Archive for August, 2010

27
Aug
10

Art Show images…

Well, new developments are always afoot around here. I know I’ve been promising you these for a while, so here are some pictures from the Elmaks/MEEN/AZDEAD show at La Petite Mort Gallery… The show was a smashing success, and if you’re interested in any Elmaks artworks I’d advise you to check out the La Petite Mort Gallery at Cumberland & Murray Streets, Ottawa. Even if you’re not, check out the gallery anyway. It’s worth it.

One more quick update coming before I take a bit of a hiatus from the world. But when I get back from Burning Man, there will be more pictures…





edit: new streetart, from last night.

19
Aug
10

DIY Bike Lanes and Imaginary Crimes

First of all, let me begin with an awesome street art initiative from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Urban Repair Squad

As the article mentions, Sao Paulo is known for its congested streets which pose a dangerous challenge for pedestrians and cyclists alike. During Brazil’s World Cup games, a group of street artists took to the city’s empty streets to paint bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks in hazardous areas, a project which reminds me a lot of Montreal’s very own Roadsworth.
Train Tracks by Roadsworth

There’s some talk about initiating traffic-calming initiatives and pedestrian-friendly urban improvements in Montreal’s St. Henri Borough to manage dangerous and confusing intersections. (Ongoing construction has, in some places, created a maze of concrete barriers through which pedestrians must weave in order to cross streets). I’ve suggested that the local borough council, if and when it begins a public awareness campaign to raise support for intersection overhauls, get a street artist like Roadsworth (or myself) to paint new pedestrian crossings in certain intersections. I’m thinking of something along the lines of a meandering clown-shoed path to best illustrate the danger that construction barriers pose to pedestrians crossing far-too-wide streets in which they’re often forced to stop halfway. Or a stencil of the Montreal Pedestrian Charter, which was adopted to prevent situations like these.

And now on to gripe-town. The Harper government continues to stand pat on its decision to eliminate the mandatory census long-form, a decision which has been condemned across the board. To this date, only a handful of groups have come forward to support Harper’s decision. These include the Fraser Institute, a right-wing, pro-’free market’ think-tank, as well as the National Citizens’ Coalition, site of Stephen Harper’s old job, and the euphemistically-named Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

Stephen Harper’s contempt for others and their points of view has been glaring and at times, even chilling. Watching Industry Minister Tony Clement being apparently forced to publicly defend the scrapping of the census long form, seemingly as punishment for having criticized Harper’s decision to do so in the beginning, smacks of a tragic comedy; one part misery and two parts farce.

As a future urban planner I will be one of the many people who will be making important use of census data that, in Canada, currently has an international reputation for accuracy, proper documentation and strict privacy controls. What it all boils down to is this:

As Noam Chomsky has said, media discourse no longer revolves around a debate or interaction of two opinions. What has replaced it is instead a strategy by which a message is repeated over and over until it enters the public consciousness and becomes public opinion. Facts are replaced by buzzwords. And it works. For example, take the recent survey which found that close to 20 per cent of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim.

Harper’s people have been trying to push a conservative Christian agenda on Canadians for a number of years, an agenda which requires more than a complete ignorance of the facts. For example, it’s not enough for them to say that Insite does not work, in spite of the massive support it has received at a city, provincial and even international level. It’s not enough to call for a recriminalization of marijuana and mandatory minimum sentencing for possession charges in spite of a tremendous amount of evidence contradicting the very same fear-mongering pitches which Harper & Co. toss out.

No, in order to successfully pull something like this off you have to sway public opinion in your favor first. And that involves both flooding the airwaves with your own message and destroying the foundations of your opponents’ arguments. As long as census data remains reliable you’re bound to see situations where Conservative ministers get caught with their pants down, as was the case when Treasury Board President Stockwell Day tried to claim that the Canadian crime rate is rising rather than falling in order to justify a planned $6 billion dollar expenditure on new prisons.

You can’t call your opponents “ivory-tower intellectuals” and “thug-huggers” and get away with it very well if they can meticulously tear your arguments apart with cold, hard data. You’re just stuck in place babbling on about Imaginary Crimes. These types are the worst kind of policy-makers. Like ‘bio-ethicist’ Margaret Somerville, these people follow a scientific approach insofar as it suits their ideological goals. They prepare an ideological argument first, and then scour for figures that supposedly back it up.

18
Aug
10

Newnesses

Since it’s been a couple of weeks since I last updated the blog, let me tell you of new things…

The book, “The Art of Swap” is finished, and I am in the middle of writing a number of cover-letters and writers’ statements to send off to a couple of publishers. Part of the process involves explaining where and how what I’ve written fits into the existing literary field, and this I’ve found to be a frustrating and interesting task. Interesting, because little exists in the way of similar work. Most street-art books treat the work as a series of pictures -just like any other visual art book- disconnected from their context and creator, and to my knowledge no one has written a combined street art book/urban planning theory text.

Street art and graffiti are the world’s first truly international art movements. They transcend race, class and gender, and embedded in their practice are a whole lot of interesting issues, ideas and conflicts related to notions of accessibility to and control over public space. Street art and graf, if you ask me, also play into concepts of urban design and renewal (the improvement of areas of public space and the mission of inserting a bit of joy and wonder into people’s lives have always influenced the pieces that I’ve done.)

As it stands now, I’m working on building a swing set to be hung up in a yet-undetermined location. (I’ve seen some similar and very neat pieces where others built swings that could be mounted on trees or even inside bus shelters.) One idea I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my head is to see how GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software could be used in the furtherance of installation-based street art projects. (After all, I am an urban planning student with access to a wealth of powerful planing tools…) Since GIS works on the basis of displaying interactive layers of data on maps, one could potentially display the location of all parks (or pieces of public art, etc) on the island of Montreal, run an algorithm or two to plot an area around each park equivalent to a 5 or 10-minute walking distance and display the urban areas which are in, for want of a better term, a ‘park desert’.

more to come, including pictures from the Elmaks/Meen/AZDEAD “Inglorious Beasties” art show!





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