Tag Archives: Broken City Lab

Broken City Brilliance

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Broken City Lab is at it again.

They’ve got this great concept, at least, they’re borrowing it. Kind of like I do with every event I run.

From brokencitylab.org:

Katy Asher, a student in Portland’s MFA in Art and Social Practice program, along with Ariana Jacob and Amber Bell, have initiated a project that “aims to make a vending cart of maps made by people from Portland.”

I love the idea of collecting maps that people have DRAWN! As Broken City Lab posits, it makes for a great outlet to see how people exaggerate distances and sizes of things on a hand-drawn map. We all do it. We run out of room on a map we’re drawing for someone, or we leave a ton of room and find that things are much closer, and we don’t need the allotted space.

It’s a new way of investigating the “psychogeographic” influences that driving a car has on the way we draw a map. Or, conversely, how walking or biking influences the drawing of a map.

I LOVE the idea of a possible mixture of Google Maps and simple hand-drawn maps, much like the recent walk that we held at Phog Lounge. I envision an art show consisting of hand drawn maps overlapped with ACTUAL maps of the area from, Google maybe. And maybe commentary with the person who drew the map to discuss the inconsistencies and reasons for them.

It’s yet another great tool to investigate what works in our (your) city and what doesn’t.

Awesome.
Justin, I absolutely love everything your group is doing! Dammit!
I feel inspired now. Thanks you.

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Me-dia, and why Gus Morin fascinates me.

photo-12photo-13The images above are crude computer-camera photos of a postcard.

But they’re so much more than just a postcard. With a nod to the printer, Jen Kimmerly of Standard Printing, these postcards are so sharp looking, it reminds me of the scene in American Psycho when the executives (including the psycho – Christian Bale) get together and start comparing business cards. They notice the variations of white (ha!) and the ribbing of the paper…the tooth of the fibre. And the psycho can’t stand to see a card other than his looking so exquisite.

When I see something that Jen is printing for Gus Morin, I get like that. I want to run away instead of seeing something so good that I am not engaging in myself.

This postcard is Gus’ way of saying, “Broken City.”

The problem I face when trying to explain something Gus has done is misrepresentation because he is usually thinking on so many levels, and so many steps ahead of me (and everyone else) that it is often better to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

You see, Gus was in Phog the other night, and we were discussing the media, and how unreliable it can be due to advertisers wishes and influence. I always make clear that my piddly existence supplying the Windsor Star with freelance stuff has been very nonrestrictive, yet I see an inexcusable amount of omissions of REAL news from various papers, magazines, and TV news every day.

Gus, ahead of the curve, calls bullshit when he sees it. He actually screams it ,whether in person or on paper. His postcard says a lot more than you might think at first. He’s clearly saying that the old is out. The car companies have had their run. Tires = zero. Windsor is sick, and the money we bathed in because of the auto industry is drying up, going away, and so will we if we don’t sharpen up.

These postcards are Gus’ blog. He sits and pens them out to media outlets, people of “importance” and “circumstance” at a rate of one-per-twenty-minutes. This connection with the paper, the pen, his thoughts, is a special ritual. He loves it. He knows that in the digital age, he is connecting with “media releases” (postcards) that NO ONE ELSE is taking the time to write, let alone design. Gus is also a visual poet, and a collage-maniac. The design on these postcards, I can assure, took a lot of thought and time to make.

So he writes, and he writes, and he mails, and he mails. He knows the Canadian mail system back to front, and he’s a big fan of the US Postal system because of the money saved by sending his postcards FROM the US to the US, saving many, many dollars (including border tolls) by refraining from sending them in Canada. His messages are important, and eloquent, and when it comes to budgeting for your passion, I am full force in favour of him taking his dollar to the US if it makes the difference between Gus getting the message out or not getting it out.

So he decided to read a sample of the postcard he had written to the media. It was brilliant, as usual, and I practically needed a thesaurus to understand what he was saying, but in it’s essence, he was crying out for help, for reform, for a paradigm shift in the media to wake up and cover the death of a city.

The failure of the Big 3 is a sore spot with Gus, but not for the reasons many would think. So, he makes it very clear in his postcards.

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It is his own media. Me-dia. It is his editorialized news story (no different from any packaged news story, with a slant, and a clear viewpoint. He has reclaimed the mail in the name of justice in the way a radio-hopeful, desperate to express themselves, uses a pirate signal to project.

Gus, no stranger to oppression and struggle, is an artist and writer. His voice is a beacon of reason, and often times an outrageous anarchistic breath of fresh air. What I mean by that is…at least he cares enough to say something outrageous (to my senses) in order to convey his disdain for the way things are being mismanaged. He is every bit a Broken City Lab of his own. He just does it all offline, which in a way is awesome and very Gus-like…but I wonder what he could illicit in people being online in a big way. Who am I kidding? If he’s given this thought, he knows the best avenue for his his mind and talents. As a quick sidebar…Gus once set out to send 1000 postcards to many people, from his huge list, as an art project, an outreach, a correspondence, and who knows what else? Like I said, I fear I will misrepresent this unique genius. He got about 800 of them sent, which is UNREAL!!! 800 postcards in one year!? Ha! I couldn’t do 800 blog posts in a year if I was being paid!

Back to his note. His postcards. They’re all different. Even when he has a common campaign like this, asking the media to shed light on something that needs to change, his individual letters are composed like a new letter each and every time! And he doesn’t send five of these things…he sends 50, or 60, or 100! I don’t know if I could do that for my convictions. I can’t say that I’d find the time to write that much for a cause, if I had to HAND WRITE IT EVERY TIME!

Let this be an instigator to bubble something up inside of you…to bring an idea to the fore, to see light of day, because it means too  much to you to squander…no matter how much work it takes to manifest.

In finishing, I just wanted to show you what passion looks like. It looks like a postcard with red ink, a nice tooth, and focused (democracy-defining) writings and pleadings…and a stamp.

Broken City Lab on NIMBY

picture-41In what will likely be one of many posts about Broken City Lab, I will simply leave you with the content I have collected.

What is Broken City Lab? Well…

A collection of artists/activists who see a broken city in front of them, and use their creativity to interact with the people, groups, bureaucracy, items, places, and mediums necessary to make things less broken. It’s art-through-action. When speaking to Justin Langlois, the guy who decided to get this group together, I was astounded, amazed, proud, and appreciative of the concept and eventual action this group represents. Langlois said something like, “I began to realize that my art could be this…this action…this sharing of concepts to make things better instead of making paintings…” I’m paraphrasing. But if you watch the videos below and listen to his interview on this week’s installment of Not In My Backyard (Tuesdays at noon on CJAM 91.5FM in Windsor/Detroit), you will hear him communicate this clearer.

Here’s the CJAM interview on Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)!

And as usual, there is a TON of extra content on the videos where Justin is able to talk about some of the other projects Broken City Lab is looking at starting.

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To find out more, go to brokencitylab.org where there is a regularly updated blog with awesome info.

As a further added bonus, check out the blog post that Justin made after taking part in the Big Walk.