Sunday, October 29, 2006

In the last post I said I'd put up a pic of a very cool thing I got at the scrapyard in Albuquerque. Well, for all you gearhead dorks like me, here it is! It's an old piece of earth-moving equipment called a "clamshell." One of the guys at the scrapyard said he thought it probably came from one of the mines here in New Mexico. Maybe it's radioactive!

AAAAAAGHH!!!! TARANTULA!!!! Actually, they're really pretty harmless. And, starting a few weeks before Halloween every year, they come out in the thousands and make a mass pilgrimage to the Rio Grande to mate. If you're into bizarre and violent means for reproduction, google: "tarantula wasp."

With the Rastra walls in place and filled with concrete, it was time to put up the I-Beam. The forklift was surprisingly handy for this task! Eventually there will be quite a lot of weight on this beam, so the plans called for a support pillar somewhere near the middle of the beam's span. We found, again at Coronado, a really beautiful and very old steel beam for the job. Here, I'm welding it into place. In these pics you can tell it's starting to get cold....

The day after we put up the I-Beam we got.... the first snow of the year!!! It was beautiful! And the house looked pretty good in the early morning light, too.

This pic was taken at the end of a very long day. Christina and I and a crew of four other guys worked all day long to put up the first four ribs of the quonset hut. The learning curve was steep. But finally it's starting to seem like we might really have a home sometime soon.... an indoor kitchen and a shower sound pretty good right around now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

All right, here comes another marathon post.... After seemingly so long with no progress on the house, things are snapping into action!

As all you faithful blog readers out there know, the little tiny house we live in now is well built and insulated, perfect for winter living. But our damn kitchen is OUTSIDE!!! Lots of fun at 7:30 in the morning when all the water is frozen and you can't make your damn coffee! So, Christina joined the "Cool Kids with Containers Club" and bought herself a 20-footer which will become our winter kitchen and auxiliary storage area. Moving this thing around was a fun challenge... my forklift could barely do it. The bottom pic shows it's final resting place... We'll cut a door and windows into the side pretty soon here.

Finally some progress on the house! The house (as you will all see in the coming weeks) will be a hybrid construction consisting of a partial quonset hut and partial traditional frame structure, with Rastra block endwalls. Rastra block is a kind of rigid block made from concrete mixed with post-consumer recycled plastic; it is hollow and is later filled with liquid concrete in much the same way that regular cinder blocks are. In the first pic, Geronimo (my trusty diesel Dodge) delivers all the Rastra needed to build the end walls. In the next pic Christina and our friend Thomas do the "Holy Shit It's Cold Out Here, But The Walls Are Starting To Go Up" dance. It's really popular here.

Thanks to a good recommendation, Christina and I have discovered a fantastic salvage and wrecking yard in Albuquerque called Coronado Wrecking. They've got acres of stuff, mostly from dismantled commercial buildings. Our hybrid house design calls for one end of the quonset hut to sit, not on the ground, but high in the air on a supporting beam. We found an 18-inch I-Beam in perfect condition at Coronado which would work. However, it was 44 feet long, and they don't deliver. So, we went back with a trailer and a torch-cutting rig, Christina cut it down to 33 feet, and we trailered it and a few other nice heavy things back to Taos. (I'll post a pic soon of a really beautiful item I scored at Coronado) Well worth the trouble considering we saved $500 over buying it new.

Preparing the I-Beam for the attachment of the quonset as well as the roof joists which will come off the other side of it will require quite a bit of metalwork. Instead of trying to bring the beam to the metal shop, we brought the metal shop to the beam. I performed a feat of funky wiring to get 240 volts out on our land for the welder. Here, Christina is drilling holes in steel brackets which will later be welded onto the beam, which is sitting behind her. The nearly completed Rastra walls of the house are also in the background.

In related news, my second loan attempt for financing the shop is looking more promising than my first. I'll find out in a few weeks if I get to build a shop or not. Also, my laptop broke, so I have to use Christina's for stuff like this very posting... great! Funny how that happened at the exact same time I had to throw $1000 at my truck! And, I'm totally obsessed with getting a dog. Unfortunately I can't really get one until the house is built; our current cabin is a little too small. All the more reason to finish building!!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wow, it’s been about five weeks since I blogged! That’s got to be a new record for laziness.

After we returned to Taos from Burning Man we only stayed put for about two-and-a-half weeks before heading off to Europe. During that time Christina held her national Women's Welding Workshop, during which she taught seven women from all over the country how to weld and blacksmith. I was a guest speaker and presented a lecture on Kinetic Sculpture in general and on my own work in particular. Other than that, I applied for a loan to finance the building of the shop, which was rejected, and got generally depressed and aimless.

But luckily, Europe beckoned. We first spent two days in Amsterdam; one day to bicycle around the city and another to check out the well-known robotics festival Robo-Dock. Friends of ours have participated in this event in the past and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We will probably put together a proposal for next year with our friend Doyle. The first picture up there is of the Dead Chickens' installation, which was probably my favorite piece there. This sculpture plays music, albeit a rather noisy, percussive type of music.

After a flight on a Croatian Airlines turboprop we arrived in Zagreb. The event we were to participate in was called Device Art, organized by an incredibly motivated group of four young entrepreneurs calling themselves Kontejner. Almost immediately we set to work unloading the container, which miraculously DID NOT fall off the ship and land on the bottom of the ocean! Four artists, including Christina and me, brought art over in the container. The other two, Kal Spelletich and Ryan Doyle, and their crews, arrived later than we, so I got the honor of directing an all-Croatian crew of guys to help unload the container!

Next up on our first full day in Zagreb was to bring all the gallery-scale art we'd shipped over to a gallery space for an opening the following evening. After much difficulty finding a transformer suitable to operate our 110 volt art, the installation was complete! The third picture shows Christina posing in front of her "Nine Beating Hearts" piece, with my "Our Little Family" and "Impatience" to the right. The remainder of the gallery art was supplied by mostly Croatian, Slovenian, and Serbian artists. By and large, it was very impressive, and, in contrast to most American artists I've come across, the European artists present at the opening were eager to talk about the conceptual and intellectual underpinnings of their work at length.

The other venue, where we would execute most of the fire and robotic performances, was an old factory called Močvara, which means "swamp". Between performing there was a lot of drinking and posing for pictures; in the sixth picture Christina can be seen posing with (from L to R) Jay Broemmel, Kal's right-hand-man, Douglas Repetto, the illustrious inventor of Dorkbot, Ryan Doyle, and his gal Heather. (Kal was probably off somewhere chatting up a Croatian lovely!) Christina also finally got to experience Kal's FireShower, something she'd wanted to do for a long time!

Christina and I chose Device Art as the place to premiere our new performance Amortec, in which she (on stilts) and the HD6LAW (or Highly Dangerous 6-Legged Aluminum Walker) do a choreographed dance together. Even though the piece is only six minutes long, and our performance was a bit improvisational, this was a highlight for many people, including me.

The Robochrist Industries performance, comprising the Subjugator, the Necropod, the Drunken Master, and eight pig heads, most of which were shot from the air cannon, took place on the last night of the festival. It was well-photographed, but so far the pig portrait is the only photo I've received! The theme of the show was U.S. imperialism, and several props were built to portray this theme, including various scenes from Abu Ghraib. To me, quite possibly the most interesting aspect of the perfomance was the Croatian audience's reaction to the theme, which was something like: "Why would you want to do a show about that?" Our feeling, as Americans, that this was really the only thing we could do a show about, somehow did not translate. This was the topic of 90% of the six or so interviews that I did after the show.

Finally, once it was all over, Christina and I had a chance to see Zagreb.

As you may have surmised by now, there has not been a lot of progress on our land. But that is about to change. Stay tuned.... I promise another post within a few days.