Category: Urban Exploraration

Seafoam Palace Detroit MI.

My comrades, associates and dear friends have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a fabulous dream project in the mysterious and vibrant land of Detroit. Curious objects, totemic figurines, elaborately and lovingly produced tableaus, strange icons and bizarre tchotchekas: these are the things that have been collected from the furthest corners of the world and will appoint and adorn Detroit’s Seafoam Palace.


Me in front of Seafoam. Hacket “tweeting” in the background


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Julia Solis, Pere La Chaise Cemetery, Paris

The avatar for this project, Julia Solis is one of the early pioneers of the world of Urban ExplorationHer book New York Underground is a primary text for explorers. She was a friend of and inspiration for Ninjalicious the fellow that grounded and popularized UE  with the zine Infiltration and book Access all Areas. Julia’s NYC based exploration and event group Dark Passage founded in 1999 holds a near mythic status and has inspired adventurers around the world.

Julia’s many projects over the years have radiated an essence of purity and authenticity that is rare to find. Her singular aesthetic is deep, dark and beautiful. She attracts collaborators of high caliber.

To peruse the histories of folks involved in SeaFoam is to open many doors to rare, exotic and obsessive worlds.


Bryan Papciak lighting the way into the realm of Cthulhu….

Filmmaker and educator Bryan Papciak has documented surreal yet very real worlds in his uniquely disturbing style. Bryan continues to warp impressionable young minds as a prof at RISD.  Bryan’s work as an animator and creator of images is pretty disturbing. He LOOKS normal, but watch out when delving into the worlds he creates in his feverish imagination. Watch his oddly mesmerizing video below!

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Julia Solis & Tom Kirsch observing.

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Julia Solis & Tom Kirsch in action!

Photographer, fearless explorer and web designer Tom Kirsch has captured some of the most haunting images ever. A small sampling of his work can be found here. His work has been featured on PBS’s American Experience, in Digital Photographer Magazine and other publications. Tom likes to fish – a lot – his nautical sensibilities have and will continue to influence Seafoam.

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the only photo ever taken of Hackett while he was smiling. photo credit J.Law!!!

Madagascar Institute founder and international art Star Chris Hackett helps out in Detroit in between stints blowing things up, sometimes on teeveeand instructing the kids on how they can “do this at home!” for Popular Science Magazine.  Hackett is deeply dedicated to making the world a more interesting (and dangerous) place. Madagascar has turned out hundreds of maladjusted young artists (with some actual real world skills) after Chris turned chose to open the place in 1999.


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Christos Pathiakis in the Paris catacombs. Evil gargoyle above to the left. To Christos right is Rahan, a German guy we met after being underground for five hours & several miles from the entrance. Rahan said he lived there….

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Christos, Julia & mysterious European guy in the tunnels under the Paris Opera House. We didn’t see “Eric”. Maybe he saw us, though….

Globetrotting film professional Christos Pathiakis explores ruins for fun between exotic location shoots. Before teaming up with others as the internet began to connect explorers Christos spent thousands of hours roaming through much of the NYC subway system in the 90’s disguised as an MTA worker.


Badass Kim Couchet







When not hammering away on Seafoam, swashbuckling pyrotecnician Kim Couchet installs and ignites the largest fireworks displays in the world.

Shel Kimmen – things grow around her.                              photo credit:


Social engineer Shel Kimmen has dedicated her life to the revitalization of her beloved City of Detroit.  Shel’s counsel has been invaluable for the Seafoam crew.

Italian explorer and aesthete Alessandro Toffoli adds a compelling European flavor to the Detroit mix. Alessandro compares Detroit favorably with Rome (for the eventual importance of it’s fast disappearing colossal abandoned edifices). Alessandro has published both fiction and nonfiction, and is now an ongoing researcher at Casa della Memoria, the official oral history society in Rome. He is also a co-founder of Arcadia, a Roman art and restoration laboratory that specializes in antiques and objects of curiosity.


Alessandro Toffoli not long after mowing the lawn at Seafoam. The most handsome member of the crew, Al is also an accomplished artist and has excellent taste in music.





Paul Oarkhill & Julia Solis

Paul Parkhill and Julia Solis. Paul seems to be very grounded and adult-like. I wonder if he’s researched the liability of being involved with……..

Paul Parkhill is the Executive Director of Spaceworks, Between 1999 and 2012, Paul served as the Director of Planning and Development at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. Paul worked as a housing developer for Common Ground Community. In 1997 Paul co-founded Place in History,  and in 2004 he co-founded Furnace Press with Julia Solis and Ars Subterranea.


Monica Canilao just being herself. photo credit:

Installation and performance artist Monica Canilao creates exquisite, dream inspired worlds from the detritus sloughed off from the mundane world around her. Her involvement in Seafoam has introduced the project to a younger risk-taking group of collaborators. That’s a nice way to say “watch out for these crazy kids!”

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Vness Wolfchild has never gone to a party where another woman was wearing the same dress.

Other key personnel and associates include artist/performer Vness Wolfchild  a musician and interactive ritual healing performance artist. Her work explores the complexity of the physical, spiritual and emotional body existing within urban industry and architecture.

Dorothy Trojanowski

Dorothy Trojanowski with her horses at a corporate outing. photo by Harrod Blank



Designer Dorothy Trojanowski whose work includes the lovely lay-out for Julia Solis’ recent book Stages of Decay. 


Colin McIntyre. Serious dude.



metal sculptor Colin McIntyre, Inspired by creatures from the oceans and all plant life, Colin creates sculptures using hot metal forging and fabrication. His work is featured as a permanent public art piece at the Austin Nature & Science Center.


Ryan Carmichael & friend, Detroit MI.

Detroit homesteader Ryan Carmichael  is a functional artist and was one of the lead fabricators on Gon Kirin. In recent years he has specialized in architectural installations around Detroit.


Aram Polster making things. We’ll be doing that a lot at Seafoam.

Using found materials, Aram Polster is a multimedia artist, coffee brewer, and also involved in NYC/Detroit arts groups like Dark Passage and Madagascar Institute.




Maggie Sisco beta testing some nature for possible inclusion into Seafoam.

Maggie Sisco lives in Detroit and works in public relations for a small firm in the metro area. Her expertise is in media and content strategy.


Seafoam Palace is made up of artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, sociologists, engineers, historians, travelers, explorers, and a few varieties of alchemists. Some have been collaborating on projects for over twenty years, some are brand new – drawn together by a love of the absurd, the profound, and the curious.

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Me & Julia Solis in Paris last year tracking down weird stuff. We both read and presented from our respective books, Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society and Stages of Decay.

Dog Days

Chandler White photo shoot

photo courtesy Chandler White from his yearly Christmas Card conclaves. Treasure Island 2011.

We’re almost half way through our Kickstart campaign to restore the 3 mobile Doggie Diner Heads that I and some friends have kept on the Bay Area roads since the early days of Cacophony in the late 80′. Here’s the KS address Please encourage your friends and associates to go there and contribute whatever they can. The main distinction from many other “surreal” or simply “weird” Americana or regional “kitsch” totems or icons can be illustrated by making two points. Firstly: These Dogs are FORMER commercial signs that have broken loose from their mercantile moorings through time (the chain closed 27 years ago) and the simple fact that they are no longer used as any type of monetary exchange devices. In other words, they aren’t for rent. (Full disclosure – I got $ renting them ONCE, fairly recently – although the  folks were very nice and I REALLY needed the dough for a quick fix on the trailer, I SWORE at that time that I would never do it again. It’s the reason I started the KS campaign.)  Secondly and more exclusively: They are mobile. These three financially disembodied heads travel all about the Bay Area on a semi-regular basis and have been to Southern California for the movie premier of Into the Zone, and N.Y.C. for several events sponsored by the fabulous Laughing Squid. As far as I know this is the only instance of such a thing anywhere in our country, a former commercial sign/logo whizzing about with no commercial intent – please inform me if I’m missing something….

I believe this unique arrangement confers special status on these totemic figures. They are only grounded more to the regional collective memory and the cultural core BECAUSE the restaurant chain is gone and all that remains is an image, a whisper, a dream: nothing terribly substantial like the memory of a child’s birth, or perhaps the passing of a close relation, but just a ghostly hint of a past sunny day at the beach or maybe the ball game, a vague half image of a child walking hand in hand with his Father, the taste of mustard, old long gone buildings: were they ever really there? I think that for a Bay Area native of a certain age, simply seeing these silly, enigmatic, Mona Lisa like sentinels of memory brings all that and more back. I see that whenever we drive these Pups around the neighborhoods of SF, Oakland and other local towns. People of all walks come up to pat the noses of the Dogs and they ALL have two things in common. Each one has a story, a memory. And they all have a smile.

These crazy Dogs have also piqued the curiosity of and mildly inspired creativity in some unique and noted artists. Polish born New York City OLEK had some labor intensive fun with the Dogs while here in SF a while back. Painter, sculptor, troublemaker Ron English made our very cool trip poster for the Doggie run to NYC. Bishop Joey of the 1st Church of the Last Laugh (St. Stupid) adopted the Dogs in the early 90’s and decreed them the Holy Trinity of the Dogminican Order. The very first piece of art I ever bought, (forgoing beer money for a month at the time!) in 1988, was this awesome piece by stencil legend Scott WilliamsDD SW

Now, for those too young to recall these impassive and smiling(?) behemoths as they were during their mercantile heyday of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and for the relative new-comers to our fair land here at the edge of the world, the intrinsic strangeness, the perplexing, enigmatic visage of these looming totems is more than enough to ignite the curiousity of any but the most dull and phlegmatic. When we took them to NYC in 2003, almost no one that we ran into was familiar with Doggie Diner – it was after all, exclusively a Bay Area chain. All you have to do to realize that these absurd figures have a universal appeal is to look at the reaction shots of people across the land as they check the Dogs out and try to figure out what the hell they might mean…. See here in Head Trip, the movie.

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Local Sunset District grade school kids serenading the SF City restored Dog Head.

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SFDPW Chief (and future wildly successful politician) Ed Lee getting ready to speak at the 2nd annual Dog Head DPW ceremony at Ocean Beach. I spoke right after Ed, giving the local kids a little background on their Googie heritage.

This Head is being moved from Sloat Ave. and the beach right now to it’s new permanent home at the Yerba Buena Center in downtown SF.  If you are having a particularly dull day at the office, you could spend an hour at least perusing all the Laughing Squid posts of the last going back years and years, here.

So why you ask, all the bother? Why have I spent 26 years hauling around these 10 foot tall, 350 pound, unwieldy, difficult to move, expensive to keep, former commercial signs? I have a job, a business, a kid, wrote a couple of books, responsibilities, partnerships, needs, and very little “expendable” cash for “frivolous” endeavors. I’ve had some help for sure. There are a couple of friends I trust to drive the large, difficult to safely maneuver trailer around the city streets. With help from Cyclecide and others, we repainted and repaired the Dogs in 2003.

Well, it’s HELLA FUN to bring them around, when I can. Everyone smiles, if it’s a party, it gets better, if someone is having a downer of a day, these crazy, silly things instantly make it a smidgen better. How many things do that?