Archive for the ‘Incidence Report’ Category

An Address

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: Peter Miles Bergman 
GROUP SIZE: 11
NATURE OF GROUP: Residents of 10 addresses in Freemont, Nebraska and 10 addresses in Newport, Rhode Island, selected at random from a collection of phone books on microfiche, who happened to be home when we showed up at their door
INCIDENCE: An Address

An Address from Institute of Sociometry 

Though this is one of IS’s oldest reports, it has, until now, only existed in the form of this 36-minute VHS documentary, produced by Peter Miles Bergman and directed by Siri Noel Wilson in 1995.

In 1993 the Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego, named after Dr. Seuss and famous for its cameo as the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, had one of every city and town’s phone books in the US on microfiche. Reaching blindly into the library catalog drawer of phone book microfiche films, name out of a hat style, I plucked a microfiche for Freemont, Nebraska and one for Newport, Rhode Island, both towns that appeared to be in the 20,000-30,000 population range, and wrote down the first 10 names and addresses in each that caught my eye.

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DUPLICATE – Two years of postcards, letters and Christmas cards

On a subsequent trip to Europe to visit agent 002 Siri Noel Wilson, I wrote postcards to the residents at each of these 20 addresses – from Bologna, Italy; Paris, France; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and, when I returned to the US, from San Diego, California. I signed each card with my name and mentioned that I lived in San Diego, but I did not provide a return address. Each time I wrote the cards, I did so in one sitting and in the order of the addresses on my list. By the fifth postcard, I’d usually lost sight of the actual human on the receiving end and was essentially writing to the faceless and hypothetical audience I’d assumed would be enthralled by my puerile art prank. Each batch of cards followed the same arc. The first few were awkward but sincere, the next few were fluid and confident, halfway through they became a little sarcastic, toward the end the tone was wholly flippant or abstract, and I closed out the 20 with a few that were poignant and contemplative. Here’s an excerpt: “Hi Wayne! Hi Vicky, I have returned from my travels. That’s a little bit of Euro snobbery I picked up. Really though, I’m going back. It all went by way too fast. In fact, there are whole blocks of time I don’t remember a thing…”

Over the next two years I followed up with homemade Christmas cards and long-form handwritten letters (click to enlarge):

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Excerpt: “Hello Mr. John Brooks. This is Peter M. Bergman. I am attempting to take our friendship to the next level by writing you this letter… Some days I want everything to make sense on earth. I want all my activities to mean something. Days like today I realize how dumb that is. So if this doesn’t make sense then it must not be dumb. Does that make sense? … Do you know what entropy is? Entropy is the measure of disorder in a closed system. Entropy always increases and available energy always decreases in a closed system – such as our universe. Isn’t that neat? … I think you getting these letters from me is a sort of disorder in your life. But it’s good because now we are friends! To get your name and address I just picked a phone book from the library and viola! … I think I’m going to have ‘Evidence of Entropy’ on my tombstone. It’s good to think of these things now you know. You never can tell when that sneaky ol’ entropy is going to mess with you!”

In the spring of 1994 all of the addressees on my list received a postcard written in Sharpie with some form of, “Good news! Siri and I are coming out to visit you this summer!”

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This “Ariel view of Mission Bay with Sea World” postcard (and 19 other in this tranche) notified Thelma and all the other recipients in Freemont, NE and Newport RI on our impending  visit.

Freemont, Nebraska highlights:

Siri and I had no idea what we had gotten into as our Greyhound bus pulled into Freemont, but we were thoroughly prepared to document it with a micro-cassette recorder, 110 film camera, and Siri’s two super-8 movie cameras – one with sound! After we got situated at the Ranch Motel, a motor lodge across the highway from the bus station, we found a phone book with a town history. Named after General John C. Frémont, “The Pathfinder,” Freemont was a Mormon Trail stop, then a Telegraph town, then a railroad town, a highway town, and ultimately a bedroom community for people working 35 miles away in Omaha. The phone book also had a map, which we used to begin charting out our visits.

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Our “Weekly Rental” – The Ranch Motel in Freemont

Our first visit was to Thelma Surface. Thelma lived in Nye Square, a retirement community with the slogan, “Be In Charge of your Life.” This was the first of many unexpected hurdles in our quest for immediate and authentic face-to-face encounters. The receptionist seemed to be on the lookout for us, explaining her trepidation about our visit since Thelma was living in a place where she was protected from “people on the outside.” After asking us a long series of suspicious questions, she buzzed Thelma’s room. Thelma hesitantly came out to greet us, right around the time the Freemont police showed up. We all had a pleasant conversation in the lobby area of the retirement community about Freemont and the social norms and customs that Siri and I didn’t quite seem to understand. The police, after ascertaining that we were no more harmful than the typical idiotic twenty-something Californians, offered us a ride back to our hotel – which we declined.

The next day we asked directions from, and subsequently made friends with Brent Harnish, a home-for-summer long-haired college kid close to our age who was happy to drive us around during the rest of our stay, hang out with us, and generally praise us as the only cool thing to happen all summer.

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The home of Wayne E. and Vicky Sund in Freemont

Wayne E. Sund, who lived on the edge of town in a subdivision, was in front of his house washing his car and his boat. When we walked up the drive and introduced ourselves he chuckled with a subtle no-no-no head motion, strode forward and shook our hands. When we asked him about his reaction to the cards and letters he said, “After a while I thought, well you know… If I KNEW when he was coming I’d have my 12-guage at the back door. But apparently he’s harmless. I don’t know, I don’t KNOW! It was like, who the HELL is this?” Wayne was a funny guy who appreciated the random nature of our encounter. He had his young kids come out to meet us in a “you’ll want to remember this day so I can tell you this story over-and-over as you age” kind of way.

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Wayne Sund – in retrospect our visit to Wayne was a highlight of the early 90’s for IS. In many ways it has never quite worked out as intended in such spectacular fashion since. 

The young woman who answered Kathy Sherman’s door told us that Kathy was home, unhesitatingly invited us in, and announced in a super excited loud voice that Kathy had visitors. We guessed that our greeter had Down syndrome. Another roommate, also with Down syndrome, came out of the back room. We figured out quickly that it was a group home. We put away our camera. When Kathy came down the stairs her roommates clapped and cheered. She was beaming. Though we were naïve and inexperienced as documentarians, we did understand that this situation had transcended the authenticity we were seeking and had the potential to go straight to exploitation. Though Kathy was very excited to have us visit, she had zero recollection of ever having received any mail from us. I’m sure the cards and letters did make it to her, but on the afternoon we visited, she wasn’t able to connect me to the cards, which I had sent several months to a couple of years prior to our visit. It didn’t matter. We had a great time visiting and talking about life in the group home, about Freemont, who we were, and where we were from. There was never a question about why we came to visit. Reflecting on the experience outside, I had the first inkling of my own boundaries when working with real live people as an art medium. Siri and I could have easily filmed our entire visit to the group home, and even received verbal consent on camera, but that consent could not have been anything more than a technical acquiescence to be filmed. Aware that the group home residents did not understand that our project was a prank and that their names and images could be used for decades to make people laugh and scratch their heads, we determined that there was no ethical way to use any footage. More importantly, the moment was so genuinely human that worrying about capturing it would have simply distracted us from living it.

George O. Suydan wasn’t home. When we explained to the bewildered woman who answered the door that we were Pete and Siri and had been sending mail to George she lit up and exclaimed, “Oh Bergman! Yea! I’m his daughter in law. Nice to meet you after all this time. I’ve seen you in the pictures. Dad goes ‘WHO IS THIS’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, somebody friendly!’ He really appreciated and got a kick out of all the cards you sent!” Over lemonade on the porch, she told us George unfortunately had been relocated into an assisted living facility in Omaha. When we offered to start writing to him at his new address she replied, sadly, “He’s not all himself.”

Felix Unger’s son answered the door and went to get him.
“Hi! I’m Pete and this is Siri.”
“Oh yeah?”
“We’re the one’s who’ve been sending you postcards.”
“You the one sending postcards? Oh yeah? What are you guys doing here?”
“We’re just breezing through town and thought we’d visit and say hi.”
“Oh yeah?” (chuckles) “Well that’s weird ‘cause I was wondering where they were coming from. You know I get these in the mail and you don’t know what’s going on so basically I file 13 most of ‘em”

I’d given each recipient the name of someone else in their town I was writing to. I’d given Felix John Vecerra’s name – as it turns out someone he saw every day at work. “I talked to John Vecerra yesterday at work, or on Friday. When you said on the last one about your vacation to talk to John Vecerra. So I went and asked him. He said ‘I don’t know the guy either!”

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The only piece of correspondence with a drawing – sent to John Vecerra of Freemont.

We caught up with John when he was on the way out of his apartment. When we introduced ourselves as Pete and Siri, the people who’d been writing him postcards, he seemed apprehensive. “Oh yeah? That was you? How did you pick me?”

“Out of the phone book. We picked ten people out of the Freemont phone book.”
“Oh yeah? What was the reason for that?”
“Just, I don’t know… To meet some different people…”

He invited us to breakfast the next morning at McDonald’s out on the highway. Over Egg McMuffins that John described as “not too exciting, but a way to start the day,” he told us about some area history and labor politics at the Hormel Factory where he worked with Felix Unger and was high up in the union.

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John Vecerra outside of his address.

Scott Strouf’s house was about a mile out of town, but he wasn’t home. Riding back in the bed of a farm truck we’d hitched a ride from, Siri and I reflected on our visits. A few of them hadn’t panned out. People were no longer living at the addresses on my list or no one answered. The phone book on microfiche I’d grabbed may have been outdated. The addresses that were good, however, were really REALLY good. The people of Freemont had been openminded and either glad to meet us or very good at masking their anxiety.

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Freemont Nebraska – Summer Crazy Days!

Newport, Rhode Island lowlights:

We did have one highlight in Newport. One of our first encounters was with a young couple, David and his girlfriend “Sweets,” who lived in an apartment building previously occupied by David Del Nero, who we had been writing to. After some confusion about having the same first name as our addressee, they became intrigued by our explanation of why we were lugging film cameras around Newport knocking on strangers’ doors and invited us back for dinner. Later that night in their apartment, David predicted we wouldn’t have as much luck in Newport as we reported having in Freemont. David described Newport as “pretty, but kind of a blue velvet pretty.” It is a town inhabited by a transient population of second home owning vacationers, Navy sailors and rotating faculty at the Naval War College, tribal New England fisherman, and the mega rich.

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A case of mistaken identity! Dave and Sweets of Newport.

Newport was home to the monumental summer mansions of the Vanderbilts and other agriculture, railroad, and banking barons of the 19th century. Though life in the mid-1990s was considerably less opulent, many of Newport’s residents were still quite well-off, biding their time between Newport, New York or Boston apartments, and their boats. They were still heavily vested, philosophically if not outright financially, in a patrician East Coast class system.

Most of the addresses in Newport that were on our list were no longer inhabited by any occupants I’d written to. After a couple of days knocking on the doors of current inhabitants, ignorant of, or having purchased the home from, our addressees, we clued in that the Geisel Library’s phone books on microfiche were over a year out of date. We knocked on Ruth Erickson’s door, but it appeared to be an uninhabited house. Disappointed but resigned, we moved on.

Later that afternoon we caught up with Wilfred J. Buckley Jr., a fifty-something man who was out painting his porch. Wilfred had received some of the most sincere letters. Here’s an excerpt, “Wilfred, I want to share something with you. I want you to get a glimpse of what I’m like and have it make you happy. I want you to smile when you get a letter from me. That’s all I want. Sometimes, however I think people are just afraid of things like letters from strangers. I guess that’s just how it is…”

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Wilfred Buckley Jr. of Freemont – a circa 1995 video still of a 110 photo reshot on a copy stand and then photographed while playing on a television of someone who never wanted their picture taken in the first place!

“Are you Wilfred?”
“Yeah”
“Hi, I’m Pete and this is Siri. We’re the people who’ve been writing you those you postcards.”
“What was that all about?”
“Just for fun, kinda’.”
“You know you scared the hell out of a little old lady! Ruth Erickson? She’s about 85 years old and she got so damn scared with the cards that she moved out of her house and moved in with her daughter.”
“Really? Oh NO!?”
“Yes! And the daughter has gone to the police about it.”
“Well that’s certainly not what we intended.”
“Well I don’t know what you intended but it was strange and that’s what happened.”
“Did they upset you?”
“Uh, I really didn’t know what the hell they were doing and they upset me because up until August 1st I was on the road. My job put me on the road quite a bit and I would leave my wife here. She didn’t know what the hell to make of it.”
“Well we didn’t know…”
“Well… That’s… Doing it to a 20-year-old couple is different than doing it to an 80-year-old lady.”
“We had no idea, that’s why.”
“I didn’t particularly care for them to be very truthful.”
“We didn’t say anything threatening, or anything”
“No, they really weren’t that friendly either. They were kind of strange cards. In fact we still have the cards and letters in the house. That Christmas card you sent was kind of weird.”
“That’s too bad it was taken the wrong way but…”
“Well, I’m serious you had that woman really, really upset.”

Though Wilfred was hostile, he was measured. He didn’t threaten us, he scolded us – and rightly so. We packed up the next day and silently boarded the Greyhound out of town.

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The East Coast in a nutshell. 

There is a time in the life of every antisocial, sarcastic, and angry young art punk when they reach this fork in the road. If they’re sober enough to make an informed decision, they can choose the right path by reflecting on the actual humans their shenanigans have targeted and avoid the path of nihilism and a life-long war on the happiness of everyone around them, and lastly but most importantly, themselves.

Though late 20th-century American ‘society’ deserved a good deconstructing, the unsuspecting individual civilians who comprised it did not deserve to have their lives upended for simply being listed in the phone book. Learning about Ruth Erikson’s reaction to my cards and letters caused me to realize, albeit a bit too late, that the unwritten rules of the art/life symbiosis dictate that it’s not appropriate to antagonize someone for artistic value if they themselves have not thrown some chips into the game… After the visit, I never sent another card or letter to anyone from Freemont or Newport.

—–

A version of An Address premiered at Sociometry Fair ‘96. The final edit, a 36-minute VHS documentary, produced by Peter Miles Bergman and directed by Siri Noel Wilson in 1996 (available at the top of this report) won Best Documentary at the Denver Underground Film Festival in 1997. 

This report was written by agent Peter Miles Bergman and appeared for the first time in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200 (use the code ISAGENT for 11% off). is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Life’s A Joke

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: agent Charlie Vurmin
GROUP SIZE: Approximately 56 million
NATURE OF GROUP: The people of the state of California vs. Charles Twain Clemans AKA Charlie Vurmin
INCIDENCE: Life’s A Joke

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Chuck in 2001 – 6 years into a 28 year prison sentence. Inscription on the back of photo reads, “To my friends at the Institute! Although I may look like a 43 year old drunk I.R.A. terrorist, I’m just a nice guy who got loaded and shot four people, oops…  Love Charlie Vurmin 2001.” Photo credit: California Department of Corrections

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Circa 1995 IS stickers Chuck screenprinted for IS
—–

Charlie Vurmin was a notorious early ’90s Pacific Beach punk in San Diego, California and one of the first dozen Institute of Sociometry agents. Chuck came into our circle through the pernicious influence of skateboarding. On a sojourn to a famous grade-school playground skate spot in suburban San Diego Chuck made a lasting impression on us, and everyone at the playground – from “hardened” suburban skaters to dads-and-daughters out shooting hoops – by taking a broad daylight bowel movement on the concrete embankment.

Not long after, he taught IS how to screenprint the “I Have Been Institutionalized” bumper stickers for our first tranche of IS agent starter kits. The screenprint lesson turned out to be prophetic as two years later Chuck would be sentenced to a 28 year with no possibility of parole prison stint. Now, 20 years into his sentence, Chuck is a fully reformed and sober member of the California “Human Storage Warehouse,” serving out the twilight of his sentence at the Norconian, a former luxury hotel and current minimum security prison in Norco, California made famous on the cover of the terrible Eagles album Hotel California. Chuck has routinely supplied the Institute of Sociometry with illustrations, including handdrawn birthday cards for all 300+ agents for circa 2002’s birthday gift distro.

The illustrations in this report are Chuck’s.

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One of 300 hand drawn birthday cards Chuck donated to IS in 2002
—–

Chapter I: Life’s A Joke!

This is a reprint of agent Vurmin’s 1998 letter telling IS the story of how he ended up in prison:

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My name is Charlie Vurmin and this is my story of how I ended up in prison. I am 28 years old and curently serving a 28 year sentence for four attempted murders and various gun charges. It all started in 1995 when my soon-to-be wife Julie was seven months pregnant and I had a fine job as a silkscreener for a prominent skateboard clothing company. I had a nice house, two dogs, a car, and many friends. Little did I know all of these things and more were about to disappear like a turd being flushed down the toilet.

Things were going very smoothly both at home and work; but, being faced with the intense responsibility and pressure of raising my future child, I accepted a lucrative business opportunity that was sure to increase my earnings three fold. This was the first of many mistakes I made while steering my boat into a “Bermuda Triangle” of disasters. At first it seemed my new business venture was a success because I had earned $3,000.00 in just two weeks, but this was the first and the last of the money I would see from my new “job.” Needless to say, it was foolishly spent on a new stereo.

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It is absolutely phenomenal how this drastic chain of events would come crashing down on me within the next six weeks, leading to my quick demise. Having squandered all my money with rent coming up, I was under a considerable amount of stress. Things at home became tense and the soon-to-be wife and I began arguing quite a bit. My car was the first thing to go, after my job, because it was unregistered, and the nice Mr. Tow Truck Driver was more than happy to relieve me of this burden. Then, my two dogs, whom I loved very much, escaped from my yard. Like my car, they were unregistered and the animal control wanted several hundred dollars before they would release them from their compound. At this point, I still had a little money but not enough to liberate both the car and the dogs and to pay rent.

This is where the home front became so filled with daily arguments that my soon-to-be wife decided it would be better if she sought other residence while I tried to reverse the effects of the dominoes. The day my rent was due had come to pass. Being overwhelmed by the current events, I realized this only when that ugly “pay up or move out” notice was taped to my door. At this time I had achieved eighteen months of sobriety from alcohol. This was the next, but not the last, domino to come crashing down. Never assume things can’t get any worse, because no matter what they can and will! I decided if it were ever Miller Time, now was the time for a Miller. One beer led to another until a few weeks had passed and I was reduced to a sponge-like blob, absorbing any liquid I suspected of containing alcohol. Consuming your own weight in alcohol every day is no easy task, so I turned to my friend crystal methamphetamine for help. She is a cruel bitch, but she did a supreme job of helping me wage my war against reality. I was so completely disgusted with myself by now that I was almost beyond help. With my “still” soon-to-be wife’s advice, I went to a state psychologist and requested to be “institutionalized.” He asked me if I was going to kill myself or others, and the answer was no; so, he couldn’t do anything more than prescribe an antipsychotic that was not to be used with alcohol. Seeing as how I was obviously drunk when he gave me the prescription, I didn’t take him seriously and figured it wouldn’t hurt to toss back a few coldies with my new pills. Bad idea, believe me, antipsychotics, alcohol, and meth being the most lethal combination of drugs currently known to mankind! It should be no surprise that this made me feel more psycho, warranting the need to up the daily dose of the innocent looking pills. With my alcohol and crystal meth intake also on the rise I was like a choo-choo train two choos away from a disaster.

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One dark and grim night, the 2nd of October, 1995, I was completely inebriated on the aforementioned combination of drugs, plus about seven valiums to add effect, when I stumbled upon a party. I quickly sniffed where the keg was and asked for a beer and was promptly beaten up and ejected from the party. These unsuspecting people could not have picked a worse person, at the time, to beat up. Getting beat up lit my fuse and sent me into a temporary psychosis that resulted in me going home to get my RIFLE and returning to the party to shoot the four people I thought guilty of attacking me. Luckily, I didn’t kill anyone.

To make a long story short, I was arrested fifteen minutes later and eventually sentenced to 28 years in the state’s “HUMAN STORAGE WAREHOUSE.” PRISON! My release date is “2019” and good time does not apply to me because of a neat new violent predator law. I write you this story not because I seek sympathy, but because it is a clear example of the fact that when you masturbate with the hand of fate expect the worst because life is a JOKE!

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——

Chapter II: Mr. Ivanov & Chapter III: Return To Sender have previously been published on this site as separate reports. Though they are a digression from this central narrative they certainly open a window into how one can still be creative and have some fun as an imprisoned is agent!
——

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Chapter IV: Still waiting for the punchline…

This is a reprint of agent Vurmin’s 2016 letter updating is on his Life’s a Joke philosophy:

Greetings faithful Institute agents and pedestrians. The provocative agitators at is have requested a follow up, 18 years after my original report. So yeah, I’ve been in prison now for 20 friggin’ years straight, for my abominable crime of attempted genocide.

Let me tell ‘ya, it’s really all just one big blur of similar memories; wake up, go to chow, go to the main yard, go to job assignment, go back to the chow hall for dinner, watch a little T.V., go to bed and repeat. The odd thing about this mundane routine is that I do all of this with gang members – Bloods/Crips, Skinheads, Mexican Mafia etc. – drug addicts and dealers, sex offenders, the mentally ill and other discarded trash from society. So, things don’t always go smoothly. Just walking to chow can result in tear gas, pepper spray, and shrill war cries from whatever competing group is trying to kill another. I’ve been through a lot and there’s something in my survival skills that prevents me from really dwelling on how insane my reality is. Instead, I just shuffle along and try to make the best out of each day and the limited resources available. Of course I’m not a mental ninja so I constantly slip into the, “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” syndrome and obsess on all the things I’ve missed; my daughter growing up, my wife who fell apart as a result of my arrest, daily “free people” life that I used to really take for granted, and on and on and on. Daydreaming about everything I’m missing in life is like an itchy rash on my leg. I’m not supposed to scratch it but it feels intoxicating when I do. It’s quicksand, the more I think about what I don’t have, the more I don’t appreciate what I do have.

So, let me share some of what I do have. First and foremost, I still have my sanity, sorta’… I’m a bit of an anxious/nervous wreck but I can handle it… I have my health and I have 16 years of sobriety. I have an amazing relationship with my daughter and father, and more friends than I deserve. I learned how to play guitar in prison and I cherish that as a medicinal healing tool of soothing sound waves that I enjoy everyday. I learned how to draw and tattoo in prison and that’s also a good outlet. Most unexpectedly, I fell in love with the Native American spiritual path. All of my life I’ve been a militant atheist to the extreme. All the major religions are just embarrassing when they claim to have facts, when clearly they are all man-made fabrications of their primitive and limited imaginations. At the same time, in all my atheist ramblings I’ve always been in awe of nature and physics and science. I love real explanations, that’s comforting to me. But, some things have yet to be explained. Like when I touch an old tree, why do I feel a vibration of energy? I don’t even want an explanation. I just dig it. So, when I started poking around the Native American sweat grounds, as an atheist misanthropic white man, it was a bit awkward and uncomfortable for everyone, especially the Indians.

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At the surface, I still do adhere to my theory that “life’s a joke.” I really do. I also pride myself on the acceptance that my opinions are always in flux. My opinions will never be fully refined and ready for shelving. So, currently my opinion is that my life really does seem to be a joke in that it’s a grueling drudgery of mundane routines. We are all balancing on a slippery slope and it seems that most life on Earth is this quick cycle (consume, reproduce, die…) and along the way, you should try to enjoy the show. I’ve come to realize that even bacteria is a miracle and lucky to be alive and so am I. It’s just a quick fleeting spark when anything gets to experience life. Some do it in Beverly Hills, some do it in the slums of Tijuana eating garbage, some do it as a single cell protozoa amoeba. All life is a miracle and even my seemingly worthless existence is sacred and with purpose. I am not clear what my purpose is, but my current plan is to be a good earthling, respect Mother Earth and all living things, slow down and pay attention to what the vibrational energies of the universe are communicating. Maybe one day I’ll figure out my purpose and then life won’t seem like a joke.

In 2017 Charlie found out he will soon be eligible to be released to a half-way house to serve the remainder of his sentence. To be continued…

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—–
This report was written by agent Charles Twain Clemans. A version of the 1998 letter was published in 1999 as a zine in an edition of 25 and featured at Sociometry Fair 2000 in Denver, Colorado. The 2016 letter is published here for the first time.

Chapter I and IV of this report were most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Don’t Come ’round Here No More

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: agent Jim Hanson
GROUP SIZE: 260
NATURE OF GROUP: 20 cops, 20 reporters, 12 Klansmen, and 200 protesters
INCIDENCE: Don’t Come ’round Here No More 

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“We don’t need no hate today! We don’t need no KKK!”

On January 15, 1996 at 3:00 PM the Ku Klux Klan planned to demonstrate and protest against the celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on the steps of the Wyoming State Capitol Building in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Their event was to follow an event celebrating MLK Day on those very steps at 12:00 PM. Anticipating conflict and confrontation, I knew I had to be there.

The Ku Klux Klan really knows how to have a good protest. Past protests I’d read about were to protest protesting protesters protesting the jailing of a black man. Another was a protest against Vietnamese fishermen. In both of these protests the Klan hung an effigy representing the group they were protesting.

I decided I would protest them, using their own tactics. I made an effigy of a traditional Ku Klux Klan member being hanged by a hangman’s noose and a sign that said, “Don’t Come ’round Here No More,” mounted to a wooden cross.

I am a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white male with a shaved head and a pure-bred pit bull dog. His name is a Sanskrit word meaning noble or pure (feel free to look it up)… Because of the way I look, people judge me as one who judges others by the way they look – a racist. I’m aware of this. I try to make others aware and question their judgmental beliefs.

My protest would send a message to two groups. Those protesting the Klan would see a stereotype alongside them. The Klan would see that same stereotype and question their own beliefs as to who supports them.

On the day of the rally my skate-bro and backup Rob, my dog, and I met Jill, accomplice number three, at the McDonald’s off of I-25 on the south side of Cheyenne. While we ate, two skinheads came in to do the same. I wondered if I would see them at the rally…

After we ate, we went back to the Capitol. The first thing I noticed were the cops, everywhere; in cars, on horses, walking around the growing crowd in groups of two to five, guarding all entrances, videotaping from a second level balcony… A five-foot-tall, hunter orange barricade was set up all around the Capitol steps, limiting access to the Capitol. There were at least 20 cops guarding the inside of the perimeter, along with 20 members of the press. The cops seemed ready to crack skulls.

The Klan had set up speakers on the steps and were blasting Irish bagpipe music. There were seven skinhead youth (including the two from McDonalds) and one older, long haired guy holding flags on the steps behind the podium. They held their flags, eyes straight ahead, faces held seriously in conviction of their beliefs, never faltering despite the 20 mph wind gusts. About 200 people had gathered outside the perimeter. The crowd was rather white but the other colors numbered more than the state’s average of 95% white. People were milling around in groups, talking amongst themselves, waiting for the music to stop and something to begin. I became aware that because I looked like a skinhead, I was somewhat alienated from the crowd. Some people looked at me funny and I heard comments… But really… I had a pit bull on leash…

JimKlan-02

Don’t Come ’round Here No More

I went back to my truck to get my sign and effigy. Go time. I made it about 20 feet from my truck and was waiting to cross the street when a friendly police officer insisted on my attention. He told me I couldn’t bring the wood my sign was posted on to the protest. Ok, cool. I surrendered the wood for the sign and continued on with the Klansman hanging by its neck from the wooden cross. I walked across the street where I met six police officers who wanted to check out my effigy. They made me remove the wooden cross and had to call their supervisor to be sure I could even have it on the grounds. Permission was granted and I was given leave.

I walked another 30 feet when I was stopped by another group of cops. They wanted to know what I was doing. They also had to call it in. They didn’t know what to think.

Looking for a good hanging pole, I opted for a stop sign in clear view of the podium. I immediately tried to throw my rope over it. It slipped off, again and again. A group started to form around me. Some guy suggested that I hang myself with the rope. He said it three more times, until someone clued him in. I was approached by another police officer. He told me I couldn’t hang my effigy on the stop sign. I asked if I could hang it in a tree? “No.” Over the perimeter barricade? “No. You must keep it in your possession.” Four other cops joined him. One of them told me I couldn’t have my noose on the demonstration grounds as it could be used as a weapon. I told him I wouldn’t lose the noose.

First Amendment enacted, I made my way to the front of the barricade and hung my effigy into the no-go zone.

People started cheering. The cops on the inside of the barricade started to move in, and every camera I saw turned my way. Press were scrambling to get their money shot. The cops made me hold the effigy outside of the barricade but I’d made my point.

JimKlan-01

The press – getting the statement

Four Klan members spoke, including the national director Thomas Robb. They spoke out against illegal aliens, homosexuals, and blacks while trying to promote themselves as a group that respects diversity but “want what is every white person’s birthright.” Thomas Robb spoke about what a terrible man Martin Luther King, Jr. was and how it is terrible that a black man has his own day. He said that white Americans were being sold out by our elected officials. He claimed it was the crowd that promotes hate, citing obscenities and shouting against his self-proclaimed moralistic behavior.

The majority of the crowd seemed intent on shouting down the Klan speakers. Several chants broke out including, “We don’t need no hate today! We don’t need no KKK!” and “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” Many people expressed that they would like to fight the Klan members. Unfortunately, no
violence broke out.

I never moved from my spot by the barricade and held the noose as high as I could. I pointed at the speakers and taunted them with the effigy. Four reporters asked for my name and where I was from, a few asked for statements. Several people from the crowd wanted to talk and take pictures… The Klan ended their speeches at about 5:00 PM and started to play more bagpipe music. It seemed like a good time to leave.

Conclusion to this Incidence Report from agent Jim Hanson
If we ignore the Klan [and other white-nationalist groups], tolerance is implied. However, when we attack them with violence, we make them martyrs to their cause. When we co-opt their symbols, and reflect their effigies of violence back at them, we have an opportunity to invert their arguments.

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Denver Post, Tuesday January 16, 1996 (click to enlarge)

[is] 2016 Update: On February 27, 2016 a KKK rally in Anaheim California erupted in violence as Black Lives Matter activists and Black Bloc anarchists attacked Klansmen as they were arriving at the rally. Three people were stabbed and thirteen arrested. Though counter protests have been a routine feature of KKK rallies, this was one of the first violent assaults.

[is] 2017 Update: On February 2nd, 2017 a planned speech at UC Berkeley by Alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos quickly spiraled into chaos when “Antifa” showed up in force setting fires and pelting the lecture hall with rocks and bricks. 45 tweeted a threat to pull federal funds from UC Berkeley for cancelling the event.

In 2017 Antifa in the US is a somewhat rebranded Black Bloc in alliance with Socialists and Communists. They have picked up the mantle of a loose-knit international movement dating back to the run up to World War II. “Antifa” branded anarchism was most recently resurgent, prior to the Yiannopoulos event, during the 2015-6 anti-austerity riots in Athens, Greece. Antifa, in a dramatic departure from the civil-rights era philosophy of passive resistance, believe physical resistance to fascist groups is both ethical and effective. Tensions in Berkeley between Alt-Right and Antifa came to a head on April 15th at an Alt-right “Patriots Day rally in what has come to be known as The Battle of Berkeley – an extended fight resulting in 11 injuries (six hospitalizations) and 21 arrests.

On August 12th, 2017 a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville Virginia attended by numerous “white-nationalist” groups including the KKK resulted in violence between the white-nationalist groups and Antifa with many non-violent protesters caught up in the melees. Peaceful protestor Heather Heyer was killed and 19 injured by James Allen Fields Jr. – a known Neo-Nazi from Ohio when he plowed his car into a crowd, taking a page from recent ISIS inspired vehicular attacks in France. Unlike the rapid rush to judgement and condemnation by 45 in those instances, the White House waited two days to explicitly condemn white-nationalists before 45 dramatically reversed course and blamed “both-sides”, even coining the term “alt-left” in off-the-cuff remarks at a press conference on infrastructure the following day (prior to mentioning he owned a large house in Charlottesville and plugging Trump Wines which has a large vineyard outside Charlottesville). Justin Moore, the Grand Dragon for the North Carolina based Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan said he was “glad” Heather Heyer died following up with, “They were a bunch of Communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all… I think we’re going to see more stuff like this happening at white nationalist events,”

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A version of this report was featured at Sociometry Fair ‘96 in San Diego, California. Don’t Come ’round Here No More was originally reported on by Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Casper Star Tribune, and in an AP article that ran in The Denver Post and many more publications around the country on January 16th, 1996. 

This report was most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Old Glory and The Valor Project

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: Old Glory Condom Corporation – Worn With Pride
Country-Wide, President Jay Critchley
 
GROUP SIZE: Approximately 100,000 
NATURE OF GROUP: The cumulative number of AIDS cases reported in the US in 1989 (as of 2006 the cumulative number of AIDS related deaths is 650,000. Currently, an estimated 11.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS) 
INCIDENCE: Old Glory Condom Corporation and The Valor Project 

This report was written by agent Jay Critchley – an early IS agent, mentor, and influence on is’s deployment of elaborate pranks as an art form. A version of this report was originally published in 1996 in The Report #1 an Institute of Sociometry zine of incidence reports that was discontinued in 1999 after issue #4 and was exhibited on a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair ’96 in San Diego. This is also the third report in is EMANCIPATION, a handmade book in an edition of 200, and the official anthology of is at 21.
—–

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Jay Critchley circa 1990 with an Old Glory Condom

“The better part of valor is discretion.” − Shakespeare

Old Glory Condom President Jay Critchley first invoked the words of Patrick Henry at a 1989 press conference of the patriotic condom corporation. At the conference, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center, Critchley called on President George H.W. Bush to organize an army of safer sex soldiers to fight HIV/AIDS and redefine what it means to be patriotic: to protect and save lives.

The actual business, Old Glory Condom Corporation, which marketed condoms and T-shirts bearing the flag-inspired logo worldwide, was launched on Flag Day in 1990, concurrent with the World AIDS Conference in San Francisco. The corporation filed for a trademark from the US government for its logo and its name, but the Trademark Office ruled, “it was immoral and scandalous to associate the flag with sex” and denied the application. Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer David Cole protested the decision and the trademark was ultimately granted after a three-year legal battle.

Old-Glory-Condom-Samples

The Product…

Old Glory Condoms – Condoms with a Conscience received widespread media coverage, including a front page piece in The Washington Post and a feature story in People Magazine. Senator Jesse Helms, an architect of the culture wars, inadvertently created the first global safer sex commercial by holding up the Old Glory logo and denouncing its trademark in the US Senate, in an episode that was broadcast on CNN.

Condom use remains the essential HIV preventive practice. Despite the draconian anti-sex attitudes of the U.S. government and the Roman Catholic Church, the elementary and effective condom remains the most essential means to control the spread of HIV.

The Valor Project, another safer sex project initiated by Old Glory Condom President Jay Critchley, proposed a simple proposition: collect, categorize, and archive used condoms – including those mailed in, delivered, or gathered from city streets. It was a sex-positive, “hands-on” endeavor that commended people for enjoying safer sex in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.

The Valor Project proposed to establish a collection point where individuals, couples, or groups brought their used condoms and documented their sexual experiences. For this project, AIDS organizations and education and prevention workers who reached out to diverse communities would be invited to participate and help coordinate The Valor Project with their existing efforts. It was through this initiative that IS agents first become pen pals and collaborators with Jay Critchley. After coming across a photocopy of his used condom submission forms IS agents began to collect and mail in their evidence of safer sex. For Sociometry Fair ’96 IS agents, under Jay’s direction and in accordance with the parameters of The Valor Project, created a tri-fold display with a map of San Diego that pinpointed where safer sex practices took place, and an archival display of the condom specimens that were collected in San Diego over the course of six months.

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The Valor Project flyer received in the mail in 1995 with used condom submission forms received (and subsequently used for submissions) by San Diego IS agents.

—–
The Old Glory Condom Company, and the legal battle over its trademark, was reported on from 1989-1993 by: Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, The Provincetown Banner, Diamondback, High Performance, Legal Times, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, New York Woman, Newsweek, People Magazine, The Provincetown Advocate, San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

This report was most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Securing Amusement

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: IS agent, I. Vamos with D. Mercer
GROUP SIZE: Currently unknown
NATURE OF GROUP: Employees of both Disneyland in Anaheim California, USA and Disneyworld Magic Kingdom in Orange County Florida, USA
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Securing Amusement

This report was written by agent I. Vamos – a double agent for IS and The Center for Land Use Interpretation. A version of this report was originally published in 1996 in The Report #1 an Institute of Sociometry zine of incidence reports that was discontinued in 1999 after issue #4. This is also the third report in is EMANCIPATION, a handmade book in an edition of 200, and the official anthology of is at 21.
—–

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Disneyland, 4/25/96:
Conditions: Sunny approximately 70 degrees f.

2:47: Drove into employee’s lot. Waved and smiled like an old friend. Guard passed me through. Parked car
2:55: Coast was clear – scrambled up fifteen feet of chain link, over vines and barbed wire at the top.
2:56: Dropped to ground inside.
2:56: Heard footsteps and grunting. Looked up. Two men ran at me. Older one yelled in radio “WE GOT THE RUNNER!” Younger one confiscated my leatherman tool. Younger one told me not to move. Frisked me.
3:01: Each took me by an elbow and walked me through train tunnel. I was lead into a concealed door and down a hallway that smelled like a government building or maybe a public-school cafeteria during non-feeding hours.
3:05: They put me in a plexiglass cell. Five other chairs plus mine. Surveillance. Waiting.
4:23: Older man struggled with handle. Opened door. Walked me past security offices with video surveillance monitors. Took my New York drivers license. Asked me fourteen questions. I replied. I was a tourist from New York. He left with my ID. Came back. Told me I was barred from Disneyland for two years. If I try it again, there will be a $500 fine, he said.
4:53: Escorted to front gate. Released.

Summary:

Disneyland is well fortified against its urban surroundings. A six-lane perimeter road surrounding the park helps keep pedestrians to a minimum. The fifteen-foot fence combines with a thick hedge to keep gawkers from peering into off-limits areas. Vibration sensors on the fence alert security as soon as a breach is attempted. Staff is trained for immediate action – it is common that people try to hop the fence.

Restraining order doesn’t cover Disneyworld in Orange County Florida…

Freeway-Sign

Disneyworld Magic Kingdom, 5/18/96:
Conditions: Mostly sunny, humid 90 degrees f.

5:25: Drove rental car to Magic Kingdom lot. Told attendant at gate we were going to turn around. Entered and parked. Walked to monorail. Rode monorail to park entrance.
6:30: Walked west of the park entrance to service entrance area.
6:45: Crawled through bushes. Jumped over four foot fence. Ran into staff parking area. Walked toward edge of lot where there were many Disney staff milling about. Looked for someone from security. Costumed band members were warming up. Found someone with an ear phone and radio.
7:00: Asked him how to get to the Magic Kingdom. He looked puzzled. Asked again. He asked what show we were with. Told him we weren’t. He asked if we were guests. We said no. He asked if we were staff. We said no. Told him we had jumped the fence. He said, “OH… YOU’RE OUT OF BOUNDS GUESTS.” We said no. It didn’t bother him. He called a van. He asked where we were parked. Told him out in the lot. He asked if we paid. One of us said no, the other said yes. This did not phase him.
7:26: Made up some lies that we hoped would really incriminate us. The van didn’t come. He had to give a cue to the marching band. He brought us through a concealed doorway, into the magic Kingdom tourist area and gave a cue to the band after consulting with a film crew. He left us standing and talked to them about fifty feet away
7:41: He came back, walked us out the front gate, and said have a good day.

pwrgate

Summary:

Disney World keeps out unwanted visitors using a combination of natural and constructed geograpical features. The swampy landscape is impassible except via the park’s own roads. The divided highways are the only conduit to the 28,000-acre facility. Orlando is over 20 miles away. Each of the four theme parks comprising Disney World is surrounded by a moat which serves the dual purpose of drainage and security. Unlike Disneyland’s tall and secure border fences, Disney World’s are small and unassuming, with no advanced surveillance technology around the remote perimeters. Security staff almost refused to acknowledge that we were even doing something wrong.

Findings and Final Report:

Neither Disneyland nor Disney World proved to be the experience we expected. The rumors about honeycombs of underground tunnels, secret nerve centers, and the little people who really run the place still remain unsolved despite our hands-on research techniques. This leads us to believe that additional research methods must be explored. Disguises or mock fights, for example, might prompt security personnel to take us down a different path through the entrails of Disney. The foregone conclusion from all our data (like any empirical science), is that there are more questions.

While our survey of park security systems came up short, we did prove the viability of our research methodology as a general tourist practice. In the era of extreme sports, and that oxymoron “eco-tourism,” it seems only natural that one should develop parasitic tourist experiences that feed upon the existing infrastructure of amusement parks. These experiences might adequately be summed up as “transgressive.” The “transgressive tourist” goes to popular destinations just like everyone else, but then peels away the veneer to find out what lies underneath. In many ways, a transgressive tourist experience has advantages over the front-door approach. Amusement parks are meant to be sites of distilled fun and excitement. They lack, however, a degree of unpredictability often associated with thrill seeking. After paying fifty bucks to enter the Magic Kingdom through the front gate, the guest experiences a predictable simulated world, sometimes entertaining, curious, or exciting. The transgressive tourist (the out-of-bounds guest or runner), however, spends no money jumping the fence and finding out what lies in the real heart of the parks: the off-limits service areas. One can entertain an unpredictable, adrenaline filled visit, while at the same time learning valuable information about how these things work.

—–
This report was most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Hoisted By My Own Petard

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: agent Peter Miles Bergman 
GROUP SIZE: 29
NATURE OF GROUP: Owners of Volkswagen white Cabriolet convertibles in the greater San Diego metropolitan area contacted, via form letter, by Peter Miles Bergman over the course of one year
INCIDENCE: Hoisted By My Own Petard 

Cab_1GY

This is one of the oldest Incidence Reports on record at the Institute of Sociometry. A preliminary version of this report was published on Netscape 1.0 in Spring of 1995 and was featured in The Net magazine as the “weird website of the month”, was  shown as a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair ‘96 in San Diego, California, and published as a handmade book in an edition of 25 in 1999. This is also the lead-off report in is EMANCIPATION, a handmade book in an edition of 200, and the official anthology of is at 21.
—–

Only habit made me interrupt my errand. I had long since abandoned the practice of carrying my Polaroid and typed form-letter invitation to lunch. After placing the letter under the wipers of dozens of white VW Cabriolets around San Diego without any serious inquiries about the free lunch (the hidden “price” for which was the condition that my lunch companion pick me up in his or her stylish Cabriolet), I had given up. But when I spotted white Cabriolet lMPS478 at the rear of the Thriftee’s parking lot, I turned heel to fetch my camera and a copy of the letter from my apartment.

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A Holstein cow print interior, revealed by a receded top, materialized like a phantom on the developing Polaroid. “Cabriolet” literally translates to “convertible;” yet lMPS478 marked my  first encounter with fully realized potential. Its picture took the final space on my bulletin board. 28 white Cabriolets, tops up tight. One down. A distracting telephone call prevented me from drawing conclusions.

Over the phone, Waegner told me he’d been drinking coffee at Dave’s Place. A purple building swathed in rainbow flags, Dave’s Place sits across 5th Avenue from Thriftee’s. It is a nonprofit coffee house that donates all proceeds to AIDS related causes. I had only been in Dave’s Place once despite its obvious popularity and close proximity to my apartment.

Waegner initially thought the letter nestled under his wiper blade was a ticket. His friend read it aloud and exclaimed, “Oh! He’s been watching you!” We talked half the time about me and half the time about lMPS478. Waegner seemed unassuming and open minded. He asked if I would like to go dancing instead of out to lunch.

Waegner asked me to physically describe myself as I had done earlier in the year on the phone with Patrick, the owner of 3BDS7l5.

Cab_3BD

Waegner worked as a freelance artist and loved to draw. He was working on a design to have airbrushed on the hood of his white Cabriolet. He wouldn’t tell me what it was, teasing that it would have to be a surprise. An example he gave of a potentially “cool” design was, “Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader with light sabers.” Now that, on a white Cabriolet, strikes me as the essence of style. It was not, however, the design for lMPS478. We set a date for the following Friday. Waegner was going out of town and didn’t want to have me in the car until it was detail cleaned. I was anxious. Friday seemed a long way off.

Most, possibly all, of the people contacting me regarding the form letter had misinterpreted it as a romantic advance. Many recipients seemed to think that I already knew who they were, at least by sight. Not one, prior to Waegner, mentioned their white Cabriolet. The owner of TS LIL l first received a form letter while parked on 4th Avenue and Washington Street, a block north of my apartment. Over two months later, driving in a secluded area approximately fifteen miles away from my neighborhood, I happened upon TS LIL l parked on a shady side street. The bustling urban area enveloping the point of initial contact most likely provided work parking for TS. This new encounter undoubtedly hit closer to home. The sheer circumstance that enabled me to leave form letters on TS LIL l at two distant points of the city lent me a misguided sense of camaraderie with the elusive owner.  I should have known that my zest for white Cabriolets would seem frightening when confronted in two distinct geographical contexts. My answering machine recorded the following message, “Listen dick-and-head! Quit leaving notes on my girlfriend’s car… Asshole!” The caller did not sound threatening. His voice quavered a bit like someone driven to violent temperament by unusual circumstances. I felt terrible. Stalking was far from my intentions. Needless to say, TS, along with the others, never considered a lunch date. Waegner, quite to the contrary, seemed compelled to go out specifically because he took the form letter as romantic.

Cab_TSL

I don’t remember who broke the date. Our next one was broken and the one after. It seemed I would never feel the wind in my hair.

One night returning home, I saw a white Cabriolet parked on the east side of my block. lMPS478 complete with a brand new airbrush design: “The Xavier Institute For Higher Learning Mutatis Mutandis.” I was interested in the meaning of it all and it renewed my desire to reschedule our indefinitely postponed lunch. I hurried up to my apartment for another form letter. Waegner called the next night and caught me a little drunk. We set a date for Wednesday.

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Waegner’s custom airbrush design! 

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The form letter – with a personal note… (click to enlarge)

Wednesday came sooner than expected. It was a busy day but I forced myself not to cancel. He told me to wait in front of my apartment. There was no place to pull over anywhere on that side of the street. lMPS478 came rolling up with the top down. A tall man who worked out regularly, Waegner barely fit in his car. The changing traffic signal prevented any formal introduction. I had to jump in quickly. Dance music was loud in the car. It made talking difficult. Since Waegner made a point of exercising, I assumed that he had healthy eating habits. I suggested we get some sushi. He told me, over chicken teriyaki, that he’d only eaten sushi twice. On a normal day he would eat tacos from Jack In The Box. Conversation turned toward our respective eccentricities. Waegner explained that he had always been an avid comic book collector. Getting the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning logo airbrushed on his Cabriolet was his declaration of his desire to live by the teachings of Xavier as detailed in X-Men comic books. He was curious as to why I was leaving form letters on white Cabriolets. Short of a concrete answer, I demurred. Things wound down. I was running late so Waegner offered to give me a ride twenty miles up the coast to La Jolla. It was a kind offer and allowed for more time in lMPS478.

Cab_WAG

Hillcrest, the neighborhood I lived in is the gay district of San Diego. My apartment window, above Jimmy Wong’s Golden Dragon, aired an extended parade of broad-shouldered Bette Midlers, Dolly Partons, and countless other divas who wandered into The Escape, a bar across the street. I could hear the Elton John impersonator in the bathroom at the back of the apartment while I showered. The show went on. I frequented bars but never went in The Escape. Photos of my block, especially the landmark pink neon Hillcrest sign, would, in a year’s time, be splashed across the face of America’s printed media. Andrew Cunanan the “Gay Serial Killer,” prior to gunning down Gianni Versace in front of his Miami mansion, had enjoyed eating at California Cuisine on l0th and University Avenue and dancing at Rich’s, “the largest gay male dance club in North America.”

I am straight bordering on redneck. My upbringing was rooted in liberal social and political ideals but was extremely sheltered. “Fag” and “get a haircut” were clever insults all too familiar to myself and several of my “counterculture” friends in pre-MTV Laramie, Wyoming. We regarded large pickup trucks and muscle cars with trepidation. Laramie became the unwilling focus of national scrutiny after the l998 beating death of an openly gay university student, Matthew Shepard. Despite living in Hillcrest, long removed from the windswept plains, I shied away from the gay men I was surrounded by and was now faced with a new and surprisingly uncomfortable situation. Guilt crept in. Perhaps I should have made my orientation clear to Waegner. Leading him on would be in poor taste. Conversely, I had been trying to get a lunch date with a white Cabriolet owner for over a year. The last thing I wanted to do was discourage him.

I took pictures throughout my encounter with Waegner. He told me he didn’t really like photographs. It was a hint I rudely ignored and continued snapping away. If it had been a romantic date it wouldn’t have been considered a good one. We were cordial to each other, even friendly. In separate circumstances, we may have become friends. Unfortunately, separate circumstances would have never materialized. He seemed at ease despite the way we met and my relentless documentation. I was a wreck. I never even developed the presence of mind to ask what kind of mileage he got in the Cabriolet.

Cab_WAG3

I was defining Waegner by his sexual orientation. I know enough to understand I was being homophobic. It was a term I had never used to describe myself. Unfortunately, it fit. Maybe it was a date for Waegner. Probably, he just knew that he was a stylish man with a stylish white Cabriolet and was enjoying the perks.

Waegner and I never saw each other again and I never saw lMPS478 out on the streets after our lunch date. I quit looking for it, and for other Cabriolets. When I started leaving the form letter on Cabriolets I figured I’d be taking dozens of people out to lunch. Who doesn’t like a free lunch? What I had not anticipated was how transgressive the invitations were. Though Cabriolet owners undoubtedly had a sense of style that motivated their vehicle preferences, receiving that observational compliment in a form letter under their windshield wiper must have felt intrusive and a little creepy. During the year I spent leaving letters, the Cabriolet owners did not produce a significant sampling of lunch dates to draw any conclusions from. The project seemed to be more about the effort and the process. It also seemed to reveal how much effort and repetition could go into a two-hour face-to-face encounter with what turned out to be an audience of one.

Cab_WAG4

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This report was most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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The Cacophony Society

Friday, July 14th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: agent Carrie Galbraith (of SF Cacophony) 
GROUP SIZE: Several dozen circa 1995, over 30,000 annually in 2016
NATURE OF GROUP: Adults at play
INCIDENCE: The Cacophony Society (You May Already Be a Member) 


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All photos provided courtesy of Carrie Galbraith, though shot by various Cacophonists. 

In the 1980 into the 90’s The San Francisco Cacophony Society pioneered many of the actions now collectively known as Culture Jamming; flash mobs, media hoaxes, fake protests, building climbing, ad busting, and billboard liberation (seen here), and started several alt-culture phenomena – Santarchy (now SantaCon), Burning Man, and the concept of the Art Car.

The Cacophony Society was hugely influential on the formation of the Institute of Sociometry. Chuckles The Clown – a member of LA Cacophony – was also an early is agent and got what was to become the is Compound on the mailing list for Rough Draft the newsletter of San Francisco Cacophony and The Zone the newsletter of LA Cacophony. In a pre-internet world, reading about Cacophony’s hijinks, pranks, performances, and philosophy exposed up early is agents to new urban tactics and fellow travelers.

It was an honor to have Carrie Galbraith, a co-editor of the recently released Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society pen this lead off report for our Institute of Sociometry anthology is EMANCIPATION.

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May 1996 Issue of Rough Draft – the newsletter of SF Cacophony

Cacophony was not conceived as an art movement. Many members did not self-identify as artists, although there were some noted artists among the members, and many Cacophonists and their fellow travelers would go on to successful careers in the arts. Others would find that their identification with the unselfconscious creative nature of the group and its actions would lead them inevitably to a life in the arts.

Neither was Cacophony political or spiritual, although some of the better known events hinted at a political agenda, and the experiences of the group had consequences that surely lifted the human spirit. It was far too mystifying a concept for any single ego to claim and too slippery a legacy for anyone to actually own. It never offered the slightest tangible profit, although its intangible profit was vast.

A loose aggregate of personalities definitely came together to play, in ways as ingenious and unprecedented as possible; Cacophony brought the concept of playing in the world as adults into mainstream consciousness, through hundreds of events organized by members over twenty years. Cacophony also partnered with other groups of pranksters, performers, and artists, sometimes for one event, or sometimes to produce an annual event over time.

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An early Art Car on the road. The Art Car was an invention of Michael Mikel AKA Danger Ranger who found his green Oldsmobile Cutlas partially crushed, but otherwise fully functional, after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Mikel’s presentation of his natuarall augmented ride as an “Art Car” at the first Burning Man in 1991 led to what is now a fully fledged folk-art movement.

Cacophony championed a creative philosophy of fun, stretching the parameters of what could be seen as entertainment, with a basis in unorthodox ideas and direct engagement with the world and people in it. What constituted fun was left entirely to each member’s generally vivid imagination.

There were many kinds of events, some so bizarre as to defy a category. Others fell into discernible types, or combined different kinds of activities in the creation of a single event. Pranks, urban explorations, literary events, theatrical or musical endeavors, costume parties, urban games, and the mysterious Zone Trips were just some of the categories to inspire collaborative play. Some event agendas included preliminary meetings to make props or prepare a chosen location for the group activity to come. Other activities were not premeditated, but happened spontaneously when friends gathered. Some sub-groups of Cacophony concentrated on specific goals, like The Billboard Liberation Front’s clever improvement of advertising messages in the urban landscape.

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A cacophonist at The Fantasia Protest, the brainchild of Dwayne Newtron, which protested the 1990 re-release of the animated Disney animated feature based on its inclusion of genital-less satyrs, obese hippo ballerinas, and Mickey Mouse’s “licentious squandering of precious water resources”, among other transgressions. The protest caught the attention of TIME magazine which ran an expose on it as part of their article on whining as an American epidemic.

Pranksters executed ideas with such finesse that they could fool mainstream media. One notorious prank was the Fantasia Protest, which gathered faux protesters to object to aspects of the famous Disney film. Time Magazine featured the prank in an article about the growth of whining as a national obsession. Groups were invented to march in the annual parade in Berkeley, such as a pro-carnivore posse called People Eatin’ Them Animals (PETA), and the Undead Homeowners’ Association. The Salmon Run pranked the city’s annual Bay-to-Breakers l2k with people in salmon costumes running upstream against the other runners. Let Them Eat Cake gathered a group of people fantastically costumed as l8th-century French aristocrats to give away cake – to the homeless and other willing recipients – in front of San Francisco’s City Hall on Bastille Day.

The city was Cacophony’s playground, and urban exploration plumbed its options. Some events, like the late-night walking tours of the area’s sewers and storm drains, plumbed quite literally. Enter the Unknown newsletter entries and calls for Midnight Walks summoned interested parties to meet at a designated place for a guided ramble through undisclosed terrain.

Literary events were highly popular and took many forms. Some events had a distinctly theatrical flair, and at some of these, the only witnesses to the production were the players themselves. Urban Games used the city streets, hotels, and other locations to stage games usually reserved for the more logical turf of a court or a field. Almost all Cacophonists loved costume parties and wouldn’t settle for limiting them to Halloween. Perhaps the most mysterious of the events were the Zone Trips, calls to venture to a distant and unknown location for an undisclosed purpose. Adventurers willing to show up might find themselves in a place like Los Angeles or Covina or perhaps the most famous of Cacophony’s Zone Trips, The Adventure of the Burning Man, which took Cacophonists to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Cacophonists returned to the Black Rock Desert annually, and over time, this Zone Trip grew into an international event attended by thousands of people each year.

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Cacophonists jamming on the first Zone Trip to the Black Rock Dessert which in 1991 became the new home for an annual ritual that had been previously held on San Francisco’s Baker Beach where Cacophonists lit up a human effigy – an event knows as Burning Man.

While Cacophony played for its own amusement and with little self-consciousness, its ideas live on in it’s progeny. Burning Man is the most visible and successful pop culture phenomenon that was developed with Cacophony know-how. This massive event still claims a philosophy that has its roots in Cacophony’s mores, such as “Leave No Trace” and “No Spectators.”

While Cacophony encouraged others to expand their horizons of creative play, other groups and individuals influenced Cacopohony just as much. Principal among these was the legendary Suicide Club, which developed in San Francisco in the 1970s. A secret society, the Suicide Club eventually suffered from insularity and an inability to draw in new members. When it disbanded, in l983,  former members who missed the club’s innovative source of play reorganized under the new and inclusive umbrella of Cacophony.

The society also found influences and ideas in countless other sources. Novels, movies, history, myth, family stories, urban legend, and folk tales all influenced the group and provided ideas that became events, when filtered through the imaginations of the members. They also found inspiration in historical figures, people who would become beatified in the eyes of many Cacophonists. Two of the “saints” in Cacophony’s cosmology were the self- proclaimed Emperor Norton – a notorious l9th century San Francisco eccentric – and Alfred Jarry the l880’s Parisian writer and legendary enfant terrible.

Like its heroes, the Cacophony Society espoused behaviors thought slightly mad and questioned the values of the bourgeoisie, the ever-burgeoning power of industrial and manufacturing giants, the power of advertising to employ classic conditioning in the shaping of human choice, and the increasingly mediated society that is lulled into complacency by passive entertainment. As with all things that occur in real life as opposed to that depicted on the flickering screen, Cacophony was not merely fun and entertaining. It could be scary, dirty, dangerous, and even exceptionally stupid at times.

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The Car Hunt – a collaboration with the anarchist collective People Haters in which a remote controlled Oldsmobile station wagon full of luggage and populated by a mannequin family was chased across a northern Nevada playa with a jihadi style “technical” – a small Toyota pick-up with machine run mounts and trigger happy warriors riding in the back.

Cacophony rose to the challenge of the mediated life and encouraged others not to ignore the potent power of play. Unconsciously, it reflected the wisdom of philosophers from ancient Greece to contemporary America. Plato wrote, “Life must be lived as play.” The 20th century American philosopher George Santayana said, “To the art of working well, a civilized race would add the art of playing well.” And Carl Jung wrote that, “The creation of something new is not accomplished through the intellect, but by the play instinct.” Through its championing of play for adults, Cacophony played a vital role in turning the consciousness of contemporary culture away from passive entertainment, and toward a more vital, creative, and innovative concept of what it means to be entertained.

Atop each Cacophony Rough Draft newsletter was a reminder to readers: “You may already be a member.” The Cacophony Society, never the most competent of “organizations,” remains, to this day, primarily a philosophy, steeped in the tradition of Dada, and geared to living and playing in a world created, in part, through the collective fantasies of its members.
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This report is by agent Carrie Galbraith – a double agent for IS and The SF Cacophony Society, and editor of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society – which was and is hugely influential on is.

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This report was originally published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins. 

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Good Neighbor’s Lamentation Society

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: A good neighbor
GROUP SIZE: Undetermined, possibly in the thousands
NATURE OF GROUP: Long-time residents and homeowners, new residents and home owners, real estate agents, investors, developers, architects, city and urban planners, local government officials, demolition crews, contractors and day laborers, local newspaper journalists, and anti-gentrification activists
INCIDENCE: The Good Neighbor’s Lamentation Society

It broke our hearts to leave you,
But you did not go alone,
For part of us went with you,
The day God called you home
– From the shrine for 3115 West 19th Avenue
 

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3115 West 19th Avenue – on life support
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3115 West 19th Avenue – in memoriaum

Dear Friends, we are gathered to celebrate and remember the lives of our good friends and neighbors 1815 Grove Street, 3115 West 19th Avenue, 1925 Hooker Street, 1935 Hooker Street, 1821 Irving Street, and 1828 Julian Street. I came to know these neighbors through frequent walks around our neighborhood as I nodded hello, remarked either to myself or my companion about their appearance or allowed my dog to curiously sniff their landscaping (or lack thereof). Over the years, our relationship never grew close but instead yielded to a comfortable familiarity – like that of a good neighbor.

Over the years, as new residents moved in and old ones moved out, each neighbor stayed true to their humble beginnings. Sure, some may have added a satellite dish, a chain-link fence, a swing set or a stained mattress over the years to enhance their external appearance but as their other neighbors fell prey to the whims of fashion these stalwarts remained true. They may have received a fresh coat of paint from time to time (or not) but they never lost the sense of who they were. Our neighbors were homes where children played, where families laughed, where tuckpointing was neglected, and yard work went undone. And they weren’t just our neighbors but they were also part of the larger Denver community who had largely overlooked our neighborhood until very recently.

First came the “Coming Soon” or “For Sale” signs. Memories of the last recession were still fresh in our community and we blithely laughed at the idea of our neighborhood becoming “an urban oasis right in the center of it all.” Then came the tiny plastic flags and unintelligible spray-painted symbols in front yards. The previous inhabitants would move out yet, strangely, no one else would move in. Next came the plastic orange mesh fences. That is when we knew the situation had become dire. The new owners, investors and developers mostly, did what they could to make our neighbors comfortable. They removed garbage and glass, boarded up windows, and even in some terminal cases excised trees, but at this point we knew our neighbors were just a shell of their former selves. There was nothing more that could be done. It was time to prepare for the end.

Just as we shall never know the hour God will call us home, so it is with Denver demolition crews. Without warning, where once your neighbor stood, a home was now rendered unto dust.

Some feel our neighbors’ lives had been lost too soon and believed that their aging bones and sagging foundations still pulsed with vitality. They could still see their beauty, even in their last years of neglect, when others could not. Their grief was raw but understandable. Some are moved to organize and form movements to prevent future losses. Others accept these losses as merely a part of urban life. Others still just complain. In these varied reactions what is universal is their pain. Together we all grieve. This is why, we, The Good Neighbors Lamentation Society, have chosen to memorialize our neighbors. May our memories give us strength and these shrines bring us peace.

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1815 Grove Street – in memoriaum

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1821 Irving Street – in memoriaum

Findings and Final Report:

Metro Denver’s population growth has outpaced national growth rates since the 1930s. By 2020, Metro Denver’s population is anticipated to increase from 2.8 million to more than 3.3 million. Large tracts of the city are undergoing wholesale urban renewal, which is especially pronounced on the city’s West Side.

The Good Neighbor’s Lamentation Society performed services for six demolished houses in the gentrifying West Colfax neighborhood. The neighborhood’s rapid change raised many concerns among long-time residents and activists alike. At the core of the controversy is the rezoning and redevelopment of residential lots that result in many older, single-family homes being demolished. Concerned residents and activists argue that this wave of redevelopment has threatened the character of their neighborhoods and erased the history of old Denver. Developers and pro-growth residents argue that the redevelopment has allowed long-time area homeowners to cash out on an inventory of largely unexceptional, 1950s starter homes, many of which were in disrepair. The demolition of these original structures opens up large urban lots perfect for building high-density, multifamily townhomes that cater to the tastes of affluent home buyers who are increasingly flocking to urban areas.

As longtime neighborhood residents, members of The Good Neighbor’s Lamentation Society have mixed feelings watching their neighborhood change so dramatically. While our sympathies lie with displaced residents and we abhor the slapped together, Brutalist box-like architecture of new Denver, the activists who are decrying change often fail to acknowledge how rundown and, dare we say, undesirable the neighborhood has been for years – often due to the neglect of those very same displaced residents and derelict slumlords.

As artists, we have not sought to make a loud political statement but have instead sought to create a quiet and contemplative memorial. The purpose of activism is to get the largest number of people possible behind a unified message. The purpose of art is to elicit an emotional response from a singular viewer that may engender critical thinking and pose questions instead of answering them. While The Good Neighbor’s Lamentation Society was formed to memorialize properties – not proselytize against change – our sincerest hope is that all of our neighbors, new and long-time residents alike, are able to have a safe and affordable place to call home.

And when I go and prepare a place for you
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may also be.
John 14:1-3
– From the shrine for 1828 Julian St.
 

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This report was written by Heather Link-Bergman.
All photos by Heather Link-Bergman

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A version of this report was featured at is EMANCIPATION, Sociometry Fair 2016, in Los Angeles, California and was originally published in is EMANCIPATION The Institute of Sociometry at 21. This report was also published in Raw Fury #4.

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The Smell – Out On The Streets

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

is EMANCIPATION \ Sociometry Fair 2016

INDIVIDUAL: Yourself
GROUP SIZE: 37
NATURE OF GROUP: A loose confederation of agents; artists, designers, musicians, glaziers, nurses, curators, producers, and teachers taking a break from the soul-crushing reality of 2016 to contribute to and convene for a 20 year running quadrennial DIY fair and avant-garde art spectacle.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: The Smell – Out On The Streets \ is EMANCIPATION \ Sociometry Fair 2016

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Photo: mISs is

It’s a common misconception – that the moniker of legendary DIY space The Smell comes from the fetid piles of human feces outside their Downtown LA alley entrance. As it turns out, the original location of The Smell was next to a bougie coffee shop called “The Aroma” and they we’re just being snide.

Notwithstanding… The varnish of piss on anything waist down, the fly buzzing heaps of don’t look-at-it  – the aroma – and the copious dust that mixes it together with a healthy peppering of settled LA smog doesn’t invite an elbow deep skill-free fix-it job on a jammed roll-top security door. But, The Smell is DIY turf – i.e. there’s no money for a service call and the lease holder is locked-down at the day-job. And there we were. After a grueling week of travel, packing and unpacking and repacking, and staying up way past our bedtime every night, we were ready to sail the ship and get our panel van back to Denver. Just one small hiccup – not being able to lower and lock door to The Smell to prevent roving hoards of skid-row hobos and placard waving protesters from picking the place clean as a carcass on the savanna.

The method of DIY is to make your own space, haul your own gear, print your own flyer, hang your own show (and bring your own lights, toilet paper, and potable water…) To be self reliant. In our two decades of experience in the cult of DIY culture, we’ve come to realize that it’s often a righteous reaction to the blanket apathy or outright disdain from the cultural gate-keepers to whatever it is that YOU are proposing. There’s no safe space for your performance, no funding for your art show, no paying audience for your noise band, and no fucks given about your pseudo-science fair for free thinking adults. If you want to get avant-garde and do-your-thing you’re just going to have to do-it-yourself.

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Photo: is

The Sociometry Fair, an aggregation of the aforementioned exploits; performance art power points, NöISE RöCK, and table-top trifold displays, has by necessity found a home on the fringe. The inaugural Sociometry Fair ’96 took place at six story cult-run compound on the edge of Downtown San Diego. Sociometry Fair 2000 was in an industrial warehouse inhabited by a zoning-violating collective called Soulciety in the industrial netherworld of Denver. Sociometry Fair 2004 was at the Katherine Gianaclis Park for the Arts a quasi-converted junk-yard in suburban Las Vegas. Of all five iterations only 2008 in Chicago could have been considered above-board due to the impeccable management of DIY space Co-Prosperity Sphere. Even there the ceiling started leaking all over the exhibition floor. After a disastrous 2012 fair in San Francisco hindered by shady drug-addled “hosts” at the now defunct subMISSION “gallery”, the special agents in charge of The Institute of Sociometry began working proactively to secure a legit space for Sociometry Fair 2016 – is EMANCIPATION.

Below: Images from past Sociometry Fairs
1996 San Diego, 2000 Denver, 2004 Las Vegas, 2008 Chicago, and 2012 San Francisco:

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A full year ahead of show time, multiple rounds of professional proposals, complete with a real-life credentialed curator Zoe Larkins of MCA Denver, curriculum vitea, and even a portfolio, were circulated to above board galleries and cultural institutions all over Los Angeles. They all responded in typical fashion for professionally run cultural venues – by not responding. Reverting to form but still eight months ahead of schedule, agent zMAN, of avant-garde LA noise band Hex Horizontal, was able to book  two (TWO!) venerable DIY venues, Pehrspace for the exhibit and The Smell for the performances and jams.

With two spaces locked down well ahead of time, we were able to luxuriate in a confident and proactive call for entries. A robust response by agents and new recruits resulted in the largest response of any of the previous five fairs! It looked like, for once, we wouldn’t have to make 60% of the work ourselves in the guise of regularly tapped pseudonyms. Then zMAN called to tell us Pehrspace had just been served a demolition notice. Then he called again to tell us The Smell, after nearly 20 years of holding it down on the border of skid row, had just been served a demolition notice and was going to be turned into a parking lot…

The Sociometry Fair is on the same quadrennial schedule as the presidential elections. So all of this planning and unplanning was done against a backdrop of rising populist fury by both quasi-socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and quasi-fascist candidate Donald J. Trump. Those who had never quite recovered from the Great Recession, ranging from artsy urban millennials on the left to religious rural baby-boomers on the right made their voices heard at hugely attended rallies for both candidates – some even threatening that if their guy lost they’d to cross the aisles for the other populist instead of supporting politics-as-usual Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, young professionals with some combination of tech. skills, a silver spoon, and a premium higher education – in loose collusion with the property developers who’d both driven the crash and profited off of the recovery – were plowing full steam into the fringe industrial zones and low-income areas of America’s cities. Scraping affordable properties, developers made way for high dollar condos, luxury apartments, premium office space, $100 a plate restaurants, and fenced off pay lots for everyone’s BMW. Artists and musicians (not to mention actual working-class people) and the DIY joints supporting their habits were seeing the wrecking ball swing their way. Conditions for a literal and metaphoric firestorm threatening national artist run DIY spaces were stacking up like cord wood.

Outcry about the closure of The Smell reached a seldom heard roar in the media covering the art and music scenes of LA, the echos of which foreshadowed a nascent national resistance. It was a David vs. Goliath scenario that perfectly embodied the emerging state of anxiety among the creative class. Mainstream culture blog laist, who broke the story on May 28th the day the notice was posted, concluded, “The impact of the Smell on music in the city, and quite frankly, Los Angeles as a whole, cannot be overstated.” Support was galvanized for a the all-ages drug and alcohol free venue that had hosted thousands of shows over 18 years. Some bands who’d subsequently garnered huge followings like Best Coast and No Age who featured the front facade of The Smell on their album Weirdo Rippers, galvanized national awareness and protestations.

By fair time the dust at The Smell had yet to settle. A friendly note on the demo notice had read, “Provided that the submitted plans comply with all Los Angeles Municipal codes and other applicable laws, public comment will have no impact on this project.” However, Joe’s Auto Parks, the company who’d purchased the property the year before, decided the incessant bad PR over the summer wasn’t worth it. According to an August 23rd article on laist, Kevin Litwin COO of Joe’s Auto Parks announced that, “the demolition notice pulled for The Smell was a misunderstanding,” giving them one last one year lease on life. The Smell began a gofundme with a 1.4 million dollar goal to find a new home. (As of this writing in February of 2017 has raised a respectable 85k – please consider donating.) Though The Smell faced an uncertain long-term future, our immediate problems were solved! Our pseudo-science fair for free thinking adults was on!

Our long-term problems as free thinking adults, however, were just beginning. On election night, as the last trifold display was being loaded into the van in Denver, Michigan was slipping from Clinton’s grasp. By the time we were roving west across the Mars-like surface of Utah, Donald J. Trump was irrevocably the president elect.

By the time we were loading in at The Smell the following night, Downtown LA had erupted into a missive fireworks shooting, brick throwing, freeway closing protest. Our  venue was surrounded (albeit coincidentally) by 400 cops.


LA Protests Donald Trump’s Election from is agent Bindle Punk

However, the next four days of is EMANCIPATION were magical. The Smell literally turned over the keys for a five day, keep-the-lights-on, rental rate of $200. We packed the place with a diverse array of displays with reports on art-interventions, life in the 3rd world, secret societies, anti-gentrification shrines, 8-track collecting, drawing clubs, man-eating office machinery, explanation defying collages, the Obscure Artist Front, CTZN BLK and a 130 page DIY published catalog of The Institute of Sociometry at 21! Agents converged from Oklahoma, Provincetown, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and San Diego. There were odd-ball lectures, theremin performances, a full 130 page DIY catalog surveying is at 21, and two nights of avant-garde jams. Though some of our LA agents were kept away by freeway closured and helicopter cams streaming massive protests, their ranks were offset by new recruits. Protesters wandered in looking for a bathroom or bottled water and discovered so much more.


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Photo: is \ The Bathrooms at the Smell

Participants ranged from an LA area first grader Ozzy Bates to an inmate in the California State prison system Charlie Vurmin to a Guggenheim fellow Igor Vamos and including the diverse creative output of dozens more; Jay Critchley,  F.R. Russ Forster, Peter Eversoll, The Spread the Word resistance movement, Jim Hanson, Barchael (Michael Bernhardt & Barry Whitaker), Bill Gardner, Daniel Weise, Jaclyn Jacunski, Ladies of the Press, Margo Graxeda, Heather Link-Bergman, Eric Von Haynes, Alexandra Jimenez, Adam Janus, Adrianne Ngam, Nima Eddie Nouri, Shannon Finnegan, Breanne Trammell, Peter Miles Bergman, Ron Reeves, and Zoe Larkins!

See more is EMANCIPATION displays @is.press!
Displays top to bottom: Peter Miles Bergman, The Spread the Word resistance movement, Eric Von Haynes, Barchael (Michael Bernhardt & Barry Whitaker), is EMANCIPATION catalogs and merch, Shannon Finnegan and Breanne Trammell, Jaclyn Jacunski, Heather Link-Bergman, and Peter Miles Bergman! Video below displays: is EMANCIPATION Stroll Through

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Our hair was blown back on a nightly basis by next level NöISE from Hex Horizontal, Oort Smog, Ted Byrnes, and rad RöCK by Nocturnal Habits, Qui, and Traps PS!

Below: is EMANCIPATION RöCK
In order of appearance: Ted Byrnes, Oort Smog, Hex Horizontal, Qui and Nocturnal Habits!
Below that: is EMANCIPATION Wendell Kling Theremin Performance

We had a Sunday matinée screening of documentary shorts by The Yes Men, Jay Critchley, John Heenan, Robert Nachman, Chelsea Knight, and Matt Jenkins!

In lieu of a formal closing ceremony for is EMANCIPATION four agents – m[i]l[e]s, mISs is, GRXDA and zMAN – spent all morning in the LA sun heaving, coughing, pushing, levering, and lowering that grime-choked roll-top security door down one peg at a time into it’s locked and secure position. As we were leaning against the piss varnished wall with spent biceps and a sense of existential relief, a work truck creeped up the alley to an idle right in front of us to wait for a neighboring forklift to unload. The custom lettering on the truck read, “Security door specialists! Installation, Maintenance and Repair.” Anticipating that getting the door back up would be beyond the capabilities of The Smell’s volunteers, m[i]le[s] walked up and rapped on his window, “Hey, you got a card? That security door back there is off it’s track. We were able to work it down but it took hours and it definitely needs to be fixed or replaced.”

“Oh yea!?” turning to look and grab a business card from the glove box, “Yea! Those are our specialty! You gotta’ be REAL careful with those when they’re bound up like that… If they spring loose they can decapitate someone!”

We probably would have pooled our pocket money, or even produced a credit card, for some “consulting” or tools beyond the vice-grips in our art supplies if he’d pulled up two hours earlier – especially if we knew about the threat of decapitation! But as it turns out, we didn’t need to. We did it ourselves.

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Photo: mISs is 

Afterword:

On December 2nd, two weeks after returning to Denver from the fair, the Ghost Ship a 10,000 square foot DIY warehouse in Oakland erupted into a five-alarm fire killing 36 residents and party attendees. In the immediate aftermath, news reports revealed the Ghost Ship to be a worst-of-the-worst example of mismanagement, by the property owner, lease holder, and city code-enforcement. A uniquely dangerous tri-partate environment of neglect had lead to the deadliest structural fire in over a decade. Regardless of the special circumstance of Ghost Ship, the fire and resulting blanket media coverage spurred nationwide cover-your-ass code-inspections and evictions of DIY spaces from LA to Denver to Baltimore. In the pile-on, right wing trolls from 4chan exploited the laissez-fair and politically tone-deaf “we only respond to complaints” attitude of fire marshals to direct inspectors to DIY spaces in an effort to shutter, “… hotbeds of liberal radicalism and degeneracy.”

Above board properly permitted and maintained DIY spaces like The Smell and Meow Wolf in Santa Fe tend to be the exception. The exits are clearly marked and free of clutter. People haven’t constructed makeshift bedroom walls from alley pallets, electrical wiring is housed in conduit. When artists and musicians convert industrial spaces to their nefarious purposes of hosting $5 all ages shows and experimental art they seldom apply for permits.

Denver’s fire marshal evicted the residents of venerable adjacent DIY spaces Rhinoceropolis and GLOB onto the freezing winter streets. Despite a major hullabaloo from local and even national media, the Rhino Arts District and creative class professionals ranging from critics, ad agency owners, curators, professors AND an intervention, public meetings, and a $20,000 grant from city agency Arts and Venues AND a $20,000 matching grant from Meow Wolf AND $13,000 from a gofundme, Rhinoceropolis remains closed over two months later pending renovations and consequent inspections. Even then residents will not be allowed to move back in, only to host concerts. For the final coup-de-grace it is, and already had been, slated to be demolished anyway…

Since the recession, and dramatically since November there’s been a quadruple assault on alternative culture; rampant Obama-era gentrification, followed by a quasi-fascist electoral response, followed by a highly publicized tragedy, which was twisted into a cudgel to finally force the closure of DIY spaces nationwide. Though we are collectively traumatized by the horrific tragedy of Ghost Ship, using it as an excuse for an all out assault on our culture and the places where we exercise it lit a fuse. Though a unified response may never gel, a spectrum of organized reactions has sprung up from mobilized artist’s groups attending city meetings to an ugly resurgence of black-block anarchism. Across the rest of the nation the populist progressivism awakened during the electoral primaries has hardened to sheer outrage. In the rising protests look for the do-it-yourself faction posting up to their customary position – in the avant-garde. 

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Photo: is \ From the Denver Women’s March We The People posters by Shepard Fairey, a now mega-successful 90’s era DIY champion, artist, and screenprinter. 

Make no mistake, the culture of DIY is dangerous. The fire exits aren’t clearly marked. Nothing is “up to code”. One must risk decapitation to get ‘er done. We do put our bodies at risk to ply our craft because it’s the only way to put it on stage, hang it on the wall, to turn it up. But more so, it is the only way to be with our people, to create a self-policed zone of tolerance for the marginalized and the weird. Commercial venues are “safe” only in theory – as they are culturally inaccessible to the avant-garde. So, we make our own “safe spaces” that in bodily terms can be incredibly dangerous but in a social sense are the only welcoming thresholds many of us cross.

We do not put our bodies at risk to taunt death. Though we are art-soldiers, our mission is not suicidal. We put our bodies at risk so that our DIY culture; the performance art power points, the NöISE RöCK, and the pseudo-science fairs for free thinking adults – the creative culture that frolics on the fringe – will live. To keep that dream alive you need to run to the shadows. You need to mount the barricades. You need to do it yourself.

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For a full 21 year account of The Institute of Sociometry including previous fairs see “is current reports : MMVII-MMXVII” and “All is archived reports : IXICV-MMVII”. If you, as a discerning individual prefer analog as we do please consider supporting is with a purchase of is EMANCIPATION – a limited edition 130 page catalog of Sociometry Fair 2016 covering The Institute of Sociometry at 21, hand bound with a Japanese stitch and letterpress printed covers.

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OAF Obscure Artist Front unite!

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

INDIVIDUAL: Artist overlooked by “art-world” bourgeoisie curatorial elitists, gallery patron snob, and apathetic public numbed by entertainment spectacle.
GROUP SIZE: Apathetic public too vast to conduct census numbers but OAF target of Artopia 2015 held approximate two thousand and five hundred capacity crowd of sell out.
NATURE OF GROUP: Bourgeois elitist and apathetic public too numbed by entertainment spectacle to recognize art of passion and humility even when literal hit on head with it.
INCIDENCE: OAF Obscure Artist Front unite! 

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See site-blog of OAF for full realization to power of internets!

Event of Artopia rumored to be annual examination of popular art and artist in Denver Colorado of USA but in actual to be vapid spectacle of libation and hollow entertainment! OAF reject bourgeoisie curatorial elitists who select what is art of value to uneducated apathetic public!!

Two month in future of event Artopia, OAF agents (1) band together to attack media of curatorial elite (2) with internets comment, OAF website blog, and flyer on corners with solicitation for obscure artist to unite and submit jpeg art of passion and authenticity to OAF on web portal!

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OAF manifesto link to site for read statement of passion and authenticity.

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OAF unite flyer with fringe cut bottom for upload jpeg art without curatorial elitist gate keeping.

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Few of many artist submission to portal OAF print on mini canvas of on archival premium gesso to blast from air bike pump powered air cannon. click for to enlarge stunning artworks. Top to bottom: Alexis Leigh Warner, Tony Bearzy, Bertha Sangre, Anthony Garcia Sr., David Lemmo, Charlie Vurmin, Peter Yumi. Link to scroll for to see all of art submission jpeg.

One month in future of Artopia, OAF post threat video on Artopia event facebook showing demonstration of capability to rain down mini-canvases of obscure art with bike pump powered air cannon onto heads of apathetic Artopia patron to much fanfare of click-liking. Submission of jpeg to web portal increase with more flyer on corners and advertisement on Denver Craigslist. OAF agents gathered for back-alley bike pump powered air cannon training, beret fitting, and video reel inspiration of nihilist scene from Big Lebowski and trailer of The Baader Meinhof Complex. (3)

OAF from Obscure Artists Front on Vimeo.

On night of big events OAF agents storm building of Artopia refusing to wait in line for passive consumption or to pay cover of support for bourgeoisie entertainment spectacle. With 1111 mini canvases of obscure art inkjet printed on archival premium gesso canvas from over two dozens obscure artist comrades, OAF forced attention of apathetic public to plight of Obscure artist with four hour of mini art canvas bike-pump powered explosion terror!! (4)

OAF Artopia 2015 great blow strike for obscure artist toiling in obscurity and overlooked by “art-world” bourgeoisie curatorial elitists, dealers, gallery patron snob, and apathetic public numbed by entertainment spectacle. Almost 1 year to day Artopia 2016 will once again deploy passive consumerism to numb intoxication public into serene feeling of placid calm and enjoyment. OAF will NOT grace event with presence and continues to lay low in safe house uncaptured by jackboot thugs employed by elites of spectacle promulgation and shall live to emerge one day victorious in our conquest!!!! (5)

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Obscure Artist Front UNITE!
Photos: landscape Kendall Pavan, Portrait Peter Miles Bergman,
glamour shot 4 frames up Westword / Ken Hamblin 

———-

(1) In 2015 Denver’s Westword newspaper, the entity that organizes Artopia, sought to freshen up the brand by inviting renowned Denver street artist JOLT to curate the event. JOLT sent an RFQ text message to this agent which we responded to with links to the QwestVex and Carpet Cranes reports detailing coordinated public art interventions. His response was curatorially prescient, “We’ve got some t-shirt cannons. Can do anything with those?”

(2) OAF was formed by a cadre of special agents of the Institute of Sociometry, or (at the time) IS. IS assigned a case agent and put together a spreadsheet budget with the following line items: 1 dozen black turtlenecks, 1 dozen French style black berets, 6 black shotgun shell bandoliers, inkjet canvas matte 24”x40’ – 1 roll. The t-shirt cannons weren’t panning out so an IS technician began welding spare stainless steel handrail parts from their commercial construction day job into bike pump powered air cannons.

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(3) After watching the stylish German revolutionaries in The Baader Meinhof Complex trailer get gunned down by a jack-booted tactical response unit we contacted security at the Artopia venue with a notification that a dozen black-clad artists with face coverings and shoulder sling stainless steel pipe contraptions were part of the evening’s art showcase and under so circumstances were to be shot.

(4) Coming down the stairs in formation from the third level of the Artopia venue, an annoyed patron with a sloshing full drink yelled, “You LOOK LIKE ISIS!!” The reference of course being to the middle east militia, terrorist group, and quasi governmental organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS (an acronym preferred by mainstream media) is also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, preferred by President Obama and the US security and military apparatus), Daesh (a derisive word-play which is the acronym ISIL translated into arabic, “al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham”, but sounds like two arabic words; daes, ‘one who crushes something underfoot’ and dahes, ‘one who sows discord“. Both arabic words have the popular synonymous connotation of “jackass”. Daesh is preferred by The State Department, David Cameron, François Hollande, and the governments of Iraq and Syria). The organization itself identifies as IS for The Islamic State (this acronym has been picked up by wonkish media like The Economist magazine). Not only did we look like ISIS or ISIL or Daesh but OAF was in fact a product of The Institute of Sociometry – we WERE IS…

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Photos: Kendall Pavan

(5) On November 13th 2015 three IS terrorists armed with military grade automatic weapons and suicide detonation belts stormed the 1,500 capacity Bataclan concert hall in Paris as part of a city wide attack planned by IS central command in Raqqa Syria. 90 of the 130 total victims in the Paris attacks died in the Bataclan. As part of the horrified international populace, this agent was also faced with the acronym IS everywhere I looked – tied to twenty years of art-intervention pranks by myself and my fellow agents in The Institute of Sociometry. My hard drive was named IS. My business cards said IS. My life’s work was brought to you by IS. I spent the rest of the month, and continue to this day, changing every instance of IS to is – lower case – as not to be confused with an organization who has hijacked our acronym. The type of organization that inspires a small group of actors to cover their faces in black and storm an entertainment venue to enforce their views on an unsuspecting crowd…

When JOLT sent an RFQ text for Artopia 2016, “You got anything for Artopia this year?” we begged off citing some other projects. In truth, the age of OAF and borderline threatening art pranks post-Bataclan is over. Terrorists, if we are to believe George W. Bush, “hate freedom”. Now and never into the future will is have the freedom be do another intervention like OAF. With the heightened state of fear, and an armed to the teeth American population, an OAF agent in 2016 would become a martyr for a laugh. Dead on the dance floor, clutching a mini canvas reproduction of an elk painting someone on Craigslist uploaded to a website. When is comes to IS… The terrorists have won. 

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OAF with Artopia curator JOLT and fellow Artopia artist Diego Manuel
Photo: Eric Robert Dallimore

———-

OAF is (or was) special agents: Peter Miles Bergman, Jim Hanson, Heather Link-Bergman, Matt Albert, Tony Bearzy, Ron Reeves, Sara Krieger, Victoria Furt, Alexandra Jimenez, Michael Bernhardt, Vincent Comparetto, and Carolyne Janssen

coats4TEENS

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

INDIVIDUAL: A civic minded grown up with a little bit of panache and a hip sense of style.
GROUP SIZE: Legions (For this project 9).
NATURE OF GROUP: Irresponsible teens who have left the house without their perfectly good coat and are going to catch their death.
INCIDENCE: coats4TEENS / look cool stay warm  

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What teen doesn’t want a to goof off with their friends in a white fringe pleather jacket!?

coats4TEENS was 2015-16 holiday coat drive for Irresponsible teens who have left the house without their perfectly good coat and are going to catch their death. See the Facebook event page for additional posts on this important topic.

We kicked off coats4TEENS on December 22nd with this call to action:

Please join us in this open source art-intervention concept and holiday season coat drive for irresponsible teens who have left home without their coat and are going to catch their death! When asked why they don’t just bring their perfectly good coat teens just roll their eyes with an undulating utterance that sounds like UHHHaaaaauuhhhh!

Remember when you were young and it was cool to wear a $6 thrift store coat? Now you can educate teens in your town about looking cool while feeling warm.

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This teen is wearing a 100% cotton t-shirt over a long sleeve-t in a wet snowstorm! He’s going to catch his death!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Go you your local thrift store and pick up a few coats. We suggest; vintage warm up jackets, loud plaid sport coats, knee length mohair coats, 70’s heavy metal jean-jackets, coats with ironic printing for a bowling team or auto body shop, or 80’s neon ski jackets. 
  2. When you see a teen shivering at a bus stop or outside the mall approach them with the coats. If they express concern about not wanting to carry it into a building just tell them to throw it away or leave it on a bus bench for the next cold teen!
  3. Ask for a picture and a first name then send in the documentation to be posted here on our event page! Anyone who sends us a picture or story about their donation of a coat to a teen will get a free hand-made zine at the end of winter!

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Some cool coats we picked up at the ARC on 50% off day!

Tips: 

  • Variety is key! Teens exhibit a wide array of styles but they almost all go out into fridgid winter weather without coats. A hip-hop teen is not going to want an ironic auto-body shop coat any more than a metal-head teen is going to want a vintage Puma warm-up jacket so take coats of several styles. Remember in addition to providing teens warmth you are also acting as a style consultant so be sure to have a range of coats.
  • No one likes a middle-aged man idling in a sedan outside a Jr. High! So be sure to approach teens outside of the safe-school zone. Consider working in teams or having a fellow youth or a woman in your group approach the cold teen.
  • Teens ignore adults as a stanadard tactic. Your first overture to a cold teen maybe met with only a side-eye glance. Be persistent! Remember they are cold and with just a little bit of salesmanship a teen will accept your generous donation!

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These teens went out in just their t-shirts even though they could plainly see it’s winter out there! Don’t they feel cold?

 Testimonials: 

Cody // Bomb Squad

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I found a meter with 20 minutes left on it and grabbed two thrift-store coats, a black jacket that had “BOMB SQUAD” printed in white on the back and a purple shiny women’s vinyl jacket. Most of the teens walking up and down Denver’s 16th Street Mall were out Christmas shopping with their parents and had been obviously browbeat into wearing their perfectly good coats. I did see two male teens without coats (but in a flannel and long sleeves) walking 20 feet in front of their girlfriends. As I attempted to engage them they quickened their pace. Then I saw a male teen wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and a beanie. He ignored me when I asked him if he wanted a coat until I bounced it up and down in front of his face, “HEY, WANT A COAT”? He looked startled but politely told me “Uh…No thank you.”

With the sun going down, I took the coats over to “Stoner Hill” in Denver’s Commons Park at the west end of the pedestrian mall. Stoner Hill is a gathering spot frequented by ultra-irresponsible teens and the bane of nearby residents who are sick of looking down on a bunch of disrespectful dopers from behind the glass of their luxury highrise condos.

As I was summiting the hill a teen in a long sleeved shirt waved one of two plastic broad-swords my way and yelled, “I challenge you to a DUEL!” I asked him if he wanted a coat. A small cadre of teens gathered around. One pre-teen, who was wearing just the hood of his coat properly but the rest of it like a cape, wanted a coat. I chastised him for being selfish when his friend with the swords had no coat – at which point the warrior told me he did have a coat it was just in his bag because he was all warmed up from dueling. Bursting through the group and interrupting our conversation, a very skinny teen in an incredibly dirty short sleeved pullover told me emphatically, “I NEED A COAT!” He had filthy clothes and a dirty face, including an unmitigated 4″ snot tendril streaming to his chin. He grabbed the BOMB SQUAD coat and immediately put it on. I asked him if I could take a picture and for a first name. He told me his name was Cody and was surprised when I stuck out my hand to shake his dirty and snot streaked hand. His hand was calloused and freezing but he had a firm confident grip.

Cody is clearly an irresponsible teen who has left the house without his coat. Sadly, however, it appears like he left his house a long time ago and, in effect, may no longer have a house. We could speculate on the reasons he has been so irresponsible and whether or not he needs to call his mother to let her know where he is – but for now he just needs a coat.

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——

Pirate, Cookie, and Shea  // Purple Sparkles, The Green Gap, and Tri-tone Lacoste

With the temperature dropping below 30 at dusk, I headed back to Stoner Hill. Only male grown ups in appropriate (though heavily worn) winter attire were out. Their bags were lined up in a neat row and they were huddled together in a body-warmth pod reminiscent of March of the Penguins. Despite the lack of teens, I offered them coats which no one needed – though one man asked for gloves. Two teens in clean H&M sweatshirts walked up the hill but neither wanted the cool coats I was offering and they definitely didn’t want their pictures taken! It’s likely they were worried their mom would see the pictures on Facebook and know they had gone up there to do some marijuanas. A ring-leader – I’m not sure if he was a leader, or if this group even has one, but he was sporting a walrus mustache, a top-hat, and tails – told me “Come back tomorrow when everyone is here.”

The next afternoon, I went back to the West Colfax ARC with a new strategy. The weather had been below freezing and most teens were in light jackets, not appropriate for the weather but better than nothing if they insist on leaving the house with their perfectly good coat. I also was looking for name brand and designer labels to appeal to a basic teen. Hipster style is a bridge too far for most 8th graders. I scored a men’s XL red Polo by Ralph Lauren zipper jacket, a women’s M green Gap double-breasted corduroy coat, a 1970’s tritone L men’s Lacoste zipper-front warm-up,  a sporty women’s down Marker ski-wear vest, and a couple pairs of $1.99 gloves.

I decided to put the coats on hangers and carry them over my back with a shoulder strap. The hangers added a touch of class and made the selection process seem more like a shopping experience. Feeling confident with my coat selection that I could convince a basic irresponsible teen to just put on a jacket in this winter weather, I hit the street. About a block from the pedestrian mall a bro in a white SUV with white Bronco’s decals pulled up, rolled down his window, and screamed at me, “HEY FUCK-WAD!!” before gunning it up to the corner to continue spreading Christmas cheer by yelling explicatives at a baffled homeless man.

There were not very many people, let alone irresponsible unattended teens, out at 3pm on Christmas eve. I’d made a tactical error by going out on one of 2 afternoons a year that teens could be forced to sit down at a table with their parents and just have a pleasant conversation with the entire family for once… A pre-model tall blond teen in $500 jeans, a Calvin Klein logo-T, and an irresponsibly flimsy (and not at all winter appropriate) sport-coat came out of Sally Beauty Supply. I veered toward her thinking she’d be perfect for the Marker vest. About ten feet from making contact her post-model manicured mom came out of the store and gave me a stare 1000 times icier than the weather.

At the end of the mall Stoner Hill was crawling with irresponsible teens who’s parents were just wondering why they wouldn’t return their texts. I asked a Warped Tour style punk in a sleeveless jean jacket and long sleeve-t and his oversize sweatshirt wearing girlfriend if they needed free jackets. Despite their edgy style they were both clean with clothes their mom had obviously freshly laundered with no recognition for all her hard work. “Uh.. No thank you. But thank you SO MUCH for offering.” The girlfriend longingly stared at my coats but made no sound or movement. On my way out I approached a 20 something I’d seen on both of my previous visits and asked him how he was doing, “Uh… I’m pretty faced man.” (Everyone on the hill was frantically huddled around a man with a glass rod and a tar-stained aluminum box doing lots and lots of marijuanas.) I told him I brought gloves for the person who’d requested them yesterday. “I don’t know man but I NEED gloves. My hands were FREEZING yesterday” When I handed him the puffy gloves his face lit-up. “Oh MAN they’ve even got that rubberized grip! THANK YOU! Oh my god THANK YOU SO MUCH!”. I wanted to photograph his beaming face and open smile but Zane was only comfortable letting me take a picture of his before and-after-hands.

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At 16th and Curtis three irresponsible teen girls were waving a cardboard sign that said SMILE yelling “Merry Christmas! SMILE! Be happy!” at pedestrians. Two of them were wearing sweatshirts with Sox Place printed on the front. Sox Place is a daytime drop in center downtown who’s mission is to “provide food and clothing and meaningful relationships to Denver’s street youth”. The sign holder was wearing an undersized purple jacket, skull printed leggings and shaggy rainbow raver flair leg warmers.

“Do you ladies want a free coat?”
“Oh my GOD YES I want the purple one!!” squealed raver flair.
“I want the green one, Oh my god it’s CUTE too!” exclaimed the one in the blue smurf wig.
“I’ll take this one” whispered the shy one as she grabbed the tri-tone Lacoste jacket.
“Can I take your pictures”
“Of course” said raver flair as she and smurf wig started vamping in their new coats.
“What are your names?
“I’m Pirate!”
“Cookie!”
“How about you?”
“My name is Shae,” said the shy one who was starting to get more remote and nervous.

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It’s worth noting here: the National Conference of State Legislators reports that, “46 percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused, and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member”. A strange forty year old man with free stuff wanting to take some pictures may not be a welcome encounter for a lot of street-wise homeless teens.

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“What are you ladies doing? Spreading Christmas cheer?”
“We’re trying to get some money together” shrugged Pirate “But this works better than just asking for it… SMILE” she turned and yelled to a haggard white-haired homeless man rolling past in a wheelchair. He looked up startled that someone was trying to engage him and couldn’t help but smile as Pirate told him to have a Merry Christmas.

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On the way back to the car I got hit up for money by a 40 going on 70 woman in a wheelchair with a nasal oxygen tube. “You want some gloves?” I held out the pair of $1.99 red sparky women’s gloves.
“Oh yes! I’ll put them on over these,” indicating a matching pair of pink sparky gloves, “to make my hands warmer.”
“What’s your name?”
“Momma D.”
“Ok Momma D – stay warm, Merry Christmas…”
“You too honey. God bless you!”

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Momma D’s sign closed with “GOD BLESS THINK YOU”. I actually don’t think God works in that way, or should be necessary as a tool to guilt people into helping others, or is even “real” (as in up in the sky) or whatever… But I did appreciate the take-away – THINK YOU. All the way home, I did THINK – it seems like people who have a lot to loose are very guarded and hostile to strangers, and people with nothing to loose are very open and accepting even when they really have NO reason to trust anyone.

——

AKTIV // Red Polo by Ralph Lauren

Dozens of teens dressed responsibly for the sub-freezing weather thronged the mall. Multiple groups of 3-10 teens stood in casual conversation pods anchored by smiling grizzled homeless men, laughing at their jokes and patiently listening. I did see one of these teens shivering in just a sweater but I didn’t want to intrude on the circle he formed with his friends around an over-tan man in Carhart coveralls.

As I climbed Stoner Hill with my coats a scrappy old (probably my age but looking plus twenty years) homeless man pointed to a small group of teens and said, “Step right up, they’re waiting for ya’.”
“Anyone need a coat?”
They responded with “Dollar dabs?” After an awkward pause, there was cascade of mutual no thank you, no thanks, and nah’s.“Dabs” must be how the ultra-irresponsible teens of Stoner Hill are doing their marijuanas. (Back in my day irresponsible teens did good old fashioned “bong-rips”.) A teen with freshly laundered but immaculately disheveled clothes – and only a sweatshirt on – walked up with a crumpled buck and was soon touching the tip of a red hot bowie knife to the end of a glass rod. He coughed violently before bolting up to the top of the hill where he fidgeted and paced around alone. His mom it totally going to notice that behavior later…

“Hey let me check out that black vest,” said the 20 something selling $1 dabs. He was the one who’d requested gloves on my second visit to the hill. Zane, who I’d given his intended gloves to on my third visit, was laying on a patch of grass off to the side talking to a 40-something woman with proper hygiene and appropriate winter wear about “dabs” and the exact placement of the surveillance cameras pointed at the hill. He was wearing more lightweight blue gloves and a cream colored fur-lined trench-coat.

“Yea, sure – it’s a girls though. A small.” I walked back to the dollar dabs group.
“Oh yea – it’s a girls…”
“HEY! You gave me a coat the other day!” A teen with heavy cerulean eye-shadow and wavy red-orange highlighted hair smiled up at me. I didn’t recognize her.
“Yea? You sure? I don’t remember?”
“Yea – on Christmas eve!” I looked a little more closely, noticing her cheek piecing and her Sox Place sweatshirt.
“Oh YEA! Shae right?”
“Yea! That’s Right”. Dollar dabs dude chimed in,
“Daummn! When does someone remember your name but not your face!!?”

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One of the teens pointed at Zane, who was now wandering around the hill in his grass covered fur lined cream coat and yelled “trench coat mafia” at him. Zane chortled, probably too young, or too “faced”, or too much of a nihilist to be put-off by the reference to Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’s high-school clique. “Yea, we should get everyone up here to wear trench coats.” I made a mental note for the ARC’s upcoming 50% off New Years event.

“No customers today,” I told the scrappy old (but not) homeless man who’d heralded my arrival to the hill.
“Yea man – kids!? They never put on a coat. Don’t matter HOW cold!”
“Yea! Why is that?”
“Guess they’d rather be cold and look cool… That’s ok though. There’s a lot worse goin’ on out here than bein’ cold…”
A white rasta in a knit pullover bumbled by. “Hey, you want a coat” I’m giving these away to anyone who needs one. The only men’s I have left is this vintage CDOT work coat.”
“Uh… That’s ok – thanks though.”
“Too safety-orange for you?”
“No man, it’s pretty chill actually.” He said fingering the coat a little looking at the CDOT patch, “But I’m good. Give it to someone who needs it.”

Shae points and yells, “LOOK EVERYONE A RAINBOW!!” The whole hill looked up with beaming faces and spontaneous cries of OOOooo, AAhhh, and “BEAUTIFUL” at the sight of a wispy rainbow fragment – not even a partial arc but more of a roygbiv undulation in cloud cover broken by a ray of the dipping sun.

On my way out of the park a bundled-up girl gave me a tentative wave. I didn’t recognize the three inches of visible face until Pirate rounded the corner behind her in the purple sparkly jacket I gave her Christmas eve. “Cookie! Pirate! What’s up?”
“LOOK!” Pirate yelled emphatically pointing to the sky. I reactively snapped my neck back and searched an empty sky. The rainbow was gone…

“That’s what’s up.”

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At 16th and Wazee an older teen in a cotton button-up blasting gangsta’ rap from the pea sized speaker on his SAMSUNG crossed the street with a lumbering swagger. “Hey man, hey… You want a coat? You look pretty cold right now.”
“Naw mane…”
“You sure, you look really cold”
“Naw I’m good!” I knew this was the first real chance I’d had to engage a basic irresponsible teen who actually had a home to leave without his coat on. I went in for the hard sell.
“You sure? Look I got a XL red Polo jacket right here! Matches your shirt – RED! It’s your color man. Look at that! Polo by Ralph Lauren!!”
“How much you sellin’?
“FREE! I’m out here to GIVE IT to a cold teen and you look really REALLY really cold right now!”
“Aight, yea. We could do that!”
“Awesome! Can I get a before and after picture for my project?”
“Uh… ok…”
“Ok, trade places with me because the sun’s at your back right now.” He stepped into the light and I snapped a before picture, “Ok now put it on. Hell yea! It fits! Lookin’ TIGHT my man” (I’ve heard teens from this particular subculture use “tight” instead of “cool” so I thought I’d try it out.)
“Yea?” He laughed a little nervous laugh as I took his picture.
“Ok, what’s you name man?”
“Active”
“Can you spell that Active?
“A K T I V ! ”
“Alright, tight… Peace man!”
We fist-bumped and I headed off with a new bounce in my step.

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The conversation circles of responsibly dressed teens and homeless people still lingered. After a man with a wild eye, scraggly beard, and huge backpack insisted he really REALLY had to get going, I approached the two teens he’d been regaling with stories.
“Hey can I ask you something?”
“Sure! What’s up?”
Fighting the urge to pass along Pirate’s dorky but prescient joke…“What are your names?”
“Kiana” said with an open smile, an extended hand, and a firm grip.
“Mercy” said with hesitation.
“I’ve been seeing groups of young people like you talking to the homeless people all afternoon. I’m out here every day trying to give coats to people, and I’ve been talking to a lot of street-kids, people your age, and it seems like no one ever approaches them or talks to them. No one EVER talks to the homeless. So, uh… What’s going on?”
Kiana explained in enthusiastic chirps “Uh.. Well, we’re here for the Denver Christmas Conference!?… We’re from all over, like Nebraska, Ohio, everywhere really. We’re all doing a three hour homelessness immersion!? We were asked to just go out and talk to homeless people and ask them questions and, you know, like… listen… to, you know, learn what it’s like to be homeless! And, you know, we ARE Christian so… We do kind of want to spread, um, you know, just… HOPE!?”

It was so heartening to see Christians actually doing what Jesus would do – and teens being patient, standing in the cold for an hour (though in responsible winter wear), and treating the homeless like humans who deserve the time and attention of a fellow person. I drove home thinking about shy Shae looking at (and like) a rainbow, AKTIV all warm and cozy in his new designer-label gang-color-coordinated coat, and Kiana, Mercy and their fellow Christmas Conference attendees out being Christ-like for the afternoon – it all gave me a renewed sense of… you know, just… HOPE!?

——

All aboard the ARC

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The 50% off New Years event at the ARC was in full swing. I had to wait for someone to leave before I could park. I’d had the most luck unloading name brand light jackets – less so ironic hipster styles. The red Polo by Ralph Lauren jacket I’d given to AKTIV hit the sweet spot in between; vintage and objectively cool, but a name brand and appealing to a basic teen. The first coat that caught my eye, however, was classic blipster (blue coller hipster). A shiny green snap-button jacket with Sonny embroidered over the heart in script. A burgundy vintage PUMA warm up jacket was an obvious choice for 50% off of $6.99. Someone over in dishware dropped a plate. The sound reverberated through the ARC to a chorus of oops and tisk-tisks in English, Spanish, Russian, and Somali.

ARC-04

Thinking about my secondary constituency, the ultra-irresponsible teens who’d left home without their coat six or more months ago, I picked up a red puffy 70’s Frost Line coat that looked like you could wear to ski across the arctic. Someone over in dishware knocked over an entire end-cap. The cascade of broken glass sounds continued for what seemed like a minute and was met throughout the entire store with a cautious silence.

Set on men’s, I headed over the women’s. Women’s coats are harder for me to pick out. The styles are so diverse and the name-brands less familiar. Plus women’s is always WAY more picked over. I found a Barney’s New York light green zip-up jacket that looked pretty classy, maybe a little too matronly, but at $3.45 it was a steal. (When I brought it home my wife characterized it as something a teen on Model UN would wear.) I rounded out my purchases with a lined North Face hooded windbreaker. In Denver most responsible professional ladies have a North Face which they’ll wear out for any occasion, pairing it with jeans and boots, or even club-wear and heels. It’s practically a uniform. Waiting for checkout, I absentmindedly read the large lower-case vinyl typeset on the front wall. “you are making a difference today. arc thrift stores make a difference in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. thank you for shopping.”

ARC-03

Inspired, I did some googling. A statement on ARC’s Mission and Core Values page resonated with me, “The Arc believes in self-determination and self-advocacy. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with appropriate resources and supports, can make decisions about their own lives…” Substitute irresponsible teens for people with intellectual disabilities and this described my mission with coats4TEENS. I’ve been trying to provide appropriate resources and support to irresponsible teens who’ve left the house without their perfectly good coats. In doing so, I’d tangentially made a connection to a group of ultra-irresponsible teens who have taken self-determination and self-advocacy to an extreme by living on their own and on the streets. But, the street-kids were obviously ill-equipped to find their way through an exciting yet dangerous time in their lives without those appropriate resources and support. While a free coat could educate a basic teen about looking cool while feeling warm, to a street-kid it was probably just a band-aid. Was I truly making a difference? I surfed over to SoxPlace.com and clicked on the individual volunteer application. As a nonbeliever I hesitated at their mission statement “… to bring the Father’s heart to the fatherless” but, based on the Christmas Conference kids, Christians seemed to be the only people who had any real compassion for the homeless. Jesus was a traveler after all – born in a manger!

The form was more onerous that I’d expected – asking for references, qualifications, a statement of faith (to which I listed the fundamental principles of Humanism), and lastly a “Personal Testimony”. This was a stumper. It’s probably a regular request with Christians, akin to an artist’s statement in my world. Being a Humanist, I wasn’t prepared with a pat response and was forced to contemplate a personal question that often comes up at some point in open-ended art intervention experiments like coats4TEENS. Why am I doing this?

Personal testimony: (Additional details added here in parenthesis)
When I was 18 I decided to live in the woods outside of Jackson Hole Wyoming instead of paying rent. At the end of the warm season, I took $900 I’d earned as a hotel maid – which seemed like a huge amount of money at the time – and bought a one way train ticket to Seattle to “travel”. For the next four months I slept on the floors of loose-aquintences and in campgrounds on Orcas Island 100 miles north. After a couple months, I spent almost all my remaining money on a $400 Cadillac Coup De Ville (named her LaTisha) and moved in. After eventually traveling south to Arcata California, (and multiple fruitless attempts to secure food stamps, as you need a permanent address for food-stamps, or a job, aside from a two day cash-for-labor job clearing out an evicted hoarder), I got in an argument with my traveling companion (and lover over my being a burden on her freedom – and my inability to find work), and was asked to leave her friends house we’d been staying at. By that point I had about $40.

Very fortunately for me, my parents, who were good non-abusive and understanding people, both helped me out. My Dad (after my desperate and heart-broken collect-call from a pay phone) found me a nearby place to stay with one of his former grad-students (and put a small deposit in my college-fund bank account he’d told me he would not be contributing to until I was in college). My mom allowed me to move back in under strict guidelines about working (as it turned out as a WALL MART “code-10” as in “code-10 to isle 5 for a wet clean-up, or code-10 to the lot for carts”), saving, and moving out to go to college within one year.

I often reflect on this time in my life. Though I did not consider it or realize it at the time, I was a homeless teen for close to a year. I thought I was traveling free and seeing the country. My life skills, and ability to support myself in a normal, socially integrated way, however, were extremely lacking – despite a good education, supportive family, and safe and forgiving home environment. I’ve been able to readily understand how a young person could easily slip into this lifestyle, and how it could become a permanent situation with little chance to turn it around without outside support.

Despite being New Years day, I got an email back within two hours ”…Thank you for your interest in Sox Place. We are closed for a few more days due to the holidays. I will contact you for an interview time…” An information packet was attached. Under the last bullet point under “what to expect” it said, “If you are a church group, here for a mission trip, note that we do not require the youth that come into Sox Place to be Christian or listen to a sermon in order to receive any of our services… We try to follow Jesus’ example of compassion to the outcasts, as He does with the woman at the well in John 4.” After googling John 4 it didn’t really resonate with me. Jesus is essentially telling the woman, a Samaritan, that he’s cool with her even though she’s had four husbands and lives with a man who isn’t her husband. Though I’m sure that was very open minded back in the year 0 or 25, or whatever, it came across as kind of passive aggressive, sexist, and judgey to me. But maybe there’s something I’m missing. Samartian did strike a chord so I looked up the origin of “good-samaritan”. Apparently the Samaritans were disdained by the Jews at that time, not sure why, probably run-of-the-mill racism.

Parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37): “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” Jesus then poses the question, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Indeed, is a good neighbor someone who has vestments, or is from a privileged class, simply due to their race or status? Or is a good neighbor someone who actually takes time out of their busy day to help out and try to make a difference?

——

Eduardo, Homer, and Sapphire // Burgundy Puma, Red Frost Line, and The North Face

Fully stocked with seven coats from the ARC’s 50% off New Years event, I decided to reverse my normal route and hit Stoner Hill before the mall. I was hoping to lighten my load and give first dibs to the street-kids who actually need coats.

“Free coats and jackets!”
“COATS, Coats, coats.” repeat-echoed across the hill. I’d noticed this on past visits. I’d tell one person I had coats, they’d yell COATS, and everyone else would repeat it with the “human microphone” technique. The kid who’d been doing “dabs” off the red-hot tip of a bowie knife on my last visit ran over.
“I want the North Face”
“Ok, It’s a girls. It might fit you though.”
“Nah, not if it’s a girls”
“Oooo, I’ll take it then” said the young lady sitting closest to me.
“I want this one!” A teen, who appeared to be the twin of the knife dabber, reached for the puffy red Frost Line you could wear to ski across the arctic, and started to run off.”
“Ok, wait! You’ve got to let me take your picture with it though. That’s the deal. And tell me your first names”
“Sapphire” said the girl now ensconced in The North Face.
“Eduardo” from the knife dabber (or maybe he wasn’t the knife dabber, it could have been his twin).
“And you?” I asked the other twin holding the red Frost Line. He’d shot his brother Eduardo a scolding look when he told me his given-name.
“What’s your name?”
“Umm… Homer.”
“This one is SO soft…” Eduardo was fingering the sleeve of the Puma jacket. “Can I have it?”
“ Yea! Totally, grab it! Ok everyone – pictures!”
“Why you want our pictures?”
“It’s for my project. It’s part of it.”
When the camera came out a few of the older people on the hill took a protective interest. “Why you taking pictures? What are they for?”
“My project is photographing people I give free coats to. How about I’ll take them without faces if someone doesn’t want their face in it.”

After some inconclusive and suspicious grumbling from the group, Homer acquiesced to a neck down picture. Eduardo followed his lead. I snapped them both and showed them all the pictures on my camera to prove it didn’t have their faces in them.

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“You can take it with my face, if it’s for your project.” Sapphire conceded a half-hearted smile.

A 20-something whose name I didn’t catch, tried on the Sonny jacket (my personal favorite) and let me take a picture with his hat-hidden face, but ended up returning it. I thought this one would be a hit. When I was a teen, all the hip kids would have killed for a green satin jacket with STRATTON EAGLES embroidered on the back and Sonny in script on the front. Tastes have changed. Irony is SOOooo 20th century!

In the rapidly dropping temperatures of the first warm afternoon in weeks, I was hoping to engaging some T-shirt clad basic teens on the mall with my remaining inventory. I knew they’d irresponsibly left the house in the warm afternoon without thinking ahead about how it would get colder when the sun went down. A 20-something wearing headphones and a plain white-T charging down the mall looked straight through me – even when I waved the Sonny coat in front of him like a matador. A second T-shirt teen coming my way responded with an “uuuuUUUUuHHH HH hhhhhhhh” that crescendoed and dissipated with a doppler effect as we passed each other. I crossed the street to engage a teen girl in a long-sleeved cotton-T. When I asked her if she wanted a free coat she unintelligibly laugh-moaned what I took to mean no. Her friend was able to find his manners and say “No thank you.” A couple of male teens, one in a sensible-for-the-weather bomber jacket and one in an American Eagle Outfitters cotton long-sleeve with the cuffs pulled over his hands in T-shirt mittens, were crossing toward me. I waited on the corner, “Hey man, you want this free coat,” holding up Sonny. He responded with a wide-eye terrorized expression that looked like the pre-cursor to
a flight-response.

Zero for four with the basic teens. The contrast between the irresponsible basic teens on the mall who’d left the house without their perfectly good coats and the street-kids on Stoner Hill was counter-intuitive. Street-kids were welcoming, quick to offer a “name” (though usually a pseudonym), ask questions, even challenge me on my answers, and immediately get on the level. The basic teens were very socially challenged – completely unable to process a simple unsolicited offer from an unknown grown up. Though the Sox Place info packet I received when I filled out their volunteer application said that many street-kids were emotionally immature, they seemed in many ways to be way more socialized and more confident. Or maybe they were just high. Or maybe they were effusive from doing all those marijuanas while all the basic teens were too pumped full of Prozac and Zoloft to form a sentence.

In my rush to get out on today’s coats4TEENS mission I’d left the house in a light sweater and my Canadian tuxedo – a thread-bare jean jacket with Ozzy written in ballpoint pen over the heart. The temperature had dropped 10-15 degrees. I stated to wonder just how cold I’d get while carrying five coats on my back. Noting the irony of my own irresponsible winter wear, I set down my inventory, and then myself, on a bench. While snapping up Sonny over my Canadian tuxedo I drifted into an free-associative inner-monologue. “Now, I like THIS coat. It’s warm. Maybe I’ll keep it… It IS the last day of coats4TEENS – well tomorrow is really the end of the Facebook event, but all the basic teens start school tomorrow so… I still have Sonny, the Marker Vest, that Burton ladies snowboard coat, and Barney’s New York… And CDOT back in the truck. Yea… I’ll keep Sonny and CDOT (my line of work sometimes involves installing fake signs on public roadways in broad daylight so it’s good to have a Colorado Department of Transportation work coat disguise.) I’ll just take the girls coats back to the ARC. ‘The ARC giveth and the ARC taketh away…’ I gotta’ remember to get a donation receipt this time – they ARE designer labels; so, I can probably write off like $200-$300 without the itemization getting flagged…”

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“Hey, you the coat guy?” Startled I loped up to see two scrappy looking teens.
“Uh yea! You want a coat? This is the only men’s I have left” starting to unbutton Sonny, “I just put it on ’cause I was getting cold but I totally don’t need it. My truck is right over there.”
“No we’re good. I don’t need it.”
“You sure? It’s pretty great. It says STRATTON EAGLES on the back,” turning to show them.
“I’ve got a coat. So, you’re taking pictures of people with coats? What are you doing with the pictures? You post them?”
This again… “Uh… Yea – of the people I give coats to.”
“Why? Why do you do that?”
“Well, a coupe of reasons I guess. The main one is to create a story, a compelling narrative that has a hook to it. Something funny. Like, you know how teens always go out in winter without their coats on?”
“I don’t do that.”
“Well sure, but you know people do, I just saw four kids on the mall wearing t-shirts.”
“Yea well, some people are stupid.”
“Sure, or just irresponsible, or whatever. And you know, these teen’s Moms are all like ‘why are you going out in the dead of winter without the perfectly good coat I got you!’. And, I’m in my 40’s so a lot of my friends, my Facebook friends, have teenagers, so people with that older perspective think that’s funny.”
“Ok…”
“And, uh… So anyway, you use that to draw someone in to your story; but, in reality, most of the teens I end up photographing and giving coats to are street-kids.”
“Right who actually NEED coats.”
“Right! So, you create this simple joke about irresponsible teens leaving the house without their perfectly good coat, and a compelling story, or series of stories, and then you start to turn the narrative, in a subtle and maybe a little manipulate way, to be about something else, like the fact that there are teens out here in winter without even a home, or a mom – and some of them without even coats…”
“to raise awareness!” Finishing my sentence for me.
“Yes exactly. And that reframes the issue so people see it differently, or are maybe aware of it for the first time.”
“Oh ok… That’s cool.”
“You sure you don’t want this coat? Seriously, I don’t need it.”
“No I’m good.”
“How about you” asking the inquisitor’s quiet companion.
“Nah. I’ve been on the streets for a long time… I’ve got two coats.”
“Ok. So what are your names?“
“Albert” – from the inquisitor. The other kid said something really faint.
“What’s that? I didn’t catch it.”
“Christian.”

Final volunteer summation and report for The Institute of Sociometry: 

Two weeks ago, at the start of coats4TEENS, if I’d known I would only be able to engage AKTIV as the sole irresponsible teen who’d left the house without his perfectly good coat (as this event was billed), I might not have not have volunteered. If I’d know that street-kids would be calling me “coat guy” I would have been pretty pumped about that. If I’d known I was going to end up googling bible passages and filling out a volunteer form for a Christian charity, or that the last word I heard within the boundaries of the project, “Christian” strikes me as a synchronistic sign about my need reexamine the actions of Jesus and my own judgmental views about Christians… Well, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and stayed home.

One thing I’ve learned (or rather first I was taught by Eleanor Antin a kooky old-lady – and pioneering performance artist – I took five classes from in college, who once proclaimed herself King of Solana Beach, spent a year dressed up as a bearded hobo, ended up arbitrating disputes, and having her proclamations heard at city council meetings) is that an open ended art-intervention needs to have a premise and end-goal to give it direction and momentum. But, crucially, it must be open to getting blown off course by unexpected circumstances. If you ignore those nudges of random pushing you in an uncomfortable direction and only focus on the end-goal then you’re not making art about the nature of life – your merely making art about your ego. And everyone HATES ego-art! So, back to the one thing I’ve learned (since). When you’re trying to construct an art-prank about the nature of life, it needs to be able to grow legs and run ahead of you into the forest. Your job at that point is just to chase it and see where it goes. But, crucially, it must be able to get so far out in front of you that it can hide behind a tree, jump out, and spook you. If YOU are not also fair-game as the target of your own prank then on some level you’re just pointing and laughing at others.

Signing up to volunteer at Sox Place is frightening new territory for me – social action unguarded by the armor of art and satire. I hope they do call me back. It may not happen – especially if they do a thorough enough background check to come across this story. After all, telling “true stories” through the lens other people’s lives is exploitative. Journalism, documentary, non-fiction, street photography, and art-interventions, if done well, all capture a persons soul. They take a real human experience and whittle it into a parable or a metaphor that may not be recognizable by it’s main character. So, when the subjects of my parables start picking at their corners and asking me what EXACTLY I’m planning on doing with that picture then it’s usually time to stop. If I need to exploit someones image to expose a weakness in the system, or try to right a wrong, or speak truth to power, I think that’s relatively benign collateral damage. But, once I’ve got my story, and especially in this case, maybe it’s important to recognize I’ve taken something which isn’t mine, turn off the camera, pull the tongue out of my cheek, and work on giving something back.

——

FAQ:

Q: How do I get involved, do I need to be in your town or attend meetings?
A: No! This is an “open source concept” that you can enact independently in your community. Irresponsible teens out on the street without the perfectly good coat they own are in every town! Just follow the above steps and send us a picture or story!

Q: What’s a concept?
A: “Concept” is synonymous with “idea”! Artists use the term concept to imply an action that will result in a “form” – in this case a zine (which is a home made magazine)! Concepts also often are about a social or political issue but may not make actual literal sense or speak to that issue in a specific way.

Q: I’m not an artist. Can I still participate?
A: Absolutely! We’ve already done the art part – we just need participants! You can be from any background in order to be an integral part of coats4TEENS!

Q: But is it really art?
A: Renowned media and cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan said “Art is whatever you can get away with”. So we’re trying to get away with this!

ABATOR

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

INDIVIDUAL: ABATOR
GROUP SIZE: 11 – individuals fronting vast corporations with hundreds if not thousands of additional individuals. This is an estimate due to individuals deploying dummy phone numbers and possibly even aliases.

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ABATOR in a SoHi alleyway, Denver 

NATURE OF GROUP: Eddie Mowrer, Hunter Hinson, Seth Taylor, Benjamin Olssen, and a half dozen unidentified agents representing the following corporate entities; Networth Realty, SWT Management, REcolorado, Move Out Move On, We Buy Ugly Houses, and MD Home Acquisitions. This study group is comprised of front men using an off-grid advertising scheme of hand-lettered yard-wicket signs in the west Denver neighborhood of South Highlands (SoHi), even masquerading as local yokels, to offer cash for houses or investment properties for sale, presumably to developers. The property investment corporations behind these men are looking to snatch up cheap single family homes on large lots. Dozens of lots in the study area have been, are being, (or are vacated to eventually be) scraped and replaced with densely packed 500k three-story town houses.
INCIDENCE: #ABATOR #corporate #graffiti #abatement”

“They buy ’em cheap and stack ’em deep.” 
– SoHi resident Heather Link-Bergman
on the developers who are scraping and
rebuilding her West Denver neighborhood.

17thFed

Seth Taylor signs – 1700 Federal Blvd.

Denver is adding 20,000 new residents a year and projecting one million more residents in the next ten years. Housing demand is being met by infilling industrial and vacant lots and scraping houses in economically depressed areas to make way for multi-unit buildings. SoHi, the study area for this report, which includes parts of the West Colfax, Cheltenham Heights, Jefferson Park, Hallack Park, and Sloan’s Lake neighborhoods, is immediately west of downtown and south of the affluent Highlands. A hundred years ago this part of town was a Jewish ghetto and the childhood home of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. The long-demolished “largest Synagogue west of the Mississippi” is now the site of Mi Pueblo Market and an 80% abandoned derelict shopping plaza. For much of the latter 20th century, until the current property boom, it’s been a barrio of Juarez transplants. The commercial sections of Federal and West Colfax are dismal, peppered with gravely, weed choked vacant lots, B-list fast food spots, flop-house hotels, and stucco taquerias.  

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Mi Pueblo Market, 3200 W. Colfax

The development of abandoned St Anthony’s Hospital on the shore of Sloan Lake, is projected to accommodate an additional 25,000 residents to just this neighborhood! That’s a year’s supply of new Denver residents! A new west light rail line is driving city planning around increased density parallel to West Colfax. Adjacent neighborhoods are undergoing rapid in-fill and wholesale urban renewal. Slum lords barely up on their property taxes, unsold foreclosures from the recession, and longtime residents looking to cash out are feeding a frenzy of property speculation and slap-dash construction.

A massive duplex is being built on a former vacant lot ten-feet from an El Azteca, North Side Mafia safe-house that’s regularly monitored by undercover Denver detectives. A squalid brick row house with five 1-bedroom units and kids toys spilling out onto the lawn nestles in a canyon between massive 3-story buildings with six 450k condos being nail-gunned together in great haste. A longtime resident with a DIY cinder block fence and a large corner lot, who likes to day-drink 24-packs of Bud Lite Límon with his buddies out front listening to accordion and polka jams, has his 3-bedroom oak-and-brass barrio jewel on the market – with the house next to it included – for 650k.

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Joe, aka Move Out Move On
Inc., 2500 W 26th Ave., Denver with a bonus Hunter Hinson sign

The yard-wicket signs used by the front men are a way of cutting through the clutter of traditional advertising and communicating in a high-volume cash business where opportunities are fly-by-night. Some signs have a fictitious personae, “Joe Buys Houses As-Is” or they cut the pretense with “I Buy Houses Any Condition CA$H”. Some are aimed at an internal audience of other brokers and developers, “80% ARV ALL IN”. Some of the listed phone numbers have people on the other end – the men named in the study group. The number often goes to a voicemail for one of the named corporate entities. All are able to buy your property “as-is” in cash. “As-is” can mean gutted and boarded up with all the copper plumbing stripped out, or with a plume of abandoned mattresses and furniture erupting off the porch, into the yard, all buried in snow.

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“As-is” condition house

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Starting in the 500’s”

Many of the corporate entities and named individuals seem to have tenuous contacts to Denver – a satellite office, a recent transplant with a minimal online presence. Signs list multiple google-voice numbers with default-setting voicemail greetings. There’s Hunter Hinson’s almost perfect unintentional self-parody and/or fake facebook page of duck-faced selfies and white BMW snaps (facebook.com/hunter.c.hinson). Seth Taylor has a confident headshot and title on his LinkedIn, “Foreclosure Servicing, Property Preservation, Realtor”. There’s circumstantial evidence of actual residence in Tennessee or Houston. These men are not out placing the signs – that is outsourced to minions. This agent observed an owl faced man in a driver cap placing several signs at Colfax and Irving at 7am on a Wednesday morning.

Individuals in the study group comprise a community with it’s own language, signifiers, and public hand-lettered communications. Not unlike gang or graffiti tags, these signs advertise territory. Six figure transactions in cash arranged with sharpies. $500 worth of ad space on the adjacent bus bench for a $20 blank sign from Ace Hardware. They have developed a method of off-grid advertising by utilizing corporate graffiti.

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2380 W Colfax and 5200 W 17th Ave.

Into this group-dynamic sashays ABATOR – a west side vandal with a lot of flat gray primer. Beginning in late fall and now into spring ALL of the yard-wicket signs in the SoHi study area have been abated on a weekly basis. This agent has photographed 24 distinct sign abatements. During this time several broker agents have resorted to affixing signs onto wood telephone polls 9ft off the ground – requiring a slight change in tactics.

ABATOR is an shadowy figure, never adding any commentary aside from a 15 second helium-voiced instagram statement and hashtag manifestos, “#ABATOR #declareswar #recolorado #broker #benjaminolsen http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-jamin-olsen #fixandflip #yardsigns #westside #gentrification #denver #corporate #graffiti #vandalism #abatement.”

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3300 W 29th Ave.

An abated sign picture which got a heart from @cityofdenver and a comment, “#denver is where it’s AT” were met with a responce that give us a window into the mind-set of this vigilante-vandal:

@cityofdenver thank you for your comment on my photo. Unfortunately Denver is no longer ‘where it’s AT’ for low income residents of Jefferson Park, West Colfax and Cheltenham Heights who are being forced into Lakewood by rapacious property development. We need more affordable housing on the west side – not a race to replace every modest single family home with four 400k luxury town homes! But yea – glad you commented on my photo of abated fix and flip signs so we had this chance to talk. #ABATOR”

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ABATOR changing tactics. 

———-

ABATOR is not on the internet but she does borrow our burner to instagram her abatements @is.pressThis report was originally published in Raw Fury #3


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For more art-interventions surrounding the gentrification of SoHi see the This Could Be Here, and Area of Change reports.

Area Of Change

Friday, February 21st, 2014

INDIVIDUAL: West-side tagger in their threatened native habitat
GROUP SIZE: Estimates of up to 20,000
NATURE OF GROUP: New residents in the market for homes starting in the high $400s!!
INCIDENCE: Area of Change 

///// UPDATE 03.13.14 ~ scroll to bottom ///// 

Trails of taggers wind like tentacles through SoHi, a traditionally working-class neighborhood off of West Colfax, as the condo curtain descends from the north flattening homes all the way to 17th Avenue. Scrappy two-bedroom bungalows in the low $200s with huge yards, Wal-Mart trampolines, and eroding dog-couches, are being razed n’ replaced with four-per-lot town-homes starting at $450k.

See all tags and properties on a map!

1700 Hooker St., From google earth, image from approx. summer 2013

1700 Hooker St.,winter 2014

Starting in the $440’s. (The house in google earth would be approx. $200k.)

Architecturally rendered block-row buildings with Sketchup drawn Porsches out front anchor splashy banners with real-estate agent numbers. Pre-Sale Available! 

In January of 2014 neighborhood tags were photographed, re-drawn in vector, skewed on a perspective grid, and cut into sticky-vinyl. The faithfully rendered tags now deface the vinyl-banner walls of this rendered utopian future. Coming soon!

///// UPDATE 03.13.14 ///// 

YOU AINT KREUU FEULL

The sign at 1820 Julian that was adorned with vinyls of our IS tag, and an appropriated NVSK tag and bubbly SL throw-up was called out by tagger SKULZB – “YOU AINT KREUU FEULL”, with an adjacent NVSK tag.

Our interpretation of this message is multi-tiered; NVSK is clearly a crew as opposed to an individual, and they are calling out IS for stealing their tag without being in the crew (an offense punishable by punching and stabbing). SKULZB correctly crossed out our IS and the appropriated NVSK but left the SL – apparently there’s no beef with SL. On a deeper layer, SKULZB, as a representative of the NVSK crew, has further defiled the utopian dream of the $400,000 townhouses coming soon to 1820 Julian by completely bombing the hypothetical building with implicit threats. More importantly, SKULZB has followed our established precedent by mapping their personal and crew tag onto the architectural perspective of the building drawing.

Now that NVSK has been alerted to the interloper on their streets we suspect to see more cross outs and tags on the other coming soon signs that were modified during round one. To draw a metaphor, it is as if we strewed chum in the waters surrounding this luxury yacht and it is starting to attract sharks.
———

ThIS report was originally released in the form of  4×4 ft info-collage at
Contact the MSU Denver Art Faculty Show
Center for Visual Art, 965 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204

Opportunity For Reflection

Saturday, October 12th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
 New York pedestrian on 14th Street between 3rd and 7th avenues on the weekend of October 18th 2013
GROUP SIZE: 2 to 6
NATURE OF GROUP: IS agents asking New York pedestrians to stick their faces into white image reflection boxes during Art In Odd Places 2013
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Opportunity for Reflection

IS additional images.
If this IS not your first visit, scroll down for our Final Incidence Report: 

is agents and Opportunity for Reflection docents Handsome Jim and  mISs IS engage a pedestrian.

Opportunity for Reflection was inspired by the visceral and often oppositional identity forming reflections that key numbers, such as 911 or 1%, instill in the culturally and politically diverse population along 14th Street in New York. Over the weekend of October 18th 2013, six IS agents invited pedestrians to take the the opportunity to look into a reflection box and see their face inset into the above-shoulder portraits of variable faceless personas related to a number on the side of each box.

The boxes contained an adult face size oval front opening, an interior back mirror for reflection and two interchangeable mounted images on the inside of the face opening. When a viewer looked into the box they saw a reflection of their own face inset into the image. Pulling one image out via a top tab revealed an image of opposite or contrasting character for a second reflection.

The view inside the boxes. Your face goes here ^ 

For example, 1% will showed either Romney or an outlaw biker. A contrasting motif, ∞ (infinity) used multiple mirrors and lights to create an infinite cascade of reflections. A core team of agents, m[i]le[s], mISs IS, and Handsome Jim, built the numerically labelled boxes representing the numbers  1 – 69 – 7-11 – 911 –1984 – 1% – ∞.

Final Incidence Report:

Despite the reputation of New Yorkers as being gruff, hurried, and hard as nails with no time for strangers and their peculiarities, the boxes drew people in, sometimes in lines three deep, likes moths to a bright light. In this case, New Yorker’s level of desensitization and lack of a need for personal space encouraged participation. Kids in particular delighted in seeing their face with funny hair styles, a hijab, a uniform, or on money.

Some of our favorite incidents:

Agent Risa corralled in a man who, after initial reluctance, was so moved by seeing his face inset into a rotund hispanic 7-11 clerk that he decided to forgo his lunch and invite his cousin he hasn’t seen  in a long time to a movie.

Agent Handsome Jim’s waxed mustache attracted a comparison to Salidor Dalí from a man claiming to be his former chauffeur adding, “That man never gave me a NICKEL!” The disgruntled driver looked into the 1 box before telling Handsome Jim he has the worlds only human skull signed by Dalí.

Agent Manny Green talked for over 30 minutes with two forty-something men about the connections between private prisons and Chicago violence after showing them the stick-up robber in the 7-11 box.

Agent m[i]le[s] got a primer on telepathic communication with Dolphins and the concept of twin-flames from a gold-jeweled German woman after she looked into the 1% box.

Agent mISs IS was cautioned that they are tracking us with infrared, and that the drone program in Pakistan is merely a harbinger of what’s going to happen domestically by a short white American lady in a hijab, pajama pants, and flip-flops who had just looked in the 911 box.

Agent Weiss counseled several harried New Yorkers ranging in age from six to ninety through a meditation exercise counting the lights in the ∞ box.

A sketchy looking underweight 20 something girl looked in the 7-11 box and said, “oh – that’s me. I work at 7-11.” Pulling the clerk card out, agent m[i]le[s] asked “Well then, have you ever seen this?” looking back in at the gun in her face from the robber, she calmly withdrew from the box and non-chalantly said, “Oh yea, we keep a $20 out of the register just for them.” She grabbed every info card, a sticker, and a balloon from the give away box.

A man with curly gray hair and flamboyant clothes including a silk stars and bars shirt, a female condom worn as a necklace, and a yarmulke decorated with puff paint cam and found us all three days, leaving with, “You’re going to have beautiful children”

 A serious looking man in a dirty t-shirt and cap approached agent m[i]e[s] wanting to talk about Sociometry. A psychiatrist, the man had trained with the founder of Sociometry Jacob Levy Moreno and had participated in mass Psycho Drama exercises in the early 1970’s. While he seemed a touch disappointed to find out we were engaging in Guerilla Sociometry which is similar in focus but doesn’t conform to the rigorous standards of math or science, he did agree that we were engaging in a core principle of Psycho Drama – acting out your problems in front of large groups.

It was our desire to use this opportunity to introduce the relative nature of identity and memory as it relates to numbers. The Opportunity for Reflection was intended to let viewers experience their face within the bodies of people who embodied both sides of a dialog. Ideally, the experience provided an interesting Opportunity for Reflection that caused further thought about the relative nature of identity and memory as triggered by numbers.

Despite a word of caution about performing on the streets of New York from the Art In Odd Places staff, we found the pedestrians along 14th St. to be the most engaged, chatty, and unafraid of odd art patrons we’ve come across in two decades of guerilla public art pranks. When we were packing up the boxes to ship from Denver we were joking about the one person who we were going to talk to. Instead, much to our surprise and delight, we lost track of the interactions within the first hour.

One not-so-surprising in-hind-sight observations: for every single retired art history or sociology professor (or Salvador Dalí chauffeur) well versed in art issues or current affairs and wanting to have a “serious” discourse we encountered dozens of fellow odd-balls who recognized us as a captive audience for unloading their own crazy theories and tall tales.

mISs IS mISsion accomplished!

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Opportunity for Reflection process images:

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ThIS report documents Institute of Sociometry’s contribution to Art In Odd Places 2013 : Number 


This Could Be Here

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

INDIVIDUAL: agent m[i]le[s]
GROUP SIZE: Pushing 100,000 per day – a wildly speculative estimate based on  35,000 to 45,000 cars per day plus immediate area residents.
NATURE OF GROUP: Car commuters pedestrians, cyclists, people on busses and light-rail, attendees of sporting events, residents of  “poor and at-risk neighborhoods” Sun Valley, Avondale, and and Cheltenham Heights (aka SoHi) all intersecting at Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Denver Colorado.

INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: This Could Be Here

This Incidence of Sociometry was first reported on by Denver’s Westword newspaper:
A local artist quietly courts controversy at Colfax and Federal

Location and History:

The interchange of Colfax and Federal on Denver’s west side is a partial cloverleaf occupying 29 acres of land about a mile west of the state capitol.

The immediate area around Colfax and Federal was once an integrated part of the city. In the late 1880’s a cable car brought people up the hill to the 17th avenue canal dock (now a KFC) to catch a steam ship to Manhattan Beach on Sloan’s Lake. Before the 1950’s the predominantly Jewish immigrant neighborhood around Colfax and Federal integrated into the city grid and the predominantly hispanic Auraria neighborhood on the other side of the Platte River.

The parcel at Colfax and Irving (long the site of a giant parking lot for a tiny mexican market and now the construction site of a coming public library) was once home to the largest synagogue in the western US. The teenage home of Israel’s first prime minister Golda Meir was blocks away on 16th and Julian. In the early 1950’s part of this poor immigrant neighborhood on the west bank of the Platte was cleared to build Mile High Stadium and the adjacent Colfax Federal Interchange. In the 1970’s the neighborhood of Auraria was razed for the construction of Auraria Campus and south Cheltenham Heights was cleared to build “Avondale” a shopping center and series of high-rise apartment blocks described in a West Colfax City Planning report as, ” a classic example of the failings of urban renewal of that era”. Sun Valley was razed and rebuilt into sprawling housing projects blocked in by a municipal powerplant and an industrial zone. Like many cities in the 1950’s – 70’s, Denver used federal interstate and highway funds (both Colfax and Fereral are US Highways) in conjunction with urban renewal, college campus, and stadium district projects to flatten their inner city ghettos, collect  immigrants and the poor in low quality municipal housing projects and wall them off from the city center with freeway interchanges and a mile long mazes of parking lots. The Interchange did effectively funnel car commuters to and from I-25 and their new single family homes in the suburbs.

The Plan

It’s hard to unbuild all that infrastructure, even if recognizing the folly of car-centric city planning from a bygone era. The current Denver City Planning office seems very forward thinking in their approach to transit based development, with plans to infill urban dead space with mixed use retail and residential around a new west light-rail line and a redesign of the Colfax Federal Interchange. They have authored two substantial reports: Decatur Federal Station Area Plan (PDF) and the Colfax and Federal Interchange Alternatives, Draft Report (PDF). The cities reports make a good case for the need to redesign the interchange but are riddled with caveats and the names of community, city, state and federal “partners” who all have a say. It’s 12th on the list of 12 “transformative projects” in the Decatur Federal Station Area Plan and a dates like 2026 get tossed out. Numerous community groups, such as the Federal Boulevard Partnership have advocated for removal of the interchange for years. It continues to be a campaign issue during City Council District 1 races.

This Could Be Here

The IS home office is close enough to Colfax and Federal to appear in the upper right of city commissioned rendering of the proposed redesign of Federal and Colfax.

FEDERAL BLVD & COLFAX – DESIGN ALTERNATIVES from Two Hundred on Vimeo.

The interchange and Stadium lie between the IS home office and Auraria Campus on the south west border of Downtown. What should be a short walk or bike down the hill becomes either a zig-zag maze of stadium parking lots and underpasses OR a perilous dash through the interchange to a jersey barrier protected sidewalk littered with broken glass with occasional car-dodging freeway onramps.

West Colfax is a notorious “hard-luck” stretch. Though rapidly gentrifying, the Cheltenham Heights section of SoHi where the IS Home Office is located was rattled by gun-fire on a weekday afternoons twice this summer. It’s still a “bad” neighborhood. Boxed in by the DHA homes to the north and the Colfax Federal interchange to the south and east there is no room for the high occupancy neighborhood to breathe and little room to develop. The end of our street at Colfax and the cross street at Federal have some of the highest pedestrian hit and run statistics in the city.

Long having railed on the stupidity of the interchange, IS availed ourselves of all of this background research and decided to throw our hat in the ring a a “pro-bono” public relations partner to advertise our preference of the four proposed redesigns. IS supports an “at grade” redesign  – restoring it to a surface level intersection and developing the freed up 12 adjacent acres.

Our resulting advertisement, a 4×4 ft sign on a 7ft tall wooden armature, was dropped off at 4am on Monday July 28th. It depicts an “artists’ rendering” of what could be in the space, a qr code link to the 4 redesign alternatives with an image of “at-grade”, and the phone number associated with the Colfax and Federal Interchange Alternatives Draft Report. The key operative phrases from the City Planning reports, “celebrated, connected, innovative and healthy” were used to describe the potential for a west Denver gateway neighborhood with an “at-grade” redesign. Designed in green and black with the contemporary slab-serif typeface Archer, the sign was intended to look indistinguishable from the many other development and property sale signs found further north in the rapidly redeveloping near-west side LoHi neighborhood.

Phase II 

Instillation of the sign launched Phase II of IS’s pro-bono PR campaign for the “at-grade” redesign on an accelerated time-table. Having bit at our press notification, Westword newspaper followed up with both a print and website article and interview with agent m[i]le[s] who further publicized the need for an “at-grade” redesign and explaining some of the motivation for the piece:

“I want to create a moment where the people, probably city workers, have to call someone to ask, and that person in the city’s planning department asks themselves, ‘What is this, why is it here? What is the motivation of someone outside of our organization to have an interest in this?'”

After sharing the article to multiple channels IS was contacted by a long time IS agent who unbeknownst to us was working within the City Planning office. To our surprise, the Agent said Steve Chester, the Associate City Planner who’s phone number was on our sign, worked in the same office. The Agent described Steve as “very buttoned down kind of guy, prep school”. After letting the office chatter percolate around for awhile our agent mole reported back in:

(Steve Chester) really loved what you did. He liked that you included the “at grade” rendering but was confused about some of your other imagery … Andrea (Burns, Communications Director) said that she’d like to contact the artist and let him know that the city will probably take it down if the artist does not. Steve Gordon, our supervisor and Managing City Planner, thinks Planning should go get it and display it here. Also, he got a phone call from someone on Tuesday who kept referring to the sign he saw. Steve Chester was thoroughly confused until he was hipped to the reality of The Sign. … I’d be interested to see how long it stays there if you wait for the city to remove it. I was told CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) might also remove it, as it’s on their land.

Having met our public relations objectives in notifying key partners and the general public of our preference for an “at-grade” redesign IS agent m[i]le[s] monitored the sign, righting and repairing it after a Wednesday evening wind storm. Friday afternoon – two days after Westword’s Wednesday publication someone, likely CDOT, though hopefully Steve Gordon Managing City Planner, took down the sign.

We claim this pro-bono PR campaign as a success. Conversations were started, Colfax and Federal was put under the harsh light of press scrutiny, the city planners got some free advertising for their “at-grade” redesign option – the apparent office favorite. IS has a second sign, an exact replica, in our garage waiting for next summer to remind everyone we still want that redesign…

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The following references probably should have been cited somewhere:

History of Colfax Avenue
West Colfax Plan
Decatur Federal Station Area Plan
Colfax and Federal Interchange Alternatives, Draft Report
A local artist quietly courts controversy at Colfax and Federal

 

High Desert Water Wars

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

INDIVIDUAL:  Annette DeMay; Ridgecrest, CA
GROUP SIZE:  Dozens
NATURE OF GROUP:  Various citizens of the Indian Wells Valley—Water Wise Friends group of loosely organized activists; small city and county high-desert residents fighting the competing interests of  the Water District Board representing their customers; individual well owners; small group well owners, small community well sharers, agricultural interests, large chemical company water user, and U.S. Navy well users.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY:  High Desert Water Wars

Southern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and Indian Wells Valley—view from our place in the high desert.

Editor’s Note
The high desert mentioned in this report is the Indian Wells Valley in the northern Mojave Desert of California, about 60 miles south west of Death Valley, with an average rainfall of 3 inches and July temperatures pushing 120 degrees fahrenheit. The Indian Wells Valley is also about 70 miles south of the Owens Valley, the water from which has been fought over in epic water wars for over a century, as detailed in Marc Reisner’s book and the related film Cadillac Desert, and loosely fictionalized in the 1974 Roman Polanski film Chinatown. This report chronicles the efforts of Annette DeMay, an Indian Wells Valley resident to educate herself to the level of scientific expert (perhaps “authority”) on wells and groundwater, in addition to bureaucraticize, and the mechanizations of groups who seek to “improve” (or steal) under the cover of implied custodial rights over resources. How far would you go to protect your ability to sustain life on your property?      

Author’s note
Versions of much of what is described in this report apply to groundwater use and conditions, as well as water politics, in other places around the United States.  This is especially true for smaller outlying towns in valleys around the southwestern region, but also applies in U.S. regions with different climates. The issues will apply to more areas as increasing populations deplete groundwater or water quality degrades.

Much of what was achieved to protect our local water supply during this protracted incident is credited to others whose names are held private.  But I praise these especially active and knowledgeable people with frequent recognition in local newspapers and public meetings:  Don and Judie Decker, Lyle and Sylvia Fisher, Dennis and Karen Sizemore, Tom DeMay. Some members of the Water Board are also due thanks.

As a “guerilla Sociometry” report, this lacks the scientific rigor that I applied when preparing information for Water Board members, local citizens, and even insufficiently informed “experts” hired by the Water District.  Despite importance of scientific rigor, it is useful and even fun to say something in an inflammatory way now and then.  This version is casual and much shorter—really—while still conveying ideas from our experience that may apply to an experience of your own.  You’re invited to review this water war intelligence one part at a time.

~ Annette DeMay, June 2013

Part 1.  Gaining Water Wisdom

This part gives a little background for the ongoing water war in our northwestern area of the Mojave High Desert.  Most of Kern County is on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and has lots of water for irrigation.  But we’re on the east side.  We have lots of sunshine but no surface water, and the aquifer/groundwater has been in recorded overdraft since 1945. (See the California Ground Water Bulletin pdf)

WATER WISDOM BEGINS
Once my husband and I decided our 2007 vacation was over, we drove straight through to get home as soon as possible.  Driving mania would give us an extra night of rest at home before we had to return to work.  Nineteen hours later we were in our kitchen checking voice mail.  A message from a stranger got our attention before we could hit the delete button.

Yikes!  Tomorrow night the Indian Wells Valley Water District (the Water District) is planning to approve a Water Supply “Improvement” Project (WSIP).  It would appropriate (some say this means steal) water from many non-district wells in the area; maybe some would run dry.  Will it matter to us?

There are no creeks or rivers in our valley, so we depend exclusively on groundwater.  Our well is deep enough. The shallow wells of our neighbors are mostly 30 or more years old so probably due for replacement; and the Water District takes care of everyone else, right?   But hmm…the message sounds informed and like we have a problem.  If we are ever to have a say, we must attend the meeting tomorrow.  It would be best to say something meaningful but brief.

Tired or not, that night we started educating ourselves so we might say something cogent and well founded at the public voting meeting.

The Water Board meeting was 2 days after most people who would be directly impacted had first heard about the meeting.  Yet dozens jammed the meeting room and many commented.  The proposed project was outlined in a Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration. That kind of report is used when a project will cause no negative impacts or impacts are so trivial they can be easily mitigated without formality. The Board delayed the vote another month. So comments (though unofficial only) could be submitted until the end of the month. Whew! But the reprieve was temporary and floods of homework would have to be done by many. Beginners thanked their Water Wise Friends.

IN ABSENCE OF FACTS, MYTHS REIGN
It turns out that most people’s understanding of water in our valley was based on misconceptions.  Versions of them likely apply elsewhere:

  1. There is virtually unlimited groundwater under our valley.
  2. Our groundwater is recharged from the very nearby mountains—and from the north between the Sierra Nevadas and the White Mountains.
  3. The rate of groundwater use is pretty stable and reasonable.
  4. The Water District is a government department operating for the benefit of the people.
  5. The Water District provides water to the people of the Indian Wells Valley.
  6. Private well owners are a few who whine against the greater good.
  7. Private well owners don’t have to pay for their water.
  8. 1,100 new jobs will soon be offered in our valley (one “large” city with population bouncing around 25,000).  This means jobs! But more water will need to be pumped.
  9. The proposed project will improve water supply and not have negative consequences.
  10. Projects that may cause real damage require an environmental impact assessment with report copies sent to certain government offices and available to the public, and a Public Notice at least 30 days before a vote.
  11. Voting Water Board members have at least fundamental knowledge about water science and even geohydrology where groundwater is essential.

LOCAL MYTHS BUSTED
Based on actual facts, real science, and more recent and reliable data than in Water District environmental reports, these are some things we learned about each misconception listed above.

  1. There may be a version of unlimited groundwater under our valley but most of it isn’t drinkable (potable). There’s way too much that contains arsenic and/or dissolved solids (hard water) and/or is too brackish (badwatersalt pans seen in old cowboy movies).  More heads are being taken out of the scientific sand; revealing most of our groundwater requires expensive treatment to be potable. Our remaining known bowl of potable water of any significant size is in the Southwest Field of our aquifer. It is both limited and located under our neighborhood, above which very few Water District customers live. No, the groundwater is not really just one big bowl that we all share.  It’s lots of “bowls” with flow among only some of them. And no, dissolved arsenic is not just a naturally occurring problem; careless pumping of groundwater can increase or even create such a problem in the southwest not just in Bangladesh.
  2. A detailed isotope analysis of our valley’s aquifer was begun in the early 2000s with the final 2008 report publicized in 2010. It showed the Southwest Field’s bowl of potable water to be almost entirely from the Pleistocene Era, with tiny recharge each year compared to extraction.  Did the Water District know these chemical results were coming, so the 2007 Negative Declaration was timed to omit this “best available” data? What about Sierra snow melt? The East Fork of the Kern River rages immediately on the west side of the mountains.  Oops!  Sierra snow and rain virtually all flow to the west side.  Although some recharge enters very near our side of the Sierras even that groundwater was aged back to 7,000 years ago.  Recharge that we expected from the north was zero “no thanks” to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that sucked dry the 15-mile long Owens Lake just north of us; the underground northern river no longer feeds our aquifer.  (LA DWP takes water from most of the eastern side of the Sierras north beyond Yosemite contributing to desertification and drought.)  And what about that recharge flowing under Walker Pass?  Well, some water comes through but it falls over an underground cliff (old earthquake fault?) before it reaches the central valley floor.
  3. Since first measured in 1945 our aquifer has been in overdraft, more water taken out each year than recharged.  From around 1960 until around 2000, the water table under us was lowering about one foot per year.  In the early 2000s’s we observed that it was going down 2 feet per year at our well, so we figured a 3 to 4 feet annual lowering may occur later.  In 2005 we drilled a new well that would last more than our lifetimes (we thought).  We spent $20,000 for a deeper well.  But our adjacent neighbor’s water level made an unusual drop of 8 feet from 2011 to 2012!
  4. The Water District is not a part of the local city or country government. It’s actually a private entity that is a “service providing agency” under California law.  This exempts them from many local and county laws, such as zoning and local controls over water use.
  5. The stated goal of the IWVWD in 2007 was to provide the best and cheapest water “for its customers” (and @#$%^& to everyone else?) That wording hadn’t made an impression on many of us until 2007.  By the way that phrase was gone in 2012.
  6. Non-Water District well users are by no means just a selfish little group of individuals.  According to a Water Board member, as stated in two public meetings, there are about 800 wells in the valley.  The Water District has about a dozen active wells of which it alternately operates a few at a time.  Yes, their pumps are 40-50 times bigger than the typical private and small community wells, and there are three other big entities pumping water from our valley’s aquifer.  The Navy and North American Chemical have been using pumps less than half the size of the “improvement” project’s proposed wells; agricultural water use seems almost uncontrolled, a 4,000 gallon-per-minute pump was approved in 2013.
  7. The cost to replace our 23 year old well (that’s almost $1000/year) only hints at the fact that private and small-community well users are not getting free water.  This is a second capital expenditure for a well for us; others are experiencing the same.  Some private wells also have to pay for monitoring and for filtering.  All have to pay for electricity to pump the water.
  8. New jobs were indeed offered by the Navy, as part of moving work to a better location.  But, as has happened under previous Base Realignment and Closure efforts around the country, less than 25% of the offers were taken.  This lack of influx was expected and acknowledged by informed people in the valley.When carefully analyzed, the Water District’s own data showed the redundant (extra) water needed for emergencies already existed.  The census after people had arrived for new jobs revealed a population of about 25,000, representing the same minimal population variation that had been occurring over decades.
  9. If the agency that wants an expansive project is also designated as a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQE) reviewer (for some things), and that agency writes the report finding no negative impacts, and the public is too naïve or uninformed…then the project can move swiftly forward without regard for all the consequences.  But in 2007 the Water District was found out.
  10. Even for a project supported by a negative declaration, the law requires at least 30 days for review initiated by a Public Notice (e.g. legal notice in local newspapers and distribution of an environmental report. After being prodded, we remembered seeing a Public Notice before going on vacation but it described something trivial that had already been in the plans with public input.  It turned out that was the notice for this destructive project.The Water District did not give copies of the negative declaration report the to the required government offices 30 or more days before the vote. In fact some didn’t have it yet on the July 9th voting day.  This was likely the most important reason the Water Board backed off from voting that first time.
  11. No, elected voting members of this Water Board (and many public boards) are not required to have scientific or technical expertise in matters over which they will vote.  They may be well meaning but ignorant, as in lacking detailed knowledge of the subject.

Short Canyon—15 minutes west of our home. (Springs in such canyons above valleys just west of Death Valley were sought and missed by the lost 49ers during Gold Rush days.)

Part 2. Water War I — 2007

REAL IMPACTS EXPECTED
We read the “negative impact” declaration report for the 2007 WSIP (supposed improvement project).  It revealed a plan to install 2 very large production wells on property across the road from us.  Each well would have a pump twice as large in capacity as the largest formerly used and thought safe to operate in our valley.  And they had plans for 3 more big wells, all too close together and too close to our neighborhood.  None of these wells would be in ground occupied by Water District customers.

Dozens of non-district wells, used by people who actually live above this field of the groundwater, would be affected. Our well would go dry much sooner than we had planned but others would “run dry” almost immediately. The report claimed there would be no adverse impacts on adjacent private wells without any justifying data.  It was obvious that pumping this much water would lower the local water table significantly. And what about the plunging effect from turning those big pumps on and off; wouldn’t that stirring of the groundwater affect quality too? There was no consideration of water quality impacts.

2007 SKIRMISHES
Once we learned the truth about the misconceptions and the proposed project, we became concerned and active.  This was important! not just for us and our neighborhood but also for the whole valley.

Understanding groundwater chemistry and issues became my new hobby, with contributions from my husband too.  (This sadly left quilt making in the desert dust; but I was looking forward to retirement soon, so artistic dreams were put off again.)

At work I was a critical quality analyst of new high-tech systems, so was accustomed to learning details about new things quickly. I also had a little useful background from a former professional lifetime—biology, chemistry, and some exposure to aquatic toxicology. So I worked on getting smart about the science and politics and began educating (lobbying?) Water Board members.  Silly me, I thought that with factual science and data they would naturally make the right choices for long-term sustainability.

We joined a group largely unknown to each other but loosely connected via phone tree and email.  Dozens attended Water Board meetings and many made comments, from worried complaints to serious refuting science.  Collectively, we wrote hundreds of letters to the Water Board, county planning office, and the regional water district.  (A memo to one, with CC to others easily increases the distribution.)

Many wrote letters to the editors of local papers.  Fortunately, the local Daily Independent supported thorough exposure of the controversy.  It was a huge and important topic but I managed to mostly keep each of five memos/articles to the important limit of one side of letter sized paper.

  1. Request correction to misleading statement in July 11, 2007 issue,” This presented real facts in rebuttal to a self-serving and misleading quote of the Water District’s engineer in a newspaper article.  It was also effective in enlisting the Executive Editor as an ally, rather than criticizing the journalism.
  2. Regarding “INDIAN WELLS VALLEY WATER DISTRICT INITIAL STUDY AND DRAFT MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION FOR THE 2007/2008 WATER SUPPLY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT, MAY 2007,” Document was dated May but not distributed as required, so most people heard and agencies heard about it at the time of the first scheduled vote to approve the project. This document, summarizes my 12 most egregious problems with the declaration.
  3. Subtitle “effects of lowered groundwater locally and across the aquifer,” addresses proximity of wells, faulty study in report, and failures of process.
  4. Subtitle “concentrating arsenic in groundwater, discusses water quality issue very relevant in our valley but ignored in negative declaration.
  5. Subtitle “increasing total dissolved solids (TDS) and subsidence,” discusses another water-quality factor omitted and subsidence that is speciously disregarded in the negative declaration.

A few of us even wrote extensive guest-writer articles to the papers.  The Deckers and I all had major articles published the weekend before the Water Board’s final vote.  Articles were spread across multiple pages of the Sunday paper on August 11-12, 2007.   I tried surrounding the more hardcore content of my four earlier letters with generally understandable language.  I was arguing against the Water District with facts, while trying to maintain some good will.

When making public criticism, it’s also important to avoid unnecessary insults to those whose agreement you are soliciting.  Thus, when an editor changed the meaning of some of my words, I apologized to the Water Board, making it another chance to take a potshot at their poor hydrology.

These actions provided education for the public and a wake-up to county officials about what was occurring without their proper notification.  All our informational letters moved the Senior County Planner. She wrote a long letter of condemnation to the Water Board for its poor project. She also showed up at the final voting meeting to read her letter into the public record.  She demanded that it be part of the official comments appended to the Negative Declaration, on the basis of the document not having been distributed to government offices as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

At the August Water Board meeting, before the final vote, several people made informative comments on the record.  I appealed to the Board’s responsibility and self-respect.  Most were and still are well meaning but sorely lacking in understanding of the relevant science and technology.  You can read what I briefly read into the public record on August 13

2007 VICTORY
By the end of the 30-day extension of the comment period, our many actions resulted in formal condemnation of the Negative Declarations’s project, by both the public and the county.  The Water Board itself repudiated the proposed project.  Rumor had it that the Board chose to back off before even taking a vote, rather than have the Senior County Planner read her letter into the record that night.  Among other things, she designated the Water District to be appropriators and mentioned some laws that could be used by the opposition, though her office didn’t have water-prevue authority to invoke them directly.

Part 3. Water War II — 2011, 2012

HERE WE GO AGAIN !
The Water District fired its first salvo in July, again.  Of course, they would engage the public in July.  That’s when many people from our valley go on vacation.  Outside temperatures typically reach 110 – 115 degrees during July.  On Monday night July 11, the District announced they were in the process of doing an initial study for a 2011 WSIP.  Public input was invited.  The Water District would host a meeting to consider this input on July 13—yes, just 2 days away.  The gist was that, if you have anything to say, now’s the time; otherwise, don’t complain that our project displeases you.

Fortunately a few Water Wise Friends were in town and attended the Board meeting.  They activated the phone and email trees.  We got the message as we arrived in Steamboat Springs for a three-day visit with family.  I was furious but a contribution was important.  Among other bad ideas, the Water District was again planning to put the two big production wells across the road from us where more than 50 non-District wells were within a half mile.  With frequent feelings of @#$%^&*, I spent a day and a half writing a document to be read into the record.  Meanwhile my husband had a good time with the family.

CAREFUL BUT HOLLOW PROCEDURES
The Initial Study meeting was held, comments accepted, deadline for comments extended until the end of the month.  Later, a couple of “informational” meetings were held for the public.  These meetings were first steps towards following required procedures when intending environmental or cultural damage.  But steps were taken in very narrow ways.  The Water District made clear that some of their meetings and the final hearing were unrequired gifts to us.

Obvious deficiencies in the 2007 project and its environmental report led the Water District staff to have prepared a more extensive Environmental Impact Report.  Five years and $250,000 later, the Water District’s contractors published a revised EIR for their supposed improvement project, now the 2011 WSIP.  The inputs they had gleaned through the early meetings were evidently used to seemingly convey in the EIR that the public’s issues had been settled.

The EIR gave extensive justifications for its impacts, and admitted that there would be significant adverse impacts on existing non-District wells.  But the justifications were based on ignoring some important data, providing incomplete data to contractors who were doing modeling, and stating conclusions unsupported by the best available data.  Vague promises to mitigate for lowering the water table would be on a case-by-case basis, no details.  Promise was made to never mitigate for water quality impacts because according to their EIR:

“The increased pumping from the Proposed Project, however, is a very small fraction of the existing total pumping from the basin that has created the groundwater depressions. Thus, the contribution of the Proposed Project to the change in groundwater quality is miniscule and cannot be quantified, measured, or monitored.” [EIR section ES.6.3]

It’s too well established that water quality can be measured thus monitored.  It’s ridiculous to compare a localized potentially catastrophic damage in one depression to a huge area with many depressions, in order to make it seem small.  One is prompted to ask, “Are they stupid or are they liars?”  Maybe they think everyone else is stupid or just too busy to read the document and catch them?  We were told the latter applied to some officials who could have stood against this.

DONE AND NOT DONE
Some Water Wise Friends wrote letters and/or met with county officials.  Some letters-to-the-editor appeared (far fewer than in 2007).  New editors at The Daily Independent seemed mostly interested in reporting what Water District and Board members had to say, as if there was no controversy except on the part of a few whiners.  Some of the Water Wise were still worn down by the 2007 effort.  During the first months of this effort, I was working overtime to wrap up my career so I could retire. Others and I invested extensive effort to educate Board members but not the general public this time.  Many non-District well users in the impact area declined to participate this time.  Rumor has it they felt punished by the Water District after the 2007 effort.  Old District wells near them had been re-equipped without any environmental assessment.  The water table near them dropped so much that their existing wells became unusable.

To those of us who studied the EIR, including the county’s CEQA reviewer, it was obvious that the conclusions therein were decided before the report was begun, and adverse impacts were admitted only when there was no way to wiggle out of them.  (See Kern County’s CEQA review letter.) Clever wording was frequently used to seem to address concerns expressed as early as 2007.

From July 2011 through February 2012, the Water Wise Friends worked hard to educate the Water Board.  Informative comments were made at Water Board meetings.  Some of the wise offered individual meetings to explain data and science.  We developed educational materials for the Board.  Subjects addressed what was poorly covered or altogether missing in the EIR.

This illustrates egregious overlap of drawdown cones of proposed wells, not shown in the EIR. Large cones 4 mi diameters, small 2 mi.  Extents are as if each well were run alone, the plan is worse. Cones also intersect many private wells plus other District wells.  Many drawdown figures are in the EIR but none show this dramatic interference.

SHAM PROCESS
Public comment about the EIR was solicited, and many people made thorough comments supported by data. Had the Water District been sincere about doing an excellent job for the people of the valley not just a short-sited grab for its customers, this would have been a factual treasure trove of solid reasoning.  Comments questioned multiple specious bases of the EIR while others explained data (missing from the EIR) that showed different EIR conclusions to be incorrect or unfounded. At this point, you won’t be surprised to find out that the 2008 AB303 water sampling and analysis study was still not included in the modeling used for this supposedly more thorough 2011 environmental report.

But the Official Comments were essentially ignored in the Official Response process.  Often supposed responses to legitimate critical comments merely repeated (copy and paste) the original poor EIR wording that had been so carefully questioned by commenters.  Other times, the response said something irrelevant to the specific question posed by a commenter.

One of my official comments was about how arsenic solubility problems can be created by the nature of their planned pumping scheme and closely spaced wells. In my case at least, the response to this critique stated incorrect hydrological chemistry with an erroneous conclusion in order to falsely claim that my comment was incorrect.

A Final Public Hearing and vote by the Water Board was set for February 23, 2012. Some of us put in more effort to try to overcome the sham responses to the issues on which we had been focusing. Prior to the hearing, I clearly pointed out why I was actually indeed correct in my statements about prospective water quality damage.  I produced a set of graphic slides with explanatory notes.  This was delivered to Board members.

The night of the hearing, I accused their “hired lackey” of an EIR-geo-hydrology “expert” of lacking relevant knowledge and crucial understanding of the science.  My accusation was backed by scientific explanation supported by national experts and respectable references. What the Water District’s contractor did was so disgusting that I couldn’t even get a laugh out of how red he turned while begging those siting near him to believe he really was an expert.

So many people had submitted factual and helpful official comments. Many also made very well thought and substantiated criticisms at the February 23 hearing prior to the vote. As promised, they let us talk extensively because that would be the only way to get our positions into the record.

WATER WAR II LOST, OR MAYBE NOT?
After about 4 hours of public comments, the 5 elected Board members were ready to vote. Their lawyer explicitly asked something to this effect: Do you understand that approving the project means that you acknowledge significant impact to water quality that you will never mitigate?  They voted on each of several motions. It was unclear exactly how many 4, 5, 6?  The Water District’s lawyer cleared it up enough for the Board to actually be able to vote, though at least one seemed to remain uncertain about precisely what some motions meant. There was complete denunciation of the EIR and superficial process by one brave Board member who cares deeply about preserving availability of quality water in our valley. There was limited dissention by a couple of other members.

Bottom line? The EIR for the destructive project was certified.  But it wasn’t funded.

Why wasn’t it funded?  Some Board members were worried they really were too ignorant of the facts to actually proceed, even under pressure from their colleagues.  But they didn’t have the money either. The Water District had raised rates in a way that encouraged much needed conservation. Many people got serious after learning conservation was really needed, and the alternative hurt their wallets. So the Water District laid people off but was still losing money and heading for the accounting red zone.

The District’s lawyer told us at the next regular Board meeting that the Board having certified the project did not mean it would occur.  More motions would have to pass in future votes.

Changes occurred later in 2012.
The Water District raised its rates again to avoid the financial red zone. They blamed it on cost of arsenic treatment but lots of people felt they were being punished for conserving. This time the little water users carried a heavier burden than the big water users and wasters.

One Board member moved away and an interim member was appointed. The one who left was pro-growth with less regard for other factors. The interim member had been on the Water Board years ago, hadn’t sat in the meeting audience for several years, but was chosen as most qualified. The appointing majority expected him to be in the pro-growth at-any-long-term-cost camp but he wasn’t. A former Board member who had attended essentially all meetings for the past many years applied but was rejected, although she was more knowledgeable than some serving members. The General Manager of the District retired and was replaced.

Even the February 23 motions that passed did not fully approve the project, so more votes were required.   A pro-growth-and-others-be-@#$%^& Board member pushed hard to vote to approve the project at the first meeting with these new personnel. Another Board member said she would agree if the motion included language requiring measuring and monitoring of water quality. It passed by 1 vote. She apologized later that she didn’t realize she had failed to include mitigation.  She was very nervous because of strongly competing pressures from questionable EIR “expertise” versus science-and-facts versus business. Some very limited funding for a preparatory study passed. And the Water District’s lawyer told the audience this did not eliminate their right to sue.

Though we had lost much, the arsenic monitoring was a small consolation to the water drinking public.

Indian Wells Canyon—runs west above valley floor to Sierras.

Part 4.  Status to Date in 2013
Elections occurred in November 2012. The Water Board gained 2 new members to start serving in 2013.  The most knowledgeable person running lost by a couple hundred votes.  But our election efforts did spread the truth about water issues. And both new members are thoughtful and have been revealed as caring deeply about protecting the whole valley’s water supply (not just the District).  An incumbent who is knowledgeable and thoughtful was also re-elected.

A system of monitoring wells is being established in 2013.

At the April 2013 regular Board meeting, that aggressive member again pushed even harder for the Board to vote to fund the project.  He harangued at length multiple times.  Finally a vote was taken:  2 in favor, 2 against, with the water newbie member abstaining.

On June 10, the Board voted to fund a study to determine revised costs for re-equipping two wells with big 2,200 GPM pumps. Some Board members asked their engineer lots of challenging questions about this.

New Board members welcomed water-quality educational materials from me. We found out that 3 Board members (a majority) are currently against actually funding any wells with such big pumps.  They are working hard on viable alternatives among limited options.

So as of this writing, our position in the High Desert Water Wars is looking less bad.  There’s hope for  more reasonable solutions to the valley’s water needs.  Chances are now good that remaining potable water will not immediately start to be pumped in ways that would allow relatively cheap thus wasteful use, reduce access by overlying land owners, and damage water quality.

But we are wary.  Unfortunately, agriculture is still allowed unfettered use of water.  The Los Angeles DWP, that already takes much of the water from the Sierras north of us, is making arrangements to bank and take water from the valleys south of us.

The informal Water Wise Friends are converting to a group registered in our state, and thus gaining some legal status.

Bottom Line in 2013
The High Desert Water Wars, even beyond our valley, will likely continue throughout our lifetimes.  The issues for our valley will be more serious each year.  We’ll continue to serve on the front lines to the extent of our abilities—or until dry wells force us to move away, pushed by the dry desert winds.


Part 5.  A summary of What Works and What Doesn’t
The things in the What Worked section applied to our 2007 Water War, except for the campaigning that occurred in 2012.  The What Doesn’t Work section represents the tired effort on the part of many Water Wise people during the 2011-2012 water war. These activities likely apply to other kinds of efforts to influence public decisions and can be successfully applied to almost any community organizing project against city and county interests that involve a process allowing for public input and comment.

What Works

  • 100s of people simply attend public meetings—lots of voters make an impression
  • Lots of people make simple comments at meetings—be smart or just complain
  • Some knowledgeable people speak at public meetings
  • Lots of newspaper coverage—short letters to editor with 1 topic each, guest editor educational articles
  • Stress negative cost and health aspects
  • Convince business community that your position is better for growth
  • Educate voting Board and government representatives through multiple contacts over time
  • Expose bad science and data with simple explanations
  • Talk in person, don’t rely on others to read even important long documents
  • Campaign to elect wise people running for relevant positions

What Doesn’t Work

  • Too few attend public meetings and hearings
  • Failure to get business community on board
  • Failure to bring along regional and county government officials through many contacts
  • Too little newspaper exposure
  • Failure to convince public about incorrect Environmental Impact Report
  • Some Water Board Directors/members not reading the EIR or its repudiating comments before voting
  • Failing to do the What Works activities

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High Desert Water Wars was originally published on a tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12  in San Francisco.

STW – Spread The Word

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

INDIVIDUAL: The deceptive Grey
GROUP SIZE: 6,974,000,000
NATURE OF GROUP: current era humans of the planet earth

INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: STW – the Spread The Word discernment and resistance movement

 Grey aliens, the most frequently cited and described perpetrators of alien abductions of humans, are a controversial phenomena. Obviously the parent controversy is whether or not they actually exist, followed by whether their existence is physical or psychologically manifested, whether they are extra-terrestrial sentient beings who have arrived on earth through intergalactic travel or whether they are humans from the distant future coming back to our time through inter-dimensional or time-travel to modify their present through genetic banking or influencing of events, whether they are our brothers in arms in an inter-dimensional war with universally reviled reptilian aliens or merely our allies in an enemy-of-my-enemy scenario, whether they are in-cahoots with black-ops factions of the shadow government, and lastly whether they are ultimately benevolent and acting in the interest of current-era humans, despite actions seemingly to the contrary, or whether they are deceitful and acting in their own self-interest at the expense of current-era humans.

Ghana | all images reposted from STW

In the early 90’s, during a surge in DIY mass-stickering campaigns – anyone remember Andre the Giant Has a Posse? – IS came into contact with agent V2 and their group Spread The Word who distributed free round stickers of the globally recognized grey alien face with the red circle/slash NO symbol overlaid on it. Initially interpreting the image as a non-sequeter “fun” graphic campaign, IS took advantage of the generously large free sticker packs that would arrive in the mail from the return address PO Box 911 in Stanwood Washington for redistribution in our own Special Agent Kits.

Egypt | all images reposted from STW

Over twenty years later, STW continues unchanged. The same graphic on the stickers, the same PO Box (augmented now with the enviable domain freestickers.net), the same anonymous special agent in charge – V2. While many other graphic sticker campaigns have come and gone – some, like Andre The Giant Has A Possee, morphing into graphic art empires – STW remains steadfast in it’s mission of spreading the word through free stickers. It’s difficult to estimate the sheer volume of stickers distributed but it is safe to say millions distributed to every corner of the globe.

IS came to understand several years into our postal relationship that STW’s longevity of mission derives more from an ideological purity than an mere appreciation for graphic campaigns and mail art exchanges. STW really IS oriented around spreading the word about deceptive alien entities. One of our founding IS agents – stationed in Washington state attempted to make face-to-face contact with V2 in the late 90’s and was politely declined. To paraphrase, V2 told our agent that due to the nature of their crusade they had a firm policy of anonymity and no face-to-face contact. Although they were pretty certain they could trust an IS agent there was no underestimating the level of deceptiveness deployed by the Grey’s in pursuit of their evil agenda and no one outside the STW core-cell could be trusted.

T-shirt at Stonehenge | all images reposted from STW

To attempt to codify the belief system driving the campaign; the Grey’s are physical extraterrestrial beings, likely in cahoots with or in control of a shadow government, that if at all involved as allies in a struggle with other entities are doing so in their own self-interest exclusively but are more likely to be floating a mythology about an intergalactic war as cover for their own evil agenda, that they are abducting humans, spreading psychological fear, and banking genetics as part of an insidious plot that is in no way beneficial to humans who are either their enemies or at best collateral damage. Most importantly to the mission of STW is the belief that Grey’s can be thwarted in their agenda through simple awareness, discernment, and resistance. They are effective only through their use of fear and intimidation and like every school-yard bully the Universe over can be thwarted with a firm and brave resistance. Their intrusion into our lives, psyches, and genetic lineage can be resisted by standing up with-out fear to say NO to their deceptions and intimidations. The stickers remain unchanged after decades because they are the perfect encapsulation of the message. Just say NO to deceptive alien entities.

Mexico City | all images reposted from STW

For free stickers and further education on the topic of deceptive Grey’s please visit STW at freestickers.net or on their Facebook page.
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STW hase been a contributor to ALL FIVE Sociometry Fairs going back to 1996 including the most recent iSFair 2O12  in San Francisco.

NWMMP // MMXII

Sunday, May 12th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
Agent Brian Dick tag-team alternating with Agent Christen Sperry-Garcia
GROUP SIZE: two or three at a time, sometimes up to ten, collectively hundreds over a decade
NATURE OF GROUP: unsuspecting art fans and/or uneasy museum managers
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: The Nation Wide Museum Mascot Project

NWMMP at MOMA

Though the origins of shamanism are cloaked in a Joseph Campbell style myth-mash and/or ivory-tower navel gazings, humans have been putting on goofy animal costumes and accosting strangers since the paleolithic era. Though the practice exists close to it’s original form among arctic Inuits and in the highlands of Borneo and Burma, it’s experienced in the arena of western society in the form of mini-tramp front-flip slam-dunks from an anthropomorphized cartoon jersey-wearing panther or a waddling purple dinosaur leading a trail of children pied-piper like into to flabby arms of television-aided consumer-capitalism. Costumery that was once a holy vessel for a divine messenger is now bouncing and waving from an Ford-land tent-sale commercial.

above and below: NWMMP at DAG

Around the turn of the 21rst century performance and prank artist (and upper echelon IS agent) Brian Dick wanted to get some fresh faces off the street and into a San Diego performance art space. Recognizing that there IS nothing better than a mascot to disarm and draw in the passive consumer, The Museum Mascot project was born. Shortly after, Brian, and ‘artner Christen Sperry-Garcia started seeking permission to “mascot” venerable art museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Though met with the type of snobbishly paternalistic stonewalling tactics typically deployed by the permission granters at such public art institutions, they decided to just show up in costume and see what happens. Something about the benevolence of the mission – convincing the passer-by that art is fun – and the bad-p.r. security takedown of a friendly dancing manimal surrounded by a gaggle of happy kids lead to tacit permission to do their thing.

NWMMP at SFMOMA

Developing a found-object and improvisational approach, the pair typically hits town a day before the gig to scrounge neighborhood dumpsters and garage sales for spent piñatas, children’s imprinted sleeping bags, and county-fair size stuffed animals to frankenstein together a mascot costume with multicolored duct-tape. By pulling together cast-offs from the community they create a character which mediates the low-culture of a city neighborhood with the high-culture of an art institution much in that way shamans use masks to communicate the concerns of an earth-bound culture to the spirit realm.

And the kids love it! And, the “Fine Art” patrons find it terribly awkward…

NWWMP IS fun indoors and out!

In 2012 the duo crowd-sourced funding to take the Nation Wide Museum Mascot Project coast-to-coast with a 50/50 invite vs. guerilla target list tour of 21 acronym institutions – including MCASD, MOCAD, OCMA, MOMA, SFMOMA with a stop at iSFair 2O12 along the way.
—–

The Museum Mascot has been the official mascot of Sociometry Fair 2008

… and iSFair 2O12.

A Gift For You!

Sunday, May 5th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
 Jim Kiel
GROUP SIZE: 677 – possibly thousands
NATURE OF GROUP: People executed by the death penalty world wide in 2001 (Amnesty International
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: A Gift For You!

Jim Kiel, of Aurora Colorado, sent a letter to the editor of Denver’s Westword newspaper in which he advocated a 100 point criminal justice system resulting in capital punishment. (See Pg. 8 of Westword Vol. 35, #15). His home address was easily retrieved from a simple google search.



“Assign point values that increase with the seriousness or violence of the crime, and when your convictions total 100 points, you’re executed” – Jim Kiel, Aurora

Almost a year later, every day for the month of October (National Crime Prevention Month, and including Oct. 11th World Day Against The Death Penalty), thIS agent mailed Jim Kiel clippings related to the death penalty around the world, starting with photocopies of two letters on the topic Jim Kiel had written to local newspapers, then initially a series of seemingly pro death penalty clippings, segueing to clippings on the death penalty internationally – mostly focusing on China and Iran – before concluding with a series of anti or educational death penalty articles.

An Innocent Man’s Tortured Days on Texas’s Death Row – ACLU

All of the clipping were mailed in identical envelopes with a letterpressed return address for the Institute of Sociometry partially obscuring the pre-printed gold-ink “A Gift For You!” vintage stationary and addressed to Jim Kiel with a typewriter. No personal information was included in the letters – only the photocopied clippings.



File copies of 31 death penalty related clippings sent to Jim Kiel. 

 No response was received to the letters. The 31rst and last planned letter, postmarked on Halloween was returned to sender marked “not deliverable as addressed”.



“NOT DELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED” – USPS. Apparently the preceding 30 letters were fine with the same address.
———

ThIS report was originally released at iSFair 2O12.

Old Black Dickies. New Black Flags.

Sunday, April 21st, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
IS agent Wendell M. Kling
GROUP SIZE: Looking to grow the ranks
NATURE OF GROUP: Flyers of the black flag
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Old Black Dickies. New Black Flags.

Your black Dickies got you through high-school hazing, multiple mosh-pits, summer community-service at the animal-shelter, and looked pretty good washed and ironed for your Aunts funeral. Now, knees shredded from skateboard-slams, ass worn thin from the leather of your bike-seat, and pockets blown from too much spare change, they lie clean-and-folded at the bottom of your IKEA bureau.

How to memorialize your “wasted youth” in black dickies? You can’t toss them out with the baby diapers – because you have a laundering service for the re-usable nappies. You can’t use them to change the oil in your tan Aerostar because you have that done at Eco-garage™. Now that you’re a permaculture dad, how do you up-cycle this durable fabric into a functional reusable item for the enjoyment of you and your family?

Send them to IS agent Wendell M. Kling and he will sew and send back a hand-crafted black flag!  !¡!¡



Hands OFF the Outback parking pig!

You can proudly wave your black flag at the next NO-GMO rally with the wife or to put it in that unused flag holder out in front of your home to let The Man know they’d better think twice about putting that street-sweeping ticket on your 2006 Outback! And… when night falls and your gated-community security-guard leaves his white CRV idling outside the Albertsons you can demonstrate to your teen son how the complimentary 1.5″ flag dowel penetrates a windshield like a hypodermic through a birthday balloon!

Get your black flag TODAY! Here’s how:


———

Black Dickies flags and solicitations for more black Dickies were distributed at iSFair 2O12.

I Dare You

Sunday, April 14th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
IS agent JK
GROUP SIZE: Approximately 238,035,525
NATURE OF GROUP: English speaking Women of the Earth
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: I Dare You

Grace Kelly, Ellen, Jacky-O, Frieda Khalo, and Jennifer Hudson

The word cunt is often seen as a vulgar, harsh, disgusting way to put a woman down. (The Urban Dictionary definition of cunt.) This word has acquired a power all it’s own that is intended to hurt the women it’s directed at. Most of us just call it “the c word” feeding into the hold this four letter word has against emotions and self worth. It’s no secret that if a man wants to put a women in her place or emotionally hurt her, all he as to do is call her a cunt. This word above all others, above bitch, hoe, tramp, etc. holds such a power over a majority of women and this has to stop. It is another way to create the gap between the sexes, to “knock us down a peg or two” – a battle all too familiar for women.

Women’s rights have been in the spotlight for quite some time now. A major example of this is the ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment, which was put up to congress in 1972  but not ratified by the states, expired in 1982, and has yet to be put back up for a vote. The ERA was supposed to give equal pay to men and women along with other ways to make the sexes equal. Women’s rights have been an uphill battle since we were given the right to vote – long before the ERA was proposed. From unequal treatment in the workplace, to the idea that we shouldn’t be able to make decisions about our own bodies, this issue seems to never get resolved and is pushed back into the recesses of society. That is until the idea of women’s rights becomes useful, like in times of a presidential election.

Katie Couric inviting you to Forever 21 at the mall.

The concept of I Dare You is to draw attention to this lack of equality, to the power we are giving away. Allowing anyone to use a word to emotionally harm us is something we have control over. In order to get this idea across I choose to use the desensitization approach, place the word on women of all types, shapes, color, and political stances, but all iconic, and make it big. In order for this approach to make the biggest impact possible and evoke emotion from the viewer., it needed to be bold and in your face. The variety of women selected for the posters is diverse. Some of them might be described as a cunt by some and not by others and vice versa. The idea behind this is to get the viewer to think “why would I call Hillary Clinton a cunt, but not Zooey Deschanel?” The dialogue that is created is the first step in realizing that cunt is just a word. If women can take that power back from the word, it can no longer be used to keep us in the box society has placed us in.

Through this project I hope to bring attention to many things; the power a word has that it shouldn’t, gender issues and roles, as well as problems in society. By creating a dialogue between the message of the posters and the public that views them, I am hoping to make a difference in how women view their own worth. Your importance cannot be determined by your sex, your self esteem cannot be hindered by a word, and your worth as a person should have nothing to do with your anatomy. Far too often successful women are labeled by the people underneath them, or they aren’t taken seriously, however, there is no male equivalent to the word cunt, and if you call a man that, it doesn’t hold the same power.

Hello Barbara Walters!

The beauty of language is we are able to make it grow and change as our society does. Words that once held heavy weight, such as whore, or bitch, no longer hold that same power. As a society, we have taken those words and desensitized them, made them less threatening. The origin of the word cunt “quna” in several African languages was used to identify a woman as a queen. In other parts of the world today the word cunt  it isn’t seen as bad at all. It’s used in New Zealand and Australia to describe a person as stupid, and in Britain it may be used with a positive qualifier such as good or funny. The cunt is a part of female anatomy, nothing bad about it at all. However, in American society today it is seen as the most derogatory word a woman can be called and labeled as the only word left to still cause genuine shock when used and is called a vulgar word.

Women have the capability to choose to not let this word hold this power. We can take it back and take away the negative connotations it has developed and make it a word of the past, one that no longer shocks and offends people. This poster campaign is my way of contributing to this movement and the movement of gender equality.

~ IS agent JK
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Documentation of thIS wheat-pasting spree was first exhibited at Render in Denver Colorado, on idareyou-21 and was on display at iSFair 2O12.

Spagz Lies!

Sunday, April 7th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
 John Q. Public
GROUP SIZE: Estimated in the thousands, actually in the tens
NATURE OF GROUP: Recreate 68 - a group of permitted protestors at the 2008 Denver DNC
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: BEWARE SHEEPLE! SPAGZ LIES!

ThIS report titled Covering the media covering the media covering the protestors protesting the protesters at the DNC was originally published in five daily posts on the now cached Blog of Lumpen and IS a spin-off of an print article Art Attack! Artist’s Prank Punks Re-create 68, Other Activists in Denver’s Westword newspaper.

 

#is May, 1968 – August, 2008
Those who try to recreate history are doomed to bumble it.

The Barnacle Protester Picketing Recreate 68 | (See All Photos here)

On the night of May 10th, 1968 striking teachers, students, and a cadre of young trade unionists took to the streets of Paris’s Latin Quarter under the battle cry “End the Police State”. After swelling their ranks to over 50,000 barricades went up throughout the left bank to prepare for pitched battles with truncheon wielding police in what has become codified in the annals of radical activism as “The Night of the Barricades”. Amidst clouds of chlorine gas, the riot swelled over the next three weeks to include close to half-a-million. A general strike of nine-million workers in support of the students brought the de Gaulle regime to its knees.

A principal force behind 2008’s DNC protests was “Recreate 68”. The name, according to the groups de-facto leader Glenn Spagnuolo a locally notorious professional protestor, refers to the spirit of mass political participation of the late 1960’s. Despite, or perhaps because of, such effective branding, Recreate 68 was forced to defend a barrage of media spin painting the group as violent reactionaries intent on goading the administration of Denver’s quirky leftist Mayor John Hickenlooper (now Govenor) into a rehash of Daily’s 1968 Chicago DNC gestapo Tactics.

Refusing to change the name of his coalition in the face of negative spin, or to specifically disavow violence as a (defence) tactic, Spagnuolo and Recreate 68 weathered through a disassociation and some acrimony with other major permitted protest groups such as Tent State, a nationwide organization of college-student activists attempting to erect a tent city on the Platte, and Code-Pink a crack squadron of pink-costumed anti-war ladies in the 35 to 55 social demographic.

One of the only groups who continued to attend Recreate 68 working meetings leading up to the DNC was Unconventional Denver, a disruption focused squad of Anarchists who, in subscribing to an autonomous action philosophy, don’t quibble the details.

In a bizarre twist, Spagnuolo even acquired his own personal protestor, a lone man adorned with a sign that reads “Beware Sheeple SPAGZ LIES.” Identifying himself to the Media as “John Q. Public” – but better described by local Westword scribe Jared Jacang-Mayer as “The Barnacle Protestor” his mission is to, “latch onto any other demonstration or event, get press and make everyone uncomfortable.” (See the caricature)


Recreate 68 pre-DNC working meeting with The Barnacle Protestor barely visible in the background.

Spagnuolo, in addition to Denver Copwatch spokesman Evan Herzoff, Unconventional Denver spokesman Clayton Dewey, and a host of other local activists, were also the victims of a divisive and quasi-threatening prank by a local “anonymous artist” and “utopian anarchist” who may-or-may-not-be-or-be-related-to the Barnacle Protestor. In early June they received a flyer reading “WE BEAT YOU THEN! WE’LL BEAT YOU AGAIN!”, which appeared to be from a rouge Denver Cop threatening to recreate the 1968 spirit of mass police mayhem and wanton head-cracking. An hour before a press conference called to demand an Internal Affairs investigation into rogue cops, the “artist” outed the entire thing as a hoax through the local media. (See the Flyer and read the article) 

It was in this climate of (dis)organization, negative media hype, and protestor-on-protestor-protesting that the Denver activist community steeled itself for…
—–

#is Sunday August 24th, 2008

Day of the Protest Permits

9:00 am:1968 this is not. Denver radicals aren’t afraid of the sun and people are not sleeping in.Over at Tent State crusty eyed college kids are lined up for the Rage Against the Machine free concert ticket lottery like cattle queuing up at the dorm cafeteria trough.

10:00 am: Recreate 68 exercises its first officially permitted radical action by entertaining a crowd of seventy or so on the steps of the State Capitol. A slate of hip-hop acts and radical speakers froth everyone up for the 11:00 am march to the “Freedom Cage” – the DNC’s fenced in free speech zone. The crowd is energetic but slight and comprised of the usual suspects; black-hoodied anarchists, Critical Mass bike punks, Green Party yuppies, earnest teenage hippies, and The Barnacle Protestor holding a sign that reads R68 SPREADS FEAR with an amazing whirligig device which animates four inch high wooden cutouts of two 60’s era white beat cops kicking and night-sticking a crouching brown man every time the wind blows.

11:15 am: Everyone rolls out for the Pepsi-Center leaving behind a small crowd of international and out-of-town media asking each other where the parade route is, (just follow the parade!?) and The Barnacle Protestor watching his back while smoking a cigarette. This presstester walks over to try to get a statement and untagle the mess of conflicting reports tying him to the WE BEAT YOU prank.

m[i]le[s]: Pretty amazing device. Did you make that?
BP: No an artist named John Fitchen made it. Its one of fifty – one for every state.
m[i]le[s]: Did you make that flyer? (Pointing to the WE BEAT YOU THEN flyer screen printed onto his T-shirt.)
BP: No I picked it up at the Gypsy House Cafe. (Where Recreate 68 was holding their working meetings.)

At this point The Barnacle Protestor goes into a first amendment diatribe that seems to be the pre-cursor to a rambling stream-of-conciousness speech.

Fifteen feet behind The Barnacle Protestor, languishing in the grass under the protective shade of three 250lb. plus body guards, Ward Churchill – the infamous University of Colorado Professor and American Indian Movement activist who referred to the World Trade Center victims as, “Little Eichmans” – observes and listens to The Barnacle Protestors First Amendment rant.

m[i]le[s]: Mr. Churchill can I get a picture?
Ward: I guess if you were a cop you wouldn’t ask.
R-68 Security (stepping in): You’re with him!!! (Pointing to The Barnacle Protestor). NO PICTURES!”

This agent gives The Barnacle Protestor my number, and a request to keep me updated on his schedule and heads off to…

12:00 Noon: Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission is dug in on the corner of Colfax and Broadway in between the swirl of Official DNC booths at Civic Center Park and R68, Ward Churchill, and the slate of off-the-charts-left squawkers on the Capitol steps.

An earnest Code-Pink demographic lady is giving a Code Red-White-and-Blue eulogy of her son Mark – a Navy Seal killed in Ramadi. Mark stood up in the line of fire three times to cover his comrades in a roof-top fire-fight before laying down his life. She turns to address the Capitol and the now dissipated throng of Recreate 68, “My son died for your freedoms… Mark was not an officer, but he was a leader!”

Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission and Media covering Media.

Moist eyes all around, signs reading “Don’t Feed The Leftists” and “General David Petraus, American Hero” are pumped in the air to rousing patriotism.

1:30 pm: Over at Tent State disgruntled College kids who drove in from all over Colorado are told that the Rage Against The Machine Ticket Lottery has been suspended until 4:00 pm to encourage participation in..

2:00 pm: Tent State’s Funk The War costume dance party and march leaves Union Station headed East up the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall toward the Capitol and Civic Center Park with a crowd of approximately two hundred. Plain-cloths protestors are interspersed with ten foot carnival puppets, Tent State college kids pushing beat blasting PA carts, banner wielding human-rights activists, a small squad of black-n-orange flag Unconventional Denver anarchists, Code Pink ladies on immaculately decorated bikes, nostalgic hippies, convention tourists, Recreate 68ers on loan from the Capitol rally, and media media media media, are all accompanied by fifty, motorcycle, bike, and traffic cops, halting cars and politely trying to keep everyone on the sidewalk.


Tent State Puppet, Funk the War

Code Pink bike soldier.

Stopping for occasion red-light dance parties, the procession marches ten blocks up to California Street where the crowd begins to stagnate and dissipate. The Recreate 68ers continue on to the Capitol, the black-n-orange Anarchists turn around and began marching against the current, the plain-cloths protestors and convention tourists relegate to the sidelines for souvenir snapshots, and the Tent Staters begin heading back to their river-side lair.



Red Light Dance Party

3:00 pm: Those remaining confusingly fall into line and begin to march back to Union Station. At Stout Street marchers, cops, and media media media, are flanked by a side-street-surprise-attack of close to two hundred fifty previously unseen Unconventional Anarchists led by the initial black-n-orange color guard and an advance cavalry of track-bike punks.

Spread out curb to curb in the face of brakes-jamming traffic, and radio barking cops, they march up to and take over the pedestrian mall, absorb Funk The War, and turn east toward the Capitol yelling call and response.

WHO’S STREETS?
OUR STREETS!
WHO’S STREETS
OUR STREETS!


Our Streets, The Anarchists take over.
<

Two blocks further east the riot cops began to manifest from nowhere. Thirty line the mall with night sticks, then fifty at the intersection with rubber bullet and pepper spray guns, then fifty bike cops coming up from the rear, then thirty on horseback, then multiple SUV’s with a dozen hanging off the side of each keystone cops style, then middle age men in khaki’s and blazers with Obama lapel pins RUNNING at a dead sprint while barking into discreetly sized handhelds.

Turning the corner at 16th street onto Broadway, the Anarchists make an attempt to shut down the city’s main intersection, Colfax and Broadway – right down the hill from the Capitol. Now in Battalion Force and operating-on-a-dime, the cops push the Anarchists onto the sidewalk of Lincoln Park, the one block greenery separating the official DNC fest at Civic Center Park and the Recreate 68 rally at the Capitol, effectively separating the Anarchists with a riot squad buffer from the DNC folks shilling Obama t-shirts. The cops make an example of a twelve-year-old Hispanic Teenager who tries to break the barricade by cuffing and stuffing him – much to the consternation of the crowd and the delight of the media media media.

Clayton Dewey, Unconventional Denver’s spokesman, walks to the front line, throws up his arms and yells, “HEY DEMOCRATS!! ARE YOU GOING TO LET THEM ARREST THIS KID? IS THAT WHAT YOUR PARTY IS ALL ABOUT?”

After half-an-hour the Anarchists melt-away to battle another day leaving behind the now incensed daily denizens of the park. Lampin’ Gangsta’s, down-and-outs waiting for the #15 bus, and inebriated hobos. One honkey-G starts yelling, “Man this is bullshit! The DNC is bullshit. Yo! Fuck tha’ Police! Democrats are Bullshit.”Eventually the crowd of stragglers stroll off to their respective haunts revealing The Barnacle Protestor. He stands alone, toes hanging over the curb, faced by a remaining battalion of fifty or so riot cops, casually spinning the windmill on the whirlygig and animating the little wooden beat-down for the media media media as they cue up behind him to take turns getting The Shot.



Whirligig by John Fitchen
—–


#is Monday August 25th, 2008

Right Makes Might

12:30 pm: To go for fair-and-balanced approach I’m tagging along with The Barnacle Protestor to the Minutemen Civil Defence Corps’ “Massive Anti-Immigration Rally.”

A handful of wanna-be tough guys in green safety vests guard approximately sixty octogenarians with DIY signs and homely couples in folding camp chairs. All are attentively listening to presidential candidates and off the charts right-wingers Bob Barr, Alan Keys, and Chuck Baldwin.These folks love the whirligig. The depiction of cops subjugating a brown man combined with fine wood craftsmanship is enough to knock the liver spots right off any toothless patriot.

The Barnacle Protestor is telling his story to some minutemen, flipping his shoulder strapped sign book through a series of declaratives; SPAGZ LIES, Honk for the Puppets, PUPPETS MAKE PUPPETS.

While protesting their working meeting a Recreate 68 “hypocrite” named Jill told him, “I don’t give a fuck about the first amendment” and called the cops on him for protesting their protest – trying to violate his right to assemble (by himself). Glenn Spagnuolo (SPAGZ) lies to the media, has made personal threats against him, told him to “up his meds” and that “the group doesn’t advocate violence but I do.”

When he offered Glenn a shirt with the flyer printed on it as “something to remember me by” Glenn told him, “I’ll take that t-shirt and shove it up your ass.” Apparently the emperor wears no clothes.

After honing his story on the minutemen, and an independent photographer, he’s now in front of a full documentary crew in matching outfits.



SPAGZ LIES!

2:00 pm: The Barnacle Protestor’s repeated claim that he is not the “anonymous artist” who sent the threatening email and flyer just gained some credibility with the posting of this article by Michael Roberts, who penned the original Art Attack article.

The Barnacle Protestor is, however, apparently in collusion with the now (un)anonymous artist a “Pete Bergman”, as he makes an official statement in the communique.

5:30 pm: Recreate 68’s attempt to Levitate the Denver Mint a la Abby Hoffman is a lackluster affair. Sparse attendance – well attended by riot cops – and a distracting right-on-right shouting match that erupted between Fox News correspondent Michelle Malkin and New World Order conspirist Alex Jones, left behind a sole dejected wizard, Recreate 68’s Mark Cohen, making a media statement.



If I only had my other cap on I could have levitated it!

6:00 pm: Code Pink has called out the full force to spell Make Out Not War on the banks of the river across from Tent State.



Give me an O!

Over the bridge, The Barnacle Protestor is socializing with a squad of fifteen riot cops. They’re taking turns having their picture snapped with the whirligig. He’s handing out WE BEAT YOU THEN flyers, referring to them as right wing fascist propaganda, and a flyer titled The Haymarket Issue, a photocopied screed about murdering the cop inside yourself, referring to it as left wing anarchist propaganda. He whips out a shirt with the WE BEAT YOU graphic and the cops start clambering in their wallets for five spots, or business cards if their short of cash. A proud recipient of the shirt declares, “I’m going to wear this to work.”



Amen Brother!

6:30 pm: Unconventional Anarchists at Civic Center Park are making their first salvo in the opening battle on the DNC. Tying on the bandanas, locking arms, and shouting “Our Streets!” a dozen Anarchists charge headlong into a line of Cops – who immediately douse them with pepper spray. Mayhem erupts as a couple hundred Anarchists sweep up a hundred innocent bystanders and charge. The adjacent Sheraton – a delegate hotel – goes on lock-down. The cops corral the now battle ready hoard into the Civic Center. Approximately two hundred fifty Anarchists and unfortunate bystanders are herded into an underground parking garage.

Back at Tent State, The Barnacle Protestor launches into a fifth media showcase of his story for 5:00 am drive-time New Orleans radio correspondent Kasper Bohne. I fully transition from journalist to presstester by recounting his now memorized mis-information to a camera-man who had been patiently waiting his turn in the waning light. He asked me what I was doing to wit I replied, “Covering the media covering me while I cover that protestor protesting the protestors.”

As of Blog time – Midnight Monday – Anarchists are being released from the garage one at a time based on a vindicative police viewing of the instant replay. Many black hoodies are still drawn up against the walls of the parking garage, bandanas pawing at stinging eyes.
—–


#is Tuesday August 26th, 2008

Send in the clowns

(See all photos here)

11:11 am: Four elderly members of Falun Gong sit motionless on fifteenth street – backs to racing taxis and rented Escalades.

The only truly peaceful protester in Denver 

11:30 am: In Civic Center Park Glenn Spagnuolo, SPAGZ, is barnacle protesting banner wielding homophobes who are in turn barnacle protesting Recreate 68’s park protest permit. Glenn has a bull-horn and is sporting a borderline incitement t-shirt that screams DEFEND DENVER over the silhouette of a cocked Kalashnikov.

Che Spagnuolo Barnacle Protesting the homophobes.

11:40 am: A brewing melee between Recreate 68 and the homophobes is interrupted by nearby cries of:

WHO’S STREETS?
OUR STREETS!
WHO’S STREETS
OUR STREETS!

A small squad of as-yet-unincarcerated anarchists is facing off with a police line at the western edge of the park. Media media media media jogs across the grass in heels and top-siders for a follow up shot to last nights street sweep.

The homophobes (sorry can’t help but editorialize there) are left open for comment. Ruban Israel, from Los Angeles, silenced on a macro scale due to his recently crumpled bull-horn, carefully stipulates that the group is comprised of “nondenominational street preachers NOT protestors”. When asked if there were any Catholics in the mix he replies, “We’re Christians.” The group hails from “LA, Jersey, Utah, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, And Norway.” They’re concerned with the whole pantheon of religious-right issues but all agreed that “homo-sex” would be a good hot button issue to push for the DNC.

I tell Ruben that the Radio Shack on the pedestrian mall is running an eighty dollar special on bull-horns and move on to check out the…

12:00 noon: Procession of Future Puppets. The puppet parade – organized by a group called Backbon Campaign which is also traveling to St. Paul for the RNC – rolls out onto west Colfax absorbing anyone center-right leftward, including a Code Pink battalion, Tent Stater’s, convention tourists with kids, media media, and the cops who lead the procession with a golf cart flashing the alternating sign, “Welcome to Denver,” and “Follow Us.” (See more images)

We…

The People…

1:00 pm: Back at Civic Center Park the 911 Truth Commission is out in force co-opting the more paranoid leaning members of all groups right to left. A Tent State organizer (or is he Code Pink) yells “911 was a lie! The truth will come out!” into his bull-horn in a confusing convergence of protestations. Media media media looks dejectedly around for Alex Jones so they can get a sound-bite and break for lunch.

I’m approached by the documentary crew in matching outfits – Todd Cassetty with HiFi Fusion from Nashville – for a comment on the Barnacle Protestor.

Since I’m obviously not “sticking to the facts”, I decide to break another journalistic credo, “don’t become the story,” and pimp-out Todd’s documentary with some mis-information of my own.

Taking a cue from the Barnacle Protestor’s left-wing anarchist propaganda flyer, (see the text of The Haymarket Issue) I come at Recreate 68 with an oblique left. In the heat of critiquing their backward-looking permitted-protest mentality from an Ontological Anarchist stance I decide it would be really over-the-top to identify myself as “Pete Bergman” the “anonymous artist” and claim the WE BEAT YOU flyer as an act of Black Propaganda…

2:30 pm: The rest of the afternoon is spent in clown training on the grass at Tent State with Captain. Cookie Chaos and Pvt. Spud Peel of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. Formed in the UK in 2003 to protest the G8, CIRCA now has gaggles of clowns all over the world; Israel/Palestine, all over Europe, Peru, Oaxaca, and now Denver. The clowns, like Code Pink, interject themselves between hard-core Anarchists and lines of cops to diffuse violence with humor and beauty. When the police chant, “BACK UP! BACK UP!” the clowns will demonstrate how to “back-it-up” Mary J. Blige style.

Private Spud Peel of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army.

The Barnacle Protestor makes a late appearance on his bike with the whirligig, helmet and pads, the SPAGZ LIES sign-book, a back-pack full of shirts, a camel-back full of god-knows, a bull-horn, a Hawaiian lei around his neck, and a medic bag full of his yin-and-yang left-right flyers.

JoJo, with Adam Jung organized Tent State, approaches him to inquire about the WE BEAT YOU flyer, which Adam also received in the early June email missive. While disclaiming authorship of the flyer, he does take the opportunity to malign SPAGZ and Jill from Recreate 68. JoJo responds with her own story of being physically threatened by Jill because she asked Glenn to quit spreading malicious lies about Adam!

5:00 pm: I head out on bikes with Pvt. Spud Peel and The Barnacle Protestor to Civic Center Park on a SPAGZ hunt. Denver’s citizenry, convention tourists, and cops are mesmerized by the whirligig. Now reaching the status of quasi-celebrity, I hear the phrase “Barnacle Protestor” float across the air from spectators. One cop points to the whirligig and exclaims, “I heard about that!” Another, ten blocks up the street, meekly protests after the passing whirligig, “Wait come back… I haven’t gotten to meet you yet…”

Glenn is in Civic Center Park eating a paper plate of Food Not Bombs lentils. Upon seeing Barnacle buzz by with his SPAGZ LIES sign, he stammers something to the effect of, “Uh.. hugh.. you… again!” To wit The Barnacle Protestor replies, “Have fun Glenn. Be safe!”

The Barnacle Protester, IS he a Special Agent?
—–


#is Wednesday August 27th, 2008

This is what Democracy looks like

(See all photos here

11:00 am: The line for the free Tent State Music Festival with the Flobots, Jello Biafra (speechifying), legendary anti-war protestor Ron Kovic, and Rage Against The Machine is still snaking out into the parking lot despite an 11:00 am show time.

“Tickets” were administered through a lottery system. Hopeful fans signed up on lined notebook paper at Tent State. Winners who were emailed last night receive two tickets at will call.

Frantic texting from “ticket” holding fans inside the Colosseum to their ticket-less friends with no cause to wake up reveal that the lottery was in fact a brilliant exercise in social engineering. No tickets exist. No ID’s are checked. At the front of the line fans are rubber stamped and issued a wrist band. “Ticket holders” who managed to show up to a rock show prior to 10:00 am (a major logistical hurdle) are issued what amounts to a VIP floor pass.

12:30 am: All fans waiting to get in, ticket holding or not, are now sheepled-up at interior lines, waiting to hair-the-dog with a $7 domestic draft or suit up with a red “Battle of Denver” t-shirt. Late comers walk right in. No one is turned away. The “ticket” charade has prevented an angry mob from gathering outside trying to exercise their “right” to a free concert. The Colosseum is at a comfortable 85% capacity. Anyone who wants a seat can find one.

12:45 pm: Ron Kovic is wheeled out on stage, burnishes his credentials and issues an emotionally arresting call to action, “I’m a Vietnam veteran against the war. I’ve been in this wheelchair forty years because of the Vietnam war. I’ve been arrested in this wheelchair twelve times protesting war. This is our country. They’re not going to shut us up. They’re not going to shut us down. We WILL NOT BOW! … We will STAND TALL. We will march. We will END THIS WAR! We will bring all the troops home. … We will do this non-violently. We will do this with dignity in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, in the spirit of Nelson Mandella. We are going to make history in the streets of Denver today!”

(See the sideways video)

2:30 pm: Rage Against The Machine is burning up the stage. Tom Morello looks like he’s having a prolonged seizure. Zack de la Rocha, who has taken to wearing (red) button-ups now that he’s in the 35 to 45 social demographic, puts about twelve miles on the pedometer sprinting back and forth across the stage. Wayne Kramer of the MC5 comes out in a white jumpsuit and star spangled guitar to pour gas on the fire with Kick Out The Jams.

(See video clip)

Take The Power Back

3:30 pm: Rage rips through an encore of I Think I Hear a Shot and Killing In The Name, eliciting a raucous sing along of;

FUCK YOU! I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!
FUCK YOU! I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!

Kasper Bohne, a center-right radio correspondent for Mancow and WIST New Orleans, who gave his nonexistent second ticket to The Barnacle Protestor, discerned that we had all just gone through a text-book indoctrination.

4:00 pm: Approximately seventy percent of the six-thousand concert attendees fall into line behind Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, and two disciplined marching squads of twenty five uniformed Iraq War Veterans Against The War and head south down Brighton Blvd. for the three mile march to the Pepsi Center.

A mile into the march a Recreate 68 activist, who had made some quasi-threatening remarks to The Barnacle Protestor at Sunday mornings Capitol Rally, ends up shoulder to shoulder with him.

BP “Oh… Hey.”
R68 “What are you doing here?” (Noticing The Barnacle Protestor left all his SPAGZ LIES gear and the whirligig at home.)
BP “Supporting the Iraq War Veterans Against The War.” (i.e. inclusive as opposed to parasitic protesting.)
R68 “Me too bro…”

When we’re admonished over the bull-horn to stay behind the banner unless we are veterans, The Barnacle Protestors informs me that he was in the Navy for 4 months, 19 days, 9 hours, and 12 minutes.

Hold The Line

Several thousand marchers enter downtown.

6:00 pm: Whittled down to about fifteen-hundred, the marchers gather at Auraria Campus, directly across the street from The Pepsi Center. We’re all coached on the procedure. The non-veterans will stop at the border of the “free-speech zone”. The Veterans will march forward into the demilitarized zone to present a letter with three demands to the DNC.

If a second Order to Disperse is issued to the crowd, the third order being issued in conjunction with a area wide moistening of pepper spray, the veterans will sit down. If invited by the veterans, marchers willing to commit civil disobedience and risk arrest may move forward and sit behind the veterans. All others are to disperse peacefully and immediately.

The march reaches the border of the “Free Speech Zone” at The Pepsi Center

Back in the crowd, a young marcher approaches The Barnacle Protestor

ym “Your The Barnacle Protestor! I heard your crazy!”
BP “Some say crazy, some say genius.”
ym “I haven’t heard genius.”

After the kid walks away The Barnacle Protestor shows me his Mensa Card and tattoo. To join Mensa pledges must take both standard IQ tests while being observed by a Mensa proctor. You can only take the test once. Based on the test results Mesa accepts “people from every walk of life whose IQ is in the top 2%.”

7:00 pm: Rumors of the first Order to Disperse and stonewalling from the DNC – someone quips, “This is what happens when you negotiate with the Democrats” – result in an abrupt call to attention and about face.

Unconventional Anarchists, Code Pink activists, Recreate 68ers, Tent Staters, concerned citizens, and media media media media media fall into line behind the vets to march around the campus to a more strategic position. In an eye-moistening display of cultural unity the Unconventional Anarchists take position behind the vets begin to yell,

They’re our BROTHERS!
They’re our SISTERS!
We support WAR RESISTERS!

Support Our Troops! !? !

7:45 pm: After circling around through Auraria campus to a more aggressive position at 15th and Stout, well outside the designated protest zone, and at the front entrance to the Pepsi Center blockade, the protestors are divided by Tent State activists into those willing to be arrested – in a tight pod of approximately a hundred fifty – and a swelling crowd across Speer Blvd. in the pre-designated safe zone.

True Heros #1: Tent State activist and Iraq War Veterans Against The War.

True Heros #2: Code Pink Activist and a professional Denver Police force.

Media media media media meida media wander like grazing cattle amongst the fully geared riot police sporting full-auto pepper-ball guns, re-positioned vets, and remaining protestors. A call through the bullhorn from Tent State encourages all onlookers, thrill seekers, and media media media to, “Stop for a minute! Look around! Realize where your standing!”

A bike-taxi driver transporting a pant-suit wearing mom and two blond children under ten tries to breach the police barricade by ringing his handle-bar bell. Ding Ding… Ding Ding..
.

Getting the shot… or about to get shot.

8:00 pm: Former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes comes out of the Pepsi Center to accept the Iraq War veterans letter. Former Marines Jeff Key and Liam Madden, in dress uniform, are escorted onto the convention floor for a Denver PD, Iraq War Veterans Against The War, Secret Service, and Obama Campaign negotiated meeting with Phil Carter, head of veterans affairs for the Obama campaign.

8:45 pm: The At Ease command is issued to the vets. Ron Kovic and the vets all noticeably relax. The announcement is made to the crowd through a bull-horn that the Obama campaign has agreed “in-principle” to the Iraq War Veterans demands; , “Immediate withdrawal, full veterans benefits, and reparations for the Iraqi people”.

The crowd chants Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! to the vets. The vets announce to the crowd, “Thank you for standing with us.” They fall out, the crowd peaceably disperses almost unable to believe that tonight in The United States of America WE THE PEOPLE actually effected CHANGE…

Born on the Fourth of July. Enforcing Change today.
—–


#is Thursday August 28th, 2008

Si Se Puede:

(See all photos here)

10:00 am: We Are America, an affiliate of The National Mobilization for Just and Humane Immigration Reform, has shut-down east-bound Colfax. A gaggle of now familiar Unconventional, Recreate 68, Code Pink, and Tent State activists are engulfed in a sea of Mexican Grandmas, sassy chicana teenagers, clean cut Service Employees International communists, Guatemalan laborers, and large nuclear families.

Finally! Some normal people supporting a cause that directly affects them! 

The March Against Borders has clearly defined ones. A definite sense of ownership by the Hispanic community, and specifically by first generation immigrants, keeps everyone respectfully in line. Anarchists are admonished for covering their bandito faces. Hijos e hijas are shooed off the sidewalks with bull-horns ordering them back onto the street.

Miss Atzatlan 2008.

At Lincoln Park Abuelito y Abuelita sit in folding chairs watching Aztec dancers. Hispanics of all stripes scrupulously avoid the Food Not Bombs free burritos. A lone Hmong Immigrant with a placard respectfully reminds everyone that some people of the world have no homeland and must choose between fighting in the jungle or surviving a transcontinental shipping-container journey in hope of western asylum.

Life in the barrio.

12:00 noon: At a dismantled Tent State a lone Anarchist is passed out on the grass. Placards are piled onto blue tarps for reuse at Denver’s next major political event… Or for perma-storage in a basement apartment laundry room.

1:00 pm: A pasty guy with hiked up white socks and a kid with Insane Clown Posse grease-paint-induced-acne point the way to the 911 truth commission encampment. The conspirists are sorting out the yin and yang of having a permit for Gates Crescent Park – directly across the freeway from Invesco Field where Obama will make his keynote address in seven hours.

Rob Weiland of We Are Change Colorado sits cross legged in the grass at the entrance to the parks open field trying to unravel the legalise of his Denver Parks permit. Four of his colleagues are out in the field erecting an awning with IMPEACH and IMPRISON on one side and Obama BAMBOOZLE on the other.

When logic and reason fail, try a branding campaign!

The State Police stopped by in the morning to eject The 911 Truth Commission from the park. Rob was able to successfully fend them off with a cooperative attitude, an official parks permit, and the repeated mention of civil liberties and ACLU lawsuits.

The park is theirs for now – pending review by The Secret Service. Their officially permitted parking lot, however, is adjacent to the Stadium and consequently barricaded. Rob’s car is stuck inside. Vehicles with more 911 conspiracy themed helicopter photo-op props are barred entrance. Sympathizer and Independent US Senate candidate for Colorado Buddy Moore woke up this morning to a conspicuously absent campaign RV – towed with no notice by THE MAN.

As Rob reads the fine print out loud, “Denver Parks and Rec. and Denver Police reserve the right to limit, change and or revoke the venue of the users permit…” two bike cops cruise by and ask when the volleyball net is going up.

Denying these people a parking lot is akin to, pardon the tasteless metaphor, flying a 747 into the side of their conspiracy. Denver Parks is practically begging for Alex Jones to show up with a 50,000 megawatt bull-horn to drown-out Obama with a logic-leaping screed about the Bilderburg Group cabal secretly controlling the world through the incorporation of NAFTA.

2:00 pm: Various Groups cluster into issue affiliation pods back at Lincoln Park to take turns marching on Invesco Field; ashen white medical Marijuana protestors on power chairs, Food Not Bombs gutter punks, No Obamanation Hillaryites For McCain, and a thugged up doo-rag sporting Recreate 68 security detail.

Not the best argument for the effectiveness of Medical Marijuana

Only fifty or so hardcores are left; girls with beards, black button-up wearing Anarchist prison ‘zine distro publishers, a lone space-case on the bongos, stuffed animal back-pack sporting drama-club ravers, a honkey-G tween with a placard that reads, “The World Needs a Bong Rip”, an earnest east coast sociologist working up data for the doctorate thesis, and this last agent of the FREE PRESS.

Your Presstester : You’ll Never See My Face in Denver

Though SPAGZ is undoubtedly planning his final entrance, and Jill is assuredly mussing her hair over and over again and trying on different nouveau-boho outfits, there is a conspicuous absence of The Barnacle Protestor.

He could be crouched behind a dumpster along the parade route prepping for one last whirligig buzz-by. Or he may have decided not to quit his day job. Or, perhaps his journey through the belly of the wail at last nights march has led him to reconsider his Barnacle tactics. OR… maybe he’s clinging to the chasey of the Backbone’ Campaigns bus Cape-Fear style as it rolls across South Dakota on its way to the RNC with a PUPPETS MAKE PUPPETS placard clenched between his teeth.

As for “Pete Bergman” the “anonymous artist”, he has yet to show his face around Denver. Many of the players talk of meeting him. Evan Herzoff accepted a personally delivered custom letter-pressed formal apology letter for the WE BEAT YOU THEN flyer. Clayton Dewey of Unconventional Denver, refused a similar communique on the non-chalant grounds of, “I don’t really care about that.” JoJo of Tent State received a verbal apology, and was told of a formal letter for her Tent State co-chair Adam Jung. There is even rumor of a letter for Glenn Spagnuolo.

Though there is this evidence of contrition on the part of the anonymous artist there’s a stronger likelihood that he IS an agent provocateur, melting through crowds, flashing fake press credentials, snapping point-and-shoot pictures of the front lines, and gathering evidence on all the players.
—–


The following IS a prequel to the above 2008 DNC report. ThIS report, BEWARE SHEEPLE! SPAGZ LIES! was originally published after the events above in Lumpen #110.

Tuesday May 04, 1886
Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force! 

Broadsides are posted outside factory doors and along the blood soaked gutters of slaughterhouses throughout industrial Chicago. Printed in English and German blackletter, the flyer calls for a, “MASS-MEETING TO-NIGHT, at 7:30 o’clock, at the HAYMARKET.”

Under a light rain approximately 1,500 workers gather at The Haymarket to reassert support for a the eight-hour day. As the evenings events wind down, and police order the crowd to disperse, a well lobbed pipe-bomb kills beat-cop Mathias J. Degan. The Police opened fire into the crowd, and each others backs, leaving eleven dead and a hundred wounded

Spring, 1986 – Spring, 1995
The Haymarket Issue
Broadsides published under the pseudonym Hakim Bey appear on the streets of New York. The following year they are compiled with a second series of broadsheets titled “COMMUNIQUES OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR ONTOLOGICAL ANARCHY” into a book published by Autonomedia under the anti-copywrite credo of “May be freely pirated & quoted – however the author would like to be informed.”

Communique #3, “The Haymarket Issue” implores Ontological Anarchists, in the spirit of Louis Lingg – an alleged Haymarket conspirator who dynamited himself to cheat his death sentence – to, “blow up the monument inside us … When the last cop in our brain is gunned down by the last unfulfilled desire – perhaps even the landscape around us will change.”

Ontological Anarchy is derided by “establishment” left-political anarchists as hedonistic and irresponsible in its call for bypassing oppositional politics in favor of a liberated lived experience not beholden to rhetorical debate.

Wednesday July 14th, 2004
A Preview of coming attractions
Page 23A of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News runs an image from a Denver Copwatch rally on the steps of the City Hall of a man who’d been circling the rally with a whirligig mounted on a bike trailer that animates wooden cutouts of, “Police officers hitting someone on the ground.”

Saturday June 14th, 2008
Rally Against Reality
To the befuddlement of two Ukrainian masons sitting on a hoist adjacent to The Haymarket memorial in Chicago’s west Loop, PRO – a trash-can and banjo wielding classic-rock cover band – counts off the opening bars to Rush’s Working Man. IS Agent pranktivists begin blanketing the memorial and surrounding environs with a photocopy (with custom letterpress augmentation) of Hakim Bey’s The Haymarket Issue.

PRO rips into Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold. The IS agents rush to cover up The Haymarket Issue broadsheets with a screaming headline broadsheet reading “WE BEAT YOU THEN! WE’LL BEAT YOU AGAIN!” This broadsheet depicts a ’68 Chicago cop – smoking a stogie while choking-out a college kid – juxtaposed with a current era riot-cop looking like he’s about to tee-off with his baton.

More Rally Pictures

Thursday July 10th, 2008
“Anonymous Artist Punks Recreate 68″
A month before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, a coalition of protest groups including Recreate 68 and Denver Copwatch call a press conference demanding an investigation into the threatening broadsheet they received from, “a rouge Denver cop” reading “WE BEAT YOU THEN! WE’LL BEAT YOU AGAIN!” and, “Want to ‘Recreate 68’? Think your tough HIPPY?”

The balloon of their victim-hood is deflated when Westword newspaper media-critic Michael Roberts reveals in a morning blog post that an “anonymous artist”, created the flyer as a prankish exercise in black-propaganda.

Read the article It has since been revealed that the “anonymous artist”, In a circle-jerk of news manufacturing, was given the personal addresses of his marks by an “anonymous journalist” with close ties to the artist, recipients of the broadsheet, and Michael Roberts.)

The press conference attendees, including all major Denver networks and dailies, we’re further befuddled by the appearance of a man with a copy of the flyer and a whirligig depicting two white beat-cops truncheoning a crouching brown man. The man identified himself as, “John Q. Public” and insisted that he did not make the flyer but picked it up at the Gypsy House Cafe where Recreate 68 holds its working meetings.

all pictures

Glenn Spagnuolo, dubbed SPAGZ by local media, goes so far as to discretely square off with John Q. Public to tell him, “I think you’re full of shit!”

Cop Watch’s Even Herzoff leads off with a prepared speech about police accountability in a “climate of fear” before admitting that he’d been apparently “punked” by an artist. The manicured Fox News corespondent who broke the story at five am drops her microphone and leaves in a huff.

SPAGZ, the consummate tough-guy with his waxed bald head and wrap-around shades, follows up with a string of bald-faced lies, claiming that he’d received emails he did not receive stating they said they were from Denver cops and that “I received one email that said I was their #1 target.”

(It should be noted here for the record that this agent can verify the non-veracity of SPAGZ claims, and the veracity of John Q. Public’s due to intimate knowledge of “the anonymous artist”.)

In a post press conference interview John Q. Public stated that he had no idea who Mr. Spagnuolo was prior to the press conference. When told of SPAGZ’s false claims John’s response was, “That guy just nominated himself as my #1 Target.”

Thursday July 17th, 2008
BEWARE SHEEPLE! SPAGZ LIES!
At Recreate 68’s working meeting the following Thursday SPAGZ along with the core Recreate 68 organizers, Mark and Barbara Cohen and Jill Dryer, are posing for a media portrait in the grass across the street from the Gypsy House Cafe.

As SPAGZ delusions of grandeur are reaching a pitch, John. Q. Public appears in a motorcycle helmet and full leathers in front of the Gypsy House with a sign reading BEWARE SHEEPLE on one side and SPAGZ LIES on the other.

After the Recreate 68ers are done debating John, I abandon my surveillance post for a debrief. As I approach he repeats a gesture he’s been making to anyone and everyone. Extending a copy of the WE BEAT YOU THEN flyer in his right hand he asks, “Would you like a right-wing fascist propaganda flyer?” Followed by his left clutching a copy of The Haymarket Issue, “Would you like a left-wing anarchist propaganda flyer.”

Under my breath, “What did SPAGZ say?”
SPAGZ says, “Up your meds bro.”

Thursday July 24th, 2008
I Don’t Give A Fuck about the First Amendment!
John Q. Public waits until Recreate 68 is safely ensconced in the basement of the Gypsy House and sets up on the corner in a floppy hat, flip-flops, and t-shirt with the WE BEAT YOU THEN broadside screen printed on it.

John now has an air-horn and multiple signs mounted on ring binders allowing him to flip through a series; SPAGZ LIES, honk for the puppets, PUPPETS MAKE PUPPETS, honk for the first amendment, honk for the disabled. Motorists pass and honk. John blows his air horn – repeatedly.

One of the cafe proprietors, an authentic Gypsy, comes out and unleashes a barrage of blush-inducing explicatives followed by what sounds like a native-tounge curse.

SPAGZ and Jill Dryer come out. John extends a WE BEAT YOU THEN shirt, “Glenn, I made you this t-shirt to remember me by.”

“I’ll take that t-shirt and shove it up your ass!!” Then getting in close, “The group (Recreate 68) doesn’t advocate violence but I do.”

Jill, a demure looking feather-weight forty year old, chimes in with, “I’m calling the fucking COPS!” SPAGZ stalks back inside, Jill waits indignantly on her cell.

John tries to explain to Jill that he’s merely trying to exercise his First Ammendmen…

She snaps, “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT!!!!”

Two Denver Police cruisers roll up. Jill, who had taken refuge in the foyer of the cafe runs out, “I’m the one who called you! This man is threatening us! He’s blowing his horn and making threats.”

The officer looks at John in his flip-flops and rolls his eyes. “What are you doing and why are you doing it?”

“I’m disrupting the working meeting of Recreate 68, just like their planning on disrupting the working meeting of the Democratic Party.”

“OK. Stay on this side of the street and don’t blow off the air-horn. Those are only to be used in the event of a boating accident. Ma’am,” he turns to Jill, “He is on public property exercising his first amendment rights. There’s no violation here.”

Unfazed by the hypocrisy of protestors calling them to harass someone who’s opinion is different than their own, the cops roll out.

Thursday July 31rst, 2008
I’m a media whore!
Recreate 68 gathers in the park across from the State Capitol. Ostensibly they’ve moved their meetings to get people used to the space where they are holding their rallys. The sequestering of John Q. Public onto a distant corner, out of earshot from his now increasingly confident first amendment rant is only a fringe benefit.

SPAGZ, possessor of the sole folding-chair, goes over the agenda with a media microphone four feet away. Other members of the media are out photographing their DNC quota and the 68ers are glowing. Jill put a lot of thought into her outfit; a form fitting jean-skirt, strapless black top, sandals and hair in pigtails. Classy but proletarian.

A teenager walks by carrying an Obama shirt. “Hey, anyone here for OBAMA?” His exuberant inquiry is met with literal hisses and an anonymous “Keep walking!”

“You could try being a little NICER!” now incensed, “You get a lot farther with honey than with vinegar!”

Returning to the agenda SPAGZ interrupts himself and points at me, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“Pete Bergman, Lumpen Magazine Chicago.”

Jill excitedly cranes her neck to see me behind her, “I’ve read Lumpen magazine! Are these pictures going to be in Lumpen Magazine!? Will you let us know if their published by emailing info@recreate68.org??”

Across the park, John is trading a WE BEAT YOU THEN t-shirt and a Haymarket Issue broadsheet for the kid’s Obama t-shirt.

Thursday August 7th, 2008
Your Living Bill of Rights
John changes it up with a drive by. The sign is on a shoulder strap. The whirligig is mounted on a bike trailer holding a car battery and a Fisher Price record player spinning an thrift-store album titled “Your Living Bill of Rights”. He rolls by the working meeting at four miles an hour mad-dogging SPAGZ.

Thursday August 21rst, 2008
The Barnacle Protestor
The current issue of Westword contains a “Guide to Protestation Nation.” Author Jared Jacang-Meyer and Illustrator Nate Stone caricature ALL the protestors converging on Denver for the DNC; The Nostalgic Hippie, The Angry Hillaryite, The Upper-Middle-Class Radical, The Street Theatre Wierdo, and holding a sign that reads “SPAGZ LIES” is a drawing of a floppy hat wearing, whirligig wielding, unhinged figure dubbed “The Barnacle Protestor“.

SPAGZ and crew have a lot of business to cover in their final working meeting prior to the DNC. Unfortunately for them John, taxonomied as The Barnacle Protestor, has been emboldened by his sudden celebrity status and is four feet away from SPAGZ delivering his now polished first-amendment screed through a mega-phone.

The Barnacle Protestor has added two professionally printed signs to his quiver. One depicts SPAGZ giving the thumbs up with reading, “SPAGZ Sayz, Up your meds bro, I’ll take that t-shirt and shove it up your ass, I think you’re full of shit, (and) Recreate 68 doesn’t advocate violence but I do.” The second is a blow up of an incriminating surveillance photo of Jill, The Barnacle Protestor, and a cop reading, “Jill Sayz I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT!”

Media, now in full saturation, is zeroing in on The Barnacle Protestor. He’s a better photo-op than SPAGZ on his folding-throne. The meeting clearly can’t commence over the din of John’s mega-phone. SPAGZ facing the inevitable, approaches him, flips through the signs with sick fascination, and attempts to engage John in a “debate” that quickly devolves into a talk-off between SPAGZ trying to merely comprehend what’s happening and The Barnacle Protestor first amendment speechifying while passing out of right-wing fascist and left-wing anarchist propaganda flyers.

In an effort to prove there’s one reasonable person left in town, a lady from the Recreate 68 approaches The Barnacle Protestor, nudges Glenn aside, sticks out her hand and declares, “I don’t agree with you, but I support your right to be here. I appreciate what your saying and I want to shake your hand.”



Photo: Elisha Mustoe
—-

Final Communiques – A copy of open letters sent to interested parties.

Dear Glenn and Jill,

Per Jill’s request I’m writing to notify you that a picture I took with your consent is in Lumpen Magazine.

By now you may have put 3 and 3 together and realized that in addition to covering the DNC for Lumpen in an observational capacity, I have also been unethically “manufacturing news” since early June when I sent you the WE BEAT YOU THEN WELL BEAT YOU AGAIN flyer.

I am not the man known as The Barnacle Protestor who picketed you personally. I did not put him up to his activities – I merely documented them.

On a personal note, eschewing the misinformation and trash-talk that goes with our respective jobs (politics and “art”) I would like to apologize for making what I now realize was an in-poor-taste personal threat. I have a hand written formal apology for you. I can mail it or courier it to a location of your choosing.

Until the infocsalypse,

Peter Miles Regenold Bergman

——

Dear Mr. Hakim Bey

Per your request I’m writing to inform you that I photocopied (with custom letterpressed augmentation) your broadside titled The Haymarket Issue. The photocopy was distributed along with a second flyer (see enclosed) in both Denver Colorado and Chicago Illinois. Also enclosed you will find a CD with images documenting the distribution, a printed out email, two issues of Denver’s Westword Newspaper, and the current issue of Lumpen Magazine. You can also read further documentation related to the distribution by accessing the Blog of Lumpen, clicking on the August tab and accessing posts #1 – #5 of Covering the media covering the media covering the protestors protesting the protesters at the DNC.

Thank you for your anti-copywrite designation and the subsequent inspiration,

IS agent m[i]le[s] & IS agent John Q. Public

——

ThIS report was a joint venture of Lumpen and The Institute of Sociometry.

The Players – in order of appearance:
Recreate 68
Tent State
Code Pink
Unconventional Denver
Come Up to Denver
The Westword Newspaper
Denver Copwatch
Ward Churchill
Families United For Our Troops and Their Mission
Denver Police Department
Minutemen Civil Defence Core
HiFi Fusion (Documentry crew in matching outfits)
Kasper Bohne
Falun Gong
Official Street Preachers (The Homophobes)
Backbone Campaign
911 Truth Commission
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Food Not Bombs
Rage Against The Machine
Ron Kovic
Iraq War Veterans Arainst the War
We Are America (Pro Immigration)
We Are Change Colorado (Anti New World Order)
Citizens for Safe Access (Medical Marijuana)

—–

ThIS report was featured on not one but TWO tri-fold displays at iSFair 2O12.

—–

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The Emperor’s New Nose

Sunday, March 24th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
IS agent Mark Romero-Davis //
GROUP SIZE: including my parents? //
NATURE OF GROUP: History Revisionists, Body Modifiers, the Vain, the Self-Loathing, the Easily-Manipulated, those who are somewhat interested in noses //
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: The Emperor’s New Nose //

The following is a probable excerpt of Chairman Mao’s diary from vindicatingmao.com

“…..a comrade servant came into my bedchamber, and offered me a glass of Ensure. I exhaled heavily and slowly sat up, feeling weaker than I ever have before. I leaned forward and opened my mouth, ready to receive the beverage as the comrade lifted the glass to me. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass, and my gaze immediately fell upon my nose. If it were not for that blasted Ren Mei Rong, who when we were only children, likened my nose to the nose of George Washington. I wish I could forget this comment. But it has stuck with me through the decades. I even sent him and his family to a labor camp after I became chairman, but the memory of this insult remained with me. A grand symbol of Capitalism sits in the middle of my face! I mustered the strength to knock the glass of Ensure from the servant’s hands, spilling it on the royal red bedsheets. I had the comrade servant executed for spilling on me. If only I had undergone a procedure to alter my nose. I had the opportunity all my life and yet did nothing to put the nose hatred to rest. This, is my only regret in life…”

~ Chairman Mao – September 8, 1976

I was initially interested in exploring some aspect of revisionist history after hearing a report about a lesser-known dictator. The picture painted of the man was hardly representative of the “true” history. This then led me to think about plastic surgery and body modification and how people change their appearance for various reasons, but never change other aspects of their life (their terrible personalities, addictions, extreme bias, etc). I then started writing this fictitious narrative weaving the two ideas together that Chairman Mao did in fact hate his own nose and wanted to have it altered though never found the time (this is how my easily-distracted brain works).

Then came a website with The Nose Vote, ‘zine with carnival mask, thesis exhibit to confused and/or bemused Communication Designers and display at iSFair 2O12!

Winner of the Nose Vote: Groucho Marx! Although he was not on the ballot between candidates Castro, Engles Lenin, Trotsky (dark horse) Ghandi, and Karl Marx there were a number of write-in votes (4) that pushed him past Trotsky in the running (poor guy can’t ever win). ~ Agent Mark Romero-Davis



———

ThIS report was on display and a final Nose Vote were conducted at iSFair 2O12. The Chairman Mao masks were the #1 hottest item at the fair.

10 Hottest Prophefits!

Sunday, March 17th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
Agent Nima*
GROUP SIZE: Approximately 2.1 Billion
NATURE OF GROUP: Muslims (through the Shias and more-so Sufis could probably care less.) 
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Malcontent #4 – 10 Hottest Prophefits!

*Name IS slightly altered to protect the wantonly reckless.

In 2010, while working in my day-job and agent cover as an art and design academic, I served in an advisory and contributor capacity on Malcontent – a ‘zine authored and détourned together by IS agent Nima – operating in his cover as a design student.

(Below) A previous project by Nima – which resulting in him being conferred IS agent status. The Typography course assignment was to create large scale environmental graphics and photoshop them onto pictures of billboards. Nima wrote Ahhh Snap! on the outside of my 2nd story office window in post-its. (Note: he had to scale the awning of the campus police station to do so and write the message backwards for correct legibility on the inside of my office). I gave him an A+ (though it was marked down to a C- for being turned in 7 weeks late…)

Malcontent #4 The Prophets & Profits Issue was the culmination of a 16 week four issue spree. Fresh off of #3 The Animal Totems Issue – agent Nima was interested in continuing to explore the dialectic between the physical and metaphysical. He came into my office with thIS pitch for issue #4:

“I want to depict Muhammad.”


For context – here is a brief history of the “Depiction of Muhammad” controversy in the 21rst century:

It is debatable whether Islam prohibits the depiction of Muhammad. The Qur’an doesn’t forbid depictions of Mohammed (Allah was concerned with less petty things at the time) but there are Haddith – supplemental teachings – which expressly prohibit depiction of the Prophet. There is a general prohibition in orthodox monotheisms, including Islam’s prequels Christianity and Judaism, of worshipping “graven images” as a substitute for God. Sunni Islam pretty much toes-the-line on this but Shia Islam (which includes the Sufis who could care less because they’re too busy dancing and chanting) doesn’t seem to mind a respectful image of Muhammad. No one likes denigration of the Prophet in any form. It’s worth noting here that Agent Nima – a first generation Persian-American – would likely ascribe to Shia Islam if he didn’t instead pledge allegiance to good old ‘Merican Fight-Club n’ The Joker style Post-Modern Ontological Anarchy.

The recent cycle of controversy around depictions of Muhammad, crass muslim baiting with retaliatory fire-bombing, started in 2005 when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten began publishing culturally crude but satirically clever political cartoons depicting, among other themes, a borderline racist caricature of Muhammed with a lit bomb for a turban. Ostensibly Jyllands-Posten was making a statement on the self-censorship of media regarding criticism of violence in Islam but more likely they were throwing wood on the smoldering fire of Scandinavian anti-immigrant racism as a way to either editorially sympathize or more likely just to sell newspapers and consequently more full-page furniture outlet adds. The cartoons were reprinted in over 50 publications resulting in a downward spiral protest from Muslims around the world descending from diplomatic and legal challenges to street riots leading to over 200 violent deaths and attacks on Danish and European embassies in Muslim countries.

The ‘Merican sophomoric practically stick-figure cartoon South Park tackled the issue of censorship with their own spin on depictions of Muhammed in the 2010 episode 200, a complex narrative weaving together many pre-existing plots culminating in Tom Cruise spearheading a celebrity class-action lawsuit against the town of South Park that he will only withdraw if the children produce Muhammad. The children do produce Muhammed bit he is kidnapped by the Ginger Separatist Group of fair-haired children prior to being delivered to Cruz. Depictions on Muhammad had a tradition on South Park going back to 2001. He is part of a gout of prophets, including a cocaine snorting Buddha, referred to as Super Best Friends and even cameos in a group shot of the shows credits. Despite the depiction and treatment of Muhammad being largely respectful (especially for South Park standards) and a sub-plot in their vehement take-down of their arch nemesis Tom Cruz, Comedy Central and show creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone were besieged with multiple and humorless death threats.

In 2011 the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo picked up the mantle with an issue guest edited by a charicaturized Muhammad. Their offices were firebombed and reduced to rubble on the issue release date.

In 2012 B-team fraudster and Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula youtube released 15 minutes of a budgetless D-movie titled Innocence of Muslims which depicted Muhammad as a pedophile and simpleton – just in time for the Anniversary of September 11th. The resulting world-wide protests quickly degenerated into violence which culminated in an angry mob and/or terrorists (the jury is apparently still out on this despite the Fox News hyperbole) in Benghazi Libya killing US Ambassador Christopher Stephens.


Back to Agent Nima’s desire to dive into these murky waters:

Considering the cons, (death threats, a Fox News van parked on the front lawn of the Art Building to “defend” Malcontent, being disrespectful to the many observant Muslim students on campus, and loosing my day-job at Politically Correct College) against the pros, (honoring the First Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America, the philosophy of academic freedom, that after all it’s just a ‘sine, and Agent Nima’s uncanny ability to be patently offensive while riotously funny and likable), I acquiesced after a long cautionary conversation.

 Though given (and taking) carte-blanche, I feel ultimately that agent Nima’s resulting article and it’s neoclassical picture of Muhammed pulled off of google image search would offend Muslim’s more due to him being third runner up in the 10 Hottest Prophefits! to Branch Davidian founder David Koresh and Christ with rock hard abs that due to the inclusion of the graphic.

 “Yep that’s him. Get over it.”

Without further adieu here is the article (click on the image or here to read in PDF format):


———

ThIS report was spawned from the Malcontent tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12

Death & Rebirth in the Analog World

Sunday, March 10th, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
IS Agent F.R. “Russ” Forster
GROUP SIZE: 4.6 million units in 2012 (up 17.7% since 2011) representing (our guess of) 1.6 million consumers
NATURE OF GROUP: indie-hipsters, club-kids, baby-boomers, throw-backs and forward-thinkers
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Birth, Death And Rebirth In The Analog World

Part 1: BIRTH

“Lateral-cut disc records were developed in the United States by Emile Berliner, who named his system the “gramophone”, distinguishing it from Edison’s wax cylinder “phonograph” and Columbia’s wax cylinder “graphophone”. Berliner’s earliest discs, first marketed in 1889, but only in Europe, were 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter, and were played with a small hand-propelled machine. Both the records and the machine were adequate only for use as a toy or curiosity. In the United States in 1894, under the Berliner Gramophone trademark, Berliner started marketing records with somewhat more substantial entertainment value, along with somewhat more substantial gramophones to play them. Berliner’s records had poor sound quality compared to wax cylinders, but his manufacturing associate Eldridge R. Johnson eventually improved them. Abandoning Berliner’s “Gramophone” trademark for legal reasons, in 1901 Johnson’s and Berliner’s separate companies reorganized to form the Victor Talking Machine Company, whose products would come to dominate the market for many years.

In 1901, 10-inch disc records were introduced, followed in 1903 by 12-inch records. These could play for more than three and four minutes respectively, while contemporary cylinders could only play for about two minutes.”

Wikipedia: “Gramophone Record”

My own adventure with Long Playing records (as 12” Gramophone records came to be known after the 1930s) started in the mid-1980s when I decided to start a record label named “Underdog Records” to put out records by some Chicago bands I was friends with. I rushed headlong into a world I had only known before as a consumer, naïve and fearless.  Through shear determination and a willingness to make plenty of mistakes along the way, I was able to put out six LPs, one 12” EP, and a handful of 7” records before I let a collective of bands and fans take over the label in the early 1990s.

By the time I gave up Underdog, I was disillusioned about the music business, the record distribution business, and the rapidly accelerating move from analog to digital formats for a majority of music consumers. I felt a bit burned by several early Underdog bands getting “deals” with a label started by a couple of seedy coke-snorting music industry types; I got sick of having to deal with Mafiosos and flakey slackers posing as indie record distributors to get paid; and I bought into the conspiracy theories that CDs were just a transparent effort for Major Labels to get a gullible public to re-buy all the music they already owned at double the price.

Disillusioned, I walked away from vinyl at about the time LPs were declared deceased by the music industry, unsure of whether I wanted to ever put out a record again. As luck would have it, I ended up being part of a group of ne’er do wells  who started a small press magazine (“‘zine”, if you will) as an act of satire against the push toward digital. We called the ‘zine 8-Track Mind and devoted it to the promotion of the 8-track tape as the ultimate fun music format. We had no idea of where this crazy underground experiment would take us.

Above: A selection of issues from the 101 run of 8-Track Mind with a Sears Mono-8 player.
Below: Agent Forster’s corresponding documentary So Wrong Their Right on VHS (obviously). 


Part 2: DEATH

“Ever since the mid-Sixties creative boom in long-playing records spearheaded by the Beatles and Beach Boys, the album has been the model by which any musical artist is measured. That may be about to change.

The album has endured changes in format (vinyl to cassette to CD), length (40 minutes on vinyl, today many extend to 70 minutes) and sound quality (mono to stereo to digital). Throughout, its concept has remained much the same. The ‘digital revolution’ – mp3 players, iTunes, song-swapping – is set to alter all that. And, as we have seen in virtually every recent musical revolution (Napster, The Grey Album, internet CD sales and so on) the music industry is slow to react.

The key change is in the way consumers listen to the music. At the primary level of exposure, the listener no longer relies solely on commercial radio or on the blind shelling out of a tenner for the latest LP. Digital downloads from iTunes, Napster and their competitors offer singles, album tracks, live recordings and other tracks side-by-side, available for the consumer to cherry pick.”

Spiked E-Magazine, 11/22/05

As 8-Track Mind Magazine was building some serious underground steam in the early 1990s, the Music Industry was pushing CDs in and LPs out in much the way it had done for 8-tracks vs. cassettes in the 1980s.  Impossible claims of indestructibility and music reproduction superiority were heaped upon CDs in articles and ads, and 8-TM staff and contributors took a jaundiced eye and pen to the proclaimed perfection that we considered “seedy”. And while vinyl was the intended target of the Record Companies, the fatal wound was actually sustained over the course of the decade by compact cassettes once CD players replaced cassette players in car stereos.

But certainly vinyl took a great hit, and got hit even harder in the ‘00s as iPods and 99¢ Mp3 singles captivated the imagination of a new generation and trickled up to an older one.  In a quirky and unexpected outcome of the format wars of the past two decades, 8-track tapes became collectible (thanks a lot, eBay!) and by the end of the 1990s 8-Track Mind stopped being the screams from the audio basement it started out as and was subtly morphing into a mouthpiece for the collector market. As editor/publisher I was finding myself increasingly alienated by the pressure to create price lists and engage in real moneymaking, and my own personal love for the ugly duckling format became less reflected in the pages of 8-TM.

A wall of 8-tracks at the IS home office. (In the mid 90’s IS agent m[i]le[s] was pulled into the apartment of agent Vollmer to watch So Wrong Their Right. The Compound (IS spiritual birthplace in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood) was already the location of weekly 8-track dance parties. After the viewing, agent m[i]le[s] began an analog correspondence with agent Forster that eventually resulted in multiple cross-submissions to each others projects and culminated in PRO a Chicago banjo and trash-can street-band covering 8-track era heavy-metal and punk classics. ~ IS ed.)

So I shut the magazine down in 2000 and walked away from the 8-track “scene” while I could still do so without animosity.  Certainly there were those who thought I was crazy to step away from “success”, but to cash in on the collector scene would have been too antithetical to the original “8-Noble Truths Of The 8-Track Mind” (which were concerned far more with fun and fraternity than with profit) for me to bear. My 8-track and LP collections became my own quiet personal seawall against the accelerating digital tsunami (which ironically I also participated in somewhat begrudgingly as music I wanted to listen to became impossible or prohibitively expensive to obtain on vinyl).

It cheered me somewhat that some of my favorite indie rock labels like Touch & Go and Matador and Sub Pop were still offering reasonably priced LP versions of many of their artists’ works, and I secretly applauded the dance DJs who were keeping many small vinyl pressing plants from bankruptcy, but I feared this underground support would not sustain long-term.


Part 3: REBIRTH

“As counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl — the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles — is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary.

Talk to almost anyone in the music business’ vital indie and DJ scenes and you’ll encounter a uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market.

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today’s music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.

“For many of us, and certainly for many of our artists, the vinyl is the true version of the release,” said Matador’s Patrick Amory. “The size and presence of the artwork, the division into sides, the better sound quality, above all the involvement and work the listener has to put in, all make it the format of choice for people who really care about music.”

Wired Magazine, 10/29/07

It defies logical explanation, but now in 2012 vinyl is not just staying alive on life support but is actually thriving!  With every passing year LPs present a measurably increasing share of all physical music format sales. Vinyl has a new generation of fans who weren’t even alive when it was declared “dead” in the 1990s.  The rise of Mp3s has actually done more to diminish CD than LP sales, in a highly ironic turn of events. Even used LPs retain value much more readily than used CDs


The Rise and Fall of Music Delivery Formats ~ by reddit user Dwellonthis

In 1996 I decided after half a decade of absence from the recording studio to write some new songs and tiptoe back in as an “extreme” solo artist, doing all playing, drum machine programming and singing myself. My first experiments proved to be quite unsuccessful, and disappointed I put recording aside in favor of my film/video and ‘zine efforts.

But the urge to get my music on tape (or hard drive) raised its head again a half decade later in 2001, when as part of a tour promoting my video Tributary (chronicling the tribute band “scene” in the US in the 1990s) I ventured into ace engineer/producer (and editor of the amazing DIY recording magazine Tape Op) Larry Crane’s Jackpot studio and recorded four songs in one day of fast and furious recording.

One of the efforts from those sessions turned out well enough that I vowed to get it on an LP within the next decade.  It took me another 5 years to get back in the studio to record tracks for the debut LP by RAKEHELL (my extreme solo project), and another half decade plus to finally get everything mixed and ready for public consumption, but now at this very table you can see a tangible bit of proof that vinyl has not died; my own modest effort to keep analog alive in the 21st Century.


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ThIS report was originally published on a tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12

RAKEHELL performing live at iSFair 2O12

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WEDUPT

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


INDIVIDUAL:
The urban camper

GROUP SIZE: “386 members of the homeless community … in the first four months since the ‘Urban Camping’ Ban went into effect on May 28, 2012” ~ Occupy Denver
NATURE OF GROUP: Homeless, hobos, winos, all night binge drinkers, transients and travelers
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: West Denver Urban Preserve and Trail

During the Winter of 2012, when the Occupy movement was in full swing, a small cadre of Denver protestors, and a mix of homeless and soon to be homeless citizens, took up residence on the sidewalk across from the Colorado Capitol building. On May 28th the City Council passed an “urban camping” ban as a likely pre-text for granting Denver Police the ability to quash Occupy’s right to peaceable assembly while stating it was to help the cities homeless by providing a mechanism to move them into shelters and services.

About two blocks south of the IS Home Office in West Denver’s working class SoHi neighborhood, is Lakewood Gulch – an east west chasm bisecting the cities grid. The gulch is a flash flood zone and infrastructure corridor for high capacity power lines that doubles as a bike-trail route, greenspace, and for the homeless prime urban camping sites. In 2008 (accidentally) on National Trails Day IS agents guerilla installed a trail marker system designating a route through the gulch as the West Denver Urban Preserve and Trail demarcating areas along the corridor for unsanctioned use such as graffiti tagging, leashless dog walking, drinking, and of course urban camping. (See WEDUPT // MMVIII)

In 2012 the Urban Camping ban and ongoing westward expansion of light-rail through the corridor presented a double threat to unsanctioned use in the gulch. WEDUPT needed to be freshly installed to draw attention to the endangered habitat for urban camping in the corridor.

After a month of foot research to determine the new route that homeless had established to accommodate the freshly laid light-rail tracks, agents began constructing DIY signs in orange and black to match the copious construction signage in the area. IS agents m[i]le[s], Handsome Jim and DDUB installed the signs in the wee hours of National Trails Day.

At 8am agent m[i]le[s] led a guided walk-through accompanied by a handful or agents and known associates and by reporter Melanie Asmar of Denver’s Westword newspaper. See Melanie’s article for Westwords Latest Word blog Lakewood Gulch art prank celebrates day drinking, off-leash dogs from June 5th 2012.

By the end of August the light-rail tracks were finished, the adjacent landscaping was planted and the last WEDUPT survey stake fell. In conclusion IS feels that the majority of the signage and trail flags lasted throughout the prime urban camping season and the mouthpiece of Denver’s Westword was significant in increasing awareness of the endangered habitat for clandestine urban campers. Now that a four year cycle has been established from the first incorporation in 2008 and the second in 2012 we have marked our calendar for May 2016 for a third incorporation of the West Denver Urban Preserve and Trail.

Supporting documentation:
WEDUPT v.01 2008 MMVIII
WEDUPT Spring Research

WEDUPT
 Summer Research
WEDUPT  Process

WEDUPT
Trail Map + Guide
WEDUPT Walk Through: Section 1
WEDUPT Walk Through: Section 2
WEDUPT  Walk Through: Section 3
WEDUPT  Walk Through: Section 4
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Different versions of thIS report was originally published on tumblr in June of 2012, and in two articles on Westword’s Show And Tell and Latest Word blogs. IS’s final WEDUPT report was prominently featured on a re-engineered tri-fold road barricade at iSFair 2O12, our quadrennial exhibit of reports generated between 2008 and 2012.

Man Made

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
 
INDIVIDUAL: Agent Man Made 
GROUP SIZE: Under 5.4 /sq mile 
NATURE OF GROUP: Wyoming Rough Necks, Cow-Hands, & Pilgrims on Dérive 
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: MAN MADE 
 

For this census MAN MADE across Wyoming was tagged, mapped & photographed.

Central Wyoming is the least populated part of the continental United States. On a 531 mile foot survey of Wyoming’s Continental Divide 3 IS agents encountered 414 Pronghorn Antelope (and 647 ticks) yet only a handful of man.           
 

Despite a lack of physical presence in the area, humans have scattered the organic landscape with an unfathomable amount of MAN MADE ranging from infrastructure to detritus. Fences, blazes, trails and roads. Gas wells and flight markers. Salt licks and a huge bowl of kibbles. Signs with rotting type. Rust etched garbage melting into the desert.

The infrastructure maintained on the census route often performed a control function. Way finders, harnessers of resources, containers, blockades. Though aesthetically out of context the logic of their place in the landscape was incontrovertible.

< PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE >

Much of the detritus was straight trash, though some of it presumably had a function in the past. (i.e. There were no blatant instances of intentional sculpture.) The harsh environment of central Wyoming continually reclaims any MAN MADE, breaking it down until even its function is eroded. Bereft of a meaningful context abstract forms begin to clutter the natural environment – an exact inversions of weeds growing through cracks in the driveway.

In the depopulated zone along Wyoming’s continental divide, MAN MADE and the organic landscape perform a continual dialectic: the attempt at one way control and the cyclic entropy thwarting it. (See diagram below.)  Man fills unpopulated space with functional infrastructure and a hidden scatter of debris. Anything unmaintained is either consumed by the harsh environment or takes on a battered sculptural form. By tagging notable MAN MADE, this census aimed to heighten an aesthetic and psychogeographical awareness of our footprint in a place we rarely tread.

Supporting documentation:
All 111 MAN MADE images
Agent Cyberhobos report and route map
Typeset Report (printable version)
Download a MAN MADE sticker sheet!  
Related Incidence of Sociometry: PaCT
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ThIS report was originally published on flickr in August of 2009, after the initial survey. IS’s reposting as MAN MADE prominently featured on a 6’x8′ tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12, our quadrennial exhibit of reports generated between 2008 and 2012.

 
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Vote YOURSELF! Vote DIY!

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

INDIVIDUAL: YOURSELF! 
GROUP SIZE:
 312,960,416 
NATURE OF GROUP: 
Citizenry of the U!S!A! 
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: 
Vote YOURSELF! We Know How To Do It!

In 1998 prolific German director, actor, and artist Christoph Schlingensief formed Chance 2000 The Party of Last Chance – holding rallies with placards bearing the absurdest Vote Yourself party motto and “Go on and do something! It doesn’t matter what” slogan.

Christoph Schlingensief prematurely passed away from cancer in 2010. In his honor and for the 2012 election year* IS rolled out the DIY-party screen-printed yard signs, bringing the Vote Yourself platform to the U!S!A!

Photos are from 2010 and 2012 in urban and suburban Colorado – a crucial swing state.

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ThIS full report was originally published on a tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12

 

*ThIS report was deployed using IS’ patent pending PAST DUE methodology. the art and film for the Vote YOURSELF signs was produced in time for the 2000 elections but IS was too distracted with other projects to print the signs until the 2010 mid-terms when an opportunity presented itself as one of our agents was sentenced to Community Service at a non-profit public-access screen-printing studio.
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How I Fake Awarded Myself

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

INDIVIDUAL: Agent Janssen
GROUP SIZE: Indeterminate due to their hypothetical nature.
NATURE OF GROUP: The Metro Area Urban Landscaping Award Committee.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: How I Fake Awarded Myself – Some Of My Neighbors Don’t Like My Yard, But Somebody Does (Sort Of).

I got a notice in the mail from the City of Denver informing me there was a complaint about “weeds” in my yard. Those “weeds” are xeriscaping – hollyhocks, Russian sage, flax, Shasta daisies, irises, mint, yarrow, ect. – all plants that require little water and are great for Denver, a city that’s arid and water-challenged.

From Denver Water: “Denver Water coined the word (Xeriscape) in 1981 to help make low-water-use landscaping an easily recognized concept. Xeriscape is a combination of the word ‘landscape’ and the Greek word ‘xeros’, which means dry.”

Co-workers suggested I write obscenities in the neighbor’s lawn with bleach, but I wasn’t entirely sure WHICH neighbor complained to the city and didn’t want to start a turf war (figuratively or literally).

I decided instead that my xeriscaping was “award-worthy” and made an award sign from a fictitious organization (the Metro Area Urban Landscaping Awards), honoring my yard in the “xeriscaping category”. I mounted the sign on foam-core and used a yard sign frame, then placed it among the flax and left it there until weather destroyed it. I felt good – vindicated, but not vindictive!

Meanwhile, the city didn’t issue a ticket, and closed the case after a neighborhood inspector took a look at my yard and verified the plants are in fact xeriscaping.

SO FUCK YOU, NEIGHBOR AND HAVE A NICE DAY!
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ThIS report was originally published on a tri-fold display at iSFair 2O12

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My name IS

Monday, January 7th, 2013

INDIVIDUAL: Karen Luther Eliot née Karen Luther Blissett Eliot
GROUP SIZE: 39
NATURE OF GROUP: Bureaucrats of every stripe; Social Security administrators, DMV clerks, bank tellers, investment managers, customer service specialists, insurance agents, human resources professionals, IT techs.,  and postal clerks.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: My name IS

In the year 2000 I legally changed my name from Karen Luther Eliot to Karen Luther Blissett Eliot,* where “Blissett Eliot” (no hyphen) was my last name and now in 2013 I have changed it back to my birth name – dropping Blisset. I am in possession of a legal name change document and simply need to update some documents and accounts to reflect my new (old) name; Social Security card, drivers license, car registration title and insurence, mortgage and house title, two bank accounts and checks, credit card account, three investment accounts, and a work email address and signature-line.

*This IS a combination of my two REAL fake names

I have a two week staycation starting Monday January 7th and plan to spend some time each day – hopefully not more than half the day – addressing my name change issues. ThIS report will be documenting my journey…


01/07/2013 DAY 01:
DMV (phone only) – Car registration, title, driver’s license and (related) auto insurance with Geico. Social Security Administration – register a legal name change and new Social Security Card.

The car registration IS the most pressing and complicated issue. It expired two months ago and I’ve been procrastinating re-registering it until I could do so with my current legal name. Also, this transaction will be complicated by my need to remove my ex of two years from the registration, title and insurance and add my live-in significant other to said documents. It’s worth noting that in addition to the legal name-change document I also have a legal document stating that my ex is no longer an owner of the vehicle. I feel this warrents a call to the help line prior to a visit to the actual DMV.

1:21pm – On hold with the State DMV help-line … … Country Swing

1:29pm … The hold music switches to Smooth Jazz … …

1:38pm – Anne at the State DMV help-line informed me that every County would require different documentation in my case and gave me another number to call. She also gave me a second number to call regarding changing my name on my driver’s license.

1:43pm – On hold with my County DMV …  Smooth Jazz …

1:46pm – Steve listens to my scenario and tranferrs me to a specialist at the “DMV”. On hold … Smooth Jazz.

1:48pm – Dan tells me that to remove my ex’s name both they and myself will have to sign the back of the title as sellers and myself with my new name and my significant other need to sign as buyers, I take that title in with my name change documentation and license. I asked Dan if my licensce needs to reflect my new name. He said yes hesitantly but did not have any information on what type of documentation was needed to get a new license with my new name. Fortunately Anne gave me a number to call regarding driver’s licensing.

1:56pm – On hold with Driver’s License Section regarding the name on my driver’s license … … Smooth Jazz.

2:01pm … The hold music switches to Adult Contemporary Rock.

2:05pm – Cedric listens to my scenario and rapidly fires off all requirements from memory; first register my name change with the Social Security office and wait 24 hours (I do not need a new Social Security card to change my license), bring my current license, my birth certificate with my new (old) name on it, something with my name and address such as a utility bill, and $21 in cash, check or money order.

2:08pm – I feel like I’m finally swimming up-stream to the source – the Social Security office! I’m going to run down there as I bet they stop letting you take a number sometime around 3pm. I have my checkbook, current I.D. and Social Security card, original Birth Certificate, legal name-change documents, and the December double-issue of The Economist magazine…

It’s illegal to photograph Federal Buildings. So here’s a Google Street View…

2:34pm – At the Social Security Administration | Administración del Seguro Social. I press #1 on the self check-in kiosk for “Replacement Card including for name change” and it spits out S134 – now serving S116, J781, E403, P348. There is a cacophony of ring-tones, one-sided conversations, intercom garble and mildly resigned/annoyed conversation. I would say all of humanity is here but, based soley on fasion choices, there are no affluent people here. Case studies: A 20ish girl with verticle-drip Black Metal style eyeliner and x-treme baggy multi-zipper n’ buckle raver pants clutching her number receipt. A 50ish man in FUBU gear, a doorag, and Payless trainers talking in unintelligible mush-mouth into a flip phone like it was a walkie-talkie while riffling through a file folder full of x-rays. A cute teenage newly-wed couple smiling and holding hands in their matching red and black North Side Mafia colors.  There is a poster of present day George Takei in his Mr. Sulu uniform against a sunlit earth backdrop and the screaming headline, “Oh my that was easy! BOLDLY GO to www.socialsecurity.gov”

2:44pm – Now serving S117

2:54pm – Now serving S123. I should have brought my Geico info so I could be on hold while I’m on hold.

3:04pm – Now serving S127. The outer door closed and locked at 3pm.

3:10pm – Now serving S132!!

3:17pm – Clerk 21 (no names at the Social Security Administration) listens to my scenario and asks me for my application (!?), name change document, and I.D.. I told her I didn’t know I needed an application. She filled it out for me, processed my information in two minutes, and sent me on my way with a receipt and a promise of a new Social Security card in two to three weeks with NO FEE! A little tip for identity thieves: many customers seem to leave the Social Security Administration on foot and a large percentage seem to be intoxicated or incapacitated. All are carrying a least a few important identity documents such as their Social Security card or their original Birth Certificate.

3:25pm – Refocused on the vehicle registration issue, I drop by my office (remember I’m on vacation) to print out an official State Vehicle Bill of Sale and Odometer Disclosure Statement. Although Dave didn’t tell me I’d need it, the DMV website clearly says all vehicle sales and must include an  Odometer Disclosure Statement – presumably even vehicle sales which aren’t actually sales because the buyer already owns the vehicle. I’m somewhat concerned that the official Bill of Sale document I downloaded and printed out from the DMV website has a giant red VOID overlaid on it.

4:09pm – Back home, I’ve got the Title and Bill of Sale ready for my ex to sign and “sell” me the vehicle I own and they do not own.

4:14pm – Geico answers immediately after I navigate the automated routing system. As I’d like to ad my significant other to the policy Ricky transfers me to a full license agent. On hold … Hip-Hop! …

4:20pm – Kwandra (maybe Qu’andra?) is happy to help me with my policy name change (no verification needed) with adding my significant other to the policy (saying “Ooo aren’t they sweet” when she overhears my significant other giving me their driver’s license info.) It costs $5.15 to ad another driver to the policy.

4:27pm – Done for the day.


DAY 01 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: Name change registered with Social Security and a new card on the way. Updated Geico policy and new documentation in my inbox (I’m going to have to go back in to the office to print it out…) Groudwork laid for a Wednesday trip to the DMV for a new Driver’s License.

Number of Interactions: 7 – Anne, Steve, Dan and Cedric with DMV, Clerk 21 at Social Security, and Ricky and Kwandra at Geico.

Money Spent: $5.15 – though this was unrelated to my name change but to an ancillary issue taken care of while on the phone of adding my significant other to my policy.

Time Spent: 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Reviews: DMV – The DMV’s automated phone system was like the maze of the minotaur and the hold times were long. Cedric was the only operator who seemed to have an immediate command of solid information. Social Security – despite seeming like a descent into hell Social Security was pretty entertaining, the wait time was tolerable and the service from Clerk 21 was exemplary and fast. Geico – Geico rocks.


01/08/2013 DAY 02:
KeyBank – checking account and checks, checking overdraft line-of-credit, savings account, credit card account.

These transactions are somewhat complicated by the need to unlink my checking account with my ex who is also a Key Bank customer and has independently requested the accounts be unlinked with no success.

12:29pm – Off to the bank!

12:55pm – Arriving at my local branch. There are two things I like about KeyBank (no space), it’s a regional bank headquartered in my city so I don’t have to deal with mega-corporate convenience like the time a CitiBank (no space) customer service representative told me that there were indeed branches in my city – at every 7-11, also my local branch is the historic sight of the first Cheeseburger.

The etching on this stone historic marker is of a restaurant in the shape of a giant Root-Beer barrel. The inscription reads, “On this site in 1935 Louis E. Ballast created the Cheeseburger. His restaurant, The Humpty Dumpty Barrel Drive-In was the State’s first drive-in and was commonly known as The Barrel. The Cheeseburger trademark was registered by Mr. Ballast on March 5, 1935. Dedicated March 5, 1987″ 

1:01pm – Oksana beckons me over to her cube. She is a blinged-out Russian glamour-queen in a pink, black, and white pant-suit and a high pony-tail. She has an AS in Accounting from Parks College and a Certificate of Appreciation from the D.E.A.. She listens to my scenario and tells me that I’ll have to close my checking account and checking overdraft line-of-credit and open a new checking account and apply for a new checking overdraft line-of-credit but I can change my name on my existing savings and credit card accounts. (Transitioning my checking account to a new name and number will mean I need to; get a new debit card, order new checks, update my direct-deposit with H.R. at work, update my criKet auto deduct, update my Geico auto-deduct and change the account information on my Mortgage and Student Loan bill-pays.)

1:23pm – As Oksana tabs through KeyBank’s prompt based operating system changing the name on my savings account, closing my checking account, opening a checking account, ordering new checks, and applying for my new checking overdraft line-of-credit, she bobbles her head, blinks her eyes twice and says, “I have to remember to do everything. I’m not in work mode – just got back from my two week vacation.” Oksana has a deep tan and this Winter has been particularly grey so I ask her where she went on her vacation. “Oh nowhere – I just slept and watched t.v.. Didn’t even shower!” A staycation!

1:27pm – Oksana has the KeyBank Card Center, to change the name on my credit card, on speaker and is trying to navigate the touch-tone activated routing system. She keeps leaning down toward the speaker and saying, “OPERATOR… OPERATOR…”

1:28pm – On hold with the KeyBank Card Center … Classical …

1:30pm – Tammy answers and lets Oksana get through about half of the scenario before transferring us to a 1-800 number with a new touch-tone activated routing system. CJ immediately answers to OPERATOR and after listening to the scenario asks Oksana for her “Code” – she picks up the receiver. CJ transfers us again.

1:33pm – Pamela can help us with our issue. Oksana is on the receiver and is saying things like, “core-information,” “consumer,” and “time-frame”.

1:36pm – Oksana is around the corner faxing (FAXING!) my name change documents to Pamela.

1:40pm – My application for a checking overdraft line-of-credit has been processed. My previous checking overdraft line-of-credit was $500.00. Oksana informs me that my 760+ Equifax Grade 1 credit score has qualified me for a checking overdraft line-of-credit of $15,000.00.

1:53pm – Crystal at the teller counter deposits my mortgage escrow refund into may savings under my new name, gives me $200 in cash to handle the DMV issues from my new checking account, issues me a temporary check to give to H.R. to adjust my direct deposit. Oksana is trying to over-ride the fee for the temporary checks but her teller station password has expired because she didn’t log-on during her staycation.

1:55pm – While I’m waiting Mirella, an Account Manager who I dealt with for my mortgage refinance came by and greeted me by name asking how I was doing and if everything with my accounts was going well.

2:00pm – Done! As I’m unlocking my bike I see Oksana leave for lunch in her mid-grade luxury sedan.


DAY 02 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: My name change is official on my savings account. I have a new checking account which will appear on my on-line banking in 5 to 7 business days with checks and a debit card on order. The savings account is up to date with the same number. My name is changed on my credit card, my current card still works but Oksana told me I need to call them on Friday to “make sure they are working on it.”

Number of Interactions: 6 – Oksana, Tammy, CJ, Pamela, Crystal, and Mirella at KeyBank

Money Spent: $0! Oksana was able to log in and waive my temporary check fee and for my personalized checks, I opted for the standard design with carbon copies at no charge.

Time Spent: 1 hour and 31 minutes.

Review: KeyBank’s internal operating system looks no better than the DMV’s and apparently they treat their own Account Specialists just like customers – multiple transfers with automated touch-tone routing systems. The hold times were short. Oksana and Crystal were exemplary, very professional while maintaining the friendly, chatty demeanor of a neighborhood service provider. It really impressed me the Mirella remembered my name and came over to say high. On balance I love KeyBank.


01/09/2013 DAY 03: 
DMV (Driver’s Licence Section) – a new license.

I’m hoping this is straight forward. I have all the documents that Cedric told me to bring and it has been 24 hours since registering my new name at the Social Security Administration. I’m kind of excited for this because I don’t look anything like my I.D. picture and I want to change it up. To draw an inaccurate analogy – on my current picture I have a pixie-cut and no make-up. Now I have long hair and wear fairly heavy make-up. I want a picture as I am now so I can cut my hair short and go back to a natural look while maintaining the confusing disparity between my I.D. image and real life.

1:15pm – Off to the DMV with the new copy of The Economist!

1:25pm – I arrive at the Department of Revenue which houses the DMV Driver’s License Section. There aren’t any bike racks so I lock my bike to the POLICE PARKING ONLY sign.

I love it when government agencies drop the pretense…

1:30pm – Anita is working the gatekeeper kiosk counter and is yelling people through the touch screen system. Her bun is so tight it’s giving her a facelift. Half the people in line are getting their licenses reinstated which makes me more indignant about the lack of bike racks. (I went through a reinstatement several years ago – Anita was my clerk.) The guy in front of me is having trouble navigating the touch screen which elicits an exasperated O!M!G! from Anita. Under her barked instructions, I navigate my way to Replacement License for Legal Name Change and am issued G803.

1:33pm – Now serving R888, S668, S667, S666, R886 … …

1:37pm – Still no G or letters that come before G in the alphabet are on the board. The DMV is more of a cross section of the population than the Social Security Administration. Case studies: There is a 60ish man with a scraggly grey pony-tail and a matching real-tree camo hat and coat with standard Wall-Mart issue grey sweat pants followed by two 40ish Mitt Romney types in L.L. Bean gridded button-downs tucked into tan and forrest green pleated slacks.

1:42pm – It’s both bizarre and alarming that there is no door security and no visible sign of an armed guard!? This is the DMV for Christ’s sake!!

1:50pm – Numbers prefaced with B are now on the board!

1:52pm –  “G803 to Station 8″ blasts out of the loud speaker. I scramble to get my things together and hurry over to station 8 to get in line behind 6 people. The clerk from station 7 looks at our line and asks Elysia, our clerk, which numbers she called for. Elysia responds with a befuddled mumble and starts asking us one at a time which numbers we have. Clerk 7 tells her indignantly not to worry about the numbers and “just process them.”

1:56pm – The 18 year old girl in front of me is trying to get a license with her Birth Certificate and Social Security card. Elysia snatches the Birth Certificate out of her hand gives it the once over and says, “First of all, you are going to need to order a new birth certificate. This has tape on it and that invalidates it. You can bring one of your parents in with their picture I.D. to sign a sworn affidavit. Is one of your parents with you?” The girl sheepishly points to her Grandmother. Elysia looks at Granny and says “Your Grandmother is not listed on your Birth Certificate. NEXT!” The girl is clearly bummed-out. She hasn’t learned yet that you should treat every trip to the DMV as a fact-finding mission with no expectation that you will have the necessary documents. That way every fourth or fifth visit you are pleasantly surprised by actually walking away with what you came for!

2:00pm – Elysia takes my Birth Certificate and carefully runs her finger-tips over the debossed seal, flips it over, holds it up to the light and carefully examines the vertical crease before handing it back to me with, “I don’t need this.”

2:04pm – I learned a long time ago that if I can’t see the peripheral vision light on the eye test to say “right.”

2:08pm –  I’ve got a referral slip for the cashier, Elysia took the sole copy of my notarized name change document in addition to my license. I’m in line for the cashier until Elysia yells my name from two stations away followed with, “You are not in line for the cashier.”

2:11pm – I get into the correct line which is in a separate area. Anita, from the front, brushes past me and attempts to key in a code on an Employees Only door. After three attempts she says – to herself – “What, I don’t work here anymore?” tries it a fourth time and yells “FUCK” before storming off.

2:15pm – Glenn the cashier processes my $21 transaction without making eye contact and hands me a receipt with no further instructions.

2:16pm – I approach unoccupied Clerk 5 with an excuse me ma’am regarding my lack of further instructions. She cuts me off, points at the bank of chairs, and in a firm commanding voice says, “SIT”.

2:23pm – I’m still sitting. A poster (in all capps but I’ll spare you) on the wall in front of me says, “Threats, threatening or disruptive behavior, abusive language, or acts of violence will not be tolerated. Individuals displaying this type of behavior will be escorted from the premisis.” I think, by who? Anita?

2:25pm – Renee yells out my (new) name. She returns my name change document and has me sign my name inside a small box with the warning, “Your signature MUST NOT touch the box.” I get back in the line that was the wrong line for the cashier.

2:31pm – Renee yells at us to remove out hats, jackets, scarves, and glasses. The gut in front of me has a hat, jacket, and glasses – no scarf – but he is wearing a doo-rag under his hat which is kind of like a scarf for your head.

2:34pm – Once at the front of the line my (new) name is yelled out and I enter a little yellow room. Judy takes an electronic print off my right index finger, hands back my whole-punched license with a paper temporary license, takes my picture and sends me on my way with, “I wish everyone was as cooperative as you.”

2:36pm – Done and done!


DAY 03 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: I have a temporary license with my new name and a brand new license coming to me with no e.t.a..

Number of Interactions: 7 – Anita, Elysia, Clerk 7, Glenn, Clerk 5, Renee, and Judy.

Money Spent: $21.00

Time Spent: 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Review: Though the DMV is comparable in some ways to the Social Security administration it didn’t have the relaxed entertaining atmosphere. Despite spending over an hour there I never even touched The Economist issue I brought. A high number of interactions were packed into a relatively short period of time. You have to be on your toes at the DMV. Overall it went much faster than I anticipated. The constant yelling made me feel like a I was at a fish mongers auction in HELL.


01/10/2013 DAY 04: 
KeyBank follow up and three investment accounts with Ameriprise, Fidelity, and CitiBank. If I have time I’ll also update my new banking information with Geico, criKet, Sallie Mae and my mortgage service provider. I’m thinking the three investment companies might provide an interesting compare/contrast scenario.

As I get deeper into the Leviathan I think I can see my way through the belly of the beast. Today is more banking and investment accounts, tomorrow will be H.R. at work and some anticipated printing and faxing for the Investment Advisors I talk to today in addition to printing my Geico proof of insurance for vehicle titeling at a different DMV office on Monday.

11:27am – A “Please Follow Up” yellow post-it with “Steve Ameriprise” and an 888 number and extension falls out of my four inch stack of unopened investment account statements. My Ameriprise IRA is in my old name but this account is unique in that the way to rectify the account is to transfer it to my ex. The account is my Individual Retirement Account but all the money came from my ex and I need to transfer it to them without incurring any tax liability. This move is called a Trustee to Trustee Transfer.

11:31am – I’m calling Steve and entering his extension … I’m routed to a voicemail for Carrie, leave a message with my scenario and my call back number. She will get back to me “within one business day.”

Some days there’s not enough coffee in the entire world…

11:36am – While at the DMV yesterday I got a voicemail from Jenna at KeyBank asking me to call a 800 number regarding my “request”. I’m following up now …

11:52am – I just got off the phone with Brian at KeyBank’s Loan Closing Dept. They needed to know my work phone number for my Checking Overdraft Line of Credit. (It took me seven minutes to locate my office phone number – I eventually had to google my work directory). What Brian REALLY needed to do was to tell me that I qualify for a $5,000.00 preferred line of credit with a historically low interest rate which could be mine for a nominal $25.00 fee!

12:03pm – I’m calling a 800 number written in pen on the front of an empty Fidelity envelope… I set up a user name, password, and security question on the automated system. I choose an option other than my Mom’s birthday because I have a hard time remembering it. Emily picks up immediately, listens to my scenario, and tells me I need to fill out a name and address change form with photocopies of my temporary license with my new name and any legal name change documents and then fax, mail, or email in the photocopies (email a photocopy?). An email from her with the form attached hits my inbox before she finishes her sentence. Emily stresses to me that my license needs to be my “actual” identification…

12:21pm – Two of the three pieces of paper Citi Personal Wealth Management sends me every month are disclosure statements. Nowhere on the document do they disclose their phone number.

12:24pm – I’m calling CitiBank Retirement Planning Products 800 number … Brenda picks up right away but after taking my account number puts me on hold to transfer me to another department … … Smooth Jazz with stuttering streaming (which kind of makes it sound like Be-Bop.) …

12:28pm – Wendy listens to my scenario. Since the name I’m dropping only expresses as a middle initial on this account Wendy puts me on hold to see if it can be changed without documentation.

12:33pm – To change my name on my CitiBank account I need to mail them a certified original legal name change document (I have one copy) with a letter of explanation and a request to have it returned. I do not need a self-addressed stamped envelope – CitiBank will go ahead an spot me the 45 cent postage. I also wanted to change my death beneficiary which they have a form for. Wendy took my email address and told me to look for it in about a day but sometimes the emails don’t go out… So… there is NO chance I’m mailing CitiBank my sole certified name change document. Essentially, Wendy just tasked me with a trip down to the County Clerk and Recorder to get a second copy of my name change documents certified which, if I recall, costs $25 and is an hour-long line.

12:59pm – I’m taking this opportunity to open these last eight months of statements, from Ameriprise, Fidelity, and CityBank, unfold them, put the disclosures in the shred pile, and file them…

1:06pm – An Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield explanation of benefits statement was hidden amongst the investment account statements. It has my old name on it – I totally forgot about this…

1:11pm – I’m calling Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s 800 number … judging from their automated system, this is only for my Dental. I pull out my general health insurance card which also has my old name on it and is through an HMO which is an Anthem company but appears to be a wholly separate entity…

1:16pm – After saying ASSOCIATE into the phone, Jessica picks up listens to my scenario and tells me if my insurance is employer provided I’ll need to submit my name change through my H.R.. I ask her if the same would apply to my HMO plan to which she cheerily replied, “probably.”

1:44pm – after a quick lunch break (on the clock), I’m transitioning over to collateral damage from changing my checking account – auto-deduct with Geico and criKet, and bill pay information with KeyBank Mortgage Services Center and Sallie Mae.

1:47pm – Geico’s automated system directs me to press three for update your auto-bill pay information. A voice activated robot answers – we’ll call him Rob for Robot. I tell Rob I want to update my information with a card instead of a check which was my intention. This gets me out on a limb of the phone tree with no way back. After Rob being confused by my saying BACK a few times I say OPERATOR. Dave picks up and asks for my policy number. I don’t have that handy so he pulls up my account with my phone number and immediately transfers me to the payment center. On hold … Smooth Jazz …

1:53pm – Janae picks up and asks me for my policy number and I give her my phone number instead. She tells me that all account updates are handled through their automated system but stresses that I will need my policy number on hand as she transfers me to Rob(ot). I hang up and go out to the car to get my insurance document and policy number.

1:57pm – Rob auto-detects my policy number from my phone number. I update my account information. Rob says, “if your transaction is complete – hang up now!”

2:16pm – criKet is a unique company in that they do not accept credit or debit cards. Their preferred method of payment is in cash at any criKet outlet. When I first got my phone I had to call a customer service line to set up auto-deduct. It cost me an extra $2 a month.

2:17pm – 1-800-criKet!

2:19pm – After the automated system doesn’t recognize my date of birth or zipcode it transfers me to Mike who asks for my authorization PIN. I tell Mike I was never given one and he asks me to give him four to six digits. Mike sets up my pin and uses it to access my account (some security at criKet!) As I give Mike my routing number and bank account number, I jot down a note to purchase Identity Theft Insurance… Mike talks in the same per-syllable staccato that Rob the robot used. In fact, the only way I can tell Mike is NOT a robot is that he’s incompetent.

2:24pm – Mike transfers me to criKet Payment Services for security verification purposes. The automated system goes into a loop explaining what auto bill pay is and asking me to press 1 to continue then reading me the same message and asking me to press 1 to continue. After three times around, Anthony picks up and asks me if I’d like to add minutes to my pre-paid plan. I tell him that Mike transferred me over for security verification purposes, he takes the last four digits of my bank account number and sends me on my way.

2:36pm – I’m trying to give my ear a break and am seeing if I can address Sallie Mae issues online. The banking account update is fast and easy. There is a little link next to my name that says, “how do I change my name?”. With Sallie Mae I can mail in a copy of any number of identification documents, including a birth certificate. Since my new name is my old name and I don’t have my new license or Social Security card yet that seems to be the way to go. I prep. an envelope with the address and stuff it with a photocopy of my birth certificate and, even though they’re not asking for it, a note with my account number and a request to change my name. I spare them the back story and write on the note that my name is incorrect on my account and needs to reflect the name on my birth certificate.

3:00pm – I will need to change the name on my mortgage but I long ago lost, or never received, log-in credentials with the mortgage servicing company. So, that’s going to have to wait. For today I’ll be satisfied with the small-battle of updating my account information with my new bank account number. I call my mortgage payment servicing line which is actually Western Union Speed Pay. The system is efficient and intuitive and I’m able to access my stored bank account information and quickly update it. After entering the information it gives me three touch-tone options which all involve paying my mortgage. As my mortgage isn’t due until the first of the month and I’ve been advised that early payments essentially go only to interest, I press #4 for “conclude this transaction”. The female robo-voice (Roberta) says, with a detectable hint of snark, “I am unable to conclude this transaction. BYE.” and hangs up on me.

3:14pm – Over it.


DAY 04 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: I left a message at Ameriprise, “completed” my Checking Overdraft Line of Credit application with my work phone number, received the necessary documents to change my name with Fidelity, was instructed on how to change my name with CitiBank (which adds a trip to the County Clerk and Recorder), and with Anthem (which requires a trip to H.R.), and updated my account information with Geico, cricKet, and (maybe/maybe-not) for my mortgage payments with Western Union.

Number of Interactions: 13 – Carrie neé Steve at Ameriprise, Jenna and Brian with KeyBank’s Loan Closing Department, Emily with Fidelity, Brenda and Wendy at CitiBank Wealth Management Services, Jessica at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Rob(ot), Dave and Janae at Geico, Mike and Anthony at criKet, Roberta at Western Union Speed Pay.

Money Spent: $o

Time Spent: 3 hours and 47 minutes.

Reviews: Fidelity and Sallie Mae (online) were the only organizations that seemed to have their shit together for name changes. Ameriprise hasn’t called me back and we’re coming up on one business day passing. KeyBank’s loan closing department is excellent at sales. Anthem Blue Cross Blue shield was actually helpful but couldn’t help me. Geico did not live up to my prior experience though much of that was my own inability to navigate their automated phone-tree. cricKet… you get what you pay for… Western Union’s system is very easy but doesn’t seem to work. Overall this was by FAR the most exhausting day despite sitting for the entirety. It may have been the high number of interactions, the lask of fresh air or face time, but after it was all said and done I didn’t accomplish much and I feel like THERE IS A WAR INSIDE MY BRAIN. 


01/11/2013 DAY 05:
H.R. and I.T. at work to change my name at work, my email address and signature line (which I don’t have permission to edit), and to request my name be changed with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Anthem HMO. I may have to sign a new contract with my new name. I’ve got to go into my office and print out my Geico proof of insurence, Fidelity name change document, and make photocopies in triplicate of my name change documents for mailing in to the investment account manages. Linda, my office manager, advised me by email that my department will need to update my email on several contact lists and may have to re-setup my Outlook calendar which “could be a mess”.  She also told me my new business cards have arrived with my soon to be old email on them and they are ready for pick-up…

12:30pm – As I’m getting my documents together to head down to H.R. the mail arrives with my new Social Security card!! Good ‘ol Federal government efficiency!

12:35pm – Off to H.R.. For some reason H.R. is “off campus” and in a high-rise in another part of downtown. The last time I was there was to sign a contract four years ago.

 1:13pm – I arrive at the high-rise. H.R. isn’t on the lobby directory, I kind of remember it being on the 5th floor and press 5 in the elevator. It’s not on 5 so I get back in the elevator and press 10 then start working my way down 9, 8, 7 – floor 7 is an office of the competitions, 6, skip 5, 4, 3, and back out of the building.

1:35pm – Back at my office (remember I’m still on vacation) I google H.R.. Apparently they moved to the new building on the other side of campus. I’m surprised as their move to the high-rise was widely announced four or five years ago and the offices were extensively remodeled. A note to you tea-party wack-jobs: I work for the State Government and this is exactly the kind of waste you’re always crying about. Well I for one am excited to see what kind of new reception area furniture they picked up for the new space!

1:40 - I drop off all the Investment Account disclosure statements and all my old checks in one of the conveniently located secure shred bins in my building and head over to the front office to make triplicate copies of my name change documents, new Social Security card, temporary driver’s license, and pick up my box of 1,000 new business cards with the email that I’m about to go change on them…

2:02 - The lobby of H.R.’s brand new building is stunning!

Look at those light-up stairs! Those must have cost a fortune!

2:09 - Jacquie at the H.R. front desk is one of those hyper-competent administrator types I’ve come to know and love at my job. She’s printing off a flurry of forms to get my name changed and updated in the system, to notify my boss and my bosses boss and my bosses bosses boss, and changed with both branches of Anthem. She needs to see my brand new Social Security card as verification. (Good timing Federal Government!)

2:28 – Jacquie told me my name would be updated in the system by the time I arrive at the I.T. help desk. Luke with I.T. informs me that I need to respond to an email he sends me with an NID (Network I.D.) request. It will take two to three business days and my account may be inoperable for a couple of days after that. (It’s worth noting here that my work went though an institutional name change over last summer including a new domain name and I’m still getting forwards from the old domain. Changing my email suffix will now necessitate double forwarding.) He tells me he needs to ask his supervisor a question about the NID. I overhear his supervisor reply to his procedural question with, “Oh gee… That’s changed… Not sure…”

2:40 – I stop back in the front office and tell Linda (another hyper-competent type) the time frame for the name change and that it should be resolved before I return from vacation. She said “Riiigghhtt…” and accused me of initiating this process so I could no longer receive emails. She also told me she printed-out the next few weeks of my Outlook calendar just in case.

3:11 – I check my Outlook mail and I have three emails; one from Jaquie with my official H.R. confirmation of name change, one from Luke with the NID, and one from I.T. confirming the opening of my support ticket. The email from Luke says “Changing a NID can lead to some serious complications such as corrupting your records and/or possibly losing your E-mail address book and calendar information … Therefore, there must be a legal or urgent reason such as marriage or other legal name change, or the fact that the NID spells a profane or socially unacceptable word or name, before the NID will be changed.”

3:34 – I’ve emailed my colleagues, boss and bosses boss and front office staff regarding my impending NID change, provided alternate email contact, printed out my confirmation from H.R., my proof of insurance from Geico, and the Fidelity change of address/name change form. (Of course the printer is out of paper.) The letter of explanation to CitiBank Wealth Management is going to have to be hand written from home – since I came in from my vacation and have been sitting at my desk for 20 minutes I’m now getting pulled into a meeting… 

3:41 – Heading into a meeting…


DAY 05 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: I’ve officially registered my name change with H.R. who has notified everyone and their dog. My NID request has been sent to I.T. for processing which will likely take all of next week.

Number of Interactions: 3 – Jaquie in H.R., Luke in I.T., and Linda in my office.

Money Spent: $0

Time Spent: 3 hours and 11 minutes.

Reviews: I love my job.


01/14/2013 DAY 06:
 DMV (Licensing and Titling Division) and the U.S. Post Office to change the name on my PO Box.

I took the weekend off from my staycation and actually recreated. I did have to deal with some online banking issues and my ex did drop by to sign the Title and Odometer Disclosure Statement and even met my significant other for the first time! Changing my name is providing closure in unexpected ways. I could care less for the last year, since the legal change, but now that I’m close to the finish line I feel a surprising sense of relief and urgency to turn the page on who I was and move forward with who I IS.

~ Interlude – A brief vignette from yesterday.

3:49pm – After trying to log-in four times, my online banking locks. As suggested I call 1-800-KEY-4YOU. And try to make out the genera of the radically sputtering hold music. Is this a Christmas song!?

3:51pm – Deanne answers and in a smoke-rasped voice walks me through a set-up of online banking on my new account. KeyBank has moved to a very creative security question menu which includes information not readily accessible via facebook or public records. My favorite was, “Which bone have you broken”.

~ On to today…

12:59pm – Off to the DMV.

1:08pm – The sign on the front door says, “No food or beverages permitted. Weapons prohibited. All patrons are subject to a search of their person and belongings.” I let my guard down until walking through the door and seeing no security and no metal detector. Come on people! It’s a mass shooting waiting to happen.

1:10pm – There are only nine people waiting. I have C090 and the board is already on C084. Last year when I was here, after I grabbed my number I noticed my proof of insurance was expired and immediately left. I drove across town to my office, accessed Geico’s website via a password retrieval, printed my proof of insurance, drove back, and walked through the door right as they were calling my number.

1:13pm – This time everythings in order. I have my name change documents, Title, Odometer Disclosure Statement, expired registration, current insurance, smog certificate (I had to go to Air-Care twice because someone had stolen the oxygen sensor off my car), temporary license and whole punched picture license. I’m REALLY hoping I don’t have to get another VIN verification. Last year as I was getting my $15 VIN verification the guy told me that all they do is write your VIN number on a form and file it, they don’t enter it into their system or check it against police records of stolen vehicles. When I asked him why the State required it he said, “revenue generation.”

1:16pm – Paula has a white ribbon for Productivity and a blue ribbon for Customer Service pinned on the back wall of her station. I explain my scenario as she looks over her glasses at me. She doesn’t need the Odometer Disclosure Statement but takes everything else, returning with photocopies and a form with my old and new names on it and STATEMENT OF ONE AND THE SAME across the top.

1:23pm – The registration, which I would have had to do regardless, cost $48.20 and the re-titling, which was only necessary for the name change, cost $58.70. The expired tags ticket I got on Saturday as a result of having to do the previous five days of running around first cost $75.00.

1:45pm – The DMV was so short a wait I didn’t have time to complete my Fidelity Name Change Form and CitiBank correspondence. I decided to send CitiBank a photocopy of my certified name change document instead of the sole original copy Wendy asked for. CitiBank robo-signed a few hundred thousand home foreclosures. They should be able to handle rubber stamping my name change.

2:20pm – I’m wrapping up my long form (legal paper) hand-written business-letter explaining my scenario to CitiBank Personal Wealth Management while calling to activate my NEW debit card that just arrived in the post.

2:25pm – I head off to the Post Office with a box of outgoing IS mail and my investment account correspondence and the final mission of changing the name on my PO Box.

2:45pm – The lady in front of me in line at the PO Box is swimming in the same end of the gene pool as me; same height, weight, hair and eye color. She also has a box full of manilla envalopes. We size each other up – me noticing the Christian cross and infinity sign graphic on her envelopes return address and she noticing mine with a return address for Institute of Sociometry. We avoid eye contact for the rest of the wait.

3:07pm – Tran has me add my new (old) name to my PO Box with a simple sheet I wouldn’t even deem to call a form. She says it will change the name on my PO Box – no proof of name change or identification needed. Note to Terrorists: You have to supply two forms of I.D. to open a PO Box but apparently anyone can change the name on it to whatever with no proof of identity, justification, or cost afterward.

DAY 06 SUMMARY:

Accomplishments: I have a vehicle title and registration with my new name, a new debit card, and an updated PO Box.

Number of Interactions: 3 – Deanne with KeyBank (yesterday), Paula at DMV, and Tran at the Post Office.

Money Spent: $106.98 – though only $58.70 was a result of my name change.

Time Spent: 2 hours and 11 minutes.

Reviews: The DMV Licensing and Titling Division is the sane cousin to the Driver’s License Section criminally-insane felon. The Post Office is exactly the same every-tme regardless of the transaction.  The postal clerks keep everything on a steady 6.5 out of 10. You’ll get it done in under thirty minutes but don’t expect anyone to smile.


FINAL SUMMARY AND ASSESMENTS

Total Accomplishments: I have a new identity and all the supporting documents to prove it! All of my legal and financial interactions can now be done with my legal name. The only area I haven’t dug into is the mortgage on my house. As I’ve reached total saturation of tolerance, and it’s not pressing, the mortgage may have to wait until my next staycation.

Total Number of Interactions: 39

Total Money Spent: $133.13 total – though only $79.70 was a direct result of my name change.

Total Time Spent: 16 hours and 26 minutes.

Final Assesments:
Most Kafkaesque:
 CitiBank Personal Wealth Management for requesting a court certified name change document and a written letter.
 Efficiency Award: Sallie Mae for not making me talk to anyone.
Truest to Form:
DMV Driver’s Licence Section for being a total cattle-drive.
Most Pleasantly Surprising: The Social Security Administration for being kind of… fun!
Best Customer Service: This is a tough one. Paula at DMV Licensing and Titling Division  was earning that Blue Ribbon and is a clear runner up. Oskana at KeyBank had to put in the most work and was pleasant and efficient. Overall I’d say the winner would be Jaquie at H.R. for being so hyper-efficient and enthusiastic.
Best Enforcer:
Anita at DMV Driver’s License Section.
Least Likely to Succeed:
Mike at criKet.

A note on changing your name: There are three ways to legally change your name; with a marriage license (women only), through a divorce proceeding, and in civil-court. A woman with a marriage license can simply present the signed license and an existing Social Security card at the Social Security Administration to receive a new name and Social Security Card. A man can not do the same thing with the same documents. Though the ACLU has been made aware of this example of text-book discrimination by the Federal Government they are under resourced and quite frankly have more important things they are working on. In most States, once the marriage ends either or both parties can have their names changed BACK to their “maiden” names as part of the divorce proceedings – though it’s not official until registered with the Social Security Administration. Pre-Patriot Act a civil-court name change was relatively simple. A brief court appearance before a civil judge explaining the rationale (which could literally be ANY rationale as long as you had one), a court fee, publication of a notice of your name change in a legal journal for three months, and registration with the Social Security Administration. Post-Patriot Act it there are a few more steps: “Contact your local law enforcement office to be fingerprinted. The Court may provide you with two fingerprint cards, or, in the event that your local court does not provide them, your local sheriff’s department should.  You will see a box labeled “Reason Fingerprinted” on the card in the upper left hand corner.  Complete that box with the following: “§13-15-101 Legal Name Change.” It is important that the FBI know that the criminal history check is for a legal name change. Please write your name, home address, and date of birth clearly on the fingerprint card.  If the agency completing the fingerprints uses an electronic print system, please do not write on the cards as the agency will automatically input the information. You are responsible for mailing or hand-delivering the completed fingerprint cards to the FBI. Allow up to 13 weeks to process the criminal history check from the FBI. The criminal history results must be conducted within 90 days prior to the filing of the Petition.  For this reason, it is best to mail your FBI fingerprint card, wait 7 – 9 weeks, and then mail or hand-deliver your State Bureau of Investigation fingerprint card.  You will be provided with a full report from both agencies. The FBI requires an applicant information form to be submitted along with the fingerprint card.  This form, along with additional information on FBI requests, can be obtained at the following link: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm. Mail the completed fingerprint card and applicant information form to the FBI at, Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306 along with a certified check or money order. Do not fold the fingerprint card. If you hand-deliver the fingerprint card, you can also pay by cash. You are also responsible for providing certified copies of any criminal dispositions that are not reflected in the Federal Bureau of Investigation records and any other dispositions which are unknown, by contacting the agency where such actions occurred.”
———

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iSFair 2O12 // Incidence Report

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

INDIVIDUAL: An audience of one
GROUP SIZE: 25 active agents out of a total 628 agents world wide.
NATURE OF GROUP: The 25 agents constituting the group in this report represent participants and attendees to the IS Fair our quadrennial conclave…
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: iSFair 2O12 InfOcalypse.

IS practices and promotes (non-quatitative) Guerilla Sociometry. Sociometry IS the analysis of individuals and their relationship to groups. As a collective IS always strives to create work for an audience of one. From mid-nineties ‘zine reports to the ongoing “all-computer issue” on thIS screen, the expectation IS that a single agent at the end of the line curls up in their layer and relates to IS in an immediatist fashion – individual to group.

See all images here.

IS makes sense in person only; it IS difficult to accurately relate anecdotes to anyone who has not yet related to the group (at least not without arousing their suspicion). So to speak, you gotta’ be IS to be into IS. With thIS method, the impluse to put on an in-person gathering is both inviting and intractable as IS Agents are a sly species who are reluctant to blow their cover.

Nevertheless, IS has persisted over the last 16 years and hosted a pentathalon of five IS Fairs. A small cadre of 11 agents have selected host cities, submitted reports and attended successive IS Fairs. For iSFair 2O12, a 25 agent brigade initiated projects, made displays, transported work, mailed videos, installed a show, became one-man bands, mascotted on the street, and sat on a hot Mission Street sidewalk all afternoon to ultimately survive the infOcalypse.

The conversion of IS’s mail art by way of a zine blog motif to an in-person adult science fair IS an interesting challenge. The logistics of making and moving 2000 sq. feet of displays held together with every type of tape and tack needed to be worked out. The ability of the IS Home Office to reliably crank out tri-fold displays balancing basic design principles with post-modern collage was tested. Concurrently, Agents out in the world who were creating and documenting their relationships to groups came through in person or via post with displays. All the elements were in place. DISseminating IS’s mISsion and vISion outside of the group of indoctrinated agents to the outside individual remains the challenge.

Friday 11/09 Opening night

INDIVIDUAL: A serious looking man, between 25 and 30 with a furrowed brow, pointy beard and clean jean jacket.

ThIS individual was one of the first attendees of the Fair. He moved from display to display methodically reading the ridiculous overload of written content. He would thumb through the literature with a penetrating stare. ThIS agenet attempted to engage the individual with a verbal comment on the tri-fold he was reading. The individual took an immediate step sideways and turned slightly away to avoid engaging thIS agent and quickly left.

About two hours later he returned and picked up reading where he had left off. ThIS agent left him to his devices. He was later spotted chatting with agent BAF like old friends.

Outcome: possible pledge

Saturday 11/10 One Man Bands
Pictured: Disposable Thumbs and Employee 

INDIVIDUAL: mErRiL, a punkISh lady in a pink leather jacket – an amateur puppeteer and full time musician on her night off.

mErRiL came to hear agent zMan perform at the iSFair as Disposable Thumbs. mErRiL immediately absorbed IS upon entry into the Fair repeating the copy off of the banner out front, “Free and open to the public,” she said, “All of humanity should be in here”. There IS no financial barrier to entry. There IS, however, an extreme psychological barrier.

Outcome: IS new agent – credentials ISsued.

INDIVIDUAL: A young lady off the street with short hair and clean work clothes IS wide eyed and giggly – clinging to her look-alike date.

ThIS individual was greeted upon entry and ISsued two Analog Survival Kits. With a surprisingly sincere thanks she and her date began to comb through the contents holding the vocab-word quill-pen and eyeball-balloon up close for micro-inspection. Ushering them in past the entry way, they were oriented to the infOcalypse and invited to take anything that was in multiple.

About 11 minutes later thIS agent turned the corner to find her doubled over in hysteria at the sight of her date disguised behind a Mao mask. A bushel of Malcontent ‘zines, No Alien Stickers, IS schwag, and tchotkes spilled out of her hands on to the floor. ThIS agent picked up the fallen letterpressed IRS report and tapped her on the shoulder. She thanks me with wide eyes for the return of the brochure tipping thIS agent off. Though it was her date’s full psychological immersion into the 10 point typewriter text of the 15x15foot ISstory collage that confirmed thIS agents suspicions: ThIS was drugs. They had tripped into the infOcalypse, a free vérité of quizzical brightly colored trinkets that only make sense to someone in a certain frame of mind.

Outcome: adherents. When they wake up with the mao mask and the 8-track mind ‘zine and the WTF haze of the infOcalypse they will start swimming upstream to find IS. We shall hear from them again.

Sunday 11/11 The InfOcalypse

As our screening was cancelled (due to events detailed below) we’re including a virtual screening here. 

Wigman’s Independence from Kelly Monico on Vimeo.

INDIVIDUAL: A 50 something manicured woman out with a friend on a Sunday Mission Street bruncheon.

After two plus hours of waiting to gain access to the show, the inner conclave of IS had set up camp on the sidewalk in front of a locked SUBmission gallery. An odd menagerie of people from mid twenties to mid sixties with a banjo and backpacks huddling in a grimy recessed door. ThIS individual approached Agent Mom and asked, “Are you all ok? I’ve been by here a couple of times and saw you all sitting out here.”

Outcome: concerned citizen. Though certainly not a recruit or even an adherent, thIS individual did notice and engage with IS feeling our dim little tractor beam emanating from our grimy huddle. She won’t remember us.

Frame (clip) from Chelsea Knight

INDIVIDUAL: An ageless hobo, swathed in full hooded outdoor gear with two wheeled trash cans brimming with recyclables.

After waiting three plus hours to gain entry to the Fair we were granted access to encounter thIS individual who had been asleep amidst the exhibit. (We had been instructed by the gallery management to stow anything valuable or not nailed down each night as drunken hordes of latin club music fans came through every morning from 3 to 5am “wasted” with “no respect for anything”.) Apparently thIS individual had been subcontracted to look in every nook and cranny for recyclables, and presumably any other shiny object that needed inspecting.

CHRISTEENE  “African Mayonnaise” from PJ Raval on Vimeo.

Already put off by being locked out, the observance of thIS individual greatly disturbed the agents present as thoughts of our odd little universe of IS relics being rummaged through and possibly disposed of by thIS individual loomed. During our brief stay in San Francisco, gravitating between the Tenderloin and the Mission, IS’s assessment of possible byproducts of homelessness would likely include extreme mental health issues, drugs and more drugs, and constant industrious acquisition and sale of odd trinkets and products on the street.

While packing up the unmolested show thIS agent observed that we were fortunate that the individual was not of the shiny trinket selling persuasion. It IS more likely, however, that this individual simply didn’t relate to the group. With a mandate to grab the recyclables it was clear that the glass head full of 2 dollar bills and light up eyeballs and embossed gold medals, or the Time-clock, or the aluminum briefcase full of human hair didn’t slot into that milieu. It might have value but how? It presented too much of a psycological barrier to be desirable.

Outcome: dISinterested.

SUMMARY:
In retrospect IS did survive the infOcalypse on 11/11. We did in fact go analog. At the off-site closing ceremony Agent Link was awarded the mISs iS Fair DANGER sash. Medals were doled out to the last agents standing: m[i]le[s] for attending every fair, Handsome Jim for making the longest journey, Cyberhobo for the best improvised project with his hack of IS’s long dormant twitter, and Agent Forrsters for being the host/s with the mosts and for being responsible for the locations of the last two Fairs, Chicago and San Francisco.

Possible host cities for IS Fair 2016 Emancipation are: Raleigh, Reno, Omaha and Los Angeles. Check thIS channel in 26 to 30 months for details.

Full reports from iSFair 2O12 projects are being release every Sunday February – June. See Current Reports.
——–

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Commandeered by is

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

INDIVIDUAL: Suburban bus commuter
GROUP SIZE: 205,368
NATURE OF GROUP: Daily bus commuters accessing Denver RTD buses via one of 10,129 active bus stops.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: This bus stop commandeered by: IS

This report was originally published on a tri-fold display 
at Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago.   

After a winter snow storm this IS special agent and suburban bus commuter found IS-self standing ankle deep in slushy brown snow-plow spray, unable to sit on the likewise fetid bus bench. I thought to is-self, “Why don’t they shovel off this bus stop!?”

After several minutes of cold contemplation (the #20 bus isn’t always on-time on snowy days), I wondered, “Who are THEY?” I use the stop, why should I expect someone else to take care of it? The RTD provided a great service – driving me downtown on a fairly reasonable schedule for $1.75. I realized it was unreasonable to expect them to also come shovel my bus stop for the same rate.

So, I procured what in the art industry we call “In Advance of a Broken Arm” and took it upon myself to clear off the stop after each storm – to the benefit of myself and the dozen or so of my neighbors who used the stop.

See all before and after photos

After several storms it occurred to me that I could officially adopt the bus stop. I began to look around at other bus stops for comparables. Adopted bus stops are unceremoniously adorned with a 6 inch square white placard with

ADOPTED BY:
(Your Name Here)

That is apparently where it stopped. Officially adopted stops weren’t shoveled. In fact they looked no better than my stop. I contacted RTD with an inquirey and received the following RE:

 

Miles,

First I need you to know that this is a voluntary program only so there is no pay for this. The way the program works is we provide the trash can, bags for the can and a 12 X 12 sign that is attached to the pole and in exchange for doing this we ask that you take the full bag out of the trash can and throw it away with the rest of your trash. You have the choice of either wanting a can or not and we will provide bags either way. You will need to sign an agreement form that states what I just did above and allows you to tell us what you would like on your sign. After we receive the signed agreement form then we will install a can if requested, drop off bags and make up a sign with your information on it. A bus stop is only the stops that have a pole or a pole and a bench but not the enclosed ones which are called shelters and are already maintained. I hope this information helps you. If you need any further information, have questions please feel free to write me at my email address or you can call me at 303-299-6365.

Thanks,
Monica Thomas, RTD-Adopt-A-Stop Program Coordinator

 

My stop doesn’t have the trash issue endemic to stops in commercial areas. The issue was snow removal and maintenence. It occurred to me that by utilizing the IS guerilla public service technique, I could anonymously commandeer the bus stop and, as a consequence, be unencumbered by any formal commitment or rules of engagement.

After deciding to commandeer the bus stop my level of commitment to its aesthetic value became more intense. I removed the abandoned dirty green JOBS box to both facilitate thorough snow removal and improve the look of the stop.

I had grown to like living in suburban Lakewood partly due to driving past the “Welcome to Lakewood” sign on 26th and Wadsworth. The Lakewood slogan, “We Are Building an Inclusive Community”, really spoke to me. On a recent trip south on Wadsworth I was dismayed to see that someone had amateurishly defaced the sign in a poorly thought-out guerilla modification.

In response I decided to put my graphic arts skills to use and dramatically improve the look of the stop by replacing the ugly RE-MAX advertisement with a guerilla, yet sincere, Lakewood promotional advertisement.

With the new advertisement and the addition of a couple flower bowls my bus stop is now dramatically spruced up and ready for spring. By commandeering, rather than adopting, the stop I’ve been able to actually improve the location rather than taking ownership over the stop in name only.

 

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Coney Island Shortcakes

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

INDIVIDUAL: is agent Dan Weiss with Kalene Rivers
GROUP SIZE: Large weekend crowds
NATURE OF GROUP: Satisfied Patrons
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Coney Island Shortcakes

This report was originally published on coneyislandshortcakes.com
and on a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago.  
 

 

Theorists of architecture, sociology, and psychogeography have struggled endlessly over the question of social space and how it might be dismantled. Ideally, the most effective tools for analyzing social space would illuminate an otherwise invisible network of human relationships, dissolving social anxiety and fostering creativity in its place. During the course of one summer, and to the delight of countless Coney Island locals and visitors, these tools briefly assumed the form of strawberries and shortcake. Our very first shortcake stand was planned innocently enough as a DIY excursion into the real Coney Island- we decided that in order to rediscover the materiality of a place so thickly enshrouded in myth, it was necessary to become part of the very mechanisms that kept it alive. As a result, we not only witnessed the unraveling of Coney Island’s social and economic networks but the logic of our own project as well. Suddenly the questions we had assumed to understand became far more complex. “What’s more American than Strawberry Shortcake at Coney Island?” Well, was it ever that American in the first place?

 

When it comes to absorbing history, memories, and the emotions associated with change and restructuring, Coney Island is particularly spongy. Each public land battle, bulldozed amusement, or threat of luxury condo takeover seems only to enhance the romantic residue on the surface of this historic place. Some visitors are drawn to the struggle in order to protest its fading glory, while others excitedly await its transition into ghost town status, enjoying frequent mid-winter visits. George C. Tilyou, the creator of Coney Island’s ill-fated Steeplechase Park, was prescient in mobilizing interests in loss and the passing of time to the advantage of the park. On the morning following the Steeplechase’s demise, Tilyou ended his solemn announcement with a sarcastic yet very relevant line: “Admission to the burning ruins — Ten cents.” For those passing through, Coney Island will always be a site of dramatic struggle, a magical place that is consistently fighting off it’s own erasure. However, we wanted to look beneath these memories and myths, to station ourselves among the lived everyday experiences of Coney Island. Originally aiming to find a familiar social network and economy that would render the park a little more readable, we eventually found something even more inspiring.

 

What we hoped to discover with this project was the transparent and original essence of Coney Island, something that we vaguely assumed to be harnessed to the American Experience (and Strawberry Shortcake, of course). Yet we quickly realized that this kind of experience had been effaced long ago, leaving a space in which culture is less rigidly defined. It almost seemed as if, upon closer inspection, the park never really had a specific origin, much like the Strawberry Shortcake itself. Is it really American or did we just put these two ingredients together? Regardless, Coney Island began to reveal itself as an accepting atmosphere- an amazing transition from the unreal caricature that it became over time. The results were enormous. Few visitors recognized the dessert as something American, and many were entirely unfamiliar with its appearance (“So, wait, it’s ice cream, right?”). Instead, the defining characteristic was a casual curiosity. While an unlikely place to discover social models to which we might aspire, Coney Island and it’s local amusement community provided a very diverse and playful social network. In our photos, the great diversity of Shortcake customers with whom we interacted are all linked together by this suddenly less familiar, strangely humorous, and remarkably uniting dessert.

Written by Timothy Leonido at the behest of Kalene Rivers and Daniel Weise

 

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WeDUPT // MMVIII

Friday, January 9th, 2009


INDIVIDUAL:
Unsanctioned users of Denver Parks
GROUP SIZE: Indeterminate due to the transitory nature of the individuals
NATURE OF GROUP: hobos, recreational binge drinkers, graffiti taggers, and off-leash dog-walkers.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: West Denver Urban Preserve and Trail

This report was originally published on 2 tri-fold displays at Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago. 

WeDUPT 2004 : RESEARCH

 WeDUPT 2008 : ACTIVATION

Four Years after conducting the above preliminary research, is agents activated WeDUPT in a radically changed environment.

WeDUPT All Images 

The entrance to WeDUPT has since been closed to sanctioned users (leash-walkers, outfit-bikers, stroller-joggers). To access the trail register and guide one must start by transgressing a barrier between sanctioned and unsanctioned use of the corridor. The necessity of hikers to cross a literal and metaphoric threshold at the outset of their journey is a seeming victory in the effort to raise awareness of, and increase habitat for, unsanctioned users.

Generally however, the interim four years have seen a wholesale assault on unsanctioned use habitat. A vast tract of section four, The Preserve, was clear cut to make way for sanctioned users. This encroachment cuts deep into an area that in 2004 was ideal habitat for hobos and served as the gateway to a large and now threatened encampment.

before and after 2004 left : 2008 right

West Denver gentrification, flood control infrastructure development and construction in the corridor on a west suburbs light-rail line all highlighted the need for incorporation of WeDUPT.

A trail register, trail guides, and breakaway fiberglass trail markers and a corresponding iconographic decal system were professionally manufactured. Decals deploy a standard slash no-slash system of Forest Service trail markers but incorporate icons appropriate to an urban environment; a tag, a crapping dog, a wino, a cop.

 

The morning after instal, this agent arrived at the trail-marker for section three prior to 9am. Scores of eager citizens were out vigorously clearing brush! A Parks and Rec crew with a mulcher truck was ingesting it. When approached a young couple explained,

is: “Are you all volunteering or something?”
both: “Yes!”
is: “Why clear all this brush?”
he: “They found a BODY in here! Or something… That’s what I heard.”
she: “Its National Trails Day!”

The trail marker for section three remained in place, lightly buried into soft soil. Citizens swarmed around it vigorously manicuring the park. An adjacent crew, in keeping with WeDUPT’s strict no tagging zone in section three, was painting out graffiti in hunter green – perfectly matched to WeDUPT’s marker.

Back at section one, a small cadre of Hispanic teens were walking along the flood diversion trench passing a joint. As they came across this agent making an entry into the trail register, all pointed at the detourned green newspaper box. Sputtered laughs and “oh shits” were punctuated with a flash of the hand, center fingers crossed – “WEST SIDE!”

At the start of section two a breakaway group of citizens, multicultural tweens with an adult chaperone, walked along the creek banks with trash bags picking up litter. A Hispanic girl in painted on pants looked at the trail marker for section two and proudly poked her friend, “Look! West Side!”

CONCLUSION:

One could argue that the lack of citizen reaction to the marker in section three pointed to a failure. They didn’t see the marker because its aesthetic blended too closely into what was expected in the space. Unlike the tags the section three sign did not read as unsanctioned art. The section one trail register, however, was clearly communicative as unsanctioned as acknowledged by the West Side teens and their stoned camaraderie.

This leads is to believe that the context in which the signs are encountered by the individual frames their legitimacy. The section three trail marker decals conformed to preliminary research showing the area is not advisable for unsanctioned use due to its open terrain and adjacent playgrounds. Citizens engaged in sanctioned use (busy-bodied-volunteerism) encountered a sign reinforcing their agenda; no camping, no drinking, no tagging, no dog crap! In section one the unsanctioned teens recognized a subversive nature in the signs and respond in kind. They saw it as a tag and gave it a shout out. The girl in section two also was drawn to the west side emblem but due to her sanctioned use of the space saw it with a non-ironic sense of civic pride.

The section one trail register was the first item to disappear. Section three’s trail marker followed shortly. Section two lasted a couple weeks. The Preserve’s trail marker lasted over a month. Six months later all trace of WeDUPT is gone. Its hard to say if the signs were removed by Parks and Rec or by unsanctioned art collectors.

The signs transcendental ability to serve as a guide to sanctioned and unsanctioned users in the corridor proves that these two groups can coexist in the space without the need to threaten vital unsanctioned use habitat.

To maintain awareness of this issue is plans a second annual instal and trail walk for National Trails Day 2012.

Continue reading about the 2012 iteration of WEDUPT.

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QwestVex

Monday, January 5th, 2009

INDIVIDUAL: Employee of Qwest corporate headquarters
GROUP SIZE: 13
NATURE OF GROUP: A crack squadron of minimalist sculptors
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Qwest Vex

Qwest Vex was originally reported by The Westword and misappropriated by The Egotist. is originally published this report on a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago along with the video at the bottom by agent Vin Comparetto.

 

On Monday May 19, 8:50 am, a crack-squadron of 13 agents of the international pranktivist collective Institute of Sociometry (IS) donated an unsolicited “minimalist sculpture” comprised of 576 phone books to the Qwest corporate headquarters at 1801 California Street in the form of a giant phone book. The donated minimalist sculpture “reflected its architectural surroundings and provided an ergonomically designed, functional apparatus for employees to interact with while sitting and enjoying their lunch break.”

In the course of a year, a typical Denver Metro household will receive each of the following: a 2.5 inch thick White Dex, a 2.5 inch thick Yellow Dex, possibly a 1.5 inch thick Yellow Dex A-L, a 1.5 inch thick Yellow Dex M-Z, a smaller format Dex Plus. Also, depending on demographics, the household may receive a combined (white and yellow) suburban directory or Dex En Espanol.

IS agents spent six months amassing 23 separate varieties of phone books in Denver and the west suburbs. These publications had been either left unclaimed for at least one month at apartment or office buildings, or were used by customers for a year and thrown out with the arrival of the 2008 book. Six variants were published by Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, or Verison. Twenty two variants were published by Dex, a division of publisher RR Donnely, which has a contract with the telecommunications company to produce and deliver the phone book.

Prior to assembling the sculpture in the Qwest corporate plaza, IS agents were instructed by squadron leaders to “avoid eye contact with bystanders at all times” and to answer all inquiries from the company’s security with the phrase “I’m just supposed to drop these off.” When the IS squadron began briskly piling the books in front of the Qwest building, they were indeed approached by security and had the following off-script exchange:

Qwest: (sheepishly) So how you guys doing?
IS: (tersely) Alright.
Qwest: So uh… what’s the plan this morning? You guys when your done are you going to clean out everything?
IS: (lying) Uh hugh…
Qwest: That’s fine…

At this point the Qwest personnel walked away with their hands in their pockets, going so far as to actually kick a pebble in a gesture of defeat.

 
Photo agent Rhy Jouett   

After the IS sculptors completed their work and melted away into the Monday morning pedestrian traffic, a man identifying himself as public relations personnel exited from the building and immediately sought out our IS agent who was posing as an “independent photographer.” The agent was asked if he was “from the paper.” When queried, Qwest public relations told our agent that they would surely recycle the books.

Indeed, within ten minutes a small army of Qwest maintenance employees immediately emerged from the towering edifice with large janitorial bins adorned with freshly laser-printed recycle symbols scotch-taped on them. They swiftly disassembled the sculpture and scurried back into the building. IS officially condemns the callous removal of their donated minimalist sculpture. It points to a flagrant disregard for even the basest level of art appreciation!

Watch a time-lapse of the incident!  


Video agent Vin Comparetto 

But while unanticipated by IS, Qwest’s actions indicate a desire to be a responsible corporate citizen by encouraging the use of their plaza as a convenient, centrally located, recycling depository for unwanted phone books.

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Alone in a sea of zombie drivers

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

INDIVIDUAL: One lonely commuter
GROUP SIZE: around 2,500 depending on traffic
NATURE OF GROUP: Other seemingly lonely commuters along the I-25 corridor between Denver
and Colorado Springs.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Effecting change in American driving culture
-or- Alone in a sea of zombie drivers.

This report was originally published on a tri-fold display at
Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago. This vegan gutter punk is feeling it.

 

North then south, north then south, surrounded by so many people, yet very alone. This is my reality. I have a long commute, about an hour and 25 minutes one way during peak traffic hours, which is of course, when I need to travel. When I first began commuting this 75 mile stretch of highway, I was relaxed and enjoyed my “quiet time”, my time to reflect on deep subjects. But the longer I commuted the more I began relying on other forms of entertainment like radio talk shows, my ipod, bird watching. But, as with many things, doing things alone can get old, and sharing your experiences with others can make the experience that much more enjoyable.

 

See all zombie drivers images

With time, I came to the realization that I really was not alone. No. I was surrounded by people. Many times they were just tens of feet from me. But there was a problem. Not only were we separated from each other by the structure of the vehicles we occupied, but there was a certain inattention to the human aspect of each other. As I passed another person, I would not think of them as another person, but rather, a car. I understood that I was apart of a community, a culture, but that this community operates in near ignorance of the humanity of itself. It was rare to see communication within the community members, and when it did occur, it was not complex language, but was in the form of rudimentary light signals or the occasional hand gesture. Something needed to be done.

I began some intense research into the behavior of drivers as well as into the art of communication. In my research I found that The Transportation Research Institute, in Haifa, Israel, has determined that “Each driver is influenced by the collective behavior of other drivers. At the same time, each driver is also part of this collective, and thus influences others.” They also determined that “a small shift in the behavior of [a] few might be amplified or snowball to a much larger effect resulting in a changed traffic environment or a modified culture of driving.” Here I was hit with the feeling of grandeur. Here is the reason I have been made to commute. I was going to change the driving culture.

I started with advice from the manual by Don Gabor: How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends, the revised and updated version. I immediately applied the first of his techniques for nonverbal communication. -Smile- As I made my way north at 6:30 am, I smiled the biggest smile I could (no easy task at that time of day). I continued to smile for nearly 20 miles before I decided that I was not really effecting anyone because no one was looking at me. I determined it must be a visibility problem. I needed a sign. Here’s where I stumbled. There is something about a sign that encourages people to look at it. If I made a sign, people would probably look at it. That meant people would look at me. I was not very comfortable with this. I stalled with the excuse that I really didn’t know what to put on the sign. But in the end I resolved to step out of my comfortable anonymity and proudly display an “I’m Smiling” sign.

Attempt #1: 05/27/08: 6:30 am
I was not excited about my sign. It was not a sign that would make people look and say to themselves, “well, there is an extraordinary intelligent woman!” I felt more like it would be “Lovely, another whackjob on the road.” I failed to put up my sign.

Attempt#2: 05/28/08: 6:30 am
I had decided I was just fine being a wuss, and I didn’t even bring the sign with me. But, I felt guilty half way to Denver and started looking at all the people that seemed to hold this power over me, making me so self-conscious. Who were these people that put so much trepidation into my glorious plan of commuter culture change? Did I know them? Would they call someone and make fun of me? How would I even know and why did I care?

 

Attempt#3: 05/29/08: 6:30 am
Success. I pulled out of my driveway with the sign installed. I was a little anxious through my neighborhood and into my little section of town where people I know might spot me. But I settled down once I hit the interstate. It was more amusing than embarrassing. Right off the bat I was surprised how few people actually looked. I pulled into the left lane for optimal visibility. I saw people eyeing me suspiciously, or trying to act like nothing was different, like when you are looking at someone with food in their teeth. It was disappointing that no one smiled in return. It would seem that most commuters are not in a friendly mood first thing in the morning. I would try at a different time.

Attempt#4: 05/30/08: 11:00 am
I was heading north of Denver today and my car was loaded with luggage and various paraphernalia. The car was a little heavier and I was not in a hurry so I stayed in the middle lane, only occasionally using the left lane to pass. After passing a minivan being driven by a older woman and receiving a quick glance from her, I realized that other cars were not passing me. There were 10-12 cars stacked behind me in my lane and the right lane. I slowed down a bit to see if they would pass. The right lane crept up but just sat slightly behind me. After several more seconds the car furthest back in my lane pulled into the left lane and sped up. Normally a car would quickly overtake me and continue on. But this car slowed down next to me. I turned and looked with the biggest grin on my face. He was looking, but I couldn’t see his expression. I kept grinning. Finally he sped up and past me. After he past a few more followed suit, passing me very slowly. I continued to smile and other drivers continued to be very cautious when passing me. And still no one returned the smile. I understood that my sign was working opposite of its intended purpose. I was not being seen as a friendly driver. I was being seen as a possible threat that required either careful scrutiny, or complete disregard so as not to agitate me. But overall, most drivers did not acknowledge me at all. Perhaps they were just too oblivious to their surroundings to even notice. There were like a pack of zombie drivers. Lifeless and indifferent. Maybe I needed a bigger sign. Maybe I needed my sign to be more personal, something like “I’m smiling at you” or “It’s nice to drive I-25 with you.” Then again maybe my sign just needs a little more time. Maybe my fellow commuters are shy and just take a bit to warm up.

 

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Lifes A Joke : chapter III

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

INDIVIDUAL: Agent Vurmin
GROUP SIZE: Approx. 56 Million
NATURE OF GROUP: The people of the state of California Vs. Charles Twain Clemans
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Life’s a Joke : chapter III

Backstory: Life’s a Joke : chapters I & II 

This report was originally published on a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair 2008 in Chicago. These teenage Bridgeport chicanas were drawn to his display like moths to a bright light.

 

Agent Vurmin is a screen-printer by trade. In 1995 he taught is how to make stickers in his garage. As detailed in chapter I, we’re holding a first run “I’ve Been Institutionalized” bumper sticker to present to agent Vurmin upon his release from prison in 2023. In the interim, is tries to smuggle graphic art to agent Vurmin through the mail. 

As detailed in section 3138 of the California Code of Regulations Title 15. Crime Prevention and Corrections manual regarding mail, “all incoming packages and mail addresed to an inmate will be opened and inspected… to prevent the introduction of contraband. In some cases “contraband” is obvious. When Agent Vurmin hand drew all the is agent birthday cards in 2006 they were sent out with a small file/shank in a handsome plastic sleeve custom imprinted with Get Out of Jail *FREE*. That would be an item warranting  confiscation. So agent Vurmin did not receive a gift in the mail. What’s a little more subtle is the need to remove the staples from agent Vurmin’s birth day card so he can’t straighten them, embed them in an eraser and shank a guard in the eye.

Books can only be sent from the bookstore. Inmates can receive pictures in the mail, but only up to 10 and no Poloroids (their rigidity apparently leads to shanking.) Stickers, agent Vurmin’s most cherished accouterment of the civilian world, are expressly prohibited. Once applied to the surface of envelopes stickers magically transform from contraband to packaging and typically slide through.

Unfortunately the piece pictured here didn’t make it to agent Vurmin. The mail was returned with “No Stickers” scrawled across from it. In the type of paradox generated by the pursuit of bureaucracy over logic, these 8×10 glossies of agent Vurmin’s returned mail caused no concern and now decorate his concrete cube.

 

 

 

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Correct John Gonce

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

INDIVIDUAL: John Gonce 
GROUP SIZE:
3
NATURE OF GROUP: 
Pro-bono guerilla public relations specialists operating under cover as “The Institute of Sociometry”. 
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: 
Correct John Gonce

This report recently appeared in SHERBERT Issue 6Download the original article designed by SHERBERT Publisher (and is agent) Dan Weiss.

John Gonce, a Denver Realtor and perennial candidate for Denver City Council District 2, leaves unsolicited newsletters on the stoops and in the mailboxes of south west Denver Residents.

[Gonce] “has sold real estate in southwest Denver for 40 years with no violations in any transaction… He attended Ventura College of Law (he is not a lawyer) and two colleges overseas studying philosophy and political thought. He loves to champion the falsely accused.”

– from The Gonce Times

[The “PUBLISHER, Volume No. Issue No. and Date” of this issue of Gonce times were left at the template default and thus the specific catalog information of this particular issue of Gonce Times was never recorded.]

Each issue of The Gonce Times delves into John Gonce’s personal views on local politics and real estate. “When it comes to finance, real estate, and an understanding of Government John is most knowledgeable. He is a genius as a negotiator and financial areas.”

Unfortunately for John Gonce, he did not seem to have the same level of publishing acumen that he was blessed with in areas of finance. Fortunately for John Gonce, several issues of The Gonce Times slid across the desk of The Institute of Sociometry.

John Gonce’s grammar clearly begged for a copy editor. Ex: “For U.S. House of Representatives, Denver, we have in office Dianna DeGette. DeGette is so far to the left philosophically, if she went any further she would be in Hell. Where is Hell on this earth? For the past 100 years it has been in socialists and communists countries where ownership of real estate is often forbidden.” Since there were no copy editors on staff with The Institute of Sociometry, we assigned an IS agent specializing in design and commercial print publishing production to his file. If IS couldn’t help John Gonce with his message, we could at least spruce up his media.

John Gonce of 4451 South Wolcott Ct. Denver, Colorado 80236 received an unsolicited 12 x 15 mailer:

Our mailer to John Gonce – there is only one listed in the Denver white pages and the address IS in council district 2 – contained the following:

• Three issues of The Gonce Times enlarged to 11 tabloid sized sheets and extensively annotated in red pen with technical design and print-publishing suggestions. Sample:

• A print out with specific instructions on installing a pirated copy of Adobe® In-Design™ v. 1.0 for Windows 95 – 98 – including a clean serial number.

• A CD installer for Adobe® In-Design™ v. 1.0 for Windows 95 – 98.

• A Red 3.5″ Diskette with our redesign of the most recent issue of The Gonce Times saved as an Adobe® In-Design™ v. 1.0 template.

• Hard Copy of the redesigned Gonce Times. < Before & After >

Since presumably receiving the mailer, John Gonce lost his City Council race. No more issues of The Gonce Times have since been distributed. We suspect that when John Gonce has finally mastered the Paragraph Styles Palette we will be seeing The Gonce Times with a fresh new look on the stoops south west Denver.

“RESPECT. REPLACE HATE WITH LOVE” – Tag line of the Gonce Times

///// UPDATE 06.19.14 /////

Though mentions of John Gonce and his perpetual failed bids for city office were quite common in Denver media in the late 90’s into the early 00’s no reports are brought up via google post-dating our report. We are pleased to note that when googling John Gonce our original version of thIS report comes up 4th in the search rankings.

///// UPDATE 07.06.17 /////

On June 8th this agent – the very same public relations specialist originally assigned to John Gonce’s case – received the following email via my sociometry.com email address:


On Jun 8, 2017, at 4:17 AM, Denver Business Recognition <info@center-local.org> wrote:

John Gonce Realty has been selected for the 2017 Denver Awards for Real Estate. For details and more information please view our website:

2017 Denver Awards – Real Estate

If you are unable to view the link above, please copy and paste the following into your web browser:

http://denverco.center-local.org/su7nl76p_JOHN-GONCE-REALTY

Best Regards,
Denver Business Recognition

Though intrigued, the initial email caught us at a busy time and we flagged it for later. We assumed the email was a press release for an award received by John Gonce and our past association with Mr. Gonce had landed us on an email list for Gonce related news. Revisiting the email, and corresponding link, a month later it became clear that this was an unfortunate mix-up.

Though there was a period of several years in which the #1 google search result for “John Gonce Reality” led to this very post, the search results had appeared to since self-correct. The current #1 result, however, Mantra.com, still incorrectly lists this website in the contact information for John Gonce Realty:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 1.46.22 PM

The link to the Denver Business Recognition indicates that they are attempting to contact John Gonce Realty in order to notify him of the award, make this press release available to him, and to give him the opportunity to receive a an 8×10″ “full color sublimation” 2017 award plaque mounted on wood with a “black lacquer finish” and “beveled edge” for $149.99 or a 8×8.75″ 2017 “Hand-Polished Optical Crystal” with an “attractive crystal base” in a presentation box for $199.99 or BOTH for $229.98! In their FAQ Denver Business Recognition clarifies:

“Do I have to pay for an award to be a winner?

No, you do not have to pay for an award to be a winner. Award winners are not chosen based on purchases, however it is your option, to have us send you one of the 2017 Awards that have been designed for display at your place of business.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 2.02.20 PM

We felt like this was an excellent opportunity for John Gonce Reality as the award, according to Denver Business Recognition presented for; “Strategic Value [as a] Sales Tool, [and] Free Publicity! As John Gonce Realties former pro-bono public relations specialist this agent wanted to ensure John Gonce was provided with this award! The FAQ provided guidance for these type of mix-ups:

“There is an error in my company information – how can I fix this?
Changes to your company’s name, city, or category can be submitted to us via our Company Information Change page.”
Unfortunately the Company Information Change page did not have a field for contact information only business name, business category, and business city. So, we did our due diligence and excercised our “ethical and fiduciary duty” by replying to the Denver Business Recognition email:


Dear Denver Business Recognition,

I am a public relations specialist who worked, in my capacity as a special agent for the Institute of Sociometry, briefly for John Gonce Realty in the mid-90’s on a pro-bono basis. In fact, Mr. Gonce never asked for our help, we simply ascertained that he needed it and, did the relevant work, and mailed him the related materials. We have not actually had any personal correspondence with Mr. Gonce and do not have his email address. 

We have had a blog post regarding our work for Mr. Gonce on our website for some time and, consequently, our website has become associated – incorrectly – with John Gonce realty. Please take a minute to review the post titled “Correct John Gonce” as it will be relevant to our final query in this email.

We do, however, have the postal address for John Gonce Realty on file. As former pro-bono public relations specialists for John Gonce Realty, we feel it is our ethical and fiduciary duty in this matter to ensure Mr. Gonce is aware of this important recognition and award. So, we are asking you to send via certified postal mail your award announcement, and press release (and of course you should include your generous solicitation for your handsome awards) to: 

John Gonce Realty
attn: John Gonce
4451 South Wolcott Court
Denver, CO 80236 

And please reply to this email to confirm you’ve done so. If we don’t hear in the affirmative by 08/01/17 we will laser print all of the above mentioned materials and send them to Mr. Gonce with a letter of explanation on your behalf.

Also – in reviewing your award criteria and associated links we would like to be considered for the Denver Business Recognition Awards in the category of Public Relations or Marketing or Graphuc Design. This self-nomination is submitted on the merits of our pro-bono work for Mr. Gonce here and other more recent projects: see “WEDUPT” done for Denver Parks and Rec and “This Could Be Here” done – again in a pro-bono capacity – for Denver office of Planning and Development.

We look forward to your confirmation that you have sent these materials via post to Mr. Gonce and thank you for considering us for your award.

Sincerely,

Special Agent m[i]le[s]

–_-_ _–_ _—_ _ _–_ _–_–
http:// www.sociometry.com
– –
Institute of Sociometry
PO Box 44425
Denver CO
80201
USA!

 
 ///// STAY TUNED! /////

Fantasy Football Parking Lot

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

INDIVIDUAL: Parking patrons attending a Denver Broncos game
GROUP SIZE: 2
NATURE OF GROUP: IS agents disguised as parking lot attendants
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: Fantasy Football Parking Lot

By Jared Jacang Meyer
Originally published by The Westword
Published here with N© permission by IS

The Home Team:
The Fantasy Football Parking Lot wins a battle against bureaucracy.

Peter Miles Bergman calls it a drive-by art show. Jim “Handsome” Hanson thinks of it more as vigilante code enforcement. The three kids riding their bikes down the alley have no idea what to think of Bergman’s experiment.

They skid to a stop in the gravel and look up at the two parking-lot attendants in fluorescent orange vests hopping from foot to foot. “What’s this?” one kid asks.

“No parking,” Hanson answers, as he and Bergman wave their official fluorescent-orange flags at the kids as if they were an Excursion, an Accord and an Outback waiting to pull in. “This isn’t a place to park.”

The kids stare at the yellow parking strips taped into three regulation-sized spaces in the oil-stained back lot three blocks west of Invesco Field at Mile High. The orange cones, the flexible plastic posts, the wooden sign inscribed with the word “NO” in two-foot-tall red letters. Then they look at each other, shrug and ride off.

The Broncos-Dolphins game starts in an hour, and the Cheltenham Heights neighborhood is packed with fans looking to circumvent the gouge-fest on Federal Boulevard, where spaces in privately owned lots go for $35 a pop. Legions of jersey-clad football lovers march merrily toward the stadium, thinking they’ve avoided the steep fee by parking in the residential areas neighboring Invesco Field. They’re oblivious to the army of tow trucks and parking-enforcement vehicles lying in wait, ready to haul off any car not displaying the proper residential-parking permit.

The enforcers are so ruthlessly efficient that many of the cars they’ll tow actually belong to residents of this largely Spanish-speaking area, residents who don’t know how to procure a permit or can’t afford the $30-a-year tag, Bergman says. The parking police only come to this neighborhood on game days, according to Bergman’s neighbor, Jesus Gonzales; the rest of the year, they won’t respond if you call them. “It used to be only a $15 fine,” he says of the numerous game-day tickets he’s received over the years. “Now it’s $60. Sixty dollars! They’re robbing the neighborhood.”

Gonzales understands the city’s motives: money. But he and his neighbors don’t have a clue why Bergman and Hanson, the men known simply as “gringos locos,” are turning the rear of Bergman’s home at 1576 Hooker Street into a faux parking lot — and then turning away prospective customers and their money.

Welcome to the Fantasy Football Parking Lot.

As founder of the dispersed art-prank society known as the Institute of Sociometry, Bergman is fascinated by how individuals react to subtle and often bizarre disruptions to the routines of daily life. In the little packet of Institute paraphernalia displayed in Bronco colors on a podium next to the parking cones, he defines Sociometry as “the quantitative analysis of individuals and their relationships to groups.” The Institute’s agents subscribe to “guerilla Sociometry,” he says, which has no allegiance to “the rigors of mathematics or even science!” Or even reason. Bergman’s stunts are subtle to a fault. There’s no method to his madness – just method.

The formula behind this performance piece began last year, when Bergman got a parking ticket in front of his house during a pre-season Broncos game. Because parking was at such a high premium – and because he was unemployed at the time – he decided to sell spots in the back for $10 to $15 one game day. Many drivers were suspicious: “Is it okay to park here? Am I going to get towed?” they asked. Their fears were easily overcome by the hefty savings, though, and in less than an hour, Bergman had made a cool seventy bucks. It wasn’t long before his neighbors caught on and began directing cars to their lots as well.

Then, in September 2003, Denver’s Neighborhood Inspection Services issued an alert, warning game-goers that the area is not zoned for commercial use and that it is illegal for homeowners to sell parking on their property. “If someone flags you over and offers a parking space at a location without a special-event parking sign, it is very likely a scam,” explained Inspection Service Manager Tom Kennedy in a notice to fans. For the rest of the season, inspectors in city trucks patrolled the neighborhood heavily, on the lookout for illegal parking activity. Bike cops would dart into alleyways blaring warnings over their megaphones, sending tailgating Broncos fans and residents alike scattering for cover.

“Were you selling parking?” an officer asked Bergman before a chilly Monday-night game.

“Well, I was,” he answered, “but an officer already told me it was illegal.”

“That’s right, a $1,000 fine.”

“Is there a permit I can obtain to sell spaces?”

“No. This is zoned residential. If you’re selling spaces, that constitutes a business,” the officer told him. Rather than let The Man have the last word, Bergman decided he would simply give the spaces away. He got his then-neighbor Hanson, an official Institute agent and longtime buddy from their days back in Laramie, to buy in on the concept. Initially, they stood at the mouth of the alley leading to the lot with a sign reading “Free Parking,” but they soon discovered that free was not a good selling point. “When we were selling it, parking people here was easy,” says Hanson, “It was really hard to give away free parking.”

Potential patrons were suspicious. Why would someone give away free parking? To rob their cars? When a white Chevy Tahoe finally took Bergman up on the offer, its driver insisted on making a transaction anyway, handing over four Warsteiner Imported Lagers and half a gram of homegrown. But the zoning-enforcement cops were eyeballing the deal, and the next week, as Bergman stood on the sidewalk with his little sign, a bike cop hopped the curb toward him.
“What are you selling, buddy?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Bergman said, holding up the “Free Parking” sign.

“No,” the cop said. “No, you can’t. Not even for free. It’s a special-event parking violation. You have to have a permit.”

“Actually, it’s a zoning violation to sell parking, because it constitutes the operation of a small business unpermitted in an R-3-zoned neighborhood.” Bergman replied, smug in his correctness.

“No! Uh-uh,” the officer responded, then asked Bergman where he lived.

“Up there, where I’m going to park people.”

“Go home. Go back to your apartment and watch the game on TV, or I’ll write you a citation for trespassing.”

“For standing on the sidewalk!?”

“Yes. If I let you stand out here, you’ll be flashing your sign as soon as I leave.”
Bergman balked.

“Go back to your apartment and watch the game on TV!”

Bergman finally acquiesced. But he didn’t watch the game on TV. Instead, he decided to take his concept to the next level. And what’s the logical step up from free? Pure prank.

So on the Sunday of the Broncos-Dolphins game, as the tow trucks rumble past in succession and the roar of the crowd begins to fill the sky, Bergman, surrounded by $267 worth of catalog-ordered vests, stripes and flags, waves his “NO” flag. Two women in a black Jeep Cherokee with silver rims roll up. Bergman and Hanson are waiting.

“Where’s your lot?” one of the women asks.

“There’s no parking,” Bergman says, approaching the vehicle with a friendly smile.

“Is it fifteen dollars?” she asks.

“No, you can’t park here,” he says, handing them an Institute packet.

“Well, why are you waving the flags around and stuff?”

“Oh, well, to let people know they can’t park here.”

The driver’s forehead crumples in confusion for a moment before her passenger begins to laugh at the absurdity of it. “Okay. No parking! Whoo!” The women speed away, cackling, and the no-parking attendants stand at the end of their dirty alleyway and wave their flags triumphantly.

—–

Update 2014: the 2004 full-page Westword article, and this subsequent detailed letter to then district 1 City Councilman Rick Garcia about the strain that game-day parking and code-enforcement put on his low-income constituents, resulted in lasting change.

After a full-press enforcement of alley parking during the 2004-05 season, the 2005-06 season saw a dramatic deescalation of threats and stalking of neighborhood residents by code enforcement personnel. Ten years later, one pre-season home game into the 2014-15 season, there is still no sign of code enforcement. Neighborhood residents are routinely seen on neighborhood corners flying cardboard and sharpie signs for $20 parking and all the alley lots are full. The six car lot behind the IS home office, however, remains empty. Though being an agent of change in the ability of our neighbors to do what they will with their private property, our position remains firmly one of NO PARKING.

False Sense of Security

Monday, August 26th, 2002

INDIVIDUAL: A “Skater”
GROUP SIZE: Anything from around 1,000 on up to 10,000,000 +
NATURE OF GROUP: Citizens of towns or cities who fund, through taxation, state, county, or city funded and operated skateboard parks.
INCIDENCE OF SOCIOMETRY: False Sense of Security.

This report was originally printed in The Mobernist Issue #3, in 2002 by agent Cracklens for Mob in Germany

A SKATEBOARD IS:
A means of creative expression.
A piece of athletic equipment.
A mode of transportation.
A potential weapon.

Three is Agents installed two signs reading “Restricted Area No Thoroughfare” (see above) at entrances to the Denver Municipal Skate Park, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A

AN INCIDENCE OF TERRIBLY MISMANAGED SOCIAL CONDITIONING:

A pastime is allowed to develop that, because of its unique combination of qualities, attracts societies most promising youth, hones their creative self expression, keeps them in peak physical condition, allows them complete freedom of movement, and arms them with clubs. Society is, in turn, allowed to continually eject the pastime participants from public and private property, cite them, arrest them, and deride them as noisy, dangerous, and destructive.

Additionally three simulated security cameras were installed. Views from each are pictured. All were removed by the city.

SKATEBOARDING IN THE UNITED STATES ROUGHLY 1985-1995.
The Problem:

Insurance rates skyrocketed. The bottom dropped out. Commercial skate parks died. Vert disappeared. Kids took to streets and alleyways looking for a hip, ledge or backyard pool to emulate the moves of last years pros sessioning now demolished or buried parks and spent the next decade BUSTED. Constant harassment from traditional authority figures such as police, property owners, and business patrons disenfranchised skaters to such a degree that the activity assumed an outlaw aesthetic. “Good kids” soiled their image with skulls, wallet chains, and hair in the eyes. “Delinquents” looking for the next thrill naturally gravitated toward this increasingly anti-social “sport” and its promise of no uniforms, no coach, and “no fuckin’ rules dude.”

In addition to turning societies best and brightest into menaces, it drove them into the arms of societies best and brightest menaces. The tribe of wild miscreants born of this union hit the pavement laughing in the face of authority, gleefully running from cops, wantonly destroying property, fearlessly spitting on security guards, physically fighting adults of all creeds, and filming it all as a challenge to those who would dare to follow

SKATEBOARDING IN THE UNITED STATES ROUGHLY 1995-PRESENT.
The Solution:

Build killer public skate parks in every town. Provide a place that no local brick bank or concrete bench could hold a candle to. Make them free. Limit rules to common sense regulations like those that pertain to jungle gyms and public basketball courts. Make the rails a foot lower for the juvenile delinquents. Lure the older unreformable set with cloverleaf and capsule bowls poured of the smoothest concrete commercially available. Effectively entice a legion of problem cases to hang out in a socially sanctioned, municipally funded, centrally located, and easily monitored environment. Keep them pinned in by their own desires.

Go to the skate park in any U.S. town. Look at the old-school vert dogs. They’re whooping it up, occasionally self-medicating in the privacy of their cars, and complacently settling into routines of adulthood. The wives and Jr. come down to watch on Saturdays. Look at the new-school hip-hop skaters approaching a ledge or bar, content to repeat a sequence over and over. Their cloths are baggy yet clean. Skate brands are substituted with more affluent designer and corporate logos. Shirts are collared. Look at the little kids – the future of skateboarding. Helmets and pads all around. Mom reads a book at the end of the hip-hoppers ledge. Skaters and roller-bladers commingle.

Now, take a second look at both old and new school. Vert-dogs and hip-hoppers. Note the occasional glance toward the Downtown skyline, the frequent blank looks, long periods on the bench. Now look again at the little ones. The kids not yet in a school. They are content with their bike helmets, their alterna-mom, and their roller-blader brother. They know and follow the rules. They might as well be playing touch football! They are and will continue to be followers… Problem Solved.