Not Just For Bookworms: Helsinki’s Oodi Central Library Connects Residents Through Multi-Faceted Cultural Resources
Readers, researchers, and other curious residents are encouraged to gather together in a massive new ship-shaped library in Helsinki, Finland. Designed by ALA Architects, Oodi Central Library, the long and narrow structure features a sweeping wooden exterior topped with two stories of glass walls. Oodi Central Library is situated in the heart of Helsinki, nestled in the capital city’s cultural district. About one-third of the space is dedicated to books. A cafe, restaurant, public balcony, movie theater, recording studios, and a maker-space broaden the institution’s ability to connect with, and serve the needs of, a diverse population.
The effort seems to have paid off: in the library’s first month about two-thirds of Helsinki’s residents visited the library, and it has had 3 million visitors so far in 2019, according to Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s Executive Director for culture and leisure. Laitio explained in a recent conference talk in Washington, D.C. that it is essential in their small country for people to respect and invest in their fellow residents. “Our society is fundamentally dependent on people being able to trust the kindness of strangers.” (via Kottke)
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Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, who work together as the Adrien M / Claire B Company (previously), explore the intersection of tangible and augmented reality in their multi-media projects. They recently launched a Kickstarter to support their latest project, Acqua Alta – Crossing the mirror. Acqua Alta turns a seemingly simple pop-up book into an animated black-and-white world. Two figures move through the pages, battling rainstorms and walking through doorways, all seen through the portal of a tablet or smartphone.
The duo tells Colossal that after their 2017 exhibition Mirages & miracles, they wanted to focus their efforts on an affordable medium at an intimate scale that still allowed for constructing volume. “After considering the AR algorithm, it was important to find a solution for the book to be a plane for each of the 10 double pages,” Mondot and Bardainne explain. “The magic happens only when the real space and the AR space are completely synced together.”
The duo was also working with a limited budget and limited professional experience with motion capture. In contrast to more specialized production companies with greater resources and established, Mondot and Bardainne were challenged by looking for smart and creative solutions to achieve the same results.
“It was very exciting to be at the border between many disciplines—theater, dance, but also comic books and animation,” Mondot and Bardainne share. “We are questioning the language: what does this medium allow us to express? Can we use part of the cinematographic language? Can we use some of the symbolic tools of the theater?”
You can support Acqua Alta on Kickstarter, where the book is available for preorder (it also comes with a free app for experiencing the AR). Explore more of Mondot and Bardainne’s interdisciplinary work on their website.
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Follow the yellow brick road to 1667 N. Humboldt Boulevard in Chicago. The address is home to recently rehabbed affordable housing in the rapidly gentrifying Humboldt Park neighborhood. It’s also where author L. Frank Baum penned “The Wizard of Oz” in 1899 (though the author’s residence has since been demolished). The 70-foot long section of sidewalk is now paved with yellow bricks, a nod to one of the most famous stories in American popular culture, thanks to nonprofit developer Bickerdike. An upright rounded wall will also feature an Oz-themed mural commission from Chicago-based artist Hector Duarte.
In an interview with Block Club Chicago, Bickerdike clarified that the whimsical touches were not part of the core affordable housing budget; the project partners including the architect, general contractor, an an outside foundation paid for it out of pocket. (via Block Club Chicago)
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Celestial Illustrations by Diana Sudyka Fill a New Book Celebrating 19th Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell
A new book written by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka (previously) celebrates the life of pioneering 19th century astronomer Maria Mitchell. Mitchell was America’s first professional female astronomer and taught at Vassar College (which was a women’s college at the time). She also used her platform as an internationally renowned scientist to advance women’s rights and abolition. What Miss Mitchell Saw tells the story of Mitchell’s life, geared toward young readers with lush, star-filled illustrations that intermingle celestial shapes and patterns throughout the story’s earthbound elements.
“I immediately was struck by the beauty of Barrett’s writing, and her deep respect for Maria Mitchell was very apparent,” illustrator Diana Sudyka tells Colossal. “It was also important to me is as a manuscript about the power of observation, and a woman in science at a time when there were very few, and even less being recognized for their contributions.” The artist shares that she didn’t know much about Mitchell at the start of the project, but learned through research how Nantucket whaling culture and the Quaker faith shaped Mitchell’s character and point of view.
Sudyka used india ink, gouache, watercolor, and handmade indigo to build the imagery for What Miss Mitchell Saw. The artist works by hand and in full color from the get-go, and uses some digital techniques at the end of the editing process, once the images are ready to be integrated into the book. To complement the artist’s established aesthetic, which naturally meshed with the storyline, Sudyka tells Colossal that she drew inspiration from scrimshaw (decorative and narrative carvings into whale bones by whalers), as well as Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for an edition of Moby Dick. “The biggest challenge for working on this book was simply finding good reference material to make sure I got the look and feel of Nantucket and that time period right,” Sudyka explains.
In addition to her work as a children’s book illustrator, Sudyka has volunteered at the Field Museum of Natural History’s bird lab for over a decade, and is drawn to science and natural history. You can see more of the artist’s work on Instagram and find prints in her online store. What Miss Mitchell Saw was published last month by Simon and Shuster, and is available on Amazon.
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Still life photographer Ellen Cantor meditates on memories imbued in familiar objects. In her series ‘Prior Pleasures’, Cantor uses her childhood book collection to create multiple exposure images documenting the literary loves of her youth. Each image features a single book on a black background, with the pages ablur between the illustrations, cover, and end page art.
The photographer shares that she finds inspiration in Abelardo Morell’s camera obscura work, challenging her to “explore the myth of the photographic truth and… create a new way of looking at childhood icons.” Cantor seeks to capture the pleasure of losing oneself within the page of a book, a tactile experience that has become more rare with the advent of e-readers and the competing content on smartphones.
“My photographs are about time, loss and memory. I seek to understand how life proceeds and then ultimately disappears, the artist explains. “I document the artifacts of the past to enrich the present. I am interested in reimagining the family photo album and objects that hold personal histories in order to explore the distillation and persistence of memory.”
Cantor is based in southern California, and is represented by dnj gallery and Susan Spiritus Gallery in California and Truth + Beauty in Vancouver. The ‘Prior Pleasures’ series was most recently exhibited at the West Hollywood Library in spring 2019. You can explore more of Cantor’s memory-soaked photography on her website.
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Over the last several years, we’ve been endlessly fascinated by the artistic practice of Matthew Shlian (previously). The Michigan-based artist uses paper as his medium of choice, transforming the seemingly ordinary material into large-scale sculptural installations. Dizzying tessellations, dramatic textures, and vibrant colors are hardly recognizable as the same element that bears receipts, resumes, and book pages.
Shlian’s latest endeavor brings his medium circle: Unfolding is his new book, published with Thames & Hudson’s ‘Volume’ platform. Unfolding is Shlian’s first monograph, cataloging the artist’s best work from the past decade. The Volume program allows customers to purchase high-quality art books using a crowdfunding methodology.
The 256-page book is available for pre-order via Volume, where it has already exceeded its $20,000 publishing threshold. In addition to copies of the editioned book, Shlian is also offering signed prints and collaborative records as premium packages. See more of Shlian’s oeuvre on Instagram, and at Material Properties, a group exhibition curated by Colossal on view through October 19, 2019 at Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Philadelphia.
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Last year, we shared Joseph Ford and Nina Dodd’s collaborative project that featured people sporting custom-knit ensembles that perfectly melded with their environment. Since then, the photographer and knitter duo have been hard at work creating new pairings that disguise watermelons as bananas, farmers as their cows, and commuters as the escalators they ascend. Invisible Jumpers, their book published by Hoxton Mini Press, documents the Knitted Camouflage project’s best work. See more from the series on Ford’s website and Instagram and pick up a book from Hoxton (currently shipping internationally) or place a pre-order for U.S. delivery on Amazon.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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