I am providing narrative concept design and copy for this planned community project near Jaipur, India. The brainchild of Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, a cultural conservationist, boutique hotelier and INK Fellow, Dhun combines time-tested traditional construction techniques and sensibilities with modern technological advances. Dhun marries the best that humanity has to offer, across cultures and across time, and considers the needs of the local ecology, the individual, the community, and finally the sustainability and efficiency of its systems, in that order. Dhun is to be a living development that helps people develop their lives.
At Dhun, I research relevant planned communities and histories and help the core team develop and write presentations and talks. I also curated and wrote the copy for the website.
When I first met Manvendra, Dhun was a vision that had already begun building its own body, but was ready to start thinking about its soul. What are we doing and how are we doing it? Why are we doing it that way? How is that important to you? To India? To the world?
How can we describe it? How should we describe it? How can we do it comprehensively? Succinctly? Can we say it in five minutes? In two? In one sentence?
They had secured the land, built 2 lakes, planted 60,000 trees and conducted extensive environmental research. They built a functioning dairy farm. They rescued thousands of intricately ornate architectural relics from demolition and had them stored on site, ready to be incorporated into Dhun’s construction in novel ways. Now it was time to get the word out. And start designing a better city for the future. They wanted to reach out to the people of India and the world over, to create a development model that would breathe new life into the country’s vast cultural heritage and history while drawing a continuous line between its past, present and future.
They needed to meet with government officials and potential investors. They had to negotiate state policy and navigate cultural contexts, inspire investors, attract collaborators and artists and select the right master architect. In short, they were ready to put their vision down on paper and up in lights, to communicate with the world via all relevant means and media.
And Manvendra wanted this all to be done with a poet’s touch. Dhun is to be a living development that helps people develop their lives, so it had better sound like there’s a human element at its core.
He believes in people. In particular, he believes in swaraj, a Hindi word that essentially means self-governance. And his conservation work reflects this on a massive scale. When I met him, he had recently directed a highly successful campaign that led over 3,000 residents of Jaisalmer, home to Sonar Killa, the world’s oldest living fortress, to clear it’s ramparts and streets of years of accumulated waste.
This is but one of Manvendra’s inspiring social engagement enterprises. And Dhun promises to be his largest and most complex. I continue to help him and his team tell their story, and the story of Dhun, charting the progress and evolution of these projects and their connection to each as they point to the promises of Dhun and what is possible when people come together to make their own home on their own land in their own way.
I live in one of Oakland’s longest-running and most unusual creative spaces. Founded in 1979 by Robert A Schultz, Shadetree has historically been a beacon to artists, musicians, sailors and tradesfolk of every kind during its long, circuitous existence. In the fall of 2016, we were faced with eviction and the demolition of our home to make room for a massive, impending development project underway next door. Thanks to the ingenuity, diligence and perseverance of our residents and the support of our community, however, we formed a nonprofit, SHADE, and raised $2.5M dollars in 11 months and purchased our own home while preserving a key component to Oakland’s waterfront cultural heritage. As a core member of the team that led that campaign, I continue to engineer and write the story of our process, past and present, as we secure our future in the tumultuous financial climate of the bay area.
I also write and maintain the copy for our website, where you can see and hear more of our story.
Kulturehaus is a vast network of creators and producers that craft authentic and engaging experiences, like the Symbiosis Gathering, pictured here. In addition to helping them conceptualize and fine-tune a variety of presentations for prospective projects and clients, I did some light restructuring of their website and re-engineered their branding story with all new copy.
Created for the Exploratorium in 2015. Kinetic centerpieces for gala event on the theme of education.
Materials: Wood, seed pod, wire, beads, pages from a book on diamond production.
Cofounded by myself and Jenny Jo Kristan in 2003, Stars & Garters was “grind your bones to bake your bread theater, full of batshit nautical glee.” (SF Weekly). I couldn’t have put it better myself. We were, and remain, a rag-tag collection of high-caliber misfits, authentically cursed with a penchant for unexpected entertainment, catchy tunes and buckets of blood. In our 7 years of existence, we filled up every barroom and bonafide theater that would have us and trolled our wares up and down the pacific northwest to riotous applause with nary a regret.
I gave us our name, designed and produced the fliers and posters, created our website and all branding elements, and was a lead writer, lyricist, director, puppeteer and actor.
Below is a trailer for our final production, The Robber Bridegroom, a Brothers Grimm tale rewritten by Jenny Jo with lyrics and puppets by me.
outdoor photos by Eva Kolenko
stage photos by Marcus Guillard
I maintain a wunderkammer, or oddities collection, primarily comprised of things I have found in my travels. Every year for the past 7 years, San Francisco’s Edwardian Ball hires me to display it in an evolving series which I call The Haul of 1,000 Wanders. Paxton Gate, local purveyors of eclectic relics of the natural world, generously grant me access to their own collection for each year’s iteration.
Most recently, I arranged the entirety of The Haul in accordance with the various components of the Hero’s Journey as set forth by the work of Joseph Campbell, peppered with selections from relevant poems I have written. Specific items are labeled with poetic nods to the hallmarks of what Campbell calls the monomyth—the timeless and culturally ubiquitous template by which nearly all stories find their way.
The Transhumanist’s Lament read & listen
A Horse in the Sky read
Sleeping Beauties watch
The Uncanny Valley Orphanage read
Drawing the Line Between What We Lost & What We Want read & listen