Director SMO

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REPORT FROM: Agent Jon Winet and Agent Katie Grace McGowan

At Camp CARPA, Jon Winet (Cpl) and Katie Grace McGowan (PvT) debuted the alpha version of the “Virtual Drill Sergeant”—a mobile web application designed to introduce a new paradigm for programming the soldier athlete. Unlike the 20th century model of boot camp, the app attempts to challenge each recruit to a personalized program that pushes their physical and emotional comfort zones. Rather than the physical and psychic trauma associated with boot camp, our goal was to design an app that would play with the absurd notion of a humanizing form of military training. A soldier’s training regimen was turned upside down as a demonstration of a demilitarized-military training.

Director Lung inspects the VPL site on Friday morning

Director Lung inspects the VPL site on Friday morning


After each mission, Agent McGowan is rewarded with candy from Virtual Drill Sergeant’s on-site canteen, cleverly concealed beneath the false bottom of a standard CARPA briefcase.

The VDS was affixed to Pvt. McGowan, who demonstrated the app by performing the prompts designed by Winet. PvT McGowan was instructed to read novels and share her reflections, go on walks, eat candy, enjoy tea with a new friend, etc., rather than be subjected to rote discipline in the name of patriotism. The research conducted via this durational performance led us to better understand the constraints of the project and will inform forthcoming versions of the application.


A combat training session is announced in the CARPA campsite

A combat training session is announced in the CARPA campsite

Field training

Field training



Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM: Agent Joshua Short


As a participant at Camp CARPA, Joshua Short spent his time walking out into the desert to an forward outpost to compose letters to friends and loved ones. He saw Camp CARPA as an opportunity to reflect on war, the condition of soldiers and the sentiments found “letters home”. By the end of his tour at Camp CARPA Joshua composed 26 letters made from inks derived from Joshua Tree landscape. He then sent the letters to the respective recipients.


Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM:  Agent Carole Frances Lung, Agent Ellen Rothenberg, and Agent Christine Tarkowski

IMG_2576The occupation of a workshop, meeting place and production site located at a critical juncture in the desert terrain with vantage points for surveillance Camp CARPA and the U.S. Military’s Afghan Village.  The Future Force Geo Speculators mission countered a singular internal focus to include the fabrication of architectural prototypes for viewing (code name: Blind.) The second series of FFGS joint maneuvers were geared towards visibility: the development and production of camouflage uniforms for deployment and the production of geometric object marker locational devices for desert terrain.  A tactical deployment training action (code name: Hit With the Left) ensued in proximity to the Afghan Test Village and the CARPA encampment.  Rarely seen FFGS rituals including secret salutes, and the marking of the bush aprons were performed and displayed. Special agent Desmond Pope-Tarkowski  (code name D.E.S.) was engaged periodically throughout the mission.





Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM: Agent Jemima Wyman


The Drone Evasion Dome was made for camp CARPA using hundreds of circular weavings. These weavings were generated using hula hoop looms and second-hand hunting and camouflage t-shirts. In a meditative process that transformed objects of conflict into objects related to domestic comfort (rag mats). Many of the shirts were either donated or purchased from thrift stores in Los Angeles and Liverpool. Hundreds of weavings were produced in workshops as apart of the 2012 Liverpool Biennial.


For camp CARPA I used the weavings for a collective canopy on a communal free-standing structure that could house group activities. The autonomous structure measured 18x14x7 feet and was made from tubular metal and assembled on site. Campers rested and worked under the structure using it for various activities including but not limited too: encoding back-strap weavings (with Rob Mertens), performances, debriefs, writing, rehearsals, and sleeping.




Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM: Agent Corkey Sinks

As a part of an ongoing project, Feminist Isolation Fantasy, I have been researching media and literary representations regarding self-reliance, survival, and loneliness. I aim to present a variety of representations of isolated women and alternative communities to offset the deluge of negative connotations regarding female hermetism and separatists.


Survey participants emerge from their individual desert dwellings for a morning briefing.

While at CARPA, I conducted an introductory survey to evaluate professional/amateur areas of interest and media intake within the group. I hypothesized that a group of artists willing to retreat into the desert for a week would share similar interests and have insight into alternative histories and narratives. The survey acted as an icebreaker for many meaningful conversations and interesting leads for the Isolation Fantasy project. The data gathered will be compiled into a census of the CARPA community, complete with charts and graphs, images, and a number of short stories and parafictional reflections on my experience.

Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM: Agent Betsy Greer

My project for CARPA was based on quilt and stitch history, how it can look benign, while also hiding various codes and symbols. The idea was to embroider military 10-digit coordinates in the quilt (basic log cabin style squares) in several similar colors. Coordinates that operatives would need to go to would be stitched in thermochromic-dyed thread that would change color when introduced to heat. White cotton thread was dyed with thermochromic pigment and changed from a rust color to an orange when a heated object was put next to it (a foot/hand warmer that one might use in the field to get warm reaches the 86 degrees necessary to change color). The idea here was a to produce a quilt that would look just like a quilt with numbers, but would provide necessary information when individuals with the correct knowledge/equipment showed up. The same quilt would just appear to be a quilt to any passersby (or users), therefore hiding any sensitive information.


What I didn’t count for was the temperature threshold of the dyed thread itself and that the desert would exceed it! Foiled! The project did work at a minimum level, although not as well as I had hoped. The possibilities of thermochromic dyed thread are endless and could even conceivably be used in a military environment.

Author: Director SMO 10 years ago

REPORT FROM: AgentAnna Grey, Agent Ryan Wilson Paulsen

MISSION CODE NAME: Instead of Pleading Up

The air is a site of enforcement, belonging to all but controlled by a few. It is by air that satellites and drones circle and map us, creating a surveillance network and a visual colonization of the globe that becomes more complete everyday. Be it from an amateur drone, oversized-sling-shot, kite or balloon, the leaflet drop holds potential to be a low-fi, low-cost, and mildly weaponized exhibition site for dissent, one that could reclaim the vertical from the grips of those who have held a monopoly for far too long.

IMG_6916Our deployment to Camp CARPA involved the exposition and distribution of research materials into the use and elaboration of leaflet drops throughout military, artistic, and design/marketing histories. We found it important to highlight specific instances of leaflet dissemination by air and ground as case studies that could demonstrate effective influence and intrigue in certain contexts. This was part of an effort to establish a set of best practices for ourselves and other practitioners of cultural, semiotic strategy in the realm of paper-based warfare while still emphasizing the value of improvisation in the field.


Author: Director SMO 10 years ago
Director von Busch receives the confiscated code-breaking kit at CARPA base camp

Director von Busch receives the confiscated code-breaking kit at CARPA base camp

********field report from Agent Jennifer Leary**********

**commence report**

This piece is about fuzzy lines. Camp CARPA proposed a very interesting scenario – one which manifested some ambiguities for us makers. Our political, artistic, and personal identities are full of unresolved compromises and contradictions – it is most convenient to overlook the bottomless complexity.

Do we put our energies into revitalizing the economy with a successful entrepreneurial Etsy endeavor? Stay true to revolutionary roots and join up with the Occupy movement, maybe teaching knitting at a protest camp? Political motivation is not simple. We live in an internetworked, transparent world where we fully witness both sides of everything. We see all kinds of actions being both glorified and demonized.We have the dual Russian / US interpretation of the Syrian conflict – complete inversions of one another, each narrative fully fleshed out. The Russian stance seems insane, yet it continues. Our condition is one of confusion, of lack of clarity as a result of increased transparency.

The Magnetic Nailpolish Kit sent to CARPA contains several layers of contradictory narrative:

  1. The “real” story behind this. I am an artist who works with magnetism. I’ve discovered some intriguing techniques that lend themselves to embedding hidden codes in objects, and have patented some of them. Questioning my own decision to patent, I open up the technology to the CARPA participants, inviting open collaboration. I created a kit inside my official CARPA briefcase. In the filing pockets, an invented Afghani women’s magazine and various documents created the backstory for a foreign intelligence network of beauticians. Magnetic nailpolish caps were sewn under the case’s false bottom, and the case was mailed to CARPA base camp with a set of instructions (click here for the Letter, the Instructions, and a schema of the Cap Design).

    Case interior

    Case interior

  2. The kit also presents a fictional scenario. A sister organization (another unlikely government research agency, comprised of beauticians) is reaching out to CARPA for help in decoding an enemy message confiscated by the TSA. It comes in the form of magnetic nailpolish bottles with a message encrypted in magnetized nailpolish bottle caps. This playful narrative mirrors the theatricality of Camp CARPA, using lots of props to make the story seem quasi-real.

    Case with false bottom exposed

    Case with false bottom exposed

  3. The heart of the piece – the encoded message. This is the “punchline” of the fictional scenario, which you might expect to carry on with the narrative leading up to it. Instead, it takes a sharp departure and simply directs people to the website of an exiled musician who escaped from the Taliban: . A pearl at the center of a multi-layered briefcase. Her songs are genuine, classical, vulnerable, and direct. Her political art lacks all of the irony, defensiveness, sarcasm, layers of theatricality that is symptomatic of mine (ours?). I very much wanted to juxtapose these two irreconcilable stances.

    An elite group of encryption experts attempts to decipher a message from foreign intelligence.

    An elite group of encryption experts attempts to decipher a message from foreign intelligence.

How many of us would turn down an invitation, a real one, to join a top-level group of elite thinkers? If the advanced craft research agency came knocking, would we appreciate that recognition of the power of making?  CARPA toyed with this scenario using theater, going to great lengths to give its participants a chance to imagine it as non-fictional event. It is something that crosses my mind frequently, with my current occupation being Army-funded research on functional textiles.

Agent Jennifer Leary discovers a code element on her thumb.

Agent Jennifer Leary discovers a code element on her thumb.



Author: Director SMO 10 years ago
Officer's Club at Nendi Field, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands, August 1944

Officer’s Club at Nendi Field, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands, August 1944


CARPA strives to honor military history while pushing the boundaries of modern war technology. In the CARPA Officer’s Club, Director Sara Clugage of the Strategic Media Office produced a series of cocktails that highlight the brave warriors of the Free West in their down time, which serves to build camaraderie and boosts spirits. These drinks have fascinating histories of exotic colonial ingredients and invigorating spirit rations. Tonight’s specialty is Navy Grog, using a 1950s recipe from Trader Vic’s.


British soldiers receive their rum ration, Portsmouth 1933

When the British fleet captured Jamaica in 1655, the British Royal Navy changed its spirit ration from French brandy to Jamaican rum. Sailors were given a ‘tot’ of rum daily, an amount that was originally a half pint, or enough to fill a child’s mug (also called a ‘tot’). In 1740, in response to concerns and drunkenness and lax discipline in the Navy, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon amended the naval regulations. The tot was diluted with water in a 4:1 (water:rum) ratio and split into two servings. The watered-down mixture, sometimes with the addition of lime and/or sugar, was called ‘grog.’ Some claim that the term came from a nickname for Vice Admiral Vernon, who wore a grogram cloak, although this is only the most popular of several apocryphal stories.


Ration card

Ration card

Watering down the rum served two purposes. It both lessened the impact of each drink and made the rum spoil faster, which prevented sailors from storing up their rations for a bender. The first serving of grog was called ‘up spirits,’ issued by the ship’s Purser at the end of morning work, six bells.  The second was at the end of the workday. Each ship had a rum barrel, usually dressed up and trimmed with brass. Every sailor had a ration card which he would present to the Purser in exchange for his tot.

In 1824, the same general concerns about drunkenness on board persisted, exacerbated by the increasingly sophisticated machinery the sailors were required to operate on board. The Admiral’s Grog Committee reduced the rum ration to an quarter pint. In 1850, they halved it again to an eighth of a pint. Finally, on July 31, 1970, the grand tradition of rum rations was brought to an end in the Royal Navy. On Black Tot Day, British sailors all over the world performed ceremonial burials for their rum barrels.

Rum barrel being buried at sea, August 1, 1970

Rum barrel being buried at sea, August 1, 1970

There is one rare occasion that can still cause a Purser to open up the rum. The order to ‘Splice the Mainbrace’ originally referred to a difficult repair to a ship’s main rigging, after which the able seamen who had performed the task were issued an extra ration of rum. Eventually, the term came to mean the dispersal of any extra spirit ration. In current times, the authority to issue that order is restricted to the Queen, a member of the Royal Family, or the Admiralty Board. The last time it was performed was July 19, 2012, when the Queen sent this message to the Naval Service:

“Please convey my warm thanks to all who serve in the Royal Navy for their kind message of loyal greetings, sent on the occasion of my official birthday and the 60th anniversary of my accession to the throne. In this Diamond Jubilee year, Prince Philip and I send our good wishes to you all. Splice the Mainbrace.”

–Elizabeth R.

Author: Director SMO 10 years ago


Our national security is vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters, and there are often limitations to what digital technology can accomplish to help remedy these situations or mitigate further damage. At Camp CARPA 2013, CARPA contractees are participating in a variety of challenges designed to generate groundbreaking research and development so that future first responders are equipped to handle hazardous conditions in a variety of disaster response operations.

On October 16, 2013 CARPA agents participated in a simulated disaster recovery. The camp was divided into two teams, one focused on Fiber and one on Technology. These teams were instructed to make the strongest rope possible with limited materials. They were given several cotton knit T-shirts, a few pairs of scissors, and sticks. Both teams cut up the T-shirts into long strips.

Christine Tarkowski and Jemima Wyman mastermind Team Fiber's strategy

Christine Tarkowski and Jemima Wyman mastermind Team Fiber’s strategy

On team Fiber, 9 strips of cotton were plied together counter-clockwise into 3 ropes. Agent Christine Tarkowski then used the core of a water bottle (a common item of detritus that could be found on a flood plain or in earthquake rubble) as a stabilizer, while using a small stick to create leverage, to ply the 3 ropes clockwise. The rope was then doubled.

Marnia Johnston operates Team Technology's technology.

Marnia Johnston operates Team Technology’s technology.

On team Technology, after some dissension among teammates, all strips were twisted together using a power drill with an eye bit attached.


Christine Tarkowski motivates Team Fiber's champions, Jemima Wyman and Corkey Sinks, toward a stunning victory.

Christine Tarkowski motivates Team Fiber’s champions, Jemima Wyman and Corkey Sinks, toward a stunning victory.

After both ropes were finished, they were joined in the middle and set over a dividing line in the sand. Teams Fiber and Technology both chose two champions to test the relative strength of their ropes in a tug-of-war. After an early lead by Team Technology, Team Fiber emerged victorious.

Author: Director SMO 10 years ago