My vote is for…

I think that a really great example of a contemporary artist group engaging in ideas of the city in an interesting way is NPS or Neighborhood Public Radio, out of San Francisco.

Beginning in 2004, they use  innovative methods of radio to create sound interpretations of the Mission Neighborhood.  Their aim is to create community and to seek out what makes a neighborhood, which is in dialog with Jane Jacobs idea of creating community and economic stimulus by staying local.  They collaborate with the residents of the area to create a variety of short range radio programs that can only be heard in the neighborhood, creating a more cohesive sense of community.  In order to hear their programming live, you have to be in range of their signal.

They have three main programs.  The first is called State of Mind Stations.  In this project, stations (often just sign indications) are spread around the city with a number to call.  Community members are invited to call that number and talk about how they are feeling right at that moment.  These musings, confessions, and exclamations are then compiled and broadcasted on the NPR signal in an uninterrupted stream on Fridays.  I see this as a tactic to bring the city from just a place of anonymous strangers to a community with people.  It was part of an exhibition entitled Radio Cartography that took place at Southern Exposure Gallery in the Mission.  This is where most of the NPR events are hosted.

Link to Sound of Mind Stations recordings

The second project they work with is called Talking Homes.  This project started with re-purposed radio transmitters that they spread all around the Bay area in residences.  They used these to create innovative sound collages that were part scavenger hunt, part site-specific art.  In one project using this technology, the residents of the houses talk about their own lives and property, competing for “worst neighbor.”  The FM radio signals are short range and participants listening try to guess exactly where the signal is coming from.

They describe this project as “a series of predominantly offline media-based social networking strategies designed around both centralized and decentralized frameworks for broadcasting.”  I think this is an interesting response to a world which should be getting smaller due to the internet but is instead becoming more estranged.  They are using almost a forced proximity to create a bond in the city.  The radio program can only be heard within the signals and it deals with issues that affect the neighborhood directly.

Link the Talking Houses Project

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Space and Time Together in a Postmodern Era

I found this article hard to pull together in a thesis.  There wasn’t a really clear thread from beginning to end for me, but it did strike some chords for me, especially connected to my final project.

I was really interested in the idea of transporting events in space and time, related to the idea of the public and the private.  Burton discusses the way that a place can be imbued with several meaning at once.  The personal are mixed with the historical and the cultural to create a way of viewing the city that rides the line between public and private meaning.  In an urban setting, with so many people living in it and creating memories, places have a wealth of small and significant events that all define what that place means.  In my final project, I am examining that distinction.  I am creating an inventory of significant places in my life, but I am also posing the question of cities as collections of memories that are separate from the given history and naming that are given to them.  What if the city was created of just these personal clues?  I feel that is what artists like Zoe Leonard are attempting to engage with.  She is pulling out distinct moments and artifacts that speak of the people within the city.

Work that emphasizes the people of the past, both of note and of forgotten moments, create a fabric of the city.

Another thing I was really struck by was the Roysdon piece as a recontextualizing of Wojnarowicz’s act in the late 1970’s.  This is a perfect example of a postmodernist interaction with the city.  The reference has layers of meaning, both that of art history, older literary history, and history of the places themselves.  By re-enacting Wojnarowicz’s piece using his face as opposed to Arthur Rimbaud’s, it shows the legacy of the author as political figure.  And it is also discussing the changing boundaries of what is accepted in the rapidly changing world.

This work calls into question who is the author and what purpose does author have in the first place.  Where does history leave us and how can an artist use history of not only the outside world but that within the art dialog?

Using history as a tool to engage with space is another way that the artist discussed in this article talked about this topic.  It was unclear how the author felt about Hayes’ one person protests.  She seemed to criticize the act of the quasi-demonstration, as not an affective devise for creating political awareness.  However, by referencing certain signifiers in the performance itself and formal and conceptual elements of the documentation, she can talk about what has become a quintessential emblem of not only certain events (referencing particular signs used in the civil rights moments) but also the feeling of a region and entire generation.

This is a very powerful use of symbol.  Ultimately though, it comes up politically as an empty gesture.  So much of postmodern work discussed in this article does not aim to intervene as much of the public art and action aimed to do earlier, but instead comments upon that period in its place in history.  It disassociates itself from the ACT NOW and instead asks the question Where have we come from?  And what does that mean?  It is work that is more interrogative than exclamatory.

This is also underscored by the positioning of the artist in the work, which is another hallmark of postmodern art.  Burton points this out about several different artists mentioned, and we have spoke about it in regards to artists like Cindy Sherman and Zoe Leonard.  These artists use tropes that are viewed as objective from a modernist standpoint, but they insert themselves into the objective space, thus making it about more than simply what is depicted.  This broadens the scope of where the art is, creating a more temporal piece, even if it is just a photograph.  The artists, such as Moyra Davey, use the language of Atget and Cartier-Bresson to talk about the personal and the universal; the photographer is just as important to the art as the photograph.

It is about Davey herself walking around and taking the photograph just as much as what is pictured.  This makes it a much more complicated relationship to the archival, redefining history into not a unified body, but several million personal accounts of life in the city.

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Street Art: In and Of the City

When I was reading this week, I was reminded of Andrew’s distinction between being in the city and of the city.  He was talking about the flaneur at that point in the course, but I think that it can be applied to street art of this time period as well.  Some of the work takes place in the city, actually occurring or residing on the street.  This is mostly graffiti or work that was created in the city but explores themes other than those which are brought up by the city.

Art of the city is art which is created away from the city itself, but is about the urban condition.  Usually it involves installation or sculpture in a gallery space.

Much of the work that we read about this week happens at the intersection of these two distinctions, and most of the work that does this is related to photography or performance.  So what makes these media special in this way?  How do they function in and of the city?

Part of the reason is that during the 60s and 70s, photography and performance art were going through big changes, just like the city at this point.  As the Yee points out, photography was going through a crisis as to what role it played in a post-industrial society.  Either photography became subjective and became about the author (a formalist postmodern position) or it functioned as its ontological role as document in a conceptual art framework.  For the first category, much of what these photographers were interested in locating the self among a sea of humanity, and so the city became a place find this voice.  While Arbus and Friedlander were in the city, creating work about the outsider and the perception of the self, respectively, a photographer like Winogrand was interested in walking the city and commenting on the particular condition of the city as meeting place for the strange and unique.  In this way, his photographs are in and of the city.

Performance art was tied closely with the second category of photography (the Information exhibition camp).  The photograph became an extension of time-based media.  The amount of performance art happening out in the streets must be related to the riots and demonstrations that were happening at the same time.  The street became a stage where people listened, politically and artistically.  And so it was the place and the subject of much of the performance work.  And the photograph (again ontologically) was all that was left after an ephemeral moment.

One last aspect of the effectiveness of art that engaged with the city logistically and theoretically is the utilitarian nature of the street.  Artists used public spaces because they were free and open for use to a large audience.  This could be interpreted as a Jane Jacobs use of the public arena, using the street a “neutral” space for all kinds of activity, including the arts.  However, it is also important to ask where this work was occurring.  If the action is being dispersed throughout the city, such as Wojnarowitz (who, despite my earlier classification, i believe is working in and of the city), it has a very different meaning than if it is located solely in an arts district.  Although the concerns might be neighborhood based, it creates a different meaning if the audience is just artists and the art world

or a large context.

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Art as Innovation: Stagnant Cities Produce Movements in Art

The changing conditions of the American City during the 1960-70s seemed to have opened up a whole world  of possibilities for innovations in art.  Part of it was the abandoned spaces and community we discussed a few weeks ago in New York City that allowed a concentration of space and ideas to occur.  Part of it also seems to be a questioning of how to relate to a city during the transition from an industrial economy to a white collar/tourist economy.  The city acts as a subject, an object, a canvas, and a stage.  It provides context, and that subverted, expanded, and embraced by young artists learning how to live in a changing world.

The Powers of RemovalLytle Shaw

Shaw opens the piece with Henry James at the turn of the 20th century, speaking about the constant removals or erasures of the landscape in order to create progress.  He is troubled by the impermanence of the landscape.  By the 1960’s, this flow of constant architectural and infrastructure turnover had been halted.  In the absence of this greater trend in American cities, artists began to ask what is a city without looming progress?

Shaw points out the photographs of Shunk-Kender as documents of this halting architecture, but they are also vivid documentation of the growth of different tactics in art.  The teams most famous photographs include documentations of Yves Klein performances and art happenings.  This makes me think that the decay of the city and the blossoming in art must be inextricably linked.

This relationship is present in Song Delay, Joan Jonas’s film which explores sound traveling through space in an uncanny hush in the city.  The performers are able to reshape the city for their purposes because the flow of formal reshaping has been halted.

The next two theorists are brought up as opposing viewpoints on how work about the city can be interpreted.  David Harvey advocates a objective interpretation using social and political forces as motivations in urbanist art.  Rosalyn Deutsche favors a more subjective viewer-based model that takes a more formal bent on how to look at artwork.  Shaw uses their two interpretations of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills to show this difference. Harvey believes they are about the city’s transformation as a setting due to the changing economic climate; Deutsche claims it is about the feminine’s role in cinema, using the city as a backdrop just to enhance the drama of the moment.  At first, I saw these two interpretation as the classic modernist dichotomy: social-political modernism vs. self-critical modernism.  However, after thinking about it more, it seems that Shaw is making the argument that Harvey is taking a more old-fashioned modernist perspective (objectivity, city as subject) and Deutsche is more postmodern, as she is taking the viewer into  consideration and acknowledging pastiche and exploration of a marginalized group. To see what Cindy Sherman says about own work — ART21 Chapter 7.  Be warned:  I think its very disappointing.  And I think it is important to mention that Harvey is a geographer and Deutsche is an Art Historian, so that obviously affects their viewpoints.

It is safe to say that most of the artists that Shaw talks about are riding the line between these two different theorists.  They probably wouldn’t be making interesting art if they weren’t.  This is very clear in Shaw’s description of James Nare’s Pendulum.

This piece hypnotizes formally with rhythm and viewpoint, but never lets the viewer forget the impending disaster or social implications of the setting.

This line is also played with in the main piece analyzed, Matthew Buckinham’s Muhheakantuck — Everything has a Name. Formally, it is a video that shows an aerial view of the Hudson River, while Buckingham narrates a story.  Socially, it is playing with history and its interpretations.  We all know the winners write history, and Buckingham is reminding us to call into question the European myth of the city.

When the piece was being made, another New York myth was facing destruction.  This was two years post 9/11 and once again New York was having to come to grips with the fact that it was not as impenetrable as we had all thought.  However, because it was from tragedy, the sense of play that allowed the artists from the 60s-70’s was not present.

The aerial view afforded by this video allows the viewer to watch de Certeau’s concept city unfold.  Elevation takes out the day-to-day and individualization allows us to see the big picture. This is also true with artists such as Olivio Barbieri and Terry Evans.

However, the artists discussed in the last portion of the essay, such as Gabriel Orozco and Zoe Leonard, are accessing the view that de Certeau takes us on in Walking in the City.  The everyday is temporal, so they create typologies to infer a passage of time, space, and effort.  A similar feeling is achieved by the Bechers.

Shifting Ground:  Frazer Ward

Ward roughly categorizes the activities happening on the street in the 1960s and 1970s as either political action or counterculture action.  I think this is true when it comes to much of the action on the streets, as there was so much going on.  People were using public urban space to protest or riot so those events would have weight and would not be forgotten.  Grant Park and the Washington Mall are historically protected institutions in the city and so they will always be there, meaning that those events will always be remembered there.  And the counterculture used the street in a more Jane Jacobs mixed uses, because again it was public property.  However, I feel to categorize the art of the time in these broad groups would be ignoring a lot of nuances.  The cultural acts caused the street to become a charged space, and so this made artists interested, but I don’t think that all the work made was trying to obtain the same goals as other street activities.

Ward stresses the everyday, just as Shaw does.  Oldenburg and the Fluxus movements are aggrandizing the everyday through scale and humor, not repetition as the series of catalogs are.  Still, they are reconstituting the everyday into an art context, which brings into question what normally the urbanist does not think about.  And in a bizare way one could fit Tehching Hsieh into this category as well, because what he puts on display is living, and through the duration of his activities, he allows us to question our own daily activities and comforts and how integral they are to living.

He also highlights many pieces that engage voyeurism and the playing between public and private space.  Yoko Ono and Vito Acconci are both playing with the idea of following in New York, as Sophie Call was doing in Paris a little later.

All three have different motivations for doing this activity, but it is something we can all relate to.  All three artists are exploring the will, whether it is taking the pursued’s will away, or giving the artists will to the persued.  In a way they are again talking about everyday, and the making apparent the risk we take living in urban space and walking amongst strangers all day.

The other big category he talks about in this article is the exploration of what it means to be different minority groups on the street.  I was really struck by Adrian Piper’s combination of blurring signifiers of race, class, and sexuality, and her vulnerable use of journal text.  The outer facade and the inner monologue has a lot to do with the experience on the street.

David Wojnarowicz is also playing with this relationship by wearing a mask in his photographs to show the face that gay people had to put on in order to live safely on the street.  Nikki Lee is another artist that is interested in the faces we have to wear in order to fit into a group, or to blend in with the conception of what we are perceived to be.

So for me, much of the work Ward talks about is connected to the experience of the street, while Shaw is looking at more conceptual interpretations of urban-ness.

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Week 8

Writing to come…

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LA Buzz Words

Since we’ve mostly been talking in terms of common themes and words that can bring the readings together, I will just talk about a few words that I found throughout the readings.

The Car

This is the most obvious element that distinguishes LA from most other cities in American, and definitely from the Big Three.  This city was designed for cars and much of its inhabitance’s experience of the city is spent in cars trying to get to particular places.  Something interesting I realized was that LA is the only city that could have been designed this way because of the late expansion possibilities afforded to it by Manifest Destiny and its acquisition from Mexico, and the invention of better transportation technologies at the time the city was being designed.  I believe this philosophy of entitled expansion and transportation-centric is apparent in other elements of the art and culture of LA.

Samuel Gove, Columbia Student

The flaneur as a pedestrian is not an issue here (unless you count the Monday Art Walks mentioned by Allan).  So the way to see the city, as all three sources showed, is associated with the car.

Whether it is the subject:

the viewpoint:

or roughly associated through the consumer culture made possible by cars in pop art:

cars are ever-present.


One of the points that was clear in the Banham film was that there are no inherent landmarks in LA.  He shows this humorously with the GPS’s precursor, Baede Car. The way to orient in LA is by streets and by freeway exits, not by landmarks or diversity, as Jacobs prescribes to be the way to create a thriving city.  I think of this form of city living as transient, because the way that the driver sees is one long string of images as seen from a car.

This is the beauty of Ruscha’s Sunset Strip piece, because he simulates the way of seeing from the car:  The images are arranged in two long rows, allowing for the viewpoint of one who is riding in the passenger seat.  You can look at it as a string of images, or as a selected pages, if something catches your eye.  When I saw it at the Art Institute a couple years ago, I didn’t realized how perfectly this captures the feeling of riding in a car and how integral that is to understanding how to experience LA.


A city that does not engage the body with its interactions and transportation is the most logical place in many ways to be a center of entertainment that also does not engage the body:  the film industry.  This could characterize the city as one of spectators.  Does the lack of participation or bodily involvement in the life of the city correspond to the art?

Allen argues that Ruscha’s paintings and books involve the body.  The differences of scale in many of his paintings suggests that the viewer is phyically involved with the work.  He also argues that Ruscha’s photographic books are designed with the body in mind as well.  However, while the form involves the body, the subject usually does not.  They are views from the car, or commonly associated with traveling by car.  This is perhaps why Ruscha’s work is so interesting to us today.

I think that it is interested to compare the work of New York that we discussed last week and this work from the LA Pop and Conceptual artists.  In New York, much of the avant-garde work was performative, because there was the space to do it in debt-ridden SoHo.  In LA, even though the single-family home is the norm, there is no infrastructure to take over.  LA’s industry is entertainment, and its capital has steadily risen since the beginning.  So the work did not engage with the body, but with the mind.  Ruscha’s subtle conceptual statements involving the interaction between space and time, his small design experiments with perception, and the phenomenological interaction he was interested in fostering with his objects was deeply interested in stimulating the mind, and through that interaction involving the body.

Brandon Alvendia: I thought of this in relation to Ed Ruscha's books

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Two Sets of Interactions – NYC 1970s

During my reading this week, I kept having four terms jump out at me.  I know they are all related, but somehow they separated into two different intersections:  infrastructure/residences and art/politics.  Each author was grappling with these intersections in their own ways.


New York in the 1970’s seemed to be a place teetering on the edge of change.  This was post-Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, and the city was in the throws of an identity crisis.  The city was grappling with what to do now that industry was moving elsewhere and middle to upper class residents were moving out to the suburbs.  So there were a lot of empty buildings in the industrial sectors and a lot of poor people in tenements.  All three of the authors approach this interesting moment from slightly different points of view.

Crimp discusses the ways artists and homosexuals used the abandoned buildings for work, play, and living.  Naturally, crime emerged from a group of people spending time in areas that were not controlled by the city anymore.  But it appears there was also a sense of freedom, or even vindication, from using the forgotten buildings for their own uses.  This is an example of De Certeau’s tactics at work.  The residence in the lofts and piers are using infrastructures to create residences.  They are retooling the failed strategy that the city set up to create their own.

Matta-Clark, Days End

Perhaps because artists were living in a gray area between infrastructure and residence, they felt that they could experiment with the boundaries of art.  That, and being surrounded by creativity in their own sector of government-less existence, breeds a tremendous about of creativity.  These artists were more interested in performance and conceptual art.  Photography was used as more of a documentary tool than a media for this particular time in New York.

Rosler speaks about this intersection between infrastructure and residences as more of a political concern rather than a tactical one.  She spoke about the history of uses of space, mentioning both Jacobs and Moses.  To her, it seemed that residences, especially the low-income housing projects that were erected, were treating residencies as infrastructure.

Paul D'Amato, Tigger

Jacobs points out that there are very different concerns between what makes an industrial area or suburb work and what an urban residential area needs.  Rosler believes that the residential needs were not met because of who the focus of the urban renewal was geared at, as opposed to where it was needed.

Finally, Deutsche talks about this intersection by discussing site-specific art that uses the infrastructure as the canvas to make art that deals with the issues of displaced residencies and class wars in the urban environment.  She pays particular attention to the artist Krsysztof Wodiczko and his Union Square project, in which he projects images of homeless people on the beautified statues in the park.

Homelessness Projection, Barcelona

Art21 Season 3:  Krzysztof Wodiczko on Power

This is a highly political interpretation of this intersection, which leads me to the second intersection I found in the readings.


The 1970s saw a decline of the Greenbergian “art-for-arts-sake,” as Rosler points out, and ushers in a postmodern art movement for a postindustrial society.  One of the hallmarks of postmodernism is a concern with pluralism.  Therefore it makes sense that art would begin to be closely linked with politics.

Crimp’s interpretation of this intersection is not as strong as the other two.  As I interpret it, he is mostly painting a portrait of artists more interested in humanity and living life that they were afforded to live by the politics and changing sociologic landscape.  The work of the performance artists he discusses were made in response to the city and its politics of space, but more as an ingredient that a source for a political agenda.

In the Rosler reading, she understands that politics are deep in the architecture of city planning.  It is not objectively what is best for the city.  From the Radiant City plans of Le Corbusier to the housing projects, politics of space is infused with the aesthetics of the city.  Deutsche would agree.  What I was struck by most was her views on the art world in relation to politics. This is a particular interest of mine.  Artists moved into an area because it was cheap to live there.  Then, the government decided that it would look better to be putting money towards a burgeoning art district than doing damage control on the poor’s housing or funding controversial.  The arts are an important factor in a thriving city, according to the party line.  But sanctioning an arts district usually is the first step to driving out the real creativity, because:

arts districts become trendy districts become expensive districts.

Deutsche is interested in politics of space as the driving force behind art making of this kind as site-specific artwork.  For her, art is politics.  She finds the Greenbergian paradigm laughable.  She seems to advocate art as political action as well; art that not only commentates on a political situation but incites action.  This is so for Krsysztof Wodiczko, as he is usually attempting to start a dialog, and Hans Haacke, who uses subversive methods to expose corruption in the urban environment he was working in.  Art can no longer be passive to spacial politics for Deutsche.

I am affiliated with an organization that is site-specific dealing with the issues that are raised by architecture in the urban environment:

v1b3 or Video in the Built Environment.  They have worked internationally and have a very interesting agenda.

And, its also worth mentioning that I have started another blog with Daniel Hojancki in which we are sharing our influences and thoughts on photography.

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Jane Jacobs: Some Myths about Diversity

This section of the Jane Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was about the opposition’s misconceptions about diversity in the city and how they are wrong.  For Jacobs, diversity is concerning a diversity of uses of a space, not necessarily culturally or racially.  She advocates that many types of business and residences are the hallmarks of a thriving city neighborhood.  There are three main myths she identifies in this chapter.  The myths are the opposition often cited by city planners against diversity.

The first myth Jacobs addresses that diversity is ugly.  She counters this by saying the opposite is true.  That homogeneity is actually the eyesore.  There are two ways that city planners try to deal with homogeneity:  Either they make the area obviously homogeneous in uses and in style of building, which Jacobs argues is boring and disorienting.  I think of Robert Adams and the new topographic for this model:

If everything is the same, then it is difficult to find your way based on landmarks.  This one of many examples, according to Jacobs, where the city planners are learning lessons from the uses needed in suburbs, instead of focusing on learning what is right for cities.  Jacobs points out again and again that the concerns that are necessary to consider for the suburbs are not the same of this city.

Homogeneity is sometimes masked by the city planners by creating forced diversity.  This involves the planners artificially creating different kinds shapes and styles of buildings to give the impression of true diversity.  Jacobs says that this is just as bad as the true homogeneity because it is just based on appearance, not use, and so it is dishonest.  The designers otfen use flashing architectural gimmicks to create this illusion.  She quotes Eugene Raskin saying, “through slabs, towers, circles and flying stairs bound and abound all over the lot, the result has the appalling sameness of the tortures of hell.  They may poke you with different instruments, but it’s all pain…”

Jacobs advocates a mix of architectural and functional diversity in the city.  Architectural differences can come from buildings built at different eras and different scales.  A variety of types of buildings that are created at different times is true, authentic diversity.

She also says that having a mix of commercial and residential buildings together that grows organically adds to the city’s variety and beauty.  It is a unique city beauty that is appreciated by those in the city.

One last point she makes about the diversity of the city being beautiful and economically sound is the fact that in New York, the landmarks are mixed in with the rest of the buildings.  I noticed this when I was in New York recently.  Carnegie hall is right in midtown, next to hotel bars and an Office Depot.  This richness of life and culture mixing is a feature that Jacobs advocates as the standard for urban planning.  Not only does it make the urban space special, but it also brings business and tourism into the neighborhood.

The second myth that Jacobs discusses is that diversity creates traffic congestion.  Robert Moses’ mission was to create a city that would be ideal for automobiles.  He was constantly building bridges, creating larger avenues, and trying to build highways that went through the city.  He saw this as a way to make the city more efficient.  He wanted to get rid of the small blocks and densely populated areas that he saw as creating traffic jams with too many intersections and pedestrians.

Jane Jacobs counters Moses’ idea with this logic:

The longer the blocks and the bigger the streets, the farther apart destinations are.  This is also true if diversity is combatted, because there will not all of the needs met in the area and so the city dweller will have to drive to get to service that isn’t found in his purely residential area.  This means that there are more cars on the road, which ultimately leads to more congestion!

Diversity means that there are more services and needs met in the area, which means that people have to travel shorter distances, which means they WALK!  This of course leads to less cars on the road, and less traffic congestion.

Myth 3 is a little more complex.  It involves the myth that diversity can create ruin in the neighborhood.  Jacobs uses 5 examples to counter this idea, either by demonstrating that the harmful establishments don’t belong in the thriving city neighborhood, or that establishments are not as harmful as they are made out to be.

Example A:  Junk Yards

This is nowhere near my house!

Jacobs agrees that Junk Yards add nothing in terms of beauty, concentration of people, or convenience, and they are detrimental aesthetically and functionally to a community.  However, she does not think that junk yards cause the disfunction.  On the contrary, she believes that junk yards are an affect of disfunction.  She points out that thriving communities do not have junk yards in their neighborhoods because there are usually more effective uses of the space in urban environments where diversity is encouraged.  Junk yards show up in the areas that are not thriving.

Example B.  Bars/restaurants amongst residential areas.

My boyfriend lived over this bar and it was fine!

This is a problem for many city planners traditionally because it is thought that if consumers are mixing with residents, it decreases the overall safety of the people that live in the area.  However, Jacobs argues that in fact the opposite is true. In thriving city areas, more people around actually adds to the safety because there is less marginalized space for bad deeds to occur.

Example  C:  Smokestacks

This is right by my house! I saw it from the plane!

This argument I think was Jacobs’ weakest.  She said that these shouldn’t be contested in urban areas because they affected the air and there should be no zoning laws on fumes.  However, this book was written in 1961, and I doubt she would make this statement now after all the environmental ramifications have been identifies.

Example D:  Mortuaries/Funeral Homes

This is very close to my house!

This is a strange example as well.  Apparently, people were supposed to be upset about proximity of funeral homes in residential areas.  But Jacobs says that a true urban city dweller does not have a problem with death and life mingling together.  That all aspects of life are accepted in a large city, and that they should all be present in a thriving urban community.

Example E:  Large, intrusive businesses in residential areas

I couldn’t find a good picture of this.

She says that structures like parking lots, heavy trucking depots, gas stations, and huge billboards can disrupt the flow of diversity of the city block, but not necessarily because of their uses.  It is more because of their scale that throws the balance out of whack.  Jacobs urges the planners to pay more attention to the effect of scale on appearance and functionality in a neighborhood when issuing zoning permits as opposed to use.

There were a couple of interesting observations I had about Jane Jacobs that I took into account when reading and interpreting her writing.  The first was that she had a decidedly New York way of looking at cities.  When I went to NYC recently, one of my first observations was the way that any type of business or residency could be shoved into any open space.  It was really surprising to me to see a dry cleaner right next to a gourmet grocery store.  I found this invigorating, that there was no separation or propriety of what should go where.  It felt like the American dream.  However, this seemed unique to New York.  In Chicago, I do not have the same feeling, although there are many areas that mix commercial and residential areas.  So it seems that the diversified neighborhood that Jacobs is ascribing to all cities is a particular New York City entity.

I also noticed something about the ways of interpreting the city in terms of identity.  When big cities were created, it was mostly for economic reasons.  People moved to the big city in order to find work because work in rural areas was rapidly decreasing.  Cities were also where people could achieve their dreams.  Now, the city is closely tied to identity.  It’s about whether you are a urban person or a rural person.  I feel that Jacobs is reacting to her identity as an urban person and what urban people are supposed to like.  Her prescription of what diversity means is closely tied to what an urban person wants from their urban lifestyle.

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History of Networking

I think that many of us find it a lot harder to blog about straight history writing.  Beyond just recounting the facts, what more is there to say?  Perhaps its because I’m just getting back from attending CAA in New York, but to be this entire reading about the New York School is all about networking.

We are always told that the most important thing, sometimes even beyond the quality of the work you make, is who you know.  After watching about 52 hours of solid networking go on before my eyes, I have to agree.  I think there are several different echelons of networks to be involved in:  the Teachers, the Exhibitors, and the Peers.

For the New York School, at leave for Livingston, the Teachers are exemplified by three figures:  Lewis Hine, Herni Cartier-Bresson, and Walker Evans.  All three of these men influenced the New York School aesthetically, and each of their different purposes were chosen by each photographer to guide them.

Hine was influential to the group for his social documentary commentary and his gritty style portraying reality.

Cartier-Bresson taught the viewers about the decisive moment and the fly-on-the-wall approach.

Evans was a pioneer in the art of the photographic serial and in his careful consideration for composition.

These photographers were not only influential, but many of the New York School cultivated personal relationships with these fathers of modern photography.  That is an important lesson to take away from the New York School:  to always reach out to the people that inspire us.  We never know what insight or friendship we can obtain just by being open and appreciative.

The second group is the Exhibitors.  For the New York School, the exhibitors they were most involved with, beyond the occasional viewing at the Photo League and the Julian Levy Gallery, were the curators of photography at MoMA.  These curators, particularly Newhall (both husband and wife), Steichen, and later Szarkowski were instrumental in raising photography up into the public conception of art.  However, it is important to note that it is still a subjective.  These curators strongly played favorites.  Robert Frank was a favorite of Steichen, but as the readings pointed out, they were travel buddies in Europe even before Frank settled in the US.  So it’s important again to create personal relationships with people in a position of power.

Robert Frank

Edward Steichen

However, it is also important to remember not to be solipsistic toward those with power.  I think that Frank and Steichen had a similar view on photography and the country and sharing that allowed them to help one another in mutually beneficial ways.

The final group is probably the most important, because it makes you a group:  your Peers.  I have been wondering about how an artist community is made.  I believe that I have a small community of like-minded people that I am friends with and we gather and talk about art.  Is that all it takes to become a movement?  Livingston acknowledges that this group wasn’t considered a group for a long time.  So does this mean that time is the agent that creates an artistic movement.  And then there are the Surrealists, the sometimes-loved, sometimes-hated precursor to the New York School, who declared that they were a movement and then set out to become one.  Or is it proximity that creates a movement?  What does it take to be a cohesive aesthetic community?

Dan Hojnacki

EJ Hill

Alice Feldt

Do you see similarities?

As with the other lessons, one has to stay open, curious, interested, and relentless in order to make lasting impressions on those around you and to get them interested in you.  It seems like an easy thing to be interested and open to others, but as I learned at CAA this weekend, its a lot harder than it looks.

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The Flaneur. The Voyeur. The People Watcher.

Our discussion of this material left me wondering about the distinctions between the Flaneur, The Voyeur, and the People Watcher.  Each has their own special place in the landscape of the urban environment, and each can be analyzed using the readings of Poe, Benjamin, and Gleber.

The Flaneur was a new categorization for me from this week.  He is a man who is awed by the city and never wants to be alone.  He is always wandering within the crowd, but is never part of it.  Poe describes him as vaguely criminal, although one can never pinpoint exactly what the crime he is guilty of.  This condition is a reaction to the burst of urbanization.  The city is a place where we can never be alone in the way that those who live miles away from their nearest neighbor experienced in rural life.  We are dependent on one another, yet we never get to know one another.  This is a very alienating and nerve-racking way to live, especially if one isn’t used to it.  So the flaneur reacts to this by being out and among the crowd, never fully succumbing to the flow of the urban space, yet not existing without it.

The flaneur is a master of observing types of people.  He is interested in observing masses and finding patterns in the chaos of urban existence. However, Benjamin would not be fond of this aspect of the flaneur because he was a socialist sympathizer and categorizing and separating people by class would be exactly against what the Communist party was trying to do.   Simmel’s interpretation of the flaneur includes a certain intellectual observation, focused on sensing and perceiving. (Gleber, 25).  This reinforces the idea that he is both a member of the crowd (for he cannot perceive a crowd without a crowd), but also separated from it (he passes judgement and observation, which cannot be done without a distance from the element observed).

Two photographic examples I can think of for the flaneur is Lee Friedlander’s street photography and Nikki S. Lee.  Friedlander is of the crowd and outside it at the same time.  He is often depicted as existing within the image, but it is never directly identified as himself.  He is reflected or refracted from the crowd to the observer, present yet the observer himself.

Nikki Lee is a more socio-economic flaneur that perhaps the man of the crowd.  She assumes the guise of different typologies of people and acts as one of them for a set period of a few weeks.

She is an observer and also a participant in the subcultures she documents; one cannot exist without the other.

The voyeur is different to me.  There are elements of the voyeur in the flaneur, but the voyeur has different undertones for me.  The voyeur is usually more purpose driven; he has a particular thing he wishes to see and he seeks it out.  The voyeur is also more interested in the grotesque or the perverse.  In the book Exposed:  Voyeurism, Surveillance, and The Camera since 1870, there is an entire category for voyeurism and desire.  These two concepts are closely linked.  The voyeur also grows out of the advent of the city.  With people living closer together, people have easier access to the private moments of those around them.

Voyeurism is also about seeing without being seen.  The flaneur is out in the crowd, so he allows people to see him as he sees them.  The voyeur is kept hidden; therefore this is a more scopophilic act then simply walking in the crowd, never wanting to be alone.  Flaneurism involves kinesthetic senses. Voyeurism is pure pleasure from looking.

I think Sophie Calle’s famous project Suite Vinitienne is a more voyeuristic act.  It began as flaneurism, as she was prone to walking around the city without purpose, following people aimlessly.  Then, after meeting a man she had followed later that night at a party, she made the conscious decision to follow him on his trip to Venice.

This was voyeurism, because it was focused on a specific person to fulfill a specific need outside of the general need to not feel alone.  It was prolonged and although she followed him out in the public forum only, she did not allow her target the opportunity to view her in return.

Both voyeurism and flaneurism is encapsulated by people watching.  People watching is usually non-threatening, does not require any extra effort.  It simply involves taking an interest in those passing by, wondering about their lives.  I would consider what the protagonist in The Man in the Crowd is doing at the beginning of the story as people watching, because he is not going out of his way to involve his body, nor is he focused on one person in particular (until he comes across the flaneur).  He is simply sitting and watching people go by.

As a final little promotion, my boyfriend Trevor Lach has put out a demo entitled People Watcher.

Listen to a taste of it HERE!

Thank you for accepting this late post.  Enjoy!

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