FEAST #12 Proposals

596 Acres: You Can’t Hold Back Spring Series

596 acres of vacant public land existed in Brooklyn alone as of April 2010 according to the City’s own data. We spent some of last summer distributing maps of where that land is and hanging physical signs identifying particular lots for those who walked by as an experiment (think alternative parks department…). People responded to our signs and we helped forge relationships between neighbors and help those neighbors negotiate with NYC agencies for permission to use previously closed-off land in their neighborhoods to for community-controlled green space and food production.

Six months after we started our experiment, there are four new gardens preparing to build their soil for a spring planting: FEEDback Farms, the Java Street Garden Collaborative462 Halsey Community Garden and Myrtle Village Green.

We are also getting ready for spring — spending the winter groundtruthing** the data we have from New York City’s Planning Department, preparing a new broadsheet that will tell the stories the community groups that successfully organized for control of green spaces in their neighborhoods based on information they learned reading our signs on the fences. These stories are the spark. A future of communities determining their own geographic destinies is coming.

We are also making new signs and talking to city agencies that don’t know us yet in order to figure out which lots we should label. We know that Brooklynites are prepared to be in charge of their destiny. We are laying the tracks. We need some rails. Or maybe just a FEAST.

Because you can’t. hold. back. spring.

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Shout Out to Fresh Veggies

Where are the fun, playful, and memorable ads for fresh fruits and vegetables? The silence is deafening for many Brooklyn teens. Instead, on every computer screen, every billboard, every bodega shelf, every magazine, every TV, junk food advertisers are renting our eyeballs and training our food cravings. Researchers estimate that kids today see over 40,000 junk food advertisements each year on TV alone. Parents have only 3 times a day (meal times) at most to advertise healthy food for their kids. Without a multi-million dollar budget, how can we give a Shout Out to Fresh Veggies that youth can hear over the noise of junk food advertising?

Brooklyn teens from the High School for Public Service Youth Farm are creating a fresh food ad campaign that they hope to spread far and wide. The teens plan to use social media to track how many people view their messages, they also plan to leverage BK Farmyards social network to expand their reach including a gallery event in Chelsea to showcase their print ads in poster format. The Shout Out to Fresh Veggies posters will also be used around the Youth Farm community in Crown Heights & East Flatbush to advertise the availability of organic, local, affordable vegetables. The team hopes to not only give voice to youth who believe that everyone deserves equal access to fresh food but also let them shout it from the internet.

We did a pilot of this curriculum last year

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Represent: I’m Shante (Grapevine Ink. loves Hip-Hop)

The “Represent: I’m Shanté” project brings skilled printmakers (interdisciplinary artist, Shani Peters, interdisciplinary artist/graffiti writer Elena Estojanova, and vocalist/break-dancer Kelsey Pyro V.E., all members of the International collective of socially involved Women printmakers: Grapevine Ink.) to an audience of 1,000+ female hip-hop enthusiasts to lead live t-shirt printing demonstrations.  This audience will be brought together at the Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen (MHHK), Vol. 5: Be the Cure! event.    Attendees will either print their own, or have printed for them a t-shirt reading “I’m Shanté” in large pink letters with the words “ and I represent powerful women” in smaller lettering below.
The printed t-shirt phrase references lyrics from the 1987 hip-hop classic “Have A Nice Day” by hip-hop pioneer, Roxanne Shanté.   By printing hundreds of t-shirts that allow hundreds of women to symbolically take on the identity of Shanté, an iconic and complicated figure in hip-hop history, the project demonstrates solidarity, awareness and connection to hip-hop’s grassroots origins, and pride in a tradition of women that are often pejoratively referred to as “ghetto”, “bitches”, “hood-rats”, etc.  In a lighthearted, but earnest nod to the Civil Rights Movement’s “I AM A MAN” sandwich board protests, this project “amplifies” the voice of one woman through the visual demonstration of many.  The pink ink color will direct attention to MHHK’s 2012 breast cancer awareness theme.  Professional quality group photos will be taken of women wearing the shirts. Requested funding will cover the cost of  prep time, printing supplies, and 300+ t-shirts.

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People’s Think Tank

Self-organization—the crystallization of
political will from free discussion—
thrives best in actual urban fora. 

Mike Davis

Imagine spontaneous conversations erupting among strangers across the five boroughs – people sitting down together in parks, subway stations, and office buildings, to talk about anything from the food-industrial complex and its alternatives to the ins and outs of corporate personhood. Since September 2011, the Occupy Wall Street People’s Think Tank has been facilitating these impromptu dialogues in public spaces throughout New York’s financial district. Everyday from 12-6 we facilitate open conversations for anyone who cares to join. Wall Street bankers talk with chronically homeless folks and underemployed college grads about the relationship between art and politics, or the effects of stop and frisk policing on communities of color. By simply sitting down together in public, we create a space in which all people have an equal voice on the issues that matter to them and are allowed to activate their own political imaginations. We record the conversations, and with help from NYU’s Tamiment library, we plan to get them organized and back to the public as an open-source digital archive.

In 2012, we’re asking  F.E.A.S.T. to help the People’s Think Tank transport these conversations into new spaces. From Grand Central Terminal to the Brooklyn Museum, from the Upper West Side food bank to the Staten Island ferry terminal, we’ll invite the five boroughs to converse where they live and work. While Think Tanks are simple to enact, requiring only a facilitator and willing participants, to amplify our practice, we need some support. Funds for signs, flyers, subway fare, blankets to sit on, and additional sound recorders will enable us to add new voices to these exciting conversations.

NYCGA: http://www.nycga.net/groups/think-tank/

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The Soapbox Vocoder Project

Have you ever dreamt of giving a speech at the White House, or perhaps addressing a television audience with your own State of the Nation?  Do you think you could help solve the world’s problems, if only you could get your voice heard in the mainstream media?
By re-purposing a technology originally developed in the nineteen-twenties to encrypt voices for secure radio communications – and later used to funky effect by Kraftwerk, Peter Frampton and Afrika Bamabaataa, we are building a machine that channels the voice of the common person, and amplifies it in an authoritative medium.

The Soapbox Vocoder works by breaking down and analyzing the speaker’s voice and reconstituting it in a powerful way.  Participants are placed at a news desk or podium where they deliver a speech into a microphone.  The Soapbox Vocoder then recreates the speech on a nearby screen as a television broadcast by a famous politician or celebrity.

We will invite participants to choose from a selection of (in)famous speeches. They will be able to share their views and create personal and social amplifications of their ideas, possibly even engaging in staged debates with politicians on video or with other participants.

The Soapbox Vocoder team consists of Chiara Bernasconi and Spencer Kiser, artists and researchers who met as colleagues in the Digitial Media Department at a large arts institution.  Their aim is to build an apolitical tool for people to engage in critical, silly, and/or meaningful interpretations of world and local politics.

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The End of My Commute

We’ve tread softly in communal meditation in the Lower East Side, drifted through Mott Haven on a Situationist dérive, and traced John Travolta’s steps along a crowded street in Bensonhurst. As part of the Walk Study Training Course (WSTC) our walks function as methods for producing and sharing knowledge, and understanding culture. Over the last year the WSTC has run two of its free, participant-centered, six-week Training Course seminars that pair critical readings on walking practice with specific group walks. We are now ready to launch Walk Studies, our project-based component in which former participants apply the research of the course to the creation of walks and walking resources that emphasize community engagement.

Our preliminary Walk Study will be a series of walks entitled “The End of My Commute”. Five representatives from community organizations in Brooklyn will be asked to narrate a tour from a shared subway stop to their respective doorsteps. Through these walks, we will probe the boundaries between public and private space, touristic and intimate space, and safe and perilous space by amplifying solitary walks into social practices. Recordings of the tours will be made accessible to commuters through distribution in the subway station, sold for the price of a fare. They will also be archived and made available for download on our website.

Money awarded will be used to launch the Walk Study program component and will include purchasing of digital recording equipment, hosting and development for our website.


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Occupy.here is an autonomous wifi network (separate from the Internet) that offers a virtual, distributed Zuccotti Park-like space for open political discussions. Anyone with a web-capable smartphone or laptop can join the network “OCCUPY.HERE” and—upon opening their browser—be redirected to http://occupy.here, a message board only available to others within physical proximity of the wifi hardware. The open source forum software offers a simple, mobile-friendly interface where users can write messages and post replies.
The project has been developed in parallel with the Occupy movement and seeks to offer a new venue where both committed activists and casual supporters can engage, without the schedule challenges of the General Assembly, less vulnerable to online trolls and disruptors.
The software runs on any wifi router that supports OpenWRT, which can be upgraded to an Occupy.here node in a matter of minutes. While each location can operate independently of the others, a content sharing mechanism allows conversations to intermix between the routers. Each user can copy their forum’s complete database to their device and sync it with other Occupy.here nodes, like a honey bee sharing pollen between flowers.
Support from FEAST would purchase wifi hardware, $80 per router. My goal is to seed the project with many wifi locations, so that contributing to the conversation is accessible for as many New Yorkers as possible. You can help “wifi-amplify” both established and new Occupy spaces: indoor private public spaces, church sanctuaries, parks, colleges, and subway platforms.
Here is the open source code repository:
Here is a demo instance of the forum software:
And here is a video of a 16 minute presentation I gave on occupy.here:

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The Newtown Creek Armada

The Newtown Creek Armada is an interactive installation in which a model boat pond will be created on the Newtown Creek, one of America’s most polluted waterways. The Newtown Creek Armada is a collaboration between three Brooklyn artists – Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright – whose individual work creatively investigates industry, ecology, and change in urban spaces.
At The Newtown Creek Armada, visitors will be invited to pilot a fleet of artist-created, miniature, remote-controlled boats along the creek’s surface while at the same time documenting the world hidden beneath the water. Each boat in The Armada will be equipped with an underwater camera and lights, allowing participants to record a unique voyage on the creek. Video from these underwater explorations will be broadcast live on monitors at the project location, both literally amplifying images of pollution in the creek and giving visitors a chance to virtually immerse themselves in the toxic waters of this Superfund site.
This project will bring members of the local community together to enjoy and contemplate an underutilized public space, amplifying the voice of the creek itself in a larger dialog about community resources, public space and environmental contamination in Greenpoint.

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Prison Production: Amplifying Hidden Histories

Prison Production will be a 5-6 week Theater-in-Education residency at Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem. Two 12th grade economics classes will focus on developing an economic analysis of the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. Five actor-teachers will use theater (in-class dramas, and student role play), to create dialogue and draw connections to history.

Wadleigh is a performing arts school located in a community whose struggle with racial justice has earned historic attention, and whose pioneering spirit in the arts has captured the imaginations of generations of US performers. Today, Harlem faces problems of over-policing, racially-targeted stop-and-frisk policies, and high rates of incarceration. Despite a lack of difference in drug use between racial groups in New York, people of color, and especially black men, are more frequently arrested for drug crimes, and convicted more harshly, than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, private prisons that house these folks are being subsidized by tax dollars to alleviate poverty in largely white upstate communities. Educators and academics have tended to ignore this history, which has been decades in the making.

Prison Production will amplify the urban historical narrative of the US prison industry, particularly its infrequently criticized role in maintaining poverty and racial segregation of the poor for the benefit of the rich.

Wadleigh High School: http://schools.nyc.gov/SchoolPortals/03/M415/default.htm

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Portraits of NYC

Bacteria paint.  Though difficult to see individually, bacteria synthesize pigments to harvest light energy.  As the organisms grow from individual to colony by exploiting natural resources, the pigments culminate in a kind of community-based pointillism.  Exponential growth and decay of color can be witnessed by the naked eye illustrating a co-evolution of living cultures and transformed habitats.  Bacteria are simultaneously figures in a landscape and catalytic agents in an ecosystem.  Their amplification of form holds our attention; we are of a kind — biological organisms with agency.

I have been accepted into LMCC’s 5-month residency on Governor’s Island.  FEAST will fund construction of 5 frames of evolving NYC ecosystems [mud and water:  Hudson River(PCBs), Gowanus Canal(heavy metals), Deadhorse Bay(landfill), East River(sewage), Newtown Creek(Oil spill)]. Enclosed in a sculptural frame, endogenous bacteria paint a transforming colorfield as defined by the physical and chemical conditions of the water:mud composite.  The living organisms manufacturing the pigments are simultaneously the subject and substance of the ‘painterly’ objectification – both object and medium, both a work of art itself and a working of autopoeisis.  The portrait is literal.  Construction and deconstruction of molecular building blocks produce an ongoing dis/integration of form.  Therefore there is not one portrait, but a series of real time/space negotiations performed by bacteria within a frame of finite natural resources.  Not unlike human organizing sustainability on a finite earth of soil, water and sunlight, the color of bacterial cultures are indicators of the industry of organisms cleaning ourcity, gorgeously.

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