The Center For Collective Wealth back online.

While we are currently taking a break from The Center For Collective Wealth we wanted to once again make this project publicly accessible.


Larisa and Jason

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Pietro Mele – Local Boys

Local Boys

Pietro Mele

7 Minutes 8 Seconds


Interview with Pietro Mele

CFCW – Project No:7

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We Common – The K.I.D.S. (Kindness and Imagination Development Society) [as recorded by Emcee C.M., Master of None]


We Common

The K.I.D.S. (Kindness and Imagination Development Society)
[as recorded by Emcee C.M., Master of None]
CFCW – Project No:6

Q: What do you do?
A: We Common

Met a guy named Arty (my grandfather’s name) on 9th Ave. My tricycle reminded him of a guy who used to be around the neighborhood with a cycle-powered grinding wheel for sharpening knives. Went around to restaurants – a small business. Brilliant. Arty panhandles around here, said he was trying to get some money together for a little something to warm himself up. Didn’t ask me for any dough. I liked him instantly.

Another day, I installed a PLACE TO HANG YOUR HAT ( a set of coat hooks) on a construction wall at 10th and 27th, and hung a pirate’s costume I had found on it. Nearby a guy was playing beautiful music on plastic buckets, broken glass, etc. When he saw what I was doing he jumped up and yelled, “yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about! I like Art!” A street guy, it seemed, a fellow creative spirit. He proceeded to contribute a withered yellow rose to the installation, with great excitement. Hope I meet him again – fantastic energy and real talent. He said he always moves around. I commented this wasn’t the best spot for busking – not many passersby, but he said he likes to consider the background (the construction wall), and anyway “this is New York City, gotta keep moving!”



What are the Common Resources?

Common resources vary greatly from place to place, depending on local conditions and habits. There are many nullresources (res nullius in ancient Roman law): things that have been abandoned or never belonged to anyone in the first place. Trash. Cans and bottles that can be redeemed for five cents each. Metal objects that can be sold to recyclers for melting down. Food. Clothing. Appliances. Tools. Furniture. Bicycles. Materials that can be repurposed or recombined to make something new. These resources are man-made items that have been discarded; part of the imbalanced waste-stream that is a byproduct of our consumer culture.

Met a concerned cyclist who made me reconsider what I was doing at that very moment: taking an old brake cable off of an abandoned bike (locked to a post) to replace the one I had lost. He was suspicious I was stealing parts from bikes that people still wanted. I told him I could understand his concern but just wanted to re-use what would otherwise go in a landfill. He had the good suggestion of doing what the city does once a year when they remove the abandoned bikes. They post notices on the bikes two weeks before cutting the locks, so people have a chance to move their bikes if they still want them. Seems like the responsible approach. Maybe we need a Neighborhood Junk Drawer where we can put our unwanted bike parts instead of letting them go to waste.

There are also many common natural resources available. On a global level, Elinor Ostrom talks about small groups self-organizing for regulated use of things like the fish of the sea, water reservoirs, and communal forests. Where we live there aren’t any communal forests, but garden-variety weeds are a common resource everywhere in lawns, parks, empty lots, sidewalk cracks, and forgotten spaces. Weeds are often misunderstood or undervalued: many are edible, or have beneficial health properties. Likewise, some weeds can be used as raw material for making games, tools, clothing, and shelter.

I was tapping London Plane trees to collect sap for making syrup in Cooper Park, in Brooklyn. I had determined by this time that it was better to hang out with my buckets while the sap ran rather than just leaving them, because the parks department and people in the neighborhood might have concerns to discuss with me. So while I was hanging out I read about a weed called Common Mullein, which Native Americans smoked to fix respiratory problems. I had collected some Mullein previously for drinking as an herbal tea. Tried smoking it then, in my tobacco pipe. Seemed pretty smooth I guess. Then I got bored of that and started picking up twigs and whittling a set of chessmen to go with the chessboard I had just found in a dumpster nearby. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.

Even well-known plant resources occur frequently in wild or forgotten spaces. Fruit trees in New England, for example, are often passed over these days if they are not in a designated marketplace location (like an orchard with pick-your-own fruit opportunities). In the old days, apples, pears, and quinces were planted on the edges of pastures and crop fields and near farmhouses. Many of these trees are still producing fruit, but hardly anyone harvests it anymore.

Last fall I was playing basketball at the elementary school in Hampton, Connecticut with my brothers. Sometimes when we get together we all go down there and shoot around. By the parking lot we noticed some apples lying on the ground. Tried one. They were delicious; sweet, tart and very crisp. “Best apples of the year,” Brendan would later proclaim. We gathered what had fallen and shook the tree to get more. Filled up our shirtfront-sacks with them and went home to make applesauce and pie.

I remember meeting a guy named Lee (Li?) around 30th Street, while picking rose hips. He told me all about these wild berries he picks often in the Bronx, called Bronx berries. Something about how they came from the gardens of the rich Dutch people who lived up there. Blackberry–like, he says, very common and good. Picked a bucket in 20 minutes. He didn’t think they grew anywhere down this way. Hadn’t seen them. He was out cycling that day, a doctor down at NYU. Need to remember to look for those berries next summer in the Bronx! (In retrospect, I wonder if he meant mulberries?)

There are also resources that may be designated and used for one purpose, while ignoring other possible uses. Ornamental plants, shrubs and trees are an example. Landscapers and gardeners plant crabapples, roses, kale, cherries, birch, maple, and many other edible plants for their beauty. This visual/aesthetic use can be enjoyed at the same time as the evident taste/nourishment use if we find ways to manage these resources in common. Sharing multiple use resources with multiple users requires mutually respectful (neighborly) ways of self-managing. We are capable of communicating what is important for each of us to each other. We are capable of listening to what others value and accepting differences. We can work it out.

On Saturday a few of us got together and sang some rounds. Rounds are an interesting form. As Laura explained to us, they are usually composed of only one chord, so when people sing different notes because of the overlapping lines of text, they always combine to form different variations of the chord. So you get to be an individual and yet lend your voice to something greater than the sum of the parts. Like democracy! Or something. Later in the evening, some more people joined us for a foraging walk to collect rose hips and make syrup from them. The walk was great fun. About twelve of us were collecting together, a mad band of strange folk along the median on Houston Street, east of Norfolk Street, with the traffic whizzing by at terrific speeds. It was dark

by this time, and very cold, and many of the hips in this particular area were a little past their prime. But we got a colander full of hips between us all. Back at the classroom, we made our syrup while people told stories about being wild, or being close to the wild things of the world, or about complexities found in sharing public space. Kristine told us about being stranded on a cliff face while climbing, and finding herself about a meter away from a swooping hawk. As she told it I could almost see its talons flashing. Then Bill told us about the time he was camping on an island and came back to find his entire tent underwater. And the icing on the cake was the wild ponies chewing on his feet the next night, once they had moved to higher ground.

In summary, there are many ways we can common in whatever limited common spaces we have. Two case studies of common resourcesfound in New York City follow.Come on, let’s common on!

Case Study #1

A Common Resource of New York City:

Roses, and How to Preserve Them

Introduction: Roses are one of the most common ornamental plants in New York. They are planted all along the medians and parks of the West Side Highway, and in many other areas. Both the fruits and flowers of roses are edible. The flower petals can be included in salads or candied. The fruit (rose hips) can be eaten raw as a tasty nibble, or cooked down to make syrup or jam, or dried and used for tea. Rose petals are available during the summer and fall. Rose hips are available year round. They are thought of as a wilderness survival food often, because they stay on the rose bushes through the winter. Ornamental plants may be sprayed with pesticides and fungicides. Of course many commercially produced vegetables are also sprayed. If folks are scrupulous about these things, baking soda and vinegar are recommended for cleaning vegetables before eating. If people ask what we’re doing, we just tell them. We are sharing in a common resource, effectively reclaiming restricted, codified, enclosed public space for shared, common use. Think of it as stewardship, or pruning, if you like. We are participating in a close, local, human relationship to nature and to other people. In a word, you are commoning.
Recipe: Rose Hip Syrup/Jam. Collect hips before they dry out if using for syrup. A good mix of very firm and somewhat softer hips is a good idea. The firm ones have more pectin, the softer ones have more flavor. Wash our harvest in cold water (mix in vinegar or baking soda if we like for extra cleaning power). Put rose hips in a wide pan and add just a small amount of water to keep them from burning. Cook over medium heat for several minutes to soften them and release the juices. When soft, rub them through a screen or sieve. The goal is to keep the pulp and the juice, which we want to use, and to separate out the seeds. We can use our hands for this or a wooden spoon or whatever we have. Now take the pulp/juice mixture and measure it. Add ¾ cup of sugar for each cup of rose hip. Bring to a rapid steady boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Use a candy thermometer to check for doneness. It should reach 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively we can take a spoonful out and put it on a plate in the freezer for a minute or two and see if how it firms up. As it boils down it should become less liquid and more thick, like a syrup. To make it really gel you can add commercial pectin or mix in a pectin-rich fruit, such as crabapples (also widely available as an ornamental plant in NYC), or apples, or grapes. Rose hips will not gel firmly on their own. But keeping it pure rose hips as a thick honey-like syrup has always been satisfactory for us.

Case Study #2

A Common Resource of New York City:

Ornamental Kale, and How to Preserve It

Introduction: Ornamental kale is the name for a group of colorful cultivars of Brassica Oleracea, var. Acephala. Commonly used in winter landscaping for its color in NYC and elsewhere, but also grown by farmers for culinary purposes. Kale is the closest relative of wild cabbage, which grows in Europe and Northern Africa, and has a very long tradition of use. It developed into many of our favorite vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, and of course kales. All these vegetables, including the ornamental varieties, are very nutritious. Anecdotally, kale and cabbage are said to contain as much vitamin C as do citrus fruits. Also vitamin K, beta carotene, calcium, iron, lutein, and sulforaphane, which has anticancer properties. Ornamental plants in New York City may be sprayed with pesticides and fungicides, but kale is less likely to have been sprayed since it is a winter vegetable and pests are not such a problem that time of year. Besides, many commercial vegetables available in markets have also been sprayed. If folks are scrupulous about these things, baking soda and vinegar are recommended for cleaning vegetables before eating. Ornamental kales are available from September to March roughly in NYC, depending on landscaping regimes of the different businesses and city agencies that plant them. If people ask what we’re doing, we just tell them. We are sharing in a common resource, effectively reclaiming restricted, codified, enclosed public space for shared, common use. Think of it as stewardship, or pruning, if you like. We are participating in a close, local, human relationship to nature and to other people. In a word, we are commoning.

Recipe: Ornamental Kale Sauerkraut. Collect leaves before they brown or wilt, larger, outer leaves first. If we collect from a variety of plantings we can fill our baskets without disrespecting anyone’s display, and, more to the point, we can allow the plants to continue growing for future forays and for other foragers. Wash our harvest in cold water (mix in a little vinegar or baking soda if we like for extra cleaning power). Chop kale fine and pack in a large jar, Tupperware container, or for a big batch, a five gallon food-grade plastic bucket works great. Layer the kale with plenty of salt and any other veggies and herbs you like. Our friends in Siberia use dill leaf or seed, anise sieed, bay leaf, and grated carrots in their sauerkraut. Our grandma made a great coleslaw variation with onion, green bell pepper, celery seed, and black pepper. A version similar to kimchi would include garlic, ginger, and red pepper. Press firmly the whole business to the bottom of the jar and weigh it down with a smaller jar full of water (capped) inside the big jar. Or use any other press strategy we can think of for the container we’re working with (for a big bucket a dinner plate with an old milkjug of water as a weight works great). The goal is to keep the kraut submerged in its brine as it ferments. Over the next 24 hours, the salt and pressure will draw moisture out of the veggies, making a natural brine for the kraut to soak and ferment in. Let it sit on the counter for a week checking regularly for taste and texture and mixing it around so it ferments evenly. It should remain somewhat crisp and crunchy and always submerged. Any bits that stray up above the brine level will dry out and could possibly form mold. Just discard them. During this week, leave the cap of the big jar loose so that air can escape. When it tastes ready, refrigerate as we use it. It will keep for many months. Or we could can it in sterile jars and a boiling water bath for long-term shelf storage. Follow the instructions that come with the jars (Ball jars and Mason jars are often sitting around in attics and basements – ask grandma if she has any extras). Eat it as a side dish, with hotdogs, as a soup ingredient, as a filling for crepes and savory pastries, etc.

What we’ve been reading:

A great book on Sauerkraut and other fermented foods is Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation. Chelsea Green: 2003.

Hertzberg/Vaughan/Greene. Putting Food By. Bantam: 1973. Goes through various ways of preserving food for later use.

Lee Peterson. Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin: 1977. Best field guide on the subject we know of.

Euell Gibbons. Stalking the Wild Asparagus. McKay: 1962. The classic text on wild foods.

Cadillac Man. Land of the Lost Souls. Bloomsbury: 2009. This is a first-hand account of homeless life on the streets of New York City; stories and conversations recorded in Cadillac Man’s notebooks.

Elinor Ostrom. Governing the Commons. Cambridge: 1990. Introduces a bottom-up model for common pool resource self-management based on empirical field research, as an alternative to the external regulation of resources by authorities. Very compelling and engaging writing.

Susan J. Buck. The Global Commons: an Introduction. Island Press: 1998. Not particularly beautiful writing, but great content about the history and current state of affairs in Antarctica, the high seas, the deep sea bed, the atmosphere, and outer space.

John Hanson Mitchell. Trespassing: an Inquiry into the Private Ownership of Land. Counterpoint: 1999. Great discussion of the history and present state of a piece of land in Massachusetts under various owners and stewards based on a research methodology of walking the land, observing, and talking to neighbors, strangers, friends, as well as archival research.

Edward Abbey. Desert Solitaire. Touchstone: 1990. Some beautiful writing about solitude and wilderness, including some especially touching moments of communion with plants and animals.

Christine Harold. Ourspace. U. of Minnesota: 2007. Discussion of corporate brand culture and various ways of subverting or resisting it, with an emphasis on creative commons and open content/open source.

John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath. So good.

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Mohan Hirdwani – Art Out of Waste


Mohan Hirdwani

CFCW – Project No:5

Mohan Hirdwani is a retired banker now in his mid 70’s who from the period of 1965 to 1987 made 50 architectural models from waste materials. The majority of these intricate and labor-intensive works are creations of his own imagination made in his spare time. Many of these models have moving parts and are able to be lit up. He was interested in ideas of recycling and energy efficiency from the onset, and designed a movie theatre with natural lighting and temperature control by means of a diagonally opening roof. Until recently he was displaying these models in his small home on an elaborate merry-go-round display stand. They are now kept in storage, awaiting what is his longstanding wish to see them housed collectively in a place where children will have access to his wonderfully creative and resourceful works.

He now works with a charitable trust helping people in need of eye surgery and dialysis. We are very pleased to be able to present a selection of his works alongside a brief interview.

 Community Centre
 acrylic sheet and assorted materials


Collective Wealth:  Mr Hirdwani, you made 50 beautiful, intricate architectural models of buildings in Mumbai in the period of 1965-1987. You made these outside of your daily work, as a hobby. How did you come to start making architectural models specifically?

Mohan Hirdwani: In 1964 the then Pope paid a visit to Mumbai on the occasion of the xxxviii Eucharistic congress held in Mumbai. An aerial picture of the podium erected for his address to the public appeared in a weekly, and it caught my fancy and just about then my brother had started bringing waste from a vacuum forming machine and I assembled my first model from this. I made Gymkhana my second model which does have some resemblance to a similar building but the internal arrangements are all mine. I used to work in shifts and made these models while also attending to my daily work.

CW:  Are the models on your website (currently unavailable) based on buildings in your town? How do you select which buildings to make models of? Does it depend on your interest in the particular architectural design or more on the materials at hand?

MH: All my models have been my own creations, with the main aim of using available materials. They are not replicas of buildings in my town.

ball pens, plastic box (from after shave lotion), plastic rods, transparent plastic, plastic animals

CW:  How long approximately did it take to build any single model?

MH: It took between 4-6 months to make each model and nearly twenty years to make all 50 models. Every time a joint was made the solution took 24 hours to dry.

Martyrs Memorial
Cover of perfume bottle, disposable syringe pistons, adhesive tape reel, plastic stickers, assorted plasti

 CW:  The fact that these models are made predominantly from waste materials seems important to you. Can you speak a little about this?

MH: Plastics have a long life and are a big ecological hazard, keeping this in mind I tried to do my little bit to save the earth. My friend who had a general store used to get a lot of display stands, for displaying beauty products. After I would collect them from him and use them at a later date. Although my mother would complain against this junk being brought into the house! 

CW: Who has had the opportunity to see these models? Have you ever shown them in a public place?

MH: Visitors to my home, plus an association of officers in the bank where I worked had organised a seminar and my work was displayed at the venue.

International Year of The Child
pen stand, tooth picks, beads, cosmetic display tray

CW:   What has been occupying your time since your retirement?

MH: We had no biological child in the family so we four members of the Hirdwani family had the idea to create a family trust to continue the name of the family and I have attached myself to another trust running a charitable hospital that provides help and succor  to the poor and needy, and it also keeps me occupied. My trust mainly provides help to people in need of eye surgery or dialysis treatment. Presently all my models are kept in the basement of the hospital, whenever there is a function the guests get to view them.

Dairy Farm
disposable syringes, waste from sequence manufacturing
Wind Mill
electirc clock motor, japanese fan, radium plastic, chain

Know Thy Self Temple
plastic bowls, ball pens, packing material, bangles, cosmetic display tray

Know Thy Self Temple. “This model is very unusual in the sense that it does not have any deity installed in it. This model is built on the idea of a temple built by one Narayanswamy who all his life had opposed rituals in the temple, so when he started building a temple himself, everyone waited anxiously to see what he would do. He simply installed a mirror and wrote on top of it KNOW THY SELF. The idea is to see your own image and try to understand yourself.

Apart from the pillars from ballpoint pens and walls from packing materials the roof is made from cosmetic display tray and the dome is made from bangles which have been placed one on top of the other and the smaller ones providing the slope and tapering. The four minarets are small plastic bowls”.

Mohan Hirdwani, Mumbai, India 2009.

Mr Hirdwani is looking for a publicly accessible home for his significant collection. If anyone can offer any assistance with regard to this please contact Collective Wealth on and we will put you in touch with Mr Hirdwani.

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Fieldfaring – an interview with Susanne Cockrell and Ted Purves of Fieldfaring


an interview with Susanne Cockrell and Ted Purves of Fieldfaring
CFCW – Project No:4

Fieldfaring is a social art project that investigates the overlay of urban and rural systems upon the lives of specific communities. The project explores anthropological issues regarding people and places through the lens of social economy, history and local ecology. Susanne Cockrell and Ted Purves are Fieldfaring. They are based in Oakland, California.

CW: It seems that your activities in generating interest and knowledge in food based practices are fundamental steps to empowering communities to make the transition from consumers to providers of their own basic needs?

Ted Purves: For us, we are interested in how any given person connects to these practices, like food production, through either their own personal history or through some other form of cultural memory. Perhaps it was their parents or grandparents or people they met or can remember, or it might have been something as simple as a children’s book they read or a movie they saw. It’s about people connecting to histories and re-imagining how they might manifest their own personal or local economy and lifestyle.
Susanne Cockrell: People might connect to the idea and reality of growing food as something new and even trendy, but it’s more about returning

CW: Yes, but the difficult thing of this ‘returning’ is that the youngest generations now feasibly no longer have any direct familial link to what was once a common knowledge.

TP: This is true, but fortunately we live in times where people can become connected to past knowledge through channels beyond the personal and familial.

SC: In returning there is an implied activism. People observe something happening in the social environment, in their neighborhoods and cities and begin to join in. They see a model in practice that gives them a kind of access. I think schools have been very successful in connecting curriculum and food production. There are now many examples of successful garden/food programs at elementary and middle schools across the country.

People’s Grocery in Oakland is another good example of food being at the heart of community and social change. PG’s mission is to develop creative solutions to the health problems in communities that stem from a lack of access to and knowledge about healthy, fresh foods. They bring a mobile truck market into urban neighborhoods that are not served by stores that sell produce. They are also starting their own farm/CSA to further integrate local production into their project.

Another interesting example is the art/media collective Public Matters’ work in LA. They have worked with urban youth in making nutritious foods available at local corner stores in poor or marginalized neighborhoods through a combination of social organizing and through the creation of short video infomercials. Social activism is essential for building awareness and organizing communities.

Another thing to note is that the hand-made or homemade has reemerged as significant in daily life. People want to make things and enjoy the fruit of their own labor. It’s practical, its self reliant and its about making the world reflect their values. It’s seems a fairly common response to our global information saturated world and the fact that more and more people work in information economies.

CW: Fieldfaring projects are often highly participatory. Does your initial role as facilitators alter once a project has kicked off?

TP: Our initial role is as creators or architects. We often become facilitators as a project develops because the structure of the projects opens up places for others to join in. In a project like Temescal Amity Works (TAW) we actually produced other people’s projects in our space and responded to the public’s interest in the project to see how we could make the project useful to them.

SC: In this way the project was designed to change as more people got involved and this was one of our hopes, that authorship would spread laterally and become diffused. The facilitating role never dissolves completely.

In the end, TAW was a three-year project, and we began to feel more like administrators in the last year. In fact, some community members wanted us to turn the project into a non-profit organization in order to better serve the community – in their vision of the project. This would have made the project almost solely administrative and we were interested in doing other projects.

CW: Have you observed that your projects find participants and an audience from any particular demographic? Are participants typically already established gardeners and cooks or do you also glean the attention of newcomers? 

TP: I think this was fairly mixed. For TAW, the initial audience was those who were interested in gardening, as well as those who had recently moved into the neighborhood and were looking to connect with a larger community. Many were new renters and homeowners and those engaged in urban homesteading and co-housing.

SC: Yes, many were cooks, but also lots of them were folks interested in alternative economics and community building. We still get emails from newcomers who want to get involved; they hear about the project and are interested in similar ideas. Essentially they are looking for ways to connect with the community, some of them are instigating their own community projects, others just have backyard fruit trees and the fruit is going to waste.

TP: On another front, the project area for TAW is a culturally diverse, but this was not as reflected in the participation as we would have liked it to be.

SC: This idea of demographics though, talking across a wider cultural experience is something we are more explicitly investigating in our current project, The Meadow Network. In it we are foregrounding specific questions like demographics or diverse experiences in the initial design of a project will allow these issues to be more clearly addressed as the work unfolds.

TP: This takes us back to the “architecture” of each of our projects. When we conceived and structured TAW our main interest was in looking at history. Specifically, how can a history of a community be brought forward through the lens of social economy?

SC: …and how land itself holds memory and organizes human actions and practices across time. For instance, The East Bay has many histories of agricultural activity due to its microclimate. And there is a particular stream of experimentation in the Bay Area around social lifestyle and diversity of traditions that is based on the history of immigration and industry in California.

CW: Essentially it seems that Fieldfaring’s focus is centered on setting up frameworks for the sharing of practical knowledge. Do you have much of a sense of what happens at the conclusion of a project?

SC: TAW was active in the community at a time when there was a resurgence of social activism around urban farming, slow food culture and localism. Though Amity Works stopped being active in early 2007, there are related projects operating in Oakland and San Francisco, some driven by individuals, others by non-profits. One of note is called Pueblo, a youth initiative funded by the City of Oakland. They run a summer program that organized urban youth to pick backyard fruit and give it to the elderly.

In the art world in different cites, there were other artists cultivating pursuing similar ideas during the period that TAW was active; Fallen Fruit in LA, Fruta Gratis in Santa Rosa California, Nance Klehm in Chicago. Some of these groups are still quite active.

CW: Three of the four projects on have been made specifically for gallery exhibitions, given the focus on production (home/community produced food) and discussion that pertains to actual practice and it’s potential for continuation, can you talk a little about why you ‘exhibit’ projects?

TP: All of our collaborative works have interrelated themes but the museum-based projects begin with a different mindset. Museum spaces are fundamentally different than public ones, so it has made sense to us to calibrate our projects to work best with a given opportunity. Primarily, museums and galleries are a good place to see things, as such our exhibition projects start from a strong image of what we want to see happen, a certain kind of interaction or visual result. For instance, for Sonoma County Preserve, we wanted to see people’s homemade preserves find their way into a museum (along with the people who made them), the hope here was to bring them into contact with an institution that is also concerned with preservation, storage and display. We were interested in the social, and visual interactions that might arise from such an event. It is less about investigation and more about making something visible.

SC: On the other hand, our community projects are initiated because there is something we are interested in researching. There is something we want to know and we want to invite the community into dialogue with the questions we have. With these sorts of projects we pick an open form like a newspaper or storefront that welcomes an open-ended inquiry. While TAW was our primary community project, work has begun on the second one (the Meadow Network), which we described earlier in this interview.

CW: If a lump of funding fell from the sky, what project would Fieldfaring ideally like to undertake? or perhaps you are already meeting your ideals?

TP: Buy a small piece of property and work on these questions in a less itinerant way with an amazing group of people.

SC: Create a journal that would bring together voices of makers, cultural producers and everyday people who are finding new ways to create and think about collectivity and the commons in rural and urban situations, including storytelling that might offer models and tools for all of us.

CW: We hope you get a chance to do both of those things! Thanks for talking to us.

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Nick Keys – Plonkin Alpaca Pale Ale

pronkin’ alpaca pale ale
nick keys
nick keys & pat armstrong (label design) alex white & astrid lorange (micro-brewers) tom spiers (photography)
CFCW – Project No:3

astrid had been talking incessantly about the alpacas, but we were yet to see one. i think she has been in love with them ever since we went to an alpaca farm in tasmania, where a rotund man with a grey bushrangers-beard talked breathlessly as he showed us around, emphasising the parental advantages of alpaca cria over human babies in between an information-stream about the minutiae of alpaca farming. a wide-eyed astrid soaked up every last detail and will recall them at any given opportunity. actually, she was sweet on alpacas before that, but the visit to the farm certainly consecrated the affection. two alpacas are now a standard part of her verdant dreams of a future property. my desires are for trees and open living spaces and light. heaps of light. i think our desires can coincide, and in fact, on the balcony of her mum trish’s house overlooking the valley from coorabell ridge, just west of byron bay, this coinciding was already happening. trish had mentioned that the house jutting out of a nearby fold in the valley had some alpacas and astrid was giddy at the prospect of seeing them. i’d come up from sydney a week later than her and had brought the requested two longnecks of her and alex’s virgin brew, made with the homebrew kit given to her as a christmas present by the family, who referred to themselves on the gift label as the cartel. we sat on the balcony and tasted the beer for the first time in afternoon light, giving considered attention to bubbles, fog, sediment, taste, body and content of the as yet unnamed beer. this was more or less how things were when a black alpaca wandered down an open hillock of the jutted-house property and into view. and there is something impossibly significant about such a coincidence that it doesn’t so much suggest as demand itself to be named. there you are, talking about alpacas all week without being able to see one, as though your talking about them made them shy, and as soon as you get out the homebrew in need of a name, out pops an alpaca. and like in the writing of w.g. sebald, like in the given experience of living, something inexplicable occurs, and that occurrence, the two events, as astrid so wonderfully says on the beer label, share a duration of utter pleasure.

and like w.g. sebald i find parapsychological or fatalistic explanations of the meaning of coincidences bogus and tiresome, indeed it seems evident that the magic comes precisely from the fact that it is beyond intelligible explanation. like when sebald was finishing the last section of his book the rings of saturn – a stunning traversal across the history of silk worms and sericulture in europe – he chanced upon the remaining historical dates and information that he needed in the daily paper. it was all there, events from 130 years ago, 220 years ago, just as though he had been writing up until that point. and i’ve had the same sense of writing up to a point with this piece. i worked my way relatively smoothly from astrid, alpacas and the home brew up to the point of coincidence, but then moving on from there became incredibly difficult. i knew i wanted to introduce sebald, for reasons that will become clear, but i couldn’t find a way to move that worked. it’s that terror of a decision when the way of getting somewhere is complex, and every real decision is complex. for example, you want to go out on saturday night and there are numerous parties you are invited to, but deciding which ones, in what order and how to get there is overwhelming. buses and trains don’t go everywhere, cabs are too expensive, you want to drink so you can’t drive, there isn’t enough bikes to go around because some of them have flat tyres, and it’s just too far to contemplate walking. and so you go nowhere. the indeterminacy of facing a decision can be terrifying and the best solution often seems to be to do nothing. in these moments it’s the arrival of something unexpected that frees a path for movement. and for me this messianic arrival was a post card from stuttgart. my friend joel who was living in berlin had travelled to stuttgart, i think partly to escape the wage-slave hell of hospitality in berlin and partly to see a modern triptych exhibition at the art museum there. anyway as astrid handed me a post card with a huge smile on her face it was such a joy to see this image

because it was the same as this

which was a post card my friend tim sent 18 months earlier while he was in prague for a friend’s wedding. and as if that it wasn’t coincidental enough, as joel’s post card arrived all three of us – each in their own metropolis – were engaged in trying to get together an issue for our website project when pressed. holding these two post cards together was connecting events, like astrid says, in a duration of utter pleasure. and here was the point at which i had been writing to, and some unexpected happiness opened a way to move on.

now this ed ruscha painting is a typically witty work of his and i just love the idiomatic phrase now then, as i was about to say… but in a way perhaps the wittiness of the phrase initially masks its brilliance. because while it’s language as texture, material and speech, it also suggests having been distracted, of unintended tangential movement that now wishes to finally make it to the desired utterance, but of course the desired utterance is only glimpsed in the motion of the phrase as it acts to set off the next tangent, another distraction. if you’ve read this far you’ll note the resonance. it wouldn’t feel inappropriate to me if i started every sentence now then, as i was about to say… but for all it’s idiomatic qualities, or perhaps because of them, the phrase is a great example of the flow of time. i asked astrid, who is much more grammatically astute, about the tense of now then, as i was about to say… and she felt that it wasn’t going to fit any single tense rule because it’s situated in multiple tenses which is its interesting movement, but she said, ask joel because he knows about that stuff. so i rang joel, who had returned to sydney unannounced almost at the same time as his post card arrived, and he told me that the only way he could come close was by explaining to me something that the original phrase is not, and so by moving across languages, firstly through french and then spanish, he supposed that it was some kind of imperfect near future. and i like that. it’s a happily plausible scenario where we have a future to come that we are near enough to be included in, and that is imperfect and messy like everything else. but the tense classification only partially gets that sense of the flow of time in the phrase, which is a past/future declaration, it’s a now-time assertion (now then,) of a past desire (as i was) that was very-recently a future desire (about to say). so the duration of the phrase has a multiple movement, the past and the future are folded into a present flow, and this flow is not a succession of points or instants. in other words, time is not moving on a straight line. consider, as alfred north whitehead said, our derivation from our immediate past of a quarter of a second ago … we are continuous with it, we are the same as it, prolonging its affective tone, enjoying its data … this is the mystery of personal identity, the mystery of the immanence of the past in the present.

this immanence of the past, how the past always stays in the body as we experience flow, or folded time, is exactly how w.g. sebald’s books work. often in his writing the immanence of the past produces a vertiginous terror, as though all the unspeakable violence of history spoke continuously through the pained body of a trapped animal, an animal that is both sebald and not sebald. so this folding of time is a constant in his work but it also corresponds, and perhaps less bleakly, to a traversal of terrain, literally, a commitment to walking the folds of the land. and it is, in a sense, a random walking, or a walking whose trajectory is not certain, a walking that is open to that which comes, maybe an uncanny coincidence, and which suggests the next move. it’s a kind of walking and writing that follows your nose. as sebald says, if you look at a dog following the advice of his nose, he traverses a patch of land in a completely unplottable manner. i thought of this following of the advice of your nose when i watched larissa sansours’ video run lara run, although in the the first watching i did not realise that she was running alongside the west bank wall, which has very strong reverberations with the themes of sebald.

so by now you are more than entitled to ask: what the fuck do the writings of w.g. sebald, the multiple tenses of a phrase in an ed ruscha painting and a video of larissa sansour running around the west bank in a red helmet have to do with home-brew? well each one of them is an inscription (or, if you prefer, a document) that has given me mobility within a network of relations. in other words, they have been thinking tools that have created a chain between friends who start a microbrewery and friends who send each other postcards, between lovers thinking of a future-togetherness and alpacas pronking at dusk for the utter pleasure of it, between coincidence, walking, temporal experience and boundaries. what i want to suggest is that it is this chain between things in the world (humans and non-humans) and their mobility (or, if you prefer, ecological relations) that constitutes collective wealth. the silent question my piece has responded to is: what is collective wealth? etymologically wealth is related to health, and so, the wealth of any collectivity is determined by the complexity of ecological relations. beer, balconies, alpacas and alpaca farming, afternoon light, w.g. sebald, walking, ed ruscha, painting, tense grammar, time felt in the body, dogs, their noses, walls and helmets are some of the things involved in the duration of utter pleasure that is complexity.

Posted in Nick Keys - Pronkin Alpaca Pale Ale 2009, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Larissa Sansour – Run Lara Run

Run Lara Run

Larissa Sansour


Made For Femlink

2 minutes 28 Seconds

cfcw:project 2

Posted in Larissa Sansour - Run lara Run 2009 | Leave a comment