Lately, Karen Hell and I have been exploring what audiences bring to narratives in an interactive context. We collaborate under the collective company Story Dept.

Airport Bar

The Concept:

To protest President Trump's attempted travel ban, we're hosting “Airport Bar,” a participatory public performance that invites the public to acknowledge what it means to be trapped in the bureaucratic purgatory of international travel by recreating the experience of an airport bar.

To host your own Airport Bar event, download our free Starter Kit, which includes instructions, printable "Visas" and "luggage tags," logo, and a letter-to-Congress template in a handy zip folder.

A big special thanks to everyone who participated in the inaugural Airport Bar event, Friday, Feb. 24. It was a smash and we're grateful for everyone who shared their conscience and canned goods! Special thanks to La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge proprietor Sahar Gharai who generously provided her venue for the event! – DH & KH

‘Airport Bar’ Conceptual Art Experience Flouted Trump’s Travel Ban with Drinks & Drollity

Petaluma, Calif. (Story Dept.) February 26, 2017 – In light of President Trump’s recent attempt to implement a “travel ban,” conceptual artists Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell hosted “Airport Bar,” a participatory public performance that invited the public to acknowledge what it means to be trapped in the bureaucratic purgatory of international travel in the only place where humanity still feels as one when traveling – the airport bar.

Staged Feb. 24 at La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge in Petaluma, CA, the overcapacity event offered collectible “luggage tags,” and a “visa” which was canceled at the event by Howell upon guests’ arrival. Participants brought their own baggage, which contained over 100 pounds of canned goods, which were donated to Petaluma’s Committee on the Shelterless (COTS) located at the Mary Isaak Center. Pre-printed letters to Rep. Jared Huffman (US congressman serving California’s 2nd district) decrying the travel ban were also signed by event-goers.  

“Protest takes many forms and creating a context to engage with an international issue in a symbolic social environment is our way of addressing this issue,” says Hell.

“This was a productive way small town artists like ourselves could lend a local voice to the chorus of outrage,” says Howell. “And enjoy a glass of local wine with your comrades in the meantime. It was quite a hit and we heartily encourage other creative people to stage their own Airport Bar events.”

"Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell team up for their most political statement yet." — The North Bay Bohemian


Le Drama Clüb

Get Your Tunes

An Immersive Narrative Experience

In 1988, four misfit drama geeks started a band only to have their bassist mysteriously disappear on the eve of their big gig.

It's a story of love, loss, leather and so many clove cigarettes against a backdrop of Reaganomics,  the Berlin Wall and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. Into this tumult Le Drama Clüb formed – or would've if it were real. Instead, its members, songs, images and band-related ephemera have been invented by a team of creatives led by Petaluma conceptual artists Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell. The idea was simple: Consolidate the collective narratives of a particular time and place and reimagine them as a new story – one born from forgotten memories and dreams broken over the knobby knee of adolescence.

“The exhibit is not intended to fool anyone but rather invites attendees to participate by sharing their own ‘memories’ of the band that never was – because at some point, usually as misfit teens, we’re all rock stars in our hearts," says Howell.

Collaborators also include Shannon Ferguson (of NYC-based major label veterans Longwave),  Ryan Lely (most recently the visual director of Francis Ford Coppola Presents), Orion Letizi (songwriter of Berkeley’s Animal Hours) and Abe Levy (proprietor of Toronto-based Baldwin Street Sound).

The exhibit, which includes original music listening stations, posters, album covers, costumes and a bevy of cultural arcana runs for a limited two week engagement, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m., Saturday, November 5, The Back House Gallery, Heebe Jeebe, 41 Kentucky St., Petaluma, CA.

Limited edition commemorative Le Drama Clüb T-shirts, buttons and stickers will be available to purchase. A wine reception with the artists begins at 6 p.m.


Stairwell Video

A Conceptual Art Experience by Daedalus Howell & Karen Hell

Stairwell Video recreated an 80s-era, VHS-only video store and invited participants to "rent" a video for the night – but the video can never be returned (the video store vanished in the night, erased like magnetic media and the dreams of a generation). The installation explored what happens when you squeeze nostalgia and a dead medium into a 110 foot Victorian-era stairwell. And then add late fees...

The production of the last video cassette recorder (VCR) occurred when last-known manufacturer ceases production at the end of July, 2016. Conceptual artists Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell celebrated the once-dominant home video platform with Stairwell Video, a recreation of an 80s-era, VHS-only video store, for a single night, 7 p.m. to 8:40 p.m., Friday, July 29 in a 110 foot Victorian-era stairwell in Historic Downtown Petaluma, CA. 

“Stairwell Video recreates what was once a regular secular ritual,” says Howell, who reminds that the installation is a one-night-only pop-up, so rented videos can never be returned. “From selecting a video, presenting your store membership card, viewing, and returning the video – or not, as the case may be – this was a ceremony performed by American families that’s lost forever. Stairwell Video provides a way to engage with this ritual once more and perhaps even introduce it to a generation who have only known online streaming and multiplexes.”

The event’s 100 minute runtime mirrors that of “A History of Violence,” the last commercially-released VHS video. As was recently reported in the New York Times, Japan’s Funai Corporation will quit the VCR business this July effectively bringing an end to a medium that changed our culture’s relationship to films.

“The video store experience was unlike the collective spectacle of a movie theatre or binge-based personal viewing on an iPad,” says Howell. “A rented video cassette was a sacred object that we took into our home, cared for, and tried our best to remember to ‘be kind and rewind.’ There's was a connection with the media on and an affection for the object itself. That its demise comes during the centenary of Dada is like two great tastes together at last – it’s sentimental and absurd.”

To host your own Stairwell Video or to collect the original installation, contact us here.

Related Press: Stairwell Video Revives Lost VHS Rental Experience in Petaluma,

Buy the remaining VHS video tapes!

Petaluma Postcard Project

The Petaluma Postcard Project redeployed the 19th century, 4x6 inch postal format as a medium for documentary, interactive fiction, recorded music, sculpture, and a puzzle among other art experiments. The choice of venue – Petaluma Mail Depot – was not without a sense of whimsy too. The works, shown in both large format as well their limited-edition postcard iterations, could literally be plucked off the wall and dropped in the mail on the premises.

The Petaluma Postcard Project encouraged Petalumans to become pocket-sized art collectors with a series of limited-edition postcards featuring the work of local artists. Among them were co-curator Karen Hess who forages local flora and fungi to create natural dyes and fibershed-sourced, textile adornments and art, as documented in “The Dyepot Series.”

Local author and co-curator Daedalus Howell published a choose-your-own adventure story over several postcards created especially for the exhibit.

Expatriate Petaluma photographer and writer Trane DeVore sent visually-striking postcards from Japan where he is a university professor. Lifelong Petaluma photographer Dennis Ferguson reframed Petaluma through a neo-noir lens.

Together, internationally-lauded artists Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti create private commissions and collaborations with performing artists including Susan Sarandon and Margaret Cho. For the exhibit, Garlington’s postcards are effectively a puzzle of his harrowing image “Clown Nightmare” and Bertotti’s sculpted ceramic postcards reimagine the postcard as medium unto itself.

Musician and major label veteran (Longwave/RCA) Shannon Ferguson debuted his new instrumental act, Breathing Canyon, with a limited release lathe-cut vinyl postcard record featuring an original composition. The band performed a live set in its debut performance.

Write Or Drink: Story Postcards
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Rivertown Report

Troutfactory Notebook

Local Dialect

The exhibit opened with a reception April 8, 2016 at the Petaluma Mail Depot.

An Interactive Fiction Experiment.

I built this game (really more of a brief experimental, interactive fiction of the choose-your-own-adventure variety) using Twine, which bills itself as an "open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories." The interface was intuitive and the execution was quick. Download and play it in your browser. Like me, you might find it's a difficult choice...

Meanwhile, at the bar... Daedalus Howell's down and out reporter mulls the contents of an empty notebook... and a glass. This html-based choose-your-own-adventure story opens in your browser and encourages you to explore the mind-wiping infinitude of a Lumaville tavern.

Lost & Found Pages

When I lived in Los Angeles, I would frequently discover stray screenplay pages littering the streets. I saved them all and with my ArtsID co-host Gretchen Giles, am pleased to present a staged reading of these pages, complete with cast and soundtrack provided by the fine folks of KRCB 91 FM, Cotati, CA.

Since I had no idea who wrote these pages, they have no idea that their work, or at least part of it, has been performed and immortalized in this recording. If you happen to be the writer of one of these specimens, by all means, drop me a line – I'd love to hear your side of the story.

Lost Roomba: An Artificial Intelligence Purity Project

This was an interesting experiment in virality, the details of which I'll share here soon. In the meantime, this was a fun play on contemporary anxieties regarding artificial intelligence. AI also features in the Lumaverse – first in the form of JCN, who makes his initial bow in Quantum Deadline and is the sidekick of the titular character in J00D. I share some of my notions on AI in my essay, I, Replicant: Artificial Intelligence and Me, and in the short film Farewell, My Android.

This experiment was conceived with Karen Hell after half a bottle of wine as a means of professing my love for my Roomba.

We used the Burner app for iPhone to create "Gil's Roomba Hotline." We poured through the available numbers, using, which indicates what a particular phoner might spell. By permitting an "extra" digit, or a "Y" in our ase, "707-AI-Purity" leaped out as something with which we could work. Besides the well known "Artificial Intelligence" abbreviation, the word "purity" had a particular resonance since we had recently seen a documentary on Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (Jack D. Ripper's "purity of essence" monologue being a highlight – "our precious bodily fluids!" – two Kubrick movie references in one).

The next step was integrating the AI Purity concept into the text of the flier. This was achieved using the old acrostic poetry form – the first letter of every sentence spells "AI Purity," which is echoed by the tear-off numbers below. "Acrostic" would be the first clue offered to those who called the number, which was relayed via computer voice "Alex" via the Free Online Tone Generator site.


Karen decided the flier would have more verisimilitude if written by hand with a Sharpie pen, which she did. Then it was a trip to FedEx Kinkos for copies. 

Then a post to Instagram and Facebook (1200+ views at present writing). The Next Door online community for the neighborhood really embraced it.


Meditation for Commuters

"I am Clover, that is my vision name. My totem animal is the skink. This is my podcast for mindful driving, 'Meditation for Commuters.' Episode One: Traffic. Take a few minutes of bliss to teach yourself how meditate while driving. Note: Please KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. DO NOT ATTEMPT ON THE 405."