Wasting Time in New York City
07.29.2013, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“The physical experience of centuries-old ice from the glaciers of Eliasson’s native Iceland makes tangible a history that extends beyond the human life span—time that is measured in thousands of years rather than mere decades.” — MoMA Ps1


This summer, there are at least two sub-freezing spaces where heat-weary New Yorkers can retreat.  One is the new Minus5 Ice Bar in Manhattan (with two other locations in Las Vegas). The other, a small room at MoMA PS1.


At the door of the Minus5 bar guests are offered parkas or faux fur coats and can sit at a bar sculpted of ice, drinking vodka out of an ice glass, in a space kept near 23 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The Minus5 website claims their frigid environment is constructed entirely of imported blocks of “100% Canadian ice.”

One hundred percent Icelandic ice that “broke off” from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, about six months ago, can be found at MoMA PS1, courtesy of the artist Olafur Eliasson (he first exhibited ice as art in 2006 in Berlin). To keep the glacial ice from melting further, the thermostat of the room at PS1 is set to maintain a temperature between zero and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Eliasson’s project, provocatively titled, Your Waste of Time is a “module” of PS1’s  EXPO 1: New York, an exhibition that describes itself as: “an exploration of ecological challenges in the context of the economic and sociopolitical instability of the early 21st century” (read more).


In full disclosure, FOP has visited Eliasson’s ice room only. Yet,  when we consider these two icy chambers, one bar and one art installation, in juxtaposition and situated in New York City (a location increasingly forced to accept its precarious exposure to impending rising sea-levels induced by melting glaciers), some interesting resonances occur.  Vast material affordances support the existence of both of these endeavors.  Though the air conditioner at PS1 keeping the Icelandic ice frozen is fueled in part by the museum’s solar panels, when we asked a gallery attendant if PS1 would be keeping the panels after EXPO 1 is over, the reply was “no.” This seemed awkward, given the long view Eliasson’s work is attempting to make possible and the overall mandate of exhibition.

Regardless,  it’s worth noting that, at least at this moment, both the artists and entrepreneurs who created these icy spaces inhabit a planet and economies that enable the existence of such resource intensive projects and their myriad and complex systems of support.  For a look at how chilled landscapes that are in service to the American food supply play out on a daily basis across the entire continent, on behalf of all of us, we highly recommend following the work of Nicola Twilley and her co-curated exhibition with the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Perishable: An Exploration of the Refigerated Landscape of America.

Ice filled rooms, at least in theory, would have been a seductive destination for anyone last week as New York City heat indices soared over 100 degrees. But these two spaces are also entrenched in their respective cultural contexts. They seem to be attracting the usual audiences that are drawn to hip art museums or gimmicky bars even on days when heat indices don’t trigger warnings. But, once you are at PS1 or Minus5, the physical impact of the cold  presents a degree of exposure atypical in daily life. You can’t linger comfortably inside either, unless you have gear.  So what kind of experience do you have if you visit the ice at PS1, where fur coats aren’t offered as you enter the room?

Eliasson said he hopes Your Waste of Time encourages “contemplation.”  He also said: “most people are disconnected from the effects of climate change because they can’t physically see it.”  While we attempted to take up this invitation during our visit, we could only endure the sensory onslaught for around two minutes.  Several small groups of people raced in and out, mostly laughing and snapping photos of themselves by the ice before escaping in less than 30 seconds. No one seemed to be pondering climate change or considering the material origins of the displaced ice.  The twelve chunks scattered around the room looked dirty and haggard under the glaring lights and peeling ceiling. Though a deep and mesmerizing blue could almost be seen below the surface of a few pieces, but loud fans blasting at very high decibels obliterated any attempt to gather one’s thoughts and “be with the ice.” The staging of the room felt like an afterthought, more akin to an industrial meat locker than a context capable of assisting visitors in grasping the complex and challenging material realities displayed before them.



If you are a dedicated art seeker willing to make a pilgrimage to one of New York’s outer boroughs, you can try to experience first hand how, as Eliasson says, “these glaciers bear testimony to our history-being suspended and frozen for thousands of years-and now they are melting away, as if our whole history is fading.” A fragment of this reality is materially present in the room. Perhaps the increasingly limited and precious nature of ice, its “endangered species” quality, is what makes both the Minus5 bar and the Eliasson sculpture so culturally magnetic, more in theory than in practice.

In our contemporary moment, buffeted by the forces of hyper-objects, it’s hard to pin-point just which of the so many systems that are “out of balance” is the most salient at any given moment.  We should feel something “authentic” about being in chilling and intimate proximity to one of the forces of material planetary change — ice — and knowing that it would be melting away, even in waters off Iceland, if it weren’t on life support inside PS1.  When we actually think about it, we know it should already be gone. When we take the time to project our imaginations to where this ice came from and pair that reality up with what the climate is like outside the walls of PS1 —  it’s easier to comprehend how the change is irreversible.



What then, might we sense or imagine while visiting the bar at Minus5 ? Here, ice is offered more as a signifier for entertainment and luxury, a break from New York reality. It’s definitely not intended to raise questions concerning an impending environmental collapse. It’s easy to propose that it is the over-the-top material resources required to maintain such over-the-top rooms of ice that is driving the glacial ice across town into extinction, especially when it’s 105 degrees outside. But, most of us still can’t, or don’t want to cognitively connect experiences such as Your Waste of Time, to Minus5, to our collectively air-conditioned/heated/electrified homes, refrigerators, airplanes, offices, cars, museums and bars. And it’s here, in this gap of understandings about the vastly different scales of effects — of time and material change — that we miss engaging our window of opportunity to respond creatively and consider what it is that both the Icelandic ice at PS1 and the Canadian ice at Minus5 already “know” about our present condition, even if we can’t stay in the room long enough to realize it for ourselves.


According to Eliasson’s National Geographic interview about his project, at the end of EXPO 1 in early September, his ice will continue on the path it started before being detoured for exhibition in New York. It will melt. It is estimated to be around 800 years old, which means it was born in the last “Little Ice Age.” Despite being relatively young in geologic terms, we think that the spectacular transformation of its form, when 800 years of materiality will soon melt away in a matter of hours, is remarkable. It’s also potentially the most interesting part of the piece, especially if its waters are “released” into the Hudson River or New York Harbor.  There, they could meet up with other glacial waters that will be flowing this way in due time.  Disappointingly, allowing audiences to view the melting doesn’t seem to be part of the exhibition plan.  And unfortunately that means the EXPO 1 installation might be remembered primarily as an eerie, repelling, air-conditioned “life-support” system for displaced Icelandic ice, rather than as a dynamic, aesthetic prosthesis for helping humans to sense and track the changes that are unfolding around us.

Minus5, on the other hand, will preserve their Canadian ice through summer and winter, offering ample opportunity to keep the illusion of ice-abundance alive.

Nimble Migration: Herring Cove Bathhouse
07.11.2013, 5:36 pm
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image_3The new Herring Cove bathhouse, all images this post FOP 2013

Around this time last year, we wrote a post about the soon to be demolished, 1950s era, two-story monolithic-style, Herring Cove Bathhouse at the Cape Cod National Seashore (“Architecture for Retreating Edges“).

Over the past 60 years, erosion, storm damage and overall deterioration rendered the cement fortress-like architecture of the original Bathhouse no longer viable on this coastal edge. The old bathhouse was demolished last November and enjoyed an artful farewell. The new beach house, designed as a collaborative effort between the Park Service’s Denver Service Center, BH+A Architects and the Cape Cod National Seashore, opened in late June and celebrates its official grand opening today, July 11, 2013.

Herring Cove beach is a wildly popular destination — the most visited beach at Cape Cod National Seashore (876,000 visitors in 2012). Last year, with the old structure being demolished and the new bathhouse yet to be built, we wondered (in our post) what kind of structure should be built on a stretch of land that will inevitably disappear, whose grounds are in a constant state of drifting elsewhere? What kind of design must be invented for a place where geologic change doesn’t just unfold in centuries, but also in days, or mere hours on the occasion of a major storm?

We’ve been in communication with the Cape Cod National Seashore and gathered specifics about the new structure, which is intentionally designed to respond to the local configurations of forces that compose Herring Cove today, and into the future.

Building anything on this sandy edge is daunting, given the fact that the annual shoreline erosion rate is about one and a half feet per year. Answering this challenge, the new buildings are modular: four shingled cottages about 400- to 600-square-feet each. To lessen the impact of storm surges, they rest on pilings and are connected to wide decks. Despite the buildings and decks being placed at least 100 feet back from the existing edge of the coast, and raised about four feet off the sand, 50 years from now the new facility is predicted to stand a mere 18 inches above the approximate mean high tide. Remarkably, the structures are capable of being disassembled, moved further back from the shoreline and reassembled as needed. Strengthening materials and stabilizing “hurricane clips” were incorporated into their frames so that as erosion threatens, they can be moved back from the shoreline by crane.  The process would take about a month.

The technical specifications testify to the fact that the structures were built as much, if not more, to address the uncertainties of a changing natural world as they were to afford human recreation. Building surface area minimizes lateral and uplift wind loads.  The roof overhang is minimal for less uplift.  The sheer walls of the small square buildings provide more stability than the previous single long structure. Fiberglass window frames have been installed with hurricane glass. The posts for the trellis can withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds. In many ways, the new structure is a stealth fortress:  its strength lies in its nimble flexibility rather than in any attempt to battle the pummeling forces that are part of the seasonal realities that compose the Cape.

Ninety-nine percent of the debris from the former bathhouse has been recycled and the new structures meet Silver LEED requirements. There has been a 30% reduction in overall square footage in the new bathhouse and a 30% reduction in water use. The project includes open air, naturally ventilated spaces. High efficiency toilets use 20% less water and require no chemicals to clean. The landscaping requires no irrigation because established plantings are drought tolerant and allow dunes to migrate naturally. There is a grey water system that drains to grade and water is tied to the town’s sewer system. A solar thermal system is used to heat hot water for the bathroom and concessions stand.  The solar panels will work year-round to “offset power used during the summer to reduce fossil fuel use and achieve net zero energy use.”

Last year the Cape was subject to particularly  harsh winds and storm surges during storms Sandy and Nemo. With added financial pressure brought by sequestering, the Seashore faces significant challenges to keep the beaches open, safe and maintained. Luckily, the new Herring Cove bathhouse has survived the cuts.  Now, these remarkable, humble and beautiful structures can provide inspiration for navigating the uncertain futures that we share with them.


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Being There
06.29.2013, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

aperturesHatch House, Wellfleet, MA, all images this post, FOP 2013

The Center for Land Use Interpretation has a practice of ending their seasonal newsletters with the phrase,“Thanks for being there!” We’d like to think this invitation hasn’t been lost on us. We try to “be there” (anywhere) as much as possible, since no other medium replaces really being somewhere.

We recently had the pleasure of inhabiting the Hatch House in Wellfleet, Massachusetts for 24 hours (a short tour of the house can be seen here). We first photographed the Hatch House in 2008, when it was in a state of amplifying deterioration. Remarkably, as of June 2013, the Hatch House is back to health with a new deck, historically and architecturally thoughtful renovations, and uncontested lease — and it is able to be inhabited by humans for the first time in years. This surprising structure (and a few of its contemporaries on Cape Cod) gained its second life due in large part to Peter McMahon’s efforts through the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. For the past few years he, and countless volunteers, including a group of Harvard’s GSD students, have worked to make this moment possible.

The Hatch House faces Wellfleet Bay.  It was designed and built by Jack Hall in 1960. The Cape Cod National Seashore was signed into law a year later in 1961. Most of the houses that were built on what became Seashore land were given 25 year leases before they were to be absorbed into the National Seashore. The legalities of  this arrangement, and the exceptions since allowed or taken to building/living on Seashore property, are storied and complex (and best researched elsewhere).

What remains interesting and remarkably contemporary about the Hatch House, which was built for Ruth Hatch, a painter from New York and her husband Robert, an editor of the Nation Magazine, is the spirit of experimentation that the house exemplifies. Its light, floating, boxy structure stands in stark contrast to what many consider the standard Cape style.

The house activates the modernist grid, and blurs inside and outside. To go to bedrooms, bathroom or kitchen/living room, one has to go outside onto the deck that connects all rooms. By going outside, one’s eyes are drawn up to the sky to take in sun, stars or clouds. Changes in temperature, humidity and light become part of the daily pulses of inside to outside, outside to inside experiences. Large hatches can be raised to provide abundant shade and lowered in extreme weather conditions, or when the house is closed for the season. Regardless, everything flows both in and out, either through small gaps in the wood or through huge screen windows.

We spent much of our 24 hours at the house awake and outside on the deck. Given the extreme swings that June Cape weather can deliver on extremely short notice, we knew we were very lucky to have the 24, sun and breeze-filled hours that we did.  Thoreau’s quote from The Maine Woods seemed apt:

“I did not regret my not having seen this before, since I now saw it under circumstances so favorable. I was in just the frame of mind to see something wonderful, and this was a phenomenon adequate to my circumstances and expectation, and it put me on alert to see more like it.”
— Henry David Thoreau, as quoted in Thoreau’s Nature: Ethics, Politics and the Wild, by Jane Bennett

During our time at the Hatch House, we thought of traditional Japanese architecture and more experimental artist/architectural collaborations such as James Turrell’s House of Light and Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field installation in New Mexico’s high desert. The Dia’s log cabin adjacent to The Lightning Field is a sort of inverse of the Hatch House. Both structures afford inhabitants the chance to directly experience the surrounding landscape in solitude, but the cabin at The Lightning Field is a solid, cave-like log shelter and offers a distinct break from the highly charged installation outside its doors. The Hatch House felt more like a sailboat, flying just above the sea. The deck — an extension of the hill that the house is nested within. In this way, the Hatch House might have more in common with Provincetown’s dune shacks, except that it’s a deeply intentional work of  art/architecture, embodying a philosophy and a political ideal. Its spirit is about the humility of its materials and impact upon the land, as much as (if not more than) about the very particular  configuration of its design. Its materials are aligned (literally), it seems, to afford inhabitants an opportunity to disappear along with the house into the landscape.

A few days after our stay, we had a chance to see the world premier of Built On Narrow Land at the Provincetown Film Festival. This documentary offers a compelling account of modernist architectural history on the Cape and illustrates the hopeful, yet uncertain future of how its legacy will endure from here.

Built On Narrow Land is a beautiful film, yet no number of striking shots or vivid descriptions erases the vast difference between experience and description. To pass hours with/in this house is magical. To access, through an embodied experience of dwelling, how the structure’s materials and design instruct movements, generate stillness, and expand the distance from the “noise” outside, is to enter into a rare relationship with a site and its architectural inflection. The Hatch House is by far one of the most intentional spaces we’ve stepped into. When we left that second morning, we were surprised how far we felt we had travelled, without having left the deck of the house itself.

Despite there being no translation or mediation that is up to the uniqueness of “being there,” we offer the following polaroid images.  And, we once again invite all to support efforts to preserve these structures AND follow the Add-on ’13 project and exhibition taking place this summer. Add-on ’13 is an invitation to spark new building practices on the Cape. The project attempts to match the scale- and place-responsive architectural history of the area, and expands modernist house ideals to encompass current affordable housing efforts and sustainable building practices.











Wherewithal: Practicing Inhabitation
06.07.2013, 9:53 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

“sits in a different dimension from the smooth running, flawlessly attentive, and all but anonymous machine that keeps public order moving so efficiently…”

— from Pico Iyer’s introduction to Natsume Sōseki’s The Gate

fog*all images this page FOP 2013, untitled, from Thirty-Six Views of Euphoria, smudge studio 2013

We’re back on the grid post Euphoria “dune shack” inhabitation.  As predicted, we have much to share. For the Thirty-Six Views project, we will take our time working with the photography and videos produced during our Euphoria inhabitation. In the meantime, we’ve set-up a vimeo channel with 12 “video postcards” from our time at the shack, including a link to our 22 minute kite-borne aerial camera flight.

Still, most of our time in the shack was media-free. Without electricity, daily life quickly winds down around sunset (there’s only so long you can read by headlamp). One camera battery unexpectedly died on day one. iPhone batteries were intentionally preserved for an entire week without charging. We quickly learned to identify dog ticks and deer ticks. Most of the time we just sat on the deck taking in where we were. By the end of seven days, and pretty much four seasons worth of weather change, with temperatures ranging from 45 to 80 degrees F, we realized it had been a rather monumental and fully-lived week.

euphoriasideflare_webdigital camera obscura, smudge studio 2013

We noticed how much had changed since our last dune shack week three years ago, perhaps most noticeably our  mediated information seeking habits (pre-this blog, pre-twitter etc.). This time around, we noticed we had traded in our addictive relationship to checking the weather online for watching the fully analog and accurate weather vane attached to our clothesline. We didn’t really need much lead time on the weather anyway, since we weren’t going anywhere except where we were. When we sat on the deck staring at clouds, we thought a lot about James Benning’s Looking and Listening class.

Euphoria amenities include a deck, a two burner propane stove, new propane fridge, small kitchen table, bunk bed, two small desks, gravity fed water filter, abundant iron-filled well water, kerosene lamps, small library of books, composting toilet, a stellar Norwegian wood stove (a famed Jøtul), and mid-distance views of the ocean.

inside_Euphoriainterior, digital camera obscura, smudge studio 2013

While reading a couple of novels and essays on inhabitation that happened to use the word “wherewithal” several times, we found we had unconsciously taken to using the word ourselves.  The shack had literally provided a context for being (some)where, with + all. The word “wherewithal” dates to the 1530s and refers to the “means by which.” In our case, Euphoria had become the “means by which” we started to reassess some of our habitual presumptions about inhabiting architectural spaces and the various affordances they provide. We were with the weather—whatever it happened to be from moment to moment. The shack’s “inside” was incredibly porous and responsive to outside. We were with all the changes in light, temperature, mood, possibility and affordance. We were discovering that a human being needs around one gallon of water per shower and toilets don’t need to be loud and full of water. We were realizing how often we don’t need artificial light while indoors. And we realized how much easier it is to follow and keep a train of thought when we don’t get interrupted by voices, traffic sounds, media or distractions (self-inflicted or otherwise). A difficult truth to accept was that we missed a lot when we were “on the grid.” As we design lives and spaces that distract or literally shield us from what’s immediately happening around us, we miss navigating and meeting the charged and specific forces that shape our lives from moment to moment. We are all to0 ready to (dis)locate our brains and awarenesses to spaces and times other than where we actually are. Lacking lived experiences of “wherewithal,” we suspect, makes it possible to take the grid for granted despite resource/material challenges humans currently face, and to imagine that it will run on and even grow limitlessly.

flight_over_Euphoriaaerial kite over Euphoria

Euphoria is a very simple architectural space that assisted us in realizing where we were.  Designed specifically for navigating the forces that make its particular location, it gave us an experimental expanse to reside within, and filled it with concerns and interests other than those that preoccupy us elsewhere.

A week after leaving Euphoria, as we looked at the ocean from a car in a parking lot, it seemed as though we weren’t really seeing the same body of water we saw from the shack’s deck.  The car didn’t push us to feel the forces of the place.  We had to accept the fact that the unfortunate grid-afforded sensation of looking in at the world from somewhere “outside” of it was slowly returning.



Architecturally minded readers might want to check-out the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, which is currently facilitating an ambitious project called Add On’13. The project aims to prototype and build affordable and sustainable structures on the Cape in the very near future. The project takes inspiration from the spirit of the experimental architects who came to Cape in 1950s (such as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer) and built modernist elaborations of the Provincelands dune shacks.  Their projects became, in the words of the Trust, “manifestos of their designers’ philosophy and way of living, close to nature, immersed in art and seeking community.”

Field_Notes – Deep Time
05.06.2013, 11:10 am
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We’re happy to be passing on a call for collaborators for a project we will be taking part in next September at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station. All are invited to apply and join us in the far north!



Call for professional collaborators: “Field_Notes – Deep Time”

“Field_Notes – Deep Time”

“Field_Notes – Deep Time” is a week long art&science field laboratory organized by the Finnish Society of Bioart at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Lapland/Finland. Five working groups, hosted by Oron Catts, Antero Kare, Leena Valkeapaa, Tere Vaden, Elisabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, together with a team of five, will develop, test and evaluate specific interdisciplinary approaches in relation to the “Deep Time” theme.

“Field_Notes – Deep Time” is in search of artistic and scientific responses to the dichotomy between human time-perception and comprehension, and the time of biological, environmental, and geological processes in which we are embedded. The local sub-Arctic nature, ecology, and geology, as well as the scientific environment and infrastructure of the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station will act as a catalyst for the work carried out.


Dates and places:
15th – 22nd September 2013, field laboratory at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station
23rd, 24th of September 2013, conference in Helsinki


Application process:

We are looking for 25 artists, scientists and practitioners, which are interested to develop, collaborate and work in one of the below mentioned groups.

Please send your application including CV, group preference and a max A4 letter of motivation and/or direction of possible Field_Notes research/contribution to

Application deadline: 31st of Mai 2013

We warmly welcome artists, scientists and practitioners from different fields to apply.

We will pay for the journey from Helsinki to Kilpisjärvi and back, as well as for full board and accommodation at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station for the whole working week.

Participants from outside of Finland have to take care about travel to Helsinki and possible necessary accommodation in Helsinki themselves.


Groups, hosts and fields:

During one week the five groups will approach the “Deep Time” theme from different angles. They will organize themselves in work groups, think tanks, and workshops. They will carry out their work in their related field environment, as well as have common activities of lectures, presentations and feedback sessions. Expected results include abstracts, collaborations, data, documentation, future workshops, hard an software, ideas, knowledge, photos, presentations, prototypes, skills, sounds, projects, videos and more. The languages used are Finnish and English.

The five groups are:

* Journey to the Post-Anthropogenic
– hosted by Oron Catts, takes place in the sub-Arctic nature, in the lab, and in the study

* Deep Futures in the Making
– hosted by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, takes place in the sub-Arctic nature and in the study

* Deep Time of Life and Art
– hosted by Antero Kare, takes place within the sub-Arctic geology of bedrock, sediments and caves, the lab and the study

* Time and Landscape
– hosted by Leena Valkeapää, takes place in the sub-Arctic landscape, amongst reindeer and the Sami culture

* Second Order
– hosted by Tere Vaden, takes place amongst the working groups and in the study


More information at:  or contact

36 views of Euphoria
05.02.2013, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

euphoria aerial view of the Euphoria dune shack, image courtesy © Christopher Seufert Photography

What does Euphoria look and feel like? Later this month we’ll have a first-hand report to share, as we’ve recently been granted a highly coveted (by some) invitation to inhabit a dune shack named Euphoria in the Province Lands of Cape Cod.  The shack, which is completely off the grid (no heat, hot water, electricity etc.) is managed by the Peaked Hill Trust, a small, but sturdy organization that has enabled several of these historically notable, wabi sabi “dune shack” structures to endure since the late 1940s.

This is our fourth inhabitation of a dune shack, though it will be our first time in Euphoria. In 2009 we experienced Thalassa, a tiny shack named for a Greek primordial sea goddess. Dune shacks have a storied and celebrated spot in Cape Cod history. We highly recommend Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees for an introduction to the romance of dune life. For one week, contemporary inhabitants are invited to trade in cell phones (which are allowed, but have no signal), email, heat, modern conveniences and all senses of sexagesimal time, for beachfront access to the Atlantic Ocean, dark nights, total silence (minus the cry of coyotes), and a daily life rhythm that almost immediately syncs up with that of the sun.

For years we’ve thought of the dune shacks as akin to Japanese teahouses, porous architectural spaces used as apertures onto their surrounding landscapes. These small, intimate quarters simplify life down to bare spaces of intentional exchange and cognizant engagement with the local environment. While recently visiting the “Edo Pop” exhibition at the Japan Society, we re-discovered the famed woodblock project Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai. It’s not widely known that Hokusai’s most famous print The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is actually part of the Thirty-Six Views series. The prints of this series were created between 1826-33 (and aren’t to be mistaken for the series of the same name produced by Ando Hiroshige in 1858, who also created the famous Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road between 1833-34).

800px-Tea_house_at_Koishikawa._The_morning_after_a_snowfallTea House at Koishikawa, The Morning After Snowfall from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji

800px-Ejiri_in_the_Suruga_provinceEriji in the Suruga Province, from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji

800px-Lightnings_below_the_summitRainstorm Beneath the Summit, from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji

Due to its popularity, Hokusai later expanded Thirty-Six Views to a series of 46. The prints vividly depict travel and other forms of human movement through landscapes — while  in relation to the occasionally formidable, and always changeable, forces of nature surrounding Mt. Fuji, Japan’s most beloved natural feature. At times, seasonal variations such as wind, waves, rain storms, lightning or a river’s current take visual precedence over the volcano. Throughout the series, Fuji-san appears as a site in flux, unfixed and seemingly as variant as the temperamental environments surrounding it. It ranges from being the primary focus of a composition to being depicted as a tiny cone in the corner of a print. When considered across the series, it becomes apparent that the artist has ensured that there is no one single way to view, experience or “image” the named subject of these prints — or “capture” its enduring spiritual force.

While looking at the prints and learning of their beloved status with Japanese people, we couldn’t help but sense a relevance to the WPA poster series, “See America,” produced a hundred years later in the United States. As in Japan, these posters also encouraged a country of citizens to get outside and appreciate the mesmerizing wonders of their national landscape.

See_America,_WPA_poster,_ca._1937Carlsbad Caverns, from the “See America” series, Alexander Dux. [between 1936 and 1939]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

800px-Shore_of_Tago_Bay,_Ejiri_at_TokaidoShore at Tago Bay, from Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji

At the Edo Pop exhibition we also encountered contemporary responses to Mt. Fuji and the landscapes of Japan. In particular, we were captivated by Asako Narahashi‘s half asleep and half awake in the water series. We were struck by the description of her process, specifically that she will, “leave a hint of human presence or a sign of civilization in each composition … [and] that element breaks us away from being in timeless nature and jerks us back into the present moment…” Her depiction of waves is described as, literally, “nami makase (going with the flow) as I let the wave carry me in the ocean holding the camera just above the water … I was drawn to the image of water, probably for its incomprehensible and potentially violent nature. In other words, for me, water is a symbol of something uncontrollable.”

asako-narahashi-800x529Asako Narahashi, Kawaguchiko, 2003, from the series half awake and half asleep in the water

We find Narahashi’s process, one that is simultaneously intentional and happenstance, an inspired way to move with media (such as cameras) and with the forces that compose any given environment (both built and natural). During our week in Euphoria, we’ll be experimenting with developing creative responses, in the form of our own Thirty-Six Views of Euphoria, that can vibrantly image the particular configuration of our inhabition of the shack, and the surrounding landscape, possibly relaying into our longer-term project, entitled Till.

Till, signaling Future North
04.26.2013, 11:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Glacial till: the product of relentless grinding, pushing, pulverizing, mashing, sitting, sliding, waiting, flowing, advancing and retreating— repeating.

till_linegoogle map of Long Island and Cape Cod

Over the next several months we will document and creatively traverse the piles of glacial till that the Laurentide ice sheet left in its wake a couple thousand years ago. We’ll start in our own backyard, specifically between Brooklyn and the tip of Cape Cod. We have tentatively named the project Till.

If you look at a map of Long Island and look off the tip to the east, you’ll soon run into a small, curious place called Block Island. If you keep heading east/northeast from there, you encounter Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and wind up the arm of Cape Cod. This arc of islands and landscapes are the tilled glacial aftermath of the Pleistocene. We’re interested in stitching together these seemingly disparate landscapes and cultures by seeing them through their Pleistocene-inflected past.

orientptferry unloading at Orient Point, NY, image FOP 2013

ferry ride to Shelter Island, image FOP 2013, from Till.

We already started the project by tracing the terminal till while driving from Brooklyn eastward on the Long Island Expressway, which uses the spine of the Long Island moraine as its support. We took a short ferry ride to Shelter Island, a relatively small pile of glacier-plowed till tucked between Long Island’s north and south East End tips. You can take a three-minute time-lapse journey with us to Shelter Island and watch the Orient Point ferry disembark on Vimeo.


Shelter Island highlighted in red, “Geology of Long Island” map by Dr. J. Bret Bennington

This summer and fall we’ll extend our documentation to Block Island, and the Cape Cod and the Islands. Cape Cod’s Route 6 also follows the crest of  a moraine up until things grind to a halt at the sandy tip of Provincetown.

We plan for Till to be hybrid journey, based both in fiction and in reality. We’re interested in exploring how the force and event-ness of the ice sheet, long retreated, lingers as a force that shapes daily life and senses of place today. Contemporary cultural and economic realities, such as the taste of North Fork wine and its emergence as a major activity on Long Island, is a direct result of the Pleistocene. In some ways, Till is similar to our 2010 project Below the Line, which required us to project our imaginations 20,000 years into the past as we scouted Utah for the present day traces of the once massive, but presently extinct, Lake Bonneville.

Till also links up with a forthcoming smudge project that will include places where geo-bio dynamics of the Pleistocene are less imaginary and more material, even today.  Next spring we’ll be based in Oslo as guest researchers for a project called Future North.  This provocative project is supported by the Norwegian Research Council and is managed by Making the Geologic Now contributor Janike Kampevold Larsen, and based at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Future North considers the changing environments of the deep north and will include excursions to locations such as Vardø, Svalbard, Murmansk and Tromsø.

Pleistocene ice once connected sites such as Long Island to the far northern regions of the planet. As the material traces of those connections recede further and further, new forces are set into motion by the emerging conditions of the Anthropocene. Through our work on Till and Future North, we will develop field-based projects that attempt to aesthetically respond to the rapidly changing environments of the north. We hope to develop aesthetic relays that invite audiences to experience what is near (i.e. “here,” New York/Cape Cod) and what seems far (i.e. “there,” the European/Scandinavian Arctic North) as being directly related by diverse and highly consequential material connections (past, present, and future).

Weichsel-Würm-GlaciationThe Weichselian ice sheet over Scandinavia, image wikicommons



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