February 2009


Patterns, seams, juxtapositions. The meeting of protocols and materials.

The Economist, in an ongoing feature about Haiti, name-checks Labadee, a chunk of Haitian beach owned by cruise line Royal Caribbean International. The beach

is off-limits to anyone not employed by or vacationing with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which rents it from the Haitian government. And when the vacationers are ferried ashore from the ship, they are not permitted to leave Labadee: the cruise company’s insurance company won’t cover it. Worlds might collide here, were they not held carefully apart by liability insurance and tall fences.

Places out of place: the remodeling and imposition of a particular vision of reality. How much does proximity matter? Is guilt variable by location? Are we as vacationeers liable for Royal Caribbean’s sins?

 

Looking at a busy week, so the blog will be quieter than usual. Apologies in advance.

Interflug: A storied international airline with a distinctive red-and-white livery. Efficient, yet friendly, German service. A full roster of flights to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The only problem? Interflug ceased to exist more than two decades ago. 

Interflug is the defunct flag-carrier of East Germany.

(more…)

The Atlantic has a great piece on Bob “Fish” Fishman, the director of CBS’s football coverage. Fishman is a one-man on-the-fly editing machine: He’s the one who splices together the view of the game, from dozens of cameras and video feeds, as the game is happening. 

Fishman is one of a cohort of artists and craftsmen who are invisible, working beneath the surface of reality to craft it as it happens. Sports coverage is a particularly apt metaphor for the creation of reality because these men and women create live work: If it’s in real-time, it must be real, right?

But the work can be live even if the creation of said work happened once, long ago. Disneyland comes to mind as a deliberate creation—sights, sounds, smells, actions—that can only be experienced live, a creation that lives through the scripts and protocols written once and set in motion, by Walter Elias, the absent-watchmaker.

Or without a single creator: There are absent-watchmakers aplenty behind our architecture and social rules, behind our objects and expectations.

[The Atlantic via Gizmodo]

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A fan proclaiming allegiance to Apalachicola, FL. When I saw this fan over the summer, I thought its conflation of “fanatic” and “cooling device” was outrageously clever. (I still think so.) But given time to reflect, I’m struck by how catchy this word/image combination is, even though it is not at all specific to Apalachicola. Imagine, for example: I’m a fan of Paris. Of Cincinnati. Of Bellingham. And while the cadence of “I’m a fan of Apalachicola” makes the name stick more readily than other place names, the form of this advertisement is wholly independent of its content.

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The form of the memorial license plate is equally independent of content, but the designations we stick on geographic places are—by their very nature—specific. Only Apalachicola can be the Oyster Capital of the World; to replace ‘Apalachicola’ with Paris/Cincinnati/Gorst would be to lie. Content can be as powerful as form, but without form is more forgettable—I remember the fan, but not the oysters. I’d like to see Apalachicola’s destination branding combine the two by plopping down a giant oyster at the corner of 9th and Market Street.

This combination of the form and content of a local icon is, I gather, the driving force behind such projects as Pigs on Parade and the Baltimore Crabs. The inspiration for these projects, the Cow Parade of Chicago, is, oddly enough, diluting itself through offers of syndication and franchising. Want cows in your city? Sure, why not! Location branding should be the ultimate in location-aware content, not a stale repetition of something Chicago did better nearly 10 years ago.

rollercoaster_web - ilkka halso

Finnish artist Ilkka Halso imagines a Museum of Nature: roller coasters, theatres, exhibition chambers designed to frame what’s already around us and to put it on display. The idea of putting nature on display in this way is startling, until you recall that entertainers such as Disney have a long history of doing this and are still doing it. Issues of display, expected audiences: Running a roller coaster through nature strikes a discordant note because it fits neither our expectations about roller coasters (high on excitement, low on detail) nor our expectations about how to experience nature (the reverse).

It doesn’t really matter, for example, that the Jungle Cruise is an amalgamation, name-checking Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America in its tour of rivers, because the Jungle Cruise is implicitly understood not to be an authentic representation of those parts of the world. Entertainment, not education. (The Jungle Cruise is, on the other hand, fascinating for its Orientalism, as is most of Adventureland.)

museum-1-web - ilkka halso

 

The images are almost more startling than the idea, reminiscent as they are of certain abandoned amusement parks. This appears not to be a museum of nature, but a museum appropriated by nature. We’re so used to seeing trees grow up inside a derelict frame structure that it doesn’t occur to us that the steel could grow around the trees. 

 

[Ilkka Halso via Tropolism]

Quick Link: The Times has a piece on the attempts of a small town in Mississippi to endow its water tower with Mississippi State landmark status. The article touches on the importance of “ordinary” or “unimportant” architecture, of the stories that the taken-for-granted parts of our environment have to tell. History made material.

Hernando Journal: Seeking a Tribute to the Ordinary in a Water Tower – NYTimes

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