“I make satirical paintings of bureaucrats and political figures the old-fashioned way: oil paint on canvas. I then transform the paintings into thousands of street posters generated through a offset litho process. Basically I poke fun of ugly old men in suits and ties, like members of the Reagan administration and his cabinet who were abusing their power in the name of representative democracy....
Guerrilla volunteers plaster them onto construction site walls and other surfaces in major cities across the U.S. These poster-plasterings are midnight raids: non-sanctioned, nonscheduled rock-n-roll-garage-band-total-loss poster tours. The volunteers meet in the middle of the night in an all-night coffee shop and plaster my posters all around the streets to surprise people on their morning commute. The posters provide commuters ‘info-tainment’ about politicians that I feel are abusing their power. This allows me to put art in unexpected spaces....
I feel it is an art way to communicate directly to regular people on the street versus a mediated form of distribution, like showing in art galleries.... I am not trying to change people’s minds about issues important to them, instead I try to get people to think along with me and entertain them at the same time. It is not rocket science, I simply try to irritate the powers that be as much as possible without having them squash me like the bug that I am. But it’s the visual buzz on the street that I try to create, because my art is for the people who don’t have the power.”
“These photographs, which are from a series entitled ‘No Space at All’, were taken in Kyoto during the bubble and post-bubble eras of the last decade. They document spaces in the city that are defined by concrete, asphalt, cars, metal or chain-link fencing and the absence of what once occupied them — usually an old house or traditional Kyoto machiya. These spaces, which more often than not are used as parking lots to accommodate the growing number of cars, are replacing the warmth of traditional Kyoto blocks with a kind of emptiness. Such spaces are rapidly increasing and can be seen in every part of the city. They are now becoming a characteristic feature of Kyoto’s urban landscape.”
Two projects from the Institute for Applied Autonomy:
“GraffitiWriter is a tele-operated field programable robot which employs a custom built array of spray cans to write linear text messages on the ground at a rate of 15 kilometers per hour. The printing process is similar to that of a dot matrix printer. GraffitiWriter can be deployed in any highly controlled space or public event from a remote location.” See also instructions on how to build your own.
“The StreetWriter project expands on the research gained from the successful Robotic GraffitiWriter project. The system consists of a custom built, computer controlled industrial spray painting unit that is built into an extended body cargo van. The vehicle prints text messages onto the pavement in a manner much like a dot-matrix printer. The expanded width of StreetWriter allows for messages and simple graphics that are legible from tall buildings and low flying aircraft and is capable of rendering message that are several hundreds of feet in length.” Lots of pix and videos at both sites.
See also Bike Writing, a project to turn any bicycle into a printing, street writing device that prints as you ride.
“The bike writer incorporates interchangeable rubber stamps into the wheels so that while riding, the user can inscribe text into public space. An ink roller is applied to the wheel through a simple mechanism, which is activated by squeezing the rear break handle. This activity is extremely covert and effective.”
For the exhibition “We Love New York: Mapping Manhattan with Artists and Activists,” the Institute for Applied Autonomy and the Surveillance Camera Players led workshops on surveillance cameras, public space, and civil liberties. Participants then took to the streets to document the city’s surveillance cameras. The findings were mapped onto an 80 foot map of Manhattan. The group also led walking tours of the City. “Participants [moved] through the city in small groups, using handheld devices to document surveillance camera locations. The cameras will be added to the iSEE community database that allows pedestrians to track the ‘path of least surveillance’ between any two points in Manhattan.”
“The worst airport fire in German history occurred on April 11, 1996, when flames broke out in the busy Düsseldorf airport, quickly filling the terminal with acrid, toxic smoke. Travelers frantically looked for exit signs. In the ensuing chaos, 17 people died and 150 were injured. A spokesman for the Düsseldorf fire brigade, quoted in European news accounts, blamed the high number of casualties on passengers ‘ignoring’ emergency exit signs. For airport management, having the signage singled out as a contributor to the disaster underscored the importance of maintaining a clear communications system in a crowded, public space. Prior to the fire, signage at Düsseldorf had become a clutter of airline logos and retail and service ads, with directional signs lost in the cacophony.”
Traveler safety and ease of movement were key considerations, along with establishing a distinct identity for the airport. The design from MetaDesign pegged levels of the importance of information to the levels of color and contrast, designing for legibility during normal visbility as well as in a smokey environment. As for non-disaster usability? “Over the past year, the airport information counter reports a 50% drop in inquiries.” Sample pix: before and after. From @issue, volume 3, number 2.
“As a young man more than 35 years ago, Jean-Claude Decaux made a living posting bills on buildings around Paris. His modest livelihood came to an abrupt halt after the local government declared this practice illegal. That’s when Decaux came up with a better idea — one that would allow him to continue posting bills and do it in a way that would contribute to the quality of life and beauty ofthe city. Decaux’s inspiration came one stormy day when he noticed people getting soaked while waiting for a city bus to come by. Why not offer to build bus shelters for free in exchange for the right to sell advertising on them, Decaux thought. He took his proposal to the Mayor of Lyon and got permission to go ahead. That rainy day marked the start of the world’s largest street furniture company.... Over the years, the company has expanded its street furniture offerings from bus shelters and kiosks to news racks, traffic signage, light posts, litterbins, benches, interactive information panels and automatic public toilets.”
Through growth and aquisiton, the company now reached 31 countries and more than 11,000 cities in 1999. Driven by advertising sales, its revenues are in the billions.
“JCDecaux sees its role as designing what French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte calls a city’s ‘interior architecture,’ deserving of ‘as much thought as that given to private spaces.’ It believes that bus shelters, kiosks and other street furniture are too integral to the urban landscape to be built without attention to aesthetics.”
The company adapts its designs to the character of each city and has recruited several blue ribbon designers and architects to contribute designs.
“JCDecaux has even adapted Paris’ renowned Morris kiosk [picture] into a variety of historic and contemporary styles.... Through technological innovations developed by the company’s extensive R&D arm, many JCDecaux advertising kiosks now integrate newsstands, bottle banks, water fountains, telephone booths, clocks, automatic public toilets, ticket dispensers, interactive information terminals and even automatic vending machines.... Another company signature is the scrupulous servicing of its facilities, which provides premium value to advertisers who don’t want their messages desecrated by vandals.... More than 3,500 service employees maintain the company’s street furniture worldwide. Any broken glass is replaced within 24 hours. Graffiti is scoured clean. In places like Amsterdam where graffiti has become a public art form, JCDecaux has equipped its maintenance workers with motorbikes so they can remove it all the faster.”
From @issue, Volume 5, Number 2.
San Francisco’s Boeddeker Park was “designed with safety and security in mind, but in all the wrong ways.” The 2.6-acre park is cut off from the streets by fences and walls, thouch “meant to provide safety instead make the place feel like a cage.” “The main, bench-lined walkway through the park became known as ‘the Gauntlet’ after it was colonized by drug dealers a year or so after the park’s 1985 opening.” In contrast, Harlem’s El Sitio Feliz incorporates “water play, swings, slides and a small picnic pavilion with community gardens, [the site] has become well-known for its creative combination of activities for children and adults. The most popular play equipment is a simple garden hose, which kids use to spray each other and keep the slide slippery. The playground is flanked by community gardens, tended regularly by local residents who seem to enjoy the frequent interaction with children.” Check out Great Public Spaces and the Hall of Shame at Public Buildings & Civic Design, a site with lots of bite-sized case studies brought to you by the Project for Public Spaces, “helping people to grow their public space into vital community places.”
“The Israel—Palestine war is not simply a struggle over territory between two national entities. It is driven by Israel’s systematic denial of modern urban life to the Palestinians. One of the lessons of the battle of Jenin is that the bulldozer that demolishes houses is also a weapon in the wider strategy to prevent the Palestinians from creating a modern, normal, urban society.”
See ‘Clean territory’: urbicide in the West Bank by Stephen Graham on OpenDemocracy.
“13 months ago [Sugata Mitra] launched something he calls ‘the hole in the wall experiment.’ He took a PC connected to a high-speed data connection and imbedded it in a concrete wall next to NIIT’s headquarters in the south end of New Delhi. The wall separates the company’s grounds from a garbage-strewn empty lot used by the poor as a public bathroom. Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it. He monitored activity on the PC using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree. What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. The physicist has since installed a computer in a rural neighborhood with similar results.”
“Straw is a viable building alternative, plentiful and inexpensive. Straw-bale buildings boast superinsulated walls, simple construction, low costs, and the conversion of an agricultural byproduct into a valued building material. Properly constructed and maintained, the straw-bale walls, stucco exterior and plaster interior remain water proof, fire resistant, and pest free. Because only limited skill is required, a community house-raising effort can build most of a straw-bale house in a single day. This effort yields a low-cost, elegant, and energy-efficient living space for the owners, a graceful addition to the community, and a desirable boost to local farm income. This booklet offers an in-depth look at one such community house-raising, in addition to a general overview of straw-bale construction.”
Published by the U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Check this site for lots of straw building resources.