Category Archives: export

Journey of Dust 먼지의 여행 (Munji Shinhe 먼지신혜)

A Sociecity Film Production by Suhee Kang and Patrick Lydon
Filmed at Gallery M in Seoul, South Korea

After graduating from university, she traveled for 14 months without money, wrote a hand-drawing traveling essay book called ‘Journey of Dust,’ decided to work seriously in the field of painting, and 3 years later had her first solo exhibition.

…if I believed in someone’s good will at heart, that I would get back kindness and goodness from them.

The heroine of this story is Munji Shinhe – Munji meaning dust. We caught up with Shinhe recently at her gallery opening in Seoul’s Insadong neighborhood, where we learned a bit more about her traveling experiences, energetic art works, hopeful attitude towards life.

대학 졸업 후 1년 2개월 동안 무전여행을 했고, 돌아와 ‘먼지의 여행’이라는 독특한 여행기를 펴냈다. 그리고 3년간 두문불출하며 그림에 몰두한 후, 수십 점의 그림들로 첫 개인전을 열었다. 이 변화무쌍한 이야기의 주인공은 먼지신혜. 밝고 힘찬 기운을 가득 담고 있는 먼지신혜의 작품세계와, 그 배경을 이루고 있는 독특한 경험들에 대해, 그리고 앞으로 이어질 또 다른 ‘먼지의 여행, 그 후’에 대해 들어보았다.

 

Traveling Without Money / 먼지가 되어 떠난 여행

When I graduated from university, I had this feeling that everything I did was like dust, so like the dust, I traveled with the wind, to Japan, India, Nepal, Thailand, and China, all without money. Many people told me “Shinhe, it’s impossible to travel without money” but my thought was that, if I believed in someone’s good will at heart, that I would get back kindness and goodness from them. On the other hand, if I doubted, or feared for my safety, I would get back such a feeling from the world. In the end, the love and positive feeling within me are like mirror. To follow this line of thinking means that I can essentially create my own world. If I already have my own richness in my heart, and I already feel comfortable by myself, then it does not matter what I do. Coming back from this journey, it was really not easy to live among others in Korea.

대학을 졸업할 때 쯤에, 남들이 생각하는 해야 한다는 일들을 해야 살아갈 수 있다는 생각이 있었던 것 같아요. 과연 지금까지 내가 뭘 해왔던 걸까, 제가 쌓아왔던 모든 게 그냥 한번에 훅 가버릴 수 있는 먼지처럼 느껴지는 그런 시점이 있었어요. 그때 돈 없이 세계를 여행하는 독일인 순례자 부부를 만났어요. 나도 저 사람들처럼 살아보고 싶다는 생각이 들어서 같이 떠나게 됐어요.
돈 없이 여행한다는 게 불가능할 거라고 생각하기 쉽지만, 내가 상대방을 믿고 그 안의 선한 마음을 봐주면 그 사람도 내게 친절함을 줘요. 반대로 만약 내가 의심이나 두려움을 갖고 그 사람을 대하면, 그런 감정들이 거울처럼 되돌아와요. 결국 내 안의 사랑, 내 안의 가치들이 거울처럼 보여지고, 그래서 내가 세상을 창조해가는 듯한 느낌이 있었어요. 그리고 내 안에 이미 풍족함이 있고 편안하니까, 무엇을 하든 상관없이 그냥 이 상태로도 행복했어요. 하지만 한국으로 돌아오고 나서는 다시 이 사회 속에 어울리기가 쉽지 않았죠.

 

Just Being, Like Dust  / 있는 그대로 존재하기

When I returned, I had hoped to do my own art work, but I thought I was unable to partake in art creation fully because of several impediments. Above all, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to express in my art. Through my traveling I was inspired, and thought about my drawing deeply; I practiced listening to my heart, my inner voice. Whatever I did, I tried to follow the feeling from my heart, not from my head. With this as guidance, when I draw I do it instinctively, with my inner feeling.

내가 상대방을 믿고 그 안의 선한 마음을 봐주면 그 사람도 내게 친절함을 줘요. 반대로 만약 내가 의심이나 두려움을 갖고 그 사람을 대하면, 그런 감정들이 거울처럼 되돌아와요.

어릴 적부터 늘 예술을 하고싶었지만 현실적인 어려움도 컸고, 무엇보다도 제가 예술에 담고 싶은 메시지가 무엇인지 막연했어요. 그러다 여행을 하면서 힘이 생겼어요. 그동안은 그림에 대해 그저 멀리 있는 막연한 것으로 생각했는데, 앞으로 이걸 갖고 살아보고 싶다는 바람을 갖게 됐어요.

여행에서도 계속해서 제 안의 목소리에 귀기울이는 연습을 했어요. 무슨 일을 하든 머리로부터 생각하는 게 아니라, 가슴에 오는 느낌에 따라 살아가려고 했죠. 그래서 그림을 그릴 때도 미리 계획하지 않고 직관적으로 가슴에서 나오는대로 그리게 됐어요. 그런 내면의 목소리를 들어주는 데에서 이런 영감들이 오지 않나 생각했어요.

The hugging arms in drawings, mean the feeling of just “being,” of hugging my inner elements and doing so without any judgement. This is the state of being comfortable, like being at rest. And the empty cup means that this space which seems full, is actually an empty space. The experiences of variety and abundance seem excited and lively, but essentially they are really only just images, empty.

그림 속 껴안는 팔의 모양은 판단하지 않고, 그저 있는 그대로 존재하는 느낌, 제 안의 여러 요소들을 감싸는 느낌에 대한 표현이에요. 평화롭고 편안하면서도 자유로운 상태를 나타내고 싶었어요. 그리고 빈 찻잔은, 가득 차 있는 이 공간이 실제로는 비어 있는 것과 같다는 뜻이에요. 내가 체험하는 다양하고 풍부한 경험들이 재미있게 느껴지지만, 사실은 그 또한 이미지일 뿐일 수 있고, 본질적으로는 비어있다는 걸 말하고 싶었어요.

 

Communication Through Drawing / 그림으로 소통하기

I hope people who see my drawings can be at rest, not in a physical sense, but one of mental relaxation. Without any standard or judgement, there is a feeling, a state of being comfortable; I’d like to share that feeling. I try be in this state myself, then express these kinds of feelings, then people can understand what I felt in creating the drawings.

그림을 보는 사람들이 휴식을 얻으면 좋겠어요. 몸이 피곤할 때 쉬는 육체적인 휴식이 아닌, 정신적인 휴식이에요. 스스로 갖고 있는 잣대나, 옳고 그름이라는 판단, 그런 것들을 다 내려놓고 편안해진 상태에서 느끼는 정신적인 쉼을 공유하고 싶어요. 내가 먼저 그런 걸 추구하고 표현하면, 사람들도 그걸 보면서 공감할 수 있지 않을까, 생각했어요.

I was given an interesting idea through the experience of drawing… as people, we want to get some new feelings from traveling, feelings like freedom, like joyfulness, etc… and people want to discover new things, too. But in drawing, I realized that I can connect with the same feelings which I would otherwise only get from traveling. So instead of traveling, I feel this through the act of drawing. So I feel okay not to go to travel anymore.

그리고 그림을 그리면서 새로 알게 된 게 하나 있어요. 보통 여행을 가는 건 그 여행을 통해 자유롭고 재밌는 느낌이라든가, 새로운 걸 발견한다거나 하는 어떤 ‘느낌’을 받고 싶은 거잖아요. 그런데 그림을 그릴 때 그 속에 내가 체험하고 싶은 느낌을 넣으면, 그걸 느낄 수 있게 돼요. 그러다보니 꼭 여행을 가지 않아도 괜찮더라고요.

Traveling was a flow, and I think it was very necessary progression. Now I think I want to travel in a completely different way. I’ll bring my drawings, talk about them with people. I feel these drawings are the way of communication, and also good friends of mine. In the future, I would like to communicate about my drawings with many people, and I hope to explore collaborations for animation, stage design, and music video.

여행은 제게 하나의 흐름이었고, 필요한 과정이었다고 생각해요. 이제는 여행을 가더라도 좀 다르게 다녀보고 싶어요. 그림을 갖고 다니면서 사람들과 이야기도 나누고 싶고요. 이제는 그림이 제 소통의 도구, 나의 친구 같은 느낌이에요. 제 그림으로 여러 나라 사람들과 함께 커뮤니케이션을 해보고 싶고요, 작품으로 갤러리에서 전시되고 판매되고 끝나는 게 아니라, 이 그림이 애니메이션이 된다든가, 무대디자인, 뮤직비디오처럼 다양한 분야로 콜라보레이션을 해보고 싶다고 생각하고 있어요.

 

Want More?

Visit Shinhe’s blog:
http://blog.naver.com/nanyanya 

and find her on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ShinheMunji

 

London’s $1.4 Billion Cycling Seed

Cyclists ride along a river path (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

Last week the city of London announced one of the largest cycling transportation development budgets in the history of the bicycle. The city’s Mayor, Borris Johnson, committed nearly £1 Billion ($1.4 Billion USD) to building up London’s bicycle infrastructure over the next decade. When completed the cycling network will qualify as one of the world’s largest public works projects.

To grasp the enormity of London’s $1.4 billion bicycle investment, Janette Sadik-Khan, the sitting Commissioner of New York’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has a budget of roughly $2 billion at her disposal… that’s her entire transportation budget. The entire New York City cycling development budget over the past five years is in the neighborhood of $2 million, or about 0.009% of what London’s budget will be in 2015 alone. The proposal is enormous.

New York City’s cycling budget over the past five years was roughly $2 million, that’s 0.009% of what London plans to spend in a single year alone.

But largely, Americans aren’t taking notice, and neither is the American media rushing to task. Take the words  “Boris, Cycling” for a spin on the New York Times internal search engine and you’ll come up with a big goose egg: ‘0 results,’ says the Times.

All of this is not unexpected of course. Cycling has gained tremendous popularity among commuters in London, many of whom speak largely of cycling’s physical and mental health benefits, as well as a general frustration at the high costs associated with operating motor vehicles. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Americans have been notoriously slow to covert to pedal power. In the U.S., cycling is still considered by the majority to be a poor person’s transport, or perhaps at best, a lifestyle accessory. The overwhelming successes and lessons from Europe are often mockingly shrugged off as ‘not relevant’ in America.

Still, cities like New York do aggressively attempt to put in place new cycling infrastructures, and it remains an uphill battle, competing against powerful lobbyists —  from old-fashioned district presidents to passionate residents — who are often most vocal in defense of the neighborhood parking spaces which tend to fall prey to new bicycle lanes. Even so, bike use in New York City has tripled since 2008, and hundreds of miles of bike lanes were put in place for this reason; since then, the two numbers have begun to feed off each other.

A Critical Mass?

Other cities across America are battling similar problems, but most are plagued by a duo of budgetary constraints and lack of direct demands from citizens.

Bike riders in Valencia, Spain (photo: PM. Lydon | sociecity)

Bike riders in Valencia, Spain (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

According to Nancy Folbre, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the city of Portland, Oregon — perhaps the most bike friendly city in America — has a commuting population of just 5.8-percent (less than 30,000 persons). Comparatively, some areas of London see over 50-percent of commute trips taken by bicycle. So which comes first, infrastructure or riders?

In London, not only did the chicken come before the egg, it pretty well popped out and started walking before the egg, too. When a city the size of London suddenly finds its commute routes saturated with bicycle riders, there is a necessity to respond with the proper infrastructure. Barring popular critical-mass-style bike rides, most cities in the United States seem to be many years away from having a ‘problem’ of too many bike riders.

But as John Pucher and Ralph Buehler of Rutgers University argue, bicycle development hasn’t always followed a chicken-before-the-egg path. Their study points out that bicycle use in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany — all seen as cycling meccas today — were subject to decades of tremendous decline through 1975; at one point in the 1950’s, the UK even sported a cycling mode-share higher than that of Germany. The changes, say Pucher and Buehler, were not spurred by cultural factors alone, but by government policy-makers who “focused on serving people, making their cities people-friendly rather than car-friendly,” shaping laws and regulations at encouraging human-powered transportation and discouraging the use of motor vehicles.

Today, most government bodies in the U.S. aren’t quite so pushy, they require immense pressure from riders to push for new bicycle infrastructure on a large scale, and also for more riders to be out on the streets in spite of the lack of infrastructure. Looking at trends in the U.S. over the past decade — where both ridership and government investment have risen steadily — these are issues that the States will eventually come to terms with.

At this point, it’s likely a matter of whether it will be slow and excruciating, or quick and painless. We, of course, vote for the latter.

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More on Bikes @ Sociecity

NYC: Moving on Two Wheels
Transforming Suburbia to Eco-Utopia
Copenhagen Economics: Cars a Net Loss, Bikes a Benefit
Does Car + Bike = A Good Thing?

Further Reading and Resources

http://grist.org/biking/2011-06-21-in-london-bike-commuters-are-the-majority-in-some-pla-outnumbers/
http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/irresistible.pdf
http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6456
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/the-bicycle-dividend/
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemain.shtml

A Tale of Two Subways

A woman exits a train on Seoul Metro Line 1 (photo: Patrick Lydon)

A woman exits a train on Seoul Metro Line 1 (photo: Patrick Lydon)

Last year, I took a rather ‘complete’ tour of one of the world’s largest metro rail transit systems, visiting all 483 metro stations in Seoul, South Korea over the course of a month.

During that month, I found rapid transit in the South Korean capital city to be not only massive, but also among the most technologically advanced in the world. At the end of the system tour, I was left questioning — even more than I already did — the way that transit development is carried out in the United States, and further, how the world’s second largest integrated rapid transit system with a daily ridership of over 8 million people, was built from nothing in just about three decades.

A total of 469-miles of track and 483-stations were built in Seoul in 30 years. By contrast, it took about the same amount of time just to plan and start construction on a 5-mile, 2-station extension for the BART rail transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A bit cheeky, but also somewhat harrowing, sociecity has put together a graphical timeline comparing three decades of development on the ‘BART to San Jose‘ corridor, set against a general timeline of metro transit development in Seoul.

A Tale of Two Subways, The BART Extension to San Jose (graphic: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

A Tale of Two Subways, Seoul Metro and The BART Extension to San Jose (graphic | sociecity)

On most levels a comparison such as this is just not a fair fight, but neither is the BART to San Jose extension timeline abnormally slow for an American transit project these days. Certain New York City subway projects wouldn’t fare too well either.

Will Travel for Public Works Projects?

A slightly ‘wild’ suggestion typically floats around when projects such as these are slow to take, that is: we might do well to buy our local policy-makers flights to places like South Korea, Germany, Japan, China, or even Columbia… all countries which are doing many things right in terms of public transit.

It’s actually not so wild a suggestion afterall, but seems more along the lines of common sense; learn and expand your knowledge by taking a live sampling from the world around you, and you will benefit greatly for it.

A Subway Exit into the Unfinished Incheon International Business District (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

A Subway Exit into the Unfinished Incheon International Business District (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

This is not to say that Seoul’s implementations are perfect — they are far from it — or that building at such a rapid pace does not have its downfalls — there are many. But in contemplating possible alternatives to the daunting process of political and financial mishaps in large public works projects, it often takes a bit of looking outside our borders — and comfort zones — to figure out what others are doing right.

Now, seeing how this story is titled a Tale of Two Subways, I’ll have to get back to finishing it later, perhaps around the year 2025… when the first actual BART subway tunnel in San Jose is scheduled to be completed.

 

In Japantown, Art Brings Community Closer

A Sociecity Film Production by Patrick Lydon with Mary Cheung + Teri Nguyen
Video not working? You can also watch it in HD on YouTube.

Sociecity visits one of three remaining Japantowns (Nihonmachi / 日本町) in the United States and talks with graphic artist Tamiko Rast about a public art project which has both ignited a flurry of local artistic work, and brought a community closer together.

Representing the culmination of a multi-year effort between the City of San Jose’s Public Art Program, and Tamiko, the Japantown Mural Project features fifty large vinyl mesh panels, each with a piece of original artwork from one of fifty local artists.

More about Tamiko Rast and the mural project:
www.rasteroids.com

Featuring the music of the San Jose-based Curious Quail:
www.curiousquail.com

Artist Pantea Karimi’s Political Mad-Libs

A Sociecity Film Production by Patrick Lydon

Sociecity sits down for a chat with artist Pantea Karimi in Portola Valley, California to ask about her obsession with newspapers, and find out how this fits into her latest piece titled “Fill in the Blanks.”

The piece, part of a group show at Kriewall-Haehl Gallery, asks gallery visitors to be involved and give their input on social and political issues by filing in the Mad-Libs style pieces. The interactive artworks (Karimi plans to create 100 of them in total) were put together using a year’s worth of Wall Street Journal newspapers.

Stephen Yarwood: Cut the Red Tape, Activate the City

Aerial View of Adelaide, Australia (Photograph: DougBarber | CC BY-SA)

Aerial View of Adelaide, Australia (Photograph: DougBarber | CC BY-SA)

We ran into Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood at a conference on Eco Mobility in South Korea of all places, and have since been keeping an eye on the forward-thinking developments in Adelaide, Australia.

A master-planned city of 1836 vintage, Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and a blooming center for culture. But it hasn’t always been this way; after the collapse of the state bank in the early 1990s, the city was thrown into bankrupcy. The last 2 decades have seen a slow recovery in bringing Adelaide back to being one of Australia’s cultural capitals.

Today however, the government is acting with surprisingly quick and bold moves – words that are rarely associated with government actions — thanks in part to the young and spry Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood at the helm. As Mayor Yarwood tells us, the city (and state) governments have some interesting tricks up their sleeves in terms of spurring development of arts, culture, and strong community, even on a tight budget.

Activating the City: Adelaide is currently piloting a “City Activation” program, whereby it funds small citizen-driven projects with micro grants. Yarwood wants to remove the complex bureaucracy and permitting process for people who have ideas on how to create a stronger sense of community. Although the program entails a small financial risk for the city, it allows citizens to test ideas that would otherwise sit as unrealized thoughts on paper. The first of these City Activation pilot projects were funded just this month.

—–

Sociecity: The central portion of Adelaide was Master Planned nearly two centuries ago, which would lead some to think of this area as static, unchanging. What is the reality to that, and what are the unique challenges you face having that pre-set city plan which is now around 170 years old.

Mayor Yarwood: First and foremost, yes, that is the valid perception, but not the valid reality. Cities are living, breathing organisms, transport is changing, society and the values are changing. The baby boomers here in Australia have really defined our society. There’s going to be an increased need for higher density housing. Eighty-five percent of housing in Adelaide is low density, our densities are massively lower than most any city anywhere else in the world.

There’s also a sense of tradition, and we’re one of the only cities completely surrounded by parkland. To preserve that parkland without being tempted to being drawn into the short term opportunistic process… I mean, even expanding the high school by 50-60 meters is a hot debate. We’re having a brand new 50,000-seat stadium built, and we’re encroaching on the parkland; some people would rather oppose a ½ billion dollar stadium project rather than see thirty trees removed.

So it’s an interesting challenge.

What we do have is a great grid system, so we have wide streets, a permeable city, fantastic heritage assets, a great railway network, like Melbourne. We have a fantastic canvas that we can use and enjoy.

How is your centrally planned business district “protected” from development due to it’s historical status.

I wouldnt’ say that the CBD is protected, North Adelaide is protected, as are other pockets. It’s more protection of the buildings rather than the urban structure itself. We’re still going through the process. We still have the challenges… we’re about to go through a big economic boom here, we’re just about ranked the world’s biggest open cut mine and world’s biggest mineral resource. As you can appreciate, that’s the history of Australian cities, gold mines, copper mines; but, we are still having that challenge where we need to define heritage as a strategic asset, protecting historical precincts, and not just historical buildings.

In comparison to other cities in Australia, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart are the three cities that absolutely have the heritage fabric where people come and say “wow, this is beautiful.” Much more like European cities.

Sydney is kind of like a shiny new American city, whereas Melbourne and Adelaide are more like European cities.

What is your City Activation plan looking like so far?

We’re really only maybe 3 weeks into it, and now we are in that ‘summer summer summer’ period. Frankly, my daughter finished school this week, so now the project is all about summer. There’s this really kind of personal dedication to getting out there and activating it, especially now. We have this whole pile of young entrepreneurs who are really inspired to do these things, we also have a new Permier (similar to a state Governor in the U.S.) who I met with last week who was actually saying “yes, you need to do this…” It’s really exciting for the Permier and the lord mayor (to be) completely on the same page, and it’s not official yet, but he’s pledge to match our funding for the project with $100,000. It’s not big money, but it is about quicker, lighter, bigger, cheaper, and in year one of the project, it is really just about proving it.

It’s the cab drivers, the car focus people, the small businesses who think that cars mean money, It’s these people we have to challenge in this first phase and do these small projects.

I think it’s going quite well so far and people are excited. We’re also getting a lot of community involved small businesses.

We’re not afraid to get out there and see what other cities are doing, either (Mayor Yarwood is visiting New York City later this year). In North America in the summer, everyone competes for attention, but when it comes to summer in the southern hemisphere, there’s really only a dozen or so interesting cities in the southern hemisphere. So you know, we get all the rock stars coming here, and we also get a lot of experts trying to escape the cold winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Charles Landry has been a thinker in residence here in Adelaide, Fred Hansen from Portland has come down here, and some staff designers from New York are coming here to show us what they have done and help train our staff. We are particularly open to new ideas, we have a history of multiculturalism, we’re not like some Americans who are say, a very proud San Franciscan, or a proud New Yorker, we are a proud part of the global culture.

You are taking certain risks in order to make this project successful, what are the limits as to how much risk, financial or otherwise, you are willing to take to make these projects happen?

The whole idea is doing is as cheaply as possible. We’re trying to get the local businesses to you know, water the plants on the street, and bring the tables and chairs in. One thing I’ve learned in the last 12 months is that cities are about people, not necessarily councils and bureaucracies, and so what we are trying to do is to start a real community movement, not an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ community, we’re actually trying to go to the broader community, to get businesses involved, get precincts involved, because it’s actually really up to the people. I’m saying: cities are for people and that means you. My favorite quote is “it’s not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city,” and it’s working, people are excited.

Burger Theory Mobile Food Truck in Adelaide, Australia (photograph: Timothy Tuppence)

Burger Theory Mobile Food Truck in Adelaide, Australia (photograph: Timothy Tuppence)

It’s all about getting out there and engaging people. Even getting the media on board with these issues is important. Usually they are critical, but they are actually being incredibly supportive, and part of my job is about communication and telling story and exciting people.

We also have a project called Renew Adelaide where we get young people to work with the council to find empty buildings, to work with the property owners to get free or very cheap rent to activate these buildings. We have a huge arts festival (Adelaide Arts Festival), and over that period especially we get people to activate these buildings and turn them into event spaces. I know San Francisco is really good at this stuff, and New York is as well, and it’s all got that ‘artist’ link to it, and I would say that Adelaide is more like San Francisco than any other city in Australia.

We’re trying to cut the red tape, to help change the culture. It’s all about helping people find solutions and we’ve had to re-write some of the rules so that we can allow temporary activity. So here is company-X having to spend 5 million to create something absolutely perfectly, like a Tiffany’s or Christian Dior or whatever, you know, but if you’ve got $50,000 and you want to put out some groovy materials or sell beer from an ice bucket, you have to pay the same fee and do the same paperwork as the the retailers at the high-end of town.

So what we need to do is have two sets of rules, if you’re trying to do this on the cheap, or trying to do some sort of temporary thing, we’ll let you do that. So it’s that birth, death, rebirth of cities.

Do you have a favorite project that’s being implemented?

Australia we have the biggest houses and biggest yards in the world, so we have this backyard BBQ culture where the real challenge for us is to draw people out into these public spaces because they are so used to say, activating their own backyard. A favorite I’ve had is the mobile catering and food trucks like Burger Theory because they have the ability to wheel something into a space, put out cardboard chairs and tables, use social media, you know, twitter it or something else, and have people show up. They provide a temporary activation of that space.

We’re really in the early stages of ‘reclaiming’ our spaces, and by doing that we can prove what is right. I think the critical thing is that, by doing this, the city council will know where to invest in the long term. This is about pilot projects that help us determine how to invest in the future, so instead of doing a huge white elephant, you are actually shoring this thing up with incredibly cheap activation, and if it actually starts to work then we can come in and start planning, spending you know, 10, 20, 30 million to improve the public realm and by then it will begin to attract private investment as well.

So what you really want to be doing is investing in the public realm at the time when it is so happening that the private sector is also going to come in an contribute, in terms of appropriate shops, land uses, housing, all those sorts of redevelopment things to help activate the space.

It’s like anything, you have to draw up a great plan, you first use pencil and/or charcoal, then you get our your paints afterward and you start painting in the picture. So we’re sketching a 21st century city at the moment in the hopes that in 5-10 years we can start to paint in the details.

It’s an exciting time, we’ve got that arts culture, we’ve got the history of being innovative and forward — we’re the first place in the world where women were able to vote — but we’re also outward looking, part of the global culture, and we’re open to accepting what other people are doing all over the world, we’re connected to the U.S. To Europe, to Asia, we have those networks out there, and not just with global corporations but with grassroots organizations.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Links and Further Reading…

Adelaide City Activation Program – City Website
Adelaide Arts Festival – Festival Website
Fringe Festival – Festival Website
Burger Theory – Food Truck[/box]

 

“Buckshot” Needed to hit Emissions Targets

Multimodal Transportation in Barcelona, Spain (photograph: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Multimodal Transportation in Barcelona, Spain (photograph: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Let’s face it. Even if you’re not on the Global Warming Boat — we assume a boat would be the best place if the sea level were rising — there aren’t many viewing angles at which burning fossil fuel looks good for us in the long term. The issue of airborne pollutants alone should be reason to take emissions reductions seriously, especially given the recent headlines regarding places such as Beijing, where air pollution routinely enters seriously hazardous levels for human health.

In light of all of this, the European Union has set a goal of achieving a 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas (CHG) emission levels by 2050. When faced with the task of actually doing it, however, the pertinent industries (energy, transportation, manufacturing) generally argue that this goal is nearly impossible to reach, while your standard-model eco-scientists fight back with: We’re going under Scotty. We don’t care how you do it, just get it fixed.

Aye, captain.

The Bicycle, the Bus, and the Car

Father and Children Cycling in the Netherlands (photo: Marc van Woudenberg)

Father and Children Cycling in the Netherlands (photo: Marc van Woudenberg)

The European Cycling Federation (ECF) released a report yesterday, giving an extremely thorough and well thought out study on transportation forms and how they will contribute to a serious reduction in emissions.

The commission’s report takes a serious look at the issue of emissions, quantifying production, operation, maintenance as well as infrastructure and disposal as part of the entire “transportation” picture. In doing so, they show a rather rough looking road to the dramatic European Union targets for lower carbon emissions, and also one where large-scale reconsideration of transportation methods is a requirement.

According to the study, about 24% of CHG emissions in the EU are from transportation (cars, airplanes, boats, trains) and 30% come from power generation (household, commercial, industrial, your electric car). The ECF figures that for every 1,000 miles driven in a car, you would need to ride approximately 13,500 miles on a bicycle to produce the same CHG emissions levels.

But what about my cool “∞ MPG” shirt, you ask?

Well, yes, bicycles are infinately better for the environment and for the personal health of the people who use them as a method of transport, but they create emissions too, however small.

These emissions are not from a tail pipe so to speak, but from the foods that riders eat, the metal and rubber that makes up their bicycles, and the transportation required to move all of that stuff. After all is accounted for, biking still results in emissions over 10 times lower than that of your average passenger car.

The Silver Buckshot

Simply evolving technology in transportation methods is not nearly enough to reach emissions goals, the study asserts. So what’s left, then?

Changing habits, changing commute lengths, and pretty much a complete restructuring on how we think of transportation.

The study calls this approach using “silver buckshot, instead of a silver bullet.” Getting folks out of cars and onto bicycles may seem like the most difficult way to reach emissions goals, but on the flip-side of that, switching to bikes is certainly one of the cheapest and most effective changes we can make.

If the general population cycled an average of just 3 miles per day, 50% of the targeted CNG emissions reductions could be achieved, the study suggests.

In general, however, the entire transportation system needs to be rethought. When used, vechicles need to be able to travel at consistent speeds, traffic needs to be reduced, public transportation and rail travel needs to be more efficient and link the correct places, and cities need to be built in concert with these modes of transportation.

European Cycling Federation - Avoid, Shift, Improve (Source : Dalkmann and Brannigan)

European Cycling Federation - Avoid, Shift, Improve (Source : Dalkmann and Brannigan)

The ECF model identifies three targets for change 1) Avoid — help reduce the necessity for car-trips with better city planning and land use 2) Shift — change our habits to make use of current alternative transportation methods 3) Improve– finally, engineer better mass transit and personal motorized transportation mechanisms.

If this sounds troubling for the EU, it is  a problem magnitudes worse to solve in the US. This is because, for the most part, large areas of EU cities are already built to work with mass transit, walking, and bicycles. In America, the majority of cities are unfailingly incompatible with the idea of short local commutes, efficient mass transit, and trips by bicycles and walking.

This study doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the US and other countries who have built their cities around the personal motor vehicle. In doing so, however, it shows us that we need to approach the restructuring of our cities with the utmost seriousness. We need to be doing everything in our power to make this change possible.

The study focuses on CO2, understandably, since it is a popular metric and driver of the eco industry. But CO2 isn’t truly a root or reason for a restructuring of our transportation system, it is just one symptom of an imperfect system. For the Eco movement to be understood and implemented correctly, the conversation must evolve to talk not simply about measurable pollution, but about the end results in terms of health benefits to individuals, the planet, and society as a whole.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Read More:

Read the Full ECF Study – (PDF)
Beijing Pollution – Wall Street Journal[/box]

Takeshi Yamasaki’s “Socially-Conscious” Investment

Takeshi Yamasaki, CEO of Global Agents (photo: Akihito Hatanaka | sociecity)

Takeshi Yamasaki, CEO of Global Agents (photo: Akihito Hatanaka | sociecity)

I hardly remember when I first met Takeshi. I think I was brushing my teeth in the communal bathroom of my new social apartment when I barely acknowledged the gentle “konbanwa” of the unassuming young Japanese guy next to me. Later, somebody told me the CEO of Global Agents was living in the same apartment and pointed to Takeshi. I couldn’t believe it. “That guy?” I asked. Yes, that guy.

Takeshi Yamasaki left the intensely profit-driven world of Goldman Sachs real-estate investment to form his own investment company. Today, Yamasaki’s chief concern is in making sure that his company is ‘doing good for society’ rather than just doing what makes profit.

Not to be confused with “social housing,” Yamasaki’s social apartments are modern, well-appointed buildings with communal areas for residents to interact. They are made affordable not through government subsidies, but by the very nature of their communal and social atmosphere, and as such are often full of young, energetic people.

Sociecity’s Sonya Poller interviews Takeshi in Tokyo, Japan…

——-

What inspired you to set up your company?

Well, I lived in London for six months when I was 19 and I shared a flat with other people. I found that this residential style was pretty fun. It’s not common in Japan; at least it wasn’t at the time. After that I started to think about business ideas. I heard that social networking sites were expanding such as Mixi or Gree (popular in Japan), so then I thought about demand which was socializing or connecting with people through the Internet. I thought there should be the same thing in real life so that people can socialize where they live.

It’s one thing to have an idea and another thing to actually do it – how did you make the transition?

Two main things. One was to find sponsors. The other was to find the right properties to be converted into social apartments. So, almost all of my first year was focused on these two things. Actually finding a sponsor was not really difficult. The most difficult thing was to find the right properties.

What reaction did the sponsors give a 22 year old student?

Well of course it was just a student’s idea. I wondered if they were really committed. But they thought it was kind of interesting and said “if you find a good property, we are going to support you.”

They took you seriously from the beginning?

Yes, but after that it was very, very hard. At first the board members were pretty skeptical about future demands. As CEO I needed to present properties with profit – definitely no loss. So in terms of that it was really hard. I think I saw 3000 properties, out of that I visited about 100 properties in about six months. We closed two properties. I was lucky.

Only two out of 3000 properties? What kept you going during that time?

Belief in myself, actually. I really thought that I could find good properties – that is the only thing that kept me going. I just want to provide those kind of properties and environments for people. I want to expand these things into Japanese society, to make Japan more global.

Now you are operating 10 properties. What is your goal in five or 10 years?

In five years I want to expand to more properties, to like 40 or 50 throughout Tokyo, and Japan… of course I want to go outside Japan and expand the social network throughout the world: America, Singapore, London… and then it will be easier to do house exchanges.

I want to create a real social network among the social apartments so that people can enjoy communicating – not just inside one property but among all residents.

I was surprised that you live in a social apartment, why do you choose to live there?

It’s a new type of apartment so I need to live there. Also I enjoy it. It is important for me to see for myself, what is good, what is bad, what needs improvement, from the tiny things to the big things.

I don’t think too many 28 year olds are doing what you are doing. How do you think you were able to succeed at such a young age?

Actually we are not successful yet. (Silence) I try to make an effort. Of course taking risks is very important, but not too much! Meeting many people, gathering many perspectives and knowledge has been very beneficial for me… but I am really not successful yet.

One of the Social Apartment properties in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan (photo: Social-Apartment.com)

A common room in one of the Social Apartment properties in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan (photo: Social-Apartment.com)

What does success mean for you?

Well I don’t know, actually I am pretty satisfied with what I am doing. Of course sometimes I face very difficult situations and I really think I cannot do something well. Sometimes, people may feel troubled, because of me, so as long as I feel something like this I cannot say I am successful.

How do you survive the difficult days?

As long as I am doing good things my actions won’t betray me. If I were doing something bad I might not get anywhere, I might be dead already. What I am doing, I think, is the right thing and our business definitely makes society better. As long I believe this, I try to think that society will return the feeling back.

What are some of the mistakes that you have made?

Many mistakes…really! It’s hard. I mean if I knew in advance maybe I wouldn’t make any mistakes. Of course I try not to repeat a mistake. I learn from every mistake, but sometimes it is too late but it’s human and humans cannot be completely perfect.

What about your mentors?

Recently I see how important having a mentor is. Asking people, looking for a mentor, that is a sign of change for me. I was not a person who liked asking people but I realize it is very important. Three or four years ago, the company was very small so I could say the company was mine, but now there are 10 people…just 10 people but also 10 people, you know… and shareholders. I realize that the company is not mine any longer. So I have to change.

What would you say to somebody who also has a dream of starting a business?

I think Japanese people tend to be bound by the current situation; they like things to be the same. Don’t be afraid to change your environment. If you don’t think about anything, I think that is the biggest risk, you can’t change. You have to be accustomed to taking risks. Taking risks is actually low risk, compared with people who don’t think about their situation.

It seems to me that you have a unique attitude. Why do you like taking risks?

Actually my family was really poor, so being in the same environment would not be good. I needed to change, I needed to get better and meet with people. I started to think about these kinds of things when I was about 17 or 18. Before that I was of course ordinary, even now I am ordinary, but at that time I was even more ordinary. I didn’t study at all. I just played mahjong every night.

How do your parents feel about what you do now?

Well good and bad. I worked for Goldman Sachs after graduating university for three years and I think from my parent’s point of view, working for Goldman was good with not very bad pay. But when I went back to my company, I got paid almost nothing. They wondered why I chose this kind of life.

Goldman was really interesting but it was about trading, buying properties at a low price and then selling them at a high price, that’s it.

It is not creative, it doesn’t create any market. Interesting and fun, but not fun in a different sense. What I wanted to do most was create new ideas, new lifestyles, kind of a new culture in society.

Who do you look up to?

The original investor of this company. He is the person I respect the most. He is kind of a genius, so creative with many good and new ideas. He gave my life a direction. Because of him I started to get interested in investment. Originally I didn’t like investment, I studied biotechnology in university. As I said, my family was poor so I had to make money for my family. I didn’t have time to think about many things. But somehow I started to get interested in finance, and then I had the opportunity to intern at a company involved in investment funds. He taught me the philosophy of investment, about culture and of course life. I was really shocked, culture shocked. I was impressed and inspired. I decided to forget about biotechnology. If I hadn’t met him, maybe my life would be different.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every situation, even if it is a hard. I actually enjoy working during the hard times. It is difficult to think that it’s enjoyable but I think things will definitely get better, so I can get through it. Then it is studying time, learning time. Experiencing hard things is definitely good for the future. I try to think about that. When I face a bad problem, I try to enjoy it, not really ‘enjoying’ but enjoying trying to be good. Any situation, good or bad, it definitely makes you better.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]

Takeshi’s 10 Keys to Success

1. Take risks
2. Be creative
3. Do the right/ethical thing for society
4. Meet with as many people as possible
5. Believe in yourself
6. Believe in your team
7. Look at the long-term (not just the short-term)
8. Think and act (“There should be a balance- perhaps 70% thinking and 30% action is good. Don’t think too much but don’t act so fast.”)
9. Follow your intuition
10. Enjoy yourself – even in bad situations

[/box]

——-

For More on Takeshi’s Social Apartment Project, Visit…

Social Apartments Website (English/Japanese)

 

Art Brings Attention to Low Places

Or dirty, filthy, sewage-filled places, to be exact.

Using art as a means of bringing attention to troubled places isn’t a new thing — most artists are used to a society which has them live in such places — yet New Delhi’s Yamuna River is a bit of an extreme case.

Here, art sits, floats, and is performed along a stretch of riparian corridor which has been destroyed by sewage, garbage, and other waste runoff.

According to the Associated Press, a group of German and Indian artists named Project Y have descended upon this ecological wreck of a river in New Delhi in hopes of bringing attention to its dire state, “Everyone here knows the river is polluted and dirty, but I want to re-awaken the idea of ecology for it. We want people to come and see what the river is all about for themselves” states Ravi Agarwal, one of the curators of the project.

Robin Lasser's "Floating World" installation above the Guadalupe River in San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Robin Lasser's "Floating World" installation above the Guadalupe River in San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Works of art that draw attention to the delicate balance in riparian corridors are many, and examples range from Michelle Stuart‘s 1975 “Niagra Gorge Path Relocated” installation, to Robin Lasser‘s “Floating World” in 2010.

Project Y, however, is taking the concept to a seriously extreme level, attempting to draw people not only to ecological issues, but to a rather unsavory, sewage-filled river. It isn’t an easy task, yet they’ve had nearly 200 visitors each day.

As to whether it will bring change, one onlooker bluntly noted “I don’t think it will as it is such a mess.”

The organizers have more hope, and have hosted a series of workshops and river walks along the river over the past few weeks to help build knowledge of the river ecosystem.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]For More Information:

Project Y Delhi Homepage
Project Y Facebook
Photos of New Delhi Art Installation – Washington Post

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Source: Associated Press

Silicon Valley introduces the ZERO1 Garage (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Silicon Valley: Where Art and Technology ‘Get it On’

Photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity

On a recent night, I found myself invited to an empty, cavernous building in downtown San Jose, California. Several floodlights were either hanging from the steel-reinforced wood rafters, or standing alongside the walls, allowing the light to sneak across the crevices in the old brick and mortar. A red carpet was set atop the unfinished concrete floor, leading a mixed crowd of creatives (artists) and business executives (suits) from the double doors to a grouping of tables in the center of the room. A podium fronted them.

The whole setup felt like a super-secret consortium, and in fact, it kind of was.

On this night, Joel Slayton announced to dozens of prominent Silicon Valley business leaders and a global cast of artists and curators, the opening of the ZER01 Garage. This building, in the heart of San Jose’s SoFA Arts district, will be Silicon Valley’s ground zero for art, creativity, technology, and business innovation; a place where great minds of these often-separated disciplines come together to solve the world’s great problems.

Silicon Valley Art and Technology Figures meet at the introduction of the ZERO1 Garage (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Silicon Valley Art and Technology Figures meet at the introduction of the ZERO1 Garage (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Or, at least, that’s the gist of what Slaton, Executive Director of San Jose based ZER01 wants to build here.

The evening was filled with food, wine, a face-off discussion between technologist Harry Saal and new media artist Scott Snibbe, and several passionate exchanges between art leaders and business leaders as to what, exactly, the ZER01 “Garage” should be.

Near the end of the night, the 40-some-odd attendees had formed individual working groups, each coming up with tag lines for Silicon Valley’s future permanent home of Art and Technology. The results varied widely, from “A Safe Place for Failure” to “Where Art and Technology ‘Get it on’ in the Garage.”

However you spin it, the general consensus was the same: the ZERO1 Garage is all at once a bold, promising, risky venture… and in the spirit of the Silicon Valley startup, that is exactly what it needs to be in order to succeed.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Take a Deeper Look:

ZERO1
CADRE Lab / San Jose State University
SoFA Arts District 

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Images From ZERO1 Garage

Artisans from Arrazola, Oaxaca in Mexico sell pieces in San Jose

The Art of Sustainable Art in Oaxaca

(photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

In Spring 2006, Dr. Kathleen Roe and a group of her students from the San Jose State University Health Sciences program were traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. In need of accommodations after a last minute schedule change, the group was introduced to several artisan families who agreed to house everyone for the night. It was an exchange that turned out to be the most fruitful of their trip.

So fruitful in fact, that Dr. Roe and students have been back to the same pueblo every year since, holding health education fairs, clinics, and taking part in a multitude of cultural exchanges.

Today I enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Roe, and afterwards met with two of the artists from Arrazola at Mezcal, a Oaxacan Restaurant in San Jose, California, where they shared their artworks with locals.

Artisans from Arrazola, Oaxaca in Mexico sell pieces in San Jose

Artisans from Arrazola, Oaxaca in Mexico sell pieces in San Jose (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

The artisans — from the small pueblo of Arrazola in Oaxaca, Mexico — are a collective of families who use their skills in woodcarving and intricate painting to produce beautiful, flowing pieces called “alebrijes”. These artworks are the main form of income for the pueblo and as such are often a family affair, involving the skills of a father, mother, and children to produce each unique and imaginative animal sculpture.

What really sets Arrazola apart from other artisan communities in the area, however, is the Ecoalebrije Artisan Association, a group of 18 artisan families who take their conservation and sustainability efforts very seriously.

Because native Copal trees are used as the source of wood for alebrije sculptures, the artisans are very active in maintaining a ‘sustainable’ forest. Families in the Ecoalebrije Artisan Association tend to small Copal trees at their homes throughout the year, eventually planting them in the nearby forest when they are old enough, ensuring a constant supply of locally sourced wood for the artisans.

Because these brightly-colored alebrijes carvings are created in such an eco-conscious manner, they’ve even been given a special name by the pueblo: EcoAlebrijes.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]For More on the Artist and SJSU Project…

EcoAlebrije Artisan Association
San Jose State University / Arrazola, Oaxaca Intercambio
San Jose State University Department of Health Science
San Jose State University – Salzburg Program[/box]