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Freerangers do good!

Two freerangers, Barnaby and Byron (the two b’s!) have been announced as joint winners of a design research competition at Sydneys UTS.  From the Australian Design Review website.

The three winning projects are The Architecture Drawing Project, by Bryon Kinnaird and Barnaby Bennett from Victoria University Wellington – a project exploring the different modes of architectural drawing; (in)human habitat, by James Gardiner, RMIT (SIAL) PhD candidate – a proposal that looks at using the built environment to preserve ecological habitats; and CityBreeder, by David Pigram and Iain Maxwell, Canberra University and GSAPP Columbia/AA London graduates – a propsal that reshapes the urban design model as an open-source, real-time interactive platform capable of adaptive growth.”


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Take our jobs.org

This is subversion at its best.. US comedian Stephen Colbert has joined forces with the United Farm Workers Union to poke fun at anti-immigration activists by tackling the issue of immigration reform through the satirical campaign ‘Take Our Jobs’.

‘The union launched a campaign called Take Our Jobs, showcased on the website www.takeourjobs.org, to highlight the reality that illegal immigrants in agriculture are not taking jobs away from U.S. citizens and other legal residents.’

Tom Karst – The Packer.com

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Julie Mehretu and exploring the syncretic

Julie Mehretu is an Ethiopian-born artist (from Addis Ababa -coincidental link to a quick post on Freerange on Mulatu Astatke also hailing from Addis Ababa), who advanced her studies in Fine Art in the US and now works and lives in New York (generally).

I am continually drawn to her work, which is not accidentally architectural: she speaks very well on the subject of her work as studies/cosmologies/maps of cities and other tectonic and cultural spaces/structures.  I danced with the idea (and still do, often) of using this work in my architectural research, but whether or not I weave this into an academic enquiry, it remains a formative series of works in my worldview of architecture, and the greater ‘expanded field’ of things/worldliness.

Palimpsest (Old Gods)(Please click to get the super-size-me size).

I’ve recently acquired a monograph ‘Black City’ which is the first to publish a substantial collection of her work, past and present, and it is simply amazing.  I’ve selected a few of my favourites here, but you can view some of her work here, at White Cube who represent her, and here is a video/interview with Mehretu in Berlin, where her latest exhibition ‘Grey Area’ was shown (at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin) which has now travelled to the Guggenheim New York if you’re there, go see it!

An interpretation that I dallied with for a while, and hope to re-animate in the future, is the notion of syncretism, which refers to an ‘attempt at reconciliation of two opposing or different principles, practices, or parties…’, in my reading and understanding (or at least the part that I enjoy about it) is the idea of an equilibrium which nontheless sustains its aspects of tension. This idea not surprisingly was something that I was reading in architecture schools –my subject of interest– how an academic is responsible for simultaneously critiquing a body of knowledge, whilst disseminating it, or how an architecture student grapples with the hypothetical studio project (with all its fantasy, experimentation, failure, risk etc etc), whilst knowingly attempting to replicate and learn principles of the real world.  They are contradictory objectives, but they have to be maintained.

This is clearly not an idea exclusive to architectural education or architecture or architects, which is why I mentioned my deep interest in this work as a framework or doorway into an expanded field of thinking and being.  The obvious subject of some works in particular address the City, and it is immediately obvious that these works are grappling with the coded, multi-layered, crumbling, ghosting, dynamic, etc etc, representation of the City.  They are both fragmented, but approach wholeness; they surround the void with speeding and violent (or beautiful) mass and lines and points; they are architectural, but never building; they are constructed, of deconstructions; they attempt new meaning by obfuscating prior meaning… and they are huge.  The Seven Acts of Mercy (pictured here) is over 6 metres long, and nearly 3m tall.


I think these works probably explain more about me than I have been able to explain them to you about architecture (or the City), but I still wanted to share.  I’d love to hear from anyone in NY who could make it along to her show, it’s open til October I think.

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World Map of Touristyness

A world map of tourism hot spots. Cleverly made using uploaded photos on Panoramio. One of many excellent graphs, charts and timelines etc on informationisbeautiful.net , including but not restricted too; pop culture time travel timelines, Beatles self reference chart, the Gulf of Mexico Oil spill put in perspective. Be sure to check out the older posts.

Update: check out this for touristyness maps of cities but with different colours for locals and tourists.

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London Zoo speaks up to protect living fossils from mining in NZ

Looks like New Zealanders are not the only ones who want to protect our conservation land from proposed mining projects. London zoo conservationists are calling for people to make submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development’s Schedule 4 Stocktake.

They are concerned about the threat that mining would pose to the survival of two native frog species. They call the Archey’s frog and Hochstetter’s frog living fossils:

“Archey’s frog is currently ranked top of ZSL’s EDGE of Existence amphibian list, making it the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered amphibian on the planet. Described as a “living fossil”, Archey’s frog is almost indistinguishable from the fossilised remains of frogs that walked amongst the dinosaurs 150 million years ago.

“In the year when reducing biodiversity loss is high on the political agenda, it is inconceivable to think that we’d put the nail in the coffin of some of our rarest and most extraordinary frog species,” say Helen Meredith, EDGE of Existence amphibian conservation projects coordinator at ZSL.”

Read more here

Mining on conservation land seems to me to be an easy option for the government, they are looking for land to mine and using conservation land is easier than private land. They don’t have to buy it, no pesky landowners to convince or bully off it. They have no issue bullying their own staff however. Department of Conservation staff have been asked not to talk to non-govt organisation Forest & Bird because of recent leaks of information about mining proposals. So much for transparency in the development of policy. I suppose that never really happens does it…?

So if you care about this issue, you have until Thursday 26th of May to make a submission. Let make a fuss!

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Facism and tyranny in Australia

I try not to use the words in the title of this blog lightly, like genocide and other strong words if they are thrown around loosely they lose the power to represent the truly awful things that humanity periodically does.  I live in a nice country called Australia, it is a vast land full of minerals and a vibrant multicultural society.  It does however occasionally show a remarkable streak of aggressive nasty politics. The post below from Norightturn tells the story of the Australians government vindictive reaction to the exposure of bad policy.

“Wikileaks is a public interest website devoted to exposing information governments want to keep under wraps. Last year they leaked the Australian government’s secret internet blacklist. The leak was deeply embarrassing for the government, as it exposed just how tawdry their blacklist was; alongside the material it was meant to be banning, it also included

a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

Its a perfect example of the mission creep and false positives which mean that we cannot trust any government to block the internet. The government’s retaliatory action – blocking Wikileaks – underlined the point. But today, they went one further, cancelling Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s passport.

Assange is an Australian citizen. but he has now been effectively forbidden to travel overseas by his government, apparently because he embarrassed them.

This violates the freedom of movement affirmed in the ICCPR, to which Australia is a party. But the Australian government doesn’t care, and as they have no equivalent of our BORA, that right is unenforceable. Which is another example of why they need strong, enforceable human rights legislation now.”

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Doing it DIY

Over the past couple of days I have indulged in some meandering through the wide world of the wed and discovered some inspiring blogs and sites all about making things yourself at home. I think I should follow my nose on the net more often… it usually feels like a waste of my time but now I think maybe I’ve been missing out!

It started when I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to make some clothes for my new little niece. She suggested that I check out Tiny Happy a blog by an NZ mother about things she likes to make and do. This led me to a blog called Elsie Marley and then one called Indie Tutes. I found these blogs really inspiring because I like to make things and it’s wonderful to hear about other people who make things too. Most people don’t make stuff, most people just use stuff. I am a puppeteer and both make and perform with puppets of all kinds. In general I try and make them in the cheapest way possible. Mostly because I can’t afford to spend money on the craft yet (puppetry isn’t a profession know for its high salaries) but also because I like to let the materials that I make puppets from speak to me about the character that will come into being.

Reading these blogs, in particular the Indie tutes one, got me thinking about recycling and creativity. The woman who writes this blog has many kids clothing designs that are all about reusing old adults clothes. Like a pair or trousers made from the sleeves of a mens shirt. Really cool idea and makes me realise how lazy most of us are with our approach to recycling the things we no longer need. Sewing ones own clothes is no longer a cheap thing to do, it’s definately cheaper to head down and buy a t-shirt from Bonds that was made in china that to make one yourself. But when you are creative about the way you do it, and if you can use it as an opportunity to reduce waste, then it’s a fantastic thing to do.

My sister is going with using cloth nappies for her baby and we are about to embark on making some inserts and parts of nappy systems ourselves. I have been surprised to find some websites that teach you how to make your own nappies! Considering the cost of fancy cloth nappies and of disposables, not to mention the amount of waste they generate, we are going to give it a go.

I have been watching my flatmate here in Wellington build a compost system, and a set of shelves and gardening beds all out of waste wood. Mostly pallets from out the back of the supermarket. I don’t know if he would rather use new wood or not, we can’t afford it anyway. But it’s good to know that the veges we are eating didn’t use any more trees.

So, I would encourage you all to be a little creative in your lives this month. It is May after all. Maybe you will cook some new dish from all those weird left over veges in the fridge, or make a monkey from a pair or socks… it’s up to you! And thanks to all the generous sharing of ideas from so many creative people on their blogs.

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And something terrible, the BP Gulf Oil Spill

I started looking at photos of the oil spill at the BP Deepwater Horizon rig and found these. And then this. Seeing pictures really makes you realise how futile efforts are to contain the spill and how wide in scope it is.

BP has finally released footage of the spill point underwater. Terrifying…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/richard-adams-blog/2010/may/13/video-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill

And see more photos here

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Beautiful morning faces

Just wanted to share this little piece of beauty.

Insects with morning dew on them taken by Polish amateur photographer Miroslaw Swietek. Amazing! See more here

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“Floods, drought, climate change and even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt”

I hate grocery shopping. Even at the holiest of “health”/”whole” food stores, I find refrigerated produce depressing, I find bulk foods sourced from faraway places unnerving, packaged dried pasta disturbing. Is there something wrong with me? Do other people experience this kind of thing?

The other night I watched the new documentary “Dirt! The movie” and it made me cry. It made me realise that there is definitely something dreadfully wrong; it’s the link between food degradation, land degradation and human degradation. And I don’t just mean that supermarket food grown in dead monocultured soil is lacking in nutrients and loaded with toxins. Industrial agriculture is killing displaced people who can no longer live off the devastated, desertified, pesticide-ridden, infertile land. It’s no wonder that I find the experience of buying food so damn depressing, I’m contributing to mass genocide and total destruction. It’s also no wonder that we’ve all moved to the city. More of us in cities than ever before, looking for ways to make money to eat because being a farmer and living out in the country just became way too expensive.

So here’s what we’re going to do.

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