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Urban Interface Berlin (part 1)
Regine Debatty, 30 Apr 07

0urbancamiopji.jpgUrban Interface Berlin is THE event of the moment. I've been eagerly looking forward to enjoying it slowly on these sunny days. Both an exhibition and research project, it aims to explore the interspaces between public and private urban space. From what I've seen so far, the selection of projects does a fantastic job at showing how broad and multifaceted the theme can be. All the artworks are also very accessible. Although I'm not crazy for all of them (but I'm getting ridiculously picky), I think that anyone --passerby, activist or new media art lover-- can engage with them and go back home with some elements to reflect upon. UIB lasts several weeks. Alas! I am spending most of that time out of Berlin.

I managed to attend the opening but ended up talking with people and didn't see any of the pieces (except briefly and from afar). That's why I never go to openings. The day after I was off to that Milan design porn event. Today -- hurray! -- I spent the afternoon chasing the UIB installations throughout the city. Tomorrow and next week I'm out of town again but I'll spend Saturday checking out the other installations.

First stop: Ackerstrasse for Niklas Goldbach's fake construction signs.

Installed on two abandoned pieces of lands, the signs proudly notify passersby that some classy condominiums are going to be built on the land -- one with office spaces "right on the pulse of the city," the other being targeted at well-off families. All amenities will be provided to ensure that buyers can enjoy a “safe” and comfortable life: shopping malls, a doorman, private parks, Starbuck cafe and Haagen Dazs ice cream parlor on the street level, etc.

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The images of the "future buildings" are in fact caricatures of existing buildings and city quarters. They are developed by the private sector and are increasingly shaping the cityscape of Berlin.

The headquarters of UIB are on Torstrasse, at the Sparwasser HQ gallery. That's where you can get to see and borrow for a few days The Head. The wearable sculpture, created by Finnish artist Laura Beloff, contains an “eye” which is a camera connected to a mobile phone which is in turn connected to the internet. Images and sounds are automatically recorded as soon as you send an SMS to The Head's phone (just text 0170 5544514). The recorded files will then be relayed to you via MMS. The public can access all the images generated online.

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The Head has the mission to document public and private spaces throughout the event. However the wearer has no control on this access to her/his life from outside. As you can see on the images, The Head has partially melted. Made of plastic it didn't quite agree with the sunny weather Berlin is currently enjoying for a couple of months.

The image on the top of this post shows Daniel Jolliffe's Berliner Stimmen project. A yellow sculpture with a big red loudspeaker is mounted behind a bicycle. Three times a week, Jolliffe is cycling through the borough of Mitte, Wedding and Gesundbrunnen, broadcasting previously recorded one-minute calls (digit 0800-7447000, leaving a message is free if you have a German phone number). The past realizations of the project under the name of One Free Minute in San José and Vancouver have shown that the callers use this public platform to utter private statements and stories as well as commercial announcements and political speeches. Listen to the recorded messages.

Images on flickr.

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In response to Sara Rich's article on the Bay Area freeway meltdown...We've been here before. In the 1989 earthquake, a section of the nearby 880 freeway as well as part of the Bay Bridge collapsed. That was profoundly disruptive, as there are no good alternatives to the Bay Bridge for crossing the bay. For a month, ferry service was expanded, and the BART (local commuter train) ridership was maxed out to capacity. There was much hopeful discussion at the time that those more sustainable habits would continue after the bridge was repaired.

Alas, that didn't happen. People went back to their cars, ferry service shrank, and it appeared that no long-term changes were effected. Even today, the second commuting day after the freeway "meltdown," BART ridership seemed back to normal, and traffic reports indicated that the freeways were packed. I think it will take a dramatic rise in gas prices (perhaps up to European levels of 6-7 dollars per gallon) before any real change happens. Meanwhile, I'll continue to commute by bike and BART as much as possible, and work for (and dream of) European-quality bike paths and public transit.

Posted by: Teri Hudson on 1 May 07

hi there,

i've been attending the urban interface exhibition as part of the mitting event.
i've really enjoyed the event and want you to check out an event taking place in london on may 18th - 6pm

Event Info
24 Weeks Launch!
Launch Party to celebrate day 1 of
24 Weeks
Time and PlaceDate:
Friday, May 18, 2007
6:00pm - 11:00pm
Rich Mix
35-47 Bethnal Green Road

Posted by: bruder on 10 May 07



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