Author Archives: 251200

The Berlin wall had to fall, but today’s world is no fairer

Mikhail Gorbachev in the Guardian:

Twenty years have passed since the fall of the Berlin wall, one of the shameful symbols of the cold war and the dangerous division of the world into opposing blocks and spheres of influence. Today we can revisit the events of those times and take stock of them in a less emotional and more rational way.

The first optimistic observation to be made is that the announced “end of history” has not come about, though many claimed it had. But neither has the world that many politicians of my generation trusted and sincerely believed in: one in which, with the end of the cold war, humankind could finally forget the absurdity of the arms race, dangerous regional conflicts, and sterile ideological disputes, and enter a golden century of collective security, the rational use of material resources, the end of poverty and inequality, and restored harmony with nature.

Another important consequence of the end of the cold war is the realisation of one of the central postulates of New Thinking: the interdependence of extremely important elements that go to the very heart of the existence and development of humankind. This involves not only processes and events occurring on different continents but also the organic linkage between changes in the economic, technological, social, demographic and cultural conditions that determine the daily existence of billions of people on our planet. In effect, humankind has started to transform itself into a single civilisation.

At the same time, the disappearance of the iron curtain and barriers and borders, unexpected by many, made possible connections between countries that until recently had different political systems, as well as different civilisations, cultures and traditions.

Naturally, we politicians from the last century can be proud of the fact that we avoided the danger of a thermonuclear war. However, for many millions of people around the globe, the world has not become a safer place. Quite to the contrary, innumerable local conflicts and ethnic and religious wars have appeared like a curse on the new map of world politics, creating large numbers of victims.


Zak Smith in Conversation With Alexandros Vasmoulakis

90% of my street work has been made in Athens/Greece. The political and social situation there is pretty loose and that gives room for anomie of all sorts. It is not necessary to get a permission to paint in the public domain.

Zak Smith: First–for the people who don’t know–who are you, where are you from?

Alexandros Vasmoulakis: My name is Alexandros Vasmoulakis, I was born in Athens, Greece in 1980 and studied painting at the university. Currently I live in Berlin.

Smith: Like a lot of early 20th century artists like Balthus or Modigliani, your work almost always features these people who have a certain kind of face.  This sort of dark, kind of deep-eyed faces–like Kafka’s family or something.  Where do these faces come from?  Are they Greek faces?

Vasmoulakis: The process starts first of all by ripping pages from magazines, collecting fragments of other faces, mostly from glamorous ads.

The next step is the selection of the proper elements (mouths, eyes, noses) and the mix of them with my own drawing.

Actually it is a collage but it is not that obvious in the final project because it is all made just with ink and acrylic. The very first idea is to create something through the destruction of something else.

Smith: You use a lot of techniques associated with commercial art and illustration, but you pervert them away from their original purpose and message.  A lot of artists do that, but then they usually pervert it towards some other message.  It almost seems like, instead of trying to show the audience a simple, understandable, message–like advertisements and most fine art–you’re trying to destroy the idea of a simple message and just leave people with a picture.  Is that right?


Gaza thirsts as sewage crisis mounts


Gaza’s aquifer and only natural freshwater source is “in danger of collapse,” the UN is warning.

Engineers have long been battling to keep the densely populated strip’s water and sewage system limping along.

But in September the UN Environment Programme warned that damage to the underground aquifer – due to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, conflict, and years of overuse and underinvestment – could take centuries to reverse if it is not halted now. Monther Shoblak, director of Gaza’s Coastal Municipality Water Utility, sniffs the air at the Beit Lahia water treatment plant and smiles.

“I’m happy when I smell sewage,” he jokes, “it means the turbines are working.”

Propellers are agitating the frothy sludge in one of the lagoons, aerating it to help bacteria digest it.

He says the machinery sometimes falls silent during the power cuts that plague most of Gaza.

But the mirror-smooth pond next to it is a perpetual concern.

The plant is handling twice its capacity and is only able to partially treat the sewage.

Lagoons designed to allow treated clean water to infiltrate through Gaza’s sandy soil back down into the aquifer are instead funnelling sewage straight back into the groundwater

In addition, with several years of drought and the digging of hundreds of illegal, unregulated wells, the UN Environmental Programme says at least three times more water is extracted than is replenished each year.


L’Europe, une passion turque

L’écrivain turc publie «D’autres couleurs», un recueil d’essais, et parle des rapports intenses et conflictuels entre son pays et l’Europe par Orhan Pamuk prix Nobel de littérature 2006

Le Nouvel Observateur.Vous avez grandi à Istanbul, dans une famille bourgeoise occidentalisée. Pour vous, c’est l’Occident qui a inventé le roman, l’art selon vous le mieux apte à dire le monde. Comment avez-vous concilié votre passion pour le roman occidental et votre héritage turc ?
Orhan Pamuk. – Maintenant que les années ont passé, le moment est venu de revenir sur ma jeunesse, lorsque je formulais des théories sur ma double identité turque et européenne et sur l’enrichissement mutuel qu’étaient censés représenter, aux yeux de nombreux intellectuels turcs, les échanges entre ces deux traditions. Mon enthousiasme d’antan a malheureusement décliné : non seulement mon enthousiasme politique, mais aussi culturel pour cette affirmation spectaculaire d’une double identité. Pourquoi ? Parce que, lorsque j’ai développé ces idées, vers l’âge de 25 ans, avant de les exprimer plus tard dans mes livres, la Turquie était à l’époque un pays très introverti, tout comme moi ! J’ai visité la Suisse quand j’avais 7 ans, mais je ne suis ressorti de Turquie qu’à l’âge de 33 ans. En ce sens, j’étais un Turc typique : provincial, vivant en autarcie et satisfait de mon sort. Mais c’est justement ce provincialisme qui me faisait rêver de l’Europe, comme mon père avant moi, comme Dostoïevski, Tanizaki et tant d’autres dans leur jeunesse. Une Europe imaginaire, idéalisée, que j’essayais de rendre palpable par mes livres et mes réflexions, et qui a nourri après une lente maturation «le Livre noir», «le Château blanc» et par-dessus tout «Mon nom est Rouge». Je réfléchissais sans cesse à ces rapports entre Turquie et Europe, toujours ? en dramatisant leurs différences, ce qui m’a aussi permis de mieux saisir mon identité turque. Mais si j’y rendais hommage à notre tradition culturelle, je célébrais aussi le caractère inévitable de l’occidentalisation. Aujourd’hui, je vois les choses différemment. Tout d’abord, la Turquie n’est plus aussi provinciale : elle est sortie de son placard, elle a fait son coming-out, si j’ose dire. Et elle est sur toutes les lèvres, car elle représente un défi pour l’Europe en l’obligeant à définir sa propre identité, qu’elle finisse ou non par entrer dans l’Union européenne. La Turquie est devenue plus visible, exhibant ses beautés comme ses zones d’ombre, qu’il s’agisse des violations des droits de l’homme, du traitement infligé aux Kurdes (malgré des progrès notables) ou du rapport problématique à son histoire passée. Ce pays naguère fermé connaît une évolution lente mais tangible. Les jeunes générations sont plus perméables à l’Europe, voyagent beaucoup plus à l’étranger. Je n’ai donc plus autant besoin de promouvoir l’Europe comme construction ou réalité culturelle, car elle est bien présente, même si tous les Turcs n’y voient pas un idéal.

N. O.– Dans «D’autres couleurs», vous dites que la schizophrénie culturelle rend intelligent...
O. Pamuk. – J’ai été nourri de Borges, de Calvino, de Kundera, de Naipaul, plus tard de Paul Auster… Mais je lisais aussi les mystiques musulmans du XIIe siècle, «les Mille et Une Nuits», la poésie ottomane… Et dans mon oeuvre j’ai mélangé tout cela de façon éhontée ! Du coup, mes ennemis en Turquie m’ont traité de postmoderne, ce qui pour eux était une insulte. On m’accusait de manquer de respect envers notre tradition. Or ce sont justement mes antinomies qui ont fait mes livres. La créativité, dans l’art et la culture, consiste à associer deux choses différentes et jusque-là séparées, ce qui représente un défi lancé à la tradition, aux pères, à toute autorité, qu’elle soit esthétique, intellectuelle et universitaire, politique ou religieuse. Ce geste dégage toute l’énergie et la tension d’une décharge électrique, et c’est ce que j’ai tenté de faire dans «le Livre noir» ou «Mon nom est Rouge». Cela m’a enrichi, mais m’a aussi donné l’assise nécessaire pour me réapproprier la tradition culturelle islamique, dans une démarche laïque et littéraire, en éludant sa dimension strictement religieuse, donc sans la mettre sur un piédestal comme le font les fondamentalistes. Et cela m’a permis de toucher le lectorat turc, qui tend à négliger cet héritage culturel. Ma démarche a donc des implications politiques. Mais toutes les cultures font de même : il faut sans cesse réinventer la tradition à la lumière de la modernité pour ne pas l’oublier. ()

Oracle Bones

The article describes the work of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and the University of Arizona who have been studying cut marks on late Lower Paleolithic period animal bones from Qesem Cave in Israel. Their findings, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclude that the number and placement of these cut marks offer archaeological evidence of an alternative, earlier, and less specialised form of meat preparation. According to Professor Avi Gopher of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology:

From 200,000 years ago to the present day, the patterns of meat-sharing and butchering run in a long clear line. But in the Qesem Cave, something different was happening.

The cut marks we are finding are both more abundant and more randomly oriented than those observed in later times, such as the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods […] suggesting that more (skilled and unskilled) individuals were directly involved in cutting meat from the bones at Qesem Cave.

For the past 200,000 years, in other words, the butchering of large animals has been done by one or two individuals in a community, who were specially trained to carry out a relatively ritualised series of tasks. Prior to that, the bones at Qesem seem to show, meat cutting was more of an ad-hoc free-for-all.

Tracing the City
Julie Mehretus’ Grey Area for the Deutsche Guggenheim

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The term gray area speaks to a condition of indeterminacy, a liminal state in which something is not clearly defined or perhaps impossible to define. Things are neither black nor white, right nor wrong, and in the best of cases, the phrase describes a situation that remains open for discussion. Julie Mehretu adapts such enigmatic circumstances as a tool to engage the viewer in her complex compositions of meticulously drawn mechanical renderings, spontaneous gestural markings, and colorful interjections. For the suite of paintings she has produced for the Deutsche Guggenheim exhibition, the fifteenth in its acclaimed series of commissions, Mehretu also explores the theme of the ruin as an indicator of transformation. These remnants of the past serve to commemorate events but also highlight developments in the present. Mehretu sometimes refers to actual sites of ruin, decay, or destruction in these paintings. At other times she creates the dissolution in the picture herself as she layers drawings such that they obfuscate one another.

Berliner Plätze (2008–09) most clearly captures a specific setting, as referenced in the title and line drawings derived from photographs of late-19th-century Wilhelminian architecture. Yet the dense layering of lines obscures the individual buildings, creating a kaleidoscopic composition of line that destabilizes the viewer’s gaze. Created by projecting historical photos of Berlin onto a canvas and outlining the structural details of the architectural facades, this painting demonstrates the role of photography in Mehretu’s work. The layered imagery suggests double or multiple exposure; the reflections in the upper regions of the canvas recall the inversion of a landscape made by a camera obscura. One might recognize a structure or have a fleeting impression of a familiar locale, but these chimeras quickly slip back into the ethereal world depicted on the canvas. The composition also captures the unsettling nature of the urban experience where block after block of repetitive facades mask the individual lives that are played out behind them—one is surrounded yet often isolated. The individual’s relationship to architecture has long interested Mehretu, who typically interweaves aspects of modernist architecture, city plans, and public spaces such as airports and stadiums into her compositions.

The painting Fragment (2008–09) also captures parts of the urban experience. Layering a variety of streetscapes, the painting explores how city planning frames one’s objective perspective as well as subjective experience of a city. The gestural markings on the surface seem to illustrate Michel de Certeau’s L’invention du quotidien (The Practice of Everyday Life, 1980), which

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Classical Music Piece Reconstructed With 1000 Phones [Video]

If you want to create a viral video these days, you need to do something great and unique. A couple of days ago, Sony Australia smashed a PS3 slim into a Bravia LCD TV at high speed. Now, Vodafone NZ hired a production team to orchestrate cellphones into “playing” Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.

The effort took 1000 phones and 53 different ringtone alerts, synchronized to recreate the famous classical piece. The resulting video is nothing short of amazing; you can also see the “making of” videos below.

If you like the resulting tune, you can download it to your computer, as well as the 53 ringtones used to create it, over at the Vodafone NZ site.

(For Sosatz Rol =)))