Hi from the train

On the train from London to Newcastle to give a talk at Design Event 07, and am rather pleased to find that they have WiFi in First Class on the train – a rarity in the UK. So with a bit of bluetooth action I thought I’d share the view via my mobile. Looking forward to seeing how Newcastle has changed since I was last there, and to meeting the folks behind Design Event, who’ve been great thus far arranging my trip.

Piece in Icon

Just hitting the stands now is the 50th issue of Icon, for which they asked me to do a piece on the latest wave of urban interventions. The result, “Customising the City”, is a general overview of some of the guerrilla design being done at the moment around the world. Featuring interviews and images from Leon Reid, Knitta, Pixelator, Abstractor, Mark Jenkins and a whole lot of guerrilla design goodness. Check it out.

Incidental Design

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about incidental design. Been shooting a lot around London, particularly the rather unsung design of the anti-flypostering wooden slats placed on building site frontings. Someday, ah, the allusive ‘someday’, I’ll do something with these photos. Just felt like sharing this one for now, taken in Farringdon on my way to a meeting at The Guardian.

The National Theatre: then and now

Blue: before and after
The other night I was walking across Waterloo Bridge in London and saw the National Theatre’s coloured lights. It reminded me of the installation/projection I did there in 2000, when I projected Derek Jarman’s film “Blue” onto the National Theatre and set up a radio broadcast blanketing South Bank with the audio for anyone to listen to [left image courtesy of Clifton Steinberg]. It is without question the project I am most proud of (for the record, it was a commission to create a public space for reflection and remembrance for World AIDS Day). Seven years later, however, it seems the advertising potential of the space trumps its creative potential [right image].

Open It Up

It is amazing that while entire areas of contemporary culture are opening themselves up to open source creativity, user-led innovation, the wisdom of crowds – whichever term you prefer – the gallery world has been holding pretty damn tight to the top-down model of access to and participation in the creative process. So it’s refreshing to come across two upcoming shows that are, quite literally, opening the doors to the public and giving full access to the creative process and public display of work. Almost all my projects at the moment are about opening up creative process and participation, so I’m up for promoting others who are doing the same:

Free For All
March 3rd to March 24th, 2007
Alberta Gallery of Art
Edmonton, Alberta
For a full write-up of the event, go here. But you can’t get more concise in describing what is going on there other than listing their primary exhibition guideline: If one person can carry their submission through the front doors of the gallery _ in one trip _ then we will include it in the exhibition. The size of our front door is 9 ½’ x 5 ½’.

Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft

2 March 2007 then ongoing
nüans, Ellerstrasse 187
The initial installation opens to the public and allows visitors to make changes to the work, (first at the private view, and for the duration of the show) by adding, moving and recombining elements, etc. The space and the changes will be documented daily, then monthly.

These of course aren’t the first shows to do this, but let’s hope this is just a sampling of a lot more to come.

Times Interview

A little love from the media to kick off the new year. Nancy Durrant from The Times (UK) interviewed me today about my work with Village Underground in London. Village Underground is a project I’ve been working on with Auro Foxcroft for some time. For those of you in London, if you’ve seen several London Underground subway carriages sitting on top of a building on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, you are not hallucinating (even if you are, don’t worry, those carriages aren’t part of your trip; just find a fixed point to focus on, take a few breaths, and drink some water). The carriages are part of a much larger project to create a series of spaces in cities around the world to allow an international exchange of creativity and ideas. I’ll be writing more about Village Underground soon, but for now – the essence of the project is that Village Underground will be a catalyst for new creativity, where street-level innovation and skill sets are brought inside to refuel the tired and outdated practices that dominate much of culture today. Watch this space. And in the meantime, play the visualisation above to give you an idea of how it will look when it’s done. It’s pretty sweet.

The Book. Is done.

Just finished writing my part of the “Visualising the City” book which will come out later this year on Routledge Press. This has been one of those projects that bordered between a labour of love and an overstayed travel companion – mostly written in Amsterdam, edits done in Montreal, photo permissions negotiated while in Beijing, so when I hit the send button with the final text attached, I was a happy guy.

As the title of my section, The VJ of the Everyday: Remixing the Urban Visual, indicates, the book is an academic little number, with co-authors from Harvard and Princeton. But that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed getting invited to the gig – getting urban intervention, street art and guerrilla creativity into the hallowed halls of university study. Yeah, there’s a lot of people out there who will argue that this activity has to remain on the outside to keep it real, but that line is so played out. There’s something much larger going on with this activity that needs to take centre stage in a larger conversation about our relationship with the city. I tried to capture some of that in an early outline of my piece for the book:

As Antonio Santâ’Elia wrote in the Futurist Manifesto On Architecture in 1914, ‘Every generation must build its own city’. And, mark by mark, sticker by sticker, intervention by intervention, that is precisely what is taking place in cities around the world. As urban environments become denser and their influence on our mental and physical selves greater, new relationships are emerging between the individual and the visual environment of the shared spaces (and surfaces) of the city. One-way communication is not enough anymore, and static imagery doesn’t remain that way for long. Featuring recent street art and urban interventions done in the streets of cities including London, New York, Stockholm, Chicago, and Amsterdam, a street-level overview will be given of the visual remixes that are forever taking place in the public realm of cities around the world, and the influence this is having on our relationship with the city.