Returning to Roots: A New Book Highlights How Indigenous Practices Can Create More Sustainable Technology
Self-described designer, activist, academic, and author Julia Watson is trying to quash the boundary between native practices and technology in a new book that explores the ways indigenous wisdom can combat the high-tech approach to design and fighting climate change. In Lo—TEK Design by Radical Indigenism, Watson shares knowledge that transcends generations and cultures in an attempt to debunk the myth that indigenous approaches are primitive and far removed from current conceptions of technology. Throughout its more than 400 pages, the book explores ideas from 20 countries, including Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, India, and Indonesia, about how to tackle more sustainable technology and design. It also contains a forward from anthropologist Wade Davis.
Watson founded Julia Watson Studio, an urban design studio, in addition to co-founding “A Future Studio,” described as a collective of conscious designers. She also teaches urban design at Harvard and Columbia University. Lo—TEK is scheduled to be released this month by Taschen. If you liked this, check out the recently published Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild.
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Artist Diane Meyer has spent the last several years meditating on the Berlin Wall and the physical and visual divisions between, and within, cultures. In her series Berlin, Meyer embroiders 43 photographs with meticulous stitches that overlay pedestrians, walls, and forests. Each embroidered area represents the former wall, which would have bisected or blocked the views now seen in Meyer’s photographs.
The project is part of Meyer’s broader practice of “combining a traditional, analogue process with the visual language of digital imaging,” the artist tells Colossal. “At one point, I was experimenting with large landscape images using thousands of little tiny squares of carpet remnants which functioned as pixels. I think these early experiments ultimately led me to the work that I am doing now.” Meyer explains that for the Berlin series, she sought to evoke how the wall continues to exude a felt presence in the city, despite having been removed decades ago.
I started thinking about the relationship between forgetting and digital file corruption, particularly given how photographs are strongly tied to and ultimately often replace memory. By re-inserting the Berlin Wall through embroidery, a pixelated view of what is behind the wall is seen, creating the effect of an almost ghost-like trace in the landscape.
Meyer shares with Colossal that the materials of her artistic practice have evolved over time, shifting from straight photography to more multimedia approaches, but that she has consistently returned to some core concepts. “My work has long been defined by explorations into the physical, social, and psychological qualities that characterize place,” says Meyer, shifting genre and medium depending on the conceptual framework she is working within.
Her current undertaking is Reunion, a series of elementary school class pictures from the 1970s, which Meyer explains is an outgrowth of a previous project centered around family photographs. With Reunion, the artist seeks to focus on body language by obscuring the normal focal point of facial features with stitched interventions. “I am interested in exploring these details to reveal not only the relationships between the various figures, but also how, even at a very young age, children were taught and instructed to pose in particular ways, often based on gender,” Meyer tells Colossal.
Marking 30 years since the fall of the wall, Berlin is on view through January 10, 2020, at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. See more of Meyer’s current work on Instagram and explore the artist’s archive on her website. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Photographer Kristina Makeeva creates captivating scenes centered around Lake Baikal. The lake, located in Russia, is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, holding nearly a quarter of the world’s fresh surface water. Makeeva takes advantage of its vastness in forming otherworldly images that seem totally separate from the built environments most of us reside in. “The first time I visited Baikal, I had no expectations, and yet what I saw and felt kept me awake for the three days I was there, Makeeva tells Colossal. “I was exploding with inspiration. Now, having traveled to many countries around the world, I still think of Baikal as one of the most beautiful places.”
Makeeva uses Lake Baikal as both the stage and the star in her striking photographs. Often, a single figure centered in the image poses in a manner that draws attention to the surprisingly vibrant colors, shapes, and textures in the frozen landscape. The photographer frequently outfits her models in ruffled tulle dresses with impossibly long trains or minimalist white suits that call to mind astronauts or acrobats. Makeeva explains that depending on the shoot, she either brings models from Moscow or hires local models to work on location, or the models are integrated into the frigid landscape in post-production if their costumes are tricky to travel with.
The artist explains that after a childhood in Moscow’s “grey and boring suburbs”, she is eager to incorporate the magical energy of fairy tales and fantasy into her photographs. “As I travel and read more, I’ve been able to add an element of cultural understanding and context to some of my favorite fairy tales,” says Makeeva.
I always have a movie playing in my head. As a photographer, you still need to do your homework if you want to create something unique in that location. So I immerse myself into history, landscape, and pictures. It’s important to have a special inventory list. As weather conditions play a major role in shoots, we will often order special clothes and dresses that fit with the landscape. We envision and look at several dresses in advance of a shoot. And, of course, we also buy thermal clothes for the model so that she’s as comfortable as possible in the climate.
In reflecting on the end results of her meticulously researched work as an artist, Makeeva tells Colossal, “How I feel about my art and how others feel is often very different. This is natural because our experience of art depends on our life experiences. As a rule, I try not to title my photos, so that everyone is free to interpret my photography however they’d like.”
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Pedro Reyes is showing how an object used for harm can be molded into one that promotes life in a project titled “Palas por Pistolas.” Reyes, who originally is from Mexico City, collected 1,527 guns from the Culiacán area in Mexico. The project offered those who gave up their weapons, which were steamrolled publicly and melted, an exchange for a coupon that allowed them to buy electronics and appliances. Reyes used materials from the weapons to create shovels that were then used for planting trees. Since its completion, public schools and art institutions—from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the San Francisco Art Institute to the Maison Rouge in Paris—have received the shovels for community members to use. We have previously marveled at Reyes’ projects involving guns turned into instruments. Find more of Reyes’s work here. (via Intelligent Living)
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Over the last five years, the Los Angeles-based Getty Museum has developed a program to share more than three hundred books in its Virtual Library. Each unabridged volume, drawn from the Getty Publications Archive, has been cleared for copyright issues and is available for free download. Greg Albers, Digital Publications Manager for Getty Publications, shared with Hyperallergic that books in the Virtual Library have been downloaded 398,058 times to date. The initiative is a way to keep compelling and historically important books available even if they have, literally, gone out of print. Topics in the Virtual Library collection range from fine and decorative art genres to features on specific artists. Dive into diverse titles including “Art and Eternity: The Nefertari Wall Paintings Conservation Project 1986 – 1992” and “Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs”—among dozens and dozens of others on the Virtual Library Website. (via Hyperallergic)
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Italian artist Michele Volpi tattoos highly detailed conceptual pieces using black ink and the negative space of her clients’ skin. With a surrealist style and a monochromatic palette, Volpi inks diagrams of insects, plants, and human anatomy that resemble vintage illustrations borrowed from science textbooks. With precise lines and controlled dotwork, each tattoo looks as if it were printed rather than done by hand.
Born in Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Italy in 1991, Volpi tells Colossal that he discovered the art tattooing 5 years ago and fell in love. While attending technical school, he also practiced various art styles to fulfill a desire to have his “fingers in many pies.” A friend recommended buying a tattooing starter kit, and Volpi said that it changed his life. After learning the basics and experimenting with techniques, the young tattoo artist found that line and dotwork were among his favorites. “My style was influenced by geometries, nature, surrealism, and the sciences,” Volpi says. “I like to push my self every day finding inspiration from all around me and trying to go beyond the shallow in what I see. The world of art is endless and I can’t wait to discover it with my passion.”
Volpi also translates sketches to paper to create handmade works of art. To see more tattoos and for appointment booking information, follow the artist on Instagram. To browse and buy his watercolor bookmarks, head over to his Etsy store.
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Photographer Mikko Lagerstedt (previously) has once again captured the quiet beauty of his native Finland with a recent series centered around trees. Ethereal skies, virgin snow, and seemingly isolated pockets of nature serve as backdrops to twisted trunks and outstretched branches. Taken from Lapland to Southern Finland, the images speak to qualities of beauty and of resilience.
Lagerstedt was first inspired to capture these dreamy landscapes when he witnessed one first-hand while en route to a relative’s cabin. His images often showcase nature with little to no sunlight which gives them a sense of calm and stillness. The t r e e s series is comprised of photographs taken between 2018 and 2019 and edited using Photoshop and Lightroom. “My goal is to convey the feeling I had when I was photographing the subjects…to appreciate the never-ending beauty of trees,” Lagerstedt tells Colossal. “In our lives, we rarely recognize them, yet trees surround us with their beauty. They tell us many stories about life and the struggle to survive in harsh conditions.”
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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