Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shaping the future

"We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."

Barack Obama, speech to Congress, 9/9/09

Somehow this speaks to me as an artist striving to develop a meaningful practice in a way I don't think it could have before I became more familiar with Bruno Latour and Lewis Hyde, in particular.

Watch the entire speech online at Huffington Post

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recently, I visited the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. As the docent told us a bit about Anthony’s background and work, I could not help but think about Bruno Latour and ANT. Raised a Quaker, she grew up in a community that differed from the mainstream in many ways, but particularly in that women had an equal voice, an equal vote in community decisions. Deeply concerned with the social issues of the day, fairly early on she devoted her life’s work to effecting social change. Lack of suffrage for women was not necessarily the greatest social ill in Anthony’s mind (that may have been slavery) but securing suffrage was the most likely way to influence change in many areas.
As our docent later told us how Anthony focused early on getting suffrage into the constitutions of territories applying for statehood, as opposed to simply lobbying Congress directly to change the law of the land, I could not shake the thought that Anthony had a firm grasp on the principles of agency. She certainly understood that law of the land might reflect the prevailing ‘panorama’ of the day, but also that the ink never truly dries on the Constitution, as long as ‘we the people’ actually exercise our own agency and don’t leave it all to ‘them in Congress.’

So where have you been this Summer when Jane Jacobs or Rebecca Solnit or our friend Bruno have tapped you on the shoulder to get your attention?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

3/4 into Latour (or close)

This is a reminder about the online meeting tonight at 8:30 (central) I will only have 30 minutes online, but the interview section is CLEAR, so we can progress faster. Interested folks can keep on going.

Watershed residency update: It is hot today, the sheep are nestled in the shade, and suddenly what seemed like a very long time to be away is just about over.

Monday, August 3, 2009

First week with Latour


Just a reminder that we will be talking about the first 50 or so pages of Reassembling the Social. Good stuff. Hope you can get online tomorrow, Tuesday at 8:30 Central time.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Last week for Field Guide to Getting Lost

Dear Campers,

This week is going to be online. I had imagined I could be in Nashville and at Backstory at the same time, but as I pack, I realize, I can only be in one place at one time. I am driving to Nashville with Katie Hargrave (known to a few of you) so we can look through the family photos of Betty Rymer. We will be exploring geography and identity, two themes in A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

I will hunt some internet down in Nashville and be on Skype at 8:30 Central time for the last Sonit week.

Happy getting lost.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Schedule for Field Guide

Good morning,

Next Tuesday, the 14th, there will be no Art Theory meetings. All are invited to an opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago from 7-8 pm.

All agree this books is better read at the pace of a novel and not broken up into tidy week sections. Read Field Guide at whatever speed you wish and we will talk about the book on Tuesday, the 21st. At that point, if we want to extend the conversation one more week, we can. Or we can start Reassembling the Social a week early.

Happy reading.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Good morning,

This is Rebecca Solnit week and we get to Get Lost. Read the first third for next Tuesday. As this is a short sweet book, we will read it in 3 sections. We will still call it the July book, as I need to miss Tuesday the 14th for an opening. If you are in the area, please come to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago between 7-8. The show continues through Sunday July 19th.

Happy reading.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Evening all,

I have 2 request for an 8:30 Chicago time tonight. As this is the second week this time works better, let's make it permanent.

I will be on Skype at 8:25 (or so). If you want join us, locate amberginsburg (my user name) and I will then "friend you". I will make a conference call to all online at 8:30. If you don't get the call, call me directly and I will add you.


Friday, June 19, 2009


The article on Cairo is perfect. The density of the city does seem to support Jane Jacob's theories. Also, the deregulated commerce encourages boys with cotton candy and small tea stands. A middle ground, perhaps called easy or light regulation that encourages small, say cart sized, business would do wonders for our parks, bridges (like the one pictured in the article), and other open zones.

Thanks for posting.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Second Meeting-Tuesday


Next meeting times:

Face to Face: Tuesday, 10:30am, Backstory Cafe
Computer to Computer: Tuesday 8:30 (Chicago Time). Nef requested 30 minutes later, so she can get home from work. East Coasters, I hope this is not too late.

The first meeting on Jane Jacobs began by looking at one of the criteria she sites that promotes healthy neighborhoods:

"First, there must be a clear demarcation between public and private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other the way they typically do in suburban settings or in projects." Page 35 Vintage Press

From this many examples of positive city setting emerged. Over all, there was surprising agreement towards Ms. Jacobs theories. Essentially, we all wanted more of what she espouses, mixed use and a greater small individually owned businesses in our walking path that fostered pedestrian traffic at all times. Safe streets? Yes. More economic diversity? Yes. Sidewalks as places in their own right? Yes.

Her ideas are so simple and so clearly stated, it is really stunning they are not followed. She is empirical in her quest. What works, really works in the world around us and what can we learn from that? Her writing is a wonderful tour guide for walking the city.

The next section moves to broader topics than the city sidewalk.

Happy reading.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book ONE SKYPE time

Hey campers,

For book one, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Skype meetings will be Tuesdays at 8PM Central (aka Chicago) time. The first meeting will be June 9th.

If you are not familiar with Skype, the following should get you started.

1. Download Skype (it is free)
2. Pick a user name and set up an account
3. Search the contact list for amberginsburg
4. Add me to your contact list

When it is time for the conference, I will see you are online and call you from a conference line.

NOTE: There will be multiple people online. Please have headphones or the feedback is unkind. If you have the fancy kind with a speaker great (like they use for telemarketing), if not, regular ones will work.

Enjoy the first 1/4 of Jane Jacobs. I have started the reading and I am finding my walking and bike riding are more nuanced. I see a bit more of my neighborhood through Ms. Jacobs.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here we go.

Hey campers,

Sorry for the delay. No internet at the new house yet. Got a moment of pirate time, so here is the final vote:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit

Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour

The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde

The Solnit was actually the highest vote, but we can all pick up a copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities just about anywhere. Since camp starts June 1, I wanted to make the first book an easy acquisition.

For those in Chicago, the first meeting will be TUESDAY June 9th, 10:30 AM at Backstory Cafe (6100 South Blackstone) We will discuss the first 1/4 of the book. If I could find my copy , rather than know it is just out of reach in one of the many many boxes scattered about, I would give you exact chapters. That is just something we can look forward to.

For those on Skype, let get together on Tuesday June 9th at 8pm (Chicago time). Or, find a friend near by and meet for tea and chats once a week. Post your questions or comments on the blog and folks will respond.

Happy reading and we will chat soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time for the final vote on books

So I usually make my picks in a nice quiet spot and announce the winners. This year there are too many good suggestion. I think a bit of voting is in order. Please vote on the five books listed below. The four with the highest rating will be the final choice. Rank by preference 1-4, 4 being the book you most desire to read. The vote closes Monday, May 25th. We will begin the first book June 1. That gives us a week to get the first book. It is a bit tight, but manageable. Happy choices.

The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Lewis Hyde

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit

In Defense of Lost Causes, Slavo Zizek

Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour

Monday, January 12, 2009


Art Theory Summer Camp, while aspiring to run all year long, is destined to be a summer time activity.

Below are a list of possible readings for the summer. Now is an excellent time to propose books and voice preferences. We will choose 4.

The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property
Hyde, Lewis
The Quality of Life Nussbaum, Martha and Sen, Amartya
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs, Jane
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Solnit, Rebecca
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman, Erving
Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art Kester, Grant
Everyday Aesthetics Mandoki, Katva