My First Foray into Foraging

As part of the The Middle Kingdom of Weeds Festival (World Wide Festival of Psychogeography and Foraging 2011) I met up with a group of people to do a wander around Amsterdam Sloterdijk and forage for food. The walk also had a caloric analysis angle, wherein we’d weigh what we had foraged at the end and contrast that with the calories expended by foraging. The walk was hosted by Wilfried Hou Je Bek and Theun Karelse.

We used one of Wilfried’s .walk algorithms to direct our walking pattern. We each had a piece of paper with the algorithm on it, which was loosely based on the behaviour of the ghosts in Pac-Man. Embodying the spirit of Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde, we ventured off in search of things to eat in among the underpasses, roundabouts, highrises and industrial estates of this area of Amsterdam. I’ll admit, I was a little sceptical that we would find anything tasty.

But in the end, we did. We found numerous edible green things, including an abundance of wild rocket. Our teams also found a cousin of garlic, wild carrot, unripe sloeberries, and places where raspberry plants were thriving (but no berries today, unfortunately). We mapped some of these finds on the Boskoi Android app so other foragers can find these things.

We met back with the other team at the station and tallied up our goods. We determined that if we had to live off the day’s haul, we’d certainly starve. Key to better nutrition would be getting our hands on some nuts and berries, and adding a little hunting and fishing to the mix. I took some of the wild rocket home and was keen to eat it for lunch, and also compare it to the bag of rocket I had just purchased at Albert Heijn the day before.

Taste testing revealed that the store-bought rocket was considerably milder in flavour than the wild rocket, which had a wonderfully peppery bite. I sautéed the wild rocket with a bit of olive oil and some of the garlic-like stuff we had harvested. Very, very delicious. I think I might have to go back and forage some more.

View all photos here.

Art & Culture

My FutureEverything “Don’t Miss” List

I find myself in the same situation time and again when I arrive at a major international festival: too many events happening at once! Spoilt for choice! Unable to decide if I should go to one talk or another, which are of course happening at the very same time in different locations!

The programme for this year’s FutureEverything festival is so overflowing with juicy content, that perhaps you too will suffer this dilemma. In the face of such a cornucopia of content, there is something for everyone, but maybe you want to peek over my shoulder and see what I’ve circled in red on my FutureEverything diary? (Oh and hey, I wouldn’t mind you sharing your picks with me too!)

Ryoji Ikeda – test pattern [live set] / Mika Vainio [live]: “complex audio-visual terrain” … “analogue warmth and metallic harshness”
Konono No.1 [live] / Bass Clef [live] / Jon K: “a thundering sonic attack of 21st Century African music that sounds like nothing ever heard before”
Moldover [live] / Atau & Adam [live]: “a performer who combines the charisma of a rock star with the mad genius of a basement inventor”

GloNet: “an experimental format happening simultaneously in five cities around the globe: Manchester, Sendai, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, and Vancouver”
Shaping the City panel discussion: how are cities shaped by climate, culture, and citizen participation?
Keynote: Ben Cerveny: “taking us from 1960s Situationist ideas to current collaborative interaction in public spaces”
Keynote: Keri Facer: “Learning to live in uncertain times”
New Creativity panel discussion: “How do we play, collaborate, and create in a way that makes a real impact on the world?”
McLuhan in Europe 2011 – inaugural lecture with Darren Wershler: “describing the fascinating connections between McLuhan’s predictions and declarations”

The Feast of Trimalchio: Stunningly beautiful, UK premiere
Eyewriter: a pair of low-cost glasses & custom software that allow artists and graffiti writers with paralysis to draw using only their eyes
Cu Exhibition: “diverse and experimental contemporary art from both national and international artists”

Get tickets!

Art & Culture My Lectures

Advocating for Free Culture

Recently, I gave a talk at transmediale as part of their Free Culture Incubator series. I’ve embedded the video below. I highlighted three case studies that I think exemplify how advocating for the arts successfully can make profound differences to how we experience urban spaces.

Firstly I mentioned, a campaign to introduce a billboard tax in the city of Toronto, with the tax money distributed to art and culture projects. They were very successful in winning the first battle, which was implementing the tax, but now they need people to speak up once more in favour of how the budget is actually allocated. Check out their Facebook event for more details on how you can help this terrific project.

I also mentioned Ile Sans Fil, the wireless community group that I used to work with, that built a grassroots infrastructure in Montreal that is wildly successful. They were also pioneers of using their infrastructure as a platform to distribute art and community content to their users. They have been so successful at building infrastructure and in their advocacy work that wireless internet infrastructure is now an issue in the Montreal municipal elections.

Last but not least, I mentioned Manchester Open Data City, a huge initiative by FutureEverything. FutureEverything is leading the advocacy around making Manchester the UK’s first open data city, by identifying data that can be made available, and looking at issues of data interoperability, quality and management. I’m programming the FutureEverything conference this year, and can tell you that Open Data and its implications for citizen participation and creativity will be a hot topic. Hope to see you in Manchester this May for FutureEverything!

Art & Culture

Do you want a beautiful city?

Photo by Matthew Blackett
Photo by Matthew Blackett

At the end of my talk at Manchester Urban Screens, I proposed a call to action, asking people to “get out their pencils” and write to their local politicians to ensure that art and culture becomes a priority in public space, and that billboard operators are compelled to give over space and time to artists and local communities.

I couldn’t be more delighted, then, with the marvellous Beautiful City initiative in Toronto. The Alliance is made up of 42 organizations, who are collectively proposing the BCBF (Beautiful City Billboard Fee), which “…will hold billboard advertisers accountable for their impact on public space via a charge on each billboard (tax or fee – to be determined by staff), with revenues dedicated to art in the public sphere.”

The possibility of this happening is real! A bill proposing this will go before Toronto city councillors soon. What can you do to support it?

  • Sign and circulate the petition at
  • Join their Facebook group.
  • Attend the International Youth Week Town Hall, tonight, Tues May 5, City Hall, Committee Rm 2, 6:30-9 pm.