Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lush, Moving Video about Recovering Detroit from Blight

Volunteer Portraits, Jeff from Imagination Station on Vimeo.

A video portrait of Detroit social activist Jeff DeBruyn by Stephen McGee.

Detroit photographer and cinematographer, Stephen McGee has just released a new series of videos produced for the The Imagination Station in Detroit. The videos lushly capture the emotion and effort going into trying to remove the blight from Detroit and replace it with art and creative redevelopment.

Here's an excerpt of the Imagination Station's vision:
Imagination Station of Roosevelt Park is a nonprofit whose first job is to clean up 2236 and 2230 14th street, two blighted structures on the park facing the epic ruins of Michigan Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. The house on the right will be renovated using sustainable green practices. The burned out shell of the house on the left will be disposed of and its boundaries used as a public art space. Through this process, the Imagination Station aims to create a replicable model of redevelopment fueled by traditional partnerships and grant practices, as well as new social media techniques for fundraising, storytelling, and volunteerism
There's also an excellent portrait of Jerry Paffendorf, who's Loveland project has launched the idea for The Imagination Station.

Wack Dem Weeds from Imagination Station on Vimeo.

[The Imagination Station]

[Detroit: Shrink a City with Wild Imagination]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Loveland "Makes" The New York Times

Jerry Paffendorf, Mary Lorene Carter and Alan Languirand of the Loveland Team at the site of Plymouth. (Image credit: The New York Times)

The New York Times reporter Melena Ryzik went to Detroit this week to cover Maker Faire and ended up doing a profile about how artists are surviving and thriving in the shrinking city of Detroit. Rita J. King wrote her own take on the transformation of Detroit in her essay last week, "Detroit: Shrinking City with Wild Imagination."

Wringing Art Out of the Rubble in Detroit profiles a number of artists including our own Jerry Paffendorf's Loveland Project:
Jerry Paffendorf, a newly arrived resident who quickly built himself a niche. Mr. Paffendorf, 28, moved to Detroit from San Francisco by way of Brooklyn last spring, with an expertise in software design and a side of techno-savvy wit. He is behind a project called Loveland, a “micro real estate” enterprise that sells parcels of Detroit that he owns by the square inch for $1 a piece. Mr. Paffendorf bought 3,150 square feet of land for $500 when he arrived; “inchvestors” get a plot in a part of town that might not be well trod otherwise. Proceeds go to organizations that address Detroit’s many problems.
Congratulations Jerry!

[NYT: Wringing Art Out of the Rubble in Detroit]

Friday, July 23, 2010

Detroit: Shrink a City with Wild Imagination

Co-owner of the Imagination Station Jerry Paffendorf leads a tour of the space and explains the future of the Detroit project.

I just returned from Detroit, where the Loveland crew continues to blow my mind while working on creative reconstruction of a shrinking city, Detroit.

The Imagination Station, depicted in the video above, is an empty building next to a burnt-out house destroyed by arson, as many places in Detroit are, and an old defunct hotel. Jerry co-owns it with Jeff DeBruyn. Across the street from the Imagination Station, beyond a grassy field, is the desolate, majestic Michigan Central Station, which stopped operating in the 1980’s and now looms tall and gray in a grassy field, full of broken windows and occasional hidden interlopers exploring the emptiness.

The cumulative effect of so much neglect makes it seem from an outside perspective that Detroit was abandoned all at once, as if a nuclear core had melted down and the entire city had to be evacuated. Vacant skyscrapers look almost normal by day, but at night, the city masterminded by Henry Ford, once the richest person in the world, is a ghost town of darkened windows and squatters.

When we meet Jeff for the tour of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, starting at the Imagination Station, he’s chatting with squatters, Mike and Kevin, who have taken up residence in the future Imagination Station. They have big news--the three buildings were boarded up and the city is planning to come through and tear them down the next day.

Of all of the countless structures that could have been scheduled for demolition the very next day by the city, it seems absurdly odd that these buildings, two of which are now being tended by mindful new owners, would be first up. Next to the houses is the Roosevelt Hotel, a brick building with broken glass, graffiti tags and squatters. Through busted shades on the third floor, the outline of a man appears briefly in the window.

Next to the Roosevelt Hotel is the first of Jeff and Jerry's two houses, which is burned out by arson and brought back to life for a fleeting moment by the artist Marianne Audrey Burrows. A few months ago, Marianne was in a group of artists and friends from the Loveland crew who came from Detroit to visit the Imagination Age Salon in New York City. I run the Imagination Age Salon, after a lifetime of dreaming about it. Marianne had never been to New York before, and she was wild and wide-eyed with energy.

She said she needed to paint and I commissioned her to paint a mural on the double doors of the garage at the bottom of the garden. It was late spring, with hot pink rhododendrons in full bloom. Over the course of the hot day, she painted a full cityscape in the background and the blooming rhododendrons in their full rebirth in the foreground.

Since then she has painted six other murals in or on buildings around the city including inside and outside this burned-out shell of a house, which has become in its last days a canvas for her great work “Reclamation.” The hot pink rhododendrons are reborn again on the charred walls along with the blue silhouette of the black-windowed city skyline.

Paint A Burnt House from Imagination Station on Vimeo.

Now the ruined house is boarded up, and no more visitors can see the art inside. Yesterday, the day I toured with the artist herself, was the last day of the life of the house. We stepped over black bricks and burnt sticks on the shelled stairway to the second floor, where we tiptoed across damaged floorboards to the explosion of sky blue paint spreading from the corners of the rooms to the broken windows and beyond, out into the world.

After this structure is removed, The Imagination Station will be left standing across from Michigan Central Station, which was designed by the same firm that created Grand Central Terminal. While it’s hard to imagine Grand Central not existing in Manhattan, it almost happened. The structure was under siege by would-be developers in 1968.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis intervened:

"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes."

Before we get in the car to explore Corktown, Jeff points across the street to a barbecue restaurant next to pawn shops and a half-painted Banksy on the last brick building, near the roof. Apparently one of the world’s greatest living artists was chased off like a common thief before he had a chance to finish, leaving only the dark faded silhouette that somehow suits the location perfectly, making me wonder if maybe that’s what Banksy intended. Across the empty grassy field, in the silent darkness of the Michigan Central Station, the shadowed perimeter of bobbing heads popping up over the edge of the roof looks like the painting came to life in the form of mysterious explorers.

There’s danger and romance in the creative anarchy of abandonment and empty space for people who have a roof over their heads but want to explore, and then there’s stark necessity for people like Mike and Kevin who have run out of other options. What they’re doing could be considered giving in or fighting back, depending on where you sit.

“In 2002 I graduated from law school,” Jeff says as he pulls away from the curb. “Six years ago, a priest brought me to Detroit. Father Tom. I moved into the shelter to run the soup kitchen and live a monastic existence, living simply, serving the poor.”

“You’ve been living there ever since?”

“Ever since. But now I’m ready to expand, that’s how I got involved with Loveland and the Imagination Station.”

He explains the nature of the divisions that tore the community apart, starting with freeway construction in the 1960’s and then riots in 1967, commencing after a police raid during a party for two returning Vietnam vets in the very place we now sit in an idling car.

“This is ground zero for the riots,” he says. The dusky night has cast the quiet street into a jagged ring of shadows on the horizon. My eyes haven’t yet adjusted. He rolls slowly past vacant lots, some bound by hurricane fences, some gone to seed, others covered in remnants and junk. “Some of the houses burned down. Crime drove people out. The city is shrinking. Detroit is 143 square miles but the population is down from over two million to under 800,000. I believe that this city can and should be used as a model for how to shrink a city.”

Some of the blocks we pass are blown out completely, empty of people and hope, with sagging roofs and rusted gates swinging open on overgrown fields of Queen Anne’s Lace. These areas, he suggests, can be turned into community parks, farmland and incubators for social entrepreneurialism.

“Wait and see what’s going to happen in the next few years. The Imagination Station will be the center of a major shift. We’re going to make it real. Community organizing through social media. I’m excited to learn these new skills and see how they can have an impact on fundraising. We don’t want to kiss ass or beg. We just want to raise the funds to make this real.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

Loveland: The Scene of the Crime

A sawed off pole in Loveland missing its solar panel lies across Plymouth.

By @RitaJKing

Shortly after midnight I received a call from Jerry Paffendorf to let me know that a crime took place today in Loveland.

Loveland is a city of inches in Detroit. 600 people from all around the world are “inchvestors” who share space in Loveland’s first fully developed colony, Plymouth. Each parcel in Plymouth is one square inch. Each inch costs one dollar. I own 1000 inches in Plymouth. This neighborhood of 1000 inches is called The Imagination Age Network.

As “inchvestors” in Loveland, we live scattered among states, countries and even continents. But we share a neighborhood, and in our neighborhood tonight, a crime took place. How we react to this challenge is the first real test of our shared values.

Tonight, before I spoke with Jerry, I had dinner with Jesse Dylan, the Curator of Mysteries of the Imagination Age Network. The most incredible thing about Loveland, he said, is that it’s “real.” Immediately, we learned just how real our shared space is. The same way a seed contains the blueprint for a vine that can grow a half-ton pumpkin with seeds of its own, each inch in Loveland is tiny but full of future.

Jerry’s pictures of the crime scene depict what happened to the pole that he, Mary Lorene Carter and Alan Languirand erected to support a solar-powered camera at the top. It was sawed down, and the solar panel, which the Imagination Age Network funded, was removed and stolen. The next step would have been to attach a Lemon Battery camera.

Had the camera been installed, images of the vandals would have been captured and uploaded before they had a chance to get close enough to touch the pole. In this way the Lemon Battery camera will curb future vandalism on the site, unless would-be criminals don’t mind their pictures instantly being shared with law enforcement and the rest of the world. A sign will be placed on the property warning future visitors that if they can see the Lemon Battery, the Lemon Battery can also see them.

This is not the first time recently that I’ve dealt with an invasion. A few months ago, I heard a sound at my back door at home. I caught a gloved hand holding my garden shears reaching for the doorknob through a broken glass panel. As I met with various security professionals and weighed the options for protection, I was forced to deal with serious questions:

Which measures are only psychologically comforting, and which actually result in increased safety?

What is the proper attitude to take in the face of such a crime?

Where’s the line between security and paranoia, protection and cynicism?

Some might argue that leaving a valuable object like a solar panel unattended in an abandoned urban environment during an economic and cultural crisis is asking for trouble, but I disagree. Neglecting such areas when they need attention the most leads to even more squalor, and that’s a failure of imagination.

At the heart of Loveland is love.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Construction at Loveland

Plymouth, LOVELAND Construction, June 2010 from Jerry Paffendorf on Vimeo.

By Rita J. King

I couldn't be more excited to see cement being poured.

The time capsule shown 44 seconds into the video was packaged by me in the middle of the night before Jerry Paffendorf and Mary Lorene Carter drove back to Detroit from New York City last Monday. Jerry texted me when I was already in bed to tell me if I wanted to bury a time capsule in the cement, they'd be by at 9 am to pick it up.

I am the founder of the Imagination Age Network, a neighborhood of 1000 inches in the first colony of Loveland, Plymouth. Plymouth consists of 10,000 inches, outlined by the cement.

I got out of bed and in the silent darkness, gathered my thoughts to figure out what I should include. Time capsules in cornerstones customarily include that day's newspapers so the date can be remembered. I printed out a copy of my friend Cory Doctorow's latest post on Boing Boing. I included a string of Mardi Gras beads from New Orleans. I found them on the floor in a little girl's room. She had meticulously stenciled a sign for her door, "Don't come in without knocking first," but looters had kicked the door in and torn her abandoned possessions to shreds, leaving only a pile of tangled beads on the cheap, burnt carpet. The beads symbolize rebirth, reconstruction, the hope that Detroit will once again be a city of the future and that the individual lives of the human beings affected by disaster are remembered. I included a picture of the Detroit girls, Celeste and Ricki, who live on the same street as Loveland. They are the only ones left on their block, but they're thrilled that the micro real-estate experiment has given them neighbors.

The jar includes a map of Plymouth and two versions of the Imagination Age Network, the first as conceived on a cocktail party, on a napkin, with Jerry, and the second (shown below in the rainbow image) after the actual plot of land was redistricted. Originally, I had intended the Imagination Age to be subdivided, but we ended up with a single block of 25 by 40 inches. I like it better the way it turned out, but both maps went in the jar.

Old map.

New map.

I included an LED light connected to a small battery that I once used to write the word love in the air.

The jar contains other secret items as well, but more on that later.

The most important thing about the jar is that it contains an augmented reality marker and on July 17, in Detroit, the jar will begin to communicate from inside the cement. The contents of the jar will be updated as the community develops.

Also see:
Welcome to Loveland!
Rita J. King speaks at O'Reilly's Gov2.0 Summit about Loveland

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Map of the Imagination Age Network in Loveland

Loveland continues to grow, inch by inch, and the Imagination Age Network in Loveland has now been mapped!

The Eight Zones are named for the aspects of the Eightfold Path. Each member of the network receives an address within one of the zones.

In the map above, the thin purple rectangle represents 40 inches of shared space. This shared space will include all elements that can be found in any community--with a twist. Eventually the network will create multiple shared assets including a Theater of the Future, The Imagination Age School, and a store. The image directly above is the banner for the store, which will soon be open for business.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jason Silva in The Imagination Age "Intentions: 128"

When Jason Silva sent me the concept teaser for "Turning Into Gods" (see below for video) I was struck by the scope of the thought and his enthusiasm for a subject that has kept me staring at the ceiling many nights since before I even started grade school:

Is immortality possible? Can science put an end to death?

Jason Silva seems certain that the answer is yes. Looking ahead for a moment...let's say we get there. Envision a place where consciousness is re-engineered without the turmoil of the mortal coil...

But will we ever truly be immune to hazard, even if the singularity is reached?

One line grabbed me particularly:

"Imagination," Silva says, "allows us to think beyond our limitations to conceive of what might be and go further than we ever thought possible."

I invited him to become a member of the Imagination Age Network in Loveland, an experiment in Detroit created by Jerry Paffendorf. Loveland explores new concepts about community and the micro-ownership of shared real estate. Loveland is 1,000,000 square inches in all, made up of individual colonies. The first colony, Plymouth, is 10,000 square inches and has 588 "inchvestors." The Imagination Age Network is a 1000-inch neighborhood in Plymouth. Our goal is to see how big we can make an inch.

The yellow rectangle is the Imagination Age Network in Plymouth, shown amid the parcels of 588 other inchvestors. For more information about Loveland, click here.

Jason Silva's inch is called "Turning Into Gods." He chose the address "Intentions: 128" for his project. The Imagination Age network is divided into eight shared zones of 122 inches each. Intentions, the second zone, includes inches 123-245.

The first step in growing Jason's project is to watch the video below and leave comments on this blog post with your thoughts on possibility, science and technology, a grand unfolding instigated by humans, and, oh yeah, "making ourselves permanent."

TURNING INTO GODS - 'Concept Teaser' from jason silva on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congratulations Mary Lorene!

Congratulations to Mary Lorene Carter! Confidante and collaborator with Jerry Paffendorf on the Loveland project has an inspiring blog post about completing her art degree.
The primary reason for me not accompanying Jerry to New York is due to a presentation of my own. I have, over the last 10 years, attended 3 different universities and switched majors 3 times…. So, in case any of you are wondering, this unofficially qualifies me as an expert in the fields of: fine arts, library science, and the history of art, particularly the pagan empires of the Mediterranean (700bce-400ad). Today I had to present my senior thesis to a panel of faculty, which means I get to graduate….

[I Do Something.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Plymouth: The Imagination Age

The dimensions of The Imagination Age, our 1000-inch neighborhood in Plymouth, the first colony in Loveland, is shown above at 25x40 inches.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inchvestor Profile: Ken Hudson -- "100 Squirrels in Loveland"

The Black Squirrel, part of a collection of urban art that Ken Hudson may be including in his Loveland inches.(Image and art credit: Ken Hudson)

Inchvestor Profile
Name: Ken Hudson
Number of Inches: 100

Ken Hudson is a Canadian visual and theatrical artist, performer, digital media consultant, and Managing Director of the Virtual World Design Centre at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, near Toronto.

He is perhaps better known for his ground-breaking work using the virtual world of Second Life to train Canadian Border Guards, which led to significantly improved grades on students’ critical skills tests, taking scores from a 56% success in 2007, to 95% at the end of 2008 after the simulation was instituted.

Ken will be documenting his involvement in Loveland on his new blog "100 Squirrels in Loveland."

What inspired you to buy inches in Loveland?

Obviously, there's the character of Jerry [Paffendorf] and his bon vivance. People want to be involved in ideas he's pushing forward.

It connected really strongly with my creative past. I used to create theater in alternative venues. In Canada my claim to fame is I adapted Shakespeare's Henry V to an Ice Hockey arena -- with heavy metal music and fighting with sticks. Before that I did a show in an store window on Queen Street in Toronto in 1999. [Here's a video clip.]

This idea that Jerry was going to retrieve some of these ideas -- using alternative venues, using venue as a space for expression. In other words the venue itself becomes part of the entire narrative. Those concepts are really appealing to me. Then the idea that he would be blurring the boundary between virtual worlds, augmented reality, site-specific art.

How do you perceive Loveland and what has it inspired you to do with your inches?

I see it specifically as a creative space. There's no promotional or corporate angle.

Last fall I started doing a bit of stencil graffitti art. Where I live, we have black squirrels that hop across the road all the time. So I cut a stencil of a hopping black squirrel as a way to capture that image. Then I put it in some strategic locations in our town. (See above) [Ken says he may incorporate the Black Squirrel into the expression of his inches.]

What's your current vision for how you're going to use your inches?

I see it completely as self-expression, finding images or populating the space -- physical, virtual or both with primary artistic intent. Part of my work doing performance in alternative venues, everything around it becomes part of the performance.

It's less a group show and more a collaborative art piece. I want to keep my points fluid so that I can adapt to what's around me and respond to it. I don't want to create a monolith here.

Whatever I do there, I expect to grow from the collective experience.

Kenny Hubble, Hudson's Second Life persona.

Do you imagine using your inches across platforms?

I see it as something I want to have maximum flexibility with. The squirrel may be virtual or augmented reality. The similarity between the public performance work I've done all the way to Second Life is that it all builds on the environment. It's not art that's happening in a glass box that doesn't have any relationship to anything around -- just the opposite. Everything around it changes it. If you're doing a show on the street and a bus comes by, it's part of the show.

Is it a physical project for virtual art or a virtual project with a physical location? Those are all salient questions for contemporary art as we move forward into the century. I think it is experimental in the best way. I don't think there is an over-arching artistic intention. I think there is a really neat idea. One idea that isn't even explicitly mentioned is that you could even buy real estate in Detroit for $500. I mean, that's a huge social issue that is entrenched in this concept.

What does that say for people in economically depressed areas. Or to people that don't have access to fine art or virtual worlds? What does it say to those people? To start to envision what land could be used for, what contemporary art is.

Whether it answers all these questions or not, it certainly raises all of them. To me, that's incredibly exciting.

You can follow Ken's involvement in Loveland at his project blog 100 Squirrels in Loveland.