In May, Mare Liberum was invited to lead a workshop for faculty and students at Haverford College, by Laura McGrane of the Hurford Center for the Humanities and Anthropology Professor Josh Moses. We were delighted to work with Josh over the course of the semester to create materials to accompany his course Do It Yourself (DIY) Movements and American Environmentalisms.  We met with students several times via Skype and planned the construction of a small punt, a common boat for river and canal exploration (and a nod to the punting teams of English universities).

Arriving at Haverford on May Day, we first met with faculty in the Center for the Humanities Critical Making Seminar and discussed our practice. The conversation flowed between ideas of open source, sharing and collaboration, into a suggestion that what Mare Liberum did as as a collective is akin to writing software. Viewed through this lens, the boats we design are esentially programs for groups and individuals to interface with the water. Our craft are easily modifiable by users, as on a Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) model, and provide access to a phenomenological account of the environment.  Going into the seminar we shared a few readings to set the tone, three of which were selected by Dylan Gauthier for the role they have had in shaping our practice, and one which was added by Josh Moses which seemed a parallel to the work we were doing – an account of Poppa Neutrion by Alec Wilkinson.  Texts are included for reference as PDFs below (until we are asked to remove them, at least ;):

  1. Wilkinson – The Crossing: Poppa Neutrino Faces the Pacific on a Homemade Raft
  2. Michel Foucault – Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias
  3. Dylan Gauthier – Respectable Craft: On Trash Boatbuilding and Alchemical Pedagogies
  4. Mick Taussig – The Beach A Fantasy

The next morning, we began building in Haverford’s art foundy with students from Josh’s class and a number of faculty.  We were graciously hosted by the artist Markus Baenziger, who also teaches in Haverford’s art department.  We started at 8 am and worked for 5 hours, taking turns with students to cut plywood to scale, seal with shellac, and eventually assemble the ~ 17′ long punt, based on our new broadside.

The punt takes shape (photo by Chloe Wang).

The punt takes shape (photo by Chloe Wang).

By 1:30 pm we had a punt ready to take out on the Schuylkill River.

Haverford students with punt (photo credit: Swan Vacula)

Haverford students with punt (photo by Swan Vacula)

Strapping the punt to the roof of Ben’s 19– Mercedes, we caravaned off to Bartram’s Garden.  There, we had arranged to meet up with our friend Danielle Redden, who had recently taken on the role as the Garden’s first River Program Manager and was working to build a public boating and water education program for neighbors and the general public.

The boat was paganed “Onward Swift Sedona” after Sedona, a Haverford student who had to miss the workshop to run in a big race. The launch was a success, nobody fell overboard, Haverford student Chloe Wang took a long exposure pinhole photo, and everyone got to go out on the water for a quick paddle, including a few neighbors who happened to be hanging out on the docks and decided it’d be more fun to be on a punt.

The punt will remain at Haverford, in the care of the new art co-op started by students in Josh’s class.

Thanks so much to Laura, Josh, Markus, Caleb, Swan, Chloe, and everyone at Haverford. Great to build an improbable craft with you all!

Haverford student Caleb Eckert sent along photos of the day, below.