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September 11, 2007

Green Medium

 

via Rhizome.org:

While scientists calculate the long-term prognostics for the health of the planet, artists continue to take the natural world–and its fate–as both a medium and a subject in their work. The Natural World Museum and the United Nations Environment Programme have gathered a group of 79 such examples in the volume Art in Action: Nature, Creativity, and Our Collective Future. Representative projects range from the crowd-pleasing site-specific work of Christo and Jeanne Claude to Olafur Eliasson’s immersive provocations–just in time for a recently-opened mid-career survey of his work at SFMOMA–and the book is separated into sections that track artists rendering nature as everything from a fantasy Eden to a fallen wasteland of unchecked human development. The title makes the book’s overall purpose clear. As much as it documents individual projects that engage with and manipulate ecology, the intent is a cumulative attempt to draw awareness to the ever-more fragile state of the planet.

[Link]

December 26, 2006

Geography of Nowhere

 


Bruce Sterling writes:

    I never realized that James Howard Kunstler, prophet
    of suburban oil-peak doom, is a painter.  The guy is
    a pretty darn good painter, actually.

Here's a snippet from the interview and some info on his '93 book, Geography of Nowhere:

An Interview with James Howard Kunstler
Bring It On Home

by Mark Givens

James Howard Kunstler has written four books on Urban Design and Suburbia including the ground-breaking "Geography of Nowhere" in 1993. He has also written nine novels, the newest of which is entitled "Maggie Darling" and it's a doozy. He is a passionate author, a painter, an insightful social critic, and a sharp-witted observer. His latest book is called "The Long Emergency" and it talks about life after "peak oil" - or, as he describes it in this interview, "the cheap oil fiesta of the late 20th century". His "Clusterfuck Nation" is loaded with his commentary on our social condition and his "Eyesore of the Month" serves to remind us, with wit and sincerity, of the horrible things we're doing to our surroundings. But most of all, James Howard Kunstler gives voice to the uneasy feelings that bubble up within us, from the discomfort and confusion regarding our current urban environment to the uncertainty regarding our future post-cheap oil.

MungBeing: Your background is not in urban planning or architecture. Where does your passion for urban design come from?

James Howard Kunstler: Well, I've had to live in the shitty environments of daily life here in America for half a century, and I have strong feelings about it. The books I wrote represented to a large extent a personal struggle to understand why we could do such damage to our civilization.

MB: What attracted you to New Urbanism?

JHK: When I was writing "The Geography of Nowhere," I went up a lot of blind alleys. I talked to a lot of people who were, in fact, part of the problem -- for example, "star" architects like Bob Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, who thought all the suburban crap was wonderful, playful, marvelous. When I finally encountered Andres Duany, I realized I had finally come to the right source. That very year, 1993, Andres along with his wife Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Doug Kelbaugh of the U of Washington, Peter Calthorpe, Stefanos Polyzoides, and a bunch of other dissatisfied architect / urbanists were organizing the official group that came to be called the Congress for the New Urbanism  -- the name was supplied by it's founding director, Peter Katz. These guys knew the score. I had found my way home.

[read on...]

The Geography of Nowhere:
The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape (Hardcover)
by James Howard Kunstler
303 pages
Simon & Schuster (June 1993)
ISBN-10: 0671707744
ISBN-13: 978-0671707743

From Library Journal
In this spirited, irreverent critique, Kunstler spares none of the culprits that have conspired in the name of the American Dream to turn the U.S. landscape from a haven of the civic ideal into a nightmare of crass commercial production and consumption.

Kunstler strips the bark off the utopian social engineering promoted by the machine-worshiping Modern movement of Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright and skewers the intellectual camps (e.g., Venturi) that have thrived on making academic glory of the consumer wasteland.

With the fervor of an investigative reporter and in the vernacular of a tabloid journalist, Kunstler exposes the insidious "car lobby" and gives case studies of landscapes as diverse as Detroit, Atlantic City, and Seaside, Florida, to illustrate both the woes and hopeful notes.

The ideas in this book are not new (Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte Jr. were bemoaning the loss of civic life a quarter-century ago), but Kunstler gives their case an urgent, popular voice. An eminently relevant and important book; highly recommended.

- Thomas P.R. Nugent, New York
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Worldchanging: User's Guide

reblogged via NEWSgrist, 10/26/06:

User's Guide for the 21st Century

Worldxing_1
New Book:
Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century
by Alex Steffen, Al Gore (Foreword), Bruce Sterling (Introduction)
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (November 1, 2006) [Link]
ISBN: 0810930951

via Bruce Sterling's Viridian Notes 00477 email:

If you are into cybergreen issues you can't call yourself informed without WORLDCHANGING.  Furthermore, the people involved in this effort are the absolute salt of the earth. They're bright, fluent, capable and they genuinely get it.  They don't merely "get it," they are inventing that which it is necessary to get. These are people you need to know a lot more about.

via Amazon : [links courtesy of ng]

Worldchanging is poised to be the Whole Earth Catalog for this millennium. Written by leading new thinkers who believe that the means for building a better future lie all around us, Worldchanging is packed with the information, resources, reviews, and ideas that give readers the tools they need to make a difference. Brought together by Alex Steffen, co-founder of the popular and award-winning web site Worldchanging.com, this team of top-notch writers includes Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity, Geekcorps founder Ethan Zuckerman, sustainable food expert Anna Lappé, and many others. Renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister brings his extraordinary talents to Worldchanging, resulting in a book that will challenge readers to personally redefine the conversation about the future.

November 10, 2006

Arts & Ecology: conference and book launch

 

eft image: ”No Way Back?” poster. Design by César Sesio.
Right image: “Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook” book cover. Design by SMITH. 

via e-flux:

Arts & Ecology announces forthcoming conference and book launch

For more information on these events and the Arts & Ecology programme visit
http://www.rsaartsandecology.org.uk

No Way Back?
A two day international conference at the LSE, London
11 & 12 December 2006
Tickets available here
Book before 10 Nov for a discounted ticket.

Speakers include Maria Thereza Alves, Lara Almárcegui, Jeremy Deller, Andrew Freear, Tue Greenfort, Peter Head, Peter Hewitt, Patrick Holden, Professor Zou Ji, John Jordan, David Lammy MP, Heather & Ivan Morison, Ruth Padel, Marjetica Potrc, Claudio Prado, Ralph Rugoff, Tomás Saraceno, Professor John Schellnhuber, Bronislaw Szerszynski, Matthew Taylor, Klaus Weber, Dr Ken Yeang

No Way Back? is a two day international enquiry organised by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, London, in partnership with Arts Council England and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As part of the Arts & Ecology programme, the conference aims to provide different perspectives on ecological issues from major thinkers of our time. Bringing together artists, geographers, ecologists, economists, sociologists, architects, philosophers, anthropologists and others, it will focus on real places and issues. The exploration will include keynote presentations, workshops, panel discussions, walks, readings, screenings, artists’ interventions and will encourage dialogue with and among the delegates.

LAND, ART: A Cultural Ecology Handbook
Edited by Max Andrews


Published by the RSA in partnership with Arts Council England.
Designed by SMITH. Distributed worldwide by Cornerhouse Publications and available from http://www.cornerhouse.org/publications
ISBN 0 901469 57 2 / 280pp / Full colour throughout

Publication date: 12 December 2006

Contributions by Lara Almárcegui, Francis Alÿs, Amy Balkin, James Boyle, Fernando Bryce, Susan Canney, Chu Yun, Donna Conlon, Jimmie Durham & Maria Thereza Alves, Feng Yuan, Futurefarmers & Free Soil, Tue Greenfort, Henrik Håkansson, Thomas Hirschhorn, Katie Holten, Marine Hugonnier, Alfredo Jaar, Jiang Jun, Brian Jungen, Jeffrey Kastner, Winona LaDuke, Learning Group, Lucy R. Lippard, Wangari Maathai, Jonathan Meuser, Jason Middlebrook, Aleksandra Mir, Nils Norman, David Naguib Pellow & Lisa Sun-Hee Park, PLATFORM, Richard Prince, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Tomás Saraceno, Paul Schmelzer, Peter Schmelzer, Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus, Cameron Sinclair, Stephanie Smith, Simon Starling, Bruce Sterling, Kirstine Roepstorff, Rirkrit Tiravanija, David Toop, Vitamin Creative Space, Insa Winkler, the Worldwatch Institute and Zheng Guogu.

The RSA and Arts Council England are pleased to announce the publication of LAND, ART: A Cultural Ecology Handbook. Edited by writer and curator Max Andrews, the book presents a compendium of essays, dialogues and commissioned projects by artists, ecologists, cultural theorists, activists and curators exploring art’s varied modes of response to notions of territory, cultural production and the emergencies of the 21st century. Original contributions from international practitioners as well as reproductions of existing artworks will accompany artists’ on-the-page ‘studio visits’.

In part a genealogy of ‘land’ and what has been understood by ‘the environment’ since the 1960s—with the activities of ‘Land artists’ and the emergence of a popular ‘eco’-consciousness—LAND, ART… proposes and tests if and how our conceptions of art and artists are relevant to a global debate about the future of the planet, and where, how and why art might operate—at the grass roots, at a tangent, as propaganda, activism or as resistance, for example.

About RSA Arts & Ecology
Arts & Ecology was launched by the RSA and Arts Council England in April 2005 to support the work the work of the arts in examining and addressing social and environmental concerns in an interdisciplinary and international arena.

Arts & Ecology consists of a series of initiatives including conferences, networking, ongoing discourse, international research trips, education pilots, artists’ projects and commissions, a website and a publication. Information can be found at http://www.rsaartsandecology.org.uk

September 29, 2006

Robert Polidori's "After the Flood" @ the Met

 3_new_orleans_polidori_048_marigny5417l_1
5417 Marigny Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 2006

reBlogged via NEWSgrist:

via NYTimes:
Art Review
What's Wrong With This Picture? {excerpted}
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN
Published: September 22, 2006

After Hurricane Katrina, Robert Polidori went to New Orleans, where he lived years ago, to shoot photographs of the devastation for The New Yorker. He stayed longer than first planned, then went back again and again, for weeks, taking hundreds of pictures with a large-format camera that produced wide, superbly detailed color photographs. The camera was awkward to manipulate through the wreckage and in the heat, without electricity and lights. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jeff L. Rosenheim, a photography curator, has selected a couple dozen of these big panoramas and interiors to make a pocket-size lament for a woebegone city.

They are unpeopled scenes: New Orleans as our modern Pompeii. Mr. Polidori stood near the corner of Law and Egania Streets where a plain, single-story cottage with a hole in the roof rests beside a telephone pole. A crisscross of power lines forms a shallow X against the empty blue sky. The house, pale green and white, recedes, diagonally.

Except that — the image can take a second to decipher — there are two cottages, one green, one white. During Katrina, the green one, like Dorothy's house, floated clear across Egania Street from who knows where, stopped perpendicular to its neighbor by those electric lines, which acted like arrestor wires on an aircraft carrier, ripping open the hole in the roof.

If this sounds confusing, that’s the nature of chaos, which can be as hard to photograph as it is to describe. Fortunately, Mr. Polidori is a connoisseur of chaos, and the beauty of his pictures — they have a languid, almost underwater beauty — entails locating order in bedlam. [...]

These are photographs, in other words, without nostalgia, as Mr. Rosenheim writes in a short introduction to Mr. Polidori's book, "After the Flood," but with "something of the air that generations of anonymous New Orleanians had breathed in and out." They make "no attempt to excavate what went wrong in New Orleans or why the state and federal response remains even today predisposed to cronyism, gross fraud and corruption." They simply testify, as Mr. Rosenheim puts it, "to a city that care forgot."

It's good of the Met to remind us.

Learn more about this exhibition

View images from this exhibition

May 07, 2006

Planet in Peril: Atlas of Current Threats to People and the Environment

 reBlogged via >> mind the __ GAP* ?

mapping the planet in peril

Posted: Wednesday 12 April 2006

Le Monde Diplomatic just published the introduction for the new atlas Planet in Peril: Atlas of Current Threats to People and the Environment

Written by an international team of specialists, these pages from the Atlas illustrate through text and maps, graphics and diagrams the interplay between population and the world’s ecosystems and natural resources both in the short and long terms. It brings together a wealth of information from the most up-to-date sources on such key issues as climate change, access to water, exploitation of ocean resources, nuclear energy and waste, renewable
energy, weapons of mass destruction, causes of industrial accidents, waste, export, hunger, genetically modified organisms, urban development, access to health care and ecological change in China.

That is a good opportunity to point also to its listing of political maps and for those who have access to the article of P.Rekacewicz Confessions of a map-maker:

Earlier this year, Le Monde diplomatique published the second edition of its atlas, and the United Nations Environmental Programme, in partnership with the paper, published a translation of the part of it that focuses on environmental issues. It’s a difficult business being a mapmaker. Maps, as mere visual representations of the idea of the world, are just as subject to diplomacy, border disputes and international struggles as real geopolitical territory.
… (continue on Le Monde Diplomatic - sorrily a password is needed)

April 14, 2006

Earth Day at Abington Art Center, with New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin & artist Diane Burko

 

Celebrate Earth Day at Abington Art Center

with a book signing & talk featuring New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin & artist Diane Burko 

Sunday, April 23rd at 3pm

"The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World" 

In connection with "out of the blue" an exhibition about climate change, its politics and metaphors, Andrew Revkin, the global-environment reporter for The New York Times will be at Abington Art Center to share his new illustrated book on the once and future Arctic. "The North Pole Was Here" is geared toward readers 10 years and up but his talk was developed with the whole family in mind. The book recounts his recent trip to the shifting sea ice at the North Pole with a rugged team of climate scientists who are trying to determine what's behind the dramatic warming of the Arctic climate. All science there is extreme science.

Mr. Revkin will share a lively illustrated talk that draws on the book (published by Houghton Mifflin/ Kingfisher) and his unique adventures not only at the North Pole, but on two other recent Arctic forays, to the summit of Greenland's giant ice sheet and the windblown tundra of Alaska's North Slope. Copies of "The North Pole Was Here" will be available for purchase and Mr. Revkin will sign books after the talk. Signed copies can also be ordered in advance. To put in an order call Heather at 215-887-4882 x240.

Artist Diane Burko from Abington Art Center's current gallery exhibition "out of the blue" will speak at 4pm. She will share images of her travels to Alaska and Iceland which were the inspiration for her new paintings. Diane is a Philadelphia painter and photographer whose recent projects are based on her travels to Iceland, the most active volcanic territory on earth. Diane has received many awards including a Lila Acheson Wallace fellowship and a grant from the Leeway Foundation.

This program has been supported in part by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Federal-State Partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.The event is FREE and open to the public. 

 

Read a review of "The North Pole Was Here" in Grist magazine:

True North [excerpt]

[...] Built around Revkin's 2003 trip to the pole, the book intersperses the author's observations with vintage photographs and stories culled from the pages of The New York Times, and a sprinkling of history, science, and philosophy. The title comes not from a gloomy global forecast, but from the fact that the geographical Pole is covered by ice that moves much more swiftly than most of us suspect: about 400 yards an hour.

Accessible to 10-year-olds (OK, to precocious 10-year-olds), the book makes fascinating reading for grown-ups as well. As you'd expect in a book aimed at kids, everything is clear. As you might also expect, it contains a huge number of MTV-length snippets. Topics range from the speculations of ancient Hindus and Greeks about what wonders might lie at the pole to the early efforts by white folk to reach it. Revkin also explores the reasons behind the slow collapse of magnetic north, whose strength has declined 10 to 15 percent in the last 150 years.

[Read on...

 

January 20, 2006

James Lovelock on "The Revenge of Gaia"

 

via The Independent, Jan. 16, 2006:

The Earth is About to Catch a Morbid Fever That May Last as Long as 100,000 Years
Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilization for as long as they can
by James Lovelock 

[...] This article is the most difficult I have written and for the same reasons. My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilization are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 percent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible - and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us.

To understand how impossible it is, think about how you would regulate your own temperature or the composition of your blood. Those with failing kidneys know the never-ending daily difficulty of adjusting water, salt and protein intake. The technological fix of dialysis helps, but is no replacement for living healthy kidneys.

My new book, The Revenge of Gaia expands these thoughts, but you still may ask why science took so long to recognize the true nature of the Earth. I think it is because Darwin's vision was so good and clear that it has taken until now to digest it. In his time, little was known about the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, and there would have been little reason for him to wonder if organisms changed their environment as well as adapting to it.

Had it been known then that life and the environment are closely coupled, Darwin would have seen that evolution involved not just the organisms, but the whole planetary surface. We might then have looked upon the Earth as if it were alive, and known that we cannot pollute the air or use the Earth's skin - its forest and ocean ecosystems - as a mere source of products to feed ourselves and furnish our homes. We would have felt instinctively that those ecosystems must be left untouched because they were part of the living Earth.

So what should we do?

[read full article]