Archive | April, 2012

Fun as a path to sustainability?

30 Apr

Tina Roth Eisenberg over at her swissmiss blog introduced the project walk [your city] a few days ago. Matt Tomasulo and the design company cityfabric started this up, in line with their focus to engage people with their urban spaces through simple (yay, simple!) tactics. Described as a public arts project the aim is to get people walking. Um, walking? That rings a bell for anyone in the food-(related-)business used to hearing all about health, weight gain and obesity development in society.

Any sign for your city – which you can make using their online free application – will indicate the distance in minutes, use a colour code to differentiate the types of destinations and sport a qr-code for smartphoners linking to a ready route on a google map.

Thats sounds like a fun way to get people walking and reminds me of a related project to get people to use the stairs. To entice commuters off the escalators, the stairs at the Odenplan Metro station in Stockholm, Sweden, were wired for sound and decorated to look like a keyboard. Then a camera was set up to observe any behavioural changes. Most people prefferred to be musical… Do yourself a favour and watch the short clip here. In fact, the funtheory-website has more than 30 pages of suggestions for encouraging desirable behaviours, e.g.  making zebra crossings into bubble wrap paths, recycling batteries by using them as pinball-machine-money, bins exchanging doggy dos for doggy biscuits.


Luxury as a path to sustainability?

29 Apr

Contemporary artist Stephanie Senge, Munich, visits issues of consumerism, appreciation and affluence again and again in her work. In one project (Tüten-Demo für den Wohlstand) she used shopping bags as a communication medium for social taboos such as our prosperity. About 20 retail stores put their customers’ purchases in Senge’s special shoppers one summer’s day: Shoppers that sported messages designed to make passers-by and fellow-shoppers rethink consumerism and wealth.

In another series Senge uses ancient cultural techniques such as Japanese ikebana or Tibetan Buddhist mandalas to create consumer-ikebanas or consumer-mandalas, made with cheap everyday-items.

Luxury as a path to sustainability? Most of us do not think of luxury when we think of sufficiency, downshifting or voluntary simplicity. Yet Senge, Bazon Brock and Wolfgang Ullrich used specially made pure gold chopsticks to interpret environmental care. If chopstick users in Asia (or elsewhere) were given chopsticks of gold, forests would not need to suffer continued losses and these valuable items would be passed on down the generations. The trio thus created the Convent of the Ascetics of Luxury. Voluntary Simplicity does not need to mean Voluntary Poverty?

golden chop sticks

Berlin. Bureau for Working on Unsolvable Problems.

28 Apr

I had the honour of being invited to speak on Everyday Consumer Culture in Schools: Meal Systems a few days ago. The dialogue forum took place at The Bureau for Working on Unsolvable Problems, which opened in December 2011 in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood, just around the corner from the Prinzessinnengärten (Princesses Gardens), an urban agriculture setup. The Bureau is part of something I will translate as The Thinkery (in German: Die Denkerei), as in a place for thinking professionals to produce their thinking (you know, bakers produce their baked goods in a bakery, brewers produce their brews in a brewery).

Bazon Brock, emeritus Professor of Aesthetics and Cultural Education at the Bergische University in Wuppertal, Germany, together with a profundity of professors, i.a. Peter Sloterdijk, are collectively responsible. Lest you think it’s a dry-‘ol-stick-place of some dusty greybeards, here’s Brock’s idea: The Thinkery/Bureau is a place for public discussion of complex problems (e.g. the Euro-crisis, final disposal of nuclear waste, pretty much all of sustainability’s Big Questions) through dialogue with politics, business and civil society. Brock, somewhere described as the enfant terrible of the German art scene, puts forward that what people will have in common in the future is not some illusion of a cultural identity but rather the confrontation with unsolvable problems. So if you ever despair at the problems in this world, now you know where to go.

Cook with gay abandon

26 Apr

from a random chain mail

Songs for Sustainability 2

24 Apr

“Die Zeit läuft mir davon
zu warten wäre eine Schande
für die ganze Weltbevölkerung.
Ich muss jetzt los
sonst gibt’s die große Katastrophe.
Merkst du nicht das wir in Not sind?

Ich muss jetzt echt die Welt retten
[…] Danach flieg ich zu dir
Noch 148.713 Mails checken”

Excerpt from the lyrics of Nur noch kurz die Welt retten as sung by Tim Bendzko. A loose English translation could be

“The clock is ticking,
for me to wait would be scandalous
for the whole population of the world.
I have to go now,
otherwise there’ll be a big catastrophe.
Don’t you see that we are in dire straits?

Now I really have to save the world
[…] after that I’ll fly to you
Still have 148,713 emails to check”

Protesting the loss of public fountains

23 Apr

Luzinterruptus describes itself as an anonymous artists group carrying out urban interventions in public spaces using light and dark. In Europe’s spring 2012 their Mutant Weeds installation did the rounds of various design, art and environmental sites. Since I’m running a course on water in the food system I was interested to discover their Agua que has de beber installation. luzinterruptus explains that more than half of the public drinking fountains in Madrid have been lost within 30 years so the thirsty have to buy bottled water or walk some kilometres (miles). Through the ephemeral guerilla light installation they reclaimed four unused fountains to make a statement about water as a necessity for life and the reactivation of fountains from their purely ornamental state.

Science gets cuddly

22 Apr

This knitting stuff is good for a yarn. There seems to be nothing that some creative out there has not knitted and much of it makes for wonderful teaching aids. You could spare live animals lined up for dissection in Biology 101 by using Emily Stoneking‘s models instead.

For Marine Biologists there’s individual creatures of the sea starting with plankton, especially the beautiful work done by artist Anita Bruce; moving along to nudibranchs – confetti for divers I say – as sewn by Brigette Zacharczenko, aka the Weird Bug Lady, whose flickr/deviantart set will have you swoon over huggable Daphnia, trilobytes,  weevils and silverfish, to name but a very few (the real Glaucus Atlanticus will have you believing in dragons),

moving on to squid, fish and to a whole coral reef. The HCCR or Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a project started by The Institute for Figuring (go figure) trying new ways to engage people with science and environmental issues. In this case the engagement is on the state of coral reefs and the plight of the seas.  It has satellite coral reefs in a number of Australian cities, in Cape Town, in Europe and in the USA. You might be forgiven for thinking that the H is for Hyper or Hyperbole with all this stunning creativity but the Hyperbolic comes from Mathematicians: Dr. Daina Taimina came up with the idea of crocheting hyperbolic planes; in nature these are found on the frills of nudibranchs (see a beautiful gallery at National Geographic here) to the growth patterns of a coral reef.

For the study of Human Biology there are plenty of organs, such as those found in the etsy shop of Sarah Louisa Burns,


and there’s even a Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art with a knitted brain by Karen Norberg – on the subject of brains: I came across this Brain Cap by Alana Noritake. I wonder if it could be used as a ruse during a zombie attack? While the zombie is eating the braaains (cap) you could make your getaway … –

then there are cells, genes, DNA and even molecules – something to please students of Biochemistry and Microbiology.

Knit_a_neuron Javelin's_etsy_shop

There are some knitted bacteria, but I much prefer these plushy diseases.

Bar a few cacti (and mushrooms) I could’nt find much for Botanists. There seems to be a preference for knitting a covering article for a plant. Though they do that for animals too.


Now knitted food, thats another thing altogether! You could fill whole shops and restaurants with the variety…