300,000 Free Art Books: “The Distribution to Underserved Communities Library Program (D.U.C.) is a program of Art Resources Transfer, a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing a more egalitarian access to the arts through publishing (A.R.T. Press) and the free distribution of books to underserved communities across the United States (D.U.C.). Since 1990, the D.U.C. has been distributing books on contemporary art and culture free of charge to rural and inner-city public schools, libraries, prisons, and alternative reading centers.”
Bel Borba, the Brazilian painter and sculptor who has recently been on the loose in New York City, is the ebullient subject of the documentary ‘Bel Borba Aqui’ (‘Bel Borba Is Here’), which opens at Film Forum in Manhattan tomorrow. Directed by Burt Sun and André Constantin, and eloquently photographed by the latter with expressive use of tracking shots and dissolves, it’s a vibrant tribute to a prolific folk artist and self-anointed community hero who, outside of his hometown of Salvador de Bahia, is scarcely an international art celeb.
In keeping with the art form that made his name in the northeastern Brazilian city, the movie is a visual and aural mosaic cemented by traditional Bahian music. Filmed over three years, it depicts the now 55-year-old Borba, whose narration describes his symbiotic relationship with Salvador and his instinctive method, embarking on project after project as he adorns the town’s walls, streets, beaches, even boat sails, and an airplane with the organic multimedia images and structures that pour spontaneously from him – and which he is loath to interpret or explain.
An opening title reports that in 1976 Borba ‘abandoned the gallery system and started to transform his city into a museum.’ With its old connotations of fustiness, ‘museum’ is the wrong word here, since Borba’s work has a live quality to it. In one case, this is literally true. A great metal sculpture, left undersea for many months, is hauled out of the water for display on a promenade. Beautifully encrusted with barnacles, it shows all manner of tiny sea creatures wriggling in its orifices; the film preserves it as a literal piece of living art.
Endowed with formidable energy, working speedily – Constantin sometimes captures his frenetic pace with time-lapse photography – Borba appears all over the city, both native and colonist, leaving art wherever he goes. ‘A sperm to a woman is like I am to Salvador,’ he modestly claims early on. No neighborhood is immune to his physical presence, no surface or object to his touch.
He paints the steel girders of an abandoned building in red, interspersing these stripes with the frowning white faces of people who might have been former residents. On a butcher’s stall in a market, he anthropomorphizes a pair of pig carcasses. On a beach, he turns a towering scaffold into a Christmas tree hung with thousands of Coke bottles containing sea water and fragments of the abolitionist poet Castro Alves’s poetry. These messages symbolize ‘redemption, salvation, a cry for help,’ Borba says, their significance more important to him than the ‘stupid’ and ‘frivolous’ commercial Christmas holiday.
Behind his thetoric, there’s a keenly felt and reasoned sense of mission. He talks of initially resenting the folkloric Bahia stereotype and then learning, over time, to embrace it. ‘I found my nourishment from my prejudice,’ he says, adding that this involved a ‘cleansing’ of his ‘mind, body, and soul.’ His canvases and materials (especially the scrapped tiles he recycles in his mosaics) are usually found objects from Salvador’s past, so he is proactively involved in preservation: he has attempted, for example, to keep afloat the twenty surviving Saveiro boats, many decades old, that once supplied the city, and which are powered now, of course, with the sails he has elaborately decorated.
‘I’m completely conscious of my closeness to each segment of each location, each place, each flavor, or every smell of the people from my community,’ he says, the film frequently showing how locals welcome him. Aware that it may be slipping into hagiography, he suggests the directors interview a critic who says ‘intelligent bad things about me.’ When he says that, ‘Everyday is a surprise….I just go there and penetrate,’ he’s deliberately making a metaphor of sexual conquest. When it comes to the rival satisfactions of sex, drinking, and making art, however, there’s no contest: for Borba, art is lifeblood.
The exhibition Sensing Place at House of Electronic Arts in Basel (Switzerland) engages with urban developments, new digital infrastructure and municipal space concepts. The exhibition seeks to address this reconfiguration of the public space by means of an increasing overlap of the digital spheres of information and geographical reality. Several location-dependent areas will provide the possibility for the visitors to explore not only the exhibited works but also the Dreispitzareal and old town of Basel in a sensory experience – from Urban Games to visualizations of data, Smartphone-Apps or sensory Sound interventions. In this video, the curator of the exhibition, Sabine Himmelsbach (Director, House of Electronic Arts Basel) talks about the concept of the exhibition and the artworks on display. The participating artists are Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen (N), Ursula Damm (D), fabric|ch (CH), Ulrich Fischer (CH), Luca Forcucci (CH, Konzert/Performance), Yolande Harris (GB/NL), Christina Kubisch (D), Francisco Meirino (CH, Konzert/Performance), Christian Nold (GB), Gordan Savičić (SRB/D) , SENSEable City Lab (Carlo Ratti, Assaf Biderman, Dietmar Offenhuber, Eugenio Morello, Musstanser Tinauli, Kristian Kloeckl vom MIT Media Lab) (USA), Mark Shepard (USA), and Corinne Studer (CH).
Mark Shepard earned Master Degrees at Columbia University and Hunter College, City University of New York and works as an artist, architect and researcher. His research focuses on the implications of mobile and pervasive computing for architecture and urbanism. In fall 2009 he curated the exhibition ‘Toward the Sentinent City’ that was organized by The Architectural League, New York. In the exhibition, Shepard critically explored the evolving relationship between ubiquitous computing, architecture and the public space. In addition to the exhibition he edited the book ‘Sentinent City: ubiquitous computing, architecture and the future of urban space’. He currently holds a fellowship at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York.
Interview with Mark Shepard at House of Electronic Arts Basel. September 1, 2012.
Sentient City Survival Kit, 2010, Video documentation The works of American artist and scientist Mark Shepard engage with the cultural, social, and political implications of ‘ubiquitous computing’ in urban environments – intelligent information systems that will be able to recognize incidents and react to them in the near future. For this scenario, Shepard has developed a kit that serves as survival tool in the ‘sentient city’. The ‘Sentient City Survival Kit’ consists of a specially designed navigation app for iPhones, underwear designed to detect RFID-chip sensors in shopping malls, a communication-enabled coffee cup, as well as an umbrella equipped with infrared diodes that is able to irritate video monitoring systems. ‘Sentient City Survival Kit’ provides tools to deprive oneself of sensory control and ironically comments on the developments of ‘ubiquitous computing‘ and its potential social impact.
Serendipitor, 2010, iPhone App, Video documentation The idea of a sentient city implies a ubiquitous and intelligent information system that continuously monitors our behavior and has the capacity to actively intervene in our lives. In such a city it will no longer be a problem to find your way from A to B but rather to register what happens along the way. The iPhone navigation app ‘Serendipitor’ created by Shepard as part of his ‘Sentient City Survival Kit’ calculates the ideal route for a walk in the city, then offers detours and delays by way of Fluxus-inspired instructions in order to open the user’s eyes to new and unknown features of the city. The only thing you have to do is follow the computer-generated directions and carry out the instructions: ‘Walk toward the heart of the city. If the city has no heart, give it one.’
The ‘Serendipitor’ app can be downloaded for free at the Apple app store.
Alejandro Cartagena, ‘Car-Poolers’ series (All images courtesy the artist)
Photographer Alejandro Cartagena gets a snapshot of life from a unique angle: directly above the highway in the suburbs of Mexico City. His series Car-Poolers documents the travels of commuting workers who drive daily from homes in the city’s outer suburban sprawl to jobs more centrally located. The truck beds caught by Cartagena’s camera present open windows not only into the personal lives of Mexico’s working class but the country’s environmental and infrastructural problems as well.
The Car-Poolers project follows up on Cartagena’s previous work shooting Mexico City’s empty suburban developments in Suburbia Mexicana: Fragmented Cities. The photographs in that dramatic series depict long tracts of newly constructed, cookie-cutter family homes without a person in sight. They form an origin story to Cartagena’s weary travelers, who stretch out in the little space available to them, stranded on the highway, killing time by sleeping or reading.
Mexico City is the world’s second biggest urban center, and it’s home to more than 20 million people. The city needs a constant supply of labor to function, and, much like in China’s major cities, that means that workers must travel from elsewhere into the city. China’s migrant labor pool might make their homes in pop-up dorm structures, the Mexican workers Cartagena shoots turn their vehicles into temporary houses for the long commute.
We contacted Cartagena over email and asked him what started him off on his documentation of car-pooling, how he arranges the shots, and how he thinks about his relationship with his subjects.
Alejandro Cartagena, ‘Car-Poolers’ series
Kyle Chayka: How did you first notice the car-poolers who were riding like this?
Alejandro Cartagena: I was on the look out for images that could address issues of the over-developed Mexican suburbia and its consequences on people’s everyday lives. I was taking pictures of traffic jams and came across a couple of them, and then took their picture. I left them aside for a couple of months trying to understand how they would relate to my work and eventually made a routine of going once or twice a week early in the morning. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half.
KC: In your description of the project, you talk about how the car-poolers are quietly contributing to the preservation of our planet by riding together. Are the photos meant to be looked at from an environmentalist angle?
AC: This is one of the many issues addressed in the work. It is something that came to mind after a while, but I definitely see it as something important. Transportation issues are completely disregarded in Mexico and this is an abstract way to talk about how people unconsciously contribute to a kind of ecological enterprise.
Alejandro Cartagena, ‘Car-Poolers’ series
KC:The angle of the photographs is pretty precipitous. How did you set yourself up to get the shots?
AC: I stand on an overpass on a busy highway and wait for them to pass. I hand hold the camera and run from lane to lane. They are going around 60 kilometers-per-hour, so I have to shoot fast.
KC: Did anyone ever notice you taking photos of them?
AC: Yes, many do, but they rarely respond to it. I think they don’t understand what I am doing to some degree.
Alejandro Cartagena, ‘Car-Poolers’ series
KC: There’s a pathos in how you capture people relaxing, entertaining themselves, or just killing time while in the cars. What kind of relationship do you have with your distant subjects?
AC: For me this is something amazing about the pictures: intimacy in public space. The fact that they do this commute makes me feel proud. Proud because they are willing to do whatever it takes to have an honest job. Things in Mexico are difficult, and jobs are somewhat scarce. I also relate to them in a more personal level as my grandfather was a construction worker and he himself did this with his fellow workers.
KC: What’s the strangest or funniest thing you saw someone doing in a truck bed?
AC: Nothing funny-funny. I am more in awe with what they do to survive!
In the last century earthlings have launched innumerable satellites into the atmosphere – most of which are still floating around messing with operational equipment circling the Earth. Fortunately, Switzerland just announced plans to launch a satellite in the next three to five years that will clean up all that space junk. Dubbed CleanSpace One, the $11 million satellite will remove unwanted objects from the atmosphere by grabbing a hold of them and jettisoning itself and the object into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they will both burn up upon re-entry.
The key point here, which has been missing in much of the initial coverage, is that the policy announcement is specifically related to the company’s global expansion: Twitter is opening offices in more countries around the world. A US-based company doesn’t “have to” censor speech according to any other country’s laws, but the scenario is quite different for a company opening offices and placing employees within foreign borders. Snip:
Until now, when Twitter has taken down content, it has had to do so globally. So for example, if Twitter had received a court order to take down a tweet that is defamatory to Ataturk—which is illegal under Turkish law—the only way it could comply would be to take it down for everybody. Now Twitter has the capability to take down the tweet for people with IP addresses that indicate that they are in Turkey and leave it up everywhere else. Right now, we can expect Twitter to comply with court orders from countries where they have offices and employees, a list that includes the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, and soon Germany.
Twitter’s increasing need to remove content comes as a byproduct of its growth into new countries, with different laws that they must follow or risk that their local employees will be arrested or held in contempt, or similar sanctions. By opening offices and moving employees into other countries, Twitter increases the risks to its commitment to freedom of expression. Like all companies (and all people) Twitter is bound by the laws of the countries in which it operates, which results both in more laws to comply with and also laws that inevitably contradict one another. Twitter could have reduced its need to be the instrument of government censorship by keeping its assets and personnel within the borders of the United States, where legal protections exist like CDA 230 and the DMCA safe harbors (which do require takedowns but also give a path, albeit a lousy one, for republication).
Ramachandraiah prints movie posters for a living. He’s done it ever since 1971, when he bought an ancient lithograph press. He keeps it in a factory north of Bangalore, far from the English town where it was built 111 years ago.
His are five-color, hand-drawn, and measure just 20 inches by 30 inches. They’re printed on thin paper, and illegally slapped up on building sites and highway overpasses late at night. They cost pennies to print. And they’re absolutely gorgeous.
The only large textiles in the world to have been created from the silk of spiders will go on display at the V&A in January 2012.
The four metre long woven textile was made from the silk of more than a million female Golden Orb spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar. The hand-woven brocaded textile is naturally golden in colour and took over four years to create. It will be shown together with a new golden cape, woven and embroidered in Madagascar, which will go on public display for the very first time at the V&A.
Guy Laramee, “Grand Larousse” (2010) (all photos via the artist’s website)
A few years ago, artist Guy Laramee began his The Great Wall series, which imagines a 23rd century when the Chinese empire has overthrown its American rival. His artist statement is a piece of science fiction and it sets the stage for his sculptural works that tap into American anxieties about empire, civilization and, most importantly, decline [emphasis his]:
Having recently overthrown the American Empire in the 23rd century, the Chinese Empire set out to chronicle the history of the Great Panics during the 21st and 22nd centuries.
This Herculean undertaking resulted in a historiographical masterwork entitled, The Great Wall. Comprising 100 volumes, this encyclopaedia derives its name from The Great Wall of America, a monumental project to build an impregnable wall around the United States of America so as to protect this land from barbarian invasions. 150 years in the making, this wall ultimately isolated Americans from the rest of the world while sapping the country’s remaining cultural and natural resources. It also undermined the American people’s confidence in systematized hedonism, thus hastening the fall of the American Empire. As we now know this paved the way for China to invade American territory.
The Chinese Empire later ordered a group of scribes to write The Great Wall series. In the course of their duties they familiarized themselves with the libraries of the former USA. Through a strange twist of fate they thereby discovered the ancient sources of their own civilization which the new Middle Kingdom had long ago removed from its libraries. In the end this contact, primarily with Taoism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism, sowed the seeds of the Chinese Empire’s.
The objects themselves are stereotypical views of a Chinese past, one full of peace and serenity and seemingly at union with nature. Yet the objects are carved into books and parts are obviously missing. The objects, which I haven’t seen in person, seem to be begging the view to be interpreted.
Schöner kann Medienkritik nicht sein: “Dieses ca. 120 Seiten lange Buch ist eine Transkription (Abschrift) der Pro7-Fernsehshow Germany’s next Topmodel 2011 – Das Finale. Jeder Rotz, jeder menschen-verblödende Schund, jedes sexistische und von Maschen durchtränkte Blabla, das in diesem ohrenbetäubenden Massenspektakel geprädigt wurde, ist hier feinsäuberlich abgetippt und in Dramenvers gesetzt. Das Layout errinnert dabei bewusst an Reclam. Projektarbeit von Gregor Weichbrodt und Grischa Stanjek an der HTW Berlin im Fach Typografie unter der Betreuung von Christian Hanke.” Kann man sich hier bei Issuu komplett ansehen. Via/Via
Special thanks to James Phillips Williams for the use of these images and text — A brilliant story
The story in James’s own words (from the amassblog)
type specimens represent a whole category of book collecting. i have a few in my design library but i do not collect them per se. accidentally accumulate is more like it. surely designers roger black, jonathan hoefler and matthew carter have many, many fine examples. this particular type specimen comes from a special place and a unique person. i have had it for more than a dozen years. as a student at the yale school of art i became friends with one of my professors, paul rand. mr rand and i both collected all things written and designed by jan tschichold. on a particular visit to mr rand’s home he asked me to sit down, said he had something to show me. he went back to his library and returned with a completely tattered old book. the spine was broken and it was in a horrible state. of course i loved it.
many pages had been torn out and many pages had letters cut from them. (it was mr rand’s practice to cut letters and use them in his compositions) he would also tear swatches from covers of art catalogs, books, whatever he fancied to use as a color reference for projects he was working on. i once saw a wonderful copy of typographishe monatsblätter with a three-inch chunk cut from it. i couldn’t bear to do this myself. anyway, mr rand turned page after page to reveal the most wonderful type specimens. however, since we usually spoke about tschichold, i did not understand what this book had to do with him. then mr rand closed the book and opened it from the beginning, revealing the inside front cover and the ex libris. it had belonged to none other than jan tschichold. my mouth fell open and mr rand smiled. enjoy, as I have.
(note – direct copy of non upper case setting from original source)
A man transports used empty plastic cans on a horse cart to a junkyard at Panchkula in the northern Indian state of Haryana Sept. 21, 2011 (REUTERS / Ajay Verma)
A man transports used pots of paints to sell in a market in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Apr. 10, 2007. (REUTERS / Rafiquar Rahman)
A vendor carries plastic balls for sale as he walks down the streets of Noida in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in Oct. 23, 2010. (REUTERS / Parivartan Sharma)
A migrant worker pulls a cart loaded with discarded plastic foam for recycling in Nanjing, Jiangsu province on Feb. 7, 2009. With the Chinese government pinning its hopes for economic resurgence on stronger rural demand, the swelling ranks of jobless migrant workers are making it a much tougher task, Xinhua News Agency reported. (REUTERS / Sean Yong)
A man yawns while riding on a donkey cart loaded with recyclable materials in Changzhi, Shanxi province on Nov. 6, 2009. (REUTERS / Stringer Shanghai)
Amazon.com did not create the notion of buying things online, but it has done more than any other retailer to move the experience into the mainstream. It has exceeded its customers’ expectations so often it must constantly struggle to top itself. “At first people were incredulous that the mouse on their computer was connected to their doorbell,” the Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti said recently. “Now they say: ‘It’s been 12 hours. Where’s my stuff?’ ”
All that stuff doesn’t magically fly to your house, even if the goal is to have it seem that way.