zaterdag 30 april 2011

Psychogeographical publications from the future: TWO

There must be many other leaflets from EvoL PsychogeogrAphix / Qubit City Fuck Club somewhere in what other people would call and organize as an archive. Their style was aggressive, but also funny and inventive, and also, with the emphasis on magic and the occult, in the line of the London Psychogeographical Association. I wonder what happened to Mr. A. Butt. It was in 2004 or 2005 that I took the live shots of him defacing the statue at Soho Square at the bottom.

Psychogeographical publications from the future: ONE

For years the Nottingham Psychogeographical Association had a website documenting a mental map project with schoolchildren. It seems to have gone which is a real shame (& if anybody has a copy of the site, I'd happy to republish it). Between my things I found a special reprint edition of their newsletter. Click to enlarge.

vrijdag 29 april 2011

Psychogeographical bleakness defended

Farley and Symmons Robert cruising for edgeland delights
Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts are two UK writers who haven taken it upon themselves to share their celebratory excitement for the unappreciated beauties of the 'edgelands' with a book. The term was first used by geographer and activist Marion Shoard who reviewed the book for the Guardian. The full title or their book is "Edgelands: Journeys Into England's True Wilderness" and as 'true wildernesses' they identify those fringes where urban and rural half-heartedly meet, like a random Surrealist encounter. An excerpt from the book published by the Independent shows that the edgeland-concept shares many similarities with the cryptoforest project:
The edgelands are a complex landscape; a debatable zone, constantly reinventing themselves as economic and social tides come in and out. If parts of remote rural Britain feel timeless, then the edgelands feel anything but. Revisit an edgelands site you haven't seen for six months, and likely as not there will be a Victorian factory knocked down, a business park newly built, a section of waste ground cleared and landscaped, a pre-war warehouse abandoned and open to the elements. Such are the constantly shifting sands of edgelands that any writing about these landscapes is a snapshot. There is no definitive description of the edgelands of Swindon or Wolverhampton – only an attempt to celebrate and evoke them at one particular time.

Time and again, we found a place that is as difficult to pin down and define as poetry, but like poetry, you'd know it when you saw it. It often contained decay and stasis, but could also be dynamic and deeply mysterious. Edgelands are always on the move. 
Excellent! A bit later they write:
At other times – as in the work of some so-called psychogeographers – they [the edgelands] are merely a backdrop for bleak observations on the mess we humans have made of our lives, landscapes, politics and each other.
This must be the third occurrence this year of a UK writer-drifter-walker dismissing the field of psychogeography for being dark and aggressive and unpleasant. Remember Nick Papadimitriou's rant against the 'psychogeographical sneer' (earlier) and the "pschogeography is not that interesting anymore" line that I penned down from the lips of the great Hackney demiurg himself (earlier). Even though it is not entirely clear who is referred to in the quote (Sinclair? The London Psychogeographical Association? Will Self?) The point made is readily understandable and part of its historical heritage: the grimness of Situationist writing and the unapologetic political ideology behind it. Psychogeography started with people who were hateful and unfriendly out of principle. This is not to everybody's taste, especially now when being nice and palatable has become the norm.

However. Not in response to anybody or anything in particular, something must be said in favour of psychogeography in relation to the literary musings of urban nature writing. Psychogeography is not, and never was meant to be, about admiration for a landscape, about refined sentiments in good and civilized company. It is a non-academic field of study that seeks to be critical and projective, analytical and constructive, actively searching for ways to break down the unquestioned mental images of the city that we have, working towards lyrical alternative models for life and play in the cities that we should have. Psychogeographers want to understand how the landscape is made around us, by whom and by what right and philosophy. It is totally ok to find beauty in the edgelands as a psychogeographic exercise, but it is impossible to admire the way and by what standards and motivations they have come together. Politics won't go away no matter how hard you try to ignore it. Karl Whitney makes a similar point in his review for 3AM Magazine.

Good writing is incredibly hard, but writing about the world as it is from any chosen vantage point is one thing, trying to change it is something else entirely. You don't need to be a huge fan of Situationist writing to see that their work on Unitary Urbanism, underneath that veneer of depressing misanthropic Marxism, is filled with exciting fragments of thoughts, plans, and actions that all share their refusal to accept the city as it is. Over the years psychogeographers have shown a remarkable talent for juxtapositioning their own visions with the city as it 'objectively' is and this is where its future will be. The objective of psychogeography is to take part in the landscape and this is why it is different from the many manifestations of sightseeing.

Ralph Rumney's Psychogeographic map of Venice (1957)

donderdag 28 april 2011

Foraging in .walk: 8 May Amsterdam Sloterdijk

Modern foragers in action, Mr Boskoi included.
I'm very happy to announce the forage expedition Theun Karelse of Boskoi and me will organize as part of the Middle Kingdom of Weeds festival. As a little teaser (or warning) I can announce that the .walk will be haunted.
Be part of mapping the energetic value of the Dutch urban landscape; how much energy does it take for semi-skilled contemporary foragers to gather wild foods and what energetic value is contained in nearby urban environments? On May 8th the Middle Kingdom of Weeds festival features a forage psychogeographic expedition that will starts at 10.30 from Station Sloterdijk, Amsterdam. Using .walk algorithms this foraging expedition will map and explore the caloric potential of the area. 

Team members include:
- a geographer, who maps the edibles on Boskoi
- a timekeeper, who maps the times spent walking and harvesting
- spotters and harvesters

On return the wild foods will be weighed to make a calculation of the energy harvested in the expedition.

On the basis of this a map is made of the caloric value along the walk, the energy budget of the group and the best foraging algorithms.

This expedition is open to all.

Hosted by Wilfried Hou Je Bek (Cryptoforesty) and Theun Karelse (Boskoi).
.walk in brainfuck infograph by Petr

dinsdag 26 april 2011

Aereality / crash landed / London Calling / sedate the nostalgic fucker with a kilo of ketamine

Aereality reads like a scene by scene transcript of somebody explaining a documentary to his blind aunt. 

William L. Fox's 2009 book would have been a great documentary: now it reads like a first draft that falls at least 10 drafts short of a worthwhile book while it could have been so great. 

"The author flies over various earthworks, urban sprawls, and natural wonders by various means--helicopters, hot air balloons, and prop planes--searching for the cognitive roots of our aerial imagination, all with the ultimate goal of knowing and experiencing the earth from the air." 

The design is great, the plates are great, the subject is on many people's mind, it probably is the only book of its kind, and any attempt to explain the world and the mind we use to understand it by using art (historical, contemporary American and Australian Aboriginal) and psychogeographical drifting has my sympathy but this book fails to make impact: like a rock that crumbles and pulverises in your hand before you had a chance to take a good look at it.

Fox also writes wine labels and this excellent interview with him on that on the Edible Geography blog pointed me to this book.

Barry Miles, in the 1960ties, knew everybody worth knowing and he writes about it with authority, knowledge and a sense of perspective. That part of this book he covered before in another book which I read when I was staying with Nick in Berlin (you know the title?). The rest of this book is just baaahaaad. The chapters on punk are so-so and obviously written as an outsider, what comes after is shamelessly stupid and uninformed: Boy George! Spandau Ballet! Damien Hirst! as counter culture? Gimme a break. Its worse than nostalgia, its reactionary propaganda. A waste of money. It's not worth giving a list of the things he misses from 1980 onwards because he misses everything. You Bloody hippie!! 

vrijdag 22 april 2011

Food for Free and the foragers backpocket

OOHHH was my first response when this book arrived with the post: it really is small and ready to be put in your back pocket! It's tiny.

Food for Free was first published in 1972 by Richard Mabey, author of 'The Unofficial Countryside' (earlier) and it remains the absolute benchmark of wild food guides. It is totally sympathetic with its modest writing (and size) and the hearty simplicity of the information given. In 2006 Mabey wrote an article for the Guardian about the Great Forage Revival and in it reviews his own book as well, well recommended.   
Wild food require none of the attention demanded by garden plants and possess the additional attraction of having to be found. I think I would rate this as perhaps the most attractive single feature of wild food use. The satisfactions of cultivation are slow and measured. They are not at all like the excitement of raking through a rich bed of cockles, of suddenly discovering a clump of sweet cicely, of tracking down a bog myrtle by its smell alone.

woensdag 20 april 2011

Viti-Viti, Fitsi-Fitsi and Xingu Reinhabitation

An artist impression of a Pre-Columbian Xingu city.
The story of Viti-Viti (given in full earlier) is the prime example of an Amazonian reinhabitation myth, a narrative that recognizes that the land was used and cultivated before, by persons unknown. Michael Heckenberger's (earlier) 'The ecology of Power' (2005, now on Scribd) is a 1000 year history of the Xingu and its inhabitants. In it he deals with Viti-Viti, (or in his translation: Fitsi-Fitsi). It is a long passage but included for the sake of future reference:
I have never heard of Fitsi-fitsi’s footsteps, as the Villas-Boas brothers describe, nor of his people, who settled in his footprints. I have no doubt that Fitsi-fitsi lives on today in the “mirror world” of dawn times where all the Kuikuru culture heroes and ancestors, and other “dawnpersons,” have come to reside over the ages.

The Kuikuru travel in this mirror world in their dreams. Some shamans (hïatâo), trained in specialtechniques of the body and esoteric knowledge and able to enter a trance by smoking tobacco (Nicotina sp.), actually traffic with its inhabitants. But I had not heard that Fitsi-fitsi resides today at Ipa Kuhikugu, at theend of the ditch there, where it descends into the lake. I know the placewell, having spent many hours walking back and forth over the ditches and causeways, mapping and collecting across the ancient site with my Kuikuru collaborators, my field crew. I vividly remember, for instance, the day a rattlesnake struck (and missed) one Kuikuru assistant as we mapped the ancient great plaza—a big, scooped-out bowl with imposing peripheral mounds rising on all sides. Nobody mentioned that Fitsi-fitsi might live here, although they did say he had passed this way and left his signature marks, Fitsi-fitsi gepügü (“excavated hole”), as they call the ditches. Ipa Kuhikugu (actually two lakes, Kuhikugu and Lamakuka) is singular in Kuikuru cultural memory. It is their origin place. After splitting from the ancestral village of Óti, where the Kuikuru ancestors (ngiholo) had lived with the Matipu (Uagihïtï otomo) until the mid- to late 1800s, the great chiefs, Hikutaha, Nïtsïmï and Amatuagu had founded the old village site (etepe) of Kuhikugu. They were at Kuhikugu when Kalusi (Steinen) came in 1884. It was also here that Robert Carneiro and Gertrude Dole came to live in 1953–1954 as the Kuikuru’s first live-in “whites.”

Today,some forty years after they left this place, the Kuikuru are still known as Lahatua otomo, “the people of Lahatua.” Carneiro and Dole lived in a tentjust beside the northern terminus of ditch when the Kuikuru lived intheir penultimate village of this place (Lamakuka): a Kuikuru man found “Bobbie’s coffee pot” one day as we mapped the ancient Fitsi-fitsi
gepügü. Our campsite—that of me and my Kuikuru field assistants—was very near the southern terminus, precisely where it descends into Lake Kuhikugu, near where the Villas-Boas brothers had heard that Fitsi-fitsi lived.

Fitsi-fitsi was “a person … [and] had everything that people have,” as the Villas-Boas brothers note, but that changed one day when he went out of the village to collect honey with his wife and brother-in-lawand transformed himself into an itseke (a “monster,” spirit, or superbeing). Climbing a tree, presumably to collect honey, he honed his lower legs into sharp points and attacked his kinsmen with his spear-point legs. In fear of retaliation he fled and wandered aimlessly across the landscape, dragging his sharpened legs and incising the ground behind. Afukaká, the village chief and my adoptive brother, one of the most powerful persons in contemporary Xinguano political history and a singular figure in the Kuikuru village, told me the story of Fitsi-fitsi, again, one day on a visit to Nokugu. As Afukaká and I stood beside the ancient Fitsi-fitsigepügü, not far from my first excavation trench, he asked me to tell “my story,” because, after months of almost daily work at Nokugu, I must surely have one to tell. I told him that I thought this place and others like it (Kuhikugu and Heulugihïtï) were ngiholó-ìtupe (place of the ancestors) and the ditches and linear mounds were the intentional constructions of ancient Xinguanos. The chief was in mourning for much of 1993, having lost his primary heir and another younger son early that year, and rarely had an opportunity to see what I was doing at Nokugu. He had heard my ideas before on historical places and personages, and the dark earths (egepe), pottery sherds (egeho), and, of course, the Fitsi-fitsi gepügü, that occur in the old village sites (etepe) and ancestor places. I had talked many times to him and other Kuikuru of archaeology, in both public and private settings, with my maps and other paper props. A month or so earlier the most powerful shaman of eight in the village, contracted to protect the chief’s magic pot (kun), the traditional method to reveal and perhaps kill the witch, had entered a trance and in his out-of-body travels had encountered Nokugu. “The shaman explained, as best he could, having also heard some of my archaeology stories: Who is this cagaiha (whiteman)” he asked, “who is working at my home, what is he doing there?” That day at the site, I showed Afukaká my story. We walked the full length of ditch 2, nearly two kilometres, and then we diverged along the ancient causeway (“road 4,” the Nokugu-Heulugihïtï road) at the “bridge” where it is bisected by ditch 2, near excavation trench 1. The features we see on the ground today, I explained, were likely coupled with palisades or other, perhaps natural, barricades to defend the ancient villages from nikogo (“fierce Indians”). We followed the causeway and entered the ancient great plaza, infested today with tall palms, a common colonizer of etepe and ngiholó ìtupe. Along the way, we looked at bits of patches of “terra preta do índio,” dark earth, filled with pottery, ancient refuse of the ngiholo. We noted how it was heaped in great linear mounds along roads or the plaza, where they were one to two meters high all around. We also dug up chunks of the hard pan terra roxa, or “red earth,” where the ancient houses, plazas, and roadways had been. Later I also showed him my excavation trench, the layered dark earths of ancient occupation surfaces and charcoal lenses within them (later C14 dated to between c. 950 and 1250) and the reddish (natural-colored) overburden thrown up over them on the inside berm. Beneath the thick stratum of in-fill that built up within the ditch, dated to circa1500–1800, I pointed out the bright red natural soils. We “popped out” a big rim sherd (weighing about a pound) from the west wall, just above the base of the trough, which perfectly preserved the blood red exterior slip, the slightly grooved marks of quartz pebble burnishing, and the black interior paint (made of charcoal and the sap of a tree they call tiha), which in addition to form and construction are identical to present-day pots, particularly, the contemporary manioc cooking pot—ahukugu. 

Afukaká considered my arguments as we walked, and after some reflection he told me that he had another akiña (a legend or story) to tell me, one he had not thought of before with respect to Fitsi-fitsi’s gepügü. It was not a story of plazas or roads, parts of my story he understood quite well, like ancient trash middens and pot-sherds, as these are also primary features of contemporary villages, but of something altogether different: palisades. I paraphrase him here. 

Some time in the distant past, several Kuikuru were out hunting faraway from their village. They were taken hostage by hostile ngikogo who brought them to their village, bound them, and chided the prisoners with threats of their imminent deaths. One of the Kuikuru was befriended by the chief’s daughter who he convinced to untie him and, after telling his companions he would return to avenge their murders, escaped. He leaped a great palisade wall and ditch (maybe two walls) to flee the village. On his return, to avenge his kinsmen, he again leapt the village fortifications to open the village for attack, which was a decisive surprise attack on the enemy village. (see Basso 1995: 105–141 for a more detailed Kalapalo variant of this akiña).

maandag 18 april 2011

Weeds that blind

Just the other week the city of Utrecht announced the beginning of a new campaign to eradicate the burning and blinding giant hogweed with a special fungi that prevents the plant from spreading. To be frankly honest I had never seen a giant hogweed until a recent encounter with some fabulous and gigantic dried up species but it was love at first sight: the civilized and domesticated Dutch landscape need something to remind us that nature can be nasty and dangerous. I was placing my bets on the return of the wolf but the hogweeds is already here and much more likely to inflict damage. The city needs them.
It is the first principle of urban reforestation.

While on my way to check out the visibility of different soil types in the landscape I passed Park Transwijk. Right behind the entrance, locked between the fence and a chaotic treeline a little unmowed plot has emerged and it was teeming with young giant hogweeds. The field behind the trees had just been rigorously mowed by the look of it and I wonder if the hogweeds will be allowed the chance to grow to full size.

The leafs of a very young hogweed look like a folded piece of origami next to the blander older leafs, remarkably these are 2 stems of the same plant.

Nettle-Hogweed community

The stem is well defended against insects.

vrijdag 15 april 2011

Thoreau and foraging for survival at Dark Mountain

Somewhere in the 1850ties Henry Thoreau wrote the following paragraph that 150 years later would be published in Wild Fruits (see earlier). It reads like a proto-transition town rave against globalisation and estrangement from nature. Here is a man who talks about foraging skills as the only thing that can help you survive when the immanent breakdown of society will come to pass. And notice how he describes cities at the end. What a style and compare with these quotes from Gary Snyder.
When La Mountain and Haddock dropped down in the Canada wilderness the other day, they came near starving, or dying of cold and wet and fatigue, not knowing where to look for food, nor how to shelter themselves. Thus far have we wandered from a simple and independent life. I think that a wise and independent, self reliant man will have a complete list of the edibles to be found in a primitive country or wilderness, a bill of fare, in his waistcoat pocket at least, to say nothing of matches and warm clothing, so that he can commence a systematic search for them without loss of time. They might have had several frogs apiece if they had known how to find them. Talk about tariffs and protection of home industry, so as to be prepared for wars and hard times! Here we are, deriving our breadstuffs from the west, our butter stuffs from Vermont, and our tea and coffee and sugar stuffs, and much more with which we stuff ourselves stuffs, from the other side of the globe. Why, a truly prudent man will carry such a list as the above, in his mind at least, even though he walk through Broadway or Quincy Market. He will know what are the permanent resources of the land and be prepared for the hardest of times. He will go behind cities and their police; he will see through them. Is not the wilderness of mould and dry rot forever invading and threatening them? They are but a camp abundantly supplied today, but gnawing their old shoes tomorrow.

donderdag 14 april 2011

What did the Eskimo ever do for us?

The common name for a rare geotraumatic feature in the Dutch landscape is an Eskimo loanword: the Pingo-ruin. How marvellous.

Klein Hasselsven, Leende
Vagevuur, Roden
Uddelermeer, Uddel
Kampersheide, Balloo
Poepedobbe, Bakkeveen
Bolmeer, Zevenhuizen
Hondenven, Tubbergen.

dinsdag 12 april 2011

British sound recorders at drift in Columbia

 His face painted red with karayuru, a bow and quiver of curare-tipped arrows in his hands, he has little sympathy for strangers and would rather remain undisturbed. It is therefore no surprising that the Indian's face tells you little. When he stares at you with his black eyes, it is as though you were peering into the cold unknown, and there is little warmth in his expression. We very seldom noticed any demonstration of affection among the older people. Husband and wife life together rather as a matter of arrangement than through love, and tenderness was only shown to the younger children. The old people, once unfit to go out hunting or to work in the plantations, may be neglected in times of shortage and even left to die. They are no use to the society, so it is best they go; for theirs is a harsh world where only the fittest can survive.
A single bid of 3 dollars acquired me "The Cocaine Eaters" (1965) in hardback but with the dust jacket missing. In 1960 Brian Moser and Donald Taylor travelled to five different tribal people in Columbia to make sound recordings and this book tells their story. It's not a terrifyingly great book and the title is patently absurd. Moser and Taylor travel in the footsteps of notable Amazonian explorers like Richard Shultes and Reichel-Dolmatoff (and also, in their slipstream, Wade Davis who wrote about most of the same people in 'One River') and as part of this tradition this book adds an amusing but inconsequential chapter.

The field recordings are freely available online through a British Library subsite and they are wonderful, mixing environmental sounds, with chants, and panpipes playing a haunted dubstep. No kidding.

The pictures depict Tukano and the quote is about them as well.

Sniffing green pepper to get over a hangover.

maandag 11 april 2011

First hand knowledge is a way of life

Barrly Lopez photograph by Robert Miller.

On the website of Orion Magazine, a splendid resource for high quality nature writing, I found a short 2001 essay by Barry Lopez (earlier) called The Naturalist. Speaking about field biology and native people he makes a number of assertions on the art and power of observation that are not just epistemological but ethical and well worth quoting in the context of forage psychogeography:
my experience with field biologists, those fresh to a task—say, caracara research—are the ones most likely to give themselves a deadline—ten years, say—against which they will challenge themselves to know all there is to know about that falcon. It never works. More seasoned field biologists, not as driven by a need to prove themselves, are content to concentrate on smaller arenas of knowledge. Instead of speaking definitively of coyote, armadillo, or wigeon, they tend to say, “This one animal, that one time, did this in that place.” It’s the approach to nature many hunting and gathering peoples take, to this day. The view suggests a horizon rather than a boundary for knowing, toward which we are always walking.

A modern naturalist, then, is no longer someone who goes no further than a stamp collector, mastering nomenclature and field marks. She or he knows a local flora and fauna as pieces of an inscrutable mystery, increasingly deep, a unity of organisms Western culture has been trying to elevate itself above since at least Mesopotamian times. The modern naturalist, in fact, has now become a kind of emissary in this, working to reestablish good relations with all the biological components humanity has excluded from its moral universe.  

One of the reasons native people still living in some sort of close, daily association with their ancestral lands are so fascinating to those who arrive from the rural, urban, and suburban districts of civilization is because they are so possessed of authority. They radiate the authority of firsthand encounters. They are storehouses of it. They have not read about it, they have not compiled notebooks and assembled documentary photographs. It is so important that they remember it. When you ask them for specifics, the depth of what they can offer is scary. It’s scary because it’s not tidy, it doesn’t lend itself to summation. By the very way that they say that they know, they suggest they are still learning something that cannot, in the end, be known.

Firsthand knowledge is enormously time consuming to acquire; with its dallying and lack of end points, it is also out of phase with the short-term demands of modern life. It teaches humility and fallibility, and so represents an antithesis to progress. It makes a stance of awe in the witness of natural process seem appropriate, and attempts at summary knowledge naïve. Historically, tyrants have sought selectively to eliminate firsthand knowledge when its sources lay outside their control. By silencing those with problematic firsthand experiences, they reduced the number of potential contradictions in their political or social designs, and so they felt safer. 
As an example of the power of firsthand knowledge the following qoute from Jared Diamond comes to mind. I found it through a recommended essay by US forager Samuel Thayer on the irrarional Western fear for using/eating wild plants (also see).
One day, when my companions of the Foré tribe and I were starving in the jungle because another tribe was blocking our return to the supply base, a Foré man returned to camp with a large rucksack full of mushrooms he had found, and started to roast them. Dinner at last! But then I had an unsettling thought: what if the mushrooms were poisonous?

I patiently explained to me Foré companions that I had read about some mushrooms’ being poisonous, that I had heard of even expert American mushroom collectors’ dying because of our difficulty in distinguishing safe from dangerous mushrooms, and that although we were all hungry, it just wasn’t worth the risk. At that point one of my companions got angry and told me to shut up and listen while they explained some things to me. After I had been quizzing them for years about names of hundreds of trees and birds, how could I insult them by assuming they didn’t have names for different mushrooms? Only Americans could be so stupid as to confuse poisonous mushrooms with safe ones. They went on to lecture me about 29 types of mushroom species, each species in the Foré language, and where in the forest one should look for it. This one, the tánti, grew on trees, and it was delicious and perfectly edible.

donderdag 7 april 2011

Herbologies / Foraging Networks

The ongoing 'Herbologies / Foraging Networks' has taken up the challenge of (urban) reinhabitation with a number of events, publications, projects. The introduction, compact and thorough, stresses the need for a personal relations between people and their surroundings, observes the loss of traditional knowledge concerning plants and their uses in the span of a generation, but it also finds that this knowledge is still of continued importance in some places, often to those people regarded by the forces of power as backwards and primitive. The introduction also tries to answer the question why a practise like forage, something regarded as completely outdated only 5/10 years ago, is now suddenly of interest to a large group of people who have never acquired the knowledge involved through the normal tribal and familial channels.
Younger people’s interest in sustainable food production and environmental awareness appears to be creating a revived interest in local and ecological use of plants, between these different places and beyond. For those in their teens, 20’s and 30’s, online information, data and social networking sites have also become the main communication and sharing medium. In addition, do-it-yourself/ourselves ‘maker’ culture has blossomed in recent years thanks to audio-visual culture, and in particular participatory platforms which support digital image or video-sharing. For example, Instructables and Maker Magazine are strongly based on community-created content, with images and videos uploaded to show how to make objects, components, hacks and other adjustments in the physical material world. This trend is also extending to ‘grower’ and ‘forager’ sites, which share example recipes and activities. However, the content is often English-language focused, creating linguistic and cultural biases in how to do things, without localisation or context-specific adjustment. Furthermore, when these materials are based on traditional indigenous knowledge, issues are raised about how it should be appropriately published. 

My favourite project is the Herbologies Expedition to Aizpute and Alsunga in Kurzeme, rural towns in Western Latvia that took place in June 2010. 
The main topics for the herbologies expedition included how to recognise, gather and use wild plants and flowers for: teas, infusions, tinctures, sauna whisks/besoms, home-made herbal cosmetics, midsummer crowns from wild flowers and oak-leaves, as well as the ‘pharmacy’ of plants found outside in nature.
The resulting bilingual Exercise Book of Traditions 2010 shows that one logical result of the modernday foraging revival is that it will leads the forager into the domain of ethnography and ethnobotany. That the H/F Network is recognized as artisticlly relevant by the arts, see for instance this interview with, echoes earlier developments like ethnographic surrealism. After 50 years of siegheiling technology the revolution of the human mind again becomes the main subject of art. The savage is the teacher, the primitive is the preacher. 

At the risk of ephasising the exotic and the Harry Potteresque I am including two recipes/remedies from the book here. Not for the sake of exoticness but because it shows how strange and undiscovered the world still is. Even here in domesticated and unified Europe.
Cow’s dung
I was given cow’s dung with milk.
Well, and how was that?
No problem, because I read in one magazine, that the cow’s dung is pure penicillin.
Yes! The cow eats grass and then it processes it into dung as penicillin. And then with warm milk. You squeeze it out. You don’t need much, about some 3-4 drops into the warm milk and then it is ready to drink.
Oh, so You don’t eat it with the grounds?
No, then you’d be dead!
But, for example, do You need to have the cow’s dung fresh?
Fresh, yes! Just when it has defecated, you must immediately take the dung and squeeze it in a gauze.
That moist thing, that is left behind?
Yes, that moist thing, you squeeze that and put into warm, just milked milk. Warm milk, warm dung – and then you must drink that. I know that my mother gave it both in the morning and in the evening.
But did she tell, what that was, or didn’t she?
Yeah, right, as if she would tell! She says: ”There’s nothing, just honey with milk.” But you don’t imagine that a child sees anything there, some green thing floating or anything. My daughter, she had caught a cold and my neighbour had a cow and then I was running back and forth healing my doctor [the daughter].
With the dung?
With the dung and warm milk. The son-in-law comes: “Mum, what are you giving her? also don’t feel so good”. And I just make another.
And don’t they know anything?
No, I told them.
Before or after that?
No, when they had drunk that already. The son-in-law says: “I didn’t feel anything – that there would be a dung in it!”

Snakes and toads
My dad smeared it on his legs, hips... My mother put the snakes, the vipers in a jar with vodka. When she went to the woods and stumbled upon a viper, then she ‘hapc!’ pressed
them with a crutch and let them into the jar.
You press it’s head?
Yes, and let it into the jar alive. Then she, when she’s done, rushes home and pours vodka over it.
When it’s alive?
Yes. Vodka and then she packed the jar and put it in a dark chamber. And then later there was nothing left of that snake. Pure vodka, only a bit of clouds underneath. Well and she prepared also the toad. I don’t know if she put it in alive or not, because I never saw that, I saw it only then when she took it out of the oven and ground a powder in the mill.
And did she give that powder to the animals?
Yes, she mostly gave it to the animals.
And what was it good for?
I think that it was for the pigs. My mother says: “The pigs contract Diamond’s disease”.
In order to avoid that, because the sows were being kept and the piglets were sold. So that the piglets would be healthy. I also know that it was used for the cow. I only saw that she prepared something, crossed herself, messed about and – a bucketful is ready! The cow eats that. She [mother] made a lot of tricks like that.

zaterdag 2 april 2011

UU [Unitary Urbanism] in the forest

Next Saturday (April 9th) I will be linking up with the Anarchist book fair in NYC via Skype to participate in the "Re-Inscribing the City: Unitary Urbanism" forum. It will be weird to be there without actually being there but I hope to be useful. The other speakers promise to be highly interesting, the coyote walk project by Dillon de Give seems extremely to the point in particular.

I did have to look up 'Unitary Urbanism' to remind me myself what it was, again, and well, well, well... look what I found, in continuation of a better reading of old and neglected texts, hidden in a unassigned 1959 Situationist text on Unitary Urbanism:
UU is opposed to the temporal fixation of cities. It leads instead to the advocacy of a permanent transformation, an accelerated movement of the abandonment and reconstruction of the city in temporal and at times spatial terms. We are thus able to envisage making use of the climatic conditions in which two major architectural civilizations arose -- in Cambodia and in southwest Mexico -- in order to construct moving cities in the jungle. The new neighborhoods of such a city could be constructed increasingly toward the west (which would be gradually reclaimed as one goes along), while to the same extent the east would be abandoned to the overgrowth of topical vegetation, thereby creating, on its own, zones of gradual transition between the modern city and wild nature. This city, pursued by the forest, would offer not only unsurpassable zones of derive that would take shape behind it; it would also be a marriage with nature more audacious than anything attempted by Frank Lloyd Wright. Furthermore, it would advantageously provide a mise-en-scene of time passing over a social space condemned to creative renovation.
Other key UU texts are its basic program and Debord's seventh chapter.
The Forest by Max Ernst (1927/28)
Petrified Forest by Max Ernst (1927)

Forest and Sun by Max Ernst (1931)

vrijdag 1 april 2011

Affable savages

It is hard to say what to make of Francis Huxley's 'Affable Savages' (1958), an account of his stay with the Ka'apor (also known as the derogative 'Urubu' that Huxley insists on). The prose style is elegant and modern, the arguments and analysis's (about taboo and myth and about the way the conditions of the jungle precondition native philosophy) are all crisp and well balanced. But Huxley didn't speak the language and relied on a trusted Indian guide and translator who was not a Ka'apor himself. The material was gathered during a second stay with the Ka'apor that lasted for only four months. It is with gusto that Huxley gives an impression of the daily life of two villages but you never feel that he managed to go beyond the surface and it often seems that when he starts explaining the things he is describing Huxley is using textbook anthropological material from elsewhere in the Amazon to extrapolate the story for 'his' tribe. I would not be able to substantiate this feeling with an actual example but there is something untrustworthy about Huxley. Here you can find a later interview with Huxley about his fieldwork that certainly lacks rigour.

The following quotes all deal with the jungle as a psychological agent that decides what peoples the mind. Compare with earlier quotes from Descola, Duguid and Bates, Conrad, Carpentier and Villas Boas.
One remembers the jungle for what's happened there. 


We came to a small natural clearing, where a tree had recently fallen and one could see the sky. I do not like the jungle as a rule, for it makes little appeal to my imagination, and it is so full of trivial detail that, by myself, I usually lose my way. All those trees, all those bushes! A small-minded place I would think to myself, where everything looks so much the same that nothing ever seems to happen. Anything that breaks the monotony of greenness is welcome, and the small clearing, with the fallen trees in its wreckage of branches, was at any rate a landmark for me. I had to admit, however, that the jungle through which Tero lead us afterwards was full of exciting things: the bird-of-paradise flower, with its orange spikes zigzagging up from a long green stem; little orchids attached to low boughs with faintly spotted butterfly-shaped petals; the flowers, magenta, white, red, yellow, that has fallen from a height through the undergrowth and lay in a dim maze of colour on the ground; the new pinky-brown leaves of plantains, and many bromelias, now shooting up in vermilion sprouts.  


I entered the jungle confidently enough, as though I were Bates, Wallace, and Speke all rolled into one; how pleasant, I thought, to be an explorer! I changed my mind as I began to trip over roots and low-hanging lianas, though the feeling came back when we camped that night by a small stream, slung our hammocks between trees and roasted some peccary meat over a fire: it was only later, however, that the jungle began to affect me as I had once imagined it would, with a feeling of things unknown and danger surrounding me. This was when we came across the tracks of nomad Indians called Guajajas, whom the Urubus hate and fear. The Guajajas have no machetes, so that to mark their trail trough the jungle they would catch hold of saplings every ten to twenty yards, give a sharp twist and break them in two, instead of slashing them as Urubus and Brazilians do. Whenever we came upon such signs, often freshly made, our Indians would call a halt, slip off their loads, tighten the strings on their bows and go silently to one side of the trail hoping either to kill a Guajaja man or capture one of their woman. After that the jungle did not seem as empty and inconsiderable as it had before, nor did the idea of receiving an arrow in the back appear far-fetched.

No Indian can be free from this feeling of suspicion when he goes hunting, even if he stays near his village; and the feeling becomes much greater, of course, if he decides to go on a long journey to hunt some rare bird for its feathers, or just for the love of adventure. The jungle isolates, cuts off, closes in; to an outsider like myself it induces a kind of wary short sightedness and a longing for larger views and open spaces. To the Indian whose world it is, the jungle can hardly evoke the same feeling, for he can read its signs and understand its noises; yet to him it has a definitive presence, and he peoples it with ghosts and spirits that embody his apprehension.