By Scott Kildall

Self-guided Khlong Tour

When you get to a new place, get lost. Wander in space, wander in time. I adhere to the words of Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost and often find myself in the moment in a new city.

I finally had some free time at the American Arts Incubator program and set out the other day to the Thonburi district to see one of the temples. Here, I would have been amongst tourists snapping digital photos. Instead, I got distracted myself on a self-guided Khlong Tour.

The khlongs are the canals in Bangkok, a city which used to be called the Venice of the East. Centuries ago, they were used for transportation, irrigation and flood relief. But, this was before concrete and pavement redefined the city.

Floods are now a huge problem as the rainwater has little place to go except into storm drains which quickly overflow. The stormwater drains often ends up into the khlongs.

The khlongs do have mechanisms to contain the water, which appear to be mini-dams that can be raised to open into the Chao Phraya. This stormwater, which is not clean water at all then flows out to the sea.

The khlongs are mostly stagnant and filled with garbage. Of course, they could be beautiful waterways and a source of community pride. Garbage cleanup would help, but ultimately a better drainage system would be needed.

Water needs to flow to be healthy. I’m not at all trained in civil engineering projects, but this seems pretty basic. We control the water and confine it and its health suffers.

Strangely, there is still a lot of fish in these mucky waters, which I believe is mostly catfish. And where there is edible fish, people will try to catch them, despite the health risks.

I saw many little things. Here are “soi dogs” (not those kinds!), but since Soi is the Thai word for street, these are street dogs or strays. They are skinny, though not malnourished. Mostly, they seem to want love. Don’t we all?

  The narrow khlongs had small bridges to various houses. They were just…there, a neglected feature of this urban space. No tourists were in sight.

  

What was most certainly a lost cat sign.

And a hole in a corrugated steel fence with an offering in it.

Street art, like in every city.

Why would a tourist come here when the temple was prettier? Still, I made the right choice. I noticed more in my walk than I would have in a temple. At tourist sites, you are supposed to look at certain things but when you wander through the landscape, your gaze is free.

Very hot, very cold

I arrived in Bangkok a couple days ago. Here, you cannot escape the physical effects of the place. It is humid and muggy outside and then you go inside, you get blasted by the air conditioning. Your sweat soon dries and you become very cold.

This is the dialogue I quickly experienced: manmade vs nature. Traffic is omnipresent and there are AC-cooled shopping malls everywhere. However, nature looms large with adverse weather, flooding and the Chao Phraya river itself.

On my first day, as I wandered, I also wondered. How many people actually have a relationship with the river that runs through Bangkok? How often do they think about the lifeblood of the river, which provides drinking water, transportation and, in the past, food?

The next morning, we visited visited the Huay Kwang community. This group of people have lived on the banks of the Chao Phraya for many decades and are low-income, often forgotten by the business and shopping districts. When it rains, the sewer infrastructure backs up and floods the river. Like many cities, the pavement and cement prevents water from flowing naturally into the ground.

This community is one of the most affected and they are currently developing a master plan to relocate their homes to higher shores. It isn’t easy. After all, no one wants to lose their home. The master plan also details widening the canal, dredging it and establishing a transportation lane for tourism and commerce.

I listened to the community leaders and their hopes for the workshop. I made several points, but one of the most important ones was to set expectations for what I can really do here. I’m only here for a month. So let’s think about sustainable projects and how we can make public art with water data.

And I also met my assistant, Ekarat, who is super-helpful and will be assisting me throughout the project. Without him, I can’t imagine how to make this project a success.

Yesterday, we spent an entire day procuring items. The best find were these small containers, which are often used for hot sauces, which we will use for water samples on the Chao Phraya. And they were a bargain at 10 Baht each!

Equitybot goes to Vienna

EquityBot resumes its world tour (Utrecht, Vancouver, Bilbao, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Columbus) with a group show in Vienna.

MOOD SWINGS – On Mood Politics, Sentiment Data, Market Sentiments and Other Sentiment Agencies

Curated by Sabine Winkler

 

dates and times
Mar 31 to May 28, Tue to Sun 13-20:00

Press Tour: Wed, Mar 29, 10:00
Opening: Thu, Mar 30, 19:00

abstract
It is moods rather than facts that are determining perceptions, decisions and courses of action to an ever greater degree. Mood data, in turn is a sought-after subject for analysis; emotions are being quantified and simulated. The exhibition “Mood Swings – On mood politics, sentiment data, market sentiments and other sentiment agencies”, curated by Sabine Winkler, focuses on the significance and radius of sentiment in politics, business, technology, media and art.

Artists:
Antoine Catala (FRA)*, Xavier Cha (USA), Florian Göttke (GER/NLD), Femke Herregraven (NLD), Hertog Nadler (NLD/ISR)*, Micah Hesse (USA)*, Francis Hunger (GER), Scott Kildall (USA), Barbora Kleinhamplová (CZE), Tom Molloy (IRL), Barbara Musil (AUT), Bego M. Santiago (ESP)*, Ruben van de Ven (NLD)*, Christina Werner (AUT)
*Q21/MQ Artist-in-Residence

GPS Tracks

I am building water quality sensors which will capture geolocated data. This was my first test with this technology. This is part of my ongoing research at the Santa Fe Water Rights residency (March-April) and for the American Arts Incubator program in Thailand (May-June).

This GPS data-logging shield from Adafruit arrived yesterday and after a couple of hours of code-wrestling, I was able to capture the latitude and longitude to a CSV data file.

This is me walking from my studio at SFAI to the bedroom. The GPS signal at this range (100m) fluctuates greatly, but I like the odd compositional results. I did the plotting in OpenFrameworks, my tool-of-choice for displaying data that will be later transformed into sculptural results.

The second one is me driving in the car for a distance of about 2km. The tracks are much smoother. If you look closely, you can see where I stopped at the various traffic lights.

Now, GPS tracking alone isn’t super-compelling, and there are many mapping apps that will do this for you. But as soon as I can attach water sensor data to latitude/longitude, then it can transform into something much more interesting as the data will become multi-dimensional.

Views from 9000 feet

9000 feet in the air gives you entirely different perspective on the world. Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to fly in a single-engine Cessna with my old friend, Gary. His plane was from the 1970s and had similar instrumentation as my dad’s plane from the same era.

My father, coincidentally also named Gary, loved flying. When I was a kid, he took me up in his plane for countless hours. It’s been about 35 years since I’ve been in a small plane like this. It was comforting, loud, fun and magical.

Although I have no interest in being a pilot, I certainly appreciated the view. Moving slowly (130 mph) at 9000 feet, gives the opportunity to see the landscape at a slower pace and at such a low altitude, I saw dimensionality in the terrain unlike I’ve seen in a long time.

The folds of the hills, the washouts from snow melt and the various waterways fascinated me. The odd manmade structures and dirt access roads punctuated the depopulated desert terrain

I saw the acequias — community-owned irrigation canals for family farms, which delineated the parcels of land. As they say, water is life. There area has no agribusiness here, just family farms, often growing alfalfa on the side in addition to a day job.

I gazed at the results of the San Juana-Chama Project — which linked to the Abiquiu Dam that feeds the Colorado River through Rio Chama and into the Rio Grande so that Santa Fe and Albuquerque can have drinking and water.

The most fantastic sight was the Rio Grand Gorge near Taos. Here you can see how the Earth got split apart by tectonic forces. Rather than carving its own path, the Rio Grande trickles through the gorge because its the easiest way for the water to flow.

After a couple hours and a lunch stop, we landed back on the ground. I was again bound by gravity as I drove back to Santa Fe, along the highway that earlier that day I had seen from the sky.

Santa Fe River Walk

When you get to a new place, take a long walk. This is essential to ground yourself in that space. Rebecca Solnit writes about it; Guy Debord speaks of diverting the stream of capitalism with it; Richard Long incorporates it into his art practice.

Just after unpacking at a new art residency Water Rights at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I went on a walk up the Santa Fe River with two of my fellow residents, Christina Catanese and Megan Heeres.

Santa Fe is a new place with new people. Before jumping into studio practice, which can be a crutch for compulsive art-making, I wanted to engage with the physical environment. At the residency, the purpose will be to open the mind and the art practice.

We started at Frenchy’s Field and walked up the riverbed itself towards downtown.We walked, talked and observed.

At the head of the trail was a poem kiosk with laminated sheets of poetry and a little shelf full of rocks. The riverbed here was dry and sandy.

We began walking in the bed itself. Christina is a trained hydrologist and Megan knows much about plants.I know a little bit about geology after my Strewn Fields project.

At the start of the walk, we encountered a collection of heart-shaped rocks, obviously put here by humans. I love this organically-generated “land art”.

We wondered why these large rocks were stacked this way. Was it for humans? Or for the river? Christina later determined that it was to control the river flow, as future steps required tricky traversals.

Here I am with a backpack full of branches that I collected. Im specifically intrigued by the Salt Cedar, which is an invasive species that was brought to the area many years ago as a wind break for agriculture. Ooops, as is often the case, the introduction of a new species created more problems than it solved. The salt cedar is a water-sucker and consumes the areas most precious resource.

Here is the “rock penitentiary” maybe these rocks were bad and had to be put behind fencing.

And here is a rock that escaped. Fly away, be free!

Under a bridge, we found a rope swing. Wheeee!

As we traversed further, the salt cedar thinned out and we saw various grasses along the banks of the (dry) river.

And I found my own heart-shaped rock. A beautiful specimen, which looks like two geological samples that were grafted together.

We took a side path and disturbed two birds of prey who had been feasting on this treat.

Around the mid-point of the walk, we started seeing icy formations.

I love these alluring crystalline structures surrounding various stones.

And the ground was damp. We noticed various animal prints. What was this? I still do not know. The front foot matches the hind foot, which seems like an odd walking pattern.

Finally, we began to see actual water with this miniature waterfall.

As we approached downtown, there was more and more human-generated waste.

And one shoe? Who loses a single shoe?

At the end of the walk was a patch of rainbow in the sky.

Movies about Water

A few days ago, I asked on Facebook:

What’s your favorite movie about water? We’re doing a Monday movie night at the Water Rights residency and I’m taking suggestions. Narrative or documentary, but not exceedingly lengthy.

78 responses! Here is the list, in order of posting, which has less than 78 because there were duplicates:

Blue Planet
SlingShot
Chinatown
Milagro Bean Field War
Riding Giants
Step Into Liquid
Deliverance
One Water
Jaws
Dune
Waterworld
Force 10 from Navarone
Knife in the Water
The Abyss
Darwins Nightmare
Marvelous Resources
Dripping Water (Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow)
Into Blue
Sharknado
Even the Rain
Salween Spring (Travis Winn)
Glass-memory of Water (Leighton Pierce)
Old Man And The Sea.
Flow
Gasland
Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea
Water Warriors!
The Swimmer!
Peter Hutton (various films)
Erin Brockovich
Paddle to the Sea
H20 Film (Ralph Steiner)
Titanic
Splash
Point Break
Patagonia Rising
Step Into Liquid
Civil Action
Trouble the Water
Like Water for Chocolate
Guy Sherwin’s black and white film of his daughter watering shadows. Prelude – 1996, 12 mins
Moana
The Same River Twice
The Illustrated Man
Whale Rider
The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Big Blue
The Dry Summer
Joe Versus the Volcano
Watermark
Water & Power: A California Heist
The Finest Hours
The Woman in the Dunes
Total Recall (first one)
Tears
“Water Wrackets” by Peter Greenaway
“Watersmith” by Will Hindle
My Winnipeg

Music Box Village

Last week, I visited the Music Box Village in New Orleans. This is a true DIY space where artists, fabricators and more have built “houses” that make sounds/music/noise in various ways. Together, skilled musicians (which does not include me) can make an orchestra of cacophonous music.

John Cage would have loved this space. Any sort of noise even silence is music, as people witnessed with his 4’33” composition. I’ve always loved this idea, the very fact that the tension between performance and non-performance can be music. At this site, the structures become the instruments. Anyone can play them. They are rusty, brittle, gentle and beautiful at the same time.

I’ve gone to many, many DIY spaces. I’ve even helped build some of them, such as The Shipyard, which was a mass of shipping containers that I helped weld, wire and cut in 2001. But all of these felt self-serving, creating a community of those that we included and those, who were somehow excluded because they didn’t speak the proper cultural language of metal-working and whiskey-drinking.

The Music Box Village felt different. I watched some of the founders present the project at the INST-INT Conference the day before and they spoke about community engagement and pairing collaborators from different socioeconomic backgrounds, skills and ages to build the houses. Their approach was organic and they finally secured a more permanent home which has metalworking facilities.

I can’t help but be inundated with the banality of architecture. Houses pretty much look alike, entirely functional and rectilinear. Our commerce spaces are branded box stores adorning cities and suburbs. As humans, we are molded by our physical environment. Our eyes conform to corners. Our minds become less imaginative as a result.

One of my favorite artists who works with architectures is Krzysztof Wodiczko who worked for many decades projecting iconography onto buildings in order to subvert the function of the building, the war memorial and the political body.

He writes: “Dominant culture in all its forms and aesthetic practices remains in gross contradiction to the lived experience, communicative needs and rights of most of society, whose labour is its sole base”

We have so much more to offer in terms of human imagination and creativity than the buildings that surround us and are institutions of capital. I left my tour of the Music Box Village feeling rejuvenated. Then I promptly went to airport to catch I flight back home, engaging with the odd transitional space where air travel happens.

 

 

 

 

 

Orientation Week at American Arts Incubator

The first week in 2017 was orientation week for the American Arts Incubator program. I met the four other artists and soon associated their names with the respective exchange countries: Elaine Cheung (Russia), Michael Kuetemeyer (Cambodia), Nathan Ober (Colombia), and Balam Soto (Guatemala)

My exchange country will be Thailand, where I’ll be staying in the multilayered metropolis of Bangkok for 28 days in May/June timeframe

Thailand sounds exciting and of course it is. However, I’m approaching this not as a tourist, but rather as an arts ambassador. The issue that I’ll be addressing in my exchange is environmental health and specifically water pollution in the Chao Phraya River. This is especially relevant to Thailand, which has underground rapid industrialization in the last couple of decades with environmental regulations lagging behind.

In Bangkok, I will engage in a dialogue of community data-collection and mapping though DIY science with a focus on water pollution, resulting in data-visualization installations and sculptures.

My time will be split about 80/20 on leading public workshops and creating my own artwork.

This ties into my current area of focus: creating physical data-visualizations such as the sculptures of the water infrastructure of San Francisco as well as relates to my longstanding history of working in art and education at institutions such as the Exploratorium.

I learned many things this week, including, but not limited to: better patience for long meetings, organizational models for workshop engagement, the Drupal blogging platform, art-budgeting in a foreign country and organizational techniques.

But most of all, I learned that I have an amazing organization, ZERO1, that will be supporting my work there as well as a cohort of four other artists I can learn from. Trust.

For more information and updates, please join the American Arts Incubator Facebook page.

Three (fiction) books about autism

I’m fascinated by fiction books about high-functioning autism, despite the fact that I have no significant relationships to people with the condition.

speed-of-dark
Each of the three books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rosie Effect and The Speed of Dark tell narratives from the 1st-person point-of-view of someone who is high-functioning autistic (Asperger’s syndrome in at least 2 of the books) and fits in and out of society. They are all beautiful, wonderful stories, which portray characters who are loving, kind and at times confused.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReading is a solitary act, reflecting in this case, the life of the characters, who inhabit their own world. Each novel lulls me into an interior space of imagination, and because there is a spectrum of behavior. I wonder where in the gray area do each of us stand?

And it’s while reading these books, I want to change my perception of the world to be more of that of an autistic mind with an amazing ability to focus and pattern-match, taking the world as a series of literals and interpreting things as-they-are-said rather then as-they-are-implied.

These three books are all great. I’d recommend reading each them.