Groping Nature

We've already explored a less-known side of Ibiza in this mission here, but some of the guys appearing in that video deserved some more of our video-blessing. Talk about loving nature: this two absolute chiefs here represent the two sides of the alternative Ibiza. One is an old time hippie living life as it comes, happy to be given each day and to live it in harmony with the universe, the other is a tourist's best friend, providing the eccentric and informal kind of human material people expect to find on the island and the loving material women long for when leaving the city for vacation. You girls can't but quiver in excitement, you guys can't but learn how to live.


Fuorisalone's baraonda - Interview with Gilda Bojardi

We've been covering the Fuorisalone in Milan a lot when it was time back in April, but we still have something more to show you guys, even in the sweaty hot days of late-July. Our own Fabio Falzone interviewed the Interni magazine director Gilda Bojardi, one of the key figures who made Zona Tortona what it is today, putting it on the Design Week map. She visited our headquarters in Via Oslavia and, after we showed her how CIA works, she told us some of her precious share of Salone history. Enjoy.


Pearls Before Swine - CIA goes jury

Perle ai Porci - italian for Pearls to Swine - is a music festival where you pay no entrance fee and, apart from the bands playing anything from ska to rock, you can enjoy a 4-day pork meat fair. Groupies should know it's no place for rockstars, but a few days of fun and a music contest make up for it.
CIA has been there, documenting some of the guys playing and the atmosphere at the sport center in Casale Corte Cerro, where the festival was. And, more importantly, we were also proudly represented by our very own Andrea Lissoni, Luca Martinazzoli and Luca Legnani Jr., all in the contest jury.
Check out this video for a taste of what they've seen.


"The Most Photographed Barn In America" from Delillo's White Noise

Though we're concentrating on Europe here at Check-in ARchitecture, we couldn't pass up this excerpt from Don Delillo's White Noise. We'll give a good European example of this peculiar phenomenon tomorrow.

Excerpt from Don Delillio's White Noise:

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.

He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

"What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said. "What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?"


Octopification of urban spaces

Forget the banlieues, precarious working and laissez-faire globalization: one of the plagues of our times is the octopification of European cities. As you can clearly see in this amateur snap, France has been conquered by shiny-green octopuses who don't really care whether that couch is yours or not, they'll slide their squishy, slimy bodies upon it and whip their tentacles out of your kitchen's window. Sarkozy already asked the NATO for help, but the guys there keep scratching their heads and so far they've only come up with a chowderizing ray project, but God knows when it's going to be ready.

We survived Bin Laden, but this time we're doomed. No kidding.

Well, I was actually kidding. Responsible for this ludicrous piece of public art are DeviantArt's FilthyLuker and his pal Pedro Estrellas, who apparently "octo-pied" a building somewhere in France with inflatable tentacles, turning an average urban landscape in some sci-fi movie set.
Looking at the tentacles' color one can't help but wonder if the picture is real or just a great photoshop hoax. Our secret hope is someone is really dealing with a giant octopus lying on his sofa, but just an inflatable one would be cool too.


The Transmitting Architecture Report

We're through with editing, delaying and working on the video material we collected back in Turin last week, and we're finally releasing a considerable amount of brand new stuff for you guys to enjoy.

This video blog load features:

- Aaron Betsky having a talk with us about language in architecture;

- Cino Zucchi and Mirko Zardini discussing about communication practices (they laugh when we ask them about communication in the congress);

- P.K. Das speaking out about social changes, equality and architecture;

- Fran├žois Roche heavily critiquing the congress and preferring Guattari-style ecosophy to eco-sustainability;
- Mario Cucinella sharing some of his thoughts on human-scale architecture and the architecture star system.

- Adam Greenfield telling us about buildings with moving walls, open source and the internet;

It's a lot of stuff, so take your time to check it all out and come back here often for more CIA videos.


Antarctic Soundscape

Antarctica was born as a negative, starting from its very name. Antarktikos merely means "opposite to the Arctic" in Greek, and today the continent is still opposing the 21st century frenzy possessing the rest of the world by featuring the only stripe of land nobody on Earth is claiming. If we are yin, Antarctica is yang. If we're full, Antarctica is empty.

For being just a mass of ever-transforming ice and condensation, the South Pole has always been rather interesting to explorers and artists, who always went there to map its landscapes, both geographical and emotional.

Though maps are symbolic representations, and say what they need to say by cutting things out, thus huge gaps and ambiguities that artists can slip and play with as only artists can. Lately Antarctica's negativeness has been picked up by sound artists. Back in 1949, British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams created Sinfonia Antarctica, a metaphorical portrait of the continent, and today eclectic Dj Spooky - that subliminal kid - has come up with a crazy sound-oriented multimedia project titled Terra Nova, The Antarctica Suite.

The Antarctica Suite is a 70-minute long performance, a sound map strictly featuring only Antarctica sounds, recorded by Dj Spooky himself on site. To back up the audio, the artist does also screen images from the places he visited. Although his piece has a much more technological approach to the continent's atmosphere than Vaughn Williams', the two works pair in terms of striking an important nerve: Antarctica's negativeness.
Sound is negative too, it's a dense void, an integration to our experience, an invisible depth shaking beings with their own strength. A soundscape traces the perfect depiction of a still life's most distinctively platonic potential. The crackling noises of ever-rearranging ice, the quiet whistle of blowing wind, the squeak of a penguin - all along with burning-white images of snowy landscapes - are probably not enough to make you experience Antarctica, but they're maybe closer to make you feel it.


The Transmitting Architecture Report (teaser)

After these four days of Transmitting Architecture, it's time for a little budget.
Although we managed to get some really good video interviews, the congress itself was pretty disappointing, and the many critiques and complaints we collected from the very architects we interviewed during our stay is a further proof to this. Ok, transmitting architecture is not easy, but it gets trickier if you lock yourself into a conference stronghold and only express yourself through slides, that most of the time don't show when they're supposed to. As a medium, the congress is not a very conductive one.
However, all of this doesn't mean our congress experience was fruitless. If you guys are patient enough to wait a couple of days, there's a lot of stuff coming up on our video blog, and some of it is pretty entertaining: our old acquaintance Cino Zucchi and CCA director Mirko Zardini - both with a wrestling mask on, at some point - discussing about media; Fran├žois Roche and Mario Cucinella showing some contrasting views about sustainability and matching ones on the architecture star system; a super interesting interview with Aaron Betsky about architecture and building. We were also able to get a hold on P.K. Das and Adam Greenfield.
As we were collecting material for you guys, another crew was shooting a documentary about the congress, directed by Vittorio Badini Confalonieri. He's also a Mini DV master and saved our asses recovering a cassette that had fallen on the ground and that we thought was lost forever, with some magic expertise only a film pro could have. The documentary will feature lots of interviews and images from the city and the congress venues, but we'll give you more info about it as soon as we have them. For now, be sure to check the blog every day for new videos.


Mapping Lost Imaginaries: Telex From Cuba

We've written here before how underwhelmed we can by sparky new technologies in the service of literature, more often than not they hide in their pyrotechnics a lack of content. The explosions masks a story as thoughtful as George W. Bush and as emotional as the clip on tie of a salesman selling Florida time shares.

Technology hasn't often worked in the service of literature, weak attempts at hypertext bore us and Google has become the place people look for answers not Shakespeare. So it goes. We're no luddites, perhaps this blog is a testament to that.

Two recent websites have sparked interest outside the author and their publicist, the first was indie darling Miranda July's simple site devoted to her book No One Belongs Here More than You, which had July writing out her messages in dry-erase marker with the same kind of self-conscious, awkward cuteness that characterizes her book. Self-conscious awkward cuteness sounds pejorative (and maybe it is a little), but really, sometimes and in some ways, it's our bag; We always make passes at girls (or boys) who wear glasses and dig the naive simplicity of the Beat Happening as much as the next gang of cardigan-sporting, twee-loving twenty-somethings.

This a long way to get getting to the second site, built for Rachel Kushner's Telex from Cuba, released this month. None of the awkward cuteness of July is found here, in fact it's better than most web-art projects we've seen trying to pull off the same thing. The book, we've only read the reviews and the first chapter accessible at the NY Times, but the site built for the book opens up to a map of Cuba with a simple haunting piano music like the last song at the last bar at the end of the road, where Borscht Belt comedians and Cuban strippers come to die.

The site displays a map of Cuba with different locations lined up. Each site, when accessed, gives a brief slide show, like some Gerhard Richter paintings or even some Sebald stories the text/image (and here music) is a little haunting. Snaps of French Nazi Christian de la Maziere mix in with weighted family snaps and glamor shots of some Castro's black bereted female revolutionaries. And the ghostly presence of the images, with Kushner's robust and sometimes sexy prose, brings bout an epiphany. One that maybe attracted Kushner to this space as well. There's a lost world in Cuba.

There was place called Cuba, filled with gambling halls packed with government spies and leftist prostitutes, a Cuba of shitty tenements and fields owned by the United Fruit Co., and lorded over by bully Fulgencio Batista (our man in Havana, another painful CIA blunder), with the rebels in the mountains who can never win, or says the American expatriate sipping rum punch at the country club, knowing little that his waiter works for Castro. It's like all these strange in between places that are now gone forever that play on the American imagination, Casablance when the neon lights of Ric's cafe americain blinked into the desert, or the weathered maps and moving red lines Spielberg plays on in the Indiana Jones films. Some exotic place, filled with excess and troubles, where no one is in the right, but the glamor and the danger mingle together in an intoxicating cocktail. Though this kind of lost imaginary is always tinged with romanticism, we expect Kushner's novel punctures it as much as it explores it.

The first chapter of Kushner's novel (mentioned earlier on the NY Times website)
relates the memories of a man who spent his boyhood as the princely scion of a United Fruit executive, who years later, his exile complete, relates the tales of his lost world. For all its inequity and inequalities that put Castro on the right side of history, is still gone, and the ritual, glamor, and elusive imaginary went with it.

A curious piece of the internets in the service of literature, or more likely something separate from the book, a project born from the same imaginary, producing a strange result of its own.


The Singing, Ringing Tree and Panopticons - Not Just for Terrorizing Prisoners Anymore

We found this video of a rather peculiar public landmark project emerging from the Lancashire midlands, not far from Manchester. Abandoned and depressed since the industrial revolution revolved to Asia, with all the mines and factories shuttering into oblivion, the region has had to start getting creative about how to reinvigorate the local economy.

One of their methods of getting creative is by building a series of unusual monuments, readymade landmarks to drive any kind of tourism up into the English hinterlands, dubbed "Panopticons" with a peculiar interpretation of the word. The "panopticon" we know is the one developed by Jeremy Bentham to provide total isolation and awareness of prisoners, later picked up by Foucault and others to describe the terrorizing surveillance that governments inflict on their citizens. Which is to say, the word coined by Bentham, leaves a bit of a bad taste in our mouths.

One of the most peculiar of these "Panopticon" landmarks is the unfortunately named "Singing, Ringing Tree." Built near a site known for its history of witchcraft, the tree is made of twisted pipes that pick up the wind and thus sing, emitting a truly spooky sound, one that could be easily, and cheaply, used by a horror film for the sound of lost souls. The fanfare and the rhetoric surrounding the project are a bit weird, but the structure itself is so strange and unintentionally beautiful that it doesn't matter. I say unintentionally (given its name and the city press release) because seems an odd way to reinvigorate a dying region by giving voice to its lost souls.

But it works. We think it's truly worth a road trip to Lancashire.


CIA Transmitting Architecture through partying

Transmitting Architecture can be pretty boring at times. But we manage to party the congress away. Yesterday night, after an intense day of working and interviewing, the whole CIA crew gathered with lots of other congress visitors and random Turinese bohemians in Piazza Vittorio. As we were sipping on some fresh drinks, different performers livened up the porticos with music. When it got a little late - for the neighbors - we danced to the noiseless beats pumped through wireless headphones directly into our heads, making the Piazza our own silent disco.

As the night pushed on, a smaller group of partying nighthawks rallied to a rather bizarre Villa in the outskirts of Turin, a very old building turned into a party that the late Stanley Kubrick would have dug. The tipsy crowd danced to the Invernomuto and Shackleton dj sets until rosy-fingered dawn, occasionally climbing the rocky stairs to the bar, where a darker version of Benicio Del Toro - who eventually wanted to beat up our chief editor Fabio - served us a few cocktails.


Making a Country Into a Theme Park

Baudrillard once wrote that the purpose of Disneyland was to hide the fact that all of Southern California was a simulacra, or in other words, a replica for which there exists no original, a fake made real because it's not quite faking anything. In researching this project, we've come across all kinds of curious folds in Europe that make us feel that tourism, not the jetsetting lowcosters using a living Europe, but the hordes going to refurbished pallazzos and the childhood homes of semi-obscure medieval celebrities, that coupled with a declining population, threatens to turn Europe into a museum or likely worse, a theme park.

In Italy, Mussolini (the seeming father of modern Italy for better or worse), interested in uniting Italy under the brand of nationalism, strongly promoted internal tourism to create a better national cohesion. He encouraged towns to cash in on their history, politically useful for him as the celebration of the past hinted at its continuity with the future, in his mind the interminable Fascist Empire. Tourism both internally, and more profitably, externally has made Italy a curious case study and parts of it in particular are especially susceptible to becoming mere theme parks. What happens when your country becomes a tourist trap?

Italy, is not a fake, not a simulacrum, but is still beginning to suffer a fate stranger than even the sunshine noir surreality of Los Angeles. Italy might be becoming a theme park of history and collapsed empires, with the museums and historical centers, like Disneyland, hiding this fact all along. Venice, of which we've done a few missions on, seems a city perpetually in decline, whether it's plague, or conquest, or acqua alta, or the worst yet, tourism eroding the dignity of the city, destroying it in the process of appreciating it. We're loving it to death, and once it's dead, we'll stuff it, mount it, and then love it's well-preserved corpse.

Like Disneyland, maybe Italy should start charging an admission fee to enter the country, matinee prices in the winter, full price during the high season. Or it should manage its economy to try and become less dependent on tourism as the primary form of industry. Venice is becoming a very fragile place, other fragile places have limited tourism, Bhutan as an example, certain national parks and land art. This is a problem perhaps bigger than I've a solution for, even a joking one. But Venice especially and Italy at large, needs to find an answer, or Italians risk becoming only theme actors, security guards, and guides to their own dead history.