Taryn Simon will be taking us on a tour through the “weirdness hidden in plain sight — on our sidewalks, along our roadsides and in our public rituals and spectacles” next March in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in a volume available later that summer.
If you can't make it to the exhibition or can't wait for the book, The New York Times Magazine has published some of Simon's photographs, including the one above taken at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Contraband Room at the Kennedy International Airport: “Among the items seized from passengers in the 48 hours before the photograph was taken: African cane rats infested with maggots, Andean potatoes, Bangladeshi cucurbit plants, a pig’s head from South America.”
One wonders if these detention rooms might just be some of the most biologically diverse places in the lower 48 states.
Another photo takes a look inside the Avian Quarantine Facility New York Animal Import Center in Newburgh, New York. What we see caged are “African gray parrots and European finches, seized upon illegal importation into the U.S., in quarantine. Imported birds must undergo a 30-day mandatory quarantine in a U.S. Department of Agriculture animal-import facility. Before release, each bird is tested for avian influenza and exotic Newcastle disease.”
Again, seeing how empty the sky above Chicago is at the moment, one wonders if it's an ecological wasteland compared to these secret aviaries.
Considering that 1) public squares in northern climes generally turn lifeless during winter; 2) people become even deader once seasonal depression leads to suicides; and 3) landscape architects et al. are always looking for ways to improve the livability of urban landscapes — Perpetual (Tropical) SUNSHINE is thus worth investigating.
“This space is out of sync both temporally and climactically. A spatial screen, composed of 300 infrared light bulbs, transposes the state and image of a summer sun on the 23rd South parallel, thanks to live information transmitted by a network of weather stations all the Tropic of Capricorn and around the globe.
“Thus, the spectator can constantly track the path of the sun, thereby experiencing an abstract and never-ending, planetary form of day and of summer, across longitudes and time zones.”
Next up: Millennium Park's LED-tiledCrown Fountain gets retrofitted into blazing Prozac towers by CDC-licenced landscape architects.
Let there be light!
The “45.5 Meteorite Craters Made by Humans on Their 45.5 Hundred Million Year Old Planet” Fountain
The National Mall Rescripted
If we are to believe that the National Park Service will take public comments seriously enough that glaringly brilliant suggestions to improve The National Mall will likely be implemented wholly or in parts, then here's your chance to affect how American history is presented and experienced.
Give feedback on these questions at the Public Comment Page here by 11:59PM on December 29.
Some of the questions may sound pedestrian at first. For instance:
What should visitor facilities and sidewalk furnishings look like, or what character should they have?
But considering how the entire landscape is a minefield of signification and is the most contested territory in the entire Western Hemisphere, then seemingly mundane questions as whether or not there should be a dedicated jogging path or what text should be placed in a historical marker take on dizzyingly monumental consequence.
A view can be worth a thousand truths and a thousand lies.
Some fugitive thoughts: 1) Should all the bollards, concrete planters, and English ha-has littering the Mall, while not as aesthetically pleasing but nevertheless fantastically interesting (if not more so) as the annual cherry blossoms -- should they and all the other topographical imprints of the Global War on Terror be preserved if and when this war ever ends as a de facto national memorial? 2) What's the deal with all the tunnel-digging? and 3) Pruned has never been to Washington, D.C., so interested shadowy supranational corporate funders, contact us.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
We learned a couple of things recently:
1) According to Science Magazine, “the adult human intestine is home to an almost inconceivable number of microorganisms. The size of the population—up to 100 trillion—far exceeds that of all other microbial communities associated with the body’s surfaces and is ~10 times greater than the total number of our somatic and germ cells.” Or to put it simply, they outnumber us.
And they may even be us, as this intestinal Amazonian ecosystem “provide[s] us with genetic and metabolic attributes we have not been required to evolve on our own, including the ability to harvest otherwise inaccessible nutrients.”
An organ within an organ, in other words.
And: 2) Sounding like a modern Mesopotamian domestication program, Yuichi Hiratsuka and his colleagues “have chemically harnessed bacteria to a micromotor so that they can make the device's rotor slowly turn.”
Pardon us while we quote nearly half of this article:
The machinery of each motor consists of two parts: a ring-shaped groove etched into a silicon surface, and a star-shaped, six-armed rotor fabricated from silicon dioxide that's placed on top of the circular groove. Tabs beneath the rotor arms fit loosely into the groove.
What should be done next is repurpose these micromachines for our own gut microbes. First encase them in a capsule. Once you've swallowed the whole lot, an instant zoo of mechanized anaerobic bioreactors blooms in your intestines. Harness the energy they produce to power, say, your iPod while you take a podcast tour through electrified or unelectrified locales.
Ingest a similarly encapsulated scanning electron microscope and project real-time photos as you ramble incomprehensibly through 30,000 years of agricultural terraforming at the next Pecha Kucha or Talk20. From post-lapsarian Eden to the rise of hydroengineered Mesopotamian civilizations; from massive European swamp-draining to the first transatlantic shipment of tomatoes and potatoes; from Jefferson's “no-nonsense (and topographically nonsensical)“ Land Survey grid to precision farming; from the staggering network of hydroelectric dams, reservoirs, levees, canals, and ditches irrigating the deserts of the West to the compact urban Vertical Farm; from the heroic American farmer in stoic communal with the sublime to the much maligned supranational industrial megafarmer; from John Deer to GMO rice; from Wheatfield to Not A Cornfield — all in precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
Alternatively, you can program them so that you shit — well, what else — a shitty park. Your whole intestinal tract turned into a sort of Model T Ford assembly line.
Reprogram these external genetic apparatuses again and the designed metabolic pathway (e.g. indigestion, food poisoning) gets expressed epidermally as a garden.
Gut flora @ Wikipedia
Cold War National Park
“At the height of the Cold War,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur tells us, “strategic missile bases such as Zeltini were among the most heavily-armed sites in the USSR. Surrounded by barbed wire, electric fences and minefields, they were so closely guarded that they terrified even their own personnel.”
Then history happened, and “now the bases built to defend a quarter of a billion Soviet citizens stand derelict in a country of just 2.3 million. Airfields, missile silos, bunkers and hangars are slowly vanishing under encroaching vegetation - a silent, damp, concrete no-man's land.” And may have completely folded back into the wilderness if it were not for some insistent Americans:
“One day an American observer asked me if we'd found the nuclear warhead store yet. I replied, 'What store?' So he took me for a drive into the woods, reading off a GPS navigator,” [former Soviet military engineer] Upmalis said.
But if this hotel is any evidence of Latvia's entrepreneurial spirit, these “ghost bases” may just become the country's most popular tourist destination.
So to repeat: Mildewed missile silos. Subterranean bunkers. Minefields and pestilential swamps. Silent airfields and cavernous airplane hangers. Barbed wires. Electric fences. Arcadian birch-covered hills. GPS navigators. World War III launch pads. Munition dumps.
It's a landscape architect's paradise.
Friday, December 08, 2006
An old Soviet
“This 'hotel',” writes Tim Bryan, “proudly bills itself as 'unfriendly, unheated, uncomfortable and open all year round'. But that's the point. A stay here is reality tourism writ large, a chance to experience at first hand (albeit handcuffed for part of the time) the brutal, degrading regime of a damp, rotting red-bricked naval jail built in 1905 to house the czar's mutinous sailors. New management took over in the 1970s: the KGB.”
So instead of a Presidential Suite with an ocean view, everyone will only have the choice of either solitary confinement or the interrogation room. Instead of pleasant greetings from a cheery staff, patrons will be welcomed with gun fire and barking orders from (former) Soviet prison guards. And instead of signing the guestbook, you'll be processed, photographed and given your arrest card.
And if you want to make your experience even more(!) unique, simply
Then let us know what these “top secret” details are.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Welcome new readers! No doubt you've come by way of Fimoculous. Please make yourself comfortable as you peruse our archives. Grab a six-pack of Meta-Botanical Bitter, courtesy of BLDGBLOG, or mix your own cocktail, and take as much from the canapé tray as your clicked-out fingers can grab. But if you're pressed for time, here are ten semi-randomly selected posts, which hopefully will entice you to stay longer.
One thousand and one Mississippi Rivers! (x2)
A pilgrimage to necro-planetariums!
Petting at the Transgenic Zoo!
Versailles in the Pacific!
A wound in the geological bowels of the earth!
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Chicago!
Landscape architects as landscapes!
Busby Berkeley's Lost Musical Trilogy: Adventures in the Mantle; Adventures in the Empty Quarter; and Adventures on the Continental Shelf!
Dugway Proving Ground!
TerraServer appropriated as a guerilla tactic, and Google Maps as acts of civil disobedience!
Of tumuli, moonrises, and a nice Par 3!
The iconography of extraterrestrial landscapes: or, Future Jovian Israeli-Palestinian warfare as a function of geomorphological abstraction!
So maybe that wasn't exactly 10 posts. And the following aren't even in our archives; they are among our favorite blogs: BLDGBLOG, Subtopia, and The Dirt.
In any case, thanks for visiting! And come often as you like!
This is ATLAS, one of the major particle detectors for CERN's Large Hadron Collider being constructed underground in the Swiss Alps. The eight toroidal coils you see form the largest superconducting magnet ever built.
Called affectionately as The Machine, it will become fully operational in November 2007. And when it does, Wired tells us, physicist will try to answer some of the most puzzling questions about the workings of the cosmos.
Why do things have mass?
What is dark matter, that unknown stuff that makes up 96% of the Universe?
And why is there more matter than antimatter?
And barring the creation of micro black holes, strangelets, and magnetic monopoles, all of which could trigger the destruction of the earth, even the entire universe, scientists would also want to find out why gravity is such a weak force.
More intriguingly, they will try seek out evidence for the existence of extra dimensions.
In other words, nothing less than the fundamental construct of Nature and the landscape architecture of reality.
Admittedly, we're curious to know if all those scientists — all 1800 of them from 165 universities and laboratories representing 35 countries — may also want to find out if the Barrel Toroid can levitate a tree. A grove of exiled palm trees magnetically deterrestrialized.
Since nonsuperconducting objects have been shown that they can indeed be levitated, why not throw in some shrubs as well. And self-powered lighting fixtures; some artificial turf and mildly meditative Zen boulders; a few dozen rabbits, cute or otherwise; anti-gravity hydrology; and of course, the all-important signage: “Warning: If Not Rapture, May Cause Death.”
And after you push a few buttons, flick one or two switches and drain Europe of all of its electricity, your floating garden then goes on an endless subterranean ringed journey. It's the new $12 billion dollar theme park.
Or The Tenth Circle of Hell.
Which is reserved for landscape architects.
Now 'gin the rueful wailings to be heard.
And by blasphemies, Dante meant producing absolutely boring landscape architecture.
Conceived by Beatriz da Costa, a professor of arts, computation, and engineering at the University of California, Irvine, PigeonBlog “enlists homing pigeons to participate in a grassroots scientific data gathering initiative designed to collect and distribute information about air quality conditions to the general public. Pigeons are equipped with custom-built miniature air pollution sensing devices enabled to send the collected localized information to an online server without delay. Pollution levels are visualized and plotted in real-time over Google’s mapping environment, thus allowing immediate access to the collected information to anyone with connection to the Internet.”
So rather than remaining an urban nuisance, pigeons coalesce into a network of ambient monitoring devices.
Which makes one wonder what other sort of urban animals can be recruited as bloggers, letting us know the particulars of their day, uploading mobile cam photos to Flickr of street scenes or rush hour traffic on the freeways or that four-alarm fire in downtown, all done in real-time. Can we soon expect stray cats and dogs, sewer rats, and cockroaches to be thought of as critical infrastructure rather than something to be designed out of the landscape?
Animal Vegetable Video
“A surface coated in spiky polymer molecules destroys the flu virus at a touch,” Scientific American reported last month. This nontoxic substance does so by “gouging holes in a microbe's cell wall and spilling out its contents. The polymer molecules stay rigid because they are all positively charged and therefore repel each other, like strands of hair standing on end from a static charge. The spikes have sufficiently few charges, however, that they can breach bacterial walls, which repel strongly charged molecules. The polymer probably neutralizes flu because the virus has an envelope around it suitable for spearing.”
As interesting as the image of viruses getting speared and eviscerated may sound, what is even more interesting is the fact that this “experimental substance, which can be applied like paint, might complement other germ control methods used in public spaces such as hospitals and airplanes.” So if the oft-forecasted influenza pandemic should come, those same public spaces will function more as biohazard filters instead of as urban vectors for the virus.
Even doubly more interesting is contemplating what possible landscapes this spiky paint and those “other germ control methods” might bring about. In fact, one cannot help but be giddy when one is reminded of the ubiquity of bollards, concrete planters, ha-has, and other topographical imprints of the Global War on Terror on our public spaces. And this despite their generally objectionable aesthetics.
So setting aside for now any and all skepticism of the polymer's ability to significantly mitigate some future species-ending plague, might we expect biocidal fountains to proliferate soon: like CCTV cameras, littering your daily commute, and misting you from the moment you exit your house till you finally settle down on your office chair? How about so-called respiratory oases retrofitted for the Ebola virus? Or benches, bathroom doorknobs, subway handrails, playground swings, elevator cars, and even nauseatingly boring public sculptures fostering an entirely new level of public intimacy? Etc.
Instead of barricading ourselves in our homes and bedchambers at the first sound of an ominous cough, we may prefer to seek shelter in our public spaces. Instead of avoiding it, we seek the crowd.