[note] For some reason WordPress is destroying my line breaks. I'll have to tackle this issue when I get back to this in July. It's still readable though.. I hope [/note]The worn cup dripped water from its mouth happily as it glittered in the sun. A hand, wizened with age, held the cup, trembling ever so slightly. Carefully, the hand, belonging to a stooped man leaning on a cane, tilted the cup forward and emptied its contents on the lush vines below.“Grandpa, what are you doing?” pipes in a sharp, young voice, unsettling the reverie of the old man.“Oh, hey Kiddo! I’m just helping along these little ones,” responds Grandpa.“They don’t look they need any help, Grandpa,” reflects Kiddo.“These big vines don’t need any help, that’s for sure; but I was watering these little guys over here because they look like they’re struggling,” says Grandpa as he negotiates a thin vine toward the sunlight.“Hmm… I don’t know. Everything’s really thick. But it’d be awesome to build a fort here,” says Kiddo fingering the knotted mass of woody vines. Old growth is layered in such a dense display of gnarled fibers it is a wonder that anything new could grow in at all.“Yes it would. Or even a tree house up there in that Brewhouse,” muses Grandpa as he puts the cup away in his shoulder pack.“That’s a brew house? Grandpa, I never knew you worked here!” exclaims Kiddo.“Me? Oh no, no. I wasn’t even alive when this was a brewery! I just knew from growing up that there used to be a lot of breweries here before this area became parking lots. Used to be, I’m afraid. Prohibition closed them down,” says Grandpa, thinking back on his life.“Permission?”“Prohibition. You weren’t allowed to buy alcohol.”“Oh, you mean that smelly gasoline that Great-Aunt likes to keep in her house?”“He-he-he,” chuckles Grandpa, “Yes, that’s it. I really don’t understand why people like that stuff,” thinking of tequila. Read More »
Addendum – The CisternBy Rem / in thesis / June 8, 2010Single form, I,Separated; my brethren from on high,Yearning to reach the bosom lest I die.Racing to the earth amidst –Fellow forms – trembling with a sigh.Split asunder. I gather my arms,And limp: limping does the charm.Pushed from afar, please come to no harm,As I, joined by friends, weave through the tarmac.A ravine we find,Beset with legends of forest and bind,Looming overhead tall cliffs of like kind,Channeling us closer to that bosom we so mind.A corner we meet –Suddenly – as we tumble about to greetthese old ruins.Time has not been kind, for the decay that weepsmeets no sleep.We run toward the exit, as if in heat,But we are met a form so thick, it might be peat.All is well; for we tumble again and slow…down… as we meet our keep.The sieve that held us back lets us through,in time, when our friends are few.We continue on, as stubborn beings do,‘Til at last we embrace what we sought,feeling as if we were new.
The Convention CenterBy Rem / in thesis / June 8, 2010
Here are some photographs from setting up the show at the RI Convention Center in Providence. Apologies for the quality; both during construction and after photos were taken with cellphone cameras seeing as how both my photo cameras are KIA. Read More »
The Journey Reaching its EndBy Rem / in thesis / May 17, 2010
I have completed the thesis book and I have completed my work for the Convention Center exhibition. All that remains is installing the latter tomorrow and binding the thesis book starting Wednesday. I'm also working on an Addendum to the thesis with this kind of experimental experiential storybook as a speculative investigation of how people would use the site. Hope to be done with that by Sunday so I can print it somewhere.
Discovery of the Stony Brook Conduit!By Rem / in thesis / March 29, 2010
While I was looking up more information for the Vienna Brewery (the buildings on my site) I happened on information suggesting that the Stony Brook was culverted over and that it runs underground somewhere in Mission Hill/Roxbury. That's an exciting a prospect for a thesis bent on going underground! Furthermore, the culvert, constructed in the late 19th/early 20th century, is about 12 feet high by just as much wide, so it would be quite inhabitable if one chose to inhabit it (which is unlikely because of the mass quantities of water one might find in there). This is how the culvert looked while under construction:
Apparently these culverts were often wider as well:
Check out this interestingly amusing photograph:
So I've contacted the Boston Water and Sewer Commission; they confirmed that the conduit still runs under Parker/Gurney, and, interestingly enough, under the MBTA Commuter Rail/T Orange Line. The Providence<=>Boston line originally ran along the Stony Brook.. that's possibly why the current commuter rail appears in a trench "below" grade. I'll be going to Boston probably Wednesday to pick up some maps/imagery of this. I've also contacted Finegold Alexander + Associates because they did a Feasibility Study for the Boston Housing Authority on the Vienna Brewery in 1997. They must have some kind of imagery before the other parts of the Brewery were torn down (to become temporary parking for Wentworth). I also learned that Wentworth plans to build an athletic facility were this parking is, and that they have been thinking about what to do with the Vienna Brewery (like incorporating the courtyard for public use, using the Brew House for something and using the office building as Wentworth offices) since it is a protected landmark. The latter information I found on Historic Boston Incorporated, an organization which facilitates? between? landmark preservation and the public.
[note] The USGS PDF that I referenced in the above images can be found here: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2005/1280/pdf/cir1280.pdf [/note]
Diary of a Thesis StatementBy Rem / in thesis / March 28, 2010
November 11, 2009
Our rituals of existence have become banal. This rhythmic flow of narrative—to which we measure and quantify our lives—has lost its vitality as we have lost the memory of now abandoned landscapes. The overexposure, and the constant obligation, for communication has led to an unconscious concealment of profound and poignant thought.
The landscape of abandonment is rife for a potential shift of social convention. Accelerating this landscape’s decay with material overgrowth permits an experiential response of the unknown, the concealed, and the anticipation of the revealed. The wider perspective that this experience would grant enables individual introspection to become a ritual.
December 5, 2009
The landscape of ruin has lost its human occupation to time and memory. It is both a site of decay and a site of growth. Seldom are these qualities celebrated, as they are feared feral in a society stressing controlled conformity; but these crumbling, constructed wilds have the potential to act as passages for transcending our levels of experience as individuals.
Harnessing the disquieting energy of fear and encroachment, pushing the quality of material decay and growth so that it becomes material overgrowth, and capturing the limited stratification of light below grade permits the intellectual readiness for rites of passage. These rituals – these individual engagements – create an experiential response of the unknown, the concealed, and the anticipation of the revealed. A ritual of passage is both a single event and a journey through a landscape. How can stratified overgrowth act as a narrative for passage through a landscape of ruin?
February 18, 2010
The landscape of ruin has lost its human occupation to time and memory. It is both a site of decay and a site of growth. Seldom are these qualities celebrated, as they are feared feral in a society stressing controlled conformity; but these crumbling, constructed wilds have the potential to act as passages for transcending the levels of experience of individuals.
Harnessing the disquieting energy of fear and encroachment, pushing the quality of material decay and growth so that it becomes material overgrowth, and capturing the limited stratification of light below grade permits the intellectual readiness for trials of passage. Ruins have had the same neglect as have outsiders of society; those with uncommon ideas have always had the greatest need to transcend their own level of experience. To perceive with an articulated awareness can imbue refined perspectives to the anasporic audience from which they were exiled. How can stratified overgrowth act as a narrative for trials of passage through a landscape of ruin?
February 25, 2010
Ruins, deprived of their human occupation, are exiled from society just as intellectually gifted introverts are exiled in an overly expressive society. Commonly misunderstood, these Operators have the need to engage in a regenerative process to transcend their own level of experience to combat their external misinterpretations. Ruins – in a constant state of decay and growth – can serve as the ideal guiding game board for this transcendence because of the Operators’ attenuation to imaginative spaces and sensory stimulus. How can a landscape of ruin generate sensory overgrowth to transcend a level of experience?
February 27, 2010
Ruins, deprived of their human occupation, are exiled from society just as introverted students are exiled in an overly expressive society. Commonly misunderstood, these students have the need to engage in a regenerative process to transcend their own level of experience to combat their external misinterpretations. Ruins – in a constant state of decay and growth – can serve as the trial of passage for this transcendence because of the students’ attenuation to imaginative spaces and sensory stimulus. How can a landscape of ruin generate sensory overgrowth to transcend a level of experience?
March 3, 2010
Ruin is a place of discarded material: a site forgotten to time as its layers of former occupation decay, grow and overlap. As a record of the overdevelopment of these layers, overgrowth, the ruin has the potential to engage its visitors in their own active layering of material. How can a landscape of ruin generate a self-aware sense of presence with material overgrowth?
March 10, 2010
Abandoned spaces decay with discarded material. This discarded material can grow beyond its natural state to affect how we experience that space, not as an abandoned space, but as an inhabited place for changing our perceptional awareness of the landscape. How can stratification overgrow our sense of presence in abandoned spaces?
March 28, 2010
Abandoned spaces decay with discarded material. The record of that decay can be transformative as a process to change our perceptional awareness with the layering of both decay and growth. How can stratification overgrow our sense of presence in abandoned spaces?
April 14, 2010
Ruins sustain the validity that there can be many truths; that the ruin can be decaying – but that it can also be teeming with growth. The perception and experience of truth is difficult to navigate without a juxtaposition of context. How the displacement of stratified, ruined material generate a shift in perception?
April 26, 2010 [Final Version]
Ruins sustain the validity that there can be many truths; that the ruin can be decaying – but that it can also be teeming with growth. The perception and experience of truth is difficult to navigate without a juxtaposition of a physical context. The displacement of stratified, ruined material generates a shift in perception through the use of material overgrowth.
On Critique (Feb 18)By Rem / in thesis / February 18, 2010
It would appear that I am too much the observer, and not enough the maker: the person engaged in the site. I need to be more explicit in the datum of the 'level of experience' (right now I don't have one -- how do you measure someone's perception and relationship to space?) I mentioned to Mikyoung that my site is a school, but when I said that the, er, pupils, are 'intellectual outcasts of society', she was alarmed and responded that there's something very 'Dickinsonian' about that. That is, there is a potential negative aspect of placing a school in a ruin (what is the interface between those people and the ruin?); especially if I will be putting them underground as that can be viewed as controversial from many historical perspectives -- sequestering, refuges for refugees, etc. I also described the considerable proliferation of manholes and stormwater drainage devices in the street and on site; to which I received a response that I should be aware of the probable complex infrastructure that exists below grade. Here are the rest of the questions I should consider:
How do I study excavation?
What is the interaction between ruin and intervention?
What is it about that (be specific) condition to retain a ruin? When does it end; when it is completely demolished?
I need to make models of my understanding of how site and ruin is built. What are the material connections between new and old? Does something get discovered through ruin? (also, due to the nature of a ruin, I need to make models over time).
Are you looking for an environment that starts/ questions our need to maintain it? (Death and closure are difficult to talk about in our society)
How is the vehicle of thesis leading you toward to what I am reacting to you?
What is the adventure? (I need to answer this for the 'Midterm' critique next week)
What is the verb? I do not have an action to describe the 'rejuvenation' of the ruin? My previous verb was to 'narrate', but, that is still from the context of an observer, and not an operator on the site.
Public space has the potential to change society; so what am I trying to change by doing this thesis?
[note] Pin-up with Mikyoung Kim 12pm Feb 18 [/note]
I visited the site on February 6th. It took me four days on Bing and Wikitravel to find the site (from January 27th to 30th). It was a blustery cold (23 F) Saturday afternoon that I spent an hour taking over 220 photographs, video and sound recordings. This is a 13 minute transcript (edited for readability) of a voice recording I did once safely and warmly back in the car:
I'm really excited about the site. There's a lot of lower income people moving around on Parker Street with a fair amount of students. The site is surrounded by parking lots to the North; they're owned by Wentworth Institute of Technology. There's a gigantic pile of dirt on the site -- it looks like it was transfered from the adjoining lot used for storage/construction by the MBTA. There's a lot of topography I can work with. The building is still here [note: this was a worry of mine due to ruins constantly finding themselves on the short end of the stick], still boarded up, but there's construction vehicles next to the building [note: bobcats and portable sanitation]. There was a Comcast Van parked for the whole time I was there -- there was no one in the cab, so I assume they were all in the back. There was a rubber tube sticking out and into the ground [note: so there's sub grade possibilities?].
There's lots of manholes and stormwater management devices, drain inlets [note: archeology of site may now be necessary]. A lot of these are on Gurney meets Station St as well as on Halleck St (which is one-way, towards the southwest). There's lots of junk and overgrowth with decrepit pavement. There's a strange wall against the rail line -- it has a bridge like character too it. That's a potential sub site. The rail line itself has potential for sound overgrowth: when the train comes in/comes out, you can hear the sound from the vent at the High Voltage Building -- a subway sound appears to emanate from the vent as well as bouncing around above grade. You can hear an echo, a reverb of this subway sound in the courtyard between the big building and the small building.
There's some trees on the periphery of the giant landfill that there is. They seem to be relatively new growth, ten years or less, in random arrangement. When I first came in [into the courtyard] I believe there was a falcon sitting on the outcropping of the freight elevator of the big building. There was also a squirrel that climbed up into the eave of the small building; when I approached the building from Halleck Street, I heard this mysteriously frightening howling that made me briefly stop before completely crossing the street.
On Halleck Street there were some homeless people -- one with a shopping cart... but most walk on Parker Street; that seems to be the main road. You wouldn't be walking on Halleck or Station Street unless you were walking to/from your car parked in the lots.
On the far end, next to the rail line, there's a power transformer -- there's parking there too, but you need a permit. The lot is much worse in its disposition [note: crumbling].
On the site there's some interesting things. For example, in the courtyard, there's this one spot in which you can tell from the building there used to be a door or a roof that connected to something else -- but all you can see is the upper reaches of the vestige of what remains. So it's quite possible that there is a basement or other kind of subterranean structure that is now either covered over or filled in. The smaller building may have been used as a garage or warehouse because there is a remnant of a concrete plinth, a chain-link railing, and barriers on the edges of a bricked-over garage entrance.
Next time I go visit the site, I'll have to take the train to Ruggles and then walk over, mapping the experience. Another note: When I was driving up Route 28, across the way, about 3/10 to 1/2 a mile to the site there's this ruin of a factory building along the rail line. It's at the bottom of Mission Hill.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was reading some texts on Zen Buddhism to acquaint myself with how a well-known practice of 'meditation' (Zen being more than just the English word of 'meditation') could be used in a ritual landscape. As I quickly found out, Zazen (the practice of Zen) can be done anywhere and is not a practice to be done as a hermit in a remote location. Thus, Zazen's role in a ritual landscape is diminished, but the theory behind it bolsters my thesis as I will now make note.
1. The Spirit of Zen by Alan W. Watts (1960)
Frequently the Zen Masters used to refer to each other as 'old rice-bags' and with other uncomplimentary terms, not out of any professional jealousy, but because it amused them to think that they and their wise and venerated brothers were supposed by ordinary standards to be especially holy, whereas they had all realized that everything was holy, even cooking-pots and odd leaves blown about by the wind, and that there was nothing particularly venerable about themselves at all. (34-35)
Sudden vs gradual realization (Hui Neng):
Life is moving too swiftly to be approached tentatively and gradually, for while one makes elaborate preparations for enlightenment the immediate truth is slipping away all the time. (41)
For man's apparent humility in thinking that wisdom is something too sublime to reveal itself in the ordinary affairs of life is a subtle form of pride... and nobody could expect to find enlightenment in a hermitage unless he was capable of finding it in the life of the world. (47) But I haven't thought of the site and its rituals as a hermitage...
...To hear the whole symphony one must concentrate on the flow of notes and harmonies as they come into being and pass away, keeping one's mind continuously in the same rhythm. To think over what has passed, to wonder what is about to come, or to analyse the effect upon oneself is to interrupt the symphony and to lose the reality. The whole attention must be directed to the symphony and oneself must be forgotten. (54)
...The Zen Masters have always insisted on a severe training as a prelimnary to the practice of Zen... There is a remarkable series of pictures known as the 'Ten Stages of Spiritual Cow-Herding' which demonstrate this point particularly well.' (62-63) These ten illustrations can be found in Suzuki's Essays in Buddhism.
Satori - sudden realization of truth (65)
...as though the oppressiveness of the outer world had suddenly melted like a vast mountain of ice, for satori is release from one's habitual state of tenseness, of clinging to false ideas of possession. (68)
Koan - a puzzle with no intellectual solution meant to baffle the intellect (69)
...For the koan is not a means of inducing trance as if some kind of trance were the highest possible attainment for human beings; it is simply a means of breaking through a barrier, or as the Zen Masters describe it, it is a brick with which to knock at a door; when the door is opened, the brick may be thrown away, and this door is the rigid barrier which man erects between himself and spiritual freedom. When the door is opened at the moment of satori, the disciple passes not into trance but into a new attitude towards life which reflects itself in a character of remarkable beauty. (71)
...thus when the disciple comes to the final point where the koan absolutely refuses to be grasped, he comes also to the realization that life can be never grasped, never possessed or made to stay still. (75)
There are some 1,700 koans. (76)
There is a famous Zen parable which fitly sums up this particular attitude to life. It is said to those who know nothing of Zen mountains are just mountains, trees are just trees, and men are just men. After one has studied Zen for a little time, the emptiness and transcience [sic] of all forms is perceived, and mountains are no longer mountains, trees are no longer trees, and men no longer men, for while ignorant people believe in the reality of objective things, the partially enlightened see that they are only appearances, that they have no abiding reality and pass away like drifting clouds. But, the parable concludes, to him who has a full understanding of Zen mountains are once again mountains, trees are treees, and men are men. (79)
The Five Meditations on Eating:
Firstly, let us reflect on our own work, let us see whence comes this offering of food;
Secondly, let us reflect how imperfect our virtue is, whether we deserve this offering;
Thirdly, what is most essential is to hold our minds in control and be detached from the various faults;
Fourthly, that this is medicinal and is taken to keep our bodies in good health;
Fifthyl, in order to accomplish the task of Enlightenment, we accept this food. (89)
A man may be free to travel where he likes, but there is no place on earth where he can escape his own karma and whether he lives on a mountain or in a city he may still be the victim of an uncontrolled mind. For man's karma travels with him, like his shadow. Indeed, it is shadow, for it has been said, 'Man stands in his down shadow and wonders why it is dark.' (97)
2. Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu (revised translation Ma Wang Tui 1989, originally 6th century BCE)
I picked up this volume because I really appreciated the (faded) quality of its foil stamping. Only one passage, number 71, was the most accessible to me:
One who is good at traveling leaves no wheel tracks;
One who is good at speech has no flaws;
One who is good at reckoning uses no counting rods;
One who is good at shutting uses neither bolt nor lock yet what he has shut cannot be opened;
One who is good at tying uses no cords yet what he has tied cannot be undone.
Hence the sage is always good at saving people, and so abandons no one; nor does he abandon any useful material where things are concerned.
This is called following one's discernment.
Hence the good man is the teacher of the good man
While the bad man is the material for the good man.
Not to value the teacher
Nor to love the material
May, perhaps, be clever, but it betrays great bewilderment.
This is called the subtle and the essential. (71, Tao Ching; p75)
3. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (1970)
I didn't derive anything substantial from this text as it was mostly about the practice of Zazen; posture, breathing, bowing and not-thinking being the focus. It was still a good read; it's just that the prior readings covered what I have already understood of Zazen so this seemed to be duplicate knowledge to me.
I am now left with two more books to read and another thought on my structure of ritual. Next post! (Lately my posts have been averaging 1,000 words: why is that?)
Trial of Passage (of my own)By Rem / in thesis / January 24, 2010
I had a sudden thought that I need to reevaluate my focus. For more than a week I have been reading on Zen/Zazen because I thought those writings would help me develop a structure of ritual so that I can begin to develop program and site considerations. I will write about those readings in the next post, but I will henceforth question the relevance of this kind of meditation to my thesis. My understanding was that, depending on the interpretation (i.e., one is who is centered versus one who is trying), zen is found in everyday life (such as cooking pots) and going to a remote place and 'meditating' is not true Zazen. This will not work for the site. Furthermore, one does not pursue Zazen to become enlightened nor is it done strictly for pleasure. Again, if I want the operators to transcend their existence... this is not going to work either. Finally (but not finally), clearing one's mind as necessary to achieve Zazen means achieving a void mind without thinking of it, or thinking to hope that you are not thinking. I understand the concept of becoming 'one' with what you are sensing (but not thinking about), and that a clear mind, in theory, readily accepts new things, but I can't agree that having no thoughts whatsoever will lead to becoming enlightened. Because, how would you know that you have become enlightened about something without thinking, realizing that you have?
My sudden thought was not entirely on my misgivings of Zazen's relationship to my thesis, though Zazen has already influenced and bolstered it (via Satori and Koan). Rather, I reminded myself that the stratified overgrowth component of the thesis intends to set the conditions for these trials of passage. Overgrowth provides the structure for the ritual, I just need to figure out---
Well. What do I need to figure out? Consider a misty room where you can barely see the walls, you cannot see the ceiling or the floor but can see a lighter glow ahead of you. Would this environment suffice for a trial of passage? Do I need more 'furniture' in the room; such as a special garment to be worn, or a practice of movement (posture, breathing, humming, dancing) or devices, obstructions that are completely mysterious? There are apparently 1,700 Koans for Zazen, and they are designed to baffle the intellect and these puzzles have no intellectual answer as they are absurd. Modern science has confirmed that thinking of the absurd, or, not thinking about it, helps the brain make new connections and understandings to various things. From that perspective--the mysterious, the uncanny, the absurd-- all have the capability to trigger a Satori moment (sudden enlightenment). But what I'm not clear on is if I have to design for this. Can this happen naturally in such a landscape of ruin (but wait, that means it can happen anywhere) or maybe it does not because, for example, an absurd overgrowth (the mist) triggers the satori in this misty room?