17 April 2011

Collaboration, intellectual property , ownership and all of that kind of stuff

There was some conversation the other night about  ownership when it comes to art made by more than one person. Working on a purposefully collaborative project is different than the way a lot of artists work.

Most artists are solo productionists, they conceive, design and construct their art all by themselves. Some artists are large scale project makers and, even then, the project is almost always their conception and design,  and they are the executive director of it. The final piece is considered to belong to them.
This project is very different.

We came together through the efforts of a foundation whose mandate for this project was to select, "artistic practices that happen outside of cultural institutions to be the priority for our programs. Instead of the tangible object resulting from practice, we are interested in artistic intent as manifest in process. Participatory elements are at the core of an artistic practice—participation that leads to greater civic and empathic engagement." 
(Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director, Musagetes)

So, right from the start we found ourselves in somewhat uncharted waters, at least as artists. I liken it to working on a committee where, as a group, you work towards creating something that may not directly benefit you, but the participation, process and outcome are the goal.

For example, in my other work life I help create community based groups for parents. These are created by ad hoc groups; are fluid in their process and the result is not owned by anyone person or agency;  yet, any committee member could list on their CV that they helped develop the group. 

The  structure  we are creating for Mobile Architecture was designed and made in a joint decision making process by 7 people. The materials were paid for by Musagetes and some were  donated by the people working on the project. The labour was supplied by everyone in varying amounts of time, dependent  on availability.

Participants took sections with them to continue to invest their time and effort into making what is essentially a  flat, fabric sculpture that can morph into its own 3-D sculptural shape or be  joined to a group of them  to create a whole new structure.

They are a prototype of an idea that, in itself, may be more easily executed by just buying tents and velcroing  them together, but that is not the point of the project.

This group, working together in a process based, interactive manner may, or may not, succeed in creating a working prototype of their design. The purpose of the workshop was to initiate a process, an exposure to new ideas  from within and  outside of the group. 

I am interested to see how the people who are working on this project will continue to evolve their own piece of the structure.

Rebecca Erickson

14 April 2011

Day 5 - we finished one!

Wednesday evening was our final meeting time as a group.  Mary Mattingly was leaving early the next morning and we wanted to be finished by 10 and leave Diyode in OK shape in case we ever want to work there again.

A few people started working at 4 p.m.  with the rest arriving over the next 3 hours. A two person film crew from CAFKA and another photographer arrived to document what we were doing and we focused on completing one structure to try out in front of the cameras.

 It was busy and made more complicated because the tools i.e. sewing machines, were a constant hassle tonight, jamming, needles breaking and thread knotting. Some were sewing, others were calculating and preparing what materials people would need to take with them to finish the units on heir own, and we were all focussed on getting one ready to try outside before it was too dark.

Just as the light was fading, we took the finished structure outside, and had a chance  to look at it laid out on the grass, wrapped around all of us, set up with tent poles and folded in half as single person unit. Further modifications (grommets!) that would help stabilize the structure were identified.

There were a lot of photographs taken of the structure, but none by me, so once Musagetes has the images I will post some here. (Update : Never did get the photographs but here is a shot form that night Musagetes use don a postcard for the project)

Rebecca Erickson

12 April 2011

Day Four - I have a crick in my neck

from sitting at funny angles wrestling with recalcitrant machines. Tonight there were, let's see, six women, two sewing machines, two scissors, two seam rippers, two photographers (also women) ,  metres and metres of slithery silicone coated fabric and more design modifications on the fly. We are down to the wire in terms of timing. Mary leaves  Thursday morning so tomorrow is the last day the group can try to finish one complete unit  so we all know how to make them.

I will do  a wrap up post once we are finished. Photographers came tonight to document the process so those photographs will also be posted once available

11 April 2011

Unplanned Day Three and a 1/2

Today was a day off  from the 1Mile2 Mobile Architecture Workshop but Mary  decided to work this afternoon at Diyode,  so three of us joined in and collectively we put in another 20 hours working on the project. We all helped to cut and sew large pieces of  architectural fabric that slithered and slid off the big pine work table.
Mary Mattingly at Diyode - Mobile Architecture Workshop

We should be able to make 6 of the unit covers before Mary leaves. The design is modified every time we work on it, and it was a bit overwhelming today to see how much we had to do, especially after deciding to make each unit double walled.

Two of the people collaborating today have a lot of experience working with textiles and large scale projects and they supplied some interesting materials like Industrial Velcro, seat belt webbing and an extra sewing machine.
Seat belt webbing to edge the sections for strength

We talked a bit today about how  only women had continued on with this project.  I am not sure why. For me, the collaborative creative and production aspect, and the opportunity to work with Mary Mattingly were a big draw, so it was easy for me to decide to clear my schedule to invest the time in this project.

By the way, Diyode  is a really useful spot to work in. A big work table, great location,  lots of parking, tools, and help if you need it.

10 April 2011

Mobile Architecture Workshop Day Three!

Today was day three of the Mobile Architecture Project with Mary Mattingly. After a rainy cold morning we met at Diyode this afternoon for three hours. With four participants, plus Mary and two staff from Musagetes,  we made very good progress. 

Today we talked more about the pattern and how it would all fit together. After seeing some of the conceptual digital collages Mary presented at her talk, I wondered if it would be possible for us to take a photograph of a Guelph location and digitally add images of 6 of the units. Not enough  time this week, but quite possible with Photoshop.

After some more calculations we taped together sheets of newsprint and started to draft the pattern.
For each individual unit we are going to need an 8' x 14'  piece of fabric cut into a particular curved shape. We unrolled the bolt of silicone treated sailcloth and started to cut and sew. By 4:45 we had the shell piece  of the mobile architecture piece constructed and took it outside to admire.

With the sun breaking through the clouds, and a good breeze blowing, we had to hang on tight as we stretched it out.  A warm gold colour, it glowed in the sun. We experimented wrapping it around volunteers

We talked about a name for the individual units. We were lucky to  have our poet back today as she took on the task of  looking at possible words and definitions for us to consider.  We had a pattern maker and landscape architect calculating angles, curves and shapes, I helped out with taping, cutting, and photographing. There was a lot of interesting conversation about; problem solving, mobility, what people might want to have with them if mobile, technology, raising chickens and how yesterday Mary brokered the rescue of 12 chickens who needed a home to someone that was looking for chickens!

At one point we had one person using Google Sketch Up trying to figure out how to make a 3D visualization of some of our design; others were talking about a video game (Little Big Planet 2) where players collaborate online to build things; and we all moved back and forth between the two rooms at Diyode helping out where needed.

The architecture of the piece reminds us  variously of pods, canoes, tents and boulders. A few people are putting in some extra time tomorrow to continue sewing and to invent some pockets, holders,  arms and such for the shell. When we gather again on Tuesday night for 3 hours we should be able to start looking at the fit of the poles  and the backpack attachment.

A few other sites to take a look at are the Everyone Deserves a Roof as an example of a mobile home, and
Room Room  

Rebecca Erickson

9 April 2011

Day Two Collaboration

Today was day two of the Musagetes sponsored 1Mile2 Mobility Architecture workshop . Four of the group from last night did not return. One called in sick, but no word from the other three. Maybe it was not what they were expecting?

Joining a collaborative interdisciplinary  project like this is different.  You arrive, meet a group of people for the first time and try to arrive at consensus about  how to build something that is based on the idea of mobile architecture.  There are some smart and savvy people participating and ideas galore, but we have to keep the process moving forward if we want to trial run even a partial model in this 19 hour workshop. We made good progress today and a template for tomorrow's work is in place.

Mary showed more slides  and we looked at;
Kevin Cyr - camper bike
Yona Friedman
Philip Beesley
aerogel described as looking like frozen smoke
Bigelow Aerospace commercial space stations
Super Adobe structures
and slides of various tent structures from around the world.

I brought in a few things for "show and tell", a 28 year old oiled cotton rain jacket, some reusable food wrap made from bees waxed soaked cloth, Another artist brought in some books to share images of sculptures and houses. I forwarded some links for the group to look at about mobile shelters.

We talked about what each of us imagined a mobile personal structure would like and some people started to sketch their ideas on newsprint on the table. We agreed that we wanted to make something that was portable, wearable and provided both the opportunity for solo shelter, and a way to attach to others to form a  gathering space.We looked at using spooled fabric, jacket, and backpacks.

We had the advantage of 7 hours together today; with a delicious lunch supplied by With the Grain, compliments of Musagetes;  and enough cars to make a field trip to a local recycling depot to look for materials.After lunch we went out looking for materials and came back with a 2 discarded sun umbrella frames and a cover, some aluminum tent poles, and fishing rods.

Back at Diyode, some people started to make a maquette of the structure with coffee filters, stir sticks and coffee lids. One artist used pliers and wire and fashioned a human shaped armature to use to help scale the piece.

As the project started take shape,  and we started to handle the umbrella poles and other recycled items it was clear they were too heavy.

We really wanted shock corded tent poles, so I went home and loaned 3 that extended to 20' each that could be used for the prototype.

Mary and one artist started to think about measurements of the single mobile unit, others continued to think about shape and configuration and revised the design,  and by 4 p.m. we were cutting out a scale model of the fabric pieces and sewing them together. At 4:40 we thought it would be helpful if we had an old style hiking pack with the aluminum external frame and I zipped over to a second hand store and voila!  found what we were looking for and was back in 15 minutes.

Tomorrow we lose one member of the group for the day  ( Happy Birthday!) but hopefully will see some others return to help with cutting and sewing during our three hour session tomorrow.

Rebecca Erickson

8 April 2011

Mobile architecture workshop first night

12 people gathered with Mary Mattingly tonight  to talk about mobile architecture. The group composition was visual artists, a poet, graduate students in landscape architecture and fine arts, sustainable living advocates, a professional sewer, and representatives from Musagetes Foundation. We met at Diyode a space in downtown Guelph that is the place to go if you need a workshop space and/or want to learn how to use tools to make your projects.

Mary started off with a slide show with images of houses, shelters and installation/sculpture projects that reflected her interest in exploring how materials and structures could be used as mobile architecture, There was a far ranging and open-ended discussion on what this 5 day workshop might look like with some  keen on creating an actual structure, and others interested in open ended discussion about the topic without feeling the necessity to end with an actual construction. 

Mobility Architecture was interpreted in a variety of ways including something that was carried, unfolded, rolled, paddled,  attached, detached, recycled, or sourced from natural materials. We talked about where mobility architecture was already used (refugee camps, disaster response, homelessness, overcrowding, travelling)   and circumstances that might require people to use it in Guelph like natural disaster or urban crowding.  While emergency preparedness and disaster response are one lens to view mobility architecture, we also talked about it in relation to community building, gatherings, swaps, ways of creating something that could be used for individual protection and also attach to others to form larger structures.

Some of the names in the slide show included;
Constant Niewenhuys New Babylon Project
Andrea  Zittel  
Teddy Cruz    
The Snail Shell System by the Danish Art Collective N55
Michael Rakowitz's ParaSITE Project

Other idea sources mentioned were;
The Everyday Carry  
Rolling Homes: Handmade Houses on wheels by Jane Lidz

When I got home I also came across Mobile Structures Resources which has links to lots of mobile ideas
and X2 Shelters by GEOtectura that also has developed some fantastical ideas about structures of the future.

2 April 2011

Why Lambs Forever?

Because once upon a time, my dad, watching some new lambs gambolling in the delight of their own existence in a Yorkshire field, flung his arms in the air, spun in a circle, and said, " I want to be a lamb forever". 

Ideas spring forth like the first jump of a new lamb. They can land here.

R.I.P. Gerald Dale Erickson 1935 - 1989

1 April 2011

Mobile Architecture Project with Mary Mattingly

From April 8 - 13, 2011  I will be spending 19 hours  with a group of people in Guelph working at the Diyode Makers Club on a collaborative project called Mobile Architecture. Mary Mattingly is a New York based artist who is here in Guelph  to launch the the 1Mile2 project  and this is one of two projects she will do here.

After listening to Mary's presentation the other night, I am not sure what to expect. She imagines and build fantastical suits and items to use in a world when things go awry. Her biggest project was the Waterpod. After reading through the Waterpod website I see that it was conceived by her and there was a large team of collaborators and supporters  that worked on this floating home/ school/sustainable living project.  The website is worth looking at, not so much because of the sustainable ideas, which seem pretty familiar to me,  but for the process of building a network of people to create this project.

I will be writing about the workshop and hopefully we will start making something that can be shown here. Keep you posted!

Rebecca Erickson