Architecture of observer and observed.
I have to take a second to give a quick shout out and link to one of my favorite Minneapolis artist’s work: Andy Sturdevant’s “The Stroll” writings for the MinnPost. I can’t emphasize how much I agree with and am always surprised by the observations and encounters described in each piece.
At the moment I’m especially engrossed in “When you hear the roar in south Minneapolis, look up to add color and form” about the air traffic that traipses through the skies over MPLS. I specifically remember when I first moved to Minneapolis from Nebraska thinking “Finally! I live near an international airport. If I have to flee the country in the night, I can at least get to Amsterdam.”
When I moved away from Minneapolis to begin my letterpress, the most startling thing I noticed about Green Bay was the absolute lack of aircraft noise overhead. Sure, when you live in a city, it is an annoyance. It is the ultra loud noise that seems to appear EXACTLY when you’re about to make a point in a conversation. But, when it is gone, there is an uneasy tension. There is a nagging feeling that amounts to roughly “Did I really just move to a place so barren, so remote that airlines won’t fly here?”
Now that I have relocated to Los Angeles, the feeling of isolation has been replaced with an uneasy relief (hey! people actually WANT to be here) paired with a bit of paranoia (why is that helicopter STILL hovering over my apartment building?).
I was headed into work this morning when I noticed yet another giant white truck selling food items in downtown Minneapolis. In the past, I’ve made the decision to judge every city I travel to/live in by the quality of its street food. For example, New York introduced me to the beauty of spicy squid on a stick. In Mexico City I had the distinct pleasure of having a five-course meal of nothing but delicious nibbles found on the street. Montreal and Sofia, Bulgaria both rocked the bagel-like items. Istanbul made me squeal with an amazing grilled mackerel sandwich on the Galata bridge. Street food truly is an indicator of the health of a city, its people’s participation in the public sphere, and a commitment to the exchange of energy and life which can only happen in public.
Back to Minneapolis. If I am to apply my criteria for evaluating street food, Minneapolis gets little more than a D-. The effort is there, but the joy, the spontaneity…. the people…. are no where to be found. Instead, I am greeted by the rather gruesome display of a giant, flaccid turkey drumstick roasting in the morning haze inside a pristine white snatcher van. Yippee.
It has been a magical day, I won’t lie about it. However, here is a lesson everyone should learn: DO NOT eat protein salad from Kowalski’s deli before going to bed. You will sleep for about 2 hours and then… POOF! Awake! Here I am at 2:00 AM sitting around writing blog posts and reflecting on my day.
I managed to score some pretty amazing items today from a garage sale in North MPLS. My most prized find: an unused 70’s Swedish mountain-scape mural. You know… those paste-on wall paper things that had terrible color balance… chances are one of your grandparents had one in their dining room. Or, if you were lucky like I was, your 8th grad science teacher had one in the lab. I think ours was of the surface of the moon.
Speaking of the surface of the moon, the milky light that settled over Minneapolis today was like being on another planet. I wandered around town with Curtis today. Whittier has finally started to hit it’s tipping point with object saturation… all of the things that are going to be covered by the first snowfall are being pushed to the streets in anticipation. Treasures waiting to be made treasures.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about how one can actually inhabit a place. With the economy sliding into oblivion and funding in the art-world drying up, I realized that I am going to be in Minneapolis for a couple more years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… but… the entire time I was in graduate school, the general pressure was to move (to NYC or Europe) and live the life of an artist-in-residence/panhandler. Not exactly the ideal situation for someone who likes to work on perfecting his banana-bread recipe late at night, in the confines of his small, but rather delightful apartment.
Anyway. Back to the point.
One of the ways that I believe humans inhabit a place is through research into its history. My personal obsession right now is wandering around the Gateway District in downtown MPLS and wondering how amazing it could have been… had they not built a modernist dystopia on top of it. This website has a great overview and tons of photographs that depict the Gateway in its heyday… very impressive.