from Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012).

Photographer Richard Misrach and Landscape Architect Kate Orff of SCAPE Studio have collaborated on a book, newly out on Aperture.  Petrochemical America features the landscape of Louisiana along the Mississippi, in which quintessential southern communities neighbor ground zero for the country’s petrochemical industry.

The book pairs Richard’s site photographs from Cancer Alley with Kate’s “ecological atlas,” a set of analytical maps and diagrams that bridge Richard’s specific, local images to larger environmental and economic systems and timelines.  Read a long-form interview where they discuss their collaboration here.

In addition to analysis, Kate’s team also assembles a glossary of concepts for change.  Although the exhibit is now closed in Aperture Gallery in Chelsea, you can buy the book from Aperture.

See also Kate’s TED talk about oyster-tecture in the Gowanus Canal.

shelf, site / — posted on October 9th, 2012

We acknowledge that no photograph taken from the floor of a club with a handheld device has ever, in the history of camera phones, ever been good, BUT we could not resist:



Amon Tobin just passed through town with his giant stage sculpture projection environment AV experience show: ISAM Live 2.0.  While the beginning of the show was a little heavy on the space station imagery, the projections got better and more abstract toward the end.

still from this video

still from this video

There are way better images of ISAM, plus an interview, over here.

As a thing becomes “tired” as soon as it is identified to as existing in the world, projection mapping has, in some circles, traveling the circuit to passé via hipster jadedness.

The relentlessly prolific and inspiring Kyle McDonald, has developed mapamok a free open-source projection mapping library. Along the way, he declared that he offers these tools not to facilitate the creation of exciting projects, but instead to make projection mapping so easy that people are no longer interested in doing it.

So yes, this has been done at least once (this is, after all, ISAM 2.0). While we should be cautious about the tacky or facile use of a technical process to gloss over creative shortcomings, it follows that if you can, as Marius Watz says of algorithms, “make it rock”, go right ahead. So perhaps ISAM is currently living in the dying days of projection mapping qua projection mapping, but it’s designers, as if aware of this tenuous position, have packed that hour-long set with enought moments of restless inventiveness to, for the time being, evade outright dismissal.

Furthmore, this is a great direction for live electronic gigs to be heading.  Consider the alternative: a dimly lit DJ nodding at a table?  Tapping on a laptop and turning knobs? No thanks: this is the future we were promised.

If projection mapping is on its way out, the rampant virality of J o n p a s a n g’s excellent Hyper-Matrix project for Hyundai indicate that white cubes make be sticking around for at least another lap.

screen, site / / amon tobin — posted on September 13th, 2012

It’s Venice Biennale time, and to our delight this year’s U.S. Pavilion is chock full of our favorite landscape architects, urban designers and thinkers.

This year’s theme focuses on “spontaneous interventions”, or works that use (curators’ words) improvisational, guerrilla, temporary, DIY, or participatory techniques.  In other words, design work that’s a little more punk rock than conventional practice.

Below is a partial list, in no particular order, of people/projects we already know and love, and are proud to see at the biennale:

Rebar // Bubbleware

via Doxa, Rebar’s blog

Many of Rebar’s projects fit into this year’s theme.  I am partial to the Bushwaffle, but Bubbleware is also good (called Bubbleway on Rebar’s website).  Bubble-whatever is  modular street furniture designed to bring more play and social interaction into your urban experience.  It also represents a partnership between a design collective and a messenger bag company.  Cool.

Fritz Haeg // Edible Estates

Fritz Haeg is an LA-based architect/artist who has made a project of cultivating edible plants in front lawns around the globe.  Listen to his talk at the 2011 Art + Environment Conference here.  We’re looking forward to his project at the deCordova parking lot soon.

Public Laboratory // Grassroots Mapping

We are big Public Laboratory fans at Ruins or Books.  We’ve even tried a little balloon photography ourselves (before our camera fell into the ocean.)  The resources available on the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) website are excellent.  They encourage a continuing dialogue for refining balloon photography techniques (read: how not to drop your camera in the ocean) and host public demos and workshops.  So far, their DIY aerial photography has been utilized to help citizens document in the Gulf oil spill, pollution plumes in the Gowanus, and crowds of peaceful protestors in Santiago.  You can even buy your own Balloon Mapping Kit.

Candy Chang // I Wish This Was

Candy Chang has great style.  And she’s got some great projects about breaking through urban ubiquity to send a message to or solicit input from the public.  The “I Wish This Was…” sticker campaign is an invitation for citizens to not only dream of change, but also to advertise it.  The  “Hello My Name Is…” format of the sticker makes it self-explanatory.  You just need a stack of these and a Sharpie, you know what to do.

Imbert, Meijerink // Parking Plot 

We were familiar with Dorothée Imbert and Paula Meijerink independently, but never their forces combined.  It’s not clear if “Free Agents” is descriptive or a name under which they will continue to collaborate.  With a group of Washington University St. Louis students and a rented wet saw, they attacked two campus parking spaces, creating cracks in the pavement that they seeded and observed the growth of vegetation in the tough, but not impossible, urban environment.

More posts to come about Spontaneous Interventions.


site / — posted on August 30th, 2012

Corinne Silva is a London-based photographer.  Her series “Imported Landscapes” is based on the idea of the movement of the African and Eurasian techtonic plates and the interconnected landscapes that ride on top of them.  She installed a series of photographs from the north Moroccan coast, captionless, onto billboards in southern Spain.

From the arist’s statement: “The billboards are a reminder that landscapes themselves are palimpsests. Each person’s actions directly affect another; these actions and power shifts can be traced in the landscape. The act of placing one landscape inside another – the southern hemisphere into the northern – creates a space to contemplate not only their shared topography but also the complex web of their ongoing connection of trade, mobility and colonization.”

Watch this video of Silva, in which she explains some of the interesting moments during the life of the installation.

We’ve also been mesmerized by her photography of the landscape of Leeds in this film.


site, wall / — posted on August 10th, 2012

The Urban Topography Research Figure 07, via

The Urban Topography Research Figure 05, via

The Urban Topography Research Figure 02, via

Mok, Jung-Wook is a UK-based Korean photographer.  His series The Urban Topography Research focuses on the dramatic transformation of the urban fabric in Seoul, Korea, and on his own nostalgia for lost places within the city.  Working from a variety of sources, he creates images that reproduce the moment of explosive demolition of buildings around Seoul.  In his own words, his images convey a “sense of loss, the moment of vanishing in an emotional way,” as opposed to the work representing a political statement on urban planning in Korea.

Jeremy Akerman, guest curator of the Future’s Future’s Future show which included Mok, points out, “…Koreans do not observe street names and numberings to find places as we do with A-Z’s but more pictorially, using land marks, large or outstanding buildings, long known places and so forth. In this way one can understand how the removal of the buildings in the photos also represents the erosion of Mok, Jung-Wook’s geographical mind map.”

Mok, Jung-Wook was among the Flash Forward 2011 emerging photographers.  Check out the catalogue.

site, wall / / Jung-Wook Mok — posted on July 8th, 2012

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