Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tolls of War

I. Introduction:

Every day American troops and foreign civilians die as a result of armed conflicts or war. The following monument proposal is meant as a means to visually represent lives lost through government sanctioned war or combat.

II. Background:

The United States has had ongoing military engagements since the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990. Currently there are 516,273 U.S. military personal deployed in foreign countries.
Since the September 11, 2001 over 5500 military personnel and at least 120,000 civilians have been killed in instances directly associated with either the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars.

A commentary by Dr. Karl P. Mueller, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base, sums up the general point of view perfectly, “The American public is conditionally tolerant of military casualties and consistently indifferent to collateral damage”. As numbers pour in it's very hard to completely understand the constant death. This monument shall be created as an on time awareness aid. When reading articles about either military or civilian deaths, we almost don't make the distinction between 10, 100, or even 1000+ killed. The number is just a number, it is not physical but ephemeral, by the time we've read to the next paragraph it is all but forgotten. The tolls of war monument will be a visual aid in understanding the true extent of death as a result of military engagements.

III. Description:

As a visualization tool, the monument will acknowledgement the number of deaths due to war or armed conflicts involving the United States. It will be built on or near sites housing government officials directly related to the decision to engage in military action, it’s purpose, to remind us of the ongoing death tolls related to military action.

When attempting to represent the impermanence of life and even death I researched many types of communication before falling upon smoke signals.  Smoke signals are the oldest form of visual communication by man and still used today.  In Rome, the cardinals use smoke signals to indicate the selection of a new Pope.  Black smoke indicates a failed ballot, white smoke means a new pope has been elected.  The dynamic nature of smoke is able to very simply represent the shortness of life as well as the monentary, extinguishing and dispersing aspect of death.

The monument would be connected to a networked system of machines that reacted as new data is input into a website created for the monument. With each added death, the monument would create large plumes of colored smoke that would rise above and dissipate over the city. The color would directly relate to the specific war or conflict and whether the death was military personnel or civilian. The goal, to have as close to on time visual of each death as possible and force both the decision makers and the general populous to stop and acknowledge each individual death. This would allow commentary on the effectiveness of military action for a given event. The visual aid would give people a direct correlation between the length of time the conflict has taken place and the rise or drop in deaths related to that specific conflict.

IV. Benefits

The idea of benefiting society as a whole seems moot when referring to a monument. No one truly benefits from the building of a structure that acknowledges or remembers a time, place, event, person, or idea. A monument cannot provide food or shelter or love. The most a monument can do to benefit its viewer is to remind, to inspire, or to promote change within that society. With this monument, the greatest hope I could have would be to encourage the viewer to attempt to reshape what has become a business of war and possibly to search out more effective means to re-establish a feeling of safety within our lives that was devastated by the terrorist attacks on the United States.

V. Estimated Cost & Supplies

Initial: $15,800
Ongoing maintenance: $2250/ month

Hollow Concrete Base: $3500
30 foot Plexiglas tube: $800
Smoke Machine + non-toxic chemicals: $4000
Server to control smoke machine: $2500
Software to talk to server remotely: $3000
Website including data visualization: $ 2000

PDF of Presentation here: Tolls of War

Google Earth KMZ file here: Tolls of War

Monday, April 25, 2011

Improbable Monument


War: Monument to war and the purpose of war, rather than the lives lost. It would incorporate reasons for fighting wars like religion, oil, and land. Not sure how it would be conceptualized.

Recyclables: either an ode to recyclables or an impermanent monument made of all compostable materials that would deteriorate within a few years and absorb back into the natural environment.

But the idea I think I'll run with is a monument to Garbage. This monument would be dedicated to remembering the continually growing heaps that are essentially out of sight, out of mind.

Within Google earth this would be interesting placed as a giant floating garbage pile within the ocean, much like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a enormous region where garbage has accumulated due to ocean currents. The current rotational pattern keeps the debris in a specific area of the Pacific Ocean. Recent research done by the National Science Foundation suggest that the effected area is roughly double the size of Texas. The debris consists mostly of plastics, chemical sludge, and other random debris.

Though the patch is enormous, it cannot be seen through satellites and in programs like Google Earth because the majority of the debris consists of plastics which break down into small polymers that cannot be seen from space. Also, much of the debris is within what is referred to as a water column which is a conceptual column of water reaching from ocean floor to surface in any specific area.

This monument effects the public by keeping them aware of how their consumption effects the planet. It's a constant reminder of what we are all doing and possibly an incentive to change for the better. Obviously it wouldn't be feasable to create a monument in the actual size of ocean effected by the garbage, but if it were a large enough monument to say place within the San Francisco Bay and visible from Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Marin the visual effect off of our shores would be fairly dramatic. It would ideally be made of formed concrete, wood, or other natural materials to avoid the possible leaching of more plastics into the ocean. If it could be placed on a large pillar stationed on the bay floor for permanency, the actual monument would be above water level and the types of materials available for use are greatly expanded.

Artists working in Public Space

While searching for artists working with monuments or public space I came across Nilda Maria Comas, a painter/ sculptor from Puerto Rico. What struck me was a monument proposal of hers that I would think of as incredibly improbable within public space.

She created A Monument to Missing Children to educate the public about the violence and criminal acts, that are constantly happening all over the world against children. I see it as improbable because the subject is so horrific and monuments to atrocious events are very rare. Instead they seem to more often commemorate the events of overcoming hardship and terror.

The artist proposal is also interesting to look at and see how working artists write descriptions of their ideas for professional proposals. Reading other artists proposals I think will be very helpful in developing proposals for our student projects. I've never even attempted to propose something even similar to the improbable monument and it's nice to have a reference.

Monday, April 18, 2011


For the upcoming carto-biography or geo-narrative project in google earth, I plan on sticking within the bay area and following a path to my favorite places to enjoy a beautiful day in the bay. See if you can figure out the locations based on the pictures below:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foster Farms Culture Jamm

Most people don't think about factory farming when shopping for their families. Most that i've spoken with just never considered it or what it's like until confronted with the realities. Human beings are compassionate in nature and the majority of us don't enjoy contributing to suffering. The majority of factory farming isn't just in the mid west. It's right here in california too. This Factory Farming Map details exactly where and what they are, with huge areas of california having extremely dense populations of both laying and "broiler" farms. As part of my culture jamming project, i wanted to do something that could get people to think, but not be too "in your face" about it. Do something that was subtle, yet reminding a person that there is more information out there for them to seek if they want it.

For this culture jamm I printed new label stickers for foster farms chicken. A company plagued with cruelty and abuse. I started thinking about foster farms after finding this announcement that was posted a few years ago in a local berkeley grocery store.

What hit me most was that the store approved the notice, understood it, yet continued to sell a product which comes from this environment. The social responsibility ultimately falls upon the consumer to regulate the products they buy and understand the conditions in which they come from. Since the notice was merely posted at the store, the new labels give information to the consumer that is carried to their household. It's not as easily ignored.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Musée Mécanique

Over spring break I was racking my brain for places to visit with some relationship to the course and remembered the Musée Mécanique at Fisherman's Wharf. I hadn't been there since I was a kid and my mom was in town so we took a few hours to explore. For those of who who've never heard of it, the Musée Mécanique is part museum, part penny arcade. It's a huge collection of old arcade games from the turn of the 19th century up through arcade games of the 1980's.

My favorite "games" were not games at all, but elaborate scenes that move and play music when you insert money. There was a barnyard scene that showed the epitome of racial stereotypes in the early 20th century. The white characters were sitting on porches eating and relaxing, while tiny black figures with giant
red lips and white eyes served food and tended animals. There was a carnival built by an injured carnie with moving rides, and a santa's workshop with the creapiest santa's i'd ever seen.

Though most of the "games" were not interactive at all, they were the pre-decessors to modern arcade games and home video games. The oldest machine there was a Praxinoscope created by Emile Reynaud. The Praxinoscope was the successor to the Zoetrope.The major difference being that instead of looking through small slit at the pictures within the zoetrope, the Praxinoscope used a central cylinder of mirrors to reflect the images as it moved so that the viewer could look from any direction to see the animation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jamming Proposal

While researching culture jamming, it seemed like most of the content was fairly in your face. It was either on billboards or in posters and in public spaces where a lot of people could see it quickly. But i'd like to do something a little more subtle, direct to the consumer/user of the specific product i'm targeting.

One of the most detrimental practices to the environment today is the raising of livestock for food. This practice trickles down to the consumer through factory farming, which makes meat very easily accessible and cheap.

Recently I assisted in the creation of an iPhone database, where the information was presented to the user in a food product type label. It would be interesting to alter labels on meat packaging in stores to highlight the process of factory farming. It would be presented in such a way as to suggest alternatives and the products the new labels were applied to would only be from large processors, not small, local, farms.

The label could include a website to find more information, information about what happens at factory farms and what goes into the product the consumer is putting into their bodies. It would include statistics and alternatives and would be interesting if the barcode could be edited in such a way that it would still be scannable and possibly scan as a different product from the system.