Category Archives: Deepening

Idea of Flock House, data summary – Question 2

Seven question findings – Preliminary

2. Would you like to spend time in a Flock House?

a. 60 visitors to the Flock House Omaha Exhibit either examined the NYC Flock House on display and answered the questions at a table next to the Flock House, or entered the NYC Flock House. It was set up as a studio where they used the 7 questions sheet, pens, drawing boards, drawing materials and model building materials. Fifty said they would like to spend time in a flock house. Most responded with a simple “Yes” or “Yes!” Some responded with “Sure,” “Absolutely,” “Most likely,” “Sounds like fun,” and “I would like to.”

Five responded “No.” Their reasons were that the Flock House “looks dirty,” “looks cold,” (has) “no door,” (is) “exposed,” “exhibitionistic,” and “without the pleasure of security.”

Three responded “maybe,” one “probably,” and one did not respond.

Since 50 out of 60 wanted to spend time in a Flock House, I take this as strong evidence that Flock House is an idea with appeal. It is closely associated to other structures with strong appeal such as a hut, play house, cabin, tent, teepee, gypsy cart, covered wagon, tiny house, Etc. These structures resonate with expectations that are both adventuresome and atmospheric

Some who said yes, also qualified their enthusiasm for spending the night. It might depend on “weather conditions,” it would    be “temporary” only, “it would have to be set up inside, and security issues would need to be explored.”

b.  Forty visitors strongly desired to spend time in a Flock House. However, other a positive responses were filtered by the physical situation in which they envisioned inhabiting a Flock House. These filters divided into Nature filters, Conditions filters, and Atmosphere filters.

Nature filters: These linked to a natural form or to camping as an outdoor activity. Six natural forms are: “a more natural setting” “by the lake,” “under a huge tree,” “In the woods,” “in a field,” and “mountains. Three camping filters are: “camping” “substitute for a tent,” and “camp out.”

Conditions Filters are qualifications about inhabiting a Flock House. They reflect the attempt to envision how it might be, and how it might fit into one’s life. Five filters are: “if diminished belongings, possible live here,” “but not as a permanent habitat,” “I need to think about what I would do to pass the time, “I’d want at least a week. To gain the full experience,” and “I want one in my back yard!”

Atmosphere filters were A place to accomplish and Context/state of mind.

A place to accomplish filters are: “Having something you want to do there,” “See what it feels like,” “An experience I have not had before,” “read a book,” “art making,” and “a home.”

 Context/State of mind filters are: “being alone,” “being with other artists,” “clear the mind,” calm place of   contemplation,” and “to lounge.”

c. Visitors who responded to this question sometimes added observations about the Flock House as a structure. Some contemplated how its features might impact their experience.

As a structure: Observations are: its “exposure to weather,” it “would glow at night,” “would be cold, and “seems a bit too open to the public.” Also, it “sounds like fun.”

 The adaptations identified by inhabitants included changes in life-style, personal response, hesitations, and making a final determination about staying in a Flock House.

 Adaptations for inhabitants are that a Flock House “requires less belongings for living.” The inhabit will “go back to basics of life,” and “be vulnerable.”

 One personal response to these adaptations is: it is “someplace to relax and unwind.” Another is “I think I would be more productive, more physical.”

 Hesitations to commit to staying in the Flock House echo the filters expressed section “b” (above). “What would I do there?” I am so used to my bed and lifestyle.” “I need certain degree of comfort and would need to feel safe.”

 Yet, others used this question to declare, definitively, their commitment to staying there, or the adaptations they required from the Flock House.

I definitely would – homeless at this time anyhow. So commitment is no problem (smiley face)

I wouldn’t like at night, the sides being too exposed. I think I would use canvas fabric instead of as it was to stay at NYC (Flock House).

I’d love to take a house into a more natural setting. Such as the mountains and use it as a sort of tent.

Idea of Flock House, data summary – Question 1

Seven question findings – Preliminary 

60 visitors to the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts responded to “7 questions” and designed a Flock house using either a drawing or paper model

a. Visitors to the New York City Flock House, included in the Flock House Omaha Project gallery, readily associated to 36 structures from their experience, memory, knowledge or imagination. They identified play structures from childhood (11), mobile structures (8) mobile vehicles (2), live-in structures (10) and objects from the natural world (5).

Play structures from childhood: club house (2), jungle gym, climbing structure on playground (2), play structure, fort, tree house, backyard Glory Days playhouse, Cinderella’s pumpkin coach (2), “Childhood structures. I made of logs, bricks, etc. the countless hours I spent revisiting them, fantasizing within them and spending time in them.”

Mobile structures: covered wagon (4), stage coach, gypsy caravan, gypsy living, horse-drawn wagon

Mobile vehicles: vehicle, raft

Live-in structures: teepee, teepee crossed with igloo, teepee hut, tent (2), space house, not home w/ mortgage, home, yurt, tiny house movement

Objects: pumpkin, shell, dice, driftwood, warm egg

These associations represent a playful and fanciful response to Flock House, mobile structures that are not urban, living structures that are not urban or a “home w/ mortgage,” and natural “organic” objects.

b. Visitors associated to 27 environments or activities in which they envisioned a Flock House situated. They envisioned a Flock House situated in a future setting (8), outdoors in connection with natural settings (7), in recreation and learning areas (6), and in memory (2), metaphor (1), and a body feeling/activity (3)

Flock House situated in a future setting: future living “it would work well for the future where there will be less space” (3), travel in space (2), living in space, dystopian art, Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome

Situated outdoors in connection with natural settings: camping (4), global resource stewardship, traversing the wild wild west, native Americans. Their homes were able to move freely.

Recreation and learning areas: playground (2), story time, school ground. “A space like this on a school ground would breed such creativity. It also brings consideration for the current state of our world (use/waste) and how to reimagine it all.” “place to chill-out – escape stress”, Burning Man

Memory: wood furniture we had when I was a child, good memories of warm nights on the couch watching documentaries

Metaphor: rolling dice

Body feeling/activity: floating, sailing, Looks like it has sails

These associations are connected to a vision of future living, space, natural areas, learning environments, and movement. Visitors provided 43 descriptors for the NYC Flock House structure. This language described Flock House design (18), materials (8), a feeling or personal response invoked (10), and insights into the nature of the structure (7).

c. Visitors provided 43 descriptors for the NYC Flock House structure. This language described Flock House design (18), materials (8), a feeling or personal response invoked (10), and insights into the nature of the structure (7).

Design: little or no facade, simplicity, experimental, symmetry structure, easily assembled, strong, changeable for weather, back support, can hold several people, platform and free form design, and geometric (2) Changes: make it swing in the wind, somehow. More moving parts, and more soft objects. (4) very elegant, could be wind-powered

Materials: exposed metal & wood, new used, white & natural wood tones, stained glass, recycled, fabric for shelter or sail, white fabric

Feelings of personal responses: intriguing & mystical, open & free, purity, provocative, transitional, adaptive, beautiful curves in lines of wood, nostalgic, revolutionary, intriguing

Insights into the nature of Flock House: radical & useful, migrate, temporary, weightless structure that has mean to always move, Cool and unique idea, nomadic

These descriptors focus on Flock House as exposed materials, pure form built for mobility and adaptability. It uses strong design line and geometric elements achieved thorough recycled materials, which can be synthetic, natural, or repurposed. It is affiliated with beauty and innovation, creativity, and open to future needs and possibilities. It is temporary and mobile.

d. Visitors provided 37 descriptors for the “atmosphere” they felt when viewing the Flock House in the exhibit, or when entering the Flock House to complete their 7 questions and design a Flock House using drawing and model building materials available. In a discussion of the atmosphere one visitor said, “You come in and feel the structure.” These descriptors expressed as nature of the structure (12), a visitor’s internal response (11), the external – interactive potential of the structure (9), how internal and external combine to create an atmosphere which is “secluded but also togetheness”, and the zone to which the Flock House belongs (5).

The atmosphere described as evoked by structure: pure, airy, simple, rolling in any direction, somewhat cold/industrial feel, cozy, close, beauty, shelter, fantasizing, spending time and revisiting.

The atmosphere experienced internally is: calm (2) contemplative, safe, protecting, fun, free, floating, sailing, “makes me happy.” glad I have the chance to be inside one now (after writing a paper about the Flock House Project)

The interactive potential is felt in an atmosphere of: exploration, engagement, and inviting (2). It is felt as “space to re-imagine” and of adventure, welcoming

The atmosphere belongs to zones: “connected to the future”, mystical, inhabited by a creator (with agency), who engage as “genies in a bottle.” Very organic

These descriptors point to a space of comfort and neutrality where residents find support for creative work because it is safe, supporting open thought. Here, one can embark into new territory and the adventure of envisioning.

Palimpsest VI – emblem

Emblem, Palimpsest project - Flock House Omaha

Emblem, Palimpsest project – Flock House Omaha

This is the emblem for our Palimpsest project, inspired by the Maple leaf. Five separate leaves fused to become the Maple leaf we recognize.

The emblem goes back in time to the process by which five separate leaves fused into a single expression. It pushes the concept of palimpsest from noun to action – the process by which pieces and layers integrate into a complex system or organism.

I incorporated this emblem into Palimpsest project compositions. Visit the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts  Flock House Project for descriptions and images of Inhabiting Flock House Omaha.

Silver Maple Leaf

Silver Maple Leaf



The Archimedes Palimpsest – Most famous example of palimpsest in antiquity

Inside the Archimedes Palimpsest

  • By Lexi Krock


In October 1998, a battered manuscript of parchment leaves sold for $2 million to an anonymous bidder at auction. The thousand-year-old manuscript contains the earliest surviving writings by Archimedes, the Greek thinker who is regarded as the greatest mathematician of antiquity. In this interactive, see how sophisticated technology uncovers Archimedes’ faded text and diagrams from beneath another Greek text that was written over it. Also, below, follow a time line that tells the fascinating story of the 174-page volume’s journey from its creation in Constantinople to the auction block at Christie’s in New York.

See the Complete story on Inside the Archimedes Palimpsest

From PBS on NOVA


Palimpsest V – origins of absorption – Maine Memory

A few years ago I made a presentation at an educational conference at a college in Maine. I rented a car after the conference and drove to the coast where I found a B & B to stay in for a few days. Nearby, an establishment struck me and has stuck.

It is hard to say what it was as a genre. It was on about an half-acre. They grew ornamental and vegetable plants and trees. There was an old building that housed a book store, a botanical store selling essential oils and creams made from the plants they grew. In another small space they sold baked goods. There was a small kitchen and serving area with two pots of homemade soup, bread and two salads from the gardens. They served coffee and herbal teas grown in the gardens and dried in a shelter.

When you purchased food, you could eat it inside, where there were 3 small tables and chairs, or take it outside. Among the plants there were open patio areas and rough shelters sprinkled here and there on narrow brick paths among the nursery plants. Each shelter had a small eating area and at least one table. They also served as spaces to maintain and propagate the planting areas. Did I mention that they used organic methods of growing?

As I carried my soup and tea out to the gardens, it started to rain. I ducked into a shelter where twig furniture (table and chairs, for sale) invited me into a rough structure made of a few stripped boughs overhead, and covered with a big sheet of plastic. I was able to sit and enjoy the garden in a downpour, perfectly dry except for a few times when a gust of wind carried a light spray my way. It was peaceful, green, beautiful, economical in price for me, and a cunning way of presenting outdoor furniture for sale. Had I lived in Maine, it would be hard to leave without buying a chair or wooden basket.

From my perspective I saw that none of the structures were complete. There were workshops where furniture’s built. There were plastic hoop houses – low tunnels filled with seedlings and small plants (for sale). Some shelters roughly constructed with this and that. Others old outbuildings with parts missing, scraped bare, reinforced, and used as they were – open and perfectly functional. The stark clarity of the structures left the impression of sculpture, not poverty.

I walked back into the “house” to find a book. Then I realized that instead of having been rehabilitated and returned to its original state (an expensive proposition) it was scoured, reinforced, some interior walls removed, wired for electricity, a wood stove installed, and used as it was. Each room felt like nook or cranny as a small, focused sales area. The books were mostly about making your own, growing your own, and selling your own.

I was in awe of people who had a vision, lived among plants, used what they grew, honed all their skills, and created an environment that radiated integrity, focus, and aesthetics while reflecting intelligently what is at hand.

They constructed their own lives with an open structure. And let me tell you, Maine has lots of cold and snow for many months of the year. By studying the layout I could see its design to shrink back into the most sturdy spaces from ice and snow, and then open up again when weather permits.

It dawned on me that this could be done anywhere. Using vertical agriculture and hydroponics, it could even be reproduced in urban areas, in and around any boarded up building or factory.

This memory embodies my vision for Palimpsest, as a project of urban agriculture, artisan and craft preservation.

Flock House Discussion with Paige and Octavia – Bemis Center – Old Market

Paige and Octavia sat with me in the Flock House Omaha Project gallery to review their responses to the 7 questions.  Octavia explained how a Flock House in a school would offer a unique space that supports creative envisioning and problem solving. Its design is part covered wagon and part earth lodge. These associations suggest connection to nature and mobile living as transition to a new way of living.

Paige spoke about the power of a “fictional future,” such as Mary Mattingly’s vision of a post human, technical adaptation for species survival in the Anthropocene. (Anthropocene – the current earth period during which human activity has the dominant influence on climate and the environment) We are in a period where “everything can go in a different direction.” Our desires are paradoxical, because we are seeking both “seclusion and togetherness.”  “The (NYC) Flock House is a “secluded circle” that is “created in a different way” because of the materials they used and its spherical design. You enter it and step into a unique space “isolated from normative thinking.” Yet, a circle of people in the Flock House embodies “togetherness.”

In essence, the Flock House is about “bringing people together to generate new ideas.”

Time spent in the Flock House brings “focus.” It is a state of mind that is “the main driver of success.  Mindfulness – being in the present.” Octavia explains that children will benefit from such a space.  It will open dialogue about the connection between the “things we want to carry out” and the “mental focus” that helps us lay and keep a strategy for success.

We focused on the “atmosphere” you feel in the Flock House. There is “fantasy,” because the mind freely begins to move in new directions. No distractions. There is relief in open-mindedness. Light comes through the walls, illuminating the space at low levels from all directions. Inventive. Playful.

Octavia is starting to plan a project for her students. This year she will teach kindergarten. Her idea stems from the simple observation that there is “water anytime there is rain.” If we are ready, we can capture the water to use when it is not raining. She is starting to envision a rain barrel project. A useful invention of a rain barrel system, that will also be art – both painting and sculpture.

Recycled materials fit into the school curriculum when projects reclaim and reuse everyday materials, and do not throw them away.

Paige responds to a possible gathering of Flock Houses. “Many creative ideas could be generated by a group of people who are already aware.” It could be “a lot of fun playing music and building fire pits.”

The idea of a portable structure carries with it the potential for mobility and adaptability. It would be calming, if you had to move suddenly, to have a plan, a mobile structure, and a group to embark together.


Palimpsest IV – origins of absorption – The Gates

In winter 2005 I documented The Gates, a massive transformation of Central Park in New York City by Cristo and Jeanne-Claude. It was a study I undertook to prepare for a plenary presentation and workshop  at a summer institute for arts integration education at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina. My purpose was to weave artifacts created by the artists into ambient sound and video of the installation. The video preceded my presentation, which focused on stages of accumulating documentation, as well as reflection on the limits of the camera frame vs. the full scope and complexity of an event.

I recalled the experience because The Gates superimposed a complete, temporary layer over the landscape of Central Park, inviting all the city to step into a new dimension of familiar space.  It became a lens through which to view the park, to “see” it underlying this new interpretation.

It was beautiful. The color, movement of flags, and rhythmic placement of frames. The fact that you walked under the flags while viewing other flags along the pathways was mesmerizing. Having the experience, and documenting it, by stopping from time to time to “capture” another point of view or set of participants, is a way of seeing intentionally though the camera lens. It adds a documentary layer  to the experience. One to recover after the physical installation is gone.

I realize that the Flock House project, of which the Omaha Project is a part, is this kind of art making. A major difference is that the artist, Mary Mattingly, facilitates a community effort to create the lens. The planning group and work groups are co-designers and co-creators of the physical material and objects they bring into the New Market and Carver Bank landscapes. Residents inhabit the objects.

I realized that if I were to have a residency, I would want to open it to visitors, to engage them in making reflective documentation of their response to the Flock House as an object. I would also want to mirror Mary’s artist role by inviting a team to plan and facilitate.

Palimpsest III – origins of absorption

I tried to re-construct the steps that led me to my absorption with palimpsest as a method of composition. The farthest back I can go is circa 2006. I purchased a small condominium in Chicago on Lake Michigan, next to the new Millennium Park. My plan was to fix it up while I sold the one I lived in.  Everyone was doing this then.

My son was studying in Barcelona, and I went to visit him for a week. It is a deep pleasure to visit your children and be introduced to a new world through their eyes. We visited a flea market. He went ahead while I stopped to look carefully at some fabric. When I caught up with him, he was holding tiles. Beautiful, hand-made tiles. I bought about 20 and hauled them back to Chicago to use in my next home.

"Verde y Morado" 51GLO XV Pintado a Mano

“Verde y Morado” 51GLO XV
Pintado a Mano

I cannot explain what happened next. I started carrying this tile when I made arrangements for flooring (I selected walnut wood floors to match the tile), appliances, (I selected stainless stove, sink and refrigerator,) or paint for the ceilings and floors (I selected only these colors to match the tile: dark brown, blueish green, off warm white and sand. )

Sitting in the living area (there was also a sleeping area), on the shag carpet, I began to see the room as a large canvas. I will make it look old, I thought. Like Barcelona. The pillars at either end of the window walls – antique marble. The window seats over the radiators and air conditioning – painted with a solvent that shrivels paint, leaving it looking like the back of an alligator. The walls – beaten with brushes, stippling tools and rollers until they glowed with a soft white patina,.The boxy kitchen cabinets – green with metallic silver celtic knots lining the edges, and silver mythical beasts stenciled like cave paintings on cabinet doors.

The entire project emerged slowly, giving me about 8 months of freedom. Scribbling, spraying, palpitating, stroking, rubbing, sanding the large surfaces, then refining, slowly adding form and detail. Working big, without limit of frame.  I felt liberation settling into mind and body. It was a total departure from my usual botanical painting, which uses medium to small papers, boards or film; focusing on detail in form, proportion and gesture.


Heirloom sweet potatoes, carbon dust on film

As I was finishing up and moving in furniture, the real estate sales manager from the building came to see. She asked whether I might consider selling. I had sold my other condo and was looking forward to being here a while. But then, I was curious. I signed the agreement papers and left to visit my brother in California.

Tile 2 72 800

A few days later, I learned that a couple from Amsterdam had made an offer.  A good offer. They wanted immediate possession. I only saw it one more time, when I moved out.

Mohonk Mountain House Gazebos

June 4, 2014 – Journal entry on the impact of a Flock House

by lake Mohonk  800 72

When I started to think about a Flock House, my mind turned to another kind of hut that visitors to Mohonk Mountain House built over 140 years, along 25 miles of trails. As you walk around the lake, or along the granite cliffs, or in the woods, or on the mountain crests, you see them.  At some time, some visitors picked a spot, their spot, and built one.  I think there are more than 50 of them left standing.  Made from natural materials at hand, they are not so different from a Flock House made from recycled stuff.

on bolder Mohonk 800 72

Sometimes, I have stopped, and entered one. It beckoned, and I went.  I felt a kind of magic, standing there, or sitting on a built-in bench.  Someone long ago carved it out, and now I could just step across the threshold and be there.  My mind seemed to grasp a vision defined within the space.


Some startle because that they are cantilevered from the edge of a cliff.  Others are perched on a rock. How did just regular visitors build these?  It is an act of faith to step into it, trusting that it will hold my weight. A touch of anxiety, like stepping into an elevator.


One day I realized that it was not necessary to actually go in.  Just by passing it, seeing it from the trail, its presence evoked a state of mind.  Contemplative. Peaceful. Placed along the trails, these invitations to stop supported my ability to envision. Improved my ability to think about whatever was on my mind.

You can see where this is going. The Flock House at Bemis, built improbably next to the Okada building, in the Old Market of Omaha, might have the same impact. Might nudge the mind to turn a few degrees and see things from a new perspective.


Journal – May 27, Cassidy

Phone conversation

Flock hse- Omaha sketch 800 72

Sketch of Flock house – Omaha with strange objects of infrastructure, plants and flags flying.

We set up a meeting for Thursday, May 29 at 1 pm where we will talk about making paper, pre-cutting block prints, and generally visualize an emergent process.

Cassidy said that the process we are using is different from starting with a piece of paper and then drawing or painting on it.

I thought that it is important to talk about the process we are using and to develop language for it. We seek clarity in how we are making, and the softer process technology that we use.

Some of the things we mentioned right away are:

This process is open-ended. We can set up a situation and invite people into it, but we cannot get too specific until we see how people respond and what they bestow. Then we respond to that and maybe tweak the situation, and so it will go. Normally, artists are much more in control of the process, but even then, they will adjust and make changes when they see how the materials they use respond to the situation they set up, or how they begin to open to new dimensions in response to being in the process and giving it their attention. So most art ends up being very different from the original concept. But this way of working helps to see the stages clearly.

We decided we want to make records of this process, of listening, watching, and seeing how we respond and how things evolve. So we can share how it became, the stages of its coming to life.

This process offers opportunities to set up the situation to invite participation.

We want to harvest language from the writing that people record in the Bemis scroll set up. We need a name for what people are doing in the Bemis area.

We are thinking about making sturdy stamps using key words that come from these contributions, as they think about the prompt. These stamps would be used during the time we are actually in the Flock House, either inside, or outside in a printing area we set up. We are thinking of a series of stamps that develop during the process that we will use to add visual layers.

The stamps will be better in English, Spanish and other languages.

I am also thinking that we will want to photo and video document all the stages, so that the culminating  palimpsest is transparent and can be unpacked by seeing clearly how the layers and stages looked at each level.

I would also like photos and video of many people participating.

Cassidy is thinking deeply about the papermaking. She feels that making it from recycled material is very important. She is wondering if we can make recipes of how to make the paper as part of the project. Her idea is to deconstruct how to do each piece, so that visitors can leave inspired and ready to do their own project. As a  transparent and instructive process, it is available to all, just as when they visit there is a way to make part of the palimpsest.

What we are realizing is that the more we put into the pre-Flock house residency period, the more we will have to work with when we actually inhabit it. And the more ready we will be to invite others into the process. We will be ready with lots of stuff.

Some other thoughts I have had –

I am seeing a performance area in the urban meadow at Bemis. So that our Wordsmith poet in the Design group, can be invited to present a poem that could be recorded. And this worked into video footage. This would bring in many voices that are sound and motion. It could become a palimpsest that is a sound track to compliment the visual art.

We both like the idea that in the end, the Flock house is an empty vessel (from Alex), ready for the next project. It is not claimed space, but is completely open to new interpretations. Like a basketball player who is so centered that they can move in any direction 360 degrees. We will leave only footprints.