GoViral 2018 – Almaty, Kazakhstan

GoViral was a whirlwind: a three-day festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan (June 15-18, 2018) focused on innovation of all stripes.


listening is my jam

This is only the second year that the festival has been up and running, and I was floored by what the US Consulate General in Kazakhstan has been able to pull off. It was an honor to be a part of that magic––not just the official events, but all the side conversations that happened as a result of lots of people with ideas and passions gathering together.


door to the US Maker Space in Almaty

I gave a talk in the opening ceremony about poetry, and the unraveling of my 4-year journey so far (video here).


ye olde opening slide, complete with cardboard aesthetic (am I predictable? yes)

In preparing for the keynote I realized that I don’t know if I’m still a poet. Poetry is the place I come from, the soil I grew up in, but not necessarily where I’m going.

As I do this project for longer––going on 4 years this September (if you count the beginning as the NYC People’s Climate March), or 5 years come August (if you count the beginning as my bicycle journey down the Mississippi River)––I find myself transitioning out of poems and into multimedia forms that let each storyteller speak in their own voice, rather than having my words reinterpret theirs.

Audio / image / creative nonfiction: the 1,001 Stories project continues to take on a shape and form of its own.

Poetry will always be a homeland I return to. For now: here’s to movement & play.


fun fact: I did a whole lot of dancing backstage to calm nerves before delivering this talk

After the opening ceremony I presented on three panels alongside some superstar activists and writers from Central Asia & beyond.

Art communities and creative industries changing modern cities: with Aida Sulova, Asya Tulesova, and Anisa Sabiri. Moderated by Galina Koretskaya.

Seeing other people’s worlds: travel writing that goes deeper than the surface: with Tynan and Jeff Miller. Moderated by Anuar Nurpeisov.

How to use storytelling for social change: with Denis Bihus, Mary Mitchell, and Lara Stolman. Moderated by Madi Mambetov.

(All presentations were dubbed in Russian & will be uploaded in English in the coming weeks).


Big thanks to my Harvard classmate Didar KM for inviting me to be a part of the festival.

(Fun fact: we took Deborah Foster‘s class “The Art of Storytelling” together freshman year, the course that made me decide to study Folklore & Mythology in the first place. Best decision I ever made).

If you haven’t already, go check out Didar’s comics: Abai Cartoons. Seriously awesome stuff.

Other things that were wonderful / that I don’t want to forget:

A) Dancing backstage with the best volunteer anyone could dream of working with (Yekaterina Kolessina!)


caught in a rare moment of stillness (most of the time we were dancing / discussing politics)

B) climbing the big mountain that overlooks Almaty with Anuar Nurpeisov and Ben Yu. We saw a sideways rainbow, and miraculously did not fall.

Hi, my name is Devi and I was raised by mountaineers. Sometimes I like to climb 🌈

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and C) making a whole lot of audio recordings on water and climate change in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: 29, to be exact.


For ten days before the festival I journeyed to Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan alongside translator Qanat and photographer Sardar. We listened to stories about everything from cotton farming in the USSR to the Aral Sea to the legend of Issykul Lake’s formation and what it’s like being a woman who runs a bottled water business (and how a lack of infrastructure maintenance has necessitated bottled water consumption in the first place).

One of these stories, told by a storyteller who grew up in Afghanistan, ripped me open & reaffirmed my conviction that we need to create more spaces to talk about water. Water is life, and a lack of access to clean water can be deadly. More on that in the future.

The sometimes frustrating, sometimes amazing, always a learning experience magic of translation A.K.A. linguistic triangulation. (Step one: listen. Step two: listen again) 

We translated the cardboard sign into Russian…


there’s a spelling error hidden somewhere in here –– we fixed it later

… with materials provided by a friendly fruit seller in Balkhash:


that’s journey photographer Sardar shaping the cardboard sign in-progress

The stories I recorded in Central Asia will be available eventually on the 1,001 stories map. Stay tuned for updates!


Yours truly. Photo by Sardar.

This was my first time documenting stories while accompanied by three dudes (translator, photographer, driver). It changed parts of the trip, but not the whole thing.

If nothing else, it was a relief to be able to bring up Rebecca Solnit‘s book “Men Explain Things to Me” in the confined space of a bumpy van ride, and not be attacked for being a feminist. Referencing that book on a van ride from Laos to Cambodia two years ago brought about physical violence. (Again, more on that later, perchance –– that’s the subject of another thing).


toilet block on the way to Balkhash. ladies to the left.

Lake Balkhash itself was stunning, and also a site of great ecological complexity / layered histories. Half the lake is salt, half is fresh, and the shores are filled with great people to talk to.


@ a place where lines blur

Sardar shot material for a 20 minute film about my journey to document human stories on water and climate change, feat. music by Kazakh composer Kuat Shildebayev.

Cultural Curator Timur Nusimbekov, creator of Adamdar, edited the film, and did a whole lot of organizing backstage to make all of this come together (planning events in Balkhash, Bishkek, and Almaty). Timur, you rock.

I’ll post the link here when it goes live.

UPDATE: the film will be shown in Kazakhstan at the Almaty Indie Film Festival!

Photo by Sardar

In the process of recording material in Balkhash, I realized how little I know about the Soviet Union, and all that has happened after.

I asked lots of questions. (Stories are doors. I like doorways).


Also: let’s talk for a second about architecture. Soviet buildings stick around long after the USSR itself has crumbled. Balkhash city was built about 80 years ago, and the bones of the town are still strongly reminiscent of that era.


From Balkhash we zoomed to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for an action-packed weekend. I gave two talks at Chicken Star, hands down the finest chicken/coffee/art establishment I have ever stepped inside.


Seriously –– I love this place. Not for the chicken (although I hear that it is indeed quite good), but for the community.

If you ever find yourself in Bishkek, Chicken Star is not to be missed.

The founder, Chihoon Jeong, is the kind of person who can intuit what kind of drink you need before you even know that you need it. What a gift.


talks on talks –– taste the joy?

Kyrgyzstan at sunset is its own kind of gorgeous.


Like any responsible story collector, I did my best to see things from different perspectives.


handstands are fun

In sum: it was a blur of a two weeks…


moments before being eaten by a cloud, on the way up to Big Almaty Peak

… filled w/ beauty of a distinctly Central Asian variety:


water is life (Almaty, KZ)

For now: the journeys continue.


upwards & downwards & upwards again

Big thanks to the storytellers who talked to me about water / climate & the GoViral event organizers who pulled off the near-impossible feat of gathering so many fascinating people from around the world in one place.


If you have the opportunity to attend or speak at this festival: go. You won’t regret it.


until soon –– over & out


Circus is Not Dead


waist-high dandelions at roadside, Montreal

Two weeks ago I was in Montreal connecting with Jeremie Robert, a super-talented acrobat and circus performer currently performing with Compagnie XY.

Jeremie and I met through his work with ArtCirq, an indigenous circus in Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada.

I have been applying for grants to travel to Nunavut for about two years now (still no luck) and would love to write about these performers in the Arctic. It’s super-expensive to get to the far north, though.


Image via ArtCirq

Climate change is occurring in the Arctic twice as fast as in the rest of the globe, with a predicted 5 to 7 degree Celsius temperature rise in the next century.

Igloolik is a community on the front-lines of climate change, and also a place deeply invested in the healing powers of performance art. I can’t imagine a better place to record stories.

What is circus, anyway?

I asked this question to a Compagnie XY acrobat at a barbecue a few nights before their first show.

“Almost anything can be circus in the right context,” she said, “and there are whole theoretical classes at circus school devoted to this exact question. Circus art is something that you have to train and study for years in order to perfect.”

(I’m familiar with this line of questioning, though I’m usually on the receiving end of it: What is Folklore & Mythology?“)

Circuses are generally performed in round tents, too––or so I learned from a mini-exhibition at TOHU.

Ringling Bros. is dead, but circus is not. Modern circuses don’t have animals. It’s more about skill and training than flashy oddities.


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If I decide to go to grad school in the coming years, Performance Studies is a field I’m considering. I love the idea of wrestling with the circus question, and interviewing / writing about performers in this sphere.


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Montreal though, what a place. Light tastes different in every city.


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My favorite thing to do in Montreal was just wander.

c'est moi

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Montreal is spiral staircases on the outside of homes.

(I love walking up and down these kinds of stairs. It feels like being inside of a seashell.)

island full of curvy staircases

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…long afternoons in the park, eating fruit and watching the world go by,

long summer days mean more time for adventures 🌞

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… rainbows everywhere,


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I will take all the rainbows, please 🌈

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… and of course, poutine. (Pro tip: poutine tastes best after drinking local beer in the park with a new friend, and will keep you full forever & ever.)

baby's first poutine 👍🏽

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I think I’m falling in love with public spaces / places where people can picnic. Afternoon light. Fists full of blueberries — blue blessings.

Montreal is full of bicycles. Jeremie let me borrow his for the week.

borrowing my friend's 🚲to explore the city on 2 wheels

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In attending a few performances at Montreal Completement Cirque, I learned that I’m fascinated with flying… maybe because I know it is something my body won’t do.

Is it too late to learn?

#rouge #montrealcompletementcirque

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Why do I travel?

To see more fully. To be surprised. To search for the blessing that sits just outside of my comfort zone. To begin over and over again.

When I travel to a new place, the days are long. Empty and waiting to be filled.

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Before I left the states I bought myself two rings, one for the middle finger on each hand. My left hand is a tree, to remind me to stay grounded:

growing roots

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The right is a feather for flying free. Serendipity.

When I visit a city, there are always layers––the detritus of cities I have been. The shape of houses in Montreal is not unlike DC. The parks that make me breathe deeper remind me of Paris. And anywhere I feel disoriented in language has an odd similarity––I could be in Fiji, or Tuvalu, or Thailand again.

I’m grateful for the sense of dislocation that not knowing a local language can provide. I get lost in the recesses of myself that I didn’t realize were still there.

I am the postcard monster.

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Montreal, I’ll be back. I want to connect with the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) this fall, where I have been an affiliate for three years.

… and maybe find some Canadian folks to collaborate with on the audio map in progress.


still one of my favorite signs — spotted in Suva, Fiji, 2014

More soon. Here’s to living the questions.



In Which I Fall in Love with a Bike Path

I visited Chicago last year, fell in love with a bike path, and wrote this for Bicycling Magazine

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 4.48.52 PM

I mean, the beauty. How could I resist?


inside the Chakaia Booker sculpture

Experiencing the Bloomingdale Trail has made me want more out of cities. I don’t want to spend all of my mental energy dodging cars. I want to have corridors (or heck, whole carless streets) that let me intersect with art, poetry, and other humans face to face. I want topographical variations that make the eye move. I want the air to taste good (read: lots of plants).

Most of all, I want outdoor spaces that inspire people to get out of their homes and have conversations with one another. And I want those conversations to cross borders of race and gender and age and class and ability.

Long live the Bloomingdale Trail!


poetry underfoot

Christchurch People’s Climate March

Art and activism at work:

an aside:

I don’t have a way to monitor sound or block the interference of the wind on my camera when I make videos right now, which is v. frustrating. It was a windy day. I chose the least windy takes to share with you all. I’m working on fixing this so that future videos can be ever better.

Thanks for being here & for giving me the opportunity to play around with a new form.

This video made possible by supporters on Patreon:

Much love,


In the Company of some Fierce Artists / Activists

Howdy! Just want to let ya’ll know that One Bike, One Year is registered as a part of ArtCop21, a global festival of cultural activity on climate change leading up to and during Cop21 (the big climate talks in Paris this December). It’s an honor to be in the company of some amazing artists worldwide.

Map with all events:

Little me roaming by bicycle / boat:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.30.51 AM

P.S. I’m writing this from a marina in northern Queensland where I’m a new crew member on a boat called Far Fetched. Our departure has been delayed a day as we’re waiting on a new head gasket for the outboard engine. I’ll write a post later on tonight to bid adieu to the internet for a little bit until I’m back on land. Love you all muchly. x

Interview with Artist Sasha Baskin

Hello, world! I want to introduce you to my amazing friend Sasha Baskin, who makes woven portraits.


It’s not a direct link to water or climate change, but I think that Sasha makes absolutely stunning work. She collects stories about people through their faces, and storytelling is what I’m all about.

“There’s a really beautiful moment in the dying process when you take yarn out of water and it’s just a mess, it’s just total chaos. It reminds me of hair when you climb out of the ocean. I love the detangling and finding the order in it all again. I think there’s a pretty beautiful chaos to water and a certain equalizing quality. It does the same thing to any organized structure. Nothing is immune to the chaos of water.” – Sasha Baskin

I believe that one of the functions of art is to make us more alive in the world––to start a conversation. Sasha is doing just that. Her woven portraits were featured in the JM Gallery in Austin, Texas from 1 August through 12 September, 2015. I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

Read on for Sasha’s words on her process:



How do drawing and weaving intersect? How do they diverge? 

I think it all comes down to line. To me weaving is just a different kind of drawing, a different kind of working with lines and tonality. Weaving allows colors to overlap in a way almost impossible in any other medium. When two differently colored yarns overlap they maintain their own structural integrity, but blend together in the eye. It feels like pointillism to me sometimes. Or pixilization.

Tell me about your process in making woven portraits. 

The first portrait I wove I made in a process called double cloth, where two separate planes of cloth are woven simultaneously at the loom and intersect when the colors change. This only allowed for a dichromatic image, which I wasn’t satisfied with. I tried to manipulate the process of doublecloth to provide a midtone, which really went against everything double cloth intends to do. That was really the start of my efforts to take what a weaving is supposed to do and push it further. I like to make looms mad.

After working with the fabulous Mary Smull at MICA, she helped me incorporate hand-controlled damask into my process, another effort at forcing a loom to do a lot more than it ever wanted to. With her guidance in this process I was able to capture 4 different satin structures in one shot of weft, that is, each line of horizontal weaving contained 4 separate kinds of weaving within it. Each of those different kinds of weaving produces a different shade and allows me to draw pretty much free hand at the loom.

The process that I’m working with is an analog version of the Jaquard weaving process. I work with a pick-up stick at a rising-shed jack loom, hand selecting sections of warp to weave as different structures. Jaquard looms computerize the process and control each warp thread independently and mechanically.

How long does it take? 

At my fastest I can weave about an inch an hour of a complex large-scale portrait. The smaller the portrait, the quicker I can go. The more detailed the moment in the portrait the more time I need to process each move. I work with a reference image taped above the loom and when I’m on a deadline I’ll draw big bold lines across the image indicating where I need to be by when. It’s a pretty heavy-handed motivator.


What draws you to this process? 

There’s something about weaving that I just can’t put down. It feels good in my hands. I recently learned a process called twining, which I can only really describe as weaving both sides of a structure, off the loom. You make your own warp threads out of hemp and hold the whole weaving in your hand like a basket. And while I had never worked this way before something about the process felt very familiar to my hands. Like I had been doing this all my life. Fiber work has always made sense to me. Muscle memory is a language I understand.

I think I also like the chaos of weaving. I like the wildness of the threads and making them go in order. I like the organization. I had a teacher who used to give tours of the weaving loft and introduce us as “the people who know how to take many tiny strings and line them all up right next to each other.” And that’s the best way I can explain weaving. We take the tiny strings and we make the chaos into an order. loom photo

What is your favorite / least favorite part of the process? 

My favorite part of the process is called beaming the warp. The loom actually holds this whole river of yarn and winds it all up like a scroll at either end. There’s this beautiful process when you first get all the yarn threaded through every eye of every heddle when you just wind all the threads in perfect order onto the back beam. Everything lines up perfectly and it’s this beautiful ribbon of unwoven cloth. That’s my favorite part.

My least favorite part of the process is probably the hanging and installation process. I’m very engaged in the act of weaving and less so in the installation. Woodworking and levels and measurements, while incredibly important, do not come as naturally to my hands as threading yarns does. I get frustrated with the measurements and the finality of cutting and drilling. I miss the fluidity and ease of weaving.

Why do you make art?

I’ve never known how to answer that question. Art school spends a lot of time asking you what art even is. So maybe I think that everyone makes art in their own way. I think someone doing something beautifully is art. Someone really loving what they’re doing is making art. I’m very lucky that I was able to study what I love and continue to work on that craft. And I love it. When I’m drawing or when I’m weaving, everything feels right in the world.


What do you hope for people who interact with your work? 

I hope to make people slow down. I love faces. I love learning the intricacies of what makes someone who they are. I memorize very easily and very quickly and I can look at things over and over again in my memory. I want to make that available to everyone. I want people who look at my work to see people in a new way, to discover them, almost. I try to embed the act of looking in the time intensive process of weaving


What kind of materials do you use? What draws you to those materials? 

For weavings I work predominantly with silk and tencel (a tree based fiber that is heavier but similar in shine and drape to silk). I love the way fabric falls and I love playing with anything that has a beautiful drape to it. And anything that I can get as small a diameter yarn as possible. Silk comes impossibly thin and I love the image resolution I can get with that medium and the challenge that it poses in the weaving process.

I’m about to start working more with cotton and making some utilitarian cloth, dishtowels, wraps, blankets. I want to see what the fabric does in use. How can I change the act of looking to the act of noticing? Do I want to do my dishes more with a beautiful dishtowel? Does that moment become more important? How can I embed importance in cloth?

For drawings I usually work in graphite or obsessively sharpened charcoal or carbon. Whatever I’m working with needs to be small and precise. I actually just had to talk myself out of ordering obsessively thin cotton to weave cloth out of. Dishtowels need to be made with something substantial. But I love the detail of fine threads. I picked a medium weight cotton instead of the more practical thick stuff because I couldn’t resist.


Why people? You could weave the likeness of trees or doorways, for example. What draws you to the human form? 

I think it’s always been portraits. Maybe because I’m a competitive person and someone told me once that if you can draw the figure you can draw anything. So I just figured I’d skip over everything else and get there. If I can weave a portrait I can weave anything. But I think it’s more than that. There’s something about getting to know someone through a portrait. I try to draw and weave people I don’t directly know because I want to learn about them through the act of rendering their features. I ask other people to send me photos and recommend subjects. I’m very interested in what makes someone exactly who they are. What separates a portrait of someone from a drawing that makes someone want to go “is that a self portrait?” “is that you?” How do I avoid the question? What is in the details that makes an image go from a similarity of a person to the person themselves.

What are you reading / listening to right now? 

I just finished rereading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. The last time I read it I think I was 11, so I found a lot of new things and new ways for her writing to resonate with me now. She talks a lot about the warp and weft of family which I adored. It was also beautiful to read about these communities of women in the ancient Hebrew tribes who shear, and spin, and weave and share stories together all while traveling to craft schools this summer and being immersed in this community of predominantly female artisans and craftsmen (craftswomen?)

I just started listening to the podcast 99% invisible and learned a lot about lawn maintenance.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Florence and the Machine this summer. I’m very into Ship to Wreck.

Do you have any stories related to water or climate change that you would like to share? 

There’s a really beautiful moment in the dying process when you take yarn out of water and it’s just a mess, it’s just total chaos. It reminds me of hair when you climb out of the ocean. I love the detangling and finding the order in it all again. I think there’s a pretty beautiful chaos to water and a certain equalizing quality. It does the same thing to any organized structure. Nothing is immune to the chaos of water.

What is your favorite place on earth? 

Rooftops. Find me a rooftop.

What is the most beautiful color you have seen of late? 

Natural linen yarn.

What’s your favorite word? 



Sasha Baskin was born in Ridgefield, Connecticut. In May of 2014 she received her Bachelors of Fine Art in Drawing from the Maryland Institute College of Art. In the fall of 2012 she attended Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy where she focused on drawing, painting, and High Renaissance Art History. Baskin participated in group exhibitions in Texas, Washington D.C, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, and Florence, Italy. She currently lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find her work at and on Instagram @sashbask.

Sarah Quintana’s Album “Miss River”

Cheering on my friend, Sarah Quintana​, in the last four days of her Kickstarter campaign. Pitch in a bit if you can!


Sarah is a PHENOMENAL musician from New Orleans. Her album-to-be, Miss River, reimagines the role of nature in song-writing by giving voice to the magical element of water––the Mississippi in all its glory.

Here’s the link:

And more of Sarah’s music I love (I listen to this stuff on my bicycle, often):

So glad to have interviewed Sarah on One Bike, One Year​ a while back. She is the bees knees, ya’ll. xo