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From now on, I'll posting updates here. You can also see posts about new Shrine projects here.

I saw an inspiring panel discussion at Exit Art last night about art and sustainability. The participants were Curator Jennifer MacGregor of Wave Hill, Public Art Fund Director Sarah Reisman, and artists Mary Miss and Mierle Laderman-Ukeles.

I was especially excited to see Ms. Laderman-Ukeles speak, as I am a huge fan of her work with New York City's sanitation department. This project was heavily influenced by her Maintenance Manifesto of 1969. She draws attention to the parts of our cities, lives, civilizations that we don't see or we don't want to see. The unglamorous parts. Here, the continued maintenance of the shrines and drains is central to my process.

I have turned an image from the tour into an edition of 500 postcards for "A Book About Death", an exhibition at the Emily Harvey Foundation. The concept of the show is inspired by Allan Kaprow. Decay!

Mike and I went back and repaired the roof. Here is a shot from midway through the repair.

Mike and I went to repair the tourbooth today. We were able to repair most of it by just fitting the broken pieces together like a puzzle, even using the same nails and screws, for the most part. We'll come back another time to fix the roof and a few other details. We covered the roof area with plastic to protect it from the weather.

After seven months away, I went back to the tourbooth, installed in the Rutgers University Ecological Preserve, and it had been destroyed. There's no way to know how long ago this happened, but I intend to fix it.

I just received word that the yoga group from which I collected the bottles to make Indra's Cloud has purchased reusable water flagons, as a result of seeing photographs of my sculpture. They have three courses per year, during which they consume approximately 1,000 bottles per course. Thus, this will save approximately 3,000 bottles per year!

I write in my thesis for this project: "An animistic approach to space and substance is defined, according to Graham Harvey, by the extension of personhood to 'other-than-human' entities, including animals, plants, rocks, weather systems, places, and 'artefacts' (objects made by humans). Harvey quotes Viveiros de Castro: 'Personhood and ‘perspectivity’—the capacity to occupy a point of view—is a question of degree and context, rather than an absolute, diacritical property of a particular species.'"

A perfect example of this idea is the idea of Hindu darshan, literally meaning "sight" or "viewing". When one goes to a temple or shrine, one communes with the god through sight: not only do you see the image of the god, the god sees you. In her book Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Diana Eck writes, "The central act of Hindu worship, from the point of view of the lay person, is to stand in the presence of the deity and to behold the image with one's own eyes, to see and be seen by the deity...Beholding the image is an act of worship, and through the eyes one gains the blessings of the divine."

In fact, a god is understood to be embodied by an image when and only when the eyes are added. Shops sell plastic eyes that can be attached to holy objects such as rocks, or to replace old eyes on existing statues. Here are some images of rocks from the holy Mount Govardhan with attached eyes as well as a dung sculpture of Krishna at the moment when the artisan is adding the eyes.

Here also is a remarkable and brilliant earthwork by Shreyas Karle in which giant eyes were added to a mountain outside the village of Partapur in India's Rajasthan Province using stones and paint. With this action, Karle quite literally transformed the mountain itself into a god, or awakened the latent god within the mountain. Here, an object becomes a subject.

I'm in Bangalore now, on the second leg of my trip. Here's a photograph taken at a temple in the center of the city. My host told me that people buy these locks and fasten them to the gate, locking their troubles there. I love being able to see the accumulation of discrete actions by many different people, as well as the removal of the lock from all functionality.

Last month I realized a public sculpture in Vrindavan, titled "Indra's Cloud", and floated it around the city on the Yamuna River. Get the whole story and view images by following a link to this slideshow. The project highlights the connection between water resources, local mythology, and the health of the river.

Pilgrims travel from all over India to give worship (puja) and bathe in the Yamuna. Some locals perform this ritual everyday. However, the waste from the puja (flower garlands, plastic bags, candles, food items, miniature saris) are left on the riverbank. Additionally, priests from the town's temples come to dispose of their religious trash by throwing it into the river. This includes ashes, old prayer books and statues, incense sticks, and anything else related to worship. The reasoning is that to dispose of these items in the regular garbage would be disrespectful.

A friend recently asked a man who was doing this why, when the river is so polluted. The man became indignant, saying "This is my puja! This is my service to God!"

In this case, attention and care and reverence for an environmental feature have a surprisingly detrimental effect on its health. Srivatsa Goswami, the leader of a prominent temple, writes of this disconnect using the example of water quality. He has written:
“We religious people are hypocrites in our relationship to Yamuna. We say she is pure, but we use Bisleri [a brand of mineral water] in our temples. If Yamuna is pure, let us use Yamuna water; or else let us admit that there is a problem and get on with fixing it.” Religious purity, in the minds of most, is not the same as ecological or hygenic purity.

I am currently in Vrindavan, India thanks to a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. I am going to do a public art project here, but for now I am just trying to get to know the place. I am interested in the Yamuna River, so I am reading a fascinating and informative book by David Haberman, called River Of Love In an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. According to Hindu tradition, the River is a goddess and Krishna's lover. It is considered a great blessing to bathe in her waters. At the same time, it is severely polluted. Virtually no source water makes it to Vrindavan. All fluid passing through the city is a combination of industrial effluent and from Delhi and surrounding towns and factories.

Below are some images of Keshi Ghat, the main place that Yamuna is worshipped as well as a small shrine to her. Then, two images of a group of women who get together in the early morning to sing and worship Yamuna.

I gave a tour to Lily, Mike, Ilse, Tsubasa, Chris, and Tomislav. This was the first tour I gave in over three months, so lots of things have changed. Weeds have completely overgrown the large shrine at Site 3. Weeds had overgrown pretty much everything, making it difficult to find paths and landmarks. Meandering off course did turn up this dumster, on its side in the woods. The raccoon has decomposed, leaving just its skull.

Today the Facilities Department helped me install the tourbooth in the Ecological Preserve on the Livingston Campus. They took the tourbooth from LAB to the site, drove four iron rods into the ground, and lashed the rods to the inside of the tourbooth's legs. It looks great outside! Adjustments to the booth for its new site include a wooden hinged cover for the pamphlet box. I have also removed the surface for the sign-up sheet and closed the computer screen hole.


Five photographs from this project are currently on view at the Shore Institute of Contemporary Art in Long Branch, NJ, as part of the show "Fresh Meat/Young Blood 2008". Studio Arriabbiata's blog posted a review.

de te ch mo an


This summer the tourbooth will be permanently installed in the Rutgers Ecological Preserve in Piscataway, New Jersey. Today George, Eric and I scouted out a location. The first image is a photo collage to scale of where it will be placed.

I took Brian, Raphael, Sarah, Warren, Olchar, and Kate on a tour today. We found a baby deer alive and curled up in the grass between the REHS barrack and the former Mason Gross barracks. There were no other deer in the vicinity. Also, I've seen a lot of groundhogs running in and out of the drains near LAB. I think they live there.

Eric, Ozgur, Tom, and Joanna came on a tour. There was a man carrying tools by Site 2. That's the first time I've seen any other pedestrians near there. Thee were two air conditiners on the loading dock of the barracks which weren't there before. The dead raccoon in the drain near Site 6 washed downstream to the drain with the stuffed Pink Panther. Something had ripped its back open. I expect it will remain in that drain for awhile since the Pink Panther has been there for over a year.

I finished my thesis paper! Read it to find out more about this project, including the history of the Livingston Campus as a military base; Rem Koolhaus's idea of junkspace; other examples of water systems crossed with religious sites, such as Bangalore's water tanks and rice paddy irrigation in Bali; animism and the possibility of personhood of objects and places; and more!

Justin, Karl, Will, Ivy, and Danno came on a tour. There were two major changes since the last tour: the geese eggs hatched into goslings, and the large, yellow, metal object near Site 6 disappeared completely. It's been there for over a year. I can't imagine why someone would take it.

I went out alone today to perform some general maintenance. Moss has started to grow in the drain at Site 1. Also, there is this great tree whose roots are hanging off the land over the stream between Sites 2 and 3 which people seem to always miss on the tour. I added a cardboard shrine to try to attract their attention.

Tim and Shirley came on a tour today. Tim came very close to the Canada goose nesting near the old kilns. She's been there for two weeks now. Worms have started building white gauzy nests in trees. Also, we found a huge, dead raccoon in the drain near Site 6.


Today Meredith, Joanna, Nathan, and Joelle came on a tour. Joelle identified the stuffed animal in a drain near Site 6 as the Pink Panther. Also, the green undergrowth in the forest has grown much taller since the last tour.

I took Martha, Chris, and Damian on the tour today. Damian noticed this small plaque embedded in concrete near Site 4. It says "Corps of Engineers/Department of the Army/1951". There is a goose which has been sitting in the same spot, on a slab of cement near a vacuum hose out in the open, for over a week now. At first I thought it was sick, but now I think it has made its nest there. Also it appears as though the trap near the community gardens has succeeded: there are colorful pellets of poison in it and a dead opossum nearby.

There is this great junkspace just behind the Livingston Arts Building which is not on my tour because it's too far away from the rest of my route, but it's really wonderful. There is an asphalt corridor filled with hundreds of red and gray trash cans, a field full of concrete rubble like Greek ruins, and rolls of hay resembling large mammals. Also nearby I found a 1951 hydrant like the one near the community garden, except painted bright red and set to "OPEN" instead of "SHUT".


Today I gave a tour to Emma, Leon, and Erica. We found a fragment of a ceramic pipe in the woods between Sites 2 and 3. We also found a new trap set behind the community garden, near Site 6: a ring of wire fencing with a peeled banana inside. Throughout the whole tour, we attempted to understand the flow of water through the campus.

Today was the first tour, which included Natasha, Josh, Julie, and her dog Ullabear. There was a door open on the loading dock of the REHS barracks, and inside someone had written "asbestos" with an arrow. The water was very low.

Today I charted a new route for the tour between Sites 2 and 3. Instead of returning to the street, the tour will follow the stream which connects the two sites. I walked this route for the first time today and found an overgrown, overturned shopping cart, a tree hanging on for dear life to the side of the riverbed, and an animal skull (possibly from a deer). I brought the skull back to a smaller shrine near Site 2.

Last night I constructed a small shrine from found wood and roofing tiles for REHS, and this morning I installed it under an overhang very near its office in the old barracks. The walls are woven from local cordgrass reeds. While carrying it to its destination I photographed it in a couple of public locations. Unfortunately there is no way I could leave it there: I found that one fairly inconspicuous shrine which I has installed in a public space had been removed. Also today I found an old canister with the words "FOIL FIBER CAN" and a warning of flammable materials embossed on its cover. Nearby there is a tree which is covered in what appears to be bits of dryer lint while all other surrounding trees are not: very mysterious!

My students at Rutgers found two sculptures in the woods behind the Livingston Arts Building which function very much like my shrines: a shelter-like structure built from tree branches and also a nest in a tree holding pieces of white marble. I am considering incorporating them into the tour. Also in the vicinity, one of my students, Arron, found a "Relaxacizor" machine. We also found a giant transparent tube and two interesting drains.


Several weeks ago I found artificial palm trees in the woods. I brought them to the shrine at Site 2 today along with some artificial daffodils. Also, I made a small crystal-like structure from clear thumbtacks in a tree near LAB. In December I found a honeycomb under that tree.

Two days ago my friend Russ helped me install a frame for the large shrine at Site 3. Two panels form a hinge for the roof, and four spikes anchor it into the side of a hill. We lashed it together with twine and gaffers tape. I went back today and reinforced it with duct tape. It's solid enough for me to hang from the roof. The drain has the word "HOME" printed on it.

I installed the kiosk in the Civic Square Gallery. It looks good! Special thanks to Russ Anderson for his help. The opening is _____. Simultaneous thesis shows are by Josh Bernstein, Julie Durkin, Amy Feldman, Erica Melville, Brian Severns, and Charlotte Whalen.

booth1 booth2 booth3 booth4

Aside from a few details, I am finished building the kiosk and will install it in the gallery tomorrow. I found a caterpillar living in the roof. Also, I found an article called "Ecology and Ritual: Water Management and the Maya" by Vernon L. Scarborough here. According to the abstract, Mayan elites used ritual surrounding water temples to centralize control over the water supply.

I am constructing an informational kiosk for the gallery in the Civic Square Building using 90% found materials (wood, roof tiles, cardboard). This kiosk will function as a kind of "home shrine". Here is a photo of my progress.

I just came across this great lecture by Stephen Lansing about the role of water temples in Bali within a 1000 year old system of maintaining networks of rice terraces. The temples and the rituals performed there promote a kind of social relationship between the farmers which is non-hierarchical and characterized by individual responsibility. This allows farmers to depend on their neighbors for water sharing and pest control. The lecture is one in a series sponsored by the Long Now Foundation.


My friend Chris and I went for a walk around Site 6. We found a huge pile of water bottles which I think I'll add to with others scattered throughout the area. We fished this stuffed animal with pink feet from the water in an unsuccesful attempt to identify it: it has no head. In last photo, the university marks the presence of drains in its own way, and I mark them in mine.

There are three of these cement walls on the Livingston Campus. I am really curious what their original function was. All three are situated at what were, at the time of Camp Kilmer, major intersections. Now they are used for raquetball. The two in plain view have murals, but this
one at Site 2 is in the middle of the woods. Underneath the graffiti there is printed text, barely legible: "THRU TAXA...KILMERS YO...KEEP IT LIKE HOME".

Everything looks different as a result of the rain storm yesterday: a drainpipe on Joyce Kilmer Ave has caved in, large areas of brush have been flattened by the wind, and the water is higher and very murky. I added more ornaments to the shrine at Site 2 and found a piece of cardboard with "MOTORCYCLE" printed on it and some shards of ice.


There are several cement walls which are used as raquetball courts on the Livingston Campus. Lost tennis balls have accumulated over years in the woods behind the wall at the corner of Road 1 and Road 3. Today I collected and placed them at the roots of a fallen tree nearby. Also, someone has been leaving cat food near Site 6, and I saw a cat there today. There were bits of popcorn on the road.


I tied more receipts on the tree at Site 6 and collected green roof tiles near the barracks. Someone rearranged the objects I left at Site 6. There is also a cigarette package intentinally hung on a tree branch.


At Site 6 there is this huge mound of dirt, like a landfill, which seems to have been produced when the area was plowed for the Livingston community gardens. I installed five small shrines there today.

In Bangalore’s Twentieth Century: The Promise of the Metropolis, Janaki Nair writes of impromptu roadside shrines in India: “It is the linear use of space that is challenged in such untidy occupations of public space. Some, though certainly not all, ‘unauthorized’ shrines therefore assert a narrative, producing a renewed ‘sense of place’.” She specifically speaks of shrines that have sprung up around disused water tanks, now hosts to gardens and spontaneous natural growth. According to Nair, the network of shrines dedicated to these tanks are agents of the re-embodiment of space.

This is certainly relevant to my project: my shrines are all unauthorized, and the majority are located in junkspaces. These peripheral spaces are largely ignored due to the fact that the campus is designed for movement by car and bus, not by foot. Also, they literally contain a lot of junk. You could say that my shrines re-embody these spaces.

Today my friend Chris and
I visited sites 5 and 6. We started tying receipts to a tree near Site 6 like Japanese paper fortunes. I relocated the blue shrine because we realized that I had originally put it in the wrong place: now you can see remains of blue feathers below it. Chris left a toy rhinocerous at the next shrine. We explored the woods across from the barracks on Road 1. There were large pools of ice throughout the area, and there was a fallen tree with what looked like wheat stuck in its roots.


I walked the entire route with my friend, Bryan, today. At the barracks we found a decaying old sofa as well as a stack of ceiling tiles covered in thick moss. I left a small shrine around the corner from REHS and the former sculpture department.

The poet Joyce Kilmer lived in New Brunswick, and Camp Kilmer was named in his honor. He is most famous for his poem Trees, which begins "I think that I shall never see/ a poem lovely as a tree". According to John Hills via Wikipedia, a 1915 interview "pointed out that while Kilmer might be widely known for his affection for trees, his affection was certainly not sentimental - the most distinguished feature of Kilmer's property was a colossal woodpile outside his home. The house stood in the middle of a forest and what lawn it possessed was obtained only after Kilmer had spent months of weekend toil in chopping down trees, pulling up stumps, and splitting logs. Kilmer's neighbors had difficulty in believing that a man who could do that could also be a poet."

I put a small blue shrine at the place where I found the heap of bluejay feathers. I also incorporated pieces of a handmade wooden chair, which I found nearby, into the vines surrounding the shrine at Site 5. Then I walked around the barracks to try to find a place for a shrine dedicated to REHS. This is necessary because REHS is responsible for protecting both the health of area waterways as well as the MGSA Visual Arts department from exhorbitant EPA fines [source]. I am also going to build a shrine to this Water Distribution Valve Station by adding a roof to an existing electrical box.


I found a map and postcard of Camp Kilmer online. On the map, the giant flag pole is where LAB is now. The postcard is of a post office inside one of the barracks, now used as university administrative buildings.

I visited Sites 1 and 2 today. I did general maintenance and painted the roof of the shrine at Site 2 blue. The osage oranges I had left there were smashed on the concrete of the drain.

I walked the entire route with my friend, Allan, today, and it took 2.5 hours. We walked it in reverse, and I learned a lot from doing that. I am going to change the route in two places to eliminate backtracking. One of these instances allows us to approach the shrine at Site 2 from the back: a completely different perspective. I left several items at Site 4 (squash, gold flowers, a hanging container with small objects) and found a giant inflatable donut encircling a tree near the railroad tracks. Allan figured out how to open the kiln, which we later learned was built several years ago by our friend, Todd. There are lots of ladybugs living in the kiln because it's insulated from the cold. I am thinking about putting a shrine inside there.

My friend Chris and I started building the shrine for Site 3. It's going to be really large, about seven feet tall with the roof. It will enclose the drain on three sides with the front open.

Near the path at Site 4 there was an area strewn with blue striped feathers. I installed a shrine nearby, between a stream and a fallen tree. There are tons of twisted vines and branches in that spot. The shrine is made from found wood as well as a tackle box I found there previously. I collected some of the largest feathers and put them inside the shrine.

I'm going to build a much larger shrine at Site 3, maybe the size of a small shed. I will build it in a spot which is very near the road, but fully concealed. My tour will follow the flow of water through artificial channels, and this is the spot where it finally drains into a natural stream. There is very green algae there, which my friend says is healthy.

Visited Site 4 and made some plans. Lots of trees fell down there since my last visit.

I went back to the railroad tracks in daylight. There's an inscription it that indicates it's from the Lackawanna Railroad in 1924. I have seen a black cat roaming around the campus lately, and it came near me there. I also explored a wooded area behind the former Art Department barracks. I found three chairs facing each other, a crumbling cinderblock wall, and a railroad tie.

I walked most of the route today with a friend. I haven't been to some of these places in several months, and I am going to change some of the locations of the shrines I am planning based on what I saw today. Sites 1 and 2 are in good shape. I left oranges and grapefruits in the hole in the cinderblock culvert wall, and we picked up most of the trash from the main shrine area. Further down the street there's a big bowl with these two drains. I just found another drain behind that bowl on the side of a small hill, which would be a great spot for a shrine. We followed the stream through a really muddy area. There were so many fallen trees, probably because the water was artificially rerouted there. The panoramic photo shows two trees which had fallen towards each other. Near the barracks there is an old length of overgrown railroad track with a switch. The tour will folow this, under a barrack, and then go by the old kilns and REHS. Then Sites 4 and 5 and back to LAB.

Visited Sites 1 and 2 and collected more of the white line paint. At Site 1, the dirt had washed off from the concrete base of the main shrine. This means the water was really high and strong. However, the weight of the rocks held the shrine in place. I also brought a bowl for all the small objects I leave at Site 1.

I picked up trash from Road 2. There is still a lot left. I consider this to be part of the maintenance required in keeping a shrine.

Today I visited Sites 4 and 5 for the first time in several months. The water at Site 5 isn't flowing through the drain, which is clogged up with leaves and branches. Instead, it looks like the water is flowing parallel to it. Site 4 is a very long paved corridor, overgrown and full of trash. I decided on locations for two shrines there: one on top of a large mound of dirt and the other by a drain. I found some interesting items: a wooden tackle box, a stack of shredded plastic cups, a cooking pot, and a stuffed animal with pink feet (frozen in water).

I spent hours today collecting pieces of the painted white line on the edges of the road (Kilmer Ave). If I can collect enough I am going to make rocks and cover them with it. I found some interesting objects, too (see photo). I visited Sites 1 and 2. I cleaned up some trash and left small items.

The stump of the tree that fell down on Kilmer Ave is hollow inside. Under a nearby tree I found a honeycomb, and near that a hair comb! I left some glass bottles and small objects under a nearby tree at Site 1. I attached orange netting to the main shrine building. I added two packets of hot sauce and a sunglass lens to the iron basket. The grass near Site 1 has been cut. I was worried that facilities would dismantle the shrine, but they either didn't notice it or left it alone.

I took my cousin Lily to visit shrines today. There was a layer of ice over everything. We found a strange iron basket-like object and hung it from a tree, leaving small items inside (a nut, a bottle cap, a rubber band). We tied red ribbon and blue string on a nearby tree. We placed a brown ceramic jar top on the shrine.

The shrine I installed on Tuesday tipped over, so after setting it upright I anchored the base with dirt and rocks. I found some hollow spaces in the concrete wall of a culvert at Site 2: a good, enclosed place for a small shrine. I left some osage oranges on the ledge near the main shrine. There was snow, and the water was still opaque.

I installed a shrine at Site 1 and visited
Site 2: the water was high and cloudy, almost opaque. A tree broke in half on Kilmer Road. Items found include a beat up sign which says "JOBS 365 Days A Year 800-929-5753", two long pieces of wood which I will use to make the next shrine, a newspaper with an exoskeleton attached, and three horseshoe shaped metal rods.