Post Cards From Home

First round of post-cards sent out!

Cynthia Hopkins

Boise dinner guests

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You are invited to dinner:Please come

Eliza Fernand has been living in Boise for three months, along with her art partner, Anna Weber, (their collaboration is called Wannamake, which you can check out <HERE>) conducting a residency in the Alaska Building, on Main street Boise.  Once an office space, now used as artists’ studios, the space is huge and carpeted, now filled with sewing machines, scissors, snips, clips and threads. A small collection of wigs, and an extensive collection of hand sewn costumes (including a bacon body suit with accompanying egg suits.)

Eliza and I met at the Elsewhere artist collaborative last summer.  She was a visiting artist, and I was a returning artist/staff member.  We realized our similar artistic interests in art as social experiment, textiles and performance right off the bat, but had little opportunity to pursue any collaborative efforts amidst the fast paced schedule of Elsewhere’s summer schedule.  We began communicating in long winded emails and skype conversations about a collaboration in Boise.  Many thought were brought to the table about getting to know a place, and interacting in a thoughtful way amongst it’s residents.  From sewing costumes to musical performances and  hand made signs, we came to the decision that food was the best catalyst to evoke the sort of interactions we were both interested in investigating.

With the help of local mail artist Elijah, invitations were sent out to numerous Boise residents, most who were strangers to Eliza and I.  We got almost twenty replies.  Guests were asked to choose between one of three outfit options.  This element of the project was in investigation of dress, and the categorization and subtleties in interaction that are effected by physical comportment and attire.

It was also a fun way to assert some subtle aesthetic control over the evening.  

Eliza made up place-mats, to match guest’s outfits, a)All stripes, b)black white and gold, c)baby blue with red trim.

The evening began with herb infused cocktails, made  from locally foraged herbs.  We also foraged many greens including dandelion leaves, shepherds purse, plantain and chickweed and made up a big fresh foraged salad.

But the star of the menu for the evening was none other than, Idaho’s own Potato.

My worries of Potatoes being cliche or over eaten in Idaho were unfounded, and the Potato bar was  a huge success.  Toppings included:

-Mushroom/white wine gravy
-finely chopped tamari tofu bacon
-fresh green onions
-cheddar cheese
For desert, rosemary infused frozen yogurt.

Over the course of the evening, all of the guests had their photos taken in-front of a green screen.  Later we photo-shopped in different backgrounds, based on the guests’ “fantasy setting” that they shared with us.

Post dinner follow up included more mail packages to guest.

Printed out photos with fantasy backgrounds and special personalized Potato patches brought the project to completion.

Thank you to all of our amazing dinner guests for coming!

Hurtin’ in Idaho

Next stop: Boise, Idaho.  A place I would never have thought of a good reason to travel to.  So I made up a reason and booked a ticket to Idaho.  Alaska Air awards all of it’s  passengers with a free beer or wine on domestic flights.  Unfortunately, I was feeling too feverish for either of those options, so I ordered a ginger ale, and passed the comp. beer to Eliza in the window seat.

The flight was short and un-comfortable.  By Eastern Oregon, my throat was swollen and raw.  Touch down in Boise, fever and dizziness.  Jokes about naked jungle animals were un-naturally hilarious.  The back of my neck, was drenched in sweat.  My body felt like it had been put into a trash compactor and then removed, several times.

I managed a courteous salutation to my mid-western hosts, and sank into deep delusional sleep. Eliza followed my lead and fell ill the next day.  We felt our  plans for energetic collaboration and ambitious production slipping out of reach, replaced by mugs of ginger tea and vitamin C.  The nature of our collaboration took a turn onto the path of healing our broken bodies. Aparently too much Social Practice art can be devastating to one physical state.  Over the next couple days we conducted  an experiment in care and rest, ingesting strongly steeped tea, soups and other fluids…the sharing of remedies ensued.

A shared Recipe for wellness:

Two cups of water, brought to a boil
Two cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
thumb sized piece of ginger (chopped finely)
couple pinches of cayenne
juice of one voluptuous lemon
honey, to taste
whiskey or brandy, to taste, (optional)
Drink obsessively until well.

When we finally mustered up the energy to emerge, rain and snow had fallen generously, and a car show was in town.

Open Engagement 2010

A brief (but actually pretty log winded,) summary of events,  from the Open Engagement, Social Practice Art Conference, that recently happened in Portland Oregon. (May 13-18th put on by Portland State University’s department of social practice.)

The conference was 5 days of non stop  scheduled activities,  projects, discussions, panels, cook offs, object mending, museums, walks, and talks. There were many joyous re-unions with long lost friends, and new found ones; dance parties, donuts, wilderness walks  and a lot of fun.

I must admit, that after the excitement died down, my body completely shut down from over stimulus and I was in bed for days with feverish nightmares of hairy doctors conducting medical experiments in a subterranean hospital, while claiming it to be a social practice art project…absolutely terrifying, but even though my subconscious may feel otherwise,  I think that the conference was an  eye-opening  experience (and not the kind of eye opener where there are clamps holding your lids open.) It brought a wealth of wonderful and creative people together, to talk, and learn and collaborate, while sharing  a few drinks and dance moves.   We left feeling exhausted yet refreshed.  Bodies broken, but minds invigorated, and brains ignited. Family Dinner at Paloma's

I will start with the beginning, and end with the end, although there may be a few gaps and relapses along the way. I was exposed to a lot, and I am now hoping that my obsessive note taking payed off, in the recounting of  Open Engagement,  here in post conference blog space.

Visiting Portland, began with nature, and a lot of cooking. After some reunions with old friends, diner food and watching Jacob’s Ladder, (probably what influenced the hospital nightmares a week later,) I prepared to do some major foraging for the Wild Food Foraging Cook off, organized by the wonderful Michelle Illuminato.   Local weed forager Becky Lerner showed us the way to eat weeds, and we found over 10 tasty, (and some not quite as tasty) plants growing in a 2 block radius of North Central Portland.  This knowledge, combined with a trip out to Oxbow Sate park (thanks to Jonas for the driving, cooking company and for sharing the pain of stinging nettle rash…) and a 6 am weed forage, prepared us for the predominantly foraged spread, presented at the Cook off on Saturday.   I boiled stinging nettle, along with some onions, into delicious bite sized and non stingey filo pastry wrapped nettle-copita.  Plantain leaves gathered from various Portland lawns were steamed and mixed with a touch of butter.  Eliza made a delectable wild rice and salmon berry crumble , and Jonas cooked up wild elk, eel and venison stroganoff.

Green Clovery things

that were delicious and lemony

Feeding Folks Foraged Food


they got gobbled up before I could snap a shot

A long morning of preparations payed off.  Eliza and I ended up wining second prize, and Jonas and Toma scored third.  Everything was delicious including the asparagus ice cream, first prize winning herb infused sodas, and even the nutria stew. (tangy…)  The consensus is: foraging is super way to learn about a place, there really is a tonne of stuff that grows right outside your door, just waiting to be picked, and prepared into something tasty.

After all the foraging/preparing/eating we realized that the conference had only just begun.  Good thing there was so much foraged nutrition in our systems because Saturday was a long day.   Conference headliner/big-shot Marc Dion gave a noon thirty lecture covering some of his work and research on the history of museums, fetish objects, Wunderkammer/cabinets of curiosity and the re thinking of systems of classification through re-ordering of objects.  After an hour and a half in a packed lecture hall,  I emerged considering new taxonomical possibilities for life out side of the museum….

The afternoon was spent considering states of broken-ness and (dis)repair through an examination of various forms of  love necessary to lead a balanced life/art practice.  I had applied to participate in a collaborative project,  mending broken objects, with Chicago based artists Sarah Black and John Preus.  The object in question:
One human heart.
Fist sized, 26 years old, 1984 western Canadian model.
In fair condition with a few bumps and bruises, slightly wind blown from being worn often on the sleeve.
Now, in answer to many questions I encountered over the course of the weekend, I was/am not, feeling particularly broken hearted over one person, or situation.  The state off broken-ness pertaining to my ticker, was in a more general and existential sort of way.  I believe in various forms of love, out side of romantic love.  I believe in a balance, of romantic love, friendship love, familial love, love of art, love of life, (to name a few.)  So no, i am not in a weepy state of  broken heartedness over that one who got away.  I was feeling rather confused about whether to be dysfunctional is to be broken, when I submitted my broken object to the project late at night with a glass of wine in one hand, and my heart in the other, (typing with my tongue.)
I had no idea as to how the encounter would be conducted.  I had thrown these artists a bit of a curve ball, and they went for it.   I went to the meeting well versed in life experience and the words of Erich Fromm, with some good pals, Aliya Bonar and Hanna Clark, and an “open heart.” (oh sorry, so cheesy.)
The encounter amounted to a long discussion about love.  Love is a topic, that everybody has something to say about, regardless of class, race, age of discipline.  Its a pretty relatable topic. The conversation ranged from tools, to trajectories, ripping muscles,  to pop culture, and karaoke.  You can hear the whole conversation HERE (eventually)

public heart surgery

wunder-repair team, with merit badges


Some well deserved beers were had in the evening, followed by a three round trivia game hosted by the Chicago arts administrative team INCUBATE.  We managed to make our way home somehow, and sleep soundly in the homes of  our lovely hosts.

Day Two: do it all over again, although starting at a slightly later hour.  Where day one had us chalking up on wild vitamins, day two was fried foods day, starting with a breakfast of Voodoo donuts, (Portland’s infamous vegan donut shop,) and Poutine for lunch from the most psychedelic fry van I’ve ever seen…I unfortunately didnt get a photo, but there was an astronaut floating in deep neon space eating fries through his helmet, amongst other things equally as psychedellic…delicious!

Nils Norman and Joen Vedel lead a discussion about Utopia, which was of particular interest.  Nils has done some extensive research on the history of Utopic societies, from the early renaissance and Thomas Moore, to christian sects, Foucault’s notion of Heterotopia to american Drop out culture.  Joen, a Danish artist,  had worked in building a Free Autonomous Zone  in Coppenhaagen, post Christiania.

Amy Franchescini was the Headliner for the day, and her talk was eloquent and inspiring.  From making computers and giant pac man games, to her Victory Gardens project, (planting a vegetable garden in front of city hall in SF,)  this lady has done it all, and made it all  sound really easy…

In the evening we saw a couple bands play, and then hit up the Galaxy Karaoke bar.  The place was almost empty on a Sunday night,  so our table of five sang pretty much every second song.  Highlights of the evening included a woman with a broken heart  who stopped her car to sing Pat Benetar, and the host’s tribute to the recently deceased Ronnie James Dio, of “Holy Diver.”

Day 3:
The experience left me well prepared for the Broken Heart re-consultation.  My conclusions were that a healthy dose of pop culture, through methods such as Karaoke, can lead to more interactions and feelings of connectivity with a broader range of humans.  More culture, more art=more connections, more love? Its not a solving conclusion necessarily, but one that shows promise.

Sarah and  John made  mention that maybe my heart wasn’t broken at all, and even if it was, maybe it was a good thing.  More tearing, as in body building, leads to more mass and strength.  So, back to pop culture drawing board, bring on the Arnold Shwartzennegger flics.

muscle tear=muscle mass

Nils Norman was day three’s ultimate art headliner, however, I skipped out on his talk to see the show at the Contemporary craft Museum. I heard tell afterwards, that he shared a lot of very interesting photos of “Adventure Playgrounds,” from around the world.
Sarah and John have a large installation up at the Craft Museum right now, that they built together, as a live performance in the gallery.  One of them would design a section of the installation each day, and instruct the other on how to build it’s mirror image, through a small hole in a wall, dividing the space in half.  At the end of the 6 day construction project, the dividing wall was removed,  and they were able to see each others’ interpretations of the instructions.  The results were pretty spot on, although similarities deteriorated slightly near the end of their 6 day stint.  A really interesting experiment in communication, instructions and a very inticing structure, that felt like an open air log cabin.

I attended a panel discussion on collaborative processes in the afternoon, but in all honesty, everything becomes a bit of a blur at this point.  Being saturated in so much information, with a healthy topping of socializing can bring absorption levels dangerously low.
There was a soup dinner with fellow Canadians, reading a book on the history of rafts, and raft makers, by Constance Hockaday, later, meeting Constance Hockaday while referencing her book in a comment at a panel about the potential for farming fruit from bonsai trees growing on refurbished barges.(A panel lead by Bruce Conkle where I believe I exuberantly volunteered my services to lead a team of equally excited citizens in making this project happen, followed by a life of fruited floating on the high seas  many years to come…)
Then there was dancing.  After all the thinking, drinking and conversing, what better way to sign out than with a full out dance party.  This team of 4 from texas I believe, put together a series of videos, animating various dance moves. The moves were collected from people in their community prior to the conference.  They gave an energetic performance before many spectators joined in, and added their own moves to the mix.  I lead the group in various aerobics-esque moves, and managed to pull some thigh muscles during the process. It was totally worth it.
One more day to enjoy Portland, sans conference, I spent it having a leisurely breakfast, napping, and visiting Powell’s Book store. (Three maze like stories of every category imaginable…) I left with some books on astronomy, foraging, and colonial exploration and managed to add a book to the stacks. (Part of an Open Engagement project by Blair Fornwald, where she gifted various found books containing personalized inscriptions, instructing new owners to “Do whatever you want.” I wanted to keep “The Four Cameliers,”but space was tight in the carry-on bag, so I slipped it into the zoology section.)

Already a little feverish from exhaustion, I headed to the airport, along with my dear friend Eliza Fernand, to head off to Boise, Idaho,  the next phase of the journey.

(more on Boise coming soon)
Open Engagement, over, but not forgotten.  A true  Temporary Autonomous Zone.

The Feast

Eight guests were invited to dinner at Rachelle’s apartment in the Bartleman Apartment Building.  With their invitations each guest was given a small task/item to bring with them (edible cubes of approximately 1 cm square, nori cut into thin strips, something green and chopped etc…) No information as to the evenings events was divulged to guests prior to their arrival, except for their task and to dress “to impress while making a mess.”

Upon arrival at unit 21 of the Bartleman, each guest was given a role and a Badge to wear, indicating this role.  These roles outlined the responsibilities and tasks to be enacted by each guest. Roles included: Roads and Transportation, Urban Structures , Rural Structures, Dwellings, Waterways, Topography, Tree and Bush,  Agriculture, Tunnels and Bridges,  Systems of Communication…

Ten trays of pre-prepared corn bread, in various hues, were arranged on the dining room table, mimicking a prairie landscape, as seen from above.  After some time with wine and conversation, the remainder of the food was brought out, and guests went to work, constructing their versions of the Saskatchewan landscape, made from edible materials.  Guests worked on their own deemed “areas of expertise” while also co-operating with others, to make a cohesive and unified whole.  What emerged in discussion, over edible lanscape construction, tended towards the desire for accurate geographical representation of prairie surroundings.  Although not necessarily to scale, the final product  contained edible landmarks representing  Regina, Saskatoon, the Qu’apelle Valley, Moose Jaw and the Trans Canada Highway (to name but a few.)

I took notes on the typewriter while construction was happening, and must admit to augmented knowledge of Saskatchewan geography as  a result.

Once building was complete, we piled our plates high with the collaboratively crafted masterpiece, and chowed down the land, well slathered in mushroom gravy.

For desert, a vanilla and saskatoon berry  grain elevator, with chocolate cream cheese butter cream icing…

Prairie Edible

Two days spent in the kitchen, cooking up a landscape worth eating. The menu was as follows:

-Patch work Corn Bread base, in various varieties and colors:
*Sweet potato
-Cubed Tofu, marinated in chillies and garlic,
-Triangular Tofu in Turmeric, tamari and Beet.
-Assorted Vegetable cubes (supplied by Barbara)
-Steamed kale with butter and lemon
-Mashed sweet potatos
-Buttery mashed potatos (supplied by Hilary)
-Curried cinnamon lentils
-Mushroom white wine gravy
sides of:
lime and pepper cucumber spears
-bean sprouts
-toasted sesame seeds
-pumpkin seeds
-thinly cut Nori (supplied by Janelle)


Prairie Badges An evening spent listening to art interviews and sewing patches for dinner guests.  Each guest will be receiving a small package upon arrival at the dinner on Saturday.  The package will contain these patches,  a specific title/role, and a list of actions/interactions to be instigated at one point during the event. Their titles will loosely determine the role that each individual will play in the construction of the Edible Prairie city.  I am currently in the process of establishing what these prompts/interactions will be.  I want urge the instigation of certain conversations and interactions between people, without forcing any sort of social agenda on the gathering.    More to come when I figure it out.

The Real April 7th

Saskatchewan is flat.  Really really flat.  So flat, that when a cyclone starts, it keeps going, and wipes out most everything in its flat path.  Much like in 1912, when north america’s most severe Tornado hit Regina.  It killed 28 and left thousands homeless.  All this I learn today, at the Regina Plains Museum, from some nice middle aged ladies over a cup of tea. The museum is in one room that looks like it might have been an office space before it was a museum.  There is a wheat field made of glass, and a collection of salt and pepper shakers, some made from light bulbs, others, otherwise. I think I will be visiting this place again.

I spent the morning at the University, scanning and typing out invitations for some Edible antics planned for this Saturday evening. Ten invited people will be aiding in the construction and consumption of a prairie landscape.  (but dont tell them, its a secret.)

Here is a sample invitation:

Message for immediate delivery to Barbara Meneley.
Dear Ms Meneley:
This message requests your presence at the Bartleman Apartments, this Saturday, April the 10th, 2010 at 6 pm.
Unit twenty one, on the third floor of the Bartleman apartment building is, as you may know, the current place of residence of one human occupant, Ms. Rachelle Viader Knowles and one feline,  Mr. Ralphie the cat.  On Saturday april the 10th, unit 21 of the Bartleman, will be conducting an experiment in ritual collaborative ingestion.  Events will be instigated and supervised by an expert in the field, Ms. Amber Phelps Bondaroff, who has traveled from the Eastern region of the Realm of Reject, in the province of Quebec, to conduct this highly anticipated affair.
Your presence and expertise are greatly desired at this function.

Please respond with confirmation of your presence with the following material:

-Cubes.  Small and edible (approx 1 cm square)  In any variety of vegetarian materials.
-One dinner plate.
Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you.

-Amber Phelps Bondaroff
and the Realm of Reject