Down the Garden Path: The Artist's Garden After Modernism
Organized by the Queens Museum of Art, Down The Garden Path: The Artist's Garden After Modernism (26 June - 9 October 2005) examines the contested terrain of the garden, offering a selection of divergent positions taken both from lived experience and scholarship.
“Gardens are a relatively young subject for academic study. They have often been subsumed by art history and considered lower still than landscape architecture, which has only recently gained its own independence as a sub-field of architecture. This is not surprising when traditionally the emphasis has been placed on garden design, strangely divorced from meaning. The idea that gardens have an ideology is a contentious point for garden historians, creating a divide between scholars who know gardens to be cultural constructs that must be seen in a broader sociological and political perspective, and those who consider gardens as neutral or pure, devoid of political or professional interests.”
Read also Ken Johnson's review of the exhibition in the New York Times. “This big, messy, uneven, but - for patient and interested viewers - intellectually stimulating show at the Queens Museum of Art is about how contemporary artists have cultivated gardens in fantasy and reality.” But watch out for his liberal use of the word ”traditionally” and whatever comes after that. Well, it was used only twice, but twice too many. The idea and form of the garden is anything but fixed.
Friday, July 22, 2005
You will not find many if not all of the places toured by Roadside America listed in Fodor, Frommers, or even in the bible of alternative tourism, Lonely Planet. Yet these places tell us more about the American cultural landscape than Central Park. Well, not quite perhaps, but I bet an afternoon in Petrified Wood Park and Museum or Dinosaur Kingdom in Natural Bridge, Virginia will teach us more about landscape than a Peter Walker civic center. Plan your summer road trip now.
Forest Grove by Maya Churi
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Forest Grove is a haunting web piece about the suburban condition. After being banned from the community pool, young Charlie decides to swim in every pool in bucolic Forest Grove Estate, encountering along the way its assorted inhabitants who seem less alive and more like phantoms in existential crisis. Part epic, part allegory, part damning social critique, filmmaker-artist Maya Churi unravels the promise of planned communities. The gates and fences here do not keep the undesirables outside but instead have corralled them inside this pastoral prison.
The always engrossing Polar Inertia has come out with their July/August 2005 issue. The sites are quite geographically disparate this time around, but still thematically alike. Go see.
How Communities Are Re-Using The Big Box
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Julia Christensen began investigating How Communities are Re-Using the Big Box in January of 2004. Throughout the spring and summer of 2004, she traveled over 17,000 miles around the country in her car, visiting the sites and meeting the people who are transforming empty Wal-Mart buildings, K-Mart buildings, Target buildings and more into useful structures for their community. She has been collecting a growing collection of photographs, interviews, stories, and documents relating to the renovations, and has been giving presentations in communities about how towns are dealing with this common situation.
Fog Water Project
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
“Fog collectors are inexpensive, passive devices that each produce 200 to 600 liters of fresh water a day by collecting the tiny wind blown water droplets present in fog. Arrays of collectors produce an average of 5,000 to 15,000 liters of water per day. The low-technology fog collectors are well suited to providing water to villages in the dry mountainous parts of developing countries. The technology is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and can be cared for and expanded upon by the community members.”
Nature is dead. Long live Nature.
Collaborating with scientist Joe Davis, the Japanese “art venture” Biopresence plans to create so-called “Transgenic Tombstones” by transferring human DNA into a tree's DNA, so that instead of a cold slab of stone, the bereaved will be clutching and hugging trees in their moment of tear-drenched anguish.
Which leads me immediately to wonder a couple of things:
1) Might tomb cities be soon abandoned and succumb to the encroaching forest? Gone are the crypts and mausoleums and the neatly tended lawns, and in their places would be the botanically re-encoded dead.
2) And how will this forest be designed? Will Le Nôtre as a model reign supreme or will Capability Brown?
UNESCO World Heritage List
Saturday, July 16, 2005
UNESCO yesterday added 17 cultural sites and 7 natural sites the day before to its World Heritage List. Particularly noteworthy in the selection of cultural sites is the opportunity to compare several urban planning schemes in various geographical, temporal, and philosophical context. The breadth of examples is astounding.
1) Cienfuegos, Cuba (Spanish colonial grid system)
2) Gjirokastra, Albania (well-preserved Ottoman town)
3) Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works, Chile (South American company town)
4) Le Havre, France (post-war modernism)
5) Macao, China (East meets West meets East)
6) Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (multicultural urban settlement)
7) Syracuse, Italy (the Greeks abroad)
8) Yaroslavl, Russian Federation (18th c. neo-classical radial plan)
“It's OK, Officer. I'm just going for a stroll.”
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Included in an exhibition, titled Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, at ZKM Karlsruhe in 2001, opening almost exactly a month after 9/11, iSee, by the Institute of Applied Autonomy, is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments. With iSee, users can find routes that avoid these cameras (“paths of least surveillance”) allowing them to walk around their cities without fear of being “caught on tape” by unregulated security monitors.
The best things in life are free, which is why the Prelinger Archives, a massive collection of “ephemeral” films in the public domain, is one of the best things on the internet. Here are some of the many gems that should interest Pruned readers.
1) Park Conscious (ca. 1938)
Elegy to recreation and relaxation in state and national parks.
2) The River (Part I and II) (1937)
Classic documentary history of the exploitation of the resources of the Mississippi River Valley and the work being done to rehabilitate and reclaim the area.
3) Gardening (1940)
Follows a boy and a girl through a garden-raising project from the selection of seeds to the harvesting of the crops. Includes radishes, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes. Emphasizes aspects of soils, growth, role of the sun, insect pests and the various parts of plants used for food--leaves, stems, buds and roots
4) Operation Cue (1955)
Eerie nuclear tests on houses and dummies at the Nevada Test Site.
5) Freedom of the American Road (Part I and II) (1955)
Henry Ford II introduces this film designed to encourage private citizens to unite and support road improvement. Part of the lobbying campaign that culminated in legislation authorizing the Interstate Highway system in 1956, this film shows community efforts to improve and increase safety on the Bayshore Highway in the San Francisco Bay Area; congestion in Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle redevelopment area; the economic benefits of Boston's circumferential highway, Route 128; and safety education in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“That is not a park”
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
In a very fascinating article in today's New York Times, comments made by NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe perpetuated the Victorian image of a park — an idyllic setting of well-trimmed vegetation, for genteel strolling by right honourable citizens in pursuit of physical and social betterment amidst merry-go-rounds, cotton candies and baby carriages. Geoffrey M. Croft, president of New York Park Advocates echoed this delightful sentiment: “Having prostitutes and drug users fill a park when a community needs parks, goes against everything government is supposed to do in terms of providing services and protecting people.”
What seems ironic is that the parks do provide services and some measure of protection to a marginalized segment of the community, which the city had neglected and still fails to provide some modicum of assistance, the same neglect that had marginalized them in the first place. What is even more ironic is that these “disgraceful” public spaces see more activity and actual people than so many urban public spaces, which downtown office workers avoid like the plague, and fenced-off boutique parks that give park crews heart attacks whenever so much as a candy wrapper enters and defiles their sacred precincts.
The Washington Monument will open this weekend in time for Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C. A refurbished landscape by Laurie Olin delineates a 400-foot security perimeter with an elliptical pathways lined with a 30-inch high retaining wall, a strategy that is part English ha-ha and part medieval moat. In a post 9/11 city and country where obtrusive Jersey barriers and closed access permeate the landscape, Olin's design finds a balance between the aesthetic gaze and contemporary realities.
Petula Dvorak, “Washington Monument Subtly Fortified,” The Washington Post (1 Jul 2005)
Catesby Leigh, “Balancing Security and Aesthetics,” The Wall Street Journal (30 Jun 2005)
Vernon Mays, “Invisible Barriers,” Landscape Architecture Magazine (Sep 2002)