December 6, 2007

Rumball Ball and more...

December 9 is the beginning of Rumball Season!

What is Rumball? Visit the Mostlandian Wiki to learn more!

If you're in the mood, come visit us for
Sunday the 9th from 3-6 PM
Junior Ambassador Food Cart
on the grassy lot next to 4734 North Albina

Junior Ambassadors will be hosting a party with a Tea Project by Gary "the Referee" Wiseman.
Wear a shade of Brown or Bronze, a Bright thing, Bring a gift or food to Barter, Boogie, and most importantly...Bring it on!!!!
This outdoor event, regardless of the weather, will get going around 3 o'clock and last, oh you know, a couple hours. Tea, snacks, shelter and music will be provided.

Type the rest of your post here.


November 25, 2007

Sing the Museum Electric

Over Thanksgiving I visited the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. One of my favorite parts of the museum was an installation by David Altmejd. The show consisted of a large room with the walls covered mirrors, and 6 figurative statues whose surfaces were covered in mirror as well.


November 15, 2007

Poll Results

The Results are in from my blog-reading audience.

The MOST is trying to think of a list of people who might be good at teaching other artists about humor, or who might give us solid insights into what is funny. If you have ideas for other people, use the comments section of this blog to let me know.
Results after the jump!

Lone Twin - 7 votes
Amsterdam City Employee - 5 votes
4 Votes:
David Sidaris
Werner Herzog
John Cleese
Rudy's Jr. High friend
3 Votes:
Dr. Hoffenmittlerhymendorfenmutter
Nature Theater of Oklahoma
San Keller
Bob Obenkirk
2 Votes:
Andy Dickson
Geostationary Banana Over Texas
Royal Art Lodge
Michel Gondry
David Cross
Motivational Speaker
Carnival Barker
Steve Martin
1 Vote:
The Biggest Fags Ever
Wim Delvoye


Concretising Humor

The MOST has worked out a very loose framework for how participants in the Das Arts program will spend their time.

The information below is meant to give suggestions for the overall arc, daily and weekly content that the MOST would provide during the block with the intent that participants will take, amplify and modify the content to fit their needs and interests.

One of the M.O.S.T.'s strongest beliefs in the idea of mentoring the Humor in the Arts block is that humor – specifically, comedy – does not have to play a role in the day-to-day of the Block itself. By the nature of the name of the Block, the participants will know what they are expected to explore. We believe that the experiences presented within the course of the Block can encourage Humor in Art without necessarily being funny in their own right. We believe in the abilities of the participants to explore humor in their own art without being presented with ten weeks of stand-up routines, and that sometimes exploring completely humorless topics can open up new insights to really funny stuff.

Additionally, we believe that the visiting artists that we invite will play a large role in the creation how to explore the thematic presented, but also expect that we, as moderators, and the participants will be intimately involved in developing and modifying content for the block. We will consider the visiting artists as experts who bring with them their particular expertise and help shape the overall weekly themes/processes. A good example of the type of structure and spirit of working together is the format embraced by the American sketch program Saturday Night Live, where the host (i.e. visiting artist) is introduced to the participants at the beginning of the week. Over the course of 5 days, the visiting artist will be invited to help us explore themes such as humor, current events, personal histories, fears, etc. and to create some sort of project within the week. We will be suggesting this as a possible format to our visiting artists, although we intend to be flexible.

We envision that the beginning weeks of the block would be focused on activities that encourage everyone involved – the participants, the mentors, and the staff – to become very comfortable around each other, and to really learn the personalities of one another. In exploring the theme of humor, it is integral to be able to do it in an emotionally safe environment, and we would enable this by practicing group activities. Examples of such activities are:
• Making a seven-layer cake as a group
• Playing the card game Apples to Apples (where players have to guess each other's aesthetic tastes)
• Experimenting with something The MOST calls "Getting to Know You," which is a form of interpersonal show-and-tell. During this, participants would be invited to show and tell about current work, inspirations, fears, life stories, a photo, a story, a style, or a clip from a favorite movie etc.

These actions taken on their own may appear inconsequential but as a whole will form a common bond of camaraderie. We want to start by giving participants opportunities to try new things within the group that are less about struggling and more about opening up and sharing successes.

Starting with the first or second week, we will introduce the idea of "practices" where we would be setting up a context for working on these same activities throughout the duration of the term, even if they end up drastically morphing over time. Some possible examples of these are:
• Hosting a twice a week Mostlandian fancy dancing class, or other particularly difficult choreographed exercise
• Once a week band practice
• Walks along a specific path throughout downtown Amsterdam
• Afternoon writing hour (or half hour)
• Compilation of a reader of sorts with historical humor, images, projects, recipies, any research or writing we find or do
• Experimentation with improvisational acting
• Morning movement sections lead by us and participants
• Guided meditations
Having a regular weekly schedule of activities will reinforce the idea of togetherness as well as providing a repetitive structure that allows for surprising, absurd and possibly humorous deviations.

As humor is not created in a vacuum, we would foster an environment where the participants work in groups to create finished products. The middle portion of the ten weeks would focus on participants working in pairs or small groups over longer periods of time to create pieces with the intent of going deeper and wider with our initial explorations. Examples of ideas for this portion of the block include:
• Working to make costumes or uniforms
• Inviting a trained facilitator to guide us in developing consensus on a subject or action plan
• Interventions at or further exploration of places discovered during our walks.
During this time projects would be guided by us, the moderators, but not developed by us.

Additionally, we would like to propose that on two weekends (possibly the 3rd and 7th weekends) we try to accomplish some sort of activity that is grand in scale and completely out of the ordinary. We haven't yet established what this might be, but have talked about the creation of a large puppet, a weekend "retreat" for reflection, writing or work-shopping actions and explorations or other event.

The very end of the program would culminate in final displays of our weekly explorations and attempts, such as:
• A final attempt at the difficult choreographed work
• A "best of," or reenactments of events developed in conjunction with the visiting artists
During the final 2 weeks, we would like to develop a very specific, "psychic" closing of the program, in order to acknowledge the finality of the experience. We feel that this would be lead primarily by participants, but would involve developing events towards a conscious ending of the program. We would be working towards acknowledging what we accomplished, discussing the meaning of our time together, displaying our work, and reflecting on how to take it forward into our future work.


November 9, 2007

Sci Fi and Robert Smithson

Eric, another SP student in the program keeps proposing that we all need to have a Science Fiction Movie night together.

I keep forgetting to tell him that this reminds me of the Robert Smithson essay Entropy and the New Monuments where he talks about Science Fiction movies as perceptive while horror films are emotive. Maybe Eric can pick some of the movies from the list suggested by Smithson.

In the meantime, I recommend this article to anyone who has an interest in how geology, minimalism, science fiction and horror films are interrelated.


November 8, 2007

Benchmark MOST-alogue

Here is a little rundown of some thoughts we are tossing around regarding the prospect of a Mostlandian benchmark:

Katy wrote:
I am interested in making the equivalent of a mostlandian geological benchmark: would it attach to hot air balloons? Would spectrometer surveyors use them to cast lots, or vote on whether a place is Mostlandic? Would they float, be carried in the pocket? Do they create portals or mark portal occurrences?

This is really interesting to me from my previous craft days - primarily, my interest in how a sculptural object can serve a purpose in an active and meaningful way. For examples, my favorite coffee mug is an object that has meaning to me, but it also carries liquids.

the benchmark or _____mark could mark something temporary, or something weighty, or something permanent that's not permanent.

Is anyone following me here? I'm trying to say I'm not totally invested in putting it in the ground forever, but I am interested in making the marker, because it carries a sort of significance about place being important. And Geologists use them also to track moments in time - moments in rock where something fossilized, or moments in elevation, or movement of glaciers.

This could lead to discussions about how long a place stays mostlandian after a person isn't there. or how some mostlandics and/or surveyors might place these in different places throughout their days to see where they move to, or disappear to.

Here are some links to images about benchmarks: (707 different benchmarks were located and posted in this database in the last 7 days)

Khris Wrote:

I should first disclaim that I have not investigated your links.

I don't believe that a Mostlandian Geologic Marker should be designed to be placed in any permanent location, except for maybe ones that denote (the exceedingly rare) fixed, permanent portal. The only fixed, permanent portal that I can think of is Paperville, Ohio.

Regular benchmarks are points of reference for measurement, which is something that is physically impossible in Mostlandia due to the fluid nature of space and time. Therefore, what things in Mostlandia can be used as permanent reference? I would say that personal experience is a permanent reference, but then that neglects collective experience. Collective experience can reference events, I suppose. Events can be utilised as benchmarks for the passage of time: three moons ago, a month of Sundays, etc.

What are other permanent things in Mostlandia that can be measured against?
Could the marker be like a roll of the dice?
Could the marker be shaped like the eight or twelve sided die inside of a magic eight ball, with different responses on each of the different sides? "Results hazy, please try again"? Or "Mostlandia: somewhere to your left?"

Rudy wrote:

I read the link to the benchmark article/info that katy sent, i'd recommend reading it if you haven't. it makes the idea of using/making benchmarks, and benchmark "hunting", in mostlandia a very fun and applicable practice.
The first thing i noticed is how it can maintain the fluidity of Mostlandia's nature.
The appeal of making/placing benchmarks, or stamps, or portalmarks, is its documentation potential. The benchmarks can be invisible or missing or moving in the physical world but real in the record or database, where the story is told of how or where or what. And we, or participants in this knowledge/information, can add to it or subtract from it based on observations either with "hunting" or simply noticing something somewhere which may not have been noticed and would be helpful in the constant surveying Mostlandia. That's what i like about the article is that benchmarks are "official" business, but it invites anyone with a tape measure to participate. So I can see the permanent markers, in fact, be very temporary, shifting, fleeting, etc. Like a water tower that was once documented as a benchmark is now a maple tree.
And has moved four paces to the left.


Volcanoes, Portal Predictions & Benchmarks

The MFA students have the opportunity to do a bronze pour in the next couple of weeks, and I have been thinking a lot about what kind of object I might be interested in bringing into the world. Below are some thoughts about why the prospect of a pour interest me.

My grandfather, Dwight "Rocky" Crandell, worked as a USGS vulcanologist for most of his life. He predicted the eruption of Mt. St. Helens 5 years before it blew in 1980 (see publication, left), and was responsible for helping to identify where the Osceola mudflows flowed the last time Mt. Rainier erupted. (btw - they flowed into some areas of Washington state that are now being heavily developed, and his research suggests that people living in these areas should be aware of the danger of future devastating mudflows.) Something I learned at a young age was that my grandfather was able to predict the future due to his research into layers of rock, sediment and debris below the surface of the earth. These layers build up over time as they are deposited by wind and water. By looking at the layers, he would note changes in soil, such as a layer of ash or a certain kind of rock, and would measure when these layers were laid upon the earth surface using carbon dating techniques. I always imagined this technique to be something like counting rings on a tree, except counting vertically through layers of soil that were millions of years older than any tree. When he was working on Mt. St. Helens, he noticed layers of ash showing up in hillsides over cyclical periods of time and in this way came to predict that another eruption was due soon.

My connection to my grandfather and an interest in his work lead me to be interested in ceramics during my undergraduate studies, and more currently to ideas of how I might go about predicting the likelihood of Mostlandian portal occurrences.

In undergraduate school, I was drawn to ceramic materials' links to volcanoes and the rock cycle, especially to sedimentary rocks (clay) and metamorphic rocks (fired clay and glazes). I haven't worked with clay in several years, but the molten lava elements of a bronze pour are appealing to me in the same way as looking into the red glow of a fully heated kiln.

As for what this has to do with Mostlandia, one thing that I have been interested in for a while is trying to predict where portals to Mostlandia will occur in the future. For the uninformed, the way that people travel to and from Mostlandia is via portal.. Prior to my work as an ambassador at the Mostlandian Embassy, I headed a research and development team for the Spot-it Brand Portal Spectrometer Company attempting to more accurately predict portal occurrences. I am currently working with the MOST on locating a portal in the South Waterfront neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Essentially our work right now is to discover the equivalent of a layer of ash in space and time that shows the likelihood of Mostlandia being accessible from this place.

What I have been wondering about is whether or not a cast bronze benchmark (or modification thereof), such as those used for marking the elevation or latitude of a geological landmark might be helpful in predicting or documenting my surveys for Mostlandian portals. I am not at all interested in claiming the land within the proximity of this benchmark, but rather in documenting that the site was surveyed for the purpose of locating a Mostlandian portal. My questions are whether or not placing a mark of such permanence in land limits the way people perceive Mostlandia. After all, Mostlandia is in no way a fixed place, nor is it specifically associated with any "land." Mostlandia is and always shall be a place that happens via experience, and oftentimes the experience of Mostlandia ceases to exist in a particular place after its initial occurrence. Should I include language on the benchmark negating its permanency? Should a Mostlandian benchmark even be placed in soil? I'll include some emails to and from The MOST while discussing this in the next post.


November 1, 2007

New Efforts

Mostlandia is headed in a direction I never expected.
Certain factions have actually begun to embrace the possibility of using technology (such as computers and the world wide web) to communicate. I might be jumping the gun, but this trend does seem to be gathering some speed.

Does this have something to do with the ceremonial Computer Hacking we held earlier this summer as part of the Mostlandian Championships?

Hard to tell.

I present the following links as evidence:
Portal Spectrometry: South Waterfront
Land and Sky
Khris Soden
Junior Ambassadors


October 30, 2007

Professors MOST

From the T.


October 29, 2007

Humor Round 5

After our meeting, The M mustered his courage to write the final draft. This is what was sent to the people at Das Arts this morning regarding our thoughts on humor in the arts, and how we, The MOST, might approach a curriculum in this vein:

The Group for Aesthetics and Silliness in Everyday Situation (GASES) Committee
"Where humor is the methane released from the cow of artistic process as it digests its food"

Committee Resolutions

The Spirit of Humor
The aim of humor is discovery, and the province of humor is human nature. Humor is a vessel that slyly conveys themes and ideas, even when those themes and ideas are difficult, serious, or frightening. Laughing out loud can lead to serious trouble, wile being too serious can be funny business.

Humor and Process
Humor is largely a side effect of process. Humor requires the setting of a context and the surprising or insightful alteration of that context. Context evolves from the development of processes: patterns, narratives, or reliances on expectations.

Vulnerability in Humor
Humor is learned through practice, but often the failure of the intention is what meets the goal: trying to be funny is sometimes harder than being accidentally funny. For the practitioner, setting out to discover humor makes a person vulnerable and requires courage. In order to explore it, parameters of emotional safety have to be set and gentleness implemented. Working collaboratively in a safe situation allows for failure without losing faith. The ability to tell the same joke again and again until someone laughs at it is valuable.

There Are Mentors, and There Are Experts
The M.O.S.T. recognizes that although humor is an integral part of their artistic output, they are not experts on the subject. The members of the M.O.S.T. see themselves as facilitators for artistic and humorous discovery, rather than experts on the subjects. Visiting guests are the source of expertise.

Committee Suggested Themes for a Framework

  • The M.O.S.T. believes in recognizing and respecting the existing processes and practices of program participants.
  • The M.O.S.T. honors the importance of individual needs and desires of participants, and as such will be partners in the facilitation of projects, rather than dictators of what should be done.
  • Individual initiative in the investigation of Humor in Art is integral to each participant, and will not be forced by the M.O.S.T.
  • It is recognized that senses of humor differ greatly from indivdual to individual, and this will be explored.
  • It is recognized that guests have their own perspectives, and this will be honored.
Collectivity and Collaboration
  • The M.O.S.T. believes that humor does not happen in vacuum, and values the dynamics of working as a group.
  • The M.O.S.T. believes that collaborative practice allow for greater insight into the minds of others, and open up new avenues of experience.
  • The M.O.S.T. believes in the idea of emotional safety, and are dedicated to facilitating collaborative practice in an environment that is helpful rather than hurtful.
Mystical/Poetic Research and Action
  • The M.O.S.T. believes that humor in life is integral to humor in art, and that not all practices are directly related to humor.
  • The M.O.S.T. believes that seemingly mundane actions, such as daily physical exercise, can easily lead to humorous results. Similarly, the M.O.S.T. believes that fantastic exercises, such as Silly Walks, can lead to serious results.
  • It is expected that the mundane will lead to the fantastic, and that the fantastic will lead to the mundane.
  • It is also expected that the mundane will lead to the mundane, and that the fantastic will lead to the fantastic.


Humor Round 4 - meeting

At our weekly meeting last night, The MOST talked about our writing efforts of the last week. We had discussions about how the writing as it stands feels like food with too much salt, or like something you'd eat that needs an ingredient you can't quite put your finger on.

We also talked a lot about how we are being asked to write about humor and create a curriculum about humor, but that we don't necessarily see ourselves or Mostlandia as something that strives to be humorous.

We talked about how people in Mostlandia might approach being told that they must have some deep insights into humor. We think that Mostlandics might not be able to see what is so funny about their lives. As such, they would likely form a committee to explore whether or not that assumption is true, and to what extent. It may be that Mostlandia, at its most mundane, might actually be humorous to Citizens of Other Places, and the committee would be responsible for discovering what that is about.

We spent a lot of time discussing acronyms for this committee. Humorous Extension on Living Protocols/Projects. Huge Exploration of Laughter/Lost/Projects. Discovery of Everyday Situations Klub. Thoughtful Entertainment and Everyday Situations....
We eventually settled on: The Group for Aesthetics and Silliness in Everyday Situations (GASES)


Humor Side-Round 3

Jen, the S of the MOST, and I also sat down to further suss out the curriculum structure at Khris's bequest. He was confused about how it tied into the humor part of the writing. We had a long discussion about how detailed or general this needed to be. I also had a lot of questions about what Jen meant from the previous version. After our conversation, I tried my hand at making the curriculum structure writing more fluid. It might be that I just have a different writing style than Jen.

We're still working out this idea, and so the writing reflects two people trying to wordsmith four people's ideas. I think it comes out as a little confusing, or dense, but later posts will hopefully clarify. Think of this as a work in progress.

Here's what came of that:

In approaching the structure of this block, we have identified 3 working principles that we see feeding into how we want to relate to the students and to the activities we will provide. These principles are: individuality, collectivism and mystical/poetic research and action.

As a group, the MOST wrestles with the dynamic of being strongly independent individuals and artists yet having a commitment to a true collaborative working practice. This dynamic requires focused listening, respect for the creative process and believing in the value of working together, and would be reflected clearly in our approach to being facilitators for the Humor block. Our relationship to the participants is really about us desiring to be partners in the manifestation of projects or practices that are initiated by the group or the students. We intend to honor the existing practices and processes of the individual and engage with students in a way that honors their needs and desires.

Additionally, we are interested in initiating dynamics of collective camaraderie between block participants. In light of our desire to allow students to retain individuality, we hope to engage students through directed group activities that reflect some of our working processes. The types of activities we would offer are based in things we have explored together as a group, such as walks and adventures to explore the city, and workshops ranging from consensus building to planning large scale frameworks for working towards desired outcomes. We feel that one of our strengths as a group is that we are able to navigate the territory between the needs of the individual and the individual’s desires to connect with others and participate in collective activities similar to those listed above.

Finally, we are interested in designing a structure that will allow for what we describe as mystical or poetic research and activity. This is the place that would allow for unexpected or surreal events to become fun and playful activities. We are interested in exploring and enthusiastically acting upon absurd actions, fantastical suggestions, unexplained insights, and non-linear readings of the linear or concrete world. We see this aspect of our block manifesting in yet-to-be named events that have the possibility for becoming micro-themes or adventures within the block. For the sake of example (but not as an exact plan), we would suggest that participants might want to research “blue” for the whole 10 weeks, or to write a play for 10 minutes every day of the block and act out 10 weeks of plays in one day at the end.


Humor Draft 2

As a continuation of the freewrites from the previous week, The S took a stab at writing a structure for a curriculum The MOST could use in approaching humor. I took a stab at combining our various humor thoughts into something coherent. It came out like this:

In "Modern English Useage", H.W. Fowler describes humor saying that its aim is discovery and its province is human nature. Humor is tied to the everyday and at the same time, it can be a vessel for the conveyance of more serious or threatening themes and ideas. It can breach political and sometimes even frightening ideas and topics by referencing them in a light way. Laughing out loud can cause serious trouble and being too serious is funny business.

Humor is largely a side effect of process. Humor is the methane released by the cow while it digests its food. Humor requires the setting of a context and the surprising or insightful alteration of that context. Context evolves from the development of processes: patterns, narratives, or reliance on expectations.

Humor is learned through practice, but often the failure of the intention is what meets the goal: trying to be funny is sometimes harder than being accidentally funny. For the practitioner, setting out to discover humor makes you vulnerable and requires courage. In order to explore it, parameters of emotional safety have to be set and gentleness enforced within the audience. Working collaboratively provides the best kind of audience, allowing for failure without losing face. It allows us to tell the same bad joke again and again and again until someday people actually laugh at it.

We are interested in humor in life more than humor in art. For us what seems most interesting is to find out what I, you, we care about, deeply, and then to have fun working on projects together. We have fun by taking our wildest dreams and fantastic proposals and making them as real as we can. The absurdity of this can be surreal, fun and sometimes even funny, and this is where we will begin our search.
Freewrite on Structure:
One- Individuality. While we may not always succeed, individuality, individual expression and respect for the individual is an internal value we hold. This would then be one way we would contribute to the design of the block, the choice of visiting artists and how we would bring respect to each student within the block. Meaning, we would each be bringing our perspectives and suggestions to the whole of the design. For example, in our meeting tonight we aimed for each person bringing their perspective to the agenda items and discussion process. Student projects, either collective or individual, would be initiated based on the desire of the student. We would be partners in the unrolling or manifesting of the projects but they would be initiated by the group and/or the student.

Two- Helpful Anarchy. While as individuals or as a collective the MOST may not describe ourselves or identify with being anarchists, the cultural and collective nature of anarchist sensibility is infused into out process and projects and the design work of building a block for humor would naturally have this sensibility as well. Some of these characteristics are: freedom of expression, collective or participatory process, fun and play, and nonhierarchical relationships. I believe we would see ourselves as partners to the students in finding humor, creating humor…? These characteristics would be a natural part of the design process as well as part of the content or experience of the block (not the whole of content and experience but would be a prominent flavor)

Three- Mystical (Poetical?) research and action. This is the place where unexplained insight, Non-linear practices and absurdist or fantastical actions, moves, suggestions, readings of the linear or concrete plane. This would be the background of the possibility of non-artists or unexpected visiting artists may come into play. It also would provide a quality to possible mincro-themes or adventures within the structure of the block (ie Foggy Mondays- I’m not saying here we would have/do foggy Mondays I’m saying something about the kind of themes or possible actions that could occur based on desire and the fantastic- does someone want to research “blue” for the whole ten weeks? Does someone want to write a play every day at 3:10-3:20 and then act our the whole 10 weeks worth of plays in one day at then end?) I don’t know. Hey, maybe I want to do that.

Collective coherence- This might the aspect where we able to bring some kind of Camaraderie to the experience- this could be through morning exercise class, tools for consensus building, how to build frameworks or large (and small?) scale intentions and strategies for working toward desired outcomes. I don’t know how yet to connect this one to humor …. Just of the top of my head at the moment it seems like the CONTENT of the visiting artists would be quite directly humor oriented. Hmmm.


October 23, 2007

Humor Freewrites

The MOST has been trying to write about our philosophy of "Humor in Art." I thought that I might post some information here about our current process is for developing a "group" philosophy.

We usually discuss first whether we are interested in doing the project. We've decided that this will be an interesting exercise, and are now working on some freewrite exercises. We each agreed at our last meeting to take 10-30 minutes writing about our philosophy on humor and how it relates to the MOST. These freewrites are not edited for clarity or coherence. They are just about getting something out on to the page fresh from the brain.

We later decide how to put them together in a coherent fashion that includes everyone's input in a meaningful way. I'll put that version up later.

Below are the freewrites of M, O and a PDF of Rudy, The T of the MOST's, drawing as freewrite. The shapes you see are little talking maps of Mostlandia.

M's Freewrite:

In H.W. Fowler's "Modern English Useage", 1926, humor is described in the following way: the aim of humor is discovery; the province is human nature; the method is by observation; and the audience is the sympathetic. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as "that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous".
Humor is tied to the everyday: Robert Petri trips over an ottoman, Jack Tripper falls over a couch. Humor is tied to the fantastic: a dim-witted gardener walks across the surface of a pond, pigs. In space.
Humor is a tool of communication. It can breach serious and sometimes even frightening ideas and topics by refencing them in a light way. It is a vessel for the conveyance of themes and ideas. Audiences tend to remember humorous moments longer, and these memories carry a deeper emotion resonance.
Humor is largely a side effect of process. Humor is the methane released by the cow while it digests its food. A man who can never pick up his hat because he kicks it aways as he reaches for it on the ground. Committees than can never come to final resolutions because they form committees to review the resolutions of the previous committee. Humor is learned through practice, but often the failure of the intention is what meets the goal: trying to be funny is sometimes harder than being accidentally funny.

O's Freewrite:
humor takes courage
it requires emotional safety to explore
it requires initial failures (see courage, above)

it requires a the setting of a context and the surprising/insightful
alteration of that context
context comes from development of a pattern, or narrative, or reliance on expectations

We set our pattern via meetings. we created emotional safety out of trying to work together and sometimes failing and continuing past that. We found our context (place and bureaucracy) by surprise by investigating our friend's floor, and by listening to one another's interests and quirks.

We have developed a narrative that we sometimes break, and we make one another laugh by continuing to tell the story that has to be told.

working collaboratively with people you trust allows for failure without losing face
it allows you to tell the same bad joke again and again and again until someday people actually laugh at it.
and i think what we're proposing requires a certain amount of gentleness and precision at the same time. by precision i mean adherence to some sort of regular patterns, or regular activities, or continually showing up for work.
and humor isn't in high art. it's not even really jeff koons. it's more vulnerable. it kind of hides in peoples weaknesses.
and some people can't laugh at their weaknesses, but those who can have found some kind of gem.

T's Freewrite:


Desired Outcomes Workshop

Each consensus workshop is sort of "bookended" by something called a focused conversation. These conversations are meant to get people thinking about what they're about to do, or where they've just been - focusing them on what the intents, outcomes and future work of the workshop is going to be.

I'll put the content of the two focused conversations I lead for the consensus workshop below.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to start our work on this project. Initially I was trying to decide between starting by discussing what kind of ideas we have for the show, or how we wanted to structure the show, but realized that these approaches would be kind of jumping the gun. With the help of Jen, the S of the MOST, I decided to start our group process with a discussion of our desired outcomes for the show. Jen helped me see that we should have an agreed upon destination in mind before setting out together on the endeavor of deciding content.

Intro Focused Conversation:
Topic: Focusing the group for a consensus workshop about the "Art Takes Place" request for proposals
Rational Aim: To refresh the memory of the group about the content of the RFP, and to gain facts from the RFP (provide copies of RFP for participants to have in hand while doing this)
Experiential Aim: To have participants be excited for the project, and to feel connected and involved in it

Opening: In order to focus for this workshop, let's have a quick conversation about both some of the facts we know about the RFP as well as take a look at our own ideas about it.

Objective Level Questions: (intent for this level: get attention of the group with easy questions, invite participation and recall facts/phrases from the RFP)

  • Looking at the RFP, let's go around and flesh out some of the details. Who can give me the: deadline, dates of the show, budget, criteria

  • What are some words that stick out to you?
  • What other phrases stuck out in your mind?
Reflective Level Questions: (intents for this level: evoke the use of imagination, reflect on themes , personally engage participants)
  • What part of this opportunity is the most exciting to you?
  • Which parts of the RFP seem unique to this region?
  • Which parts seem kind of "par for the course"?
  • Which parts seem the most challenging?
Interpretive Level Questions: (intents for this level: connect the RFP to the group, empower group to identify with others, help participants internalize the challenge ahead)
  • What are some of the most important parts of the RFP to keep in mind as we move forward?
  • What are some of the implications of working on this as a group vs. as individuals?
  • On a personal level, what meaning does this project have for you?
Decisional Level Questions: (intent for this level: deepen sense of ownership over this project)
  • What would accomplishing this project successfully mean for our group? For our program? For the people who see our project?
Closing: It seems like we have generated some really insightful (or fill in blank here) comments and thoughts about this project. As part of the consensus workshop, we will need to answer a workshop question. I've thought about this question quite a bit, and would like to propose the following:
"What are our desired outcomes for this project?"
The reasons I chose this question are: That we should make sure we have the same shared goals before setting out on the project, that this will help us to develop our vision/scope of the project. Can I get some head nods if you are willing to accept this question as a starting point for this workshop? Does anyone have questions about it?
Post question on wall.

Closing Focused Conversation
Topic: Evaluating the product of our consensus workshop - prioritizing
Rational Aim: To move from meaning to action, to develop action steps
Experiential Aim: To feel complete, ready to move forward

Opening: We have a lot of information here. Let's try and prioritize the results of this workshop.

Objective Level Questions:
  • Let's go around and read the column names aloud. Read them as though you are answering the workshop question. For example, "Our Desired Outcome for this project is to ..."
  • Which of these catch your attention?
Reflective Level Questions:
  • Which of these surprises you?
  • Which of these is most exciting/intriguing?
  • Which one are you most passionate about?
Interpretive Level Questions:
  • How does having this information effect your original ideas about this project?
  • What will be required of us in order to meet these outcomes?
  • What are some of the important decisions we still need to make as a group?
Decisional Questions:
  • What are some of our options for moving forward with this information?
  • What do you hear the group saying is highest priority?
  • What is our next step? Who will do it? When?
Closing: Thank you. See you at x date for continuation of this.


Context for consensus workshop

Here's an email I sent to the SP people prior to the consensus workshop. I spent a long time working on it, so I figured that instead of replicating it, I could put it here for those who are interested in what we're doing:
Hi Everyone,

As we're getting closer to this Consensus Workshop on Tuesday, I figured it might be helpful to send a little bit of information about the process I'm planning to use and some of the ideas behind it.

My request of you guys is that you show up as much on time as possible, and that you plan to stick it out until the end. I can't just add you in in the middle, and it will be hard for you to weave your opinion into the group decision if you don't attend. If you're late, we'll wait for 5 minutes max, but then have to go on.

This is kind of like baking a cake - if you're the eggs or vanilla or oil, we can't just add you after the cake comes out of the oven, and things have to take place in a particular order in order for the chemistry to happen.

I will do my best to make the process last between 30-60 minutes, and to really have everyone's input included in whatever our decision is.

I can't say that we'll have our show completely planned out by the end of this, but we should all have an idea about what we want from it for ourselves and our audience. I think if we can get this sort of basic "value" question answered, we will be greasing the wheels for the logistics part of the work.

It might be that we do another round of this, or it might be that just some people decide to move forward with the logistics after we agree on this part. We'll see. It does take time, but it should be time that means we're organized and saves us time dealing with confusion down the road.

I remember taking a class in undergrad where we had to develop a socially interactive public art piece where everyone was held accountable for some aspect of it. Oh, and we had no guidance, facilitation or input from the instructor on how to do this. I think he would just leave the room when it was time to work on it. I have to say that it was one of the most excruciating and least fulfilling waste-of-time kind of experiences of my adult life. Actually, I think that that was my main impetus for learning about facilitating. I just remember thinking that it was such a shame that all of these really creative capable people spent 3 months arguing, feeling put off, and feeling completely paralyzed when they could have been making interesting things happen.

So, let's try to bypass the arguing and paralysis and make something interesting happen!
This part might be confusing to just read - it will make more sense when we do it. It's here for any of you who really really want to know what we're going to do. Feel free to browse and/or just wait for Tuesday.


The process I will be using was developed by an organization called the Institute for Cultural Affairs in order to "help groups think, talk and work together by providing facilitators with structured methods to:

  • Recognize & honor the contributions of all
  • Let a group deal with more data in less time
  • Pool individual contributions into larger, more informative and inclusive patterns
  • Welcome diversity while minimizing polarization and conflict"(The Institute of Cultural Affairs, 1991, 1994, 1996, 2000)

I don't know if this sounds like a bunch of managerial mumbo-jumbo to you guys (it did to me when I first started learning about it), but the idea here is that there are scientifically proven processes that can help groups of people get a bunch of information out on the table and organize it efficiently, without it having to be a hierarchically driven, conflict laden or extremely laborious process.

The method we'll use looks a little like this:
1. Context: I do a little work to set the stage, clarify the question we're trying to answer, outline the processes and time frame, and lead the group in talking about the topic for a few minutes.

2. Brainstorm: Generate new ideas. Participants individually list answers to the workshop question. They divide into teams, select important ideas and write them on 3x5 cards. They pass up the first round of cards to me.

3. Cluster: Forming new relationships. I put the cards on the wall, and we form 4-6 pairs of cards that clearly go together. I ask for cards that are different than the ones on the board, and add those to the existing pairs as possible, forming "clusters". Once the cards are up, the group tries to quickly give each cluster a 1-2 word name tag. We mark the remaining cards with a tag and pass to the front.

4. Name: Discerning the Consensus. We talk about the largest cluster first. We give this cluster a 3-5 word name or title which answers the workshop question and describes the cards. Repeat with remaining clusters.

5. Resolve: Confirm the resolve. We read all of the title cards. We discuss the significance of the Consensus. We create a chart or some kind of visual image, or outline to use in moving forward with the consensus. We discuss next steps.

Thanks for your time in reading (or at least browsing through this), and thanks for letting me try this process out. I hope it makes our time together feel purposeful and ultimately meaningful.


October 17, 2007

Consensus Workshops

I've spent the last week preparing for a Consensus Workshop with the Social Practice (SP) people. We are all working on a proposal for a public art opportunity available in the Tri-Valley area of Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore in California.

I spent probably 6 hours preparing for the first workshop - reviewing my training workbook, preparing materials for use during the workshop, and writing and re-writing the intro and ending focused conversations that would bookend the workshop to give it depth and meaning.

Funny thing is that after the first Workshop, the group wanted another one, the very next day, and one the day after that. So, when I'm not working, sleeping or eating during the last 3 days, I've spent my time trying to figure out the proper context for the next conversation to lead with the group. How do I find a way to talk about where we're coming to with our next conversation without limiting it or directing it beyond where the group has already agreed to go?

I am getting a lot of positive feedback, and so I think what I'll do is write up the focused conversations I've lead, as well as the outcomes in my following blogs - once I have time to stop writing focused conversations and leading consensus workshops.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.

What I've noticed so far is that this group has a lot of energy and that they are good listeners. No one seems to need to have their own way at the expense of everyone else, and that's encouraging.


October 7, 2007


Earlier in the week, the SP group had a meeting in which Harrell asked whether we wanted to vote or to gain consensus. We then had to discuss what consensus means. I have a great packet from my facilitation class on the subject that I will copy and place in the office library for anyone who is interested in the idea.

A key phrase from this packet is:
Don't ask: "Do we all agree?" or "Is everyone happy?"
Instead ask: " Have we got a well-thought-out solution that we can all live with and commit to implementing?"

One thing that I've learned about the value of consensus is that it can be invaluable in situations where one or more individuals routinely disagree (
ie the MOST). If voting is used in these cases, the people who disagree lose the vote and then are able to later say that they weren't in agreement (as in, I told you so!). This divides the group, allows the people who disagreed to remain entrenched in their positions, and also absolves them of any responsibility for the outcome decided by the group. Reaching consensus takes more time, and I think it takes great skill and patience to really reach, but it can lead to more invested action later on the down the road.


Focused Conversation Intro

In 2003, I took a graduate level course in Facilitative Leadership. Over the quarter, I learned a series of techniques developed by the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA) for guiding group dialogue towards meaningful consensus and action. Three methods covered in the class were: Focused Conversation, Consensus Workshop, and Action Planning. Each one builds on the previous one, so the Consensus Workshop includes a couple of focused conversations as part of its structure, and Action Planning involves both focused conversations and consensus activities.

Someday, I think I would really like to become an agile facilitator, and to be able to lead these three types of group activities with skill. In the meantime, I would like to start practicing at the basic level - I want to begin leading Focused Conversations between the people in the SP group.

To give a little background, the ICA describes the Focused Conversation Method as such:
"The ...Focused Conversation Method provides a setting and a context for meaningful communication. It is used to facilitate group conversations and discussions which allow members of the group to share diverse perspectives in a non-confrontational manner. Using this method can help people in a group share insights and creativity around a common topic, issue or experiences. It creates an opportunity for people to broaden their perspectives. It may also reveal the existing level of consensus within the group."
The Technology of Participation Group Facilitation Methods Manual, The Institute of Cultural Affairs, 1991, 1994, 1996, 2000.

This conversation method can be used in almost every type of conversation, from deciding what recent policy decisions mean for artists to speculation on what to do if a purely fictitious dragon moved into the house next door.

I can think of several applications for this method in our group, and this week hope try and direct a conversation between Avalon and Eric about "how can we exorcise the demon of originality," and to use it to work with the entire SP Group to reflect on our recent trip to City Hall.


October 1, 2007

Guinness Ice Cream

For our first Post- Monday Night Lecture Series dinner, I made volumes of salad and some ice creams. I feel like I never eat enough friuts and vegetables, so this was a good excuse to spend a lot of time preparing some. Ice Cream is a Mostlandian delicacy, and so I tried a couple of recipes. One of my favorites to make is Earl Gray, and for the other one, instead of buying everyone beers, I decided to put beer in the ice cream. I thought that baked apples would go well with the sort of bitterness of the beer ice cream, and I wanted to have something in my meal that was fall-like without being squash.

Here's a link to the place where I got the Guinness ice cream recipe:



I received an email from PSU and forwarded it along to The MOST as an example of bureaucracy at its finest. Looking at the two, it's hard to tell which one was built off of the other.
To all LFI On-matrix adjusticators:

In order to provide you with more meaningful emotional information in Statiscatron, Sorting and Compiling will begin assessing all surveys directly to departmental indexes, for surveys with Statiscatron transaction dates starting October 1st . (LFI kiosks and neighborhood results will continue to be rated out using the present method.)

Since these surveys will now be assessed directly on your index, you will need to approve the surveys (and associated tabulated data) in Statiscatron. Surveys for LFI projects can be identified by a officiating mark located in the project field (i.e. Emotional year 08 work request numbers: 09-xxxx). LFI surveys are most often entered by the following users: AFKAJT, ELKHARTM, STILSONO, BLACKBREADS.

Officiating mark can be queried in Statiscatron at DORPROJ-Project Validation. (DORPROJ, enter, F7, enter work request number, F8) The Project Validation screen will provide a brief description of the official requested.

We appreciate the opportunity to work with you to create and maintain our attractive Mostlandic atmosphere. Thank you for helping your project succeed by reviewing and approving tabulated data and surveys entered into Statiscatron for you by LFI staff.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Oswald Wilkes (ext K-8979, wilkeso@lfi.mos) or myself.

----- Forwarded message from -----
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2007 16:00:21 -0700
From: FAP Fiscal Coordinator
Subject: New FAP Billing Process-Oct 1st

To all FAP On-campus customers:

In order to provide you with more meaningful financial information in Banner, Facilities and Planning will begin billing all invoices directly to departmental indexes, for invoices with Banner transaction dates starting October 1st . (FAP labor and stores' sales will continue to be billed out using the present method.)

Since these invoices will now be paid directly on your index, you will need to approve the invoices (and associated purchase orders) in Banner. Invoices for FAP projects can be identified by a work order number located in the project field (i.e. Fiscal year 08 work request numbers:
08-xxxxx). FAP invoices are most often entered by the following users: BERTOLIA, FLOCKM, HUYENT, REV.

Work request numbers can be queried in Banner at FTVPROJ-Project Validation. (FTVPROJ, enter, F7, enter work request number, F8) The Project Validation screen will provide a brief description of the work requested.

We appreciate the opportunity to work with you to create and maintain our attractive campus atmosphere. Thank you for helping your project succeed by reviewing and approving purchase orders and invoices entered into Banner for you by FAP staff.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Vickie Ellig (ext 5-XXXX, or myself.

Fiscal Coordinator
Facilities and Planning
Portland State University


MOST Meeting Minutes Excerpt

via conference call 7-9 PM, 9/30/2007
O - Wants to start a dialogue with Sam Adams' office - in re: friendship city options, why would PDX want to do that with us, why would we do that with them, what would that look like, what is at stake - Why was it so easy for us to get recognition by L. Mayor John So, vs. the government in our home city? It would be great if the city would recognize us, but what would that look like?
S - Maybe they'd recognize a city/town of Mostlandia, not the MOST, what is at stake for them is their official relationship between a city and a group of artists, vs. between the city and another place.
O- How would we approach them? Initial contact is important. Do we contact as Ambassadors, artists, residents...
M - Feels confident we could figure out how to approach them.
S - It would be different if a group of Mostlandian citizens approached them vs. a letter from inside of Mostlandia, vs artists...maybe it would be a mix of these things.
O - Would like to make the official first contact by December, well, end of November.
S - We would have to have conversations about the connection between relationships to the city and/or the SWaterfront area and/or MOST.
M - The whole idea of Mostlandia as a specific place is hard. Doesn't like being reduced to being from a "fake city". It would be hurting ourselves to limit what we are and do to that. Doesn't want to be pigeonholed.
S - Agrees with that.
M - Contacting the city as Mostlandian friendship city is difficult. Makes it harder for M to get to Mostlandia when thinking about it. There are 2 Mostlandias. One has the Flatirons, Mounts MOST, the Staticsphere, make believe. Then there's the real Mostlandia, the place not place place. Its the "New Vocabulary Mostlandia". Place by experience vs. place by location
S - An activity/action to do this fall. We should go to SWaterfront and open a portal and find out information inside of the portal, figure out if there's a relationship with the city that's not based in "micronations". There could be an experience related to Portland in the portal.
M - We have a lot of tools to make it easy to accomplish starting a relationship with the city. If other members of the group want to do it, he'll go along.
S - Doesn't want it to have to be as complex, but it is. Especially if we do poetic actions like if we do different kinds of performances . That adds to her desire to not solidify as a micronation.
M - SWaterfront asked us to do stuff, and we have our own ideas about how to do it. Do they expect us to be a service bureau? Thinking about how artists are asked to do gallery shows with old stuff instead of current stuff. We are so dynamic and wants to do dynamic work.
S - We can use this show to explicitly explore new work.
M - Likes the phrase poetic actions.
O - Would want it to be dynamic, not pigeonholed. Thinks that M is smart and clear thinking in how he doesn't want to limit us by creating a relationship wtih the city, and not wanting to be a micronation. Would want anything we do in creating a relationship to the City to accurately reflect Mostlandia as a place by experience rather than location. It would be interesting to see if there was a way to weave something poetic into the existing bureaucratic structure of the City. It seems like that would be in our vernacular. Would like to use the City as a medium for our work.
M - We could attend a City Hall meeting and announce our intentions publicly.
M - Close to end of the meeting. 2 hours.
Has 2 ideas, wild fantasies. no budget, but what if we had a 3 day Mostlandia Heritage Festival. All Mostlandian bands and artists could come out for it. Some of our citizens could help curate small shows.
S - People could wear traditional attire.
M - Ceremonial beards. We can do it in 2015, or the year after the helicopter gets fixed.


September 25, 2007

North Portland Acupuncture

Over the last 3 years, I've been promising my acupuncturist that if I ever got a blog, I would write a shout-out to him. And, because I don't really intend to have two blogs, this is where it will go.
I love my acupuncturist. He's got a killer sense of humor, he's insightful and reflective, and he really has a way with those needles. I can get stressed out occasionally, and he always brings me back down to a more sane state of being.

North Portland Acupuncture
1905 N Killingsworth
Chris Slama


it's worth it.


September 24, 2007

Link to interview with Nato

mentioned below



My friend Jen Rhoads, The "S" of the MOST, shared some writing with me about her experiences in the Social Practices program at CCA during the last year. During critiques with other students at the college who are studying in more traditional disciplines, she says her fellow students are often either not sure whether her work is "art," or say they don't have anything to say about her work because they're not sure how to judge its qualities.

Jen has since done some writing regarding Social Practice work that I'd like to share below. I think what I see happening is that in addition to creating her work, she is also discovering ways to create a framework in which to discuss it. I haven't really taken in this writing completely, but I keep coming back to it as something that posits helpful questions, and helpful descriptions. I'll be interested to see how my thinking about this changes over time.

Social Practice: A field of research, relationships and action related to but not defined by the “art world”. This field is in process of defining itself and therefore is currently “under construction”. Aspects of this field include people contributing to the remaking, relooking and reperforming of relationship utilizing both individual and group dynamics as a primary source of it’s structure. Lateral and interconnected modes of operation are primary to linear or historical development and in this way it is a currently unbounded practice. An unknown percentage of “social practioners” define themselves as artists but it is probably more useful to describe this work as being done by creative people and groups interested in highlighting or impacting how people, groups of people or societies engage in relationship. Content and scope of this work is as wide and varied any field of research or practice (think “science” or “writing” or “spirituality”). Criticism of this field is often around the difficulties evaluating or talking about these actions or events in a formal manner. The following questions are suggested entry points (gleaned from conversation between Nato Thompson and LeisureArts):

Who is this for?

What does it do?

In what manner does it operate in a social structure?

What new generative social possibilities do these activities create?

How do they interface with broad political and philosophical themes?

Are they fun?