Kintsukuroi :: Kintsugi

Kintsukuroi is the ancient Japanese art of fixing broken or cracked pottery with a lacquer dusted or mixed powdered gold. Inspired by this Japanese practice of ceramic repair, Sussman has taken to the streets to complete cracked pavement by infilling its fractured lines with gold pigment. Her studies comprise photographs that have been hand-painted with enamel and metallic dust, while in-ground installations are made with tree sap-based resin and a combination of bronze and 23.5 carat gold dust. Her project brings attention to the imperceptible changes that take place over time in the world around us. via
 Rachel Sussman via Ignant

Rachel Sussman via Ignant

Flying Cartography

A billowy, inky graphic visualizes facts about world airline routes and popular destinations. Interesting companion info:

  • Every country in the world, no matter how small or poor, has at least one airline
  • Some of these airlines, particularly in Africa, have only one or two planes, often second or third hand 737s
  • Any country with a plane big enough has a flight to New York City
  • There are more airlines in Europe than anywhere else on earth

via Example Infographics

The Unintended Consequences of Romantic Repositioning

With my shop now closed, I find myself returning to a favorite book, The Comfort of Things by British anthropologist Daniel Miller. He speaks of the retail buyer's capacity to become a craftsman. 

 William Morris print for wallpaper

William Morris print for wallpaper

It’s a pity, really, that the word ‘craft’ has become so conservative, mainly, curiously, as a result of the influence of radicals. It was figures such as William Morris who have bequeathed us a certain romantic notion of craft; for him it designated the activity of artisans, working with their hands so that design and texture, patience and artistry were forged in sensual, imaginative and creative relation to the material: wood, metal, stained glass and stone. Not many people today can afford to be involved in this kind of labour.

The unintended long-term result of this romantic repositioning of craft, through the arts and craft movement, is that today we find it extremely difficult to grant any of this same positive or romantic credence to the work most people actually have to do. 

A retail buyer has the capacity to become a craftsman, because he occupies a critical position, with responsibility to find the best possible fit between two complex processes: that represented in production and that in consumption. They have to imagine what continuities they wish to retain and what would satisfy their desire for change and distinction.

Then, having made those  considerations, they have to turn and face in the opposite direction and consult with designers, factories and the vast edifice of capitalist manufacture and distribution. Somehow these two have to be fitted together, the potential of the work of design and production meshed with the taste and concern of the world of consumption.

Yet a retail buyer’s job is precisely the kind of labour we hardly see at all….a retail buyer is practically invisible. They are the lynchpins, the determinants of what actually exists out there, in the commercial world we encounter.

MILKY

 Louise Bourgeois, 2008

Louise Bourgeois, 2008

E.E. Wise's letter to his sister Lotte, August 12, 1878

 

I came across this letter, and many others, while in California researching the start of various food processing industries in Sonoma County. This witty and charming letter was a keeper and somehow feels right in The Wilderness of Wish both as an ode to siblings and as grounding while I begin to prepare a talk that touches on the Granger Movement.

One of the Movement's hallmark pieces of legislation was the commencement of rural free mail delivery. It saddens me to think of how the US Postal Service has been systematically dismantled over the past several decades.

I wonder how Mr. Wise's winery turned out and if a boom ever found its way to him. Hope so. 

 

Aug 12, 1878

My dear Lotte,
I'm the poorest correspondent in the World I think, for it must be a coon's age, and an old one at that since I wrote, but I work hard all day sometimes with my hands sometimes with my brain - and when I've had dinner I want to smoke and read the paper. Man is a selfish brute at best and everything is sacrificed to his comfort. 

Latterly I've been building a stone winery and am now started as one of California's wine makers. I have spent nearly all the money I possess, but we are in a state of speculation and look for a boom in everything. If I don't get a boom I will bust, and then I will go to work for somebody and with nothing to bother me but Marion, be tolerably happy. As it is I am a nervous, bony, irritable piece of humanity, and am never happy except when I am asleep. 

I was very much interested in the papers you sent me and I have them carefully saved to send back. The photograph of the children was lovely. My Godson is a beaut. and they are both a credit to you Mrs. Hopkins. How much I would like to see you all. Your letter made me as homesick as a child, and I am only waiting for the Boom to go East.

The whole business about Etta is tough, but I think she is as weak as skimmed pump water - to use a rural phrase - not to take a stand and fire him. Blue the Divorce Court! I would fit it up as a sitting room, and keep getting married and divorced until I got a husband to suit me. Storrow's behind the age. It's the swell thing to do here, to get a divorce. 

I suppose Kate and her whole convey are blooming like a green bay tree. She never writes to me, but I never write to anybody. Give her my love and to Etta too.

If any of you people get real rich, so that the money bulges out your pockets and spoils the fit of your clothes, just remember that you have a brother out here struggling along the rough uneven path of a Farmers life, or better still if you know any Tenderfeet, who are positive that Ranching in California is the vocation, send them out and I will satisfy their longing. 

Your affectionate Brother,
Everett. 

In Production

Here are a few stills from a new film project I'm working on with Related Parts, LLC. It's called The After Party

KAKI-SHIBU, Before You Taste The Setting Sun of Autumn

Joomchi

I've practiced joomchi for over a year now. It's a Korean fabric making technique using hanji --the fibrous inner bark of the mulberry tree. The final result of joomchi's long, hand-agitating process is much like leather. It can be molded into almost any shape and the texture is sensational. 

I was trained by artist Jiyoung Chung who is a RISD alum and also teaches there. Jiyoung introduced me to Kaki-Shibu, the green persimmon juice that is used to waterproof and insect-proof joomchi. The thin, caramel-colored liquid has preserved jackets, satchels, umbrellas and containers for centuries. It's also been a common natural building material in Korea for the better part of a thousand years. It is still manufactured by a few companies for traditional builders. 

Since I'm actively working on the "Food Peripheries" project, I've included kaki-shibu on the master list - a list that is part material science, part economic botany, and part foodways. 

The Periphery of Persimmons

Cultivated from the wild species Diospyros roxburghii, D. kaki is indigenous to East Asia and has been grown in China and Japan for centuries. We primarily eat two D. kaki cultivars - the jewel-toned, Fuya, which can be eaten while firm (and tastes like sticky toffee pudding) and the heart-shaped, date and melon-flavored Hachiya, which must be eaten mushy-soft to avoid an unforgettably astringent, desiccating, tongue-furring experience. It's this fruit's unripe, tannin-rich pulp and leaves that are put to industrial use preventing "the growth of bacteria.... When crushed and their juices fermented, [the pulp produces] kaki-shibu. a liquid used to waterproof, insect proof, strengthen and dye paper.” - via 

The unripe persimmons used to make kaki-shibu go through a milling process similar to that of wine grapes. And, like balsamic vinegar or wine, it takes years for kaki-shibu to age once it is milled. Interestingly, during the fermentation process butyric acid builds up imparting a characteristic smell that you'll recognize in Parmesan cheese and some goat and sheep milk products though the butyric acid smell is most pronounced in human vomit. Thankfully there are manufacturing secrets that defuse the stink so the tidy silver packets of kaki-shibu for sale are, mercifully, odorless. 

...with death-defying insouciance quite beyond comprehension

“I remember only one odd scrap. I think Katy, or Lizzie, was describing a holiday on Malta where, she said, the Maltese, with death-defying insouciance quite beyond comprehension, drove neither on the left nor on the right, but always on the shady side of the road.”

— W.G. Sebald. The Rings of Saturn (p18)

Biggins. My talk at The Historic New Orleans Collection

It's been a busy spring! I've just returned from New Orleans. I was a speaker at The Historic New Orleans Collection's biannual foodways symposium which, this year, was all about coffee.

I spoke about coffee biggins, material culture, memory and the professionalization of the home coffee service. Here are just a few of the five dozen biggins we read for narratives of place, material, identity, labor, family, gender...

Organized by Jessica B. Harris, the deep, super caffeinated dive into America's morning narrative included wonderful presentations by Mark Pendergrast (author of Uncommon Grounds), Patrick Dunne (proprietor of Lucullus), the senior historian and educator from The Collection as well as roasters and green coffee importers. 

The Oil Palm Kernel and the Tinned Can

Please look for my article in the forthcoming issue of the new art and applied sociology journal, LIMN, out of UCLA. Issue No. 4 analyzes food infrastructures and addresses scale in food production, provision and consumption. 

I take readers on a fantastical journey beginning in West Africa’s palm plantations and ending in Liverpool’s tin can factories. Condensed milk lovers and refried bean enthusiasts are especially welcome.   

Makalé Faber-Cullen ends our issue with a beautiful reflection on what connects the oil palm tree, the tin can, and colonialism.

update: read the article online here and in late February, purchase the print journal here