Making Something from Nothing: Appropriate Technology as Intentionally Disruptive Responsibility
We, are excited. And honored. To have professor, Stephen. Carpenter with us and, this. Is the first of a series of events on Larry, Susskind, on, the faculty and urban studies and planning it's, interesting to me that several, people here have, a water interest, several people here of, planning. Interest. Several people here have artistic. Or, arts methods, interest. Several, people here have, sort. Of public education. Interest. And. And all of those are. Alive. And well in the department, of urban studies and planning in. Different, kinds of ways there, is an environmental, group in. The department, that, I have had. Some responsibility, for and water. Is. Concerned. Within the environmental, group not just domestically, but internationally which. Relates, to part, of your work we're interested, in, water. As. Environmental. Justice concern, not just a natural resource management concern, and so, when. I first. Learned of some. Of the ways in which your. Work is focused on making. Clean. Water available, to people in different places there. Was a direct connection with that, aspect, of of, what, we do I was. Really, interested in. How. Issues. Of race could. Be. Raised. In. A way. The conversation. Was possible, and that is another very big part of what, our department, and. Our school are interested, in so by. Way of background those, are some of the thematic interests. That. Led. Us to very much want you to, be here well thanks, Larry as. Far back as I can remember I like, making stuff I'll. Just make things you. Know I'm the, oldest of four boys and the, oldest and the youngest were, born five, and a half years apart. No. Twins so. We were constantly together, in doing things and we make. Like a set. Of golf clubs, my. Dad had golf clubs we weren't allowed to use them so we made them of, course we used his copper pipe, for the, the. Plumbing in the house and, so. Making, things was always part of what what, I did and and have done and just engaging the one his shifts and has moved my backgrounds really pottery, his really ceramics touching the clay touching the mud making things that's.
My Degree is in ceramics, and fine art I don't, know what it was this urge ability, interest. For. Teaching for education, so. That. Complicated. The situation making. Stuff and teaching, stuff but actually you can do that that's called being an art educator or a teacher and the ceramics, piece stayed with I couldn't shake the clay couldn't get the clay out of my fingernails the making of things had to always be there and. I taught elementary. School, art that, was the art teacher in. Elementary. School and. That. Was among the most invigorating, experiences. Of my life because the, students, are always about making something their bodies are always moving they're constantly, in a state of absorbing, what they're doing in the world and seeing other people doing and moving and checking and so. That, energy was was quite interesting, to me followed, that experience, up with, a doctoral, degree in art education but, the idea, was that the making and the teaching and the learning and the asking of questions. Through. Art through the visual imagery that you're talking about that. Was what was so important, and. You. Mentioned the notion of access, well. We didn't have golf clubs we didn't have access to with like we saw we, didn't have access to so making our own access, i'm interested in that as well how does one make one's own access, so. Moving. Around to a series, of different universities. As. An art educator still. Making, part, of my graduate both graduate degrees was about being in the clay studio as much as it was being in the seminar room and that was really the focus, of my dissertation was, in the clay studio we were talking and critiquing about, color and shape and form and how the glaze, works and on the other side of the, same part. Of campus on the other side of the road in the theory class as an art education we're talking about postmodern. Theory. And feminist, theory and film theory, and interpreting, installations. And and and, performances, and then on the other side of, the. Road I'd go to my class the next day we, were again critiquing, but we were talking about oh I like I like that handle show me how you made the handle this handle works and that one doesn't we never defined what works meant. But. Putting those together the making, and that interpreting. And thinking and theorizing in, both, registers. Doesn't. Have to be separated. So. To think of us even with labels I find kind of curious like we have to find a place on campus but the understanding, that we can move in and out of those spaces and we can start to shed those those, identities, the kind of group, that has, self-assembled. Today speaks. To. Multiple. Interests that I have and trying to weave it into what is an art education how does one learn through, the making of things through the to the display, of. Cultural. Products. Through cultural production, what. Kind of questions, can. We ask not just about what someone else has made but. What kind of questions can we ask through them the. Act of making itself, we can make meaning through relationships, we can make meaning through, conversation. We can make meaning through, verbal. Or written responses. So, it's the the making of, meaning making of cultural product making, of a difference right so this notion of making doesn't. Have to always have this physicality. To it from, saying all that to say that the clay left. My fingernails, for, a while until move, to Texas my. Wife is. An engineer mechanical. Engineer material science and it's a great opportunity for her to move there for me there's no art education, there at all they.
Got My CV, and didn't know where to put me send, it all over campus, and finally the education folks at all will take him it has education, in his degree will take him, telling. You all that to say I got to Texas and art. Education had to be I had to reinvent it or at least I had to figure out what I meant by it and how, I fit in if. You don't have an art department how do you have art education. Well, you just open, the studio in your garage and have people over on Fridays I did, that or you, can engage in the work in the curriculum that fixed, set of notions, and, premeditated. Concepts. Terms, practices, skills construct. That. Educational, experience, my. Entrance into a, more. Curriculum instruction space, was, through my background as an artist and as an art educator the, water filter, work that I do and have, started. To do came. About when I was in Texas I met. A guy who is. Name is Oscar muñoz, Oscar. Is, in charge of, the. Texas. A&M colonias, programs. All along the border, Texas is 1/3 the width of the United States so. That, distance. And then 150, miles up is called the border of Texas and in that space. They. Live over half a million people most, of whom don't have access to clean water in their homes and Oscar. Talk you know let me know this and he works, with communities. All, across, that swath and as an art educator that was interesting, to me because I had to learn about a lot of the practices that that, he's up against and faces, telling, you all it is to say I'm. Not. That I I planned, where this has got where my my work, has gone but, it it's always, my grad always moved and shifted, to, new it's almost like water water finds its own level right, water fills the this the the vessel, in which it's poured but, I've never lost the clay I've never lost that notion of making or the ways that meanings. Can be made and understandings, can be constructed, through. Engagement. With other people that's what education, is it's, a social space. Teaching. And learning is a social space aren't. Education can take up and take on those those, tasks as well the. Title for. This visit, that. People. Have seen and that you gave, us is. Making. Something, from, nothing. And, first of all sort. Of there's immediately. Doubt about. Whether you can actually, make I mean you can transform, things but. The notion that you can make something out of nothing would, sort of defy most of the laws of physics presumably. And. So you mean something, by that and, then. Appropriate. Technology. As. Intentionally. Disruptive. Responsibilities. Yeah that, is a mouthful, that title, isn't I actually, had a lot of trouble with it. To. The left of the colon making, something from nothing that, piece was intentionally. Provocative right, I mean you kind of have to do that in. Some ways to entice. Folks to show up to certain things maybe but. The idea of making, of course you know defying laws of physics yeah I'm with you so, no you know knowing that there's a problem with with that if we think of it in certain realms the idea that there.
Are Some folks who don't necessarily. Have access it's, about access maybe it should have said you know making something from whatever, it is that you have right. But. If we move it to nothing. You. Start to think well there's. A there's a there's a complete, and utter lack of something, for, example there's some people who have no, access to clean water we. Can, raise. A bit of hyperbole there and say they don't have access or they have nothing there. Folks you know who we. Talk about food scarcity, we talk about folks who homeless. Folks who need shelter I mean so you can take. Minimum. And exaggerate. It just a little bit more right it was something called artistic license, let's let's use that and turn it into nothing so. Making something from nothing what can we make from what is available to us so that's the something from nothing and in in the case of this first visit but something is adequate, access to clean water and then nothing is the lack of that and the. Something is a response. Which would in this case is a ceramic water filter made out of clay and sawdust, the nothing is well, that's. Just clay it's it's just in the riverbed that's that's nothing or let's just sawdust, that's leftover, scraps. Then that's nothing right you see you understand, that play that's going there appropriate. Technology is essentially, whatever. Is available, culturally. And, locally. That. Fits in with this within the cultural, practices. Of, of. A community, introducing. An. External. Or an unfamiliar. Substance. Or. Chemical. Or food. Is. Not appropriate, to certain community, because it's either against one's religion, it's against one's history, against one's culture it. Doesn't fit in so finding, something that's appropriate for example clay is, essentially, a material, that is accessible, to almost every single culture in the history of this of the world and clay. Is a natural, naturally, occurring. Material. In most places around the world in some places using plastic, oh that doesn't seem to make sense or appropriate. Technology is using, what is that hand, philosopher. Theorist, Umberto, Eco he was a guy who knew everything but he didn't know it echo had, numerous theories among them where these in theory, of intentions, he says that the artist or the author has an intention and the.
Viewer, Or the reader has an intention but he also says the work has an intention that, comes. About through the rest process or a series of events, but, this idea of having an intention means it's deliberate, so. I'm interested in in in, thinking, about why we're doing what we're doing that's that's where that intentional, piece disruptive. You. Know if I pick this up and I threw this water at the camera that would be disruptive, in a number of rays or if you're in a you know in a quiet library. And, a stampede, of aardvarks comes, through the space that's disruption. Right so we understand disruption is something, that is abnormal or, not expected. Within a particular context. That has. Assumed. Rules regulations. And ways of being but, I'm also thinking of a disruption in the intentional, sense of to. Reveal, or, to poke at or, to engage or, to, entice a certain, kind of conversation, or relationship, and that, kind of conversation relationship. Is the responsibility. Would. You agree that most, educational. Efforts. Are disruptions. Aimed, at, fulfilling, a responsibility. That is defining, education, that way I don't think enough of them are oh you. Think they should be I think they should I like to shift, that up and question. That and then, there's there's it's, it's very difficult, to to. Get at new ways of doing something without. Disrupting, a status quo without without, questioning, it we say it's because we're responsible. And we have to disrupt, but. What, about the choice of the people and the place whose lives you're disrupting, is, that fair to them sure yeah no certainly, the way you frame it it's not fair to them but. In the, disruption of the lives of the. Communities, that are mentioned in Texas, it's not, disrupting. Uninvited. It's an invited, disruption, and second. The. Disruption, has to do with whatever. The. Current, practice was. New, was, not fulfilling, or were responding, to needs, of the. Community, in. In, their eyes and. In you know to my, eyes as well so my friend as I mentioned Oscar who.
For. Years has, been working in, throughout, South, Texas when. He learned to the work I was that, I was you know at that point still learning how to do he, said oh there's there's a water issue would you come down and work with us we talked to us let's see if this would work out that was my invitation, to come in Oscar, was already part of that community I would never imagine, just. Driving down there driving. To any community and, say, hey Dyke if something you need I'm gonna sell you something that's, not my, approach and so that kind of disruption I think is on. The, the. Unethical side. He was a bit wary of someone. Coming in and he's. Shared and other people have shared stories, with me of researchers. Going into communities oh yeah. I have, this ideas, let me study what you're doing let me work with you and they take, the information and there's. A report that's promised and the. Report never gets back to the communities or the results, never never. Help and he said he has never he had never seen a report come back. Based. On the invitations, to the scholars, and so once, we got to know each other he, felt comfortable with me so but then he had, to go through a process of talking. With members. Of the community to say. Hey here's you know have this friend. Coming down that's the invitation is the invitation pieces, so what, is an invitation have, to consist of for you to. Be, of, a. Sort that you're comfortable, then. Responding. In this rich disruptive. Way you. Need a vote of the community, has to be 100 percent majority. Rule, people. You like say come on down, what, what is in your mind about what. Legitimizes. These kinds of disruptions, again. It has to be that imitation, from someone, who is positioned. Within the community then, there has to be, for. Me a conversation. And and so no the entire community, because, defining. Who is in the community is often difficult to do anyway, certainly. It's it's often just a leader or some member of the community who might want to engage a conversation. That. That then might expand, in their own circles in this particular case, in. Texas, through my colleague we, met with a few. Leaders. People, who had worked within the communities as promotoras. As, community. Educators. And. And other senior. Members of the community, a senior, meeting they had been doing work, at. The community, centers and. It, was let's. Just talk let's, see where the conversation goes very much like what we're doing here having having a conversation now, it's. Not my role or position or. Personality, or interest to, push that. After. That conversation that's on that's, on whomever to to, take that up so when, I speak of community, it's it's, it's not the entirety there's not a simple answer in this we all struggle, with this, notion of the artist, as the, independent. Thinker as a creator. Of something, that's an expression, of an individual. View when you're calling this a form of art. Education but, isn't it contrary. To, artists, being artists, how was it art yeah. So. That's not a small question but. It's a very important question it's, a central question that I'm still. Answering, for myself but. There are three realms. Here one is the work in, South. Texas that. I actually wouldn't, call that art. Or, art education, okay. Second. Is the kind of work that I, will do tomorrow the performance. And. That moves into the realm of the. Social. Practice, and that's where I've. I've come to, an. Agreement understanding. Comfortable, place with myself that, that's where the art education happened. And then, this there's a third piece your, definition, of an artist and what an artist does that I want to disrupt, down. In South Texas that, kind of work for me is not art education it certainly uses. An employ certain artistic practices, folks who have access to a kiln know, how to fire kiln and have access to clay, that's, where you want to begin your work, usually. That's the the, tile person, or the the pot putter or it's the brick maker but my.
Collaboration. And myung, involvement. In that project I wouldn't, call that art that. Was kind of me shed you know that that, helps to clarify that piece of it so the, work, that I'm going to do I will do tomorrow I'm gonna set up a water filter production. Facility, in one. Of the rooms downstairs and, I'm. Gonna make water filters the idea there is. To. Engage in a practice that. Somehow, blurs. What. Might. Be our conventional, notions of art making art practice, with. Practices. From other disciplines we're, not quite sure where one ends and one begins, and it's, supposed to remain in that uncomfortable space if one. Is thinking in that social practice, art as social practice register, if you can set up that practice, as an engagement as an ongoing set. Of activities, where. People can come in and out of that space there's, an educational, component invariably. There'll be a question, hey man what are you doing. That's. An invitation right, there for me to respond so we can establish this, conversation. As a relationship, you're not creating, art you're creating. Something, that serves a function in response to the need of a client, you're, saying though, it's not art I'm an artist and it's, my social practice, that you should observe here is art education, but. The product of my artwork, is not art it's more than the filter itself that, filter is just one component of. The. Work, the, work being the, performance, education, as experience, this notion of experience, is where, the education happens for, some of us the. Next step is oh and, I want to help a place in Africa, or Latin America. In, a community, make, a factory. Where, there are people now. Without me they're capable, of making more filters, and maybe, they can sell them for a small amount to be able to maintain them, a community. Business. The, doing. Of all of that that seems to be a different realm it is yeah and I, have, not, worked. Closely. With communities. As you're saying to set up facilities although, and in South Texas I did I helped, laid the groundwork and that facilities, is working you saw pictures right but there are a number of groups who. Are doing. The, exact kind of work that you're mentioning and it's. Not from an arts or, an art education perspective it is from that social entrepreneur, realm. That. You're that you're talking about and. I am very supportive of that piece and that is actually an intriguing component. Of what. Comes. Out of this.
This Work it's, that work, that. Then has benefits, in terms of health economics. Self-sustaining. Capacity. That that I find intriguing and it's something that can. Be attempted. Where it's not intended. To be a moneymaker initially. It's intended to to, save people's lives and and and to respond in that way so. I'm curious about the longer. Term with, this community, in South, Texas that you're working with obviously. It sounds like there's a really pressing need so these water filters can meet that immediate, need is the, long-term goal still to kind of get a more traditional grid, water, setup for them yeah yes the, origin, of the filters was that they were supposed to be a first, response to natural disaster, and they. Were not supposed to be long-term their. Point of views temporary. Solutions. Unfortunately. For some folks around the world these become, more long-term, responses. What, do you do when you're just starting out what's, your advice for how, you go about getting. That's, a tough one I think. Sometimes. It's it's not about. Poking. For the invitation, initially, sometimes you, find ways to to. Become part, of the, community it's some level that might sound like oh but you're, really kind of manipulating. Right because in the back of your mind you're saying okay at the right moment I'm gonna spring the question I'm gonna get the invitation, that's not what I'm talking about what I'm talking about is being. Part of a community in doing the work in the community where. The work that you're doing might. Be seen by folks who could. Invite you again that sounds like it's you, some, sort of nefarious manipulative. Component. But not really I mean I think it's about continuing. Your work and staying visible, and, the. Invitations, come there's, a. Approach. Called arts entrepreneurship. That is gaining, traction in several universities. Have, courses. In. Art entrepreneurship, arts entrepreneurship. And minors. And I think a few are starting majors, as well or have majors, because these other groups are doing this kind of work folks know about the water filter technology is, starting to take off and people are collaborating they're. Entering, into that space and what, they're doing is they're they're making available for their learners k-12. Learners. Possibilities. That they might not have thought it's. The curriculum, work that I'm doing with with teachers I think that it becomes quite. Engaging great, thank you all very much you very much yeah yeah I hope to see you tomorrow thank you thank you.