Posts tagged art

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Post-Apocalyptic Amsterdam


If you happen to be in Amsterdam today or tomorrow, you should definitely check out Kunstvlaai 2012, a Festival of Independents, and a “platform for over 70 local and international artist-led initiatives, art schools and nomadic organizations of the contemporary visual arts”.

A lot of interesting, experimental and spot-on installations and artworks are shown. One of them is this project by the New Sculpture Department, featuring a post-apocalyptic Amsterdam. Different iconic buildings (such as Central Station and Scheepvaartmuseum) are portrayed in a decayed condition and in a desolate landscape. Next to that, excavated projects from the future’s past (such as razor blades and a cheese slicer) are exhibited in a fossil condition. All in a gloomy room. 

It makes you aware of the fact that in a couple of thousand years, our cities as we know it won’t be here anymore. Quite a neutralizing thought.

Filed under apocalypse Amsterdam art urbanism

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An Artist’s Impression: Larissa Fassler On Berlin’s Kottbusser Tor

"Kotti", 2008, by Larissa Fassler

While doing preliminary research on Berlin’s Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum, we came accross the amazing artworks of Larissa Fassler, a Canadian artist living in Berlin. Her works are inspired by everyday life in cities, and focus on perceptions, patterns and human behaviour within the built environment. She uses traditional architectural instruments such as drawings, models and maps, but adds anthropologic layers and personal impressions to them. The results are fascinating cityscapes that combine the hardware and software of a city: a mapped aggregation of the actions and perceptions of the users within the architecture they inhabit. She also worked on Kottbusser Tor, and the Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum, which is the topic of our 5-day workshop in Berlin.
"Kotti", 2008, by Larissa Fassler

"Kotti" is one of her works, consisting of a scaled model and drawings. The scaled model is a representation of the publicly accessible spaces of the NKZ and its surrounding area. The cartography drawings include a wide variety of information, from the number of people crossing and the places were people urinate to the current weather and the locations of the food stalls. It seems to be a combination of a mind mapping, community mapping, and ethnographic research.
"Kotti Revisited", 2010, by Larissa Fassler

We wanted to know more about Larissa’s inspirations, impressions and ideas regarding Kottbusser Tor and the Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum, and she has been so kind to answer some questions.

MM: You have made artworks of other places before working on Kottbusser Tor. What triggered you about Kotti that made you want to get into it and make artpieces on it?
LF: Before beginning work on my sculpture and subsequent drawings of Kotti, I had done two other pieces focusing on urban architecture. The first Hallesches Tor and the second Alexanderplatz are both works that are based on underground sites. At that time I was interested in looking at the subterranean spaces of cities that contain public life. In 2004 I moved to Keuzberg not far from Kottbusser Tor and ‘Kotti’ became a place that I used and passed through daily over a period of years. This over-scaled, monolithic concrete structure, an amphitheatre-like space, held such a clash of people― punks, dogs, addicts, tourists, street-drinkers, commuters, shoppers, Turkish business owners, charity-workers, beggars, buskers, families and artists. It was a place of noise and chaos, of forced-tolerance, of misunderstanding and clashes all pressed together in an array of derelict passageways, plazas, stairwells, tunnels, platforms and aboveground walkways. Rather than constructing a model based on the positive masses of the buildings, I wanted to built and define the public space – the negative volumes – in the tunnels and between façades, following the surfaces of sidewalks and plazas, and leaving the rest as empty voids. By creating an inversion of the classic planning model I wanted to make visible the in-between, uncertain and transient spaces that delineate public life.

MM: What do you like about Kotti, and what do you like less?
LF: I like the complexity of the place - socially and historically; its liveliness and chaos; the mix of shops, cafes and housing; its atmosphere - it is a place for anyone, for everyone.
What I like less is the traffic and the traffic circle. Moreover, some of the back passageways, especially on the north-east side, behind the shops and below the first balconies. It can feel quite dangerous there and one can find oneself suddenly alone and not visible to people on the street or to the inhabitants above. Also, I don’t like the fact that the rents are going up and low-income residents are being forces out.

MM: Did your impression of Kotti change after working on it?
LF: I came to respect it more as I learned about its history, mostly from the Keuzberg museum and archive (Bezirksamt Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg) which is based just behind the NKZ.
During the time I lived nearby (2004-2008) the shops in the NKZ kept failing - a flower shop for example couldn’t survive. Commuters wouldn’t stop at Kotti to shop and the residents couldn’t afford the goods of the shops moving in. Today shops - especially cafes and lunch places seem to be doing good business but I believe this has to do with the fact the the area is gentrifying and many people now using Kotti have more money.

MM: Do you think anything should change about Kotti or the NKZ?
LF: I worry that the rents are going up. The area is becoming popular, cool, even hip and the people who have been living there for decades are being moved out.  I think low-income residents must be better subsidized and/or rents better controlled to allow people to stay.
I think as well some sections of the NKZ could be redesigned to be safer, lighter, more accessible and to increase visibility - more “eyes-on-the street”.

MM: In what ways do you think Kotti/NKZ has failed? And in what ways do you consider it a success?
LF: Even within an absurd architecture that blocks light, shuts off streets and sight lines, is too high, too narrow and creates dark passageways and blind corner, there is a lot of life and energy and many different communities. I don’t think Kotti has failed. It is definitely not pretty but I believe it succeeds it being a thriving, changing and energetic place.  

I initially wrote this post for Failed Architecture.

Filed under Berlin architecture art anthropology community maps urbanism

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Lebbeus Woods (1940 - 2012) - Contemporary Art Carries His Legacy

A collage by Jeroen Kramer, from the City Dust series.

Today, Lebbeus Woods died at age 72. Woods has made many conceptual drawings in which he expressed ideas about space, architecture, futures and the designs of systems. Even though I’m not an architect, my eyes always stay locked on the drawings.

Today, I also - while browsing through the book MEGACITIES - bumped into the drawings of Jeroen Kramer, from the collection City Dust. Until today, I didn’t recognize the resemblence with Lebbeus Woods’ works, and although it is not mentioned in Jeroen Kramer’s introduction and texts, I’m sure Woods has been an inspiration there. 

Below are some of Woods’ drawings.

Same Difference

Labyrinthine Wall for Bosnia

Conflict Space


Geoff Manaugh published a great interview with Woods on his BLDGBLOG in 2007, you can read it here.

Filed under Lebbeus Woods Architecture Art space future

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Romantic British Suburbs

Scenes from the Passion Bus Stop at the Top

These are some wonderful paintings by George Shaw, which show English suburbian landscapes, in a beautiful naturalist style. I only got to know them this week, when a professor from Lincoln University came to speak about his childhood memories in ‘modernist Britain’ during our Failed Architecture workshop. He also showed the above painting by Shaw, which I thought was a great and romantic interpretation of reality that is often perceived as more grim.

At Baltic

The Time Machine

The Goal Mouth

Filed under Britain Richard Shaw suburbia art

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Converting construction sites into canvases

Brazilian communication agency Ginga convinced the country’s largest construction company to have murals created on its property, resulting in over 4000 sqm of urban canvas over 8 cities. It’s a nice video and although some of the text is too advertisey to me, it is a great way for a company to work on its visual identity. And I think covering construction sites with art is beneficial to how you experience a city.

Filed under art mural cities Brazil

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Gordon Matta-Clark: Converting the City’s Decay into Critical Works of Art

Gordon Matta-Clark: “Splitting” (1974).

Over the past years, there has been a strong current of photographers preoccupied with urban decay. Detroit is the primary example of this fascination with abandonment, ruination and former glory. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre for example, have become superstars by capturing Detroit’s decline in dramatically bombastic and wistful images.

In this light, it is interesting to take a look at the works of Gordon Matta-Clark.

Gordon Matta-Clark: “Conical Intersect” (1975).

Matta-Clark was trained as an architect, but quickly turned his back to mainstream architecture. In his works, he criticized the pretentious abstractions that architecture, according to him, consisted of. He wanted to show how architecture was disconnected from the physical reality of everyday life. His famous works include abandoned houses and derelict warehouses, slashed with a chain saw. This was also a comment on the collapse of American cities and the American Dream. Much of his work was set in New York, demonstrating the city’s failed social policies and architectural plans.

Gordon Matta-Clark: “Day’s End” (1975).

The works of Matta-Clark are not quite cases of ruin gazing, contrary to much of the contemporary decay photography. Nevertheless, there are some corresponding elements. They both emphasize how architecture, industry and political and socioeconomic realities often deviate from their initial designs or heydays.

Romain Meffre and Yves Marchand: “American Hotel” (2010).

Of course, ruin photographers often rearrange the scene to create a perfect composition of decay, but Matta-Clark makes major alterations to the derelict buildings to convey imperfect realities and how these contrast with the once perfect plans of architects and policymakers. These physical articulations of disappointing realities were of course allover New York in the 1970s. Matta-Clark is considered one of the first to contest fancy architecture and urban policy and the relationship between the two.

Not only do Matta-Clark’s works show the uncertainty and transience of our physical and mental realities. The fact that the buildings he incised and transformed were often demolished soon after the alterations and that they only continued to exist in picture and film, added to the notion of temporality. Matta-Clark’s own impermanence (he died in 1978, aged 35), only contributed to his cult status.

Failed Architecture
The different ways of looking at, and making use of our decayed built environment will be topic of discussion during the next edition of Failed Architecture, on Wednesday May 9 in TrouwAmsterdam. The subject will be dealt with from different angles, including that of an urban explorer, a photojournalist, an artist and an architect. The obsession with failure in image will be also be presented in a historical context. A short lecture about the Japanese notion of Wabi Sabi (acceptance of transience as a central idea in aesthetics) will add another perspective to the theme.

The Ruins of Detroit
From May 12 to June 30, the hailed works of Romain Meffre and Yves Marchand will be at display in Galerie Fontana Fortuna in Amsterdam.

Pictures of Matta-Clark’s works are courtesy of Artists Rights Society.
Picture of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre is courtesy of Galerie Fontana Fortuna.

Filed under photography failed architecture decay art Detroit New York urbanism

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Critical Urban Interventions, Right?

Questioning the right to the city in Amsterdam.


Public art can be interesting, whether in a visual way or a food for though way. Mostly, unsanctioned art beats commissioned art, as long as it goes beyond spraying tags.
Russian artist MAKE has recently installed a series of street signs in Amsterdam. They are simple, uncommissioned street signs, showing satirical, critical and awareness-raising texts.


The signs feature questions - or rather statements-turned-questions - about society, culture, capitalism, environmental issues and urban life. The interesting part of it is that all statements end by saying “, right?”, which is kind of a two-fold “right”:
First, it is a way of making a statement and simultaneously questioning that statement, immediately doubting the positive assertion just made. It shows how certain values are not always so self-evident, or cannot just be taken for granted.
Secondly, “right” says something about the “right to the city”-debate, which discusses the ongoing power struggles in the city. The debate is about who belongs in our built environment and the physical and mental space in between buildings. Who owns the city? Can anyone make free use of public space? Can anyone express oneself there? Can anyone make use of everything the city has to offer? What about the less wealthy, the less healthy, the less adjusted and the less average-looking?

The installations by MAKE are very interesting in this respect, questioning the human aspect of the urban within the context of greater processes. They have been placed in locations that the questions apply to, making a direct link with the place people find themselves in, raising awareness of the fact that they are part of a greater whole; of a city that can be more than just a ‘growth machine’. 
Some of the signs have already been removed, which directly answers some of the questions asked in the project.


Last year, MAKE put up similar signs in St. Petersburg. The project provoked discussion and received a lot of media attention, according to a text at, to which MAKE is affiliated.

All images are courtesy of MAKE. Thanks to Shriya Malhotra for pointing out this project.

Filed under intervention public space art right to the city urbanism

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Ryu Itadani’s Hand Drawn Urban Interpretations

Omotesando, Tokyo ©Ryu Itadani

Japanese, Berlin-based artist Ryu Itadani creates colorful interpretations of (mostly real world) cities, giving crispy-cartoonesque urban impressions.

Hong Kong ©Ryu Itadani

Youchien ©Ryu Itadani

Tokyo ©Ryu Itadani

Omotesando Hills, Tokyo ©Ryu Itadani

first seen at Magical Urbanism

Filed under art city architecture

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Urban Abstractions

Vienna-based studio Olschinsky, consisting of Peter Olschinsky and Verena Weiss, works at the intersection of illustration, graphic design and photography. Taking a look at their website, you’ll find imaginative works. I was particularly intrigued by these abstract illustrations filed under the series “Cities”, “Cities II”, “Cities III” and “Legendary Cities”. While I was looking at these creations, I was listening to Cliff Martinez’ film score for Drive, adding an extra dimension to the experience (highly recommended). 

Filed under art city Olschinsky imagination illustration

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This Tuesday in Rialto (Amsterdam): Dutch premiere of Blank City, a documentary about New York’s art scene from the late 70s to the mid 80s. A peek into the artistic dynamics that instigated the revival of New York and turned the rundown inner city into today’s overpriced, overdressed and overimaged Manhattan. I’m looking forward to seeing this film.
Has anyone seen it yet?

Filed under New York 1980s gentrification art music

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Lovely story:

The Mysterious Life of Jerry’s Map

Before Sim City or FarmVille, there was Jerry’s map. In the 1960s, Jerry Gretzinger began drawing a fantastical, growing map of unbelievable scope. It began with just a doodle, but now it takes up almost 2,000 8” x 10” frames.

His meticulous, iterative process intrigued documentary filmmaker Gregory Whitmore, who created this portrait of Gretzinger about two years ago. Very few people saw Mapping the Void, also known asJerry’s Map,until Vimeo’s Staff Picks blog discovered it this summer. Now the video has over 80,000 views, and dozens of comments from fans. Gretzinger posted his reaction on his blog in August, writing, “Wow! Thanks, Vimeo!”

via climateadaptation

(Source: theatlanticvideo)

Filed under maps art cartography fantasy video cities urban planning pencils drawing

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Public Home - Private City


Dutch graphic artist Urlie Verduyn Lunel has done a wonderful project about the vanishing distinctions between private and public life. People are increasingly giving away their privacy by displaying their more intimate sides on the internet or having loud personal phone conversations on public transport. They are starting to feel at home in other places than just their homes.


To illustrate this, Urlie has reversed this in an interesting and funny way. In her works, she literally takes the private lives of people to the street, using the urban context as household equipment.










Related posts:
Urban Interventions
Hüttenpalast - Sleep in outdoor caravans in an indoor garden 
Trespass: A history of uncommissioned urban art

Filed under Urlie art privacy public space urban intervention urbanism

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Bicycle Swarms (Fietsenzwermen)

Artwork by Roosmarijn Vergouw at Kleine Gartmanplantsoen (Leidseplein) in Amsterdam. It’s amusing to see how people are easily manipulated and how a nicely ordered flock of bicycles emerges.

The artist has now been commissioned by the local government to work out her project in order to have it implemented on a larger scale. The new project works the same, only the parking sections are projected on the ground, adding new sections as the number of bikes increases.

Filed under Amsterdam art bicycle