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Urban Interventions

Give me some polygons, nature and light: you will immediately catch my attention. I recently bumped into two different works which I would like to spend some words on.

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Image taken from javierriera.es

The first one is the the project of a spanish artist, Javier Riera, who created spectacular perspectives projecting geometrical shapes on a natural landscape. The result is a suggestive painting, where light adds depth and volume to the natural canvas and geometry gives abstraction to the view. As the artist said in an interview, “geometry has the quality of representing the driving forces of nature that are not visible, the immaterial design of things, the origin of energy and matter”. The projection of scattered geometrical shapes into such context makes me feel out of place and wonder wether the view is real or not.

Cambodian Trees, by french artist Clement Briend, is the second project that drew my curiosity. The work is based on the digital projection of images from cambodian spirits and deities on big trees in different urban areas of Phnom Phen. The projections want to be a visual representation of the divine spirits that live in our world. They have a powerful impact that creates a sort of spiritual aura in the urban environment.

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Image taken from thisiscolossal.com

In both cases the projections create an effect which is halfway between sculpture and installation, and light, together with the natural element, gives the pictures an unusual depth, and a mesmerising effect to our minds.

Some time ago I wrote a post describing an interesting and crazy documentary about the unconscious art of graffiti removal. Recently WAV (We Are Visual), urban activists and artists from Germany, made up a project which reminded me about this documentary. During a trip to Russia they documented all the buffed walls they found on the streets of St. Petersburg, creating this way a sort of alphabet or, as they said, an ABC of the city, their own way of reading the urban context. The common act of covering tag or graffiti can be charged with different meaning:  it can be read as an unconscious form of abstractionism or, as in this case, as a visual contemporary spelling-book.

Also, sometimes it is possible to play with these sad stains of colourless paint. The artist Mobrst for instance uses buffs as a base for his own pieces. He deliberately has fun of this practice by writing ironic and sarcastic short sentences on buffed walls. In his piece Playing with the buff man he tried to find an acceptable shade of grey, creating a “dialog” between himself and the buff man who, unconscious of the game, had to paint over the stencils, againg and again. Mobstr is putting an issue, like if he was challenging the municipality to a duel. In another of his pieces he also thanks the city council for their “obiedient collaboration”.

Images taken from mobstr.org

Both artists are taking advantage of elements already present in the city frame, focusing attention on it in different way and, like in Mobstr’s case, underlining the absurd behave of a city who blindly act against any form of urban intervention without even looking at it.

What would McGyver do with tape? Probably he would save the world from a disaster. Instead, New York based artist Aakash Nihalani makes it his paintbrush to draw on the street. Using tape he builds geometric shapes, mainly isometric rectangles and squares, in order to show us the hidden geometry of the city, and of course to give it a touch of color and surprise.
His illusionistic, fluorescent drawings pop up from walls, sidewalks and windows, crawling upon the city’s structures and shapes, playing with any scenario which got chosen.

The great interaction between tape and its framework doesn’t end up within the city corners, involving people as well in the role of actors and part of the whole composition. Finding one of these installations is a face to face with the hacked side of the city, the one where street artists play and urban actors, like Aakash Nihalani, show us their truth, and that is probably why he points out that “people need to understand that how it is isn’t how it has to be”. He explains his work in this video, have a look!

Images taken from www.aakashnihalani.com

Two weeks ago, we took part to a workshop leaded by Jan Vormann, artist and creator of Dispatchwork, a nice, colored urban “hacking” practice which consists in filling holes in stone or brick-made wall with hundreds of lego bricks. It was a nice afternoon and we had the chance to talk a bit with the artist about this practice. He came to know very well the pieces he handles and can easily fix whatever kind of hole he finds with a fine, superior technique. It is interesting to notice (or maybe to remember) how much craftsmanship these small bricks need to be wisely combined, but it is even more to learn how to interface them with reality.

Building worlds made entirely out of lego is a reminiscence of our childhood but using them to “fix” wall in a urban hacking practice sounds kind of more grown-up game, maybe closer to contemporary street art practices, but in a reversible way, since legos can in any moment be removed, dismantled and turn back to their original shape. That is why we believe it is an of course more ephemeral, but also somehow less arrogant technique, to color and play with the city.

Photos by The G. Canyon in a Crack

We thank Jan Vormann for the time he spent sharing with us his art and his technique.

It is always nice to discover an original guerrilla gardening project: Head Gardner, created by  Anna Garfort, turns milk plastic bottles into funny colored faces and re-uses them as boxes for plants. The bottles are then hanged up on street lamps or road signs. We believe it is a cool, alternative way to bring some green in our cities.

The artist uses to work with natural material, such as tree leaves or moss, and she integrates her art passion with urban ecology and sustainability, creating green ephemeral installations mostly in public spaces. As an example, we can mention the projects Change and Rethink, in which she sends messages writing on railings with thorns and fallen leaves. She makes our streets speak through natural and living elements: this is what we call a nice, accessible way to make art.

Images taken from www.crosshatchling.co.uk/

Everyone can be an artist and every location an atelier: this is the project of Windowzoo, a new typology of urban landscape intervention. Till Bay, a software architect from Zurich, found in the stickers his art and in the glass his medium: his work consists in leaving animal-shaped stickers upon the windows of the cities. Thanks to him, we can see birds, bears or sharks on the glass of a bus stop, on a bar’s window, in a museum, at the stadium, at the aquarium and even  at the top of Milan’s cathedral dome.

The peculiarity of these stickers is their interaction in different scales with the landscape beyond the glass, so, if watched from a certain perspective, we can see, for example, a flamingo balancing on a fence, or some sea horses swimming among skyscrapers. The photographic medium is of course very important in traslating these small installations in the way the artist planned to do. Also, the context becomes indispensable for the work of art itself.

In these years Windowzoo became a community art project, everyone can download a little photo-manual to create other new birds and set them free in many other countries. So far, the project involved 603 cities all around the world and all the actions are connected thanks to the web.

Hitchcock was right, the Birds started their migration.

Images taken from http://www.flickr.com/groups/windowzoo/pool/