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{ Curiosity, Restlessness & Creativity } The Case for Wandering …*

{ Curiosity, Restlessness & Creativity } The Case for Wandering ...* | rethinked.org

I haven’t got any special religion this morning. My God is the God of Walkers. If you walk hard enough, you probably don’t need any other God. – Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia

May is National Walking Month in the UK (it’s National Biking Month in the US) If you’ve spent any time on the Internet in the past two weeks, chances are you’ve come across some article describing a newly published Stanford study which found that creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter:

Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.

Walking is experiencing somewhat of a Renaissance as the business world is embracing its value and function in promoting creative thinking and thus enabling innovation while scientists are decrying the health risks of immobility. Standing desks, treadmill desks and walking meetings are all the rage.

But walking isn’t just a fashion or a means to an end, it’s an innate human drive according to Bruce Chatwin, whose birthday is today. Chatwin argues that:

in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and that, when warped in conditions of settlement it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new. This would explain why mobile societies such as the gypsies were egalitarian, thing-free and resistant to change; also why, to re-establish the harmony of the First State, all the great teachers–Buddha, Lao-tse, St. Francis–had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message and told their disciples, literally, to follow The Way.” – I Have Always Wanted To Go To Patagonia, 1983

This notion of our migratory drive appears again and again throughout Chatwin’s work, who professed to having, “caught a case of what Baudelaire calls “La Grande Maladie, Horreur du domicile.” Chatwin spent his short life giving in to his restlessness, trying to make sense of it and to harness it as a creative force. To celebrate his birthday and walking month, I’ve gathered some of my favorite quotes of his on restlessness, wandering, journeys and the importance of walking. Enjoy! And while you’re at it, go for a walk. You never know what creative brilliance may strike you on the way as you walk yourself into a state of relaxed attention, better known to scientists as transient hypofrontality.

wander & rethink

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“I stayed at the Estacion de Biologia Marina with a party of scientists who dug enthusiastically for sandworms and squabbled about the Latin names of seaweed. The resident ornithologist, a severe young man, was studying the migration of the Jackass Penguin. We talked late into the night, arguing whether or not we, too, have journeys mapped out in our central nervous systems; it seemed the only way to account for our insane restlessness.” – from In Patagonia, 1977

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“And there are those, like myself, who are paralyzed by ‘home,’ for whom home is synonymous with the proverbial writer’s block, and who believe naively that all would be well if only they were somewhere else.”  – from A Tower In Tuscany, 1987

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“What is this neurotic restlessness, the gadfly that tormented the Greeks? Wandering may settle some of my natural curiosity and my urge to explore, but then I am tugged back by a longing for home. I have a compulsion to wander and a compulsion to return–a homing instinct like a migrating bird. True nomads have no fixed homes as such; they compensate for this by following unalterable paths of migration.” – from The Nomadic Alternative, 1970

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“In one of his gloomier moments Pascal said that all man’s unhappiness stemmed from a single cause, his inability to remain quietly in a room. ‘Notre nature,’ he wrote, ‘est dans le mouvement…la seule chose qui nous console de nos misères est le divertissement.’ Diversion. Distraction. Fantasy. Change of fashion, food, love and landscape. We need them as the air we breathe. Without change our brains and bodies rot. The man who sits quietly in a shuttered room is likely to be mad, tortured by hallucinations and introspection.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Some American brain specialists took encephalograph readings of travelers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well-being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produced fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self-disgust and violent reactions. Hardly surprising, then, that a generation cushioned from the cold by central heating, from the heat by air-conditioning, carted in aseptic transports from one identical house or hotel to another, should feel the need for journeys of mind or body, for pep pills or tranquilizers, or for the cathartic journeys of sex, music and dance. We spend far too much time in shuttered rooms.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“I prefer the cosmopolitan skepticism of Montaigne. He saw travel as a ‘profitable exercise; the mind is constantly stimulated by observing new and unknown things…no propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, however much opposed to my own…The savages who roast and eat the bodies of their dead do not scandalize me so much as those who persecute the living.” Custom, he said, and set attitudes of mind, dulled the sense and hid the true nature of things. Man is naturally curious.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

“He who does not travel does not know the value of men,” said Ib’n Battuta, the indefatigable Arab wanderer who strolled from Tangier to China and back for the sake of it. But travel does not merely broaden the mind. It makes the mind.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Children need paths to explore, to take bearings on the earth in which they live, as a navigator takes bearings on familiar landmarks. If we excavate the memories of childhood, we remember the paths first, things and people second–paths down the garden, the way to school, the way round the house, corridors through the bracken or long grass.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“Travel must be adventurous. ‘The great affair is to move,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in Travels with a Donkey, “to feel the needs and hitches of life more nearly; to come down off this feather bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot, and strewn with cutting flints.’ The bumps are vital. They keep the adrenalin pumping round.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

“The best thing is to walk. We should follow the Chinese poet Li Po in ‘the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way.’ For life is a journey through a wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it were biologically true.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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“All our activities are linked to the idea of journeys. And I like to think that our brains have an information system giving us our orders for the road, and that here lie the mainsprings of our restlessness.” – from It’s A Nomad Nomad World, 1970

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What are some of your favorite Chatwin books and quotes?

{ Chance Meetings } Celebrating Lautréaumont’s Birthday & the Spaces Between Things & Ideas…*

“As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.”
– Comte de Lautréamont

Today is Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, aka Comte de Lautréamont’s birthday. Lautréaumont is best known for his splendid story, The Songs of Maldoror, which was a major influence on the Surrealists. The quote above, which comes from The Songs of Maldoror has deeply shaped my sense of aesthetics. I often write about the immense potential for rethinking …* that connecting different ideas and disciplines can produce. In honor of Lautréaumont’s birthday I have compiled a little collection of projects and ideas, which I feel reflect this desire to translate, connect and blur ideas, mediums and spaces to produce something new, fresh and bursting with questions and possibilities. As I was trying to put this post together, I realized that I had lots of projects that I would love to include so I’ve decided to make Lautréaumont’s birthday a week-long celebration here on rethinked* Today, you will find a little selection of projects that cut across all boundaries and medium. On Tuesday I will share some cool “Music Machines” and on Thursday “Drawing Machines.” I hope you will find these projects and artists as fascinating and inspiring as I have. And please share with me your favorite “chance meetings.”

Delight, blur & rethink …* 

– Geese, Myth & Astronomy –

{ The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA) Agnes Meyer-Brandis } Agnes Meyer Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future. In “THE MOON GOOSE ANALOGUE: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA)” the artist develops a narrative based on Godwin’s The Man in the Moone, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis has actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese with astronauts’ names and imprinting them on herself as goose-mother. They live in a remote Moon analogue operated from a control room within the gallery.

THE MOON GOOSE ANALOGUE – documentation from Agnes Meyer-Brandis on Vimeo.

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– Graffiti & Stop Motion –

{ BIG BANG BIG BOOMBLU }

An unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end.

BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

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– Garbage trucks & Cameras – 

{ Trashcam Project – Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and the Hamburg sanitation department }

Hamburg´s garbagemen portrait their city in the Trashcam Project – with their garbage containers. Standard 1.100 litre containers are transformed to giant pinhole cameras. With these cameras the binmen take pictures of their favourite places to show the beauty and the changes of the city they keep clean every day.

The Trashcam Project was developed by Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and the Hamburg sanitation department. Special thanks to Hamburg based photographer Matthias Hewing (www.matthiashewing.de/) for his professional advice and the challenging lab work with the giant negatives.

Trashcam Project

The fun fair “Dom” in Hamburg photographed with a garbage container by
garbageman Bernd Leguttky, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106×80 cm sheet of ilford multigrade with ten minutes exposure time.

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– Tattoos & Music – 

Reading My BodyDmitry Morozovа sound controller that uses tattoo as a music score – this is a special instrument that combines human body and robotic system into a single entity that is designed to automate creative process in an attempt to represent the artist and his instrument as a creative hybrid.

::vtol:: “reading my body” from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.

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– Scent, machines & Memories –

{ The MadeleineAmy Radcliffe } an analogue odor camera.

Based on current perfumery technology, Headspace Capture, The Madeleine works in much the same way as a 35mm camera. Just as the camera records the light information of a visual in order to create a replica The Madeleine records the chemical information of a smell.

If an analogue, amateur-friendly system of odour capture and synthesis could be developed, we could see a profound change in the way we regard the use and effect of smells in our daily lives. From manipulating our emotional wellbeing through prescribed nostalgia, to the functional use of conditioned scent memory, our olfactory sense could take on a much more conscious role in the way we consume and record the world.

HOW TO SUCCEED WITH YOUR MADELEINE from AMY RADCLIFFE on Vimeo.

[Hat tip: Scentography: the camera that records your favorite smells via The Guardian, published June 28, 2013.]

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– Clothes & Poetry – 

{ Poetry BombingAugustina Woodgate } Clothing labels with poems printed on them are sewn clandestinely in local Thrift Stores. 2011

Places and Objects are alive, we make them alive, they tell our stories and tales. Sewing poems in clothes in a way is giving the garments a voice. We are in relation — with others, with things, with the world. This being-in-relation, is a way of perceiving, a mode of moving, a narrative of global truths designed by cultural fictions. Sewing poems in clothes is a way of bringing poetry to everyday life just by displacing it, by removing it from a paper to integrate it and fuse it with our lives. Sometimes little details are stronger when they are separated from where they are expected to be.

Poetry Bombing With Agustina Woodgate for O, MIAMI, published  April 27, 2011

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– Architecture & Music –

{ Dithyrambalina: The Music Box and Beyond – an experiment to create Musical Architecture }

dith·y·ramb, noun: A chant of wild and abandoned nature sung by the cult of Dionysus to bring forth their god.

A host of international artists, musicians and inventors are creating Dithyrambalina – a landmark village of musical, playable houses. Invented instruments embedded into the walls, ceilings, and floors of Dithyrambalina’s architecture will support boundary-breaking musical performances and inspire wonder, exploration and invention in visitors of all ages. This New Orleans Airlift project is the evolving brainchild of artists Swoon, Delaney Martin, Taylor Lee Shepherd and Jay Pennington in collaboration with over 100 more artists and musicians to date. Last year they debuted THE MUSIC BOX, as a proof-of-concept for their vision.

Dithyrambalina: The Music Box and Beyond from TungstenMonkey on Vimeo.

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– Blood, Resin & LIGHT –

{ Blood & Resin – Jordan EaglesJordan Eagles is a New York based artist who preserves blood to create works that evoke the connections between life, death, body, spirit and the Universe…

Blood, procured from a slaughterhouse, is the primary medium in Eagles’ works. Through his experimental, invented process, he encases blood in plexiglass and UV resin. This preservation technique permanently retains the organic material’s natural colors, patterns, and textures. The works become relics of that which was once living, embodying transformation, regeneration, and an allegory of death to life.

Jordan Eagles – Blood & Resin from Jordan Eagles on Vimeo.

[Hat Tip: Preserved Blood Paintings Seem To Glow From Within via PSFK, published June 18, 2013.]

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– Biology & Architecture –

{ Bloom – Doris Kim Sung } Metal that breathes

Modern buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows give spectacular views, but they require a lot of energy to cool. Doris Kim Sung works with thermo-bimetals, smart materials that act more like human skin, dynamically and responsively, and can shade a room from sun and self-ventilate.

Doris Kim Sung: Metal That Breathes via TED published May 2012

[ Hat Tip: Biologist-Turned-Architect Invents “Breathing” Metal Building Skin via Architizer, published October 30, 2012.]

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– TREES, WIND, CHance & INK –

{ Conversation With Trees – Shih Yun Yeo } a collaboration between artist Yeo Shih Yun and trees across Singapore.

A collection of tree drawings at different intervals over the two months( 01-11-2010 to 31-12-2010) , Conversation with trees is a collaboration between artist Yeo Shih Yun and trees across Singapore. In this exhibition, there is a multi-media presentation of drawings, photographs, silk-screen paintings and video installation.

In this latest series of works, Shih Yun tests the influence of external physical and metaphysical forces- wind and chance on the glorious mark-marking process. At random intervals, she attaches Chinese brushes dipped in Chinese ink to the tips of branches of trees in various settings across Singapore and allows the chance movement of the wind to create the marks. Each brush stroke created by the tree and wind is spontaneous, without the constraints of a limited visual vocabulary, creating drawings of absolute freedom and honesty. The resulting ‘tree drawings’ are then selected and transferred onto silk-screens. The silk-screens are then used by Shih Yun to create abstract paintings on linen of various sizes.

Coversations with trees from shih yun yeo on Vimeo.

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– Robots & Movie Scripts –

{ Do You Love MeCleverbot & Chris Wilson } a movie written by a machine.

Cleverbot.com has been touted as one of the most advanced artificial intelligences ever. The website allows users to chat with the A.I. Cleverbot. But how good is it, really? I sat down with Cleverbot and collaborated on a movie script.

I tried to talk to Cleverbot just like I would with a human writing partner. I set up scenarios and Cleverbot provided all of the dialog content for the scene.

[Hat Tip: Watch A Hilarious Movie Written By A Machine via FastCoDesign, published February 14, 2013.]

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