Monday, June 25, 2012

Express Yourself...

Inspired by a recent book I picked up that gives advice for 365 days of happiness, I've decided to add my own thoughts to this subject.  The sentiment is great but it could use some updating (the suggestion for today was change your answering machine message!  As much as I love the idea I don't know if quoting a poem on the outgoing message of my iphone will lead to return calls) and this is one area I kind of consider myself an expert in -- being happy.

My advice for today, express yourself.  Past childhood we all have to adhere to certain restrictions on our uninhibited expression of our self (except maybe actors).  This is the reason you can't wear a princess outfit to work unless it's Halloween (and why Halloween is one of my favorite holidays).  A connection to our past is often one of the best ways to get in touch with the things that made us feel happy from the very beginning and this is a perfect example.  Of course it doesn't have to be childlike, maybe you want to dress up in a very adult manner and pretend your husband is Han Solo and you're Princess Leia (hey, no judgement here).  We feel better when we can express ourselves.  Madonna knew what she was talking about.  It may not get you a rich british ex-husband and a global entertainment empire but you'll feel better, trust me.  I was inspired by a visit to our local Pride celebration here in Seattle, now here are some examples of really giving self-expression the old college try.  Extra credit for creativity!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Remnants of an Afternoon in Ballard...

Yes, a half eaten brownie (some may call it sacrilege).  I intended to take beautiful, artistic pictures today on my afternoon journey outside the 3rd floor apartment I call home but alas, the weather didn't cooperate.  Also, I'm still scared to try and take my iPhone out when there is rain, so therefore I present my masterpiece for a rainy Thursday -- I call it "Rhapsody on rumpled napkin".  

I met a good friend of mine and her mom out at Miro Tea in Ballard.  For those of you who don't consider tea a slap in the face of all that is decent in humanity (i.e. non-native Seattleites), feel free to check it out:
It always seems fairly busy mid-afternoon mid-week which puzzles me.  It's not like I'm in LA anymore where literally no one works a 9 to 5pm.  I don't have much room to talk though since I'm a 34 year old undergraduate student who works as a part time tour guide.  I ran screaming from 9 to 5 hours several years ago and haven't looked wistfully back (ok, maybe one or two nostalgic glances).  
If you want to determine a neighborhood's vibe, a good place to start are coffee/tea shops.  It's funny though, I always feel like the proverbial "elephant in the china shop" when I go in to chat with a friend at these places nowadays.  Someone else recently pointed this out to me and it's true, no one talks in coffee shops anymore -- they all quietly work on some form of digital media -- cue Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, right?  Let me know if you have found a boisterous coffee shop around you and I'll continue my research in Ballard.  Oh, yes it will involve caffeine (and the occasional brownie).

This is the view from my window right now.  You probably can't tell through the '80's blinds, rain and glass but there are workmen putting up a building next door.  This plot of adjacent land has had quite an interesting evolution in the six years that I've been here -- crack house, unofficial dog park and now they are building a halfway house for the homeless.  I'm actually all for the new use, homelessness is a tough issue that is close to my heart but it makes for an interesting transition during the building phase due to our proximity.  Over the years, my husband and I have developed a sort of Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window voyeuristic fascination with the events transpiring there.  Also, the Kinko's parking lot has made for some great material for the website "you park like an ***hole" (just saying).  But I have been faced with a dilemma of epic proportions -- do I have to put clothes on in the morning now?  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blue Skies and Cherry Blossoms

I've decided to continue my blog beyond my class as a way to engage with the world around me, share some thoughts (i.e. get out of my own head) and write something that will occasionally make people smile or laugh.  I want to share a little inner piece of Ballard (and beyond).  Photos, video and other ways of incorporating art (painlessly, I promise) will accompany this stream of consciousness.  There will not be hand drawn pieces or painting because trust me when I tell you I'm in the stick figure school of design.  So take a deep breath, get your afternoon Starbucks fix and let the world know that you mean business...

I talked a lot about ephemeral use of space previously in the blog and it continues to fascinate me.  There is a particular time at UW when this theme becomes especially relevant.  It is a time when the masses invade the quad with cameras, kids squeal with delight and adults clear their calendars for mother nature...yes, I'm talking about cherry blossoms.  I grew up near the other Washington (DC) and we have a little cherry blossom festival once a year there too.  Although less grander in scale, the UW quad cherry blossoms inspire no less adulation.  Pink blossoms appear like an opulent corps de ballet amongst the branches.  They shimmer like a mirage from a distance and subsume the rainy skies.  The magnitude and magnificence are intoxicating drawing crowds who seek to capture their magic and hold it close through digital memories, one click at a time.  Then they disappear.  Perhaps it's the very fleeting nature of their existence that makes them so irresistible.  My favorite picture is the last one, yes, the sky can be that blue in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Transformation and the Urban Market -- I Have Been Transformed

Here is the final project that I have created through my media ethnographic study of the Ballard Farmer's Market. I've selected the theme of "transformation" both of the place itself and how I have been changed by the space. It is a multimedia project that includes: Photos I have taken, video collage, a video interview, photos and video taken by my husband of my intervention within the space and, finally, lyrics composed from my field diary set to an original track created by a talented composer friend of mine. It is conceptualized based on the experience of the seven senses within the market space. Enjoy!

Transformation and the Urban Market from Elke Hautala on Vimeo.


Photographic study -- Fremont in January -- An exploration of the juxtaposition between commerce, nature and art in the urban environment.

Love Songs for a Post Modern Paradise -- Five original tracks and one cover that I performed and recorded -- an exploration of the emotional landscape in a world beyond definitive answers and ideals with thematic elements of pop culture, urban living and youthful yearnings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Urban Adventurer

I’ll admit it, I’ve long been fascinated by the urban environment. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country or maybe it’s some underlying psychological fascination with the social patterns of humanity. My theory is that I just love finding beauty in everything – art, music and old buildings. When you hear the word “adventure”, what comes to mind? Indiana Jones, pirate ships, science fiction maybe. I propose that adventuring into the hidden aspects of a banal urban oasis can be equally thrilling. We intervene within the structure, sometimes subversively, and rewrite the telegraphic pulse of the city. This weeks’ writers/media producers have done just that in a myriad of ways based on their own personal lens and I’ve done the same with my Ballard market study.

Four of the references dealt with a specific location, two dealt with lofty physical ideals, one embraced risked, one adopted a foreign city for a time and one searched for meaning in New Jersey (some may argue a difficult task).

As I’ve thought about my starting point of a fascination for the transformation of space I realize I have been transformed as well. The very acts of media ethnography have changed my viewpoint and interaction within the space. I will forever know the concrete boundaries in a more intimate appeal of memory; a flash of shared remembrance. There is a map in my mind of that specific street correlated by photos, thoughts, fragments, and snippets of conversation, audio and observation, especially observation. Just the act of writing, has forced me to re-examine the space and my use of it – from the detailed pictures of not often acknowledge boundaries (crates, curbs etc.) to the audio clip which creates a picture in my mind but leaves the observer of my blog to imagine the possibilities.

Bradley Garrett, the archaeologist/producer who created “Crack the Surface” is all about imagining the possibilities. His mantra seems to be exploring the derelict or overlooked whether it is a Native American site or a project showing the transformation of the urban British landscape (I didn’t even know Underwater Archaeology was a field). His media project introduces a concept of subversive media collection within the decaying infrastructure of the city. There is a social and aesthetic aspect but it’s also about risk, the allure of boundary crossing. Ultimately, he emphasis, especially on his website, the community aspect – there is a sense of brotherhood, unity in being a part of these collectives who engage in this type of activity. The idea of shared activity connecting you to a community is very similar to the market – even if you’re buying carrots rather than jumping down drains. His adventures reminded me of the TV show Off Limits. In it, the host explores places relating to urban infrastructure in which very few people get to venture -- it is a voyeuristic means of crossing boundaries through media.

Off Limits : TV Shows : Travel Channel

In the media ethnographic analysis of Alexandria, Jeremy Beaudry utilizes various technique to elicit different perceptions of space. The context is interesting because he is a foreigner to the specific environment but he seeks to know and understand it within his allotted time there. I love especially his idea of intervention in space. I call it the “Andy Kaufmann” style of communication. Andy Kaufmann would do stuff like reading the Great Gatsby in a bad British accent when people expected his stand up comedy act or his Taxi character. He liked messing with the perceptions of the audience and society in general. This is similar to the idea of intervention in a place, wherein, in Beaudry’s case, they added phone cards to “complete” an old mosaic, new street names or black “gaps” in the sidewalks to change people’s perceptions and see how they would react. For my intervention of the market, I hope to gauge people’s reaction to me as a musician inserted into the rhythm of the market. We’ve secretly replaced your usual musicians with Elke Hautala, let’s see how they react…to be continued (see observations down below)

*Also, I want to know how Beaudry did his time lapse photography media piece because that’s kind of what I was attempting during my last post – I’m a little jealous J

Oh well, on to the theoretical – In the "Situationist Manifesto", a doctrine is espoused of egalitarian ideal, non-commodification and against privatization. I enjoyed the sentiment about the democratization of art in particular from this piece – the idea that everyone can be an artist or media producer. This project has really reinforced this belief. The market is a very democratic, albeit still consumerist, space – there is choice, you can come out and play music or give advice if you want, you are free to walk through when you want during the market time period and everyone creates their own mosaic of goods through the products that are available. In fact, I would argue you create a personalized space specific memory of the place through your individualized actions.

In “The Practice of Everyday Life”, the De Certeau piece, I found myself both reveling in the beauty of poetic comparison and bogged down in the depths of academic confusion – that is to say it was both enlightening and overwhelmingly dense. I took the most notes on this piece, out of both a seeking to grasp previously unknown concepts I felt were important and an amazement at the connectivity and salience of his points. I loved his conceptualization of pedestrian movements. The idea that they have a qualitative human aspect that is difficult to capture, they are a “spatial acting out of place”. You personalize your own built environment through patterns and paths. I wonder what this says about always taking the same path? I find myself doing this at times, is it something hard wired in our brain that seeks out repetition? Then when I take a slightly different path, it can change my whole day, like what is this new amazing way of looking at the world?! It’s funny how such a small thing can make a difference.

The market is filled with people producing their own space within its boundaries – shaping their experiences through steps. It’s fascinating to watch, kind of like observing at the airport. I have to draw another reference too, on Friday, I watched Wim Wenders’ Pina and De Certeau’s descriptiveness really connected to it. Pina had her dancers use space in an incredibly creative and moving way. I have to admit, at first, I was a bit baffled by it but it drew me in and astounded me. By the close of the film, I didn’t want it to end, it felt like I had learned a new language for using space (that’s how I even described it to my husband) like a new framework for seeing the world. I could try to describe it verbally but I don't think I could do justice to the visual element.

Here is the preview:

Finally, we have “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, NJ”. I have to say despite a certain darkness or cynicism (did anyone else get that vibe?) I loved both the stylistic choices, the theory and the ideas of this piece. After all, it ties in directly with my idea of finding beauty in the lost built environment. Even the title, using “monuments” to describe industrial relics in the suburbs is a fascinating incongruity that I thoroughly enjoyed. His comparison of the physical structure and landscape as a piece of media is very interesting. He compares a bridge monument to a giant photo or film. This takes McLuhan’s concept of media to an extreme. In a way, he is saying that we have become so media saturated that our touchstone of experience with certain urbanity is as media. I’ve sometimes thought upon walking into a particular environment with perfect symmetry that it looks like a movie set – the peculiar feeling of being within your own movie, as if you are watching yourself doing actions. I’ve also been guilty of narrating my own activity in my head but I thought maybe that was just because I’m an identical twin and used to constantly keeping my twin updated through a stream of consciousness narration. The production and creation of the market (the transformation of the space) is similar to the way a movie set is designed, created, structured and then struck. They are creating a weekly production in the same spot so therein lies an interesting correlation to media.

OBSERVATIONS and MY THOUGHTS…I felt more connected than ever to the market and its space. Soundtrack: Me! I’ll be playing guitar and singing. On the other side a mbira player is getting ready and a one-man-band thrills the crowds at the top of the market. I arrived towards the beginning and brought my husband this time to act as cameraman and experience the market with me. We took a loop around and even with the cool, windy weather it’s busy, bright and colorful. The spicy aromatic scent on the breeze makes me feel warm and welcomed.

The first event that happens is a certain kismet of time, space and place – I meet two people who were guests on my Underground Tour last night. I recognize them by their brightly colored hair and it turns out they live in Phinney Ridge. I mention the project I’m working on and they mention just how much they love the market and try to visit every weekend. The idea of transformation through connection of this particular space is perfectly illustrated in this example. I feel that much closer to Ballard Ave, my community and Seattle. As my husband and I search for a good space I can play music in, and he can document, I notice another unique means of using media in every day life. There is a kid wearing a bike helmet with a camera attached to the top. What a brilliant way to use DYI to incorporate your own subjective perspective of the world! It’s the ultimate POV angle ever changing with your movement through the landscape.

Next, we run into a gentleman enjoying the market with a beautiful parrot on his shoulder. I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten the species he said it was but I’ve looked it up and believe he is an Eclectus Parrot, oh and his name is Sam. Sam adds quite an interesting aspect to the market. I’ve mentioned lots of people bringing pets with them before but Sam is one of the more unusual non-human visitors. He immediately gathers a crowd “oohing” and “aahing” as he climbs up on my shoulder and imitates my laugh, says “What’s Up” and generally enjoys himself. It turns out due to the totally opposite coloration of the female parrot (she has red feathers and he is green mostly) – he’s a sucker for red heads! I have to laugh because so is my husband. It’s amazing how something as simple as bringing a pet to the market can create a unique interactive experience. People have a different social approach towards pets, kids and musical instruments I’ve found.

Speaking of music…I set up and played a couple songs in an open spot on the sidewalk. I feel like a complete part of the market now, I am adding to the experience of those attending and consuming. I purposefully don’t open my case and ask for change because I want to just give of myself to the space without expectation or reward. I want to leave my own ephemeral, transformative mark on the market. I am changing my production of the space and I am changing the movement patterns of those using the space (some have to change paths to move around me, others stop to listen). All in all, the reaction is fairly tame (after all they are used to musicians playing at the market), I get some looks, smiles and an especially vibrant reaction from the two and under crowd who seem to want to stay as long as they can. It’s been a while since I’ve played and I love it, joy, pure joy.

This was my urban adventure and I hope it will continue.

Moment of Zen:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

He Who Controls the Space, Controls the Market

It has been brought into focus much more for me this past week how I see the world through rose-colored glasses, metaphorically most of the time. There have been several examples brought to my attention wherein I didn’t realize there was an underlying struggle in the scenario or situation because I generally only see the “good” (albeit good is a very subjective term). It has been the case in the past at places I work at that I never noticed if there was a tear in the social fabric or an ongoing feud. In light of our discussion of contextualizing all of the space we are studying, I’ve aimed to delve deeper into the politics this week through social media usage, our readings and a time lapse of the breakdown of the market.

In Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, I can’t help but contrast the situation of the protagonists (especially Katniss) and their homeland with the workings of the market and one word in particular comes to mind: Choice. There is a rigid structure in place that keeps their outer district poor in certain respects. They are in the old mining district where food and money are in short supply. In fact, Katniss finds a way around this structure and utilizes her will to choose through illegal poaching of animals from a forest and then black market trading. At the Farmer’s Market there is a structure in place (it is indeed run by a larger organization that puts on several markets in the area) but it is all about choice. In a way, however, the selection is still controlled by several factors: A waiting list, approval and, finally, the amount of physical space available.

Power to the media has been engaged to promote the farmer's market. This implies a certain democratization of the business of the market. There is agency available for those involved as consumers, vendors, community organizers, managers, musicians etc. You can "like" the market both virtually and literally now. This speaks to an interesting transformation of the usage of space from both a physical manifestation on Sundays and a virtual one that is omnipresent. Also, I've noticed their Facebook page includes profiles on many of the vendors allowing a constant medium for their commercial enterprise. An interesting nod to the success of the market, I noticed on their Facebook page that they recently won an award for "best large-scale market" at the Washington State Farmer's Market Conference.

Facebook link:

A similar use of media for twitter...a stream of consciousness proposing goods and happenings at the market...2,041 followers (now including myself)...everything from artisans to foodies to a self-proclaimed sarcastic girl and one person who described themselves as an animal runs the gamut.


The virtual world is expounded upon by Paul Virllio in his article “The Overexposed City”. He brings together the panopticism idea of Foucault with an updated version of La Tour’s concept wherein our life is controlled by virtual instead of physical boundaries. His idea is an update of the structure of the modern community (and the control implicit there) for the information age. His idea is a heightened awareness of the temporal as an architect for our routine; it’s all about time now. I especially like the JFK quote he uses in reference to my own self-reflexive use of media, “The camera has become our best inspector.” (P. 386)

Not everyone has felt empowered by the structure of the market however, I've found an example of the politics of space within my virtual search of the internet. There was a vendor dispute between one of the "permanent" businesses and a temporary vendor, Veraci pizza, that was publicized as a call to action for consumers on their website. I have previously posted about the mutually beneficial relationship of the concrete businesses and the farmer's markets' nomadic ones but there does appear to be an occasional underlying struggle for space that I was not aware of before.

Politics and the Market –

Daniel Kerr’s piece “We Know What the Problem Is”, is an amazing example of what he called “reciprocal ethnography”. I am very impressed and inspired by his research and methods. The successes of the movement he started were especially thrilling to hear about…I wonder where Cleveland has gone from there? I’ve seen so many connections between my courses this quarter and this brings up another one. For my Narrative Journalism class, I wrote an article on the Union Gospel Mission and my research included a tour of the facility. There is a special process by which people staying there become residents by entering a program in which they take control of their destinies. It has made me think a lot about the idea of agency and the issue of homelessness. The whole concept of democratically organizing and utilizing shared authority as a successful recipe. At the farmer’s market there is an interesting mix of democracy and authority -- it is run by the Seattle Farmer’s Market Association with applicants subject to a fee and review process and I’ve heard that there is a waiting list. Non-profits or community groups can come in day of on a space available basis though.

The idea of “ownership” of space and space as the heart of the community comes to life through the local 23rd and Union Project. First of all, I’m excited to see that this is a project to study space through media from right here in Seattle. It brings to light the diversity and different experiences of various groups in the same urban environment. Many different people share their experience through their audio clips – I wonder what the farmer’s market would bring up with a similar project? I have a feeling it would be less diverse and more focused on this transformative environment for commerce and leisure. I was surprised last week to hear several different languages spoken at the market because that was the first time I was clued in to the possibility for diversity in the space. I think the comparison between 23rd and Union and Ballard Ave during the market would show very different ownership and usage of space. They both however deal in a certain type of activism – social justice vs. locavore food movement. They both ultimately encapsulate an offshoot of the community’s needs too. I’ve really enjoyed the photo gallery with music that they set up showing a kind of time lapse with different people use the specific space at 23rd and Union so I’ve set up my time lapse showing the market coming down.

MY THOUGHTS and OBSERVATIONS…Today I've decided to observe the deconstruction of the market in conjunction with my observation of the underlying structure and politics. I've arrived right as the markets close at 3pm.

Soundtrack: It's both somehow quieter, more subdued and louder at the same time. No musicians are around but there is an overarching din -- voices, vans, equipment moving

There are last minute deals being made and the vans have taken up their loading spots on the right hand side of the street. As you see in my video collage, there is an ongoing ballet of movement as vans and trucks slide in and out of frame -- packing, loading, organizing supplies. There are two patterns of human motion that coincide as the space begins to change: The fast zipping of the workers versus the strolling of the last browsing shoppers. It's like a circular flow from pre-market to set-up to during the market to take down and finally back to pre-market. I imagine a flow chart: Empty street -- chaos -- order -- chaos -- empty street. Sunday to Sunday, repeat ad infinitum. The beautifully organized displays (like the tulip stand in my video) begin to come down and it's like watching a puzzle "unmake" itself -- a film strip played backwards. I've decided to observe just off to the side with my camera but I'm compelled to ask several people if they need help at times when I see them struggling with their supplies. I can't help but insert myself into the community. As I watch melting ice water stream down the pavement, I think about our concept of editing. The time lapse video I have created shows the deconstruction of the market but ultimately it is from a specific spot of images I have chosen to take -- it's through my own personal lens.

Finally, for our Jon Stewart moment of Zen today, I had to add one of the quotes from the Virilio piece about Hollywood:

“Babylon of filmic de-formation, industrial zone of pretence, Hollywood was built neighbourhood by neighbourhood, block by block, on the twilight of appearances, the success of magicians’ tricks, the rise of epic productions like those of D.W. Griffith, all the while waiting for the megalomaniacal urbanizations of Disneyland, Disney World and Epcot Center”. (P. 390)

I’m kind of getting misty-eyed for LA already…