Tag Archives: public

How Do You Navigate a City With No Street Names?

23 May

How Do You Navigate a City With No Street Names?

How Do You Navigate a City With No Street Names?
Courtesy: Regina Mamou

[Reposted from The Atlantic]

To an outsider, Amman, Jordan, could seem nearly unnavigable. Until five years ago, its streets were unlabeled and its buildings unnumbered.* Even now, locals give direction by landmark, narrating the way over the phone or on hand-drawn maps.

“It’s totally normal to be lost and confused,” says photographer Regina Mamou, who spent 15 months studying the people of Amman get around. Once, she remembers getting directions to a party via a map the hostess had Photoshopped herself. “I had recreated it on this Post-It, and i still couldn’t get to her house,” she says.

Finally, her friend climbed to the roof of her building and called for her. “There’s a sense that this was totally normal,” Mamou says. “The fact that we have to get on top of a roof and shout down.”


Circle 1 – 8, courtesy Regina Mamou.

Understanding the “subjective cartography” of Amman is what drew Mamou to Jordan. Over the course of her year there, Mamou followed about ten Amman residents around on impromptu walking tours.*

The key, she discovered, was landmarks. Some were personal. Neighborhood convenience stores often served as key points when people gave directions. Then there were the better-known spots. “People had a tendency to focus on big, major chain landmarks, like a Hyatt or something,” she says. “Hospitals were really big ones, too.”


Untitled (Bird Garden), courtesy Regina Mamou.

Then there were the spots everyone knew, like a bird garden across the street from her home. “I could tell a taxi driver, ‘take me to this bird garden,’ everyone would know where to go,” she says. There was also a main artery that bisected the city; people would give directions by saying which roundabout they were near.

“Those roundabouts have names, but everyone would use their colloquial titles – one, two, three,” Mamou says. “It would drive foreigners crazy.”

Mamou quickly learned to distinguish between buildings that once looked the same to her. She noticed when one spot was higher than another and could pick out subtle distinctions in color.

Little has changed even though many houses now have numbers. Mail is still delivered to P.O. boxes; even Fed Ex officials call and ask for an “interpretation” as to where a spot is located.


Some Undefined Boundaries. Courtesy Regina Mamou

This form of urban living has meant that people form very personal relationships with their neighborhoods. But it also means Jordanians may be less likely to explore a city as a whole. “Living in the Middle East, there’s a lot of different ways in which the subjectivity of the landscape is present. As a woman, there are places you will go or won’t go,” Mamou says. “It also depends on where you are in the economic scale as well.”

Mamou says she continued to rely on landmarks even after she returned to Chicago. But it’s different there, because of the grid system and the lake. “I don’t feel that sense of disorientation, of lostness,” she says. “It’s difficult to be actually lost.”

Top photo: Seven Hills. All photos taken from the series Mapping Collected Memory.

* An earlier version of this post misstated when street names were added in Amman. It also incorrectly stated the number of residents Mamou followed around.


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Streetmapping: Artist Lian Bell from Out of Site Festival 2007

23 May

In the summer of 2007, artist Lian Bell took to the pavement of Dublin to better get to know her neighbourhood. Although it’s a little while ago, I love this public art intervention/collaboration for its simplicity and foundation on talking, helping and sharing the city’s public space.

The entire intervention debrief is reproduced here in full courtesy of Lian Bell.

Dean Street pavement, Dublin
Sunday 26 Aug
12pm-6pm 

I planned to draw a map in chalk on the pavement of the Liberties area of Dublin, by asking passers-by for advice. The Liberties is an old area of the city full of intricate streets which have seen vast development recently and which looks set to continue at a hectic pace. The local community is an eclectic mix of older people, people who’ve lived locally their whole lives, immigrants, students and young professionals moving in to newly built apartment blocks. There is a lot of social housing in the area, with the reputation of being one of the poorest parts of the city centre, as well as having a recognised drug problem. However, parts of the Liberties are being gentrified and local businesses combine traditional markets (Thomas Street and Meath Street) with architecture and design studios, art galleries and antique shops (Thomas Street and Francis Street).

I moved into an apartment on Francis Street recently and don’t know the layout of the area at all well. To draw a map, I’d need a lot of help from passers-by. I was a little worried that if it didn’t work, or if something negative happened I would still be living around the corner. I did an hour of mental preparation before I headed out. It was a warm Sunday afternoon at a busy intersection with a wide pavement. Businesses nearby were open – a video, tanning and internet shop, a bookmakers, two pubs (Fallon’s and Nash’s), a Spar and a gallery.

As soon as I’d written a sign on a sandwich board (Hello. I’m drawing a map of the area. Can you help?) someone stopped and asked what I was doing. A young man living locally who was so enthusiastic about the idea even before I’d opened a box of chalk I was quite surprised. He promised to return later in the afternoon and even to bring me some water.


I drew the opening part of the map: what I could see from the pavement of the intersection and the street signs that were visible. I marked where we were with an X. Though I do know many of the main roads (probably about 15% of the map) and their names, I only wanted to fill in what people told me to, with the spelling mistakes, the warped scale, the missing streets.

Apart from one bathroom break, from about 12.15 to 5.45 I had about four 5 minute breaks – the rest of the time was filled with talking to people, explaining the project and filling out the map. In terms of getting people involved the event was far more successful than I had imagined it would be. People stopped and talked for long periods of time, argued with each other about the layout and names of streets, phoned and texted friends for help, returned through the afternoon, went to get other people to come and help, went to find out the names of streets they had forgotten. There were no negative comments (to me anyway) and the enthusiasm people had for the idea was a little overwhelming.


I regret not having more time to take stock of what was going on, maybe make a note of some of the stories and local history that people came out with and ask more about specific things that arose.

Attitudes towards the map ranged from puzzle-solving to friendly competition. Some people focuse¬d on how to make sections join up, some wanted to have their street put on it, some wanted to just make sure they added some street or placename to it. Some people sounded concerned with my request for ‘help’, asking if I needed directions. A couple of people offered maps.

All kinds of people stopped – tourists, locals, Dubliners, immigrants, kids, architects, a local historian, a couple of junkies, an alcoholic street artist, students. Irish, French, Swedish, German, Polish, American. Men came back and forth from the two pubs. A passer-by insisted on giving me 5 euro. Someone bought me a coffee. A young man from the bookies and a young woman working in a gallery around the corner came back throughout the afternoon. People chatted to each other around me.

Someone started talking about how there wasn’t enough street art in the area. A woman living in Blackpitts said the council should have a ‘real’ map of the area carved into the pavement – she was always giving directions to people who were lost around the area. Someone suggested varnishing the chalk map to the pavement. Some people were happy for me to cheat the map in the areas where the scale didn’t match up, others got me to rub out bits that were wrong.

The first man came back and talked about doing a version based around disabled access. One woman marked in a local food co-op with its opening times. One kid wrote his name in a corner. A man marked the layout of a local derelict church and an underground river. I gave a couple of boxes of chalk to kids and one to the street artist, who said he liked to draw Vikings and then played Raglan Road on a tin whistle for me.

At 5.45pm I packed up. Someone in the doorway of Fallon’s offered me a pint, but I was tired and went home. 





-Posted courtesy of Lian Bell

TRACK: A contemporary city conversation

12 May
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Ahmet Öğüt, “The Castle of Vooruit,” 2012.*
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TRACK
a contemporary city conversation
12 May–16 September 2012S.M.A.K.
Citadelpark
B-9000  Ghent, Belgium

T +32 9 240 76 60
info@track.be

www.track.be
Twitter

Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren and Mirjam VaradinisTRACK is a unique art experience in the public and semi public space of the city of Ghent. It offers surprising, enriching, and unexpected encounters with the city, its history, and its inhabitants and incites to reflect upon urban realities and the contemporary human condition in a broader sense. Thirty five international artists were invited to conceive new art works that are strongly rooted in the urban fabric of Ghent but link the local context with issues of global significance.

The two curators Philippe Van Cauteren and Mirjam Varadinis took the time to select exemplary locations in the wider city centre of Ghent and invited artists who have an affinity with the thematical context of those places. The selected artists used the local reality as a fertile source of inspiration and the results of their in-depth explorations are not simply traditional works of art, but artistic projects in all different media that embrace the social, economic, cultural, and political conditions of the city and the times we live in. Their works call for participation, interact with the different communities in various ways, and leave permanent traces.

TRACK is conceived as a universe of parallel narrations, occurences and (hi)stories. It consists of six clusters that offer a historical, cultural, architectural, and mental cross-section of Ghent and the idea of a city today. Each cluster has its own distinct atmosphere and touches upon a specific issue like mobility, religion, migration, economy, language, science, and city changes.

TRACK invites the audience to explore the exhibition in various ways. Visitors do not have to follow a given linear trail but are free to choose their own personal TRACK through the clusters and the city. Each visitor thus creates a different kind of narration, based on his or her background and the way they are approaching the exhibition. This free and multi-layered perception corresponds to our globalised world and the idea of plural realities happening at the same time.

TRACK is welcoming everybody to visit the exhibition and to be inspired by the visionary potential of art.

TRACK was initiated by S.M.A.K. It continues the tradition established by the large-scale exhibition projects Chambres d’Amis (1986) and Over the Edges (2000), which installed contemporary art in the context of the city and entered into direct dialogue with the public.

Participating artists
Adelita Husni-Bey, Ahmet Öğüt, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Alon Levin, Bart Lodewijks, Benjamin Verdonck, Christina Hemauer & Roman Keller, Christoph Büchel, Cyprien Gaillard, Danh Vo, Emilio Lopez-Menchero, Erik van Lieshout, Erwan Mahéo, Javier Téllez, John Bock, Lara Almarcegui, Lawrence Weiner, Leo Copers, Lonnie van Brummelen & Siebren de Haan, Mark Manders, Massimo Bartolini, Mekhitar Garabedian, Michaël Borremans, Michaël Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Mike Bouchet, Mircea Cantor, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Pawel Althamer, Peter Buggenhout, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Pilvi Takala, Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost, Superflex, Susanne Kriemann, Sven Augustijnen, Tadashi Kawamata, Tazu Rous, Tercerunquinto, Teresa Margolles, Tobias Putrih, Yorgos Sapountzis

Read the TRACK Manifesto at www.track.be.

Media relations
Ms. Els Wuyts
T +32 92 240 76 47
els@smak.be

*Image above:
Ahmet Öğüt, The Castle of Vooruit, 2012. Copyright S.M.A.K.

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Roach Memorials: Mini monuments to our fallen, ubiquitous urban cohabitators

4 May

Reposted from: http://www.juxtapoz.com/Current/a-roach-remembered-bug-memorials

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You know those people who get really mad if you step and/or kill a bug? Well, they will love the work of Minneapolis’ Carmichael Collective, who created this mini-street installation, A Roach Remembered, with the tagline: “This is a tribute to a cockroach that lived its life to the fullest. 2012 — 2012. RIP little buddy.”

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Plant tags for public interpretation

4 May

Reposted from: http://www.juxtapoz.com/Street-Art/plant-style-tags-for-sidewalk-fixtures

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Carmichael Collective is a company based in Minneapolis, Mn that creates projects for the sake of creativity, simple objective right? Using the same idea of plant tags, used to identify and educate about a particular specimen, but using them on everyday sidewalk fixtures we are all familiar with. Apparently from the information on these tags, all these objects are ok in varying degrees of the sun!

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Reviving America’s walkscapes

22 Feb

Matt Tomasulo is confronting the default culture of the American automobile. He is hoping to simply remind urban-bound Americans (specifically those in Raleigh, NC) of how accessible their cities can be through walking. His tactic – activist signage. The signs themselves are apparently illegal, and as such, they raise an interesting issue about the possibilities and problematics of democratizing urban planning – even simply public information about walking distances.

More information:

http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/02/22/1875863/grad-students-guerilla-signs-encourage.html

http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/10723762/

Follow the project on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Walk-Raleigh/215446568544375

Water Calligraphy Street Art

19 Feb

Reposted from Hyperallergic



LOS ANGELES/BEIJING — The sanlunche (三轮车), or tricycle, is ubiquitous in Beijing. A cart dragged along by either a human-powered or electric-powered bicycle, it zips around alleyways and highways alike, carting whatever it is the rider placed in back.

The words spit out by the water calligraphy device look like they were created by a dot matrix printer.

The words spit out by the water calligraphy device look like they were created by a dot matrix printer.

So why not place a calligraphy machine? I saw this in Beijing many months ago but recently discovered photographer and videographer Jonah Kessel’s excellentshort film on Canadian media artist Nicholas Hannah’s Water Calligraphy Device (水书法器), a tricycle-toted machine that spits out writing programmed in the computer installed on the handlebars. While the device could create any kind of shape, Chinese writing is ideal for a machine on a moving vehicle, as it has traditionally been written vertically.

“When they start seeing the machine they’re like what is that, you know?” Hanna says in the video of curious passersby. “It doesn’t have the same grace and beauty [as brush calligraphy] because it’s mechanized and automated.”

But I remember coming across some of his characters one night. They weren’t obvious at first — they looked like stray cooking oil or some other liquid — but as I walked over them, I started to make out the words, plotted onto the ground like a dot matrix printer. The writing had a strange beauty of its own, a quirky update of the old practice of writing calligraphy on the ground.

Here’s a clip Hanna uploaded of a prototype, dragged along in a handpulled cart in Beijing’s Beihai Park:

Artist talk by Betsey Biggs on “The Providence Postcard Project”

13 Feb

UCHCP Team meet with Bert Crenca, Director of AS220

31 Jan

On Saturday 28 January 2012, the UCHCP project team met with Bert Crenca, Director of AS220 – Providence’s international renowned unjuried and uncensored art space and community. The ongoing work of AS220 in working with urban communities and artists and in revitalizing the city through the development of dilapidated historic properties in downtown Providence was a remarkable and inspirational case study for the project team in thinking about the impact that collective creative action can have on the form and manifestation of urban life.

Opening of the Providence Postcard Project

25 Jan

A love letter to, and ongoing exploration of, the city of Providence

Lower Lobby Gallery | Granoff Center for the Creative Arts | 154 Angell Street | Providence, Rhode Island

Opening reception: January 27, 2012 – 5:30pm

1000 postcards – 100 photographs – 22 neighborhoods. “The Postcard Project,” by artist Betsey Biggs, explores the familiar souvenir medium of postcards as a source of reflection by the residents of Providence on what meanings the city holds. Beginning this week, the project will be distributing pre-addressed, postage-paid postcards featuring photographs taken by Biggs during her visits to the neighborhoods of Providence. Local residents and members of the general public are invited to pick up postcards at Providence Community Library locations throughout the city, write to the Postcard Project, and share their own stories about the many places of Providence.

Biggs has designed the project to explore the many layers of both memories and imaginative associations that particular places in Providence hold for its residents. By using a combination of person-to-person engagement and postal circulation, the project spotlights the ideas of exchange and correspondence and their roles in the production of historical narratives. In the artist’s own words, “Cultural heritage is a palimpsest of recollections, associations, and stories; I have a particular interest in canonizing the personal, ephemeral, inconsequential stories that are often left out of heritage practices, and hope to create something beautiful out of these evanescent materials.”

Starting January 27, the images and stories of the returned postcards will be on display in the lower lobby gallery of the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts on Brown University’s campus, 154 Angell Street. Join us for the opening party to meet the artist, pick up a postcard and share your own stories on January 27 from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm.

This commission has been realized as part of the Urban Cultural Heritage and Creative Practice international research collaborative organized by Ian Alden Russell, Curator, David Winton Bell Gallery in collaboration with Prof. Sue Alcock, the Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology; Prof. Steven Lubar, the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage; Prof. Rebecca Schneider, the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.