Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When Centimeters become the new black...

It's when centimeters replace inches in your head, when you start to understand how long you've been in Europe. It's been a while. 
Recently some major shifts have tilted us towards heading back home in the Summer. One is the excellent news that Burning Man awarded Christian a grant to build a new huge sculpture. You can see more details on his BLOG. We are super excited, it seemed that much of our future was hanging on this decision. Not only does it present a true challenge on how to pull this off in Berlin, and only using metric measurements at that, but it gives us  a ceremonious welcome home via BRC. I can't think of a better return.

One of the best things about Berlin has been the ability to work at KAOS, the community art space both Christian and I are part of now.  We are continuously meeting new interesting people a wide variety of mad skills. Forging friendships is a slow process but we landed in the right pool of fellow "maker folk", which feels good.  

I have been working on a slightly different project for about three plus months there, building a small house which hosts an installation. It has almost no metal work and is made up of wood and paper and some old cell phones. Not my usual repertoire of mediums. It's almost done, so I feel like it's time to share it with you. It's called Mitt Uthus, which means My Outhouse in Swedish, and is a replica of a traditional outhouse found almost anywhere in the country side in Sweden. The inside of the house is not really an outhouse, rather a place to sit and contemplate for a while. 

The inside walls are completely covered with images acting as wallpaper. My earliest sense of the world came through the images plastered within my grandparents' outhouse, and I came to understood the world based on those images. Today we have viral media, and internet memes. Short, sometimes funny phrases upon circulated images from the news, movies, and cartoons. I have included images that are meaningful to me personally as well as images that represent my time to date. I also added three smart phone screens, embedded into the walls, displaying images and text as well. I want this juxtaposition of technology and memes and vernacular architecture to meld into an immersive experience related to global human impact, familiar and yet disturbing. In a short blurb:

Mitt Uthus is an exploration into contemporary viral media and the power wielded by these iconic visual sound bites of our culture.

I feel like the timing of this installation is spot on, as parts of the concept have been echoed in various lectures and movies I saw recently at the Berlin Transmediale festival as well as a current exhibit at the CCCB (in Barcelona) relating to memes and politics in our culture.

I am in the process of making a video of the piece, as I think it's the best way to share the concept, but I will post some simple pictures first..

 This is the beginning. I guess it also reflects that I feel uprooted and love to build houses... This process was a bit challenging as it has to come a part into several flat panels for transport.

All the walls separate with a few screws and the roof is two sections fastened onto the ends and a middle beam(not in the picture yet).

I built a floating floor with old palette wood as well.

I then sheathed the panels and started planning the interior bench and hidden electric to power the one light bulb as well as charging the phones.

 I found beautiful Scandinavian wall paper with a distressed bird motif, which ended up being perfect for the space. The newspaper clippings and most images are printed on really thin paper, exposing some of the underlying design. I love the textured feel that gives to the walls, making them feel old.
I spent some time designing the door, with a slightly frightened moon face and a five pointed star. I forged the handle in the KAOS metal shop(more pics on that soon)

Now the first coat of paint is on the outside. I still have trim and finishing
touches to paint..

Then the inside..this is a dark pano shot of the walls seen from the bench.

..and a little detail from a section of one wall. 

Hopefully I can get the video done soon to be able to show you more! It's always a bit scary sharing a new project for the first time, especially one that is more personal and outside the usual constraints of what sculpture or visual art is. 
Thanks for reading- more to come.

~Bis Bald! (nothing to do with hair loss)

Thursday, February 15, 2018


It's been a while since my last post, and it's largely due to the Berlin winter. I feel like a hibernating animal, like a bear who is quite content sleeping in a cave waiting for the weather to turn warm and the sun to appear once again. 
I have crawled out of my cocoon for a few events over the past few months, one was visiting Greece over Christmas, which was lovely. Here's our mandatory Acropolis family portrait. Interestingly, the Acropolis looks roughly the same as it did when I saw it in 1992.

We spent many days with Christian's brother Cles and his wife-to-be Eleni, and Nonnah. It was a sweet family affair. Cles is the master mind behind The Thing About Greece, a sustainable adventure site and film about how amazing Greece is.  Thanks to Cles and Eleni and their passion for all that is beautiful there, we got to ski not far from Athens, visit Hydra, swim in a large hot pool within a bat cave, and celebrate a serenely beautiful New Years Eve on a beach. 
And what is becoming our European custom, Christian and I swam in the ocean on the first day of 2018. A good way to start the new year!

The idyllic little island of Hydra, where Leonard Cohen found his inspiration and where time seems to be frozen in a simpler past. It's a walking and donkey island only(no cars).

Once back in the  d a r k  wet cold of Berlin, I managed to check out a digital media/tech and art festival called Transmediale , where our Italian friend Mitra Azar was speaking. It's an interesting festival that explores the topic of technology, media, politics and art and its impact on our culture and society. I have been working for a few months now on an installation piece that examines our relationship to our world through media and memes and how it shapes our relative understanding of identity. 
This installation/sculpture is within a full sized outhouse that I fashioned from my memories of an outhouse I had while growing up in rural Sweden. 

While being anti social, which is surprisingly easy in a large urban sprawl like Berlin, I have been working daily on this installation project at an art space called KAOS. This is where we showed the Hand of Man, a very snowy eve at the Weihnachtsmarkt! Both Christian and I rent space within this makerspace/co working space about a half an hours drive from our little apartment. I will dedicate a short blog to my project later.

We also make it out for strange multi disciplinary events like this, where our friends Nova and Grey are creating music for a 6 hour long organic dance and object manipulation performance. It's always exciting to see new ideas take flight and expose Kodiak to colorful performance art.

I leave you with a few observations, one being that the endless white winter skies here provide an unusual and dramatic backdrop for the many leafless trees. Their network of branches are reflected in nature in rivers and water ways, and in our own bodies vascular system. I'm not sure why I find this so intriguing and beautiful, but I get to see it everywhere in Berlin. Below are examples of the trees and an image of rivers seen from space.

And here is the view from our apartment window.

The other observation is that Berlin is always under construction. 

It's construction cranes are as iconic a fixture as the bare trees. Due to the destruction during WWII and the division of the East, it has a very unique and hodgepodge style to its architecture and layout. And it's a huge city. Large empty spaces within downtown (which were flattened in the war) and East block utilitarian style buildings lining swaths of the city, mixed in with the historic monuments like the Brandenburger Tor, the Fernsehturm and the many Gothic style churches. I was inspired to make a drawing about this juxtaposition...and also the destruction/construction aspect of the city's history. That reminded me of the movie poster of the 50Ft tall woman, 
and this is the result:

So for now, Auf Wiedersehen, biß bald!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Germans, Crickets and Cataluñya

Only a little over a month from my last blog post, there seems to be so much that has happened, from a personal perspective as well as a global one. It's hard to keep the balance, between the local and global news and one's own daily victories and defeats. Somehow all these events intersect somewhere in the psyche to create a smörgåsbord of emotions that inadvertently effect one's daily life.

I don't quite understand why, but the Catalan independence movement which led to the current debacle in Cataluñya has been poignant for me and has evoked feelings of solidarity for all that struggle for their rights. Since we left Barcelona, the situation there has been riddled with recovery and strife.
It's hard to imagine such a historically rich and culturally colorful place could spiral into chaos in such a short time. And it did. It's been a bitter reality for my friends there, walking, living and working on the streets of such polarizing politics as the independence movement conjures.  How the Spanish government chose to deal with the very historically complex uprising is one of the bigger disappointments for me. Not unlike many nations across the globe, there seems to be excess hubris and a shortage of tolerance at the table, if there even is a table to discuss the conflicts at hand. 

How about a big fucking "we are sorry" for whatever atrocities a nation committed against the various peoples who were perceived to be on the wrong side of right in the eyes of the ruling powers?

Even in parenting, an acknowledgment of ones mistakes is the most important first step towards mending trust and building new and peaceful ways of communicating. It translates from our individual behaviour to our national behaviour. Admitting a wrong is an important step to begin making a right.

And here is the segue from Spain to Germany... I just finished reading the book: The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes, and it describes the absolutely crazy history of war laden lands of what are today known as Germany from 500 BCE to the present. It's fascinating.
One thing I took to heart as the book approached the mid 20th century: The Holocaust
"it's tempting to print an entire page in solid black and and just go sit in some blessed English garden, trying to forget what happened among the railways-sidings and birch-forests of Mitteleuropa. Here, if anywhere, is something too awful for rational discussion or comprehension. But we can't leave it at that."
The book then continues to portray the darkest sides of humankind in chronological time. And the mass reckoning that inevitably followed. And I will mention, still, there is reckoning in the air in Berlin. I feel it here daily.

More interesting graffiti in the Friedrichshain Kiez (German for "hood").

And then there is the day to day stuff.... The different etiquette of the German culture, is not an easy one to work around.
Could they please stop honking their car horns? They honk the second you, as a driver or pedestrian or bicyclist, step out of "order". 
It is clear that I am wired for a more organic approach to human movement in urban areas, and thus here, I experience plenty of honking.
And how about a smile? Come on people! Those facial muscles seem a bit under developed here. Luckily I have a super silly 7 year old, who makes me laugh and smile most of the time, so we turn the goof factor up to 11 when we are out in the city.

 One weekend we found excellent Thai and Indonesian street food in a small Berlin park. Christian really enjoyed a plate of fried crickets!

On a much more personal note, I am experiencing bouts of anxiety around not being productive enough. I have to constantly remind myself that this grand adventure has many layers to it, some evidently hidden, and that even though I feel displaced, change like this is good for me. With all this moving and resettling it has been hard to finish any creative project I have started. I began doing research on residency programs in Berlin where you can immerse yourself in your project with support from other artists. Perfect I thought.
I applied for several residency programs, and got accepted to one that is a potential good fit for a sculpture I have been dreaming up. But then the reality set in. The intense residency timetable is nowhere near my current situation, as a mom, living in the South of Berlin, with a sobering schedule around my sons school and extra curricular activities. Like all moms, I just don't have a lot of work(me) time in a day. So, I pass on the opportunity and move on to a work space in a collective space with access to many familiar tools and hope for the best. The cost of participating in the co-op makerspace is a fraction of the residency and that in the end alleviates the pressure of over-commitment. I hope to use this resource and get at least one new sculpture out into the world!

It makes me grateful for all that we built at home, a shop next to our house, a supportive community for our family.  Space, peace and quiet to do our work. Space!
Cities are catalysts of the opposite, great places to get swept away by the urban distractions, noise, lights, mass volume of humans, truly impressive art.  Places to gestate ideas, meet interesting minds, expose oneself to uncomfortable experiences. To be impressed by innovation, to exist within the buzz. To be like a sponge, soaking it all up.  And to remain present, as hard as that is.

We travel a lot, especially now with our little wonder car, the Skoda. It's amazingly fuel efficient and is a solid little ride for our family. We traveled to Denmark. I went back to Barcelona for a short visit, and to take advantage of our dental insurance. We drove to Amsterdam a few weekends ago, to attend the infamous ADM (art squat) birthday party festival. They are the collective that was behind Robodock, the festival where I got to operate my very first pulse jet engine from SRL, which subsequently inspired Caged Pulse Jets. A perfect example of how an urban cultural experience can inspire new work.

I hope that Kodiak will remember some of these adventures later. Even if it's deep down, he, like all of us adventurers, is a global human. Hopefully, even if no true memory remains, he will know that the world is full of possibility and that he holds the key.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Homage to Berlin

Ok, it's been a while since I have written, and much has happened, as it does. The world keeps turning whether you make a note of it or not.

After Maker Faire Berlin, Christian and I had a "aha" moment on the plane back to Barcelona. Maybe Berlin was a better fit? We discovered that Berlin is a freak show of great proportions, with active squats, punks, queer culture, freaks of all ages, truly amazing graffiti and public art works, a healthy dose of green forests and bustling family scenes. Lots of playgrounds, where parents enjoy a picnic with beer and kids jump on the many public trampolines. It's a colorful city. 
Upon returning to Barcelona, the old Catalan city was overflowing with tourists (literally) and life there suddenly seemed a bit conservative all around.

Within a few weeks I was back scouting for schools, found an amazing International, IB/UN* school taught in American English that had space for Kodiak, and that was that. Our remaining days in Barcelona were filled with beautiful coastal escapes from the city, the heat and the masses. We moved to Berlin a few weeks later.
This time we took the opportunity to not make the same mistakes and found an apartment close to the school. Now, we bicycle to and from school, through a section of forest no less. After school we bike to a nearby lake and take a swim, have a beer and bike home. It's dreamy.

*International Baccalaureate and United Nations School (ie. students from all over the world)

Christian started taking German lessons and in good German tradition there was a special handmade "SchulTüte" given to both of my boys. It made the first day of school all the much better. I speak pretty decent German, so we kind of flipped roles here from Spain (my Spanish is still at beginner level, unfortunately). 
As I was making Kodiak's Schultüte, I glued some sparkly sprinkles to the design and shook the few extras off on our balcony. Well, I guess the sparkles flew down to the neighbors terrace and when I saw her in the hallway the next day she told me in a stern voice that it was strictly "Verboten!"* to have fairy sprinkles in the building. I thought it was a bit strong, but hey, we are in Germany.

We had been in Berlin 14 days when the terrorist attack happened in Barcelona. The van that pointlessly took so many lives on the Ramblas that afternoon was a block from our old apartment. My heart broke with sadness and anger that this happened there, next to my neighbourhood defined by its diversity and tolerance. Of course that is beside the point, but I am grateful that friends and loved ones are still with me, existing in this very temporary state on this planet. No Tenim Por! (We Have No Fear, in Catalan)

Berlin exists in Germany, and I say it this way because it is quite an unusual city in Germany. I will admit I was never excited to move to Germany, having lived here once before in the 1970's in the capitol of those times, Bonn. My mother was born in Mainz and survived the insanity of WWII as a kid, about Kodiak's age. The trauma of that experience remains with her today.  I too, carry some of this German weight. Back when we where trying to decide where to move, Christian stipulated "never France" and I said "never Germany", which is kind of comical now, as sweeping generalizations of places usually hold as much water as an old paper bag. 

But, let me generalize a bit...
I think it's clear that Germans are a more serious and possibly grumpy lot, especially in comparison to the Catalans in Spain. And why wouldn't they be? There seems to be plenty of soul searching going on here, which has led to a very progressive society. Granted, Germany is facing some major problems at the moment, with the refugee crisis, and they seem to be looking at these issues straight on, debating what will be the future road to take. They are considered the leaders of Europe and the EU, with everyone watching closely on how to set a new precedent of action. 

The German elections are coming up and it's so interesting to see how they advertise their various parties (oh yeah, many, many political parties)The CDU(Merkel), SPD, FPD, LKR, Die Linke, Die Alternative, Die Grünen, NPD, The Pirate Party, the list does go on. The CDU, which is the current ruling party, actually describes itself with two words that would not be in the same room in the States, 
as Liberal Conservatism.
Impressive. The adverts address their parties' platform (imagine that) with witty phrases. I have not seen one personal smear advert out there.
Christian took this Pirate party picture. She's having fun!

And then there's their history. Ugly and dark it is, but not unlike other often forgotten human-made atrocities around the world. German history in Berlin is everywhere. 

There are reminders of WWII, the Holocaust and the Wall everywhere. It's in the form of some powerful architectural carnage, large open spaces where buildings once stood, disturbing old street signs next to regular street signs, site-specific memorials, my favorite the stumbling stones, public memorials, subway photographs of old Berlin, sections of the Wall displayed in the city, markings on the streets where the Wall once stood, signs denoting the old division between East and West Berlin. There is probably more, but this is what I have experienced in the month being here now. The Jewish Museum interior was built by Daniel Liebeskind and is one of the most powerful architectural memorials I have experienced. 

The Bunker Museum, in an old war bunker, asks the simple question: how could it happen? Inside are three floors filled with historical memorabilia and truly amazing and disturbing photographs with a focus on Berlin, and its role in both world wars, as well as the holocaust to the end of the war, the time of reckoning. The ticket stub has the word Hitler printed in all caps on it, and I had to throw it out when I got home, it made me so uncomfortable. 

And what would this look like in the United States! I can see artists tackling the darker parts of America's past, right there, everywhere, so everyone can see it. Peppered in amongst the memorials of victories and of the discoveries. The brutal colonization of the Native populations, about their displacement, slavery, the civil war and consequent racism, immigration and its consequent xenophobia.
Could be important for the politically challenged college students(!) in the States...

I'm imagining something way more inspired than a sign post by a road- side pull off. Show people their history in an all accessible, truthful, creative way, and would this not help in the healing of a nation so fractured today?

I'm sure one could add in the history of industry and technology and its subsequent affect on the well being of the planet. And the obvious link from our excess consumption to Global warming and the apocalyptic weather we are having.

What I find so inspiring in Berlin (and Barcelona, too) is that all these reminders serve the new generation to deeply know their past, and hopefully allows for a collective new way of thinking to emerge. The common thread for me, is the accessibility of these stories. It's relevant and within public space. Not only hidden away in a museum, or a remote landmark. And that it's creative- it should evoke wonder.

Indeed, "to know your future, you must know your past" by Spanish literary and philosopher, Santayana.

and lastly,
I took a picture of our desk/office area in our new apartment- a little old with the new.  I love that Kodiak will learn to use this extinct dinosaur of a phone!

Next up- "currywurst" (why mix those two?), the German Forests, and Berlin's amazing Graffiti!
'Till then, Tschüss!*


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Maker Faire Bonanza

We have been to three consecutive Maker Faire's in Europe now, staring with Berlin. We showed the Hand of Man at the Berlin Maker Faire, which is always a rewarding experience. One weekend later was Maker Faire Barcelona, and we hobnobed with several interesting makers and innovators, including the San Francisco Maker Faire elite, who were visiting their various European off shoots. 

A few weeks later we were enjoying community Paella and "un demi" at the Nantes Maker Faire, which was really impressive. Maker Faire Nantes was hosted by the mechanical art enterprise known as Les Machines
Les Machines take up a healthy section of the Isle de Nantes, an old industrial island now being gentrified, and are a huge artistic and cultural force with their mechanical contraptions and spectacular sculpted landscapes. Its a collective of hundreds of talented artists under the helm of Francois Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, who build the dreamy animal and nature based creations that end up in an aquatic merry-go-round or flying wood and steel herons in a elaborate rain forest filled with mechanical carnivorous plants. It's awe inspiring. 
Les Machines grew out of the collective known as Royal Deluxe, also in Nantes, who perform monumental relevant street theater with their massive marionettes all over the world. They have a musical component as well, which we had the pleasure to witness and enjoy at RoboDock in 2007. It was a steam engine musical instrument, manipulated by a dozen musicians on various levers and attached instrumentation. The finale was an impressive steam explosion, shrouding everyone in a cloud of warm mist. 
Clearly Les Machines and their cohorts was a highlight for us...innovative street theater is bound to provoke and agitate.. both words I enjoy considerably.

 The La machine shop...we got to go on a tour and it was as incredible as you may think. The birthplace of the machines of La Machine. We were, truth be told, a little envious...

But back to Maker Faire. With the maker community growing globally, it can both empower and inspire new ideas as well as become a closed circuit of geeks producing the newest nic nac from a 3D printer or laser cutter. In Berlin I came across a project spearheaded by Sam Bloch, where a trailer was being outfitted to provide maker tools and resources for refugees in Europe, and in some small but significant way, address the humanitarian crisis going on here today. This maker-trailer was on its way to a refugee center in Greece, with the intent to provide tech and building resources for the people to gather and make something they actually need(solar powered street lighting for example).

I was struck by how important this link is for the maker movement to stay connected. Bridging the gaps between maker, tech, innovator, resources and addressing current crises is where it gets really exciting. 
With a minor reorientation of focus, the future of the maker movement could have endless inspiration from current humanitarian needs, and departing from inventing the next start up tech gadget would be refreshing and worthy growth. 
I believe this is imperative change for the movement to remain relevant and funded.

We were only in Nantes for a few days, so we did not get to visit ZAD, or Zone A Défendre. ZAD is a well established squatting zone protesting the planned construction of an international airport. "For over 50 years, farmers and locals have resisted the building of a new airport for the French city of Nantes (which by the way already has one). Now in these rich fields, forests and wetlands, which multinational Vinci want to cover in concrete, an experiment in reinventing everyday life in struggle is blossoming. Radicals from around the world, local farmers and villagers, citizen groups, trade unionists and naturalists, refugees and runaways, squatters and climate justice activists and many others, are organizing to protect the 4000 acres of land against the airport and its world. Government officials have coined this place “a territory lost to the republic”. Its occupants have named it: (Zone À Défendre), zone to defend." excerpt from

Now we are back in Barcelona, but just for a minute. I managed to go back to the Costa Brava with Kodiak, to a tiny town called Sa Tuna. While we were enjoying some time with la familia, Christian travelled to Berlin to secure the logistics of our next move. Looks like Berlin is calling! The next chapter of our expat adventure is about to start, and I'm very excited. 

Life is filled with new adventures and my heart is Full.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Urban Jet Setting

It's been a busy time here, organizing travel within Europe, meeting new mostly-art-related people and staying in somewhat of a daily routine, which includes a hell of a long commute to Kodiak's school every day. The school is a bit out of the city, but it's a good fit for him, so for now it's what's happening. My ideas about walking around the block to school where shattered by the reality that Catalan public schools are a tough sell for a monolingual mountain boy. The school he is in now is based on Montessori methodology and he is liking it, and he is learning Spanish and Catalan...slowly.

We are getting ready to find another place to live as I have way outgrown my rose glasses about living in the heart of the city, which is the tourist mecca of Barcelona. The city is overflowing with humans, and it's pretty impressive that one can squeeze so many people into this area. I sympathize with the locals about the increasing problem with tourism here. Out our front door now, is like walking into a human traffic jam(w/selfie sticks). I have slowly become less excited to go outside and thus feel pretty cooped up in an apartment (with no outdoor access). 

Before we left on this European adventure, my good friend Richard said to me that it would be interesting to see what I learned about myself during this time...and I think of this often, as it really has been a reckoning of my basic needs. Turns out I'm calm and happy in nature, and not so much in the urban jungle. I strongly prefer mountains and way less people. The cultural aspects of urban life are not that intriguing to me, rather something I would be happy to visit. The bureaucracy around everything(especially here in Spain)is stifling, and slow to change. To be fair Spain was under a dictatorship until 1976, and they have come a long way from that since. All these observations make it clear why Taos is my home. 
and...I do find time to go to a remote beach outside the city to play cello with my friend was early morning and we played to the big ocean blue. It was serene and beautiful.

This adventure is a piece of a larger puzzle. The pay off in the long run for growing roots in Europe will be to access new ways of thinking and making art, free universities for Kodiak, excellent and affordable healthcare, and hopefully a progressive establishment to live within. Go EU!

When in Europa...we travel! The Venice Biennale was a recent stop, which has been on my to do list for many years, and it was really fun. The art and the happs are well documented on Christian's blog, so I will only share some of my favorite pictures here. 

Venice is beautiful- the architecture is elaborate, and sinking...

Then we went to Berlin. I had not been there since the 80's, wall up and Checkpoint Charlie! 

Wow... what a difference 28 years makes! 
It's a booming metropolis of international art and culture. Other than the austere German and Russian historical monuments, the city is lively and very green. Berlin has parks EVERYWHERE- and they have rabbits, foxes and squirrels. And lots of bicyclists. The back round noise is techno, playing somewhere, at any time. All of Berlin is a compelling juxtaposition.

The more austere part of Berlin...

We showed the Hand of Man at the Maker Faire and we all had a great time. Kodiak got to play with the Hand with Claire giving tips(and yawning?). The Hand of Man was the grittiest thing at Maker Faire, which we are proud of. 

On the flight back, both Christian and I thought that maybe Berlin has a leg up on Barcelona as far as what we do creatively. It was a refreshing reminder of a city where art and freak community is alive and well. I stress the FREAK, as Berlin is famous for it's expressive diversity. Barcelona after Berlin seems downright conservative.

Next we are going to Nantes, France, for the Maker Faire, hosted by none other than Les Machines- the ridiculously incredible art collective that has built an empire of massive kinetic sculptures. I can't wait to see it all, meet them and show Kodiak!

Just a note on jet set travel in Europe. It's cheap. It's easy. And it works. It's really just an extension of local public transit and they have it down. There is no comparison with the States. Unfortunately with the detrimental decision to invest in cars (thanks a lot Henry Ford), highways and to subsidize gasoline instead of building railways and investing in public transit, America will be stuck in the past for a long time to come. Not to mention the effects this model has on urban development. I digress.

I will end this post with this sweet picture of two happy, grateful people, in Venice. Ciao baby!