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Rodrigo Barros, 'Ideological Cartography of America' in On Site review 31: mapping | photography, Spring 2014


This essay begins with a quote from Vicente Huidobro's Altazor:
'The four cardinal points are three: South and North.'

Rodrigo Barros is an architect, musician and activist from Valparaíso, Chile. He is as interested in a critical and emancipatory practice and thinking of architecture as in freejazz-punk-dub and the poetry of everyday life. You can read his essay HERE.

previous essays of the week:

Thomas-Bernard Kenniff, 'Ethics and Publics' in  On Site review 30: ethics+publics, Fall 2013.

Joshua Craze, 'Under the Soil, the People' in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

Hector Abarca. 'Revisiting PREVI: housing as a basic right, from Lima to Vancouver' in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jeffrey Olinger.  'Interstitial.  The International Criminal Court, The Hague'  in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jessica Craig.  'Terrain Vague' in On Site review30:ethics and publics, Fall 2013

Clint Langevin, Amy Norris, Chester Rennie.  'The Sisyphus Project', in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:

Paper Monument is a print journal of contemporary art published by n+1 and designed by Project Project

Wasteland Twinning Network hijacks the concept of ‘City Twinning’ and applies it to urban Wastelands in order to generate a network for parallel research and action.

deepest modernism: discussions from Peru


criticat: revue semestrielle de critique d’architecture

French publishing house: great catalogues that look east and south, not just west.

[brkt] 2 Goes Soft, edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Lola Sheppard. 'Soft refers to responsive, indeterminate, flexible and immaterial systems that operate through feedback, organization and resilience. These complex systems transform through time to acknowledge shifting and indeterminate situations — characteristics that are evident both in the dynamics of contemporary society and the natural environment'.

Darwin Grenwich sails the oceans of the world on Blue Monday, a CS36 traditional sloop, while maintaining his IT support business by email and on VOIP (403-283-1340). He is especially good on Macs.



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Frida Escobedo: the public stage is the quite confusing but graphically beautiful website for the triennale.

The Lisbon Triennale is launched, its theme: When do we produce architecture?  Frida Escobeda, who we published a long long time ago, issue 13 perhaps, has set up the Praça da Figueira as a stage. 

The intro says: 'What happens if a real-life public stage, a civic stage, is suddenly unveiled in our cities? What would happen if we reframe the tamed reality of public space into a theatrical site of exchange were can collectively perform our aspirations? Would fiction become real life and vice versa?'

The program, New Publics, has scheduled a number of performances and acts on Frida's stage, a floating disc, above, including City Acts, below, described thus:

'City Acts are three long-term city initiatives that address the domestic, the social, and the public space. Developed similar to ethnographic projects, they frame consistent dialogue and fieldwork as the main motor to create diverse and dynamic civic spaces. The success of all three initiatives relies on community support, which demonstrates the power of people working together.'  


Ground Floor Act, 2013 © ARTÉRIA. This group is made up of Artéria (Portugal), Daniel Fernández Pascual (Spain) and Unipop (Portugal))The triennale runs from September 12-November 10, 2013. 


Richard Wentworth: the ladder's shadows

Richard Wentworth. 35°9,32°18, 1985. Steel and aluminum, Tate Gallery T07168


Allan Fleming: CN, 1960

Allan Fleming, Sketches for the Canadian National Railway, 1960

Thinking about diagrams and Adobe Illustrator and the alleged legitimation of the handwritten scribble by transforming it into dead font and clipart arrows; thinking about this because one of our On Site contributors was fretting about not being fluent in Illustrator. There are parallels with auto-translation here: a whole lot of meaning, intelligence, emotion and sheer life can be lost from the original.  

Allan Fleming's sketches clearly informed the ultimate CN logo: it isn't an entirely intellectual exercise, this design process thing, it is largely a visual exploration, running through hundreds of ideas, relying on the eye to weed them out before they go mechanical.

The 1960s  cleaned up a lot of our national icons, gave them all a simplicity which is now mostly replaced by font selection: the Bay, for forty years a quill pen hand pressure ribbon of ink, now a font that looks like a version of Banknote. 

Hudson's Bay logo, ca 1960, designer contested but perhaps Savage Sloan.


more summer

Looks like Castle Mountain and the highway to Banff before the Trans-Canada was built.  It is paved; even in the 1960s most of the Trans-Canada through the mountains was still gravel.  It certainly reduced speed.  What I do now in a day used to take two at the minimum, three if one was being leisurely.

The station wagon looks roughly like a mid-50s Pontiac, but people kept cars longer then. 



the tiny ladder is a nice touch.


Andy Plant: orrery, 1997

Andy Plant. Orrery built for the 1997 Stockton Theatre Festival. A 40′ high, temporary outdoor floating sculpture, where a rotating orrery, with planets, is operated by a performer inside the main sphere.


A simple orrery, 1900

Evidently common enough to be in schoolrooms, this one in Germany.

An orrery, ca 1900. The arm is manually rotated by worm and wheel below a circular calendar disc printed with months, date, zodiac and seasons. The candle reflects light over the wood moon onto the terrestrial globe. signed 'Erd Globus v. 15cm. durchm. von Dr. H. Fischer Wagner & Debes, Leipzig Lehrmittelanstalt' 19in / 48.5cm high

Compared to William Pearson's orrery design below of the whole solar system, this schoolroom orrery is just the sun, the earth and the moon.  It must have been magical.


William Pearson: planets, 1813

A drawing of a machine to illustrate the orbits of the planets.  It appears to owe much to clock and watch mechanisms, cogs and wheels: the largest system illustrated by the smallest devices at the time.

Planetary Machines, Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, Vol 16. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1830


Holst: Saturn, 1915

Holst's most ponderous planet:


Vija Celmins: drawing, 1982

Vija Celmins. Drawing, Saturn. 1982. Graphite on acrylic ground on paper, 14 x 11". McKee Gallery, NY


yyc floods

Tornado in Denver last week, travelled up the eastern slopes of the Rockies and parked: much rain.  Mandatory evacuation order issued in Calgary's river valleys Thursday, but not my block, the last before the railway tracks. Curious.  Voluntary evacuation on the street left just four houses occupied.  Very quiet; dystopian moment Friday morning in the back alley – bottle picker cutting the lock off a mountain bike, cycled away whistling.  Kept walking every few hours down to the river, three blocks away, empty streets, very eerie, reminded me of the end of On the Beach.

By Saturday I'd had enough of flood, however at the eastern end of the neighbourhood a great chunk of bank was swept away putting a long block of new houses right at the edge of a cliff.  In comes the army and lots of heavy lifting equipment and bolsters the cliff with large concrete blocks.
Sunday, water in the Bow about 6' down, neighbourhood still evacuated, now not even any gawkers – boring now that the water isn't bashing at the bridge deck, usually about 12' above water level.

Spent Friday moving the contents of the basement up to the ground floor: the archive of my life – much too much stuff.  The fear is always of reverse sewer action filling one's basement with toxic glurk.  This flooding thing will happen again, so vow that what goes back to the basement will be very thinned out.   

Saturday, doing some thinning: acres of paper, photocopies of articles and essays – Barthes on the Eiffel Tower – never seen it before but the margins are full of my notes.  I appear to have been quite smart once.  
A beautiful essay by Aijaz Ahmad of which there were several copies so I must have given it out in a course.  How to take all the excitement out of a favourite essay: assign it.  Half the students don't read it and try to wing it in the discussion.  A quarter don't read it and tell you it was irrelevant, the rest read it but don't know what to think about it, one person quotes it appropriately in their term paper and you give him an A.

Sunday, looked at the river, evacuation order still on, but so is the power and the gas, so I'm lucky.  Downtown last night inky dark as the power is off protecting the transformers. Mowed the lawn, listened to Gardener's Question Time – guaranteed to restore equilibrium in times of unease.  

Too much rainfall filled the Elbow River at its source in the mountains, it over-filled the Glenmore Reservoir and then joined the already flooded Bow River at the western corner of my neighbourhood: it crested here Saturday morning, and that crest is travelling at high speed down the Bow where it will meet the South Saskatchewan River and Medicine Hat later today.  Then it will continue east, through Saskatchewan and all its river towns, on to Manitoba where it will eventually enter Lake Winnipeg, not unknown to flood. every year.

It has been very odd living in an empty neighbourhood, just us and the birds, no cars, no neighbours, no roar of traffic on the nearby Deerfoot Trail but a more local sound of a sump pump bailing out the basement of an old apartment building on 9th Avenue, the main street.  The water coming out of the hoses is clear and sweet, not the milk chocolate colour of the river water.  It feels like a much earlier time. 

9th Avenue SE, Calgary, under mandatory evacuation: all the bridges closed, just one way in and out on the appropriately named Highfield Road.


for he loves me so


the BSA Airborne Paratrooper Bicycle, 1944

Infantrymen of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada aboard LCI(L) 306 of the 2nd Canadian (262nd RN) Flotilla en route to France on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

On yesterday's photo of the landings at Juno Beach soldiers appear to be landing with bicycles.  I thought when I saw it how far we have come from bicycles to drones in the conduct of war, given that some of those fellows in the photograph are probably still alive: many of them died that day however.  

The bicycles: BSA [British Small Arms, a Birmingham manufacturing conglomerate that made everything from rifles to London taxis] made 70,000 Airborne Folding Paratrooper Bicycles between 1939 and 1945.  As with all things military there are many sites devoted to the most arcane details of this bike, its rifle holder, its pedals, its colour (green).  This one is very complete: Bcoy1CPB  which will mean something to anyone connected with the Canadian Forces: B Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion I think.

BSA was famous after the war for its motorcycles; our geography teacher, Mr Knight used it as a mnemonic for the names and order of the great northern lakes: Bear, Slave and Athabasca — good, eh?

In the D-Day landings, the bicycles were to be used by the second wave regiments to speed their way to the front, but the troops found the roads so congested that they couldn't ride and most were discarded.  B coy reports that they were intensely disliked: probably weighed a ton, and after the war many were sold as surplus: $10 though the Hudson's Bay Company, $3.95 at Capital Iron in Victoria, BC. 

Oh, Capital Iron, a most wonderful weekend tradition of my childhood: huge, dark and gloomy, smelled like metal, oil and canvas, aisles of barrels of nails and tools and incomprehensible metal doodads.  The ceiling was dense with hanging flags.  I suppose it also operated as a reality check, all that metal and machinery, for the men who miraculously found themselves in clean safe jobs with little families and houses with back yards just ten years after the end of the war.


D-day on Juno Beach, 1944

Canadian soldiers from 9th Brigade land with their bicycles at Juno Beach in Bernieres-sur-Mer during D-Day


Jeremy Deller. English Magic, 2013

Still from Jeremy Deller. English Magic, Venice Biennale British Pavilion until November 24, 2013

Jeremy Deller, passionate chronicler of the tangents of war.  The reviews have called his installation at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale aggressive. Angry, yes; resigned perhaps; this video captures something else. Deller's 2008 piece at the Imperial War Museum, It Is What It Is, was made from a bombed Baghdad car: there is something about the gratuitous destruction of cars in this film that with that earlier car in mind seems obscene. As does the aftermath of the inflatable Stonehenge: heritage as entertainment, the critique levelled at Danny Boyle's orchestration of the positive side of Britain for the opening of the 2010 Olympics.  There is a place and time for critique and the London Olympics was not one of them.  Deller has no such restrictions.

He isolates contradictions in Britain – the gap between pride and insignificance, between a blithe skipping along and a still, red in tooth and claw, countryside; between an imperial history and its modern incarnation as entertainment and celebrity.  Perhaps not contradictions, rather they are complex, near-inexplicable realities which artists and critical theorists keep trying to explain, reframe, re-present.  Adrian Searle calls Deller's Biennale installation a war on wealth — maybe, obviously I haven't seen it, I'm not British and I receive such works through a different lens, however, it seems that at the heart of Deller's work is a critique of war that uses a panoply of images used to disguise the project of war as a series of successes, heroisms and parades.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Will Gompertz on BBC World last night reported on Jeremy Deller's Venice project: the language a classic put-down.  'Aggressive' figures as the first word in every review, every report. If someone is angry, and as Deller said, these things had been in his mind for a long time, they can be dismissed as being aggressive, much as how angry women are written off as strident.  

And then, and this is unforgivable, Gompertz called Deller's angry, close to the bone murals that show just how socially conflicted England is today, 'the heir' to Danny Boyle's Olympic extravaganza.  This trivialises Deller by giving him a critical biography not from art but from the world of entertainment.  Controversy safely contained.


another side of Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, Méditerranée 1952 Collection of the artist © Ellsworth Kelly Oil on nine joined wood panels, three in relief 150.5 x 193.7 x 7cm (photo courtesy of:

This is a really interesting interview with Kelly and Christopher Grunenberg, about colour, originally posted on one of the Tate online magazines but no longer available.  It was re-posted on fARTiculate here.


Ellsworth Kelly: sweet peas

Must pull out of the long weekend, now that it is past.  Although the 24th of May is this Friday and our Victorian holiday usually moves to synchronise with the USA's Memorial Day, which lessens its meaning somewhat, this year it didn't.  Inexplicably, we had the 24th of May on May 20.   

Yesterday another visit to the NC 139s .

Ellsworth Kelly. Banana Leaf, 1992. graphite on paper, 28 x 22"
Ellsworth Kelly, he of the huge colour block paintings in primary colours, drew flowers and leaves in pencil on paper for most of his career.  Many are collected in a book, Plant Drawings 1948-2010 (Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 2011) with an essay by Michael Semff and an interview with Kelly by Marla Prather.  

Kelly is quoted: 'They are not an approximation of the thing seen nor are they a personal expression or an abstraction.  Nothing is changed or added: no shading, no surface marking.  They are an impersonal observation of the form.'

This is how we, as young architects in the conceptual 1970s, were taught to draw, and I suppose by extension, to think.  The mind was put into a kind of zen-like suspension as the shape of the leaf went through the eyes directly to the hand; the hand was holding a pencil and a drawing was made.  The line was all.  Although there was a bit of Matisse knocking around in the brain, Kelly's strictures on making the drawing were tight: a pencil, a large sheet of paper, all line, or all shadow, or all shape.  The leaf above is the essence of leafness as held in this particular leaf, and all other leaves.   

Ellsworth Kelly. Sweet Pea, 1960. graphite on paper, 22 9/16 x 28"Flowers are just very beautiful things, however Kelly isn't drawing their beauty, he is drawing the lines of the plant, which we perhaps, or not, find lovely.  Remove the colour, the sunlight, the garden, the season, the history and one is left with the line, and a tremendous affection for the flower.  It is wholly itself.


Victoria Day

J R Robbins. Edward Oxford attempts to shoot Queen Victoria, 1840.

This for Canada's Victoria Day weekend, probably the last place in the world that still celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday. 

From another time, that other country:  'The twenty-fourth of May, is the Queen's birthday.  If you don't give us a holiday, we'll all run away.'

Or, if you were Edward Oxford, try to shoot the Queen, be declared insane, and then be sent to Australia.


matches: measuring off the miles


Chris Hadfield: ISS

So relieved the landing went well.  One always worries.