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Another Sunset
Mars sunset

The Landscape Art Generator Initiative has chosen Freshkills Park as the site for the next edition of its design ideas competition. In 2010, artists, designers, scientists and engineers alike were challenged to design a land art sculpture that was also a power plant capable of generating clean energy for thousands of homes. The brief for 2012 is basically the same, except of course you will be plopping down your installation not on the sands of the United Arab Emirates but on a park reclaimed from what was once the world's largest landfill, Fresh Kills (N.B. two words for the dump, one word for the park).

If you're not familiar with Freshkills Park, here's some information taken from its blog (every park should have a blog, or at least a Twitter account!):

At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park will be almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in over 100 years. The transformation of what was formerly the world’s largest landfill into a productive and beautiful cultural destination will make the park a symbol of renewal and an expression of how our society can restore balance to its landscape.

In addition to providing a wide range of recreational opportunities, including many uncommon in the city, the park’s design, ecological restoration and cultural and educational programming will emphasize environmental sustainability and a renewed public concern for our human impact on the earth.

In case you're eager to start your creative process now, we suggest reading John May's essay on Fresh Kills, published in the boogazine Verb: Crisis, 2008. Here's one of the closing passages:

Fresh Kills is our generation’s A-Bomb: we express dignified shame at the fact of its existence to mask our delight in knowing that it belongs to us. It may be a disturbing thing, but it also seems somehow extraordinary, and in either case, it is our disturbing-extraordinary thing. We secretly love it. We like to know that it’s there. Its location with respect to Manhattan is indicative of a preferential derision; near enough to be seen, to enjoy the peace of mind provided by the power implicit in its existence, but too far away to be smelled, too distant to impose on our comfort. It is material evidence that the American Way of Life is still very much expanding, that our morality is still dominant, still at work in the corners of life. The size of the pile—taller than the Statue of Liberty across the bay—is evidence in support of our belief in American strength and control. Fresh Kills is the literal, substantive embodiment of the consumptive-moral technologies of flexible accumulation, of a late twentieth-century, Neoliberal American economy; a testament to the fecundity of its principal metropolitan region, its most prominent image of a free-market. Trash and waste are central elements in our morality; they demonstrate our power, and allow us to sleep well.

Now how can one resist adding a bit more seductive, soporific images on top of that tenuous veil separating us from our monstrous anus.


Full details will be released on 1 January 2012, and you have until 1 July 2012 to submit your proposals.

Flutter Field
(Im)possible Chicago #30

The Chicago where the United Nations Secretariat is now headquartered. Every September, when world leaders gather together for the annual opening session of the General Assembly, also hosted by the city, the very much alive Muammar Gaddafi pitches his sprawling tent city in Grant Park, south of the Buckingham Charbagh.

Swimmable Berlin

Given our hopes of one day being able to swim the full length of the Chicago River and its appendages—and yes, that includes the portion where it flows by the world's largest water treatment plant—without suffering dysentery afterwards, we were instantly smitten by realities:united's proposal to transform part of Berlin's Spree River into a natural swimming pool.


Located right on the heart of the city, this urban lido would be the equivalent of 17 Olympic swimming pools, fed by river water flowing through a 780-meter-long reed bed filtration system. Access would be through “generous stairs.” Alternatively, you can simply jump off one of the bridges.

This project, explain the designers, “aims to diminish the mental division between ‘everyday Berlin’ and the public Berlin belonging exclusively to tourists and federal agencies. It will provide a badly needed recreational facility in this part of the city and return some ‘authentic life’ to Berlin’s museum island, one of Berlin’s most heavily-trafficked tourist destinations with over a million visitors a year. At the same time, Flussbad puts an end to the economic nonsense of a completely unused waterway—the Kupfergraben—transforming the river itself into a strong argument for the quality of living in the inner city again.”


Of course, an even more marvelous Flussbad would be to include the rest of the Spree that runs through Berlin, requiring not just more natural filtration systems but a monumental reconfiguring of the city's stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Ships may still pass through but on restricted lanes. The rest of the river will be turned over to frolic and merriment.

Meanwhile, check out a similar initiative to make the Spree River more swimmable, the SPREE2011 project.

The Yogyakarta in which bikers wear special designed helmets, weighty and beautiful, stuffed with soil and planted with a tree

For Treebute to Yogya, Sara Nuytemans and Arya Pandjalu sent a gang of motorbikers through the streets of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, wearing helmets doubling as plant containers. “The performance is meant as a hommage to this very green city and also a wink to the idea for direct carbon dioxide compensation,” says a statement on the Szpilman Award website.


Cue parallel world.

The young men start gathering just before noon, on alleyways, back lanes and courtyards around Yogyakarta. Some attend to their motorbikes, making sure there's enough petrol in the tank, washing the dirt off the tires and polishing the chrome. Others water and prune their saplings on their helmet.

Then, when the last of their bike gang has arrived, they spill out into the city amid a sonic cloud of revving engines and rustling leaves. At designated strips, they meet up with other gangs whereupon one biker from each gang race one another. Weaving through the narrow, vacillating spaces in the traffic, they cock up their preening canopies, generating enough wind to show off their lushness. Along the route, other bikers sound their horns in appreciation. It's not who crosses the finish line first that decides the outcome but rather how one presents their organic coiffures to the city. Drag racing meets flower and garden show.

When these competitions began, just your garden variety houseplants were used. But as with all young men in other parts of the world, they sought out ever increasing thrills, a bigger adrenaline rush than their last race. So they started using larger and larger plants, making the races even more dangerous. And deadly. It seems like everyday you hear of a racer snapping his neck and killing motorists and spectators in the resulting crash.


However deadly these races may have become, the young men are still drawn to them. In a city blanketed by smoke produced by slash-and-burn agriculture, a permanent haze that traps them in mind-numbing indoor lifestyles, these reckless botanical races are their collective scream of environmental frustration, an outlet for green activism amid the suffocating smog.


Perhaps not surprisingly, many will become eco-terrorists, transforming their restless behaviors on the streets of Yogyakarta into acts of sabotage carried out on the palm oil plantations of Borneo. They will polish their guerilla skills in jungle hideouts, and when they've turned Borneo into the Afghanistan of green militancy, they will import their eco-jihadism to the rest of the world.

The Artificial Cyrosphere of Bananas (and A Proposal for a Cooking Show)
Banana Distributors of New York

Nicola Twilley, of our Future Plural partner site Edible Geography, recently visited one of the few banana ripening facilities in New York City. She has a great write-up of her behind-the-scenes tour.

[I]n order to be a global commodity rather than a tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported while completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56 degrees — originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container — until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.

What this means is that ripening must then be artificially induced, in a specialized architecture of pressurized, temperature- and atmosphere-controlled rooms that fool the banana into thinking it is still back on the plant in tropical Ecuador. New York City’s supermarkets, grocers, coffee-shops, and food cart vendors are served by just a handful of banana ripening outfits — one in Brooklyn, one in Long Island, a small facility inside the main Hunt’s Point Terminal Market, and our field trip destination: Banana Distributors of New York, in the Bronx.

As always, it's fascinating to read about the oftentimes hidden landscapes where our foodstuffs are subjected to temporal and spatial displacements. So if you haven't read this one example of aberrant tropicality yet, go check it out.

Banana Distributors of New York

Which leads us to an idea we have for a cooking show. Every episode would be devoted to just a single dish, which a chef would prepare just like Martha Stewart would in her syndicated daytime program, from the washing and measuring of the ingredients to their elegant presentation on the plate.

However, in between the peeling and chiffonading or while waiting for the sauce to reduce, the chef, like a news anchor, would introduce one of the show's many intrepid edible geographers who have tracked down the journey one of the dish's ingredients had (most probably) taken. These segments will not be of the historical sort. The origin of the dish will not be traced, and there will be no biographical profiles of the famous person who popularized it. Instead, they will concentrate on its constituent parts and their (more or less) recent pasts.

Say it's a pork dish. Where was that pork sourced? From an organic farm cooperative on a former bramble patch in an inner-city neighborhood devastated by foreclosures, butchered by an architect who changed career after one too many nights spent at the office, in his pop-up abattoir? Or was it clandestinely imported from China's strategic pork reserve? All the ingredients will be covered, in short or long form, and that includes the salt, in whose segment the correspondent might be shown skiing down gigantic salt mountains or interviewing a salt farmer in Vietnam.

The dish doesn't have to be fancy. It could be something as prosaic as a salad — which, of course, won't be that ordinary in this cooking program, as the vegetables might have been grown at Thanet Earth or cultivated by the salad slaves of Spain or even flown in from the prime farmlands of Ethiopia land-grabbed by Saudi Arabia.

If there's a banana in there, then Nicola Twilley will be hired.

In other words, the show will be like Julia Child crossed with Frontline.
Jinho Lim attaches a small beautiful kite to a chicken which now flies a kite
Jinho Lim

Jinho Lim

When the expected environmental and social collapse have forced you and your family to take on a poultry concern as a way to supplement your now meagre income and measly diet, a stopgap measure to stave off utter destitution rather than a first step to a heroic life of self-sufficiency, surely there will be times when a bit of levity is needed to cut the drudgery of backyard pastoralism — and that's when you attach small beautiful kites to your chickens.

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