May 4, 2010

Images: Super Deluxx Follow Up

More on the Images (below), as well as several new ones; as always, too much, too much. But seriously, how often do you see something like this.


Hyères, France, 1932 / Magnum

First of all, the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA is really quite remarkable, and I echo Kottke’s rave review (he mentions the image above, which was the first of many that caught my eye).

What he excelled at was seeing things in a different way from most other people.

A Father of Modern Photography: A Hunter and His Prey, The Economist, April 15 2010

The retrospective has a personal resonance on several levels: I’ve become increasingly interested in photography, journalism and photojournalism in the past couple years; his photographs of early and mid-century China are vaguely nostalgic (probably because I recently spent a couple months living in Beijing with my grandparents, who lived through it); and I recognized HCB’s portrait of Sartre from a book cover.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Discovered while eating a turkey hoagie and contemplating the meaning of life at a roadside stand. Also, admit it: he’s cute as a goddamn bug!

–Mike Sacks, Famous Philosophers and How They Were First Discovered,
McSweeney’s, May 2010

(More on HCB at Vanity Fair via 3qd.)

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Liu Bolin at Eli Klein: an excellent show despite the blue-chippy crowd at the opening. It might be more of the same and it probably has a certain loaded cultural content that can only be appreciated as someone who has recently spent time in China, but I would still say that the pieces in On Fire are visually compelling even without the political subtext.


His works have been communicated via emails, blogs, magazines and journals on a massive scale.

Liu Bolin’s earlier Hiding in the City photography series, in which he paints himself into the urban landscape, was inspired by the Chinese government’s demolition of the Suo Jiacun Artist Village in Beijing in 2006. He drew attention to great landmarks in China, both old and modern, while highlighting the lack of recognition which was paid to the citizens that built them. He portrayed the tragedy of the increasing insignificance of the individual in China as the government focused on presenting a modern commercial and industrial image. Rather than trying to fight, people attempted to hide and adapt to these forced changes.

–Liu Bolin’s On Fire press release & additional images via Eli Klein.


Click images for larger versions.


索家村 – Suo Jiacun [Artist's Village] (apparently, Liu Bolin reps it); 中国当代 – Contemporary China


折 – fold, discount, break, bend, snap, lose, roll over, convert, rebate, twist, double up, be convinced, turn back, turn over, lose money in business, change direction, be filled with admiration, suffer losses (Google Translate)

Dude's shirt (bottom right) matches the photograph...

Dude's shirt (bottom right) matches the photograph...

Liu Bolin
On Fire
Eli Klein Fine Art
462 West Broadway (near Houston)
New York NY 10012 [map]
212 / 255-4388
April 30, 2010 – June 4, 2010


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I didn’t make it to the Scott Campbell opening, but it made it into other “emails, blogs, magazines and journals on a massive scale”: TBWE has a nice gallery of the work and the opening; OC has a gallery of the work itself; HB recap; Interview studio visit via HB; Terry stays relevant.

I did make it to Faile & BAST‘s DELUXX FLUXX NYC opening (after stopping by Liu Bolin), but my photos didn’t turn out so well. Again, you can find more/better coverage elsewhere.

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Keith W. Bentley - “Cauda Equina” (1995-2007)

Keith W. Bentley – “Cauda Equina” (1995-2007)

The New York Times has an interesting article on the kind of organic art that is currently on display at the Museum of Arts and Design.


Jan Fabre – "Skull" (2001); Fabián Peña – "The Impossibility of Storage for the Soul I (Self-Portrait)" (2007)

Of course, people have always used natural materials to make their art, for the simple reason that until recently nature was all they had, said Ellen Dissanayake, a scholar on the evolution of art [who notes that] from the beginning, art demanded transformation. “Even in hunter-gatherer societies, they tend to make their stuff look not organic,” she said. “When they’re painting, they’ll use geometric shapes, make a row of triangles or circles, as though to show humans are more than nature.”

As Ms. Dissanayake sees it, when people make art, or “artify,” they follow several “aesthetic principles,” whether they know it or not. “They simplify, repeat, exaggerate, elaborate and manipulate expectations,” she said.

–Natalie Angier, Of Compost, Molecules and Insects, Art Is Born,
The New York Times, May 3 2010

– (2008)

Billie Grace Lynn – "Mad Cow Motorcycle" (2008)

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I didn’t particularly regret missing the Shepard Fairey opening until I saw this:


Animal / TWBE

More Shepard Fairey and many more after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

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April 20, 2010

The Tallest Building On Earth

» Ratatat – Shempi (3:58) – 5.5MB mp3 @ 192kbps

“Shempi” is easily my favorite track from Ratatat’s LP3 and I’m a sucker for overtly arty, washed-out, high-contrast cinematography and hyperreal hypothetical urbanism/architecture, so this video basically has my name on it.


Bonus pic:


Homemade wildcat stencil

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April 18, 2010

Yr City's a Sucker


Last week, the NYC media was abuzz about New York Magazine‘s recent report on our great city’s most livable neighborhoods, a “quantitative index of the 50 most satisfying places to live,” complete with an interactive neighborhood ranking feature. Statistician Nate Silver of  weighted and rated each neighborhood against a dozen criteria, from practical concerns like affordability, transit and schools to a full range of cultural factors (Silver explains in more detail on his own blog).

via Very Small Array

Semi-relevant humorous graphic via Very Small Array

Park Slope takes first, followed by the Lower East Side and (surprise?) Sunnyside, Queens. My own ‘hood, Fort Greene, is 18th, representing a purportedly objective improvement over my previous home in Williamsburg (20th), though adjacent neighborhoods such as Prospect Heights and Greenpoint (which apparently did not lose points for prevalent vinyl siding) place ninth and fifth, respectively. The fact that half of the top ten is within the two miles east of my current home is an obvious testament to the city’s density—a 30-minute walk (or 5-minute bike ride) in any direction takes me across up to five distinct neighborhoods—while the disparity in ranking suggests that even adjacent blocks may be worlds apart.


Conversely, I find that ethnographic data is perhaps more telling than the pseudo-scientific approach. While it’s hard to draw grand conclusions from a 5,000-person poll (conducted in conjunction with Silver’s number-crunching), I tend to think that these pithy gems constitute a more accurate snapshot of present-day New York than the algorithmic approach. (There are too many fun facts to list here; I recommend viewing it for yourself.)

In any case, the content and information design is well-executed, though I wish gave the option to view full articles as a single page (and, similarly, view all of the comments at once as well). Technical issues aside, I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the content: as a conscientious urbanite, I am fascinated by both the social and cultural dynamics of city life and the concept of conurbation.

Lots of words with no images: Read the rest of this entry »

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April 7, 2010

New Bike Tech has a new interview with the guys behind Outlier, who craft cyclable basics.

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Benedict Radcliffe Graffiti Bike = The Art of Going Brakeless / Instant Morris Louis


Viktor Vautier via Juxtapoz.

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I’m not surprised to hear that electric bikes are all the rage in China: I remember seeing countless two-wheeled contraptions that had some kind of ad hoc outboard motor strapped to them. In fact, I passed an old Chinese dude riding an electric bike across the Manhattan Bridge just the other day…


Of course, besides legal issues, GOOD points out that electric bikes represents a stepping stone between traditional transportation (bicycles) and an emerging middle class aspiring to Western ideals of status (electrics automobiles)—an intermediate space in a rapidly developing economy that is nonexistent in our car-dominated nation.

The Economist via GOOD. Also on NYT.

Read the rest of this entry »

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April 5, 2010

The Great Wall of Chinatown

“This is not New York like in the ‘Gossip Girls.’”

China may have the most Internet users in the world, but sometimes they (we?) just prefer a good old-fashioned wall.


Metaphors? No chance.

I wonder if the super-cheap / super-shady / super-illegal cubicles at 81 Bowery are posted there…


Symbolism? Never. Just wall.

The Ace Hotel (below) is just jealous.


Also, is it just me, or does the term “Ad Wall” sound like something out of a publication’s web media kit—as in, “Our placements include a banner, skyscraper, leaderboard, or a marquee… or if your budget allows, we’re piloting a new kind of ad that called the ‘AD WALL’…”

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April 4, 2010



We’re starting an urban garden in our backyard.


I’m not really sure what anything is, but they look nice, don’t they?


Also, I’m trying to figure out the manual focus feature on my digital camera.


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April 2, 2010


This video from about a month ago, but it’s relevant (or at least as relevant as anything I post):

On his blog the Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer recently explored the ‘Commuters Paradox‘:

When people are choosing where to live, they consistently underestimate the pain of a long commute. [People] mistakenly believe that the big house in the exurbs will make them happier, even though it might force them to drive an additional hour to work

Of course, as Brooks notes, that time in traffic is torture, and the big house isn’t worth it. According to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer, a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

I’ve found that this is true of public transportation as well: since I moved to Fort Greene from Williamsburg, the lack of public transportation has been an immeasurable source of psychic distress. However, I must say that the big apartment is definitely worth it.

In fact, like several of the commenters, I’ve found that commuting on bike circumvents the arbitrariness of automobile traffic, following a different set of rules: travel time has a regular rate based on distance, terrain and, sometimes, fatigue.

In other words, I am in complete control of my journey when I am on my bike, performing a split-second cost-benefit analysis of running a red light or deciding to take a shortcut that goes against traffic for a block. The only variables that are completely beyond my control are poor road and weather conditions, both of which are fairly low on the list of drivers’ discontents. Meanwhile, the subway is subject to all manner of hindrance and impediment, and I doubt that any New Yorker has gone for more than a dozen trips without the inconvenience of some kind of delay.

Furthermore, I echo one reader’s cyclists’ envy: on occasions when I opt to take the subway or walk, I can’t help but envy bikers as they speed by, liberated from the oppressive gravity of concrete jungle.

(Streetsblog also took David Brooks’ lead and covered the topic of commuting, with more good comments, if you’re into that sort of thing.)


In other bike news, the Brooklyn Greenway, a 14-mile bike and pedestrian path spanning the East River waterfront from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge, is underway. I’m all for it.


Last but not least, Revisiting the Idea of a Bicycle Tax and revisiting the idea of congestion pricing. I’ve never been a hardcore cycling proselyte (=procyclyte?), but I’m far more amenable to the latter idea.

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March 13, 2010

Psychic City

» Modest Mouse – Tiny Cities Made of Ashes (3:42) – 4.3MB mp3 @ 160kbps

Director & VFX artist Sam O’Hare has just completed a short film using time-lapse tilt-shift technology to create the illusion of a miniature New York City. The Sandpit is really quite amazing—I recommend viewing it in fullscreen HD.

I’m not quite clear on how the film was created, even after reading this brief interview on how the film was created, but, as with so many other Internet rabbitholes, Kottke simultaneously introduced me to Koyaanisqatsi, a landmark 1982 art film by Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke with an original score by Philip Glass (viewable in full on Hulu), as an obvious reference point for O’Hare.


Meanwhile, an unidentified student at Kyoto University of Art & Design has transformed several home appliances into tiny cities.

Spoon & Tamago via Swiss Miss


8-Bit NYC is perhaps the polar opposite of the beautiful works of video and sculpture above, but it’s pleasantly diverting nonetheless.


What the hell, I love this song: YACHT – Psychic City (5:09) – 9.8MB mp3 @ 262kbps

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March 11, 2010

Coffee Break

Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times

Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times

Today is the first day in about two weeks that I haven’t had a cup of coffee. I go through coffee phases, though I’ve been hitting the French press harder and harder, in a manner of speaking, lately. I also drank a fair amount of coffee in Beijing (related excerpt below) and I think I’ve been on the upswing since the beginning of the year…

Meanwhile, the New York Times has an excellent feature on the city’s best coffee, plus an interactive map of coffee hotspots. I’m tempted to try and get a cup of joe at each and every one, moving outward daily in concentric circles from Fort Greene starting with Ortine. NYT also says coffee is good for you and Christoph Niemann’s thoughts on coffee. (Unrelated, but he has cleverly appropriated the iconic visual language of Google maps [which now features bike directions] for the latest installment of Abstract City, which was posted yesterday. Much better than the last two, in my opinion.)

Free associating a bit, City of Sound has an excellent (if rather lengthy) essay on the iPad as a device for the third place (i.e. the coffeeshop).

Here is my analysis of the Wudaokou coffee scene, from a long-lost China post that I drafted on the food & drink situation:

Nevertheless, much of the money I’ve been saving on food, alcohol and cigarettes ends up going towards coffee, a necessary luxury which happens to go for American rates or more—$1.50 for shitty drip, $3 for anything decent—the same price as A.) lunch and an afternoon snack, B.) anywhere between one and five beers depending on the point of sale, and C.) two to four packs of cigarettes. I usually stick with the Americano, which is roughly the same price as the daily brew at 18RMB [$2.66] including one free refill; fancier drinks have fancier prices.

A staple for the wealthy elite, coffee is rarely ordered to go, as per the American on-the-go lifestyle; instead, it is usually consumed in a coffeeshop with a Continental deference (and cigarettes, of course).

Indeed, cafes are typically rather upscale affairs, a fabled “third place” that Westerners might call their own, since the Chinese seem largely unaware that there might be more than two places. Free wi-fi, long (often endless) business hours, decent service and full menus (invariably in English and Chinese) reinforce the classy atmosphere.

Still, I have come to discern clear discrepancies between the clientele of the three coffeeshops that I frequent: The Bridge, Cava Coffee and Beantree (all located conveniently on my block). The Bridge is the largest and busiest, with room for about a hundred patrons on each of two floors, catering to a majority of foreigners representing North America, most of the EU and Australia, not to mention Chinese-American students and a few native Chinese. Cava attracts more native Chinese and other assorted Asians, as well as the occasional 老外, while Beantree’s clientele consists mostly of Korean and Japanese students.

However, today marked the first time I’ve enjoyed Kombucha in about five months. Maybe that’s what got me all wired this afternoon… though I will most certainly be back on the bean tomorrow.

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March 9, 2010




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