Sep 29, 2011

but not too hard!

SATURDAY:  Looking for a bargain at Century 21, I intended to cross Broadway, but I was interrupted by THINK.

I am interested in making the world work better, so I went inside.

"40 media panels become interactive touchscreens, transforming the space into a forest of discovery..."

Mapping the gene sequence of rice

I began to THINK
about how altering the genetic make-up of rice might make world work better.

"While each leap of progress requires its own intelligence, work and  courage,
many of them are the result of a distinct, repeatable pattern.
THINK exhibit explores how progress
is shaped through a common and systematic approach."

40 interactive touch screens is pretty seductive. Does it help us THINK?

The only way out is to walk the gauntlet of screens enumerating IBM's accomplishment. And it's impressive.

"In the midst of the Great Depression, FDR signed the Social Security Act - creating a gigantic, nation-wide information problem with the stroke of a pen. Suddenly the US federal government needed acres of accounting machines to track the paychecks of every working American."

Who could provide the government with a way of keeping track this information? IBM
 The implications of passing the Social Security Act from an accounting perspective must have been mind boggling.  And there was a lot more...

Selectric Typewriter
 Magnetic Strip
 Bar Code
If we really THINK, we might not agree with propaganda offered in this exhibit. 
We might
THINK and come to very different conclusions.

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." Buddha.  Now that is something to THINK about.

Lincoln Center
Until October 23

All photos copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission. Thank You.

Sep 24, 2011

The Last Garden:
Danish Style

The Last Garden
Some people say how we live is how we die. 
In Denmark, it's where people die that has interested me. The churchyards of Denmark are windows into the souls of those who have died, but also ideas about what makes a garden.

Every garden "plot" must have a hedge.  I don't know the reason why, but none of these hedges are boxwood, which is what one would expect.  They are juniper, which obviously must be constantly pruned to maintain its neat and low shape.
Every cemetery contains tools to maintain your garden, watering cans and a compost pile.  This certainly makes good maintenance easy.

It's all very tidy.  Each plant is discreetly placed.  They often have no relation to each other.  All variety of evergreens are favorites as well as cotoneaster, heather and rosa rugosa.  It's a kind of gardening that has gone out of fashion in the United States. 
I've been asking Danes what accounts for the Danish reputation for great design, in objects, furniture, lighting, etc.  Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobson, Borge Mogensen, Verner Panton are only some of the iconic names in Danish Design.  One person gave me an answer that made sense:
Danes are home-centric.  They don't go out much.  There is no tradition of pubs as in England.  You invite people to your home.  Home is very important: the objects you surround yourself with are a reflection of your personality.  Being thrifty, the Danes are especially interested in good craftsmanship.  Hence, good design made to last.

This same philosophy, I think applies to these Danish cemetery "gardens".  They are a kind of home for those who rest beneath the ground, but also a home for those who tend these gardens.

"How much land does a man need?" Tolstoy asked, in his fable of the same name.  In Denmark a small enclosed plot cultivated by loved ones is all one needs.


Sep 16, 2011

The Danish Cure All:

Paeonia lactiflora
Chinese Peony
The genus is supposed to be named after the physician Paeos who cured Pluto and other golds of their wounds received during the Trojan War.

It is used as a medicinal herb in traditional Chinese medicine.  The root is used to reduce fever and pain and on wounds to stop bleeding and prevent infection.

According to Global Herbal:
promotes digestion and increases appetite
cognition enhancer
immune enhancing
skeletal muscle relexant

When you are a gardener, you are used to looking underneath things to find other things.  You need to be tenacious to find the Medicine Garden in Tranekaer, Denmark.  It's hidden behind the sugar beet factory, not far from the Souvenir "Museum" and  Tranekaer Castle looms above it.

The garden was began in 2010.  It is a project in conjunction with the CEBI (The Center for Bio-Resources and Innovation).  The first of the 9 system of the body gardens  is The Respiratory Garden.  The garden occuplies 8 hectares and currently has 60 different plants. In 2012, PRFO expect to increase the number to 250. 

(Plant Research Langeland) will also use the garden to grow experimental plantings, for example energy grasses that can be used for heat, and artichokes, whose roots can be used for fuel.
The CEBI  have their work cut out for themselves.  Their mission is to create "new opportunities for business, research institutions, private investors, farmers and consumers" using plants to solve the environmental challenges facing "society in general."  That is a pretty big mission for a small group of volunteers on the island of Langeland. 

I prefer the words written by Mads Jorgensen:

"There have been planted so many plants and it looks good."

"The garden is built on a slope.  There are many fine curved flower beds and paths with castle ruins.  But we have a prolbem with the landscaped flower beds and paths merge.  This happens especially when it rains heavily.  There fore, we have purchased 330 metal band to be up around the flower beds to retain soil.  Gardening Group has installed the first.  We got us a good surpirse because it looks actually really nice.  Metal edges make it that you get to see the subtle curves in the garden.

This is a major task, as have the group can not handle alone.  Therefore, we need to come and help us."

(this is a bad google translation)

I wanted to help.  I wanted to have the time to help.  If you find yourself in Tranekaer, on the island of Langeland, in Southern Denmark contact: 

or the following websites:
(Plant Resource Langeland)

Additional information about PRFO:
"PRFO has received grants from Nordrhein-Westfalen, LAG Langeland, Outdoor Council and several foundations, but most funds were matched by demand for fiancing of 25-50 percent. The big challenge is thus to provide the remainig money.  PRFO can gain some income by making attempts to collaborators.  Another option is to draw people's shares.  The association currently has 70 members."
Bjarne Moller Peterson

Sep 12, 2011

the Transformers:
of Langeland

The Art Towers
Langleland, Denmark

De Langelandske Kunsttarne

The Danes don't like to waste a thing. 

IN Langeland, Denmark the electric lines use to run above ground.  The transformers were inside the tower you see above. 

Alfo Bonano
"Organisk Indtraengen"

 In a flat landscape, a tower is a powerful symbol.  The artists of Langeland re-purposed the transformer  towers as art spaces.  Each tower is 1.5m x 1.5m x 8 m high.  A group of 12 artists have used the spaces in a different ways.  For me the most successful pieces are the ones that maximize the potential of the space or simply surprise.

Britt Smelvaer

One does not expect to find a buddha sitting in repose
Lars Calmar
When I first went inside this tower, I only saw these objects as abstract wooden blocks.  By turning my head, I realized they were toy boats on a vertical sea.

Being in a culture where a plastic bag from the supermarket check-out costs $5, one begins to gain an appreciation for the lack of wastefulness that Danes consider essential to their existence. 

Langeland is a struggling economy.  People are looking for ways to make a living and remain on the island.  The art towers are not only places to make a work of art, but also a tourist attraction in the best sense of the word.  They are hidden down small roads on the edges of farmers fields.  The process of finding the tower is also a way of discovering what the landscape has to offer.

Sep 11, 2011

Ruminations on the meaning of

Louisiana Museum
 of Modern Art
"In other words creating a home is not just about a physical setting but about the customs we associate with "being at home".  Where and how are we at home?  How does home reflect our identity?  How do we create the feeling of home through cultural rituals, traditions or special kinds of architecture?  How do you take your homeland with you when you move away or emigrate?"

These are some of the pieces that moved me:
Bottari Truck - Migrateurs
(video of performance art)

"Bottari Truck - Migrateurs is a performance where the Korean artist Kimsooja travels through Paris for ten days seated on top of a mountain of bottaris.  Bottari is the name the Koreans give to the coloured cloth bundles used to transport both Korean traders' goods and migrants property.  Korean women themselves sew these wrappings and bed linen from left-over cloth, and for Kimsooja this practice signifies a kind of absorption in and encapsulation of personal memories as well as family history.

Kimsooja's performance results in an account of the traveller and the way in which the Korean woman takes with her not only her home, but her whole identity, the memory of her origin and the history of her people, as something constantly on the move in the fluid, almost endless space of Korea".

In the video of this piece, the woman moves in slow motion through the streets of Paris.  One sees the onlookers, who are not shocked, maybe slightly confused.  They seem to accept this woman riding  down the rue.  For me, the description of this piece has more meaning, then the piece itself.  As in a lot of performance art, the artist gains meaning and experience and the audience are simply onlookers.
The Tub

Katja Bjorn

"The work is about yourself, Katja Bjorn and about all of us, about being human and feeling that being human involves something as simple as taking a bath."

Yes, we have all washed our hair and most of us have never seen this perspective of that act. 

Koolhaas HouseLife
Video 2008
Ila Beka & Louise Lemoine

Unlike the other two videos, the Koolhaas video has a soundtrack.  The cleaning lady, Guadelupe Acedo comments on the house designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA ub 1998.  From her perspective the house definitely is form over function.  We laugh as she makes her way through the house, siting one problem after another.

Although each of three videos has very different subject matter, they are centered in one way or another around the idea of home and everyday rituals. 

Here is the "egg house" on Langeland in Denmark.  I love the simplicity.  This is a case where form does follow function.