Botanical Guide to BorderXing
“THE MOUSE-EAR HAWKWEED tolerates soil that is nutrient-poor and is drought tolerant. It is very good at stacking its own territory by creating a dense mat that other plants can't penerate: Travel light. It can be found to habitat, carparks and other low-level urban sites (crossing borders in such places can be fairly simple and risk free); railway sides (Passing an active rail tunnel on foot requires the careful observation of traffic for safe passage); urban wastelands, poor meadows and open woodlands.
“NOTE: borders become more defined by the economic movement than that of the movement of persons.”
Botanical Guide to BorderXing
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Bodies in Motion, Bodies at Rest
Here are some snapshots of Body Movies by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, certainly one of the most extraordinary public installation or, to use the artist's preferred phrase, “relational architecture,” we have ever come across.
See this video of its first installation in Rotterdam.
From Joke Brouwer & Arjen Mulder's TransUrbanism: “Over one thousand portraits — taken on the streets of Rotterdam, Madrid, Mexico and Montréal — were projected on the façade of the Pathé Cinema building using robotically controlled projectors located on towers around the square. The portraits could not be seen when the square was empty because powerful xenon light sources placed at floor-level completely washed them out. As soon as people walked on the square, however, their shadows were projected on the building and the portraits were revealed within them. Passers-by could move around and match the scale of a portrait by going toward or away from the building, making their silhouettes between 2 and 22 meters high. A camera-based tracking system monitored the location of the shadows in real time and, when the shadows matched all the portraits in a given scene, the control computer issued an automatic command to change the scene to the next set of portraits. This way the people on the square were invited to embody different representational narratives."
Body Movies was first installed in 2001 and then later in 2003 in Duisburg, Germany. It's most recent showing, one could argue, was this week, today, this night even in Paris.
The city is burning. There are riots. But not from within as is usually the case in American cities when the marginalized erupts from decades of disaffection and the interior takes on the appearance of Mogadishu or Fallujah. In Paris, the fires burn along the periphery, in the suburban “ethnic ghettos” of largely African and Arab migrant communities that encircle the French capital.
The City of Light ringed by flames.
Cars, buses, shops, and maybe even trees are burning on streets disconnected locally from Haussman's boulevards yet ironically still connected globally via immigrations. And out of the pyres, shadows emerge, penumbral, cast off onto public housing highrises zoned out from fin de siècle arrondissements. No façade remains bare. But these shadows are not “the expression of a hidden monstrosity or otherness,” rather the expression of disenchanted, very angry youths.
If Lozano-Hemmer intended with Body Movies to instill a sense of ownership of public spaces through engagment, then its grittier and lo-fi Parisian version narrates the repressed attempting to colonize a piece of the territoire.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Garden (2000) by Marc Quinn is a real botanical garden, full of plants and flowers from all over the world. They are displayed in full bloom, and are potentially eternal: the nearly 1000 specimens are immersed in twenty-five tons of liquid silicone kept at a constant temperature of -80˚ Celsius. They can neither grow or perish, an unreal dimension that cannot exist unless produced artificially. And though frozen, they produce an enchantment of continuous spring.
Marc Quinn: “The flowers, when they freeze, become pure image. They become an image of perfect flower, because in reality their matter is dead and they are suspended in a state of transformation between pure image and pure matter.”
Marc Quinn @ Fondazione Prada
Marc Quinn @ designboom
Marc Quinn @ eyestorm
WTC Memorial Mock-Up, or: The ¼ Garden
Following are some screen captures from this short movie of a partial mock-up of the WTC Memorial undergoing some technical tests.
From CBC.CA: “The mock-up sits north of Toronto in Richmond Hill, Ontario, in the backyard of Dan Euser, a design consultant specializing in water features. Euser has built the working model using wood framing, 300 sheets of plywood and three 10-horsepower pumps to send a beaded veil of water over a wall more than eight metres high. The model simulates a corner section of the memorial, which according to plans, will feature nearly 500 metres of waterfall surrounding the void left by the Twin Towers.”
Says Michael Arad: “It's a magical moment to see it realized.” Indeed. Terrifying, too, or so we imagine that one particular instant when just a final half counterclockwise turn of the water main faucet separates months of toil from complete formal and structural failure or ecstatic success.
“Will it work? Will the thing hold?”
Or when that initial cascade has a mere quarter inch to go before it tumbles down the precipice and then realizing, for the first time, whether all those pretty vector 3D models translate into a monstrous stillborn or jubilation.
“The fucking thing works!”
It's a moment of tension and gravity. In which case, it's sorta fun to imagine the mock-up test in terms of Classical Greek dramaturgy. As in Oedipus at the brink of discovering his true, cursed nature, a nanosecond away from ignorance and into clarity. Or as in Achilles: his eyes meeting Penthesilea's, recognizing suddenly of the Amazonian queen's great beauty, the warrior falls in love with her but the deathward, plunging tip of his sword lies presently one angstrom away from her throat.
Fortunately, these kinds of tests hardly ever become grotesquely tragic. Technical problems are usually minor: “The finicky nature of a large-scale water feature made it necessary to build a full-size mock-up [...]. Euser has had to fiddle with minute details so that water from the finished fountain will not splash visitors, be blown around on windy days, roar loudly, clog up with leaves or freeze in the winter.” But such things are eventually, if not quickly, resolved
And now we wonder what has become of the mock-up. Dismantled? Languishing in Euser's backyard as an accidental, one-of-a-kind addition to his garden?
Or better yet, transfered to The ¼ Garden, where it joins our growing collection of full-scale mock-ups of memorials. There are the mock-up granite slabs for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Like Kubrickian monoliths. Some mock-up chairs for the Oklahoma City National Memorial. No flowers, photos, or other memento mori around, just a kindergarten class resting from their impromptu outing. There is the Princess Diana Fountain. With no trees nearby to clog its drains with leaves and no klutzy tourists slipping, it works brilliantly. And several permutations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the FDR Memorial. On a wheelchair in full view. A partially visible one. Completely hidden. Standing. No cane, with a cane, leaning on someone. Products of a cloning experiment of sorts, before one is perfected. Etc.
Appropriated as follies, sterilized of their significance and sanctity as a memorial. And as herms. Rather than Greek iconography -- Discobolus and the likes -- you have these fragmentary structures, encapsulating those moments of convergence between then and thereafter, design and realization, 3D and 4D, utter disaster and utter triumph.
You're allergic to solemnity? You faint at the first sign of nationalist fervor? Averse to symbolism? Then go to The ¼ Garden.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
On the sea, an online exhibition from Bibliothèque nationale de France. In French.
On the recently rediscovered Wollemi pine, one of the world's oldest and rarest plants. A recent auction for trees produced from a secret grove of Wollemi pines fetched more than A$ 1 million.
On fountains, a 1998 online exhibition from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
On Terragen™, a “scenery generator, created with the goal of generating photorealistic landscape images and animations.” For Mac and Windows. Free.
On The Great Park Project, “a platform to imagine a 21st century space for people to interact with the natural environment on a piece of land [i.e., Orange County Great Park] laden with history, politics and the possibility to be a model for sustainable land use.”
On Worldview, a web-based project of the Architectural League that looks at the world's cities through the eyes of young architects who live and work in them. The cities are Tijuana, Oslo, Dhaka, and Caracas.
Landscape challenge #2
Friday, November 04, 2005
In words only, confect a garden scenario in which the event documented in the above Dugway Proving Ground photo plays the initial formative agent. Submit via comments or email (see left sidebar). The most compelling scenario(s) will be postcripted below. Bonus points if you reference a certain Italian film.
See also Landscape Challenge #1.
Dugway Proving Ground: or, TerraServer, Part IV
Landscape challenge #1
Thursday, November 03, 2005
In words only, confect a garden scenario in which the event documented in the above Dugway Proving Ground photo plays the initial formative agent. Submit via comments or email (see left sidebar). The most compelling scenario(s) will be postcripted here in this post. Bonus points if you reference a certain contemporary Chinese artist.
See also Landscape Challenge #2.
Dugway Proving Ground: or, TerraServer, Part IV
Dugway Proving Ground
During one scopic drive through the American West, we took a brief stop at the US Army Dugway Proving Ground, the nation's premier biological and chemical defense testing facility.
From GlobalSecurity.org: “The mission of Dugway is to test U.S. and Allied biological & chemical defense systems; perform Nuclear Biological Chemical survivable testing of defense material; provide support to chemical and biological weapons conventions; and Operate and maintain an installation to support test mission. Dugway is located approximately 80 miles west-southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah in Tooele County. DPG, covering 798,855 acres, is located in the Great Salt Lake Desert, approximately 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, the proving grounds terrain varies from level salt flats to scattered sand dunes and rugged mountains.”
What goes on the ground sounds utterly fascinating and frightening at the same time, but only a lucky few ever gets to see them. For those without the necessary security clearance, TerraServer provides the perfect alternative. Taking a cue from Polar Inertia, here are some satellite photos of the military installation.
First of all, the sights from above are stunning. Despite the fact that they are the landscape markings of killing machines, capable of annihilating the entire global population, they are graphically beautiful. The US Army surely has outdone both Richard Long and Walter De Maria several times over. More sublime (in the true sense of the word) than Spiral Jetty. More relevant than Double Negative. The Department of Defense should definitely donate the site to Dia if and when it's decommissioned. Still contaminated, still littered with unexploded ordnance.
A comparison can certainly be made to Thomas Jefferson's Land Survey grid system imposed over much of the American landscape, overriding topography and pre-settlement cultural and ecological systems. Like its counterpart, the landscapes of lines at Dugway are governed by analytical methodology, mathematical hierarchies, mechanics, trigonometry. But rather than being an expression of democracy, settlement, domesticity, even the heroic rural life, this Jeffersonian grid has mutated into a sinister expression of global terrorism, surveillance, and chemical and biological warfare. The Apocalypse distilled as geometry and algebraic equations.
Dugway Proving Ground National Park