The Faroe Islands are not the rural, subarctic archipelago you imagine. Like their distant peers on the Danish mainland, the Faroese are thoughtful, progressive city-builders. To connect their dispersed communities, their highway system tunnels through basaltic mountains and under North Atlantic waters. Fast ferries and helicopter taxis run between remote points. With such transit infrastructure, this might seem like a maritime metropolis, if only they had the population. But more people live in Portland, Maine, than on the eighteen Faroe Islands.
Peaks and Valleys: Klaksvik City Center, Faroe Islands
At the threshold of summer, the sunglasses are on. Running in blue-sky mode, I’ve been talking up some ideas for multiplying the writing workshop times the architecture studio. Their product would be a format for storytelling across media, an alignment of complimentary strengths really well suited to engage the built environment.
Scents conjure up times, people, and places distant from the here and now. At the heart of Kate McLean’s Sensory Maps is the power of aromas, their ability to trigger and concretize emotion and memory. McLean, born and raised in Britain, was inspired by the idea that we form our experience of place through sensory perception. She has researched, recreated, and charted the dominant scents of several cities to paint urban portraits through smell. This ongoing cartographic project is partially intended as a corrective in a world that strongly favors visual and aural information. Through capturing and diagramming the defining smells of a place, McLean tells a city’s history and describes its character. Like postcards and souvenirs, the heightened awareness of scent can enhance a visitor’s memories; for the residents of a community, local scents are signifiers of history and identity.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Open Air, Relational Architecture”, 2012. Commissioned by the Association for Public Art, Philad
Twenty-four searchlights, all high-powered, were set on rooftops around Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway last September and October. They were programmed, however, to avoid shining their spotlights on any physical objects: no buildings, no naked windows, no trees. Instead, they glimmered straight up into the sky: twenty-four columns of light responding — here solid, there faint, twitching and beating and sweeping across the sky together, then separating — to the voices of Philadelphia residents.
William Hogarth (1697–1764), the eighteenth-century English artist known for his satirical views of contemporary life, first published The Four Times of Day engravings in 1738, based on paintings completed two years earlier. Although some of Hogarth’s other series profess a moral, the intent of these works was to portray humorous caricatures of contemporary figures. The images are rich in detail, providing a glimpse into the world of 1730s London.
Travis Meinolf, Fabric panels made for with Kai Althoff, Whitney Biennial, 2012
If you need a blanket, Travis Meinolf, the self-appointed Action Weaver, will give you one. For free. And it won’t be a common fleece or wool number. It will look like folk art. It could be made by the artist or by many hands, and perhaps strung together from woven cloths of varying stripes, colors, and sizes. These free hand-woven blankets are a component of the artist’s ongoing project Blanket Offer, part of the artist’s grand mission to bring weaving to the masses.
In every family, traditional portraits are hung up or carried around: cousins arrayed before a monument, parents holding their grandchildren, long-gone ancestors smiling from a black and white beyond. Though we cherish their aura, the faces and places remain static.
Everyone has sat on a gray, metal folding chair: waiting at the DMV, as an extra guest at a dinner table, working in a makeshift office. Tanya Aguiñiga, a Los Angeles-based designer, transforms this ubiquitous piece of furniture in her series, Felt Chairs. Aguiñiga spends up to twenty laborious hours lovingly hand-felting each simple folding chair, covering it in vibrant color. Metal becomes a skeleton for bright and singular textured felt, akin to skin. What was cold is now warm, what was common is now individual. How we place ourselves in this chair has changed entirely.
Alla and I were introduced through a project that paired poets and painters affiliated with Boston University. Walking into her studio was like seeing all the things I wish my poems could do in language. We selected my five-poem series, “The Book of Ikons,” to work on together. This series (which also includes poems about Osip Mandelstam and Angelika Balabanoff, both Russian, like Alla), posits as worthy of iconography five historical figures, all of whose relationship with socialism was complicated by Soviet Communism, violence, or anti-semitism (three subjects also important to us). We wanted to explore the faith, hope, disappointment, transcendence and danger inherent in these ideals.
Alla created large-format monoprints, which became the digital images presented here, to be paired with the poems like facing panels in an icon screen. Rather than just creating illustrations, her images interact with and embody the poems. Like iconic images, these figures are idiosyncratic and not wholly accurate (for example, the little story about Kautsky is actually a conflation of several historical incidents). They capture what these figures mean to us, even if they are rooted in a reality that is at least partially imaginary.
C-MacKenzie (Chris MacKenzie) removes the background imagery from his photographs, creating uncanny visions of people in surreal blank settings. Although his figures often assume the pose of spectators, they gaze upon nothingness. In creating these images, C-MacKenzie draws on his background in motion picture editing and post production, in which mistakes are removed from an image and figures are pasted to scenery. He envisions his artistic process as “withholding information” from the viewer. By negating the sense of place, C-MacKenzie creates an unknowable and mysterious world.