Monday, April 28, 2008

Digital Gandhi

For my final bit of promised subculture, read about performance artist Joseph DeLappe's piece on Gandhi.

DeLappe reenacted Gandhi's Salt March on a treadmill hooked into
Second Life.

DeLappe does a lot of digital art and digital protest, including his America's Army protest, where he signs into the first person shooter game the army uses to recruits new soldiers, and instead of fighting with the other players, he drops his weapons and types in the names of soldiers who died in Iraq.

Interestingly, DeLappe told me that reenacting older works has traditionally been a way that the art world explores the possibility of new spaces for art.

Photo courtesy of Joseph DeLappe.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Heart Pickles!

My master's project, City Picklers, is finally ready to meet the world. The site, produced with Lisa Biagiotti, tells the story of how homemade pickles are invigorating the local food movement.

Over the course of the project, I made more than five quarts of sauerkraut, plus pickled lemons, kimchi, cucumber pickles, fermented garlic, a failed attempt at pickled cauliflower (cruciferous veggies smell bad when fermented) and pickled fennel.

Our final week of work, which occurred during "spring break," was one of my most grueling as a student. A 120+ week that culminated in a 3-day labor spree where Lisa and I logged 65 hours. But it was totally worth it to see our pickles fly off the page and into the hearts (mouths?) of our viewers.

Here's our official synopsis:
is a website devoted to New York pickles--in all varieties, including vinegar, lacto-fermented, Jewish, Indian, Chinese, and so on. Every culture has its pickle, and we found that pickling still thrives in the historic pickle district on the Lower East Side, in ethnic enclaves of the outer boroughs, in farmer's markets and in pickling classes.

Through multimedia and text, tells the story of:

* new pickling businesses and the local food culture surrounding home and artisinal pickling, including interviews with Rick Field of Rick's Picks, and Al Kaufman of the Pickle Guys
* the benefits of pickling and ancient traditions of lacto-fermentation, including interviews with fermentation expert, Sandor Ellix Katz
* how-to make the crunchers, with instruction by hipster pickler Bob McClure of McClure's Pickles and Inside Park chef Matt Weingarten

The site is best viewed in the Firefox browser.

We'd like to thank the more than 70 chefs, cookbook authors, historians, purveyors and picklers we interviewed over the last six months.

Happy pickling!

Lisa Biagiotti and Lizzie Stark

Photo by Lisa Biagiotti.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gandhi, Squatters, and Pickles

Admittedly, I've neglected this space a bit in the last few months, but I assure you it's for the best reasons: I've been out covering subcultures for my New Media class, and since subcultures are pretty Fringe, I'll give you one each day for the next few days.

First there was the complex story of Lower East Side Squatters. Six years ago the Urban Homestead Assistance board brokered a deal between the city and and squatters. UHAB bought eleven buildings that had squatters living in them for $1 each under the condition that UHAB would renovate the properties and make them into low-income coops.

The city gave UHAB two years to complete the renovations. Now, six years later, some of the buildings still lack heat and hot water, and only two of the original eleven are even close to becoming coops. On top of that, UHAB took out $5.5 million in mortgages on the buildings to make the repairs, and now the money is dwindling, some buildings are in disrepair, and residents fear that the bank will come knocking.

This piece was difficult to write because squatters are fairly suspicious of outsiders and of the media in particular. My reporting partner, Kenan Davis, and I spend a solid seven days doing extensive shoe leather reporting. We tracked down financial documents for each of the squats, talked to more than 10 squatters, but only succeeded in getting a handful to talk on the record, and dug up one squat's lawsuit against UHAB for alleged mismanagement of funds.

Check out the story on the site...because nothing says "Fringe" better than folks who appropriated their living spaces.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ah Spring, buds on trees and feminists getting hitched

A lot of kids here at Fringe are doing the nupital dance this season, and I thought of them when I read this wonderful article by Christie Church (it's been making the rounds: originally at girlistic magazine, here on alternet, but I first saw it on my truthout feed).

How familiar a script, and how refreshing a story! (but when they visit the jeweler, ooh: I read that, became physically angry, and spent a pent-up commute really, really hoping they took their business elsewhere).

So friends, headed to the altar in church or backyard or city hall, do it your own way and be proud.