Wednesday, May 31, 2006

dialogical art

Today's post desperately needs to be about community-based art projects. The genre is also known as dialogical art because of its focus on a dialogue between an artist and a community in a way that transforms artworks mid-process. (see

I first became interested in community art when I was working at Carnegie Mellon University where the MFA program required students to complete a "community-based art project" while in the program. Required reading for the students was Mapping the Terrain by Suzanne Lacy, and Lacy was on Carnegie Mellon's School of Art's board and helped to develop the school's curriculum..

Owen Mundy and I just created a community art project in York, Alabama during an artist residency at the Coleman Art Center.

I bring all of these topics up because it relates to your understanding of the Female Expat Project. Yes, I intend to use your stories of life overseas to inspire more traditional forms of art—drawings, paintings, videos, etc.—but I also think of the Female Expat Project as an art project in itself. Its especially beautiful to think of we expat women spread out throughout the world, with a tendency to a nomadic lifestyle that often tweaks our typical understanding of community, being able to come together as a community online. Floating voices and visions, if you will.

Monday, May 29, 2006

julia kristeva

from strangers to ourselves

p 5, The Loss and the Challenge from Toccata and Fugue for the Forigner

A secret wound, often unknown to himself, drives the foreigner to wandering..."You have caused me no harm," he disclaims, fiercely, "It is I who chose to leave"; always further along, always inaccessible to all. As far back as his memory can reach, it is delightfully bruised: misunderstood by a loved and yet absent-minded, discreet, or worried mother, the exile is a stranger to his mother. He does not call her, he asks nothing of her. Arrogant, he proudly holds on to what he lacks, to absence, to some symbol or other. The foreigner would be the son of a father whose existence is subject to no doubt whatsoever, but whose presence does not detain him. Rejection on the one hand, inaccessibility on the other: if one has the strength not to give in, there remains a path to be discovered. Riveted to an elsewhere as certain as it is inaccessible, the foreigner is ready to flee. No obstacle stops him, and all suffering, all insults, all rejectsions are indifferent to him as he seeks that invisible and promised territory, that country that does not exist but that he bears in his dreams, and that must indeed be called the beyond.

The foreigner, thus, has lost his mother. Camus understood it well: the Stranger reveals himself at the time of his mother's death. One has not much notice that this cold orphan, whose indifference can become criminal, is a fanatic of absence. He is a devotee of solitude, even in the midst of a crowd, because he is faithful to a shadow: bewitching secret, paternal ideal, inaccessible ambition.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

soon to send invite

Hey expat ladies,

I'll soon email you with instructions about how to writing or audio post to this website. You can email samples of your artwork or writing to me at Take advantage of the summer time to kick-start your creative endeavors and build a community among a group of women who are allover the globe.

Looking forward to your responses.
Joelle Dietrick

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bike Tour 2K6!

Bike Tour 2K6!

Hi Andrea and Ira,

Bike tour. Nice. I'm creating a blog for women travelling overseas. I'm posting to your blog to see if I can just post or if you need to invite me. I've had problems with spam on a blog that I built and I'm hoping eBlogger has a system to block spammers. Let me know if you have any tips for using eBlogger before I send an invite out to 100 ladies overseas.

Joelle Dietrick

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience and Other Essays. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc. 1993.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, ok taking walks, —who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked for charity, under pretence of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, —a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

pict for profile

Picture on my blog profile info. Bear with me, folks...

miwon kwon on nomadism, p 1

Kwon, Miwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2002.

p 154
Chapter 6: By Way of a Conclusion: One Place After Another

It occurred to me some time ago that for many of my art and academic friends, the success and viability of one's work are now measured by the accumulation of frequent flyer miles. The more we travel for work, the more we are called upon to provide institutions in other parts of the country and the world with our presence and services, the more we give in to the logic of nomadism, one could say, the more we are made to feel wanted, needed, validated, and relevant. Our very sense of self-worth seems predicated more and more on our suffering through the inconveniences and psychic destabilizations of ungrounded transience, of not being at home (or not having a home), of always traveling through elsewheres. Whether we enjoy it or not, we are culturally and economically rewarded for enduring the "wrong" place. We are out of place all too often. Or, perhaps more accurately, the distinction between home and elsewhere, between "right" and "wrong" places seems less and less relevant in the constitution of the self.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

alabama day 3

Monday, May 8

in the morning…
Damn foot. Damn southern slowness. Damn attitude because I can't do what I'm use to doing.

later that day…
Feeling better. We looked at the space in the center of town that we will clean up for the art exhibition. Downstairs was a grocery store. Upstairs was a hospital.

Walking through the halls and rooms upstairs, the texture of the walls demanded our attention. Decayed walls. Abject surface. Wallpaper peeling away, diving backwards, animated by the slight breeze of an open window. Alabama blue breeze.

It all seems familiar. The yellow wallpaper. The woman trapped behind. What stories came and went. The situation reminds me that I promised to give my blue-green papercuts company in the form of floating clothes paintings. All in the hopes that they too—those stories—will be properly maintained.

It's interesting to be here, for such a short time, to make a few waves—a few personal connections, a renovated retail space, a few stories saved. Many choices about where you put your energy--which place gets people's / politician's time and money. The FIMA water, a silent squad of soldiers, waiting to find out who needs them most…wondering if they might be forgotten.

Signs of better days past are everywhere. In a vacant lot sits two dumpsters, a pile of decaying furniture, and bits of a foundation breaking through the grass. Next door is a burnt down building. Signs of its former calling as a laundry mat, repeat along the inside. ...[insert bits about signs]…A sea of blue breaking through the dark innards of the dead structure.

We went for a walk—down the main street, turn left at the drug store that advertises Viagra spray starch, down the street to the public park. Red caboose supervises from the top of the hills. Not far away, a group of teenagers lean against old sedans, pulsating with low beats, all at the edge of the local cemetery. Nearby is a public pool, filled in as segregation ended so whites and blacks wouldn't have to swim in the same water. An artist has placed a concrete bench, where there was once a diving board, in an area that stretches once gave a path from solid to liquid, and now marks the location of an uglier past some would feel best be forgotten. Spring growth and lawn-mowing clippings attempt to hide other hints of that history.

Our friend, the director of the art center here, tells us a story of the board member's wife. She saw a purse in which was stitched the names of famous European cities. The woman exclaimed, "Hey ya'll, I've been to all those places. I just have to buy that purse."

We are a block from the train tracks, and the train runs right through the middle of the town. There seem to be two types of train drivers, ones that go super-slow, the speed of York, and the others who fly through the town and rattle humble abode. When picking up groceries, I watch the other people perform a slow motion dance. It makes my brain neurons fire more slowly. In some moments, the slowness seems comforting; in others, infuriating. The slight humidity has the same soothing expected, a light pressure making you more aware of your skin. Bright fake flowers on the gravestones against a damp sky.

alabama day 2

church in Alabama
turkey + dressing w pastor + members
white folks as far as the eye can see
+ heads of beasts on the wall
betty maye comes in her sunday best
to tell this crowd that she's running
running for office
old black betty, says the blue-eyed boy on a swing
there's a river
dug-up by the army core
mosquitos dot the air
they stop on my skin
to tickle and say hello
desperate for my own run
while others move as slow as molasses
on a cold day, he says
no me
I'm running
I dream of running
chased by wild dogs
with a drop of coyote in their blood
along winding roads
through a dark landscape
back to a home
that is no longer a home
just running
wannabe art stars everywhere
taking the next designer drug
breaking hearts
unsure of everything
I dream of Florida
+ China
in the same breath

tales of an ex-expat: rural alabama

Saturday, May 6

We arrrived in rural Alabama late in the evening to participated in an artist residency program at the Coleman Center for the Arts ( Here's the PR for our project:

Public Art Project Speaks of Hope

The Coleman Center is pleased to announce a new project of their Public Artworks Program by resident artists Owen Mundy and Joelle Dietrick. The project, titled The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn, is named from a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and hopes to document the optimism of the region, both past and present, by collecting objects and stories from the residents of Sumter County.

The artists are asking community members to lend them a lamp from their home that will then be installed in a vacant retail space in York, Ala. This space, formerly the York Real Value grocery store, is being renovated this week by the artists with the help of community volunteers, city employees, and Coleman Center staff.

The lamps will be installed in the finished space and set to timers. Each day around dusk the lamps will begin to turn on one by one, representing the participants in the project, as well as the possibility that collective action can impact our communities in positive and lasting ways. Dietrick remarks that the metaphor the lamps create reminds her of candles at a Christmas Eve service and says, “the underlying focus is the room full of lamps—fading in and out, pulsing at their own pace, human in the imperfections and variety, and more powerful as a collection.”

All participants will receive a handmade lamp from the artists in return for the lamp they lend to the project. If you are interested in lending a lamp from your home please bring it to the old York Real Value grocery store across from the Piggly Wiggly in downtown York from May 11th through the 13th from 1-6PM. The artists will be accepting help cleaning up the building throughout the week and volunteers are encouraged to drop by from 1-6PM on May 11th and 12th.

For more information please call (205) 392-2005, or visit