Tag Archives: urban

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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Out of Sth – Changing perceptions of city space

30 Apr
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Projektor Group, 2012.

OUT OF STH vol.3

www.bwa.wroc.pl
www.outofsth.org

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OUT OF STH vol.3
is yet another stage of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning projects: External Artists.Out of Sth andOUT OF STH presents (2008, 2010), carried out in BWA Wroclaw and city space.

This time the project includes exhibitions, realizations and activities concentrating on the issue of the City in its social and political dimension, City as a source of counter-cultural and alternative aspects of street activism, whose idea annexes new spheres of culture.

OUT OF STH vol.3 is a multi-layered interactive event aiming to change the perception and co-existence of art in city space, within the trends of contemporary visual art, through the presentation of a spectrum of aesthetics, techniques, and media, as well as its permeation into mass design. It is a broad presentation of work of artists tackling urban themes, a new definition and function of the city, common public space, urban design, complimented by music events, performances, meetings, workshops and lectures, during which the artists will be sharing their visions of the city and the unique aesthetics thanks to which art beyond gallery space has drawn the attention not only of urban rebels.

Awangarda Gallery, BWA Wrocław, PL
30 April–17 June 2012
Les Fleurs du Mal – New Art From London

The project refers to the political idea of the City, the role played by space and spontaneous, structuralized ludic transactions in its origin, integration or modification. The exhibition presents new art from London referring directly to public space, which is a platform for alternative political strategies and open thought systems.

-Edwin Burdis, Tod Hanson, kennardphillipps, Kieron Livingstone&Ian Allison, Emily McMehen, Laura Oldfield Ford, The People Speak/Talkaoke, Max Reeves, Clunie Reid, John Russell, Francis Thorburn, Ruth Evan, Liam Gillick, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Tai Shani, Gavin Turk, Bob&Roberta Smith, Ben Eine, Sarah Baker, Olaf Brzeski, Antoni Wajda

curator: Cedar Lewisohn

Free Ride Art Space – bike exhibition
The cycling culture is one of the most vital activities of urban streets, and the bicycle itself – a sign of the times, symbol of the post-modern era and an alternative use of the city. Exercise in the physical sense becomes activism, a new way of life resembling social movement, pro-equality, pacifist even – “Bikes Not Bombs”! The contemporary-art exhibition presents works of artists from France, Germany, USA, Britain and Italy, all referring to the phenomenon of the cycling movement.

-Martin Caminiti, Kevin Cyr, Alain Delorme, Laurent Duthion, Joshua Frankel, Max Knight, Damien Leblon, Benedict Radcliffe, The Pit, Yann R’Cycle, Philip Symonds, Cédric Viollet,

curator: Blandine Roselle

CITY ZONE
25 May–24 June 2012

The city–experimentally.

Cities as sources of counter-cultural and alternative aspects of street activism, as ideas annexing new spheres of culture. The city which in its social and political dimension requires redefining its significance in the light of the communication and information leap which has permanently changed the face of world economy and politics in the times of intensive urbanization.

Who does the city belong to today? Are blocks of flats only bad? What is the role of art in the process of gentrification? Does public space exist? Do we really need it? Or is it perhaps as anachronistic as mediaeval market squares around town halls?

The project is a form of urban facelift, both mental and visual. It is an experiment which contests the absurd status quo, at the same time reminding that the city is Ours, yours and mine, and all the necessary tools are widely available.

Ex: City
BNNT, Rafał Czajka, Magda Drobczyk, Ekta, Piotr Flądro, TRUTH, ŁuhuuGroup, Hello Monsters, Jacek Jankowski, Jerzy Kosałka, Olivier Stak, Paweł Kowzan, Maciej Kurak, The Kurws, Piotr Łakomy, Grzegorz Łoźnikow, Russel Maurice, Mudwig, Sickboy, Maciej Salamon, ZBK

Re: Design
Łukasz Paluch, Edgar Bąk, Jakub Jezierski, Jura Kaniewski, Aleksandra Niepsuj, Projektor Group,  Hakobo, Vova Vorotniov, Olek Modzelewski

Neighbours
Basia Bańda, Olaf Brzeski, Coxie, Egon Fietke, Otecki, Ola Kubiak, Beata Rojek, Rafał Wilk, Krzysztof Żwirblis

curators: Joanna Stembalska, Sławek Czajkowski ZBK

BWA Wroclaw Galleries of Contemporary Art, Poland
www.bwa.wroc.pl
www.outofsth.org

Pamuk’s ‘Museum of Innocence’ opens in Istanbul

30 Apr

Turkish Writer Opens Museum Based on Novel

Orhan Pamuk, center, whose novel “The Museum of Innocence” led to the museum, which opened on Saturday in Istanbul. Photo: Jodi Hilton for The New York Times. More Photos »
By J. MICHAEL KENNEDY
Published: April 29, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/30/books/orhan-pamuk-opens-museum-based-on-his-novel-in-istanbul.html

ISTANBUL — The first thing you see are the cigarette butts. There are thousands of them — 4,213 to be exact — mounted behind plexiglass on the ground floor of the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s new museum, named for and based on his 2008 novel, “The Museum of Innocence.”

It’s a fittingly strange beginning to a tour of this quirky museum, tucked away in a 19th-century house on a quiet street in the Cukurcuma neighborhood, among junk shops that sell old brass, worn rugs and other bric-a-brac.

But it is also, like everything else on the museum’s four floors, a specific reference to the novel — each cigarette has supposedly been touched by Fusun, the object of the narrator’s obsessive love — and, by extension, an evocation of the bygone world in which the book is set.

The Museum of Innocence” is about Istanbul’s upper class beginning in the 1970s, a time when Mr. Pamuk was growing up in the elite Nisantasi district. He describes the novel as a love story set in the melancholic back streets of that neighborhood and other parts of the European side of the city. But more broadly it is a chronicle of the efforts of haute-bourgeois Istanbulis to define themselves by Western values, a pursuit that continues today as Turkey as a whole takes a more Islamic turn. Although Mr. Pamuk said the book explores the “pretensions” of upper-class Turks, who “in spite of their pro-Western attitudes are highly conservative,” it is hard not to the see the bricks-and-mortar Museum of Innocence as largely an act of nostalgic appreciation.

Mr. Pamuk, 59, is Turkey’s best-known writer, albeit a divisive one thanks to his Western orientation. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, around the time he was being tried and acquitted for making “un-Turkish” pronouncements about the Armenian genocide. In person he gives off an aura of the kind of elitism that can come with a privileged upbringing and a successful literary career.

As the museum was preparing to open late last week, with workmen hauling around ladders and a staff member stocking the gift-shop shelves with Mr. Pamuk’s books, the author himself was going full tilt, giving orders and making last-minute tweaks as he walked a reporter through the displays.

He said the museum cost him about what he received for the Nobel — roughly $1.5 million — including what he paid for the house 12 years ago, when he had the idea for the project. Then there is the amount of time he has devoted to it on and off over the past dozen years: by his estimate about half a book’s worth, a lot considering that his novels tend to run to 500 pages or more.

The museum’s displays are organized according to the story line of “The Museum of Innocence,” which opens as a wealthy, self-centered young man is making love with Fusun, a distant relative and store clerk he has met while shopping for his soon-to-be fiancée.

“And as I softly bit her ear, her earring must have come free and, for all we knew, hovered in midair before falling of its own accord,” an opening line reads. Mr. Pamuk paused in front of the first of 83 display cases — there is one for each chapter of the book — and pointed to a single earring. Then he moved along to other vitrines, talking about how items were chosen and how a few displays were still works in progress even after all these years of preparation.

“As far as I know this is the first museum based on a novel,” he said. “But it’s not that I wrote a novel that turned out to be successful and then I thought of a museum. No, I conceived the novel and the museum together.”

While writing the book he collected more than a thousand artifacts that reflect the story, from a tricycle to dozens of ceramic dogs, from lottery tickets to news clippings of women with black lines drawn across their eyes (once standard in Turkish newspaper coverage of women connected to scandal).

Mr. Pamuk’s protagonist and narrator, Kemal Basmaci, becomes more and more obsessed with Fusun as other aspects of his life fall apart, and eventually he begins collecting things — and stealing them from Fusun’s home — in what will ultimately become his life’s work: the building of a museum in tribute to his onetime lover. For a time Mr. Pamuk became Kemal, looking for pieces that reflected each chapter as he wrote it, searching the junk shops of Istanbul and other parts of the world. The collection he assembled reflected not only the plot of “The Museum of Innocence,” but also Istanbul during Turkey’s halting movement into the modern era.

“We remembered how the Istanbul bourgeoisie had trampled over one another to be the first to own a electric shaver, a can opener, a carving knife, and any number of strange and frightening inventions, lacerating their hands and faces as they struggled to learn how to use them,” Kemal says in the book.

Such items too are in the museum, along with old clocks, film clips, soda bottles and clothes of the era.

At the top of the house Mr. Pamuk sat down on a bench in front of the bed where Kemal is meant to have slept in the last years of his life as he assembled the museum. It was lonely-looking piece of furniture.

The Museum of Innocence opened to a small crowd on Saturday morning, after a packed news conference on Friday at one of Istanbul’s fanciest restaurants. Most of the visitors seemed to be fans of the book who wanted to match their vision with Mr. Pamuk’s. There was Latife Koker, who had traveled an hour and a half by bus that morning; Renata Lapanja, who lives in Slovenia; and Erdogan Solmaz, who, like Mr. Pamuk in his youth, is an architecture student at a university in Istanbul. He said Mr. Pamuk’s efforts had made this collection starkly different from others in the city, which has some of the finest museums in the world.

“This one is about people,” Mr. Solmaz said. “This is much more personal and dramatic.”

Personal, yes, but only to a point, Mr. Pamuk said. “This is not Orhan Pamuk’s museum,” he said. “Very little of me is here, and if it is, it’s hidden. It’s like fiction.” In his view both the book and the museum are largely about sadness, and in particular the “melancholy of the period.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 30, 2012, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Turkish Writer Opens Museum Based on Novel.

Hamburg’s Trashcam Project

21 Apr

Hamburg´s garbagemen create portraits of their city in the Trashcam Project – with their garbage containers. Standard 1.100 litre containers are transformed to giant pinhole cameras. With these cameras the binmen take pictures of their favourite places to show the beauty and the changes of the city they keep clean every day.

The Trashcam Project was developed by Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and the Hamburg sanitation department. Special thanks to Hamburg based photographer Matthias Hewing (www.matthiashewing.de/) for his professional advice and the challenging lab work with the giant negatives.

See images from the project here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetrashcamproject/

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: