When the Killing's Done cover image/ courtesy: Viking

tc title T.C. Boyle
In his latest novel, T. Coraghessan Boyle considers the real life story of the National Park Service’s systematic slaughter of wild animals. To be clear, the species in question at the center of When the Killing’s Done are the invasive rats and non-native pigs whose presence has disrupted the ecological balance on Anacapa and Santa Cruz, two of the Channel Islands off the Southern Californian coast. Getting rid of these pests, according to the argument presented by the Park Service, would enable a return to the conditions as nature intended, before the arrival of sheep herders and shipwrecked gold prospectors introduced the undesirable creatures in the first place and set off a chain of habitat-altering ramifications.
     Using this highly contentious campaign to frame the story, Boyle constructs a fictional tale of characters touched by the arguments over which lives are worth saving and just when it is reasonable to play God. Alma Boyd Takesue, the good-intentioned Park Service biologist who supports the extermination process, is pitted against the hotheaded and dreadlocked animal rights activist Dave LaJoy and his band of perfervid followers. The battle lines are drawn, the passions are intense, and nearly everyone, no matter their position on the killing, is out for blood.
     Animals verses animals, humans taking on animals, and finally, humans up against humans – the conflicts presented here make this only the latest in Boyle’s literary explorations of the complexities present where fights over nature occur.

Greenspace March 15, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

By Paul Nicklen courtesy of The Annenberg Foundation  (Click to see full Image)

By Paul Nicklen Courtesy of The Annenberg Foundation (Click to see full Image)

ee title Extreme Exposure
Some photos are harder to come by than others. The average paparazzo will tell you that much. But capturing the rarest of images can often put a photographer’s very life in jeopardy. Far trickier than snapping the picture of an unsuspecting celebrity from the other end of the beach with a telephoto lens are the shots taken in more demanding environments with even wilder species set in the middle of the frame.
     Prints from an assortment of nature and wilderness photographers are on display at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles through April 17, and what the pictures all have in common is that they were perilously difficult to take. Risking the loss of life and limb in bone-chilling Antarctic waters, gator-infested swamplands, disease-ridden jungles, or at the site of erupting volcanoes, the lensmen responsible for these images managed to come away with photographic evidence of scenes rarely observed by the human eye.

Architecture, Art, Greenspace February 14, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

Image Courtesy of Robert Flottemesch. (Click for slideshow)

Image Courtesy of Robert Flottemesch. (Click for slideshow)

title 2 Lunar Cubit
While the people of Egypt are anticipating a bold new future for their country, thanks to the powerful protests by demonstrators in recent weeks, an American artist has been recognized for his exciting plan to bring future-minded energy of a different sort to the Middle East.
Robert Flottemesch and his team of collaborators received the Land Art Generator Initiative’s grand prize last month for the design of Lunar Cubit, a blueprint for a 50-meter-tall solar paneled pyramid surrounded by eight 22-meter-tall pyramids, each of which represents a different phase of the lunar calendar. The intended construction site is five kilometers from Abu Dhabi’s international airport in the United Arab Emirates, the host country of the World Future Energy Summit, where the prize was presented. Flottemesch accepted the award with his landscape designer Johanna Ballhaus, his artistic consultant Jen DeNike, and Adrian De Luca, who helped develop the project’s data monitoring system.
Making use of the design template left by the ancient Egyptians was a longstanding goal of Flottemesch’s. “Ever since I visited the pyramids when I was much younger, the mystery that has surrounded them and the scope of the engineering has been something that I find quite significant,” he tells PLANET.

Books, Greenspace February 7, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

16 The Magnetic Northtitle39 The Magnetic North
filler29 The Magnetic NorthIt’s been a brutal winter across much of the United States, with storm after storm blanketing great stretches of the country in glacial layers of white. But at a higher latitude, there’s a different story being told. The National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported unprecedented lows in the Arctic sea ice extent for the month of December, dating back to its first satellite observations. And temperatures in normally frozen regions have been as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit above average, making the Arctic a hotspot for increased concern.
     As Sara Wheeler tells it, the snow-capped top of the globe has traditionally found itself at the center of controversy. In her newly released travelogue The Magnetic North, she tells of the territorial disputes, displaced societies, political persecution, and cases of environmental destruction that have all centered on the Arctic throughout history. Today’s news is mirrored in countless affairs of the past. Consider that before the far north became a battleground between nations over claims to oil and natural gas reserves, it was home to a chain of Cold War era Distant Early Warning radar stations set up by the enemy superpowers and was the shortest path between the continents for potential ballistic missile launches. Or keep in mind that long predating the polar bear’s endangerment at the hands of climate change and before pollutants like PCBs found their way into the Arctic food chain, Elizabethan merchants hunted and depleted whale populations for their oil and land mammals for their fur in the Canadian Arctic.

Art, Fashion, Greenspace January 27, 2011 By Jordan Sayle

title36 Ted Sabrese
There are some with a taste for fashion. And then there is photographer Ted Sabarese. In his world, loafs of challah serve as shoulder pads, artichoke leaves can be assembled into evening gowns, and ravioli is best worn with brown loafers. Shot in early 2009, Sabarese’s “Hunger Pains” series predates Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress, but it may be thanks in part to the pop star’s awards show attire that these flavorful images have found a second life online. Its outfits may seem a bit unusual, but imagine having to explain a fur coat or a leather jacket to someone unfamiliar with either of them.
     Given his experience in advertising, including campaigns for Verizon Wireless, IKEA, and Halls Cough Drops, it makes perfect sense that the photographer is drawn to character-driven portraits best appreciated as components in a portfolio. As in advertising, there are signals to be found just about everywhere in his pictures. PLANET recently spoke to Sabarese about food, fashion, and the controversy that results from mixing the two.

Looking at some of the edible clothing that you’ve assembled, it’s amazing how much it tends to resemble the textured fabrics and layered articles that people might actually wear.
Obviously when you look at the images, you do know that it’s food. But the hope is that maybe for a nanosecond, you look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful,’ especially the artichoke dress, which I think is a beautiful couture dress. There’s the waffle pants guy, and his banana shirt was kind of argyled. And the man wearing the pasta – it was supposed to be like a woven sweater.

Architecture, Greenspace December 14, 2010 By Jordan Sayle

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

title25 Prism Cloud
Designers Matt Johnson and Jason Logan cite “Prism Cloud” as an example of their aim to use sustainable technologies as tools for creating transformative experiences. As colleagues at the University of Houston College of Architecture, they have collaborated on this solar energy entrant in the Land Art Generator Initiative with several objectives in mind.

“Our goal was to make a project that would be simple to install, compelling as an experiential space, and that would generate energy without appearing explicitly infrastructural,” explains Johnson.

     One of the major criticisms leveled against any large-scale installation of solar panels is the sheer size of the footprint. The monumental solar field proposed for Deming, New Mexico, for example, will cover more than 3,000 acres of surface area upon its completion. So while there are environmental benefits to be gained from any photovoltaic-based source of electricity, “Prism Cloud” offers a lighter touch: it consists of malleable, thin-film solar cells strung together by cable and suspended cloud-like above the ground as a canopy, held aloft only by a series of structural concrete piers (or oases). The lightness of the physical footprint atop the earth’s surface makes this an appealing proposal, but it is a different form of light altogether that turns this energy generator into a genuine piece of land art.

Greenspace December 6, 2010 By Jordan Sayle

Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Click to enlarge)

Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Click to enlarge)

title22 ANWR Turns 50
There aren’t many inhabitants in the remote northeastern corner of Alaska, and that’s completely by design. The area remains off limits to development, excepting the caribou and Dall sheep that call the North Slope home or the polar bears and beluga whales found along the Beaufort Sea coast. It has been 50 years since the 19.3 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established, and though its barren tundra and snow-capped peaks appear as majestic as ever, their future survival as untouched pieces of the American landscape is less than certain.
      When nearly 9 million acres were first designated for protection under President Eisenhower in December of 1960, the public land order drafted by the Interior Department explained that the measure was being taken “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values.” The refuge has been greatly expanded since then, most notably under President Carter in December 1980, eventually resulting in the cordoning off a territory nearly the size of South Carolina. And yet, conservationists of previous decades could not have anticipated the human intrusion that has begun to take place by means other than direct encroachment on the land. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the territory, reports a five to seven-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase in the region over the past fifty years, (understandable given the Arctic’s accelerated warming trends). The effects are already being seen in the form of thinning sea ice and coastal erosion.

Art, Books, Greenspace December 2, 2010 By Jordan Sayle

The Day After Tomorrow by J Henry Fair, published by powerHouse Books (Click image to enlarge)

The Day After Tomorrow by J Henry Fair, published by powerHouse Books (Click image to enlarge)

title20 The Day After Tomorrow
He’s been to many of the locales across the continent probably found toward the very end of most travelers’ sight-seeing lists: the deforested lands of Kenogami in Ontario, Canada; the mountaintops laid bare by coal miners in Appalachia; and the beds of petroleum coke in Texas City, Texas. J Henry Fair has journeyed to each of them so that those less inclined to follow this itinerary can simply view the pages of his book, The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis. To be published by powerHouse Books in January 2011, it assembles 80 vivid color photographs from Fair’s 10-year-long and still ongoing project, “Industrial Scars,” which examines the repercussions of modern lifestyles on the natural landscape. Essays are interspersed throughout by prominent writers and environmentalists, including NASA’s James Hansen and Tensie Whelan of the Rainforest Alliance. For Fair, artwork is a call to action. Planet spoke to him about the power, the ugliness, and, yes, the beauty of his images.

Artists often resist giving the impression that there is any political motivation behind their work, but you are completely forthright. How did you decide to do away with any pretense about what you were hoping to communicate?
Well, why be pretentious? The first thing that I am asked when I show someone these pictures is ‘Oh my god, what is it?’ And actually the pictures came before the knowledge of what is it. I went looking for it, but I didn’t know what I’d found.

METI – Handmade School. Rudrapur, Bangladesh.  2004-06.  By Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag.  Image: Kurt Hörbst (Click to enlarge)

METI – Handmade School. Rudrapur, Bangladesh. 2004-06. By Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag. Image: Kurt Hörbst (Click to enlarge)

title17 Small Scale Big Change
Over the last eight decades the architecture department at the Museum of Modern Art made its reputation by promoting avant-garde European and American work, mounting exhibits that defined and championed movements like the International Style, Postmodernism, and Deconstructivism. So MoMA’s new architecture exhibit “Small Scale, Big Change,” which focuses on modestly scaled, community-centered projects around the world, marks a dramatic shift in their mission.
     It also serves as a potent call to arms. Architects everywhere today are challenged by economic instability and environmental concerns and, at the tail end of modernism, searching for a meaningful, unified language with which to build. The projects at MoMA suggest that the solution isn’t a new set of forms, but a new way to conceive and orchestrate building and infrastructure projects.
     The eleven projects on display are truly global, and include works in Africa, South America, South Asia, and the Middle East. None was designed by a “starchitect,” and all were implemented in close collaboration with civic and community groups. Most significantly, each project grew out of real practical and social needs. One of the most powerful designs in the show is an American house prototype that costs only twenty thousand dollars. Two other projects, a primary school in Bangladesh and a linear park for Rio de Janeiro, were developed in direct response to community requests.

Art, Greenspace November 16, 2010 By Jennifer Pappas
Final Tiaõ photographic print entitled Marat/Sebastiao–Pictures of Garbage Photograph by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio

Final Tiaõ photographic print entitled Marat/Sebastiao–Pictures of Garbage Photograph by Vik Muniz, courtesy of Vik Muniz Studio

wasteland title Waste land
Waste Land is a powerful new documentary that follows Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, to photograph a spirited group of ‘catadores’, pickers of recyclable materials. The catadores eke out a living in the dump, sifting through endless mountains of ripe garbage, removing roughly 200 tons of recyclables a day. Unlikely stewards of the environment, the catadores reside on the fringes of society — in rubbish-strewn slums, ostracized, and misunderstood. Having built a successful art career using unconventional materials, Muniz arrived in Gramacho hoping to “change the lives of a group of people with the same material that they deal with everyday.” The resulting portraits, reconceived on a grand scale by the catadores themselves using hand-picked recyclables, take on a trajectory all their own, reawakening the lives of everyone involved in the collaboration. Directed by Lucy Walker, (Countdown to Zero, Devil’s Playground) and filmed over three years, Waste Land has been lauded with film festival awards, elicited standing ovations from Mexico City to Tokyo, and, along with Muniz’s photographs, helped raise thousands of dollars for the Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho (ACAMJG). A film of deep contrasts, Walker imbues the catadores with a sense of dignity and humor, bringing their bleak lives into sharp focus despite the sometimes overwhelming despair of the landfill. PLANET spoke with Vik Muniz and Lucy Walker about junk, the human factor, and the transformative power of art.