Monday, August 22, 2011

Press Coverage

The Sauerkraut Powered Robots and I were in the newspaper twice last week.
The Columbus Dispatch

The genius yet jovial artist...

Ellen Grevey, audience-services director for the conservatory, finds the robots beyond amusing.

“The sauerkraut-powered robot is a funny twist on what people can do with their food,” she said, “but it also reminds us that there’s energy in our food and energy powers our machines.”
-Michael Grossberg
[read the full article here]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hungry Planet Art Exhibition

I've been invited to show the Sauerkraut Project in Hungry Planet: Local Food | Global View. How exciting!

Sauerkraut, Not For Everybody

Not everyone likes sauerkraut apparently, especially not this student in my friend Tara Polansky's class:
The first thing you notice when you walk into the room is the odor. The putrid odor was very piercing and after looking at all of the work in the room and taking notes, I literally thought I would vomit. The culprit was a blend of rancid cabbage and vinegar also known a s sauerkraut...
-anonymous undergrad

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Ed Luna did a wonderful job documenting the opening. Thanks Ed!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thank You

I just want to say thank you again to all those who made this project possible. Thank you so very much for supporting me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Show Opens Monday!

Post-MFA Fergus Fellows Show
May 9–May 19

Opening Reception: Monday, May 9  5-7pm

Jesse Hemminger
Bill Teschner Breitbart
Amy Rueffert

Hopkins Hall Gallery
128 N Oval Mall, Columbus OH, 614.292.5072
Gallery Hours: Mon – Fri  9am – 5pm
Thur, May 12  9am – 7pm

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another All Nighter

Well I pulled another all nighter, but the sauerkraut powered robots are now fully operational and ready to install. Come to the opening on Monday to see what they draw. It is getting close!

Friday, April 29, 2011

All Nighter

Once again it took an all nighter for me to finally get the job done. Thanks to Chris Purdie for the great idea on how to keep the wires from getting tangled. Now all 3 robots are fully operational! I can finally sleep easy.

I'm never going to do this again...

Am I the only one who tells myself I'm never going to do this again whenever I have an art show? The stress is just to much sometimes. I have had several mini breakdowns over the past couple of weeks. I keep thinking to myself, God I just want to get a nice simple 9-5 job that I can actually go home from. How nice it would be to be able to leave my work at the office.

Someone told me once that every successful artist they knew was the type of person who would be successful no matter what they did. So I was thinking, does the converse also hold true? Is every unsuccessful artist the type of person who would be unsuccessful no matter what they do? Then I thought, well fuck it! If I'm going to be unsuccessful at whatever I do, I might as well be unsuccessful doing something I love, being an artist. Embrace it! Celebrate it! Make a show out of my failures!

But on the other hand I might as well just be unsuccessful at a job that pays well, or at least pays the bills.

Or maybe I just need to revisit my definition of success.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Boy it has been a tumultuous past couple of weeks. Last week I collaborated with Ian Ruffino to turn the shredded paper that I had gathered into new clean sheets of paper. That took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday a gave a presentation to the glass club about this project and two past projects leading up to this project. And after the presentation they blew some glass vessels for me. They look really cool, like bacterial cells growing together.

After it was all over I felt exhausted. I felt like I was going to collapse. I could have easily fallen asleep right there in the studio, but I somehow made it home, on my bike no less. And then it hit me. That emptiness that you feel after exerting yourself so completely that you have absolutely nothing left in you, and then it is all over and everyone goes home and your like, what? that's it? It is like when I worked really hard in college and pulled an all nighter to write a paper and you hand it in just in the nick of time and class just goes on like normal. Nobody even knows how hard you worked. I felt like I needed some celebration or acknowledgement or something.

But I guess that is what the opening reception is for. May 9, 2011, 5-7pm at Hopkins Hall Gallery. Hope to see lots of people there.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Last Potluck

Tonight was the fifth and final potluck in my Sauerkraut Dinner Party series. In the end it was great, but I was a bit nervous at the beginning because a lot of people were late. We ended up with about 10 people again, which has pretty consistently been the number of guests. It is a good number of people that I feel I can manage.

There were a lot of people who didn't know each other at the dinner, so things started out a little slow and quiet, but by the time we got to the sauerkraut making people loosened up and there was a lot of playful banter. We had a lot of fun making sauerkraut. We even finished around 8:30, exactly when I had said we would in the invitation.

Then everybody left and I was alone in my apartment. This feeling of sadness washed over me as I realized I am creating this great community around me, but at the end of the day I don't have anyone to share it with. I don't have a partner. I was feeling pretty lonely.

Luckily a friend called who is in a similar situation as me and we talked for a bit. He knew exactly what I was feeling with out me even explaining. It made me feel better to know that I'm not the only one who notices that we join these groups and create these communities around us, but somehow in the end we are still separated on a fundamental level. I mean, what I am doing is not really that radical. It is pretty tame in fact.

I don't want to invalidate or belittle what I am doing, but it really doesn't get at the underlying issues of alienation and isolation. We are divided. We are separate. We are suffering. But we go on, we make progress.

I read once that when faced with a problem or difficulty, all we need to be happy is a sense of progress, we don't actually need to solve the problem to be happy. This project may not be the most radical action, but it is a step in the right direction. It is progress. I am happy with it.

And I am making progress too. I called a couple more friends and told them about the party. I do have people to share it with after all.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Glass really is awesome

Sunday night the gaffers, Linda and Molly, made these wonderful custom glass vessels for my sauerkraut. They are all organic looking. They are going to be great!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thanks Mom

My mom came over yesterday before the party and helped me get things ready. It was really nice, and a big change from how I had been operating. Until yesterday I had prepared for the parties alone in isolation, which was a miserable thing because I would sit there and worry that nobody was going to show up. But with somebody already there, well, somebody was already there.

Last night at the Sauerkraut party the thing I decided to let go of was isolation.

Then on the ride to the meadry to go dancing after the party, I was talking to Aimee and asked her if she would help me with doing some press work for this project in exchange for me doing some web work for her. It looks like letting go is happening.

Life is good

The Sauerkraut party Saturday night was awesome. Just the right number of people. Not to many to make it stressful, and not to few to make it awkward. Delicious food. Although it seemed like everyone brought potato dishes, which I think happened the last time too. I'll have to start asking people to bring other things.

Then afterwards we went dancing. Life is good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Glass rocks

The glass folks are awesome. I want to the glass club on Thursday night and it was so much fun. There was this great sense of community. And they were so willing to help me out with making some custom glass vessels for my sauerkraut. I'm pretty excited. After the custom ceramic crocks not working out, it renewed my spirits :)

Monday, March 28, 2011


I feel like these three sauerkraut powered robots represent me in some way, and what I've been going through. The first one sort of just flops around, like I kind of floundered when I first got back. The second one is stuck between a rock and a hard place, racing back and forth between two things, repeatedly hitting its head against a wall, which is how I felt this winter. The third robot is moving around the crockery but sticking close to it and not venturing away. It keeps moving forward relentlessly, but there is a sort of insecurity in the way it always has to have its "arm" touching the crock.

I guess that is also how I feel. I'm moving forward with a clear idea, but I feel insecure, so I make sure to stick to the structure I put in place and not take on other stuff so that I can be sure to get it done.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Circle robot is operational

Since I didn't have any sauerkraut with me I used the solar panel to test it out. It works exactly as I had planned. It follows the edge of the bowl perfectly. I also attached the charcoal I bought the other day. It leaves a much darker more visible line. Maybe I'll try out some of the colored charcoal I bought next.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Herding Cats

Man, what a difference it has made having Marjorie as a project manager. She got me organized, set deadlines, and is keeping me accountable. Teamwork makes so much sense. But it is something I seem to struggle with. Whenever it happens, like in the past few weeks with Chris, Steve, and Laurie, we are always like, wow that was so great, we each get so much more done when we work together, we should do that all the time. But then we don't. Why!?!

Organizing artists is like herding cats.

Robot II is done!

A Hex Bug from Radio Shack with a BEAM robotics Miller Engine strapped on top. I bet you can guess what the power source will be!

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's a metaphor

Now, I know what you scientists and chemists are going to say. The bacteria aren't actually powering the robot. It's the a chemical reaction between the the copper and zinc electrodes that is creating the electrical charge. The acidity of the sauerkraut created by the bacteria and the electrolytes in the brine just create an environment that allows that reaction to take place.

That is true, the bacteria are making the robots move no more than I am making people let go. But we are both creating an environment in which both moving and letting go are possible. And that is the important point because this is a symbolic act. It's a metaphor.

That being said, I left the robot connected to the sauerkraut overnight, and when I woke up it had moved a few inches across the page. Pretty cool huh!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

There you have it

The first robot is connected to the sauerkraut! When we hooked it up it took a few minutes to charge, and then it moved. The current is very low so it doesn't move very much, but I have some theories about how to increase the current. Also, I noticed that the voltage coming from the sauerkraut dropped after a little while. Not sure why that happened. The voltage seemed to increase again when I wiggled the electrodes around.

Making the Invisible Visible

I wrote that in my sketch book today in reference to how I am giving the bacteria that ferment the sauerkraut voice in this project. Later I read the same exact phrase "making the invisible visible" in my friends artist statement. Then as I sat in bed and opened a book to read before sleeping, the first thing I read was "[B]acteria... occur everywhere there is life on any kind..." (Edward O. Wilson, page 10 of The Future of Life)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Made a bunch of Sauerkraut

Next Step

I know I need to set a date for the next Sauerkraut Dinner Party and invite people, but when I think about doing it I have an incredible anxiety, so I keep putting it off. It sucks. The anxiety makes me feel sick to my stomach at times. It makes me wonder why I choose to make public art when I have so much anxiety about organizing people and events. Why don't I just build objects alone in my studio and ship them to galleries so I don't have to interact with anyone?

I know why of course. I do this stuff because I want to learn to be a part of a community and to build community. I want to get over my social anxiety. I want to let go.

When I was growing up I didn't fit in. I was ostracized at school. At the beginning of high school we moved from New Mexico to Ohio. In high school I finally started to find a group of friends in the cross country team. One weekend I decided to through a pizza party (we were only in 9th or 10th grade, we hadn't discovered beer yet). I invited the whole team, both the guys and the girls. My guy friends on the team showed up, but none of the girls came. I felt so embarrassed. I was mortified. The party felt like a failure.

Now when I throw these potluck dinners at my house I have this terrible anxiety the whole afternoon before the party starts. I sit there worrying that nobody will show up. The odd thing is, once we discovered alcohol later in high school, my place became party central. I lived on a farm. The nearest neighbors were a mile away. We would have camp fires and tents behind the barn or in the corn field and my parents couldn't even hear us. It was great and I didn't feel anxious at all.

But I think the difference was it was never just me throwing a party, it was always my friends and I organizing it together because I had the best place for parties. I don't have any partners in what I am doing now. That sucks.

Just bringing people together doesn't make it a community art project. I need to let go of this mode of working in isolation and get other people involved on a deeper level. Allow others to also have ownership in the project. That will mean opening up and letting people in.

Something moved

Finally, I got something to move. It is 3:30 in the morning but I can sleep now. I don't know why, but I haven't been able to get focused until after midnight lately. It is like I have to be so tired that my inhibitions break down so I can just get stuff done.

So here are a couple of pictures of the first solar engine kit that I built. This one just has one motor so it just kind of bops around randomly. The other kit I got has 2 motors and light sensors so it can steer itself towards light. I'll try to build that one tomorrow.

And I need to make a bunch of sauerkraut tomorrow! Things are coming together.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nourishing The Soul

Humans are social creatures. It is one of our basic human needs to express ourselves to others, to tell our story and to have our story be heard. The social aspect is important because it gives us validation and allows us to let go.

One place where this social exchange traditionally took place was around meals. As Michael Pollan points out in his book In Defense of Food, people are increasingly eating alone. Another place where these exchanges took place was while performing manual labor such as preserving and canning food. You don't need a book to know that people don't can and preserve foods themselves as much as they use to.

Although there has been a recent resurgence in popularity of activities such as making sauerkraut, the economics of it (the one or two dollars it costs for a can of food vs. the hours spent doing it yourself) makes it clear that this is done not out of a necessity to feed the body. Therefore there must be some other reason for canning your own food. I propose that the resurgence in interest in traditional food preparation is not about feeding the body, but instead about nourishing the soul.

And that is exactly what I aim to do with my Sauerkraut Dinner Parties. Nourish your soul by creating a space where you can express yourself, be heard, and feel validated. I'm offering a ritual of letting go.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Second Sauerkraut Dinner Party

The second Sauerkraut Dinner Party was great. Not at all what I expected. Not a single person from OSU art department showed up, which surprised me. About 10 people showed up, same number as the first party. And I had the evening better structured this time. We did the paper shredding at the beginning. Most people talked and shared a little bit about what they were letting go of. It was really cool to see people doing that and opening up a little. I must have succeeded in creating a space were people felt like they could do that.

In a way I'm almost glad that no one from the art department showed up, or at least I'm not upset about it. I'm not interested in making community artwork that is just for the art community. I'm excited to see who comes to the future Sauerkraut Dinner Parties.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Long overdue

I really should have started writing a blog about this a long time ago. I don't know what my resistance to this process is about. My first art project blog was over 5 years ago. Since then I have done two big public art projects where blogging was an integral part of the process and the work. It has clearly become a major part of my artistic practice. Why have I been avoiding it with this project for so long? Did I feel like it wasn't enough for this fellowship, like they expected more or something else from me. Maybe that is part of it, but I think it has something to do with putting on a show, pretending to be something that I'm not.

It is time to stop trying to be what I think someone else wants me to be (I've come to this point before, at the end of high school) and just start being myself.

Transparency. When I write these blogs about these art projects I am doing I am completely transparent. All my fears and insecurities and self doubt are exposed. I thought that since I got this vote of confidence in the form of a fellowship I'm not suppose to be insecure and have self doubt. I though that if they knew how insecure and scared I feel they would think they made the wrong choice. But if they read any of the blogging from my past major projects they would know that already, and they chose me anyway. Maybe because they also saw in the projects that I never gave up. That I fight and I stick with it.

So on with it.

I've got a new project I'm really excited about, well new in that I haven't written about it in a blog yet. The idea came to me about a month and a half ago. I'm throwing a series of Sauerkraut Dinner Parties as art events. It is kind of inspired by something either Ken Rinaldo or Amy Youngs said; artists are meaning makers. That phrase really struck me.

It helped me understand what I had been doing for the past several years with my tofu dinner parties, and it helped me to focus it. I started asking questions. What is the meaning that I am making? How do we make meaning? How do humans understand meaning? I realized that metaphor is at the core of creating meaning.

The tofu dinner parties were all about me, about my childhood, my identity, about me finding my community. They had meaning for me. So I asked myself, what other kinds of dinner parties can I organize to create meaning for others as well. And I came up with Sauerkraut.

But I'm really tired now because I just had my second Sauerkraut Dinner Party, so let me tell you all about it later.

Back to work

After a few weeks of just working on getting the Fuse Factory show ready and installed I finally got to work on this again. I tried using the desktop variable power supple to charge up the solar engine circuit that I build last time. I was hoping that I could get it to charge up enough to get it to trip. The first time I did it it seemed to work, I thought I heard the motor spin for a fraction of a second, but I couldn't get it to do it again. The zener was getting really hot and nothing was happening so I think I burned something out. I'm not sure how to test all the components though.

Laurie was there and she helped me make the executive decision to just order a kit online. It cost a bit of money but it will save me so much time and headache and move the project along to the important stuff, the stuff that it is really about.

Monday, February 7, 2011

1.96 V of pure kraut power!

I separated the sauerkraut jar into 3 containers and it tripled the voltage.

Then I connected the LED, and it lit up! You can barely see it light up in the picture above, but you can see that the voltage dropped.

You can see the LED light up a little better in the picture above.

The Zener-based solar engine (first attempt)

Got a Zener-based solar engine circuit made out of the parts I salvaged, plus some parts I bought at Radio Shack (way to expensive). I was able to capture some electricity from the Frankenkraut, but the voltage wasn't high enough to power anything. I need more jars of kraut to increase the voltage.

Friday, February 4, 2011


salvaged some parts by de-soldering them.
planning to make a modified BEAM robotics solar engine with them.