Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Teaching through exposure

In last weeks newsletter (are you still not getting it?! Signup HERE) I promised I would share three distinct sparks that altered the course of my life - moments that exposed me to a world or possibility that I had not previously considered. 

The first was an article in the NYT art section about a gallery show that made me think the art world could be different. Having recently arrived in NY from a crummy art school with no direction and no connections I worked tooth and nail in multiple unpaid internships in several rather terrible gallery situations to eventually land my dream job at Exit Art a few years later.  

The second was flowers - I had never considered flowers or floristry until I was gifted a most unusual and beautifully wrapped bouquet of flowers for my 25th birthday. I became obsessed with the shop they came from (a now closed little shop called Rosebud on Union and Hicks Street in Brooklyn, buying just a stem or two on my walk back to RedHook from the F Train.  A few months later I was allowed to make the arrangements for Exit Art's gallery openings and I was off and running through the flower district in NYC thirsty to learn the name of every flower and branch. In 2006 SAIPUA, the combination of my mothers soap hobby and my new found flower obsession was born in a dilapidated storefront on the main drag of VanBrunt Street. The rent was $1000/month! (If you go to red hook now, it's currently the home of Thank You Have a Good Day.)

The third bifurcation point: my accidental run in with a charging herd of sheep being driven by a sheepdog in 2008 when buying cheese from Wood Cock Farm in Vermont. The daughter of the cheesemaker was loitering as we were buying sheeps milk ricotta and asked if I wanted to see their flock. Their sheepdog slipped out the door behind us and without warning - embarked on a furiously fast 'come by' driving the hundred or so sheep towards us in a white fluffy sea of terror - I thought I was going to be obliterated. 'Just stand still' the daughter said to me, bored with this tsunami and annoyed at her dog. I left there with a note pinned in the back of my mind: I wanted that scenario for myself one day.

Now here I am holed up in my little apartment white-boarding up a storm; attempting to divine the 2023 calendar season at Worlds End from a litter of post-it notes. It's a complex choreography to place visitors, students, staff and family into a structure and calendar of events that has a corresponding budget of resource allotment (income vs. salaries // energetic input vs. output). 

I have come to love this winter activity of imaginative planning - when it's all abstracted and anything is possible...when I might still say - lets scrap it all and plant a giant corn maze! (I mean, not no.)

Irregardless of the direction the season takes us, I'm committed to keeping this project porous, open to changing, and ensuring that the farm always has many points of access for all kinds of different people. The simplest access point; come visit and tour and eat on our OPEN SUNDAYS (Coyote Cafe re-opens on May 14th 2023). A more complex access point; joining us for an entire season as a farmhand/apprenticeship

The teaching and exposure that happens here is paramount to my personal desire to build a place so full of aching beauty and uncanny utility. A place where all sorts of interesting people and things are happening in a hive-like environment. Where I can continually be inspired and learn just as I inspire and teach others. 


In the fall of 2021 I posted something on instagram about what you all could imagine teaching if you came to worlds end. I was so moved by your responses I put them in a spreadsheet to digest later. I pulled it out yesterday and posted the first 100 responses below here (you can also see and add your own teaching desires to the post which is now pinned to the top of the @saipua instagram page.)

natural dyeing, garment building
documentary filmmaking/storytelling

develop recipes, write cookbook, research and save family recipes for posterity

art of napping, balance of eating energy food & exercise, good manners, how to play cards, how to happily be with yourself, benefits of cold showers, how to take exceptional self portraits (not selfies)

chicken slaughtering, soil science, delivering babies/inserting IUDs, trailer backup, scheming about business ideas and politics
how to make a butter biscuit

how to sustainably forage edible/medicinal plants, how to combat plant blindness, make bitters/botanical mixology

Mah Jongg, how to make the best tuna, chicken, egg salad

how to ice dye, tie dye, weave, yarn dye

how to bake with intutition, clean without harmful chemicals, infuse herbs and flowers into ice cream/sorbets
positive psychology

looking, walking, asking questions, being together - comes from academia

nature poetry in various languages, ecocritical theory
Cyanotypes, nature art

GF desserts using floral/herbal flavor profiles

basic DIY home repair - carpentry and woodworking

how to create flower essence and commune w/plants
soap making

process or intuitive painting for perfectionists

business values and conscious leadership

basic bushcrafting, making fire, tarp shelter, axe skills, basic campfire cooking
women and utopian vision

film photograph in nature, breaking up with plastics, intro to herbalism w/focus on chronic illness, disability, inflammation

meditation, breath work, setting personal boundaries, living with intention, eating and living w/the seasons, group work connecting w/self

ecologically focused landscape and garden design large and small scale

how to build your perfect unique lifestyle business

how to make friends w a plant, how to make a book w a single sheet of paper, how to introuce youself without mentioning capitalism

poetry writing from natural world, oral history storytelling

poetry workshop based on experiment/techniques from Bernadette Mayer
pie baking

mindful marketing for artists/creators looking to attract ideal clients

the art of reinvention, pleasure stacks, nature bathing

white affinity group exploring/disrupting whitness, white supremacy, white folks tuition will subsidize bipoc/black and poc affinity group to come do their work

qigong, chinese medicine lifestyle principles

The Art of Travelogue, paints, writes, draws impressions of where they are
Cooking classes, Japanese ink art

how to replicate native flowers/plants in paper

filing system and organization tips for homes,w/ an understanding of the creative spirit

Learn to Love Marketing your small business starter journey
Cooking classes focused on spices

balancing your energy, cocahing workshops to increase self-knowlege and self-love for more natural way of living
broom making

agricultural education, basic medical education

good manners before they die out completely

@heysisterseasons, teaching about menstrual cycle through nature and climate change
how to build a fire

healthy vocal production, garden design, how to look at photography and take more interesting pictures
hide tanning

distillation, enfleurage, incense making

cultural cooking lessoms from women around the world
mindful foraging and wreath making

how to make bread, yogurt, jam, how to knit, wearable flowers

how to make paper flowers, moths, butterflies etc. if it grows or flies we can make it in paper

how to make a silver cuff, hand built or wheel thrown vases and planters

history of art, premodern European art but would deep dive into whatever period
knitting and spinning

botanical drawing or plein aire painting workshop
ice dyeing
@smudge_studiobk waterlcolor

how to develop and use intuition, use breathwork for healing, personal growth, community care

weaving with foraged and naturally dyed materials
bread making

how to make a perfect chocolate cake

photography and digital marketing for small floral businesses

"magical realism" - creative practice involving movement, writing, drawing, roomscaping, adornment
rest as regenerative cerative practice
help teach a writing workshop

photography, how to use a DSLR for video, editing, flower arranging, film photography, film elmulsions w/polariods,smaller scale studio lighting, how to make delicious ice cream with unusual flavors

photography - intro, film or digital, how to make my Grammy's risotto, how to give cranky cat pills and ointment

natural dye course, how to press flowers

visible mending, any kind of knitting, hot water bath and pressure canning, sourdough bread and crackers, gingerbread, pizza in home over, foolproof foccaccia

floral bartending, dance party mix tapes
large scale pinch pots (or any scale)

natural dye with food waste, flower, bioregional seasonal plants, local wool and basic spinning, herbal body care, community space holding, cooperative existence
bundle dying

mending, charcoal drawing in nature/figure drawing to lift creative block and to accept phsyical form

@kylecook.custom can teach furniture making techniques like hand tools and dovetails

recognizing signs of burnout, self care

how to print and dye with flowers, make your own apothecary prepartions, make the best ghee, congee, bone broth, reiki, yoga, meditation
the possibilities of cooperatives
moccasin or simple sneaker making

Personal nature color wheels or finding color inspiration in nature and creating a palette around the choices

how to make large scale arrangements with foraged things, how to make really yummy salad
how to make sugar flowers

still life styling and photography with seasonal fruits veggies and flowers
photography in rural context
meditation, yoga

Feldenkrais, relaxi taxi, how to slip in inappropriate jokes into conversation

memoir and personal narrative writing

holistic vaginal health, navigating western healthcare through woman positive and sex positive lens

print workshops - would love to learn more about your space, timing, plans maybe they align with mine

Friday, December 2, 2022

Soap and Surveillance: Is there any way to stay clean under capitalism?

Soap and Surveillance: Is there any way to stay clean under capitalism?

I rented an apartment in Hudson, NY so I can get off the farm every week. As much as I am committed to the work of Worlds End - it’s thick and varied landscape of relationships and agricultural problem solving (Donnie and his penchant for playing and chewing on lambs is a recent example) - I also believe that the key to stamina in a sprawling project like this is the ability to get away from it.

As we forge new ways of living and working together, we get to invent new rules and patterns; assessing and pivoting in real time. Prior to this apartment, I had been living in a cabin without electricity and water, a fun experiment that ran its course.

Suffice it to say the respite this place provides allows for physical and electronic device recharge. It also gives me a chance to experience true ‘days off’ and alone time to think and write and see friends outside the context of the farm.

Privacy is a huge concern inside the project of Worlds End. The ability for residents to live and work together is proportional to their access to true privacy. Privacy means a room or cabin off limits to others, but it also means you have a place where you can’t hear someone else’s phone call or hear that they are opening the fridge. It means having time when you don’t casually run into someone in the hall and end up answering a question or having a quick chat when really you just want to brush your teeth.

We can define privacy easily in these physical, real world experiences.

Privacy in the digital realm is more complicated to understand and poses a larger threat…

In this apartment, there is an antiquated, non-programable thermostat from the ’80s. James sees Black Friday sales and suggests we buy a Nest thermostat that can be controlled from our phones from a great distance. We can likely save money on days when not here, and be more comfortable by warming up the apartment just before we arrive.

I immediately seize up at this idea as I’m recently reading Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (this is a great interview to watch, also her hair) and starting to understand with greater detail the extent to which our access to private sanctuary is being eclipsed by enticing and helpful technologies that promise to make our lives easier.

One of my favorite movies is Ex Machina. It’s a chilling story about artificial intelligence and passing the Turing Test. Embedded in the film is a great explanation - you can watch it here - of how collected personal data can inform the creation of new technologies through machine learning. It also contains, in my opinion, one of the most memorable dance scenes in all of cinematic history.

In this example, we’re talking robots - very human-looking ones that can cook and have sex with Oscar Issac - but in a more normalized reality, this type of data can be used to moderate and adapt our behavior - quietly and without us realizing it. And it is being used to gently shape our desires, fantasies, emotions, and access to freedom.

All phases of capitalism have taken some aspect of human experience and pulled it into the marketplace; examples would include the loss of the commons, the commodification of labor power, and the creation of the ‘personal care industry.’

Surveillance capitalism commodifies the masses of surplus behavioral data left over from user interfaces. It’s data collected from how you interact with your phone and your computer browser - but it’s also your television, your security camera, your thermostat, your smart refrigerator, and your car.

In the 1988 masterwork, Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky argue that mass media and corporate power are inextricably linked in their collaborative creation of propaganda aimed to funnel profits to those in power.

Today, with an understanding of data collection and surveillance, we can see how the expanding horizon of helpful personal ‘smart’ technological devices not only ‘improves’ our lives but opens an entirely new territory for intrusive manipulation of the masses.

To return to the title query of this email; I do believe the process of commodification contaminates any action, art, or object we make. I see this all the time in creative people who struggle to balance their making life with their need to earn a living.

I do think that grace and god exit the room when we attempt to make money just for money’s sake. I think we need new ways of living together in communities that collectively understand value as being something completely separate from the dollars needed to pay for gasoline or taxes, and I think it’s easier to practice this kind of experimental work in far-flung agriculture-based projects like Worlds End.

I joked last week about collecting your data as you shopped around on the Saipua website; which - full disclosure - includes me using dial-up internet to log into to the back end of our Squarespace website to see what you purchased when, after which email and with which discount code. The Saipua algorithm can be said to consist of some loose mental math after a brief scroll through your orders and the subsequent conversations with Susan at cocktail hour.

In all sincerity; thank you for your orders. I say this all the time, but I can’t say it enough: they SUSTAIN us and our work here.

Can we stay clean under capitalism? Perhaps it’s the wrong question... A more interesting one: what could the world look like without such massive accumulations of wealth and power?