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Image interpretation: © Y-U-K-I-K-O

Before the Ceremony

03.07.14
2 min
Post

You leave the table too late, make your excuses and head for the showers below deck, leaving too little time before the ceremony, and realising only as you begin to descend the swinging rope ladder that you’ve no idea where the showers are.

You wind your way through the tightly arranged weight-lifting equipment in the gymnasium below and begin to cross the main arena beyond. Hundreds of people are down here below the glass domed ceiling high above, which is a ruinous tangle of warped steel and dangling shards. Rooms, nooks and doors line the perimeter walls and a warren of corridors, gangways and arcades lie beyond. You cross the space, pass by a crumbling fountain and approach a cranny on the other side, illuminated by blue neon and decked with webbing. You ask a woman with short cropped hair and navy blue clothing the way to the shower stalls, and explain your dilemma at length as she leads you part of the way. But the directions are vague and the terrain unsure. Ash and rubble coat the floor, knee-deep in parts. And you think: below deck, the aircraft carrier has been designed to look like Fallujah.

You stumble upon the showers in the back room of a back room. Arranged as a row of vertical chrome pipes in the center of the space, all the showers run constantly, soaking the stools arranged around them, and the clothes piled high upon them. You undress beneath the pitching water and are at once surrounded by old friends who begin to stain your skin by dowsing you in blue and red powders. It’s tradition, you know, to do this before the ceremony, but you convince them to refrain with a few choice words.

Looking for the Attic in the Cellar – REM 1, Dream IV

Image interpretation: © Y-U-K-I-K-O

A Molotov Cocktail on the House

Jamal Ghosn about Venezuela
27.06.14
4 min
Post

The Maintenance Required light in the car’s dashboard should be universally ignored. Its purpose is to irk you and to plant a seed of doubt in your head. Soon after it lights up you start “hearing noises” and then it’s only a matter of time before a car advertisement finishes the job.

One dashboard indicator that should never be ignored, however, is when that capital E lights up.

I hadn’t driven a car in months. It’s my least favorite mode of transportation and not because of its carbon footprint. I just happen to be a fan of the old-fashioned foot footprint and I try to leave mine along the paths I take. Mud paths do the job, but my eyes light up when I see a Wet Concrete sign. The size 45 shoes with worn out grooves are mine. Sorry. I actually had to look inside my shoe to look up its size. It seems as an enough number to remember, but I never do.

Last week a car was left in my custody. It was a Honda and it had the Maintenance Required light on. Puerto Ordaz in eastern Venezuela is not a walking-friendly city. It’s a planned city that was built 60 years ago to house workers in a mining industry that extracts ridiculous amounts of wealth from the Earth core under Venezuela. As with most modern planned cities, wide avenues and hard to access public spaces are incorporated in the design to compartmentalize working class people.

A few months ago, anti-Chavista protesters would block one of these wide avenues on a nightly basis. The protest movement faded but occasional protests still take place. Burning tires is the obstacle of choice for those attempting to block roads. Tires aren’t highly flammable. They are actually doused in gasoline to get the fire going. But once they do catch fire, tires produce a steady plume of thick black smoke that rise to the sky in what I assume is a message of anger. The laws of gravity dictate that what goes up must come down. At that point anger turns into a higher laundry bill for the residents of the area.

I decided to take advantage of the car I had to get to know the city better.

At some point the dashboard E lit up, so I drove up to a Petróleos de Venezuela pump. My choices were either 95 or 91 octane. Half and half was not option. Do you know the right octane level for your car? I still remember that mine is size 45.

I suspect that the No Cellphone sign at the gas station is as bullshit as the no cellphones on an airplane rule, but I did turn off my engine and I did not light a cigarette while the dude pumped my gas tank full.

The pump is slow so let me tell you more about what’s been happening in Puerto Ordaz. Yesterday, a brand new public transport bus was torched allegedly by anti-government protesters. It was the third such incident since I arrived here last month. A series of youtube clips document one of these arson acts of resistance. “Acts of resistance” have also destroyed a number of traffic lights around town. The surviving traffic lights have a built-in countdown timer. I wish this gas pump had a countdown timer. It does have a Total Cost gauge, but it doesn’t seem to be moving much.

5 Bolivars. That was the total I owed for full tank of gas. One US dollar is 50 Bolivars, so that’s 10 US cents for a full Honda tank of gas.

I’m all for government subsidizing the basic needs of citizens, but this seems a bit extreme. I drove off feeling that I had just robbed the Venezuelan people.

This also means that the opposition’s pyromania is subsidize by the socialist government they are trying to burn down.

Cans and Rockets, Part 4

25.06.14
3 min
Post

In February 2014, Chris Woebken and I found ourselves on the way to M.I.T.’s Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about an hour’s travel away from the town of Auburn where Robert H. Goddard had launched his first rocket in 1926.

On a whim, we stopped at a Toys-R-Us and bought a couple of Estes scale model rockets and motors with the intention of playfully re-enacting the launch. Upon arriving we found the historic site, now a golf course, completely covered in snow. We barely managed and were struck by how much it visually resembled the Moon.

One month after, we held the inaugural meeting of the Society for Speculative Rocketry – named in honor of the Berlin Society for Spaceflight – at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in Chelsea, New York City. The aim of this ongoing artistic research project is to explore the practicalities of model rocketry in an artistic context, in part through building on the work of The Extrapolation Factory, a joint project by Chris Woebken and Elliott P. Montgomery, which provides a framework for speculative thinking.

Eyebeam’s main space was transformed into “the basement of a think-tank”, borrowing widely such as the windows of RAND Corporation, with a view on a virtual Santa Monica beach. Large tables were divided into sections such as ‘speculation’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘vehicle assembly’ and ‘vehicle display’.

After spending half of the day being taught how to build a functional model rocket by a volunteer from the Long Island chapter of the NAR, participants were provided with an array of inspirational material – historical photographs, Tsiolkovsky’s drawings, NASA’s visions of space colonies and more.

Those materials served as triggers for a guided speculation process in which the participants would build a symbolic ‘payload’, an object to go into the tip of the model rocket, a scale model, nested within another scale model.

False memories, alternate presents, visions of the future or of the past. In addition to providing on-site 3D printing we also created a ‘Tsiolkovsky Kit’, a collection of items from the previously mentioned sketches, already in the shape of plastic models, thus short-cutting Tsiolkovsky’s visions and their later miniaturization as a scale model.

Day two, March 16 2014, saw a return to Auburn, MA in order to stage a performative re-enactment of Robert H. Goddard’s launch that had happened on the same day, 88 years ago.

One of the final models we launched was carrying a little camera. Although the camera was extremely light, it considerably altered the flight path of the rocket, making it ascend just a couple dozen feet before the motor burned out and the parachute deployed.

Upon viewing the video, a local expert in rocketry remarked that this flight must have almost perfectly traced Goddard’s first flight, producing the equivalent of a visual record for what wasn’t documented in 1926.

The Society for Speculative Rocketry is in a sense magical thinking through scale models. However, it is also an exploration of the dynamic flows between the wildly different ontologies that all happened within a single discipline of science and technology – roughly 150 years after Jules Verne had first published ‘De la Terre à la Lune’, a fiction which both Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and The Berlin Rocket Society cited as key inspiration.

Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min
Post

At the dawn of of rocketry, the work of the Berlin Verein für Raumschifffahrt (The Berlin Society for Space Travel) was particularly interesting. By the end of the 1920s, the Society’s launches at the ‘Raketenflugplatz Berlin’ (Spaceport Berlin) had garnered a fair amount of public the interest through newspaper articles and not least the fact that some of the rocket motors were loud enough to be heard from as far away as Potsdamer Platz. The German film industry had also taken note and at the time and director Fritz Lang was working on a big feature film for UfA titled Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), tangible proof for the great public interest in the subject at the time.

Lang decided to involve the Society to create a realistic depiction of space travel. Hermann Oberth, credited as a scientific consultant, and his colleagues helped design the fictional space ship called ‘Friede’ (Peace), largely based on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s sketches and to some extent on the Society’s own vehicles which at the time were still at the scale of today’s model rockets. In fact, at one point of the movie’s narrative, a model of the rocket Friede is scrutinized by experts before the actual voyage to the Moon, props of props.

The movie itself is remarkable in how much it anticipated images that were to be realized during the space race which was partly fought with cameras. (In ‘Fashioning Apollo’ Nicholas de Monchaux talks about how the American space program was largely to created for one photo – an American standing on the Moon).

Presumably because of the involvement of Oberth and his colleagues, Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond pre-visualized with remarkable accuracy not only technological aspects things like rocket assembly facilities and launch pads such as the ones later erected at Cape Canaveral but also humans and liquids floating in weightlessness and even the famous earth-rise picture, taken on December 24, 1968 during Apollo VIII. Astronaut William Anders was so taken by surprise by this celestial photo-opportunity that it is safe to assume that he had not watched Woman in the Moon.

And there were yet more ways that UfA’s film project helped significantly advance early rocketry through a curious kind of fusing of the realities of fiction and engineering. Looking for a spectacle to promote and celebrate the first screening of Woman in the Moon at Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm in October 1929, UfA had intended to launch an actual rocket at the heart of Berlin and paid the Verein a significant amount of reichsmark towards design, construction, testing and launch. It would be been the first time for rocketry to cross the border from a functional model to an actual vehicle – funded by an industry which deals in fantasy.

The launch from Kudamm did not happen (luckily since according to Robert Nebel it might have resulted in a major disaster) and neither did an alternatively scheduled event to accompany the film’s premiere in the United States – the American release had overlapped with the emergence of ‘talkies’ and the interest in films such as Frau im Mond with all their over-acted jealousy and heroism immediately dwindled, turning it into the “last great silent film” – that never quite made it out of Europe. Its impact on space flight, however, was immense. The Society made rapid progress and was already making plans for the first manned vehicles when in 1933 the Nazis made it illegal for civilians to engage in rocketry. Tellingly, they also raided UfA’s production offices, seizing all props from the movie.

Meanwhile in the United States, Robert H. Goddard was launching rockets but nobody knew. Although he had published a range of scientific papers on the subject, his practical efforts at developing liquid-fueled rockets were unknown to Oberth and his Verein für Raumschifffahrt. They felt like true pioneers while in fact Goddard had made a first successful flight as early as 16 March 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there is only scarce evidence of the event, partially because the operator of the documenting movie camera had fled after apparently having been overcome by “fright” of the explosive device fuming in its metal launching frame. The rocket reportedly flew a short distance and then crashed into Goddard’s Aunt’s icy cabbage field. Years of experiments with ever larger vehicles followed until here as well the government realized the importance of the technology and stepped in.

In Germany, the Nazis had devolved rockets back into formidable and terrifying missiles, in part because of their randomness owed to imprecision and malfunction, especially the V-2. It was created largely under the auspices of Wernher von Braun (second from the right in the photo above) and manufactured by an army of slave workers.

The launch operations at Peenemünde in northern Germany took further cues from Woman in the Moon, such as the countdown, the black-and-white markings of spacecraft, which were still found on ships like the Space Shuttle. Presumably to avoid more fright of camera operators von Braun’s engineers also gave CCTV to the world.

After the war, von Braun was whisked almost immediately to the United States as part of ‘Operation Paperclip’ and the American and German efforts at rocketry thus somewhat converged, leading to both the creation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Apollo program. Throughout his whole career at NASA he was mostly depicted with models of the creations of his agency – toys and trophies of an engineer.

In 1946, the first staged version of the V-2 called Bumper became the first human-made object to travel to space above the desert of New Mexico. Not only did this prove Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation right, it was also painted in the same black-and-white pattern of the rocket Friede and carried instead of a warhead a film camera, like in a scene of Woman in the Moon.

Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min
Longread
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(W)hole

19.06.14
4 min
Post

I glance at the tip of my clitoris every time I go to the toilet and think about the glans it could have been. I follow my clit’s covered part with my fingers, that tiny stick full of nerve endings that ends in that micro-glans and think of the phallus that could have been and how big it would be, how large. I feel like I fell short during my stay at my mum’s uterus, that there’s something wrong, something missing. I wonder if that emptiness I feel is related to that. Freud may have been a misogynist asshole for a lot of things but maybe he was right about this. I also feel a bit like an asshole when I think this way about it; when I think this way about it and observe how beautiful women are, and how strong and all the incredible things they do and how hard I find it to be a woman sometimes even though I love it and how much of a fool and weak I am, don’t forget oversensitive, and sometimes I would just love to have a cock hanging from my body, because better too much than too little. And that amazing sensation of relieve and satisfaction when a phallus fulfills all that emptiness and how I would love for it to stay in there forever and then never feel again that it is too little nor too much. Men don’t feel it’s too much; they just see that too-muchness coming out of their body but embrace it fully as part of it. They don’t feel something’s missing either, that their penis should always be embedded and belong to that another huge missing part called woman. He finishes and everything finishes, that emptiness of having to surround themselves by the walls of an obscure and humid cavity which is surrounded by the body of another being also finishes.  A woman starts and her body demands more…Or less. Less emptiness. No emptiness at all, ever. Women get used to the emptiness as time goes by, it even seems that everything gets closed up to pretend nothing ever happened there and that nothing was nor is ever needed, in order to maintain their own mental health. Another concept in which I believe and also makes me feel a bit of an asshole, but I believe in it due to my own experience, is hysteria. I really get hysterical and it’s only completely soothed when the missing part gets inside my body. I don’t know how real is this and I also observe that women adapt to calmer times but I also feel they lose their glow and when their awfully called (but sometimes super real) emptiness gets fulfilled, that glow comes back and hysteria, although it has been soothed, truly vanishes from under their skin where it was hidden. Men also have this problem, but they have an easier way to solve it, I think…Sometimes they don’t really need quantity and sometimes not even quality, whereas women need both. I wonder if I would really feel better if my ovaries would’ve come all the way down to the labia and turn into testicles, if that clit and minor labia would have continued their development to turn into a penis, if the only fluid coming out of me would show up only in times of pleasure. I think about how similar feminine and masculine bodies are and how our development inside the womb makes us so different, noticing this similarity in details like how the clit looks like a tiny glans and major labia like testicles and how both of us have nipples even though men don’t really use them and how good they look on them anyway. I think about how we really are only one genre whose parts developed differently.

Keep the Party Alive

Jamal Ghosn about World Cup
15.06.14
2 min
Post

Most people don’t like a partypooper. The only people who do are those who would like to partypoop but are too constipé to do it themselves.

The World Cup of Football is always a big party. Even when its games were held in Pontiac, Michigan it was still a party. This year the matches are held in cities whose names alone get you swaying with how musical they sound. Belo Horizonte…Fortaleza…Curitiba…Salvador de Bahia…and of course Rio de Janeiro. So, basically, think of the biggest party you’ve been to; multiply it by the biggest number you know and then raise it to the Lambadath power and you’ll get how big the party in Brazil is.

So how do you raise awareness about real abuses and unjust evictions without sounding like a bitter partypooper? Especially since FIFA is big shit, and it’ll be hard to out-stench it.

Also let’s not lose sight that Brazil is a country that has made huge strides when it comes to economic growth and combating poverty over the past decade. Healthcare and Education naturally follow the same trend. The government must be doing something right, but try convincing someone who lost their home that.

I don’t know how you can be heard at a party that won’t be pooped. But I have a solution that would make football fans happy, justify Brazil’s massive investment in stadia, and, most importantly, it would forever take FIFA and its bribery process out of the picture.

Hold every World Cup in Brazil!

I know people are looking forward to see Vladimir Putin posing with the trophy in 2018. He can do still that on Copacabana Beach. Hey, if he does it there, it’ll be more likely that he’ll do it topless. Everybody wins.

The alternative is to continue burying heads in the sand.

John Holten
People

John Holten. The name says it all. Well, actually not, if you don’t know John Holten it will say nothing, but once you meet John Holten, the name will say it all once you hear the name John Holten. To me, hearing the name John Holten, a strong image will appear in my mind. I’m not saying he is Messiah, Jesus, or Steve Jobs, I’m saying he is John Holten. John Holten wears a suit, sometimes not. John Holten wears a coral-blue towel on his head, but most often not. John Holten has a beard, most often always a beard with real honest substance. John Holten meets you in a cafe on a cold January day and tells you that you are the first person he encounters after having spent several months working in a warzone. Not figuratively, but literally, a warzone. John Holten, recently also went to Warzaw, not a warzone, but a rhyme, to play a character in a performance. John Holten was not in Warzaw to play John Holten, but something similar. John Holten played another person within the body of John Holten. But nevertheless I insist, on this strong honest fact: there is nothing but one John Holten. One Holten for one John. So, what do you say, how about meeting John Holten, soon? You should. You should put a face to the name, a figure to the sound. John Holten. I can highly recommend a meeting with John Holten, whether its January or June. Meeting John Holten is a pleasure, in both temperatures.

Photo by Pedro Jardim

Sascha Pohflepp
People

Sascha Pohflepp is an artist and writer based in Berlin and elsewhere. In his work and research he aims to probe the role of technology in our efforts to understand and influence our environment, extending across both historical aspects and visions of the future. His artistic practice more often than not involves collaboration with other artists and scientists. Sascha’s writing has appeared in magazines such as Under/Current and Volume and he is an editor with VVVNT. For the book Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature which is out now on MIT Press he has co-authored an essay on the notion of living machines.

God's Singing Quartet

Jonah Go Down to Mosul

Jamal Ghosn about Iraq
10.06.14
2 min
Post

News is breaking today that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)–an al-Qaeda affiliate funded by allies of the Democratic West–took full control of the Tigris river city of Mosul. Mosul has its own rich history, but the ruins on the edge of the city go further back. There sits what was once the city of Nineveh. Some 2700 years ago, the capital of Assyria was the largest city on earth.

Even back then, cosmopolitan areas proved elusive to God. There’s something about people mixing that makes them less prone to having imaginary friends. Jonah was handpicked by God for the mission of reining in the big city debauchery of Nineveh. God sent Jonah his message via a singing quartet. Unfortunately, the original message was recorded on Betamax and thus forever lost. But God learned his lesson–turning Jonah into a whale of a lesson in the process. From then on God would only use Youtube.

The audio is a bit choppy, but the message is clear. Jonah shoulda obeyed the Lord.

The question is if Jonah was asked again today to go “save” Nineveh, would he volunteer to swim in the gastric juice of the big fish? Because sure as hell it beats whatever ISIS might have in store for the man who disobeyed God.

Before the Ceremony

03.07.14
2 min

A Molotov Cocktail on the House

Jamal Ghosn about Venezuela
27.06.14
4 min

Cans and Rockets, Part 4

25.06.14
3 min

Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min

Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min

(W)hole

19.06.14
4 min

Keep the Party Alive

Jamal Ghosn about World Cup
15.06.14
2 min

Jonah Go Down to Mosul

Jamal Ghosn about Iraq
10.06.14
2 min