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Urban Infomatics Breakout

TheFeature :: Urban Infomatics Breakout By Howard Rheingold

"If you want to understand cities today and especially in the future, keep mobile communications in mind. Ten years from now, understanding the way people use mobile media will be as fundamental to urban planning as understanding the buildings they inhabit and vehicles they use."

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Virtual Terrain Project

Virtual Terrain Project -- for anyone with an interest in geography and GIS. If you are looking for a source for mapping data in a variety of places, this might be a good place to start.

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the cab, the camera, the quest

There's a great article in today's New York Times that will warm the heart of any psychogeographer:
New York Observed: A Lost Camera and One Knight's Heroic Fantasy

[Note: you have to register with the site before you can read the article.]

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Kevin Hamilton's Synchronaut site reveals his varying explorations of photography, psychogeography, performance and questioning of popular culture.

Kevin Hamilton's site shows working processes that are exploratory and open, which use a variety of mediums and techniques. Working in a variety of geographic locations and in a variety of media, these explorations are convincing of an indepth thought process seeking to clarify ideas.

"Site Unseen" is a whimsical but clear display of psychogeography making contemporary art scene dialogue tongue in cheek, yet seriously pursuing a clarification of an idea.

"Bluebridge" is a piece that is complete here in its documentation form, yet the artist has worked in the local community to make this piece happen, or at least find out how to make it happen. The piece is engaging of all audiences, no matter what their backgrounds. It is acknowledging of popular culture's information centers and media habits by turning these elements into materials from which to create new interactive sculptures and happenings.

"Cross" is a site specific performance evident of Vito Acconci's following piece, yet much more scientific and calculated than free. The continued attempt at pursuing and syncronizing in this performance border upon the absurd and the scientific.

Mnemonicon is a "disorientation device enabl[ing Kevin] to walk through one city as if it were another...I navigated routine walks as though they were through landscapes remembered, but not seen." The mapping of the past, but using it in the present would be an interesting project for somewhere like New York City.

There are many other works of Kevin Hamilton's exploring certain aspects of formal artistry, psychogeography, social structures and the absurd. I encourage psychogeographers to take a few minutes with his site.

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space and culture

Lots of great stuff happening on the space and culture blog, edited by Anne Galloway and Rob Shields.

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Mystery shoes

Self-proclaimed carfree [and carefree?] bus rider and flaneuse Heidi Schallberg comments on a recent article about mystery shoes, and discusses the presence of abandoned pants on city streets...

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NYC: Places to Compute

A guide for the techno-drifter.

Got any other good spots you're willing to out?

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Pierogi 2000 Opening

Peirogi 2000 opening on January 10, 2004 featuring Ward Shelley and Lee Boroson. Each artist addresses psychogeography on a very different scales and aesthetics.

Lee Boroson
Contrails and Clusters
January 2 – February 2, 2004
Peirogi 2000
Opening January 10, 2004

My interest is to isolate individual guidelines of perception. In this body of work, I examine how we define an object and how through the object we can understand its original context. What are the forces that act on a body? To what extent can a presence exist without the space around it?
(Boroson, 2003)

Lee Boroson is a sculptor who recognizes elegance in formal sculpture. It is interesting, however, to perceive the work of Boroson in a psychogeographic sense. In Contrails and Clusters Boroson calls attention to the ephemeral and the truly negative. Both have their respective psychogeographic roots.

The “contrails” are delicate and transparent objectifications of the act of moving through space. Showing a “path” in such a sculpturally elegant way and perceiving it with psychogeography in mind raises the bar of aesthetics in psy.geo mapping. Even though Boroson is striving to “isolate…guidelines of perception” the appropriateness of the sculpture to its reference is enhanced through its installation. Walking into the backroom of Pierogi, the viewer is confronted by linear forms of glass that slice through the space, albeit in a delicate way. This action enhances the perception and imagination of movement, but also has the viewer consider how we move through spaces, and what we leave behind.

“Clusters” has its psychogeographic roots in manipulating maps and reconsidering how we perceive what is shown. Boroson has taken snapshots of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and removed the negative space between each of the stars, creating clusters. This new “map” is a hypothetical map of how the universe either started, or is about to end. Boroson says about the piece, “When I was in school, we were taught how the universe might someday get so big that it would collapse on itself. That isn’t really talked about anymore.” The restructuring calls attention to this forgotten topic, yet I am pulled to the idea that Boroson has emphasized the fact that this map is a snapshot of a continually moving presence. The maps shown here have nearly as much potential for “accuracy” as the source maps he used. Regarding mapping as an acknowledgement of capturing an ever changing entity in such a dramatic sense lays possibility to regarding other maps in an evolutionary fashion.

Lee Boroson’s installations and images are consistent with his previous delicate and elegant work. What is striking, from a psychogeographic perspective, is this exhibit addresses the potential and ephemeral aspects of moving through space. Both works consider the objectification of the title and are aware of the removal from their context. The title and installations of the two pieces, however, make the viewer aware of the context from which these objects come. In this realization of the object and the original context, we become aware of psychogeography in the ephemeral and the delicacy in which these aspects can be expressed.

Ward Shelley
We Have Mice
January 2 – February 2, 2004
Peirogi 2000
Opening January 10, 2004

Ward Shelley’s We Have Mice performance installation at Pierogi redefines “habitable” space and “useful” space not only in galleries, but everywhere. Driven by the commercialization of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, Shelley is inhabiting the interior walls at Pierogi for the duration of the show. What is interesting about We Have Mice is that what Shelley is advertising is practically the opposite of what is happening. The show is supposed to be him living unseen, yet he invites us to be voyeurs of his world on the internet and in the gallery. Evidence of his life and thoughts are everywhere at Pierogi. In our voyeurism, we can watch him create and live as an artist in seclusion. He’ll even record his work for you in case you miss it and want to watch it later. This can be funny, crude, good or bad, but what is important here is that Shelley has exposed himself to the world by showing his process of making, one of the most vulnerable times for all of us artists.

A few inconsistencies, however, are somewhat confusing to me in this performance. Within the traditional gallery space of gallery 1 at Pierogi, an armchair with a light and books sits in the middle of the room. A video playing at the opening shows Shelley using this space at night, after everyone has left, as a reading area. Is this supposed to be his interpretation of what a mouse does when we are asleep? Or is this Shelley not performing as a mouse? This becomes more of a concern for me because it seems to be an inconsistency with the overall performance. If he is a mouse, then why even put anything in the main gallery room? If objects begin to appear in the main room, does he then transform into a pack rat? If a mouse is to live incognito, then should not that consistency be clearly displayed?

Shelley’s ability to remap an entire space and therefore redefine an entire space through his intervention allows for a reconsideration of the detail and usefulness of a space. He has inversed the focus of the viewer, making us peer into the walls at which we would normally stare. Viewers become participants in this engagement as shown when they bang on the walls to see if they can get a response from the artist. In this acknowledgement of the walls as the defining points for a space, Shelly has allowed everyone in the space to question the traditional space we are given. It would be interesting to see a map of his habitable space when the show is done, or to see how Shelley’s perception of Pierogi is different that the traditional user of the space.

Is Ward Shelly a mouse or a voyeur of the audience? Or, has Shelley simply radically altered how we consider a given space?

J Gabriel Lloyd

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All it takes is a little prodding from Big Brother and what you get is a massive scale movement in art. Or is it? The ACTIVE SLUMMING protest in Germany is causing quite a stir with a lot of artists, journalists, government officials and academia.

Active Slumming is a mixture of performance art, installations, site-specific sculpture and psychogeography. The drive for the pieces is the cost cutting by Germany’s government because of intense national debt. The cost cutting would make Germany’s free higher education facilities similar to our own universities where even state funded schools are increasingly expensive. Students and faculty are fighting this pending change in a hope to bring their voices to the government. As a result, “Active Slumming” is occurring in a range of mediums and expression by a range of people.

Classes being held in trains, as if they were in a normal class room, or students creating satirical words with their bodies on ice rinks have a specific message protest[ing] against the direction of their future…, but actually it could just as easily be an art installation. Installations of slum housing on the steps of the schools are intended to call attention to the dismal situation students face in the coming years. These are torn down hastily by the authorities showing their message of protest is coming through to the people that need to hear it. The shape and construction of these structures are reminiscent of the happenings installations by Oldenburg and Kaprow, furthering the vision of these and the other happenings artists in the hope of blending… various art forms, say, dance, sculpture and poetry, so that art is no longer compartmentalized or made precious. The preciousness of art is also diminished with the use of technology to organize the events. Familiar means of communication with everyone eases the stigma that “art is something I don’t understand”. Websites and cell phones are making for almost spontaneous actions, much like our beloved flashmobs. This, therefore, leads us to the influence and application of psychogeography. No mapping is occurring here, but the trend of movement and the conscious consideration of affecting a specific location’s inhabitants and influences are specifically psychogeographic in nature.

From this perspective, this type of event is an exciting event from which to build off. The generation of enthusiastic participation in creating mass performance and installation art is spectacular. Embrace of technology to make it happen is an acknowledgement of the times and current trends in communication making the participants feel comfortable with their participation. In turn, vast amounts of new people have continually gathered and spread, each time branching out to new people. The events have lasted for a while, acknowledgingly fueled by the looming threat of dues, nonetheless people that never considered themselves artists are now participating in what we call “art”.

The works here are all provocative, yet the intent of the creators should not be forgotten. The importance of intention is raised here with all of these pieces. We see exciting happenings, while the creators might simply consider their actions “political protests”. Either way, a powerful and creative method of establishing links to everyday people for the purpose of creating something new is being forged.

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An introduction from Providence

Working publicly, privately, actively and passively...

I thought it might be a good idea to let everyone know basically what I'm up to. Between working in Providence and New York I also juggle working with large collaborative groups and working individually. I'm very adamant about addressing the audience of the piece so as to find a sort of highway of communication between people of all disciplines.

I have been working in Providence for the past 18 months with an artists' collective called "PIPS", the Providence Initiative for Psychogeographic Studies, to explore issues of psychogeography through our work. Started two years ago by JohnJ McGurk, David Allyn and Meredith Younger, the group has grown to include myself and others, bringing the headcount to 10. PIPS welcomes new people and ideas to keep dialogue about art alive. A few of the pieces PIPS has created are social sculptures such as the Yellow Bike Project to the Urban Agricultural Unit. JohnJ McGurk and I performed Untitled (Nomadic Caf) at the 2003 Psy.Geo.Conflux in front of ABC NoRio. Christina Ray documented the performance here. For more information visit www.gaberator-mac.tk.

PIPS has completed several additional projects in the past six months. "Density" is a piece we created to work with kids from New York City, who helped us make an earthfire kiln and 5000 ceramic figures. As part of a show called "Campsite" in Beacon, NY, we synthesized a Buckminster-Fuller map and a map of the campground where we lived for the summer. The result was a population density map that represented the 20 most populated cities in the world. Viewers of the show became participants when they took a map and walked around the campsite (which was about 12 acres) to visit all the major cities of the world.

On my own I have been pretty busy, as well. I have been studying popular culture and its effect on people's response to my artwork. I began this study with a few sculpture sketches that were more like psychology tests. I would put a pile of toys on a table in a gallery and a stack of questionnaires on a table next to the toys. The gallery-goers were instructed to take a question sheet and a toy. The question sheet was a 12-question multiple-choice answer sheet that guided the participant around the outside of the gallery. It had mixed results ranging from people not participating at all to people taking a handful of toys without taking a question sheet. Interestingly enough, very few people followed the given commands on the sheet as to where to drop off the toys, but the toys were found together in amusing configurations elsewhere. I think it shows a certain amount of control that the viewer demands from art works, no matter what the scenario. As for now, I am digesting these findings while throwing myself in a crash course about art and culture.

Currently I am reading theory about art and culture including:

Linda Weintraub, Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art's Meaning in Contemporary Society 1970s-1990s
Kristine Stiles, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings

In addition to studying popular culture for my own body of work and being involved with Glowlab, I am interning for Vito Acconci at Acconci Studios in Brooklyn. Vito has been a big influence upon me as a developing sculptor and performer, so I am pretty excited about what's to come in the next few weeks.

If anyone want so to get in touch with me e-mail me at [email protected] or visit my website.

Finally, Id like to share a really cool show I just went to in Pittsburgh, PA where I grew up. The show is in Wood Street Galleries and is called Replay. Digital art as well as psychogeography are shown in one of the most contemporary art galleries in Pittsburgh, showing an increase in the number of artists delving into this arena. Blast Theory had documentation of Uncle Roy, which I think everyone on the Glowlab site should check out.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer spiece Amodal Suspension makes use of technology and geography in a way that non-geographers can access. He is making use of cell phone capability to send text messages whereby he is taking the signals from the text messages and converting them into patterns of flashing searchlights in the sky, turning the Japanese city of Yamaguchi into a giant communication switchboard. People in Pittsburgh could send text messages to control the lights in Japan. Actually, I didnt really understand how cool it was until I was on the T (Pittsburgh equivalent to the subway) reading the gallery pamphlet. So, I would say that the display of the piece was not as clear as it could have been.

Golan Levins piece Floccus makes use of interactive digital media to make the participant feel as if they are actually creating something new. Although I wasnt totally convinced that I wasnt just playing with a program that had a limited number of variances for original display, the presentation was slick because it was in a little corner off to the side. You could really get lost in your own little psychedelic patterns and noises, which is probably the intent of the piece.

-- J. Gabriel Lloyd

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