Thursday, June 28, 2007

Local, as concept. Is China local?

The subject of Local is important to Sheep Farm. I've been asked many times; How local is local? Sheep Farm was constructed of local lumber, the sheep were born locally and the site of the sculpture park had been farmed continuously from colonial times until its conversion to the park in 1998. Does local then mean, anything from outside a 25 mile radius is not to be concidered local or credible?.

My view is really quite different. Local for me is all that I have a more or less direct connection to. I prefer to buy my food locally. I live in the rural northeast and this is entirely possible for more than half the year. I know the actual farmers and their practices. If the farm is organic there should be no worry of chemicals and contaminants in the fertilizers and livestock feeds. In the remaining monthes I rely on the collective research and wisdom of food co-ops and healthfood stores. Fortunately, I live near a bio-dynamic farm with a year-round farmstore (search: hawthorne valley association). In the end, I go a bit on faith and intuition. I think being skeptical is healthy, but retreating, walling-off and gating is not. Many of the problems occuring in foods and other products that are blamed on outsourcing and the global economy may have roots in corporate profit mandates.

China is in the news every day, being charged with producing contaminated foods and other dangerous products. The accumulated effect of these stories creates the impression Chinese companies are inept and unscrupulous. This may be true in some cases, but it should be asked, too; how much control do U.S. and other foreign corporations have over the specifications and materials used by their Chinese contractors. I've read that some of the suspect materials used by the contractors didn't come from China and the labelling was confusing and misleading.

In the 1960's, when Japan made its big move into foreign consumer markets, they went head-to-head with manufacturers from those market countries. Honda, Toyota, Kawasaki, Sony and Nikon, all produced high quality products. China has currently done the same in construction equipment.

Maybe local means having an unmediated connection with the source. One where the pride of the product is fundamental to the relationship of the producer and consumer. The closer your connection to the source, the better your chances of developing that relationship, but I feel real communities have no physical borders.

How do you view local?

Dolly, the sheep clone.

The story of Dolly, the first sheep successfully cloned from adult DNA, is well known. In 1996 researchers at the Roslin Institute, in Edinburgh, Scotland created Dolly using cells from a six-year old ewe. Their work was published in 1997, activating a debate in the science community about the possible dangers of cloning.
One of the ongoing concerns is that Dolly displayed the symptoms of old age early in life and was euthenized at mid-life. Most sheep live to 11 or 12, and she was cloned from 6 year old genes. Was she "born" into mid-life?

The fact that arguments about this exist among knowledgeable scientists points out how little is understood about the effects of cloning. Those with commercial interests will listen to the arguments that best suit their needs.

We should want to know what effects there are to our various food products.
What are the dangers in having human transplant organs grown in pigs?
Will sheep modified with human DNA produce milk for safe treatment of human deseases? What will the effects be to the pure-bred pet market?
How will this effect horse racing? Will the tracks be populated with aging Barbero's? When Barbero was tragically injured, he was still worth a great deal of money as a stud. He didn't recover and was euthenized. The question of profit would look for viable answers.

What are your concerns about cloning?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Military jets impact sheep population

In a report to the U.S. Department of Air Force, military training overflights in Alaska have proven to have serious impact on that region's sheep. The report lists ruptured ear-drums, deafness, physiological responses, interference with reproduction and reduced ability to obtain food, water and cover among the changes caused by these overflights. Longer term effects are declines in population, habitat abandonment and, potentially, species extinction.
This study concerns the two species known as Dall's Sheep and Stone's Sheep. They are found only in Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories and British Columbia, Canada. When driven from their natural habitat by noise from fighter jets, they may not survive.
Its plaudible for the Air Force to be concerned about the effects on the sheep, but are there other uses for this research? Can this aid in the developement of psychological weaponry? Do we have adequate information regarding this? Will we be treated as sheep? What do you know and how do you feel about it?

To view the full report on line, search the key words sheep-alaska-military.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Remote Control Rats

Now that Sheep Farm is physically open, I am working on a series of posts regarding bio-tech issues. This is the first.

Recently a live rat has been turned into a robot, controlled by virtual touch. To accomplish this, researchers from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center and Drexel University have combined stimulation of the rat's reward area and touch areas of its brain through implanted electronic sensors. By sending information from a remote control the rat can be guided through a maze. Basically the rat's brain receives commands to turn right or left and the reward center is stimulated as it complies. It is denied the reward stimulation if it makes the wrong choice. The rat soon learns to do what is asked of it.

It is worth reading the article, Virtual Touch Controls Rats, by Kimberly Patch, published on-line by Technology Research News.

This is pretty new research and new ethical guidelines may need be developed. It is of concern that the reward center is controlled by artrificial stimulation. Can this overcome the animal's real need for food or water, while it performs its duties as a robot?

We should be asking questions now. A couple that come to my mind are: Can this technology be used to guide humans? If so, are there military applications?

How do you feel about this?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Copy of statement for sculpture park

Sheep Farm or There Is Much Sheep Don't Know

By Dan Devine

Sheep Farm is a living, self-sustaining installation exploring the issues of local production,biotechnology, military applications of research and questionable commercial practices. It begins here with five Rambouillet sheep and shed enclosed in an electric fence with all the accoutrement's and activities of a working farm. It will continue to develop and function as a living artwork and a studio in which new ideas will develop.

Sheep Farm addresses the meaning of local. Most of the materials to construct the piece come from a 25 mile radius, including the sheep which were born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. While this aspect is to help create a starting point for thinking locally, local as a concept provides a form for understanding and managing our community and environment. When was this land last farmed? What does it mean that we now mow the the fields? When will the sheep be shorn ? Will lambs be born? Who brings them water and hay and provides health care? This piece invites simple questioning which opens up the area for big thinking. When we have direct access to the source of products, we gain the ability to direct outcomes. In global economies this ability is often overpowered by unknown sources with remote agendas. There is much that sheep don't know.

Most sculptures are frozen moments that lend themselves well to hard publication and web-site format. This is a piece in motion and is best suited to the blog format which continues to evolve and invites the participation of many. Please join the living document at: dandevineart.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Building shed, May 2007.

Setting fence-posts, April 2007.

Waiting to set fence-posts, January 2007.

Sheep in pasture at The Fields Sculpture Park on June 5th, 2007.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sheep Farm by Dan Devine at Art/Omi 2007

Sheep Farm is a living, self-sustaining installation. It will officially open on June 16th 2007 at The Fields Sculpture Park at the Art/Omi International Arts Center, in Ghent, Columbia County, New York. The reception is 4-6. Please come if you can.

Sheep Farm is a continually evolving artwork. It will be both a living artwork and a studio in which new ideas will develop. It will be a stage for for new projects. As first presented there will be five Rambouillet sheep.

Sheep Farm will address the meaning of Local. Most of the materials to contruct the fencing and building come from a 25 mile radius. While this aspect is to help create a starting point for thinking locally, Local as a concept provides a form for understanding and managing our community and environment. When we have direct connections to our food, consumer products, environmental and govermental agencies, we have the ability to direct their outcome. In global economies this ability is often overpowered by unknown sources with remote agendas. In most cases our ability to evaluate products is limited to bottom-line price.

Because Sheep Farm is live I've chosen to address its many issues in blog format. Most sculptures are frozen moments in an artists development and lend themselves well to hard publications and website format. I intend to continually bring new aspects of this sculpture in upcoming blogs that will address issues of biotechnology, military applications of research and questionable commercial practices. There is so much that sheep don't know.

The blog format allows for a nearly living dialog and I look forward to your blogs and the life it
will produce.

I thank The Fields Sculpture Park, Hofstra University for research funds, Skyview Fencing and Ghent Wood Products in Ghent, NY for helping to make this artwork possible.

There is further information about other of my artworks at