CRAF, the paperplane machine for protests

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-24 09:12:28

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Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee, CRAF, 2014

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Examples of different themed projectiles

Third (and last) project from the graduation show of The interactive Architecture Lab, a Bartlett School of Architecture research group and Masters Programme headed by Ruairi Glynn, Christopher Leung and William Bondin...

With CRAF, Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee looked at how machines can be deployed to organize spectacles and engage people into performances and new forms of social protests. CRAF turns into paper planes messages of protests that people exchange on social media. Comments and reactions sent to @aerocraf are printed on paper, folded into little projectiles and thrown over passersby by a 6 meter high paper plane-folding machine.

Quick discussion with Tamon Sawangdee:

Hi Tamon! Why did you call the work CRAF? Is it an acronym?

CRAF has many meanings for our project. It came from our first paper plane folding machine project, which was called "AEROCRAFT". We chose the word "CRAFT" to signify its folding activity and transportation ability. After we have been working on our project for a while, we develop ourselves and our machines into an agency that is called CRAF. Having our ideas rooted from people protesting and looking for ways to express their ideas or feelings, we created CRAF to be the agent that works with people and can act for them. It is an acronym from Civilian Research and Acting Facilities.

You tested CRAF on Gordon Square. Can you tell us about the experience? How did people react?

The experience from testing CRAF in Gordon Square was really amazing. We have been working on it for a long time and it was the first time that we got to see it fully equipped and elevated up to 6 metres in the park. The weather was nice and sunny on that day so we got a lot of audience from the people who came in to have lunch, as well as, the ones who were just passing by. Some would come to talk to us about how it worked and what it was, while, most of the people sat around and waited to see the performance. One of the noticeable reaction that we got was the group of people who sat down and asked each other "What is that?" pointing to our machine. People were talking about our project and they were surprised about it being in the center of what was usually very quiet park. We were satisfied about the test in Gordon Square because a lot people showed a lot of interest. It was nice to see people enjoying what we were doing.

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Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee, CRAF, 2014

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Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee, CRAF, 2014

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Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee, CRAF, 2014

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Example of Print Out Invitations to be folded by the machine

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Is there any reason why you selected the colours red white and blue for the ribbons hanging from the machine?

Our theme for CRAF was #FLYFORPEACE, it is a civilian service. Our concerns, are about the political, socio-economical and cultural sustainability aspect of the community. We chose the colour red, white and blue for our prototype because we wanted to give it an appearance of stability, freedom, with a touch of revolution and justice. We wanted our machine to be amicable but not too whimsical, though, at the same time representing the topics of the conversations that we were trying to create. At that time, our machine was representing the Scottish Independence Referendum, if our machine was to perform to represent another message, the colours of the ribbons could change to match that theme.

How does it work? How does the paper get fold into airplanes?

If you tweet to the machines twitter account @aerocraf. The printer would print the message onto the paper plane. When the paper comes out of the printer, it gets fed into the paper plane folding machine, that's when the folding starts to happen. There are 3 steps of folding. The paper travels through the machine by the use of rollers controlled by motors, chains and sprockets. The machine folds the paper in to a plane by folding the tip of the paper plane first, and then the side wings, the centre of the plane gets fold half until it comes out of the machine. Then, it is ready to launch!

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View from CRAF looking down over the park

And does the machine send the planes in random directions?

The machine can rotate 180 degrees. The rotational movement can vary depending on the site and installation strategies. The print outs and the instructions of how to use the machine comes out in random directions when there are many people. We want the paper planes to be received by the citizens, so, ideally it would have a behavior that looks for people and decide its projectile direction.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered while developing the work?

One of the biggest challenge while developing the work was how to get people to realise that the paper planes that we were flying was containing a message. In order for our project to work smoothly, we needed to get people from the public to work with us. We had a lot of trouble trying to get people to behave accordingly to how we expected, which was to pick up our papers and investigate them and respond our paper planes. Different people in different places would react differently, we had to do many experiments to find our way of delivering the paper airplanes, its flying ability, and what it looks like and how the messages communicate to the people. We also had to design our installation strategy and opening performance to grab the interest from the crowd.

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Paper Plane Manufacturing Line Embedded into Aluminium Folded Plane Structure

The text of the catalogue says "CRAF can be a network of communication platforms along the city by having machine carriers traveling along the existing bike routes of London." Could you explain how that would work?

CRAF was created to be a communication platform that was initially inspired from the contemporary social crisis and the expressions of dissent happening around our world. We wanted it to be able to serve as a novel communication tactic that people can use to express themselves freely about their ideologies or simply talk to each other via the aid of social media in the hope that it would create a stronger and more culturally sustainable community.

When we were developing CRAF, we were looking for strategies to disseminate our messages and get people involved with the performances. We studied street performances and theatrical machines. We got inspired by how they were able to attract or engage people into live events. Because of that, the idea of using bicycles as a mode for transporting our machines came to our minds -- however, we were not limited to just bicycles but tend to see CRAF working rather more of something like a vehicle or a machine integrated within a vehicle. Our machines were designed to be able to travel around and interact with people or get people to interact with each other along its path. In that sense, we think that CRAF can be developed into a system of multiple machines that can be moved or carried around the city.

Making use of social media and the rapid spread of its content via the internet and social networks, we wanted CRAF to become an agency that can be installed into different nodes like the public spaces of London. The communication network coming out from CRAF is imagined to work similar to that of online social network from social media. Instead of only having people interacting in the online space, we wanted to bring people from the online communities out to enjoy the physical environment. When CRAF physicalised online messages into public space, we can have a real human to human interaction. In a way, CRAF is meant to encourage physical social networks happening from the systems machines traveling and sending out messages around its routes.

What is next for CRAF? Are you planning other performances?

At the moment we haven't been planning any performances.

Eizo is back in Japan and I am now in Thailand. We are both doing different things.
Maybe it can be adapted into something suitable for Bangkok or Tokyo. We'll see.

Thanks Tamon!

Also from the same Bartlett course: The Eye Catcher and Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion.

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Because i always wondered what an artistic residency in the Arctic might be like...

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-21 11:52:32

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This week, i'm talking with French artist Benjamin Pothier who is currently frost-bound for an ARS BIO ARCTICA residency organized by the Finnish Bio Art Society at Kilpisjarvi Biological Station in Lapland.

Pothier is in the region to shoot videos and make sound recordings but because he a PhD researcher in Arts, Anthropology and Architecture at the CAIIA Hub of the Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth, he is also investigating nomadic architecture, drawing lessons from the way nomadic cultures live in symbiosis with the environment and more generally exploring issues of global warming which are felt so acutely in circumpolar regions.

The artist had previously attended the FIELD_NOTES laboratory at Kilpisjarvi Biological Station and last year he had been invited as an artist to participate to the Arctic Circle Residency 2013, in the international territory of Svalbard.

I'm catching up with Benjamin while he is still in the Arctic and before he files to South Africa to show his photos of icebergs in Johannesburg....

Benjamin Pothier, 8KNOT Trailer

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Hi Benjamin! The ARS BIO ARCTICA residency has an emphasis on the Arctic environment and art and science collaboration. Are you working with scientists over there? How?

Well, I am not working with scientists right now as there are no scientists at the station at the time, I mean apart from me! What is specific to my work is that I am actually an artist AND a researcher. I am a researcher in anthropology, which is usually classified as a "Social Science". But of course anthropology means much more than that for me. I have been driven to anthropology researches for intellectual and artistic reasons. I think the perspective on society one can gain through anthropological studies or research is quite similar to the position of the artist in our societies, and maybe even in traditional societies, as long as you consider the role of the shaman, which in my opinion is connected in many ways to the role of the artist in contemporary societies. But this is probably more an artist statement than an academic point of view.

As an artist i'm connecting to the site, the landscape, the nature and surroundings, through Photography and documentary film direction, but it is really a way to connect to the site. because all of this also include long walks, or staying still under snow or strong wind near an arctic lake shore, for example, to do video or sound recording. And the body is as much an interface with the landscape as the camera or the microphone.

Then as a researcher I try, and sometimes manage, to get an overview about theses experiences, mainly life in the arctic circle for this residency, in order to widen the frame of reference for my research.

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Sound recording on the Shore of Kilpisjarvi's Lake 22/10/2014. -5°C strong wind

What brought you there? Because surely there must be art residency in more hospitable parts of the world?

I'm actually a PhD candidate at the CAIIA the Center for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts, in the program of the Planetary Collegium, which is supervised by the professor and artist Roy Ascott, and my research is focused on Circumpolar North Arctic and Subarctic Tribes... that's probably one of the reason! But I would love to visit... hum... Vancouver or San Francisco for example ! I am also passionate about the art and craft of the Haida people of Pacific Northwest Coast of North America for example...

Well last year I've been selected for the Arctic Circle residency, organized by The FARM,INC, a NYC based cultural organization. And we went up to 20° from the North Pole. I find this kind of residencies challenging. And I like it. For the Arctic circle residency we had to take a zodiac boat every morning to go to the shore, protected by three armed guide against potential polar bears attacks, and it's an "interesting" way to do film direction or photography. For me it was also a way to gain "field knowledge" on contemporary ways to "survive" in the arctic, through discussions with the arctic guide and a study of their gears and behavior.

As an artist I am also interested by that kind of harsh environments because it questions the place of humans on Earth... it's connected to some of my pursuits, I am quite interested by the work of Survival research laboratories, for example, or the Makrolab created by Marko Peljhan, or Angelo Vermeulen's Seeker projects. I'm honestly a die hard fan of "old school Cyberpunk", science fiction at large as well as bio-regionalism and vegan cooking... and to deal with rugged, waterproof or foldable technologies in this harsh environment, or to cook my vegan bolognaise with dried soy chunks in the station kitchen, all of these are experiences that fits with all those pursuits.

And well, of course the Arctic is NOT Antarctica, but I'm a big fan of the movies The Thing, the John Carpenter's one and the quite recent prequel as well. So some of the experiences I'm living there are materials for future art projects, who knows? Art installations, short sci-fi movies or novels, but with strong first-hand field experiences as background. And some like photographing the landscape or directing a cross media project here are very concrete art experiences with a result in the short term.

The Arctic is the perfect place to engage into those kind of life and art experiences. I like being in a place where I can feel that nature is stronger than me, even if it is always a very calculated risk, I'm very cautious and I have a kind of "preppers" mindset. But in a "philosophical" point of view, when I'm saying that "Nature is stronger than me", it's probably because "I" like when "I" becomes "Nature" and there is no more "me" for a few minutes. that's the reward. It's a Zen type experience. I am really not the first human nor artist talking about that!

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Fire inside the Kota

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Benjamin Pothier, Maiitsoh (open)

This is not the first time you are at the Kilpisjarvi research station. You first went there in 2011 for the Finnish Bioart Society's Field_Notes workshop. So is this residency a continuation of the previous one? Or are you working on something entirely different?

Well I was working on something quite different at that time, an interactive documentary Installation about Computer History that I presented at the Computer Art Conference #4 CAC#4 in Rio de Janeiro in September, the project is called Maiitsoh: I've interviewed various people from William Gibson to Noam Chomsky, or John Cale, about topics dealing with computer history, consciousness and creativity, and I was working on that project at the time of the Field_Notes workshop. Maiitsoh is the Navajo word or more precisely the Dineh world because the so-called "Navajo" call themselves Dineh... And it's more than time to give some recognition to the indigenous people. So it's the Dineh word for the Wolf. It's a direct homage to the code talkers during World War II, at that time the Dineh language was used by the Allies as an "analog" cyphering technique, while the Axis Countries where using a mechanical cyphering machine, the Enigma machine. The first ever modern computer ever built, Colossus, was actually built to break the Enigma machine code. It's a part of history quite well known in the computer community. There is also a not that good movie directed by John Woo about the Dineh code talkers. I used the name Maiitsoh as a tribute to the Code Talkers, but also for it's similarities with Macintosh. Maiitsoh is made of wood, like the first computer mouse or the first Apple computer... it's really a multi scalar project. It's about creativity, it's a 3 or 4 dimensional Nodal point, in the Gibsonian perspective. it's a wooden computer and it's an icon of computer recent History. Forget about plastic, the first computers owe things to the wood!

Nowadays i'm very focused on my PhD research, which is a study of the patterns of the Ainu people, the aboriginal people of North Japan. It's for me one of the most beautiful form of craft on this planet. This is a very subjective comment. As an artist, I just love the shape of their patterns.

But the subject is a bit wider. I am questioning the origins of arts and craft on this planet, basically. Why did the human species started to draw, to do sculptures, embroidery ? That is the question! I never take for granted anything that exists on this planet. Why do people wear pants made with denim fabric for example ? And why don't we embroider our clothing nowadays ? What is an object ? Why do human grow those kind of vegetables in the area, and not other ones ? To get perspective is always a good way to make a daily fresh start and enhance your human experience.

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You brought a bike in the Arctic? Is it a very practical mode of moving around up there? What's the story of the bike?

Yes, I brought a foldable bike there, a Brompton. For various reasons. First, It's an artistic and activist statement, here in the Arctic which is of course one of the first region exposed to global warming. I am really pro-biking, I was even close to people from Critical Mass at a time. I am proud about that past. It's a shame to see that people are so unconscious of environmental problems. Last year in Svalbard, at 20° from the North pole, we saw styrofoam on the shore. In that incredible landscape... and of course the invisible pollution is also quite dramatic... Species are disappearing , the arctic is melting, and I guess nobody forgot Sandy Superstorm... well , I don't have a short term memory and I remember being already aware of those increasing problems in the 90ies... And you can really make eco-friendly businesses and make money. So come on! Humanity is a teenager trashing its room.

So it is in a way an homage to old friends from the activists community, to bring a bike here in the Arctic, and to use it to circulate around the station, or to go to the grocery store few kilometers from here, despite the wind and snow... But there is also something related to artistic performance, to use that quite "urban Bike" which is in a way the "Rolls Royce" of folding bikes, and to use it on hard snowy roads in the Arctic Circle. I also applied a kind of "artistic protocol" to the use of the Bike, which is a direct homage to Joseph Beuys piece I Like America and America Likes Me.

The bike never actually circulated nor touched the ground on a road before I took it out of its rugged case, here at the station. The same way Beuys didn't touch the U.S. soil before being brought to that room with a live coyote... It was an homage to the political situation of "Native Americans", and here in the North of Finland there are still Sami people, northern Europe's last hunters and gatherers. So the title could be "I like Finland and Finland Likes me", maybe ! hahaha!

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Suohpanterror, Blowupnorth

I don't personally know them but I have seen some work by a collective called Suohpanterror, they do street art and art related projects dealing with the Sami identity. They are probably much more reliable than me to talk about the Sami question. What I can give as an artist is some visibility about the question. And of course for the bike performance itself, there are some unconscious parts I can't myself explain. It's like making a collage, but in 4 dimension and in real life, with an Arctic logistic, and a study of the possible ways to bring that bike to a research station. It's very useful here for me, and it's of course a bit burlesque to bring it here. I like that mix. It's a very serious and complicated project, it's suddenly completely absurd, and then it becomes really serious again.

I honestly thought that it would be a bit more challenging than that to use the bike. The Brompton works quite well on Sapmi's roads...

And then of course the Brompton itself is a very amazing object. it's manga like and also almost Steampunk . But it's quite Beat-Punk for me. It's a super contemporary object with that 1950ies or 60ies taste and quality. And I'm actually NOT paid to say that.

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Drone FPV Training with the Search and Rescue Team from the Norwegian Red Cross

You've also been invited for a training session with people who use Drones for Search and rescue for the Norwegian Red Cross in the High Arctic. Can you describe the experience? Are you planning to apply to your work what you learnt there?

It was honestly a fascinating experience... As a researcher I have a kind of "classical anthropology " approach, but as an artist I am more interested by digital anthropology or the anthropology of technology. Honestly i've been baffled to meet those people in Tromsø. I was missing some spare parts to make my drone works here in the Arctic, so I looked for forums in Norway on the internet, and two days later I was in contact with those people. And they are very skill full experts on that domain. Their practices are connected to many of my pursuits. I've been invited last year by European Union's oldest program for collaboration in Science and technology to deliver a talk about the future of 3D printing. And then one year later, in Tromsø, on a rest area in a mountainous road I've met this guy who actually makes homemade and huge Octocopters, with 3D printed part that he designed himself.

I remember when there was no mobile phone, that's something I always remember when I want to get some perspectives about the mutations of western societies, or the world at large. I don't take technical progress for granted. It's an organic process in perpetual evolution. It's fascinating to realize what we can do in our ages with technology. People tend to forget about that. I never complain when Skype is slow... I'm always amazed to be able to talk in video with someone in California when i'm in Paris.

And well, for the experience of Drone and FPV, which stand for First Person View. It's way more fascinating than what I imagined. It's actually a physical experience to see through a camera which is flying 200 meters above yourself or at 1 kilometer from you... it's a bit trance-like, or even techno-shamanic like. The only similarity I can find is when i used a 360° camera during a training at the SAT Society for Arts and Technology in Montreal in 2013, and when I was able to see my recording in the 360 dome theatre at SAT, the Satosphere. I had the same weird physical experience challenging my perspective on vision, the body, etc... very impressive!

And of course there is this satisfaction to realize that this technology is used to rescue people, to bring two ways radios or first aid kit to people stuck in mountains.

FPV in the Arctic is definitely an amazing experience. There is that contrast that I really like, I talked about that previously. To be in the middle of that impressive nature, and to be able to use the most up to date technology. So, yes, I will clearly apply to my work what I have learnt there, probably in the form of an installation, might be a short movie also, but it's a bit too early now, I still have to integrate the process and the experience. I am really thankful to those people, and particularly people from FPV.no, Hi Kristian! :)

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Quadcopter Flying test #1....

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with aerial view of Kilpisjarvi's Research station

From what you told me by email about your residency, meeting people is an important part of your work. You're also in contact with the Sami people, for example. How do they fit into your research there?

I am actually in a region that can be defined in many ways... I'm in North Finland, i'm in the Arctic Circle, but I am much more clearly in Sapmi, which is the proper name to describe this region, usually called Lappland. I prefer to use the word Sapmi, the land of Sami people. Lappland comes from Lapp which means rag in swedish. Honestly the Sami people are not the Indigenous people I know the most, I mean in terms of anthropology or basic contemporary History. I'm mostly here to do a comparative study of their decorative patterns. Well for me the residency is much more about feeling the landscape and the ways of living in the arctic.

Next month I am invited as a visiting scholar in Anthropology at the Center for Sami studies, at the University of Tromsø, in Norway. it is actually the northernmost university on earth, and the SESAME, center for Sami studies is at the forefront of Sami and Indigenous studies. They actually deliver masters in peace studies and in indigenous studies... quite an amazing place! There, I will meet Sami people and some colleagues from various countries in order to discuss my research.

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TROMSØ'S Bridge

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View of the Bay from TROMSØ'S Bridge

What's next, after the ARS BIO ARCTICA residency?

Well in the short term, I will exhibit my series of photographs taken at 20° from the North Pole in Svalbard last year at Kalashnikovv Gallery, in Johannesburg, South Africa in December. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the IFAS, the French Institute in South Africa. It's really a great opportunity for me to be able to exhibit this Arctic related work in Johannesburg. And it will be another opportunity to talk about the arctic situation and the globalized aspect of the Climate question. I am very thankful to the IFAS for their support as well as to MJ Turpin, one of the owner of the gallery for the invitation. I think he definitely understand my work, which is something rare. He is also an artist and I really like some of his printed work and performances. South Africa is a very specific country, there is a very active art scene, as far as I know through discussions with my South African colleagues, and I had a glimpse of South African creativity last year at the Gaité Lyrique in Paris.

I'm really thrilled to be given the opportunity to exhibit my work in Johannesburg. Then I'm definitely looking for other residency opportunities, as well as planning a trip to Japan in the coming to years for my PhD research.

Thanks Benjamin!

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Preparing for some underwater video recording as well as sound recording at Kilpisjarvi's lake

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Reindeer in the forest near Kilpisjarvi's research station

All images by Benjamin Pothier.

Related story: Field_Notes: From Landscape to Laboratory.

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Retail poisoning, a disruption of consumerism

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-19 15:04:11

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Sabine Keric and Yvonne Bayer, Urban Camouflage

I'm just back from a few days at accès)s(, the festival of digital culture in Pau. It was packed with good ideas and i'll definitely blog more about it next week (or the one after considering that i still have to publish reports of events i attended in September!) but right now i need to decypher the grubby notes i took during the talk that artist and researcher Benjamin Gaulon gave on Sunday. It was a fun one and should provide you with some inspiration for your Christmas shopping chores.

The focus of his presentation was Retail poisoning , a term directly inspired by the strategies of torrent poisoning used by the entertainment industry to hack into p2p networks.

Retail poisoning is a disruption of consumerism that injects critical actions into the market. The methods of attacks are similar to those used by anti-piracy organisations to prevent file sharing of copyrighted content.

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Benjamin Gaulon at the festival accès)s(

Gaulon gave lots of examples for each strategy, i've selected only a couple of them for these notes:

1. Decoy insertion (or content pollution) is a method by which corrupted versions of a particular file are inserted into the network.

Examples:

Cildo Meireles modified Coca-Cola glass bottles. When empty they look ordinary, but political statements printed on the glass in white are revealed as the bottles are filled with the brown liquid. They range from 'Yankees Go Home' to instructions on how to make a Molotov cocktail. The empty bottles with the messages were then recycled back into the Coca-Cola distribution system.

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Cildo Miereles, Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project 1970. © Cildo Meireles

The Barbie Liberation Organization swapped the voice boxes on hundreds of talking G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls. The BLO then returned the toys to the shelves of stores, an action they refer to as shopgiving.


Barbie Liberation Organization, 1993

John Osorio-Buck buys stuffed animals in thrift stores and then dissects and reassembles them to make new creatures. The new animals are then placed back onto the shelves of the thrift store.

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John Osorio-Buck, Catch and Release

Provoked by the offer of a pedometer with the Go Active! Happy Meal at McDonald's, the Meat Helmet by SWAMP Meat Helmet is an exercise machine that forces you to chew until you have consumed the amount of calories contained in your fast food meal.


SWAMP, Meat Helmet

For Urban Camouflage, Sabine Keric and Yvonne Bayer wore Ghillie-style camouflage suits to mimic common goods bought in supermarkets.


Sabine Keric and Yvonne Bayer, Urban Camouflage #4

Antoine Lejolivet and Paul Souviron of Encastrable take self-assigned 'residencies' in DIY and gardening stores where they build temporary sculptures

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Encastrable, Résidence 11

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Encastrable, Résidence 10

Benjamin Gaulon went to Apple stores, downloaded the Corrupt.desktop app and installed it on the computers to glitch the desktop image of the monitors.


Corrupt.desktop [Apple Store Chicago] @gli.tc/h festival

2. Index poisoning makes search difficult for users of the p2p network.

Examples:

Banksy doctored 500 copies of Paris Hilton's debut album in 42 record shops across the UK, filling it with his own remixes and changing her portraits in an action that questions the vapidity and idiocy of celebrity culture.


Banksy, The Punking of Paris Hilton, 2006

Dumb Starbucks is "a parody about the power of corporate branding" as well as an exploration of the concept of parody law. According to Nathan Fielder, the law "allows you to use trademarks and copyrighted material as long as you're making fun of them."


Nathan Fielder, Dumb Starbucks, 2014

3. Spoofing: companies that disrupt p2p file sharing on behalf of content providers build their own software in order to launch attacks.

Examples:

Re-code.com, a collaboration between Conglomco and The Carbon Defense League, is a barcode database and web-based application that enables customers to "name their own price for the products they want to buy."

Re-code.com on CNN

A Mannequin Mob entered the 5th Avenue Gap in Manhattan dressed in white spandex Morphsuits and posed as mannequins. Gap security called 911. The police handcuffed many performers, but eventually allowed them to leave the store.


Improv' Everywhere, The Mannequin Mob

In July 2009, IOCOSE and friends offered the Søkkømb guillotine kit to the customers of IKEA.


IOCOSE and friends, Søkkømb, IKEA, Barcelona

4. Interdiction prevents distributors from serving users and thus slows P2P file sharing.

Examples:

The Buy Nothing Day launched by adbusters in 1992 as an international day of protest against consumerism.

Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping.
Just ask yourself: What would Jesus buy?


Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping performs a credit card exorcism

Artist The Vacuum Cleaner and accomplices invade supermarkets and proceed to walk around the aisle pushing empty shopping trolleys.


The Vacuum Cleaner, Whirl-Mart Ritual Resistance

Evan Roth, Available Online for Free stickers:

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5. Eclipse attack (aka routing-table poisoning) targets requesting peers directly by taking over a peer's routing table so that they are unable to communicate with any other peer except the attacker.

Examples:

GWEI (a system that uses google ads to eventually buy the whole company) and Amazon Noir (an automatic algorithm allowing you to download a whole book from amazon ). Two of my favourite projects ever. Both by UBERMORGEN.COM, Alessandro Ludovico and Paolo Cirio

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Amazon Noir

Darius Kazemi made a bot that randomly buys items for him on Amazon. Similarly, the Random Darknet Shopper, by Mediengruppe Bitnik, is an automated online shopping bot which uses a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week to randomly buy an item on Darknet.

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Mediengruppe Bitnik, Random Darknet Shopper, 2014

Photographer Alexis Jemus multiplied himself in an IKEA in Montreal, creating an eerie army of Jemuses inside the Street View virtualization of the store.

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Alexis Jemus, 2014

Far more examples in the tumblr archive. Don't hesitate to contact Benjamin if you know of any practice of retail poisoning that hasn't been mentioned on the tumblr yet.

The accès)s( conference is over but you can still visit the exhibition Disnovation at Le Bel Ordinaire until 6 December 2014.

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Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-13 11:14:12

Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera, by Robert Shore, arts journalist and editor of quarterly Elephant.

Available on amazon USA and UK.

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Publisher Laurence King writes: The real world is full of cameras; the virtual world is full of images. Where does all this photographic activity leave the artist-photographer? Post-Photography tries to answer that question by investigating the exciting new language of photographic image-making that is emerging in the digital age of anything-is-possible and everything-has-been-done-before.

Found imagery has become increasingly important in post-photographic practice, with the internet serving as a laboratory for a major kind of image-making experimentation. But artists also continue to create entirely original works using avant-garde techniques drawn from both the digital and analogue eras.

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

Post-Photography: The Artist with a Camera presents the works of artists who produce photographic works but aren't necessarily photographers and who use or reference images that already exist. There is, after all, plenty of material for artistic appropriation and reappropriation in our self-obsessed and all recording society: from selfies to CCTV footage, from google street view to prints found in bins.

Post-Photography is one of those beautiful classic coffee table books. Lots of images and concise paragraphs about each artist and photo series. However, Post-Photography is different from most coffee table books: the introductory essay is short but it is informative and pertinent. Not the usual "let's write something lackadaisical and call it content' (i learnt the word lackadaisical yesterday while reading the comments of a blog post about this very book. The word is so pretentious i had to use it too.) I've read and reviewed my fair share of books about photography and i think this is the first time i encounter a publication that focuses specifically on this phenomenon (or 'moment' as the author calls it) and articulates it so clearly and eloquently.

This book is split into five sections: Something Borrowed, Something New shows the artist in the guise of an editor and curator; Layers of Reality recognizes the distinctive outlook that camera has on reality; All the World Is Staged is made of images that document world constructed by the artists; Hand and Eye highlights the materiality of photography; and Post-Photojournalism -which, unsurprisingly, was the chapter that interested me the most- discusses how fabricating reality can be another, sometimes more powerful, way to document it.

Here's a few examples of the works presented in the book:

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

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Roman Pyatkova, Soviet Photo

'Soviet Photo was the only photo magazine available to photography professionals and amateurs in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1992. Like other publications of the time, it was an outlet for Communist propaganda. Roman Pyatkovka combined photographs from the magazine with his own works as a photographer making clandestine photos (mostly of naked ladies) in the 1970s and '80s. "When looking at these pictures today, we are able to reflect on the ideals and disappointments, censorship and creativity of that time," Pyatkovka writes.

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Mishka Henner, (Paleis Noordeinde, Den Haag) Dutch Landscapes, 2011

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Mishka Henner, (Staphorst Ammunition Depot) Dutch Landscapes, 2011

When Google launched its satellite imagery service in 2005, some governments attempted to censor sites deemed vital to national security. Techniques of concealment and restriction vary from country to country: cloning, blurring, pixelization, and whitening out sites of interest. The Netherlands, for example, hid hundreds of significant sites including royal palaces, fuel depots and army barracks behind stylist multi-coloured polygons. Ironically, it made the censored sites even more conspicuous. The country has since adopted a less distinctive method of visual censorship.

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David Thomas Smith, Three Gorges Dam. Sandouping, Yiling, Hubei, People's Republic of China, 2010-11. From Anthropocene

The Anthropocene series are large kaleidoscope photomontages composited from thousands of satellite online images that show some of the world's most recognizable manmade structures and urban landscapes. This work reflects upon the complex structures that make up the centres of global capitalism, transforming the aerial landscapes of sites associated with industries such as oil, precious metals, consumer culture information and excess.

Each location alludes to specific environmental or social issues. The image above, for example, represemts the urban displacement caused by the Three Gorges Dam.

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Jonathan Lewis, Lidl. From the WalmArt series

Jonathan's walmArt series shows "big box" stores around the world pixelated beyond recognition. Distorted as they are, the photos still read as consumer spaces.

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Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'The Salon', 2009

Hisaji Hara are based on Balthus paintings.
(wondering why i added this series as i so dislike Balthus' work.)

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Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Flash

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Caleb Charland, Demonstration with Hair Dryer and Aluminum Foil, 2006. From the series Demonstrations

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Caleb Charland, Atomic model, 2008. From the series Demonstrations

In his Demonstrations series, Caleb Charland used everyday objects or materials he found in surplus and salvage yards to explore the laws of physics and make the perfect portrait of a scientific phenomenon.

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Julie Cockburn, Tantrum

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Julie Cockburn, Funster, Hero, 2012

By cutting, embroidering and using collage, Julie Cockburn adds a psychological and sometimes even surreal layer to the vintage photographs she found in garage sales, high school yearbook portraits, cinema headshots, family mementos and landscapes.

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Martina Bucigalupo, Gulu Real Art Studio, 2011-12

While working in Northern Uganda, Martina Bacigalupo stopped into a photo studio to get a few shots developed. There, she noticed a standard size portrait in which the face had been cut out. The owner of the studio explained that the missing part had been used for an ID photo. When customers needed an ID head shot, he would just make a standard size portrait print from which he would stamp out the ID portrait. Bacigalupo collected all the discarded headless prints she could from the cutting room floor and created a faceless but very moving portrayal of a society which has lived through violent conflicts over several decades.

Because many people don't own a suit but want to look smart in their photograph, the studio has one suit jacket anyone can borrow even though it might not be their size.

Inside the book:

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Photo on the homepage: Nicole Belle, Untitled from Rev Sanchez, 2008.

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Fired but Unexploded

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-09 10:16:06

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

This weekend i'm in Turin for the Artissima art fair. I'll get back with a proper story about the event later. I suspect it's going to take the usual form of a photo heavy and mute post but right now i wanted to highlight Fired but Unexploded, a series of videos and photos of bombs that didn't explode.

Every day in Europe, unexploded bombs from WW1 and WW2 turn up during construction works and even in open fields and riverbeds. Approximately 15 unexploded bombs are recovered every day in Germany. In the forests of Verdun, France, "démineurs" still find about 900 tons of poisonous and explosive munitions every year. And i was very surprised to read that in my country, Belgium, between 150 and 200 tons are recovered each year. Most are stockpiled in a secure location and the most toxic and dangerous ones are wrapped in more explosives and destroyed inside a dedicated building.

Zsolt Asztalos' country, Hungary, was bombed heavily during the final months of the war by US, British and Soviet forces, with Budapest carpet-bombed on 37 occasions.

Hungary's Unexploded Bomb Disposal Department gave the artist access to some of the explosives. They might be 60 years old but these bombs still pose a risk of detonation. Asztalos sees in them a symbol of conflicts among humans:

The unexploded bombs symbolize those places and situations that the sounds evoke, he told Funzine. They may symbolize political conflicts - in this case we hear the sound of street demonstrations; they may stand for the time bombs of consumer societies - then we hear someone going through TV channels; or they may represent issues in private life and partnership - then we hear someone doing the dishes without saying a word, and the tension in the air is almost palpable. We hear all these sounds and see this unexploded bomb. The question is only when it will explode.

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded at the Viltin gallery booth, Artissima

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded, 2011


Unexploded locations

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Zsolt Asztalos, Fired but Unexploded at the Viltin gallery booth, Artissima

The bomb collection.

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A screaming comes across the sky. Drones, mass surveillance and invisible wars

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-07 10:15:36

Notes about A screaming comes across the sky. Drones, mass surveillance and invisible wars , Laboral's new exhibition that addresses the ethical and legal ambiguity of drones, mass surveillance and war at a distance.

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Hito Steyerl, Strike

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James Bridle, Watching the Watchers. Creech AFB, Nevada, 21.6.2011

Drones are very much part of today's culture. You can buy one on amazon and fly it as if it were a sophisticated kite. You also probably read how they are (or will be) used to deliver urgent medical supplies, shoot movies, monitor crops, track wildlife or gather information after a natural or manmade disaster.

In many people's minds, hobbyist and civilian uses of UAVs have overtaken the military role and origins of drones. No surprise here as what governments are doing with drones, who they are killing and how is a mystery for the public. And even often for government officials, as this video shown by curator Juha van' t Zelfde during Laboral's drone conference illustrates:


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Drones

Drones have been operating and killing since the early 2000s. Yet, we still have fairly few or no statistics regarding civilian casualties. The Bureau of Investigative Journalist does a great job at counting strikes and casualties in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Data gets blurry when it comes to attacks in other countries such as Afghanistan. And a lack of transparency goes hand in hand with a lack of accountability. The wars are fought in remote countries by invisible technologies operated in the name of people who have only a very limited knowledge of what is happening 'on the war front' and this situation contrasts with the ability that satellite images have given us to see and explore the world. The irony is illustrated by James Bridle's ongoing series of aerial photographs of military surveillance drones, found via online maps accessible to everyone.

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James Bridle, Watching the Watchers. Dryden Research Center California, 2011

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James Bridle, Watching the Watchers

The title A screaming comes across the sky is taken from Thomas Pynchon's novel, Gravity's Rainbow, which explores the social and political context behind the development of the V-2 rocket, the first long-range ballistic missile and the first man-made object to enter the fringes of space. The rocket was developed by the German military during World War II to attack Allied cities as a form of retaliation for the ever-increasing Allied bombings against German cities. Today's technologies of war, such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, and their laser-guided Hellfire missiles, bear resemblance to the V-2 in their ability to operate unseen and to strike without warning.

In the post-PRISM age of mass surveillance and invisible war, artists, alongside journalists, whistleblowers and activists, reveal the technological infrastructures that enable events like drone-strikes to occur.

I've now seen quite a few exhibitions that explored the politics, ethics and meanings of drones. A screaming comes across the sky manages to bring a fresh and compelling perspective on the issue by taking sometimes a more oblique, metaphorical approach to drones. While the curator selected some of the most iconic works dealing directly with drones today, he also looked at artists who are interested in questions of surveillance and control but in a rather poetical, symbolic or even sometimes humourous way.

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Martha Rosler, Theater of Drones

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Martha Rosler, Theater of Drones, 2013

Martha Rosler's Theater of Drones is a great introduction to the subject of drone warfare. The banner installation was first exhibited in Charlottesville, the first city in the United States to pass a law restricting the use of drones in its airspace

Talking about the drones, Rosler said: "They appear to make war invisible, but of course in the countries that we're bombing, and where people are being killed, they are a terror fact of everyday life. They don't terrorize us, because we have this classic split, which we also had during the Vietnam War of over here and over there are two different worlds, and they're not really connected."

The banners list a series of chilling facts about drones: "The Air Force has plotted the drone future to 2047. The Pentagon plans to increase funding by 700% over the next decade." "Since 2004, drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,115 people in Pakistan. Fewer than 2 percent of the victims are high-profile targets. The rest are civilians, and alleged combatants. " And this little gem of a quote by a Pentagon official:

"They don't get hungry. They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."

The same room also showed works developed by fabLAB Asturias. The prototypes, platforms and maps bring the drone issue into a context closer to citizens' daily interests and experiences (a dedicated post about fabLAB's drone experiments is coming up!) Their projects also remind the public that the U.S> military doesn't have the monopoly of questionable use of drones. Using them for surveillance, border control and in military contexts is very much part of the European agenda as well.

Quick tour of the other works on show:

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Lot Amoros, Dronism, 2013

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Lot Amoros, Dronism, 2013

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Lot Amoros, Dronism, whitedesert

As part of his ongoing research on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Lot Amoros placed posters around Egypt to inform people how to protect themselves from Israel's Heron drones. Israel is the world's leading exporter of military drones. As this video shows, Israeli drones and other weapons meet with great success on the international market as they have been repeatedly tried and tested on Palestinians.

The instructions of the Dronism document were directly quoted from real Al-Qaida drone documents. All al-Qaida references or aggressive languages were removed and replaced with peaceful instructions for the sole purpose of offering innocent civilians a series of tools to protect themselves from unmanned aerial vehicles, using common materials and trash to construct frequency inhibitors, camera blinders, etc.

Amoros also intended to send the instructions to Palestine on board a tiny DIY drone. It turned out that flying the quadcopter over the border into Palestinian territory was too dangerous. The artist and activist did however succeed to send the instructions via underground tunnels.

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Laurent Grasso, On Air (still)

I was so glad to get another chance to see Grasso's wonderful On Air again. , The film, shot in 2009 in The United Arab Emirates, looks at traditional hawk hunting. The bird in the movie is equipped with light and sophisticated surveillance equipment. Once let to roam free above the land, it becomes a spying tool, recording every dune and village it flies over. The images are fascinating but they are also threatening.

The movie and its paranoia-inducing music reminds us that a technique to use pigeons for aerial photography of enemy lines during wars was developed as early as 1907. The practice might not have vanished completely. A few years ago, articles reported that Iranian security forces had captured a pair of "spy pigeons," not far from one of the country's nuclear processing plants.

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Alicia Framis, History of Drones

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Alicia Framis, Pigeon photographers

Which brings us nicely to Alicia Framis's History of Drones. Her taxidermied work presents the pigeon as the predecessor of today's drones. In 1908, German apothecary Julius Neubronner patented aerial photography by means of a pigeon photographer. The invention was tried out for military air surveillance in the First World War and later.

Besides actually being used in military contexts as a means of surveillance and collecting intelligence, they were indeed unmanned aerial instruments, which might had a different historical importance if it wasn't for the quick and strong progress in the field of aviation. In this new work, Framis creates a light-hearted reminder of the evolution of aerial espionage.

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Preparing James Bridle's Drone Shadow drawing in Gijón, 2014

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James Bridle, Drone Shadow drawing in Gijón, 2014

MQ1 Predator Drone Shadow
located in the port of Gijón. The work has been painted by local practitioners using James Bridle's: Drone Shadow Handbook, which can be found here. A brilliantly simple and poignant reminder of military technologies, as James Bridle reminds us: "We all live under the shadow of the drone, although most of us are lucky enough not to live under its direct fire."

Check out the video below for more details about Bridle's interest in drones:

The talk is available in spanish as well.

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Marielle Neudecker, The Air Itself is One Vast Library

Really like this work. I wrote about it Here.

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Roger Hiorns, Untitled (view of the exhibition)

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Roman Signer, 56 kleine Helikopter, 2008

A video showing 56 remote-controlled toy helicopters taking to the sky to great chaos.

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Metahaven, Silent Dazzle, 2014

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Metahaven, Silent Dazzle

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Hito Steyerl, Strike

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AeraCoop (Lot Amorós, Cristina Navarro y Alexandre Oliver), Flone

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AeraCoop (Lot Amorós, Cristina Navarro y Alexandre Oliver), Flone

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AeraCoop (Lot Amorós, Cristina Navarro y Alexandre Oliver), Flone

A screaming comes across the sky. Drones, mass surveillance and invisible wars is at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre) until 12 April 2015. In collaboration with Lighthouse.

Related stories: Flone, The Flying Phone, A dystopian performance for drones, KGB, CIA black sites and drone performance. This must be an exhibition by Suzanne Treister, Under the Shadow of the Drone and The Digital Now - 'Drones / Birds: Princes of Ubiquity'.

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Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-03 07:05:08

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Bijing Zhang & Francois Mangion, Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion. Close up of furling air muscles

Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion is another* project i discovered at the graduation show of The interactive Architecture Lab, a Bartlett School of Architecture research group and Masters Programme headed by Ruairi Glynn, Christopher Leung and William Bondin.

Bijing Zhang and Francois Mangion explored the field of soft robotics and its future applications to create a soft architecture that responds to the human body:

"Furl" combines Electroencephalography (EEG) with advances in soft silicone casting of "air muscles". The introduction of soft robotics replaces the mechanical principles in interactive architecture through a biological paradigm. EEG allows sensing of human brain functioning so that our environments begin moving and responding to our very thoughts. The designed components have a wide palette of deformation patterns of inflation. Through combination of soft and hard architectural elements, "Furl" creates a new platform for a kinetic responsive architecture which can let space interact with users needs and adapt itself to environmental conditions.


Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion

Quick conversation with one of the creators of Furl:

Hi François! I hope I'm not going to shock you but I find that Furl is very fascinating but also a bit repulsive. It's a bit of an upsetting creature. It's mechanical but it also looks like it has some flesh that moves and 'lives' and that makes me uncomfortable. So why didn't you decide to make a cute little soft robot?

It is not a shock at all, in the Interactive Architecture Lab, people often attach some kind of a distinct behavioural character to their work and Furl is no exception. We always thought about Furl as a curious 'creature' of polarities, soft responsive moving components in contrast with the stiff sharp structure.

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CNC Aluminium milled casting mould

The description text in the catalogue mentions applications of soft robotics in architecture. Where do you see these applications happening? What would a 'soft responsive architecture' be able to do for us?

There's a lot of interest in robotics in Architecture right now. Mostly in fabrication but increasingly thinking about how buildings and space as whole can be kinetic in their response to inhabitation. The problem is that robotics and mechanisms are typically rigid, sometimes dangerous, and generally incompatible with close proximate behavior to people. Soft robotics creates a new platform for architecture, to interact much more sensitively and directly to the human body. These physical properties of soft materials offer a potential to create 'soft' architectural structures or components which can shift shape, rotate, bend unlike anything we've seen in architecture to date. It might be sometime before such techniques are commonplace but we think it opens up new horizons in biologically inspired architecture, an interdisciplinary approach that could potentially lead to a revolution towards a 'soft responsive architecture'.

Could you briefly tell us how the soft part works? In particular, what makes it inflate?

The soft responsive components forming Furl are "air muscles". Made of two layers of silicone with different degrees of elasticity and with air channels cast within them. This difference in mechanical properties and the arrangement of the air channels makes the muscle transform in different ways. You can essentially programme the behaviour of the air muscles by varying moulds for casting the soft material so that it can produce different 'gestures' based on geometries (such as thickness, ratio, depiction) of the solid part the air muscles and air channels. A lot of material experimentation was lead by Bijing Zhang based on work by previous members of IAL including Ben Haworth and Rom Khampanya.

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Bijing Zhang & Francois Mangion, Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion

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Proposal for 'Furl': encourage interaction through brain controlled dynamic behaviour of air muscles.

Can you explain me the part about Electroencephalography: "EEG allows sensing of human brain functioning so that our environments begin moving and responding to our very thoughts." How does it work? What can EEG sense exactly? And how does Furl respond?

Our approach to brain sensing was developed in collaboration with DSI (Data Science Institute) at the Imperial College. Using their brain sensors we were able to get raw data about levels of alpha (α), beta (β), delta (δ), and theta (Θ) brain waves. The EEG signal is closely related to the level of concentration of the person. As the activity increases, the EEG shifts to higher dominating type of brain wave frequency and lower amplitude. If people concentrated it alters the theta brain waves frequency and this would active the muscles to inflate. This was actually quite a simple response to what is actually much more powerful data that harnessed with pattern recognition and learning algorithms could spell the end of needing to touch or speak to devices or environments to control them.

Since we're exploring the softness of material, we felt that brain sensing in some way, was the equivalent in soft control. Even more powerful to simple control would be buildings able to take the data and predict and anticipate our needs even before we do. Its an exciting and equally terrifying area of research we're starting to explore and this was just a prototype of that idea.

What was the biggest challenge(s) you encountered while developing the work?

The biggest challenge we had to deal with was to acquire the knowledge of the material's physical properties and develop full understanding of the change in the dynamic behaviour of the air muscles with respect to the specific internal air channels. Through a series of design and fabricated tests we were continuously exploring the capability of mimicking a more natural behaviour and interaction.


The Making of Furl: Soft Pneumatic Pavilion

Are you planning to push this research into soft robotics any further?

Yes, definitely there are still a lot of challenges we have to deal with and the scaling up to architectural scale at this stage is something that we have to explore. On the other hand we also want to investigate the possibility of prototyping a one functional component with embedded hard materials for structural, interactive and dynamic capabilities. We also look forward in developing further the brain sensor control aiming towards full-scale soft responsive architecture.

Thanks François!

* see also The Eye Catcher.

Previous works referenced in this project: Slow Furl and HygroSkin-Meteorosensitive Pavilion.

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Last minute list of shows to see in London this weekend

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-11-01 06:47:13

Another hasty post as i'm trying to emerge from an intense marathon of moving house, giving talks, crying over irregular German verbs and generally wasting far too much time reading crime books. So here! A quick list of exhibitions i've seen recently but hadn't found time to write about:

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My number one recommendation would be to go and check out the black inflatable castle at the Copperfield gallery. Tom Dale's 'Department of the Interior' is a 6.5m high black castle that echoes the towers and crenellations of Parliament with an absurdity that mocks its claim for authority.

The show is up and bouncy until 14 November.

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Rustam Dokhtukaev sits inside his house in Kurchaloy, Chechnya. In 2008, Dokhtukaev participated in an anti-terrorist operation in the village of Dargo, in the mountainous area of the Vedensky region

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Security forces stand guard as people celebrate in the streets on the 10th anniversary of Constitution Day. In the background gleaming, new tower buildings symbolize the city's recovery and regeneration following the destruction wrought at the beginning of the millennium.

Last year, Davide Monteleone went on a search for the current Chechen identity. Above all he wanted to know which of them, Chechnya or Russia, had emerged victorious from the conflict. The answer is undeniably Russia. But if you look at it from a different angle, the answer is perhaps not so clear-cut.

Spasibo is at the Saatchi gallery until tomorrow.

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Arkady Bronnikov collected photographs of Russian prisoners tattoos between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. A senior expert in criminalistics at the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs for over thirty years, part of Bronnikov's duties involved visiting correctional institutions of the Ural and Siberia regions. It was here that he interviewed, gathered information and photographed of convicts and their tattoos, building one of the most comprehensive archives of this phenomenon.

FUEL present: Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files is on at Grimaldi Gavin until 21 November.

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Mr and Mrs Gallagher lived with their four children in a ground floor tenement flat. Their bedroom was covered in pools of rainwater. At night they sleep with the light on to keep the rats away. One night they counted 16 rats in the room. Glasgow Maryhill, October 1970

Make Life Worth Living at the Science Museum Media Space presents some of the photos commissioned to Nick Hedges by the housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

Exhibited for the first time, following a 40 year restriction to protect the anonymity of the subjects, the images reveal the deplorable housing conditions and poverty endured by people across Britain in the 1970s. Not that the situation is much rosier nowadays.

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Pen Dalton, Free Castration on Demand, A Woman's Right to Choose, ca. 1974

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A World to Win. Posters of Protest and Revolution at the V&A closes tomorrow. A fairly small but energizing exhibition.

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Believe it or not, the Imperial War Museum is my favourite museum in London. There's the Jeremy Deller bombed out car from Baghdad, one of the V-2 rockets my grand-mother used to tell me about and occasionally there's even some exciting temporary exhibition. The IWM has recently been revamped and it feels very crammed and airless in there but the collections are as stunning as ever. Here's a couple of artefacts i discovered during my last visit:

Apparently local people asked British soldiers to take down from a wall the tiled mosaic of Saddam Hussein at the port of Umm Qsar.

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I was very taken by this pair of woven straw over-boots worn by German soldiers to cover their leather boots on the Eastern front and in particular in Russia where temperatures fell below -30 degree Celsius.

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Right, i'm off to Carroll/Fletcher. They've just opened Unoriginal Genius, a show curated by Domenico Quaranta. Should be a good one.

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A dystopian performance for drones

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-10-28 13:04:53

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ


Nicolas Maigret, DRONE.2000, 2014

GAMERZ in Aix-en-Provence is probably the only festival in Europe that doesn't bat an eyelid when an artist proposes to organize a performance in which drones modified to be fairly dumb roam freely and menacingly over a room of spectators. This might not sound scary until you realize that a dumb drone is even more dangerous than a smart drone.

The two UAVs of the DRONE.2000 performance are guided by the simple algorithms of a Roomba robot. Clearly, that's not enough intelligence for them as they bump against the walls, fly far too close to the audience, dart green arrows over the heads and emit a noise that has been amplified to the point of discomfort. This could have ended in tears and bruises (but it didn't.)

The only direct experience most of us have of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) is fairly benign. We know them through hacking, art, cinema or video games. One day, these flying machines will also deliver our parcels, help coordinate firefighting efforts or keep a 'benevolent' eye over sports games. How far should their autonomy and power go? Do we trust them? Do we trust the ones who manufacture and control them?

Drone.2000 is part of a series of works by Nicolas Maigret that reminds us of the military origins and use of technologies that have reached the mainstream. Here, trusting the autonomy of the machine is not only a discursive concept, Maigret writes, but a true experience shared with the audience, triggering off their reactions, tensions and commitment of their bodies in situation of real danger..

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone-2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

I was in Aix-en-Provence for the opening of the GAMERZ festival but had to leave before the start of the performance so i asked Nicolas Maigret to give us the lowdown on his work:

Bonjour Nicolas! Which model of drone were you using in this performance?

These are Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. The advantage of this model is that it is widely used and very hack-able. A large community is working on hijacking it for different uses. (see: nodecopter = hackathon, ardupilot.com = auto-pilot, copterface = facial recognition ...)
It is not cheap and it is really is somewhere between the toys, the connected object, and the semi-pro equipment.

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

Can you explain how you modified the drone?

The challenge was really to confuse the public, to have it face the autonomy of the machines (in this case flying ones). And add to that a confrontation with instability, fragility, and the potential danger of algorithms that govern the autonomous behavior of these machine.

To do this we have reproduced the primary behaviors of a robot / vacuum cleaner like iRobot Roomba. Which means that the Drone is absolutely not aware of his surroundings, it only knows its height and rotates randomly from time to time when it bumps against an obstacle (walls, etc). We blocked the cameras normally used to stabilize the position, the Drone is literally un-intelligent. He does not know the position of the other drones either.

These changes entail an underlying sense of danger, a sort of sword of Damocles that is quite striking. Especially since these same drones falls down rather frequently (whether there is a public or not).

Each drone is also equipped with vibration sensors under the propellers. These sounds were gradually amplified during the performance, until the beating blades gets a real physical presence. This activates a martial connotation in the brutality of the contemporary sounds - this aspect recalls the sound approaches of the Futurists (or their reactivations such as Jean-Marc Vivenza's Aérobruitisme Dynamique). However, the Futurists harboured a progressive and inclusive form of hope, whereas I believe that we now have a very different rapport, we feel a growing distrust towards the widespread propaganda of technological innovations that have very little in common with yesteryear's myth of progress.

How did the public react? Were they aware of the danger?

Public reactions alternated between discomfort, nervousness, and humor.

The awkward movements of the Drones quickly made the danger tangible. Initially, most of the audience intuitively chose to stand near the walls, on the sides of the room. I think this was the time when anxiety was at its peak. Then people gradually got closer or they sat down around the space. Some even tried to interfere with the flight of these Zombie Drones. Ironically, the walls of the room, which were the places where most people gathered, were also the places where the drones usually fell.

It should be noted that the Drones also intermittently emit a laser target in the shape of a cross towards the public, openly evoking the military and oppressive parallel of this same technology that has quickly been gamified for the general public, in particular with drones plug and play like AR.Drones. (see the project blurb.)

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

Drone.2000. i love that name but the 2000 is ironic, right? it makes me think of all those shops called 'Fashion 2000' "Car dealer 2000" in the 1980s and 1990s.

The title is clearly ironic. At least it summons an imaginary future as it existed in the past, especially one related to the autonomous flying objects that we encountered in sci-fi and anticipation literature, film, comics, tv series.

I think there is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in these generational fantasies inspired by sci-fi, the entertainment industry, and more generally the effect of the zeitgeist. Indeed, entire generations grow up with a common imaginary, whether they are dystopian, critical or not. Later, as they are adults, some mechanically attempt to achieve a more or less faithful realization of that imaginary. (This is also a key point of Jean-Baptiste Bayle's Terminator Studies, or of Nicolas Nova's latest book). I think that's part of what we've been seeing over the last 20 years through a series of gadgets and "innovations", emerging notably from the Californian ideology and more generally from the new ruling class of the engineers.

The title, Drone.2000, conjures the vision of a future that is already gone, that seeks to disrupt the mask of fascination associated with innovation, and that also tends to generate a tension between our aspirations to consume science-fiction artifacts and the ideology they carry.

The term drone crystallizes fairly well this tension between, on the one hand, a fun and fascinating artifact coming from the world of model-making and on the other hand, a new paradigm in the relationship to the "clean and surgical" war (Grégoire Chamayou, Drone Theory) or a probable near future characterized by widespread surveillance and control.

It is for these reasons among others that I wanted to make the Drones completely autonomous and disturbing, a symbolic intersection between these three references.

Merci Nicolas!

Drone.2000 was produced by M2F Créations - Lab GAMERZ, Grégoire Lauvin and Nicolas Maigret.

Also by Nicolas Maigret: The Pirate Cinema, A Cinematic Collage Generated by P2P Users.

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Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2014-10-27 11:58:02

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There are three designated "holding" centres for immigrants in Canada but more than one third of detainees are incarcerated in rented beds in provincial prisons, some of them maximum security prisons where visits and support services are limited and where contact with gang members and violent offenders can be extremely stressful.

Artist and designer Tings Chak has combined her training in architectural design with her interests in human rights, migrant politics, and spatial justice in a graphic novel called Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention (Architecture Observer, 2014. Available on amazon USA and UK)

The 'undocumented' are not so much the human beings whose crime is not to have been born in the country. The undocumented are the sites where they are detained. All information about these facilities is classified and access to them is extremely limited.

In her publication, Tsing investigates the migrant detention centres in Canada -- "the fastest growing incarceration sector in an already booming prison construction industry," from the everyday acts of resistance inside the centers to the role that architectureplays in controlling and regulating migrant bodies.

The purpose of this investigation, she writes, is to make visible the sites and stories of detention, to bring them into conversations about our built environment, and to highlight migrant detention as an architectural problem.

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Excerpts from Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention

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No One Is Illegal Toronto's annual May Day march for status for all in 2010. Photo credit: Glenn MacIntosh

Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention is a brave, shocking and incredibly revealing little book and because its relevance goes way beyond the frontiers of Canada (i'm looking at you Europe and Australia), i asked Tings to tell us more about her work:

Hi Tings! Why did you chose to use drawings and only drawings to investigate the architecture of migrant detention centres in Canada?

In architecture school, we spend a lot of time thinking about visual representation. Often times, architecture is as much about the representation as it is about the built. I am interested in the way using architectural visual language and tools of representation as a political practice - how can drawings reveal and spark a conversation about the invisibilized practices and spaces of detention?

I don't know much about the prison industry in Canada. Is it a private one like in the U.S.A? And if yes, how does this influence the life of migrants detained there?

Canada's prisons and detention centres are not privately owned/run, though there have been past attempts to privatize facilities and there are many lobbying efforts, including from U.S. private prison corporations. Many private parties, however, are contracted and paid millions of dollars to manage, operate, and provide services in immigration detention centres. As an example, the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, the largest of Canada's three designated immigration detention centres, is managed by Corbel Management Corporation and security services are provided by G4S - the world's largest security firm which has been central to maintaining the apartheid state of Israel.

In terms of the life of migrants detained, up to one third of them are locked up in provincial prisons, often times in maximum security prisons. We consistently hear from detainees about the horrendous conditions, even worse than in general population, and the staff shortages that result in lockdowns for days on end. Also, being held in these prisons means that detainees often cannot call family members abroad, are too remote for in-person visits, and don't have access to the legal resources necessary to regularize their immigration status, which all exacerbate the isolation they face in detention.

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Excerpts from Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention

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Excerpts from Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention

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How much restriction to information did you have to face while investigating spaces for mass detention and deportation? Apart from testimonies from migrants, which kind of evidence is your research based on?

Information about these spaces are highly restricted, access to them is nearly impossible for members of the public. The title of the book is an acknowledgement of how these spaces are purposefully invisibilized and any information about them is classified. Recognizing this, the book is an assemblage of bits and pieces that I gathered from various sources - testimonies from detainees, descriptions from legal counsel who have visited such spaces, research that others have done about specific aspects of detention like solitary confinement, legal recommendations, and design standards for prisons and detention centres.

Here are the links to key resources I based my work on (more can be found here):
- Testimonies from detainees: Audio Statements by End Immigration Detention Network
- Solitary confinement: "Alone Inside" (2013), CBC Ideas radio documentary by Brett Story
- Legal recommendations: "Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Habitat in Prisons" (2005), International Committee of the Red Cross
- Design standards: "Contract Detention Facility Design Standards for Immigration and Customs Enforcement" (2007), U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Detention Statistics: "Canada Detention Profile" (2012), Global Detention Project

From an architectural perspective, what are the main characteristics of these centers?

These places are surprisingly banal. Unlike the dank, dark dungeons that popular depictions of prisons would have us believe, many of these facilities are familiar in the way that most institutional buildings are. This is something I wanted to highlighted in my drawings.

Another aspect has to do with the highly securitized nature of detention centres, which means that the building is compartmentalized according to discrete functions for processing, monitoring, interrogating, and containing detainees. It is impossible to understand the building as a whole, so as not to be challenged.

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What are the architectural mechanisms used to control the experiences of the people detained there?

From the segregation units to the bullet resistant glazing, the sally port to the recessed lighting units, the surveillance systems to the bolted down stainless steel toilet/sink units, every architectural detail of a space is designed to manage and maintain control of incarcerated individuals.

What I was particularly fascinated by were the design guides specific to detention centres (in the U.S. context). These manuals provide a detailed analysis of minimum design standards, including occupancy capacities, material specifications, program adjacencies, etc. Often times, the definitions of the "minimum" or the "habitable" (according to legalistic definitions) are quantified in terms of square footage or cubic volume of air space. The architectural logic of these spaces, along with a lot of other architectures, is governed by the minimum standards, which seek to minimize risk and regulate human bodies.

Could architecture be used to welcome or at least ensure a less traumatic experience for migrants?

I believe that detentions and deportations are inherently violent and traumatizing. Incarcerating people on the basis of being born somewhere else is not something we can humanize through design. I've spoken to architecture students, professors, and practitioners over the course of creating this book, and it's clear that the vast majority of them believe that immigration detention is a "problem" that could be fixed with a better "solution." What is important to note is that often times the ambition of making a space more humane and more optimal distracts and deters us from questioning the prison industrial complex, and the complicity of architects within it.

Israeli architect Eyal Weizman speaks about this problem in his book "The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza" (2012).

The major impetus of this work is to challenge architects to engage in the very difficult ethical question: are there programs for which architects should not design? There are groups such as Architects, Designers, Planners for Social Responsibility in the U.S. that have been working for years to get architects to boycott prison design. I believe that architects should be intervening by pushing the discussion towards imagining and designing real alternatives to detention.

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End Immigration Detention Rally at Lindsay Jail

You are also an organizer with No One Is Illegal - Toronto. How much impact do your actions and protests have on the immigration system? Could you give some examples?

The work that No One Is Illegal - Toronto has impacts on various levels, which include shifting the public discourse and imagination around migration and borders, building our social movement through mobilization, and developing and sharing an intersectional political analysis, among other things. At the core of it, though, is the belief that the immigration system here (and in the U.S.) is not a "broken" one that we need to reform, but that it is functioning exactly as it is designed to. The system is built on the exploitation of precarious labour, exclusion of poor migrants from the global South, and ongoing displacement of Indigenous people on Turtle Island and across the globe.

That being said, there have been significant victories over the past 10 years. After decades of community organizing, Toronto declared itself a "Sanctuary City" in February, 2013, which means that residents regardless of immigration status can access city services without the threat of detention or deportation. It is still far from being a reality on the ground. Around the End Immigration Detention Campaign that began just over a year ago, there have been some important developments. Specifically, in June 2014, after our submission to the U.N., they released an opinion condemning Canada's practice of detaining migrants for immigration reasons, and for detaining them indefinitely. The work is ongoing, and people are still organizing courageous actions inside to protest their unjust detentions.

Thanks Tings!

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