My “New Growth” Sculptures were installed recently at Drew University. It was a fantastic setting for these sculptures and great opportunity, but one funny thing happened right after installation. Before the cement was dry on the palm tree, someone had stolen it.
Of course I took this as a misplaced sign of approval – pilfering is a complement whereas vandalism is the opposite.
After a campus-wide email (the digital equivalent of LOST/REWARD posters), one half of the sculpture was returned anonymously – It was left in a parking lot, propped against the car of an administrator. (Each tree is made up of two sides, front and back.) I recreated the missing side using the returned half as reference, and all was well.
I recently heard the podcast episode “Palm Reading” on the fantastic podcast 99% Invisible regarding palm theft (which is apparently a thing….some live palms are worth up to 20K!) and also an analysis of what palms signify in our culture.
[Orientalist Study, Figures by the Water, Egypt (c. 1890) by A. Marchettini]
The Spirit of Elsewhere….the Holy Land…Exoticism…Orientalism….Luxury and Leisure….
What New Jersey college student wouldn’t want an occasional taste of these things, all evoked by this particular species of plant.
Take a listen.
I recently heard an amazing podcast by 99% Invisible about the former walled city of Kownloon. (Episode 66.)
Image above by Ian Lambot.
The city was a sort of symbolic “free zone” for the Chinese while Hong Kong belonged to the British. It operated sort of like a completely different country; different laws, different standards of living, etc. An island within an island. New York City now has 26,403 per square mile. Kowloon had 3.2 million. Apparently it was a sort of free-for-all in terms of municipal services: Waste Management = throw your trash out your window. Temples installed screens over their roofs to keep off the trash. (This created some great ambient lighting!) Utilities were stolen via makeshift wiring over and over. When the line was cut, they ran another one. Wires and pipes accumulated, clogging the alleys and cluttering rooftops.
Images below by Greg Girard.
Listen to this 99% Invisible podcast.
I have a couple of theories about why pneumatic tubes are magic. I think they inspire wonder because they’re alive or it feels like they’re alive. They’re reaching out through the city they have tendrils and tentacles and they breathe and they throw things up and they feel much much bigger than we are. I also think they inspire wonder because they manifest communication. For us today, when we think of communication, all the 1’s and 0’s and digital things that we move don’t feel real tangible to us anymore. but i also think that they felt pretty magical to people back then too, that they were electrical and breathing networks of communication. You could scent a handkerchief and send it to your loved one via pneumatic tube, and it would still smell like you. So I think that we’re romantic as well and I think that’s part of the wonder today too.
So in a sense they’re both alive and mechanical. both high and low tech. and there’s also something to be said about the journey of a tube canister. You can imagine it snaking its way through these underground passageways, carrying your message. And so this idea of being able to go somewhere where you wouldn’t otherwise be able to go is amazing.
This is a fantastic episode of 99% invisible, tracing the creative geneology of the Geico commercials all the way back to Dickens.
The story is by Starlee Kine and originally appeared in Pop Up Magazine #6 in San Francisco.