Artist Talk at AAF

November 11th, 2010

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Toye Gbade Oloyede, Ayoola Gbolahan and Esther Polak.

In the afternoon a group of about 15 people gathered at the AAF. The idea was to discuss the NomadicMILK project in depth, as there never seems to be a chance for this during an opening.

I decided to start the “Artist Talk” with a short introduction to my work. I showed some slides of other work and explained how the NomadicMILK installation was inspired by the history of landscape painting and by the conceptual and land-art of the sixties and seventies.
After this introduction we experienced the installation for about 20 minutes.

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Akinwolere Muijiwa and Fatai Adewale

We started the discussion with some questions about how the robot works, and how the mono prints were made. As they do not resemble familiar spray-paint pieces, but rather photographic images, I had to explain the technical details about how they were made. The atmosphere of a true “Artist Talk” is established.

Heymann Ogbem: “What I like about this exhibition is that it makes you an actor and a spectator. I never thought about recalling my tracks before, let alone having to explain my routes. You can follow the man as he is tracing his track, all by himself. It takes him through a precise process that you can follow. You are really in the field. Imagine if you would be able record all of your tracks: that would be a new form of expression.”

Ayoola Gbolahan: “Did you ever track animals? I imagine with animal tracks the result gets more abstract.”
Esther: “Ivar and I did a piece on sheep this year in Scotland. We tracked grazing sheep and a dog rounding them up. The result was indeed a more abstract piece.”
Aisha Idirish: “This is a new medium to approach landscape, with GPS. Are there other artists working like this? Or is it just you?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Screening in Abuja

November 9th, 2010

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The delegation from the village arrives by minibus. Later people from WAMCO Nigeria also arrive at the Gubabi Royal Hotel, in the center of Abuja.

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When everybody is seated we can start the program.
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Suleiman and I explain how we have organized the program. We will show the project video, stopping it from time to time so Suleiman can do an improvised translation.

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Ivar and Mr. Idiris enjoy some scenes.

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After the screening we have a Q and A session.

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Like the one we had in the village two days before, the discussion was very interesting. I will try to describe both better in a separate post.

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Removing the GPS collar

November 25th, 2009

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Last year we left one of Mr. Idiris’s cows with a GPS collar. I am very exited to remove the GPS collar from the cow. One of the objectives of this trip was to download the data and do a workshop with Mr. Idiris, based on the collar data. Those data should show his transhumance trip of the last rainy season, and as he explained last year he had been planning to go to Kaduna. So I was very curious to find out what was in the collar.

Mr. Idiris has been taking extremely good care of the collar. He explained that the red blinking light on the collar evoked questions from other Fulani. But he always told them that the collar was noting special, and he did not give away much in response to those questions.

At another point the rubber of the collar belt wore out, so the collar had been lost. After three days of searching Mr. Idiris found it, repaired the belt, and re-mounted the collar on one of the bulls, as he planned to sell Purdy anyway. He wondered if three days of without movement might have damaged the data. I assured him that that was not the case.

What worried me more after scrutinizing the collar, was that the USB socket of the collar seemed to be damaged….

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A distribution round with the Peak salesman

July 19th, 2009

Mr. Usman Okolo distributes Peak Milk to both small shops and decent sized supermarkets in the Kubwa district, one of the suburbs of Abuja. We chose to track him because his round visits a shop directly opposite the spot where Binta ends her distribution round, selling nonno that she makes from the milk Mr. Idiris’s cows produce. Today we came back to visit the same location from the side of the NomadicMILK project: tracking the Peak Milk distribution. At the end of our journey the two lines now really touch each other: the Fulani nonno and Peak Milk…

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Working at NIMk

July 15th, 2009

working at NIMk Floris and Edwin Working in NIMk

Back in Amsterdam. For three month I will be working at NIMk. This weekend we used the big project room to work on some robot improvements, and some software features that I really wanted to have developed. Just some pictures to catch the atmosphere.

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Workshop with Mr. Usman Harula

July 15th, 2009

The workshop with Mr. Usman took place in the courtyard of the warehouse  where we unloaded yesterday. We spent over an hour discussing and explaining the track, and a trucker’s life in Nigeria in general. The accident of the first day, which we inched past, indeed stood out as a more pronounced part of the sand line. The arrival in Abuja, on the contrary, was very swift and smooth.
Mr. Usman also explained why he decided to take this route to Abuja instead of another one that is shorter: this route is familiar to him, meaning that he knows a lot of other truckers, repair men and reliable places for rest stops along this road – not to mention knowing where armed robbers might hide. After sunset cars disappear from the road, and only trucks venture out.

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Photos from our first day in Lagos

July 7th, 2009

What a day! Such a new and different environment after one hour of flying. First we met with the WAMCO people, and together we talked through the schedule for the coming week. Then we checked out the workshop site on the compound and tested if our robot’s compass would still get proper directional data on the reinforced concrete. It seemed to work fine.


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Binta’s walk to the Fruit-Market

July 5th, 2009

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Along the road, Binta’s Nono is already for sale

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Fieldwork in Cameroon

November 19th, 2008

We just returned from an interesting fieldwork trip in Cameroon. At the invitation of CML Leiden, NL and CEDC Maroua, CAM we participated in the workshop “ People and Pixels” on February 8 in Maroua, Cameroon.

In addition to our presentation we also did a short collaborative project with Bororo (Fulani) nomads in the Waza Logone floodplain, in close collaboration with Haman Unusa who had recorded eight months of GPS data of two Bororo families for his ecological research.

The GPS tracks had been recorded by collaring one of the cows in the herds. So the tracks show both the overall migration pattern of the two families, as well as the daily herding patterns of the cows.

Our first robot drawings in the Waza Logone Floodplain

We brought the prototype of the robot to Cameroon: finally we could try out our concept of drawing GPS tracks on the ground, and thus create an outdoors -intimate setting to discuss the routes with the families. Would it work as expected? Back in Amsterdam we had been going over the data, trying out the routes in the studio, and selected the first four month of the track: the one way route from the north, to the south. From our experience this was the best selection for a clear representation. We uploaded the tracks to the robot and planned to show them to the families concerned.

This was a great opportunity to test what it would mean to these families to actually see their own route, and how the visualization relates to their own memories.

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We traveled to the camp, cleared a small field and on the exiting start moment we launched the robot, in the midst of a group of Fulani that looked at its movements. Haman explained to the families that they were looking at their own collar data: and we waited to see how the reaction of the family members would be.

Haman explains

To our surprise they immediately recognized the route, and named the different locations. Based on the sand track they explained the differences between the rainy season and dry season locations, pointed out places were cows were stolen, calf’s had been eaten by the hyena’s and one of the men’s wife’s, in despair of all the set backs, had run of to her fathers, only to return after a couple of month.

The Famely head of the first group comments on the route

We asked him to draw the route of the wife, and he made a clear drawing of his wife’s route, from her father’s camp, located more eastward, back to his.

robot drawing with the women

We also did the same robot presentation for the women, and they turned out to see the route from a slightly differed perspective.

Haman explaines

They distinguished the different locations based on the possibilities of milk sale, and could explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and locations.

The Women explain to us the differences in milk prices, during the changes of seasons and location’<p>s.

On our way back to the city Haman Unusa remarked: Esther do you know: this is great. These families collaborated with us, by letting us collar their cows….. But only now we are able to give them really feedback on what we were doing…. so they also now have a clue of what this collar was all about! If we in future want to have ecological positive results, we should be able to explain what we are doing to the people. We will have to collaborate! This is a great tool…

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During our fieldwork we recorded a lot of beautiful film footage that we did not manage to edit yet: soon we expect to publish some fragments here!

The fieldwork was executed by Esther Polak, Haman Unusa, (guiding and interpretation) Ab Drent (Camera and interpretation) and Ounuso Kari (field guide)

Thanks to CML and CEDC; Ralph Buij, Hans de Iongh and Haman Unusa for the use of Zebu GPS Data.

Setting up – opening day

July 20th, 2008

Holy Fire at Imal: “Media Mirror” of Alexei Shulgun and Aristarkh Chernyshev

Today Ivar and I found time to visit Brussels before the opening of Update02 at 21:00 in Gent.
We visited the exhibition Holy Fire at Imal, were we played around with the “Media Mirror” by Alexei Shulgun and Aristarkh Chernyshev.

Exhibition at Argos: No place - like home: Ursula Biemann “Sahara Chronicle” and Ivanov Pradoliub “Transformation always takes time and energy”

Later we also visited the exhibition “No Place – like Home: Perspectives on migration in Europe” at Argos. Especially the work by Ursula Biemann, “Sahara Chronicle”, turned out to be of interest for me: it also deals with issues of mobility, but focuses mainly on African-European migration. The work consists of a series of short videos: all small portraits of the nodes in the chain of migration, showing it as an everyday practice, a way of life….

All the projects in the exhibition had this approach more ore less, and it made me thinking of something I had wondered about before….

In The Netherlands a book by the former Middle East correspondent Joris Luyendijk was recently published, “Het zijn net mensen” (Almost Human). The main conclusion of this provocative book is that our image of the Middle East is colored by all kinds of filters. One of the most important of these, for the written press as well as the visual media, are television networks. The book tries to reveal the filters themselves, and thus the difficulties of nuanced journalism and the impossibility of a naïve audience seeing trough these mechanisms, let alone getting a real idea of what the world outside the democratic fortress of Europe really looks like. For me it is somewhat frustrating that this argument totally neglects the works of artists like presented in this show. I would like to drag Joris Luyendijk to this exhibition, and show him there is more to representing the world than mainstream journalism alone. Everybody who did read the book, and feels frustrated now about these information filters, is a potential audience for shows like this, but how will we make the two worlds -art and journalism –really meet?

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Heineken also follows trucks…

October 5th, 2007

This news was a bit of a surprise because it resembles our own NomadicMILK so much. According to the Dutch tech lifestyle site Bright (in Dutch only), one of the world’s largest beer brewers, Heineken (#4 in the world, says Wikipedia.org) has stepped into the locative platform Bliin for their newest marketing campaign. Heineken truckers who deliver beer to their customers can be followed live on the map via the Bliin website. People playing this game can win prizes if they predict where the delivery men will go for their next stop.

(picture source:

Bright)

Bliin is a locative platform. It enables users to take geo-annotated pictures with their mobile phone cam and share these experiences with others via the internet (“geotagging”). Bliin also makes it possible to locate people and their preferences and trace user’s movements live on the map (“social proximity”). Registered users install a small Java program on their mobile device. They need a GPS receiver, either integrated into the phone or standalone (e.g. via Bluetooth). Their position is sent to the Bliin server in realtime over an always-on data connection. Users can capture photos with their mobile phone camera (in the future also audio, video and text) and attach description and tags. When users publish the photo, GPS coordinates are automatically attached. It appears as a geographically positioned photo on the Bliin web interface, based on Google Maps.

First of all, I find it interesting that big companies are now stepping into the ‘locative thing’ as well. Is it a way to reach new (young?) customers? Further, I have some more philosophical questions about what happens when routes and experiences of place become visualized in a  play-like manner, as happens in locative game like this. Do our spatial perceptions and social relations change when we learn to understand movement as a track on a bird’s-eye-view map, when we learn through geo-annnotations that every place is already pre-inscribed by other people’s experiences, and when social proximity is mediated by mobile technologies?

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New pics from Nigeria!!

November 8th, 2006

Just a dump of some of the most interesting pics from the last few days in Shonong, a rural area south of Jos where we have stayed for a few days. Sorry for the grungy quality, I have done it the easy way because uploading each image in its original quality takes too long from here.

Hilltop in Bachit where we made a stop to call in to the NWO for the Co-Ops launch. This was the best place for reception.

Esther pointing at some maps hanging at the home of the district chief, whom we visited.

Esther, Sadik Balewa and Ab at Dini & Jaap’s place.

Talking to the Berom chief under a mango tree in the village of Shonong, explaining our intentions.

Ab, ElHadj Masseia and John talking about routes.

Ab, ElHadj Masseia and John talking about routes and drawing a map on the ground.

Fulani woman in Shonong preparing my first nonno (yogurt drink).

Another Fulani woman, after having prepared my second nonno at the market of Makera. Here Fulani milk and Peak come together – see the cans in front!!

Ya’u milking a cow. I followed some Fulani men with their cattle for a day in the field.

Ya’u, Isa and Hassan with fresh milk. Hassan is wearing the GPS device I gave him. He has walked a really nice trail that I hope to post later.

Hassan and Ya’u in front of the hut where they spend the night, near where the cows spend the night too.

Ya’u, Hassan, Isa

More Fulani boys show up, with their own herd

Oldest brother Maikudi has a closer look at the GPS device Hassan is wearing

Who said being a herdsman is hard work…?

Everything I wrote down caught the immediate interest of everybody. The Fulani are very keen on mediation! 🙂

The making of Fulani milk

Maikudi killed a viper in the field. The Berom farmer cut off its head and tail, let it drip empty, skinned it, and dried it. The next day he told me he had a nice chopchop!

Again, everything I photographed or filmed was very interesting to the men.

The Fulani men I went walking with are looking at the pictures I made with Esther’s camera. So I took a picture of that with the cellphone. How meta!

One of the things that struck me most during that day was the close interaction of agricultural life and semi-nomadic pastoralism. As soon as fields were harvested, the Fulani could access the land for their cattle to graze. The cows both strip the land clean of remaining plants and shit on it, so it is fertilized again. Here sorghum is being harvested.

Hassan on his favorite cow. Maikudi behind it.

And after a hot day in the field, I saw a large can of Peak Milk standing near one of the houses of the family of Ahmadu Idris (the father of Maikudi, Ya’u and Hassan)!!

OK, tha-tha-tha-thats all folks!

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Mobile phones for sale in Abuja supermarket

July 29th, 2006

MP sale Abuja

Pic taken November 27 2006 at Abuja supermarket.

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WAMCO distribution centre in Jos

July 21st, 2006

Here is Mr. Dominic busy talking through his handset.

Mr. Dominic in Jos

Business in Nigeria has changed a lot with the advent of the mobile phone. It has become much easier to arrange logistics and deal with customers. It comes at a price however. First, costs are very high for most people. Mr. Dominic spends between 10.00 – 15.000 naira a month on mobile phone use (approx. 60 – 95 euros). One of his colleagues we spoke to – running a retail shop with many different customers – even claimed to pay up to 30.000 naira a month! And another cost is that while the mobile phone gives individual freedom to communicate and engage in business, it also places a heavy burden on one’s shoulders, since family and friends are now constantly calling for help and support, even when far away. So, paradoxically,  mobile telephone technology in the west-African context seems to promote individual possibilities and entrepreneurship and a discourse of modernity, while at the same time being a medium that provides possibilities for stronger reliance on one’s social circle and strengthens tradition.

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WAMCO can factory

July 14th, 2006

What is it about factories that makes them so visually appealing?
Yesterday shortly after our arrival we visited the WAMCO can factory, which is almost as big as the milk factory itself. All the cans that are used for PEAK Milk are made here and will be spread all over Nigeria, being a network in itself.
And we are going to map this out!

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can factory 04

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Hamaz mobile phone shop in Jos

July 1st, 2006

Hamaz mobile phone shop

Strange name indeed for a phone vendor. They sell all kinds of moderately recent phones there, from 4900 naira (= 30 euros) up to 45000 naira. Odd behavior by the guy behind the desk too. He did not seem to want to sell us a phone at all. According to Ab, this is a much wanted item among the Fulani!

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Grounding the Map | Mapping the Ground

January 14th, 2018

Esther and Ivar were delighted to have NomadicMILK in this exhibition. Take a look at the grand manner by which we could hang the prints spacially. But even more importantly: to show the work in the context of Amstelpark. Especially for Esther it was an opportunity of going back to her roots, as the park originates from a Floriade horticultural exhibition in Amsterdam, 1972. In that period she lived just around the corner. The family obtained a year-pass, and she as a ten-year-old visited the horticultural exhibition often. Showing many different approaches of gardens and mini landscapes, The Floriade was an eye-opener to the concept that landscapes were, in fact, cultural concepts. In hindsight, Esther realizes how critical the Floriade was an influence on her as an artist.

The exhibition Grounding the Map, Mapping the Ground explores, through the work of five artists, alternative relations to the earth as a critical reflection on the abstract cartographic methods that characterize the Anthropocene.

DVD available

January 23rd, 2011

We are very happy to announce that the DVD of NomadicMILK project is now available! The DVD contains all the video material and several extras. If you want to order a copy please drop us an email and we send you instructions to pay 7,50 euro’s, postal costs excluded.

Visiting the village

November 7th, 2010

This morning we drove up to the village, to see Mr. Idiris, his family and the other villagers. We were a little nervous, because for Esther it was the first time after a year, for me the first time ever. But since I’d seen all the video material and the clips over and over again, I recognized all of them the first instant I saw them. It was like stepping through the screen into the real world. We were greeted with the greatest hospitality, and all were very glad to see Esther again.

After having greeted Mr Idiris and Amina and a few others, we were invited into Mr. Idiris’s home. There he first showed me the stick I made for him a year ago, and that Esther presented to him on my behalf. He told us that he had been using it ever since, and that is what it looked like – properly used.

More villagers came to greet us, and after we handed out the presents we brought for everybody we finally started the DVD of Nomadic MILK, for a room full of men and Binta, one of the participating women, and some 40 children in front of the entrance.

They all liked seeing the result of the work Esther did on her former visits, and afterwords we had a long discussion on farming, milk production, education and the purpose of working on a art project like this.

We invited the people from the village for the screening in Abuja on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow (or “nexttomorrow”, as people say here), and after the warmest farewells we left again. To be honest, I have never before experienced a warmer welcome than here.

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All the children gather outside..

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….but after a while the grown-ups decide it is easier to let them in.

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And we continue watching in peace!