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A philosophical eye… June 6, 2014

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Sherri Irvin is a philosopher at the University of Oklahoma. We were honored to have her join us on our residency at Earthdance to observe our artistic process and to write about it eventually. Here are some of her initial, beautifully poetic impressions:

 

In late April, I joined jill sigman/thinkdance for a rehearsal process at Earthdance, a dance residency center in northwest Massachusetts. I am a philosopher, working mostly on theories of object-based contemporary visual art. Jill, who also has a background in philosophy, invited me to participate in the residency and think about the process of making a work of dance.

There were studio rehearsals, of course. But there was also the hike: all of us exploring the mountainous grounds of Earthdance along with the groundskeeper and one of the founders, experts on the local environment. We learned to read the terrain, to understand its topography, to understand the potentialities of bark. Some of the things we saw there, the things we touched, the things we felt, the things we remember, are part of (Perma)Culture.

Salamander eggs, a big gloop of them, scooped fresh out of the quarry, poured into my hands. They’re cold and glossy and transparent and, yes, a little slimy. They are full of future salamanders, those black orbs in the center. They were left there, draped over a sunken branch, hundreds of them, by one mother salamander. From my hands to someone else’s hands, then someone else’s, then back into the water.

The deer scapula, bare on the ground next to a fallen tree trunk, laid against Jill’s own scapula.

An acorn cap, with all my failed attempts to use it as a whistle.

Birch bark scrolls gingerly transported back to Brooklyn.

A rich forest, subtly marked by a history of farming and mining.

 

How can salamander eggs become dance, I asked…

I can mimic their movements, trembling and oozing, floating languidly, clinging. I can imagine their myriad amphibian future.

I can manifest my own experience, the shock of their coming into my hands, the tender cradling, the reluctance and yet relief of surrendering them.

I can explore their forms, regularity within vast complexity, vast complexity within regularity.

I can body forth concepts of life, the fragility of the individual, the obstinate calculus of strength in numbers, our power to corrupt and disrupt.

How can an acorn cap, a deer scapula, a gnarled apple tree, an electrical outlet, another dancer, become dance?  This is the alchemy of (Perma)Culture.

 

(Perma)Culture is not just a set of movements, if it’s a set of movements at all; it’s the outgrowth of a history. The hike we took, the meals we shared with visitors and staff at Earthdance, our brief participation in a 27-year experiment in communal living centered on art and nature: all of these are part of (Perma)Culture. All of these things inform the dancers’ thinking about relationships, about what is available, what is worth having, what the space needs and what we need.

– Sherri Irvin

Sherri

Photo by Keisha Register

To see Sherri’s bio, visit http://www.ou.edu/ouphil/faculty/irvin/irvin.html

Preparing (Perma) May 7, 2014

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Below are some photos by Eric Breitbart from our rehearsal process for Perma(Culture):

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Performances are approaching: June 19 – 21. For more details, click “Upcoming”.

Dancers Pictured: Danica Arehart, Donna Costello, Anice Jeffries, Kate Kernochan, and Larissa Sheldon

VIP guest February 12, 2014

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Line rescued a kitten while I was working on the hut. She seemed to feel very much at home there, and was one of our VIP guests…

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The groundplan February 10, 2014

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After various tests, I settled on a chapel shape for Hut #9. Above you can see the rounded back, or apse-like part of the structure. It reminded me of the crypt church that I saw in Aarhus, dating back to Viking times and the beginning of Christianity in Scandinavia (1060).

After working with the electronics, I felt that a totally round structure was not dense enough and a more rectilinear structure was too claustrophobic. This gave a good combination of mass with something of a cozy feel at the same time. The side wall that people met upon entering the space was the most dense and massive. But surprisingly, it was not the “front” of the hut…

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I put various “altars” on the rounded outside of the structure, instead of on the inside as would be traditional.

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The inside is more “home-y” with more of a bourgeois kitsch altar. Note the chicken, the sacred epicenter of it all.

 

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The roof has a more shrine-like feel…

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This might well be the largest hut to date with the length approximately 14 feet 5 inches and the width approximately 7 feet 10 inches.

Photos #1 and 3 by Louise Kirkegaard. Photos # 4-8 by Elisabeth F. Lund.

 

Hut #9 in action February 6, 2014

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ImageHut #9 has been up and running for over a week now. I’m relieved that the construction has been stable. And people have been enjoying both inside and outside.ImageImage

The groundplan has the shape of a chapel. In the photo above, you can see the back curve. The large computer monitors were very handy in making the curved wall.

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I’ve been serving tea to guests and chatting about electronics and environment. Today I served snacks of reclaimed food that would have been thrown in the garbage– donated by the nearby supermarket Fotex Frederiksalle for this purpose. And every day visitors can watch performances of Line Tjornhoj’s opera-performance “Tomorrow’s Child” from either inside or outside the hut.

 

Photos: 1-3 by Elisabeth Faeroy Lund; 4-6 by Louise Kirkegaard

Hut #9 February 2, 2014

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Hut  #9

Hut #9 is finally finished– at Godsbanen in Aarhus, Denmark. It includes a total of 175 pieces of electronic waste (50 of which are printers!). It will be open through February 7, 2014. For details, click on “upcoming”.

Photo by Louise Kirkegaard.

Not easy being green… January 26, 2014

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So, before I got to Aarhus, I thought, what can I grow on (or around) a hut made of electronic waste in a black box space in mid-winter in Denmark? [Well, mushrooms grow in the dark…] And I have been brainstorming and experimenting since I got here to see if i can make something grow, anything, to add to and balance the e-waste environment. I have made various experiments so far, most of which are failing miserably. I mean, it’s dark here, and cold. And there is no sun for days on end.

My first experiment was with some moss mix that I brought from the US– you mix it with water and the dehydrated moss and buttermilk powder are supposed to eventually rehydrate in a gel, grow, and fuse into moss panels. I tried putting it onto some of the found electronics.

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Well… before any moss garden could come to be, it began to smell terrible and I had to take it out of my dorm room. I left it under an exit ramp outside, and after many days one discarded laptop (covered in moss mix) was stolen! I consider that a victory for re-use, if not for the greening of Hut #9.

The wheat grass has been far more successful. I planted wheatgrass seeds in my room and am cultivating a small field. The current test is to see how long it will live in the black box without daylight.

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Sprouting. Now that should work, right? For something different, I tried chia and cress. The chia has been problematic, but I finally got the cress to sprout. It smells a little weird, but tastes great– spicy and mustardy.

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ImageI also tried planting some basil seeds, just for the hell of it. Planted on Jan 11 and these poor little non-Nordic seeds just don’t know what to do without light. More than 10 days later, they began to show the very tiniest of leaves.

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And finally, of course, the mushrooms. I have 3 experiments going– one in straw and two in coffee grounds which I have been collecting daily from the cafe. Mushrooms take time. And now my colleagues are unhappy about the smell of the wet coffee grounds. So they may be doomed…

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Hmmm… It’s not easy being green here. The next step is a grow light.

Building Hut #9 January 24, 2014

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The building process has been interesting. The electronics are heavy and it made sense to me to try to create a structure that is, at least in some parts, very dense and massive. But packing the electronics is a puzzle, a Rubic’s cube of trash. The result is a house of cards, which makes sense, given that this is what our own practice of electronic disposibility is too. It also means using a LOT of stuff. The more dense the structure, the more electronics fit into a small area.

After testing various forms (round, rectangle, oval), I settled on a ground plan like a small Byzantine chapel and began by building up the largest side wall. You can see it growing in these images.

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Today I began putting on the roof– a mixed covering of bicycle wheels and window shades. I was told that bicycle wheels were the most iconic thing possible for Aarhus, a biking mecca. The technique of tying them together keeps them pretty rigid, so I am hopeful about this experiment…  Soon I will go back and close up small gaps in the wall.

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The food chain of tech trash January 19, 2014

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Electronics recycling is big business. Who knew. I mean, most of us don’t know. But there is a food chain of buying and selling and chopping and melting that takes your discarded printers and cell phones and hard drives to all parts of the globe. Last week, I was lucky enough to get to visit a Danish electronics recycling company called Averhoff. It is where the city of Aarhus sends its tech trash. Averhoff processes masses of electronics daily, breaking them down (often with big hammers!) into component parts that get sent to places like Sweden, China, and Poland. Another processor in another country will buy a mass of one thing (like disc drives, motherboards, monitor glass, etc) and process those. Sometimes they are re-used; sometimes they are melted down for their small quantities of metals like gold and copper. Then the chain continues…

At Averhoff men with lifts whizzed around with piled cages of electronics. Others worked at a conveyor belt, grabbing, sorting, snipping, and removing some of the valuable electronics for further processing. We were allowed to join them on the belt for one hour. It was fascinating.

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[Pictured are me, my assistant Mads, and the fabulous folks from Lumen (theater transport). Photos courtesy of Louise Kirkegaard.]

While electronics recycling is a good thing when compared with straightforward dumping, it brings a tremendous number of health hazards, especially for the people who process it (often out of financial need). In Asia and Africa children are exposed to lead, mercury, and other toxic substances released by broken computers, on a regular basis. Ironically the market around recycling actually encourages the production of electronic waste. E-waste is a commodity. There is no incentive to curtail consumption. In fact, there is financial incentive to program obsolescence into our equipment and just keep on throwing it all away!

Found treasures January 16, 2014

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Here are some of the environments I’ve searched in and the things I’ve collected so far for use in the building process for Hut #9:

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Pictured with me is my terrific assistant Mads Eckert Hermansen; photos by Louise Kirkegaard.

We have been searching for waste in Aarhus recycling centers, at a private electronics recycling company, at the train maintenance depot, on the street, in the garbage bins of a big apartment complex, and in the basement of a high school.

No, we did not take a toilet. But the photo was too good not to share it.

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