Postopolis Day 5 was the day i realized once more that many people in the audience should have been on the programme too. It was the day i fell in love with stripped trousers and the day i decided all those hours spent on the roof of The Standard had not been that cold after all.

Dan Hill has a much wider and smarter coverage of Postopolis than i, Bryan Finocki has started posting bits and pieces of it, archdaily went for a best of, gods know where Geoff found the time and energy to feed such a fascinating twitter coverage, and Jayce Clayton might come up with more.

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So, day 5, right? Dan posted an extensive eulogy to Benjamin Bratton's talk. So let's skip to the next speaker: Christian Moeller. He was wearing the most magnificent trousers and kept joking about Germany the way Germans always do (i suspect they are quite proud of the cliches they seemingly make fun of.) He showed some works you have probably already heard about and sparkled them with anecdotes. In particular what he calls "technical fuck-ups."

0aaudiogrovv.jpgAudio Grove (1997), for example, is a forest of 56 vertical steel posts at the Spiral building in Tokyo. When visitors touch the posts emit sounds which always combine to form a harmonic whole whatever the combination of interactions. Spotlights placed in a circle around the installation project through the structure of steel posts onto the floor. According to the visitors' interaction with the poles, the spotlights illuminate different positions on the floor and draw shadow line textures onto the installation's "carpet of light".

The day of the opening, people were touching different poles with both arms. That had not been anticipated so the installation didn't react as it should have. To fix the problem on the spot, the staff rushed to the offices and printed a series of rules on how to use the installation and that was it: people had one of their hands busy holding the sheet of paper. Video of the installation.

Unlike the previous days, day 5 of Postopolis had very few solo presentations but a series of panels. The first one was a bit of a wild mix-match gathering some 'new media art-y' and very talented people: Sean Dockray, Dan Goods, Daniel Rehn and Jay Yan.

Sean Dockray is co-directing the TELIC Arts Exchange in Chinatown. The space used to be a gallery exhibiting mostly new media art installations but Dockray turned it into a series of platforms that, each in its own way, foster social exchange, public participation to produce a critical engagement with new media and culture.

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TELIC now takes in The Public School, The Distributed Gallery (a video exhibition project made of televisions and video monitors in various semi-private locations), the Berlin Telic Art Exchange (a gallery that doesn't exist on Brunnenstrasse and is currently showing two spectacular sculptures by Nick Ervinck.)

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Mick Ervinck, Yarotube, 2007-2008

Dan Goods is an artist with an unusual job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. He helps researchers communicate their work to the general public. He talked mostly of eCloud, a data driven sculpture he's developing together with Nik Hafermaas and Aaron Koblin for San Jose International Airport.

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Hundreds of hanging square panels of electrically switchable laminated plexiglass act as pixels. This material has the ability to graduate opacities with the transmission of an electrical charge: when in neutral, the panel is opaque and when sent an electronic charge the material transitions to visually transparent.

The animations that move through eCloud are based on a live feed of weather and wind conditions data. By replaying data through time, abstract imagery moves from one panel to the next, creating visualizations that traverse the concourse space. An additional display signage communicates the current dataset to the viewers. See movie.

Daniel Rehn mentioned most of the projects he's involved in from a $10 computer already available in India, China, Brazil, and elsewhere to Rabbitat v1.0, an installation that uses web cameras to capture and illuminate rabbit behavior.

Jay Yan went quickly through a series of his works but i'll be even faster and point you to aninterview i made with him last month. What i should add is that he showed us a new installation called Turbulence, video.

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One of the most interesting panels for me was the one dedicated to photography. Photographers Catherine Ledner, Misha Gravenor, Dave Lauridsen and Tom Fowlks. The issues raised: do you feel that bloggers steal your pictures when they use them, give credit but do not email you to get permission to publish your images? How do you react if they crop your pictures? Should images be treated as text quotations and as such be free to use? What should be the legal implications of using a photography that has been commissioned and paid by a magazine? The feeling i had from the discussion is that bloggers are not super popular among photographers. Catherine Ledner, had a very open attitude "As long as they give credit, that's free publicity for me." Others really insisted on being warned about the use of their images "I like to know where my images are going," said Dave Lauridsen. Ledner immediately answered "Just get a google alert on your name and you'll know where your photos are." Geoff, who was moderating the discussion, had a few pertinent points to share on the subject.

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We didn't really have a closing party that night but the breakfast of the following morning was quite a party. We went to a rather unbelievable place called Clifton's Cafeteria. Everything was faux-forest. From the moose head to the fridge wrapped in fake logs, people drank Lemon Olé or Mango Olé but the food was brilliant. Not particularly sophisticated, rather heart-warming and arteries-clogging. Loved it!

Once again a huge thank you to Storefront for Art and Architecture for their brilliant work of production and organization, to Geoff from BLDGBLG for imagining all this and to ForYourArt who made our life in LA so pleasant and exciting.
Image on the homepage: City of Sound.

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I got a pleasant and at the same time painful wave of nostalgia last night when i read Bryan's overview of Postopolis on his blog Subtopia. It has been such an amazing adventure for us all.

Day 4 of Postopolis was quite a day. It kicked off with a presentation by Michael Downing, Deputy Chief at LAPD and i missed it, i arrived just after it ended, that was not my intention, sorry Deputy Chief. Let's move on to bits and pieces i grabbed that day:

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One talk i very much enjoyed was the one by Ari Kletzky, Founder, Islands of LA. Since September 2007, the artist has been exploring the possibility to use traffic islands as public space for discussion and interaction. The project is an art-research experiment and responds to the narrative of loss about public space with a narrative of possibility around interstitial public property that verges on the absurd.

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Jefferson Blvd and Hoover, 90007, South Central LA

Kletzky defined the traffic islands his project investigates: they are accessible to pedestrians + pieces of land surrounded by roadways + interstitial (on multiple levels, even on a legal level) + they are quite small and can only welcome the activity of one to fifty people + no one really knows who owns them + highly visible, ubiquitous yet overlooked + in the middle of everyday happening + no permanent building on traffic island (except sometimes war memorials and placemarkers + most likely protected under the first amendment for assembly and expression.

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Kletzky would thus organize small gatherings or performances, invite people for a picnics, plant tomatoes, all kinds of activities that are not likely to interfere with traffic or public safety.

Images Islands of LA.

Next came Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen Design (vote for them! well... you also have the right to give your vote to Oron Catts & Ionatt Zurr, Gareth Pugh or Frey & Reas), as brilliantly eloquent as ever, but less smartly dressed as usual, it was so cold up there on the roof top that he had to wear someone else's jacket during his talk.

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Matthew Coolidge, the Director of Center for Land Use Interpretation, showed some spectacular photos and a video of oil extraction and refining plants in Texas. Their LA space is currently exhibiting photos of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, one of the longest oil pipelines in the world. I wish i had seen that show.

David Burns and Matias Viegener from Fallen Fruit have charmed and rocked the crowd.

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Their project reminds inhabitants of Los Angeles of a city law that makes all fruit and vegetables growing over sidewalks "public," even if the trees are rooted in private yards. They organize tours (including night time fruit forage) to pick fruit and map public fruit trees in the L.A. urban area. They also hold jam-making parties using fruit collected from the public portions of the trees and now produce liquor. These products, like their ingredients, are distributed to the public, like the fruit they are made of, they belong to them.

At some point they posted on youtube a video showing a public fruit picking tour. The comments of youtube users were so distressingly negative they became hilarious: homophobic, racists, unsympathetic ("only white people would try to not to pay for fruit", "Dipshit liberals. Always looking for a handout," etc.) Fallen Fruit made a short video of it, superposing images of the fruit tour with the youtube comments.

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Fallen Fruit, Double Standard, video still*

Ken Ehrlich, an artist i realized recently i was following the blog ended the evening by presenting some of his projects. One of the most fascinating for me was Audio Response Mirror in the Scaniaparken location (Malmö).

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See you tomorrow for a report of the last day at Postopolis!

*The text reads:
cheekyfumes (4 hours ago) -2
Reply / Spam

Dipshit liberals,
Always looking for a handout.
That fruit will sustain more rats
than you left wing wack-jobs.

From Day 3 of Postopolis, the 5-day blogathon of presentations, interviews and panel talks about landscape and the built environment that ended last Saturday, i'm going to write only about the talk of Benjamin Ball from Ball-Nogues Studio. My first encounter with their work happened 3 years ago through blogs and magazines that were raving about Maximilian's Schell, a temporary outdoor installation that the Californian duo had installed in the courtyard of Materials & Applications in Los Angeles. I finally got to experience one of their works last Autumn at the Venice Architecture Biennial. Titled Echoes Converge and made of thousands of coloured string catenaries, the installation attempted to create a visual sensation reminiscent of the audio phenomenon of an echo while it kinetically registered the gentle currents of air as visitors experienced its cloud like volume.

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But let's get back to 2005: their Maximilian's Schell warped the flow of space with a golden rendition of a celestial black hole. Constructed in tinted Mylar resembling stained glass, the vortex functioned as a shade structure, swirling overhead for the entire summer of 2005. The interior of the immersive installation created a space for social interaction and contemplation by changing the volume, color, and sound of the courtyard gallery. During the day, the canopy cast colored fractal light patterns onto the ground while a sound installation by composer James Lumb lightly rumbled below the feet of visitors. When standing in the center or "singularity" of the piece and gazing upward, the visitor could see only infinite sky. In the evening when viewed from the exterior, the vortex glowed warmly. The piece paid homage to a character played by actor Maximilian Schell in 1979 sci-fi movie The Black Hole.

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The installation functioned as architecture and sculpture but also as a "made-to-order" product through a unified manufacturing strategy. As though warped by the gravitational force of a black hole, the petals continually changed scale and proportion as they approached the singularity of the piece.

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In 2005 Ball-Nogues created the environment for the launch in Beverly Hills of a Tiffany line of jewelry and accessories designed by Frank Gehry (for whom both have worked in the past).

One wall structure, half a block long, curved like the human body and was constructed from 4000 layers of corrugated cardboard sandwiched together. "Peep show" type display windows punctuated the wall, framing compositions of naked models wearing the jewelry. 24 ottomans, no two alike, invited the 600 guests to explore new ways of sitting.

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The entire project required laminating over 25,000 strips of curved, industrially cut corrugated cardboard. Incredibly strong and capable of supporting the weight of several people, the cardboard laminates operate more like shells (integrating structure and skin) rather than surfaces - which need the support of a skeletal armature.

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A year later, the LA architects expanded for an installation at the Rice Gallery the cardboard landscapes first developed for the jewelry launch. Visitors were invited to explore Rip Curl Canyon. This rolling playground was used during the exhibition for studying, snoozing, climbing, sliding down the terrain, or making-out in one of the darkened recesses below the cardboard surface. The underside of the installation was turned into a lounge-bar the day of the opening.

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In 2007, Ball-Nogues won a competition to inhabit with a large-scale installation the outdoor courtyard of PS1 Contemporary Art Center. Liquid Sky immersed the viewer in kaleidoscopic patterns of color created by sunlight filtering through an array of translucent, tinted Mylar petals that resemble blossoming flowers of stained glass.

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Six towers constructed from untreated utility poles support the surface while providing discrete spaces at their base for relaxing on community hammocks.

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For the adjacent outdoor gallery, the team designed the Droopscape, a slack catenary belly that shifts and flows in the wind, supported by drench towers that periodically soak visitors below with their gravity-induced tip buckets.

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Unseen Current is a navigable billow of fog flowing through Extension Gallery in Chicago. Three thousand hanging strings or "catenaries" totaling 10 miles in length span between the walls of the gallery in precise arrangements. From a distance, the 3D array of catenaries suggests a surface or volume; upon moving to its center, it evokes a rolling fog. A custom software was developed to explore the form of (and generate the plans for) the project. Like a pointillist painting in space inspired by the smoggy sky of Los Angeles, the color of the installation gradates from warm orange to sky blue.

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Unseen Current is so light and ethereal that i was almost not there, it was hovering on the verge of an absence turned into an entire atmosphere.

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A couple of points gleaned throughout Benjamin's presentation:
- For Ball, the manufacturing process of their installation is crucial, while making the project they often discover what it will eventually turn out to be.
- there's a romantization of technology in the design culture.
- there's a high-tech research behind their work with custom-built software and other sophisticated tools but great attention is also paid to craft and physical labour.

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Postopolis, Day 1

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Image by Storefront for Art and Architecture

Back to my posting about Postopolis, the amazing 5-day blogathon of discussions, interviews andpanel talks themed around landscape and the built environment and brought to us, lucky bloggers, by Storefront for Art and Architecture in collaboration with the adorable people of Foryourart.

I prayed the Twelve Olympians, i cursed and almost cried but i have irremediably lost all the notes i took during the second day of Postopolis. Dan Hill has however posted a series of thoughts he gathered on the second day of his visit of LA and he's going to blog the talks more extensively over the next few days. At least that's his plan. Let's flock to City of Sound this week then.

Below is a meager overview of Day 2 on planet Postopolis (with, i'm afraid heavy emphasis on the people i had invited):

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David Basulto and David Assael from Archdaily and plataforma architectura did a live interview of Sarah Johnston & Mark Lee. Basulto and Assael were only doing live interviews. They basically asked the same questions to each architect "What is architecture for you?" "What is the role of an architect?", etc. So at the end of the series we could compare and discuss the wide range of answers provided by the speakers (some came prepared, others seemed to be somewhat nonplussed by questions they didn't see coming.) Sarah Johnston had the most wonderful combination of shoes-socks i've seen in ages. Oh! and btw, the work of Johnston MarkLee studio is worth a few jaw drops.

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The Hill House, by Johnston MarkLee Architects

Robert Miles Kemp gave a compact and compelling talk about the way robotic technologies and interactive interfaces might impact architecture in the very near future. There will be more of that in his upcoming book about Interactive Architecture

0aproliverr.jpgFreya Bardell & Brian Howe from Greenmeme described 5 of their projects. One of them is The River Liver that aims to raise awareness to water quality issues and water pollution. During an outdoor art festival, they launched on the river Liver(trans)Plant, a floating landscape module attached to paddle boats and moved through the lake on a quest to discover contaminates and break down some of the identified pollutants in the Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park. For two days festival participants paddling the 'islands' around the Lake could get real-time data about the water quality through the central illuminated beacon which translated the water quality and other environmental data into colored light.

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Hot Air, by Greenmeme

They didn't mention the cow-powered methane collector they developed in 2006 but i can't resist linking to it.

Bryan from the absolutely wonderful Subtopia had invited the editor of Polar Inertia, everyone's favourite website for anyone interested in seeing photos that reveal the networks and patterns that define the contemporary city. The talk was dense and as packed with idiosyncrasies as the website itself.

0aastephannn.jpgPortrait of Stephanie Smith, Storefront for Art and Architecture.

The evening ended with a lively debate about Stephanie Smith's project to turn America into a nation of commune members. The idea is obviously not new and comes with all sorts of hippi-esque connotations but Stephanie aims to infuse it with a new spirit: the individual as well as the common good will be kept in balance. People should this time adopt the balance because she will show them how much sense it makes: they will save money and time by entering or forming a commune. Besides the project Wanna Start a Commune starts with a business plan because Stephanie believes in doing well by doing good. Check out NPR's podcast about the project.

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Sigh! That was a lame post, let's hope i'll do something better tomorrow.

The first day of Postopolis is over. It went way better than i expected (and expectations were high.) We are on the rooftop of The Standard hotel which means looking at each other with a smug smile on our face that says "we're so lucky to be here". Problem is that the smile literally freezes as soon as the sun goes down: it gets cold beyond my worst nightmare of a night sleeping rough in Tobolsk (only slightly kidding here.) Bring your blanket and moon boots tonight or follow us on the webcast! Don't expect full reports as days are pretty busy but here are a few highlights of Day One on Postopolis planet:

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I had the immense pleasure of kicking off the series of talks by introducing Fritz Haeg (how can anyone be both laid-back and so stylish?) whom i had invited precisely for his dedication to engage with everything but architecture. You might remember that i had interviewed him briefly two years ago about Edible Estates, a project that challenges the lawn, this "carpet of conformity", by inviting families to replace their front lawn with food-producing vegetable gardens. Fritz discussed Edible Estates (look out for his next garden in New York in June), gave an overview of the performances and various education activities he organizes but he also explained us briefly another of his projects: Animal Estates.

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Launched at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, the project that attempts to integrate animals in our landscape, in particular indigenous species that have disappeared because of human habitats and settlements. The customized dwellings are designed to encourage the resettlement of wildlife in urban neighbourhoods.

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Next came a presentation of the work of experimental architecture group fabric by Patrick Keller who proved once again that Swiss architecture rocks (check out this other talk by his colleague Christophe Guignard) and a live interview of Yo-Ichiro Hakomori of wHY Architecture by the two David from ArchDaily & Plataforma Arquitectura. Been very impressed by the thought-provoking and quiet answers of the Americano-Japanese architect and blown away by the picture of one of the most striking building he designed: Royal/T, LA's first Japanese-style cosplay café.

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Bryan from Subtopia had had the great idea to invite Michael Dear Professor of Geography, USC and author of the book Postborder City (must get my hands on that one asap). A few noteworthy observation Dear made: the future of the city is already at work in L.A., there is no urban center, just a big sprawl and several urban centers here and there, the population is in majority latino; even if the U.S. managed to close their borders, the latininization of the country would still be unstoppable because of natural birth; diversity is the strongest feature of this society and we should embrace it instead of looking for questionable ways to avoid it; the border is everywhere we go, that's the frontera portatil, the border to go, etc.

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Geoff presenting Jeffrey Inaba (photo Storefront)

Geoff Manaugh invited Jeffrey Inaba who commented the shift architects must face because of the current crisis: going from private commissions to public ones, accepting a part of blame for the ambitions of their previous clients and reassessing the actions and strategies to undertake in this new climate. Sounds heavy? The talk was actually very witty, not particularly on the optimistic side but still energizing and sprinkled with ironic observations that went from gums on the pavement to extreme temperatures in Kazakhstan.

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Image Storefront

Image on homepage: Postopolis flickr set by Storefront for art and architecture.

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