kazys's blog

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.

dld panel


Yesterday at the DLD conference. photo by Régine Debatty via Flickr.


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.   

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.


will the creative class be the new blue collar class?

I have been reading Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google this week and I am going to put up a post with my reaction sometime relatively soon. But suffice it to say that it should be mandatory reading list for everyone with a passing investment in where network culture is heading. At the Guardian the other day, Carr expanded on his argument by proposing that one consequence of the move toward utility computing would be a decline in white collar jobs. See here.

Carr’s observations dovetail with the Writer’s Strike… Hollywood is one of the few places in the country that still has a powerful and—on the ground at least—popular union system. I wish the union well, of course, but after reading Carr’s article I can’t help but think that this is a nasty byproduct of network culture. Maybe the studios—themselves big media dinosaurs—think that the only way they can come to terms with the changing conditions in the industry is to dig in their heels? Is this Detroit or Pittsburgh in the early 1980s? 



Whenever I walk from to Sunrise Mart for lunch, I make it a point to avoid the construction site on Spring and Varick.

After all, anything by Donald Trump and Bovis Lend Lease can't be good. In terms of quality or safety, New York's construction is little better than Los Angeles's, even if the buildings appear to be made of real materials such as steel instead of wood.

So, it is that a scant three days after I told my friend Mimi that we were not, under any circumstances, walking under the scaffolding at that site she sends me this item: Worker is Killed in Accident at Trump Soho Tower. Another outrage from the man who put "You're Fired!" on national television. Of course the global élite that will inhabit this structure one day will be to uninformed to notice, but just think of the quality of construction in the building. Nice place to live.  


Starbucks, then and now

Starbucks has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, a victim of corporate-think and the problems of scale, although there has been hope in the return of Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO.

In New York, at least, the Starbucks are dirty, nasty, and cramped. I can't imagine spending any time in them (although I confess that I do like the older one in Penn Station because it is so unlike the rest of the terminal). But let's face it, not only is the experience so-so, but the coffee is horrible. So I run into Dunkin Donuts or Au Bon Pain, either of which actually knows how to make a better brew and run, either back on the street or back to the studio or studio-x. Granted, Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (especially the peppered bacon one) and donuts are fantastic.

Still, the fall of Starbucks demonstrates two things to me. First, they didn't get Wi-Fi. This had the ability to lure people in, but nobody wants to pay for something they already pay for at home or get for free elsewhere. Second, they got lazy about the Starbucks experience. People wanted a generic non-place that they could use as a base or resting-point while out and about. See what Anne Friedberg and I wrote about here. Dirty, nasty, and cramped doesn't make it.  

I've spent some time this month going over the site and fixing various dead links and so on, things that haven't worked since the move to Dreamhost last year. In doing so, I ran across the 243-page Starbucks project that a group of my students did years ago. If the condition has changed for Starbucks, the Starbucks books is still a model of research in the studio.

See here.   




It's January, which means that Quartzsite is in full bloom. See more at AUDC's site or just get Blue Monday

photo of smithsonesque rocks at quartzsite



spring appearances

I have a preliminary roster of appearances for the spring together. Many thanks to everyone who invited me!

Usually there will be a handful of last minute engagements as well that I'll let you know about via the blog. 

Digital Life Design 21 January

[my panel, Future city, includes Patrik Schumacher, Charles Renfro, Elizabeth Diller, Bjarke Ingels, Richard Wurman]

Clemson University 1 February

Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design 6 March 

book launch for the Infrastructural City. Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles

University of Limerick sometime in March

University of Houston 10 April


2008: the year that blogs stop looking like blogs?

Looks like I wasn't the only one to rethink the way their site looks: Régine Debatty's wonderful We Make Money Not Art had a radical redesign yesterday. As with my redesign, the goal seems to be to have non-RSS visitors have a cleaner experience, eliminating the endless blog-scroll-of-death.   

In Régine's case, she's kept an overview page with multiple stories but reduced the "teasers" on these to little more than images (how will she deal with entries that have no images, I wonder?) while the entries sit by themselves, much as my entries do. Its nice to see a continuity with the existing site and the search bar as title bar is fabulous. I'm surprised to see that such a radical redesign is possible within Movable Type, kudos to Régine and her designer.  

Then there's Brett Steele's redesign of his site. Brett's abandoned his old resarch.net site and now has brettsteele.net an interesting Wordpress-driven site that he hopes reminds us of the New Yorker and the Economist. Brett's design freely mixes his blog with announcements about his appearances, what he's reading, the classes he's teaching and so on.    

Over at aggregät 4/5/6, Enrique is experimenting with different platforms as well.

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