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What is a starting point or how do I find an IN?  A week ago I arrived in Yerevan, Armenia and within this week I have to find my bearings as well as figure where to begin.  Though I have current and ongoing themes within my work I change, my location changes and especially the landscape I experience.

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Firstly my process is simple I go get lost.. Not in the moment per se but in a place.  Public transport is easy to do this in a new country.  Just get on and do not worry about the direction just travel.  This here in Yerevan is perfect as the whole experience is totally different from other countries I have experienced.  The majority of the transport system is run by small minibuses similar to Ford Transit vans.  I am 6’4″ so even getting into these at times is a challenge.  Especially in rush hour, oh yes just like elsewhere in the world the transport system still gets crowded and these minibuses are full.  Standing room only and you would be surprised at how many people these buses can carry.  Its an impressive feet in itself.  However the whole process is calm and collected considering the horns being used by other road users and taxis.  The public just get on with it without any complaint or quibble.

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Anyways back to process.  My approach is I guess similar to the Situationists – Guy Debords’ dérive.  I use my one and one approach with the city to experience the infrastructure and witness the makeup of the city.  I am not directed as to where I head and would rather each left and right decided when it is met.  By passing through districts, suburbs and communities you can get a feel for what atmosphere and people live in a space.  This interaction with the landscape creates a dialogue that builds the more I walk and the further days spent doing so.  I start to question or be drawn into errors, repetition, oddities, familiarities and characteristics.  Its certainly not just the physical or visible that appeals, though sometime its the sense of smell or piercing sound that leaves a lasting impression.  I find my experience of space similar to how I read people and their personalities.  The anthropomorphic nature is something allows me to form initial ideas.  What are these ideas, well I have no idea until I start to delve into these dérives.  How do I know when I am onto a idea or something that is worth investigating further I do not know at first.  However I could compare it to tennis.  If you think about tennis and the shots that win matches or serves that are aces.  These are not ideas that appeal to me as they are either one of, one liners or too literal in their representation of an idea.  The ideas that I am interested in I would compare to the rallies that build and sometimes keep on going.  These rallies I would compare to the discourse that the ideas created within my own research and investigations and those that I speak to regarding the work.

Mirror Image

So by using this kind of dérive or active losing oneself I create an instability that aided by the new location or country sparks my engagement.  I move and navigate the new spaces without plans though attentive to that which is around me.  Over time my mind starts to read that which is around me in new ways and dialogues start to happen and it is these that I use to form the basis for new work/projects.

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Re-post from Highsnobiety

  • By Fritz Radtke

For about 20 years German photographer Michael Wolf has been living in Hong Kong – a city as beautiful and exciting as it is crowded. Being one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an overall density of some 6,300 people per square kilometer, Hong Kong’s architecture is accordingly dominated by staggering highrise buildings. For his recent photo series ‘Architecture of Density’ Wolf has captured the city’s unique landscape. By removing skies and horizons, thus focusing on and highlighting the structures’ abstract elements, his photographs evoke a sense of endlessness – an ever-growing urban space.

Michael Wolf Website



P1200281Living here in Portillo is a trip, a place full of contradictions.  The spectacular scenery, world class freeride terrain for skiers and snowboarders and fully serviced hotel in the heart of the Andes.  However this is also one of the passes between Chile and Argentina, this picturesque place is a thoroughfare for trucks transporting all kinds of goods.  Its a hostile place with the road being subject to closures frequently due to the winding switchbacks that lead up to the border.  The parked up trucks display the amount of traffic that passes through on any given day navigating the pass.

The border itself is a ramshackle warehouse of a place.  Similar to a lot of the buildings in these mountains it looks temporary, subject to movement both by mother nature and man.  This living so close to a border in a man made utopia is quite surreal, the road provides a reminder to the real, the world that operates away from here.  For those not from here the road is understandable whilst the resort is itself a heterotopia.  A yellow hotel built within a South American country for those who have the money to enjoy the finer things in life and privileged enough to be able to ski.

I am sure it will be a time in my life that I will make me question daily where I am.  The idea of only knowing what is beneath your feet and not really knowing what the next step will bring.  This borderland seems to be less certain maybe similar to the buildings the ground is less certain or not as comprehendible.




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Re-Blogged from Motherboard

Floating Utopias for the Age of Rising Seas

Written by
BRIAN MERCHANT
@bcmerchant
brian.merchant@vice.com

May 14, 2014 // 07:00 AM EST

 

A two mile-thick ice sheet in Antarctica is collapsing, which all but guarantees at least 10 feet of global sea level rise. That’s grim news for the 44 percent of the world’s population living in coastal areas, who now face the dire prospect of preparing for the coming tides. Developing the necessary engineering solutions, as well as plans to anticipate some inevitable social and economic destabilization, will prove a daunting challenge for millions of communities worldwide. Which is why, along with the engineers, we’re going to need utopianists.

In 1962, haunted by the specter of nuclear annihilation, the sociologist Lewis Mumford penned a new preface to his book, The Story of UtopiasHe noted that utopianism tends to thrive when civilization is in turmoil, and that far from being useless pie-in-the-sky dreaming, our utopian myths, schemes, and fictions hint at what he terms society’s “potentialities.”  

“[E]very community possesses, in addition to its going institutions, a reservoir of potentialities, partly rooted in the past, still alive though hidden, and partly budding forth from new mutations, which open the way to further development,” Mumford wrote. In the face of utter destruction by the bomb, he said, there was nonetheless an opportunity to “renew in man himself the sense of his more-than-human potentialities.” 

Now, we’re faced with an existential crises of another stripe. Scientists have for the last few years considered a significant amount of global warming, and the sea level rise it brings with it, an inevitability. Now that we have a forebodingly certain baseline in place, it’s an apt time to look at some of the many utopian ideas that have quite literally—yeah, sorry—been floated to cope with the rising tides.

Image courtesy of Remizov

Floating Cities

I’ve been keeping a close eye on modern utopianism for the last couple years, and one of the most common themes is, unsurprisingly, floating cities.

Whether grandiose, or of the humbler variety, both sci-fi designers and urban planners are imagining how to raise our metropolises up to ride atop the rising tides. First, let’s look at what is maybe the most prevalent medium for modern utopianism on the internet—design fiction. You’ve maybe already seen some examples of the genre running through your feed; the self-sustaining, ark-like city designed to float in a globally-warmed world. 

This one, designed by Russian architect Alexander Remizov, is a “bioclimatic” ark—a self-sustaining, floating system designed to harbor insular communities of people in a disaster-ridden, high-tide world. It’s both apocalyptic and hopeful; we can keep our sleek modernist design and opulent lives, we modern-day Noahs decked out with smart tech, as the world ravages everything unfortunate enough to lie outside the walls we’ve built. 

According to Arch Daily, “Remizov envisioned this project as the house for the future which can be constructed quickly and withstand environmental disasters through its structural integrity.” Resilient, perfectly-organized floating domiciles aren’t just the focus of science fiction, though.

Image: NLE

In a poor neighborhood of Lagos, Nigeria—now Africa’s largest economy—local architects are trying to engineer an entire city to float. The first phase has been completed; the school is now essentially a moored boat. But the next phase of the African Water Cities Project is where the utopian planning begins in earnest.

According to Design Boom, “phase two includes the construction of floating housing units that can be interlocked or float independently… the houses will also contain a state-of-the-art device designed by Japanese company AIR Danshin Systems Inc that detects certain movements (such as earthquake tremors) and activated a compressor that pumps air into a chamber below the structure so that the dwellings may navigate safely over a flood plain.” It’s supposed to be completed by the end of this year, but as with most utopian schemes, it appears to be a bit behind schedule.

Floating Power

Nuclear energy was the original utopian energy source: boundless, clean, a triumph of science. To its advocates, it still reflects near-unlimited potential. So, to better suit our drowning world, MIT has made them float. These buoyed, modular reactors rise and fall with the seas; tsunamis ostensibly glance off them harmlessly, and they use the vast reservoir of ocean below them as a well for cooling water as they produce a font of clean energy.  Problems persist, of course; meltdowns or radioactive discharge are even more a terrifying specter at sea. 

Less controversial, but no less optimistic are other floating power sources; Singapore is getting ready to try out a pilot program for floating solar panels.

New Venices

If we cannot build utopian floating city-capsules, then perhaps we at least will be able to adapt our current infrastructure to the flood. Science fiction might offer some clues as to how.

The sci-fi historian Adam Roberts argues that “utopian writing becomes a sort of para-SF, entwining itself round the genre in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” Yet in traditional science fiction, it’s rare that irreversible climate change produces hopeful communities; Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 is the exceptional vision that does. 

“It was almost an ice-free planet now, with only Antarctica and Greenland holding on to much, and Greenland going fast. Sea level was therefore eleven meters higher than it had been before the changes,” Robinson writes. “This inundation of the coastline was one of the main drivers of the human disaster on Earth.” Pertinent words, those.

After a couple generations of terrible chaos, some degree of stability reemerged—as well as a New York City replete with Venetian canals laced between permanently submerged skyscrapers. Life, and its messy bustle, goes on: “A few parts of Manhattan’s ground still stood above the water, but most of it was drowned, the old streets now canals, the city an elongated Venice, a skyscraper Venice, a super Venice—which was a very beautiful thing to be. Indeed it was an oft-expressed cliche that the city had been improved by the flood.”

Floating Free Market Utopias

Image: Seasteading Institute 

It’s doubtful that libertarians like Peter Thiel are all that interested in fighting climate change; statistically speaking, most don’t consider it a pressing issue. But their long-gestating Seasteading communities, those floating free market utopias where the tech elite can innovate away without the burdensome shackles of government, incidentally appear primed to adapt to a high-tide planet.

Rising Prospects for Radical Change

From the beginning, Occupy Wall Street was a utopian project in the strictest sense—a leaderless, ultra-egalitarian activist community founded at the foot of its participants’ oppressor. Utopian projects are often most notable for how they illuminate the gulf between imperfect reality and their lofty aims, and the gulf OWS, was attempting to bridge was glaringly self-evident: Students, laborers, and average citizens couldn’t find work, while profits for the 1 percent soared. A radical adjustment to income equality was therefore in order.

When Hurricane Sandy, pulling from sea levels raised by climate change, washed over New York City, the movement’s ideals were again translated into action—and we saw a glimmer of how besieged coastal communities might organize to respond to crises. Decentralized, democratic, networked, and better organized than legacy aid efforts, Occupy Sandy empowered communities while delivering disaster relief. It proved Occupy could organize to provide shelter, health, food delivery, and other crucial services.

But, effective as it was, it also made the chasm to utopia again starkly evident, this time in the face of a harsh scientific reality—thousands of people are still without homes, and storms like this are going to keep coming. Occupy Sandy shows how far we need to travel before we’re ready for the disasters of the future—our institutions aren’t yet equipped to cope. 

That’s why we need to consider each of these utopian ideas (okay, maybe not the Steasteads). As Mumford says, even if the total vision they convey are ultimately impossible, they reveal the potentialities in our communities to first adequately imagine, then adapt, life beset by rising seas.

 

10296174_476816305783975_1896722786469790853_o 10309337_1506298946265136_7694545771599548638_n 10339549_10154066985225316_1956882948861110285_nThis year has been going well for me in Athens with events unfolding from my time spent on the SNEHTA Artist Residency last Autumn.  This week saw the opening of Art Athina 2014.  SNEHTA used this art fair to showcase the second set of residents from their residency.

SNEHTA Press Release:

“Things are Different Now”
Snehta Resident Artists Annual Show (2013-2014)

15-18 MAY
Booth P13, Art Athina Platforms Projects, Faliro Pavilion (TaeKwon Do), 2 Moraitini Str., Faliron Delta

Participating artists:
Elliott Burns, Jack Burton, Catriona Gallagher, Boris Lafargue, Andrew Peter Mason, Dickie Webb

Organized by:
Irini Bachlitzanaki, Becky Campbell & Augustus Veinoglou for Snehta Residency, Athens

Things are Different Now brings together work by six artists who completed an artists’ residency at Snehta in
the past year and is the second annual show of residents. The works on show were either created in Athens
or shortly after the resident artists’ stay at Snehta. While they are the result of distinct artistic practices,
seen together they bring to the fore issues of location and dislocation, change and movement as well as the
experience of time and space and the way this is worked through and inscribed on an individual piece of art.

I made a new version of a work that I have continued to use as the basis of my thoughts since Athens, the work titled;

Concept of Since: 24 Options,

4 words

24 orders

Multiple meanings.

Merleau-Ponty described space, as having many meanings and it is only how it is phrased/spoken that gives it meaning.

The current Athenian landscape can be read in different ways by those who live/visit here. It has multiple meanings and like most cities and countries are hard to interpret. This work asks people to consider these short statements in relation to their current landscape, asking them to question their own experience of the here and now. Whilst some viewers will be hung up on the negative others will see opportunity in with each rendition.

Thanks for the SNEHTA team for organising this and making this a success.

Art Athina runs from 15th – 18th of May click here for the website.

Click here for SNEHTA website

 

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The photography work of Sam Irons presents photographs of everyday situations and vistas but with twist.  The way the scenes are framed and composed subtract them from the world we maybe familiar with and suggest somewhere else an otherness.  These heterotopic visuals leave us to rebuild the story and context to comprehend them.  They allow us to engage with spaces that otherswise we would just digest without a second thought.  For more work please check his website here.  

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So Catriona Gallagher and myself wrapped up our time here on the SNEHTA residency with a small exhibition titled Unsettled Certainties.  Over the two days we had some interesting conversations with people we had met and others we had not from our time here in Athens.  It was a great way to finish our two months and hopefully will see either of us or both returning sooner rather than later.  I will post some images over the coming week.  For now here is a little GIF teaser from a sign piece I made which is the start of a new series of work titled “Concept Of Since”.