Learn More About… Steve Lambert! Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias Keynote Panelist


Capitalism Works For Me! True/False (2011), Image courtesy of visitsteve.com

Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias is less than a week away and we’re incredibly excited to be welcoming so many new and old friends to Windsor. The conference is aiming to foster a conversation around the ideas, infrastructures, and risks embedded in socially-engaged practices that unfold over years or moments at a time. For more information and to register to attend, please click here.

Now, you could read Lambert’s bio on his website to learn more about where he comes from and what he does, but we thought that reposting his artist statement might help to illustrate why we’re so excited to have him to be a part of the conference. For us, it seems to capture some of the overarching concerns we’re looking to discuss at the conference. In his words, here’s how Steve Lambert approaches art:

For me, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. I carefully craft various conditions where I can discuss these ideas with people and have a mutually meaningful exchange. Often this means working collaboratively with the audience, bringing them into the process or even having them physically complete the work.

I want my art to be relevant to those outside the gallery – say, at the nearest bus stop – to reach them in ways that are engaging and fun. I intend what I do to be funny, but at the core of each piece there is also a solemn critique. It’s important to be able to laugh while actively questioning the various power structures at work in our daily lives.

I have the unabashedly optimistic belief that art changes the way people look at the world. That belief fuels a pragmatic approach to bring about those changes.

Lambert’s sense of art as a bridge to everyday life, civic practices, and public spaces has always resonated with us. From his public performances, to collaborative interventions, to his large-scale signage works, Lambert’s practice implicates art into a larger set of politics and concerns that reminds us of the ways in which art can help generate new conversations and reframe old ones.


THE NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL EDITION (2008), image courtesy of visitsteve.com

We’ve been writing and thinking about Steve’s work for years, and we can’t wait to hear him speak in person. He’ll be a part of our Keynote Panel on Friday, November 8th at 7pm at the Art Gallery of Windsor with  Jeanne van Heeswijk and Darren O’Donnell and joining us for discussions and reflections over the rest of the conference.

P.S. We have just a few seats left for the conference! Want to join in on the fun? Email us at homework@brokencitylab.org to register!

Homework II will run November 8-10, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Art Gallery of Windsor and CIVIC Space.

Our featured keynote speakers this year will be Jeanne van Heeswijk (Rotterdam), Darren O’Donnell (Toronto), and Steve Lambert (New York). In addition to our keynotes, we’ve also invited a series of curatorial partners to develop panels that tackle the conference themes. And, to top it all off, everyone who attends will be co-authors of a book that captures the ideas and conversations from this year’s conference through a series of interviews with presenters, attendees, and organizers alongside collected materials from our 2011 conference.

For more information, please email homework@brokencitylab.org

Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias is made possible with generous support from the Ontario Arts CouncilOntario Trillium FoundationArt Gallery of Windsor, and IN/TERMINUS.


Touch Sanitation & Maintenance Art: the Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles

The incredible weather has me getting excited for the summer, and in the process, thinking back to our past couple of summers, and imaging the summer ahead. I recalled the city workers strike back in 2009 and it reminded me of the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and I thought it was long past due that I post about her work.

From the description at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, Ukeles spent eleven months from mid-1979 to 1980 creating Touch Sanitation, a public performance art work. She crisscrossed New York City ten times to reach all fifty-nine sanitation districts to face, shake hands with and thank every sanitation worker for “keeping New York City alive.”

And as noted over at the Green MuseumTouch Sanitation was Ukeles’ first project as the city’s new artist-in-residence […] Ukeles traveled sections of New York City to shake the hands of over 8500 sanitation employees or “sanmen” during a year-long performance. She documented her activities on a map, meticulously recording her conversations with the workers.

At the conclusion of the performance she was made Honorary Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation and also Honorary Teamster Member of Local 831, United Sanitationmen’s Association, and I believe she’s been an artist in residence there ever since.

Also worth checking out — her Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969. After child-birth in 1968, Ukeles became a mother/maintenance worker and fell out of the picture of the avant-garde. In a rage, she wrote the Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969, applied equally to the home, all kinds of service work, the urban environment, and the sustenance of the earth itself. She viewed the Manifesto as “a world vision and a call for revolution for the workers of survival who could, if organized, reshape the world.”

This is the kind of work that makes me want to make more art.

Happy Friday.

It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston by kanarinka

kanarinka is a new media artist whose research interests include the politics of digital information, feminist performance art, participatory culture and the emotional landscape of Homeland Insecurity. She is Co-Founder of the non-profit collective iKatun, a founding member of the Institute for Infinitely Small Things, and teaches at RISD’s Digital+Media Graduate Program and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

In Spring 2007, kanarinka ran the entire evacuation route system in Boston and measured its distance in breaths. The project is an attempt to measure our post-9/11 collective fear in the individual breaths that it takes to traverse these new geographies of insecurity.

The $827,500 Boston emergency evacuation system was installed in 2006 to demonstrate the city’s preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires and/or terrorist attacks.

It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston consists of a series of running performances in public space (2007), a web podcast of breaths (2007), and a gallery installation of the archive of breaths (2008). There’s also an online collection of podcasts, with audio recordings made during each running performance.

The work is being shown as a part of Experimental Geography, an exhibition that explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth. I picked up the book from this traveling exhibition a while ago and it’s an interesting read. There’s some inspiring work, but as is often the case with these kind of collection books, the introduction is far more enlightening than many of the preceding chapters.

What I like about this project is the physical translation of a kind of bureaucracy along with the gesture of exploration through so much of the city under the restrictions of urgency and evacuation. It makes me want to imagine ways for exploring bureaucracies of Windsor.

Cross-Border Communication: We’ve Missed You (and other things worth saying)


Last night was the second iteration of Cross-Border Communication where we sent a variety of messages from Windsor to Detroit. We started with “We’ve Missed You.”

We’ll be doing the final iteration of this suite of Cross-Border Communication tonight (Wednesday) around the usual time (8pm).

Continue reading “Cross-Border Communication: We’ve Missed You (and other things worth saying)”

Terrafon Amplifies the Earth


This is the Terrafon, which is basically a huge turntable for the earth. Designed by artists Olle Cornéer and Martin Lübcke, the Terrafon premiered at the Volt Music Festival in Sweden.

The sound of the Terrafon is pretty much what you’d expect from something being dragged across the ground. The video does a good job at capturing the variations in sound, but mostly it’s the sounds of rocks or gravel being rubbed against something. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would drag things behind my bike.

The look of this thing is very cool and made me think of other ways to use something like this, rather than necessarily making it performative, what if there was something large and industrial-looking like this installed along the river, or at the entrance to old industrial buildings, what sounds would it make?

[via Inhabitat]

Carol Goodden & Gordon Matta-Clark’s Food


Carol Goodden and Gordon Matta-Clark opened up Food in New York in the early 1970s on the corner of Prince and Wooster. The restaurant, essentially the first in SoHo, was run by artists and served mostly artists, with the cooking itself becoming a performance of sorts. This transition of the space from a failed Puerto Rican restaurant to Food’s occupation to an alternative space that functioned as and questioned art and the potential in economic models based on something other than profit growth.

Established as a kind of “perpetual dinner party”, the restaurant as an idea was the art, alongside the actual dishes served up, the design, and the performance of cooking. Conceptually that’s important, but what’s really becomes interesting is the idea to open a place that wasn’t founded on profit, and indeed collapsed in some ways because of that. However, certainly that’s not the point.

Creating an idea with a sunset date, or with an acceptance of failure from the start, allows for a focus on the things beyond regular concerns. In the case of Food, artists stood in as guest chefs, inedible food was served, a hub of activity was created, and whether or not it succeeded, and indeed eve the tools with which one could measure the success or lack thereof, became irrelevant.

So, what if the next idea you have came along with a self-imposed sunset date? How would you work differently? What would become a priority and what would fade into the background? Tom’s recent post on the not-for-profit restaurant in Windsor, Namaste, invites similar questions and provides some encouraging answers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also quickly mention Matta-Clark’s significant architectural interventions, again something deserving of its own post, eventually. His “building cuts” works in some ways paralleled the thinking behind an initiative like Food, in the case of these large-scale architectural works though, the question became, what if walls didn’t matter?

Interface for our Text Projection Tool


A few hours before we were set to do the 100 Ways to Save the City project, we decided we wanted to make it interactive in some way. I had gone ahead and put all of our ideas on how we might suggest saving the city into a nice Keynote presentation that we could easily play and have that project, but it really limited what the projection could be.

When it came down to actually figuring out how exactly to do this though, we were a bit unsure. There was nothing that I could think of that would do this fairly simple thing we wanted: input controls for basically just text on the laptop screen, and then displaying the resulting text on the projector. So, I went searching through old project files from Quartz Composer, Processing, and Max/MSP/Jitter.

It’s been a while since I’ve worked in any of those programs, and so I was a bit rusty. I knew that I had seen something like this before, and it seemed to me that somewhere I had already hacked together the exact thing we needed. I found the Max patch that detected the dominant colour in a video signal and then overlayed the word on the video (for example, Red), dynamically resizing the text depending on the intensity of that colour, which seemed hopeful, but ultimately didn’t have any manual input.

Finally, I found what I was looking for. It was based on a tutorial on Cycling74‘s website, meant to be dynamic subtitling or something like that. I downloaded the tutorial, changed what I needed and it worked for our performance. Since then, I’ve cleaned it up, got rid of the live video part we didn’t need and simplified the functionality. This was probably the first time that I was in a situation that proved Max/MSP/Jitter’s strengths—quick prototyping, troubleshooting, finessing that ca quickly lead to performance. If you have Max 5, you can download the patch, I’m not sure if it works with 4.6.

This might come in handy this week, depending on what we take on in Peterborough.

Drive-Thru Symphony + Border Bookmobile + Laboratory Ecologies

Nature Bridge Pedestrian Overpass, Windsor, Ontario

TODAY in Windsor, there’s an incredible amount of activity happening. The Green Corridor will host a talk / workshop from Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council grant officers, two artist performances, and one huge outdoor event to bring culture to the NAFTA freeway.

Lee Rodney will launch her Border Bookmobile—a Windsor-made 1993 Plymouth Voyager stocked with a collection of artist books, theoretical texts, maps, and ephemera about the urban history of the Windsor-Detroit region and other border cities around the world.

Jennifer Willet will conduct ongoing laboratory research and hold a bio-art workshop with the general public in the presentation of her work InsideOut: Laboratory Ecologies. This piece explores the laboratory removed from its sterilized artificial setting and placed in an outside world full of environmental organisms and ecologies.

The Green Corridor along with composer Brent Lee, visual artist Sigi Torinus, Assumption High School musicians, What Seas What Shores, CJAM 91.5fm, and others will create a one-hour performance of music and visuals that interact with the passing traffic on Huron Church Road near the Pedestrian Overpass. Drivers can tune-in to the performance in near-realtime and contribute to the Drive-Thru Symphony by honking their horns, or revving their engines, or generally making noise. Broken City Lab will also be contributing through a number of projects by us as individuals.

Here’s the schedule:

1:00 – 2:30 – Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council
Integrated Arts Programs Information Session
Room 115 LeBel Building, University of Windsor
3:00 – 6:00 – Border Bookmobile, Lee Rodney
InsideOut: Labratory Ecologies, Jennifer Willet
8:00 – 9:30 – Drive thru Sympony Performance
Nature Bridge Pedestrian Overpass,
Huron Church Rd. at Millen St.

1:00 – 2:30 – Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council / Integrated Arts Programs Information Session / Room 115 LeBel Building, University of Windsor

3:00 – 6:00 – Border Bookmobile, Lee Rodney / InsideOut: Labratory Ecologies, Jennifer Willet

8:00 – 9:30 – Drive thru Sympony Performance / Nature Bridge Pedestrian Overpass / Huron Church Rd. at Millen St.

This is going to be an amazing event, dare I say, history-making. You need to be there.



In a vacant lot of downtown real estate in Berlin, eight BMWs drove around in a perfect circle roped together like a carousel, while “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie is playing on their radios – remixed for an amusement ride sensation. Every couple rounds the drivers systematically stop to pick-up and drop-off spectators and riders. Just before dusk, a fire is lit inside the circle.

The project, which was part of the 5th Berlin Biennial and sponsored by BMW put the sponsorship and the spectators themselves on display in a lot destined for more high-end development.

Maybe the reverse of this—that is, rusting and broken down domestic cars being pushed in a circle on a vacant lot in the west-end, might be fun … or even more offensive.

[via vvork]

Improv Everywhere’s MP3 Experiment


As part of their sixth annual MP3 Experiment, Improv Everywhere used Roosevelt Island, situated in between Manhattan and Queens on the East River.

To participate in this year’s experiment, “agents” were given these instructions. Everyone synchronized their watch to the clock on the instruction page, downloaded the mp3, wore a red, blue, yellow, or green shirt, and then traveled to the island. At exactly 4:00 PM, everyone would press play from wherever they happened to be on the island.

Another amazingly fun gesture from Improv Everywhere, with the scale of this “mission” being particularly incredible.

[via Urban Prankster]