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
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
7 Minutes 8 Seconds
CFCW – Project No:7
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with Mr Hirdwani.
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.
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 fieldfaring.org 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.
|pronkin’ alpaca pale ale|
|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.