On April 8, 2006 1:53 PM John Craig Freeman wrote:

Hello Anne, Just a quick note to say that I enjoyed meeting you and thank you for everything. I enjoyed my visit to RISD. The student work was great and everyone was very welcoming. I took another look at your work when I got home and I like it very much. You may need follow up "The Girls Who Went Away" with "The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades 'AFTER' Roe v. Wade", if things keep going the way they have been. Best

On April 8, 2006 5:02 PM Ann Fessler wrote:

Thanks Craig,

It was great meeting you as well - I have heard so many wonderful things about you AND your work and now I know why - from first hand experience.

I'm so glad that you wrote because I was going to ask Eva for your email address. I was very interested in the process you talked about -- about a person charting their identity formation. I would love to know more about that. Is there a "how to manual" -- a reading you can point me to? Since I work with so many family issues (and students who work with family issues) I would love some instruction in how to go about it.

It was a great pleasure to meet you and see your work. Hope our paths cross again,


On April 9, 2006 10:33 AM Craig wrote:

Hi Ann, I would be happy to pass on some info about charting identity formation. It is part of a method which Greg Ulmer theorized in his book Teletheory, and which we are trying to put into practice with Imaging Place. Ulmer calls it Mystory, a puncept which alludes to history, mystery and feminist notions of herstory. It is structured around medieval allegory, which was designed to attune the individuals sense of self to the teaching of the Church. In this case however the method is designed to attune the individuals sense of self to contemporary pop culture in an electrate age. When you add the spacial dimension, mapping identity onto the physical world we are calling the practice Choragraphy.

Simply put, although you should really read it from Ulmer, the electrate psyche is made up of four spheres of influence, Family, Community, Entertainment and Expertise. The individual would identify the most important person in each quartile. This would constitute the individual's super ego. The next step is to develop a narrative from a very specific formative incident in each of the four quartiles. Pay special attention to details such as mood, atmosphere and objects which appear in the narrative, as they have symbolic value. Once this work is done, as you will see if you or your students do it, there will be elements which occur in several if not all four of the narratives. Known as a hypericon, this image becomes emblematic of the individuals state of mind. The results are often uncanny or something of an epiphany.

I have an example based on my own identity formation where the image of the burned out house emerges as the symbolic hypericon that cuts across the four quartiles. The burned out house represents displacement or the inability to ever return home.

I have posted some quicktime video of Ulmer talking about this and other related ideas.

Exerpts from the Ulmer Tapes.

Greg Ulmer, filmed by John (Craig) Freeman on June 18 and 19, 2001.

Here are some further books by Ulmer:
"Electronic Monuments" (Minnesota, 2005)
"Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy", (Longman, 2003)
"Heuretics: The Logic of Invention" (Johns Hopkins, 1994)
"Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video" (Routledge, 1989)
"Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys" (Johns Hopkins, 1985)

If you end up producing a Mystory, I would love to take a look.

It might be fun to propose a Summer workshop in Mystory and Choragraphy sometime.



FAMILY: Lagean Freeman (that's L-E-G as in George-E-A-N F-R-double E-M-A-N)

It was maybe two years after the day that my dad came to pick us up from our Santa Monica apartment for Easter Sunday. We got in the car and began to drive. He did not stop until El Paso, where we bought mariachi marionettes and a leather wallet with cowboy designs stamped in it.

My older brother Mark and sister Mona and I had been living in our first of many foster homes through what I suspect was an interstate custody battle. The place was somewhere in Texas, near Dallas but in the country. Duncanville I think. The Box's were an elderly couple, who, like most, took us in to supplement their fixed incomes. Charlie Pride was playing on the AM radio.

The old hometown
looks the same
as I step down from the train.
And there to meet me is my mama and papa.
And down the road I look
and there runs Mary
hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It's good to touch
the green, green grass of home.

Mrs. Box had been punishing me for not giving her the bean and lacquer turkey I had made for my mom at school. I did not yet have the chance to give her the cutout silhouette portrait I had made of myself to give her just before I left. That was when the cab pulled up to the curb and she stepped out like some kind of apparition, wearing a white Yves Saint Lauren pantsuit with giant round Ray-Bans.

ENTERTAINMENT: Jim Morrison Twenty-four hours later we were driving down Hollywood Boulevard in mom's gold Corvair looking at the first generation hippies, with our texan crew cuts. This time it was the Doors playing on the radio.

COMMUNITY: Esther The Krowski's had camper and two daughters of their own, Stephanie and Cindy. We would go on long summer camping trips throughout the Southwest and up to Lake Shasta in Northern California. We were hiking the descent into Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde. It was about 115 degrees that day. We were just rounding the trail along the canyon precipice into the ruin site when darkness began to creep in from the sides of my vision. The next thing I remember, I was coming to in a kiva. The ranger had a canteen and he had me keep my head between my knees. Later that day we were in the visitor's center where they kept Esther the eight-hundred year old Anasazi mummy. She was displayed for tourist in a plexiglas box. In the gift shop they were selling postcards with a close-up, head and torso photograph of Esther with copy that read "I used Brand X." Twenty years later I was driving through Colorado near the headwaters of the Colorado River on my way to the University of Colorado Boulder. I stopped to spend the night in a little roadside motel in Grandy. When I went to the office the next morning I notice that the owners had pinned a copy of the Esther postcard on the wall behind the cash register.

EXPERTISE: Martha Rosler When I was doing my undergraduate work at UCSD in the 80s, Martha Rosler wrote an article titled Lookers, Buyers Dealers and Makers, which deconstructed the art market and exposed its capitalistic/consumer ideology. I haven't made an object since.

Semiotics of the Kitchen 1975, 7 minutes. A milestone of feminist art, this short black-and-white video reveals the suburban kitchen to be a war zone where routine food preparation masks the violent frustrations felt by women at being confined by the home. A static camera is focused on a mid-shot of a woman in a kitchen. On a counter before her are a variety of utensils, each of which she picks up, names and proceeds to demonstrate, but with gestures that depart from the normal uses of the tool. In an ironic grammatology of sound and gesture, the woman and her implements enter and transgress the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings.

On April 9, 2006 1:34 PM Ann wrote:


This is so interesting. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain it in more detail. I have two questions. I want to be sure I do this correctly. When you say, "The next step is to develop a narrative FROM A very specific formative incident in each of the four quartiles. Pay special attention to details such as mood, atmosphere and objects which appear in the narrative, as they have symbolic value." Do you mean -- use the formative incident as a jumping off point for creative writing, or actually describe the specific incident as you remember it -- paying close attention to the mood etc. of that time?

The second question has to do with the time period being taken into account -- since each quartile represents a wider sphere of influence and possibly a later period in one's life -- For example -- in the family quartile would you pick an incident from your "formative years "or anytime -- birth to present?

I taught an artists' book class for many years and I used to have people mine their personal history for at least one of the books they created. I had them write their earliest memory (not worry if it was accurate) and once that was done I had them write the next one they could remember, and then the next (they didn't have to be complete stories). It worked best if they did this for several hours at one sitting -- but they eventually filled a journal with their memories and then used that as raw material for at least one project. I encouraged them to begin with an image that stuck with them -- even if they thought the image or incident was insignificant. In the process they remembered things they had not thought about in many years -- it brought a lot of good "material" to the surface and they began to make connections that they had never made before. (re-occuring images/ideas/behavior etc.)

Anway, as you can see I'm very interested in this sort of thing. Thanks so much for teaching me a new way to break down identity formation...


On April 9, 2006 2:13 PM Craig wrote:

Hi again, This is great that that you are interested in this. Do you mind if I chronicle our discussion on the web? I think that the results may be fascinating for someone with as much expertise in memory work as you.

To answer your questions, I think that both approaches could work, but actually describing the specific incident is the better direction for now. You are trying to get at the raw material of memory and avoid interpretation at this point. As far as time period is concerned I would choose based on the power of the experience in the formation of your identity rather than when it took place, although family identity is established so powerfully in the early years that later life experience would have a tough time competing. But, I think that it needs to be up to the individual mystorian.


The burning question for the Merrimack River is; can I make this place home? This implies that I must be prepared to give up my aspirations to some day return, again, to California. Exile.

56 The Traveler

Little, little traveler,
Leaves his house to wander,
Courting disaster.

The traveler takes lodging,
Money stashed in his clothing.
He gets a servant.
All goes well.

The traveler's inn is burning,
The servant is sent scurrying.

The traveler builds his own quarters.
The lost sum he recovers.
But his heart is not glad.

He shoots at a pheasant,
Losing an arrow.
In the end this brings renown.

A bird's nest is burning.
The traveler first laughs, then weeps.
He lost his oxen at the Kingdom of Yi.

I Ching, Kerson and Rosemary Huang, Workman Publishing, New York 1987. p. 182

The Problem with the Merrimack River

As you drive into the city of Lowell Massachusetts, just to the right of where the Freeway ends along an old industrial road named Tanner Street, is one of the most notorious former toxic waste dumps in New England. At its heart, on five acres site lies Silresim, a former tannery turned waste dump, which once housed thousands of fifty-five gallon drums of a cocktail of industrial waste and sludge. Almost twenty years ago the federal government declared it a Superfund site and has been cleaning it up ever since. Although the Superfund effort has been largely effective, the project is expected to take at least another twenty years. The area around the Silresim site has been abused for just as long. There is still several wrecking yards filled with thousands of junked cars that are spilling over and encroaching on the easement of the small creek that flows through the site into the Concord River and eventually into the Merrimack. In the woods around a small forgotten pond, just behind the chain-link fence that defines the edge of Silresim, fifty-five gallon drums are strewn - evidence of recent illegal dumping.