Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Through the Turnstile

Photographer Jason Orton wrote a little piece for OpenDemocracy to go with these shots of his return to an infamous British nuclear bunker: the "Turnstile".

Apparently, it was built in the 1950s as a replica of Whitehall, a road in Westminster in London and the main artery running north from Parliament Square, the centre of national government, towards Trafalgar Square. The bunker was intended to be the government's very own emergency hideaway in the event of nuclear war.

Orton writes, “My photography often focuses on traces within a landscape that hint at something that has happened, or might happen in the future. […] I am concerned with the evidence and remains of human occupation within a landscape. "Turnstile" was never occupied, but wandering these labyrinthine tunnels and bunkers it is possible to imagine what life would have been like underground in the aftermath of a nuclear attack."

He also notes that the underground city has been declassified and put up for sale, as part of a wider initiative called the Corsham Development Project. “Several uses for the tunnels have already been considered. These include a massive data store for city firms, and – because of its almost perfect temperature – a huge wine cellar, possibly the largest in Europe.”

Well, needless to say, officials there could certainly use a bit more imagination. So why not keep it open to the public, either as an avant garde performance venue, an art installation graveyard or museum-like tomb, or, maybe just as some architectural acoustic freak show with orchesatral music belting out below the surface through a series of listening manholes punctured through the stone quarries of north Wiltshire above - the bunker turned in to a glorious Berlozian topomusical landscape instrument: a D-Flat Range, of sorts. How about a spooky real life game space, GWAR running around chasing kids armed with toy rocket launchers, or let it be the next site for the reality TV show Survivor: who will be the last to endure the subterranean challenges of a total sim apocalypse? At the very least, let it be some underground park space with a network of portals to the outdoors above with suprisingly romantic excursion tunnels, sound installations, an odd psuedo ecology, breezy biking hollows, a sublime underground graffiti city.
I don't know, those aren't the greatest ideas in the world but anything more poetic than a wine cellar.

[See these earlier posts: Touring the Greenbrier; Secret Cities of the A-Bomb; Area 71; Washington's New 'Survival City'; A Silo Full of Cash; Secret Soviet Submarine Base; Fortress Baghdad; The 'Long War' enters its capsule; Subterranean Urbanism; Tokyo Secret City; Bunker Archaeology; Smugglers' Paradise Uprooted; [Re] improvising sub_Base landscapes; Secret Synagogue; Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze; from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...; A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Borderline Vertigo

Apparently, two Egyptians flew to Belarus with the intention of sneaking in to Europe. So, they headed on down to the border, where else, where barbed wire fences were the only things that separated them from their dreams of wandering Polish pastures and sniffing European soil. But, to get across the two figured they'd dig their way under the fence, making sure not to be seen of course. They even avoided buying a spade nearby, they said, so as to not give themselves away. Instead, our clever border crossers used a good old fashioned shoehorn. And it worked. Not sure how long it took them but they tunneled themselves a nice passage underneath the barbed wire into Poland. Sounds absurd, like Checkov waiting for Godot, or something. But, it gets better. Once surfaced in Poland, and wandering around the country side, they stumbled upon another border fence. Yup, barbed wire, just like the first one. Thinking they had now reached Germany, they whipped out their trusty shoehorn and furiously fashioned themselves yet another secret tunnel. Though, this time, while merrily skipping along to what they thought was the good beat of a new life in Europe, they were quickly picked up by some border patrol agents, who informed them - hey, guess what, this aint Germnany, welcome to Belarus. Doh!

[Read more about it in Mosnews and the BBC. This little story was spotted at the omnipresent Phronesisaical.]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ruins of Lebanon

[Early morning smoke rises in southern Beirut after a night of bombing.]

Photos of Lebanon's devestated infrastructure by Simon Norfolk in the New York Times Magazine, Sunday August 20, 2006.

[An oil storage depot for the power plant at Jiyeh, on fire from being bombed in the first few days of the war.]

[Bombed buildings in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut.]

[Oil storage tanks at Beirut international airport.]

[In Rmeileh, the bridge on the main road to the south of Lebanon was destroyed in an Israeli air attack. 10 people were killed.]

[The remains of the Halat-Fidar bridge in Lebanon, on Aug. 4, hours after Israeli air strikes destroyed it.]

[Refugees from the bombings slept in Sanayeh Park in central Beirut.]

[The storage depot for the power station at Jiyeh, as seen from the Sand's Rock resort.]

Touring the Greenbrier

If you are in West Virginia, go take a tour of the Greenbrier Bunker, a massive fallout shelter built for Congress in the lush Greenbrier Resort.

Better known as ‘Project Greek Island’, the bunker, completed in 1961, was a place for Congress to “regroup and rebuild if the Soviets nuked the Capitol.” According to this recent write up, the bunker was designed “to hold more than 1,100 evacuees -- 535 members of the House and Senate, and staffers deemed essential to help with the rebuilding of the country. Inside were offices, debate halls and a broadcast studio to send messages to the masses.” There were also decontamination showers for radiation.

“Construction began in a field near the resort's main building. On its face, The Greenbrier was expanding its resort. But near the project was a sprawling fallout facility measuring two football fields in size, drilled 720 feet into a nearby hill.”


Everything about the bunker was hush-hush. A small team of operators, known as the Forsythe Associates, maintained the bunker, posing as the hotel's television-repair crew to keep the secret. The covert operators did such a convincing acting job, in fact, that employees said they still miss the crew, which also fixed their home televisions.


Protecting the evacuees would be at least 3 feet of concrete, radiation detectors and massive blast doors weighing as much as 30 tons. Three massive generators would keep the facility going, and there was enough canned food to last about 60 days.


But because the facility was a fallout shelter and not a bomb shelter, secrecy was of vital importance. About 250 miles from Washington, The Greenbrier bunker would be safe from any attack on the capital. A direct attack, however, would be devastating.


Still, not every secret died with the bunker's exposure. Walls said The Greenbrier is converting parts of the bunker to store backup files and intellectual property for interested companies. Who was doing the storing, however, would remain a mystery, she said.


Nor did the idea of safeguarding Congress disappear. After the terrorist attacks of 2001, Congress took another hard look at how to continue running the government in the event of a strike against Washington. And like The Greenbrier bunker, much of these plans remain a secret.”

Images from the Greenbrier Resort/Bunker Photo Gallery.

Bunker spills secrets to public
: The posh Greenbrier resort offers tours of a fallout shelter built to protect Congress, by Mark K. Matthews (Washington Bureau, August 21, 2006)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Peripheral Milit_Urb 9


So Long, Cheyenne Mountain: Well, the folks at the Target Store in Colorado Springs can breath a sigh of relief: NORAD is moving up the road to Peterson Air Force Base and putting Cheyenne Mountain on standby.
C'mon kids, let's go to Army World!: The Army is considering a proposal to allow a private developer to build a military-themed park that would include Cobra Gunship rides and bars including a "1st Division Lounge."
Wanted: personal reflections on living in a climate of war: OPENSOURCE ART: In War/At War: The Practice of Everyday. In War/At War: The Practice of Everyday is an exhibition and series of events that investigates variations on everyday practices, projects, and tactics explored by individuals whom cope, adapt and adjust to War and the climate it produces.
Left to Their Own Devices: In dubious battle: The military's love affair with technology, from video game to secret weapons.
The War on Terror: Shell-shocked troops are coming back from Iraq with snakes in their heads. A new virtual reality treatment offers hope for vets.
Marines Use MySpace to Recruit: So far, over 12,000 web surfers have signed on as friends of the Corps in response to the latest military recruiting tactic.
Memorial or BillBoard?: James Ingo Freed's Memorial to the United States Air Force Memorial--an inverted triparted triumphal arch rises into the air in Washington D.C.
Army & Air Force Exchange Service Turns 111: Today, AAFES relies on more than 3,100 facilities in 49 states and more than 35 countries to extend the exchange benefit to Soldiers and Airmen serving in almost every corner of the globe. In fact, more than 450 AAFES associates are deployed to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, actively delivering a slice of Americana to troops through 52 retail stores, 69 phone centers and more than 170 fast food restaurants scattered throughout the region. Just like the merchants who supplied provisions to America’s troops in the late 1800s, these associates live and work alongside the troops they serve.
Private Spaceport Plan up for Air: A spacecraft taking off from a private West Texas spaceport being bankrolled and developed by founder Jeff Bezos would take off vertically, but unlike NASA's space shuttle would also land vertically, according to an environmental study that offers a glimpse into the secretive plans.
From Nowhere to Out There: From the passenger seat of Bill Gutman’s truck, Spaceport America looks more John Ford than Jetsons. No gleaming buildings, no space-age machinery, just a few strips of concrete, two portable office buildings and 27 square miles of scrubby cactus.
Deadly nuke rods piling up in state, Burial site project in Nevada in limbo: Thousands of tons of deadly radioactive rods of spent nuclear fuel and waste have accumulated at three California nuclear power plants because the federal government has failed to open a permanent nuclear burial site in Nevada that was supposed to be ready eight years ago.
Belt-tightening at bases in US starts to strain: An Army long strained by the manpower demands of Iraq and Afghanistan is increasingly facing a new obstacle at home: The service is fast running out of money.
An energy microgrid for the Army: Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) are working with the U.S. Army on an energy surety model which soon will be tested by military bases. Instead on relying on today's grid electricity system, this microgrid system will use small power generation units close to where people live and work.
Sim Air Control: One of the neato tools at JAGOG's disposal is a new 360-degree dome simulator (see pic) that drops student forward air controllers into an Iraq-esque scenario featuring tough moving targets and itchy Air Force jet jockeys looping overhead.
Seal Silo: The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) in Sausalito, California, treats elephant seals and is now receiving a much-needed, multi-million dollar architectural upgrade – and the new design fascinatingly incorporates a derelict "pair of Nike missile silos."
China's Area 51 on Google Earth?: Last month, while scrutinizing landscapes in China, German Googler "KenGrok" discovered what appeared to be a terrain model on a Chinese military base. And it was not just any terrain.
Pak Bomb Factory: David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released commercially available satellite images of a new Pakistani plutonium production reactor under construction.
Huangyangtan: or, Tactical geoannexation, Part II: Landscape architects as agents of psychological warfare. Instead of midnight sonic booms and recursive Spice Girls medleys, your enemy watches televisually on Google Earth as you rape and pillage their own backyards, knowing that the real thing, perfectly choreographed and endlessly practiced, may come at anytime.
Masking the Fortress Moat: The Bollard Era is upon us, soon anything and everything will serve as some sort of security barrier, just some less obvious than others. But can a fortress - even an invisible one - allow for a strong and open civic experience?


Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars: The robot that parks cars at the Garden Street Garage in Hoboken, New Jersey, trapped hundreds of its wards last week for several days. But it wasn't the technology car owners had to curse, it was the terms of a software license.
School Officials Promote Fast Track to Incarceration: Youth- and civil-rights advocates are speaking out against the rising presence of cops on campuses and administration complicity in what critics call a school-to-prison pipeline.
Prisoners of Katrina: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while thousands fled New Orleans, the city's prisoners were trapped. Fresh eye-witness accounts reveal what really happened to those left behind, and how crucial forensic evidence was simply washed away.
Guantanamo inmates used al Qaeda manual: The first wave of detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, created their own internal organizational structure to maintain morale, resist interrogation and recruit members, adhering to instructions in a 10-year-old al Qaeda training manual, according to a classified report by CIA analysts.
Detention facility pacts irk official: The Willacy County attorney is speaking out against his county's new contract for a massive detention center because he said it involves companies still under a cloud from the 2004 bribery convictions of three elected officials.
Club Gulag: tourists are offered prison camp experience: The Mayor of what used to be one of the most infamous outposts of Josef Stalin's Gulag wants to charge masochistic foreign tourists £80 a day to "holiday" in an elaborate mock-up of a Soviet prison camp.


Targeting Territory in Lebanon: "Our media is giving the impression that Israel is only fighting along the border in a defensive manner. The map exposes this lie of ommission -- this is an all out attempt to destroy the country of Lebanon."
In Iraq, a Failure to Deliver the Spoils: In the United States, the question of the effectiveness of the roughly $45 billion in rebuilding generally boils down to a statistical debate, with proponents saying that thousands of projects have been completed, and critics pointing to thousands that are incomplete or have not even started.
Iraq's Reconstruction a Boondoggle by Design: Iraq's reconstruction has been a crude taxpayer rip-off -- and while $30 billion has been spent, only 30 percent of Iraqis are even aware of the rebuilding effort.
Audit Finds U.S. Hid Actual Cost of Iraq Projects: The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.
A potential US Stalingrad in Iraq?: Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a "shooting gallery" 400 to 800 miles long.
In Iraq, a failed housing market: Not squatters, but on their way, perhaps. This story on the housing crisis in Iraq from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting shows that market forces are conspiring against ordinary Iraqis in Sulaimaniyah.
Iraq Civilian Toll Spikes to Almost 6,000
Israeli/Lebanese coffin counter: A simple and extremely sad visualization of the proportionality of deaths in the conflict between Isreal & Lebanon.
Israeli Bombs Shatter Beirut Renaissance: Beirut’s architectural renaissance, featuring work by architects including Gustafson Porter and Zaha Hadid, was falling apart this week as the Israeli bombings continued.
Walking in fear in Lebanon's no-drive zone: Moving anywhere in Lebanon south of the Litani River today is an eerie and unnerving experience.
From City to "Stronghold" Graveyard: Modern warfare thrives largely on the basis of euphemisms which render the otherwise abhorrent acceptable: we do not speak of murdered civilians, but of "collateral damage;" not of destroyed societies but of "degraded capability."
Why Hezbollah is proving so tough on the battlefield: A look at the geurilla infrastructure of Hizbollah, and why they have been such an effective resistence.
Israel plans anti-tunnel measures in Gaza: Israel plans to raze homes and other structures just inside the Gaza Strip to stop Palestinian militants from using them as cover to build tunnels for attacks and smuggling.
Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild, Gaining Stature: " addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force that fought Israel to a standstill — Hezbollah is already dominating the efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.
Rebuilding Lebanon's shattered economy: With a truce between Israel and Hezbollah raising hopes of peace in Lebanon, much of the focus is moving towards the task at hand: how to rebuild the country and how to pay for it.


Airports battle new security threats: Air travel has been transformed since al-Qaeda hijackers seized aeroplanes to use as weapons on 11 September 2001. But nothing has been as draconian as the steps taken in the UK following the discovery of a suspected plot to blow up several planes in mid-air.
Video cameras on the lookout for terrorists: Researchers at General Electric Co.'s sprawling research center, are creating new "smart video surveillance" systems that can detect explosives by recognizing the electromagnetic waves given off by objects, even under clothing.
ThreatViewer enables you to see in all directions at once: As thousands gathered for Major League Baseball's All-Star game in Pittsburgh on July 11, a new technology known as ThreatViewer was being deployed for the first time that enables security personnel to do just that.
Meth Gun for drug detection: The "meth gun" looks similar to a radar gun but it's made to help police find trace amounts of dope. According to CDEX Inc., the $10,000 device is the first portable, handheld system that uses ultraviolet light to scan surfaces (most likely at close range).
The world's most secure front door
Protecting Subway Cars From Bombs: Toronto is modifying its subway cars to improve safety in this age of terrorist bombings, while one expert says the change will only create an illusion of safety.
3-D Imaging Goes Ballistic: New ballistics-imaging technology, developed by a Rockville, Maryland, engineering firm with funding from the Justice Department, lets forensic scientists capture a fired bullet's distinctive markings in 3-D for the first time.
Sizing Up the People Who Tell Us to Take Our Shoes Off: With the disclosure last week of a plot to bomb airplanes flying over the Atlantic with liquid or gel explosives, those workers are again a focus of attention as a vital line of defense against terrorism. But it is a seriously flawed line, some security consultants and government officials say. The federal workers under the Department of Homeland Security who replaced the screeners hired by private contractors remain a weak link in aviation safety.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Strange New World

There is an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego that I'd love to be able to go see right now. Strange New World is a vital celebration of the colorful urbanism of Tijuana that is straddling cultures, continents, and has become, as Dan Glaister describes in the Guardian, a post-modern icon for a collision of art, border culture, geopolitics, immigration and global capital.

The project has a sick-ass website, too, with lots of artist profiles, music, links, maps, packed with all sorts of nortec coolness. These first couple of images are from the navigation menus which scroll in wide hectic panaromas and maps of different clickable neighborhoods in the city.

Glaister writes: "Drive south on the I-5 freeway, past San Diego, through the scrap and scrub of Chula Vista and Palm City, and just a mile or two before the Mexican border at San Ysidro an unexpected sight looms off the far side of the road. It's a billboard, but what it is advertising is not clear. It shows the back of a man's head, his red neck showing through the gap between his cropped grey hair and camouflage T-shirt. The man gazes across the line. Before him lies the neatly levelled land on the US side of the border fence; beyond, to the south, is sprawl, chaos, uncertainty: Tijuana.

[...] Pull to the nearside lane and slow down to below the recommended freeway minimum speed and you may make out the legend written in the sky above the man's head: "Don't be a man for just a minute," it reads. "Be a man your whole life." And then it is gone. The journey south continues. The billboard is the work of Tijuana artist Marcos Ramírez, who works under the name Erre. The silver head belongs to one of the great theorists of southern California, Mike Davis."

The piece, from what I understand, was a response to a previous billboard that had appeared on the freeway going the opposite direction placed there by the Minutemen, which was sort of a warning to migrants and an advertisement for their vigalante group keeping tacky vigil over the grand border gate near San Ysidro.

"The black-and-white images - so grainy they could be painted on sand - show featureless structures marooned in the desert. They could be prison camps, they could be the border fence. But" Glasiter says, "they are the maquiladores." These are photos taken by my friend Sergio de la Torre who also produced the recent documentary Maquilapolis, which is an intense look at the rampant industry of assembly factories and a local activist movement there which has fought to reclaim their devastated community along the border.

For 'Manufactured Site', Teddy Cruz worked with several collaborators to develop the idea of a housing and mercantile development that could be mass-produced according to the tactics and strategies that are already informally used through out Tijuana.

As Cruz explains, “Conceived as a minimum gesture for maximum effect, this prefabricated frame acts as a hinge mechanism to mediate across the multiplicity of recycled materials and systems brought from San Diego and re-assembled in Tijuana.” The frame elements are infinitely flexile and could support a range of construction materials from corrugated metal to recycled tires and used palettes. Open to any number of means and ends, Cruz’s system aspires to more than mere construction – it hopes to build community.

'La region do los pantelones transfronterizos' (The Region of the Transborder Trousers), 2004-2005, marks the culmination of the ToroVestimienta project that concluded in 2004 after six seasons of production, a project which focused on clothing designed for border crossers. The project is also the fruition Torolab’s unique research methodology with which they transformed their use of clothing from billboard to a document of urban ethnography.

To make the piece, Torolab integrated global positioning systems into clothing designed for five individual subjects. For five days, as the participants moved through the Tijuana-San Diego region, Torolab tracked their location, velocity and fuel consumption. The resulting projection onto a topographic model of the region, synthesizes the collected data into elegant moving lines. The pulse, dimension, and speed of individual lines represent fluctuations in the data.

Also be sure to check out: inSite_05: Tijuana Calling; An Equator of Borderzones; WORLDVIEW: Tijuana: Mother of Invention; Welcome to America; The Immigrant, The Camp, and The NYSE; Migrant Structures; Rival Actions: at the border...; urban syntax: at the border...; Border CTRL; Borderville.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Secret Cities of the A-Bomb

Airing again this Sunday and Monday evening on the History Channel is a program called Secret Cities of the A-Bomb. From the website:

In 1939, a group of scientists--Albert Einstein among them--warned FDR of the possibility that Hitler's Germany might be close to producing an atomic bomb. Roosevelt issued an order--the US had to be the first to develop an atomic bomb and within three years they were well on their way to creating a hidden world of secret cities and classified nuclear facilities. Six decades later, we return to the once-classified sites where the course of history was decided. In top secret cities and nuclear facilities, we uncover and rebuild this lost world in three top-secret cities in isolated parts of Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington State. This was to be the most costly and labor-intensive engineering program ever undertaken. Using classified material, eyewitness testimony, and cutting-edge graphic technology, we recreate the secret world of the Manhattan Project.

The Lost Worlds series has been pretty good so far. The episode after the nuclear urbanism is Hitler's Supercity:

Hitler caused more death and destruction than anyone else in history. But he also planned to build on a massive scale and place a new Germany on a par with ancient Greece and Rome. Our investigators piece together a picture of how Hitler wanted Germany to look from the ruins of what was built and from plans of his architect Albert Speer. In Nuremberg, we recreate the Zeppelin Tribune: where 60,000 people could overlook a parade ground. We reveal the real purpose of the stadium Speer planned to hold the Olympic Games--with seating for 405,000 people. And we rebuild, with computer-generated images based on Speer's plans, the monuments Hitler planned for himself: the Triumphal Arch--twice the height, and four times the width of Paris's Arc de Triomphe--and the People's Hall--a structure so big the Eiffel Tower could fit inside it. Monstrous, intimidating, built on slave labor--this is the Lost World we'd now inhabit if WWII had gone differently.

So, if you find yourself stuck in front of the tube in the next week for some reason, say you are nursing a severe back injury or something (like I am right now), then tune in. At least for some of the more worthwhile tube-surfing to be had these days...

War as Vacation

I found this article both hilarious and unsettling. Estimates are that about 6 percent of the 7 million people living in Israel have been displaced by the recent attacks of Hizbollah, which is about 420,000. The number of displaced in Lebanon is now close to 1 million.

[Image: Burnt villages, from a photoessay by the BBC - Darfur's camp life.]

When we consider refugee space around the world, we typically think of dangerous encampments raided by Somali warlords, or semi-flooded shanties barely held together just off the edge of a tsunami ravaged coastline; I think of an apartheidist matrix of concrete walls and checkpoints and all the electrified barbed wire fencing that has come to define the West Bank, or the jails that hold hundreds of Sudanese refugees. There are entire populations living under UN tents and tarps scattered across the globe, where desperate efforts are made to keep communities from going extinct.

[Image: The checkpoint enterting Ramallah, The Other Side of the Green Line, Michael Totten.]

The Lebanese today are mostly fleeing to Syria, or to some of the few makeshift villages erected by scattered humanitarian relief along the outskirts of the major targetted areas. But for those unable to escape the war zone that is now for the most part the entirety of their homeland, they are living in the streets, squatting in bombed out buildings, cowering in blankets of rubble under the relentless aerial campaigns that prey on their streets and homes every day.

[Image: A photoset of Israel's bomb shelters on bonnym's flickr stream.]

In Israel, however, the refugee urbanism that protects people in times of disaster or war is more of a well oiled machine, an extremely versed architectural excercise, where fallout spaces are a permanent part of the infrastructure; where bomb shelters and underground escapes are mandatory and the culture of Israeli militarism is permanently cemented into the psychic landscape.

[Image: Photo of Israeli bomb shelter via the NYT.]

But bomb shelters aren’t the only way to retreat from harm's way there. Nor are architects or military urbanists the only ones to take charge of refugee shelters in times of war. Apparently, some clever club owners have gotten in on the action. Leave it to the ingenuity and hustle of rave promoters and the good old fashioned spirit of techno-lusting partiers forever in search of the next full moon party to put together this camp in Ashkelon, where, as they say, "We'll keep dancing here as long as Hezbollah still has rockets."

[Image: A refugee camp in Ashkelon, Partying in Israel's War Zone, Speigel, 2006.]

According to this article, the streets are lined with flags, tents are filled with tanned bodies doing yoga and squads of orthodox Jews recruiting on the spot. There is the constant thumping of bass where body-painted would-be club-goers wear colored armbands not as proof of entrance into the club (as is common in Israel) but as indications of time slots for dining hall rotations. “One could easily mistake the place for a nightclub if it weren't for the fact that everyone here has been displaced by a war,” writes Matthias Gebauer. “Live bands play each night…the camps have a party atmosphere, with frolicking on the beach, music and even joints.” More absurdly, he says, “Trying to find a silver lining in the crisis, the hotel manager even says the bombings have created new couples -- people are fleeing the bombs and finding love.”
Now, I understand the need to make the best out of a real bad situation, but the idea of people partying on the beach under a full moon while their military virtually destroys an entire country a few miles away I find a little disturbing. As if the carpet bomb slaughter of hundreds of innocent people is something to celebrate, as if the fact that their own country - steeped in endless war, with innocent casualties on both sides - and the complete annihilation of a neighbor is somehow a reason to rejoice. Perhaps it is just burying their heads in the sand, or the need for escapism that is so great that raving on the beach is just a natural reflex, but I gotta admit - these images don’t sit well in the rest of the context, as far I'm concerned. It looks like the experience of living under constant war for decades has finally amounted to a borderline luxury site of Israeli fallout space (which is certainly a better alternative than the more popular underground chambers). These pics make the ‘duck and cover’ look like a perfect form of Israeli pastime, or, war as vacation. The whole cause of conflict looks as if it has been translated in to one massive beach party, conflict as business of paradisal retreat, or as the author suggests, a Club Med for refugees.

(Thanks Ludwig for the link!)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

(In)visibility: A Portrait of the Globalized Family

[Image: On unexpected sites in the Pretoriusstraat, a neighbourhood with a largely mixed population, artists of various disciplines were asked to place a work, or installation in shop-windows or on other locations. Peeping in is allowed and even required. 'STADSGUERRILLA' - 'Guerrilla in the city' was inspired by the fashion of civilian clothes made from camouflage printed fabrics. The family in this work is dressed in their finest outfits, like the ones people wear on weddings or other very special occasions, but the costumes are made from textiles with a camouflage print. This father, mother and their two children are dressed spotlessly, but prefer to remain invisible as a family. Pretoriusstraat, Amsterdam (2004)] (via: ARTBBQ)

See these earlier posts for more on the "camotopia": More Camouflage Jazzercise; Hiding in perspective; Our favorite color camouflage.

Brutal Urbanism

Monu Magazine has released their 5th issue - Brutal Urbanism: Violence and Upheaval in the City, with all of the articles posted online in PDF's. Brutalism is something that has always been a part of the urban environment, from the birth of the city centuries and centuries ago, which is traced in a fascinating timeline by UAS (a design and research studio at the University of Kansas). It's development up through today is evident in the structural manifestation of brutality, conflict as a main building block in the urban DNA of the city; brutal urbanism as a systemic evolution of mankind; the city as brutal sublime. Loïc Wacquant examines the integrity of the nation-state challenged by a self-perpetual paradigm of urban disorder, collective violence, ethnoracial conflict; polities governed by an institutional brutalism that exists at the heart of the world's advanced societies.

Another article written by Lukas Feireiss looks at the visible and non-visible lines of the city, the various architectural confinements that make up in part both the obvious and subversive fabric of an urban environment, and how a "socio-spatial militarization of the city naturally generates a condition of upheaval." Eyal Weizman further indicts architects and planners as "war criminals" and draws upon the very definitions of international humanitarian law as the ultimate basis for architectural critique. He argues that "urbicide" was not defined by the bombing campaigns in Bosnia or the military destruction of infrastructure and monuments where architects played a role in assisting the military, but began in the early stages of urban renewal, and the "hygenic" regeneration practices of American planning, like the agressive "cleaning up" of the Bronx, for example. Then, Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rieniets offer a great history of Jerusalem, which has become "a labratory for the production of extreme spatial configurations, a condition that could be described by the notion of a 'conflict urbanisn'; [...] a city that always interwine with political agendas, [...] that changes physical form at an accelerated, almost daily fashion," where "processes of urban change, such as road planning, closures, construction of walls, fences, etc. that require year-long planning processes in Western cities can be implemented virtually overnight."

It's an excellent issue with lots of other great reads, so check it out.