Rural vs. Urban
GRIT, HOT, HEAT, HUT, DIRT IN MY MOUTH, HUMID, LANGUID, MUD, WET CAMPFIRE, COOKING OVER OPEN FIRE, LIGHT THIS FIRE, CAN I LIGHT THIS FIRE?, LONE DRAGONFLY, LONE BEER, ONE HOB, OUR TOOLS, FARM TOOLS, PAINT ROLLERS, ELBOW GREASE, HOE, SLOW, SLOW, SLOOOOOOOOOOOOW, FIREFLIES, FLASHLIGHTS, BUG BITES, CICADA SIRENS, CHICKENS SQUAWKING, SQUALOR, DIRT ROADS, DIRTY EARS, SHADE UMBRELLA, DODGY TRUCK, OLD TRACTOR, EMPTY SILO, WORK GLOVES, CROP, CROPS, LABOUR, MUCKING IN
NIGHT OWL FARM
Our little resident group dwelled in two places, first at Night Owl Farm in the rurality of North Branch. The farm operates as a CSA, meaning that it sells “shares” to city dwellers who receive a basket for 16 weeks, full of over 60 varieties of veg, flowers, strawberries and eggs. Here, we dwelled with a .75 acre field of live plants, a honey bee colony hive, and five chickens: Henrietta Helen, Gertrude, Frank, Gerhardt, and Pepper. We also lived alongside an old 1948 Aliss-Chalmers WD diesel tractor that surprisingly still started, and one of our farm hosts, Brent, drove us on tractor rides, Andy standing up behind him on back, and Steph and Collette clinging on to each fork. As we were dwelling here in early September, it was the end of their CSA growing season, and the farm felt the work of the past six months; it was well-worn and ready to transition. September is a month of great transition in Minnesota– it comes in still hot hot hot from August, our hottest month, and sees the transition to Autumn by the end of it, with chilly nights and then also, by the week of the 25th, chilly daytime air. October brings snowy conditions in many years.
Our five chicken co-dwellers were loud, boisterous, and on-time. They squawked at 5am every morning, and made enough of a racket at the front, or road side, of the barn that we could hear them where our tents were situated behind it. They didn’t need any tending though, and they had free run of the place, moving through the open kitchen barn sometimes to end up on the back side of the farm with us. Apart from the nighttime downpours of rain and one night a grand thunderstorm which swamped residents’ tents, we found a rhythm: earlier morning times to ourselves, to think, walk and journal, and then midday brought chore duty on the Farm. We’d check in with Rosie each midday, and she’d tell us what needed to be weeded, pulled, primed, or chopped back. Even though the CSA was in its last rotations, endless things needed doing. I had pre-arranged the joint task of painting the shanty/bothy a bright barn red, to match the other structures, on Rosie’s request, reserved until our last day when we were out of the rain system moving through. The beauty that I saw of this labour was not immediately visible to the residents, and some wondered aloud why we were doing all this work. Having worked on Night Owl Farm in seasons past, I saw the value in a humanitarian pitching in, a giving back to the land and its fruits, in gratitude for giving us the gifts that we received those four days, and also a bonding act which would bring the seven of us together, in the John Dewey/Black Mountain College sense.1
We cooked communal dinners of brats, chicken, and of course, veggie from the field over the open campfire, and complemented these with sides brought in from town on supply runs. The main barn was outfitted along one of its corner walls as a kitchen, with countertops and a fridge, cutting surfaces and a prep table. This area housed one propane-burning camping hob, which we fired up every morning to heat water for coffee and tea. Each morning, I prayed the thing would light, as I clicked the switch over and again; it always did eventually. Just to the west of the kitchen barn and shanty/bothy, near the road, was a newly acquired port-a-potty for our use when we didn’t want to go in the woods or use the shovel. At any given time, we had the failsafe to drive the 10 miles into town for whatever we needed, firewood, a working bathroom, or hot coffee among them.
Dwelling here meant time and space given to us, to chat long and languidly around the campfire at night, to get to know each other, to enjoy the surprise of the Northern Lights, to wander the acreage at our leisure, to ride the slow moving old tractor through the tall grass and ruts. It also meant to work in the fields, to lend our hands in reciprocity to the chores needing done on the farmstead, and to repay, and also to pay forward, Rosie and Brent with the larger work of painting the shanty/bothy.
INNER CITY, LITTLE HOUSE, BIG LAWN, SEPARATE ROOMS, STAYING TOGETHER, NOT-TOGETHER, BIKES LAID ON SIDES, TWILIGHT LAWN TALKS, CRACKING BEERS, PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER, TEMPORARY ARRANGEMENTS, GLIDING IN, MEETING UP, KEY UNDER THE MAT, PAN ON THE STOVE, FANS ON, PENT-UP HEAT, HOTHOUSE, LIVING AND WORKING, LIVE/WORK, LATCHKEY, MAKE DO, FOLD-OUT TABLES, MOVING CARTS, LATE NIGHT PHOTOSHOOTS, CABBAGES IN THE FRIDGE, LEFTOVER PIZZA, PBR TALLBOYS, WORKERS 24-7, INDUSTRIOUS, MANIFESTOS, STRAY PRISMACOLOR CAPS, FAT MARKER DRAWINGS, SLOW ACTION BASEBALL GAME, BIRTHDAY BOWLING LANES, MORNING WALKING RITUALS, COFFEE SHOPS, 331 BAR 2-FOR-1S, BIG GUEST DINNER, CATERED CURRY, BEDS AS ONLY FURNITURE, GIGGLING ON BEDS, ARGUING ON BEDS, CRYING ON BEDS, LATE ARRIVALS, NO ARRIVALS, WINDOWS SHUT, UNMET EXPECTATIONS, LATENT SURPRISES
The city leg of this residency event brought our trans-national movement across borders into stark light; here we could see the intricacies of guest involvement and local involvement. Look at a map of Minneapolis, and you can see the proximity of where residents are housed, and they are not close. Our carriage house HQ began to burst its seams early on, with seven residents coming and going, and the kind September weather afforded the entire front yard as extended work and live space. A small spot with lawn chairs under the maple tree in the front yard became a low-key hang out for intimate sunset conversation as days progressed. From noon on Day One, bikes became strewn about the lawn, and I knew from past projects that it was a sure sign of work in progress.
A blueprint of the house HQ shows how each room was dedicated, with little space available for communal studio use. The yard became work space as well, with Stephen conducting some of his mould-making experiments there. Because the living arrangements infringed on the work space, and vice versa, it seemed always a battle for those working around toothbrushes and wet towels. We put up an 8’ fold-out table that was shared collectively in each work room, and at any one time it had drawing set-up and materials next to clay, plaster, and mould-making tools, and a stop-motion animation set-up. This intimate work environment brought closeness in side-by-side social working, but became problematic when a worker was absent and others came along to work, displacing the absent artists materials. This came to a head when Stephen had a stop-motion animation set up for several days and it kept being moved, which ruins the process entirely. My solution as administrator on Day Six was to run blue painting tape on the tabletops as dividers, so every artist maintained their own “cubby” workspace and wouldn’t disturb anyone else’s work.
The two residents who also slept at HQ had very different patterns; Collette stayed in her room mostly, venturing out when Steph and Andy would come along from across town, and, even though it was hot, wouldn’t open the windows after dark, something I’d noticed people commonly do in Scotland, and may have been due to feeling unsafe in a new and strange city. Nevertheless, it was hot! One day, everyone got out on bikes to explore the NE neighborhood together. Stephen habitually stayed up late and slept in, and was out and about in the city often, walking the streets of our neighborhood.
When he was in his room for downtime, he watched the one movie he had uploaded to his tablet, the Lego Movie, and videochatted friends in Scotland. Moving autonomously on foot, he quickly found several coffee shops and bars, and occupied two in repeated habitation, the Matchbox- a locals’ coffee shop- and the 331 bar, at the end of our block- which has a diff live event every night, for example, a gent tap dancing on a make-shift floorboard box whilst a country band plays alongside, and ‘happy hour’ from 1-6pm every day on a local brew called Surly. Both of these establishments have been staples in the Arts District for many decades, and loved by locals, myself included in years past. Stephen set out to dwell in this neighborhood, not just the HQ house, as much as possible in the time he was given, and came to know the bartenders and baristas by name. His shift in habitus was set up by his daily repetition: the eight block walk to the Matchbox every late morning, his working afternoon in HQ, and the usual 5 o’clock $2 Surly beer at the 331, then back in to work or join whatever event we had planned that evening.
Drew and Derek each had their own jobs and studios in town; Drew was an assistant and taught workshops for at-risk youth at Juxtaposition Arts in North Mpls, and Derek was a barista at Dogwood Coffee in Uptown. The 10-day residency in the little house was meant to structure around their jobs and lives, but they had taken time off, and so only had to be at work twice during our event. By Day Five, Derek and Drew were in the HQ daily, both working on projects toward our Open House, set for Day Nine. One evening, Stephen and I drove to Derek’s house, so he could share with us his experience of living in a big old timber North Mpls house with four roommates, comprising formal sitting room and cavernous attics turned into studios. How the resident host/guest combination of Andy and Steph dwelled in place was just a gray area, for us all; it was unknown to the group and private to them. This was partially by design, I wanted them to have a suturing experience that would give them an intimate bond, wherein Steph could really come to know what Andy’s translocal reality is like, as he’d come to know hers in Edinburgh. One night Collette went and stayed overnight with them, too, and gratefully. I heard that Andy and his wife Molly made some lavish breakfasts for them, and he showed them all the work he’d been making in his garage studio as well.
I’d embedded several extras into the ‘dwelling’ design of the residency, which aimed to collectively create an immediate open pathway for the residents to meet people, organizations, and locales in the Mpls art scene. On Day Two, we met local artist of some celebrity, grassroots producer Andy Sturdevant, with his round spectacles and long red beard, at the 1940’s steakhouse and martini bar called Mancini’s on West Seventh in St. Paul, a turn of the century Irish/Italian/Czech neighborhood. As it happened, we crashed a birthday party that night at Mancini’s piano bar of some other art scene locals, but spent the evening getting the lowdown over perogies from Andy. He re-joined us for more conviviality on our last weekend at Nye’s, a classic staple of the NE neighborhood, showcasing nightly the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band.
On Day Seven, we met 10X 2012 former resident and local filmmaker Pete McLarnan at a dive bar called Matt’s Bar in South for beer and burgers, specializing in something unique to Greater Minneapolis called a ‘juicy lucy’ or a double decker burger with messy hot melted cheese in the middle. From here, Andy and Steph just Ubered south to Andy’s house, while the rest of us made our way across town to NE. Famously, Barack Obama stopped here in 2014 when he toured Mpls. (That same year, British 10X resident Nick Tandanivj was imbibing inside when his guest bike, my daughter’s, was stolen from out front. This was one of many things of my daughter’s, including her electric guitar, that has been stolen whilst in borrowed use during residency.)
Another time we partook of the local culture in the city was an unplanned trip to a Twins baseball game for Stephen’s birthday on 18 September, on his request. It was a beautiful clear Autumn sunny afternoon and we all watched the slow moving game from the nosebleed seats, peanuts bought from the hollering barker who threw them down the row at us, and many beers. The sun set behind the stadium, making downtown begin to glow, stadium lights slowly coming on; we all tried to identify Derek’s warehouse studio we’d just visited. Near and far neon lights began to take form, the outline of characters Minnie and Paul shaking hands over the Mississippi river in the Twins logo over center field. Andy knows the organist, and took the Scots to his organ loft to meet her, a unique treat indeed. As the game ended, we decided to keep the night alive at the Bryant Lake Bowl, meeting other Minneapolis artist friends at the infamous bar/restaurant/theater/bowling alley for what ended up to be a long, boisterous night.
We stayed under they covered the field.
The main event which the residency is structured around is always a fairly large catered dinner at mid-point in the week with a guest lecturer. This is someone chosen in town with fairly heightened position– a curator at the Walker (Sarah Schultz ‘14), for example, or an independent art producer doing really interesting projects (Sam Gould ‘13, Cameron Gainer ‘12), or an artist/architect/designer (Matt Olson ‘13). These are meant to be a rather casual affair, where the conviviality and atmosphere of the evening takes on its own life, and is only broadly directed by the distinguished guest. Former 10X residents from years past are always invited, and a few join the dinner every year, forming an alumni network with the current residents on the spot. With us on this night was Emily Stover (‘12), John Fleischer (‘12) and Monica Haller (‘14). I had planned this guest dinner with Sarah Peters, formerly head of the Education department at the Walker but now producing a massive all-night performative and interactive outdoor art event across the city every June called Northern Spark. Energies were high as we approached this evening. I was running errands with Emily (‘12) buying beer and wine and picking up the multi-coursed Greek dinner, and had been setting up our outdoor table and dinnerware and delegating tasks, and so didn’t realize Stephen was missing. All the residents were there now, several alums and Sarah herself had just arrived when Stephen came stumbling across the lawn from the 331. After back and forth surveillance of him, I made the executive decision to tell him to keep to his room for dinner, as he wasn’t going to be able to join the group conversation with any clarity at all; he jovially obliged and kept himself in his room to sleep it off. Well managed, well received. We still had very full seats around the table, in the event.
Having not dictated what Sarah was going to talk about, the night’s conversation flowed from her and took a prescient and focused path. Earlier that summer and in the year past, the US had begun to witness a rash of deaths of unarmed young black people by the hands of police, and social unrest in Minneapolis and cities across the country were heightened. Black Lives Matter was just a small grassroots movement nobody had really heard of. In 2014, first Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, followed by Eric Garner, who was strangled to death in a chokehold in New York City, initially stopped for the crime of selling individual cigarettes. Then, a 12-year-old boy called Tamir Rice was killed within two seconds of arrival by an officer who came upon him in a Cleveland park playing with a toy gun. These stories, and the street protests which began to mount, had made their way around the globe to me in Scotland, and Sarah and the local residents, especially Drew, who worked with many black teenagers at Juxtaposition, could speak to what was really happening on the ground. They described simmering daily unrest and the boiling kettle state of things, under calm twilight sky. The entire evening conversation became an open civics discourse, and a sharepoint of knowledges and feelings of everyone present, locals or not, alum and current residents. It was an eye and mind opening night especially for the Scots, whose culture doesn’t allow police, much less ordinary citizens, to carry guns. The easy flow of talk made for an accessible entrypoint into the tough and serious content for all.
The conversation then moved to question, what can we do as artists? What does it mean to hold a public art festival, or, indeed, a residency, in this time of fear and conflict on the streets? How can our work acknowledge and encompass this? How can we create inclusivity, sensitivity and resilience? In hindsight, that moment in time was only just the beginning of social unrest, as two short months after our September dinner, 18-year-old Jamar Clark was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, the first such event to cause our city to roil the streets in protest. Of course, the events of 2020 would follow, with the global uproar surrounding the George Floyd killing, eight miles from where Jamar Clark’s life was taken. I’m grateful for the experiential learning of that night, for everyone gathered in the assemblage, and believe it has played a part in each of our deeper understanding in the separate lived experiences we have today in response to the current global uprising against systemic racism.