Ben van Berkel at RIBA

Ben van Berkel is talking to Brett Steele at RIBA tonight: 6:30 - 8. £5/8. 65 Portland Place.

He set up the UNStudio with Caroline Bos. They have a good design method. Kultureflash have a nice blurb.

Up the top there is the Mobius House from the 90's:

The intertwining trajectory of the [mobius] loop relates to the 24-hour living and working cycle of the family, where individual working spaces and bedrooms are aligned but collective areas are situated at the crossing points of the paths.


Troika and atoyfactory and O'Shea

My highlights from the recent Cybersonica exhibition were remodelled versions of simple hand-operated objects: the Etch A Sketch and music box. Some of the other things on show were too clever for me - I don't find PSPs intuitive and have no patience for complicated interfaces. These things should work without human instructions.

Anyway, back to what I liked: Troika and atoyfactory made great quasi-monolithic black boxes that did things when you prodded them. (Not literally. I tried, but touch screens aren't in it seems.)

First off, schizoporotica was really good to look at. So all of their things are beautiful (like last year's datasound) but this thing had grooves and detail:

There were stacks of flyers/punchcards to tear, and a whole host of songs to choose from. The machine warped the tune in accordance with the pattern of the shredded parameters. Naturally I chose the tetris theme, but apparently the most popular track was Jump. Que? Got to feel sorry for those Phonica employees.

On the other side of the room, EtchAsound had 4 microphones which controlled the dimensions of a moving 3D drawing. This video describes the whole process better than I could.

As interesting as these things are, I don't know whether they'd work outside the language of the original objects. They rely on a sensory understanding that's been warped: the creative constraints of the hand-operated toys have been replaced by physical constraints akin to hands being tied. It's a little stifling for those who are hands-on, but the tech's suitably impressive.

Back at home I got out my Mogwai music box and played Tracy on repeat, so it's ok. On the subject of music boxes and neatly tying knots: before curating the cybersonica exhibition Chris worked on a beautiful installation with Allofus at the v&a called Plink Plonk that had the things emitting patterns:


John Cage's musicircus at the tate modern

You won't hear a thing; you'll hear everything.
John Cage on the Musicircus.

This Sunday I'll be performing in Marina Rosenfeld's Sheer Frost Orchestra, part of John Cage's Musicircus at the Tate Modern. With 17 of us, including Margarita, Melanie and the Electra ladies. There'll be lots of people scattered across the Turbine Hall: Scanner, Robert Worby, Linda Hurst, the Kreutzer String Quartet and more. Each group will come in at different times and play according to chance distribution.

One very important element is that there should at all times be many people performing simultaneously. The next is that, since none of the musicians are being paid, there being too many of them, the entire event must be free to the public... In harmony with the separation of this work from conventional economics, I have not made a score nor have I published one of course. John Cage 1976.

It starts at 2 and lasts 3 hours. Come along!


lineto | the TypeWriter

lineto have an online typewriting function that's eating up my lunch break. You can play with all their type, there's good choice of backgrounds (graph paper and envelope insides). It's called the TypeWriter and you can send the results to your friends.


Knight's tour tesselations.

Dan Thomasson's made lots of tesselations based on the Knight's tour:
knight's tour

He doesn't mention Perec anywhere, but it's ok.

And also, this thing is great.

(illusion, 2005 copyright Dan Thomasson)


E.T. | Cancer survival rates: tables, graphics, and PP

More Tufte.

From this:

(Hermann Brenner, "Long-term survival rates of cancer patients achieved by the end of the 20th century: a period analysis," The Lancet, 360 Oct 2002)

To this:

(Edward Tufte)

To this:

(Dave Nash)

Via a chuckle at PowerPoint chartjunk Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios:

Ask E.T.

Edward Tufte has a great website. A companion for his printed press (this one's my favourite) it also has an active forum: ask E.T.

In a recent post thinking and paper he quotes from a New Yorker article by Gladwell:the social life of paper:

the messy desk is not necessarily a sign of disorganization. It may be a sign of complexity: those who deal with many unsolved ideas simultaneously cannot sort and file the papers on their desk, because they haven't yet sorted and filed the ideas in their head.

The rest of the thread brings up the myth of the paperless office, bill gates' paperless office, the passion for paper and this method of dealing with paper. Wow:


Echo woods | Sydenham Hill

Sara has made an audio walk, as part of the eco-vandalism exhibition that's inhabiting the woods in Dulwich.

Listening to a portable audio player, a woman's voice directs you around the woods. You become part of her story, while she plays tricks on you, and challenges your perceptions of time and space. It runs the 13th and 14th.

Sara's last audio tour was binaural and in the British library. It's ongoing and you can pick up a headset from one of the lockers if you ask nicely.

It's a shame I'm taking a weekend out from the trees - this looks great. Those who know me will know that last Saturday I took on the persona of an owl, and the one before that I unleashed my wind-up bird on Seven Sisters forest. (Yes, that really is its name and no, it's not in NE.) Perhaps unleash is the wrong word to use there - I don't think its clicks could be heard over the flute or the indian cymbals or the drums. It's a shy bird - it needs a key to work.

My wind-up bird:


C-Fix: cement methadone.

(laying down the C-Fix)

The front page of Technology Guardian today loves up UKM/Shell patented C-Fix - hydrocarbon concrete from the world of thermoplastics: a by-product of refining heavy crude oil.

They're saying it's a viable environmentally-friendly alternative to cement (saves 3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per ton) but another source is saying it'll creep if made into a tower block. Either way, we can pour it and it moulds to contours. So it's ok.

The stuff is currently only being used in Holland: Six house-sized blocks of carbon concrete are currently holding the North Sea at bay. Wow.

Pretty impressive for a year-old start up.

Other (pretty old news) in cement via worldchanging:
flexible concrete: an ECC (Engineered Cement Composites) - fiber-reinforced concrete. They make canoes out of this stuff. More wow.

(MIT's failed 2003 entry)

And before I forget - DETAIL have a whole issue dedicated to concrete that I've wanted for a while. It's in the Serpentine bookshop. P11-16 look most apt for today, entitled: the trouble with concrete.


brian eno | mistaken memories of mediaeval manhattan

These are stills from some of Eno's video paintings. He got a panasonic industrial colour video camera from a Foreigner roadie in the late 70s. There weren't any automatic controls (it was hard to do anything realistic with it) so he left it lying on its side staring out of his Manhattan apartment, gradually changing the light sensitivity levels at his whim. It's portrait, so apparently the reference to TV is lost: when you are in the proscenium arch shape you expect narrative, you expect things to happen.

We had it running in our studio over lunch. Music for Airports plays. People expected something to happen. The amplified minutiae was too much and not enough for some. We're 4 floors up, a small room in a tower block. The lack of air swells my glands, but we have access to a neat panorama of London that shifts with similar regularity, and it is stunning.

In the liner notes Eno mentions something about having to live high up in big cities: rooftops and clouds: the films arise from the desire to make a quiet place for myself. They evoke in me a sense of 'what could have been' and hence generate a nostalgia for a different future.


La grotta azzurra

There's a blue grotto in Capri. Statues of pagan gods can be found at the bottom of the cave. After Emporer Tiberius, no one entered it for centuries because fishermen thought it was haunted by evil spirits. A failed german artist August Topisch rediscovered it in 1826, and chains now draw boats inwards. There are almost too many stories to be told, and no I have never been to la grotta azzurra.

This postcard uses a special printing technique: It's been dunked in blue. But it's a shade far darker than any of the emphatic fluorescents I read of on the tourist sites. It has a glazed consistency - the water has always been this still. The reflections themselves are daily reiterations and will be only ever be slight variations of what the walls have already seen. And the postcard is wordless, again.

the story of Silver Lake

I've been trying to find a story about Silver Lake, a factual story. It sounds serene, doesn't it? Silver Lake. I have never been to Silver Lake.

Well, it's also known as Morice Pond, and all I have managed to track down is a detailed history of Sackville. I think this is my favourite paragraph so far:

At the close of the year 1755, we find the populous French villages on the Isthmus as well as at Chipoudy, along the Petitcodiac, at Shediac and from thence to Pugwash destroyed, their ancient owners scattered from Quebec to Georgia or else, hiding in the forests, with their Indian allies and their farms acres of desolation. Those who escaped into the forests struggled forward to Miramichi and a few found homes at the head waters of the Saint John. From both of these places numbers were able to seek permanent homes in Quebec. At this period, Miramichi had a French population of 3,500 people.

Back to the postcard: there's nothing written on the back. This has always belonged to one of those selfish travellers.
The faded patch encircling a portion of the tree there - it has the radius of my thumb. Whoever had this before me knew that's where he'll always look.


77.7 springs

That's how many more I have to see, according to Maeda's life countdown.

The spring depicted above is from Aydat. The stamp says: souvenir du lac d'Aydat. I've never been to Aydat.

Apparently, there is an abundance of glycine and b-alanine to be found in the water there. Maybe the calm exuding from this image is something to do with combined amino acids in lake sediments.

Le Lac d'Aydat is the biggest natural lake in Auvergne. It lies in the middle of a chain of volcanoes - Chaine des Puys - one of which erupted long ago, the lava cooling so slowly that it formed a river bed. No one knows why these volcanoes are there - they lie far from the edges of tectonic plates.

The back of the postcard is not dated, and reads: Au plaisir de nous voir sous feu.