Tag Archives: memory

all this useless beauty

Sketch (leaves) 2005, blown glass, 15 x 23 cmcali balles, photo

i came across this paper* while researching for my project and prepping for the last lecture of the year before presentations, and it really highlights some of the ideas i’ve spoken about previously as well as given articulate phrasing to some really interesting connections in the relationship between craft, design and digital technology. craft and design have had a schism since the industrial revolution, when, for all intents and purposes, design was born. greg calls design ‘creation for reproduction’ – making with the direct intention of replicating, and thus requiring systems and standards to ensure exactness throughout that reproductive process. and most digital technology reflects this, presenting us with clean and simple efficiencies of form but very little humanity. i think that craft, however, embodies a bit more of our humanity as the unique experience of making by hand can’t be replicated and our tools and processes do not become extensions of ourselves, but rather interfaces in an empathetic relationship with the materials, the ideas, the user and ourselves. and beauty.

jayne wallace and mike press (the latter of whom is speaking this week in halifax at nscad university’s neocraft conference- i SO WISH i was there) express their thoughts on the role of beauty in craft, it’s approximation in design and it’s role in creating better digital technologies.

1st part of the excerpts below (2nd to follow shortly)

Beauty, we argue, plays a vital role in humanising technology and ensuring its cultural relevance… Industrial design can
employ the illusion of beauty to temper the beast of technology by providing a veneer of desire, seduction and usability. But let us not confuse eternal beauty with the passionate but fast fading blooms of desire. We enjoy the delights of the G4 Powerbook as much as the next fashion-conscious academic, but only as a well designed one night stand at the orgiastic party of our consumer culture.

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value of nature

niagara-escarpment_jpg.jpg

from henri lefebvre, the production of space, 1974; 1991

[...] natural space is disappearing. granted, natural space was – and it remains – the common point of departure: the origin, and original model, of the social process. granted, too, that natural space has not vanished purely and simply from the scene. it is still in the background of the picture; as decor, and as more than decor, it persists everywhere, and every natural detail, every natural object is valued even more as it takes on symbolic weight (the most insignificant animal, trees, grass and so on).

as source and resource, nature obsesses us, as do childhood and spontaneity, via the filter of memory. everyone wants to protect and save nature; nobody wants to stand in the way of attempting to retrieve its authenticity. yet at the same time everyone conspires to harm it. the fact is that natural space will soon be lost to view. anyone so inclined may look over their shoulder and see it sinking below the horizon behind us. nature is also becoming lost to thought. [...] even the powerful myth of nature is being transformed into a mere fiction, a negative utopia: nature is now seen as merely the raw material out of which the productive forces of a variety of social systems have forged their particular spaces.

i was lucky enough to grow up in the niagara peninsula (well, really an isthmus), a fertile microclimate in southern ontario famous for tender fruit, vineyards and the rusting remains of a once-thriving auto industry. historically inhabited by first nations and then settled by the united empire loyalists and the site of the war of 1812, the niagara region birthed 4 incarnations of the welland canal, is one of only two regions in canada that can produce grapes and peaches, and the home of the spectacular niagara falls. it has always been valuable for it’s natural resources and political geography, .

why lucky?

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arts & crafts revisited

williammorris-goldenlilyminor.jpg

***update below***

a few weeks ago i gave a talk on the arts & crafts movement that emerged during the latter part of victorian britain, from roughly 1860 to 1900, and i was taken with the similarities between now and then, in relation to the changes and/or transformation our culture has undergone over the past twenty years or so; and i think i’m still in teacher-mode, so this is a bit of a long post. while the circumstances and contexts are very different, there are arguable parallels in the nature of how people responded. lately i find myself more and more fascinated by the past incidents of massive change, thinking about what insights into the future can be gained by looking back.

bit of history…. originating a few centuries prior with the printing press, the industrial revolution took hold in the early 1800’s with the advent of mechanized innovations in the textile industry, and the mechanization of labour quickly spread to other industries and spurred the production of goods towards extraordinary volumes, creating a greater need for regulated tradeways (rail, road, canal, etc) and urban development. mass production of goods was rampant, newly established factories hired workforces in the thousands, and a new middle class of entrepreneurs and nouveau riche emerged.

by mid-century, the industrial revolution was reaching the crest of its first wave, transforming every aspect of british culture while it gained strength as a global empire. it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.

more after the jump…

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the re-emergence of the guild, pt one

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over the past while i’ve been brushing up on my history of craft for a course i’m teaching in september, and i keep coming back to an idea that first emerged back in the winter. i’m glad it wasn’t lost, and regret that it’s only now i’m getting to it ‘cos i think it might be neat. i’d love to know what you think.

a broad swath of the tech-and-media-enabled communities that we see and participate in today demonstrate patterns that relate quite strongly to various guild systems of the past, collecting, controlling and propagating both codified and experiential knowledge to direct members and indirect affiliates.

more after the jump…

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Open Cities Registration Begins!

super exciting day! open cities registration begins!!

Open Cities came out of observations and conversations about issues that affect many of us, slowly growing into a desire to think about the kinds of questions and possibilities around what ‘open’ means and what it enables. A big kudos to Mark Kuznicki, who first looped me into the conversation. The passionate people/participants/citizens organizing Open Cities hope to facilitate

a weekend-long web of conversation and celebration that asks: how do we collaboratively add more open to the urban landscape we share? What happens when people working on open source, public space, open content, mash up art, and open business work together? How do we make Toronto a magnet for people playing with the open meme?”

Open Cities is premised around an unconference format – participant driven with sessions unscheduled til the day of. Open Cities aspires to be the first of many, locally and internationally. If you are interested in participating, the only caveat is that both feet must be in the conversation. As well, we expect spaces to fill up rather quickly so please go and sign up asap! And huge thanks to the Centre for Social Innovation and Fort York for their generous sponsorship! And some amazing preliminary press from BoingBoing (thx cory!) and BlogTO

Pass it along. Post it! Ping it! Pay it forward!

  • 23 June 9am-6pm: Open Cities unconference, Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina
  • 23 June 6pm-9pm: Open Cities BBQ, Fort York
  • 24 June 12pm-7pm: PS Kensington/Open Cities Collaboration, Kensington Mkt

ps- i didn’t think i’d make it to Open Cities due to a scheduling conflict, but things have cleared up. :)

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food, part one

i love food. on an almost obsessive level. it is one of my absolute favorite things in the world – cooking and eating will always bring cheer regardless of how things have been. it resonates with a deep part of my being in a way that i have a hard time articulating in words. i’m always looking for new ingredients and spices and recipes and methods and tools. and i’ll be sharing my love of food over the summer – tis the season to cook and rejoice! hope you enjoy!

last week i went for dinner with a few girlfriends to celebrate an approaching wedding (not mine!), a sort of pre-marital last huzzah while we’re all still in toronto. we ended up at a magical little place off of college st called olivia’s at 53, well on it’s way in becoming my favourite gem. owned by husband and wife, olivia’s is charming with a sort of honesty to it that you don’t often see – especially on the college strip. it’s in an old vic, restored and intimate, maybe 7 or 8 tables in the main dining room and a few more on both the front and back terrace, and a hidden room downstairs – with stone walls and the barrels aging their in house reds and whites. yes – they are a microwinery – and while i can’t comment on the quality, i’m rather hopeful. we nibbled on forest mushroom crostini and gnocchi with gorgonzola and asparagus, which were extremely tasty, but the highlight was the jazz trio crammed into the small space before the bar – piano, double bass and drums. they were extraordinary, tight, lyrical and spazzy, passion sparking off every note and made all the more rich by the close space. (they play every thursday, and on wednesday’s there’s a cuban jazz band – and no cover :) this is a place that you go with those you love – friends, lovers, siblings, husbands or wives, a place to think about histories past and future… a place to collect moments.

eventually we got around to talking about food and cooking – two of my *favourite* subjects. yes, i love food. and i love cooking for other people – a way of telling them how much i love them. a few years ago i threw a big dinner party for my friends instead of giving gifts – there’s something really sweet in cooking for others and creating an experience that they’ll enjoy and remember. some of it was successful (the paella was killer!) and some of it not (the gnocchi that fused itself into one giant 15lb noodle), but the point, for me at least, was to have a great time and taste amazing things. to create a space or a platform for memories and stories…

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interlude – canal du midi and languedoc

a few nights ago over dinner we had a wine from languedoc, an area in the south of france alongside the pyrenees. this brought back some pretty strong memories of an autumn cycling trip i took a few years back – how beautiful the countryside and the people were, and what a serene experience it was to have nothing but your bike and a map. a bit of a change of pace (especially given the prior rant), but what i hope to be a sweet and recurring interlude…

canal du midi, languedoc

autumn 2004, canal du midi, languedoc. from my journal…
The ride was incredibly wonderful, this region is beautiful. The first 45k were along the Canal du Midi, built in 1681 in order to link the Atlantic to the Med (240k). The canal still functions, though not for trade; there are over 300 bridges and 90 ├ęcluses (locks), little stations and villages at each ├ęcluse. The cycle path, well-maintained and semi-paved (no cars!), that hugs the canal in the fairly flat section I travelled. A double row of huge maple trees lined the canal the whole way, sheltering you in a gorgeous and secluded green nest. Animal count: herons, ducks, and a turtle. I ate my lunch, which included some cured Basque sausage and cheese and figs from the area, on the banks – completely in awe of the beauty of this country. I forgot how quiet and peaceful it is to ride like this, after a week of cities and people and trains.

Eventually the bikepath finished and I moved onto the road, although it was smooth sailing and little traffic. The landscape is something else… I rode in a rolling valley, with huge foothills rising up on either side of me, blue and smudgy with rain. This is Pays de Cathar, and their ruins are everywhere- churches, castles, houses, windmills, all made with gold stone that jumps out of the landscape in overcast light.

Languedoc translates into “Language of Oc”, from the Occitans, a culture whose roots reach back to the Romans. A woman I met in Toulouse whose family had been in the region for generation upon generation shared a little history over a pain au chocolat and espresso before I headed south. France is a country full of wonderful storytellers. (And a bit more history of the region here.)

About 25k outside of Carcassonne the Armagnac vineyards appeared, giving off a redolent, musty smell. I had a bite to eat in a little farmer’s lane between a vineyard and a small patch of tiny sunflowers, probably seasonal seconds which won’t make it past another month. I arrived in Carcassonne with about an hour of sunlight left, tired and stinky and good. It was my longest ride since I’ve been here- 120k! – though when I arrived I was not exhausted… satiated and at peace.

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