March Spring Winds is a contemplation on tensions that coincide as seasonal change crashes into human emergence from the pandemic. Created through a meditative practice on internal ecology, the video consists of a sequential drawn animation combined with an improvisational flute melody to evoke the interplay between complements. As plants sprout and animals emerge from hibernation, this is a reflection on how we can evoke joy and honor loss.
What has emerged?
In English, the word “emergency” indicates an urgent crisis, something that came up, an emerging need. During this year of acute slow-motion crises, this linguistic quirk of English has occurred to me more than once. In French and Spanish, a the wing of the hospital for treating trauma is Urgence or Urgencias, respectively.
As I was drawing, I watched as motifs slowly emerged, creating new layers of meaning and emotion .
It made me stop to consider how with a crisis, there is potential for disruption and trauma. In my day job, which is at a school, there has certainly been a complete overhaul of our systems. There are things that are frightening about massive change, especially when it is accompanied by inequitable risks for marginalized members of our society.
However, transformation is not all bad. The acute injustices that have become visible– emergent– to more people have spurred people to push their own limits. Existing networks of care have mobilized deeper generosity and participation. Technology that seemed like science fiction when I was a child has become a broader everyday platform for education, art, and connection.
These emerging transformations have the potential to create sustainable and lasting change, but it requires everyone to make a conscious choice to continue troubling the waters of injustice.
What will you carry forward?
This year has been full of barriers, pain, and sadness, but there have been moments that emerged for me that have deepened my sense of community and interconnected ness. As you watch this video, please think about how both pain and empathy have had an impact on your own life.
What challenges have you faced?
What has helped you get through this year, and how can you pay that forward to someone else?
This video was streamed through the FOOLMoon CommUNITY Facebook page, and at the Ann Arbor Art Center on April 9! Check out the event here to see some other stellar artists.
The Second Song to Urban Ecology, this one was actually begun first. It was originally a photo series that I took in one of my favorite parks, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
M-14 is an expressway that runs between Ann Arbor and Plymouth, which is an ex-Urb or Suburb of Detroit.
The “Cathedral” is the open space beneath the overpass, as it runs over the Huron River. The light on the tracery of the steel-framed bridge combined with the rhythmic organ of the traffic overhead make it a very contemplative place. Nature and City collide here, not just because of the highway, but because it the western bank of the river is skirted by an old industrial corridor where welding and manufacturing shops once dominated, though few now remain.
Although the overpass could be thought of as marring the landscape, and the noise pollution and runoff can be harmful to the ecosystem, there is something beautiful to be found in the coexistence of this massive basilica of concrete and steel, designed not for occupancy, but instead for passing over.
Re-claiming the beauty of labor normally masked by its utility, I seek to showcase the labor of the Ironworkers and other skilled trades as they contribute to our culture by re-claiming the space for something besides a pass through.
The light shines off the tracery of the steel frame. The fog hides and reveals the ugly concrete pylons. Graffiti quite literally marks people’s interest in the site. Ripples highlighted by the thin line of light between the lanes create calligraphic flourishes on the surface of the water.
In this project, I also re-claim the space beneath the bridge for the ways that nature and land shine through human imposition. I stopped there and meditated, watched, listened about once a week for a couple of years. I began to notice many small details. All the photos are of plants which grow* along the banks of the river in the natural area opposite the old industrial corridor.
Here I want to acknowledge that one person or set of people cannot truly claim the land we inhabit, whether they hold deed and title or not. In re-claiming the land, I do not claim ownership. I re-claim the right to create a stronger relationship between people and the earth. This “Cathedral” is part of a complex system for which we are each responsible, and which is affected by our actions.
Beyond that interconnectedness, I also acknowledge that Washtenaw County has its own storied history of disputes between Native Americans, French, English, and ultimately the Territorial European Americans who became “Michiganders,” like me.
The Huron River, after all takes its name from one of the several local groups of Native Americans: groups that have traversed and lived here include speakers of Anishnaabe and Wyandot, known to many Americans by their tribal names (Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Huron, Iroquois respectively) as well as other tribes from Canada and Ohio with whom they traded well into the 19th Century.**
One step, beyond acknowledging who was here first, is to think about how we can better honor the land itself. I don’t own any land that I could give back, but I can be a better steward of the earth, and advocate for more harmonious relationships and care between humans and nature.
Place Based Education: Stay at Home Workshop
Saturday May 16, 10:30 AM
Join with Google Meet: https://meet.google.com/cwg-akvj-hed
For the participatory art part of this project I am creating a workshop which will be geared to sharing some ideas about how to combine art and science to take advantage of the time we are all spending stuck at home.
Everyone is somewhere. But what is somewhere? How do we know our own “where?”
Place-Based Education focuses on those questions in order to engage people. Looking closely at the world right in front of us. It is something that people often take for granted, but to study it, to really look at it to see things as they connect to you and to other things, takes practice.
Place Based Learning can begin with a small moment right where you are.
Everywhere you go, there you are. Place is an easy text for anyone and everyone to begin a learning journey.
Before the Workshop Saturday at 10:30 AM:
In this workshop we will play with taking time out of every day to look and listen by drawing and photographing something you can see near your house. Since we are all on various versions of Stay Home Stay Safe, I ask that anyone wishing to participate adhere to local public health recommendations and local law enforcement. If you are allowed to go to a park, do it! If not, don’t.
Take a picture of something you are interested in that you see nearly every day (for example outside your window).
Take a picture of the same thing every time you notice a change.
Write down or draw out things that you notice:
What is the same?
What has changed?
Is it only visible things? What about sounds and smells?
If you don’t have time between now and then, don’t worry, I will have some samples and give time to go out and take a picture during the workshop. You might also want some things from your recycling bin, some crayons, some water, something to stick (tape or glue) and some markers.
*With the exception of the trillium, all of the plants were photographed within a half-mile of the bridge. The trillium grow there, but mostly in very small patches. I found such a beautiful large pink patch elsewhere that I couldn’t resist cheating This particular trillium plant was photographed in Montibeller Park in Pittsfield Township.
**In some ways, Michigan’s history, with French dominance into the 1820’s means that relationships between present inhabitants and past inhabitants have been preserved. The French wanted to convert, and “save” rather than dominate like the perpetrators of Manifest Destiny. There are still Native Americans from local tribes living in Michigan, particularly farther north. This does not mean there was no harm. Forced family separations, discrimination, and damaging economic practices remain to this day. But I did learn Native American History during my second grade class, and it did include the harms and the wars in my eighth grade class, and went into staggering detail about the cruelty by my junior year of High School.
While natural systems and cities are symbiotic everywhere, there are huge equity gaps across the globe. Higher income areas have more access to open space, and foliage and are therefore more likely to have active and noisy animal populations. There have been many articles about this through the years. One of the most memorable for me was in 2012, on a blog called PerSquareMile titled, “Income inequality as seen from Space. It was during the time when Google Maps was becoming more detailed and people outside the research community were just starting to think about this and the author, Tim de Chant, collected anecdotal information about many cities and their open space which he shared in the second link above.
When I started this project last fall, and even when I sent the germ of it to FossilFOOLs I was not thinking that it would come to life during a global pandemic, but it turns out, the decrease in human activity in cities has drawn attention to how animals are influenced by human action in urban ecology. I heard a piece on New England Public Radio via the NPR app this morning about hearing different and more birdsongs now that there is less traffic on the roads due to quarantine measures so that even in dense urban centers, people can hear more natural noises.
Wildlife biologist Paige Warren of the UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation has reviewed research on how human-generated sounds impact animal communications. She talked about the challenge different kinds of birds normally face when they sing near the rumble of cars. “If you have a high-pitched, ‘tweety tweet tweet’ sound, then it might get through better than if you have a low-pitched kind of sound,” Warren said, imitating the call of a dove. “So if you’re a dove, it might be harder to get your message through the traffic. And then when there’s less traffic, it might be easier to be a dove.”
Nancy Eve Cohen, NEPR, March 31, 2020
To create the sound in my video, I raised the treble to accent the birdsongs that I was hearing, and raised the bass to accent the traffic rumbles and whooshes. It is true that the middle range of sounds is not as audible, and with the sheer volume of those other sounds, even on the unedited audio recording, it would have been hard to distinguish sounds closer to the pitch of the traffic noise.
The audio track was created before the shutdown began in Boston, as I was getting into my car for the morning commute, with many other motorists flying by on the Jamaicaway less than a football field away from me. Now, even at the height of rush hour, there are gaps in the roar and sputter, and fewer planes rumbling above.
Yesterday on my short walk, I jaywalked across the Jamaicaway into Olmsted Park at a place where that would normally be unadvisable. As I meandered into the trees, I heard at least five different types of birds in the middle of the afternoon, fighting, calling, chasing each other. There was even a red-headed woodpecker high in a tree on the border with Brookline. Right now, I hear wind in the trees, two mourning doves calling to each other, groups of starlings, a robin, a jay, a house wren, and a distant redwing blackbird from the park.
In this fraught time of self-isolation, I feel privileged to be in a place where I have a backyard to look into and a park nearby. Even growing up in an economically disadvantaged area I was embedded in the City of Ann Arbor, it was surrounded by natural areas, and so I was privileged to have orientation to wide open spaces, and still be able to navigate many advantages of life in a thriving college town.
However, many economically disadvantaged urban communities have a lack of space devoted to sustaining accessible natural systems. Torn down houses in formerly “blighted” areas of Detroit, for example, may contain natural systems, but they have largely been left to hazard, filling up with invasive weeds, foragers, and pests instead of being re-planted with native plants and trees that might attract a more sustainable ecology.
Urban and natural spaces are permeable to one another all around the world, and human participation in natural systems is intrinsic.
We are part of nature, and hearing less traffic and more birds right now sounds out loud and clear both how interconnected we are, and how deeply our noise and pollution affects our ecology. These new commentaries about birds and silence and breezes make me hopeful that more communities will prioritize investment in creating cities that are sustainable by both human and ecological measures.
It has been inspiring to do online workshops: I can hear and see what others have been creating.
It has given me a peek out windows here and around the world. Even though I’m in Boston, since everyone is working online, it was easier to connect with two former students in Michigan. After teaching online, I then did a teaching-artist oriented workshop with two colleagues in Illinois and Sri Lanka. Observations from all the participants from their windows or wishes included sheep, school buses, monkeys, cobras, cars, trees, and more birds.
This project was originally created inside a portable tent cinema full of transparencies with the idea that I would bring this project around the world, packed into a market tent. I do hope to bring the project around the world in a tent.
Or if you want to participate in with a slightly less complicated story just send me a photo of the view out your window and tell me what you hear or make a recording of the sounds.
The collected works that you share will be used to create another clip in this series, possibly “Lullaby for Empty Cities.” The next work already in progress will most likely be titled “Fugue for The Cathedral of M-14“
You can email your submissions to me, comment on this post with your photos, or tag anything you make with these tags on instagram or twitter so I can find them: #FOOLmoonreimagined #foolishsongs20
My head was a mix of fear, worry, protectiveness, hope, connection, and disconnection.
Although my own artistic vision is clear in the artwork, I created it in my role as Program Director of FLY Creativity Lab which served students in the Ypsilanti Community Schools as well as the broader community. Although it deserves more than a sentence, for the purposes of the present discourse, suffice to say that state and local policies have re-segregated Washtenaw County’s public schools, and created huge inequities between Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and the smaller population centers in the county.
I knew that it was important to take a stand in favor of pluralism and against the divisive policies and actions we believed would be coming.
There were signs for both candidates in every neighborhood of Ypsilanti. There were people in my social circles who expressed discomfort with the candidate who won but voted that way anyway because he pretended to be “conservative.” I couldn’t fathom how they believed his farce, but they did not heed my counter-arguments.
This work of art was truly co-created. I began with a single yarn tied to the loom: that our community could resist more strongly if we collectively wove together our connections.
Participants found threads of inquiry that I hadn’t imagined. They noticed that the way the yarn was thrown made a difference in texture. They drew my attention to the patterns created by the combination of the octagonal “loom” and the choices that each child or adult made. They connected to the metaphor, finding some hope and joy in a dark moment. There have been many dark moments since, and hopefully this metaphor offered some comfort as it has for me: that we are stronger together because of our differences.
If I were to run this project again, would it hold up? What would I change?
There is no way I would have predicted the ensuing events. What has come to pass is even more dystopian and unexpected than I worried it might become.
Since the work that I create tends to be hopeful and compassionate, I think it bears stating:
I was angry then. I am still angry.
It isn’t lack of anger that moderates how I choose construct discourse in my artwork.
For years, I’ve never found much use in being angry with someone who disagrees with me, but this wasn’t always the case. My mentor at 20 years old, described me as happy-angry. When she saw how angry I would become at people who were doing things that were unjust she said, “They can’t hear you right now. You have to learn to offer an ‘out’ with your observations so that people can hear you. Even if they can’t process or understand you now, it’s possible they will remember later if you teach with compassion.”
The rips in our culture were there before 2016. The social fabric has been torn by generations of racism, misogyny, classism, homo/transphobia, xenophobia, fear, and ignorance. Whatever hopeful mending my generation grew up with in the 1990’s were just ironed on over the laborious but fraying stitches made by the BIPOC tailors of the civil rights movement. The bully of dominant culture has keeps pushing us down more and more often, tearing and fraying the labor of generations more quickly than we could keep up with for the last four years.
But we have kept on stitching, weaving, knitting, connecting to one another.
On the day of the election 2020 I made myself a mini-zine:
With all the uncertainty of the pandemic and the never ending news cycle, I knew if I didn’t occupy myself on Election Night (and for the next couple days!), I would probably not sleep or eat. I arranged with some friends to do a video conference to just “be” and not have the news on. I planned a project for us to do, although I think I’m the only one who made a mini-zine while we were on the call.
I was already thinking, like I was in2016: whatever happens, what can I do? How can I act? How can I create change?
In my mini-zine, I asked myself some questions, and tried to frame it positively, despite my pessimism. I didn’t (and don’t) have any answers. I just keep working, try to contribute where I can, and listen, and listen, and listen.
There is a thread running through both my projects, and our culture which gives me hope. We really are stronger together. Every choice we make to connect to someone different from ourselves; every different way of being and moving through our country adds up to weave the counter narrative:
The idea of ”radical reimagining” has entered the mainstream because the Black Lives Matter movement has shaped social media, and social advocacy by young people for restorative justice.
The fight for re-enfranchisement by social justice advocates, led by BIPOC’s and supported by the vast majority of young, Millenial, and Gen-X people has created a drip- drip- of blue dots dyeing the map from red to blue in big southern cities, and rural midwestern nexuses like Atlanta, Austin, Marquette, and Traverse City.
The show of force made by protestors of every race and hue through the summer to now gives me hope that (white) people are finally coming to understand how white supremacy is damaging to our entire culture. Many men have understood that misogyny harms men and women alike, but for some reason white people struggle with how our cultural structure is harmful to them (us) too.
Even more hopefully, in Ypsilanti, in the 2020 the progressive anti-racist community has gotten more vocal. Protests for BLM in 2015 were less than 100 people. A silent protest organized on Martin Luther King Junior Day in 2017 by YCS High School students was 300. The biggest protest organized by the BLM movement in June 2020 was over 3,000.
Ypsilanti (and our whole country) are still divided. Although I live in Boston now, I spent a few months in Michigan this summer and it is still my home. There was less division in yard signs this year.
BUT: Many of the people who didn’t heed my arguments in 2016 have changed their minds and voted for Biden and even for Senator Gary Peters. FLY’s former board member, Eli Savit, ran and was elected to be the Washtenaw County Prosecutor on a platform that pushes for restorative justice and alternative sentencing.
My questions to myself as I consider how I will connect and weave my threads in the movements we will continue to navigate with a new president in office:
What color and texture is my path through the fabric of our culture?
What threads do I throw quickly?
What threads do I weave slowly?
How will I add to our collective strength in the next year?
I believe deeply in pluralism over dualism. We need every voice in the circle to weave strength. To knit together justice, we need to center the voices that have been silenced. What is my role in making that happen?
EDIT: Added link to archived Blog entry about the original piece 12/14/2020 15:42 EST
In honor of the Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s first annual Amphibian Week, I will be publishing two amphibian related activities. Each activity will require about 90 minutes altogether if you do all the parts, and each contains some observation, some playful learning opportunities, and concludes with a Maker project and a chance to reflect.
UPDATE EVENT POSTPONED: Out of respect for the nationwide protests across the United States that resulted from the most recent series of cases of police violence, most recently of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and so many others, I will postpone my Amphibian Week live event until a later date.
Ecological action and justice are intimately linked to racial and social justice on many levels because communities of color and former colonial lands have long been exploited and will be impacted more heavily by climate change.
However, the loss of human life right now requires a response, and I will spend this evening working on a different artistic project that I will be showing later this month about my intersectional identity and privilege as it relates to my grassroots, and activist practices.
I will be streaming a live class on Monday, June 1 at 4:30 PM EDT via GoogleMeet and FacebookLive. I will answer questions live in the GoogleMeet session, and find answers for questions that come up in the Facebook livestream later on.
To make the origami frog, you will need the following materials:
Drawing and coloring implements to create your frog’s camouflage pattern, plus card stock, recycled cardboard, a paper plate, business cards, or other stiff paper-like material. Regular paper will not work. For example:
What influences how a frog jumps?
How does it relate to my body?
What changes can I make to my paper frog to make it more like X frog which jumps far?
What changes can I make to my paper frog to make it more like Y toad which walk-hops?
Some frogs have long legs, some frogs have short legs.
Frogs that have short legs don’t jump as high or as far as frogs with long legs.
You will need: comfortable clothes, and a big space to walk, run, and jump and run in.
Mark out the beginning and end of your racetrack. If you have outdoor space great! If not, you can run from one end of a room to another. This is an experiment in thinking about how our bodies and the bodies of amphibians work.
If you have a grown-up or friend who can time your race with their phone, that would be fun, but we can learn something even by yourself. You can try with different kinds of shoes,or holding onto your knee if you are alone. The goal is to think about how it feels different when you move in a different way.
Count your steps and record your time as you try these different ways of getting from one end of the room to the other:
Hop on one foot
Leap (from one foot to the other)
Hold onto your knees
Really fast but with the smallest steps you can make.
Walk with your hands and feet on the ground (or just crawl)
As you move, think about how that motion feels in your legs and your body.
As you move, try as hard as you can to go as fast as you can.
What do you notice?
How many steps made the run faster?
Why do you think that running is faster than walking?
What do you notice about running versus leaping?
How do you think this relates to frogs?
After running, walking, and leaping, why do you think that salamanders, another kind of amphibian, don’t jump?
To engineer your frog you will want to cut your first piece of cardboard or card stock to be the same proportions as a business card which is 2” x 3.5”.
If you want to make a bigger card, you can use math to make it bigger:
2 / 3.5 = 4 / X
2X = 3.5 * 4
X = 14/2
X = 7
So you could make a 4” x 7” rectangle to start
You can decorate your frog either before or after you fold.
If you want to match one of the species in the video, it might be easier to color once your frog is folded, because it will be easier to see where the patterns match up.
If you are inventing your own frog species, you can decide on an all-over pattern using repeating shapes and colors and glue on eyes later.
1. With the side you want on the outside down on the table, you are going to take the top edge, and make it match the left side of your card. To crease, you can use the edge of your scissors handle, or a pen.
2. Open it up.
3. Fold the top edge to match the right side of your card.
4. Open it up.
5. You will see an X in the middle of the top part of your card.
6. Match the top corners to the bottom corners of the X, not to the bottom of the card, but to the bottom of the x.
7. Open it up.
8. Flip it over and re-crease that fold.
9. Flip it back so that the side you want outside is on the table. You will now have a line through your X.
10. Pinch that line. Squish it flat. It will look like a Triangle.
You have now made what Origami Specialists call the “Waterbomb Base” on the top part of your card. It will look like a triangle
11. Fold the bottom right corner of your triangle up to the apex of the pyramid.
12. Fold the bottom left corner of your triangle up to the apex of the pyramid.
You will now have an equilateral diamond inside your triangle
13. Take the right side of the square and fold the inside edge out to match the fold. This does not have to be perfect.
14. Repeat on the left side: take the left side of the square and fold the inside edge to match the fold
These are the front legs.
15. We are now going to “Close the cupboard doors” to make our tadpole tail on the bottom part of the frog. It does not have to be perfect. Fold the right edge of the remaining rectangle so that the folded edge of the triangle matches up with the folded edge of the square and the outside edge of the rectangle is more or less to the halfway point.
16. Repeat on the left side.
17. Flip the frog over and go over all the creases from the top.
18. Flip it so that the front legs are up again.
19. We are now going to zig-zag the tadpole tail into a bent leg. It won’t be split, but the frog will jump better this way. Fold the back legs back like the frog is doing a head over heels yoga move.
20. Unfold that.
21. Roll the edges. This part will DEFINITELY not look perfect, but it’s important.
22. Re-fold the yoga move.
23. Fold the back leg-unit, which is really only one leg, so that it sticks out a tiny bit.
24. Pinch the end of the legs (where the feet would be if it had two legs).
25. Flip the frog right-side up. YOU ARE FINISHED!
More Resources about frogs and their jumping and walking abilities:
FOR AFTER you share your black and white image: Coloring implements
Make a list of ten things that made you stop and think.
What made you feel connected to our CommUNITY?
Make your paper into a square. It does not matter if you are starting with a GIANT page or a tiny page, once it’s a square we can do PIXEL Magic and shrink it to link up with everyone else’s tiles.
Mark the midpoints on the sides of the square by matching corners and pinching JUST the edge of the paper. (You can fold across, but then you will have the creases visible. If you are a very young person, it might be easier to pinch, anyway.)
Mark with a pencil where those creases are. These are how your machine will match up with other FOOLmoon CommUNITY members’ machines.
Look back at your list, and choose TWO things that you think would be FOOLishly fun together and draw them into your square so that pieces of them touch those midpoints.
How do they relate? What can you imagine and invent?
You can use pencil and then outline with marker later.
You can use mechanical elements like gears or levers or buttons
In a couple of weeks, we will provide instructions to repurpose a cereal box to turn these black and white drawings into a color-it yourself tile puzzle, and are hoping for some other fun re-mix ideas!
Color your machine if you want. Make another! There’s no limit!
Check out our machines as we build on instagram, or check back for curated tiles on Facebook!