XCO -Experimental Communities

Posted in OUR COMMUNITIES, PROJECTS on December 9th, 2012 by AM – Comments Off on XCO -Experimental Communities

Excerpts from final presentation

Part 6: Redemption and My Gardenin’ Angel

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Part 6: Redemption and My Gardenin’ Angel

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

Part 1: Eve, God, Biodynamics
Part 2: Outhouse to Hotseat to Hothouse
Part 3: Digging the Subtleties
Interlude: The superficial gardener
Part 4: The seeds of market failure
Part 5: The antagonistic shopper society


Part 6:
It is time for a new economic system—the “I Care” economy. The post industrial US economy, and the Great Recessionary loss of jobs, puts intense pressure on the demand to achieve high performance and access social capital or other assets, in order maintain a stable, healthy, and high-capacity quality of life. In other words, more of us are competing for fewer opportunities in a work-for-hire society.

The “I Care” economy, that contemporary artist Jan Veroert describes, exposes its wings through the exhaustion of the old high performance paradigm economy.[1] It is the intersection of the gift economy—of honor through generosity and integrity—and flexible high performance. An “I Care” economy creates a spectrum of solutions from business that pursue an environmental and social benefit over and above its bottom line. It offers institutions to communities in the forms of mutual support, social capital or commonly held assets and cosmology—the tribe, the village, the commune, the coop.

Verwoert explores the question of performing in society as performers and as workers, workers who perform and vice versa. He echoes the ethos of Richard Florida’s the veritable “creative class.” In the post-mass production, flexible economy, the creative workers are also “the job slaves,” consistently negotiating ways to support the work that we want to do with the work we feel we have to do.

Verwoert explores the modes by which creative class performers define the “terms” of our own agency, presumably to perform productively, and “defy the social pressure to perform.” His discourse meanders through the valiance of saying “I can’t,” that is, the ethos of “latency”. Latency in the garden is the fallow time in nature, whenever one thing is absorbed into another, the caterpillar asleep in its cocoon slowly eating itself alive.

My desire for personal latency is also part of a pastoral landscape. It melts away days in green backdrops, lush and thick with fruit.

It sees no work attached to this abundance, only the ever-giving harvest. It is my lost life in the tropics, only a dream can reimagine.

The time of the memory at work, as Verwoert remarks, can interrupt “the homogenous pace of high performance culture.”

In this pastoral latency of mine, the garden is edible artwork; I am cocooning in my sustainable eden, fruit and nonfruit bearing flowers all around.

Snapped back to reality, this landscape of the garden takes shape in only fleeting forms of spare time and, presently, another volunteer day. It’s the day after my birthday, and I feel particularly inspired to head out into a brisk morning.

Weeks have passed since my last garden visit. The fall weighs down on the eastern seaboard, leaves leaning quickly into sunset. The earth turns fallow. Gardens are laid down in their beds, blankets are being tucked around them in layers of old vine and fallen fruits no longer fit to consume.

I encounter the SEEDS community garden in its commitment to autumn. Rows have of old okra have been pulled, and unwanted eggplant lay on the ground, awaiting fate in the compost. I followed the directions of a 16 year-old young man, who instructed me to weed out rows. I settle into a squat, and so begins my earth meditation.

For three hours, I focused my mind hands and back on spotting and snagging small shoots of plants from between onion stalks, pulling up old spinach vine, and shaking loose monkey grass roots.

By hour 2, I noted Mr. Duprey talking to a program coordinator. After all the children from had left the field, I stayed behind pulling weeds, becoming engrossed, mechanized, one’d.

Mr. Duprey walked over with a warm greeting, and bent down to help with the weeding. Our conversation meandered into his joy in sharing the abundance of vegetables he usually has from his garden with his daughter, neighbors and friends. He beamed at the thought of his daughter’s son eating pureed vegetables from his garden as a baby, such that at age 7 he was still a vegetable lover.

I mentioned my grandfather, who at 78 was just a few years older than Mr. Duprey, had suffered a stroke and was still recovering. I’d urged him to eat plenty of fresh vegetables; Mr. Duprey agreed. He felt he’d been able to minimize his prescriptions by eating so much fresh food. He wryly criticized his own wife who wouldn’t be swayed by his healthy, fresh food ways.

We remarked at how wonderful it was that a garden could bring so many different people together, three year olds and moms, teenagers from different neighborhoods, all from different ethnicities. I rode home with a bag full of turnip greens, a score by Mr. Duprey. Mr. Duprey washed and ate the turnip for lunch on his way out.

It was a beautiful day for the New Economy because we All Cared enough to be there, to give our gifts, to extend our social capitals, no twelve point agenda necessary. The Earth commanded our attention, and we cared to give it freely.

[1] Verwoert, Jan. “Exhaustion et Exuberance.” A pamphlet for the exhibition Yes No and Other Optoins. Sheffield 2008. 102.


Part 5: The antagonistic shopper society

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Part 5: The antagonistic shopper society

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

Part 5:
Is it REALLY Real in the Whole Foods parking lot? Who am I in this debate on sustainable foods? I am far removed from the ground. I stalk the idealist version of a grocery aisle, where fruits and vegetables are labeled organic, boxed foods and cans labeled natural, and every grain is whole. I drop in to community gardens to break a sweat for a few hours every week or two. Do my consumption habits concede a pattern of protest?

“Why do we suppose that she has any deeper interests than shopping?” (Douglas 77) According the consumer cum environmentalist theory adapted by Mary Douglas in Thought Styles, I personally could be identified as a subscriber to the “Nature under duress” perspective, whereby I most often perceive nature to be “fragile” and pollution “lethal”. This perspective—that modernity operates as a destructive and disruptive force in nature—at first, appears to coincide with Douglas’ supposition that I might also be an egalitarian. She suggests that according to the egalitarian perspective of personhood, “The same corrupt, unequal structures that have caused the pollution of the environment will also contaminate the child.” I tend to agree.

I remain an optimist in my egalitarianhood: The person, as with nature, can indeed overcome duress through the beneficence and sharing of community—the spread of solutions that honor individual personhood and empower its nature to heal, and resolve externalities or overcome imbalances in “original endowment.”

This fuels in me an underlying admiration for the metaphorical “entrepreneur”, for the turn-around individual—surrounded by the energized influence of the community—rather than a conscious and ever present hostility. Mine is optimism over antagonism, which Douglas suggests would define the differences between shopper types (think counterculturalist versus conformists).

This tendency, I believe, does make me a protest shopper. Like the voter in presidential elections, whose individual vote is cast in a sea of millions, I hold to the hope that my small effort should deliver a faraway message to the executives in boardrooms determining where to invest their powerful capital.

And like the voter, the protest shopper is only as empowered as the information she has available to her—as in whether or not a certain corn or fish is GMO. In the US, the direction of both our democracy and our capitalism depend on the participants’ level of awareness about choices and their consequences. Unsurprisingly, the same corporation backed lobbying occurs with big money flowing to television ads that disparage regulatory disclosure of GMOs, just as super-PACs line up to discredit political agendas. The war on the informed consumer is being waged across media.

Purchasing and eating food requires sustained, daily vigilance. As a result, I have become increasingly aware of my own dangerous hypocrisy–extent to which I am live unsustainable. To give the most mundane of examples, I eat tomatoes, out of season, at restaurants, and I don’t EVEN know where they come from or what hands picked them. I shop irresponsibly. So what of my protest?

It is nothing compared to the harrowing work of the people who work in the fields. Their voices must make a way to be heard, in the face of market exploitation.

What of financially constrained families and individuals that can have no joyride through the idyllic foodscapes of Whole Foods and organic farmers markets? Trenton Mayor Cory Booker proposes to understand the limits of low-income food consumption by living a month on food stamps. Booker’s dare with a tea-party aspirant represents an attempt to experience and empathize with an aspect of what Hardt and Negri identify as “one of the greatest fears,” that is “being out of work and thus not being able to survive.”

As a “protest” shopper, am I pitting myself, inadvertently, against people who, despite whatever level of awareness about the consequences of our unsustainable food system, tend to or must choose the lowest prices, chemically laden, genetically modified, or unnaturally preserved options? Or somehow undermining the people who must work in the unnatural conditions that produce them?

All of us deserve to be able to access the healthy foods of the planet so that we flourish rather than suffer with undernourishment.

My intermittent protests does not pit me against other shoppers, but against modes of production. Again, Doulgas’ theory of antagonism between shopper-citizen-households-cum-environmentalists does not hold for me. I’d rather live in solidarity, and reshape the system. So what ways to make this dream happen?

In Agenda for a New Economy, David Korten lends us a presidential 12-point agenda to toward pursuing a sustainable transition of the American Dream. See below for details. Can any 12-point agenda be enough to guide wholesale reorganize social relations? How to enact true solidarity and economic transformation that increases access, availability, and demand for sustainable solutions to the industrial food system?

Occupy theorists Hardt and Negri, and fellow occupiers might be turned off by Korten’s so-called agenda. In their anti-manifesto, “declaration,” they posit instead that “the task is not to codify new social relations in a fixed order, but instead to create a constituent process that organizes those relations and makes them lasting while also fostering future innovations and remaining open to the desires of the multitude.”


The Korten Agenda: Defining Real Wealth as healthy, fulfilling life, children/families, caring community, healthy environment, affirming livelihood, peace.

  1. Redirect the focus of economic policy from growing phantom wealth to growing real wealth.
  2. Recover Wall Street’s unearned profits… making its theft and gambling unprofitable. What might we all lose from a slower moving capital market? What happens if stocks are abolished? Would we be abolishing a potential form of “democratic” ownership? Would this mechanism be replaced?
  3. Implement full-cost market pricing. Full cost market pricing makes plenty of sense. It is part of the purpose of a carbon tax. It is also evident that full-cost pricing would, at least in the short run, cause major burden on communities where energy costs are larger shares of income. It is therefore regressive, a burden on the poor. This issue must be accounted for via new subsidies or entitlements.
  4. Reclaim the corporate charter. Would this inhibit innovation or the drive for entrepreneurship if corporations could be discouraged from pursuing endeavors that could be deemed over-reach or somehow external to its charter?
  5. Restore national economic sovereignty. While no country should be indebted inexorably to another country, how do we attempt to address the long-term consequences of historic exploitation and subjugation that divides the world’s economies into rich and poor?
  6. Rebuild communities with a goal of achieving local self-reliance in meeting basic needs. Broaden ownership participation—how do we actually increase ownership opportunities and accountability?
  7. Implement policies that create a strong bias in favor of human-scale businesses owned by local stakeholders.
  8. Facilitate and fund stakeholder buyouts to democratize.
  9. Use tax and income policies to favor the equitable distribution of wealth and income. Korten proposes a 15:1 ratio limit for income spreads in society? What do you imagine this could be based on? How could we justify it legally without automatic accusations of “communism” undermining the platform?
  10. Revise intellectual property rules to facilitate the free sharing of information and technology. Are patents actually hindering economic growth by creating uneven markets bound by information asymmetries? What about patents for expensive and advanced technologies such as drugs, which are said to require billions in the process of R&D and production? How does a company recoup costs on the market without reserved patent protection? Would we prefer relying on governments, for instance, or wealthy individuals like Bill Gates, or unpredictable public donations from individuals, to coordinate the resource & financing needs of drug R&D? Would you have any more confidence in these parties managing this process?
  11. Restructure financial services to serve Main Street.
  12. Transfer to the federal government the responsibility for issuing money.

Part 4: The seeds of market failure

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Part 4: The seeds of market failure

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

Part 4:
Admittedly, I sometimes lapse into bourgeois revere the agriculturalist’s life, like a groupie. Time rising and falling with the sun. The mood of the work changing with the seasons. The fresh air of the outdoors filling the heavy-lifting lungs. But farming is no luxury.

For many, it’s choiceless, thankless, servitude. Migrant laborers still plod the hard earth with their hard feet, troubled backs, desperate for decent livelihoods in modern exploitation–souring the savory tastes on our plates. Daily, we eat out of their calloused hands. We drink from the fruit of their sweat. Have you heard their voices lately? Consider this first-hand account from Leonel, a worker-organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers of Florida’s tomato fields. Slice your citrus slowly, give thanks, pay witness, act in solidarity.

For more on farm labor organizing’s history in the South, here’s a video by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

For others, farming is fundamentally survivalist. Many farmers, if not most, are vulnerable to the extremist whims of environmental change. Greenpeace estimates that 2.6 billion small farmers, or about 40% of humans, grace the face of the planet with their blood, sweat and tools. These small farmers face drought, flood, erosion, depletion, destruction, corruption, genocide, warfare, domestic violence, seed patenting, ground poisoning, land seizures, forced relocation, and encroaching corporate plantations. They are the most harrowing people in the world. They live exposed to all forms civilization’s side effects, simply to grow civilization’s most fundamental sustenance.

As the world’s population mushrooms, the vulnerability of agricultural lands and its people grows continuously precarious in the face of climate change, lapses in knowledge due to disruptions in social fabric, and gaps in technological distribution accelerated by capitalist advancement. Indeed, small farming is among the least celebrated occupations in the world.

Yet, the small farmer is also the hope of the world. They are the keepers of the heirloom seeds; their wisdom and knowledge of the earth’s rhythms and resources is both thread to the ancient past and footpath to a more sustainable future. I perform my indebtedness to the garden, to the farm, as an aspirant, volunteer and advocate for sustainable food practices because of them.

Meanwhile, companies like Monsanto spin themselves as saviors to a perilously hungry world. 870 Million people are perceived to be chronically undernourished; the food they grow or receive does not provide enough of what they need to thrive. Agri-industrial companies like Monsanto have not been immune to biting criticism levied by eco-warriors around the world, and now they appear to be morphing into champions of the small farmer’s sustainability (however Monsanto determines is defined).

Its website now touts its strategic commitment to sustainable agriculture. But how does Monsanto define sustainable agriculture? Is this purely a case of language co-opted? How does its money-making mandate continue to put it at odds with the needs of the worlds poorest farmers?

Monsanto’s entre into sustainable farming raises ever-present questions on the role and involvement of multinational corporations in the field of agriculture. The message to the public is mixed. World Wildlife Foundation, often considered to be an advocate for biodiversity and environmental sustainability, has also advocated genetic modification as a means to intensify crop yield in the poorest agricultural lands of Africa and Asia.

If I find it valuable to my health and the health of the planet to seek ways of supporting alternatives to GMOs, pesticides and hormones, then what must I do stop them from infiltrating the most vulnerable societies on the planet? Would doing so be unethical–thwarting potential crop yield increases from the hungriest of villages?

While I stand in good company with many Africans and other advocates throughout the developing world, ardent in my skepticism and declination of GMOs, pesticides, and hormones in the crops and commodities promoted by Monsanto and the like, there is a growing contingent of farmers on the continent and elsewhere are are turning to these industrial tools to improve their yields.

With no scientific tracking and testing mechanisms to determine the impact of GM crops on the human body, activists have little ammunition to stop their spread from reaching the farthest corners of the developing world. On the other hand, pesticides present known hazards which poor farmers in developing are ill-equipped with education, knowledge or literacy to handle safely.

Industrial agricultural businesses are able to take advantage of such information asymmetries: lack of knowledge/experience/education, and the lack of ability to track the effects of GMOs (no clean scientific, longitudinal trial exists, nor may it be possible given the pervasive presence of GMOs in foods all over the world). And as any good economist knows, information asymmetry leads to their most dreaded of all dreadfully, dreaded economic dreads:

W O R L D W I D E M A R K E T F A I L U R E ! ! ! !!

Save yourselves. Save your seeds (if you still can). And–support a market-correcting farm or garden near you, wherever you are.

Interlude: The superficial gardener

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Interlude: The superficial gardener

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
For previous chapters, see:
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

I am an authentic pastoralist imposter. My practice is superficial.

That reminds me: “Like totally, for sure, I just got a manicure! The sun, I swear, is bleaching out my hair…”

Too often I had to miss open hours at the garden to make time for class, readings, writings, meetings, presentations, until the night hours whisked away daylight from my sight. The yoke of a white collar life.

Time passing (full of graduate reading materials and academic writing) reminds me of my separation from earthwork and the longing for release from the constraints of modernity.

Was this office/academia/material wealth/careerist striving more meaningful than relinquishing my life to a farm? Was packing my life into boxes labeled “professional,” somehow more rewarding than simply packing dirt into wooden boxes preparing them to give forth life?

I suppose doctors don’t grapple with such soul-searching.

Part 3: Digging the subtleties

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Part 3: Digging the subtleties

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

Part 3
A couple of weeks later, I returned to the SEEDS garden and started digging. Hillary the expert gardener directed me to help level ground for new beds. The work was not intuitive to me. Here was a lovely slope of green earth that Hillary had marked to transform into plots for community gardeners. The old plots had been deemed too small and too close to the infamous persimmon tree. The tree itself hung over them, casting its lush shade onto the earth and blocking easy passage between them. So the plots would move. But why were we digging up earth to make it flat?

She patiently pointed to the slope, “Do you see? It needs to be flattened.”

I didn’t see, I just kept digging where Hillary pointed, the mini-mounds that raised themselves from the ground in an explicitly undesirable manner. Was this some sort of type-A gardener’s joke on the naive volunteer: inglorious busy work? Sigh.

“The slopes would make the wooden garden boxes difficult to construct,” she confirmed.

I’d never prepared ground for a garden plot. I was just happy to be of service to the garden, and so I dug a patch of grass, weeded out the root system and spread the freed dirt wherever Hillary pointed.

After about an hour, I began to take note of what we were accomplishing: a face-lift, smoothing out undulation in the top surface, relaxing the curvatures, filling in the folds. The area became flatter, the slope more consistent, lower now, a plane surface being readied for its frame and canvas.

We pulled old pieces of moldy wood from the pile behind a shed. Hillary and I piled them one on top of the other into a simple cart and pulled it over maybe 20 or so yards to the bed area. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Hillary is a goddess in cargo pants. She is one of innumerable earth-workers who expertly read the rhythms of the earth, manipulate its inconsistencies, and break ground into fertility. Hillary chooses this work, was schooled for it, seeded her passion for functional art with her calling to landscape design. The earth is indeed her canvas.

Here, at SEEDS, she is a teacher, a guide, a composer of lines upon which community folks strum their green-thumb songs into modest plots of vegetables which they may or may not eat, much less need. The community garden is both a necessity and a luxury. It is a poetry of the erotic, as Audre Lorde might have noted.

The simplicity of garden work, the elegance of the body moving and shaping earth, is a meditation that moves me. Like most community gardeners, I do not work every day in a farm; I am not beholden to the yoke of agricultural industry for my livelihood. The acts of earth labor are a pleasure to me, in part because they are rare.

At its best, gardening is a yogic practice—reminding me to straighten my back, tightening my core muscles, bend with the knees, breathe the scent of dirt under nails and thank ants that bite despite protective pants. Be quiet. Breathe. Train the eye on the infinitesimal, opening from roots, routing blockages, flowing into the expanse, reacquainting one with the earth in one’s self.

I yam

sweet rust

gilded orange

fruit of the earth and

i am so far from home

until i travel through

my own mouth

and eat

Part 2: Outhouse to Hotseat to Hothouse

Posted in Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by CH – Comments Off on Part 2: Outhouse to Hotseat to Hothouse

Non-fiction Narrative series “Confessions of an Imposter Urban Gardener”
by Candace Sala Hewitt
Read Parts 1 through 6 HERE:

Part 2:
The second time in October vising the SEEDS community garden in Durham, I met Mr. Duprey. The first thing he asked was my name; the second was, “You ever get your hands dirty?” He could smell the city on me.

Mr. Duprey was an elder African American, whose age was difficult to place. He’d entered the ageless place of elder: slightly sunken bottom lip sitting presumably against the gums, white beard and a cap covered head; he was dressed as in work pants and a sweatshirt, a modest man with surprising curiosity and vigour in his conversational tone.

I was visiting SEEDS this time, in hopes of speaking with Santos, an organizer who coordinated DIG, the youth gardener group at SEEDS. DIG enamored many onlookers like myself who found the idea of bringing inner-city youth together for farming a novel concept. In theory, such a program was an inspired response to the confluence of difficult social factors: low-income neighborhoods saddled with health disparities, unaffordability of organic food, otherwise disengaged youth, urban detachment from natural environments. I was half conscious of these assumptions scurrying around in my mind when Mr. Duprey disarmed my arms-length disposition.

The youth group hadn’t returned yet from their shift at the local farmer’s market, and as he hurried out to meet them, Santos suggested I wait to join them for lunch Mr. Duprey at in the SEEDS facility.

I sat at one end of a long lunch table for a half hour or so with Mr. Duprey, and fell into a form of grandchild-like admiration for the elder. He warmed up to me after hearing about my stint in Costa Rica and about my time in New York City. He volunteered, when he felt like it, with the SEEDS Garden and the DIG youth group, but his knowledge of farming dated back to birth, as he described it.

He mused about the bounty in his mother’s back yard in Durham, and laughed at its irony that its plentiful growth, likely fed by the outhouse that sat not very far from the edge of the garden plots. Our conversation meandered from composting toilets—championed anew by current permaculture trendsetters—to the modern momentum of urban farming in places like New York City, where he’d lived also in some span of his evidently long adult life.

While he loved gardening passionately and had done so all his life, plumbing was his profession. He remarked on the need for greater efficiency in homebuilding, and I spoke about “sustainable” architecture methods I’d read about that reclaimed recyclable “waste” as construction material. We were mutually enthused.

I naively asked to send him an email about with the information, and he gallantly declined, “I don’t do email. I prefer not to be distracted by the computer and such things.” Mr. Duprey’s sense of personal honor and humor made me want to send him on a blind date with my grandmother in Baton Rouge, that is, if he had been unmarried (taken!).

I felt I’d found an ally in the SEEDS garden community, and an ambassador to a home-grown Durham that was hidden from my view at ivory tower Duke.

The youth returned to the facility. I became immediately self-conscious about my outsider-ness. The group of 8 or so teens and Santos, the coordinator, sat down to eat lunch. Santos asked me to introduce myself and why I was there. He was not particularly clear on my purpose, since we hadn’t spoken directly. He’d only received an email forward with my general inquiry about exploring a “class project” with the youth group. I hadn’t heard back from him at all, but another SEEDS staff member assured me it was fine to stop by on Saturday afternoons when the youth met for lunch. Without having spoken to Santos, I felt conspicuous.

Santos and all the teens, for that matter, appeared skeptical. I introduced myself, and shared with them my mandate: to explore what gardening and farming meant to their (and my own) conception of community. I explained I was a student at Duke University, and was taking a class called “experimental Communities.” I should have known that would set off red flags. I proposed the idea of a video diary that they themselves would define. The skepticism bubbled over.

“So what do you want from us exactly?”

“What do you want to do?”

“It sounded like you want to perform an experiment on us.”

“I know right, that’s what I thought!”

Santos remarked, “A lot of academic types come to see us. We want to make sure that this is not just about taking something from this community for your own purpose that has no value to us.”

Oh no guys, that’s really not what I want. What do I want? I had to rebound quickly. I really just wanted to get to know the community, to share the joy of discovering our relationship with the earth. And if I could contribute something of value, I would do so because I would be honoring that unformed youth gardener in me. I would do so as an ally, not as an exploiter. But how would I do that from my obvious position of privilege and my institutional mandate to explore a community-based project? What was I doing here and how could I salvage my own intentions?

An AmeriCorp intern seated next to me, smartly asked—“Do you guys feel the community understands the value of what you do in the garden? How would you want to communicate that?” Sigh, saved by the young professional organizer. The youth reflected quietly within themselves. Santos moved on with the business of their weekly meeting. I observed humbly, calmed by the quiet presence of Mr. Duprey.

While I was slightly chagrined, I felt some veil had been lifted.

A week later, I visited the youth group again at the downtown farmer’s market, I received a warm hello from Santos, the-never-responding-to-my-continued-email-inquiries community organizer (blame it on his recent wedding), and some of the youth. I was no long a complete observer; I understood better my position in this community. Building trust is about getting your hands dirty, literally. So I’d be back, to “dig” in with the DIG team and see what might come of it.

I’ll be back to the garden again to “get my hands dirty” and if I’m lucky, I’ll run into my unexpected kindred spirit, Mr. Duprey.


Posted in PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by J – Comments Off on HOOPLAH

Embroidery Hoops (various sizes)

Jennifer Stratton

Description: Non-traditional embroidered art inspired by biological imagery.








The Hooplah works are intersections between craft and activism (coined “craftivism”).  This project utilizes the often female-dominated tradition of embroidery to explore biological imagery and alternate social histories.

Hooplah pieces are currently on display in the East Duke Building (Duke University, Durham, NC).

Bailout the Cream of the Crop

Posted in Collaboration, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by J – Comments Off on Bailout the Cream of the Crop

Bailout the Cream of the Crop

A Collaborative Experiment in Corporate Begging 

Michael Tauschinger-Dempsey,Wolfgang Hastert, Jennifer Stratton

Bailout the Cream of the Crop is an experimental documentary of performances of Corporate Begging to secure bailout finances.  Explorations between past, present and future economic crises and recovery actions.

Shot with a super8 app and composed of 1930’s Depression era inspired imagery, text and sound.  Corporate Begging was performed on Main Street and the surrounding area in Durham, NC.  Slogans were created beforehand using a free online slogan generator.

Sign slogans include:






Watch the film here

Power Play

Posted in PERFORMANCES, Power Play, PROJECTS on December 12th, 2012 by J – Comments Off on Power Play


Pussy Noir (w/Jennifer Jacqueline Stratton)

Duration: 1 hour, 3 movements

Location: Duke University, East Building.  Blue Parlor

Power Play explores social change with image. Centered in fashion, décor and
the role they have on changing society the installation is to project images of
power through a series of fashion iconographies. By displaying one person as
such, others are invited to watch and be intrigued by how subtle and explosive
power and change can be harnessed into one single entity.

Living Installation + Performance:

On Friday, November 9. 2012 Power Play was performed at the Duke University XCO Group Exhibition as part of the 2012 Hemispheric Convergence Conference: The Geo/Body Politics of Emancipation.  This performance was produced specifically for the Blue Parlor space and conference.  The historic Women Studies Parlors in the Duke East Building are centered in French Victorian design and contain 12 portraits of Women’s Firsts at Duke.  As part of this performance Pussy Noir’s own image and artifacts became part of the room’s decor. Exhibition attendees who wandered into the room were suddenly met with an ongoing performance as Pussy Noir constructed and deconstructed a series of power roles and fashion iconographies.  Meanwhile in the opposite corner of the parlor, polaroid film captured each transformation was developed every three minutes.  These images were used to construct a dress, re-mediatig and re-presenting the performance in real-time.  There became multiple levels of observation, watching the performance, watching a creation based on the performance and watching others watch the performance.  Eye contact was established and played with as viewers engaged or didn’t engage with the performer.  Changes in movements occurred every three minutes (the time it takes to develop one polaroid).  The indicator of this change was an hour glass set for three minutes, but offering new information of overall time as it was turned throughout the performance.  After one hour, the polaroid garment was completed and re-located to where Pussy Noir originally sat for the remainder of the conference.

Selected Video from the Performance:

Power Play from Jennifer Stratton on Vimeo.


Co-operation Corp

Posted in Co-operation Corp, PROJECTS on December 11th, 2012 by MT – Comments Off on Co-operation Corp

Our corporate website:
Co-operation Corp has a vested interest in using only free online tools. Our goal is to have a zero $$ footprint.
• Tumblr is our platform choice for its ease of use, popularity among younger audiences, multi-blog capable which allows for relate blogs to be nested.
• The free theme used is ‘Atlantic’, based on ‘http://www.theatlantic.com/’ online journal, which is more in line with our corporation’s ideals than other similar publications.
• The homepage describes the corporation’s mission via a cynical video produced for free with Xtranormal’s text-to-video platform explains the recent successful IPO in a late night show format played by Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.
• Humor is an important part of our project to build an awareness of the shallowness and preposterousness of mediated image production.
• The website is a repository of ideas, thought connections within the broader discourse of inequity, injustice, artistic practice and activism. It is under perpetual construction.
• Under the tab ‘Philosophy’, we present the corporate mission to transcend money in order to make the world a better place under a new economic paradigm: we speculate on uncovering new resources for human productivity. Can there be any other incentive for leading productive lives than seeking monetary remuneration and wealth?
• Under the ‘Network’ tab we open up connections to other artist/activist initiatives: the Occupy Movement, The Spacebank project by Fran Illich, Timebanks, Vacillogix, another example of struggle through over-identification, Havidol another Dada idea, Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds. Many more will follow.
• The ‘Legal’ tab taps into the aesthetics of law and legal document. Co-operation Corp must file for 501c nonprofit status to become tax-exempt. This would allow future interventions to stay in line with our philosophy of the zero $$ footprint.
• ‘Case Studies’ hints at the aesthetics and logic of think tank speculation. What will the future be like if we run out of oil? What if we abolish prisons and money? The corporate apparatus of capture spends billions of dollars on speculative research. This is an excellent site for intervention. Check back often for new projects!
• ‘Wiki’ is a public resource for knowledge production and sharing associated with our enterprise.
• ‘Patent Pending’ is a jab at the politics of intellectual property and copyright laws so characteristic of cognitive capitalism’s new digital enclosures. Many ideas are in the works for future interventions in the realm of patent law.
• ‘Alter Ego’ is the site of the evil corporation, Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde, if you will. We learn from our enemies, and as with the Mafia, keep them close to our inner circle in order to constantly surveil them.
• ‘Media’ is a collection of links to external media service providers hosting the documentation of our final interventions.
• We also have free Linkedin and Facebook widgets associated with this website. We perform human resource initiatives on Linkedin and try to be social on Facebook.