£5m Oxford Circus Diagonal Crossing
Inspired by the world famous diagonal Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, also known as the busiest crossing in the world, now Oxford Circus has its own diagonal crossing. Boris raised the meaning of “Oxford Circus” to a whole new level by striking a gong this morning to mark the opening of the diagonal crossing.
The original Shibuya diagonal crossing in Tokyo.
So, they have one diagonal, we have two, and we have Boris striking a gong. London – Tokyo, 1-0. But is it worth 5million pounds of taxpayers money? Meaning, 5million / 60million ~ 8 pence per person? Definitely! I would sure pay 8 pence to see Boris strike a gong again.
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?
Tracing the City
Julie Mehretus’ Grey Area for the Deutsche Guggenheim
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…
Sensing the immaterial-material city
More on Timo Arnall’s and Jack Schulze’s research:
(In this particularly fine image, we see Tesla’s friend Mark Twain conducting high-frequency high voltage current, bringing a lamp to incandesce. Tesla is lurking in the background.)
Shape of State Library of Queensland wi-fi from cityofsound on Vimeo.
Part of the purpose behind Immaterials is to understand more about RFID in terms of an emerging ‘material knowledge’, as Timo put it, from the designer’s perspective. But perhaps also in order to raise awareness of a technology which is essentially invisible – and often feared – such that we can better understand it, and so make informed choices. It’s similar to my own far sketchier work exploring the shape of the wi-fi at the State Library of Queensland (written up here) – if you could perceive the phenomenon of wireless internet as a physical space, what might it look like? (It’d be more interesting to ask what it feels like, actually.)
The secret world beneath Sin City
Most tourists take in Vegas from the interior of a casino – slot machines, blackjack tables, cocktail waitresses in impossibly tiny outfits.
If you are willing to pay the price of admission, a lift can transport you to more excess upstairs – rooftop pools and lavish suites.
But what if there were a lift that descended below the sunken lounges, past kitchens and utility closets, through layers of concrete, into the ground beneath the casinos?
Here, you would see another, very different, version of the city: the storm drains.
Matt O’Brien, a Las Vegas writer, has been exploring this underworld for several years. In 2007, he published a book, Beneath the Neon, about exploring the 300 miles of tunnels that criss-cross beneath the strip.
The evening I meet him, he is wearing heavy boots, and carrying a backpack and industrial-sized flashlight that could double as a weapon.
“I’ve been exploring these storm drains for more than five years,” he says, sloshing through muck and gravel that blanket the tunnel floor.
“I think I know these storm drains better than anyone who doesn’t actually live in them. And I know the storm drain system probably – and this is nothing to brag about – better than anyone else.”
The Internet’s next frontier? News for your neighborhood
“Emerging media have become amazing forces for enabling people to connect,” notes a new report on the problem. “But their full potential is not yet realized in the service of geographic communities, the physical places where people live and work.” For all the glories of the blogo/webo/streamo/facebooktwitter-osphere, people still don’t have much access to constructive information about critical issues facing their square block. So concludes Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, a study produced by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Democracy.
Brunel, Locke and Stephenson: the engineering giants who shaped our world
One hundred and fifty years ago today, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the greatest engineers in history, died at the age of just 53. His funeral in Kensal Green cemetery was attended by several hundred people, including Joseph Locke who, with Brunel, had opened up Britain to the railway. He was buried a year later, also in Kensal Green.
There was another mourner, that day, however: Robert Stephenson, a household name who had risen from humble origins in the Northumberland coalfield to the highest echelons of London society. Although of a similar age to Brunel, Stephenson was already very frail. His death, a few weeks later, prompted a national outpouring of grief: his body was committed to Westminster Abbey, with the cortège watched by thousands of people as it made its way through Hyde Park by express permission of Queen Victoria. Stephenson’s hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, meanwhile, was plunged into mourning at the loss of its heroic son.
The passing of these three extraordinary men, so close together, robbed the country of an astonishing source of talent, energy and influence. The trio, who had done so much to accelerate the Industrial Revolution, were often portrayed by the press as rivals clambering to pursue their own agendas, but were in fact close colleagues and friends. Moreover, they were much more than engineers: they were consulted by (or sat in) Parliament and boardrooms, and advised foreign and colonial governments on railways, water supply and sanitation, dock and harbour improvements, land reclamation schemes and much more. They were titans of the Victorian age.