Day 0: Catalyst 2019 – Boat Cultures

Teaching  Catalyst 2019: Extended Communities of Practice with colleagues in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. My focus is on teaching related to Boat Cultures and the intersection that emerges from rural Minnesota – small town of Milan which has a large Micronesian population, on an area settled by Norwegian/Scandinavians on what were Dakota homelands – so many layers of complexity but can that be transcended towards a synergistic future? I believe so, hope so. We explored these connections last year and this year we do a deep dive into boats and ‘making’.

On Saturday, 3/9/18, my collaborator, Professor Vince Diaz and his students from the student group Canoe Rising helped usher in the red fiberglass and wood outrigger canoe into Rapson Hall’s original building by architect John Rauma – Indigenous boat craft meets a modernist setting, its a beautiful partnership – one complements and enhances the other! We made it happen in the slight window before the rain and the snowstorm sit after the trailer was rescued from a snowbank. In hindsight, we ushered the wa’a in – it seemed meant to be!


Boat Cultures & Making – 2018 Rural Futures

Milan, Minnesota

Material Inquiry – Boat Craft and Trans-cultural Material Practices

Project Summary

This workshop takes a deeper dive into the material culture of two indigenous communities from Western Minnesota through examination and engagement with boat making and culture of the  Micronesian context (outrigger canoes) and the Dakota context (birchbark canoes and/or dugout canoes). Through the lens of social anthropologist Tim Ingold’s concepts in Making; Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture which we will be reading from, we will engage in processes of observing, engaging with materials and making not as a process of forcing ideas on to matter but as an experience of joining the forces of matter in improvisation through discovery.  Through examining physical artifacts we will understand the outrigger canoe and birchbark canoe or dugout, their making process and also learn about virtual reality photography and choreography of indigenous artefacts as connected to place.

The work of this workshop joins in work the interdisciplinary Grand Challenge project just beginning, Back to Indigenous Futures: Cultural Revitalization and Sustainability through Trans-Indigenous Partnerships, Participatory Design, and Embodied Computing, and builds on the 2018 Catalyst exploration with the Micronesian  communities in envisioning their emerging needs around building and  landscapes. We will collaborate and learn with professors and students from American Indian Studies and Computer Science and Engineering and technology experts through the week long exploration whose outcome will be a traveling exhibit of boat cultures from  the Catalyst work.


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