Friday, April 28, 2006



Docklands Community Poster Project (1981 – 1991)

The Docklands Community Poster Project was founded in 1981 by Loraine Leeson and Peter Dunn in response to the concerns of East London communities over an extensive proposed re-development programme. The newly elected Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher designated the land surrounding the working docks, from St Katherine's Dock east of Tower Bridge downriver to the Royal Docks, as an Urban Development Corporation. This effectively removed local control from an area crossing five London boroughs, with the aim of transferring it into private ownership. However, this land, now known as the London Docklands, not only incorporated docks and warehouses, but was also home and workplace to 56,000 people. Historically, up to this time the communities of East London had been poor but politically active. They were not against development, they just wanted it to also meet their own needs. A struggle ensued....

Buttermilk Bottom / REPOhistory

This project honors the passing of a community destroyed by Urban Renewal to make room for Modern Atlanta and the "New South." This site-specific public art installation consisted of signs, street markings, and a pavilion installation that illustrated the history of the community, as well as a reunion of former residents. The historical information was donated to the Martin Luther King Library and the reunion has become an annual event....

Voices of Renewal / REPOhistory

"Voices Of Renewal" is the second phase of REPOhistory's public art/public history work in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward. Following on the heels of the 1995-96 "Entering Buttermilk Bottom" project, this Public Art Residency is a collaboration by REPO artist Tom Klem and residents of the Fourth Ward's Glen Iris neighborhood. Working directly with those who lived these histories, six artist-created public history markers were created and were installed permanently on the private property of those residents whose histories were unveiled and celebrated.

Out From Under the King George Hotel / REPOhistory

REPOhistory was invited to Houston, Texas, to create a public art project. We chose to document seven layers of history on the location of the King George Hotel. We chose this site because the abandoned Hotel was across the street from a homeless shelter and one block from the site of a new baseball stadium that was the cornerstone of the city's plan to redevelop the downtown. We created a printed document that was distributed throughout the city. The document was also wheat pasted to the facade of the hotel with the permission of the Non-Profit Housing Corporation of Greater Houston, an organization that was renovating the structure as a halfway house for homeless. The Housing Corporation used the document for fundraising and will permanently hang a framed copy of the document in the lobby of the renovated structure.

From CHAnge to CHAos

In late 2004, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) initiated a public relations campaign to put a new face on their Plan For Transformation, a plan that drastically reshapes the state of public housing in Chicago.

This PR campaign, authored by the advertising giant Leo Burnett, fused Chicago Housing Authority's acronym ‘CHA’ with the word ‘change’, resulting in a new brand identity: CHAnge. There are undoubtedly big changes happening with public housing in Chicago, including massive organizational restructuring within CHA and the tearing down of all high-rise public housing buildings.

Unfortunately, the priorities of CHA haven't changed at all, and public housing residents are still at the bottom of the list. While the CHAnge campaign has attempted to put a 'resident empowerment' spin on the Plan for Transformation, in reality the majority of public housing residents have been adversely affected by the massive restructuring. If you are a single working mother displaced by a home demolition, waiting over 6 months for a voucher to relocate as your children are shifted from school to school, CHAnge feels a lot more like CHAos.

The original CHAnge campaign ads appeared in Chicago's public transit, billboards, bus shelters and newspapers. In addition to the CHAnge ad campaign and their brand makeover, the CHA has purchased public history itself in order to sell the Plan for Trans-formation. After receiving $183,167 for 'exhibitor services' from the CHA, the Chicago Historical Society mounted an exhibition touting the Plan for Transformation and re-writing the history of the CHA's troubled past.

As with the CHA's other exhibits, this one indirectly blamed the residents for the demise of public housing and attempted to close the book on this chapter of history. The current chapter in CHA’s history, however, is far from over. As the wrecking balls come down, it is urgent that we listen to the resident voices and the critical pieces of history that are missing in the CHA's ads. For more information on our efforts to address the missing pieces of the story, see our Resident Voices section.

Pioneer Renewal Trust

The Pioneer Renewal Trust is a hoax real estate agency that is used in projects which serve to highlight gentrification and housing issues in Chicago. Our first project was a show in a residential home gallery located in a in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. We initially offered the gallery up for sale in a straightforward way, with signs and flyers. As the show progressed, the signs, flyers, and interior of the gallery became more absurd, as we proposed to build a series of super-luxury condos inside the house. PRT also hosted a public forum with presentations and discussion by local housing activists and artists who have dealt with gentrification in past projects.

Real Estate

As part of london in Six Easy Steps at the ICA, curatorial partnership B+B have developed Real Estate as a response to the use and ownership of land in a city currently preparing for the 2012 Olympics and threatened with terrorist attacks.

Streets and open spaces are commercially managed, regulated by new legislation and surveyed by four million surveillance cameras. Meanwhile cultural policy emphasises the potential 'culturally-led regeneration' to transform the city and artists become accidental property developers through processes of gentrification and a hunger for 'creativity' within lifestyle housing.

Artists and activists featured in Real Estate take these forms of control and instrumentalisation as a starting point from which to intervene, subvert, play and disrupt the city.

Three Functions / Hewitt & Jordan

A text work sited on a billboard in East London during Real Estate, 'The function of public art for regeneration is to sex up the control of the under classes', is a work concerned with the way in which culture-led urban regeneration is advocated within regeneration strategies. Regeneration aims to change the 'mindset' and 'behaviour' (Landry, C., ‘The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators’, London: Earthscan, 2000) of residents, to improve their effectiveness in creating capital and growth in order to reduce what is seen as a dependency on state provision. Whereas the need for change in terms of social justice and parity is necessary, the methods and motivation of these cultural policies, particularly the roles assigned to art and culture within them, need to be examined. This new work is a continuation of a series of text works entitled the Three Functions that discuss the functionality of public art.

We Shall Not Be Moved: International Graphics on Homelessness and Gentrification / Center for the Study of Political Graphics

A missed paycheck, a health crisis, or an unpaid bill are all that separate many people from homelessness. As America’s income gap widens, renters worry if they can ever buy homes of their own - or keep their rentals through retirement. The lack of affordable housing is not just a U.S. problem. We Shall Not Be Moved uses domestic and international posters to show that homelessness and gentrification are major issues throughout the world - and from the U.S. to Europe to Australia, posters remain the resisters’ tools of choice. Posters announce demonstrations to oppose demolitions, support squatters’ rights to move into abandoned buildings, and organize tenants’ unions. They document victories, defeats, and ongoing confrontations. Posters both record these struggles, and are central to them. They show that victory does not happen overnight - it can take years - but it is possible to fight city hall and the developers and win.

The Center for Urban Pedagogy

Urban Renewal Activity Tables (CUP)

The Urban Renewal Activity Tables provide a chance to explore the stories of five places in New York City after they were declared blighted and in need of serious repair. Each site is interpreted with an interactive table, a large-scale photograph, and a detailed timeline.

Gautreaux v. Urban Renewal (CUP)

Who is responsible for creating living patterns? How do people choose where they want to live? Why are American cities racially segregated? The 40-year-old legal saga known as Gautreaux historically unfolds as an exploration of these questions. In 1966, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, a class action lawsuit was brought against the Chicago Housing Authority and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging that both had racially discriminated in locating Chicago public housing and in selecting tenants for certain housing projects; projects located in nonminority areas had virtually no black tenants whereas the reverse was true for projects in minority areas. The charge amounted to claiming that the government was responsible in some way for creating the racial ghetto and has a responsibility to eliminate it. As you will see, these somewhat simple claims unfolded into a series of events of immense complexity, range, and scale. At stake is nothing less than the means of social control over the built environment.

The Subsidized Landscape (CUP)

This installation presents an overview of the various ways that the United States government provides incentives to guide real estate development—from direct subsidy to lending guarantees and tax incentives. The provision of federal incentives shapes our everyday landscape in so many ways: from the development and siting of large public housing projects to the development of suburban homes. This exhibit provides a context for looking at public housing as one kind of subsidized housing among many; and urban renewal as one federal development strategy among many.

The primary focus of the installation is a model at 1/200 scale displaying a landscape of physical structures and patterns of development. Although the structures form an imaginary landscape, each one represents an actual place that receives an actual subsidy. Rows of lights connect these developments to representations of federal, state and local governmental bodies. The pattern of lights show the viewers which administrative bodies handle the flow of money as it makes its way from City, State or Federal government to the developers, owners and occupants of the buildings.

Public Housing 101 (CUP)

Where did public housing come from? Who lives there? Who makes the decisions? What does it look like? What are some of the issues facing public housing today?

These questions guided three CUP educators and eight City-as-School students through a semester of collaborative learning. We first conducted interviews with a group of public housing stakeholders, including tenants, administrators, elected officials, researchers, architects, and organizers. We then created a series of educational posters and a set of three video pieces try to capture what we learned.

The City without a Ghetto (CUP)

A series of projects and programs that address how areas of human habitat have come to be labeled as unwanted, unneeded, or unimportant, and how various means have been used in attempts to remove, renew, revitalize, or redevelopment these areas through planning.

This project is called “The City without a Ghetto” to honor the double interpretation of this phrase; that is, a city without a ghetto corresponds both to utopian dreams of a perfected human settlement, as well as the fear of racist, classist domination of living space. As the history of public housing shows, these two understandings are historically intertwined, and are woven into the everyday fabric of how American city-dwellers understand where they live today.


Shame of the Cities: Gentrification in the New Urban America / by Kari Lydersen

Nature as an icon of urban resistance: artists, gentrification and New York City's Lower East Side, 1979-1984 - social conditions depicted in art / by Gregory Sholette

Mysteries of the Creative Class, or, I Have Seen The Enemy and They Is Us / by Gregory Sholette

The Fine Art of Gentrification / by Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan

Get Real! Art, Regeneration, and Resistance / by Laura L. Sullivan

Gentrification Reality Tour / by Charles Shaw

The Changing Neighborhood / The Next American City

Selling the Lower East Side: Culture, Real Estate, and Resistance in New York City / by Kurt Reymers, Daniel Webb and Christopher Mele

Farewell, Bohemia: On Art, Urbanity, and Rent / by Rebecca Solnit

Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space / by Neil Smith

There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster / by Neil Smith

Nicholas Blomley / Unsettling the City: Urban Land and the Politics of Property / Chapter Two: "Property and the Landscapes of Gentrification"


Gentrification @ Planetizen

Gentrification @ Mute Magazine

gentrification web
what is gentrification?

Boom - The Sound of Eviction (96 minutes, DV, Color) Directed by Francine Cavanaugh, A. Mark Liiv, and Adams Wood


On-line Document Library /
Greater Chicago Housing and Community Development Website

The Greater Chicago Housing and Community Development Website is designed to guide and assist policy makers, housing/community development professionals, planners, researchers, developers and people seeking to buy or rent a home. The website will make available a wealth of data and information about the housing environment in Chicago and other communities throughout the region.

Interpreting Neighborhood Change in Chicago

Changes in a neighborhood can produce many effects. This website aims to help engage people in a discussion of both the positive and negative effects of change witnessed in Chicago's neighborhoods since the 1970s, with attention given to vulnerable lower-income communities.

The Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement is a unit of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since its founding in 1978, the Center has been guided by the mission to improve the quality of life for all residents of the City of Chicago and the metropolitan area through research and technical assistance to organizations and local government agencies in their efforts to revitalize the many and varied neighborhoods and communities.

TU CASA ES MI CASA: Artists Respond to Gentrification / Polvo Art Center / Chicago IL

A Bibliography of Chicago Gentrification / Gapers Block

Public Art In The Daley Village / by Daniel Tucker

Losing Confidence / by Leah Samuel

The View From the Ground is an occasional publication of the Invisible Institute—a set of relationships and ongoing conversations grounded at the Stateway Gardens public housing development on Chicago’s South Side. In the tradition of human rights monitoring, our aim is to deepen public discourse by providing reliable information about conditions on the ground.


On one level, AREA is an investigation into movements of resistance and creativity that are gathering force in Chicago. On another level, it is a social networking project: within the pages of the publication, through the interactions and encounters at our public events and meetings, and in the very distribution of ideas throughout the city. We hope that the graffiti art, protests, critical writing, reflections, and projects that appear in these pages will inspire our readers with suggestions of the many ways in which a citizen can inherit a city on one's own terms. In a local context where official politics are bankrupt and institutionally corrupt, it becomes our responsibility to create spaces where the micropolitics that we desire can be imagined and created. In a place where faulty urban planning and commercial interests dictate the shape and feel of the city--our space reclamations, urban gardening, and public projects connect us to a to our own agency to create the city. In a city where economic and social precariousness is the status of so many citizens, the experiments in resource-sharing that occur can provide stability and support. As Michel Foucault formulated the problem when discussing revolution and popular justice in a still-relevant 1972 discussion with Maosts, "[...] the forms of state apparatus which we inherit from the burgeois apparatus cannot in any way serve as model for the new forms of organisation." As engaged citizens, It becomes our responsibility to re-imagine what we inherit, and to create new models.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Against the Grain

Against the Grain is a radio and web media project whose aim is to provide in-depth analysis and commentary on a variety of matters - political, economic, social and cultural - important to progressive and radical thinking and activism. We're based at the studios of Pacifica station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California.

Tues 4.25.06 / Hardt on Power and Resistance

If transforming the world in the direction of equality and democracy is the aim, how do we go about achieving it? Michael Hardt, co-author of Multitude and, before that, Empire, explains his hypotheses about the changing nature of labor, and how that might feed into a political project for liberation that he calls the multitude.

Listen to the program (MP3)

Mon 3.27.06 / States of War

What is the relationship between the privatizing, free trade policies of neoliberalism and the overt interventionism of imperialism? How should we understand the forms of opposition to US empire, whether left manifestations like the anti-war and global justice movements on the one hand, and reactionary militant Islam on the other? The Retort Collective spoke about these issues at a symposium titled “States of War.”

Listen to the program (MP3)

Wed 3.22.06 / David Harvey on Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism has left an indelible, smoldering mark on our world for the last thirty years. But what is neoliberalism and what drives it? How did an obscure set of economic theories come to take hold of the imaginations of elites around the world? Eminent Marxist geographer David Harvey talks about the origins, trajectory, and significance of neoliberalism.

Listen to the program

Wed 12.07.05 / Game Over?

It’s become a truism that the foreign policy of the Bush administration breaks radically with the approach of its predecessor. Yet how accurate is that conclusion? Geographer Neil Smith talks about the history of liberalism, US hegemony and the invasion of Iraq, which he characterizes as the endgame of globalization.

Listen to the program

Tues 7.26.05 / Multitude's Potential

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri contend that their concept of the multitude can contribute to the task of resurrecting - or reinventing - the Left. They link the multitude's potential to trends in labor and therefore in everyday life. Encouraging the creation of a robust democracy on a global scale is the ultimate aim of their book Multitude.

Listen to the program

Wed 6.08.05 / Neither Their War Nor Their Peace

What does September 11th and the events following it tell us about the system we live under? Do they mark a radical break with the past – or a continuum of sorts? And how do we understand the various forms of opposition to empire? Those are the issues taken on by TJ Clark and Joseph Matthews and their co-authors from the Bay Area’s Retort collective, in a new and provocative book.

Listen to the program

Wed 4.27.05 / Strawberry Fields Forever

California agriculture is much mythologized, but rarely understood. Agribusiness in the Golden State, unlike most places in the world, was capitalist from the start of its development. And its success, according to geographer Richard Walker, has been motored by the drive for capital accumulation. But radical scholars have not given agribusiness in California the attention it deserves, to the left's detriment.

Listen to the program

Wed 10.13.04 / Resisting Colonization

The current occupation of Iraq is only the latest attempt by Western imperial powers to dominate the region, according to Tariq Ali. The acclaimed political analyst, novelist, film maker, and author of Bush in Babylon, spoke earlier this year about the history of colonization and resistance in Iraq.

Listen to the program

Tues 10.12.04 / Despair Not!

Times are tough. There's war and destruction all around us. Nonetheless, says activist and author Rebecca Solnit, the future is uncertain, and hope can get us through hard times and inspire us to struggle and persist. In Hope in the Dark, she also points to the dangers of perfectionism, rigid agendas, narrow definitions of victory, and binary thinking.

Listen to the program

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Prison Industrial Complex / Three Projects

360degrees > Picture-Projects
The Corrections Documentary Project > Ashley Hunt
Recording Carceral Landscapes > Trevor Paglen

360degrees: Perspectives on the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Even as the crime rate is dropping, the criminal justice system continues to grow. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there will be 30 new federal prisons built over the next 7 years. Throughout this unprecedented growth, there have been few opportunities for critical examination of what is working and what isn't. It is our hope that this site will challenge your perceptions about who is in prison today and why. We also hope that it will generate ideas, big and small, about how we can reduce crime and strengthen our communities without continuing this unprecedented rate of incarceration.

Over the next two years, we are continuing to work with educators and students to develop local dialogues in schools and communities. We will be partnering with radio producers and journalists across the country to tell stories about how crime and incarceration affects not just the people who are directly involved, but whole families and communities.

360 Degrees of Criminal Justice: Documentary, Method & Law / by Ashley Hunt

The Lock-Up Society / American RadioWorks

The Prison Diaries / NPR - All Things Considered

360 Degrees of Incarceration: Web Documentary Slams Home Reality of Prisons / by Francine Russo / The Village Voice

Picture Projects, a NYC-based studio founded in 1995, uses new media technologies, audio and documentary photography to examine complex social issues. Over the past ten years, the studio has become well known for its unique use of interactive narrative in both commercial and documentary work. Picture Projects produces websites and interactive installations for cultural institutions including The Women’s Museum in Dallas, Texas, The American Museum of Natural History, The Tenement Museum in New York City, and Harvard University's Schlesinger Library, and also includes clients such as IBM, National Voting Rights Institute and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

The studio's two most recent documentaries are - Perspectives on the U.S. Criminal Justice System and The Sonic Memorial Project, an open archive and online audio installation of the history of The World Trade Center. is the first online project to receive a Peabody Award since the category was introduced a few years ago. The site also received a Gracie Allen Award from Women in Television and Radio. grew out of our concern about the growing numbers of incarcerated Americans. We spent three years researching the criminal justice system, working with advisors, and scholars, securing funding and interviewing inmates, victims and family members, judges, lawyers and corrections officers. Picture Projects built a diverse team of scholars, writers, programmers and radio producers to bring to light stories and statistics that are often overlooked. was recently given the Online Journalism Award for Most Creative Use of the Medium, the Pew Center for Civic Journalism's Batten Award for Innovation, the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, and a Webby Award for

In our current projects, we continue to weave new technologies — wireless, broadband, satellite — and smart design into an ongoing exploration of our social fabric through first-person stories, dynamic data and dialogue. Our projects include: The Sonic Memorial Project with National Public Radio; Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business, a museum installation and website for a traveling exhibition developed for the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University; RaceTalks, a website in collaboration with law professors Lani Guinier and Susan Sturm who are working to create spaces for experimentation, learning, and problem solving around issues of race, gender, social justice and social change; Tactical Media, a website for the NYU Center for Media Culture and History that explores how new media technologies are strategically used to further or change contemporary social issues; Toldot, an online Jewish Museum for kids; A redesign for the architectural firm VSBA; Six Months, a website accompanying the WNYC Public Radio series on New York City, six months after September 11, 2001; The Tenement Museum's Virtual Tour; and Conversations with History, a website for UC Berkeley that features unedited interviews with distinguished men and women from all over the world.

Alison Cornyn is an artist, founding partner and Director of Picture Projects. Her installation and video work as well as curatorial projects have been exhibited in Europe, South America and the U.S. She has worked as an art director on films in Los Angeles and New York and has extensive experience in interactive and web design as well as in building online communities. Cornyn produced an international, online dialogue for The New York Times Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace (1997) - the first website to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She has taught at City College and guest lectured about digital documentaries at New York University and other institutions. Cornyn curated b/t*, a new media show at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Fl (1998). The exhibition was part of the Boston Cyberarts Festival in 2001. She has a B.A. from Connecticut College, a Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU and an M.F.A. from Hunter College. She was an artist in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program during 2000-2001.

Sue Johnson worked as a documentary photographer before meeting Cornyn, a fellow student, at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in 1995. Johnson's photography examines the impact of economics on rituals within different cultures including quinciñeras, pilgrimages, marriages and debutante balls. Johnson's interactive video installation, Window Pane, was presented by Creative Time’s Arts in the Anchorage in Brooklyn, New York (1997), and The Impakt Festival in Utrecht, Holland (1998). Johnson's web project Chant was awarded a Finishing Fund Grant from the Center for Experimental Television in NY and was exhibited as a physical installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Fl. (1998). Johnson has taught photography and new media at Harvard University and City College. She is a frequent lecturer at new media programs throughout New York City. Johnson has a B.A. from Harvard University in Visual and Environmental Studies and a Masters Degree from New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. Johnson left Picture Projects in 2003 to pursue other interests.

Ashley Hunt

Ashley Hunt is an artist and activist based in Los Angeles, working with experimental video, forms of mapping, documentary and multi-media installation. Primarily interested in questions of power, language, structures of political possibility and their representation, Hunt's main work of the past five years has been developing the Corrections Documentary Project, which investigates these questions through the framework of the rapid growth and commercialization of the U.S. prison system.

Select exhibitions and screenings have included the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta, the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies (LACPS); screenings include the Oberhausen Film & Video Festival, the Impakt Festival, the Slamdance Film & Video Festival and the New York Underground Film & Video Festival. Hunt was a participant in the Whitney Independent Studio Program in 2000, received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998, and his Bachelor's Degree from the University of California at Irvine in 1994.

The Corrections Documentary Project

The Corrections Documentary Project began simply as a single documentary, CORRECTIONS: a 56 minute feature documentary that uses "prison privatization" as a lens into a prison system growing for reasons other than simple "justice." Seeing that privatization was an issue that needed to be debated publicly, it also opened up room for conversations on how ideas of crime and punishment not "natural," but are built upon and coded with politics of race and class.

As CORRECTIONS proved a useful tool for grassroots and activist groups, new opportunities arose to make pieces focused on specific campaigns and circumstances. This led to the production of "footnotes" to CORRECTIONS, pieces which are each in a way a "footnote" to the larger original piece.

Today there are a growing number of footnote pieces and other related projects, continuing to investigate the relationship of mass incarceration in the U.S. and abroad to the broader changes society is facing, the lingering challenges of race, class, gender and sexual based discrimination, and to question the value of "the prison" as an institution in society.


The second of two videos dealing with a campaign to shut down the notorious Tallulah youth prison in Northern Louisiana, CLOSE TALLULAH NOW! follows a growing movement of parents, community and advocates through public hearings where bereaved parents get the rare chance to spell out their frustrations to law makers and demand a prison be closed.

But as we watch the lead up to these hearings and go through them with the parents, we also witness the disconnect between the needs, tragedies and demands of communities and the contrary priorities of the politicians who are supposed to represent them.

A compelling mix of frustration and inspiration, CLOSE TALLULAH NOW! gives an important window onto how people take their demands to the state and try to make them matter.

I Won't Drown on that Levee and You Ain't Gonna' Break My Back

I WON'T DROWN... began with an invitation to travel to New Orleans as part of a delegation to investigate what actually happened at the Orleans Parish Prison during and after Hurricane Katrina. What came up was not only a botched and deadly evacuation of the prison, but a broader climate of racial tension and brutality throughout the local and Federal response to the disaster, where the population was divided into survivors and looters along lines of race and class.

Based around a press conference by the delegation — itself an interesting form of public speech with its own politics of representation — it takes the viewer through a timeline of the disaster and its representation through the mass media, with stories of individuals returning to New Orleans for the first time, testimonies of the evacuation, and a look at grassroots relief efforts not covered in the media.

The video is a central part of a campaign calling for Amnesty for criminalized hurricane survivors and people whose legal cases have been jeopardized by the hurricane. (click here for campaign)

Prison Maps

Prison Maps is a set of two mappings of the Prison Industrial Complex, "What is the Prison Industrial Complex?" and "What is the Context for Today's Prison Industrial Complex?"

The first map, "What is the Prison Industrial Complex?", maps out the relationship between the many forces which profit from and influence prison growth and criminalization. The second map, "What is the Complex for Today's PIC?", maps the historical change from the Welfare State to a new security state in which the state's function has been reduced to one of force, apprehension and detention. Both are lend abstract visual representations to forces and things that can't be represented in a photograph or through video, giving an understandable form to the complex workings of a growing and dispersed system.

Trevor Paglen / Recording Carceral Landscapes

Recording Carceral Landscapes is an investigation of the United States' enormous prison system by artist/geographer Trevor Paglen. By inquiring into the financial, social, and cultural elements that compose the Prison Industrial Complex, the project shows some of the invisible ways that mass incarceration has been woven into the fabric of our society.

In addition to the documentation of this project's exhibition, the website contains a collection of interviews with prominent activists. Each interview contains a discussion about different aspects of the Prison Industrial Complex. These interviews are illustrated with images from the exhibition.


Documented here are a number of projects developed over the course of the Recording Carceral Landscapes investigation. The Following Piece consists of a series of “spy” missions into sites associated with the Prison Industrial Complex, from the supermax unit at Pelican Bay State Prison to the headquarters of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, and from the corridors of government in Sacramento to the halls of finance at Siebert, Branford, Shank, and Co. The Prison Infiltration and Surveillance Suit is a collection of hidden recording technologies embedded within a work suit. Silence captures the sounds from within the recesses of the country’s first supermax prison, and the PIC Diaries is a collection of media produced and interpreted over the course of the Recording Carceral Landscapes project. Finally, the Prison Reclamation Project is a collaboration with a group of progressive architects to imagine alternative uses for existing prisons.


One of the central ideas behind the Recording Carceral Landscapes project is that mass incarceration is a social and cultural “machine” that runs throughout society. The Prison Industrial Complex is, in fact, very complex. The PIC does not exist somewhere “out there” but is woven into the fabric of everyday life.

In each of these conversations with prominent prison activists, a different aspect of the Prison Industrial Complex is taken up. Prof. Ruth Wilson Gilmore talks about the roots of the PIC in slavery, the convict lease system, and the Military Industrial Complex. Rose Braz describes the political scene in Sacramento, California and explains how decisions about prisons get made in government. Craig Gilmore talks about California’s rural areas and the effects of the California prison boom on the Central Valley. Dr. Terry Kupers takes up the question of the Security Housing Unit (the notorious “supermax” prison model) and explains how torture became normal in U.S. prisons. Finally, Rachel Herzing talks about prison abolition and what it means to imagine a world without prisons.

These interviews are presented here in both HTML and in PDF forms. Please feel free to download, print, and distribute these texts for educational or other non-commercial purposes.


Recording California's carceral landscapes / Art Journal, Spring, 2004 / by Trevor Paglen

Hitching Stealth with Trevor Paglen / by Bryan Finoki

Spying on the government / by A.C. Thompson

The CIA's torture taxi / by A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen

The Underground Geographer @ Subtopia: A Field Guide to Military Urbanism

Paglen on KQED


PRISON NATION: Posters on the Prison Industrial Complex

March 19 - June 4, 2006
Watts Towers Art Center
1727 E. 107th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90002

PRISON NATION epitomizes the Center for the Study of Political Graphic’s (CSPG) mission to link art and social action. Powerful posters from artists, designers, activists, and organizations around the country and the world, cry out against the devastating nature of the rapidly growing prison system in the United States. These graphics reinforce CSPG’s claim that there has never been a viable movement for social change without the arts as pivotal to conveying the ideas and passions of that movement. Grassroots efforts are more effective when strong graphics project their messages.

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics collects, preserves, and exhibits posters relating to historical and contemporary movements for social change. Through its varied programs, CSPG is reclaiming the power of art to inspire people to action.

There has never been a movement for social change without the arts—music, poetry, theater, posters - being central to that movement. Political posters in particular are powerful living reminders of struggles worldwide for peace and justice. Communication, exhortation, persuasion, instruction, celebration, warning: graphic art broadcasts its messages through bold images and striking designs. The archive contains more than 50,000 posters produced in a staggering array of visual styles and printing media, dating from the Russian Revolution to the present. University, museum, and public collections of this material are rare, and are seldom accessible to the public. CSPG is uniquely committed to widely exhibiting this rich visual record of social movements.

The Prison Industrial Complex: Rehabilitating the System
Sponsored by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics
April 7, 2006

One of the primary goals in the punishment of crime has been the hope for reform. Today, however, the role of the prison as a place for rehabilitation, growth, and personal advancement appears obsolete. Since the privatization of the United States prison system in the 1980s, the system has become a vast $40 billion-a-year industry, the most elaborate in the world. At a time when the United States has achieved the highest rate of imprisonment per capita in the history of the world--in which, for instance, one in four African American men are under correctional supervision--the U.S. public is slowly awakening to an unprecedented crisis of mass incarceration. Investigating notions of punishment and imprisonment, repentance and acquittal, this discussion addresses many of the issues surrounding the prison industrial complex, focusing on privatization and industry.

Participants include Ashley Hunt, artist and activist; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, scholar, University of Southern California; and Trevor Paglen, artist, writer, and experimental geographer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Temporary Services

Current Services / Past Services / Booklets / TS Blog / In Public / Mobility

As we live, so we work...

Temporary Services is a group of three persons: Brett Bloom, Marc Fischer, and Salem Collo-Julin. We draw on our varied backgrounds and interests to incorporate our aesthetic practice within our lived experiences. The need to create change within our daily lives translates directly to our public projects.

The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to us. We embed the creative work we present within thoughtful and imaginative social contexts and strive to create participatory situations.

We champion public projects that are temporary, ephemeral, or that operate outside of conventional or officially sanctioned categories of public expression. We appreciate such diverse activities as makeshift roadside memorials to accident victims, temporary housing encampments designed by homeless people, tree houses fabricated by children, and idiosyncratic public notices that get stuffed inside the display windows of free newspaper boxes. We like outdoor projects that are encountered by surprise rather than sought out with deliberation like exhibitions and special events. We especially appreciate those projects that do not have permission and challenge expected usages.

All audiences are equally valuable to us. We have found that people who keep their eyes open while walking down the street are just as perceptive of urban visual culture as those who seek it out by reading the arts section of the newspaper every day.

Temporary Services has taken an extended interest in developing non-commercial methods of inserting ideas into publicly trafficked spaces since our inception in 1998. We develop or modify strategies for working in public that can be further adapted by anyone that may have a use for them. Working in public places forces us to experiment. It forces us to name our terms and to find ways to describe our group and our projects that do not rely on the languages of art theory or academia. We constantly re-assess and re-name in an attempt to make our process and thought patterns accessible to those we encounter.

Some projects that Temporary Services has organized, executed, or sponsored include:
  • A day-long bicycle rally for children and teens that was held in an empty city lot. Prizes were awarded.
  • Over twenty sandwich board signs created by artists placed in public spaces throughout Chicago.
  • A “gift” of 100 self-published and small press books surreptitiously added to the collection of the main branch of the Chicago Public Library. Many books remain in the collection two years after they were added. In fact, some books were officially catalogued by the library after patrons asked to borrow them.
  • A perfect copy of a parking lot attendant’s booth was moved from one piece of property to the next—creating a roaming architectural structure that drastically altered the psychological experience of the place is was left in.
  • An autonomous radio station that runs off of a solar charged battery.
  • An array of wearable inflatable devices (walls, instant crowds, giant hand and arm extensions and so on) that could be used to create spontaneous spectacles or disturbances.
The link between aesthetics and ethics is in the foreground of our ideas. We seek thoughtful and responsible ways of both presenting our work and collaborating with others. We participate in the creation of spaces for dialogue, reconfiguring social formations, and experiencing aesthetics in transparent and focused ways.

In all of our work, we try to consider the immediate ethical implications and the impact our actions have. We attempt to talk about our work in a way that is not detached and doesn’t gloss over the potential for abuse. A recent example is our collaboration with an incarcerated artist named Angelo on a project about the everyday inventions of prisoners. An important part of Prisoners’ Inventions involved safeguarding Angelo’s privacy and finding strategies to coordinate his participation in a project where he shares information that prison officials disapprove of. We had constant dialogues with Angelo in order to assess the risk levels of how he might be affected by working on this project with us while serving his sentence. Nothing could be rushed simply to meet an institution’s needs unless we were confident that Angelo wouldn’t be threatened by one of our decisions. During this project we also availed ourselves to many discussions with the museum that hosted it about the moral issues inherent in working with incarcerated people. We had extensive dialogues with the publisher of a book of Angelo’s writings and drawings of the inventions. We worked with the publisher to define the language used to discourage people from re-making electrical inventions that could be dangerous. In doing projects like Prisoners’ Inventions, we expect that as much time will be needed for talking about the process as we will spend preparing the work itself. This intense amount of communication is prevalent in many of our collaborations.

Collaboration is an important activity to us, both within our group structure and as a pre-cursor to dealing with others outside the group. A long-standing myth of our culture is that people are isolated individuals, struggling by the grace of their own good conscience and hard work to make a noble life. This is the myth of the rugged individual. This myth deceitfully places emphasis on individuals rather than the complex web of people that makes their accomplishments possible. This myth also obfuscates the extreme exploitation of others that is often necessary to achieve this kind of personal gain.

The reality is that all of us are immersed in a complicated system of social relations and ethical responsibilities. The myth of the rugged individual is so insidious because most people take it as a natural truth and not the product of a specific social and historical trajectory. By putting an emphasis on collaboration and the ethical treatment of the people we work with, we can begin to contest dominant models of cultural production and identify abusive structures that seek to benefit the few who hold power and access to representation. Group work functions in almost all art projects—from those that are labeled collective or collaborative to those advertised as “solo shows”.

On a practical level, working together gives us both the ability to do multiple projects at once and the flexibility to use each other’s experiences to our collective advantage. We also like collaboration because of the inherent challenges and incredible possibilities that come with working with each other and with persons outside of our group. We not only do more, but we are exposed to varied perspectives and opinions that we might never have to address on our own.

Temporary Services seeks to both create and participate in relationships that are not competitive and are mutually beneficial. We seek strategies for harnessing the ideas and energies of people who may have never participated in an art project before, or who may feel excluded from the art community as it exists for them. We seek tactics for harnessing the generosity of many individuals in order to produce projects on a scale that none of us could achieve in isolation. We strive toward aesthetic experiences that are built upon trust and unlimited experimentation.

Prisoners' Inventions / By Angelo and Temporary Services

This project was a collaboration with Angelo, an incarcerated artist. He illustrated many incredible inventions made by prisoners to fill needs that the restrictive environment of the prison tries to supress. The inventions cover everything from homemade sex dolls, condoms, salt and peper shakers to chess sets. We collaborated on this project with Angelo for over two years. We had many additional collaborators who made a book, exhibition of re-created inventions and a prison cell possible. This page offers an overview of the project thus far.

Prisoners' Inventions: An Interview with Temporary Services / by Craig Buckley


This page is a repository of the recent resurgence in right wing attacks on free expression, the use of the Patriot Act for political intimidation and repression, and the general intolerance of unpopular opinions and images. Please send us information and links. It is only through making these abuses visible that we can counter them and insist on an open and tolerant society. The focus of this page is mainly on visual culture and the arts, though the political and social repression is certainly not limited to these areas.

There is a surveillance camera on the corner of Morse Ave. and Glenwood Ave. just steps away from Mess Hall. This concerns us greatly and we wanted to create a public dialogue around the placement of the camera in our neighborhood. We are putting this large print in our window and asking visitors and passersby to submit replies to the question. We will post those replies and hold several public meetings and discussions to talk about the camera.

MESS HALL: What It Is (After the First Year) / By Dan S. Wang

... To describe what Mess Hall is against such sociohistorical conditions, with their attendant political urgencies, is to suggest that Mess Hall, for all its humble effect, can be a meaningful part of a tide, a current, a flow that moves in a general direction. Being a conscious effort, this direction is a chosen one, and therefore it is not inappropriate to confess that Mess Hall is in its most abstract interpretation an ethical project. Moreover, given the reality in which we operate and the constellation of forces working against the simple proposition of an open space available to a self-administered public, it is impossible to understand Mess Hall without considering its ethical dimension.

Mess Hall is an initiative mostly based out of a storefront space in a North Side neighborhood of Chicago called Rogers Park. There exists no single way to describe what Mess Hall is because the initiative continually enlarges its domain of activity; moreover, this document is merely one person’s point of view. That said, I believe Mess Hall projects can be thought of as belonging to several different types...

Selected Essays & Exhibitions

Practice in critical times: a conversation with Gregory Sholette, Stephanie Smith, Temporary Services, and Jacqueline Terrassa / Art Journal, Summer, 2003 by Dan S. Wang

THE FOLDS OF AN INSTITUTION / a conversation between Greg Sholette, Cesare Pietroiusti & Brett Bloom

Peer Pleasure 2: Red 76, Temporary Services and the Visible Collective

Brett Bloom and N55 exchanging

Construction Site @ Outpost for Contemporary Art

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wendy Cheng

Cemetery monument - site of Japanese American internment camp at Manzanar, California, 2004

Wendy Cheng is an artist and geographer living in Los Angeles. She is also currently a doctoral student in the Program in American Studies & Ethnicity at University of Southern California. She is working on a dual photographic and academic project on Japanese American internment camp sites. More generally she is interested in the dialectic of assignation and assertion that shapes the content of racial categories (to quote Susan Koshy), and in parsing popular discourses about race and ethnicity.

From 1998-1999 she traveled to Taiwan and Japan on a George Peabody Gardner Fellowship, completing a photography project focused on ideas of urban landscape. In 2002 she received the Dorothea Lange Fellowship in documentary photography and had her first solo show at the Taiwanese American Community Center in San Diego. In San Francisco, her work has been included in shows at Southern Exposure and SomArts Gallery, and as part of Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture 2003.

I first became interested in “landscape” not in its conventional sense of beautiful scenery, but as a concept encompassing the way in which people and the spaces they occupy create each other: a landscape of the everyday. I’ve come to see that through photography, which is a stopping of time and the framing of a moment in space, everyday life can be gifted with metaphor. My everyday life is filled with wonder and dismay — and I think I’m not alone. To try to be faithful to that ambivalence, I work at the intersections of fascination and repulsion, beauty and grotesquerie, the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Tract Homes Project

Tract-home communities are largely ignored by architects, spurned by educated urbanites, and overlooked and taken for granted in general. Yet, while the official tastemakers have been averting their eyes from the suburban mess, new tract communities have proliferated and morphed into fantastic forms. In fact, they now dominate the suburban landscapes of most major metropolitan areas from San Diego to Boston.

In the summer of 2002, supported by a Dorothea Lange Fellowship, I started from San Diego and went on to the Phoenix-Scottsdale-Tempe metropolitan area in Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Cleveland, Ohio; New Jersey and New York; Boston, Massachusetts; and Atlanta, Georgia. Traveling mostly by car, I found recently built and in-progress communities through official means (websites, new homes brochures, and advertisements), word of mouth (recommendations by locals), common sense (poking around freeway exits), and chance (just driving around). Visually and mentally, I compared flashy Tuscan-style “McMansions” in San Diego with the quirky, evolved forms of classic post-World War II suburbs like Levittown, New York.

Are the “new” tract-home communities (built in the last ten years) significantly different from the “old” tract-home communities (starting with the post-WWII Levittown- and Lakewood- style suburbs, and up to the ranch-style houses of the 1970s and ‘80s)? After exploring diverse metropolitan areas across the country, I feel the answer is yes. Developers and builders—the majority of whom are not trained architects—are filling the American landscape with mass housing on a larger scale than ever before, at local, regional, and national levels. The styles of the houses refer to a particular regional past—or several pasts at once. Facades mix Mediterranean with Georgian with Colonial Revival. Aluminum siding simulates New England clapboard.

The new suburbs, by their omnipresence and sheer number, offer us a lens into the tastes of middle- and upper-class income lives in America—and by their near complete absence in them, the lives of lower-income Americans. They manifest both racial integration and new forms of segregation, both economic inclusiveness and increasing stratification. Taken as a whole, the new tract homes are populated with a more racially diverse population than ever before—though the most interesting aspect of this is not harmonious integration but the creation of well-to-do ethnic suburbs. Similarly, tract homes are built for a wider range of incomes, from simple townhomes pitched to young couples to “luxury estate” enclaves that sell units for upwards of $1 million. But for the most part, each community is planned and pitched for only one income level, fostering increasing economic spatial stratification.

One glaring consistency with the “old” suburbs remains: the new ones are ridden with contradiction, bolstered by the rhetoric of democracy but weighted down with inherently exclusive impulses, representing both the achievement of the individualistic, utopian suburban dream and the ultimate commodification of the landscape.

Tract Homes @ Atlas(t)

Taiwan/Japan 1999

From 1998 to 1999, I spent nine months in Taiwan and Japan. The focus of my project was the urban landscape of these rapidly industrialized nations, especially the cities of Taipei and Tokyo. Up to that point, photography had always been a source of pleasure for me, but during the five months I lived in Taipei, I often felt depressed and lonely. I was oppressed by the dense crowds, polluted air, and pervasive consumerism. I would have remembered many of my wanderings through the congested streets as dreams if not for the photographs I was taking. In that mindset, my original objectives began to seem remote and too academic. I challenged myself instead to try to capture in photographs what I felt to be a collective spiritual malaise. These photographs, and more optimistic ones made the following spring in Japan, comprise part of a continuing project.

Postcards from Northeast Los Angeles / The October Surprise

Postcards as souvenirs of the vernacular landscape of Northeast Los Angeles. Participants are encouraged to complicate the postcard-as-souvenir genre. For instance, the majority of postcards depict ideal, elite, or extraordinary landscapes. What would postcards of ordinary, common, or troubled landscapes depict? What is your personal favorite place in Northeast LA? Your favorite thing to eat? The ugliest building on your block? If you were to sketch a tourist map of Northeast LA what would it look like? What would the antithesis of tourist map look like? Let's play with these ideas and have some fun!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Exploding School

The Exploding School

Designed to function outside of the traditional classroom space, the exploding school is nomadic. Taking its cue from Colin Ward and Anthony Fyson's book Streetwork it seeks to utilise the city as its classroom. The school attaches itself to educational institutions, piggy-backing established infrastructures and administrative frameworks and organizes tours in and around chosen cities with guest speakers and tour guides.

This expanded notion of the city as classroom is an experiment in inter-disciplinary education. The school is particularly concerned with the production of space, the environment and the city as a multitude of ecologies; touring parks, gardens, collectively produced art spaces, official city recycling and filtration facilities and their self-initiated community based counterparts. The school playfully mixes together the ambience of a school geography field trip, a city tour and a dissociative fugue. The school investigates recent developments in public art strategies, culture and regeneration, gentrification, urbanism, the environment, and projects that privilege social process.

Tyner White of the Maxwell Institute of Treeconomics

Spaces of Utopia: Contemporary Art and the Environment

An inter-disciplinary class led by visiting artist Nils Norman between the Department of Visual Arts and Environmental Studies program of the University of Chicago in conjunction with the SMART Museum's exhibition "Beyond Green", curated by Stephanie Smith.

8 city tours around Chicago / Class meets every Friday at different locations from September 30 to November 18 2005.

The class consists of 15 graduate and undergraduate students from different departments of the University, including Economics, English Literature, Visual Arts and Environmental Studies.

Sonoma County / March 17 2002
The Ecology/Art Expedition Survey, Phase 1, Sonoma County, California

The Expedition was organised by Nils Norman in collaboration with Oakland based artists Scott Constable and Ene Osteraas-Constable for the exhibition Utopia Now (and Then), Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa, California.

The Bay Area is home to a network of ecology and agriculture institutions. The tour visited a selection of these sites including the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, the Permaculture Institute of Northern California, Hog Island Oyster Company, and Cannard Farm.

East Dulwich / November 2000
Educational facility No:1. The topology of a proposal for a phantom experimental free school leaflet. East Dulwich, The Top Room, London

Disregarding established old-school educational models, "Educational Facility No:1" takes as a starting point the ideas of William Godwin, Summerhill, the Chicago Metro High School and Paul Goodman's School Without Walls to create a hybrid contemporary educational facility enabling a more site-specific context based collaborative art education.

DISMAL GARDEN - Between Ikea and the Südstadt - A SLIDESHOW

Fri Klasse

Fri Klasse skal forholde sig direkte til den virkelighed som findes uden for universitetet med henblik på at overveje kunstens sociale og politiske muligheder i en hverdag præget af globalisering og krig. Fri Klasse mødes hver 14. dag og skal udvikle sig gennem diskussion og samarbejde med studerende og lærere fra Institut for Kunst- og Kultur-videnskab og alle andre interesserede.

Fri Klasse Reader

Jakob Jakobsen / Infopool

Notes on institutions, anti-institutions and self-institutions / Jakob Jakobsen

Copenhagen Free University

The Copenhagen Free University opened in May 2001 in our flat. The Free University is an artist run institution dedicated to the production of critical consciousness and poetic language. We do not accept the so-called new knowledge economy as the framing understanding of knowledge. We work with forms of knowledge that are fleeting, fluid, schizophrenic, uncompromising subjective, uneconomic, acapitalist, produced in the kitchen, produced when asleep or arisen on a social excursion - collectively....

All Power to the Copenhagen Free University

Of all the affairs we participate in, with interest or without interest, the groping search for new ways of life is the only aspect still impassioning. The aesthetic disciplines have proved blatantly inadequate in this regard and display the greatest detachment when it comes to the basic questions. But the way forward is not to disband the aesthetic disciplines - the way forward is to demand more from them. In our search for new ways of life the chemistry of unhappy consciousness and surplus energy is still making us establish experimental institutions and still making us reformulate a discourse within which we apply the word 'aesthetics'. Copenhagen Free University is one such institution/discourse....

CFU Web Library

CFU @ 16Beaver

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Food / Systems

After Winter Comes Spring: A Critical Look at Food Systems in Chicago / AREA | CHICAGO

AREA#2 builds on the stated goal "to be a shared space to fuel, debate, refine, express and implement our collective goals for a more desirable and livable Chicago and world." This particular issue will focus on food politics through the lens of local groups who are committed to urban agriculture, radical ecology and to creating an alternative food infrastructure in Chicago.

Coercive Consumption / Claire Pentecost

Neoliberal Appetites
/ Brian Holmes


FRUIT takes up the challenge of elevating the ecological knowledge of consumers and encouraging a way of life that is friendly to the environment. We want consumers to be conscious of the entire life of a product, from production to utilization, and not just what they see in the stores. Consumers must be aware that every phase of a product's life influences the environment and ourselves.

While cities are often seen as set aside from nature, we aim to investigate the agriculture which feeds urban dwellers. For Beyond Green, Free Soil will use oranges as a vehicle to explore the complex relationships that make up the worlds Food Systems.

The VisibleFood project is a website and database created to expose the hidden costs of the globalized system that produces, processes and distributes our food. These costs are not accounted for in corporate balance sheets or in reports on national economies, but are deferred-either to the future or to people somewhere further down on the food chain . The damages are paid by the water we drink, the air we breathe, the soil that has become depleted and poisoned, by whole economies in other countries, by small farmers everywhere, by our health and even more by children's health, and by workers paid less than a living wage to make our food appear in supermarkets and restaurants as if by magic.

Think of it as a "Whole Truth in Labeling Act" initiated and performed by citizens in the absence of government and corporate responsibility. No such database currently exists. We have designed ours as a managed open content system so that new information can be submitted by users who are either already doing this kind of research or are inspired to start. The website includes a guide to research which gives users a primer to locating and evaluating information on these topics as well as a step-by-step guide to the easiest method for inputting the information you uncover. If you think you want to add to this growing bank of information please register. In addition to the database itself, the website is also a nexus for information and analysis on these issues.

The Temescal Amity Works is a community art project that facilitates and documents the exchange of backyard produce, conversation, and collective biography within the Temescal Neighborhood of Oakland, CA. It is created by Ted Purves and Susanne Cockrell in collaboration with the Temescal Merchants Association and area residents.

Since the beginning of 2005, we have maintained a community crop sharing program called The Big Backyard and a storefront just off Telegraph Avenue that hosts an open space called Reading Room. We produce an ongoing series of free postcards that document the neighborhood’s social economy, residents and ecology. These postcards and our other publications, such as maps and recipes, are available at our storefront, through our website or at local businesses throughout the year.

Fallen Fruit is an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood. We ask all of you to contribute your maps so it expands to cover the United States and then the world. We encourage everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets or parking lots. Fallen Fruit has moved from mapping to planning fruit parks in under-utilized areas. Our goal is to get people thinking about the life and vitality of our neighborhoods and to consider how we can change the dynamic of our cities and common values.

Fallen Fruit: A Mapping of Food Resources in Los Angeles / The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest

NPR / Private Trees, Public Property: Picking 'Fallen Fruit'


Europe as Europe. No borders, just land with people and things. People and things that move.

MILK is a locative art - mapping project, that explores visual and documenting possibilities of GPS technology. Since summer 2003 it has been developed as international collaboration project between Esther Polak, Ieva Auzina and RIXC – Riga Center for New Media Culture.

MILKproject introduces to one of the countless movements of the international food trade, in this case milk, produced by Latvian farmers, made into cheese by a local factory with the help of an Italian expert, transported to the Netherlands, stored in a Dutch cheese warehouse to ripen and sold at the Utrecht market.

The map follows the milk from the udder of the cow to the plate of the consumer, by means of the people involved. They all were given a GPS device for a day: one of the days that they were somehow occupied with the movements of this dairy. The installation shows the actual GPS-tracks, the reactions of the participants on the tracks, and their personal relationship with the landscape involved.

Milk Traces becoming readable / Thomas Thiel in conversation with the artist Esther Polak

Edible Estates / gardenlab

Edible Estates is an attack on the American front lawn and everything it has come to represent. It is an ongoing series of projects to replace the front lawn with edible garden landscapes responsive to local culture, climate and landscape.

Edible Estates proposes the replacement of the American lawn with a highly productive domestic edible landscape. Food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth and our neighbors. The banal lifeless space of uniform grass in front of the house will be replaced with the chaotic abundance of bio-diversity. In becoming gardeners we will reconsider our connection to the land, what we take from it and what we put in it. Each yard will be a unique expression of its location and of the inhabitant and their desires. Valuable land will be put to work.

The Edible Estates project will be implemented in 9 cities in the United States over the next 3 years. An adventurous family in each town will offer their typical suburban front lawn as a working prototype for the region. They will dare to defy the sweeping continuity of their neighborhood's green lined streets. Working together with the family and additional helpers the front lawn will be removed and replaced with an edible landscape. This highly productive garden will be designed to respond to the unique characteristics of the site, the needs and desires of the owner, the community and its history and especially the local climate and geography.

A booklet will also be produced specifically for each town and distributed for free. It will demonstrate to residents how they may go about replacing their lawn with a food producing landscape. The booklet will include listings of local nurseries, fruits and vegetables that are recommended for the region, native plants that are edible, local businesses that may assist with the labor and maintenance, basic gardening principals and further reading resources.

With the modest gesture of reconsidering the use of our small individual private yards, Edible Estates takes on issues of global food production, our relationship with our neighbors and our connection to the the natural environment.

The Edible Estates project is part of the Gardenlab program, established by Fritz Haeg in 2001. With the garden as metaphor & laboratory, Gardenlab initiates ecology based art & design projects.

Not A Cornfield is a living sculpture in the form of a field of corn. The corn itself, a powerful icon for millennia over large parts of Central America and beyond, can serve as a potent metaphor for those of us living in this unique megalopolis. This work follows a rich legacy of radical art during the 20th century on a grand scale. I intend this to be an event that aims at giving focus for reflection and action in a city unclear about where it's energetic and historical center is. With this project I have undertaken to clean 32 acres of brownfield and bring in more than 1,500 truck loads of earth from elsewhere in order to prepare this rocky and mixed terrain for the planting of a million seeds. This art piece redeems a lost fertile ground, transforming what was left from the industrial era into a renewed space for the public. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is currently designing the historical park this site will become. This design process has taken several years so far and is a difficult process both because of the many communities adjacent to the site they would all like to serve and because of limited funding. By bringing attention to this site throughout the Not A Cornfield process we will also bring forth many questions about the nature of urban public space, about historical parks in a city so young and yet so diverse. About the questions of whose history would a historical park in the city center actually describe, and about the politics of land use and it's incumbent inequities. Indeed, "Not A Cornfield" is about these very questions, polemics, arguments and discoveries. It is about redemption and hope. It is about the fallibility of words to create productive change. Artists need to create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy.

field trip / nance klehm

one lovely june afternoon, my junk friend celio helped me "find" a shopping cart and get it to my house. that weekend, i filled the shopping cart with soil and planted it with six kernels of "golden bantam" organic heirloom 1902 sweet corn. two months later, the shopping cart was equipped with a travel accessories : radio, raincoat, journal, thermos and homemade seed packets and the corn hit the road.

folks volunteered to be pushers/farmers and traveled the streets and alleyways of chicago with the corn and their own interpretations and agendas. the corn cart has visited community gardens, toured supermarkets, politicized a street fair, gone out to coffee and rested in many backyards. the corn has been attacked by hail, squirrels, cucumber beetles and idle curious hands. it has been a long and circuitous field trip.

The Resource Center's City Farm is a sustainable organic farm bordering two very diverse Chicago neighborhoods: Cabrini Green and The Gold Coast. Located on the west side of Clybourn Avenue, just north of Division Street, the farm boasts 30 varieties of tomatoes as well as beets, carrots, potatoes, gourmet lettuces, herbs and melons. All produce is grown in composted soil generated from various sources, such as restaurant trimmings from some of the city's finest kitchens.

How to Make a City Farm / as told by Ken Dunn to Salem Collo-Julin (PDF)

Driving Around with Ken Dunn / AREA | CHICAGO

Recycling, Renewal, and Radicchio: Ken Dunn and Mobile City Farmstead / TENbyTEN

In the news...

South Central Farmers

Since 1992, the 14 acres of property located at 41st and Alameda Streets in Los Angeles have been used as a community garden or farm. The land has been divided into 360 plots and is believed to be one of the largest urban gardens in the country.
The City of Los Angeles acquired the 14-acre property by eminent domain in the late 1980s, taking it from nine private landowners. The largest of these owners, Alameda-Barbara Investment Company (“Alameda”), owned approximately 80 percent of the site. The partners of Alameda were Ralph Horowitz and Jacob Libaw. The City originally intended to use the property for a trash incinerator, but abandoned that plan in the face of public protest organized by Juanita Tate and the Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.... (Continue > What we are about)

Some resources...

The Land Institute / Salina, Kansas

The Land Institute has worked for over 20 years on the problem of agriculture. Our purpose is to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops.

Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project / Madison, Wisconsin

Ag Observatory / Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy / Minneapolis, Minnesota

Food First / Oakland, California

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture / Ames, Iowa / Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions

Food Routes

The Politics of Food

Poverty Mapping / Global Food Security