In early April, I received an invitation from my friend River for a weekend unplugged. A few weeks later we got a ride with two friends out to her farm in Lake County, California.
Upon arrival, I learned more about how River had planned the event as art—Social Practice Art. Social Practice art is participatory artwork that uses social engagement as the primary medium. According to wikipedia: “Artists working in Social Practice Art co-create their work with a specific audience or propose critical interventions within existing social systems that inspire debate or catalyze social exchange.”
During the weekend, River had us interrupt our normal lives for a retreat without our phones, computers or internet. She also had us bring something to share with the group, a diverse group of people who didn’t all know each other. I brought my camera to take photos (to eventually share) and brainstormed questions to lead a discussion on death—should that be something participants were interested in.
The time was too short, but we had a wonderful time meeting new people, learning from each other, and sleeping out under the trees. After we all arrived, we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves and dropped our phones into a box to be duct taped shut.
Although I didn’t lead a formal discussion, a bunch of us talked about how we would like to die, what interventions we would want, and where we would want our body to finally rest. I also learned about how weed has taken over the local economy and how to make spring rolls.
By far, my favorite part was sleeping on a mattress on a platform outside under the trees. I love sleeping outside, but don’t love sleeping on the hard ground. It is rare I get to sleep out in the open air so comfortably!
River, thank you for a beautiful weekend and sharing your farm with us. It is such a special place and I hope to make it out there again sometime this year.1