The latest edition of Ecological Urbanism is terrible doorstop. The first edition is 655 pages, smells good, weighs 2kg and keeps most of my other books in their place. Despite its strengths, it can’t do video… something the latest version on the book can do. The original hardback book by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty features hundreds of photos that I took while walking across Mexico City, Mumbai and London for Urban Earth, a project in urban exploration that I started in 2008. Out today, the new version splits the book into digestible chapters and includes over 15,000 photographs within the 3 Urban Earth films that I made by taking pictures every 8 steps while crossing these massive cities. You’ll find the films in volume 2, Anticipate, and are accompanied by a short piece of text that Kye Askins and I wrote. I’m delighted to see the films come to life in the book. I hope you enjoy it.
The Ecological Urbanism project has a Facebook page that you can follow here.
I love this short film by the Light Surgeons.
I’m looking forward to speaking at a National Geographic event at the Wellcome Collection tonight ahead of the 125th anniversary of the organisation. The evening for commercial supporters of National Geographic in the UK is called the “New Age of Exploration”. In my short presentation I plan to (re)frame what ‘geography’ is (much like in this recent interview with Geographical Magazine) and then touch on an ‘exploration revolution’ that is taking place. Technology is not only changing how we conceive, plan, organise, conduct, share and review our explorations, but the number of people who can engage in them.
I love this short video by ito! showing four years of edits on Open Street Map. It’s an awesome example of collaborative and open exploration that involved over 750,000 registered users and shows collaboration at its best. For me, some of the most exciting cartographic ‘events’ in this video are where sparks of activity appear in countries, regions and neighbourhoods that were otherwise left uncharted or unpublished by governments and other organisations. It all demonstrates that places are not just discovered once, they can be discovered and rediscovered millions of times as they change and new people and other animals visit them. It’s a video that shows an Exploration Revolution that you are unavoidably part of…
I’m very excited.
For a while now I’ve really wanted there to be a playful way for local children to engage with a particular historical geography of our local park. It’s called Blondin after the famous tightrope walker who crossed Niagra Falls on a 1,100 foot rope with a man on his back. The rope itself was just 7.5cm wide. This amazing effort happened back in 1859 and has recently been brought up again after Nik Wallenda made a similar crossing on a wire. Blondin lived by the park and as well as the park taking his name, two local streets are called Blondin and Niagra.
Last night I attended the Northfields ward forum in west London where I live. I had contacted my local councillor with with an idea last week and he had suggested that I brought it along to the meeting. I proposed to the crowd that we should have a line drawn 1,100 feet through the park on the path so that people can attempt to replicate his success. A sign would also be needed to explain the line, it’s heritage and to suggest some challenges to complete on it. To my amazement the idea went down very well, a vote took place and now we’re looking at designing the line into the park.
I’m excited to see how this line will act as a path for psychogeographical journeys as adventurers fear falling off the line and are drawn into other times and places. Children, families and other explorers will imagine and experience a blend of the river, waterfall, distance, sound, balance, drop, context, history, fear, playfulness, courage, geographies and pasts as they venture down the line and feel fragments of this inspirational story.
I can’t wait to try and walk the line myself.
I spent last weekend in Dublin. My cousin is getting married in a couple of weeks and so a pile of us spent the weekend drifting around the city engaged in (un)important and (un)traditional cultural activities. In addition to poisoning our bodies and dancing to R&B in the passive aggressive Sin bar, we had a great time trying to find Ireland’s biggest indoor Go Karting arena in a challenged industrial estate and visiting the Dogs with the stag dressed as Lady Luck.
Over the weekend I learnt many things. One of which is that Danbo isn’t just a Danish furniture store or a semi-soft cow’s cheese from the same country… I’m not sure if the furniture is made of the cheese. Danbo is also “possibly the cutest little guy you will ever see in the world…” and a cardboard box toy robot that was being carried around by another member of our party. A semi-professional photographer, he was taking pictures of his Danbo in much the same way as Slinkachu’s Little People Project (which I take inspiration from in my work with kids) and these beautiful bug memorials by the Carmichael Collective, placing him the robot in clever situations.
This picture is a picture I took on my phone of a picture that he had on his phone of a picture on Flickr.
Since my first encounter with Danbo in Dublin I’ve been enjoying amusing and intelligent pictures of him all around the world. Check out these on Flickr, the Facebook group and if you’ve got £30 to spare you can join the party and buy one on eBay.
Danbo walks an interesting line between guerrilla street art and consumerist consumption. The Danbo project reminds me of the inspired Yellow Arrow project in the sense that it nurtures alternative thinking, supports new creative practices, builds social networks and encourages people to explore. They’re also both global art projects that disrupt guerrilla practices with competitive commercial strategies and prices that have significant financial barriers to participation. This is perhaps part of the appeal for some of those who join in. I did buy Yellow Arrow stickers but I think think I’ll wait for a Danbo to cost 90% less and get another Lego person for my son instead (have you seen The Brick Testament!?).
I’m recently back from a trip to Maui, Hawai’i. While there I was lucky enough to go underwater exploring with Emily Schell from National Geographic. I did not have my contact lenses and so my vision wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was awesome to check out so many fish. By far I loved seeing the curious Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the state fish of Hawai’i, the most. I didn’t snap a picture of the triggerfish on our snorkeling trip, but I spotted this one swimming through Honolulu a few days later. Cool fish, aye?
If you’re wondering how to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a then this culturally enlightening (?) article from the Daily Mail (!?) will give you a decent lesson.
I took these pictures during a walk from Arrivals at London Heathrow to Fleet Street in central London. The walk was part of the Urban Story mass exploration of London that I organised last weekend. While the group I was walking with were inspired to keep their eyes open for ‘arrivals’ I decided to look for evidence of ‘departures’. Anything arriving is simultaneously departing, but each of these events and places caught my imagination as having or being departed.