Posted on June 4th, 2012 in collaboration, of interest, project news and
The Think Tank that has yet to be named recently completed a newly commissioned project for inclusion in a group exhibition called “The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau” at SPACES.
In this project, SPACES is transformed into “the unofficial visitors center for Cleveland—a city with its own unique charms—in its exhibition The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau (May 11 – July 13, 2012). This project seeks to engage the idea of tourism through the lens of a city that is not a traditional tourist destination. Participating artists engage Cleveland as a subject and medium in both critical and laudatory way—show that the city is singular and generic, foreign and familiar, and how that plays into notions of nostalgia, pilgrimage, place, history, community, displacement, commerce, and attraction.”
For the exhibition, the Think Tank produced “In a state far from equilibrium,” which adapts the ecological model of forest succession in order to explore the ways in which cities change over time through a cyclical process of growth, stagnation, disaster, abandonment and revitalization. Visitors to the project are invited to play with a physical manifestation of the urban succession model and consider their own city and neighborhoods in light of this analytical framework.
The full text of the project description follows:
The occasion of abandonment, while devastating and demoralizing, can be viewed as an opportunity, a call to collective action that beckons individuals to become engaged subjects who strive to make (and remake) the world as they want it to be. We speculate that Cleveland, like other cities we are familiar with, might be at such a crossroads. Institutions are failing, people are leaving, and it appears that the economic and civic foundations of yesterday are in decline. Perhaps by looking to the cycles of transformation visible in nature, we can see the burning of the Cuyahoga River and the departure of Lebron James as moments within a cycle that are equivalent to the building of the Cleveland symphony and the proliferation of cheap credit. In the process called forest succession, disaster catalyzes regrowth and regeneration when usually suppressed species assert themselves and thrive in the cleared places where dying trees once stood. The first signs of this regeneration are grasses, weeds, and fast-growing perennials; not majestic old-growth trees towering above.
As organisms and networks, cities live and breath, ebb and flow, change according to the myriad complex currents that are social, political, economic, historical, cultural, psychic, and so on. Imagine a process like forest succession occurring in cities: call it urban succession. Buildings fall down, vacant lots become overgrown, neighborhoods falter. Imagine this loss as the moment of transformation, as the catalyst for change and new growth in cities, if only people could look beyond the present devastation and understand themselves and their cities as a part of a longer process of change that they can collectively determine.
The first step is understanding. Who or what is causing these changes? Are the forces at play environmental, governmental, caused by a person, imposed by the built environment, or something else entirely? We invite you to use this project as an analytical tool that can help make visible this evolutionary process and see how abandonment and regeneration are possibly related. Over time watch the system in the model grow, look for patterns, and build a baseline of understanding that might inform future actions in the city.
Instructions for using the urban succession model:
1. Think of an agent, actor, or force for change in the life the city as you see it. Who or what shapes the city? Who or what drives changes here, both positive and negative? Who or what impacts you and your fellow citizens’ quality of life in this city?
2. Now, choose the category of game piece that best describes the agent, actor, or force that you have thought of. Choose from Nature, Institutions, Built Environment, People, or none of these.
3. Write a description of the agent, actor, or force for change on the game piece.
4. Take your game piece and place it somewhere within the urban succession cycle diagrammed on the table top. Does it belong in Growth, Stagnation, Disaster, Abandonment, or Regeneration — or somewhere where these overlap?
Photos courtesy of SPACES staff
Posted on July 5th, 2011 in of interest, peripherals and tagged architecture, art, mobility, nature, slowness, theory, walking
“Remember that project you did in grad school about the super slow mobile architecture that traveled around the earth?” Meredith asked me recently.
After some digging, I found the very much out-dated web documentation in my archives and thought it was interesting enough (for me, anyway) to put back online. In 2001 I was a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. One of the many courses I took outside the architecture school was a studio taught by Samantha Krukowski in the now defunct Convergent Media program. I ended up spending quite a bit of time in Convergent Media because 1) they were doing really interesting and cutting edge projects with digital tools, 2) the tools weren’t an end in themselves but a link in a creative process chain that stressed media translation between the analog and digital, and 3) the students and faculty there were in many ways much more sympathetic to my own artistic sensibility than the architects.
The Auto-Extraction Project gave me an opportunity to go deeper with some of the theoretical architecture research I was discovering through a speculative investigation of a hypothetical mobile architecture. As the explanatory text explains:
The Auto-Extraction Project is conceived of as a mobile architecture of restriction whereby the individual participant physically removes his/herself from mainstream culture/society by embarking on a hyper-slow journey around the earth. The structure of this mobile architecture consists of a compact, individual habitational cell equipped with austere sleeping, bathing, and cooking accommodations. Suspended from a high mono-rail-like track, the cell hovers above the ground a mere 9 – 12 inches (variably) and travels at a constant rate of approximately 10 feet per hour in perpetuity; the route which the track follows is remote and rugged, rarely passing through regions of significant human inhabitation.
There’s a good deal more documentation of the project here.
Posted on March 17th, 2009 in of interest, project news and tagged architecture, research, social media, web
I don’t have the energy for Twitter. Or rather, I don’t wish to expend the energy Twitter requires proportional to any value my use of it might return. However, I will continue to keep a regular presence on Twitter without any effort on my part whatsoever! With the help of a server-side cron job and a PHP script adapted from the Booktwo Swotter Project, I will “perform” my dusty ol’ graduate thesis (in real time!) on Twitter. Every two hours, an approximately 140-character fragment of the text will be broadcast for the benefit of any twit — er, tweetie, er twot, er, how’s that? — so why not follow me and enjoy a little piece of Meaning Building: Aldo Rossi and the Practice of Memory throughout the course of your twittiful day?
Posted on July 29th, 2007 in musings, of interest, peripherals and
Every 6 months or so, a wonderful thing arrives at our house unexpectedly from Spain. It’s a zine (perzine, to be precise) called Extranjero and it’s made by two smart, dear friends, Kris and Lola. Kris, a self-described “Yank” ex-pat and Bucks County native, is the husband of Lola, a bonafide “Yurd” (Spaniard, get it?), and they live in the region of Extremadura in Western Spain. Their zine (numero seis pictured below) is a hilarious and informative snapshot of life in Spain—part quotidian journal, part “official” history (presented a bit tongue-in-cheek), part linguistic romp, and entirely vernacular. As with most zines, several pages are devoted to readers’ letters as well, many of whom also publish zines. To read one zine is to enter into a vast network of underground publishers.
So how about an excerpt. Here, Kris is in the middle of recounting a trip to a nearby village of Garrovillas for a festival, which for the Spaniards means a day of stuffing one’s face and sucking back wine:
By the time we reached the square the rain had subsided but that icy wind was blowing full force, making being out of doors extremely uncomfortable. We found a scruffy bar & continued with the liver damage. The bartender had a massive supply of “pitarra” on hand in badly corked old whiskey bottles. There was a calendar on the wall next to the cash register of a blonde bombshell in a bikini, the top half of which she seemed to have misplaced somewhere on the way to the photo shoot.
Our friend Bego leaned over & she whispered in my ear, “Es la virgen del pueblo.” (“She’s the town virgin.”)
A loud cackle escaped my mouth & suddenly there was quite a commotion at the far end of the bar. A young guy, couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 years old, had burst into song. He was trying his hand at a bit of flamenco. His girlfriend watched him with eyes full of admiration as one of his buddies clapped out the beat & occasionally stomped his feet. Customers added passionate “Olés” here & there at appropriate moments. Lola turned to me, “This is the kind of thing you Yanks pay tour guides hundreds of dollars to see!”
“Yep.” It was quite an “authentic moment.” Another one down the hatch.
An old man with an unlit stub of a cigar in his mouth coughed up an enormous wad of phlegm right there in the middle of the bar. Nobody blinked. I swear, if you hadn’t actually witnessed the old fella in the act & just happened to look down you’d wonder who the hell dropped a raw egg on the floor.
“To village life!” Another round down the hatch.
Bueno, bueno. Anyone interested in acquiring a copy of Extranjero (recommended!) should send a few bucks or a zine for trade to:
Kris & Lola
Calle Obispo 4 bajo
Usually coinciding with receiving Kris and Lola’s zine, my interest in the world(s) of zines is renewed and I make vague plans to produce a zine. My first introduction to zines came in high school through friends, which led to my own short-lived production of a couple of zines: a micro-format skate zine called Zine X (horrible title) and then an arts and literature zine, the name of which escapes me (some day I’ll dig these up…). A long time ago John Freeborn and others published a skate zine called Media Locals, which chronicled the exploits-with-skateboards of our small suburban Philly crew. John continues to be a prolific zine publisher and has also created a fine online archive/network at zinebox.org. Another high school chum, Jeff Wiesner, published several issues of Double Negative, a high-quality zine of visual and literary arts.
The political implications of a vibrant underground press are as relevant now as they were when Martin Luther published and disseminated his 95 Theses in the 16th century that resulted in the poitical-theological coup that was the Reformation. The broadsheets, newsletters, independent newspapers and zines of radicals, activists, artists, amateurs, connoisseurs, fans, and misfits have transmitted “improper,” under-acknowledged information, initiated sub-cultural networks, and undermined hegemonic culture and authority (and not without retaliation to be sure). In spite of (or because of) the aestheticization and commodification of DIY culture by Madison Avenue, zine publishers continue apace, eking out autonomous spaces for their interests, causes, ideas, and artworks and fostering the spirit of generosity and openness that really does seem to characterize the zine world(s).
An obvious connection exists between zines and blogs/web sites in terms of self-publishing, yet for all the immediacy and potential readership of a blog, a zine always asserts that pesky quality of tactility and objecthood—the flip of pages, the texture of papers, the unexpected folded insert, the type- or hand-written text. The finiteness and digestibility of cover-to-cover, as opposed to the unlimitless expanse of everything-all-at-once. It’s difficult to say whether such tactile tendencies are borne of nostalgia or neurologically programmed (maybe a mixture), but the attraction is real nonetheless. And as there seems to be a general, if fractional, shutting down of the Internet’s glorious openness, one wonders if ISPs and governments will further collaborate to monitor the Net and place political, economical, and moral restrictions on our ability to use the Internet freely for self-publishing. In this possible future the hand-to-hand transmission of zines may have renewed urgency and significance.
Posted on July 1st, 2007 in of interest and
Empire of the Sun, J.G. Ballard:
Jim watched Mr. Maxted sink back among the exhausted prisoners. He had made his last effort to sit upright, trying to convince Jim that all was well, that the good luck and the skill of some unknown American bomb aimer, which had saved them from being shipped aboard the collier, would continue to watch over them.
“Mr. Maxted, do you want the war to end? It must end soon.”
“It has almost ended. Think about your mother and father, Jim. The war has ended.”
“But Mr. Maxted, when will the next one begin…?”
Baudolino, Umberto Eco:
“Which is the most fierce of animals?” the Poet asked then.
“Ask yourself. You, too, are a wild beast, you have with you other beasts, and in your lust for power you want to deprive all other beasts of life.”
Then the Poet said: “But if all were like you, the sea would never be sailed, the earth would never be tilled, the great kingdoms would not be born to carry order and greatness into the base disorder of earthly things.”
The old man replied: “Each of these things is surely fortunate, but it is built on the misfortune of others, and that we do not desire.”