Public furniture by guerrilla activists

A group of guerrilla activists hit the streets Paris as darkness descends on the city, but no to riot, protest or graffiti but to build and install community infrastructure from the discarded roadside scraps found in the French capital.

Chapitre Zero is a upcycling project led by Duccio Maria Gambi and Mattia Paco Rizzi, furniture designers with a higher purpose in mind for the urban refuse they find, but with no license from the city to install their de facto illegal creations. The evolving  team of nocturnal participants uses leftover palettes, old doors and other pieces of wood to shape seats and tables which they deploy into carefully-chosen spaces, leaving local residents to wake up surrounded by useful surprises. Their process has evolved over time, from prefabricating their pieces to working onsite with portable power tools to build with whatever waste is at hand, bending, fastening, screwing and nailing as they go. This trash-taking approach naturally requires a degree of planning and preparedness but also a sense of the impromptu – much like other forms of ad hoc guerrilla street art. The community has responded warmly to this activity, throwing impromptu picnics, meetings and birthday parties in these unexpected new spaces.


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Land art rocking a pasture

Round here we feel the first breaths of spring, with tiny fresh green leaves blooming on trees and first flowers of spring sprouting around. And soon enough there will come the time for green, green grass… And for all these reasons – it’s time to go back to land art.

Maya Lin is an American  designer and artist who is known for her work in landscape art. One of her widely known (in the world of those interested in “earth art” which comes as another term for this kind of artistic activity) is a massive “Eleven Minute Line”. This squiggly line is 1600 feet long and 12 feet high. And here’s the awesome part: it’s located in a cow pasture in Sweden. The artists was inspired to do this work by the Serpent Mound (c. 1070 AD) which is located in Adams County, Ohio. The Serpent Mound is the largest effigy structure in the United States, and it is thought to have been built by the the Fort Ancient people. (It was originally thought that the structure was built in prehistoric times, but carbon dating of the mound revealed a much later date.) 

The artist is from Ohio, and she has always been struck with the story of the Serpent Mound. When Europeans came to America and discovered the Serpent Mound, they concluded that an earlier group of Europeans must have made the structure and then traveled back to the Old World. Basically, these European explorers could not conceive that Native Americans could have built something so complex and monumental. Lin decided add a subtle element of irony with Eleven Minute Line by turning the tables a bit: she brought a design that was inspired from the New World back to the Old World (i.e. Sweden).

lin_maya lin_maya1

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Zig-zaging city streets

A duo of Swiss artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann, who work together as Lang-Baumann bring unexpected visuals to public spaces. One of their trademark projects are bright painted zig-zag patterns that contrasts with the urban surroundings. The artists have already prepared seven installations of this kind, each in different city. Sometimes the stripes bring some life into muted, understated areas, as in case of the current installation in Rennes, France which will be visible in the heart of town until May 25, 2014, so you can still catch it, or rather – walk it – if you are in the area. The installation was applied directly to the asphalt using road marking paint, introducing a new sense of vibrancy and modernity to this historic city block. The painting obliterates expectations for the type of public art that’s acceptable for this kind of setting.

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But in the previous works street paintings have graced smaller, even quainter communities like the picturesque Vercorin, Switzerland, as well as major cities like Moscow.

Vercorin, Switzerland

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Paris, Place Martin Nadaud

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Pedestrian’ and ciclysts’ path, Ulmbergtunnel, Zürich, Switrzerland

2012-05_StreetPainting3_08NM 2012-05_StreetPainting3_03NMStrelka Institute of Media, Design and Architecture, Moscow, Russia

Geometric-Street-Paintings-France-5 2011-08_StreetPainting6_2NM

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The Wall Poems 3

This cycle was a bit lost lately (as I was lost for the blog, for which I apologise…) and it’s high time to go back to Leiden, The Netherlands to visit the world of poetry which is present on every street corner, thanks to the project “The Wall Poems“. When it’s possible I will try to provide the translation of poems, which as always come from different cultures and languages.

Jabra Ibrahin Jabra – a Palestinian poet600px-Muurgedicht_Jabra_Ibrahim_Jabra,-Als_een_poolwinter...,Berlagestraat_13a,Leiden Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Palestine

e.e. cummings – USA, “The hours rise”

the hours rise up putting off stars and it is
into the street of the sky light walks scattering poems

on earth a candle is
extinguished the city
with a song upon her
mouth having death in her eyes

and it is dawn
the world
goes forth to murder dreams….

i see in the street where strong
men are digging bread
and i see the brutal faces of
people contented hideous hopeless cruel happy

and it is day,

in the mirror
i see a frail
dreams in the mirror

and it
is dusk on earth

a candle is lighted
and it is dark.
the people are in their houses
the frail man is in his bed
the city

sleeps with death upon her mouth having a song in her eyes
the hours descend,
putting on stars….

in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems

e.e.cummings, USA

Alvaro de Campos – a Portuguese poet “At times I have…”

At times I have happy ideas,
Ideas suddenly happy, in among ideas
And the words in which they naturally shake free …

After writing, I read …
What made me write that?
Where have I been to find that?
Where did that come to me from? It is better than
me …
Shall we have been, in the world, at the most, pen
and ink
With which somebody writes properly what we here


Louis Oliver, USA


 Octavio Paz – Mexico, “Here”

My footsteps in this street
In another street
I hear my footsteps
Passing in this street
Nothing is real but the fog


 Tadeusz Różewicz, a Polish poet “I wrote”

I wrote
for a moment or an hour
an evening a night
I grew angry
I trembled or sat
silent at my side
my eyes full of tears
I’d been writing all that time
until I suddenly realised
I’d no pen in my hand


Sugawara no Michizane, Japan 

If the east wind blows this way,
Oh blossoms on the plum tree,
Send your fragrance to me!
Always be mindful of the Spring,
Even though your master is no longer there!


Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok, Russia “Night”

Night, street, lamp, and pharmacy,
A meaningless and misty light.
Live on a quarter century –
The same. There is no hope of flight.

You will die, rise from where you fell,
All be repeated, cold and damp:
The night, the wavering canal,
The pharmacy, the street, the lamp.


Osip Mandelstam, Russia “Leningrad”

I’m back in my town – excruciatingly familiar
as a child’s glands.

Hurriedly I gulp the river lights’ fishy grease
and recognize the yolk of a December day
spilling into an evil tar.

Petersburg, I don’t want to die!
I still have the phone numbers, the adresses
where I’ll find the voices of dead men.

I live just off the back stairs,
in my temple throbs a bell
yanked out with the meat.

All night I wait for the precious guests
shifting the shackles of door chains.

Osip Mandelstam, Russia

Wisława Szymborska, a Polish Nobel-award winner in poetry “In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself”

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.
Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they’re right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they’re light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.



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Falling Garden

This beautiful and peaceful installation was created by contemporary Swedish artists Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger for 50th Biennial of Venice in 2003. In their work the artists design site-specific installations that envelop the viewer—epically and exquisitely.

Falling Garden is a world in which botanical curios are suspended from the ceiling of a 17th-century church in Venice. It’s a botanic tableau in three dimensions, against a backdrop of richly decorated Italian marble. The piece immerses visitors in a magical reality of dreamy conceits—if a blossom had a mind, this is surely what it would look like. Falling Garden becomes the visitors’ collective dream of botanical liturgies and ecclesiastic whimsy.

Here is the description, quite a fairy-tale like one like the entire installation, of the project provided by the authors, also providing the explanation as to why it was in a church:

The Doge (duke Mocenigo) needed a church so as to be able to have a monumental tomb built for himself, the church (San Staë) needed a saint so as to be able to be built, the saint (San Eustachio) needed a miracle so as to be pronounced a saint, the miracle needed a stag in order to be seen, and we built the garden for the reindeer.
The visitors lie on the bed above the doge’s gravestone, and the garden thinks for them.

To further extend the installation’s dimensionality, consider the geographic distance it spans: Falling Garden is a collection of botanical tokens from many different places, including: plastic berries (India), cow pads (Jura), waste paper (Venice), baobab seeds (Australia), beech, elder and magnolia branches (Uster), thorns (Almeria), nylon blossoms (one-dollar-shop), pigs’ teeth (Indonesia), seaweed (Seoul), orange peel (Migros shop), fertilizer crystals (home grown), pigeons’ bones (San Staë), silk buds (Stockholm), cattail (Ettiswil), cats’ tails (China), celery roots (Montreal), virility rind (Caribbean), wild bore quills (zoo), banana leaves (Murten), rubber snakes (Cincinnati) and many more.


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Rubik’s cube in urban space

We probably all know the Rubik’s cube and I am constantly amazed at how people master the skill of solving this little puzzle in astonishing time. But this is probably the first and also biggest Rubik cube which become a part of a city landscape in the city of Linz, Austria.

For his thesis project in “Interface Culture” at the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, designer Javier Lloret converted the entire facade of the Ars Electronica building in Linz into an interactive Rubik’s Cube. The installation called Puzzle Facade essentially brings the experience of solving a Rubik’s cube to the urban space, inviting passers-by to engage with an interactive experience. The designer created a handheld device the mimics the function of the ubiquitous puzzle toy which then wirelessly communicates with a computer that controls the network of lights installed on the building.

The authors says:

In Puzzle Facade the player interacts with the specially designed interface-cube. The interface-cube holds electronic components to keep track of rotation and orientation.
This data is sent via Bluetooth to a computer that runs the Puzzle Facade designed software. This software changes the lights and color of the large-scale Ars Electronica’s media facade in correlation to the handheld interface-cube.

Puzzle Facade was part of the thesis of the designer at the Universität für Künstlerische und Industrielle Gestaltung Linz, Austria. Although Lloret was the primary designer for the project he relied on a huge team of people to realize the idea. You can learn much more here.

Due to the nature of this building and its surroundings, the player is only able to see two sides at the same time. This factor increases the difficulty of solving the puzzle, but as the player is able to rotate and flip the interface-cube, it is not a blocking factor.

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Muere el Dios del guitarra

This time the title will be in Spanish, despite the fact that some people would not understand it. It says: “The King of the guitar passes away”.

Because what I the whole world has learned with sadness today was that a Spanish guitarist who brought flamenco to a world audience, the legendary Paco de Lucia, has died today.

He was a master and a revolutionary in many ways. The mayor of his southern hometown of Algeciras, deep in flamenco country, said in a statement”Paco de Lucia’s death turns his genius into a legend. Although he has gone, his music, his wonderful way of playing and his character will always be with us.” The town even called three days of mourning and flew flags at half-mast for “the greatest guitarist of all time”.

But I guess the entire music world mourns for this humble gentleman.

Also, for the Spanish speakers, read this homage in El Pais.

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