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  noun 1. The act of immersing oneself in other cultures without crossing national borders. 2. Local cultural diversification. 3. Traveling on a budget. 4. A website that will allow you to accomplish all the above from the very seat in which you sit.


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Bali: Island of the Spirits, captured by John Stanmeyer

The Holga is considered a simple camera. "Low technology." Photojournalist John Stanmeyer has been defending his choice of equipment for use in Bali.

We Border Hoppers are not surprised it worked out for him. Considering his purpose.

A penchant for the spiritual.

And a respect for deeply rooted traditions and beliefs.

Curiosity. Questions.

Satisfaction with open-ended answers.

Well, why don't you read it in his own words. Below, Stanmeyer's artist statement:
We lived in the middle of a ricefield in Canggu on the island of Bali, raising our children amongst the rich and layered culture of the Balinese. We were welcomed deep into the community of the banjar, rarely ever treated as an outsider. All around us one could feel the essences of the spirits which communed and were worshiped by the Balinese. Whether through the daily offerings of bantens to the spirits residing in the ricefield, the placing of incense in the garden to unseen entities, the elaborate ceremony we needed to perform in order to ask the spirits of the land whether we could build our home, everywhere the mystical and spiritual life — seen and unseen — existed, enveloping all of us on an almost-daily basis.

Having spent many years photographing throughout Indonesia during the tumultuous changes that took place between 1997 and 2000, as a Bali resident between 2003-2008, I wanted to offer a gift to the people there and to all of Indonesia, to document in my own way the daily lives of a deeply spiritual island.

I choose to use one of the simplest camera available, a Holga, which retails in most places for about US$25. Do not underestimate the power of this plastic camera. I decided upon this camera (five different ones) because it allowed me to see Bali as I was feeling it — with one foot in the present while keeping another foot firmly rooted in the past. I didn't want to produce yet another lovely color book on the Island of the Gods. I wanted this documentation to be different, a testimonial to one of the most unique cultures on earth, but also one which is growing deeply under stress by development and outside influences.

How much longer will the Balinese be able to sustain their distinctive culture, found nowhere else on earth? Will the traditions be carried on for generations to come? Who, in 100 years from now, will be able to read the ancient sanskrit texts? Will the Balinese language be one of the vanishing tongues, following in the tragic demise of other languages on our planet where every two weeks we lose a last speaker?

This book, a chronicle of my five years living among the spirits, is a gift to the Balinese, pleading to them to sustain their traditions against the surge of change.

Your spiritual life is so magnificently rooting in centuries-old traditions. May it forever be rooted in the past, with a head turned to the future.

The works are now on display in NYC:

VII Gallery
28 Jay Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
United States

You can view more photos and read a Q&A with the photographer on nytimes.com >>

For more information, check out the Facebook page for Island of the Spirits (book) >>

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BH.net: new writing from our "artistes," chiefly Laos, Peru, London & Hawaii

We like to consider our contributors at BH as true artistes. Now this word is thrown around quite a bit, and perhaps its meaning is misunderstood these days. To clarify:
artiste 1823, from Fr. artiste, a reborrowing of artist after the sense of artist had become limited toward the visual arts and especially painting.
Artistes harken back to the original definition of the term, artist, which is exactly the definition we use at BH in consideration of our "Artists" section. It is traced to the 16th century.
artist 1580s, "one who cultivates one of the fine arts," from M.Fr. artiste (14c.), from It. artista, from M.L. artista, from L. ars (see art (n.)). Originally used especially of the arts presided over by the Muses (history, poetry, comedy, tragedy, music, dancing, astronomy), but also used 17c. for "one skilled in any art or craft" (including professors, surgeons, craftsmen, cooks). Now especially of "one who practices the arts of design or visual arts" (a sense first attested 1747).
We won't include the entire definition for the term, "art," but we will summarize its essential origins: from the Latin for "skill" or "craft," an "art" was also related with "scholarship and learning" in the Middle English. It was especially associated with the seven sciences (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy - also known as the liberal arts). Today some of these sciences may read as boring subjects forced upon children and adolescents in school. But for the Ancients, the seven sciences essentially represented the sum total of human knowledge and understanding of the universe.

And so, we notice, our contributors practice their craft of Grammar and Rhetoric, writing from their experiences, and from their souls. No doubt the same Muses visit them, feeding their craft, and helping them to take their wandering observations and shape them into a form they can share with the rest of us. Though unlike the Ancients, our contributors have a few extra tools in their bags: cameras, computers, and of course, this strange and wonderful Internet.

Aguas Calientes, Peru
1. Aguas Calientes: In a Postcard by new artist, Megan Eileen McDonough:
Staring out the left side of the train, I slipped into a dreamlike state imaging what adventures Aguas Calientes would bring. The train trudged along the rails, winding up and down the vast mountain range. We passed locals working the fields and I found myself craving a glimpse into their lives. In our speed they disappeared into the distance and out of my mind.
Read "Aguas Calientes: In a Postcard" >>

Ancon, Peru
2. Ancon: Giving in to the Freedom of Feeling Powerless, part two McDonough's Peruvian trio:
They invited me to their Beach & Yacht Club, and upon entering the doors, I simultaneously stepped into a world of extravagance I rarely visit. There was a large pool, a stocked bar and restaurant, and white lawn chairs for tanning. Looking around, beauty covered every inch of space.
Read "Ancon: Giving in to the Freedom of Feeling Powerless" >>

Cuzco, Peru
3. Cuzco: Finding Hope in Unlikely Places, McDonough's final installment:
The taxi whipped through streets, up hills, and through markets with no traffic lights or stop signs. I barely blinked for fear I would miss some important detail of my new surroundings. I couldn't help but recall how casually I had decided to travel through South America. Frustrated with my parents for wanting me to stay in the States, I now better understood their concern as I looked out the taxi window into a world of poverty I would never know.
Read "Cuzco: Finding Hope in Unlikely Places" >>

Pakse & What Phu, Champasak, Laos
4. Laughter and the Mekong by new artist, Brent Katte:
Linguists estimate the number of bona fide world languages somewhere around 6,000, give or take a couple hundred, with the number of dialects well into hundreds of thousands. But laughter, everyone agrees, is universal, sounding more or less the same despite continent or ethnicity. Before babies learn to speak, they can laugh, usually starting around four months, even those born deaf or blind. Laughter, more than anything, appears to be a universal mechanism, a language that everyone shares.
Read "Laughter and the Mekong" >>

London, England
5. London Spots by new artist, James C. Kao:
As I consider moving back to New York, I find myself feeling slightly nervous to be leaving a place that so embraces creative freedom and boasts an abundance of diversity. But as I see it, London is more creative "ideality" and New York more creative "reality." Nonetheless, London is a place with spots of special spaces, and I shall list mine...
Read "London Spots" >>

Oahu, Hawaii, United States
6. Oahu: Sharing an Aloha by Kristen Kosnac:
The clouds hang low as we ascend into the mountains of Honolulu, which seems to be touching the heavens. The surrounding terrain is a lush shade of green like nothing I have ever seen in any part of the mainland; the celestial beauty begins to lull me into a trancelike state as we drive.
Read "Oahu: Sharing an Aloha" >>

London, England
7. Review: SHOWstudio's Fashion Revolution by T.S.J.:
I wondered: do we experience fashion, or specifically high fashion, in the same sense as we do graphic design, advertising, industrial design, music, dance, theatre, or even sometimes contemporary art? High fashion is restricted to the select few of the industry—the important and successful designers, photographers, stylists, editors, etc. The website of SHOWstudio and the exhibition allow those who are not in the inner circles of the industry to look into the process of fashion, especially photoshoots, and interact with models.
Read "Review: SHOWstudio's Fashion Revolution" >>

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BH.net: Durban, South Africa from the journal of Alex Park

A typical travel journalist will get into a cab, board a plane, (potentially a boat, too), arrive at a destination, scribble notes, ask some questions, and then try to condense said notes, answers, memories, impressions and experiences into one solid chunk of writing, somewhere between 500-5,000 words.

Here at Border Hopping we allow for a more casual approach to the locations our contributors write about. In addition to the genre of "journalesque" - as informal as it gets - we often publish a series of related but distinct pieces of writing on the same location, often originating from the authors' blogs.

Such is the work of Alex Park, whose stay in Durban inspired many words, a few of which we are privileged to house.

1. The future as I see it (the political commentary):
I never wanted to do humanitarian work. Plenty of people parachute to Africa from another part of the world, arrange for someone else's food to be airlifted into this war zone or the next, and leave. They'll never admit it to your face, but they like the thrill of the work more than the place that they do it in. The worse the conditions, the luckier they think they are. The more ridiculous and more tragic the premise for whatever crisis they're up against, the more reason to go.
Read "The future as I see it" >>

2. Pointillism (the environmental, historical and architectural musings):
The architecture was probably one good reason I had been told to stay away. It could have been Kinshasa, or Luanda or any other port city in some far more derelict and bankrupt country than the one I was walking through, and for moments at a time I imagined it was. There were old, towering colonial buildings, all falling apart as they decayed from the inside out.
Read "Pointillism" >>

3. An angry mob (the personal story):
Through a crack in the door I could see the group, all dressed in their Sunday best, pacing the room and bobbing their heads to their own private rhythms. The only word I could make out was the loudest of them all, "Jesus," repeated again and again with the emphasis on the first syllable between words of fervent praise. Around the corner, trying for a better glimpse inside, I imagined a minister holding a bible and standing on a table in the middle as the others circled him.
Read "An angry mob" >>

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NYC: interrupting this Taxi TV broadcast, courtesy of Amir Baradaran

We've posted about artist Amir Baradaran and his performance art, as well as paintings. Culture, time and space are critical to his work, and to ours.

And so we are excited to inform readers of his latest project: Transient, which shall infiltrate NYC taxi cab television starting today and through September 15th.

Transient is intended as an ephemeral gift, foregrounding the possibilities of liminal states. Baradaran seeks to capture, challenge and transform the everyday modalities of NYC cab rides by interrupting Taxi TV's regular programming flow in 6,300 taxicabs, to be viewed by approximately 1.5 million passengers. Using the technology against itself, Transient solicits focus in a space marked by dispersed attention and invisible human boundaries. Comprised of shots of a driver's steady gaze in the rear-view mirror or through the grainy, often-stained plexiglass partitions, the incisive videos take the experiential disjuncture between the driver and passenger as their point of departure. "It was not my intention to make a humanist statement," says Baradaran, "but rather to create a space of introspection."

The yellow taxicab presents a striking paradox: the car itself is one of the most visible icons of NYC, while its drivers, many of whom are minorities, seem invisible. Recent media reports have inundated commuters with articles portraying taxicab drivers as an 'other' class, erroneously intimating that some three quarters of all drivers actively prey on their fare. Even though these reports have since been reassessed and somewhat retracted, they have created a climate of distrust. Baradaran's reactive installations emerged from this context.

About Amir Baradaran: New York-based visual artist Amir Baradaran (b. 1977) was born in Tehran and raised in Montreal. Baradaran’s artistic practice is marked by a recurring exploration of the cross-section of race and gender. Baradaran’s previous work, The Other Artist Is Present (2010), a guerrilla performance in four acts at The Museum of Modern Art, honored, questioned and ultimately departed from its inspiration, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist Is Present (2010).

For more information, head to Amir Baradaran's website >>

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