a photograph of new jersey

An intriguing project …
Is it possible to make a photograph of New Jersey regardless of where you are in the world? The Pierro Gallery and iheartphotograph.com invite photographers, designers, and artists of all kinds to participate in this global open call for work.
Are ideas about place dramatically different since the internet has allowed us to participate in culture on such a global scale? Despite the endless stream of information and images available through mass media, are there limits to how we perceive, imagine, and understand the world? Exactly how do you picture New Jersey? What would you say about it in a photograph?
Enter the exhibition “Is it possible to make a photograph of New Jersey regardless of where you are in the world?” curated by I Heart Photograph for the Pierro Gallery in New Jersey, on view from April 6—May 25, 2008.
February 22, 2008 is the deadline for submissions. No fees are required to enter.


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I’ll be lecturing at Clemson this Friday. Peter Laurence has set up a blog for the course that I will be dropping in on: "Critical Practice for the Next Generation." 

I thought it would be useful to put together a short set of the key posts for the students and for any other recent newcomers to peruse. 
The highlights of last year’s posts.
Projects that my students have done in my signature class on the city as a communications system.
The site for my forthcoming book from MIT. Yesterday I gave the site a much-needed face lift although the text of the book needs to be brought up to a more recent revision. 
The promotional copy:
Digital media and network technologies are now part of everyday life. The Internet has become the backbone of communication, commerce, and media while the ubiquitous mobile phone connects us with others as it removes us from any stable sense of location. Networked Publics examines the ways that the social and cultural shifts created by these technologies have transformed our relationships to (and definitions of) place, culture, politics, and infrastructure.
Four chapters—each by an interdisciplinary team of scholars using collaborative software—provide a synoptic overview along with illustrative case studies. The chapter on place describes how digital networks enable us to be present in physical and networked places simultaneously (on the phone while on the road; on the Web while at a café), often at the expense of non-digital commitments. The chapter on culture explores the growth of amateur-produced and -remixed content online and the impact of these practices on the music, anime, advertising, and news industries. The chapter on politics examines the new networked modes of bottom-up political expression and mobilization, and the difficulty in channeling online political discourse into productive political deliberation. The chapter on infrastructure notes the tension between openness and control in the flow of information, as seen in the current controversy over net neutrality. An introduction by anthropologist Mizuko Ito and a conclusion by architecture theorist Kazys Varnelis frame the chapters, giving overviews of the radical nature of these transformations. 
While on the site, look at the essay that I co-wrote, "Beyond Locative Media." 
My conclusion, "the Rise of Network Culture" forms the outline of an upcoming book project, indeed, my main project for 2008.


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in the blogs

Two blogs of note mentioned me recently. First, Régine at we-make-money-not-art had a two-part review of the panel that I moderated at the DLD conference.

I wish I had had more time to talk, but that’s the way conferences can be. For those of you who may be wondering what I said, here’s how I contextualized the panel:

Cities are communications systems. Media and urban environments impact each other and develop hand-in hand historically. When we began to live in cities, we deveolped writing to keep tabs of what went on in those cities. In the nineteenth century, the rapidly growing metropolis gave rise to the telephone and the telegraph, which allowed management at a distance, facilitating the business district, with its distinctive form of the skyscraper, the factory district, and the residential district. Could suburbs such as Levittown be conceivable without the substitute for urban culture provided by television? So if during the last two decades we are faced with an intense transition in media, what does that imply for architecture, for urbanism?

Speaking of urbanism, Bradley M. Swarts at East Coast Architecture Review kindly included varnelis.net on his list of top ten blogs on urbanism. It’s a great list and an honor to be included on it.  

On another front, if you haven’t heard the news, Last.fm is now offering full-length albums on its site. This morning I’ve been listening to this one by Popul Vuh, Krautrock band founded by Florian Fricke (father of Johannes Fricke of DLD). It’s the soundtrack to Aguirre: The Wrath of God, one of my favorite movies. In my book, it’s the best soundtrack ever written.


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if you see something, say something, part 2

Recently, I observed a strange green box that eventually turned out to be a traffic counter and wondered about the role of mystery devices in the city, about how there are those who can leave little bits of technology out in the world (the government, corporations) and those who can’t (the rest of us).     

In preparing a response to Derek’s comment on that post this morning, I set out to look for other examples of detonations, and ran across the familiar story of the 2007 Boston bomb scare involving the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads. But then I found out that the trigger happy Boston police, perhaps disappointed the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads didn’t blow up decided to try their luck with an identical green traffic counters. 

See the video after this link.

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I’m in Munich for the DLD-Conference, moderating a panel with Richard Saul Wurman, Patrik Schumacher, Charles Renfro and Bjarke Ingels. Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the Anish Kapoor show at the Haus der Kunst. The intensity of works like his 1999 Yellow struck me. I had never seen these in person before and I was utterly overwhelmed by the power of color. I don’t mean this metaphorically, I mean this literally. The color was so intensely saturated that I couldn’t look at it for too long and when I looked away, I was still left with the after-effects of the color. It was like staring into the sun

yellow anish kapoor

This led me to thinking how the Kapoor relates to Network Culture. I am spending more time expanding on the argument in that essay this year and, if I had earlier pointed to a fascination with reality, in the form of remix and documentary, as the defining factor of art under Network Culture, how could Kapoor’s Yellow fit into my framework? 

Kapoor's Yellow, installed

First, to mark off certain works as "art", artists under Network Culture are more obsessed than ever with technique. The idea that "I could have done that" is implausible in the best work, such as the salon-painting sized photographs in the incredible "On the Beach" exhibit by Richard Misrach or Kapoor. But more than that, in Kapoor (and indeed, in the abstract photos of that exhibit by Misrach), there is another level of reality introduced: a bodily reality that harkens back to the days of Op Art.

Kapoor is not representing reality, he sets out to control it. You are no longer a viewer looking at a discreet work in this space. In Deleuzean terms, this is affect, beyond representation or subjectivity. Instead, the work’s impact is total as it delivers a knock-out punch. Saturation, it seems, is reality.

Should you be at DLD while you are reading this, go see the show which ends tonight. I hope to make it back at 6.30 for a special walk-through. Drop me a line if you intend to see it.   

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if you see something, say something

After 9/11, "If you see something, say something" appeared at bus shelters and train stops throughout the United States. The New York City MTA’s is below.   

MTA see something image

The other day, as I was walking to the Watchung Plaza train stop to ride the train into the city, I saw this strange, solar-powered device chained to a metal post on the underside of the rairload bridge. Days later it was still there.  

image of mystery object under bridge

No doubt this is some kind of metering unit, but it lacks any explanation. I saw something, should I say something? Who should I call? What sound I do next?  Is it ok for mysterious boxes to just appear like this?

Instinctively, I say yes, that cities are ultimately filled with such objects and their mystery has the capacity to arouse in us a deep fascination and to encourage the imagination to take flight.


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