I’m currently writing my research proposal for my PHD. I hadn’t planned on doing one, but my stint at Megacorp gave me more than enough fire in the head to write a thesis. I’ve been busy preparing for a couple of shows, and I’m happily settled back in the UK for a while.
I just spent the last 4 months working for one of the largest tech companies in the world. It was a truly alienating and depressing experience. I signed a million NDA’s so can’t talk too much about it – other than it was working on Natural Language Processing. On the plus side, I learnt some cool things about AI, on the negative, being in a super monitored pressured and monitored environment was pretty dehumanizing. Being inside one of the biggest machine entities has really made me question the pervasiveness of algorithmic thinking, particularly the lack of awareness of algorithmic interference in our daily lives.
The promise is better living through technology, but my overall impression of the reality is the illusion of choice in a coded environment to direct/control human behaviour.
Anyway, I’m free from the tyranny of Megacorp, and bursting at the seems with ideas for new work. I’m living in a rural seaside town in Ireland and taking the time to draw things out.
As always, I’m pushing my own boundaries in terms of making and this is equally exciting and nauseating. Sometimes, I look at the work of my peers, and see an unbroken line of experimentation – and I am envious! The consistency and pursuit to a particular style/material/theme… the mastery! So, I’m going to try to focus my energy a bit more and refine the overall theme of my work this year. I’m also going to push myself with different media.
It’s been 2 weeks since I started my stay here at Konstepidemin. It’s a fantastic opportunity to have time away from London to focus on my project and refine it.
I’ve identified a whole list of activities for the next few months to explore the theme of Thigmotropism.
There are few affordable makerspaces in the city, so I find myself drawn to embroidery as a medium. There is a sewing shop at the bottom of the hill! I’ve also identified two potential sites for site specific works.
Being on a longer residency is fantastic because I don’t feel pressured to push out work.
I’ve got some dates for opem
I tried to run the community mapping workshop on Wednesday, but had a very poor turnout. There are a few factors that affected turnout:
Researcher and outsider fatigue: The Christianian’s have been very generous with their time with me in general, but they are quite wary and bored with outsiders in general.
The newspaper: I missed the deadline for the community newspaper (by an hour or so) and this is is main way of communicating!
The weather: It was an unusually hot day, I saw a couple of people whom I hoped would attend sitting outside having a relaxing beer in the sun. (It was October, and people were able to sunbathe, I get it!)
Flier Fatigue: I made posters, I put them up in all of the strategic spots, like the post office, by the bathhouse, shop, everyday spots, but I’ll make more next time!
I’ve tried to put another ad in the paper on time, hopefully it will make it this time!
Christiania was founded shortly after a band of disenfranchised activists squatted in a disused Army Barracks in what was then, the periphery of Copenhagen, bordering Christianhaven, a working class neighbourhood in 1971.
It is in some senses, a government sanctioned social experiment in alternative living.
Here are some of the founding principles of Christiania;
Objective Goals of Christiania
To build up a self-ruled society,
where every single individual can freely develop themselves
under responsibility for the community.
That this society shall rest economically in itself,
and the common strife must still be to go out and show
that psychological and physical pollution can be prevented.
13/11 – 1971 (Source Christiania.org)
Today, the city of Copenhagen actively promotes Christiania as a tourist attraction, with a tour starts every thirty minutes every day of the week. Tourism is a mixed blessing with day trippers arriving from all over the world: German tourists, Architecture buffs, city hopping pot tourists providing a substantial income for the residents. The site is also a popular cycle thoroughfare with local commuters since additional cycle paths and access points have been added.
Monday is the Sunday of Christiania, most of the businesses are closed after a busy weekend, it is when the common meetings that govern the activities of Christiania occur. The site and community is divided into small self governing geographical segments. Overall, this works as a governing structure, but it does mean that it is difficult to organise anything that requires consensus from all of the areas. The municipal garden group and the Free Nature group have often experienced tension because of their differences in perspective, although this has improved over the past few years with better communication between the two groups.
Christiania now sits on incredibly valuable land, and the government wishes to transform the area bordering the fortifications into various heritage grade mixed use developments. I talked with Jorgen about the visions that he, and a few other Christianian’s set out in the Green Plan document in 1991. Jorgen is part of what I like to call Christianian’s Old Guard, by that I mean, one of the original inhabitants who have lived on the site since it’s inception. He is in his late Sixties but is like most of the Old Guard, incredibly active and youthful.
He led us on a bicycle/walk tour of the site and showed us how they had worked to transform their green plan into a reality. Floating reed and gravel sewage filtration systems for the floating homes upstream on the river bank which ensure that sewage from the houses are adequately filtered before entering the water system, composting loos, solar panels, collective recycling, all things that were considered to be laughable or too radical when the Green Plan was authored in the 1990’s. Looking at the Green Plan on the commune’s website, a great deal of the points outlined are now seen widely accepted as sensible responsible alternatives.
The Nature group runs a number of public engagement activities, mostly focused with younger age groups, like a hedgehog awareness day, or a more general collective action day. I asked Jorgen about his opinions about the younger people’s perspective on biodiversity and the ecology of the area, and it seems like there is tension between the old guard and some of the younger inhabitants with regards to the future vision of Christiania. Jorgen said that ‘they don’t care whether there is one type of bird, or a hundred types, they are scared of the dark, and they want new houses.’
I tried to arrange an interview with the gardening group to hear their perspective, but I’ve been unsuccessful so far. I’ve arranged a community mapping session tomorrow and I’m hoping that some younger people who are ecologically minded will turn up so that they can offer an counter perspective.