Archive for August, 2012

Photograph: ZUMA Wire Service / Alamy/Alamy

The first step to kayaking the L.A. River, and perhaps the toughest, is finding it. Rory Carroll, a reporter for The Guardian, took on that challenge, eventually meeting up with the intrepid group LA River Expeditions to navigate the concrete channel. This is the group’s inaugural season on the river, and George Wolfe, the founder of LA River Expeditions, hopes that the kayak tours are the first step to changing the community’s perception of the river. “We have to start thinking in new ways, and using words differently. If you call it a sewer ditch you treat it like a sewer ditch. Call it a river and you treat it like a river,” Wolfe says.

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William Henry Jackson, “Green River, Canyon of Desolation, Sumner’s Amphitheater,” (1871); The National Archives and Records Administration

Someone, probably a shut-in, on the editorial board of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City is upset that Utah can’t frack for gas the way North Dakota can because of the Obama administration’s canceling of some 77 oil and gas leases on federal lands with “the stroke of a pen,” etc., etc. Mitt Romney, the paper says, has a much better plan that would “pioneer” new policies at the local level on the eastern side of the state. Funny, because just a few weeks ago, the New York Times had a rather detailed account by Eric Lipton of how the regional office of the federal Bureau of Land Management conducts oversight of the energy industry in eastern Utah as if it were basically an ongoing giveaway to energy companies.

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Courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation/Athena Tacha

Great news from the state of Governor Chris Christie: Someone in his administration called the artist Athena Tacha to let her know the state will save her sculpture Green Acres at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton. The state had said in April it would demolish the work.

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NASA released these rather shocking satellite images of the polar ice caps this week. According to its scientists and researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the area of the arctic ice sheet fell to a record low on Sunday. And it is expected to continue to retreat over the next few weeks.

The extent of the arctic ice sheet grows during the winter and shrinks during the summer. The first photo above shows the total extent of the ice sheet’s retreat in the summer of 1979. The second shows its retreat so far this summer. The orange line shows the average minimum ice cover from 1979 to 2010.

According to NASA, the seasonal minimum area of the arctic ice sheet has gotten 13 percent smaller each decade for the past three decades.

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It’s like New Year’s Day here at LAM as we roll out the fantastic slate of winners of the 2012 ASLA Awards—the student awards, the professional awards, and the Landmark Award, plus the medals and other honors ASLA presents each year. It’s no wonder that landscape architects are taking over the world when you consider the problems the world faces—they pretty much all involve land, water, and air, and some of the most intriguing, challenging, and surprising solutions are to be found right here, created by the most inventive minds in the business. No spoilers—you’ll have to go through them yourself to learn who won, but this month’s issue is FREE online (click on the cover to the right). To all. Forever. Dig in!

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Aerial V, production still from Shadow Sites II, Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq, b. 1966); 2011; single channel digital video. Courtesy of the artist, Abraaj Capital Art Prize, and Rose Issa Projects. Photography Adrian Warren.

The aerial landscape images of the Iraq-born artist Jananne Al-Ani hover above strange desert sites devoid of people but obviously disturbed by them. Al-Ani describes having become obsessed with such places, from such perspectives, during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, when modern, instantaneous imaging by the military and the news media described the lands of the Middle East, contested though they were, as blank, depopulated expanses. The writings of Paul Virilio in his book War & Cinema: The Logistics of Perception reinforced her fascination with the high-tech ability to see everything and nothing at once. For Shadow Sites: Recent Work by Jananne Al-Ani, a new installation of her landscape images at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., the artist flew in a small airplane, with a camera attached to the wing, over vast and bleak territories in the Middle East to search out strange patterns on the ground. In one montage that lasts several minutes, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, the camera seems to drift down slowly toward figures on the ground that are clearly ruins (though of unknown vintage) and others that are farms or spent orchards. Yet others are less clear, such as a ribbed stretch of land that looks like corduroy (possibly trenches she describes as having been dug by Ottomans for the Germans), and one image, called Aerial I, that presents a set of W-shaped armatures on the ground.

Aerial I, production still from Shadow Sites II, Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq, b. 1966); 2011; single channel digital video. Courtesy of the artist, Abraaj Capital Art Prize, and Rose Issa Projects. Photography Adrian Warren.

Al-Ani gives almost no clues. Just at the moment a site might disclose its identity, the frame dissolves into the next; some of the pictures have no bearings at all. The exhibition begins with a series of panoramic photos taken by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld on excavation journeys in the early 20th century to Persepolis, Samarra, and Ctesiphon in Iraq and Iran. Al-Ani was shown the Herzfeld archive at the Sackler, where it is kept, and in this 21-minute video on Vimeo, she describes the effect of Herzfeld’s photos on her work and explains why she troubles herself with taking aerial photographs of her own rather than relying on readily available satellite photos. The show at the Sackler runs to February 10. For more information, visit the Sackler’s web site.

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Photo: Dino Perrucci

The various passions of the musician, designer (and onetime Rhode Island School of Design student), cyclist, and public intellectual David Byrne have all come together yet again in a new series of bicycle racks at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Byrne has designed bike racks before; for this latest round, based on letterforms, John Dugan of Design Bureau has the story.

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