In 1832, artist John Jesse Barker added depth to a drawing by Philadelphia-based William G. Mason to create an optical illusion titled “Horizontorium.” Part of a tradition of anamorphic works, this depiction of the Bank of Philadelphia is one of the two surviving works looking at the historic financial building designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. At the time, it was the unofficial bank of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that sat at the southwest corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets. The structure was razed in 1836.
Horizontoriums became popular throughout England and France in the 18th century, although this piece is the only one known to be made in America. Viewers would set the lithograph on a flat surface and perpendicularly position their face at the center of the work (note the semicircle on this lithograph suggesting a spot for a chin) to peer over the image. The sharp angle would produce a distorted perspective that appears to project the building and its passersby upward. Sometimes, viewers even would peek through a small hole carved out of paper or cardboard to block out their peripheral vision and give the work a more distinct look. (via Graphic Arts Collection, The Morning News)
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A new kit asks users to test their design abilities by constructing complex obstacle courses with a goal of having a marble fall seamlessly into its final destination. Created by MakeWay, the buildable set features eight different tracks, twelve tricks (which include a canon, universal joint, and spinner), a lift, and connectors to attach each component to a magnetic surface. The adjustable designs are supposed to be used vertically, causing the marble to be launched, spun, and catapulted down the tracks. Each kit is available in either gold or silver.
MakeWay is headed by Reuven Shahar and Elyasaf Shweka, two industrial designers with backgrounds in engineering and woodworking, respectively. Conceived of in 2016, the project opened on Kickstarter earlier this month and has been wildly popular, meeting its $10,000 goal within the first day and surpassing it tenfold since with more than 50 days to go. Head to MakeWay’s page to back the modular kit.
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In late January in Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina, artist Tomás Saraceno (previously) launched a black air balloon powered only by the sun and air, forgoing lithium, helium, or fossil fuels. By absorbing ultraviolet rays to heat the air and allow it to raise, the balloon can hold 250 kilograms, or about two people. The project, titled “Fly with Aerocene Pacha,” became the world’s first sun-powered flight with a pilot and was exhibited as part of Connect, BTS, an arts initiative organized by the South Korean boy band. The global project has connected five cities with 22 artists who have helped fulfill the mission of redefining “the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice.”
Breaking six records with the World Air Sports Federation, Aerocene Pacha eclipsed previous markers in altitude, distance, and duration for both men and women, thanks to pilot Leticia Marques. During its flight, it reached an altitude of 272.1 meters above ground and crossed 2.56 kilometers. The longest flight lasted an hour and 21 minutes.
In a statement, Saraceno added context to the project that falls at the intersection of art, culture, and environment, speaking to the abundance of lithium in the area that’s being mined for use in batteries. “This extractivist attitude is evidenced in the Salinas Grandes by the recent rush to mine lithium, furthering the man-made violence that incites climate change and mass extinction, the race to colonize space and disturbed balance of interconnected ecosystems,” he writes. The ballon prominently displays the phrase, “El agua y la vida valen más que el litio,” or “Water and life are worth more than lithium.” Activists from indigenous organizations attended the launch of the balloon, protesting the extraction process.
The Kirchner Cultural Center in Argentina is hosting a special exhibition, which includes video of the historic flights, devoted to Saraceno’s work through March 22. To see more of the artist’s ethically minded projects, check out his Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)
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Justine Haupt, a developer of astronomy instrumentation at Brookhaven National Laboratory, spent the last three years developing a device that strips away all of the non-phone functions of modern smartphones. The Portable Wireless Electronic Digital Rotary Telephone (aka Rotary Cellphone) does not have a touchscreen, menus, or other superfluous features. It fits in Haupt’s pocket, and it makes calls.
The first version of Haupt’s anti-smartphone was made using a cellphone radio development board. As the project progressed, she worked out a way to make it compact, to view missed calls on a small display, and to ensure that the device could be taken apart and fixed if necessary. While the Rotary Cellphone may seem like a fun novelty, Haupt (until now a devoted flip phone user) says that is not the point. Everything from the removable antenna to dedicated speed dial keys for her husband and other contacts is utilitarian and a direct contrast to the devices many of you are reading this article on right now.
“This is a statement against a world of touchscreens, hyperconnectivity, and complacency with big brother watchdogs,” Haupt writes on her website. In a post sharing the open source design, she adds that “in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.” (via Kottke)
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In modern city life, pigeons are often a nuisance to be stepped around or shooed away. But for ancient civilizations, the birds filled a necessary position, prompting communities to build masses of adobe dovecotes, or pigeon towers. Surrounded by an expansive desert with little vegetation, the historical dovecotes pictured above are located just south of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia-based photographer Rich Hawkins recently captured the fourteen towers, saying they’re the first he’s seen in the Middle Eastern country, most often spotting them in Iran, Egypt, and Qatar, where they have a lengthy history dating back to the 13th century.
Dotted with wooden pegs and hundreds of holes, the towers provided shelter and breeding areas for the birds to nest and raise their young in, which at times could amount to eight babies a year per bird, the Pigeon Control Resource Center says. While the structures throughout Europe often housed the birds as a food source, they were used instead throughout the Middle East to provide a place to harvest pigeon guano, or manure.
A lengthy piece from Aramco World detailing dovecote history throughout the region says the tower walls often were slanted to allow the droppings to amass on the central ground area, making it easier to collect. Pigeon guano is high in phosphorus and nitrogen, which is perfect for fertilizing vegetation. It also could be used to make gunpowder when combined with ash, lime, and soil or for leather tanning when mixed with water to create an ammonia substance.
As Hawkins’ photographs show, spray-painted markings and refuse mar the abandoned towers today, although the pigeons don’t seem to mind. “I was able to stay and watch the sun set as wild doves flew back and forth to their nests within the towers,” Hawkins writes on Instagram. For another look at ancient architecture that’s no longer in use, check out the stepwells of India.
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A new tent-shaped home built in a small agricultural village near Nagoka, a city in the Niigata prefecture of Japan, is designed with a community in mind, rather than a single family. Conceived of by Takeru Shoji Architects, the 166.24 square-meter “Hara House” is situated on a larger estate and utilizes a simple A-frame structure made up of 120 millimeter-wide beams. The two-story home has a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space downstairs, with storage and two small rooms upstairs.
The designers said the particular shape is “a stiff yet giving structure which assimilates (to) all the human behaviors,” prompting them to leave out partitions and private rooms that would split up the otherwise expansive space. Because of its bareness, “Hara House” requires its inhabitants to make use of the other buildings and areas on the land, bringing them outdoors and into a more collective setting with nature and their community.
With sloping roofs, the minimalist home also features side areas with wooden supports that open directly to the outside. “We designed a space where passing neighbors, friends and children can easily stop by to chit chat under the entrance porch, or workshop meetings and (the) events hosted in the space can spill out to the land,” the designers said in a statement. “Thus bringing down the threshold of the house and opening it to the village.”
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In an effort to draw attention to the ongoing climate crisis and the unprecedented number of bushfires across Australia, 41 artists transformed the streets of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane into the nation’s biggest unsanctioned campaign advocating for immediate action. Last week, those behind Bushfire Brandalism (previously) replaced 78 posters across the three cities with original designs focused on the fossil fuel industry, heroic local firefighters, and the devastation of wildlife and natural habitats across the country.
As a collective group of Australian artists, we have been driven to reclaim public advertising space with posters speaking to the Australian government’s inaction on climate change and the devastating bushfires.
We do not accept that this situation is ‘business as usual.’ We are making these issues visible in our public spaces and in our media; areas monopolized by entities maintaining conservative climate denial agendas. If the newspapers won’t print the story, we will!
Many of the pieces were installed at bus stops and other public spaces complete with a QR code, allowing viewers to scan and access more than 30 charities aiding in the crisis directly. Considering one company controls 59 percent of daily newspaper sales in Australia, the artists also wanted to push back against general advertising practices, questioning media coverage of climate issues.
Artists involved in the campaign include Georgia Hill, Tom Gerrard, Sarah McCloskey, Amok Island, Andrew J Steel, Blends, Callum Preston, Cam Scale, Damien Mitchell, Dani Hair, DVATE, E.L.K, Ed Whitfield, FIKARIS, Fintan Magee, HEESCO, JESWRI, Ghostpatrol, Leans, Lluis fuzzhound, Lotte Smith, Lucy Lucy, Makatron, Michael Langenegger, Peter Breen, The Workers Art Collective, Stanislava Pinchuk, The Lazy Edwin, Thomas Bell, Tom Civil, WordPlay Studio, and Peter Breen, among others who remain anonymous.
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