THIS WILL—BE THE LONGEST AND HARDEST FIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE IT EASY AND I SURE AS HELL WON’T. IF YOU WANT ALL THE INFO, IT WILL COST YOU TIME, MONEY & ENERGY. IT’S ALL THERE FOR YOU TO FIND, SIMPLY FOLD THE PAGES BACK & FORTH, BUT BE WARNED THAT THE PAGES WILL EVENTUALLY RIP. COV
C—Lab: Vol. 20 Crisis In Crisis
THIS WILL—BE THE LONGEST AND HARDEST FIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE IT EASY AND I SURE AS HELL WON’T. IF YOU WANT ALL THE INFO, IT WILL COST YOU TIME, MONEY & ENERGY. IT’S ALL THERE FOR YOU TO FIND, SIMPLY FOLD THE PAGES BACK & FORTH, BUT BE WARNED THAT THE PAGES WILL EVENTUALLY RIP. COV
C—Lab: Vol. 20 Crisis In Crisis
THIS WILL BE THE LONGEST AND HARDEST FIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE IT EASY AND I SURE AS HELL WON’T. IF YOU WANT ALL THE INFO, IT WILL COST YOU TIME, MONEY & ENERGY. IT’S ALL THERE FOR YOU TO FIND, SIMPLY FOLD THE PAGES BACK & FORTH, BUT BE WARNED THAT THE PAGES WILL EVENTUALLY RIP.
C—Lab: Vol. 20 Crisis In Crisis
00. Warning Message— The Who 01. Letter from the Editor— Worse then Better? 02. Crisis in Crisis— Biosphere Ecology 03. Borders— Steven Graham Interview 04. Celbrity Mobilizing— by Martha Rosler 05. Design for the Apocalypse— John McMorrough 06. Warning Message— British Ministry of Info 07. Crisis Devices— curated by SLAB 08. Foreclosed Homes— by Geoff Manaugh 09. Marathon— by David Gissen &Rachel Schreiber 10. Unfriendly Skies— illustrations by C-Lab 11. Warning Message— Chic Freak SIDE B 12. Encyclopedic Articles— A-I, [page 58-69] 13. Warning Message— Woody Allen 14. Exclusion Zone— Oleg Yavorsk Interview 15. Humanitarian Intervention— Eyal Weizman 16. Rogue States of Mind— collage by C-Lab 17. More Is Less— collected by MTWTF 18. Warning Message— David Byrne 19. Systems Gone Wild— Modern Infrastructure 20. Warning Message— Sonic Youth 21. Maps— Erin Aigner Interview 22. Inauguration— Photography by Jesse Seegers END --. RUN!— Visual Essay by Nohawk **. Warning Message— The Governator xx. Exit— Grab your shirt and leave
WE LIKE NIGHTMARES. THEY TEST OUR FITNESS
WE LIKE NIGHTMARES. THEY TEST OUR FITNESS
EVERYTHING 01 IS FLUID AT THE MOMENT & OUR BASIC ASSUMPTIONS OF HOW TO FIX THINGS HAVE PROVEN INEFFECTIVE. Ed Letter
Things Will Get Worse Before They Get Better by Jeffrey Inaba
Americaâ€™s new administration has brought about a palpable sense of optimism. There are high hopes for the agency of government. There is confidence that people will mobilize for a worthy cause. There is belief that economic recovery could begin sooner rather than later. In architecture there is a newfound feeling that the profession can improve cities. But optimism is a fragile thing. Unfavorable events are likely to occur which could dash any such hopes. One way to prevent ourselves from overreacting, and subsequently falling into despair, is to appreciate the nature of crisis. Understanding crisis may help us to judge the unfolding situation and maintain a realistic measure of faith. In this issue you will find wide-ranging examples of crises: how they begin, unfold and, despite attempts at their management, spin out of control. Everything is fluid at the moment and our basic assumptions of how to fix things have proven ineffective. So prepare for things to get worse before they get better. Hopefully, even this helps to cushion the fall. As the second installment in an ongoing editorial project between Urban China and Volume, we have produced this limited edition publication on the occasion of the exhibition Informal Cities at the New Museum. Inspired by the unofficial compilations sold by fans at music concerts, we offer a bootleg
EVERYTHING IS FLUID AT THE MOMENT & OUR BASIC ASSUMPTIONS OF HOW TO FIX THINGS HAVE PROVEN INEFFECTIVE.
issue of Urban China. The bootleg is a DIY format for assembling and disseminating work within a circle of hardcore fans, typically consisting of live work recorded, sequenced and edited by the concertgoer. Unlike a pirated copy or fake which tries to assume the identity of an authorized product and is motivated by a desire for profit, a bootleg announces itself as an improvised, illegitimate work and is largely motivated by a wish to share. Given the urgency of the topic, C-Lab has borrowed the bootleg format to quickly distribute observations, initiated in dialogue with Urban China, on the crisis and its management. X
Crisis in Crisis: Biosphere 2’S Contested Ecologies by Janette Kim & Erik Carver 1. Biodome Image—int. spread with weeds and decay, nice one. August, 2011
Every symptom—thining ozone, missing species, growing slums, dwindling oil, acid rain, DDT, mushroom clouds—confirmed the diagnosis of impending world destruction. For Biosphere 2, conceived in the swirl of post-Hiroshima environmentalism, the crisis was fueled by a breach of spiritual and technological equilibrium. It prescribed nothing less than a new world wrapped
2. One Year Later— wild life and luxury items. progress in progress, August, 1996
in a three-acre bubble. Emerging from the Arizona desert in 1991, Biosphere 2 enclosed eight humans, 3,800 other species, and seven biomes for two years. Its crisis-response balancing act sought to repudiate the arrogance of the past in favor of a monastic harmony between biosphere and technosphere. Today, a generation after Biosphere 2’s launch, Al Gore continues to check the planetary balance.3 But Biosphere 2 is in a new kind of crisis mode. The windows have opened. The monkeys have been sent away. New neighbors are crowding in. Biosphere 2 has finally succeeded, if only as a model of catastrophe. It simulates global warming. And, while never achieving a seamless web of life, it manages to assemble a fantastic menagerie of displaced Biosphere 2 initially mouthed conservationism’s obsession with restraint (consume less, switch bulbs, recycle…). But in practice, it
3. The creators—at one time happy and proud, now very sad and broke. 4. Plans—relocate, this is the way to live, August 1996. 5. The Master Controls— play Zelda and control the atmosphere at the same time, August 1996.
embodies the Obama administration’s provocation “we never let a crisis go to waste.”4 Rather than ameliorate crises, it exploits them. Equilibrium and Escape The Institute for Ecotechnics’ (IE) 1982 “Galactic Conference”5 in Les Marronniers, France brought Buckminster Fuller together with Phil Hawes, a Frank Lloyd Wright student who pitched a scheme for a spherical, space-traveling greenhouse. Fuller leapt on it: “If you guys don’t build a biosphere, who will?”6 Two years later, IE launched Space Biosphere Ventures (SBV). In 1969, Fuller had famously called for managing the planet as if it were a spaceship.7 SBV reversed Fuller’s metaphor, and proliferated its rationales. Not just a spaceship prototype, Biosphere 2 was alternately a shelter from nuclear winter (“Refugia”8) and a laboratory to model planetary homeostasis. To John Allen, co-founder of IE and president of SBV9, these diverse missions worked towards a singular vision of ecology in tune with egalitarianism, global spiritual consciousness and the “delicate web of life” on Earth (AKA Biosphere 1). “Ecotechnics” was itself an extrapolation of Lewis Mumford’s organic concept of “Biotechnic” design, in which production and consumption are trained to nurture the group and culture the personality.10 Biospherians synthesized theories of such IE speakers as ecologists James Lovelock and Eugene Odum to portray the planet as a cybernetic organism that self-regulates to achieve a “climax state” of maturity, health and efficiency.11 The name itself was inspired by Vladimir Vernadsky’s 1926 book The Biosphere, which posits three stages of evolution—geosphere, biosphere and noösphere or sphere of thought—each stage radically transforming the previous. Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin followed up with the Omega Point, a transcendent, singular state of maximum evolution in global complexity and consciousness. Allen similarly compared Biosphere 2 to a giant mandala of global unity, and admitted that this syncretic vision would have been impossible without psychoactives.12 Like
6. It Was Better— we should have remembered to water the plants. August, 1996
a trip, Biosphere 2 escaped, momentarily, from the atmosphere of earth.
Precarious Stability Biosphere 2 was built as the world’s most airtight building, designed to leak no more than 10% of its air per year (half the rate of the Space Shuttle). Without 1970s advancements in her| 15 metic enclosure, it was sealed to tolerances only dreamed of by machine-age architects. Facade consultant Peter Pearce patented the “Multihinge” node-less space frame triangulated to minimize thermal flexing. Structural silicone was factory bonded to two layers of glass and plastic laminate.13 Sealant was applied in two colors (white and gray) to make redundant enclosure legible. A skin of welded stainless steel plates lined concrete slabs and foundations beneath two to six meters of soil. Neoprene spanned 158foot diameter steel drums housed in geodesic domes to create “lungs” that expand and contract as Biosphere 2’s interior air heats and cools. Hunting for leaks, installers waved incense under the glass and shot compressed air through “sniffer tunnels” to verify welds. Equilibrium was engineered by instrumentalizing two distinct ecological theories: Darwinian competition and cybernetic regulation. In addition to the “Intensive Agriculture Biome” and the humans’ “Habitat,” there were five “Wilderness” biomes, with some species grown in greenhouses and others trucked in as entire landscapes. Swaths of tropical rain forest were sampled from Venezuela, savanna from
French Guyana, desert from Baja, marsh from the Everglades, and the ocean from the Yucatan. At the suggestion of William S. Burroughs, bushbabies were introduced to supply companion primates.14 Biosphere 2 designers included “more species than the scientists thought might finally survive, so that if one species failed, another would thrive, finally reaching self-organized stability.”15 Unlike those of the prevailing reductionist science, this would be a new kind of lab: operating with a large number of variables to study systems at the scale of the earth’s ecosystems, while (in theory) being able to track “every atom in the Biosphere’s systems.”16 Ultimately, however, the atmosphere seeped back in. Biosphere 2’s sixty-mile long, termiteproof, silicone seal was eventually penetrated by ants, creating an insect network that united its biomes with the Sonoran Desert outside. Due to unforeseen oxygen absorption by the raw concrete, oxygen plummeted from 20.9% of the atmosphere to 14% (equivalent to respiration above 10,000 feet) in six months.17 A measured amount of air had to be added for survival. If Biosphere 2 was headed towards homeostasis, it was not the Arcadia imagined at the outset. Biospherians soon went hungry, lost an average of 14% of their body weight and reported caffeine A hot-dog stand [was set up] not far from the Biosphere... Sometimes we lined up …and took turns peering through binoculars at fat people who were spurting ketchup on sausages and shoveling them into their mouths. We were culinary voyeurs.18 Few imagined that their Eden would be overrun by ants, roaches and morning glories. Five species of roaches were included to recycle dead leaves, but a stowaway species from Australia multiplied into the millions. The person on night watch had the chore of creeping into the kitchen to catch them unawares. Armed with
[THERE IS] A CRISIS OF MISALIGNMENT BETWEEN THE BIOSPHERE AND THE TECHNOSPHERE. THESE SEEM TO BE OUT OF BALANCE; A CATASTROPHE…BIOSPHERE 2, INSTEAD, CREATES A BALANCE BETWEEN BIOSPHERE AND TECHNOSPHERE
7. Wise Guy— its amazing how people will listen to you when wearing a cool hat and have a handle bar moustache to go with it, August, 1996.
manipulator” John Allen. During morning meditation, Allen bellowed, “You have no discipline, no interest in the Synergia!”20 The self-sustaining community became a monastery in a high-tech shell: outfitted with the latest machinery, but without the economies of scale that would provide enough caffeine or alcohol to intoxicate.
a vacuum cleaner, he or she flipped on the light and vacuumed up as many of the roaches as possible before they all scuttled away.19 Captured insects were fed to the chickens, whose eggs in turn were fed to the humans. Biospherians were constantly exhausted from work. Starvation and the psychological pressures of isolation left little energy or desire for the ambitious roster of philosophy lectures, meditation and theater initially designed to promote collectivism. The anticipated new civilization receded amidst outbursts by “master
The Space of Mononaturalism Biosphere 2 was largely dismissed by reporters and scientists as “science fiction” performance: a commune founded upon “New Age masquerading as Science.”21 Only two of the eight had graduate degrees in science. These claims were reinforced by images of the Biospherians wearing suits that looked “like a cross between a scarlet prison jumpsuit and a Star Trek uniform.” In true utopian style Biosphere 2 was built on a mythology of consensus based on natural principles. Vernadsky, Odum, and Lovelock described an image of nature so pure and purposeful that social policy should submit to its imperatives.22 Odum called for birth control and fiscal policy to discourage economic growth. Lovelock writes, “Let us forget human concerns, human rights, and human suffering, and concentrate instead on our planet, which may be sick.”23 This version of nature-in-crisis made no provision for dissent. A holistic nature was enclosed in a single interior, forming a continuum of the world’s major landscapes. But its monolithic shell was articulated into a neighborhood of iconic architectural forms from distinct cultures: the Great
Pyramid, Babylonian Vaults, Kennedy Space Center, Monticello.24 Unlike Le Corbusier’s modernist dream of neutralizing walls and a “single building for all nations and climates, with respiration exactly at 18°C,”25 unlike Hawe’s original spherical spaceship, Biosphere 2 was decidedly postmodern: superficial, multicultural variations enclose a substantial, universal Nature. Yet, the project soon erupted into a battlefield for nature wars. Midway through the first mission, the venture split between those who—like Allen—pushed for the primacy of containment, and those who doubted the value of enclosure.26 The debate over whether this was an engineering feat or a science experiment grew louder. While Biospherians translated Odum and Gaia into blueprints, 1970s ecologists had turned away from steady-state theories. They instead favored “shifting mosaics” or more aimless and anarchic models. Ecologists like Daniel Botkin saw the landscape as flux: “wherever we | 17 seek constancy…we discover change.”27 In the end, Biosphere 2 succeeds or fails not in maintaining enclosure or homeostasis, but rather in its ability to effect new agendas, debates and decisions on scientific hypotheses. Viva Las Bio-dome28 Trees inside the enclosure developed soft bark due to lack of wind: Biosphere 2 was better at creating new ecosystems than modeling existing ones. Once homeostasis and holism ran dry, Biosphere 2 came alive. Built to last 100 years, it outlived its founding premise in less than three, and its massive space-framed atmosphere now absorbs any and all programs (and invites the manufacture of new content to fill its void). It produces a strange world with buttons and switches that allow for the continuous production of new relationships. Allen named the mechanical realm housed in CMU walls beneath the biomes’ “artistically modeled” concrete grottoes the “Technosphere,” after the manmade world that Biosphere 2 sought to bring into alignment with the planetary ecosystem.29 Here, urine was converted into irrigation, drinking water was captured
from transpiring plants, and air was cooled and heated by a dedicated power plant.30 Designed for stable state regulation, the Technosphere has become an environment machine that subsequent housekeepers31—now inspired, disgusted, or otherwise provoked by this first model— can adjust. Following SBV’s two closed missions, it has been managed as a controlled ecology lab by Columbia University (1995-2003), and the University of Arizona’s B2 Institute (2007-present). Academic scientists replace enclosure with regulation: windows are opened, and a system of fans and sensors has been installed to control atmospheric conditions. In B2, air can be fresh or recirculated as long as its chemical makeup is controlled. Plastic partitions subdivide the dome, isolating the biomes and allowing multiple experiments to go on simultaneously.32 In practice, Biosphere 2 is a blur of many spheres. In place of Allen’s idealized philosopher-scientist, contemporary Biospherians include tourists, school children, grad students, retirees, scientists and international researchers. They take guided tours, exchange information with research teams in the Venezuelan rain forest or participate in high school outreach programs33 Even during the first mission, the enclosure membrane restricted molecules and
NATURE IS INSIDE
[THERE IS] A CRISIS OF MISALIGNMENT BETWEEN THE BIOSPHERE AND THE TECHNOSPHERE. THESE SEEM TO BE OUT OF BALANCE; A CATASTROPHE…BIOSPHERE 2, INSTEAD, CREATES A BALANCE BETWEEN BIOSPHERE AND TECHNOSPHERE
bodies, yet allowed heat, photons and electricity to pass freely. Telephone, email, videophones, satellite TV and radio all cycled through a control room at the center of the Habitat.34 Biosphere 2 performs equations of efficiency and contingency that decide who is present, who is responsible to whom and who gets their way. Each of its spheres defines a broad constituency including humans and nonhumans, enclosed territories and sites of shared concern. The global environmental crisis is not just scarcity and global warming. It is the failure to contest standards of distribution, efficiency and value necessary to run the house. Biosphere 2’s own crisis engages in debate over research priorities, ecosystem construction and resource distribution. Having never proved eco-holism, it becomes a machine for actively connecting sites, organisms and systems according to shifting eco-politics. Biosphere 2 began with the belief that we can be most responsive to the pressing charges of environmental crisis with ascetic sensitivity to homeostatic equilibrium. It claimed to provide an architecture of limits based on the authority of Nature, an updated container for a lowimpact life. But at the same time, it cleared land, synthesized ecologies, manufactured infrastructure, patented new building systems, expanded universities and published volumes of data. In doing so, it became the scale model of an ambitious new collective.35 Dreamland of a Warm Age Walt Disney sought to showcase life in a utopian city with futuristic life support systems and no
usage and zero-energy standards—they suffer from the same domestic problems as Biosphere
private property: a vision ultimately spun off into edutainment (EPCOT) and New Urbanism (Celebration). Biosphere 2 is today’s Lilliputia. The life of the future is tested in a contained environment, then broadcasted to the public. “Self-sufficient buildings” and “eco-cities” such as Masdar (in Abu Dhabi) or Dongtan (near Shanghai) seek their appropriate place in the biosphere by acting as biospheres themselves. Responsibly efficient—with zero-carbon, zerowaste, zero-greenhouse-emissions, zero-water
2. That is, pursuing conservation as though it were possible and desirable to withdraw from nature. What if this were reversed? Biosphere 2’s crisis offers possibilities for aggressive, informed inclusion of nonhumans in an expanded city. As Biosphere 2 reunites with Biosphere 1, Cañada Del Oro Ranching and Development LP (CDO)—who purchased the Biosphere 2 site in 2007—draws plans to build a retirement village with commercial and resort developments
nearby. Like Biosphere 2, these new buildings will regulate their perimeters: air conditioning systems will calibrate and filter the air, windows will be airtight and shielded with optical coating films, utilities will monitor consumption. Houses will be as big as local tastes allow. Shells will be a series of membranes and moisture stretched across lightweight steel framing. Office buildings built will likely express their triangulated exoskeleton rather than the individual office. Our buildings are now domes—machines that optimize and express atmospheric enclosure. They react to the crisis of manmade world destruction by building more and better little worlds. Skin has replaced basement as the site of refuge. Architects have taken on biology. Plastic sheeting and duct tape is the new bomb shelter. This involves nothing less than a progressive un-balancing of natures and publics. Anything else would be wasting a crisis. 20
Allen, John and Anthony Blake, eds., Biosphere 2: The Human Experiment (New York, Penguin Books, 1991), 10. 2 Speaking at “Nature Space Society” Tate Modern, 2003 while showing a slide of Biosphere 2. 3 Gore, Al, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, (New York, Rodale, Inc., 2006). 4 “Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things,” Rahm Emanuel. Zeleny, Jeff, “Obama Weights Quick Undoing of Bush Policy,” New York Times, November 9, 2008. 5 Papers included The Galaxy: A Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Challenge by R. Buckminster Fuller, Principles of Evolution of Life in the Galaxy by Richard Dawkins, The Interdependence of Inner and Outer Space, by Dr. Albert Hofmann, and Architecture for Galactic Colonies, by Phil Hawes. 6 Poynter, Jane, The Human Experiment: Two Years and Twenty Minutes Inside Biosphere 2 (New York, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1
2006), 20. 7 Fuller, Buckminster R., Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1969). 8 Broad, William J., “As Biosphere Is Sealed, Its Patron Reflects on Life.” New York Times, September 24, 1991. 9 Allen headed SBV with architect Margret Augustine. He studied sociology and geology at Colorado School of Mines, attained an MBA at Harvard, and was a General Manager of the “Synergia Ranch” commune in New Mexico. Here Allen befriended Biosphere’s principle investor, Ed Bass,
in the 70’s through the acting troupe, the “Theater of All Possibilities.” Bass, billionaire oil heir, former Yale architecture student, and ‘ecopreneur’ invested $150 billion in the project. See Broad, 1991. 10 Odum, a pioneer of ecosystems theory, posited that organisms are linked in a “healthy state of order” in which ecological succession leads to a “climax state” of maturity, health, and efficiency. Worster, Donald, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, (Cambridge; New York, Cambridge University Press, 1994), 368. 11 Odum, a pioneer of ecosystems theory, posited that organisms are linked in a “healthy state of order” in which ecological succession leads to a “climax state” of maturity, health, and efficiency. Worster, Nature’s Economy, 368. 12 “It’s impossible to fully appreciate the Amazon, or anything as complex as a tropical rainforest, without special states of consciousness.” Brown, David J. and Novick, Rebecca M., eds., Mavericks of the Mind: Conversations for the New Millennium, (Freedom, CA, Crossing Press, 1993). 13 Pearce is a student of Fuller’s and author of Structure in Nature. For more on the Pearce Multi-hinge System see Chilton, John, Space Grid Structures, (Oxford, Architectural Press, 2000). 14 One of them dies exploring a transformer box. 15 Poynter, Human Experiment, 75. 16 Ibid, 204. 17 Sniffers produce a daily “weather report,” tracking oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. A homemade scrubber turns carbon dioxide into limestone using sodium and calcium hydroxide but cannot offset the oxygen depletion. 18 Poynter, Human Experiment, 191. 19 Ibid, 191. 20 Ibid, 107. SBV infighting during the second mission in 1994 is so fierce that when an investor takeover led to a communications blackout, two former
Biospherians raced to the building and break its seals, to let their voices and the atmosphere rush back in. See Ayres, Drummond B. Jr., “Ecological Experiment Becomes Battleground,” New York Times, April 11, 1994. 21 Zimmerman, Michael, “Review: Biosphere 2: Long on Hype, Short on Science,” Ecology, Vol. 73, no. 2 (April, 1992), 713. 22 “Users of the term ‘ecosystem’ were retaining modernism’s basic defect, its penchant for composing the whole without the explicit will of those humans and nonhumans who find themselves gathered… in a totality constituted outside the political world, in the nature of things. The ecosystem integrated everything but too quickly and too cheaply. The Science of ecosystems allowed us to dispense with the requirements of discussion and the due process in building the common world.” Latour, Bruno, Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2004). 23 Worster, Nature’s Economy, 386. 24 Allen, Biosphere 2, 89. 25 Quoted in Banham, Reyner P., Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1984), 156. 26 Dissenters included an advisory council of scientists hired by Bass. See Poynter, Human Experiment, 225. 27 Worster, Nature’s Economy, 397. Quoting Botkin, Daniel, Discordant Harmonies, 10, 62. 28 Bio-Dome. DVD. Directed by Jason Bloom with performances by Pauly Shore, Steven Baldwin, and William Atherton, (Los Angeles, MGM Home Entertainment, 2002). 29 Poynter, Human Experiment, 76. 30 The technosphere sits within the seal of Biosphere 2 and includes air handling units, water storage tanks, the carbon scrubber, and a patented waste-recycling system, WastronTM, converts human urine into agricultural irrigation, while
Borders Stephen Graham Interview
by Gavin Browning
BORDERS ARE MUTABLE, AND THEY OPERATE ON A VARIETY OF SCALES. UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM HUMAN GEOGRAPHY PROFESSOR STEPHEN GRAHAM DESCRIBES THEIR VARIOUS DEPLOY-
water transpired by plants is captured as condensation for drinking water. External to the seal on Biosphere 2’s campus is a natural gas and diesel plant, using 6 million kW hours per year at a cost of $1.3 million per year, enough for 600 homes. 31 Many have noted that ecology, the study of the household (“oikos” in Greek) is a term derived from economy, or household management. See, Worster, Nature’s Economy, 37. 32 Columbia researcher Guanghui Lin, for example, tests rainforest’s ability to absorb carbon at different concentrations. See, Marino, B.D.V and Odum, H.T., Biosphere 2: Research Past and Present (Great Britain, Elsevier Science, 1999). 33 Travis Huxman, director of B2, celebrates the opportunity for tourists to interrogate graduate students working alongside elevated viewing platforms, arguing that they provoke and assist students in framing their work. 34 Visitors and selfdescribed “inmates” would kiss through the glass, or put their hands up in a “Biospherian handshake” while talking on a prisonstyle visitors’ phone next to the airlock. 35 A skill Latour identifies with economists.
Gavin Browning: You’ve used ideas of “inside” and “outside” to discuss the new urban security doctrine. What do these terms mean for cities? Stephen Graham: The current period is marked by the demise of the separation of the inside of the nation from the outside and the sense of pervasive mobile threats: real and imagined terrorism, disease, cyber attacks, non-state adversaries of all sorts that are organized through networks and permeating the outside and the inside, being and enemy within as well as an enemy without. This leads to a radical militarization of policing, and on the other hand, a shift within the military towards more a more policing set of functions—both inside and outside the state. A lot of these politics of security come together around cities, because cities are the spaces deemed both most at-risk and most threatening. For example, illegal immigration where in particular, neighborhoods where the diaspora and | 21 the cosmopolitan mixes are concentrated are perceived to be the threat of both illegal immigration and the threat of internal terrorism. So there’s this radical sense of the security of the world coming together in and around microgeographies of the city and micro-technologies of the city, and this is also fueled by the sense that cities are open to the outside world in terms of constant connections with infrastructure, with flows of people, with flows of information and so on. This is what Paul Virilio called the “Overexposed City”—the idea that the city can no longer be demarcated from the outside world in any simple way. The security politics that we’re interested in now bring the global and the local together in a very intense way. GB How does this new standard of militarized policing affect or blur borders during a crisis? SG There are many examples of a state drawing borders inside its own boundaries in new ways, such as a state of exception (where there is a call of a state of emergency in which normal laws are actually revoked by the law itself in Giorgio Agamben’s terms) where you have, for example, spaces
MENTS FOR POLITICAL ENDS, NOTING THAT THEY CAN BE ALTERNATELY WEAKENED OR FORTIFIED DURING MOMENTS OF DURESS, AND THAT SOMEONE IS ALWAYS LEFT OUTSIDE.
of incarceration inside the city or within the state where refugees or suspected terrorists are placed without rights of citizenship, or without rights of trial, or without rights of humanitarian law. Another good example is the SARS crisis of 2003, where it wasn’t really the edge of the nation that was concerned, territorially-speaking. Rather, it was the airport, because the airport is now where the border is located. So there’s a real sense of the state trying to organize and filter-in new surveillance and security devices to stop pathogens—and people deemed to be carrying pathogens—from coming right into the heart of the city. Another example is the Container Security Initiative in the US. There’s an effort being made by the Homeland Security Department to basically change the whole global system of container port traffic, based on its own idea of the homeland being secure. So every container port in the world who wants to trade with the US now has to have its own information systems, its own tracking systems, that operate in a way like a global homeland. While all these borders come together inside the nation, the question about security of the homeland also goes beyond the nation to inflect global systems of airline traffic, port security, information technology flow, financial flow: all of the flows that sustain the city. This is all about the micro-geographies of the city and the global geographies of the security coming together. GB A crisis carries with it extreme urgency. How do borders function under such moments of extreme urgency and duress? SG Extreme events tend to heighten state efforts to tighten borders. With the SARS crisis, for example, there was a very heavy investment in emergency measures to track people, to scan people, to do new sorts of testing whether or not individuals were carrying infection—this is all about the idea of re-drawing boundaries. Remember, in the 90s there was a huge celebration of the end of geography: a celebration of a neoliberal utopia of perfect mobility. Suddenly, that was all backtracked—bringing in new
Borders—This is what Paul Virilio often called the “Overexposed City”—the idea that the city can no longer be demarcated from the outside world in any simple way.
borders, new ideas of filtering borders, biometrics into passports, face recognition, bringing in borders at the micro-scale. For example, the proposal by the New York City Council to bring in a surveillance cordon in around the strategic financial district of Manhattan, organized by cameras that can recognize license plates. It’s based on the example in London. Generally, crises breed new borders, they breed new attempts to draw borders, they breed a language which stresses a sense of exposure and a sense of anxiety, and a sense of being exposed to new threats and new mobility which is easily translated into a semi-racist politics of demonizing beyond the border: seeing the civilian as the enemy. The whole discussion around illegal immigration in the US and Europe is very much about demonizing the racialized body that is challenging our civilization, that is threatening our labor markets, that is taking our housing, our jobs, and so on. 25 | 21 This is the language of emergency being manipulated for political ends. None of this is new—there’s a whole history of manipulation of the language of emergency for political ends, of course. What’s new are the ways in which the control technologies involved are much more capable—and much more globally organized— than in previous eras. GB What does this blurring imply for refugee camps, which are often located on or near borders? SG We’re now seeing the militarization of what Teddy Cruz calls the “political equator,” or, the division between the Global North and the Global South.
historic enclaves in Morocco to try to manage the flows of Africans trying to come north. At the same time, we see intra-territorial camps: highly militarized spaces of incarceration within Northern nations where the rights of citizenship and human rights are often problematic. GB You state that there has been a blurring of not only physical borders, but also the border between civilian and military security forces. Can you explain? SG The military is being deployed more often within nations than during the Cold War, especially through urban warfare exercises: in the US, for example, the Marines might invade Oakland for simulation purposes. But before 9/11, North America was the only portion of the world that didn’t have a US military command, even though military commands existed for every other inch of the planet. Now we have a military command called NORTHCOM, which is gearing itself towards internal deployment within the North American continent—deploying satellite systems, surveillance drones, all with a view to trying to catch these enemies within, and working with the Patriot Act and other spaces of surveillance such as telephone traffic, internet traffic, financial transactions and so on. There is a sense of military deployment increasing inside states, at the same time as police are being organized in a much more militarized way: anti-terrorist squads and SWAT teams are increasingly deployed for routine and basic misdemeanors, while police have a much more militarized look as well as more militarized tactics
This obviously runs right between the US and Mexico, between Spain and Morocco, and in and around Gaza and the West Bank. So you have the political equator of the world running through the micro-geographies of urban space, and these borders being militarized very heavily—new checkpoints, biometrics, and so on—but there are also efforts being made to create extra-territorial refugee camps. For example, Australia is basically appropriating an island in the Pacific as an extraterritorial camp, and Spain is using some of its
and technologies. And on the other hand, the military is being deployed to do more than fight wars. For example, the military in Iraq were involved initially in a state-versus-state conflict, but since then, it’s been involved in a huge range of peacekeeping, reconstruction and counter-insurgency operations: a whole set of policing-style activities in which you’re never clear who the enemy is. X
by Martha Rosler
wor d l i st ASPIRATIONAL BELOVED BE WIT C HING ENCOUNTER BLING BOTOX BRAND-NAME
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SHOCKING SHOW STOPPER SOPHISTICATED THE POPULAR IMAGINATION TOUCH YOUR LIFE UNSOLICITED TESTIMONIAL VIBRANT
DON’T WAKE 05ME FOR Essay
THE END OF THE WORLD Design for the Apocalypse
UNLESS IT HAS VERY by John McMorrough
GOOD SPECIAL EFFECTS.
Utopia, that place of high aspirations and lofty ambition, has been the motivating conceit for a society (and an architecture) of achievable perfection for quite a long time, but across the spectrum of culture there has been a recent turn from the utopian to the apocalyptic, in forms both fictional and factual. Invoking the “apocalypse” brings forth connotations of the end of the world—historically imagined as everything from the judgment of God to nuclear Armageddon. In its contemporary manifestation it has taken the form of various global crises: environmental, economic or unexpected. Of course, the “end of the world” is not a novelty. It has its own history, and is itself a genre of expression as a category of pessimism. A recurrent theme within cultural thought, it is the shadow of the progressive ideal of the avant-garde. What we see in this latest… manifestation is not merely the conservative position describing a fall from grace, or the entropic decline of systems and the diminishment of quality over time, but a description of a new prevalent condition. With the intermingling of the improb-
— ROGER ZELAZNY 38
able and the prosaic (think Katrina and The Day After Tomorrow, or 9/11 and Children of Men), the consideration of the apocalyptic is no longer a matter of fantasy,1 but of policy (one recently referred to as “disaster capitalism”).2 The question is, of course, why apocalypse now? The genre of the apocalyptic always contains within it a means of working through the problematic of its era. The term itself indicates as much: from the Greek “ποκάλυψις”—literally
DON’T WAKE ME FOR
translated as a “lifting of the veil” and representing, as a concept, the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the mass of humankind—its occurrence in narrative is symptomatic of larger issues. However, it reveals the limits and fears of the society that wrote it. For us, it is a combination of factors: it is both global warming and sub-prime loans, both nuclear terrorism and social ills. All are real. And all are, to some extent, constructs. The real issue with the various evocations of the end of the world has never been about “the end,” but rather a beginning. Anthony Burgess, author of the dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange, once commented that the warnings of apocalyptic tales were really wish-fulfillment.3 In a world of overwhelming complexity—of zero-sum economics and peakoil—the apocalypse comes not as problem, but as answer. The “end of” also implied a “beginning of”—a chance to re-start and re-think. At the level of fantasy the apocalypse represents the chance to begin anew; the end of the world in film always represents a new start, a chance to have another, unencumbered go at making the world.4 If utopia is an unattainable goal, a literal no place, then the apocalypse is an everyplace.5 In this sense the specter of the apocalypse is another version of the modernist tabula rasa, a leveling of the past to make way for the future. So the end of the world is but a re-orientation of sensibility. We can already see evidence of this in the new emphasis on the basic conditions of our existence. What unifies these manifestations is their survivalist undertone.6 The operation of the subject in an environment is not
THE END OF THE WORLD UNLESS IT HAS VERY
GOOD SPECIAL EFFECTS. — ROGER ZELAZNY
only a thing, but also an action, a mechanism that calibrates itself to need. This mechanism is never in stasis; its needs are never in perfect equilibrium to the available means. Thus, it is scarcity (of food, water, safety, resources, amenity or potential) that is the engine of transformation and change in a variety of environments (natural and artificial, economic and ecological— namely architecture, landscape and the city). These impulses, in light of this symbolic (and increasingly real) economy, can be seen
Apoc—Utopia, that place of high aspirations and lofty ambition, has been the motivating conceit for a society (and an architecture) of achievable perfection for quite a long time, but across the spectrum of culture there has been a recent turn from the utopian to the apocalyptic, in forms both fictional and factual.
as having strange portents for the projects of architecture. How would architecture act in a post-apocalyptic mode? And what is the relation of architecture to capital when there is no capital? One possibility is for architecture’s disciplinary preservation. Here, if we understand architecture as a historically formulated set of rules and guidelines, then the future of architecture looks dim. One could imagine its on-going continuation, but in a material enactment of an increasingly archaic form of thought. Eventually architecture’s status may be that it becomes a fixture of the university—as a testament of the plentitude of an earlier humanism—next to the Classics Department, as just another repository of dead languages. Or, one could imagine the re-description of architecture’s disciplinary legacy in terms of its performance and effectiveness, with an emphasis on the agency of design as a responsive, problem solving effort. If this sounds like an | 39 environmental call to arms, with the earnestness of LEED and green design, of responsibility and stewardship, preservation and prevention, it is not. There are issues of responsibility, of course, but that is not the only manifestation, or even the most useful. The new mode would want to address matters of concern; where environmental matters are no more or less important than the social in terms of either cause or need. The coming apocalypse may or may not be a solvable problem, or it may not be a problem at all, but its existence as even an idea demonstrates a shift that is not only practical, but conceptual. To shift from the utopian to the apocalyptic is not merely to set the terms in an opposing relation,
but to understand their similarity. Both describe a condition of radical change; turning from one to the other as a privileged mode doesn’t speak to a preponderance of nihilism per se… …but to a fundamental recalibration of the imagination (specifically, architectural imagination) from issues of plentitude to those of scarcity. The recent architectural debates > regarding criticality and post-criticality can be understood as having changed in light of a shift in cultural imagination away from the progressivism/positiv-
ism of late global capital as a preparatory effort to a more apocalyptic framework of environmentalism and peak-zero sum economic models. This would be seen through the survival imperative, as acting on a new understanding of how measures are made. Design for the apocalypse, because ready or not, it’s coming. 1
See Kiel Moe’s “Observations of
One of the more interesting
the Concept of Place in Post-Risk
specimens of this genre of
Places, Volume 20, Number 2,
indictment and wish-fulfillment
Societies in Recent Fiction,” 2008: 42-43. 2
See Naomi Klein’s The Shock
recent apocalyptic fiction as both is James Howard Kunstler’s
World Made by Hand: A Novel
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster
(Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008),
tan Books, 2007).
regarding the depletion of the
Capitalism (New York: Metropoli3
Anthony Burgess, “The Art of
Frivolity,” Times Literary Supple-
ment (12 June 1992): 22. 4
See Alan Weisman’s The World
without Us (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007). 5
This usage is a reference to
the Utopia of Sir Thomas More,
which extends the arguments
world’s oil supply made in The
Long Emergency: Surviving the
End of Oil, Climate Change, and
Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (Grove
Press, 2006). In the novelization
the result of the extended energy
crisis is both worldwide economic
within whose famous work of a
and political collapse, as well
the irony that the perfection is
churned butter, made possible by
perfect imaginary island there is
not only imaginary, but in a sense impossible, as “utopia” means,
literally, “not place” (as translated from the Greek εủ, “not”, and
τόπος, “place”). The positive
associations attributed to Utopia
are in fact the domain of the homophonic “Eutopia” (as derived from the Greek εữ, “good” or “well”,
and τόπος, “place”), to which it is clearly related, yet significantly.
as an increased supply of fresh
the newly agrarian existence. For
a further discussion of Kunstler’s
“Long Emergency” see my own
“The Future of Fuelish Building” in Volume 7 (2006).
—BRITISH MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
KEEP CALM & CARRY ON.
KEEP CALM & CARRY ON.
by Geoff Manaugh
In the otherwise unwatchable 2005 film Fun With Dick and Jane, actors Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni watch in dismay as their front lawn is repossessed. The turf is literally peeled off the surface of the earth, rolled up like wallpaper, and carted away in the back of a pick-up truck. The natural landscape of their suburban world is revealed as very literally superficial. It is not a landscape at all, you could say, but a commercial product whose lifespan has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with affordability. The couple has fallen behind on their payments—and their prosthetic terrain is taken away. “Not everybody could afford a landscape like that, eh?” says Hector, the gardener, as he packs an armful of turf into his truck. Not everybody, indeed. I’m reminded of an article by Charles Montgomery from the October/November 2008 issue of The Walrus. On a visit to Stockton, California, a town particularly hard-hit by foreclosures, Montgomery stumbled upon a bizarre growth industry: painting the dead lawns of foreclosed homes green using athletic turf dyes. “It seemed fitting that realtors in Stockton
should consider it normal to paint these lawns green,” he explained to me over email. “It was only the appearance of vitality that mattered. Homes that looked palatial from the street were fragile inside: thin walls, cheap lights, shelves pinned to cardboard-thin drywall. Everything about Stockton’s suburbs felt temporary, as though the place was a movie set—built to be consumed and abandoned.” Of course, foreclosures in the US continue to accumulate, with no genuine end in sight— whole suburban developments now reduced to ghost towns when they were expected to be booming. Lawns are drying up, if not repossessed outright; pools are turning green with algae, or simply evaporating to form illegal skate parks; garages sit empty; upstairs bedrooms have gone silent. In some cases, wild animals have actually begun to colonize the derelict homes, like some avant-garde backdrop designed for a particularly exotic zoo. Mountain lions sleep atop uninhabited ranchos, sunning themselves on pinewood decking. This is the spatial residuum of the financial crisis. Like a modern-day Pompeii, it is a geog-
raphy of collapse—in this case, an immersive archaeological site distributed nationwide. But we mustn’t forget that these foreclosures did not begin today. In the mid-1990s, for instance, photographer Todd Hido had already begun to document repossessed homes in the greater Los Angeles area. These houses, forcibly abandoned and emptied of not quite all their contents, were sealed behind locked doors and left to accumulate dust. However, those locked doors included coded lock-boxes, and those lock-boxes contained keys—and it was these keys that Hido figured out how to access. The codes, he and a realtor friend discovered, were nothing more complex than an abbreviation or anagram of the name of the bank that foreclosed the property. “Home Savings of America was HSA,” Hido pointed out in a telephone interview. Enter that code—and you can enter the building. “You could always tell what bank it was by the signs in front of the houses. I probably made it into forty or fifty of them that way, and then I started taking pictures.” When I asked him what he hoped to find there, Hido replied: “I was definitely more in-
terested in the ones that weren’t cleaned up. A lot of times somebody would come in and wipe the place clean, but I concentrated more on the simple little marks and the simple little traces left behind. You could tell where pictures were hung, for instance, as if there were still stories on the walls themselves.” The photos he produced are an odd kind of spatial portraiture: the inner lives of abandoned buildings. It’s as if we’ve come across some little-known burial practice in which twenty-first century homeowners have been entombed with none of their possessions. They are antechambers to the afterlife of the American dream. In sheer volume alone, our living rooms now far outweigh the pyramids: for every stone tomb in the world, there are a thousand unused dens full of cat hair and dust. For every cemetery, there is a dead lawn in Stockton. Take away the possessions and the electric lights, and perhaps it is not a landscape meant for the living at all: the suburbs become a giant sepulcher. Perhaps the most astonishing thing here, then, is to realize how mundane it will be
1. Wood Interior— sweat patterned carpet ready for some family fun, get the pool table & beer and let the good times roll. 2. Soiled Mattress— don’t let it get you down, everyone does it. Prop it up & letter dry.
WILD ANIMALS HAVE BEGUN TO COLONIZE THE DERELICT HOMES, LIKE SOME AVANT-GARDE BACKDROP DESIGNED FOR AN EXOTIC ZOO. 48 48
when the world really does fall apart. It won’t be all fires and riots and warfare, but empty dining rooms and leaking sinks. Perhaps the only things we’ll leave behind are some carpet squares, maybe a broken lamp, perhaps some loose thumbtacks on the garage floor. So much for the monumental. Hidos’s photos are all the more bleak for being so ordinary. There are stained rugs and scuff marks. Old mattresses. Weak afternoon sunlight filtered through cheap drapes. Oil stains on concrete. Perhaps it’s much worse to realize that there isn’t some apotheosis of the suburban landscape on the way, a geographic rapture that will complete— and finally justify—our built environment. There is no moment in the end when it will all make sense: we’ll evacuate a world we hardly knew, a purgatory of broken drywall and reclaimed lawns constructed by ancestors we will pretend not to understand.
3. Wood Interiorâ€” sweat patterned carpet ready for some family fun, get the pool table & beer and let the good times roll. 4. Soiled Mattressâ€” I am completely making these captions up, you probably shouldn't waste your time reading them.
by David Gissen & Rachel Schreiber
Start Anyone with proper training can run a marathon, and a marathon can be run in any location. It is a distance (26.2 miles), an event and an adjective for any feat of endurance. Jean Baudrillard argues that the marathon has become a setting in which to stage an image of collective suicide: a space in which one presses their body and mind to the limit and hopefully claims at the end, “I did it.” 1 The marathon is also an evaluative tool of a city’s interaction with the human body in this state of physiological crisis, and a barometer of a city’s physical, environmental and political health. Can the air of a city support the runners’ lungs under such intense circumstances? Can the financial and political apparatus of the city support the required infrastructure? Can a particular route transform often-tumultuous spatial histories into positive media representations? These questions should ring true to anyone familiar with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Between 2006 and 2008, over 350 articles in major newspapers speculated on Beijing’s ability to support an Olympic marathon (even though one has been held there annually since 1981). The key issue was pollution, but others considered how sites such as Tiananmen Square would be integrated into the route, or whether paving conditions would be up to par. The environmental quality of the host city can be discussed relative to all Olympics events, but with the marathon—an event that by design exceeds the rarefied boundaries of the Olympic compound—
these issues often reach a fever-pitch. The debates surrounding the Beijing 2008 Olympic marathon epitomized larger discussions regarding the interrelation of marathons, runners, the health of the cities that host them and media relations both within the city and abroad.
Breathe One central issue haunts the ability of a city to host a marathon: air. Because athletes generally, and marathon runners specifically, metabolize air at a faster rate while taxing their respiratory and circulatory systems, the chemical content of air can have potentially disastrous consequences, even being “deadly to marathoners, triathletes and cyclists.”2 Citing concerns over the air at Beijing, the world-record holding marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia decided not to compete in the Beijing Olympic marathon. An asthmatic, he stated to reporters “the pollution in China is a threat to my health and it | 51 would be difficult for me to run forty-two kilometers in my current condition.”3 Other athletes and trainers demanded the provision of special masks to help mitigate the seemingly horrific pollution of Beijing (registering five times the recommended limits of the World Health Organization), and the British Olympic Commission worked with scientists to develop a mask for use during training. These efforts to essentially unhinge athletes from the atmosphere of the city were described as precautions, but such precautions unfairly criticized the air of Beijing compared to other major industrial cities, and among them, other Olympic host cities. Evaluating the suitability of urban air for marathons began much earlier, however, with the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where elevation—not pollution—was the source of outside concern. Dubbed the “high altitude peril” by the New York Times, Mexico City’s air was believed to potentially “kill, maim or ruin an athlete.”4 This form of “atmospheric orientalism” views non-Western air with fear and suspicion: a double standard that becomes evident in comparison to the language used before the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Despite worse air
JEAN BAUD ARGUES T MARATHON H A SETTING TO STAGE AN COLLECTIV quality—so fierce that the British Equestrian team developed special masks for their horses— the sheer ability of the United States to either host or manage the Games was not questioned, and particularly not on the basis of its air. The city’s smog was so severe, in fact, that it was blamed for the swollen eyes and wobbly gait of marathon Olympian Gabrielle Andersen, a famed Olympian who staggered toward the finish line in the women’s marathon. Perhaps the most startling development in Beijing 2008 was the Chinese authorities’ fundamental reworking of the urban metabolism to accommodate the lungs of athletes. In order to address smog levels in Los Angeles—1984 brought the worst the city had seen in a decade— drivers were asked to voluntarily cut back on recreational driving, and factories were asked to consider voluntarily reducing their production by eight percent. In Beijing and the surrounding municipalities, driving was limited to two or three days per week per vehicle, while numerous factories in and around the city were either closed or relocated for the summer season preceding the Olympics. Typically, Olympics are used to bolster the economic prospects of cities, but the factory closures actually resulted
in increases in unemployment and a reduction of China’s blistering export economy. These closings coincided with signs of weakness in the larger national economy.5 Imagine staging the Olympic games in post-war Detroit and the asking the Big Three to either shut down, or to relocate. Such an unimaginable demand might bolster the strength of a runner’s lungs, but would momentarily cripple the economy of the region. Run, Run, Run. Run Just as athletes’ lungs interact with the complexity of the city’s ecological metabolism, so do their feet traverse complicated political geographies. Urban marathon organizers face their share of politics while determining routes, often attempting to show their city in the best light to runners and spectators alike. Such “dressing up” of cities has often involved forms of urban control. For example, while the authorities in Beijing responded to international pressure to
DRILLARD THAT THE HAS BECOME G IN WHICH N IMAGE OF VE SUICIDE 54 54
transform their city’s air, they simultaneously built walls around, and controlled media access | 53 to, some of the city’s most sensitive sights. Such forms of route-control have also entered the planning of marathons in the United States. In the 1990s, the Washington DC marathon route was devised in such a way as to avoid the city’s poorer, African- American neighborhoods. In comparison to this more familiar history of municipal and governmental power, one of the most surprising marathon routes was that staged in the New York City Marathon of 1976. Here the marathon’s urban interaction was redesigned precisely in order to enable runners and spectators into some of the city’s most troubled spaces. During the city’s most severe post-war fiscal crisis—a crisis that exacerbated the city’s intraurban tensions, diminished its international reputation and devastated its public infrastructure—the organizers of the marathon decided to change its route. Originally, the marathon consisted of four laps around the relatively idyllic Central Park but its route was then altered to traverse all five boroughs, including some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. The new route brought a degree of democracy to the event by opening the marathon spectacle to the entire city, and
indeed the nation—one history describes it as “the first-ever Marathon race for the masses.”6 The event was billed as citywide, good-spirited competition, with New York Mayor Abraham Beame as the starting racer. The image of runners moving through ethnic, working-class and poor neighborhoods of the outer boroughs was intended to address the city’s reputation as a fractured and dangerous place: these problems could be overcome. Fred Lebow, the marathon’s grassroots organizer, gathered support for the event based on its potential to unify the city. As Bob Glover, a New York City marathon trainer, described, “One of the ways that Fred sold the concept of a five borough marathon to the city was that the city needed something positive.”7 The 1976 marathon was a success, and in 1977, the new route of the New York City Marathon was used to reimage New York City as a vibrant and healthy urban totality. In the pages of New York Magazine, the editors developed a map of the marathon route, illustrating strapping young men running throughout the city. The runners do not move through a decrepit, crisisridden city, but through a visage of clean air and robust urban buildings and infrastructure. The fantasy image of the urban marathon appears in this image of the route, and of these young men. 1 Jean Baudrillard, America (London and New York: Verso, 1998) 19-20 2 http://www.prlog.org (last accessed, December, 1, 2008) 3 Thomas, Katie, “Citing Pollution, Gerbrselassie Opts Out of Olympic Marathon,” New York Times, March 11, 2008. 4 Litsky, Frank, “Peril of High Altitude to Athletes Called Exaggeration,” New York Times, October 24, 1967. 5 Scott Tong, “China Clearing Air for Olympics” American Public Media, July 8, 2008 and “China’s Economy looks to Rebound After Lackluster Olympics,” 08.25.08, http://www.moneymorning. com/2008/08/25/china-olympics/ (last accessed 1.9.09)
6 http://aimsworldrunning. org/marathon_history.htm, accessed December 14, 2008. 7 From the film Run for Your Life, Screen Media Films, 2008.
FILMMAKERS HAVE GIVEN US MEMORABLE ANTAGONISTS who single–handedly level large-scale devastation. Less appreciated, however, are cinematographers’ skill at evoking systematic failure through atmospheric devices: innocent and fluffy clouds part, darken, and hell fire descends. A quick inventory of disaster film-skies reminds us that in the movies —and in real life— crisis may strike anytime. image 1
Earthquake, Iron Man, Encounters at the End of the World, The Happening
Dante’s Peak, War of the Worlds, Twister, The Andromeda Strain
Charlie Wilson’s War, Airport Armageddon, Babel
The Day After Tomorrow Syriana, 28 Days Later, The Perfect Storm
Jaws, Waterworld, Wall Street, Wall-E image 4
Red Planet, Thx-1138, There Will Be Blood, Poseidon
A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Two-Minute Warning, The Constant Gardener, Resident Evil: Extinction
by Ginger Nolan
1975 New York City’s Mayor Abraham Beame prepares a statement on October 17, announcing that the city is bankrupt.
1977 In Chantal Akerman’s News from Home, an endless script of graffiti-smeared trains (the pre-eminent symbol of New York’s decade of “crisis”) streams by, not as a menacing torrent but as a quiet, melancholy river. When all the crises that we think of not as crises but as “city life”—the constructions and destructions, the displacements and replace59 |ments,59 the transactions and retractions—when these suddenly fall quiet, then the real crisis begins. In Akerman’s film, the city-dweller is haunted by the inability to repay the debt of love infinitely expended by family back home. “We love you, we miss you, why don’t you write?” The letters broke no reply, save the quiet rush of traffic. In exchange for the “credit” extended by those back home, Akerman offers only the collateral of mute imagery—strangers in a subway, lonely streets with long shadows, an eternal river of graffiti. But perhaps these are collateral enough. Perhaps images of the city are fair trade for all manner of investments, but the currencies are different, and the exchange rate is unknown. Might credit be infinitely expended in trust of an undefined collateral? Why, after President Ford’s infamous (though apocryphal) 1975 invective to New York City to “drop dead,” did the Fed rescue New York once again? New York had been on the Federal dole for over a decade, and was widely considered a drain on the national economy. It had been on the brink of bankruptcy countless times, since at least as early as 1908. But apparently there was some collateral worth investing in repeatedly, regardless of recurring defaults: that is, the collateral of crisis itself. New York had always promised to investors the latent lucre of upheaval. But in the recession of the 1970’s, mired in stillness, the city would not only be unable to repay its debts; it would be unable to generate more debts, and New York’s debts were immensely profitable to its stakeholders. Robert Moses, in previous decades, had exploited the collusion between usury and urban development. In creating continual crises—the massive human displacements effected by his
projects—he had perpetually adverted crisis. By the late 1970’s, after a decade of refusing its role of purveyor of crisis, New York had to show its investors that it was ready to jump back in the fray, to accept the eternal curse (the eternal blessing) of crisis. 1978 Mayor Koch describes his campaign against graffiti in militant terms, gloating over the purchase of ferocious dogs to patrol the train yards. In his dreams, he says, he would hire the Saudi police chief, and suitable draconian punishments—presumably dismemberment—would be meted out to teenagers wielding spray-paint. Concurrently, graffiti was being peddled in major art galleries, suggesting a certain complicity. The war against graffiti was a tactic not to suppress crisis, but rather to shift crisis back into the hands of its rightful perpetrators. The image of crisis was to be produced by art galleries—not by youth from the ghettos—while the operations of crisis would be enacted by bankers, planners, and developers. 1982 In light of continuing deficits, the Senate Banking Committee urges local bankers to invest more in the city. They contend that if indeed the city goes bankrupt then the “banks would be among the biggest losers.” The New York Times reports that bankruptcy was the newest growth profession. Another article claimed that the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act had effectively softened the stigma of bankruptcy. By declaring bankruptcy, Beame essentially pledged
to the city’s lenders that the city was theirs to govern. Crisis took command in the guise of private-public partnerships. It is not surprising that New York would then direct its redevelopment efforts towards attracting international banks to its soil. Once the investors had moored upon this rocky ground of speculative wealth, the city’s debt was no longer simply the banks’ asset but also, supposedly, their liability.
Go Bag was a therapeutic conglomeration of things that functioned as a remedy to any crisis. It jiggled and clanked at the bottom of my backpack—a hard, heavy elixir for an array of diseases afflicting those that had come to Southern California from around the world.
B. Go Bags
by Jean J. Choi Every household should pack a Go Bag — a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation. A Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year. — New York City, Office of Emergency Management At five o’clock in the morning, the violent tremble of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake shook me out of my sheets. Instincts took control and rolled me under my bed. I lived on the fourth-floor of an eight-story apartment building in West Los Angeles. If it collapsed, how would my pitiful twin-size steel frame bed protect me? I already knew that most survivors of homes that fail live on the top ﬂoors. Those who live on the lower ﬂoors are usually doomed. The better thing to do would probably have been to sprint down the ﬁre escape into a clear parking lot, offering a panoramic spectacle of my home crumbling to the ground—with Go Bag in hand. Growing up, I had to carry around a Go Bag at school. It consolidated the back-then essentials within one quart-size, Zip-Loc plastic bag: one can of Vienna Sausages, one juice box, one colorfully-printed bandage, one miniature ﬂashlight, one compact aluminum blanket, one napkin, a dollar’s worth of spending cash and a letter from mom explaining that everything was going to be just ﬁne. This, of course, would sustain me in case of a crisis. Packed under the guise of looming natural disasters, my Go Bag covered a broader range of problems: it was a survivalist remedy for the cornucopia of crises that distinguished Southern California in the 90s. At that time, its sunny, glowing exterior was warped with failures more rampant and terrifying than the effects of an earthquake. Racism shook violently through the streets during the Los Angeles Riots, and social skepticism became visible through immigrants’ failed utopian dreams. In addition, a highly publicized criminal trial flooded mass media, where a certain celebrity was acquitted for double murder. My
by Jason Zuzga
Monkeys present a cognitive crisis for humanists, undermining the distinction of the human from all other, what with those faces and hands. Monkeys thus must be kept clearly secured beyond the legal and physical bounds of the human. Monkeys, secured in laboratories, may be subject to tests that would be beyond consideration for any human subject. Monkeys camp through bare life, grinning at us aggressively (never smile at a monkey), about to snatch a sandwich from our hands with theirs, responsibility-free. Rhesus macaques are held “responsible” for the death of S S Bajwa, the Deputy Mayor of Delhi. He is said to have been reading the newspaper when harassed by marauding monkeys to the edge of his balcony, then over the side. Rhesus macaques are held “sacred” as incarnations of the God Hanuman by Hindu fundamentalists, including the political party Bharatiya Janata (BJP) of which Bajwa was a member. Throughout India, the urban monkey popu-
lation explodes as the green inner patches and outer edges of the cities are folded into the sprawl. The monkeys move from the trees to the middle, encouraged by the abundance of food, the ethical prohibition on monkey-killing and the active feeding of urban monkeys on the part of Hanumanworshippers (especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays). Newly municipally employed monkey catchers earn a killing by sending monkeys to some sanctuary beyond the city, from which these monkeys continue to escape and wreak havoc in the nearest town. Male monkeys can be caught, microchipped, sterilized, and released for the equivalent of US$35. Well worth it. This monkey line gets crossed on occasion and crisis may ensue beyond the scope of human control, planning or study. See elsewhere Planet of the Apes. See elsewhere Human Evolution as some monkeys start to think more about themselves and plan ahead, assuming the ability to manage any crisis with words and numbers. Crisis-free monkeys with delusions of grandeur risk global catastrophe, one that we critical humans will surely manage. Rhesus macaques in psychology laboratories in the 1950s chose to starve to death in the comfort of cloth mother rather than suckle on cold metal mother’s milk. Rhesus macaques can have their fingertips guillotined off to see whether or not these fingers will regenerate, may be infected with HIV, or they may be turned 61 |intentionally 61 into heroin addicts in order to test addiction-breaking hypotheses. In Spain, the Parliament voted in July 2008 to honor the principles of the Great Ape Project, making it a
D. Public Relations by Ina Howard-Parker
Public relations during a crisis is mass psychiatric care meant to reassure a panicked public that its ontological frameworks are meaningful and safe, and that the event described as a crisis is an anomaly. Tragedies are common and acceptable—war, crime, injustice, disease, death, failure—as long as they occur within established cognitive frameworks. War, it follows, is necessary and honorable, crime happens in dangerous areas, illegal drugs kill, the bad and the weak fail. It is when the storylines with which we make sense of the world are corrupted—“our brave troops” are exposed as torturers and rapists rather than honorable killers, violent crimes occur in the wealthy suburbs, FDA-approved medicines take the lives of innocents—that tragedies become crises. One is taught to handle crisis communications thus: divulge information as accurately, quickly, and thoroughly as possible. One major, singular tear in our cognitive fabric can be decisively repaired—reestablishing and in many cases strengthening our sense of order and security. Small, drawn-out disclosures, on the other hand, are a thousand small cuts. They produce endless anxiety that another, and yet another, could come any time. They forever undermine our sense of security. The most famous, and most often praised, case of crisis communications is the “Tylenol Crisis” of 1982. Seven people were killed when Chicago-area Tylenol bottles were laced with cyanide. While the poisonings were quickly established to be the result of local tampering, the notion that one of the safest brands of a mundane, over-the-counter medicine could kill stirred nationwide psychological terror that far outweighed the number of deaths or the actual threat to the public. Tylenol recalled every bottle of its product in the country at great short-term cost to the company, but at great long-term benefit too: Americans once again believed that over-the-counter medicines were safe, just as they’d always understood them to be, and in fact came to see Tylenol as the country’s selfless protector. Had Tylenol withdrawn only those bottles in Chicago, or only those in the effected pharmacies, a persistent fear might have accompanied the swallowing of every pill thereafter, undermining trust in the industry and cutting into sales indefinitely. Buy, buy, buy. The very same week as the Tylenol crisis (now a canonical case study in business and communications books), thousands of Palestinians were massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps as Israel troops stood by and watched. For Americans accustomed to the idea of
the Middle East as a violent place, the event was a distant tragedy, but not a crisis. It attracted far fewer column inches, TV hours, or days in our collective memory than the Tylenol poisonings. For the Muslim world, however, the event fit perfectly into their collective ontological models in which Israelâ€”and by extension Americaâ€”willfully seeks their destruction. Ignored by Americans, the event strengthened and radicalized a divergent worldview, and has arguably cost far more American lives in the long-term.
absorbing tremendous violence once filled with dirt. The sandbag improved on the principle. Lighter than wicker barrels, they could be stored much more efficiently. The first sandbags apparently appeared in the 1790s and played a role in the American Civil War, but they really came into their own during the mechanized fury of World War I, when the combatants were able to field huge numbers of soldiers who could create long lines of sandbag-topped trenches at a rapid clip. Centuries before environmental concerns began to rise, the sandbag was an example of low-impact technology. The material filling the sandbags was available on-site; if the bags were left untended for a few months, the burlap deteriorated and the materials returned to the earth. A few handfuls of sand and a pile of sacks may not seem like much, but once the bags are properly filled, sealed and stacked, the resulting wall can seem as solid as brick and heavy as stone.
E. Sandbags F. Tactics
by Steven Hart
by Made of burlap, jute or woven plastic, sandbags have long
been a key element in disaster relief. A wall of carefully stacked sandbags, while not completely waterproof, is a vital means for channeling floodwaters. Long lines of sandbags, stacked pyramid-style along the tops of levees and bulkheads, are a first line of defense against floodwaters. The sandbag is an outgrowth of the gabion, a wicker barrel open at top and bottom, which medieval armies turned into a fortification by setting it on end and filling it with sand, earth or rocks. When artillery started to become part of European warfare in the fifteenth century, rings of gabions would shelter gunnery crews as they went about the slow work of preparing to fire their cannon. The concept of a gabion was simplicity itself: a light barrel of wicker, easily carried in an artillery train, but capable of
Absolute Submission Crisis management typically involves the deployment of logistical forces to fight against a gargantuan event of war, weather or disease. Yet some crisis management techniques operate with seemingly counter-intuitive logics, advocating absolute submission and acknowledgement of defeat. Obscured by dominant remedies associated with strength and willpower, these inverted techniques are often relegated to vaguely mystical 12-step mottos and popular prayers.1 Still, the organizational disposition of submission in the face of catastrophe is very effective, since it allows necessary information to flow. Tense symmetrical competition with catastrophes creates an escalating and dangerous confidence game of lies that obscures need and information. For instance, victims of Katrina and the cyclone in Myanmar experienced exponentially longer aid delays as they lingered
in information-poor situations, waiting for officials to shape face-saving stories. In contrast, China’s choice to submit to the influx of media coverage after the Sichuan earthquake instantly placed the faces of grieving parents on screens around the world. The rare display of defeat without cover-up dissolved resistant sentiments around the world while accelerating aid. Similarly, China’s willingness to show Beijing under a cloud of pollution taught the world more about environment than any attempt to mask the problem with trumped up displays about a “green” or “ecofriendly” Olympics.
Overt Covert Operations In the run-up to the Olympics, China rehearsed another seemingly inverted logic of crisis management: mass anti-terrorist spectacles. On the playing field of a stadium, armies of specialists created precise formations for synchronized martial arts and fire-fighting drills. Against puffs of smoke and other pyrotechnics, young women Karate-chopped wood and laid on the ground in the shape of the Olympic rings. Squadrons of men took aim with submachine guns while steering a moving Segway with their knees. Men in matching orange jump suits and white hard hats sawed through steel rods in a modified kick-line. SWAT teams demonstrated their skills in theatrical vi63What the CIA, Scotland Yard or the KGB might |gnettes. 63 have hidden, China openly displayed with Busby Berkeley choreography and graphic costumes. In the CIA/FBI version, a thousand men holding their hand to their ear would have to sit on the field in a perfect phalanx of evenly spaced desks. Some might be wearing matching plain-clothes golf shirts and shorts, while others would be costumed with pinstriped banking suits in the most beautiful shade of indigo blue. While awe-inspiring, the techniques also initially seem comedic and anachronistic. As if lacking previous experience with terrorism, Chinese officials plan to manage the problem with older, perhaps even misdirected, displays of strength. Yet, when the smoke lifts on the field to display the sheer numbers of personnel, the feminized anti-terrorist dance drill is vaguely terrifying. One considers what a bad idea it would be to perpetrate any sort of terrorist act in this climate. While nations often use aestheticized aggression to enhance their violent acts, animals (and some people) use it to avert violence.2 Here, the technique, in its preventative mode, brings a potentially effective overt display to techniques that were once hidden.
G. The Tour
by Gavin Browning
Flanked by emergency workers, George W. Bush’s September 14, 2001 bullhorn ballyhoo atop the ruins of the World Trade Center reassured a panicked public that its leader “can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people—and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Years later, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that she too had heard a panic-stricken public— having witnessed the post-earthquake rubble of Sichuan Province, she stated I was very moved by the people of the affected earthquake area. They clearly are showing great spirit. There’s been a major effort to relocate them, and the government has worked very hard at that. Yet it was really the spirit of the people that comes through, because they are determined to restart their lives.1 Empathetic, concerned, alternately donning hardhat or furrowed brow—the spectacle of politicians being led through sites of trauma appears again and again for a reason. The Tour signals that they do indeed hear affected publics. Yet, it is hardly a Bush-era phenomenon. Abraham Lincoln walked the charred earth of Antietam, Winston Churchill toured the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and in 1977, Jimmy Carter’s limousine took a detour, rolling up to
what might have been Dresden circa-Slaughterhouse-Five: Charlotte Street in New York City’s South Bronx. President Carter’s visit to this bleak landscape was a break from the past. Covering the event, the New York Times noted: “no one could recall when Mr. Carter, or any other President had visited an area like the South Bronx.”2 The wreckage he toured that day was not specific to one crisis in particular, but rather to the ongoing crisis of being poor in America. Opportunities blockaded by monolithic highways and housing projects, residents had seen oncestately neighborhoods suffer what urban epidemiologists Deborah and Rodrick Wallace call a “contagious fire epidemic” that coincided with municipal cuts to fire departments and federal urban renewal funds under Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter’s tour helped steer funds and policies toward the recuperation of Charlotte Street, and toward those who felt ignored by their government. Carter asked the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to “[s]ee which areas can be salvaged,” suggesting that “[m]aybe we can create a recreation area and turn it around.”3 The Tour can be many things: photo op, ill-timed political misstep (the American public never forgave George W. Bush for not taking a tour of New Orleans immediately post-Katrina as he chose to survey the devastation from Air Force One instead), symbolic gesture, or in the case of Carter’s tour of Charlotte Street, the beginning of something new.
by Jorge Otero-Pailos
The monuments of the world are beyond their carrying capacity. But the number of visitors increases by the day. In 2007, twenty-five million people visited the Memorial Parks of Washington DC. That is more than forty-two times the resident population of the city. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people walk into Notre Dame de Paris every day, which is only 48,000 square meters. The Great Wall of China is the eleventh-most visited tourist attraction in the world, drawing ten million visitors per year. The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nation World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals have increased in volume by more than thirty-two times since 1950, and they are expected to reach 1.6 billion in 2020. Visitation damages monuments, sometimes irreparably. The most innocent acts, like breathing, can alter the humidity ratio in delicate environments and destroy them when multiplied by thousands. For instance, the amount of exhalations is a serious concern in the prehistoric caves of Altamira, Spain, which must limit visitation to 8,500 people per year. In 2000, the Spanish Ministry of Culture
built a replica of the cave right next to the original, to accommodate excess visitors. Another older replica of the caves also exists in Madrid’s National Archeological Museum. See, see, see. Historic preservation is undergoing a fundamental transformation in order to manage the crises caused by mass tourism, turning from the public sector to private enterprise. Specifically, by recognizing that thanks to mass tourism, the great monuments of the world now have larger audiences than some television shows and incorporate advertising. Private companies are vying to use the mostvisited sites as media to broadcast their brands within the meaningful, experiential context of memorable vacations. Take for instance the façade of Milan’s Duomo, which is currently partially hidden behind a huge billboard for companies like Camper Shoes and Vagary Watches. American Express awards yearly preservation grants to historic places around the United States and abroad. In exchange for their sponsorship, it receives the right to present its logo at sponsored sites. By encouraging private companies to usurp the preservation of national monuments, the state’s power to endure—and preserve itself—appears symbolically weakened. As an instrument of this weakening effect, historic preservation reveals itself to be part of the greater process of globalization, which is a collective dream of the demise of the nation-state. We are perhaps not far from wish fulfillment.
by Haifa Zangana
Iraqis say that concrete walls and the US embassy are the only real construction in occupied Iraq. One is built to wall-in Iraqis in whole towns or city neighborhoods, the other to wall-in the occupiers and their stooges. The gigantic one billion dollar new embassy itself has been built next to the old Iraqi presidential palace, which had few if any concrete walls during Saddam Hussein’s rule. The US embassy is a neocolonial fortress replete with three concentric circles of concrete walls, manned from the outside by Iraqi and foreign mercenaries, then by the US marines, and then again by the US Special Forces— not counting the walls around Baghdad’s Green Zone as a whole. When rockets fall, the security men, the officials and the prostitutes who work there have several concrete shelters handily scattered every hundred yards or so for them to hide. These walls are called “security walls” from the Green Zone. Most Iraqis, however, call them the 69 |inside69 “occupation walls.” In general, walls, especially in Baghdad, are made of three-meter-high concrete blocks. During the surge—the 30,000 US soldiers increase in Baghdad—“the coalition forces [had] erected more than 3,000 individual sections of concrete blast walls throughout the city….[T]hese barriers included both Jersey barriers — short concrete dividers commonly seen on roadways in the United States—and larger twenty-foot blast walls that commonly surround bases and living areas.” The highly publicized “success of the surge” has scarred Baghdad with barriers, checkpoints and walls. Every wall has one entry checkpoint and one exit, boxing closely linked communities into ghettos and gated communities. Box, box, box. Likewise, Iraqi people and their districts have been labelled according to the occupier’s vocabulary. Iraqis are no more. They are: Sunnis. Shias. Radical Shias. Sunni terrorists or Muslim extremists. Subduing Iraq required the creation of propaganda on sectarian violence, and on how to quell it. Walls, in a US Military statement, were seen as “one of the centrepieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence,” and, as part of “a series of measures long sought by the White House [that were] aimed at advancing reconciliation between the warring Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs”. Yet, walls as a means of control were never mentioned.
IT’S NOT THAT I’M AFRAID TO DIE. I JUST DON’T WANT TO BE THERE WHEN IT HAPPENS.
IT’S NOT THAT I’M AFRAID TO DIE. I JUST DON’T WANT TO BE THERE WHEN IT HAPPENS.
Exclusion Zone Oleg Yavorsk Interview by Gavin Browning
Gavin Browning Tell me a bit about the game. How did it come about?
Oleg Yavorsky The idea of a game built around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone came to us quite some time ago. 73 | 73 We were witnesses to the accident back in 1986, so we felt we could deal with this sensitive topic properly, and that we could deliver a message to the outside world about the problems that remain. GB Do you remember the meltdown? OY I was a kid at the time. My parents evacuated people. Like them, a lot of people were involved in the destruction of the actual sarcophagus and the evacuation procedures. [As kids] we were so close to the site, and I remember a lot of discussion about the meltdown. However, due to the specifics of the Soviet era, a lot of information was not disclosed. It’s only really now that we’re beginning to hear hidden and devastating facts, like people shoveling radioactive fuel with their bare hands. A lot of terrible things happened. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. takes place in the exclusion zone, and we tried to make the game universe as authentic as possible. We went to the actual zone on a number of exploration and research trips. We took thousands of photos. So, the structures and the houses that you see in the game… they
are actually the authentic ones from around Chernobyl. It’s not that we recreated this place perfectly. It’s more that we recreated the most well-known and notorious objects and places, such as Prypiat, the ghost town—a totally barren and empty city that used to have 50,000 residents—and the sarcophagus of the Chernobyl Power Plant. GB A Ferris wheel appears in the game, too? OY Yes, that’s located in the central core of Prypiat. In fact, it’s an interesting story: the Ferris wheel was never switched on. It was built for May Day—a big holiday back in Soviet times—but the accident happened just beforehand, so it was never used. When we were in Prypiat—which is the most interesting place in the zone—we went through lots of flats, through the library, down the central streets, and you still see communist propaganda in the shop windows. To me, it’s like….well, I remember what it was like back in my childhood, back in Soviet times. Now, it’s absolutely about seeing how nature gets the upper hand. There’s a lot of wildlife in Prypiat. But the wildlife mingles with newspapers dated back to 1986, old communist books, and a lot of other traces of that time. That makes this place very special, and we paid a lot of attention to recreating that atmosphere in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
THE COMPUTER GAME S.T.A.L.K.E.R.* UNFOLDS IN THE ABANDONED PLAINS,
COMMUNIST BOULEVARDS &APARTMENT BLOCKS OF POST-CHERNOBYL UKRAINE.
GAVIN BROWNING RECENTLY SPOKE WITH OLEG YAVORSKY**, ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF REPRESENTING THE INFAMOUS ZONE & ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
1. Video Games— I used to play video games back in Middle School, never really got to into it, beat Contra a couple of times by cheating and the same with Mike Tyson's Punch Out, but these guys are taking it to a whole new level.
*The name of the game is (Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, Robbers)
GB It’s a way of traveling there without traveling there. OY Yes, there’s no need to go there. You can see it in the game. GB What is the premise of the game?
OY We wanted to create an alternative story: a “what if” scenario, a worst-case scenario. We imagined things at Chernobyl going fully out of control, and we placed it in a futuristic setting. It takes place in the year 2012, and at this time, we imagined a second melt down of the Chernobyl Power Plant [which according to the story takes place in 2006]. In this six-year period, a whole universe has been established: a zone within the exclusion zone. And strange things occur there. We included a lot of the conspiracy theories around the meltdown. For example, there is a huge antenna in Chernobyl. One theory goes that it emitted psychoactive waves after the meltdown into the West, as part of a governmental experiment on psychotropic weapons. These ideas were integrated into the storyline, along with ideas of energy… energy is available in the center of the zone, and this is very enticing to scientists.
GB To scientists? OY
2. Chernobyll— is by no means funny or a place that I'd like to visit especially with zombies, who wants to figth Zombies. This article is even more depressing after the current events in Japan.
Yes. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s go into the zone to look for artifacts, which are basically common items that have absorbed enormous energy, and they are now very valuable to the scientists and corporations who want to study it. GB So the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s sell these items? OY They’re marauders. They earn their living by
THE COMPUTER GAME S.T.A.L.K.E.R.* UNFOLDS IN
going into the zone, risking their lives, fighting mutants, fighting each other, looking for artifacts and bringing them to the outside world. There’s a whole community of these S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s, and there are different factions with varying philosophies. Some of them rival each other—they fight for resources such as artifacts, but also over territory. Sometimes, they fight for truth. They are also trying to find a way into the mysterious center of the zone, which is believed hold a bonanza of artifacts. It is commonly believed to have very valuable and precious things. I am in the zone right now. GB Where is the center? Is it the center of Prypiat?
THE ABANDONED PLAINS,
COMMUNIST BOULEVARDS &APARTMENT BLOCKS
OF POST-CHERNOBYL UKRAINE.
OY No, the ultimate level is located in the center of the power plant—the sarcophagus—where there’s a monolith. It’s a super-mind-power monolith that controls the whole zone. A player approaches it and makes a wish. Depending on how the player has played the game, this wish determines the ending.
GAVIN BROWNING RECENTLY SPOKE WITH OLEG YAVORSKY †, ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF REPRESENTING THE INFAMOUS ZONE & ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
GB How does a player win?
OY There are seven different endings. Five of them are false. In one of the two true endings, the player wins by actually making the zone disappear, and restoring peace and happiness to this world (spoiler alert). In the second true ending, the player wins
by joining the super-mind-power monolith, and becoming one with the zone.
Olec is the Director of PR for GCS Game World
by Eyal Weizman
1. Tanks—who needs food when you have tanks, with one tank you could probably feed three villages.
Throughout the past two decades, “humanitarian interventions” have grown to structure Western states’ response to emergency. At the core of the idea of “humanitarian intervention” is the ethico-political principle recently framed as “responsibility to protect” which lies at the heart of the humanitarian impulse. The problem is that in order to get to the victims of armed conflicts, protect them and provide aid—or at least claim to do so—states sometimes have to engage in military actions. Increasingly (and in places such as Mogadishu, Kosovo and Afghanistan) this intervention has bound humanitarian agencies with the logic of war-making. Anyone working in the humanitarian sector should take Colin Powell’s 2001 statement that NGOs and relief workers are “force multiplier for us… an important part of our combat team” as a cause for serious concern. When soldiers in what George W. Bush has called “the armies of compassion” become proxy experts in humanitarianism, humanitarian concerns could easily become a pretext to justify impartiality with respect to unjust and brutal aggressions (as in Sarajevo) or an alibi for a political decision to mount a military intervention against sovereign states (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). The paradox is that, bound with military intervention, human rights and humanitarian action may actually aggravate the situation for the very people it purportedly comes to aid. This scenario is at the heart of the humanitarian paradox. The integration of humanitarian logic into military interventions has, furthermore, been one of the reasons
for a steady increase in the number of attacks on aid workers in zones of conflict. In seeking to avoid their instrumentalization in the hands of military, political and other interested parties, independent aid organizations have recently defined a certain operational distance from states and their militaries and returned to traditional humanitarian concepts of impartiality and neutrality. The term “humanitarian space,” coined by Rony Brauman, former president (1982-94) of Médecins sans Frontières France, is a zone carved out of state sovereignty or the space of war to be kept at a distance from state politics and battle-spaces. Although primarily defined in geographical terms as “real spaces,” these “zones of emergency management” are spheres of action that, as Thomas Keenan remarked, “are understood as conceptual as well as physical…[in as much as they are]
free of political and military influence,” and in which the infrastructure and the technology of aid organizations could facilitate protecting, policing, feeding, providing health care, but also a place where advocacy and discussion amongst displaced people and between them and international agents can take place. Often managed by UN agencies (UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, being the largest), national organizations (USAid) or by a combination of more than 500 contemporary-crisis NGOs, these zones designate the formation of a global generic space for “humanitarian management.” While they may appear like rather simple physical environments, humanitarian zones rely on complex assemblages of spatial arrangements, infrastructure, means of communication, legal and organizational procedures. Humanitarian
of people away from their homes, because TRUCKS, FOUR-WHEELment DRIVE VEHICLES, people naturally flee into protected zones WALKIE-TALKIES, SATELLITE PHONES AND seeking refuge and care. Aggressors have also learnt how to use the presence of aid organizaCOMPUTERS CREATE ARTIFICIAL tionsAN and humanitarian zones to induce population transfer from areas they wish to ethnically ENVIRONMENT, WHOSEcleanse. PERVERSE EFFECT Aid could thus affect the development of hostilities and whether a conflict worsens or IS TO PUT THE TEAMS IN QUASI-VIRTUAL abets.A In many conflicts, aid might have actually worsened the situation on the ground. WORLD WHERE TIME AND SPACE ARE In his pioneering research on refugee camps in Africa, architect Manuel Herz demonMEASURED IN DIFFERENT UNITS FROM strated the amazingly rapid process by which anonymous rows of prefabricated dwellings THOSE OF THE COUNTRY WHERE THEY FIND evolve into sites of urban complexity. Within of relocation, barter and commerce are THEMSELVES. SO THEYdays FIND THEMSELVES, established. Within weeks, markets evolve to exchange goods labor the citizens of ALMOST WITHOUT KNOWING IT,and IN Awith BUBBLE, the host country. Within several months, clusters and districts turn into a “neighborhood,” and A “NON-PLACE,” A HUMANITARIAN MISSION temporary shelters become solid structures of | 79 adobe, brick or corrugated sheets. Camps are WHICH COULD BE EVERYWHERE AND always “less” than cities, but have a sense of the urban nevertheless. WHICH IS NOWHERE…
zones—such as those recently established in the DRC after the resumption of hostilities there— quickly give rise to refugee camps, the latter forming the material link between the concept of “humanitarian intervention” and a massive and rapid, although largely unnoticed, processes of migration, construction and urbanization. Humanitarian zones are global spaces—woven into international networks of information-flow through the media and to the global network of commodity-circulation through the products of aid. At present, the 13,000 international aid workers in Darfur (citizens of more than thirty different nations, members of hundreds of different relief organizations) are living in scores of staff encampments built next to refugee camps. Rony Brauman described this growing archipelago of aid workers camps in these words: * Paradoxically, the establishment of these zones during war might accelerate the move-
So while the emergency architecture of humanitarian relief often seeks to communicate temporariness, because camp residents often like to demonstrate their intention to return to the places from which they were forcefully relocated, these places may linger for decades in a state similar to what Georges Orwell once called the “endless present”—permanent temporariness without past or future. Herz also demonstrated how the internal layout of many camps
folds in complex geographies. After crossing a border, fleeing inhabitants of entire territories are handled by humanitarians and organized into a dense (and sometimes segregated) fabric of districts, blocks and repetitive shelters. The physical design of the camps intersects military and medical principles, and their spatial regime of multiple separations and the strict regimentation of time and space are somewhat reminiscent of the principles of the eighteenth century “machines à guérir” (healing machines) of early hospitals. Camps are where different nationalities and linguistic groups, refugees of different origins, aid workers and journalists interact for the first time. A reorganization of political relations within the displaced communities often takes place during the process of relocation. For many refugees, camps facilitate a transition between traditional rural and urban life. Emerging powers begin challenging traditional family or clan structures. Moreover, by being sometimes the largest employers in an area, aid agencies impact on the economics and the politics of the societies in which they are working. Thus, although claiming for neutrality, humanitarian agencies, many of them NGOs, engage in effectively building new cities and engage in social engineering. The anthropologist Michel Agier showed how, for their international sponsors, the humanitarian zones and the refugee camps within them represent the most politically efficient form of emergency arrangement of the planet’s populations who are most unwanted and undesirable. Host states (whenever they can enforce it), surround and police these zones, and rich states donate generously into them (partially) so that refugees remain close to their area of origins, and as far away from their borders as possible. Agier describes refugee camps as vague and heavily guarded “waiting rooms… on the margins of the world” while also as “laboratories in which still unconceived forms of urbanism are germinating.” The imagery of emergency compels us to think about political situations as exceptions to
2. Gatorade—is full of electrolites, perfect for revamping and rehidrating after A long day in the desert.
TRUCKS, FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE VEHICLES, WALKIE-TALKIES, SATELLITE PHONES AND COMPUTERS CREATE AN ARTIFICIAL ENVIRONMENT, WHOSE PERVERSE EFFECT IS TO PUT THE TEAMS IN A QUASI-VIRTUAL WORLD WHERE TIME AND SPACE ARE MEASURED IN DIFFERENT UNITS FROM THOSE OF THE COUNTRY WHERE THEY FIND THEMSELVES. SO THEY FIND THEMSELVES, ALMOST WITHOUT KNOWING IT, IN A BUBBLE, A “NON-PLACE,” A HUMANITARIAN MISSION WHICH COULD BE EVERYWHERE AND WHICH IS NOWHERE…
normal life and order, and often forecloses more nuanced ways to understand crises as accelerated processes of social and political change. The loss of homes, villages and towns, the fast migration into foreign territories, the construction of and accommodation to newly built environments and the encounter with a multiplicity of different cultures, languages and technologies, place some refugees in the fastest—and possibly the most traumatic—contemporary track to modernization, urbanization and globalization. In this sense, “emergency,” in the words of the humanitarian scholar Alex de Waal, “fuels the locomotive of history...accelerating socioeconomic change.” “Emergency” could thus be understood as an initiator and accelerator of irreversible processes of transformation. The challenges posed to the humanitarian practices is that: however strong (and just) the political imperative to return to pre-crisis “normality” is, modernization and urbanizations cannot simply | 81 be reversed. Once introduced to urban life, refugees, like all people throughout history who were driven to cities during times of need and crisis, are unlikely to renounce the urban when better times arrive. Do humanitarian agencies have the legitimacy, and should they develop the expertise to deal with such emergent urbanity and social change?
This entry is based on “Planning Emergency” a conversation between Rony Brauman, director of research at MSF and former president (1982-94) of
Médecins sans Frontières France, and Eyal Weizman Columbia University Feb 4, 2008. Laura Kurgan and Peter Marcuse hosted the discussion. This conversation between a physician and an architect was meant to recall the fact that the origins of modern architecture and town planning emerged together with the discourse of medicine and hygiene. At present refugee camps are the clearest embodiment of this principle, designed according to principles that intersect architectural with medical knowledge. Secretary Colin L. Powell, Remarks to the National Foreign Policy Conference for Leaders of Nongovernmental Organizations, October 26, 2001. http://www.state.
gov/secretary/former/powell/ remarks/2001/5762 Keenan, Thomas, “Tidying UP,” a lecture delivered at the Tate Modern for the conference Sovereignity and Bare Life: Zones of Conflict, November 29, 2008. Brauman, Rony, “From Philanthropy to Humanitarianism: Remarks and an Interview,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol.,103, No., 2/3, Spring/Summer 2004. The temporary nature of the camp is an issue that is constantly reenacted amongst Palestinian refugees, the population with longest refugee status in the world. When in 1951 permanent structures were built by the UN to replace the tent encampments set in 1948, a debate amongst refugees emerged regarding whether or not to accept and enter these homes. Every other set of plans for localor internationally-sponsored improvements, introduced during the subsequent 60 years, was viewed with great
suspicion. In fact it was the discussion itself, the resistance to improvement (but also, mostly, its final acceptance) that performed the temporary nature of the camp and reinforced the calls for return. Herz, Manuel, “The Architecture of Refugee Camps,” http://roundtable.kein.org/ node/460 and “Introduction - Architecture of Humanitarian Relief,” http://roundtable. kein.org/node/459. Agier, Michel, On the Margins of the World: The Refugee Experience Today (London, Polity, 2008), 42, 66. Waal, Alex de, “Whose Emergency Is It Anyway? Dreams, Tragedies and Traumas in the Humanitarian Encounter,” http://roundtable.kein.org/node/1078.
Rogue States of Mind
WHILE IT MAY SEEM LIKE THE CRISIS IS FULLY UPON US, IT WILL GET WORSE. NEW SUBJECTS WILL EMERGE IN THE AFTERMATH OF MULTIPLE CRISES YET TO COME.
01. Downsizing In the wake of the economic crisis, the federal government decides to sell off its under-performing units. States with the lowest GDPs are auctioned to other nations in an attempt to jettison dead weight and reinvigorate the economy. Vice President Joseph Biden is chosen for his working class credibility to deliver the bad news to the populations of the newly foreign territories, including his former constituents in Delaware. The union is eventually dismantled, leaving only a few wealthy states, geographically isolated and increasingly paranoid about their neighbors. 02. Chinese Financial Implosion After a decade of robust growth, China’s industrial export economy is tanking due to its dependence on foreign economies that are now hurt by the financial crisis. Thousands of factories have closed, and millions of workers have already lost their jobs. During the boom years, the central government used the profits from exports to invest in American debt, amassing treasury securities equal to about one quarter of foreign-owned debt. A rogue trader in the Chinese central bank, the child of migrant workers, sees threats to the solvency of the US government. She sparks a sell-off of securities, bankrupting America and further devastating China’s economy. 03. Senior Epidemic The aging of the boomer generation and rapidly rising medical costs are driving a healthcare crisis. In the coming decades, Social Security and Medicare entitlements will exceed workers’ payroll contributions by trillions of dollars. These “unfunded liabilities” are the most serious long-term threat to the government’s financial future. The boomers’ fixation on spiritual and physical health alongside advances in medical technology will give them relative immortality, but at a great expense—an epidemic of oldness that financially cripples future generations.
04. Drought Drought is a reliable predictor of civil war in many areas of the world. The economic shock caused by low rainfall and crop failure leads to unemployment, indebtedness and famine, a dangerous mix in countries with already weak governments. Future farmers are both scientists and warriors: chasing biotechnical advancements in a futile attempt to keep pace with climate change while arming themselves in a paranoiac defense of their increasingly precious resources. 05. Petro State Decline Russia’s largest corporation, the state-run natural gas company Gazprom, is $42 billion in debt, and the price of oil continues to fall fast. Political power in Russia is deeply connected to Gazprom—before becoming president, Dmitri Medvedev was its chairman, and Vladimir Putin used its revenue to nationalize opposition media companies. When Gazprom fails it will destabilize the government, but in the meantime, the weakening of the petro state will only bring more brutal and desperate political repression. Former oligarchs invested in Gazprom become alternative energy dissidents. But for now, they are excluded from political and economic power.
More Is Less
100,000,000,000,000 Drachmai, Greece 1944 image 2
10,000,000 Cordobas, Nicaragua 1990 image 3
5,000,000 Rublei, Belarus 1999
|i m a g e 489 500,000,000,000 Dinara, Yugoslavia 1993 image 5
50,000,000,000 Dinara, Serbian Republic 1993 image 6
50,000,000 Marks, State of Thuringia 1923 image 7
60,000,000 Yuan, China 1949 image 8
2,000,000 Zlotych, Poland 1993 image 9
1,000,000 Zaires, Zaire 1993 i m a g e 10
5,000,000,000 dollars, Zimbabwe 2008
When a country experiences hyperinflation its currency rapidly loses value and as a result consumer prices increase. Notes of higher and higher denominations are printed to avoid having to carry around wheelbarrows of cash. In these instances the higher the numerical value of the bill, the lower the currencyâ€™s purchasing power.
IN THE EVENT OF A PRESSURE LOSS, ALL OUR LINES ARE BUSY NOW. I WILL BE LAUGHING OUT LOUD ANYHOW
IN THE EVENT OF A PRESSURE LOSS, ALL OUR LINES ARE BUSY NOW. I WILL BE LAUGHING OUT LOUD ANYHOW
Systems Gone Wild Infrastructure After Modernity
by John McMorrough
For a time, it seemed that US President-Elect Barack Obama’s first move was going to be to take a page from the WPA and invest heavily in the nation’s infrastructure. Played up heavily in the media, investment in infrastructure was to inject massive amounts of capital in the economy and create jobs while simultaneously investing in the nation’s future. But when the House Appropriations Committee introduced its version of the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan of 2009—a document that reflects the Obama administration’s intents— infrastructure was downplayed, receiving only a fraction of the proposed $800+ billion. That figure is less than what was proposed for digitizing health care records. The document paints a gloomy picture. Included is the equivalent of less than one year’s worth of funding for the Federal Highway Administration (a drop in the bucket, along with $2 billion of some $50 billion needed to modernize existing transit systems), $1.1 billion to improve intercity rail (the Northeast Corridor alone needs over $10 billion of improvements) and $3 billion out of $41 billion for airport infrastructure (the backlogs listed are all from the House document). Instead of a vigorously rebuilt infrastructural future, we are just treading water.1 So what happened? To understand our present predicament—and Obama’s strategic retreat from infrastructure—we need to go back, before even the WPA, for a brief history of infrastructure to see how fucked we are.
Cities grew tremendously in the hundred years between 1860 and 1960, and infrastructure was the foundation for that growth. Trains, streetcar lines, streets and highways allowed inhabitants to rush around with relative ease. As infrastructure filled past capacity and congestion became bad, the public had faith that the experts would solve the problems by constructing new infrastructure—always more capacious and more technologically advanced. Infrastructure was idealized by modernist architects. Take Vers une Architecture, for example, in which Corbusier extolled the societal transformations that would take place if only the people were to listen to the architect and the engineer. It was, after all, a matter of architecture or revolution. For modernists, a plan and the capacity of a clear idea would bring order to the chaos of the metropolis. In implementing the plan, modern architecture relied on infrastructure above all else. A city’s modernity became nearly equivalent to its infrastructure, as evident in Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris, the ultra-real technological landscapes of Tony Garnier’s Cité Industrielle, or the wild, electric fantasies of Antonio Sant’Elia’s Città Nuova. Modern architecture would be nothing but pastiche without engineering to support it—merely new clothes for an old body. The engineer, Le Corbusier concluded, “puts us in accord with natural law.” Only after the engineer laid down a foundation could the architect start to create beauty through form. Infrastructure captured the popular imagination as well, particularly in America. There, it was the means by which Americans tamed the frontier, harnessing untamable nature to transform it into paradise for man. Infrastructure was America’s first modernism: Americans accepted modernism in their bridges and dams before they accepted it in buildings. With the massive burst of infrastructure building under Roosevelt’s New Deal, Americans came to believe that functionalism and technology would lead them to economic prosperity. This reconstructive power of infrastructure is what Obama suggested he might replay with his plan when it was first an-
1. Infrastructure—Infrastructure was idealized by modernist architects. Take Vers une Architecture, for example, in which Corbusier extolled the societal transformations that would take place if only the people were to listen to the architect and the engineer.
PERPETUAL OVERLOAD FAILING INFRASTRUCTURA
GRIDS OVERLOAD DU
PETROLEUM REFINERIES B 96
CONTROL SYSTEMS O STORMS, WASTE WATER
AQUEDUCTS MYST nounced. No doubt many architects warmed to the idea of a reinvigoration of modern ideals, just as the profession seemed to have taken a fatal blow from the economic collapse. But in the end, Obama didn’t turn to infrastructure. By its own admission, his plan underfunds critical infrastructure greatly. It may yet be that Obama sees this only as a temporary stimulus, and will fund infrastructure in its turn through the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank (this stimulus plan was explicitly dedicated to helping “shovel-ready” projects and these have largely been funded already). But perhaps there are deeper reasons. Between 2004 and 2008, I led a team of researchers investigating changing conditions of infrastructure in Los Angeles, producing The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los
Angeles as a result. Los Angeles, for us, was a case study. A particularly interesting city, but one that proved the rule regarding infrastructure rather than the exception.2 Our conclusions were, first and foremost, that a WPA-style infrastructural push is impossible today. Infrastructure has changed radically. Whether the Los Angeles freeways, the New York subway, the London Tube, the motorways outside Dublin, or airports just about anywhere, much of our infrastructure exists in a state of perpetual overload. It is under massive stress from the pressures we place on it: overburdened, aged, little loved. This not only true for transportation. The news is filled with failing infrastructural systems: electrical grids overload during peak season, petroleum refineries break down, floodwater control systems overflow in
E EXISTS IN A STATE OF
D. THE NEWS IS FILLED AL SYSTEMS: ELECTRICAL
URING PEAK SEASON,
BREAK DOWN, FLOODWATER
OVERFLOW IN HEAVY PLANTS SPILL SEWAGE,
TERIOUSLY LEAK. heavy storms, wastewater plants spill sewage, aqueducts mysteriously leak. Curiously, infrastructure is a new word. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies its first use in 1927. The word only achieves real currency in the 1980s after the publication of a scathing public policy assessment entitled America in
Ruins: The Decaying Infrastructure, which raised many of the issues raised here. To understand the technical systems that support a society— roads, bridges, water supply, wastewater, flood management, telecommunications, gas and electric lines—as one category, it was first necessary to see it fail. The current dismal state of the country’s infrastructure is in part because of decades of neoliberal policies encouraging tax cuts instead over investment in capital projects. This is also
partially because infrastructure tends to conform to an S-curve during its growth. As money is invested in infrastructure, its efficiency leaps ahead radically, but at a certain point returns begin to diminish. Thus, while investment initially delivers handsome benefits, as the S-curve flattens, returns-per-dollar invested lessen greatly. Obama may well have realized this: infrastructure needs to be rebuilt to remain functional, but pouring massive funding into existing infrastructure is unlikely to restart the economy or even fix all of its problems. Perversely, as the S-curve flattens, many forms of infrastructure enter into a phase in which social engineering becomes as important as physical engineering. Take, for example, Interstate Highway 405 on the west side of Los Angeles. The 405 grinds to a halt every afternoon with regularity as commuters make their way up and down the coastal communities to their homes. Adding another lane to the 405 would cost a staggering billion dollars per mile. Within seven or eight years (no doubt a shorter time than it would take to construct the lane), that lane would fill and the highway would be as congested as before. Traffic planners now understand that congestion itself modifies social behavior. Individuals have a limited tolerance for their commutes, usually forty minutes to an hour each way. If congestion makes their commute grow past their comfort point, they will find ways to modify it, going at odd hours, finding a new job, or finding a new home. Conversely, without congestion, commuters will find no reason to make such plans and will live and work as they wish, rapidly filling the roads. Problems with infrastructure go beyond the Scurve; they also extend to our idea of individual rights. To be sure, the massive infrastructure projects of the 1960s and 1970s—most notably, highways—devastated communities and brought down property values. Since then, homeowners have become greatly concerned about infrastructural developments. Mainly, they think that while they are necessary, they can be anywhere as long as they are “Not in My Back Yard.”
Already prior to the economic crisis, homeowners would defend their homes like medieval barons defending their castles, becoming skilled practitioners in mobilizing together to question, forestall, and generally prevent the construction of new infrastructural systems. To think that individuals will somehow overcome NIMBYism when home values are more under threat than ever is ludicrous.3 NIMBYism also has a subtler, equally dangerous cousin in bureaucratic stalemate. Communities have created legal frameworks of byzantine complexity and these can greatly
interfere with new infrastructural projects, both traditional and more recent. Poor mobile phone coverage today is less likely to be the fault of telephone carriers seeking to cut costs than the product of communities finding means to prevent construction of new towers. Similarly, fiber-tothe-home rollouts have been slowed by the difficulty of obtaining rights-of-way from a patchwork of governments. What tactics can we look for then, if the strategies of big infrastructure have failed us?
Master plans are bankrupt. Of course here and there a pet light rail project will be built and maybe even a high-speed train—assuming it doesn’t become another slow high-speed train like the Acela—but as the economic stimulus plan suggests, these are unlikely to be funded. We’ll give Obama credit for figuring out that big infrastructural projects can’t be built today. So what, then, is an appropriate infrastructural strategy for the new President to adopt? Just as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown flipped the valence on sprawl and signage in their classic Learning from Las Vegas to lay the groundwork for postmodern architecture, we need to flip the valence on hacking: the serious game of taking advantage of secret exploits in systems or turning to “social engineering,” convincing other people to do what you want by appealing to their own self-interest. One option would be to provide open APIs (a computer programming term for Application Programming Interfaces). APIs function as abstractions, allowing programs to ask other programs to do things for them. As Senator, Obama was involved in a law that led to the construction of a government website, USAspending.gov, that tracks what the government spends money on, and that site has open APIs so that the data it delivers can be accessed by anyone.4 Opening up the APIs for existing and new infrastructures would allow developers to build on this data, making current forms of infrastructure more efficient, or at least easier to use. Here is a concrete example of how this might work: during the past year, I have found myself looking at traffic in the New York City metro area in a much more canny way, simply because of the capacity for Google Maps on my iPhone 3G to deliver relatively up-to-date information about traffic speeds. Google Maps still has a long way to go to make the system usable: not all routes are covered, the data is too coarse and real-time routing is often tricky. Still, instead of suggesting that we add lanes to highways, the government might find a lower-cost solution in simply making more sensor data publicly available to citizens. Thus far,
unfortunately, agencies seem to think that the act of making such information available is somewhere between aiding and abetting terrorism and a distraction from their job. Passing a law to ensure that every government agency makes data available should be a priority, and funds should be made available to do so. Even forms of data as basic as subway train schedules are hard to get hold of, often requiring either Google’s muscle or a lawyer and a Freedom of Information Act request. This sort of thinking could be applied to electric power as well. Peak electricity demands are exceedingly costly for power companies and a major factor in grid breakdowns. Large commercial customers such as factories and oil refineries already know when electric power is more expensive and have the ability to plan around that. Why shouldn’t consumers be encouraged to respond to power fluctuations dynamically? Coming up with new forms of “human hack| 99 ing” or social engineering is a key to rethinking infrastructure. Simple, relatively inexpensive measures might involve subsidizing fiber to Main Street to encourage the growth of offices in downtowns of suburbs and small towns (often lying half-empty while peripheral areas boom), or adding Wi-Fi to all forms of public transit to encourage commuters to get out of their cars and into existing buses and trains. These quick thoughts point toward the necessity of rethinking infrastructure as hackerready in an age of systems gone wild. House Appropriations Committee, “Summary: American Recovery and Reinvestment,” http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/ PressSummary01-15-09.pdf 2 Kazys Varnelis, ed. The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles (Barcelona: ACTAR, 2008). 3 William B. Fulton, The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in LA (Point Arena, CA: Solano Press Books, 1997). 1
Douglas McGray, “iGov. How Geeks Are Opening Up Government On the Web,” The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2009, http://www.theatlantic.com/ doc/200901/technologygovernment 4
DO YOU BELIEVE BABE? A TERRIBL TODAY. A TERRIB PARADE. BURNIN JESUS COMIN.’ JE PAVE THE WAY.
IN RAPTURE LE HIT STRIKES BLE HIT FOR THE N’ EYES SEEK JESUS COMES TO
Maps Erin Aigner Interview
THIS IS WHERE THIS HAPPENED
by Gavin Browning
When a crisis occurs, New York Times Graphics Editor Erin Aigner makes maps. As she describes, data mining is equally important as graphic design when conveying information to the newsreading public. 104
Gavin Browning How do maps function during a crisis? Erin Aigner One thing that maps can do is give information in a more succinct way, or in a way that shows multiple types of information all in one spot. So you might be able to show reference or background information, whether that be the existing population in a place, or the infrastructures that are being affected there. It’s great to be able to see something—to have a visual. Especially because, I think, crisis [response] people want information as quickly as possible, and a visual is a good way of doing this, as opposed to reading or hearing. GB How do you see your role as someone involved with maps in the event of a crisis? EA Being in the news, and I think this is the case with anyone dealing with crises, you’re trying to give good and effective information, but give it quickly. So in some ways what I do is an iterative
process, where I’m trying to get the basics out there as quickly as possible, and being a person who creates maps, I continue creating maps that potentially give more in-depth information as I’m able to research it and produce it. So in the beginning it might be something as simple as “this is where this happened,” and then I go back and continue to work more in-depth, and that even continues over a number of days. With both the earthquake in Sichuan and the cyclone that hit Myanmar, we continued to apprise people of the situation—what was happening in terms of aid, in terms of relief, in terms of people evacuated, in terms of people found. GB How long do you continue to make maps after a crisis occurs? EA In the cases of Myanmar and Sichuan, I made maps everyday for several days, probably three, four, five days after the event, showing more information. GB So as long as it’s in the news, you’re making maps? Question, with pause and all. EA Yes, as long as we can get new information, and as long as there’s something new to display. That’s one of the things that we would be working on during those days—working with a government agency or a relief agency or the UN to get new information. Sometimes called new news.
GB Oftentimes the way an event is reported can affect its outcome, especially with a public relations crisis where people are monitoring their media presence and act with that in mind. Have maps ever affected the outcome of an event?
EA I’m sure they have, although I’m not necessarily certain of anything that we’ve done here at the Times. I think sometimes they can provide
information about how things can be either done in the… future. Once a crisis has happened, how do you rebuild? For instance, remapping a flood plain. If you saw, okay, here’s where Hurricane Katrina flooded, maybe there could be either some new regulations or policies developed. But being in the media, our aim is to report the situation as quickly as possible. And if those maps in turn later affect policy, that’s great.
Photography by Jesse Seegers
Visual Essay by Nohawk
R — N
HASTA LA VISTA, BABY
HASTA LA VISTA, BABY
Diller Scofidio + Renfro is an architecture firm in NYC.
[Vol. 20] is the result of the appropriation
of the original publication, Crisis, by the students of AG410 Publication Design at the California Institute of the Arts. Professor: Dylan Fracareta Graphic Design: Scott Massey © California Institute of the Arts, 2011. All rights reserved. The original colophon has been left intact. This issue of Urban China has been bootlegged by C-Lab for Volume Editor: Jeffrey Inaba Managing Editor: Gavin Browning Editorial Consultant: Benedict Clouette
Graphic Design Glen Cummings & Dylan Fracareta
Urban China Editors Jiang Jun & Zhu Fei
Volume: An Indie quarterly for architecture to go beyond itself Editor in Chief: Arjen Oosterman Founding Editors: Ole Bouman, Rem Koolhaas, Mark Wigley Volume is a project by ARCHIS + AMO + C-Lab + Urban China Archis Lilet Breddels, Joos van den Dool, Amir Djajali, Christian Ernsten, Edwin Gardner, Maria João Ribeiro AMO Reinier de Graaf C-Lab Jeffrey Inaba, Benedict Clouette, Dana Karwas, Arielle Assouline-Lichten, Shumi Bose, Greg Bugel, Cody Campanie, Wayne Conger, Dana Karwas, Zach Heineman, Winnie Lam, April Lee, Kate Meagher, Talene Montgomery, Annabelle Pang, Jesse Seegers, Liz Stetson and Troy Therrien AMO is a research and design studio that applies architectural thinking to disciplines beyond the borders of architecture and urbanism. AMO operates in tandem with its companion company the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. www.oma.nl ARCHIS is a magazine for architecture, the city and visual culture and its predecessors since 1929. Archis—publishers, tools, interventionsis an experi-
mental think tank devoted to the process of real-time spatial and cultural reflexivity. archis.org C-Lab, The Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting, is an experimental research unit devoted to the development of new forms of communication in architecture, set up as a semiautonomous think and action tank at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation of Columbia University. arch.columbia.edu Urban China is a multidimensional text combining profound issues and simple narration, formal official discourse and vivid folk interpretation. It currently has studios in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzho. urbanchina.com.cn/ Printed by EAP, Seoul, Korea. Administrative Coordination: Jessica Braun Editorial Office: Studio-X 180 Varick Street, Suite 1610 New York, New York 10014 c-lab.columbia.edu/ Volume has been made possible with the support of Mondrian Foundation Amsterdam Contributors: Lucia Allais is a Behrman-Cotsen Fellow at the Princeton University Society of Fellows. Erin Aigner is a Graphics Editor at the New York Times. Shigeru Ban is an architect in Tokyo. Cory Booker is the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Gavin Browning is the Programming Coordinator of Studio-X at Columbia University GSAPP.
Keller Easterling is an architect and writer from New York City. Omar Freilla is the founder of Green Workers Cooperative in the South Bronx. David Gissen is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Visual Studies at California College of the Arts. Steven Hart is the author of The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway. Laura Hanna is a filmmaker and co-founder of Hidden Driver.
James McConnell is the Director of Geographic Info Systems at the New York City Office of Emergency Management. John McMorrough is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Ohio State University. Leah Meisterlin is an M.Arch. candidate at Columbia University GSAPP. Ginger Nolan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Architecture History at Columbia University. Jorge Otero-Pailos is an Assistant Prof. of Historic Preservation at Columbia University GSAPP.
Manuel Herz is an architect based in Cologne and Basel.
Martha Rosler is a visual artist and the author of numerous books.
Ina Howard-Parker is the founder of Represent Agency.
Ben Rubin is a media artist based in New York City.
Jeffrey Inaba is the Director of C-Lab at Columbia University GSAPP.
Rachel Schreiber is the Director of Humanities and Sciences at California College of the Arts.
Janette Kim is the Director of the Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia University GSAPP.
SLAB is a Brooklyn-based architecture firm run by Jeffrey Johnson and Jill Leckner
Stephen Graham is Professor of Human Geography at Durham University.
Su Yunsheng is the redactor-inchief of Urban China.
Joseph Grima is the Director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Mark Hansen is an Associate Professor of Statistics at UCLA. Christopher Hawthorne is the Architecture Critic at the LA Times. Todd Hido is a photographer of landscapes and people. Hsieh Ying-chun is an architect in Taiwan. Huang Weiwen is the Director of the Shenzhen Planning Bureau. Sam Jacobs is a founding director of FAT. Jiang Jun is the editor of Urban China. Jeffrey Johnson is the Director of China Lab at Columbia University GSAPP.
Erik Carver is an architect in New York.
Laura Kurgan is the Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University GSAPP.
Jean Choi is pursuing an M.Arch at Princeton University.
Liu Jiakun is the chief architect of Jiakun Architects Studio.
Aaron Davis is an M.Arch. candidate at Columbia University GSAPP.
Geoff Manaugh is the writer of BLDGBLOG.
Kazys Varnelis is the Director of the Network Architecture Lab at Columbia University GSAPP. Eyal Weizman is the Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College. Mark Wigley is the Dean of Columbia University GSAPP. Oleg Yavorsky is the Director of PR for GCS Game World. Haifa Zangana is the author of City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman’s Account of War & Resistance. Jason Zuzga is a poet and the Non Fiction Editor of Fence. Crisis Devices Research and design by Egbert Chu, Jessica Dobkin, Aimee Duquette, Allan Horton, Jeffrey Johnson, Taka Sarui, Magda Wala Tripping the Light Fantastic Research and graphics by Greg Bugel, Benedict Clouette, Zach Heineman, April Lee, Troy Therrien and LabRAD (Wayne Congar and Arielle Assouline-Lichten). Unfriendly Skies Research and graphics by Kate Meagher
THIS WILL BE THE LONGEST AND HARDEST FIGHT OF YOUR LIFE. NO ONE IS GOING TO MAKE IT EASY AND I SURE AS HELL WON’T. IF YOU WANT ALL THE INFO, IT WILL COST YOU TIME, MONEY & ENERGY. IT’S ALL THERE FOR YOU TO FIND, SIMPLY FOLD THE PAGES BACK & FORTH, BUT BE WARNED THAT THE PAGES WILL EVENTUALLY RIP. Animals Animals in inCities Cities Research and graphics by Shumi Bose, Talene Montgomery and Kate Meagher Shopping for for Go GoBags Bags Research Research andand graphics graphics by by Talene Talene Montgomery Montgomery Inauguration Inauguration Photographs Photographs by Jesse Seegers by Jesse Seegers
C-Lab C-Lab would wouldlike liketo toacknowlacknowledge the following for their kind support: Mark Wigley, David Hinkle, Danielle Smoller and Janet Reyes, Office of the Dean, Columbia University GSAPP;
Devon Ercolano Provan, Julia Fishkin, Esther Turay and Melissa Cowley Wolf, Office of Alumni and Development, Columbia University GSAPP;
Ben Prosky, Director of Events and Public Programs, Columbia University GSAPP; Jiang Jun & andZhu ZhuFei, Fei,from Urban China; Urban China;
Richard Flood, Karen Wong and Benjamin Godsill, The |New Museum;
118 118|1 32
Kate Meagher and Talene Montgomery for advertising sales;
Alison Laichter for assistance in Newark; Shumi Bose and William Brian Smith for copyediting assistance; and Jin Jung for printing coordination.& lulu. coordination
Disclaimer Disclaimer The editors have been careful to contact all copyright holders of the images used. If you claim ownership of any of the images presented here and have not been properly identified, please contact C-Lab and we will be happy to make a formal acknowledgement in a future issue.
© copyright Columbia University, 2009. All rights reserved.