The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London has just opened a fascinating exhibition titled Beyond Entropy, When Energy becomes Form. The works on show are part of a two-year project that brings together leading scientists, architects and artists to broaden the ways we think about energy.

View of the exhibition space. Credit: © Valerie Bennett, The Architectural Association School

A wooden time machine, a swinging pendulum that controls the destruction and reconstruction of a building, a highly frustrating pinball machine, forensic photography that captures your movements before the picture is taken, etc. Each work in the room looked at a different type of energy --electric, mechanical, potential, mass, sound, thermal, chemical, and gravitational-- in a way that makes us realize how little we know about energy.

The Thermal Energy prototype. Credit: © Valerie Bennett, The Architectural Association School

Mass. Credit: © Valerie Bennett, The Architectural Association School.

MASS intends to break the second law of thermodynamics which wants that entropy always increases, even though the fundamental laws of nature are always symmetrical. A building that collapses never brings itself back together. However, architect Rubens Azevedo, artist Ariel Schlesinger and physicist Vid Stojevic created a system where the film of a building being imploded almost immediately comes back together as a pendulum swings. A pair of film projectors are placed on a pendulum, projecting the image of the building. The image remains motionless as long as the pendulum doesn't move. A swinging pendulum is a symmetrical, non-chaotic system but the projection it governs is chaotic. As the pendulum swings in one direction, the building collapses. When the pendulum swings back, the building comes back together. It goes on and on as long as the pendulum swings.


An event which is asymmetrical in time due to the second law of thermodynamics (such as the demolition of a building) is thus made symmetrical by the non-chaotic system (the pendulum.) This moment of entropy is continuously projected on the screen. The prototype currently shown at AA is the first step of a larger-scale installation in which a Foucault pendulum will screen a movie whose speed, in time and space, depends on the rotation of the planet.

Time Machine (detail)

Time Machine (detail)

The Time Machine. Credit: © Valerie Bennett, The Architectural Association School

Cosmologist Andrew Jaffe and architect Shin Egashira explored mechanical energy through a whimsical time machine inspired by Alfred Jarry's Pataphysics, a pseudo-science that investigates what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. Jarry defined 'pataphysics as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments." Jarry theorised a time machine made of giant mechanical flywheels and gyroscopic action to transport the user through time and space. The work on show at AA right now is one element of the prototype to be complete next year. This 21st century's version of Jarry's machine uses electric motors, computer-cut plywood, ball-bearings, bicycle parts and digital cameras. In Jarry's pataphysics, these elements work together to spin at such speed as to resist all forces, eventually even resisting our motion through not just space but time itself. The team has updated Jarry's machine and hope to achieve the same result the French pataphysician was postulating.


Bankuh, scientist Giuseppe Celardo and artist Alberto Garutti's way of exploring electric energy is as fascinating as it is simple. It stems from the idea that energy cannot be stored but has to be produced moment by moment. The logic and management that governs the network of the fluxes of energy is influenced by economic and geopolitical factors. The workshop that opened the Beyond Entropy project took place in Fondazione Cini in Venice. The energy arrives there from a dense network of energy-exchange via Sacca Fisola where it arrives from the regions of Veneto, Fruili Venezia Giulia and Emilia Romagna, from gas thermal power stations located in a number of small Italian towns. All of these stations are linked through a network of gas pipes to the sources in Algeria, Russia, Libya, The Netherlands and Norway.

Meanwhile the local coal-fired power plants are supplied with coal from the mines of South Africa, Indonesia, Colombia, Russia, Venezuela and China. The power plants use fuel from Italians localities and draw on feeder pipelines from Russia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Finally, the hydroelectric stations are in Samplago, Cavilla and Barga while wind turbines are spread around the Southern regions of Puglia and Sicily.

The project hopes to bring together into a room 100 people who have the technical responsibility for managing this complex system behind the electric network. The 100 empty folding chairs await their arrival next year.

Sound. Credit: © Valerie Bennett, The Architectural Association School

Artist Massimo Bartolini, architects Dario Benedetti, Riccardo Rossi and Salottobuono teamed up to explore the sound our bodies make through their own electromagnetic fields. The brass ring is a giant antenna, picking up electric signals and turning these into sound through speakers. As people approach the antenna, so our electric fields alter the sounds being created.



Beyond Entropy is on view at the AA Gallery until 28, May, 2011.

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0arealallaltiitititioe3.jpgAs promised last night, today's review is dedicated to realities:united featuring, edited by Florian Heilmeyer (available on amazon UK and USA.)

Publisher Ruby Press says: Founded in Berlin in 2000 by the brothers Jan and Tim Edler, realities:united have built a unique reputation for their spectacular art and media extensions to buildings all across the globe. Working together with some of the most prominent figures of contemporary architecture - including Peter Cook, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Foster & Partners, Will Alsop, Nieto Sobejano, Bjarke Ingels, Minsuk Cho and WOHA - realities:united have established an ingenious type of collaboration they refer to as featuring: Usually invited by architects to cooperate on a project, realities:united have a special gift to detect the idiosyncratic strength of a design and amplify its qualities by techniques and procedures that exceed the realm in which architects usually work. Inversely, realities:united can only work their magic by designing in a dialog with an architect featuring them.

This book offers the first complete survey of the work of realities:united to date. A lavishly illustrated tour de force of their manifold oeuvre, Featuring provides the reader also with rich background information by virtue of a detailed project documentation. Finally, a series of resourceful essays of reputed architects, critics and other thinkers will answer any questions you always wanted to know about realities:united but were afraid to ask.

SPOTS, Construction Site

realites:united, Contemporary Architecture, 2007

I've stopped counting the number of times i've seen the work of realities:united in a book about architecture, dynamic architecture, interactive architecture, interactive design, interface design, 'media facades' or media art. The BIX communicative skin display they completed in 2003 for the Kunsthaus Graz could have turned them into a one-hit wonder. But years passed and their work has never ceased to catch the attention of magazine editors, publishers, bloggers and journalists alike. It was high time that the Edler brothers gave the public an extensive overview of their practice and published a book.

realities:united featuring has the elegance, appeal and clarity you'd expect from the architects. The inside of the first cover is printed with very short comments about their work. They range from "Jan and Tim Edler are the Neo and Morpheus of architecture" by Bjarke Ingels, to "Sweaty, loud and ugly" (??!?) by Christian Moeller. My favourite quote is obviously Jackie Chan's: "I saw your video." The book goes deeper into the study of their practice with essays by art critiques, artists, curators, academics who either profess their admiration for their creativity or bring analysis and context to their work.

Roughly 2/3 of the volume is dedicated entirely to the glorious images of their projects. The details about them can be found further down the book in a section that lists alphabetically and explain the works finished, the ones that are still in progress as well as the proposals that didn't go through.

AAmp, 2008

Kungfusoft, 1998

Leafing through the book reminded me how ingenious the Edler brothers are. Yes, they do lavish, luminous and dynamic but their work also take more experimental paths in projects that investigate themes as diverse as energy-saving and mobile clubbing.

Check out the projects below if ever you still need to be convinced...

realities:united +43 316 8017 9242, 2005. Photo: LMJ / Nicolas Lackner

realites:united have a unique way of being both inside and outside the new media art world. In 2005, With the interactive installation 43-316/8017 9242, the designers of the BIX media façade returned to the Kunsthaus Graz with a work that invites passersby to interact with a façade as much as it triggers in their mind questions about interactivity and communication, two concepts that have sometimes defined and limited the computer art scene of the time. Does the installation do what we want, or is it the other way round and we do what the machine wants?

Cokpit, 1991

Cokpit, the universe's first cabriolet roof-top, made a summer bed-room out of an unheated, unused attic in Berlin.


Open the House, 2006

Open the House proposes intelligent climate clothing worn like underwear that would enable a person to sit comfortably in spaces where the temperature is far below or above what is normally considered acceptable. The design opens up new possibilities to design houses and save energy.

ReinRaus, 2001

ReinRaus, Extreme furniture and instant one-person balcony! One of my favourite works by realities:united.

Crystal Mesh, Facade Detail, 2009

Crystal Mesh, Software Testing, 2009

Crystal Mesh, an ornamental and granulated light and media façade for the building complex "ILUMA" in Singapore.

MuseumX, 2006

MuseumX was conceived as a temporary installation to act as a surrogate and social placeholder for the Museum Abteiberg (Fine Arts) while it was closed for reconstruction. It took three comparatively small elements to turn the hulk of the 65,000 m3 structure of the city's empty theater building into a simulated museum: a flag on the top of the building, a new foyer and a set of printed façade panels strapped in front of the theater's façade from the 1950s.

Stereo Transformer, 2002

Stereo Transformer is a vehicle system designed both to enable real mobile clubbing experiences and to stimulate innovation around the technical equipment of mega-sized urban pop-music events: Dividing the vehicle into two halves provides the structural precondition for putting the people in the center and surrounding them with the sound system, not the other way around.

C4 Facade, Scale Model, 2011

C4 is a media skin developed in close cooperation with Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos for the "Espacio de Creación Artística Contemporánea" in Córdoba.

If you want to follow more closely on realities:united, i'd recommend that you swing by their facebook page which lists their upcoming talks, the competition they participate to and the projects or causes that interest them.
Their youtube channel is a gold mine.

Image on the homepage from the project Big Vortex.

If i'd have to name two of my favourite architecture studios i'd probably come up with Recetas Urbanas and realities:united. I can't imagine architecture studios more different from each other. A simple look at their website (one is a delight to use, the other never fails to drive me insane) will prove my point. Both have recently published a monograph about their work and i'm going to review them over the weekend. Today, i'll kick off with Collective Architectures | Arquitecturas Colectivas - Trucks, Containers, Collectives | Santiago Cirugeda. Tomorrow will be the turn of Tim and Jan Edler.


Publisher Ediciones Vib[]k says: Trucks, Containers, Collectives is an initiative by Santiago Cirugeda (Recetas Urbanas) which has inspired more than a dozen collectives to get involved in creating a network for spaces that are self-managed by the entire Spanish territory. This is no longer a matter of experimenting with individual, isolated situations, a process which Cirugeda initiated fourteen years ago and, in any case, is being reassessed during these times of recession. Rather it's a
self-organised and joint action taken by small citizen groups who unite their efforts. What begins as a war map having the Spanish peninsula as its battleground leads to an international cooperation network: "Collective Architectures".

This book is released under construction. It's an incomplete book, undergoing changes and will remain alive. At its contents are updated and rewritten. Anyone who is interested as well as those involved are welcome to offer up their perspective. This open book aims to capture new questions that boost and enrich an environment of collaboration and knowledge rooted in experience.

The printed book is thought up as a dynamic object. Words and veils invite us to explore it, in a tactile and joy experience. It skin goes off, the interior displays and reorders. When empty, the book reveals a code that connects with its digital double. The imagination and action of readers are invited to design and editing.

Legislation and temporary occupation of empty lots, 2004

At the end of the 90's Santiago Cirugeda Parejo set up a provisional scaffolding in the front of the building where he lived. He needed a space to study but didn't have the permit to build. What he did obtain however was the permit to erect scaffolding "to clean up the wall". The scaffolding was quickly turned into a place to relax and invite friends for beers. For the architect, the city is a 'living organism that must be adapted to the needs of its inhabitants."

Cirugeda trained as an architect. If circumstances want it, he'd also define himself as an artist. Some would add that he is also a social agitator and a space hacker. Since 1996, his critical practices has been bending, testing and flexing the rules governing city planning in what he calls actions of 'a-legality.' His actions are not illegal but they are not strictly legal either, they just take advantage of the loopholes in city-planning regulations. Once the validity of his experiments has been tested and approved, they are explained into recetas (recipes) which can be replicated in other locations and contexts.

Recetas Urbanas. El NIÚ  BOLIT . Centro de Arte Contemporáneo . Gerona.jpg
El Niu, above El Bòlit, a Contemporary Art Center in Girona, 2008

Cirugeda's studio, Recetas Urbanas, is building prosthesis on the side or top of buildings for people who lack the means or time to rent a flat and even for institutions in need of a quick space for meeting or residencies.

Cirugeda's charismatic personality never prevented him to step back and see his work as the result of a collective effort that involves networks of architects and groups of citizens.

LaFundició, 2008 (image)

The book Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives contains mostly essays by architects, art critics, curators, artists and academics who give their own interpretation of Cirugeda's work. The volume itself is encased in a cover along with a few sturdy leaflets that analyze in details some of Recetas Urbanas' most recent works. Each leaflet unveils the budget of the construction but also its story, the outcome of the project, the lessons learnt from it and the hopes that have arisen during the whole adventure.


Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives is published by VIB[ ]K, a young, independent publishing house that investigates innovative ways of re-considering the traditional publishing process and breathing new life into books. Their methods involve combining printed and digital media in order to make books responsive to the interchange between authors and readers, even before being printed. The books are 'open', they grow and evolve through the open platform b()()ka. And you have until June 15 to submit your contribution and be part of this experiment in "Collective Architectures."

Situaciones Urbanas

Another book about Cirugeda's work was published in 2007. Its design was much simpler and the content reproduced mostly what you can already find on the website of Recetas Urbanas. Given the grudge i bear against that website, Situaciones Urbanas ("Urban situations") was a gift from the gods for me and it remains my favourite. Collective Architectures - Trucks, Containers, Collectives, however, has several advantages over its predecessors. It's in spanish and english (whereas Situaciones hasn't been translated yet), it's in colour and contains many more in-depth essays.

Related: In Construction. Recipes from Scarcity, Ubiquity and Excess, Videos of the day: The Influencers, Avant-garde architecture in Spain (2), Casa Pollo.

Level 2 Gallery is a small exhibition space that keeps me coming back to Tate Modern in London. Its entrance is hidden by one of the exits of the Tate and if you don't know of its existence you've probably passed by it on your way from the shop to the Millennium Bridge without noticing.

The gallery is now showing Out of Place, an exhibition in which four artists explore the relationship between political forces and personal/collective histories by looking at urban space, architectural structures and the condition of displacement.

Each of the artist is interesting in their own way but i'll focus on only two of them:

Hrair Sarkissian, Untitled (In Between series), 2007

Hrair Sarkissian, Untitled (In Between series), 2007

Hrair Sarkissian's large prints from the In Between series grab the visitor's attention as soon as they enter the main exhibition room. Sarkissian is a Syrian artist of Armenian origin. He learnt of Armenia through family stories of a great and proud 'Mother Armenia'. But once he actually visited this former republic of the Soviet Union, the artist found it hard to reconcile the ideals of the Armenian diaspora with the landscapes and situations he encountered.

Hrair Sarkissian, Untitled (In Between series), 2007

Hrair Sarkissian, Untitled (In Between series), 2007

His photos show austere Soviet-style buildings left abandoned in the quiet hills and valleys of rural Armenia.

As Kasia Redzisz wrote in her essay for the exhibition, The incompatibility of his relatives' memories and the physical reality of the ruins of the Soviet empire caused him to experience profound disorientation. In his series In Between 2007, Sarkissian juxtaposes abandoned, monumental constructions and the epic unchanging landscape. The contrast poses a question about the foundations on which national or cultural identity can be built.

Ahlam Shibli takes on an entirely different subject.

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Goter no. 19), Tel as-Sab'a, al-Naqab, Palestine, 2002-03

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Goter no. 31), Umm Mitnan, al-Naqab, Palestine, 2002-03

Her series Goter looks at the lives of Palestinians of Bedouin descent from al-Naqab (Negev). Local people believe that the word 'goter' is derived from 'go there', a command British soldiers often shouted to Bedouins during the mandate (1920-1948.)

Shibli's images were taken both in townships, constructed by the Israeli administration to coral Palestinians displaced from their lands, and in unrecognised villages inhabited by those who refuse to be relocated, controlled and dispossessed of their traditional land.

The photographer explains in her statement for the series: The remaining half of the Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab has so far refused to move to these townships, to avoid losing their lands and being subjected to culturally adverse and socially degrading living conditions. They live in more than 100 unrecognized villages, where the laws of the Jewish State prohibit them from building permanent structures, where houses are regularly demolished, fields deemed illegal by the authorities sprayed with toxic chemicals, families evicted from their homes, and where there is no public access to electricity, running water, or public services such as health care, sanitation and education beyond primary school level.

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Goter no. 24), al-Huzaiyil, al-Naqab, Palestine, 2002-03

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Goter no. 16), 'Amra, al-Naqab, Palestine, 2002-03

The Israeli government has long promoted the sedentarization of the Bedouin population. In 1963, Moshe Dayan said:

"We should transform the Bedouins into an urban proletariat - in industry, services, construction, and agriculture. 88% of the Israeli population are not farmers, let the Bedouin be like them. Indeed, this will be a radical move which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. His children will get used to a father who wears pants, without a dagger, and who does not pick out their nits in public. They will go to school, their hair combed and parted. This will be a revolution, but it can be achieved in two generations."

Dayan added, "Without coercion but with governmental direction ... this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear."

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (The Valley no. 15), Arab al-Shibli, Palestine, 2007-8

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (The Valley no. 18), Arab al-Shibli, Palestine, 2007-8

Shibli is showing a second series at Gallery 2. The Valley explores conditions in the village Arab al-Shibli, where Palestinians living under Israeli jurisdiction face relocation from their land.

Btw, if you're interested in knowing more about the history and current situation of the Bedouins, have a look at Unrecognized. This short doc by Nirah Elyza Shirazipour) chronicles the last 60 years of Bedouin life in the Naqab.

un-titled magazine has a set of photos from the Goter series.

Out of Place is curated by Kasia Redzisz and Ala' Younis and remains open at Tate Modern's Level 2 Gallery until April 17, 2011.

Previously at Level 2 Gallery: The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Back to the chaotic notes i've been taking during Making Visible The Invisible, a conversational conference about interdisciplinary collaboration, data-visualisation and sustainability, curated by Michael Hohl with the support of the University of Huddersfield, School of Art, Design and Architecture. One of the first keynotes of the conference was given by artist Luke Jerram.

Sky Orchestra

Jerram credits the fact that he is colour-blind for his interest in perception. This interest takes many forms: a kinetic sound installation controlled by the movements of the Moon and Sun, a miracle toaster, an engagement ring etched with a 20 second recorded message that can be played back with a miniature record player, street pianos left for the public to play in parks and squares, laundrettes, bus shelters and train stations, across the world, etc. His most spectacular and also perhaps most well-known exploration into perception is Sky Orchestra, a series of performances in which hot air balloons fly over a city at dawn and broadcast music designed to turn the dreams of the sleeping public into an artistic experience. The idea was fine-tuned with the Dream Concert experiment and the Dream Director installation. There is a lot to like and write about in his portfolio but i'll just focus on two of his most recent projects: Glass Microbiology and Aeolus - Acoustic Wind Pavilion.

Talking Ring

Glass Microbiology is a growing series of glass sculptures of viruses and bacteria. He worked with Dr Andrew Davidson from the University of Bristol to create accurate representation of HIV, E. coli, SARS, H1N1 and even imaginary viruses.

The result is radically different from the images of a virus we get in scientific publications. Science papers and articles are usually illustrated with colourful images of viruses. A virus, however, is far too small to have any colour. Although Jerram's sculptures are approximately one million times larger than the viruses they represent, their transparency makes them closer to reality.

The Genetics Science Learning Center, University of Utah, has made a neat animation that illustrates how tiny E. coli bacterium, HIV, influenza virus are compared to other objects such as a coffee bean:

The artist recently sold one of his glass microbe to the Wellcome Trust. Interestingly, the foundation decided to add colours to the photos of the transparent sculpture they sent to the press to inform them about the artwork.


H1N1 Swine Flu

Unsurprisingly, Jerram's sculptures sparkled the interest of the scientific community. Many scientific publications used images of the glass sculptures to illustrate articles about viruses. One of them asked Jerram if they could use a photo of one of his viruses to illustrate an article about HIV. Curiously, they didn't use the sculpture of the HIV virus. Instead, they chose an image of the swine flu virus because, they argued, it made for a more 'striking' cover.

Malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum Merozoite) sculpture respresenting the Merozoite after it has entered a red blood cell

From Left to right a smallpox variant, a mutant pathogen (imagined by the artist) and HIV

Smallpox is one of the two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest, which was officially declared eradicated this year. Smallpox has killed more humans than any other virus in human history. It is estimated that disease was responsible for the death of 300-500 million people during the 20th century.

Large Smallpox.jpg
Smallpox virus

In 2007, Jerram was visiting Iran when he discovered some strange-looking mole hills spread across the landscape. The hills are the ventilation shafts of the qanats, ancient underground aqueducts that provide water to human settlements and for irrigation. While talking with a well digger, Jerram was told that the wind makes these ventilation shafts 'sing.'

A qanat near Anšan, seen from the air (Google Earth)

Cross-section of a Qanat

The phenomenon gave the artist the inspiration for one of his ongoing projects. He wants to create buildings that sing in the wind! He is currently working with engineers at ARUP to develop the Aeolus - Acoustic Wind Pavilion. One of the most interesting comments he made about the project is:

"The reason why i like working with analog technology is that it leave plenty of space for nature to inject some surprises. You never know what you're going to get exactly at the end of the experiments."

One of the surprises he referred to is that the sound produce by his experiment evokes the landing of an UFO:

Photoshop mock up of Aeolus in landscape

Aeolus is an acoustic and optical pavilion shaped like an arch. Once inside, a viewer can look out through a field of 310 internally polished stainless steel tubes simultaneously, each of which draws the landscape of light through the structure whilst humming at a series of low frequencies. These light pipes act to frame, invert and magnify the landscape around the pavilion enabling the viewer to contemplate an ever changing landscape of light. As the clouds and sun move across the sky throughout the day, the visual experience for the public will dramatically alter minute by minute, hour by hour.

Listening to the landscape of wind. Aeolus is designed to resonate and sing with the wind without any electrical power or amplification. Aeolus will sonify the three dimensional landscape of wind, using a web of Aeolian harps. Almost like cats' whiskers sensitive to the slightest touch, the stings register the shifting landscape of wind around the artwork will be heard by visitors.

Close up of prototype

Aeolus - Prototype in studio

Once completed, the artwork will tour the UK. Its first stop will be in Liverpool for the art biennial.

Also part of the conference: Andrea Polli - "Who Owns The Air?"

0acahier1.jpgWarning! This is a rather messy attempt to review two books in one go!

Arctic Perspective Cahier No. 1 - Architecture, edited by Andreas Müller (available at amazon USA and UK) + Cahier No. 2: Arctic Geopolitics and Autonomy, edited by Michael Bravo, Nicola Triscott, texts by Michael Bravo, Lassi Heininen, Katarina Soukup, Nicola Triscott, David Turnbull (available at amazon USA and UK.)

Publisher Hatje Cantz Verlag writes about both books: Involving HMKV (Germany), Projekt Atol (Slovenia), the Arts Catalyst (United Kingdom), C-TASC (Canada), and Lorna (Iceland), this collaboration focuses on the global, cultural, and ecological significance of the polar regions. These zones are causing current geopolitical and territorial conflicts, while at the same time posing opportunities for transnational and intercultural cooperation. Arctic Perspective uses media art and the research of artists to investigate the complicated, global, cultural, and ecological interrelations in the Arctic, and to develop concepts for constructing tactical communications systems and a mobile, eco-friendly research station, which will support interdisciplinary and intercultural collaborations. Scheduled to run over a period of years, this project will involve workshops, field work in the Arctic, publications, exhibitions, and a conference.

API team and Igloolik community members, Trip to Foxe Basin, August 2009. Photo: Matthew Biederman

While volume 1 focuses on the challenges of inhabiting the Arctic, volume two takes up geopolitical issues in the region. Upcoming Cahiers will explore questions of technology and landscape.

Both publications stem from the Arctic Perspective Initiative , an international media arts partnership that attempted to provide the public with alternative insights into the Arctic as a living environment and a critical marker of global change. The API approached Arctic as a complex and compelling cultural territory, instead of a mere object of political, military, commercial and economic interests.

View inside the book

Cahier No. 1 documented the result of an open design competition to create a modular research unit that had to be easy to transport and assemble but also have a negligible impact on the environment. The presentation of the winning architectural designs by Richard Carbonnier, Catherine Rannou and Giuseppe Mecca is accompanied by a series of essays that put the competition and the whole API architectural experiment into context. The first one is by Marilyn Walker who provides an overview of shelter forms and functions in the far North (includes tips on how to build a long-lasting igloo!). Carsten Krohn pens the mandatory essay on Buckminster Fuller's dynamic architecture. Jérémie Michael McGowan invites readers to question the status of Arctic architect hero that Ralph Erskine has been enjoying for decades.

Winning design for Arctic Perspectives open design competition by Catherine Rannou

The third part of the book brings side by side 2 very different perspectives on an exploration trip to the Arctic. Captain John Ross's extract from A voyage of discovery, made under the orders of the Admiralty, in His Majesty's ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and inquiring into the probability of a north-west passage dates back to 1819. Matthew Biederman and Marko Peljhan's Fieldwork journal was written in August 2009 to chronicle their arrival at Igloolik, their moves from campsite to campsite, experiments at fishing, cooking caribou and communicating locally and globally under antagonistic weather.

Arctic Perspective Initiative trip to Foxe Basin, Nunavut, Canada. 2009. Photo: API

The 'media lab', API, July 2009. Photo: Matthew Biederman

0arcttiiic2i.jpgNow the most fascinating book for me was Cahier No. 2: Arctic Geopolitics and Autonomy which demonstrates with brio that the Arctic territory is far more than a reserve of oil and natural gas energy, more than a space to build military bases and meteorological research centers, more than a world of commercial opportunities ripe to be seized as soon as the dwindling ice sea will have completely melted and opened up new Northern sea routes. The book sets aside geopolitical interests and calls for independent, intellectual conversations between artists, journalists, scholars and the people who are actually living in the Arctic. As the introduction to the book states:

Counteracting historical amnesia and contemporary self-interest and indifference goes to the heart of these essays. Together with the Arctic Perspective Initiative, they aim to ground perspectives on politics and art in technological interventions (that include broadband communications, environmental monitoring, satellite observation, video documentary -and writing) by making them embodied, geographically anchored to a specific strategic indigenous place, and politically self-aware.

In her essay, Nicola Triscott from The Arts Catalyst, looks at how the cultural and political characteristics of technology in the Arctic need to extend beyond strategic interests and commercial exploitation and take into account the needs of the people living in that part of the world or the challenges presented by climate change. I discovered some amazing works in Triscott's review of artists who have recognized the complexity of the Arctic situation. I'm particularly curious about On the Third Planet from the Sun. This documentary, by Pavel Medvedev, follows inhabitants of the Arctic region of Arkhangelsk 45 years after the test of the H-bomb, who recycle the remains of fallen space rockets that were launched from a nearby base.

Pavel Medvedev, Still from On the Third Planet from the Sun, 2006 (via)

Michael Bravo's contribution brings light on how outsider focus on Inuit's traditional craft knowledge tends to perpetuate clichés about populations who, just like you and me, enjoy high-tech gadgets. His experience shows that Arctic communities are more than ready to collaborate with international labs and produce new knowledge and designs that meet their own needs.

The three remaining essays reflect further on the necessity to discard simplistic perspectives on the Arctic region: Katarina Soukup wrote about Inuits' artistic appropriation of new technologies. David Turnbull sums up observations about human movement through time. Finally, Lassi Heininen encourages us to see northern indigenous people as credible political actors, both on a regional and international level.

View inside the book

Arctic Perspective was not only an expedition, it was also a series of workshops, conferences and exhibitions (such as a show of the same name at HMKV in Dortmund.) I missed every single one of them. The first two cahiers of Arctic Perspective allowed me catch up with the experience. I'm now looking forward to reading the upcoming books in the series.

Related posts: (Un)Inhabitable? - Art of Extreme Environments, Green Platform - My Sunshine, Lucy + Jorge Orta's Antarctica expedition, Transmediale 09 - Survival and Utopia, etc.

See also: No More Potluck interview with Matthew Biederman and Marko Peljhan about The Arctic Perspective.

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