Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vision Quest, Part 1

Here are the responses (and card images) from the twelve Vision Quest exercises presented for my individual final:

My Eyes:

5: As a narcissist, I loved this one!
4: Enjoyed being able to look at other eye and not just from a mirror.

Angle Eye:

2: Hard without glasses, and the tubes got in the way of viewing.
1: There just wasn't enough image by the time it gets out of the periscope. With larger lenses, it could be interesting.

Back Eyes:

3: It was hard to see without my glasses but it was cool
2.3: Hard to incorporate visuals into spatial relation to self.

Lizard Eyes:

3.5: Can really only see from one eye, but that one eye really gives a great experience.
3: A new type of seeing double articulation

Cross Eyes:

4: Fun, hard to switch from eye to eye
3.5: This is great after spending a while looking - your eyes kind of swap places so blue is red/red is blue. Takes some time though.

Dino Eyes:

5+++: This was a total head-f**k. The stereoscopic effect was amazing. I was amazed at the extreme 3-D in conjunction with the lack of depth of field.
5: The best part was discovering the correlation between visual depth of field and physical-spatial depth.

Vision Quest, Part 2


3: Tunnelography
2: Similar to angle eyes, once again, a very small image by the time it gets through the periscope.

The Elephant and the Mouse:

3: Great different perspectives.
3.5: Double perspective: high and low self relation to world from diminished and elevated standpoint.

Tummy Eyes:

3: Lower center of gravity!
3.5: It's like being super short, better to watch someone using them because it throws you off completely.

Giraffe Eyes:

4: Hard with glasses again, but it was really interesting to see above my height level
5: I felt TALL for the first time. Also, just dislocating vision from the area between my nose/forehead.

Downward Eyes:

4.5: Body centered vision, chest/hand centered self
5: So cool! Great experience to have your eyes ha a focused new view

Upward Eyes:

4: Combination regular vision and upward is interesting
5: It was really cool to see the ceiling when you walk around

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


While going over the list of projects I realized I never got this posted. It is my response to the week on smell and memory.


The past week has been full of rich experiences worthy of discussion, from the breadth of flavors and smells in Spanish wine to the marvel of consciously constructed disability architectural environments. One of the most striking was the impact of language on perceptual experience.

The simple act of naming causing the object in question conform to a hyper-real mold, almost a Platonic solid, crystallizing some central, essential aspect while also causing the edges, the periphery to almost vanish. I have long considered naming things to be both a creative and a destructive act, but I have rarely experienced and consciously observed such a poignant example of this as I did during the smell class. While many of the scents that first eluded me became clearer once I heard the associated name, it was pear that was the most shocking. My initial take on smelling the oil was of something very fruity—perhaps a berry (though it smelled like several) or maybe even a very sweet flower (again indistinct, but recalling something very essentially floral). Each time I returned to smell it, one of the sidenotes would come forward and force me to reevaluate my sense of the smell. Until I found out it was pear. Pears happen to be one of my favorite fruits and often the first bite will take me back to a particular day when I was probably around six years old and my dad had brought me and my brothers several small, fresh picked pears back from Rinconada. They were gold and red the way only sun ripened fruit can be and each fit in my then tiny palm. Each bite was taste-bud heaven; the sweet pear flesh releasing juicy perfection out of the tiny granules, the texture so unique to pears. This moment forever caused pears to stand out among fruits. So imagine my surprise when this many berried many flowered aroma was pear. I smelled it again and suddenly, inexplicably, all I could smell was pear. Gone was all the confusion, replaced by pure conviction. A laser beam of complete understanding that this, THIS was pear. And yet, gone also was the mystery. The breadth of possibility, the potential for this to be any number of smells, not just a Jelly Belly likeness to Pear. Thus it is with all language. It helps to know that I am not you, but sometimes it would be better if I treated you like I. I am not in opposition to language, but I believe strongly that we should be in a constant dialogue with the language centers of our brain so that we can make our definitions of the world less rigid, more mutable and adaptive. This is particularly important as cultural and ethnic boundaries begin to fade and concepts of disability are being better understood to be in many cases not less able, but differently abled.

This strong recollection I experience whenever I eat a pear made me think a lot about smell and memory in general. Certainly I have heard many times that the olfactory sense has the strongest link to memory, but this made it so clear that I started thinking about other smells that illicit that response. Probably the two strongest are the smell of earth when tilled to fallow and the smell of New Mexico Green Chili roasting over a propane fire. The smell of earth, mildewed and ancient and woody, reminds me specifically of late evening rosy light across Taos mountain and the fields in Cańyon that ran alongside the half mile driveway to Mariposa Apartments, my mothers home during my teen years. I must have smelled this smell a hundred times, but somehow the memory is timeless. The air is always warm and calm but slightly crisp heralding the fall, the shadows always long, the light always rosy, the me always 14 or so. Green chili is different. It causes my entire past to swell, images of every fall that I remember ebbing, flowing from one to the next. A thousand meals with my friends and family. Dinner tables and burrito wagons and chow carts. Rellenos, tacos, enchiladas, pupusas, sopapillas, beans, rice, stews, steaks and calabacitas. I can't grab hold of any of them, cannot isolate the one from the many. It is a river not a pond. Almost nostalgic but lacking the melancholy, it always anchors me and leaves me hopeful. It makes me feel alive in a way that few things can. The feeling it gives me is what it feels like to be. To be alive and to be me. And, of course, it makes me really hungry.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Domo Experience

Just walking through the gate to reach the front door of Domo completely shifted your sense of place. It was like stepping out of a district full of warehouses in Denver and finding yourself in a foreign country. I think one of the main elements that made it stand out so much from the surrounding buildings was the wood façade, which is something you don’t see much of in the Denver area.

The inside of the restaurant was just as unfamiliar feeling, but certainly not in a way to make the visitors feel alienated. On the contrary, it was very welcoming. One of the things that struck me right away was the way the chairs were designed. They were almost just like stumps that had been given some cushioning and covered with fabric. I found sitting on them to be surprisingly comfortable though. There wasn’t a forced angle you had to keep your legs at of dead in front of you, and there was no awkwardly high or uncomfortable back to the chair.

As for the food, well, it was nothing short of amazing. I don’t have too much trouble eating with chopsticks, so that didn’t bother me. Both the fried and the steamed dumplings were really good, as was the actual meal. The presentation of the nabe in the main bowl, the rice bowl, and three little side dishes was nice too. Getting to try real sushi was also a treat. The texture of the raw fish was a bit strange, but the flavor of it was a blend of spices that didn’t burn your taste buds off, it just gave the fish a nice kick. And it didn’t have that strange fishy taste that you get with sushi you buy from a grocery store.

A small touch that made the experience feel really authentic to something that you might find in Japan, apart from the general atmosphere, was the teacups. They were actual ceramic cups, that looked handcrafted, each with its own waves and bumps in the clay. I’d seen the teacups in art history classes, but never actually been to a restaurant that used them.

An Afternoon in the Valley of the Japanese Industrialists or Tea with Mr. Roboto

    The process of walking (and lightrailing in conjunction) through the weather, through the dilapidation of the industrial sector, allowed Domo to take on the hearth, waystation, sensation that elevated it to the warm crescendo I experienced.  If, say, we had driven to the restaurant on a sunny afternoon, and sat outside with the sun and the billowing carp windsocks, it would also have been a deeply sensory experience.  Yet the feeling would have been light and pleasant, moving outwards into the evening.  Instead, the energy of the storm and the warmth of the restaurant funneled inward, peaking experientialy as our afternoon there.  I felt transported to another world, an idea of a Japan from the cultural media echo experienced since childhood, yet realized as its own space there, that afternoon. 

    The culinary experience was thoroughly enjoyable, yet more a symptom of the entire spatial moment, focused as the meal, than its own separate experience.  The materiality of the experience, the crafted tea cups, the stone table, the paper log lights, rooted the meal and deepened it.  The restaurant, and the meal in conjunction, has weight.  It is tied down deep, burrowed, buried, into the space it inhabits now and into the past.  It is profoundly solid. 

    Walking outside into the garden, with the rain sliding off the wooden structures and the carps billowing, you might as well be on the opposite side of the world from Denver.  The space encloses in on itself and holds its own among the neighboring city.  Yet I suppose it makes sense to place the restaurant there.  The restaurant is rooted in the ancient, the partly forgotten, as is the strange industrial zone it resides in.  The old factories, sitting silently on the edge of the city, are the perfect nest for Domo, they mirror its powerful silence and ancient echos.  With so much weight to it, perhaps the restaurant also needs some space.  A little wiggle room around so much power.

    The experience at Domo was exquisite.  Every aspect of the trip funneled into a sensorally harmonious crescendo.   By framing the excursion in the context of sense perception, I was able to stay aware in a rich, deep environment.  The idea that this was a class trip, allowed me to trick myself into thinking that the lunch was a special sensory exception.  It allowed me to experience the space more profoundly than if I had been there without this excuse, and to trick myself into leaving everyday mental distractions elsewhere.  It was a profoundly rewarding experience.
                    andrew elijah edwards    

Monday, May 23, 2011


I grew up in the desert. Not the kind of desert of the Gobi or the Sahara, but a high mountain desert where pines and spruces and sage brush thrived; Home of the roadrunner and O'keefe's painted desert and howling pink coyotes. It was a place where rain usually means a ten minute drizzle. When it was more, when the heavens would open and poor thick sheets of rain and wash the desert landscape in peeling rolls of thunder and bright flashes of lightning, my whole world seemed to slip between the cracks of day-to-day reality into some space between worlds. Time would stop, or more like dissolve and suspend. The experience of rain was so novel that the first reaction was to run outside and get soaked to the bone floating tiny popsicle stick rafts down the gutters, following them until they inevitable washed down a drain or into an arroyo. Those rainy days make up some of my fondest memories.

Thus the rain always makes me think about my childhood. And the rain in Denver is not unlike the rain of my northern New Mexico childhood. The air smells similar, the light, the sound, the suspension of time.

On the way to Domo I was thinking a lot about rain, but also a lot about chopsticks. Partly, how the choice of utensil fundamentally alters the practice of consumption. The idea that a chopstick and the foodstuffs that are eaten with it are intrinsically wed, the bites only large enough to be properly held or scooped with and that the chopstick never severs but rather separates, sorts, and conveys. Yet really I was thinking about Lento and Yurika, two japanese exchange students that I knew when I was about eight. One summer they taught me an “incredibly difficult” technique for using chopsticks. To their surprise, I quickly mastered the technique and have used it ever since. From that day, every use of chopsticks transports me into the Japanese decor of their small vacation house, along with images of raku kilns and pocky and strange fish food flavored snacks in pringles like cans.

Between the gyoza, shumai, Nabemono, green tea, garden, dojo and decor, the actual visit to Domo was also a rich experience. One of the first things that we collectively observed was the moisture level and the resultant earthy aroma. This immediately made me think of my friend Hisao, a japanese artist I sometimes stay with in NYC, who once remarked that he didn’t like green tea in New Mexico and that so much of his enjoyment of green tea relied on the humid air to carry the aroma. I have often tried to notice whether and how my climate effects my senses after hearing this simple and perhaps obvious remark. Another thing I was thinking about --also prompted by something Hisao said--was the ceremonial aspect of crossing thresholds in Japanese culture. Consider the Dojo, where one must remove their shoes, don sandals, and actually step up and over a small barricade. You cannot simply walk on in and though the effort required is minimal, it is conscious and leaves you knowing you have transitioned into a new space. The door to a Japanese restaraunt, said Hisao, can tell you a lot about whether it will be good (or rather, authentic); it should be heavy, but open easily and freely, making it’s presence undeniable, but not an obstacle. This was the case with Domo’s door. Also, the way that the waiting room was laid out with full size tables made it feel warm and inviting, a place to unwind before moving in to dine.

When it came to the actual dining experience, I admit that some of my critical faculties were overshadowed by the pure enjoyment of eating. However, I was very impressed with the subtly contrasting flavors of the bean salad, fishcake sidedishes and the sweet and vinegary unnamed one as well. All of the ingredients in the Nabemono seemed incredibly fresh and while I was a little concerned that the Sakekasu Miso broth (ordered extra spicy) might overwhelm the flavors of the ingredients themselves, that wasn’t a problem at all. I also did notice that the green tea seemed particularly rich.

Anytime you perform an action with the conscious intent to deeply experience it, everything about that action becomes amplified, and this journey was no exception. What probably surprised me the most was that it prompted so many recollections.