Start of Studiolab

 ...and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Genesis  8:21 - 9:2 (King James)

I read this reference originally in Year of the Flood and it took me sometime to try and recall where I'd found it. The meaning is one of the easier to divine from the notoriously slippy Christian holy book: After the flood, God outlines the futility of cursing the earth when evil lives in man's heart. He moves on to relent control of the Earth and the harmony of nature to man's control. Man will be able to eat and command any animal, but in return, they will forever live in fear and dread of man.

There's something poignant in here about how man assumes command over animals. It's something that forms a major string for inquiry through my new project with Studiolab that started this week. This passage deals with issues around the naturalistic and moralistic fallacies as well as the 'appeal to nature' all of these ideas deal with rightn-ness or good-ness and it's relationship to what might be considered 'natural.'

Introducing the project, I used the example of parasitic wasps:



The example is a relatively well-known one but the part that I find interesting isn't necessarily the cruelty in nature but the power the wasp and the larvae have over the other creature. Using a virus to re-write its entire nature and enslave it.

This isn't unique to parasitic wasps either. Another example is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, sometimes known for creating 'Zombie Ants'



Again, it's the element of mind-control - the virus hijacks the ant's brain and makes it climb to around 25cm off the ground where it settles to allow the virus to grow. Also, snail zombification is a similar process but relies on the ingestion of the parasite by a bird.



These are kind of exotic and jungle-based examples but one of the most common hijackers actually effects around 25% of all humans and is based on the cat and mouse relationship in domestic environment: Toxoplasma Gondii


This little guy convinces mice to become fearless so that they seek out open spaces and no longer fear cats. The cat then eats the mouse and the Toxoplasma grows in the cat's gut. Exposure of the mouse to cat poop then infects the mouse again leading to the cycle continuation. There's lots of stuff about it because it's believed to also infect 25-50 per cent of human and potentially be a cause of schizophrenia.

Weeknotes 4

1. Guest Crittin at the AA

2. The Theroux Theory of Yewtree



Max Clifford was arrested as part of the Police's eventual crackdown on decades of sex abuse in the mainstream media: Operation Yewtree.  I think it would be hard to find someone that will lament the man - as he is with all the endearment and charm of typhus - but it has at least sprung up the Theroux theory of Yewtree: That everyone whom Louis Theroux has interviewed will eventually be arrested under Yewtree.

3. Fiscal Cliff / Osbourne

Has The US Gone Off The Fiscal Cliff?  Interesting little website if you've got any remedial interest in the state of the world's economic anchor. The ongoing countdown to a potential (though who really knows) Armageddon. Whether it's good or bad and who exactly will suffer or benefit is also shrouded in an oblique mystery. A cut in deficit sounds good but a new recession and raised unemployment could be bad.

They claim to refresh it every five minutes and I actually really love the idea of this printed wall in someone's office that contains these links. A link between paper and web that I think, probably naively, works better than BERG's Little Printer.

4. New Myspace? 

That's right. Jesus, do we actually even need this? And the song, it's all so earnest. It's like a desperate drunken ex-lover begging for your attention. Is there a donate button somewhere? Emotionally it might be easier than going through with the regrettably Machiavellian re-signup process.

Extinction and The Closed Loop


Megalosaurus Statue, Crystal Palace Park, 1852

Dinosaur bones and fossils have been being unearthed for as long as people have been digging walls. The first Chinese documentation has them put down as the evidence of dragons. A similarity that survives today in conservative Christian thought.  Christian Europe historically documented these creatures as the bones of those who died in the Great Flood.

The first descriptions and scientific papers on what might now recognised to be dinosaurs appeared around the beginning of the 19th century. In 1842 Sir Richard Owen coined the genus Dinosauria to refer to the growing discoveries of unrecognised and inexplicable specimens.

The early age of Dinosaur Mania that followed Sir Richard Owen led to the discovery of hundreds of specimens around the world including Antarctica but the way dinosaurs were thought of then were not how we might recognise our conception now. Obviously the visual interpretation and reconstruction of fossils was often flawed and vaguely humorous by today's standards but the idea that dinosaurs were extinct was simply not even considered.

Even at the end of the Industrial Revolution, paleontologists, anthropologists, biologists and naturalists still supported Plato's idea of the Great Chain of Being - the chain of life flowing from God to the lowest creatures, via Angels and Man. This belief didn't allow for 'spaces' and certainly the idea that God would allow His work to just 'die off' was incomprehensible. The dinosaurs were simply 'somewhere else.' Just take a look at Conan Doyle's Lost World and the plethora of science fiction about the hidden earth in the form of Jules Verne and HG Wells that tell us how the popular conscience suspected that the answers to all the world's unexplained secrets simply lay beyond view.



 

The hidden world can be taken quite literally. It was around this time, at the turn of the twentieth century that the gaps in the map were beginning to be filled-in. All but the deepest jungles and had been mapped and the community of nations was well established and in full communication. So it's only natural that inquiring minds would look for the Earth's hidden places underground, under the sea, and over the mountains. The industrial revolution and the power of the established empires in Africa and Asia had sated the public imagination with the idea of limitless growth and resources. Few could consider that somehow the earth had limits - that it was once different - that whole species could become extinct and that there was simply nowhere else to go. 

The end, the limited narrative in nature is a difficult idea for civilisation to face. We now approach the end of the Mayan calender with much pomp and lack of real circumstance. The Mayan's calendar didn't cycle when it ended, the world ended. So the solution for the Mayans was to add another, longer calendar on top so that time would continue, and another one on top of that, and another one and so on until the last one which ends in a few days. 

The Mayan calendar is as indicative of the understanding of the limited resource and possibility of civilisation and nature as the unfinished map and the dreamy sci-fi of the early twentieth century is indicative of the industrial civilisation's reluctance to accept it.

Weeknotes 3

1. Identity Land

Droog Lab's are exhibiting Identity Land: Space For A Million Identities at Z33. A great looking project that brings together individual interventions from various designers at dismantling the focus of national identity. There's a newspaper as well as a site where you're invited to submit a square meter of land into a homogenous post-nation nation to be shared by everyone.

In a similar way to Israel's Aircraft Carrier at this year's Bienniale, they have a little shop selling partly satirical toolkits and gifts about Identity Land. It's a real shame that the least accessible stuff is the work itself. As for the projects, there's stuff from a team of mismatched footballers, a mirrored coin, a national anthem (all national anthems simultaneously) an identity-less vehicle and some contradictory opinions.



2. German Pavilion


Every year it seems there is a debate about the future of the German pavilion at the Giardini in Venice. This year the spat over the presence of overtly Nazi architecture in an event ostensibly aimed at international harmony is fired up again. A lot of Germans want to see it taken down and replaced by something more generic. As a friend pointed out to me - Germany doesn't have a unique architectural aesthetic apart from it's Speer period of Nazi roman classicism. The image below shows Hitler visiting the Giardini in 1934 at the opening of the pavilion.

I think the pavilion should stay. Germany did a consummate job of erasing it's Nazi history from it's own city-image after WWII and the pavilion, as it is supposed to, marks an analogical symbol of the ideals of the period and the minds that built the building.

Rather than dwelling on what that meant at the time, perhaps Germany could do some cheery exhibitions in there for a change and try to show how it's progressed and got over its Nazi stigma. 


3. Auger Loizeau - Sublime Gadgets


New exhibition from James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau featuring a couple of things that they've updated but we've seen before like the domestic fly catchers and a couple of new gadgets. It looks great and their clever little gadgets speak volumes about our domestic and consumer drive for useless junk but also connect us to more existential things like the threat of meteor disasters, counting ripple or filming our last ever journey.

It's on in Switzerland though.


4. Unicorns

North Korea announces that it's proved the existence of the Unicorn. Nice one. 


Weeknotes 2

1. Parallel Histories of Art and Banking / Diplomacy of Antiquities

A great article in the Believer that begins roughly with the injection of temporality into both arenas in the early 14th century.
This new kind of painting is concerned with contingency—it is based on an idea of sequence not eternal but human. The little Duccio suggests something about its own future from its present point of view.
Ending with Damien Hirst's famous diamond-ised skull, For The Love of God:
 ...what the work represents, specifically, is not our artistic, or not only our artistic, but our financial life. As Blake Gopnik pointed out in the Washington Post at the time the skull was unveiled, it’s the purchase of the work that is the work. Sale at outlandish price, just as was true at Lehman Brothers, is what defines and confers the value.
One particularly striking analogy is in the comparison between Picasso and the cubists breaking time into fragments to present it as one piece (i.e. the front and side of a woman's face simultaneously) and the way that companies began to be valued on predictions of future growth based on present earnings. I'd take issue with the theory that art only became expensive once people possessed liquid cash in the 19th century. Liquid cash was in great abundance since the 16th century, it was one of the reasons for the rise of stock markets and the middle class and is directly attributed to the tulip crash of 1637. Although perhaps not much of this cash was spent on 'art'  and accounted for the eventual explosion of the art market:
Suddenly people began to see paintings as representations not only of age-old values but of future values. And once they began to look at them that way, it mattered less how much time they’d withstood the test of. What people became interested in was not what the pieces were worth a hundred years ago but what they might be worth tomorrow.
There's even some parallels with this article on the relationship between diplomacy and antiques. Obviously we all know about the Elgin Marbles but I didn't realise there was such a booming trade in illegally imported Afghan collectibles from the Kabul museums.


2. Genetics of Politics

This article in Nature and this one in the Economist both approach the same studies on the influence of genetics on political ideology. As this is kind of pointing toward my next area of study I was somewhat giddy to read them but the early assumptions of both articles are withdrawn quite rapidly. Rather than directly attributing political make-up (in the sense of the human social construction of politics) to genetics, the articles link political leanings to personality traits and these traits to genetics. Which we already knew.
many political psychologists agree that political ideology can be narrowed down to one basic personality trait: openness to change. Liberals tend to be more accepting of social change than conservatives. Some studies suggest that liberals tolerate more ambiguity and uncertainty, whereas conservatives are more decisive, conscientious and attracted to order.
So the articles go on to speculate how an individual's genetics makeup might inform their decision making and thus their worldview, and thus the way they vote. The interest here lies in speculating on more extreme ways that this could play out when it comes to the 2016 elections - genetic testing at polling stations or chemical devices for eliciting response from opposing individuals (the olfactory response is cited in both articles.)

Survival in Suburbia through The Hollywood Lens

In Douglas’s circles, people talk about “the end of the world as we know it” with such regularity that the acronym Teotwawki (tee-ought-wah-kee) has come into widespread use.
There's a post on the New York Times Magazine website about the new mainstream strain of survivalism amongst suburban Americans. The article outlines how the survivalist 'cult' - for want of a better term - has spread beyond right-wing 'nuts' and secessionists looking for conspiracy in the world order and into the suburban way of life. 
He doesn’t have a mountain stronghold or a 20-acre spread. He doesn’t have a bunker or anything resembling a barn. Instead, he, his wife, Heather, and their six children, ages 4 to 16, inhabit a typical American suburban home
There's a lot to be read into this, in particular the nature of the hero of the piece - a suburbanite called Douglas who runs an expo and web resource of survivalist info. With the financial siege being inflicted against America's suburban middle class it's not a hard leap to see how Douglas might suddenly have a very visceral grasp of the apocalypse striking his home town and it's a view that is made clear as something now not uncommon amongst his own class. But the survivalist movement, as it was called at around the time of the Millennium Bug paranoia and Obama's 2008 election, is now more generally called the 'preparedness' movement. This notional semantic shift from a lifestyle currently under threat and to be defended with barbed wire, attack dogs and paranoid nationalism to an impeding and unstoppable threat, again, speaks volumes about the nature of this 'threat'.

'Prepareds' are notably hazy about what the threat is. We could read into the idea that the first survivalists were born out of the Cold War fear of MAD and just continued to latch onto whatever they could - technology, liberalism, Islam - as a way of continuing an increasingly secluded lifestyle. The 'prepareds' on the other hand don't see their lifestyle as under threat currently - living as they do in normal homes rather than castles - but fear that a threat is coming and that they must be prepared for it. 

To draw a brief comparison, one of the most praiseworthy parts of Max Brooks peerless apocalyptic fiction, World War Z, was the study of suburban America's reaction to the apocalyptic crisis gripping the world. With half of the rest of humanity wiped out, the coddled suburbanites had desensitised their fate, putting misguided faith in the American way of life to overcome any obstacle. They literally refuse to even pay lip service to the idea of global catastrophe until it is quite literally smashing through the French windows and ripping their children in half. (pardon the lengthy extract)
Oh yeah, I was worried, I was worried about my car payments and Tim's business loan. I was worried about that widening crack in the pool and the new nonchlorinated filter that still left an algae film. I was worried about our portfolio, even though my e-broker assured me this was just first-time investor jitters and that it was much more profitable than a standard 40l(k). Aiden needed a math tutor, Jenna needed just the right Jamie Lynn Spears cleats for soccer camp. Tim's parents were thinking of coming to stay with us for Christmas. My brother was back in rehab. Finley had worms, one of the fish had some kind of fungus growing out of its left eye. These were just some of my worries. I had more than enough to keep me busy. 

Did you watch the news? 

Yeah, for about five minutes every day: local headlines, sports, celebrity gossip. Why would I want to get depressed by watching TV? I could do that just by stepping on the scale every morning.

What about other sources? Radio?


Morning drive time. That was my Zen hour. After the kids were dropped off, I'd listen to [name withheld for legal reasons). His jokes helped me get through the day.
 

What about the Internet?

What about it? For me, it was shopping; for Jenna, it was homework; for Tim, it was . . . stuff he kept swearing he'd never look at again. The only news I ever saw was what popped up on my AOL welcome page.


At work, there must have been some discussion . . .


Oh yeah, at first. It was kinda scary, kinda weird, "you know I hear it's not really rabies" and stuff like that. But then that first winter things died down, remember, and anyway, it was a lot more fun to rehash last night's episode of Celebrity Fat Camp or totally bitch out whoever wasn't in the break room at that moment.
One time, around March or April, I came into work and found Mrs. Ruiz clearing out her desk. I thought she was being downsized or maybe outsourced, you know, something I considered a real threat. She explained that it was "them," that's how she always referred to it, "them" or "everything that's happening." She said that her family'd already sold their house and were buying a cabin up near Fort Yukon, Alaska. I thought that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard, especially from someone like Inez. She wasn't one of the ignorant ones, she was a "clean" Mexican. I'm sorry to use that term, but that was how I thought back then, that was who I was.


Did your husband ever show any concern?


No, but the kids did, not verbally, or consciously, I think. Jenna started getting into fights. Aiden wouldn't go to sleep unless we left the lights on. Little things like that. I don't think they were exposed to any more information than Tim or I, but maybe they didn't have the adult distractions to shut it out.


How did you and your husband respond?


Zoloft and Ritalin SR for Aiden, and Adderall XR for Jenna. It did the trick for a while. The only thing that pissed me off was that our insurance didn't cover it because the kids were already on Phalanx.
If the Times article is anything to go by it seems that a significant minority of the suburban populace might actually be ready to pick up tools and tackle the threat instead of the traditional American reliance on anti-depressants. Just take a glance at the part marketing, part tongue-in-cheek Gerber Apocalypse Survival Kit or in fact just Google search for 'apocalypse survival kit' - the price tags some of these kits carry imply more than just rampant marketing and fanboyism. 

Of course there's no doubt that commercialism will always steal some part of the public and cultural conscience to sell back to it, but this tie between TV and film production and a very American apocalypse goes deeper - it's a feedback process. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an explosion of US film and TV work speculating on an apocalyptic America that has accelerated with every successive crisis. This explosion hasn't been seen in such nationalist drive since the explosion of British dystopian literature in the first half of the twentieth century. Zombie and monster dirges such as The Walking Dead, I Am Legend and The Mist (though adaptations) lend a weight to the zombie ending (still somewhat comical) but take it away from the teenage fear-mongering of Day of The Dead and co. and into an impression of the life and moral struggles of a zombie apocalypse. Others - Blindness, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Children Of Men, even Wall-E take broader but more human-led paths to destruction while being box-office hits. We only in fact need to look at the Wikipedia list of apocalyptic films almost double over the 90s to 00s decades.

This is now the lens through which the 'prepareds' see the endtimes as coming. Not through a red scare or a liberal conspiracy as popularised in the literature of the Cold War and Bush years but in a very level-playing-field human based natural end. As Douglas himself says:
...since Sandy, Douglas has been considering putting on an expo in New York or New Jersey. “This is exactly what we’re trying to prepare people for,” he told me. “Everybody talks about doomsday, the end of the world — apocalypse nonsense. This is New York’s doomsday right now.”
They may still tread carefully around environmentalism, and the article never once mentions global warming or natural disaster, only ever referring to a vague sense of 'what's coming.' But the idea of natural disaster is seeping into popular conscience through film and TV and the response is being prepared in the same way. 

This new form of survivalism could be read as being the right-wing response to the environmentalist movement. Less of the emphasis is placed on the science and the politicians as 'big government liberals' see as the main path to global warming, but the same 'each man for himself' onus of the right is put on surviving the 'coming global catastrophe.' Whether this interpretation and response is right or wrong is largely irrelevant because both forms of response engage the same issues. One of the interviewees is the owner of Sun Ovens who make solar-powered ovens:
“I refinanced my home three different times just to eat,” Munsen says. But in time, business began to improve, thanks in part to Barack Obama’s presidential victory four years ago, which alarmed many on the right worried about everything from his economic policies to his middle name. “The day after the election was one of the best sales days we ever had,” Munsen says. “Some people were just so upset about the election that they said, ‘We had better be prepared.’ ”

Year Of The Flood

 

Year Of The Flood is the direct sequel to Atwood's Oryx and Crake, one of those core texts of biological science fiction. In the original we see the lead up to a virus-led apocalypse through the eyes of Jimmy aka Snowman and his friendship with Glenn aka Oryx and their joint infatuation with Crake. In this one the shift is away form the main characters and onto some of the supporting cast. We follow the Gods Gardners - a nonviolent environmental cult - as they prepare for the 'flood' that will wipe out all mankind and follow a few of the main characters involved. 

There's not so much of a focus on science and responsibility in Year of The Flood as there is on consumerism, religion and man's place in the world. And of course it suffers because, essentially, you already know what's happened and what's going to happen if you read Oryx and Crake. There are still twists and surprises but the action feels muted without the powerful characters of the first part and sometimes it seems that most of the shock is in the vivid descriptions of the brutal underworld in Atwood's dystopia.

There's supposed to be a third part coming out soon and I guess we'll have to see if that completes the story in some way or simply adds another dimension that we can read into it. Most of the story of Year of The Flood was driven by the machinations and troubles of the leading characters and very little was done to actually add further substance to the world that Atwood created beyond a little more exposition of life in the 'pleebs.' However, I don't know how much more could be done to the world without over-saturating it - the awkward portmanteaus that serve as company names and the almost comic violence has reached an undeniable and explicit peak here.

Weeknotes 1

I've been finding it hard to write anything lately, mostly because I can't seem to focus on one thing and I spend so much time reading much better written things from much cleverer people that I don't see any point to it. However, I do value the process of writing things out as a we of re-translating and it's something I've been doing for 7 or 8 years now so stopping would seem just farcical. I'm going to try out a 'bulletin' system where I can briefly outline a few points I've been thinking about recently to try and kick up a response and allow me to distill my thoughts.

1. US Elections - The Republican fallout. 

I did end up staying up until the very early hours last week to watch the US election and of course felt the same sigh of relief that most of the world felt when the US narrowly decided not to let Gordon Gecko's best but most maligned tribute band take office. Nice one.

But, coinciding with the publication of this XKCD chart, a nagging doubt about the future of the Republican party began to creep in. Ian Hislop quipped that the US has a 'right wing party, an extreme right wing party an the Tea Party' on Have I Got News For You, but when you truly consider the scope of partisanship between the Republicans and the Democrats it is actually a little concerning. We all know that to save the US economy Obama needs to win round the support of the House of Representatives who are still Republican dominated. It's now up to the Republicans whether they go full throttle on the crazy motors and allow the psychos and bigots who sealed their defeat this year a firmer grip on the reigns or whether right now there is a quiet cull within Republican ranks. Most indications would point to the latter.

2. Austerity Measures

I've never actually managed to find an example of where austerity measures have resulted in growth. They seem to buffer the public purse to some extent against a recession, especially important in welfare-heavy states like ours - where the public sector is in fact bigger than the private sector (a deadly paradox on it's own). We're seeing very few results as people being to talk about a 'Triple-dip recession.' And the IMF retracts it's belief in the healing goodness of cutting back on funds despite essentially butchering and raping most of the world's most long-suffering economies with impossible demands.

Also some nice reasoning here from Quartz.

3. Amazon, Google, Starbucks - consummate professionalism.

Representatives of Amazon, Google and Starbucks went in front of the Public Accounts Committee to explain why they don't make any tax. To surmise - the Amazon guy said he didn't know anything, about anything, really at all to do with his company. The Starbucks guy said that they only ever made a loss and have never made a profit and Google said that they didn't pay much tax but never broke the law.

It was pretty good and they all came away looking a bit silly but most importantly, they gave nothing away at all. Reminding me of two of my favourite clips of BBC television:




So while it's easy to criticise them for being buffoonish, it's a lot harder to notice that they got away with telling the Public Accounts Committee absolutely nothing about their dealings. 

OMA


OMA are a giddy favourite of mine. Koolhaas' bluer-sky think-tank produces some examples of exceptional research work and fascinating and beautiful alternate architectural ideas. Recently everyone was a little let down after THAT fashion campaign so I was excited to see that they'd abandoned attempts at cutting edge montage visuals for an examination of classic European post-war public buildings.

Putting aside the ham-fisted graffiti wall coverings, meant to evoke a feeling of loss at the desecration of the holy buildings presented the exhibition was quite stunning. 15 buildings were selected with choicest plans and photographs to demonstrate that unique era when civil servants designed buildings to suit function over form which in itself is celebrated now as the form.


OMA's tribute to classic Public Works buildings.

OMA's tribute to classic Public Works buildings.

OMA's tribute to classic Public Works buildings.

OMA's tribute to classic Public Works buildings.

Robert Burghardt's work at the Arsenale is another, different memorial to the same breed of building making. His proposal for a Monument to Modernism draws on various tropes of these public works buildings - outside staircases and ramp, raised ground floors, and that odd modular design that seems to draw inspiration more from a careful arrangement of stationary and books than from practicality. His work is equally as admiring as OMA's but looks to an impossible future instead of a databasing of the past.

Untitled

Untitled

Recent Photos

From Venice. Sorry.

Cyborg carnival masks

Untitled

Communist HQ

Children

Sci-Fi Scene (A'la FFIX)

The Second World War


I picked up Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad in a charity bookshop a few years ago and spent about a week experiencing the shock and awe that Operation Desert Storm never quite got together. Part of that was Beevor's sheer ability to present anecdotes and analysis side by side with recorded facts without the story becoming jumpy or in fact leaving the realm of story and entering the worlds of either Top Trumps or a trainspotting mentality of weaponry and troop movements. 

Regrettably, on average the entire Second World War involved more troops being moved around than the battle of Stalingrad alone - with the battle of Stalingrad still being perhaps the most horrific clash of the entire affair. So a lot of Beevor's new book on the 1931 - 1945 world conflict (he makes the convincing argument that the Invasion of Manchuria was the true beginning of events) DOES involve countless and untraceable divisions and army numbers and the names of the Polish villages they're in / leaving / going to which can become dizzying if you decide to mentally trace these movements by and large without the use of any maps (a big oversight in such a story.)

No, if you read this colossal volume just skim over the lists of movements as the framework around which Beevor hangs the horror and intrigue of the war. 

It truly is fucking horrific. There is simply no other word. We all know the imagery of D-Day, perhaps Dresden and of course the stories of the Holocaust but it's the hidden and lesser known stories that were perhaps to terrifying to make it seventy years in public conscience. The rampant cannibalism from the Japanese army - just the general insanity of the Japanese army actually, quite probably more perverse in their ideology and more extreme in their methods than the Nazis. The en mass rape committed by the Red Army - even of their own liberated female POWs and then the fact that most of them were banished as traitors on return at the risk that word of the riches of Europe spread. The appalling suffering of the people of eastern Europe, first persecuted by Nazis then the USSR and the Chinese taking the same place in the eastern world. The anecdotes of individuals and stories from journalists like Solzhenitsyn suddenly make it real, I realised before the end that death and the prospect of extreme pain was a part of life for six years for most of the world's population.

Above the curdling terror that Beevor portrays is the political intrigue - the stubbornness of Churchill and De Gaulle and the cosiness of Roosevelt and Stalin. It's interesting to think that Roosevelt's biggest post-war concern was British imperialism, not communism. The warring tactics of generals trying to adapt to new technology and a new scale of death were responsible for some of the most flippant losses, including the British policy of blanket bombing cities. 

I can't really recommend this book, that would be irresponsible - you have to want to know the depths that civilisation is willing to plum and that requires an inner demand, not the recognition of others. It's probably for your own benefit that it's too big to carry anywhere.

Salaryman 6



One of those great little short films that sometimes slips through the net and stylistically bearing many similarities to Tati's Playtime, one of my all time favourites.

Aircraft Carrier

I've never attended the architecture Bienniale before but have attended the last few art ones. Obviously with architecture there's going to be more of a turn to 'look how high my skyscraper is' and away from 'let's actually do something interesting' than with the art world and there were instantly forgettable rooms of clever little models and earnest eco schemes abound. However, the filler was generously padded with killer.

quotes

Aircraft Carrier advice

Israel's Aircraft Carrier was one of the first things I checked out and it's a damn shame because it was one of the best things there. The work revolved around a satirical examination of the privatisation of Israeli public companies by US companies in the seventies and eighties. This was displayed in videos and prints throughout the show but the genius was in the objects around the space.

Privatisation monopoly

Privatisation monopoly

Jets

Your country needs you to save

The upstairs hosted the main gallery where regularly spaced plinths held various satirical objects and parodies. A Monopoly board replaced with ex-public companies, a jet fighter mobile, a bottle of 'holy land', chewing gum wrappers designed to look like medal ribbons, IBM ties in Hebrew, oil drum pen holders, savings tins, chocolate coins with a Shekel on one side and a US dollar on the other and a couple of other small, clever items.

Holy ground (bought some of this)

IBM tie

The real clincher was the fact that these items were for sale. Downstairs, and at very reasonable non-art prices were all the various little things. I myself picked up a bottle of the 'holy ground' and a highly brandishable Milton Friedman notebook. But of course it took me a few days to realise that the shop wasn't a separate entity from the gallery and that I had played right into the hands of the entire set up.  Just as in the story they satirised, here were little slices of Israel at reasonable rates ready to be bought by the international community.

Aircraft Carrier advice

Major Lazer



I spent the whole weekend at my good friend and sometime collaborator Ferry Gouw's house working on this music video for Major Lazer. Check it out.


9

Been a while...

Things have been getting busy. I've taken up a place at Superflux where I'm helping them cap off their project with Studiolab and various other exciting and secret things. Hopefully I'll be starting my own project with Studiolab in the next few weeks too. Then I'll develop or expand off that project for the SPACE residency which I'll probably be starting early next year. 

I should be doing a talk for AlterFutures on the 30th October (more updates later) with esteemed peers Benedict Singleton and Justin Pickard on policy and design which should be kind of exciting.  Ilona Gaynor and Benedict, under the name of their new studio: Department of No, myself and David Benque are also in the very early stages of a large and pretty crazy project as well as plans between myself and David to launch a social-networking based project.

On top of this, I'm tutoring a group of the final years at IMI LCC through the end of their BAs and doing some pretty exciting commercial briefs, including a music video that's coming out tomorrow. I'm going to try and rejuvinate this blog as well and perhaps re-hash the website to deal with the ever-present problem of putting weight on the 'right' projects while showing variety.

Regrettably, the technology has not yet been developed which allows me to create a post as I think of it and by the time I'm sat down in front of a computer, my mind has gone blank.

Here's a video of Zizek bemoaning tulips:


Space and Hipsters

The Intergrated Space Plan was created by Rockwell International in the 1980s to play with the events and criteria that would be required for humans to begin to colonise the solar system and beyond. The original can be found here. Right about now we're supposed to be a 'biplanetary civilisation' but instead we just cut funding to NASA.

Apart ffrom that, here's a great quote from Venkatash Rao about why the embrace of hipsterdom will refresh market activity:
To really go beyond industrial age models, we need to forget about the technology and challenge customers to engage us in relationships that are, quite simply, more sophisticated. Relationships that effectively use irony and humor to at once acknowledge the artificial and simulated nature of the manufactured “personal” relationship and make use of its undoubted practical utility. Irony and humor have always been humanity’s primary tools in creatively engaging contradictory realities. The alternative is a dystopian nightmare of unacknowledged, or worse, unrecognized theatricality that will ultimately only make the relationship, and the entities on both sides of it, stupider and poorer in every way. Just as “wrestling” is fun when everybody conspiratorially shares in the fiction that it is real, but tragic, dehumanizing and infantilizing when grown-ups don’t realize it is a show, social at scale will need to rely, ultimately, on crafting creatively ironic relationships with customers. Companies that fail to do this will become exploitative.

IG Farben

At the time of the Second World War, IG Farben was the largest chemical manufacturing company in Europe and the fourth largest commercial interest in the world having successfully conglomerated itself from various smaller companies in 1925. These companies included Bayer, most famous for being the creator and rights holder for aspirin, the world's most successful drug. BASF, one of the first companies to successfully synthesise ammonia for fertilisers and AGFA, the inventor of x-ray plates. It was so large that a conspiracy was unveiled during the war in which it was found to be manipulating oil prices in collusion with US Standard Oil in a conspiracy dubbed by the US courts as the 'Farben Cartel.'

IG Farben itself became infamous for first cooperating with the Nazis and then for taking advantage of slave labour offered by the concentration camps and the invention, dissemination and profiting from the manufacture of Zyklon B used in the 'Shoah by Gas.'


During the Nazi's initial sweep across Eastern Europe after the beginning of Barbarossa in June 1941, the management of IG Farben directed the Wehrmacht as to which facilities should be seized for use by the company. The company's interest in an area near Aushcwitz in Poland was peaked because of the strong rail links in the area and the Nazi's interest in setting up a concentration camp for Eastern European Jews near the town: Heinrich Himmler had promoted the idea of using labour from the concentration camp to power the factory in an effort to Germanise the region and attract German settlers to a new commercial centre.

Due to the surprisingly large demands of IG Farben on slave labour for their new facility (the complex can still be seen here on Google Maps) Himmler had to triple the size of the camp from 10,000 prisoners while IG Farben agreed to pay the treasury 4 Reichsmark a day for each labourer. The SS was charged with selecting the most violent prisoners - named kapos - to act as slave-drivers, beating the Jewish slaves to make them work harder.

The facility - named Buna-Werke - was constructed by 10,000 Red Army prisoners in the summer of 1941 after they were marched miles from the front without food or sleep. At the site, they were not fed, but were told to 'graze' for what they could find in local fields.

IG Farben's Buna Werke, though the directors denied all knowledge, was the site for the deaths of 83,000 workers from the Eastern front and Morowitz (Auschwitz III) yet produced no chemical products at all before IG Farben's dissolution. The company also funded the human experimentation of Dr Mengele and Dr Vetter at Auschwitz-Birkenau who managed to barter down the price per human subject from 200 Reichsmark to 170. Vetter wrote: 'I feel like I'm in paradise!' 

IG Farben also held the patent for Zyklon B and a 42% stake in the company that manufactured it. 


At the Nuremburg Trials held by the allies for war crimes, 24 directors and managers of IG Farben were indicted. 13 received prison sentences of between one and eight years. 

Hermann Schmitz, the company director spent four years in prison and then went on to join the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank and became honorary president of Rheinische Stahlwerke AG. George von Schnitzler was the prime intermediary between the SS and Nazi leaders and IG Farben, he picked out and planned sites, including Buna-Werke. He served one year in prison before taking a position as president of Deutsch-Ibero-Amerikanische Gesellschaft and appearing in high society magazines. Fritz ter Meer served two years for slavery and spoliation then took positions on several boards including Bayer AG, a former IG Farben subsidiary. Otto Ambros served two years and became an adviser to Dow Chemical. Heinrich B├╝tefisch served two years and became a director for Deutsche Gasolline. Max Ilgner served five years and was the appointed chairman of Zug. Heinrich Oster served one years and joined the supervisory board of Gelsenberg AG. All of the 24 had resumed positions in business and high society by the mid-fifties in time for the 'German Eocnomic Miracle.'

IG Farben still exists as a registered company and trades on the German stock market and as of 2003 possessed £6.7m of assets despite having been in liquidation since 1952 when it was dissolved back into it's subsidiary's.  The board meet yearly to assign compensation to charities.

Permacultures

I've been selected to take part in the Permactultures round of residencies at SPACE this year. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop some of the elements I began to approach in 88.7. In particular, I'm going to be looking deeper into the merging of the human form and the markets through technology - something I visualised in the 'cutaneous growths' from 88.7. I'll be allowed around a month of time to develop my proposal which I've centered around four core questions:

What would the increased reliance on trading as the key resource to growth begin to look like and how would the visual markers of this world begin to change? 

How might the non-financial world and it’s culture form itself around or apart from these mutations and advances? 

Would the new speeds of our economy accelerate our already accelerated culture? 

What kind of deeper engagement might these demands for new technologies put on society and what might be the ramifications for the rest of us? 

Exciting. Obviously it's a while off but while I'm there I hope to organise some workshops and events that I'll publicise more as the time comes. 


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San Francisco Now and Then

Great photo series from Shawn Clover that super-imposes images from the San Francisco 1906 earthquake with modern photos of the same locale. Been doing the rounds for a while but it's worth taking time to sit down and really study the seamless blending in the images. 

Pedestrians cross Jones St towards a pile of rubble on Market Street. The Hibernia Bank building is burned out, but still standing strong.

A women opens the door to her Mercedes on Sacramento Street while horses killed by falling rubble lie in the street.

A woman walks dangerously close to a pit of rubble on 5th St by the US Mint. The Mint has done a remarkable job surviving the quake.

Two girls stand before the partially destroyed Sharon Building in Golden Gate Park while students work on their art projects inside.

Pedestrians walk past Mechanics Monument at Bush Street and Battery Street while ghostly shells of buildings stand precariously in the background.

3D Rendering



I've just finished doing some visual work for DJ Rustie's live shows. I've put together some samples in a short video as well as some stills. It was a pretty fun brief in terms of the learning curve on doing complex light renderings and I found some mean effects. 

Rustie

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Under Black Carpets

My friend and sometime inspiration Ilona Gaynor has got a new piece - Under Black Carpets. I don't know much about it as yet, but I'm sure I'll be enlightened shortly as she's briefly visiting London on her way from west to east coast US. As was seen with Everything Ends in Chaos, there's slick cinematic models and a dark boardroom aesthetic of power. Anyway, some great images are up on her flickr that I thought I'd share.

Phase 1, Study of Bank Infiltration, Downtown Los Angeles

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This is going on show at the Lisbon Triennial next year in the basement of the converted bank that now serves as Lisbon's modern art museum.