Archived entries for

Mia Couto: “En África no es que se viva un realismo mágico, es realismo real”

Ahí sí que hubo un clic que me hizo despertar. Fue cuando trabajaba de periodista, cuando comencé a apreciar la fuerza de la oralidad del país, la manera en que se transmite el pensamiento… Y eso era para mí sorprendente. Yo no estaba preparado, escribía noticias de modo más funcional y comunicativo… fue el hecho de empezar a contar lo que veía, o más bien esa lógica entre la realidad y la ficción que estaba detrás, lo que me hizo escritor.

via Mia Couto: “En África no es que se viva un realismo mágico, es realismo real” | El País Semanal | EL PAÍS.

small fates | TEJU COLE (II)

But the key aspect of the experience for the non-Nigerian is the cascade of names and places, both the names in traditional Nigerian languages, or the unexpected incursion of English-language names. Some of these “English” names would not be borne by anyone in England: Miracle, Precious, Gift, Sunday. The non-English names, on the other hand, place you deep inside a world that might, at first, feel hard to understand, or even to pronounce. But even for those who can’t tell an Igbo name from a Yoruba one, or what makes the culture of Bauchi state different from that of Edo, the stories remain poignant. They are human stories. There are crimes of passion, inexplicable murders, courtroom outbursts, and moments of greed.

via small fates | TEJU COLE.

small fates | TEJU COLE

As I began work on my new book, a non-fictional narrative of Lagos, and was paying more and more attention to daily life in the city, a peculiar thing happened. I found myself drawn to the “small” news. I began to read the metro sections of newspapers, and the crime sections. When I was in Lagos itself, where there is a thriving newspaper culture, I bought several papers and went through them each day. In Brooklyn, I rely on the internet, through which I have access to some dozen Nigerian papers each day: Daily Times, NEXT, Vanguard, Punch, This Day, National Mirror, Tribune, PM News, Guardian, and so on. What I found in the metro and crime sections of these papers was a different quality of everyday life. It was life in the raw, as one might find in the Daily News or the New York Post, but not so much in the New York Times.

A lot of this material does not have direct bearing on the book I am working on. It is too brief, too odd, and certainly too sensational for the kind of writing the book requires. The material needed another outlet. That outlet turned out to be a form of writing for which there is no exact English term: fait divers. This is a French expression, in common use for centuries, for a certain kind of newspaper piece: a compressed report of an unusual happening. What fait divers means literally is “incidents,” or “various things.” The nearest English equivalent is “news briefs” or, more recently, “news of the weird.” The fait divers has a long and important history in French literature. Sensationalistic though it is, it has influenced the writing of Flaubert, Gide, Camus, Le Clézio and Barthes. In Francophone literature, it crossed the line from low to high culture. But though a version of it was present in American newspapers, it never quite caught on in the English language as a literary form.

via small fates | TEJU COLE.

Steve McCurry: Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983

Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983; photograph by Steve McCurry from his book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, which includes fourteen of his photo stories from India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and other countries, along with essays about his work and ephemera from his personal archive. It has just been published by Phaidon.
Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983; photograph by Steve McCurry from his book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, which includes fourteen of his photo stories from India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and other countries, along with essays about his work and ephemera from his personal archive. It has just been published by Phaidon.

Petrochemical America: Richard Misrach + Kate Orff (SCAPE)


Introducimos por primera vez en el blog un libro-investigación de enorme interés, Petrochemical America, no sólo por centrarse en el paisaje del río Mississippi, uno de los intereses fundacionales de este blog, sino por la propuesta y las personas que la desarrollan. Richard Misrach, fotógrafo norteamericano conocido en España sobre todo por sus fotografías del desierto norteamericano en la serie de los Desert Cantos, inicia el camino con un recorrido fotográfico por el tramo final del Mississippi, en Louisiana, donde los antiguos terrenos de las plantaciones se han convertido en una sucesión de industrias petroquímicas y alimentarias que han llevado a bautizar esta zona como Cancer Alley. Al igual que en obras anteriores Misrach busca el diálogo con otra mirada, en este caso con la arquitecta norteamericana Kate Orff, directora de la oficina SCAPE de NY. Juntos desarrollan una conversación en forma de ir y venir entre fotografías y cartografías que define un formato de investigación novedoso y de gran profundidad, cuyo mayor valor sin embargo es utilizar con la mayor honestidad y claridad las herramientas propias de cada disciplina, fotografía y arquitectura del paisaje, para expresar toda la complejidad de la situación presentada sin por ello rechazar ninguna de sus dimensiones ni abrumar al espectador con un trabajo excesivamente técnico. Al contrario, el recorrido a lo largo de sus más de doscientas páginas va dibujando progresivamente la situación envolviendo al lector con la fuerza expresiva de sus imágenes y la claridad expositiva de sus temas, acabando además con un interesante “esto debe continuar” en forma de caja de herramientas de la oficina SCAPE.




“Petrochemical America features Richard Misrach’s haunting photographic record of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, accompanied by landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas—a series of “throughlines,” speculative drawings developed through research and mapping of data from the region. Their joint effort depicts and unpacks the complex cultural, physical, and economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production that first garnered public attention as “Cancer Alley” when unusual occurrences of cancer were discovered in the region.

This collaboration has resulted in an unprecedented, multilayered document presenting a unique narrative of visual information. Petrochemical America offers in-depth analysis of the causes of decades of environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. Even more critically, the project offers an extensively researched guidebook to the way in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life. What is revealed over the course of the book is that Cancer Alley—although complicated by its own regional histories and particularities—may well be an apt metaphor for the global impact of petrochemicals on the human landscape as a whole.”

See more at:

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

“Americans know what the oil and gas and coal landscape looks like – but do we really? There is a hidden side to America’s material prosperity. Most of its harmful manifestations are literally invisible – benzene and dioxins “disappear” into the air, while waste chemicals are pumped underground into injection wells. PCBs, Mercury, and Lead, toxic in the most imperceptible but potentially devastating amounts, persist in our bodies, in river sediment, in soils. Commonly used petrochemicals that are all around us and seemingly impossible to avoid have the potential to re-wire our bodies’ endocrine systems. Carbon dioxide, which has precipitated the global climate crisis, is largely invisible. We all seemingly benefit from fast-flowing oil, and cheap consumer goods and foodstuffs, but the profound negative effects and associated wastes remain localized, often in poor communities. On a regional scale, especially along the Louisiana coast, thousands of miles of canals, pipes, and oil platforms criss-cross the gulf and reach deep into the countryside, blocking animal migration paths. These channels cut for oil and gas pipelines lead to erosion and provide direct routes for salt-bearing tides, killing freshwater wetlands, which are disappearing at the rate of a football field every thirty-eight minutes, transforming inland communities into coastal towns. Even the mighty and mythical Mississippi River has been transformed in its lower reaches into a de facto waste pipe, receiving massive quantities of farm chemicals, sewage, and industrial waste, creating an eerie, temporarily lifeless expanse of water off the coast of Louisiana called the “dead zone.”"

via Kate Orff: Petrochemical America: Toward a New Energy Landscape

Patrick Craig Manning: Mississippi River Delta


Patrick Manning, a photographer based in New Mexico, also uses seemingly straightforward techniques to explore something so pervasive in landscape that it becomes nearly impossible to discern. Manning’s Delta series looks at erosion caused in large part by the extensive network of man-made channels and canals in the Mississippi River Delta. Manning’s challenge is to portray, as he says, “changes so vast that they become the environment itself.” He has established a formal template for the images: each panoramic print is horizontally bisected by the horizon line, sky above, usually an expanse of water below, and a thin strip of green land in between; occasional structures or boats dot the landscape. The prints are unrealistically light, with the sky and the water all but washed out. The formal repetition and the lightness of the prints combine to create the sense that the photographs do not really show their subject — can’t really show it. We cannot see the lands that have sunk and eroded away, but we feel their absence.

via New Landscape Photography: Bleda y Rosa, Richard Mosse, Stephen Tourlentes, Patrick Manning: Places: Design Observer.



DELTA – 2008-2012 – INKJET PRINTS – 51″X30″

The impact of the ubiquitous and the diffuse is hard to comprehend. It is difficult to internalize changes so vast that they become the environment itself. The images comprising the series Delta are part of a long-term project photographing environments undergoing nearly invisible but massive man-made changes. Previous works have explored overgrazing in the desert west and the contrails left behind aircraft that often become man-made overcast.

The Mississippi River Delta is crisscrossed by thousands of man-made canals and ditches. These canals allow salt water to penetrate ever more deeply into the delta, killing the trees that anchor the wetlands. Erosion claims thousands of acres each year and the delta region is sinking at a rate of 4-5 feet per century.

The series Delta images the intersections of man-made waterways with the geological processes of the delta formation and erosion. It seeks to show the almost invisible process consuming the wetlands of southern Louisiana. These works portray what is absent, what has been lost, and reveal the increasing fragility and exposure we are placing ourselves in as we carve our lines into the delta.

via Patrick Craig Manning.

Politics according to the MoMA: 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political

The exhibition brings the third floor of MoMA back to the function of representing, historicizing and classifying social change instead of facilitating it…

The gallery is divided into 10 sections, including Radical Stances: 1961-1973, Fiction & Dystopia: 1963-1978, Deconstruction: 1975-1999, Consuming Brandscapes: 1969-2004, Performing Public Space: 1978-2011, Iconoclasm & Institutional Critique: 1964-2003, Enacting Transparency: 1967-2011, Occupying Social Borders: 1974-2011, and Interrogating Shelter: 1971-2003. In this categorization system, formally and intellectually based experiments — Peter Eisenman’s houses, Jean Nouvel’s Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, SOM’s National Commercial Bank in Jeddah — are leveled with more socially engaged practices — Mazzanti Arquitectos’ library in Medellin, Michael Rakowitz’s paraSITE Homeless Shelter, Estudio Teddy Cruz’s work on immigration. The politics of form, if there is such a thing, have been given a prominent role. The lesson seems to be that a political claim for architecture can equally be a claim for its autonomy and independence from the politics of the everyday world.

…In contrast to 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political, Century of the Child seemed to offer the type of imaginative and subversive play needed for a truly inventive politics.

Politics according to the MoMA by Victoria Øye, Domus.

Patrick Geddes’ Outlook Tower

Drawing on the scientific method, Geddes encouraged close observation as the way to discover and work with the relationships among place, work and folk. In 1892, to allow the general public an opportunity to observe these relationships, Geddes opened a “sociological laboratory” called the Outlook Tower that documented and visualized the regional landscape. In keeping with scientific process and using new technologies, Geddes developed an Index Museum to categorise his physical observations and maintained Encyclopedia Graphicato, which utilised a camera obscura to provide an opportunity for the general public to observe their own landscape to witness the relationships among units of society. The Outlook Tower was built in Edinburgh’s Old Town and continues to be used as a museum.

Patrick Geddes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

City Square, Alberto Giacometti (1948)




Landscape as Infrastructure (II)

“Design of surface systems, synchronization of material volumes, logistics of implementation, re-zoning of land across boundaries, sequencing of land transformations over time, synergies between land uses, and reciprocities between different agencies, can therefore augment and accelerate these strategies, placing emphasis on performative effects of practice rather than their end results. The new paradigms of longevity and performance decisively break with the Old World pictorial, bucolic, and aesthetic tradition of landscape design. Instead, they give landscape planning and design a logistical and operative agency as a practice that deals with complex, multidimensional systems. By design, the synthesis of urban operations—coupled with the refl exive mechanisms that underlie them—can therefore lead toward the development of this contemporary landscape practice; one that is urgently needed for the present and future reclamation of urbanizing and deurbanizing land in the Great Lakes region and North America.”

Landscape as Infrastructure, Pierre Bélanger

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