines site as performative as much as sculptural, James Myer labels it as ‘functional’ rather than ‘literal’ (operating as a dialogue between a network of places rather than a singular reality privileged by the artist), and Miwon Kwon articulates its dematerialising tendencies and consequently the displacement of it’s former ‘presence.’

Two works I came across that demonstrate this overall destabilization of the site are Nights in this City (1995) and Secret (1994). Nights in this City is a theatrical bus ride by collaborative group Forced Entertainment. Secret is a performance piece by Renee Green, in which the artist lives in a tent within an exhibition space for the duration of the show.

Site as Performance, Nick Kaye & Michel de Certeau

For Nick Kaye, present site-specific works are defined by the basic elements of performance: movement, the body and transience. Kaye aligns his notion of the performative site with de Certeau’s conceptualisation of space. De Certeau distinguishes between the terms of place and space, proposing that space is “practised place.” De Certeau clarifies that “spatial practices do not reproduce fragments of a given order but operate as ordering activities, whether that activity be walking, reading, listening or viewing.” A cultural form of “spatial practice,” site-specific art shares this fundamental sense of mobility. Kwon confirms that the advanced site-specific artwork “no longer seeks to be a noun/object but a verb/process.” Nights in this City and Secret possess varying forms of movement. In Nights in this City the viewer is taken on a bus ride around the Northern England city of Sheffield. On the bus, several tour guides provide an increasingly unintelligible account of the places visited along the way. As the bus follows the roads, the passengers follow the words, whether in the act of speaking or listening. In this way, Forced Entertainment generates a double movement through travel and language. Whilst Renee Green’s Secret is not overtly in motion, the tent signifies a lack of fixation, alluding to the itinerant lifestyle of site-specific artists.

More importantly, all movement in these works originates in the body. As a performative intervention, Nights in this City incorporates not only the movement of the artists but that of the audience into the work. In line with De Certeau, as viewers and listeners, they are as much ‘performers’ of space as the group leading the tour. In contrast, Renee Green’s work is about her own singular body, however her experience represents many of today’s artists as a whole affected by the mobilisation of the site, which is simultaneously liberating and estranging. Secret is described by Kwon as a documentation of “the artist’s peripatetic existence in a globalized art ambience.”

The third trait in Kaye’s performative model of site specificity, implied in both movement and the body, is transience. Site-specific becomes somewhat situation-specific, as can be seen in Nights in this City and Secret, which are both willfully transitory, whether measured by hours or days, respectively. Kwon writes, “the guarantee of a specific relation between an artwork and its ‘site’ is not based on a physical permanence of that relationship…but rather on the recognition of its unfixed impermanence, to be experienced as an unrepeatable and fleeting situation.” Ironically, this transitory condition of site specificity has become a constant.

Site as ‘Functional’, James Meyer

James Meyer coins the term ‘functional’ to define the new conception of site. Thus instead of performance, he identifies discourse as the central attribute of contemporary site-specific art: textualized operations occuring in multiple locations. Nights in this City and Secret both embrace the multiplicity of the ‘functional’ site.  A sightseeing tour by its very nature is a network of numerous destinations, facts and stories. Meyer describes, “The ‘work’ was thus not a single entity, the installation of an individual artist in a given place. It was on the contrary a function occurring between these locations and points of view, a series of expositions of information and place.” Superficially, Renee Green’s Secret is “a single entity, the installation of an individual artist in a given place.” Instead of exploring an area, physically or theoretically, she remains within the same tent for the whole duration of the exhibition. However she is still devoid of a unique locality as this act metaphorically embodies her nomadic condition across contingent sites and projects. Side-by-side, two these works have a fascinating (reciprocal) relationship with this new (inter)textual site: Nights in this City textualizes space whilst Secret spatializes discourse.

Site as Absence, Miwon Kwon

Finally, Miwon Kwon considers the implications of a practice coordinated by an unanchored, dematerialised (and sometimes even fictionalised) site. She traces site specificity’s expansion beyond art, re-classifying it as a “problem, idea, as a peculiar cipher of art and special politics.” However with the displacement of site’s former “presence” comes the threat of a sense of absence, which Kwon attributes the spatial indifference of today’s globalized world. Due to the constant movement and dispersal of site-specific art, the ‘site’ seems to always be left behind: either as an ‘in-between’ or an ‘elsewhere’. Meyer describes this desertion from the site as a “place marked and swiftly abandoned.” Both Meyer and Kwon fear this abandonment may become absolute, foreseeing the site as a “ruin”.

Kwon also refers to site as a “non-place,” a term originally penned by the anthropologist Marc Auge. Kwon notes that the majority of progressive site-specific artworks have adopted site strategies that work against aesthetics and tangibility. She describes them as “aggressively anti-visual… or immaterial altogether.” Nights in this City and Secret both necessitate certain materialities (the bus, the city, the tent, and the exhibition space), yet as performance-gesture-events, they are more significantly framed by temporality than matter.


In all of these writings and works there exists a mutual and perpetual oscillation between the site’s authority and dissolution. In Augé’s terms, site-specificity is located between the polarities of place and non-place, in which neither erasure nor completion is ever totally realised. This condition extends to the site-specific artist, whose experience is simultaneously nomadic and pivotal. As Kwon writes, there exists a “tension between the intensive mobilization of the artist and the recentralization of meaning around him or her.” Thus the distinguishing characteristic of contemporary site-specific practices may not be the performance, discourse, or absence of site but its internal paradox.