The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, is aired today at 4pm (London time.)
Today we will be talking with Marcos García who, together with Laura Fernandez, is responsible for the cultural program of the Medialab Prado in Madrid.
If you're a curator or an artist involved in art and technology you've probably heard about Medialab Prado. Chances are, you've even been there for one of their workshops. Medialab Prado is conceived as a citizen laboratory for the production, research and dissemination of cultural projects that explore collaborative forms of experimentation and learning that have emerged from digital networks.
So far, the lab mostly organized seminars and workshops dealing with topics as different as garage science, magic and technology, obsolete technologies of the future, data visualization, the theory of the Commons, or digital facades. The way the workshops are organized is pretty unique to MLP: they publish a call, select the projects that will be developed and invite collaborators from all backgrounds to join the artists over a 2 week period to develop a working prototype. The sessions are intense but the results are usually pretty spectacular.
Last week, however, MLP inaugurated its new headquarters. Same address but this time the space is at least 10 to 15 times bigger which means that the workshops will still be central to the activities of the lab but they will also be accompanied by permanent research projects, exhibitions, artist residencies and so on.
Unfortunately for us, Marcos Garcia is not in the studio in London with us today. Fortunately for me, he invited me over at MLP for the launch of the new space and for a series of events dedicated to Free, Open Source Tools for Graphic designers.
In this episode of #A.I.L., we will be talking interactivity, Open Source in times of precarity, the inspiration behind the Medialab Prado model and the future plans for the lab.
I'm just back from a few days in Madrid where i visited the jaw-dropping vast new headquarters of Medialab Prado. More about that soon. I did however find some time to visit a couple of exhibitions in town. Including Anonymization at La Casa Encendida.
In this photo series, Robert Harding Pittman acutely documents the exportation of the Los Angeles-style model of urban development to other countries such as Spain, France, Germany, Greece, United Arab Emirates and South Korea.
Anonymization presents under an implacable light a landscape of anonymity made of shopping malls, vast parking lots, arrays of unfinished houses that look exactly the same, green golf courses in the middle of desert areas, etc.
The photos highlight that urban sprawl has no soul, character nor regard for the cultural, social, ecological or even meteorological context. The absence of any human figure in the photos render the alienation even more striking.
In all of places that I photographed, developers almost always feel that they need to build a golf course in their development in order to attract homebuyers, the photographer told Fototazo. Even though many residents do not play golf, it provides them with a feeling of luxury, leisure and well-being, just as does the palm tree. Not only is the green golf course crucial, but so is the green lawn around one's house, even if one lives in a desert. Obviously water problems are thus also universal in sprawl built in sunny, arid climates, where much of the building has occurred in the recent future.
The other common element to sprawl all over the world is the dependency on the car and the pollution, the lack of social interaction and the alienation that this creates. Also it results in that those who cannot drive, the youth and many elderly, become immobile.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of facts and figures related to the issue of urban sprawl and mass construction. Bear with me, the texts exhibited were in spanish. Often translated from english. I couldn't always find the original so i did a reverse translation back to english:
- Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world. Some 20% of the cranes in the world are working there.
- Dubai 2009: " At the airport, hundreds of cars have apparently been abandoned in recent weeks. Keys are left in the ignition and maxed out credit cards and apology letters in the glove box."
United Kingdom, 2006:
Fototazo has an interview with the photographer.
Anonymization is at La Casa Encendida in Madrid through May 26, 2013.
Available on Amazon USA. Sorry, I couldn't find it on amazon UK.
Book Description: The "Unpleasant Design" book is a collection of different research approaches to a phenomenon experienced by all of us. Unpleasant design is a global fashion with many examples to be found across cities worldwide, manifested in the form of "silent agents" that take care of behaviour in public space, without the explicit presence of authorities. Photographs, essays and case studies of unpleasant urban spaces, urban furniture and communication strategies reveal this pervasive phenomenon. With contributions by Adam Rothstein, Francesco Morace and Heather Stewart Feldman, Vladan Jeremic, Dan Lockton, Yasmine Abbas, Gilles Paté, Adam Harvey and many others, the book is in an attempt to recognise this nascent discipline within contemporary design taxonomies.
Unpleasant Design landed on my doorsteps a few days ago. I opened the envelope, grabbed the book and uttered a loud "Who's the idiot who designed this?!?" because the sleeve around the cover was made of sandpaper. Sandpaper!
I then read the title of the book and had to admit that it was a very clever idea.
Each of us has met examples of unpleasant design as we go through the city. The bench that is uncomfortable to sit on for more than 10 minutes, the trash can specially designed so that you can't sit on it nor stuff big bag of garbage inside, the anti-sticker coating on lamp posts, etc. I guess most of us don't really pay attention but they do coerce us to use the city in a prescribed, restricted way. And then there's unpleasant design for the unhappy few: benches with armrests in the middle so that the homeless can't lay down and sleep on it, blue lights in bathrooms and tunnels preventing drug users to spot their veins, an aluminium bar with spikes on it found in corners of buildings and alleys that is angled so that pee would end on your feet (a popular design in The Netherlands apparently), structures to remind pigeons that they are not welcome in town, or CCTV cameras that target specific race and age groups. And of course, there's that notorious mosquito device.
Unpleasant Design dresses the portraits of bullying urban furniture, looks at the specific strategies behind its design, comments on the use and control of public and semi-public spaces. After having had the book in your sandpapered hands, you won't look at your city with the same eyes, i'm sure.
The book documents and casts a critical eye on design motivated by policies of exclusion but, and that's what makes the book such an inspiring lecture, it also looks at how individuals, artists, activists are responding to urban unpleasantness.
Authors Gordan Savicic and Selena Savic have spent over a year researching forms of social unpleasantness, taking photos wherever they went, writing down ideas and talking with people who are also denouncing and resisting unpleasant design. The resulting essays and interviews are enclosed in the book. Among my favourite are: Survival Group's photos and comments about Anti-Sites (the spaces designed to prevent homeless people or simply weary passersby to sit down and have a rest), Vladan Jeremic's look at the hidden politics of garbage removal in Belgrade, an interview with the insightful and witty urban hacktivist Florian Rivière, a discussion with 'neo-nomad' Yasmine Abbas, another one with Dan Lockton of Design with Intent, the interview with Gilles Paté, the 'fakir' of urban spaces, etc. Add to that, plenty of case studies, examples of artistic devices and ideas that create and fight unpleasant design but also the outcome of a competition about unpleasant design.
Two of the winning projects of the Unpleasant Design competition:
A maze lock for public toilets, bars and restaurants to avoid drunkards entering the toilet and passing out or damaging the property.
SI8DO is a social-integration urban furniture designed to improve the working conditions of immigrants who work at the traffic lights selling tissues.
The new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM, is aired tonight.
This week we'll be talking to Liam Young, a speculative architect whose work use fictional near-future scenarios in order to make us reflect upon the social, architectural and political consequences of emerging biological and technological futures.
Liam is a founder of Tomorrows Thoughts Today, a think tank that explores the possibilities of fantastic, imaginary and even perverse urbanisms.
Liam also runs the rather fascinating Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic workshop that travels to the most intriguing places on this planet in order to investigate forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and industrial ecologies. The Unknown Fields Division have traveled to locations as different from each other (and from our own daily environment) as the Amazon, the Alaska, the mining landscapes of the Australia Outback, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and more recently the Roswell Crash Site.
If that were not enough, Liam is also one of the curators of this year's Lisbon Architecture Triennale.
My conversation with Liam today is going to focus on Under Tomorrows Sky, a project that will be shown at the Triennale. The first bricks of 'Under Tomorrows Sky' were laid last Summer, at the MU Foundation in Eindhoven, where Liam was joined by a group of scientists, technologists, futurists, science fiction writers and even special effects artists to collectively imagine and build a room sized miniature model of a fictional, future city.
The show will be aired today Thursday 21st February at 17:30. The repeat is next Tuesday at 6.30 am (yes, a.m!) If you don't live in London, you can catch the online stream or wait till we upload the episodes on soundcloud.
Image on the homepage: Under Tomorrows Sky concept art by Daniel Dociu.
New year, new episode of #A.I.L - artists in laboratories, the weekly radio programme about art and science i present on ResonanceFM.
The guest of this episode is artist and critical engineer Julian Oliver whose award-winning software and hardware works include a wall plug that manipulates the news appearing on other people's screens, a pair of augmented-reality binoculars that replace advertisements in public spaces with artworks in real-time, but also a Transparency Grenade able to capture network traffic and audio at the site of secret corporate or governmental meetings and to anonymously stream the data to a dedicated server where it is mined for information. Julian Oliver's projects might be provocative and entertaining but their ultimate aim is to make us question the technologies we use every day: who really owns them? Who made them and to what purpose? How much do they shape our behavior? Do these technologies service us as much as we service them?
During the show, however, we're not going to talk about Julian's exciting projects. Instead, i wanted to focus on the Critical Engineering Manifesto that Julian wrote a year ago together with Gordan Savičić and Danja Vasiliev. Expect explanations about why Engineering is the most transformative language of our time, questions about how to adopt the critical engineering ethos if you have next to zero technical skills, and details about Julian Oliver's upcoming projects.
Post-Digital Print - the Mutation of Publishing Since 1894, by Alessandro Ludovico.
Publisher Onomatopee writes: In this post-digital age, digital technology is no longer a revolutionary phenomenon but a normal part of everyday life. The mutation of music and film into bits and bytes, downloads and streams is now taken for granted. For the world of book and magazine publishing however, this transformation has only just begun.
Still, the vision of this transformation is far from new. For more than century now, avant-garde artists, activists and technologists have been anticipating the development of networked and electronic publishing. Although in hindsight the reports of the death of paper were greatly exaggerated, electronic publishing has now certainly become a reality. How will the analog and the digital coexist in the post-digital age of publishing? How will they transition, mix and cross over?
In this book, Alessandro Ludovico re-reads the history of the avant-garde arts as a prehistory of cutting through the so-called dichotomy between paper and electronics. Ludovico is the editor and publisher of Neural, a magazine for critical digital culture and media arts. For more than twenty years now, he has been working at the cutting edge (and the outer fringes) of both print publishing and politically engaged digital art.
The Mutation of Publishing Since 1894... I won't hold it against you if you tell me that this sound austere. This book is however a joy to read. It is entertaining, impeccably researched and written in a compelling style. Alessandro Ludovico blends together retro-futuristic drawings, theory, anecdotes, art works and personal observations to narrate the paper vs pixel battle and ultimately kick off a discussion about the role of print in digital times. To be honest, i knew Ludovico would write a good book about the issue because i've followed his many activities and researches in the field for a number of years now but i had no idea i'd have so much fun reading it. I can't remember having had in my hands a book that made my brain go from quotes by Clay Shirky, Marissa Mayer, Jorge Luis Borges, Vuk Cosic, or Cory Doctorow to stories about keitai shousetsu, Paulo Coelho's call to 'pirate' books, Amazon erasing from your Kindle the copies of George Orwell's books 'while you were sleeping', Daniel Vydra's New York Times Roulette, artistic imitation of banknotes, Sniffin' Glue punk zines, mail art, etc. Add to that the odd flashback (for example the magazines that used to be sold with a floppy disk containing 'bonus' content) that reminds you how fast the publishing world has to adapt in order to keep on attracting readers.
The first chapter, "The death of paper (which never happened)" analyzes 7 moments in history when a new medium has been heralded as a superior alternative to paper. Chapter 2,"A history of alternative publishing reflecting the evolution of print", looks at how artistic avant-gardes have been using print throughout the 20th century. The third chapter, "The mutation of paper: material paper in immaterial times", explores the reasons why paper still makes sense in our digital age. Chapter 4, "The end of paper: can anything actually replace the printed page?", take a critical look at electronic devices, strategies and platforms. The Fifth Chapter, "Distributed archives: paper content from the past, paper content for the future", explores the long-term implication of choosing a medium rather than the other one. The final chapter, "The network: transforming culture, transforming publishing" explains how much quality cultural entities can gain from working as a network.
I've been particularly fascinated by the Appendix which brings side by side the world of print and the digital world to highlight their similarities and differences: shelf space vs web host storage space, shipping strike vs no connection, smell of ink vs sound of clicks, etc.
Post-Digital Print is a book i'd recommend to bloggers, journalists, writers, publishers, designers (of the physical and the 'immaterial' alike), and to anyone who wants to be able to shine at elegant dinners when the conversation turns to questions such as "what's more eco-friendly? is it the print or the digital?' "Will printed magazines disappear in the coming years?" "Is The Pirate Bay killing the publishing industry?"
And because Alessandro Ludovico is the founder and editor of the magazine Neural, he illustrated many of the observations, facts and ideas about post-digital print with a series of artworks. Here's a couple i discovered along the pages:
The Quick Brown monitored Fox News regularly and highlighted changes made on the headlines over the course of the day.
Pamphlet: people typed a message on a computer. As they pressed the 'send' button, the message was printed and dropped as a pamphlet from the 10th floor of the building.
Tim Schwartz's iPod's contents cataloged on paper cards:
Alessandro Ludovico was interviewed about Post-Digital Print in visualMAG.