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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