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Minus One

January 8, 2010

When I woke up yesterday morning in Harlem it was a balmy 27˚F. On Medicine Lake it was -1˚F. I left for Minneapolis Wednesday evening. My plane landed at midnight just before another storm blew in.

The indoor workspace provided us is not heated, two nights ago while talking to my team, I came to realize how not heated it is. These are the times that make for precious memories.

On Saturday, our primary “on-ice” installation day, the low temperature is predicted to be -12˚F. I don’t know what the “real feel” temp is calculated for. At those temperatures, nothing works. The batteries drain nearly instantly rendering power tools useless. Also rendered useless: exposed skin and overtaxed brains. Everything fails to cooperate when it’s that cold including humanity’s will to make art.

Last week’s fear that the ice might not be thick enough are dissipating quickly, replaced by visions of piles of poles and wooden platforms at the side of a frozen lake, wind blowing, not a useful tool in sight. It might be too cold to work. So we are going back to the drawing board, redesigning the modules of our deck to to be larger and go together faster. The deck and (the tipi on top) must be built on skis so it can be dragged out to its site on the ice with chains and ropes by a truck. The weather and the holidays have conspired to thwart our best laid plans to scavenge the wood and other materials for the deck as we had planned. All this means we need more material—and more money.

So I did what I could in Harlem before I left: packing everything wool, down, fleece, and gore-tex that I own; reading and re-reading the tipi book; and rehearsing in my head the tipi assembly dance. It is good to have my gore-tex wool-lined “boots on the ground,” and to meet face to face with the Black Bania team this afternoon after hours of phone time and millions of emails. I have a grocery list of building supplies to buy and a stove to pick up; a 50-foot diameter semicircle of tipi skin to cut and grommet. I’ve packed twenty five yards each of hook and loop velcro in my suitcase just in case it comes in handy.

…And I am writing you and hoping some of you will send a few bucks towards the project. Times are tough, don’t feel bad if you can’t help. You help me everyday by being my friends and family. But if you want to contribute, do it clicking the “donate” button on the website.

Admunsen brought 52 high quality sled dogs with him on his trip to the Southpole. He returned with eleven. He killed the dogs along the way using them as food for the humans and the remaining dogs and leaving caches of dog meat for the return journey. He was a man with a plan. He was the first man there and he lived to tell of it.

Did you hear the one about the guy

December 29, 2009

Did you hear about the guy who went to the psychiatrist and asked for help because one morning he wakes up and thinks he’s a tipi and the next morning he thinks he’s a wigwam.  The doc said “I know your problem, you’re too tense!”

We Have Tipi Poles!

December 22, 2009

The tipi poles arrived on Monday.

Two young men drove them on a hitch all the way from Wisconsin to Minneapolis. These twenty four 30-foot poles were generously lent to us by Noisy Creek Tipi Poles. Twenty four long, straight, skinny, trees that will make the bones of our tipi.

(Pictures taken by Shawn McLearen.)

Thirty feet of the real thing.

Our Plans Compared with the World’s Largest Tipi

December 14, 2009

Some of you are having trouble visualizing our  tipi. Here are some stats for the world’s largest tipi from the Red Hawk Trading site. Our tipi is only 22′ in diameter. Planned stats for the Black Bania follow. We won’t need a crane to erect ours.

The world’s largest teepee was commissioned for use during the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics.


  • Height: 46′ 2″  up to middle
    • 55′ up the front
    • 52′ 7in up the back.
  • Circumference around the base is 165′.
  • The floor area is  2166 square feet.
  • The cover weighs over 700 Pounds
  • 675 sq yards of canvas were used.
  • Contains 1340′ of seams
  • 32 interior poles
  • 2 59ft long smoke flaps poles with 55 lacing pins
The teepee is done in authentic style which includes tilt back which makes the base oval.


  • Height: 21′  up to middle
    • 24′ up the sides
  • Circumference around the base is 69′.
  • The floor area is  380 square feet.
  • The cover weighs only 62.5 Pounds
  • 1500 square feet of clear tarp will be used.
  • Contains no seams
  • 20 interior poles
  • Velcro closure with no lacing pins

Setting Up a Tipi (video)

December 1, 2009

Just imagine doing this on a frozen lake with the wind blowing.

Welcome to Black Bania

November 11, 2009

Black Bania is a smoking hot room on a frozen lake. A tipi will house a sauna room available for use by the public on a bring-your own-towel basis and provide additional space for restorative sauna related activity. We will explore the rich culture of communal sweat bathing referencing Finnish saunas, Russian banias, Roman baths and Turkish hammams, Korean zzimzilbangs, and Native American sweat lodges by providing a space for a series of intimate performances, intellectual exchange, and wholesome physical cleansing.

The Black Bania will be part of Art Shanty Projects, located on Medicine Lake, just west of Minneapolis, MN. Public hours are 10 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays between January 16 and February 7, 2010.

Black Bania opens to the public on Jan 16 with our first in a series of Riot Act Readings. Click the Riot Act Readings tab for more details.