Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Prescott, AZ 2.25.06

an interesting restaurant i noticed while driving through arizona...

Prescott, AZ

Neither of us had ever heard of Prescott, AZ until we attended an intensive short course at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas last May. While there we met some students from Prescott, College who seemed really interesting and were interested in sustainable agriculture. We planned to stop at Prescott College on the tour but lost contact with the person who was setting that up. Instead we wound up talking to Katie who runs The Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott. This infoshop was the most aesthetically pleasing one that we’ve ever seen.

The Catalyst was raided by the FBI a while ago and Katie has been going through some hard times. We were really impressed that she still wanted to help us by setting something up so last minute. She lives at the Catalyst and so we spent the night there. About 15 people showed up, which we were pretty impressed with considering how last minute the promotion was. Five people actually drove all the way up from Tempe/Phoenix (a 2 hour drive). They were interested in coming because they are trying to start an infoshop. We had some interesting conversations with people and called it an early night, before heading to LA the next day after a breakfast of granola.

Albuquerque, NM Feb. 24

before we left.

Albuquerque, NM – Feb. 24, 2006

We left Denver at 10am on Friday February 24, headed south on I-25 to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our car was stuffed to the breaking point, and it’s good that none of our friends took us up on the offer to come along because they couldn’t have fit. Our entire trunk was filled with the dvds and tshirts and buttons that we plan to sell on tour.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect for driving. It was beautiful- sunny with bright blue skies. We made our first stop in Raton, NM to try to exchange our laptop adapter at a Radio Shack. Unfortunately they didn’t have the adaptor that we needed so we continued on our drive, eating wasabi peas and peanut butter filled pretzels. We stopped to get gas at Wagon Mound, NM.

wagon mound

We arrived in Albuquerque about 6pm and went to our friend Kris’ mom’s house. Pat was amazingly nice, and one of the calmest people we’ve ever met. She works at a middle school for children who have been institutionalized. She teaches them how to garden, among other things. When we got to the house, she had some homemade soup made of seasonal vegetables heating on the stove. We had dinner and pleasant conversation before we had to leave for our screening at Off Center Arts.

We got there at about 7. Basement Films hosted our event. They were really nice people. They even had some posters made for us on a cool printing machine called a Risograph machine.

Off Center Arts is a community art space for low to no income people. There is also a store that people can sell their work in. The woman, Janis, who runs Off Center Arts was amazing! She did her dissertation on urban home space. She took us on a walking tour of downtown Albuquerque and pointed out some new development and gentrification. She also told us about her critique of new urbanism.

We went back to Off Center Arts when the film was done playing and answered some questions. People brought up some interesting points including the tension between new urbanism and gentrification, and the temporary reclamation of space through alley gardens in Albuquerque.

The next morning we went out for coffee with Sarah and Tyrell from Basement films and had more scintillating conversation about public space, urban planning and driving up the west coast.

A guy who runs a “cult-horror-trash” video store across the street from Off Center Arts came over to the screening to buy three copies of the dvd for his store. We were kind of surprised because Living Room is definitely not of that genre, but flattered nonetheless.

We also managed to lose our special plastic orange thrift store cups that we got for the tour by leaving them at Off Center Arts. Figures.

Neither of us realized how big Albuquerque was. The sprawl stretched on to infinity. Courtney was impressed by the futuristic looking highway architecture but it mostly terrified me. -liz

Here are some nice pictures of the desert (in either new mexico or arizona).

Los Angeles

So, we got into LA last night around 6:30. Pictures will be posted tomorrow, as will stories from the first two days on the road (and pictures). We both had stereotypically negative impressions of what LA would be like. I came to LA a couple years ago with a friend during spring break and wasn't at all impressed. I remembered sitting in traffic on the freeway and seeing nothing but a sea of cars and smog as the sun set. I thought of urban sprawl, pollution, concrete- basically a dirty city with no redeeming qualities. In the 36 hours I've spent here so far, I've come to see the city much differently.

I think that most of the images of LA I had in my head do not stem from any real experiences I've had here or even that people I know have had. I'm thinking of the rich white LA that drives everywhere all the time, is shallow, appearance-obsessed, and completely disneyfied but in a post-apocalyptic kind of way. LA is interesting. It seems real. It is maybe the most urban place I've ever been. There are tons of people walking everywhere. The buses are full. There seem to be a lot of interesting cultural/artistic and political happenings. I've been surprised at how GREEN the city is. Things are growing everywhere. It makes sense considering the geographical location of the city, but I just never expected people to have gardens here. I certainly didn't know that LA has the biggest urban farm in the US. (more about that to come when I upload photos from today). I also never realized how many factories are here. I saw the American Apparel factory today, where my wholesale shirts for screenprinting come from. Things in this city look old and worn, run down. Marc called it "shoddy." I think it looks real.

I've also met some amazing, fascinating and genuinely Nice people.

We are staying with Robby and Kimberly who both work on the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. Robby's brother Marc, is the one who actually set up the screening for us. The Journal is really cool and I recommend checking it out. Lots of cool articles.

During our tour we are helping them with their project, the Red State's Journal.

Here is a description: We have sent out several diaries to act as chain-letters to documents the lives and communities of creative folks and activists to share their thoughts, ideas, reflections about the notion of living on the conservative side of the "Divided States of America.

We intend to publish the Red State Journals in an editioned artbook. We will also display them on-line and as a part of an exhibition.

Marc had planned for us to show the doc. at this place called Beta Level (formerly C level) in China town. It's in an alley in a basement. The only signifier that it's even there is a red (unmarked, unnumbered) door. There was a torrential downpour all day today. We got trapped on Sunset Boulevard in the rain and mostly hung out at the Down Beat Cafe (my new home in LA). Ava (a cool radical urban planner at UCLA) met us there and we talked for a while. We drove in the rain to China Town after that and the traffic was a nightmare (AKA normal). Ava co-edited this really cool book about public spaces. The Pdg files are online so check them out.

We got there and waited for a bit but no one came to the screening. Marc had tried to set the whole thing up in the matter of a couple of days and I'm sure the torrential rain didn't encourage people to come out. So instead of showing the dvd we sat around talking theory and sipping tequila. It was a nice night overall. Tomorrow we head for Santa Cruz.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An introduction

I'm creating this blog in order to document a three-month, 50 city documentary tour of "Living Room: Space and Place in Infoshop Culture." Courtney and I made this documentary as a final project while getting our BAs at the University of Colorado at Denver. We travelled to six cities interviewing people at infoshops during the summer of 2004. Our project examines the relevance of access to public space and the creation of meaningful interactions and political/social movements. After finishing school last May, we decided that we wanted to continue our research on the importance of place to some extent - and at the least create opportunities to meet interesting people doing interesting projects.

The idea of taking the documentary back to the places where we had interviewed people came up. Soon we had decided that we wanted to leave Denver and experience all kinds of new places, people, events, and moments. Somehow Canada got thrown in there. So we spend the past few months contacting infoshops, community art spaces, micro-cinemas, and universities, setting up video screenings across the U.S. and Canada. And here we are now, at the beginning of our trip.

We have decided to thoroughly document our travels across the country, through photos and writing. Please contact us if you are interested in anything that comes up on this blog.

p.s. We meant to launch this blog before we hit the road, but we ran out of time and are now starting it our third day into the tour, February 26, 2006. Our experiences of the first two days will be posted next when we get access to the computer they are stored on.