Posts Tagged ‘art’

COLLECTED: Border porosity, 2.5-D flash fiction, salt mazes, and a jungle cat

In Excerpts on June 20, 2011 at 7:07 am


TIJUANA / SAN DIEGO—“Last week at the Political Equator 3 conference, which described itself as a “2-day cross-border event” occurring simultaneously in Tijuana and San Diego, something very interesting happened. … For one afternoon only, Mexico formally welcomed international border-crossers, coming south from the United States, into the country at a temporary checkpoint located at the mouth of an underground drain. For this brief phase in international relations, then, the U.S./Mexico border formally included a strange, pop-up entry/exit point. A kind of embassy of the porous. Passport stamps from the experience must surely stand as some of the most unique in the world.” —BLDGBLOG

“On one side of the border there is an emphasis on surveillance while, on the other side, a series of systematic social, economic, and environmental policy failures have created a hazardous living condition for thousands of Tijuana’s poorest. The failure, however, can be felt on both sides, as the watershed pushes the sediment and trash from the illegal settlements in Tijuana’s Los Laureles Canyon directly across the border into the Tijuana River Estuary State Park. While politicians on both sides demagogue, the lack of communication and collaboration between the two nations leads to social and environmental catastrophe. —Quilian Riano, Architect

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LONDON—“The short stories of this book’s title are set in different time periods of London, intentionally locating themselves in the liminal territory between fiction and architecture to provoke an engagement between readers and their two-dimensional counterparts occupying the depicted city. The stories are neither illustrated texts nor captioned images; the collages represent a network of spatial relationships, and the text, which splices genre such as science fiction, magical realism and the fairy tale, a thread that links some of the nodes of that network together. —CJ Lim and Ed Liu, Authors

“In other stories, Alice in Wonderland collides with the Playboy Mansion, which arrives for one night, and one night only, in the parks of London, where ‘underground chambers, replicating the hole through which Alice follows the white rabbit, had been scattered through the garden, capped with circular lenses and mirrors,’ optically augmenting this hedonistic underworld.” —BLDG BLOG

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VANCOUVER—“Canadian studio The Practice of Everyday Design is a newly formed partnership between Antoine Morris and David Long. Together the duo focus on installation art, product design, and architecture. To promote their practice they created the ‘Tiger Tiger’ photo series. The cardboard tiger head was made as a sculptural piece and will now be used for their installation needs. —designboom

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COLOGNE—“Japanese installation artist, Motoi Yamamoto, … uses hundreds of pounds of refined salt piped out of a plastic squeeze bottle to construct what he appropriately calls his Labyrinths. At the end of the installation’s show, visitors are asked to collect the salt from the floor and then everyone travels to the ocean or a river to return it to the water. Yamamoto has constructed close to 30 of these mazes since he started working with salt in 2001. He began working with salt a decade ago after his sister passed away from brain cancer. In Japan, salt is a symbol for purification and mourning, so his drawings and sketches were a way of honoring her and expressing a sense of eternity. —Inhabitat

Graphical Landscapes: A TBE SHORT

In Thoughts on June 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

I went back and forth on these. On the one hand, something about these saturated neon landscapes by Jonathan Zawada struck me immediately. On the other hand, they weren’t very complex, just 21st-century topographical pop art.

So I forgot about them. For about 5 minutes. Then for some reason, I went back to the website and looked again. What was so fantastic about them? I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m not an art connoisseur, so I imagined I was just enthralled by the colors and my love of natural contours. I was being taken advantage of, gullible in my human desire for bright shiny things.

But I dug a little deeper, i.e. skittered across the Web via various blue hyperlinks, and discovered that my gut had been right. The reason these paintings compel is because they are fantastic—literally. The landscapes depicted in vibrant oil don’t exist. The topography Zawada is painting is actually graph data. Multiline graphs are inserted into 3-D modeling software and transformed into renderings, which then become the basic contours of these fictional landscapes.

See for yourself.

Zawada exhibited the paintings at Los Angeles’ PRISM earlier this year.

‘Trichopterae’ by Hubert Duprat (plus some caddis flies): A TBE SHORT

In Excerpts on June 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Trichopterae is “an unusual artistic collaboration between the French artist Hubert Duprat and a group of caddis fly larvae,” write the people at Cabinet magazine.

“The larvae are remarkably adaptable: if other suitable materials are introduced into their environment, they will often incorporate those as well. … After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, [Duprat] relocates them to his studio where he gently removes their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths. He began with only gold spangles but has since also added…precious stones.”

Sweden’s Creators Inn takes a new approach to hospitality

In Excerpts, Thoughts on April 29, 2011 at 11:32 am

Created by Swedish clothing brand Elvine and now-extinct creative agency Next Century Modern (whose website is now an odd, mustard-yellow, self-scrolling list of credits) Creators Inn allows its guests to stay for free—as long as they’re a working creative. Attn: writers, artists, designers, poets, sculptors—if you’re in Gothenburg, Sweden, your payment is simply a ‘valid reason’ to stay at the inn.

According to the hoteliers,

“A valid reason is some sort of creative activity, preferably together with local creators or something that incorporates the city in some way.”

It’s a cool way to support artists in their research, especially those not lucky enough to land a MacArthur Fellowship or other such grants. It also makes you wonder about other spaces or businesses that might be reserved for various professionals. Will there be free hotels for architects visiting the construction site of a foreign project? Will there be food trucks that cater only to visiting sports teams or bands or bicyclists?

With Creators Inn, the idea was also to encourage hospitality:

“By offering visiting creators free accommodation, we hope to remind people of a lovely little thing called hospitality. And in addition to making the visiting creators happy and Gothenburg a more interesting city because of their presence, we hope this simple idea can be exported and implemented around the globe.”

They’re also honest, however, about the idea evolving out of necessity.

“Creators Inn is ever changing. The project is continuously improved and changes over time, due to new ideas, complaints or wishes from ourselves, our guests and you, the homepage visitors.”

That includes locations. At one time, it had three open—two in Gothenburg, one of which was only open through 2008, and one in Stockholm, which closed in December 2009. Despite this, it’s refreshing to see the concept working. The website features blog posts from and Q&As with the visiting creatives that are great reads, especially when you realize that these people aren’t just kids with a few canvases tucked into their backpacks. Guests have included the likes of Magnus Larsson, who stayed at the inn while in town to give a TED talk on architecture, and freelance journalist and film lecturer Anna Battista.


All interior photos by Jonas Mosesson; exterior courtesy of Scandic Malmen; Gothenburg skyline by Magnus Petersson.

COLLECTED: Two Guns, Ice Wall, Grand Large District, Peter Bynum

In Excerpts on April 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm


DUNKIRK, FRANCE — “The Grand Large district lies in a special urban context: between the city and the sea, between seaside resort aesthetic and port aesthetic, and between residential and communal. It prolongs the overall strategy of the Neptune project, launched in 1991, which aims to orient the city back towards the docks. This transformation of the urban centre has already been broadly achieved. The Grand Large district marks the start of the second phase of Operation Neptune.”Arch Daily, Photos: Stephane Chalmeau

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TWO GUNS, AZ — “Two Guns is an abandoned town off old Route 66 in Arizona. It died in the 1960s when I-40 passed it by. I’m thinking about living there someday.” —James Reeves

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HUDSON RIVER VALLEY, NY — “[Peter] Bynum uses glass as his canvas, following stints with Mylar and Plexiglass, often in multiples where more light can be trapped between layers. The viewer can even use a remote control dimmer to change the level of lighting in some of these illuminated paintings. Everything is Illuminated runs through April 30, 2011 at Bridge Gallery in New York.” —Moco Loco

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CAMBRIDGE, MA — “As part of the Festival of Arts, Science and Technology earlier this spring at MIT, third-year architecture student Yushiro Okamoto designed and built IceWall, a temporary installation facing the Charles River. IceWall is a series of frozen blocks embedded with seeds and stacked on top of each other in a curving spine. As winter turned to spring, the wall would melt into the grass leaving seeds behind to germinate and bloom.”Bridgette Meinhold

“Counter-gravitational cities tattooed on walls”

In Excerpts, Thoughts on April 4, 2011 at 10:20 am

Part of the appeal of horror movies and apocalyptic video games is certainly the ruined environments they offer. We adore abandoned buildings, burnt-out shells, disintegrating infrastructure. In film, a ghost town fascinates us regardless of the potential for real ghosts. The visual of it is enough.

So the paintings—if they can be called mere paintings—of Gerry Judah will resonate with nearly everyone, at least on that level. As described by Geoff Manaugh:

“Gerry Judah’s paintings are massively and aggressively three-dimensional, piling up, away, and out from the canvas to form linked cities, ruins, and debris-encrusted bridges…so covered in white it’s as if nuclear winter has set in.”

“Judah embeds entire architectural models in each piece, affixing small constellations of buildings to the canvas before beginning a kind of archaeological onslaught: layering paint on top of paint, raining strata down for days to seal the landscape in place and make it ready for wall-mounting. And then the paintings go up, sprawling and counter-gravitational, like ruins tattooed on the walls.”

Judah’s process, complete with a haunting score:

Another installation forewent the canvas for a complete three-dimensional structure, resembling a 5,000-year-old gothic space station drifting through the galaxies, its partial destruction preserved by the non-elements of space.

Aquabooth: a TBE short

In Excerpts on March 8, 2011 at 6:19 am

Limited on time. For now, this aquarium from Lyon, France.


Museums drown in possibilities

In Thoughts on February 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

On a recent trip to a frozen Kansas City, to see our friend Derek—who very recently became a surprise contributor to this blog—we visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. As we walked in, Derek asked if we’d featured the Bloch Building, Steven Holl’s half-submerged addition, in our magazine. I told him we hadn’t.

What I didn’t know was that we were about to.

In our upcoming issue, we begin a 3-part feature story on sustainable design in museums, and the Bloch Building concludes Part 1. It’s a good story overall, the main premise being that in a down economy, out-of-work architects are keeping themselves busy with some fantastic work for institutions like museums and universities. This work also tends to incorporate environmentally conscious design.

But literally hours after editing the museum story, I’m on the train, opening up Blair Kamin’s Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, and I read something disconcerting:

“A little-noticed pattern repeated after architecture critics cheered each building’s opening and then departed for the next extravaganza: attendance and revenues didn’t match projections, and once the recession dramatically reduced the value of endowments, the sponsors of the new edifices were forced to lay off staff and cut hours as well as operating expenses. At Steven Holl’s partly underground addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, cost-cutting literally meant dimming the beauty of the addition’s proudest feature—the glass pavilions, or lenses, that drew daylight into the galleries and shone like jewels at night—for 14 hours per week. If you built it, they didn’t necessarily come.”

Others had a different story, but admitted that Holl’s Bloch Building wasn’t the boon to the Nelson-Atkins that the Modern Wing was to the Art Institute. Perhaps Montreal’s Museum of Possibilities had, if not the, at least one answer.

“The ‘Museum of Possibilities’ was created for one day during Montréal’s city-wide open day for Museums. Members of the public could pick up a piece of paper and write down what they would like to have happen in that space in the future. Visitors entered the field of balloons to add an ‘entry’ to the museum of possible things which might happen on site. People also received a set of stickers so they could wander through the Museum of Possibilities and add a vote of approval for possible future events. This voting helped to turn ‘possibilities’ into probabilities and gave the client concrete data on public interest.”

Even as this project’s inventive creators designed a way to build precisely what the public wants, another new project may only further stymie museum attendance: Google’s Art Project, released last Tuesday.

Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.

I will not scoff at such a thing; this truly historic endeavor will no doubt be an unrivaled resource for art students and an exploratory map for enthusiasts. But I will ask: Does every item in our real-world inventory need a digital back-up? With a few clicks I can stand before van Gogh’s “Portrait of Joseph Roulin” (and can link to it). But I am not standing there. I am slumped in my office chair, drinking office-supplied Dunkin Donuts coffee. And the computer-game movement, the washed-out colors, the blurred edges all compose a feeling that is nearly the complete opposite of actually strolling through the MoMA.

Would the utter violence of Ray Metzker‘s photographs have come through had I been struggling to face them during a “Google-powered” excursion instead of in the dark corridor of the Bloch Building’s special exhibit hall?

The same questions were brought up by a similar Google endeavor a few years ago: Google Earth. Is it better to have at least seen a photo of Iceland than to have never seen it at all? And so I ask now: Is it better to simulate a trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence than to never know it exists?


[Photos: Steven Holl Architects (top), kelseysnook]