A question of select and delete?

After visiting the plastic bag gallery I can only wish the participant photographers picked the bags up and got rid of it afterward. Some are to the point but in most cases I would have hoped they did it already before making the image. In general I would call a plastic bag in a street a piece of rubbish to be dumped in a litter box. Does anybody agree? We can all start a discussion about this. Just that Duchamp redefined art a hundred years ago does not mean to follow him as sheep or copy him in a brainless way. How permanent should a ready made be to be ready to be a sculpture in urban surroundings, for instance. And what in the case of time based art or performance?

I would like to show a relatively permanent and temporary example of sculptures i encountered in Bergen which both fit the title according to my (yes, negotiable) rules. The blue fence which is the outside wall of a car park does not get this definition if it would have had another color than this blue though. The pile of snow is in front of Bergenhallen in Sletten. It is more permanent than one might think: this photo is made on a warm September day. Actually last summer young artist Sveinung R Unneland remade a similar piece of snow in public space for Tempo Skien 08. (go to site, click artist – unneland – top photo). It was the first (or only?) object to be destroyed by passersby.

Plastic bags

I have just recently (belatedly) discovered this on the website of The Photographers' Gallery, London - a whole series of images of plastic bags in all kinds of locations. Plastic bags are an interesting combination of instability and semi-permanence; they are flimsy, unstable, usually unsuited to their primary purpose, and yet made of a material that persists and accumulates. And we encounter them everywhere, they almost become a kind of architectural language.  Here are two from my own collection, seen in the streets of Bergen.


RUB (readymade urban banquet)

"tis the season to be merry, eating and drinking too much, falling over in the street, office party drunken antics as the real instability of urban Christmas. Here's a "RUB" (readymade urban banquet) as observed in the street today....


Post-literary urban research

A recent post on the blog "Ballardian" is recommended reading. The author was interested in determining the location of JG Ballard's concrete island, from the novel of the same name. Using descriptions from the novel as a guide, he makes a convincing argument for the location being an area of waste ground under the Westway intersection, between Latimer Road and White City in West London. The article also brings together maps old and new, archive images, news stories and historical accounts of the neighbourhood that was erased to make way for the Westway, the elevated motorway that cuts through the Notting Hill/ Ladbroke Grove area and that had a special significance during the punk era, especially in songs by The Clash. In 2000, dj & film director Don Letts made the documentary "Westway to The World", a retrospective appraisal of  The Clash.

Spatial tension and silent dialogue

Saturday morning, walking from home in Møhlenpris across the centre of town towards the railway station I noticed a whole series of lost/rejected articles in strange and somehow significant configurations. Here are two "found" installations that seem to activate the space they occupy and suggest a kind of dialogue between the objects.

semiotic arousel and lost sound


Piksel 2008

It's Piksel time again in Bergen - the annual festival for open-source software-based art and related activities. There were several openings on Thursday evening at various venues including USF and Lydgalleriet.  At the latter venue, the group Loud Objects gave a short performance that involved "live soldering" of circuits, oscillators and small loudspeakers placed on an overhead projector. I am fairly sure that this is the first time that I have witnessed "performative soldering"....  Afterwards at Landmark, The Icelandic Love Corporation presented a programme of short videos by artists from Iceland. A very mixed bag quality wise, but it was a nice event anyway.


After all In the beginning there was emotion.

It is December again, the days are cold and short but also dry, and I have been wandering the streets of Bergen today with my girl and youngest son collecting empty plastic bottles, our contribution to a better planet, which made us 23 NOK! While we were walking we were talking the baby sleeping and Hilde asked me: Look at those green overgrown stairs up to the house for elderly people and nobody seems to have taken the path for ages, would you call that an urban readymade, Ronnie? Uncertain I quickly answered: Definitely not! But are not all objects readymades the moment I classify them as such in all consious subjectivity? And that again made me think if these disposed street bottles with 1 NOK refund are maybe temporary readymades in the sense that they are especially thrown away for us to be found and noticed and cashed to consider them as ... or buy a...

Did it not all start for Marcel Duchamp with the fact that he fixed a wheel upside down on a chair in his atelier out of boredom? To give it a push once in a while to see and hear the optical illusions by looking through the turning spokes while he was stuck creating a painting? I do not think his first intention was to put it into an exhibition for the sake of it anyway but eventually more a punk statement after the discussion (confusion?) he provoked with his actual paintings at that time not being clearly futurist or cubist but instead a mixture of both. After all purism and fundamentalism are of all human sorts and seasons.

I am not sure if you know but at one of the readymade sites you can actually order by post little plastic signs with the following text: Urban Ready Made – Location – Artist – Date – the Bernini Foundation – website address. Idea is that you can hang it near the classified object and so take it of it's anonimity and loudly pronounce it is a piece of art. I have two of them at home and lying around waiting for my ego to choose sides.

It is December again for all of us and while walking through Sletten and Slettebakken, excuse me for my language but those names make Dutch people actually smile or some even laugh or upset (ha, first I wrote: blush!) any time of the year, I also begin again and can not escape to notice the expanding amount of decorations installed behind practically half of every home window. Repetitive endless Bethlehem stars and plastic candle stairs giving insufficient light to the cold slippery dark streets of the hottest town districts. I do not know about other passersby but they do not give me any extra warmth. I immediately picture in my head a special KIWI 1000 supermarket offer: Readymade Holy Coziness for only 49 NOK! Which means we are almost halfway in getting it ourselves soon, aren't we, my son.

And then look at the trees in their now half dead or sleepy front gardens... Not only the pine but any urban bush available is forced to participate by being cruelly electrified in chains of light. Suddenly those actually hardly ever looked upon sad bushes are uprated to real Manifests of seasonal Beauty. Could they be called, in the spirit of the bottles, December URM's ? Are they not temporary artworks and masterpieces? Or does this only occur when some person or me starts to collect them in an artistic series of photographs, giving it a sophisticated or unexplainable title and exhibiting it in a gallery for the selected few, preferably in an exotic other country? I guess the answer is 'no they are not either way' but how can I be sure. The first time I came upon the term urban readymades I liked it too, I do admit. It kind of suited the odd objects or circumstances I once in a while encounter in the streets. Those sometimes humorous city sculptures which seem to be left by time or neglect, stupidity and ignorance and make me stop for a while and (re) consider other things as important. My girl got me on an overgrown footpath and so I am more than willing to follow Jeremy's quest to search for another suitable term if a term is actually needed. So, what about VULFA? Very Urban Lost & Found Art! Or am I too unstable urban now?

I wanted to include an image I photographed of the timbered pinetree the landlord of the estate I live on so kindly forced into my view when I smoke my cigarette on the balcony while having a break from writing this contribution at the kitchen table of our still starless house but decided not to because i do not want to see a christmastree while i visit this site.


URM - urban readymades - again

I've looked through a lot of the images on the Urban Readymades site, and have thought about the notion of "Urban Readymades" quite a lot in recent days. Although there is something appealing about the notion, and it's a neat way of hijacking an art term to apply to things outside and beyond the art world, I'm not sure it really works, or that the things, events, situations portrayed in the images at the URM site can actually be thought of as readymades in a Duchampian sense. Duchamp did more than simply rename - he altered, subtly or not so subtly, the objects he chose and then deliberately recontextualised them. A photograph of a more or less random discovery or incident in an urban environment does not do the same thing. The artist or photographer is selecting, naming, giving attention to, indicating that something is of interest, is an object of curiosity, could be regarded as art; but the item is not being transplanted from its original location into the institutional framework of art in the same way as Duchamp's readymades. The act of "naming" urban readymades lies closer to Cage's  strategy of deflecting attention away from the performed musical act and towards the chance or random auditory event. The process of "discovering" and then documenting and representing situations encountered in the urban environment is also akin to the practice of the Situationist derivé, and the assembling of documentation into graphic representations with real or notional links to geographical point of origin is similar to the mapping activities of artists who base their practice on urban exploration or intervention.

So I am looking for another term to describe this activity. For my own part, I have for years consistently documented found, discarded, overlooked, disused, relocated, incongruous objects and situations in both urban and rural environments. And I know lots of others, artists and non artists alike do the same. The images somehow assemble themselves into archives of kinds, suggest narratives, behave like art or not, trigger moments of memory and recognition, appeal to a sense of the absurd or function as a subtle critique of the dominant values of a society. It could also be argued that they belong to a genre of photography with its own grammar, conventions, means of distribution, value systems. But an important characteristic from my viewpoint is that these images refer to things/events/situations that are not monumental, not spectacular, that are ephemeral, perhaps paradoxical and that can function as part of a discourse that is not dependent upon the imperatives of the art institution or the market.

I conclude therefore, that I don't want to use the term "Urban Readymades" despite its obvious appeal, but I do want to examine and engage with a photographic practice that is about "capturing", "exposing" and "framing" small incidents and overlooked objects in the urban environment. And further to this I see it as a perfect method for collaborative, non-heirarchical, open practices where individual images exist within a field of reference and signification that creates dialogue.


shotgun architecture

Shotgun Architecture is an ongoing project that I started during a residency at the Virtual Museum Zuidas in Amsterdam. The Zuidas is a new business district initiated by a number of financial institutions but which has ambitions to become a “new city centre” Recently the city of Amsterdam announced plans to build a large “culture temple” for blockbuster exhibitions there.

Shotgun Architecture plays with concepts of subjective measurement, translations between sound and image and above all the idea of the publicness of public space.

I recorded the sound of a pistol shot in a number of semi-public open spaces in the Zuidas area, thus collecting acoustic signatures (the impulse responses) of each space. I used them in two ways.

- the recordings were used to create a sound composition which explores the resonances of the chose places.

- the recordings are used as a kind of sonar; the stereo (and therefore 2 dimensional) sound data is analysed for spatial and spectral characteristics which are plotted against each other resulting in an visual map of the acoustic space. These maps, drawn by a computer program, resemble the visual spaces themselves only in terms of scale: a larger, open space results in a wider pattern of lines. Because of the complexity of the acoustic reality of an urban space, the link between the physical plan of the space and the corresponding “sonar map” is very tenuous.

But still they tell me something about the space. The experience of listening to an urban soundscape is difficult to describe, in words or in notation. These maps suggest a way to describe the open-ness or closed-ness of spaces, the density of reflections and reverberation, the presence of strong resonances or mechanical drones.

I intend to develop this technique for visualising acoustic spaces in a way that doesn’t require firing guns!

Justin Bennett.

Retro-Musings of the Quantum Brother in the Listening Post

You hepcat  Bureaucrats  probably know  of this already but last Sunday I  discovered the Listening Post, the digital installation  created by Mark Hansen & Ben Rubin at The Science Museum in London.  It is the perfect audio-visual  signifier-system  for "the ultimate urban infinitive'' (line from one of my own half-forgotten ill-begotten poems).  The Museum describes it thus:

Listening Post is a ‘dynamic portrait’ of online communication, displaying uncensored fragments of text, sampled in real-time, from public internet chatrooms and bulletin boards. Artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin have divided their work into seven separate ‘scenes’ akin to movements in a symphony. Each scene has its own ‘internal logic’, sifting, filtering and ordering the text fragments in different ways.

The urban iconography of the work becomes apparent from the way it's physically configured as an installation, as a high curved wall of tiny monitors in a darkened space, the embodiment of those modular glass walls of  Canary Wharf and the Dockland Towers, the zone where James and myself had been been staying that weekend.  The screens flash on and off, like the lights in a million apartments,  each  little blip of space desperate to make contact, to share its real time and constantly mutating obsessions -  I LIKE  JESUS/I AM FIXING THE HARDRIVE/I AM A HOT BABE/ARE YOU ALSO  HUNGARIAN/THE MARKETS KEEP GOING DOWN...

The  fragments of text flash, scroll and disappear  like electronic banners  in Wall Street, Times Square, like bulletin boards in airports and subways, like the text displays in our phones and  the  text-boxes of our ever-changing passwords.    Yet , orchestrated in sequence around basic  grammatical structures or formal visual patterns,  the flux of text is, briefly,  stabilised before disintegrating and reforming in  new sequences.  

These texts also speak,  sometimes  in a precise, almost English accent, that  measured masculine automated  voice  that warns us that our possessions may be destroyed by the security services, or often in a counterpoint of silicate chirps and drones, the choirs of the post-human.

James and I sit there for a long time  in the semi-darkness, watching the evanescence of the screens  and listening to the global city in full cry.  James is  fascinated  by the programming skills and sampling strategies that must have  been used to hold the whole thing  together. I'm mesmerised by the flux. "The light  gleams an instant and then it's night once more..."


Logging in

Though I was invited to join BUU couple of weeks ago, it has taken a while to find the time (in fact this introduction will be be brief, because of the continuing running out of it.) The main reason being my participation in Article 08 (a biannual exhibition for electronic and unstable media in Stavanger, Norway), the race to get my contribution, the Electromagnetic Fountain, ready for it, and the challenge to organise the maintenance of the fountain with the exhibition organisers. I have a host of reflections about this experience that I would like to share and perhaps discuss in the BUU. Some are posted on my project blog, others are waiting to see the light of day, but right now I have got to dash - my current urban instability is reaching critical levels .....



Port City Safari: The Sound Of The City

A public art project linking European port cities, beginning in Bristol (UK) and ending with Sassuolo (Italy). It has been featured at Biennales in Istanbul, Athens and Liverpool. The project takes as a starting point Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and aims to map city spaces through a collection of sounds/silences/noises.

See AMAZE cultural lab for details.

URM - urban readymades

Some photos contributed by Ron Sluik of "urban readymades" discovered in the streets of Bergen. Sluik also has photos from Chisinau, Moldova, at Urban Readymades.

Athen's 487, the Excluded

1 Maastricht, former site of the "Sociéte Céramique Maastricht" factories, 1993
2 Shard, found on-site, 1993
3, 4 Installation at Krings-Ernst Gallery, 277 photographs, 26 glass cases with shards, 2008

Last days of my exhibition “Athens 487, the Excluded  - Photographs and glass cases” until December 13th, 2008, at Krings-Ernst Gallery, Cologne, Germany. 

The exhibition shows two-hundred-seventy-seven shards. The shards of cups, plates and bowls, collected as small physical artefacts gathered in showcases and pictured and archived as individual photographs of their bottom side, so that the printed mark of the factory label remains visible, are placed symbolically at the center of the work as an amalgamation of history, destruction and exclusion.
The porcelain pieces were found on the site of the Société Céramique in Maastricht shortly after the demolition of the factory buildings in 1993. Maastricht had an extensive ceramics production since 1836, which was ceased in 1969.
Athens’s Ostracism that took place between 487 and 417 BC, a citizen could be expelled from the city for ten years for popularity, as people feared that popularity would be the root of tyranny. The exclusion was decided upon by a vote with shards.
In 1992, representatives of Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Italy signed the so-called MAASTRICHT TREATY of the European Union, which regulates the EU enlargements.
Or, according to Isaak Luria’s Kabbalah interpretation, an accident in creation happens: two-hundred-eighty-eight sparks plunge down with the particles after the rupture of the jars. Creation has been put in disarray and all creatures are now in exile...

Doris Frohnapfel, Athen 487, die Ausgeschlossenen  -  Fotografien und Vitrinen, 31. August  -  13. Dezember 2008, Krings-Ernst Galerie, Goltsteinstr. 106 /110, 50968 Köln, e-mail. info@kegallery.com, Öffnungszeiten: Di.-Fr. 15.00 - 18.00 , Sa. 12.00-16.00 Uhr u.n.V.


trespassing with Irit

I had the chance to see Irit Rogoff speak this week at the ICI in Berlin, on the topic of what she calls "Geocultures". What continually strikes me about her thinking and approach is her considered attempts to think through the current conditions of the contemporary, and to see within artistic practice a field of research and production that fully embodies the current intensification and dynamics of the contemporary. Following her extremely considered and evocative lecture, I felt very inspired by her dedication to also recognize the interweaving of art production with both forms of global economy as well as political subjectivity, raising such questions as: how do we negotiate the relation of being increasingly situated as individuals and yet ever-deeply involved with global politics and culture, and how might we move away from a language that still sees art production as expressions of representation and develop understanding on the full implications that contemporary practices raise? To get at these questions she proposed a number of terms that might begin to articulate a language of the geocultural. Such terms as "relational geographies" and "linked peripheries" and "regional imagination" were presented, as ways to express how the contemporary is formed around finding affinities across nation-states, and away from regimes of identity toward modes of cross-identification. In addition, at stake is an attempt to think past earlier models based on site-specificity and notions of place to appreciate how relational geographies are generative of modes of occupying and performing the current spatial and temporal dimension of the contemporary, rather than imagining that one ever arrives at "place" or at "truths" related to sites. Overall, I find myself returning to the lecture, as a fresh source of inspiration, and imagine much resonance between her thoughts (which seem based on the condition of cartographic fragmentation in general) and the notion of "unstable urbanism" - might unstable urbanism also be an imaginative space for making links that would come to occupy and perform, through forms of sharing and researching, the conditions of the contemporary, as well as potentially trespassing onto what might be off-limits?



Today is the launch of Intervall as well as the first day of B-Open in Bergen. Over the next five days there will be openings, book and magazine launches, open studios, concerts, performances and parties. And of course it is November in Bergen, so the weather is foul!  Today spectacularly so; not the best day therefore to open an open air art project, but we're doing it anyway.  Here are images from the photo installation "On A Clear Day", mounted in a small inner city public garden in Sandviken, Bergen.


Urban Readymades

This evening I was talking with artist Ron Sluik (formerly member of video art/noise/punk collective Auto Awac in the Netherlands) and he mentioned to me the notion of "urban readymades" - i.e. things you can encounter in the streets that can be recontextualised as art objects according to how one perceives them. The idea resonates for me, since I've been doing this for quite a long time, as have many others I know. There  are websites devoted to urban readymades and urban readymades though at this moment they are apparently under reconstruction so there is not as much to see as there might be. But the internet is presumably full of stuff that could fit this category anyway, not to mention all our personal photo collections. But to cut a long story short, "Urban Readymades" seems like a perfect BUU theme.


Imagining Space: Notes from the underground, from above, from behind and within

I'm quite happy to be joining the BUU and intend to be contributing over the next while. I am a media artist from Canada, currently residing in Berlin, whose practice looks at the relations between media, architecture and the body, dealing with situated actions, performances, and events taking place throughout a city near you. 

I thought I would start off by talking about a workshop that I recently taught at the Bergen National Academy of Arts - KHIB. Imagining Space: Notes from the underground, from above and  within was a two week exploration of urban spaces, how they are observed, sensed, re-interpreted, accessed or occupied, where the strategies of live art, public intervention, cartography and visualization were introduced. 

In the first week of the workshop I held five lectures over five days each having a different thematic take on how to perceive, understand and describe urban space. The first day dealt with 'defensible space', a term coined by geographer Stephen Flusty to describe  'Architecture of Fear' or systems that are designed to shape user's behavior - with the emphasis on the 'control of behavior. The second lecture covered the architectures of the imagined, hidden or unseen, focusing on underground networks, informational space, myth, fantasy and conspiracy theory. In the third lecture, we looked at how cities can be described in terms of their weather systems and the effects of weather on the human condition, specifically focusing on northern climates. Lecture four looked at the ways that spaces and bodies can be extended through technological and non-technological systems and networks. Finally in the fifth lecture we dealt with the senses of smell and sound as an alternative to vision in sensing spaces and developing a character of place. 

Each lecture was followed by some accompanying action, group and individual excursions out into the city, collectively witnessing an event or a film screening. For me, one of the highlights of the week was to be able to enter into the underground sewers of Bergen.  This we did on the second day and were in several underground spaces for most of that day. Other things we did were watch a sunrise together over a robotically controlled webcam in Utah, create a series of smell and sound maps, and watch a documentary on gated communities in the European Union. 

In the second week, the workshop participants started to developed their own projects using as their starting points some things experienced in the first week. I encouraged the idea of sketches and conceptual brainstorming and tried to influence the generation of ideas not constrained by the limits of time (a short two week workshop) or resources (an almost non-existent materials budget) referring to different artistic practices where the sketch, instruction, or recipe become artworks in themselves. 

A link to the workshop blog can be found here: Imagining Spacewhere I've also posted pdfs of all the lectures I gave.

Unfortunately not all the students posted their documentation. Not everybody likes to blog! However at least a few examples as well as a link to our Flickr Pool.

Underwater Bergen


For a number of years I have been photographing items that end up at the bottom of the harbour in Bergen, such as bicycles, supermarket trolleys and traffic bollards. The seabed of the harbour is like an alternative underwater version of the city, a version where the function of the sunken object has been obliterated. The objects take on another identity like a bizarre form of ready-made public art.

Contributions welcomed from anyone else who has recorded similar phenomena! Images can be added to the BUU picasaweb album "Underwater Bergen"



19th. November, opening of INTERVALL, a temporary public art project initiated by Curate.no (Sissel Lillebostad, Malin Barth & Anne Szefer Karlsen). Five artists, Arne Skaug Olsen, Thomas Pihl, Jeremy Welsh and Hilde Hauan Johnsen with Maia Urstad have been invited to create works for spaces within the urban environment of Bergen during the period 19.11 - 19.12 2008.

The first phase of the project launches on 19th. November with projects by Thomas Pihl and Jeremy Welsh.

18.30: Opening of Thomas Pihl light installation, Kaigaten, between the buildings of Sparebanken Vest and Sentrum Dameklær.
18.45: Walk to the next location.
19.00: Opening of Jeremy Welsh panoramic digital image in the park beside Dr. Wiesener's pub, Nye Sandviksveien.
19.15: Opening speech and refreshments inside Dr. Wieseners pub.

From Curate.no's curatorial statement:
"Can a temporary artwork reformulate a space and make it visible?"
With the project "Intervall" we want to investigate urban space. And especially the areas in the city that are in between the most defined spaces, those without a fixed function, or areas that are simply seen as transit zones. We know there is no neutral space in the city, but a space that lacks a more precise definition gives the impression of being without qualities, of not belonging. It appears as an in-between space, an interval between the places that are utilized and described..... The aim of the project is not to localize a specific viewpoint or to address a particular group of viewers. The aim is to underline the undefined, the ambivalent and the mutable in our understanding of our surroundings.

Intervall is being launched during B-Open, the Bergen bi-annual open art event.

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