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28 DECEMBER 2012

Influential American experimental cinema: Meshes of the Afternoon

"Meshes of the Afternoon is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. A non–narrative work, it has been identified as a key example of the 'trance film,' in which a protagonist appears in a dreamlike state, and where the camera conveys his or her subjective focus. The central figure in Meshes of the Afternoon, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, recur throughout the film; events are open–ended and interrupted. Deren explained that she wanted 'to put on film the feeling which a human being experiences about an incident, rather than to record the incident accurately.'

Made by Deren with her husband, cinematographer Alexander Hammid, Meshes of the Afternoon established the independent avant–garde movement in film in the United States, which is known as the New American Cinema. It directly inspired early works by Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and other major experimental filmmakers. Beautifully shot by Hammid, a leading documentary filmmaker and cameraman in Europe (where he used the surname Hackenschmied) before he moved to New York, the film makes new and startling use of such standard cinematic devices as montage editing and matte shots. Through her extensive writings, lectures, and films, Deren became the preeminent voice of avant–garde cinema in the 1940s and the early 1950s."

(MoMA, 2004)

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999.

Maya Deren (1943). "Meshes of the Afternoon", 16mm film, black and white, silent, 14 min. Acquired from the Artist.

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TAGS

16mm1943 • Alexander Hackenschmied • Alexander Hammid • American cinemaavant-garde cinemablack and whiteBolexcinemacinematic devicescloakdeathdream • dream world • dreamlike qualityeditingexperimental cinemaexperimental film • experimental filmmaker • filmfilm pioneerfilmmakerflowerFreudianindependent cinemainfluential directorinfluential worksKenneth Angerkeyknife • matte • Maya Deren • Meshes of the Afternoon • mirrorMoMA • New American Cinema • non-narrativeopen-endedpersonal filmrecurring ideasrepetitionrhythmscreen-mediated virtual spaceseminalsilent filmstaircaseStan Brakhagesurrealist cinemasymbolic meaningsymbolism • Teiji Ito • tranceunconscious desires • unconscious meaning • women in filmwomen in historywordless

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 AUGUST 2012

Kevin Kelly: screen culture is a world of constant flux

"Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts and half–baked ideas. It is a flow of gossip tidbits, news headlines and floating first impressions. Notions don't stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled by the audience. Screen culture is fast, like a 30–sec. movie trailer, and as liquid and open–ended as a website. ...

On a screen, words move, meld into pictures, change color and perhaps even meaning. Sometimes there are no words at all, only pictures or diagrams or glyphs that may be deciphered into multiple meanings. This is terribly unnerving to any civilization based on text logic."

(Kevin Kelly, 19 June 2000, "Will We Still Turn Pages", Time Magazine)

Fig.1 JasKaitlin "hypermediacy" taken on April 25, 2010 using an Apple iPhone 3GS [http://www.flickr.com/photos/64776338@N07/5996281055/].

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200021st centuryaudienceauthorised voiceauthorityauthorshipbook • classic logic of books • cohesive narratives • constant flux • credibility • cultural change • double screening • dual screening • endlessly tweakable • fast action • first impressions • flowfragmentaryfragmentation • framing narrative • gossiphalf-baked ideashypermediacyinformation in contextinterconnectedness • interlinked • Kevin Kellyliquid • meanings change • multi-tabbing • multiple meanings • narrative framingnon-linearopen-ended • people of the book • people of the screen • quick cutsreflexive modernityscreen culturesensemakingsound bitesynthesise knowledge • text logic • tidbitsTime Magazine • traditional narratives • turning pages • various contexts

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 JULY 2012

Sense of adventure: what happened to playgrounds that give children space?

Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms – often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture – were meant to belong in a well–mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew–whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post–war austerity and postmodern assemblage.

The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.

The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' – the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post–war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.

Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits – hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.

It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.

Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short–lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.

It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers – that could come in handy."

(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)

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1940s19431980s1990sad-hocadventure playgroundAldo van EyckAlfred Trachselausterity • Battersea • bomb site • Camberwell • Carl Theodor Sorensen • challenge imagination • childhood imaginationchildren • clashing colours • coalition governmentcobbled together • construction site • CopenhagencreativityDanishDenmarkdetritus • didactic • didactism • dream up • elementary forms • Emdrup housing estate • Empress Frederick • engagement • Erect Architecture • exposure to risk • formwork • free expressionfun • Glamis Adventure Playground • healing effects • health and safety culturehybridimaginationimprovisation • informality • junkjunk playgroundjunk playgrounds • Justin McGuirk • Kilburn Grange Park • Labour governmentLady Allen of Hurtwoodlearningmakeshift • model citizen • modernismmodernist aestheticmodernist furniture • new era of design • NIMBY • open-endedopen-ended play spacesparticipatoryparticipatory processpersonal responsibilityplay • play leader • play spaces • play worker • playground • playground design • playscapespost-war • post-war reconstruction • postmodern assemblagerecycled materialsrisk-takingRobinson Crusoe • rough wood • rubbishrustic • salvaged • sanitised • scriptible spaces • Shadwell • skew-whiff • sterile placesstreetscape • Theodor Sorenson • urban scars • warfare • weird structures • Zaha Hadid

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
22 APRIL 2012

Richard Sennett: The Architecture of Cooperation

"The theme of the lecture addresses a question: how can we design spaces in the city which encourage strangers to cooperate? To explore this question, I'll draw on research in the social sciences about cooperation, based on my book, and relate this research to current issues in urban design."

(Harvard Graduate School of Design, 28 February 2012)

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2012Adam Smithagency of access and engagement • architecture of cooperation • autonomybelongingbordersboundariescity • city living • civic engagementclosed systemcooperationcraftwork • declarative forms of expression • declarative mode • designed spaces • deskilling • dialogicdialoguedifferent strata of society • edge condition • edgesempathyencounters between peopleengagementforms of expressionforms of human cooperation • fruitful cooperation • Harvard Graduate School of Design • Harvard Universityhegelian dialectic • kinds of skills • La Marqueta • large cities • lectureMikhail Bakhtin • mode of domination • non-placeopen-endedparticipationpowerproblem findingRichard Sennettsocial constructionismsocial exchangesocial interactionsocial issuessocial relationssocietyspace of ambiguitystranger • subjunctive forms of expression • sympathy • unclosed system • urban centreurban design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 NOVEMBER 2011

Limbo: beautiful 2D sidescroller puzzle game

"Though this is just an early teaser trailer to the upcoming Danish platformer, Limbo, it's already looking brilliant and I'm already thinking of the possibilities. An indie game to the core, Limbo is being produced by 1 extremely talented individual, Arnt Jensen, who is behind the art, concept and design. Limbo has recently received a healthy grant from the Danish government in order to continue the development of the game, more proof of the good that government funded innovation achieves."

(Playthrough.net, 26 September 2006)

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20102D • 2D sidescroller • ambientanimation • Arnt Jensen • artatmospheric presenceblack and whiteboychiaroscurodangerous environmentsDanish • Danish government • darkeerieexpressionismfantasy elements • film grain effects • game • gruesome • gruesome imagery • horror genreindie gameslighting • limbo • Limbo (game)monochromaticopen-endedphysics systemplatform game • Playdead (game developer) • puzzle platformerspooky woodsstripped-downteaser trailer • trial and death • video gamevideo game artvisual designvisual spectaclevisual stylevisualisationworld of the storyXbox 360Xbox Live Arcade

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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