Archived entries for

Enewetak Atoll, J.G. Ballard & Robert Smithson

Runit Island (part of Enewetak Atoll)

Beneath this concrete dome on Runit Island (part of Enewetak Atoll), built between 1977 and 1980 at a cost of about $239 million, lie 111,000 cubic yards (84,927 cubic meters) of radioactive soil and debris from Bikini and Rongelap atolls. The dome covers the 30-foot (9 meter) deep, 350-foot (107 meter) wide crated created by the May 5, 1958, Cactus test. Note the people atop the dome.

via Ballardian & Wikipedia


The artist as site-seer; or, a dintorphic essay (1966-67)
Robert Smithson

The system of megaliths now provided a complete substitute for those functions of his mind which gave to it its sense of the sustained rational order of time and space, his awareness kindled from levels above those of his present nervous system (if the autonomic system is dominated by the past, the cerebrospinal reaches towards the future). Without the blocks his sense of reality shrank to little more than the few square inches of sand beneath his feet.

J.G. Ballard, Terminal Beach

Once we are free from utilitarian presuppositions we become aware of what J.G. Ballard calls “The Synthetic Landscape,” or what Roland Barthes refers to as “the simulacrum of objects,” or what Tony Smith calls the “artificial landscape,” or what Jorge Luis Borges calls “visible unrealities.” What do these four persons have in common? Not assumptions or beliefs of any kind, but the same degree of aesthetic awareness. For them the environment is coded into exact units of order, as well as being prior to all rational theory; hence it is prior to all explanatory naturalism, to physical science, psychology, and also to metaphysics…


“It was the writer, curator and artist Jeremy Millar who became convinced Smithson knew of Ballard’s short story, The Voices of Time, before building his jetty. All Smithson’s books had been listed after his death in a plane crash in 1973 – and The Voices of Time was among them. The story ends with the scientist Powers building a cement mandala or “gigantic cipher” in the dried-up bed of a salt lake in a place that feels, by description, to be on the very borders of civilisation: a cosmic clock counting down our human time. It is no surprise that it is a copy of The Voices of Time that lies beneath the hand of the sleeping man on the picnic rug in the opening scenes of Powers of Ten, Charles and Ray Eames’ classic 1977 film about the relative size of things in the universe.

Smithson understood the prehistory of his site. Beneath the Great Salt Lake was, for some, the centre of an ancient universe, and his jetty could have been an elaborate means to bore down to get to it. As if understanding this, Ballard wrote in the catalogue text: “What cargo might have berthed at the Spiral Jetty?” He elaborated later to me in a letter: “My guess is that the cargo was a clock, of a very special kind. In their way, all clocks are labyrinths, and can be risky to enter.” The two men had a lot in common, and Ballard believed him to be the most important and most mysterious of postwar US artists. My interest in time, cosmic and human, future and past, as well as the analogue spooling of the now, has Ballard at its core.”

The cosmic clock with Ballard at its core,
Tacita Dean

The body has a dimension. Through motion it polarizes external reality and becomes our instrument of meaning; its experience is therefore “geo-metrical.”

The creation of order in a mutable and finite world is the ultimate purpose of man’s thought and actions. There was probably never human perception outside a framework of categories; the ideal and the real, the general and the specific, are “given” in perception, constituting the intentional realm that is the realm of existence. Perception is our primary form of knowing and does not exist apart from the a priori of the body’s structure and its engagement in the world. This “owned body,” as Merleau-Ponty would say, is the locus of all formulations about the world; it not only occupies space and time but consists of spatiality and temporality. The body has a dimension. Through motion it polarizes external reality and becomes our instrument of meaning; its experience is therefore “geo-metrical.” The extension of this “geometry of experience,” in Husserl’s phrase, beyond the body’s (and the mind’s) spatiality constitutes the thrust of architectural design, the creation of an order resonant with the body’s own.

From the introduction to ARCHITECTURE AND THE CRISIS OF MODERN SCIENCE, by Alberto Pérez Gómez

These are objects that “tousle” one another, that have “secret lives.”

In a somewhat rare move for a work of philosophy, Alien Phenomenology contains a rich color insert that includes several photographs by Stephen Shore from the 1970s. Shore’s images are known for what Michael Fried calls “the labor of construal” they require their viewers to undertake in order to understand the relationships between the objects contained within them. I’m pausing on the book’s specific use of “Room 28 Holiday Inn, Medicine Hat, Alberta, 1974” primarily because of its mostly superficial simultaneity with Nagel’s 1974 essay — there may not be much more immediately relevant about that simultaneity, and yet it operates what Bogost evokes as “the dense meanwhile of being,” a meanwhile he sees appearing forcefully within Shore’s photographs themselves. “Room 28” (see image) depicts a set of mundane objects — a lamp, a television, a chair, and ashtray, brocade curtains — yet their everydayness, Bogost suggests, is not what matters. Instead, the image’s composition “underscores unseen things and relations” between the objects, or “register[s] the world.” Instead of the list of objects I just provided, here’s how the photograph looks to Bogost the alien phenomenologist: “In Alberta, a textured, rust-colored lamp with shade sits near the edge of a table, while an ashtray holds down a motel survey. Nearby, a window lever emerges from behind curtains.” These are objects that “tousle” one another, that have “secret lives.”

via Kate Marshall on Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s Like To Be a Thing / How to Be an Alien.

Between separation and segregation: it’s a segregated community. Which means it’s regulated from the outside by outsiders

The black man that you’re not familiar with is the one that we would like to point out now. He is a new type. He is the type that seldom the white man ever comes into contact with. And when you do come into contact with him you’re shocked because you didn’t know that this type of black man existed. And immediately you think, “Well here’s one of those black supremacists or racists or extremists who believe in violence and all that other kind of…” Well, that’s what they call it.

This new type of black man, he doesn’t want integration; he wants separation. Not segregation, separation. To him, segregation, as we’re taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, means that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors. A segregated community is a Negro community. But the white community, though it’s all white, is never called a segregated community. It’s a separate community. In the white community, the white man controls the economy, his own economy, his own politics, his own everything. That’s his community. But at the same time while the Negro lives in a separate community, it’s a segregated community. Which means it’s regulated from the outside by outsiders. The white man has all of the businesses in the Negro community. He runs the politics of the Negro community. He controls all the civic organizations in the Negro community. This is a segregated community.

We don’t go for segregation. We go for separation. Separation is when you have your own. You control your own economy; you control your own politics; you control your own society; you control your own everything. You have yours and you control yours; we have ours and we control ours.

They don’t call Chinatown in New York City or on the West Coast a segregated community, yet it’s all Chinese. But the Chinese control it. Chinese voluntarily live there, they control it. They run it. They have their own schools. They control their own politics, control their own industry. And they don’t feel like they’re being made inferior because they have to live to themselves. They choose to live to themselves. They live there voluntarily. And they are doing for themselves in their community the same thing you do for yourself in your community. This makes them equal because they have what you have. But if they didn’t have what you have, then they’d be controlled from your side; even though they would be on their side, they’d be controlled from your side by you.

via Malcolm X. “The Race Problem.” African Students Association and NAACP Campus Chapter. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963..

Hermann Bollmann: Manhattan, 1948


Pearsall’s London A-Z project was intended to make the city legible for everyday life. We might contrast it with an entirely different but contemporary mapping of the modern metropolis of the German, Hermann Bollmann. Armed with a technique known to 19th-Century artist-cartographers as Vogelschaukarten, which dates back at least to Jacopo de’ Barbari’s 1500 map of Venice, Bollmann confronted modernity’s most demanding urban landscape: Manhattan Island. Using 67 ,000 photographs, 17,000 taken from the air, he created in 1948 a hand drawn map image that captures precisely the soaring quality of New York’s skyline, while rendering streets and buildings with remarkable accuracy.

“Carto-city” by Denis Cosgrove,
Else/Where: Mapping


One of the greatest cartographic feats of all time, this 1963 axonometric (‘bird’s eye view’) map of New York City was the first such since 1866. The technique dates back to the 15th century, and developed in Germany into a fully flowered cartographic art form called Vogelschaukarten in Germany in the 1800s. This particular map was prepared by Herman Bollmann for the 1864 New York World’s Fair, where it was sold at information and tourist kiosks.

In making the map in the 1950s, Herman Bollmann and his staff faced a seemingly insurmountable problem, one never before encountered by his few predecessors in axonometric cartography: how to show New York’s many and densely concentrated skyscrapers from the same angle and relative height, while not obscuring most of the city behind them?

He and his team designed and built special cameras to take 67,000 photos, 17,000 from the air. Using these photos as a base, they then began to hand draw the entire city. Using then-secret cartographic techniques, Bollmann and team managed to depict the smallest details while simultaneously conveying the city’s soaring, vertiginous beauty.

The viewer is thus placed in the position of an Olympian God, a perspective that no other technologic and artistic form offers, even in the Internet age: with this map spread out before you, you have the ability to look upon any part of the city at will, down to its smallest detail, without waiting for a camera to pan or zoom or cut, without waiting for the next web page to load or zoom.

via Geographicus

Methodolatry and the Art of Measure (in Urban Data Science): Places: Design Observer

NYU thus joins many corporately branded pursuits of algorithmic urban efficiency — IBM’s Smarter Cities program, Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities Institute, Samsung’s u-City initiative, Intel’s Sustainable Connected Cities project, Living PlanIT’s Urban Operating System, and various automobile companies’ efforts to envision new “urban futures.” These Big Data approaches have provoked popular concern about surveillance and privacy, and raised questions among urbanists about how we’ll account for all the informal urban movements and transactions that take place off the sensor grid and outside the formal economy.

…Despite their apparent differences in scale and ideology, these two camps — the institutional and the individual, the corporate and collective, the big and little — are aligned at a foundational level. What links them is a way of conceptualizing and operationalizing the city: theirs is a city with an underlying code or logic, one that can be hacked and made more efficient — or just, or sustainable, or livable — with a tweak to its algorithms or an expansion of its dataset. They also seem to share a faith in instrumental rationality, or what Evgeny Morozov calls “solutionism” — as well as a tendency toward data fetishism and “methodolatry,” the aestheticization and idolization of method.

via Methodolatry and the Art of Measure (in Urban Data Science): Places: Design Observer.

Mercator by Nicholas Crane

The great sixteenth-century cartographers, of whom Mercator would become the greatest, required two very different skills. They had to be able to garner, assimilate, adjudge and co-ordinate the geographical information provided by explorers and sailors who frequented the margins of the known. They also had to be able to imagine themselves suspended in the air, to achieve the visionary perspective of gods, gazing down on to the world from the amplitudes of heaven.Mercators name is most familiar to us because of the Mercator Projection: the solution he devised to represent the spheroidal surface of the globe on a two-dimensional plane. It is less well known that Mercator was the first man to conceive of mapping the entire surface of the planet or that he pioneered the idea of presenting multiple maps in bound books, to which he gave the name Atlas.

via Observer review: Mercator by Nicholas Crane | Books | The Observer.

Instead we are in the green and pleasant land of a satirical utopia for our times, where recycling and organics abound, people keep saying how much they like each another, and the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters.

Some will call The Circle a “dystopia,” but there’s no sadistic slave-whipping tyranny on view in this imaginary America: indeed, much energy is expended on world betterment by its earnest denizens. Plagues are not raging, nor is the planet blowing up or even warming noticeably. Instead we are in the green and pleasant land of a satirical utopia for our times, where recycling and organics abound, people keep saying how much they like each another, and the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters.

via When Privacy Is Theft,
a review of Dave Eggers’ “The Circle”
by Margaret Atwood @The New York Review of Books

Simone Forti: Work in a Range of Mediums









in spanish they talk of “duende”


Three decades of Duende
Lee, Albert. The Village Voice [New York] 13 Nov 2001: 63.

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