The Vanagon Residencies

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
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We bought a 1983 Volkswagen Vanagon; a tin top, not a Westfalia. With this project, Mike had visions of engine rebuilds and interior design while, call it a quarter life crisis, I saw it as a potential escape route from the patterns and rhythms we had spent the last 2 years building. I follow a lot of traveling nomads and romanticize about living on the road, camping along the way, and immersing myself in my original inspiration—landscape.

Well, we have been working on the van for almost 2 years now. Mike is realizing his dream of really getting to know the mechanical intricacies of this vehicle, while also enrolling in a lesson on patience and generally keeping his shit together when something else fails. We are finally getting close; it is really starting to come together, and the reality of traveling in this thing is in sight.

Ultimately, I want to treat these road trips as an artist in residency opportunity, allowing my surroundings to inform new ideas and taking advantage of the slower pace to really let things marinate. I figure we can manage a little over a month, at most, in such a confined space together so the duration of these creative adventures will vary depending on location and time off. For now, I am really trying to look past the hot working days and tedious rebuild tasks and appreciate the process. In one of my all-time favorite novels, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, quality is defined as the relationship between human and machine. To really spend some time with something, to navigate the unavoidable ‘gumption traps’, is to create an authentic value. I always related to this in my own studio practice, placing more importance on the concept and process of art-making than the polished product. As much as I wanted to translate the flow of a good studio session into tuning an engine, as Mike will attest, my role in getting this van ready has been less than fifty percent. So, thanks to Mike, my residency program is almost reliably road worthy, or as reliable as you can call a ‘83 VW .

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