News for the ‘General Interest’ Category

Allison Cobb: What is public space?

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Let’s not be poetic. Public space in capitalist culture is that which has no profit potential because it is not privately owned.

“Public” and “space” both come from the Latin of the Roman Republic. Men gathered in a public space to express their sovereignty by debating issues and voting.

Public means “of the people.” Space is more amorphous. It implies just “there,” an area or extent, but also a stretch of time. Limits are embedded in the idea of space. It is provisional—it is only so large; it doesn’t last forever.

Public space is especially provisional in capitalist culture. As an ideal, it is core to democracy. In reality, it is external to the system of value, constantly vulnerable to conversion to profitable use.

But public space still plays an essential role in capitalism. Because it is external to value, public space becomes the repository of all things that the actors of capitalism consider worthless—what they want removed from their equations. In other words waste, pollution. Economists call these “externalities.”

The open ocean is public space. The air is public space. The climate is public space. See how they are all trashed?

What else?

The medical profession considers the human digestive tract from mouth to anus to be external. It takes in the outside world. You have a tube of public space running through the center of your body.

You also have police. The tiny universe of bacteria swirling in your guts makes sure that bad stuff doesn’t cross the border into your body.

But isn’t it clear that borders are porous? The limits of space are illusion. Space itself is an abstract concept, developed to handle other abstractions like public and private, property and ownership.

In the world where we live as organisms, abstractions melt with the increasing heat of our climate. Where will you live besides here?

Your police cannot protect you. Bacteria recognize threats they evolved with, not substances created in the last sixty years. The outside floods in—through your lungs, your gut, your skin.

Wealth also cannot protect you. Certainly, the wealthy have always channeled their waste toward the bodies of the poor. But industrial chemicals touch every corner of the planet. You probably have a few hundred of them circulating through your bloodstream—gasoline byproducts, pesticides, plastic additives.

No high enough fence exists. But I could think about a different response. Public space is where revolutions happen—the streets of Paris, the march on Washington, Tahrir Square.

I could start here, at the center of my body. What if I understood myself, and everyone I love, as part public space? A dumping ground for the externalities of capitalism?

Doesn’t that make me grounds for a revolution? Wouldn’t I want to transform the very concept of value, which means “price equal to the intrinsic worth of a thing,” but comes from the Latin word for strength and well-being? Wouldn’t I want to take the most radical care of everything we share?

 

ALLISON COBB is a poet and writer working on a book called Plastic: an autobiography that involves collecting and labeling plastic she finds in public spaces.

Posted: June 20th, 2014
Categories: General Interest, What is Public Space?
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Dakota Gearhart: What is public space?

GEARHART_1

 

 

To let an idea exist separate from my body gives me chills. The reality is I’m afraid of physical space. It makes me have to pee. It wrangles my best thoughts out of my identity and absorbs them into the labyrinth of consciousness, which is truly beyond any understanding I can muster.

 

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It’s difficult to look around physical space, even more so, public space. The confusion part arises in the consequences of seeing. When ideas pop into the mind like popping corn…They gather, sum up, disperse, shift in color, and if focused, they gain momentum, but then stop abruptly, without finality. The switch of madness, apathy, and love are turned off and on, yet I am in space and I know I am real and oh its all very public and its happening now.

 

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Keeping my sanity while living insane is real to me. But public space? It doesn’t have an ending, like a very long string of details asking people to perform the self and make the universe tangible at the same time. In that kind of context, I am not an idea. I am a kernel floating in a shared tumor of energy, which is at once gorgeous and terrifying.

 

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DAKOTA GEARHART, also known as Tiffany Peters and Tiff Mich, is an artist working in video, performance, sculpture, and multi-media installation. Dakota has exhibited work both nationally and internationally in venues such as Interstitial Theater, Seattle; Elsewhere Studios, Greensboro; Launchpad Gallery, Portland; Core Art Space, Denver; Artgrease, Buffalo; Purdue University Gallery, West Lafayette; Universitat de Barcelona, Spain; and Taiyuan University Gallery, China. Her work has been published in Trifecta Magazine, Carpaccio Magazine, and Open to Interpretation Books. She is the recipient of the Julaine Martin Scholarship, the Jane & David Davis Fellowship, and the Cultural Ambassador Scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Education. She is the organizer of the experimental garage space, The Royal Box, which showcases artists, writers, and musicians of the Pacific Northwest. Dakota was born in Arizona, raised in Florida and lives and works in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, where she recently graduated with her MFA from the University of Washington.

Posted: April 1st, 2014
Categories: General Interest, What is Public Space?
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Ian J. Whitmore: What is public space?

Nowhere #15607, 2010

Nowhere #15607, 2010

Nowhere #3809, 2005

Nowhere #3809, 2005

Nowhere #9104, 2008

Nowhere #9104, 2008

 

Nowhere is an ambiguous yet ubiquitous space. It is woven into our civic and commercial landscape as irresponsible and irrelevant decoration. In these images we see spaces that we move through every day but rarely acknowledge for their functional purpose or aesthetic value. How we engage with these spaces speaks to how we neglectfully pass through our own communities, and more importantly how we interact with one another.

Through these photographs I am exploring the psychology of our urban and suburban landscape by focusing on the ironic and garish nature of what surrounds us. By presenting ignorable spaces as places that have importance and are of interest we are drawn into the banal—as we linger on these images the mirage dissolves unveiling impotence, benign ornamentation and questions about our direction.

Those promising paths that once led us forward, reaching into the horizon, have been cleared away and accessorized as we seek our destination. Following the rhythm of progress our civic body ceaselessly expands and as the horizon has drawn nearer and nearer—collapsing in on us—it becomes clear that we have arrived nowhere in particular.

 

IAN J. WHITMORE is a photographer, art director, web developer living in Portland, OR. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at Portland State University. He is currently working on a book series, Onomasticon: A Vocabulary for Nowhere.

Posted: February 12th, 2014
Categories: General Interest, What is Public Space?
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excerpt from Toward a Lexicon of Usership by Stephen Wright

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Posted: January 30th, 2014
Categories: General Interest
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Coleman Stevenson: from Breakfast, No. 13

 

Just because something falls apart in your hands doesn’t mean you broke it.
They need to decide— the rest of us are waiting.
He is buying an axe to take apart the used up Xmas tree
but that is not an answer. In the Vietnamese
restaurant window, another month will turn these
green globes orange as they ought to be,
now already as orange on the inside as secret suns.
But I am too hot to be patient. I need to freeze.
Make my face into cold flowers,
leaves so iced over they’d snap if touched.
Could the garden stay encased this way all winter,
emerging still fully grown at its end?
I’ve stored heat and light, given none away.
So much curious energy burns through me
I blow the lightbulb when my finger flicks the switch.
Let’s build an ice cave and live in it.
I promise I’ll wear nothing but furs.

 

COLEMAN STEVENSON’s poems often deal with how the built environment is inhabited: how its structure impacts the paths of our stories or how it is manipulated to suit human need as we construct our ongoing narratives. Really excited about her presentation with Nora Wendl on February 24 for The New Structure!

Posted: January 16th, 2014
Categories: General Interest, The New Structure
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Nora Wendl: Attempts at Breaking into a Glass House

Glass House (Autobiography), 2013.

Glass House (Autobiography), 2013.

Glass House (Bricks) 1, 2013.

Glass House (Bricks) 1, 2013.

Glass House (Edith), 2013.

Glass House (Edith), 2013.

 

from the artist’s website:

It is impossible to occupy history. Seeing an historical photograph, we balance the historian’s responsibility to document with the researcher’s desire to project: we project ourselves into events and spaces of the past with difficulty, unable to surmount the distance of years, decades, centuries. This is nowhere more evident than in the images of canonical buildings, a visual discourse that is composed and curated to suggest timelessness and inevitability. Dr. Edith Farnsworth, patron of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1947-51), confused this discourse by commissioning Plano, Illinois-based “Gorman’s Child Photography” to document the house—complete with her own interior appointments. These records are doubly wrong—staged and composed by Farnsworth, and full of her own furniture, they remake the image of the Farnsworth House, muddling Mies’ aspirations to “beinache nichts,” almost nothing. A testament to the deviousness of these photographs is that they have never circulated in architectural histories or theorizations of the house.

How might we inhabit such a photograph? How might we inhabit the space between an outside observer’s casual detachment—the architect, the historian—and the interior perspective offered here, through the body of Dr. Farnsworth? At times we might find ourselves sympathetic, reaching to rest our hand on the image of a cold, steel surface in the kitchen, watching the horizon of an Illinois floodplain recede into a pixelated line. At other times, we might lie on the filthy floor of the studio, writhing in mockery of Farnsworth’s gestures of apparent desperation. It is as impossible to occupy history as it is to remain objective in constructing it.

 

NORA WENDL questions the composition of architecture—seeking to expand the perception of what the discipline’s built forms and histories are (and could be). Operating on a spectrum between the written artifact and the built artifact, she often aligns architecture and its histories with the adjacent fields of fiction, poetry, contemporary art and literature. Cityscope is lucky to have Nora and Coleman Stevenson presenting at the inaugural event for The New Structure on February 24, 7:00pm.

Posted: January 15th, 2014
Categories: General Interest, The New Structure
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Inspiration and Process In Architecture | Moleskine

Wiel Arets ‘freezes’ his thoughts, fixing nascent ideas onto paper.

Wiel Arets ‘freezes’ his thoughts, fixing nascent ideas onto paper.

Theoretical ideas and architectural practice coexist systematically, tracing out Cino Zucchi’s scientific and personal profile.

Theoretical ideas and architectural practice coexist systematically, tracing out Cino Zucchi’s scientific and personal profile.

A selection of materials produced by DPA Studio shows how unfinished works can also become remarkable experiments.

A selection of materials produced by DPA Studio shows how unfinished works can also become remarkable experiments.

Dialogues unfolded through study sketches made by both Bijoy Jain and the carpenters, as well photographs taken during journeys used as study and inspiration, showcasing a critical part of their design process.

Dialogues unfolded through study sketches made by both Bijoy Jain and the carpenters, as well photographs taken during journeys used as study and inspiration, showcasing a critical part of their design process.

Moleskine is publishing Inspiration and Process In Architecture, a new series of illustrated monographs dedicated to key figures in contemporary architecture.

 

Hernandez, Diego. Aug 2013. ArchDaily.

Posted: January 15th, 2014
Categories: General Interest
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Open Letters | Harvard Graduate School of Design

 

Launched in September 2013 by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Open Letters is a print experiment that tests the epistolary form as a device for generating conversations about architecture and design. The project stems from an earnest curiosity about what people have to say to each other about architecture, landscapes, cities, ideas, history, practice, experience and learning.

New issues are released every other Friday, each presenting one open letter, i.e. a letter addressed to a particular party, but intended for publication, about any topic relating to the design disciplines. Past correspondents have written to mentors, chairs, trees, mystical creatures, those in need of advice and to NCARB. All issues can be read online.

 

Quintal, Becky. 11 Jan 2014. ArchDaily.

Posted: January 15th, 2014
Categories: General Interest
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Sheila Crane’s Inventing Informality

“We are presently witnessing an efflorescence of interest amongst architects and designers in informal terrains and processes, conceived at once as a symptom of the effects of distinctively twenty-first-century urban conditions and as a productive model for contemporary design thinking. Inventing Informality opens a critically historical perspective onto this discussion, by bringing to light a series of formative attempts by designers and social scientists to document, describe, theorize, and ameliorate informal urban areas, from the 1950s through the 1970s. This study traces the historical emergence of urban areas in Europe and North Africa, as understood through distinct terms of informality, and intimately tied to late colonial policies and the struggle for decolonization. At the same time, this project excavates the history of knowledge production about informality, by examining the documentary techniques, representational tools, and analytic strategies trained on informal urban areas and their inhabitants.”

 

SHEILA CRANE is assistant professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia. Her book Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecturewas supported by a publication grant from the Graham Foundation and received the 2013 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her research focuses on the history and theory of modern architecture and urbanism, particularly in Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region. The recipient of fellowships at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, Crane has published essays in the Journal of Architecture and Future Anterior, as well as in numerous anthologies, including Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean,Spaces of the Modern City, and the forthcoming Use Matters.

Posted: January 10th, 2014
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Frances Richard’s Physical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language

Congratulations to Frances Richard, recipient of a Graham Foundation grant for Physical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language. This book considers language-use by the artist and architect Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–78). Examining his notes, project proposals, letters, titles, and interviews, as well as words embedded in his films and photographs, this book-in-progress explores the semiotic element in what Matta-Clark called “anarchitecture,” UN-REG-U-TECTURE, and the NON-U-MENT. Accepting his often deliberately whimsical writings as artifacts of serious thought, the author contends that Matta-Clark’s puns, neologisms, and architectonic verbal/visual layouts enact on the page the obsessions with in-between spaces and multiperspectival gaps that mark his interventions in built space. Part close reading and part biography, Physical Poetics assesses the paradoxical durability of Matta-Clark’s words and their role in the reception of a vividly material oeuvre whose major site-specific works have without exception been destroyed.

You can read more about this project, Frances Richard, and Miranda Mellis at The Conversant.

 

FRANCES RICHARD is a critic and poet. She has been nonfiction editor at Fence and an editor at Cabinet; with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, she cocurated the 2005 exhibition Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fake EstatesPhysical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language has been supported by an Arts Writers Grant from the Warhol Foundation, a Visiting Scholars Fellowship from the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, and residencies at the Farpath Foundation in Dijon and the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, both in France. Richard has taught at Barnard College and the Rhode Island School of Design, and has published three books of poems, See Through (Four Way Books, 2003), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012), and Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012). She currently teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Posted: January 9th, 2014
Categories: General Interest
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