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.