goodbye 20th century

Woke up this morning to read a post by Enrique at a:456 and was amazed just how precisely he had nailed what’s been on my mind for the last two weeks.

Twenty years ago I was moving to the city to study architectural design (yes, at Columbia. Over that summer I came to realize that the music I was listening to (and, at the time, making) was giving me so much more than the formalist architecture of the day ever could. Unlike Enrique, I was a disappointed by Daydream Nation: my album was Sister. But Sonic Youth was still so important to reading the city as were other noise bands like Live Skull (and reading books like Gravity’s Rainbow…a whole summer of Gravity’s Rainbow). And at Sonic Youth’s CBGBs concert that summer I was right up against the stage the entire time. I remember thinking that the song Schizophernia in particular was much less about an individual and much more about a city and a world…this was, after all, still very much the postmodern moment. 

As Enrique points out, New York was as dirty a city as could be that summer, gripped in a crack epidemic, and heading for riot that would end all that. Soon, like Ulysses, I’d be back to Ithaca where I’d do a Ph.D. and somehow try to understand what all that meant. And no matter how great the city is now and no matter how nostalgic it is to say this, I really wish the city was dirty again. There was a potential then that has been exhausted by architecture.   





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the biggest drawing in the world, take 2

There was a lot of blog traffic about Eric Nordenankar’s project, "The Biggest Drawing in the World" last week in which Eric, an art student at Beckmans College of Design purported to use a package with a GPS device in it to "draw" a map on the world as the package was shipped back on fort via DHL.

So it should now be revealed. With the "help" of DHL I’m undertaking a similar project. Last week I shipped a package to Dublin, Ireland. Instead, DHL decided that the package should be shipped to Dublin, South Africa. Since then, the package has bounced back and forth between different locations on the Eastern Hemisphere.

You would think someone would just look at the waybill at some point.

In the meantime, I have finished copy edits for both the Johnson Tapes and Networked Publics. Next up is an index for the latter and its back to Infrastructural City in hopes that these are all off my plate starting next week!

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surveillance society

One of my perennial concerns is the growth of surveillance under network culture. I wanted to share two articles with you today, the first from Naomi Klein, who writes about the use of American surveillance technologies in the repression of dissidents in China’s All-Seeing Eye, the second a call to action by Bruce Schneier entitled Our Data, Ourselves. Maybe it’s that a generation that never experienced 1984 as a date in the future can’t conceive of the dangers of surevillance society. Maybe it’s that because the current administration has largely confined activities against citizens who aren’t "typical Americans." Maybe it’s that the Iron Curtain has been gone for so long. Maybe it’s that the Myspace generation is already used to constant exposure of their intimate activities.

Whatever the reason, to imagine that surveillance culture is innocent is naïve. For modernists like Hannes Meyer, transparency was something to build into public buildings so that politicians couldn’t operate behind closed doors anymore, not a means by which to repress the people. Times have changed, apparently. Nobody sees inside the Oval Office, but we have waned, our bodies transparent to  technology.

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here for alba

I had the privilege of seeing Anish Kapoor’s work again today at the Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea.

I was swept away by "Here for Alba," a convex shape a little reminiscent of a Richard Serra except in fiberglass. Entering into the shape, you are surrounded by a curved, reflective fiberglass surface (see above). The result, as at some of the best works I saw at Haus der Kunst in January, confounds your ability to focus, undoing your sense of vision completely. Again, as in my previous post on the his work, Kapoor intrigues me because of his ability to directly effect bodily reality. I highly recommend the show, now at both the 24th and 21st street Gladstone Galleries (I have not seen the latter).   



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on distinction

window sill of a train


I’m rereading Bruno Latour’s We Have Never been Modern. It’s time to reload my ammunition and this is part of that job, apologies to everything else that isn’t getting done. What’s striking me right now about this seventeen-year-old book is that it’s predicated on an argument against the modern sense of distinction between spheres. In the intervening period, it seems to me (please feel free to shoot me down …better now than later), the postmodern process of "blurring boundaries" has been made obsolete by a thorough loss of distinction in society and culture. The Enlightenment project of modernity, it seems to me, is increasingly something that our generation cannot even conceive of. 


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image of a cracked car hood

From Eric Kahn of COA comes a photograph of an old car I used to own, a 1983 Saab 900 with a hood that had spiderwebbed under the California sun. After five years, I sold the car to James Lowder, who was then a SCI_Arc student and is now teaching in the architecture program at the University of Buffalo. 

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on the surpassing of the real by the virtual

The New York Times reports on a McKinsey & Co report that the greenhouse gases emitted to power data centers are becoming a major source of global warming. By 2020, McKinsey suggests, data centers will surpass the airline industry in that respect. 

Meanwhile, scientist James Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia hypothesis, suggests that ethical consumerism and current green industry practices will do nothing to delay the inevitable world-changing climate and that this will occur by 2020 if we’re lucky. 

And so, the real may yet be surpassed by the virtual, only not in the way that we always thought…


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