With just 15 days left to go, I’m both nervous and excited about the upcoming American Arts Incubator experience in Thailand. Life is getting busy here.

After some back-and-forth brainstorming with Bangkok Art and Culture Center American Arts, we came up with the name for this workshop intensive: “American Arts Incubator on River Health: Using data sculpture to explore social and environmental issues in Bangkok.”

We will be focusing on collecting physical water samples and using water sensors to data-map the Chao Phraya River, within a dialogue around DIY science. I’m looking forward to facilitating conversation about how artists, activists and others can use citizen science to help inform themselves, tell stories, and perhaps, activate some physical change. The community projects will all involve building some sort of physical installation or sculpture around river water quality.

River Sampling

River Sampling May 2, 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Scott Kildall

I’ve been furiously ordering supplies, testing electronics and filling in spreadsheets. My aim is to plan as much as possible for the fundamentals, but still be open to improvisation. I’m sure things will shift once I’m in Bangkok and meet the workshop participants.

I’m most excited about what I cannot anticipate. What will the workshop participants really be like? What insights will they bring to the workshop? My role will be to facilitate rather than to lead, to assist rather than teach, and to be curious rather than anxious.

My personal intentions at this point are to prepare myself for the inevitable disorientation that comes with visiting a unfamiliar place. I will arrive in a country that I know little about (I’ve only been to Thailand for a short amount of time, a number of years ago). I will need to be organized and agile.

For the workshop, my primary goal is to activate the potential for physical data-visualizations around water. I will guide people away from the screen and into the real world. Although the workshop title includes “data sculpture,” the stories about river health might include sound or performance, as long as the participants are being creatively involved in a way that is relevant to the topic.

Let this intention guide my way: I will be organized, packed, and ready.

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