Thursday, June 24, 2010

Neighborhood Watch

I've been hesitant to write about this because I haven't been sure whether everything would come together. After meeting with the (FANTASTIC!) artists from Dato Creative studio and Happy Valley, I am full of hope and excitement.

Thimphu, Bhutan (in collaboration with at least 10 other cities across this crazy planet) will be initiating its first ever completely public projection art walk project. "Neighborhood Watch:A Projection Walk" will be held in Thimphu BHUTAN, El Paso TX, Tampa FL, Austin TX, San Antonio TX, Seattle WA, Oslo NORWAY, Copenhagen DENMARK, Paris FRANCE, Melbourne AUSTRALIA and Juarez MEXICO (this one is pending on account of the current safety situation, but it is my hope that we can find a way to execute the project safely...fingers crossed everyone).

I'll give you all some background on the project:

eighborhood Watch was initiated by Chelsea Goodwin in Tampa, Florida. It was inspired by the “Lights on Tampa” exhibition. a group of graduate students from the University of Florida came together and began discussing the possibility of mixing classic American drive-in theatre, some delicious grass roots organization and the kind spirit that is naturally shared when we are members of a common community together to create a public work exhibition. the initiative was aimed at sharing art with the public using complete access as its method.

in 2008, Jaime Carrejo, who was an original member of the planning group in Florida, moved back to his hometown of El Paso to take a professor in residence position at the University of Texas at El Paso. it was there that he and I met and decided to take on the challenge of such a project.

along with projections, we installed three-dimensional work in participating neighbors’ yards.

in 2008, the project was coordinated between El Paso and Florida and was submitted to the VISION 08 Festival in Chicago that year.

the ultimate goal of the project was that every time an artist relocated they could initiate the project in the city where they were based. in this way the project was to spread to multiple cities across the U.S. with dedication to the spirit of sharing life through art.

the method:
digital images of art work are projected onto the exterior walls of homes and three dimensional work is installed in the yards of homes. everyone (the public, the artists and all inhabitants of the city and environment) is invited to watch and talk as they took a walk amongst the art work. the project hoped to spark conversations, questions, ideas and perspectives that could be shared in this process.

ephemeral art:
ephemeral art does not exist permanently. It lives for a brief moment, or perhaps a long breath and then it’s gone. this exhibition, by nature is ephemeral. it is installed in one day and it opens for a single night. the public is invited to join Neighborhood Watch in viewing, interacting with and discussing the art work that is exhibited. the art work, the discussions and the ideas that are raised during the exhibition flourish through the night and, if successful, the exhibition opens up topics of discussion and a sharing of ideas that will carry on after the exhibition has closed.

non profit ideals:
there is no monetary compensation for this project, only general wonderful feelings that come with sharing our work with our neighbors around the world.

Now,when i decided to come to Bhutan I had to be certain of what i wanted to do while i was here. i was going to work with youth. i was going to teach sculpture. i wanted to discover the many ways in which art can help us live alongside them. i look back now and i realize, that while the children at VAST have developed their abilities to think three-dimensionally, that lesson is perhaps a tiny shimmering flicker in a sea of very beautiful and booming stellar lights! with two months left in Bhutan, i smile. i believe that we took on this adventure together and we have all learned so very much. (we of course referring to the 200 plus young people i've worked closely with during my time in Bhutan...and some lady named xochitl) perhaps, when the time is closer for me to depart...for me to return... i'll share in more detail what precisely i have learned and what i hope they have learned.

right now, however, i will say that i only hoped i would be able to reach a point in the project to be able to introduce something like "Neighborhood Watch" in Thimphu. in all honesty, i've only just realized how much Neighborhood Watch, in many ways, has shaped my own hopes for art...and the hopes i have for whatever work i make in my life. the sheer thought of being able to offer Neighborhood Watch to these beautiful Bhutanese people gives me goosebumps.

Neighborhood Watch exhibits work that is a reflection of your time and place in the world. initially, the idea was that participating cities would have live feeds going down...and each city would be connected via cyber space. so...essentially, by attending one exhibition in your own city, you had a chance to attend the exhibits in the other cities. and if the work submitted is effective, you get to have a glimpse into the life of worlds you don't live in. unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we've had a hard time making this live feed work. and now, considering HUGE time zone differences, live feeds will be difficult. however, we're working on getting a website operational so that whatever is missed due to physical challenges can be viewed on the website.

the project is incredible and often times, i have trouble even getting my head around the tremendous power of such an exhibition. in bhutan, specifically, i am truly overwhelmed with the potential of such a project. this exhibition will be the first of its kind in bhutan. my goodness!...this exhibition is Bhutan's 'first' in many ways. as i wrote in one of my first blogs, 'contemporary art' is a completely foreign entity in Bhutan. a great majority of Bhutanese have never seen a single piece of contemporary art--eastern or western. most arent aware of how art has shaped the art CAN shape the world, echo the world...make the world. considering Bhutan's present situation (the situation that involves the big huge world meeting Bhutan's protected safe and beautiful world) the work that will be created for this exhibition will be unlike any other work submitted...the potential for these participating artists to reveal so many truths about the world is tremendous! we've discussed briefly during our first few meetings the duality of Bhutanese existence. Bhutan is living in two worlds at once. Bhutan is living in two 'times'.

It is important to keep in mind, drastic and rapid urbanization is one of Bhutan's most significant issues presently. I suppose one could argue that is THE broad issue from which every other issue stems. For Bhutan's leg of the exhibition, I proposed we hold Neighborhood Watch in Changjiji neighborhood and the members of the collective here agreed that it is IMPORTANT and NECESSARY to hold the exhibition there.

I'll be "co-facilitating" a workshop in Changjiji (or Changjiji 'housing complex' as it is referred to here) in July. i'd like to share some of the background on Changjiji as it was written in the proposal i recieved from Sonam Palden, a teacher at Loselling Lower Secondary School in Changjiji:

"The Housing Complex is known for its diversity of social background and quite recently it has infamously captured the headlines of our national newspapers. The Royal Bhutan Police felt the need of outreach station at the complex to curb and prevent the diverse social problems and it soon opened an outreach police centre at the hub of the Housing Complex. The crime rate in terms of vandalism, car-hijacking and other stealing acts, etc. apparently has drastically reduced. However, the problems associated with drugs and gangs have virtually boomed. The number of early school-leavers seemed to have increased and their influence on our school children is quite staggering and pretty alarming. Within last three months the number of our students abusing cigarette, drugs and other psychotropic substances has inexorably escalated. The gang fights have frequented injuring our young children and nocturnal gang prowling has literally posed grave danger to the late night commuters. Due to the support of the hard-core gang- bangers (early school-leavers) at the Housing Complex, the amateurs in our school are questioning the safety of other innocent children. They are often bullied and extorted and very few of such cases are reported to the school management. This has really debilitated some of our children who often insist to play truant just to elude these gang bullies.

Through our survey study and analysis of the ground situation while closely working with our abusers and gang-members, we came to learn that the to learn that children as young as 10 years old are into abusing substance like marijuana, tablets, all kinds of tobaccos, other psychotropic substances and even precursors. We have wide range of abusers and gang members irrespective of gender and age. The findings of our school counseling division reflect that many of the abusers are low academic performers and directly or indirectly they have very close connection with the notorious early school-leavers
residing in their residential vicinity.

The school has done all it can to accommodate to the needs of children with special needs, but it has been an uphill climb, for the school does not receive any support nor cooperation from the parents since most of the time their parents are defensive of their children. The school is guardian to three students who are completely neglected by their parents. Students are counseled by the school counselors but are worried that the students might need more than a few hours of counseling. Through our close observation and thorough analysis of each individual abusers and gang member and other problems either by influence of senior abusers or available of the superfluous of unsupervised free time. Many of them lack parental guidance since many parents come from mediocre or low income group who often entail working late hours. It is also known that majority of our children with special needs are rooted to broken families and dependent on their relatives who often maltreat them. In 2008and 2009, we had two cases of suicide which had close link to the problem deliberated here. The problems mentioned here are further aggravated with the complete dearth of recreational facilities and avenues where children can positively take part and keep themselves aside from gangs and drug abusers. Though we have a outreach Youth Centre at the Complex but truly it is not able to cater to the needs of our children with such needs. In fact, it cannot and it is impossible since the youth population in the Housing Complex is extremely high and they go to almost all the schools in Thimphu bringing up with them their own problems and these problems are infecting our children causing the pernicious impact to our entire school population. Literally our children are in great stake and we strongly feel the need of some viable solution to combat these problems. It is not just the concern of the Changjiji Colony, but a concern of entire society since these children would have an invasive adverse impact on the future of our nation. It is our responsibilities and duties to prevent them from going astray and however if they are already plunged into these problems then we must think of ways to help them."

what will we all say to eachother?
(thimphu and the other cities...and of course all of you!)

what will we reveal?

what will we conceal?

what will we feel?

what will all this make us say?

the reception of this exhibition in Thimphu is unpredictable. i'm sure...well...i'm sure we'll just have to see!

i do hope, if you keep up with this blog, you'll join us on August 21, 2010 for "Neighborhood Watch:A Projection Walk.

as things develop i will happily share the exciting news with all of you. tomorrow, we will be meeting and visiting the neighborhood the name of positive progress and art!

as always...there is more to come.

i send my warmest greetings from the Kingdom of Bhutan!


  1. I really hope Juarez can be a part of this!!!!!!!!!

  2. I REALLY hope so too!
    Haydee Alonzo is trying to get the Juarez one organized. I'm afraid there might have to be some modifications to the method...the delivery. But I'm hoping hoping hoping...keep fingers crossed!
    If you know anyone who might be able to help...if you want to help...she's on my fb list.


  3. I will totally help!!!!!!!!! =)!!! I don't know how, but I will! Thanks!!!! It would be great for Juarez. It's something the city really needs.

  4. ok!! fantastic!!

    i can tell you who to talk to in order to help :)

    there are two people...if you look on my facebook page, through my friends, there's a gal named haydee alonzo. she's trying to get things moving...also, cristobal (you met him the night we found our long lost selves at the tap...) he is also trying to get it moving as quickly as possible. i think if the three of you connect with eachother it would be AMAZING!!

    i told him you would maybe be willing to i'll tell him to contact you on fb or you can contact him...and the same goes for haydee...

    thank you soooooooooooooooo much!
    (((((HUGE HUG)))))