Luminous Cities: Creative Explorations of Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

Edward Steichen, The Maypole, Empire State Building, New York City, 1932

Andreas Feininger, New York at Night, c. 1940

Eugene Atget (France), Coin de la Rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e Arrondissement, Matinee de Mars, 1925

Stephen Thompson, Grande Canale, Venice, c. 1868

Henry Hart (England), House of Parliament, London, c. 1847-1857

Luminous Cities: Creative Explorations of Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

Luminous Cities is a fascinating collection of photographs, which have been selected from a delightful exhibition of photographs of the built environment on display at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The world’s great cities have always been vibrant centers of creativity, in which the built environment is often as inspirational as the activities of its citizens, and since the nineteenth century photographers have creatively explored the idea of the city.

The exhibition enables the viewer to examine the various ways photographers have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern hubs and architectural utopias in the 19th and 20th centuries. Through the work of a range of photographers, Luminous Cities leads viewers on a fascinating journey around the world, into the streets, buildings and former lives of some of our greatest international cities.  The many fine photographs presented here, and in the remarkable slide show, include works by renowned photographers Eugene Atget, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, Bill Brandt, Lee Freidlander and Grant Mudford amongst many others.

Photography in the City: Contemporary Urban Atmospheres

Slide Show: Luminous Cities/Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

In each individual the spirit is made flesh,
in each one the whole of creation suffers,
in each one a Savior is crucified.

Hermann Hesse, Demian

Drift Away is a beautiful, but sadly melancholy 4-minute short film directed by Jean-Julien Pous and produced by Sophia Shek.  During the course of the film, a gracious and ethereal young woman slowly glides silently and all alone through the busily teeming streets of Hong Kong.  During the earliest part of the film, it’s somewhat difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in this little film, or even what the movie’s theme might be, except possibly a visual rendering of the emotional deadness of anomie and anhedonia in contemporary urban life.  The attractive young woman’s eyes acutely capture everything around her, but only the movie’s camera can catch her own eyes.  Sadly, it’s probably true that only when you’re really able to lose yourself in something or someone else, only then will you finally become capable of an emotional investment in yourself, another person and/or the world around you.  Lacking that, the despairing message for people left with a desolately barren life in the midst of the intensely seething modern world is something like: “Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me.”

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

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Beep-Beep, Toot-Toot: David Byrne Plays the Whole Building

David Byrne: Playing the Building

New Yorkers would be quite willing to pay good money to silence the daily Manhattan Symphony, which is a cacophony of sounds composed and performed by the din of garbage trucks, car speakers, bus brakes, warped manhole covers, knocking radiators, people yelping down from high windows and the racket of numerous blaring television sets.

But in a paint-peeling hangar, the old Great Hall of the 99-year-old Battery Park Maritime Building (a former ferry terminal) at the very foot of the Manhattan, David Byrne, the avant-garde artist and musician, is purposefully making such music, although many might not call it that.

David Byrne’s Playing the Building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure of The Maritime Building has been converted into a giant musical instrument.  Devices are attached to the building structure, to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes, and are used to make these things produce sounds.  Pressing the keys of a beat-up Weaver pump organ, its innards replaced with relays and wires and air hoses, activates three types of sounds: winds, vibrations and strikings.  The devices do not produce the sounds themselves, instead they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument: a gargantuan cast-iron orchestra.

Playing the Building: A Tour

Installing “Playing the Building” at The Battery Park Maritime Building

More here.

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Abused Chicago Riders Revolt Against Daley’s Decayed Subway System

After years of increasing abuse and neglect, Chicago subway riders finally got fed up, drew the line and revolted against Mayor Daley’s pathetic subway system. A jam-packed rush-hour subway train had been stopped underground in Chicago’s Loop for over an hour on Tuesday morning, held up by a broken-down train ahead. In the stifling, hot and stuffy air, passengers had turned nervous and impatient. Some were throwing up and getting sick from a complete lack of circulating fresh air. Finally, the Chicagoans revolted, ignoring the unpredictably intermittent announcements and pleas from transit workers, who were themselves in a state of total confusion about what was really going on. En mass, the riders decided to leave the stalled trains and to make a long and dangerous trudge through the dirty, dimly lit underground tunnel toward the eventual light of freedom.

As usual in Chicago’s disreputable world of machine politics, Hizzoner’s political flunky transit officials were quick to put all of the blame on the Chicago citizens, on the passengers, saying that the unauthorized evacuation caused bigger problems. Afraid that the passengers making to their freedom through the dark and dirty underground tunnel might be electrocuted by the subway’s electrically charged third rail, transit officials cut off all power to part of the Blue Line, which travels a large U-shaped route between Chicago’s West Side and O’Hare International Airport. Service was terminated for about four hours, and more than a thousand passengers had to be helped off several trains.

Esmeralda Cuevas, 26, who works in Chicago’s Loop as an administrative assistant, was on the train immediately behind the stalled one when she saw a number of haggard people walk by a window of her stranded subway car. “I felt a sense like I want to be with them,” Ms. Cuevas said. “I was impressed with their courage. I thought, ‘I can stay in here with these people and feel hot and uncomfortable, or I can start walking.’ ” And walk she did. So did most of the other stranded passengers from a total of four trains, who forged ahead despite intermittent, confusing public intercom announcements asking them to return.

Some two hours after her ordeal began, Ms. Cuevas finally emerged from the subway crying, with dirt all over her hands and face. An executive at her office downtown advised her to avoid the subway for a few days and to take cabs. But since he didn’t have the generosity to offer to pay for her cab rides, Ms. Cuevas said that she plans to take the train, but on an elevated line, not the underground subway.

At least seven of the Chicago subway passengers suffered injuries and breathing problems that required hospitalization. At the present time, none of their injuries or ailments is thought to be life threatening.

Revolt: Trapped in Underground Subway

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