Surf2air - 2012 Edition - Blog Archive in PDF Format


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A blog archive from former designed using Newspaper Club's layout software featuring my own editorial content covering various topics such as architecture, urban studies, film, social media and music.

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Surf2air - 2012 Edition - Blog Archive in PDF Format

  1. 1. surface2air 2012 Edition
  2. 2. 2 surface2air 02: House of Families, Fantastic Norway / Håkon & Haffner, image courtesy Fantastic Norway / Håkon & Haffner, Nuuk Survey: Arctic Urbanism in Greenland local commercial fishing industry in a centralized setting while as many as 100 smaller coastal Greenlander villages were shut down to populate Nuuk. (Greenlandic Architecture, Eric Gould,, 6 January 2012 The building looms across the skyline like a vast horizontal wall to protect its inhabitants from the brisk Arctic wind and snow. And while it is home to many residents, Blok P and the other alphabetic blocks have become something of eyesore. These buildings have collectively branded Nuuk's urban identity for many years. It's been part of Nuuk's inherited Danish effort for urban planning to develop the town as a strategic sea port and military outpost. Fortunately for local dwellers that is about to change as contemporary Greenlander, Norwegian and international architects in collaboration with Nuuk's city planners and residents envision a new urban transformation. One larger revitalization effort for the city center calls for the removal of Blok P and offering as the newer alternative a series of residential dwellings inspired by Greenland's landscape and earlier Danish colonial designs. From the air a visitor flying over Nuuk could not miss the long residential structures composed in orderly rows looking much like oversized army barracks. Blok P is the largest one stretching east-to-west in a 209-meter span and rising just 5 stories high. Containing 135 apartments and 50 residential dwellings, this is how residents have lived for 40 years. According to Wikipedia, Blok P houses 1% of Greenland's total population. Blok P's factory-like profile leaves an impression that the Danish designers and developers who organized Nuuk's urban planning and housing had nothing little more than contempt for Greenlanders in favor of expediency and economic efficiency. The building and similar smaller building structures were initially part of a social housing program designed to provide apartments for residents working in the An example includes architect firm Fantastic Norway's Houses for Families residential design. The architectural concept smartly avoids any institutional style in favor of a small village cluster model that is redolent of Greenland's Danish colonial phase of residential construction. Fantastic Norway updates that approach with wood finishes and new sustainable and technological standards including solar panels and water heating. The House for Families project is designed for disadvantaged women and children and provides them with both independence and community. This project is part of a large-scale phase of urban development and renewal for Nuuk's city center and planned demolition of Blok P and Blok A - L in Tuujuk. "Their days are numbered, their time is over," writes the architects in the comprehensive master plan proposal Nunarsuup qeqqani - Nuup qeqqani // In the middle of the world - in the middle of Nuuk awarded Best Nordic urban plan at last year's Norwegian architecture festival – Arkitekturmässan, in Gothenburg. The project cohesively looks forward towards Nuuk's future urban planning and sustainable development as the city’s population increases. Architects Dahl & Uhre who submitted this project proposal in April 2011 focuses on Nuuk's urban center where Blok P and adjacent residential housing blocks currently stand. The project envisions new contemporary housing more fitting with a human-scaled approach to architecture and urban development in place of the existing model. The project also involves associate architect teams including the London-based 42 / architects, Fantastic Norway / Håkon & Haffner, and TNT Nuuk to model new housing and residential buildings addressing needs for the community such as social and park spaces, landscaping, retail and a sustainable design. Dahl & Uhre's documentation outlines the structure towards project development and how restructuring Nuuk's urban core with the removal of Blok P and other existing housing stock will not only impact residents who have lived there and have fostered a strong community but to imagine what's next. In practice their plan seeks to elicit comment from those living in Blok P and the Tuujuk residential community to determine the needs to forge a newer Arctic urban model. Its scope raises some interesting questions regarding who is the city for and what functions does
  3. 3. surface2air a city serve. Nuuk's post-war contemporary development is now at a new stage to evolve its urban plan with a strategic, cohesive approach that also involves its inhabitants. It also doesn’t hurt to retire a dated building design – one that burdens Nuuk’s civic image and social space – in favor of an aesthetic design tailored towards the values of the people living there. Their urban plan does not merely address the problem of Blok P and Tuujuk’s Blok A-L which contains 156 apartments. These structures will be demolished over a period of years. Resettlement is needed for the residents who live here in existing housing in suburban areas and parts of downtown while construction begins for the new building projects as part of the greater urban plan. In the process, an emerging surge in economic activity and job creation is expected from the new construction. Dahl & Uhre's grand urban vision for Nuuk's future and, by extension, its pivotal position in a globalized Arctic context is buoyed by significant existing and newly planned civic projects. Katuaq, the Nuuk Cutlural Center has emerged as one of the more enduring recent architectural icons for the city. Inspired by 3 the northern lights, icebergs and the play of light and snow, this gentle wave-sided building in Nuuk's business and retail core clearly departs from the warehouse rigidity of the Blok P's profile with a distinctive organic contour. Designed by architects Schmidt Hammer & Lassen of Århus, Denmark, Katuaq opened in February 1997 as Greenland's central cultural venue. Katuaq's web site describes the meaning of Katuaq as "a musical instrument that can begin to play at any moment. During the day it’s full of dreams – at night it acts like a magnetic field, drawing people into the light." Schmidt Hammer & Lassen Architects have also designed a proposal for a school in Qinngorput in Nuuk for the Greenland Home Rule Government. Although the design is less fluid in profile, the architects draw inspiration from the location's angular mountain ridge setting overlooking the sea. The school's concept also contains an open plaza, and in the evening the building functions as an arts and community center. Art and culture is also the primary focus for a new venue planned for contemporary art and Greenland's vibrant art history. The Greenland National Gallery for Art takes the shape of a concrete circle straddling Nuuk's rocky coastline integrating land and sea. It's a bold design as a spherical white oval appearing beached like an iceberg on the shore against a backdrop of one of the older apartment block structures facing the sea. The award-winning design, recognized in a competition last year, is by the Danish firm BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group, in partnership with TNT Nuuk, Ramboll Nuuk and Arkitekti. As part of the social poltical dialogue about Greenlandic identity, BIG sees the Greenland National Gallery for Art as "a symbolic tool in the continuous contribution for political independency" and to "become a symbol of the current independent Greenlandic artistic and architectural expresssion." With a plan and several projects under way, Nuuk's recent past looks to be a springboard for brighter things ahead. Stay tuned. Image credits: 01: Katuaq, the Nuuk Cultural Center, Photo: Adam Mørk, courtesy The Arctic Council,; 02: House of Families, Fantastic Norway / Håkon & Haffner, image courtesy Fantastic Norway / Håkon & Haffner, hakonoghaffner. no; 03: Mixed Use Development street view sky darker, Apartments, retail and community spaces as part of sustainable masterplan, Collaboration with regional Associates. 42 / Architects, image courtesy; 04: Greenland National Gallery of Art, image courtesy BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group,; 05: Karen Thastum, Tura Ya Moya, Julia Pars and USK students, Nipi & Qaamasoq saga, Block 6, as part of the NIPI & QAAMASOQ Saga/MY SAGA light installation at Katuaq Nuuk Cultural Center and Blocks 6 and 7, Photo Kim Christensen, November 2011. Image courtesy; 06: Architectural concept for a school in Qinngorput, Schmidt Hammer & Lassen Architects, image courtesy; 07: Cover art from Nunarsuup qeqqani - Nuup qeqqani // In the middle of the world - in the middle of Nuuk, a comprehensive Master Plan proposal for parts of the City Centre of the Capital Nuuk, Dahl & Uhre Architects, image courtesy Dahl & Uhre Architects, Dialogue Architecture Landscape Urbanism,
  4. 4. 4 04: Greenland National Gallery of Art, image courtesy BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group, 06: Architectural concept for a school in Qinngorput, Schmidt Hammer & Lassen Architects, image courtesy; surface2air
  5. 5. surface2air 03: Mixed Use Development - street view sky darker, Apartments, retail and community spaces as part of sustainable masterplan, Collaboration with regional Associates 5
  6. 6. 6 surface2air Davos Brief: Social Media Engagement at the World Economic Forum Summit Eric Gould,, 27 January 2012 A year ago, January 25, 2011 was for most people an ordinary date on the calendar. The previous year's holidays had finally ebbed into a new year, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was holding its annual conference. In Cairo, pro-democracy demonstrators convened in the city's central Tahir Square calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down and an end to his repressive military regime. Their demonstration was organized through a network of connections that leveraged Facebook and Twitter. Social media, largely ignored or dismissed as a superficial past-time, had been an instrumental communication tool and platform for students, activists, "citizen journalists," and others participating and bearing witness to social change as it was happening in Egypt. It was a powerful one as the world watched a collective sharing of information and people organized to pursue an unprecedented pro-democracy movement. Egypt's January 25 revolution -- on the heels of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution in December 2010 -- was broadly branded as the "Arab Spring" with subsequent social struggles unfolding in neighboring states across North Africa and the Gulf in Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen in the weeks that followed. Egyptian youth had successfully and collectively shared social and mobile platforms that had been sometimes derisively called the "Twitter Revolution" in that country, but that trivializes what happened behind the headlines. Clearly, social media and networks which have been largely adopted by a younger generation can mobilize action and quickly demonstrate effective communication. And social change and unrest did not go unnoticed; TIME Magazine acknowledged The Protester as the Person of the Year. The events culminating in the Arab Spring and late summer's emergent Occupy Wall Street movement reveals the abundance of social engagement and proving a significant importance across the world. This year's World Economic Forum held each year in Davos in January recognizes the value of social media and social engagement and has broadened its reach of openness and communication through social media channels and mobile applications. Despite the exclusivity and elitist nature of the WEF conference -- participating attendees representing a cross-section of political, economic and business leaders are there by inivitation-only formality -- the five-day event can be followed and accessed via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, and several reports are available on Scribd. Online and via the free World Economic Forum iPhone app, live streaming and archived video broadcast feeds are available through its Livestream channel at Interviews in the Social Media Corner archive are with Mashable Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore, Ariana Huffington, President of the Huffington Post Media Group, Robert Scoble from Rackspace, and others. Davos/Klosters, Switzerland, 3 Jan 2012, aerial view of the mountain resort, Copyright by World Economic Forum, / Photo by Andy Mettler. While this transperancy may be good and levels accessibility to the conference exist beyond the alpine slopes hovering near DavosKlosters, one of the main themes at this year's summit addresses Global Risk for 2012. At the center of this issue is economic income disparity in the world, which also happens to be one of the focal points of the global Occupy movement. Some members from its ranks have set up an Occupy WEF igloo and yurt encampment near conference venues and hotels in Davos. It goes without saying that the 99% has a stake in the ongoing dialogue regarding globalization and economic challenges facing the world. In meeting between Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa and Mashable Founder Pete Cashmore at the Documented at Davos Studio (Reuters TV, 26 January 2012), Cashmore explains, "We're here at Davos where world leaders come to meet and decide the future of the world. Well, what happens when everyone is empowered to participate in that future? That turns things on its head." Image credits: Twilight in Davos, Switzerland, photo: Scott Eells/ Bloomberg; World Economic Forum logo; Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa and Mashable Founder Pete Cashmore at the Documented at Davos Studio (Reuters TV, Jan 26, 2012); Occupy WEF protesters prepare a yurt in the town of Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg; Davos/Klosters, Switzerland, 3 Jan 2012, aerial view of the mountain resort, Copyright by World Economic Forum, / Photo by Andy Mettler.
  7. 7. surface2air Occupy WEF protesters prepare a yurt in the town of Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg Twilight in Davos, Switzerland, photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg 7
  8. 8. 8 Centre for Digital Media - Vancouver, BC Eric Gould,, 15 February 2012 Vancouver’s False Creek Flats, a 20 -acre under-developed industrial stretch of East Vancouver adjacent to Chinatown, is an area that city institutions are hoping to kindle into at least one idea: an urban epicenter for Vancouver’s digital economy. At the forefront of this mission is the Great Northern Way Campus Trust which is building the Centre for Digital Media and will complete construction by September 2012 to welcome students into its innovative Masters’ programs. The Centre offers the first-ever professional graduate degree program in digital media in Canada. The school's design is like modernist chalet soaring with an 8-bit pixelated almost-flattened polygon frame as if windswept from Vancouver's English Bay gusts in winter. On the outside, the building's white skin is not only branded with the school name but also features a digital screen for projecting video for audiences on the adjacent plaza. The 15,000-square foot interior beckons students and surface2air faculty for teaching, meeting and studio space, and for breaks in the cafe. The Centre’s upper floors offer housing for students in 76 apartments described by GNWC president Matthew Carter as a “digital dormitory.” Designed by Vancouver-based Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership Architects Designers Planners (MCM), the Centre for Digital Media is not only a specialized academic institution but an essential one for the development of False Creek Flats as a high tech, creative, innovative urban district. The Vancouver Economic Commission sees the city’s high tech sector as a valuable economic engine. Greater Vancouver accounts for 60-percent of more than 600 digital media companies in British Columbia that produce $2.3 billion CAD in revenue. Gaming software businesses are highly visible in Vancouver and include Disney, Electronic Arts, Nintendo and THQ. Paired with an advanced film, television and marketing sector, the Commission describes Vancouver as strategically and geographically competitive with similar economic centers on the West Coast, notably Los Angeles, Seattle and Redmond, and overseas AsianPacific markets. Students looking to pursue a serious academic career in digital media studies have little time left to enroll in the Centre for Digital Media programs on offer and a chance to be among the first graduates at the school's new center to open in September this year. On February 16, there will be an MDM Open House for students interested in the Masters programs offered. Application deadline is February 28, 2012. In a press release published by the Centre, Richard Smith, Director of the Masters of Digital Media (MDM) program said “We are excited about our new home; it will greet the next generation of highly skilled leaders needed to maintain B.C’s edge in the booming new media market." For admission details and information about the Centre on Digital Media, check out
  9. 9. surface2air 9 Kraftweek at MoMA: Kraftwerk – Retrospective 12345678 Eric Gould,, 17 April 2012 Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Museum of Modern Art, New York April 10–17, 2012 he Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, second floor For what is now dubbed as "Kraftweek" in New York, the Museum of Modern Art has offered live performances by Kraftwerk in the program Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Spanning over eight consecutive evenings -- all of which sold out in advance -- an intimate audience of 450 are having a rare opportunity to experience the band perform live versions of eight studio recordings beginning with Autobahn (1974) and concluding with Tour de France (2003). Autobahn, when it debuted on Novemeber 1, 1974 - coincidentally, the same day as another West German band The Scorpions' heavy metal release Fly to the Rainbow -it was Kraftwerk's fourth studio recording. In a direction that was hinted at in their previous recording Ralf und Florian, Kraftwerk moved more towards electronics, synthesizers and the use of the vocoder, and a departure from conventional instruments. Autobahn also expressed more of a musical focus and discipline, in part, owed to producer Conny Plank who had helped shape a maturing style over their first three full-length recordings and away from the rougher experimental rock style the band had pioneered. Their subsequent musical output focused on technology and communications and the dynamic offers of each in the modern world. RadioAktivität (released as Radio-Activity in the United States), produced after Autobahn, unveils the band's greater confidence in building their musical expression and identity around synthesized music with a concept album exploring the pun of nuclear exposure ("Radioactivity") with broadcast media "radio-activity". Ralf Hütter intones on the song "Radioaktivität" that "radioactivity is in the air for you and me" intended for the listener to reflect upon. New York's live performances at the Museum of Modern Art have been esteemed for its exclusivity among its fortunate patronage, but it's also been a sore-point for those who couldn't get a ticket. The series sold out instantly in late February in advance of the April series, and scalpers were reportedly selling individual tickets for $1,000. As for the live series itself, Kraftwerk fans have been enjoying the rare spectacle on view at MoMA, but Rolling Stone notes that the performances are getting shorter with each passing night and noted that Sunday evening's Computerwelt ("Computer World") from 1981 was shaved from the recording's original 35 minutes down to 18 minutes ("Kraftwerk Diary Day Five: 1981's 'Computer World' Invents Electronic Funk" by Mike Rubin, Rolling Stone, April 16, 2012). Unlike a nostalgic arrangement of works by one artist or from a collection, Kraftwerk's honed electronic focus and music output has a freshness that seems to defy kitsch. Their music and lyrics anticipated if not expressed the contemporary zeitgeist. Kraftwerk's 1981 release Computerwelt may have sounded like sciencefiction for its listeners at the time, for example. Now, in a world where we have "smart" mobile devices and iPhones, the lyrical engineer fantasy from that album's song "Pocket Calculator" ebbs forward into the future: "I'm the operator with my pocket calculator / I am adding and subtracting I'm controlling and composing / By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody." Rewind and press play.
  10. 10. 10 surface2air SIFF 2012 - Mobile Urbanism - Expressions of Social Transformation and Globalization Eric Gould,, 1 June 2012 Cities have their own histories and myths, their inhabitants contribute to define and shape their personalities. Films that carve a bit of that information in their cinematic narratives help viewers understand the signposts about urban ideas, location, culture and economy. The sums of these as well as other factors help render the distinctiveness of place and -- for a city’s residents -- the language of identity. The only thing constant is the pace of change and transformation. Cities, like their populations, are not idle but are always on the move. The first weekend of the Seattle International Film Festival featured some films that sketched narratives in this terrain, entertaining a few ideas about contemporary urbanism and social transformation. Filmmaker Brent Chesanek’s debut City World overlays a fictional narrative and creation myth in a film filled with lush suburban impressions and cinematography in an Orlando bereft of people and activity. Drawing inspiration from the artificiality of Orlando as a destination for escapism, Chesanek’s film peers over backyard fences and past empty theme park lots to forge an alternative history. The result is a meditative work merging a fictional story with the culturally-inscribed urban landscape. Pema Tseden’s film Old Dog explores how social and cultural shifts usher in changes as rural Tibet becomes urbanized. The remote Qinghai province’s rugged vistas and mountains are backgrounded in Tseden’s focus on a shepherd dog’s fate – symbolically, the fate of Tibetan culture – in a village that’s gradually losing its heritage character with the emergence of new construction, development and population density. This dynamic force of economic activity coupled with the village’s cultural shift produces a sustained tension throughout the film, one that ultimately tests the shepherd’s resolve. Artist Ai Weiwei whose articulate and critical commentary about living under China’s one country, two systems regime routinely tests the limits of expression through social media and communication. His every moment becomes recorded, packaged and branded for a domestic Chinese audience and on the world stage through social media and from his museum work as the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry reveals. But what distinguishes his actions is his level of social engagement using mobile and digital technology. He not only shares his thoughts and comments, he invites participation as well. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he produced several projects and films to commemorate and document the individuals who died. One project was the result of identifying and recording the names of more than 5,000 children buried alive. Produced as an online radio project, volunteers read aloud each of the names of the deceased. His use of social media is a form of story-telling in a larger mobile urban context. Filmmaker Alison Klayman's generous portrait of the contemporary artist in Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is like dipping into a cinematic stream of Ai Weiwei's Twitter feed. Martijn de Waal's essay "Towards a MySpace Urbanism?" (The Mobile City, 2008) considers the concept of The Mobile City regarding individuals and their use of locative media. "City space, after all, is by now a hybrid space" defined no longer exclusively
  11. 11. surface2air by physical size and dimension. Artist Ai Weiwei recognizes this and embraces the tools of locative media using his Blackberry, Twitter and Weibo accounts and leveraging other platforms like blogs and Google+ for social engagement in a personal struggle towards democratic freedom behind the Great Firewall of China. Klayman accompanies Ai on his travels in and around China, from Beijing to Chengdu and Shanghai, and overseas to London and Munich, offering an intimate perspective about the artist, the son of Ai Qing a famous poet critical of the Communist regime in the 1950s. Sharing his father’s distrust towards China’s authoritarian politics energizes how he works, moves about, and informs his work. Once described as “China’s Andy Warhol,” Klayman’s film offers a much more complex personality nuanced by his representation of China in art and culture. His coming-of-age as a young artist in New York City during the 1980s reveals his struggle as a Chinese national living abroad that reached a pivotal point during 1989’s Tiananmen Square protests. This tumultuous period had greatly influenced his work. By 1993, he returned to Beijing after his father became ill and established a new niche as one of several emerging contemporary Chinese artists. As one of the most recognizable names in art, he strides a delicate balance between how he has come to marquee and represent China as a contemporary artist in the world while testing the boundaries of political expression. Certainly, Ai Weiwei is aware of his own brand, a “brand of liberal thinking” he explains to Klayman when she questions him about his celebrity. Whether he is seen photographed gesturing with a middle finger towards Tiananmen Square or painting a historic urn with a 11 Coca-Cola logo, Ai Weiwei playfully courts controversy. When answering Klayman’s question as to what kind of artist he is, he describes himself as a kind of kind of chess player waiting for his opponent's move. Brent Chesanek's film City World (SIFF 2012 World Premiere) reveals an experimental narrative shot on location in suburban Orlando, Florida, as told from the point of view of an unnamed and unidentified boy whose only depiction is from his pointed delivery and voice-over. The Orlando in City World is identified briefly from signage on a pedestrian bridge gleaming in silver from midmorning sunlight but it is not a city bustling with activity, cars or people. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Chesanek photographed suburban backyards, screen-canopied swimming pools, and the gentle turning lanes and highways that traverse the flat open spaces near central Florida's lush, tropical forests. The images of a depopulated Orlando bring to mind Matt Logue's photography series Empty LA featuring Los Angeles eerily absent of traffic, cars and people on its freeways and streets. The boy’s narrative in City World offers a creation myth about the settlement of the city at the site of a tall tree in the forest and its location as a battle site between Native Americans and soldiers. The tree is what the boy is drawn towards in seeking to free him from the suburban malaise he associates with his father's lost interest in the world. This duality between the impotent domestic setting and an impulsiveness to escape from it towards his vision of a better future propels the boy's to leave. Chesanek is not setting out to produce a documentary about Orlando's origins, but to consider Orlando's identity as an inverted Shangri-La and re-imagined as the boy's personal connection to a location, a place inside time, its history and future. Chesanek acknowledges that people do not come to Orlando to visit the city, but rather, to escape from it at nearby theme-parks. Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot Center, Universal Studios are some of the destinations for which Orlando springboards access to as portals towards a utopian fantasy. It's the artificial that Orlando's visitors find comfort in outside of the unorganized, unpredictable natural world. Underscoring this, City World flirts with this kind of imagery including a palm tree made from plastic, metal and aluminum turning in the breeze. Urbanization in the setting of rural Tibet evokes a canary in the coal mine for Tibetan culture in Old Dog. As one of the most significant trends towards a globalized world author Doug Saunders from his book “Arrival City” describes it as “the final shift of human populations from agricultural life to cities.” Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden's third feature Old Dog captures this concept succinctly in a narrative about the fate of a shepherd’s esteemed mastiff, an aging dog and one of the most prized canine breeds in the world that the shepherd’s son is trying to sell to a Chinese trader in town. Set against the mountainous region of the Tibetan province of Qinghai, Old Dog is punctuated in the soundtrack’s background with the thunderous pounding of construction noise. This rural town with its shoddy construction looks to have surfaced overnight on the high mountain terrain, and -- like larger cities that have been jumpstarted with new development and construction projects -- the building continues. A muddy unpaved road cuts through a main drag of urban façades and modest Chinese storefronts bringing with it an import of Chinese inhabitants and culture in a post-colonial migration of urbanization. Tseden’s film bears witness to modernization in the margins of the story’s narrative focus about a rural Tibetan family cleaved apart from change. At home they pass time watching Chinese shopping networks on television and smoke cigarettes. In the village, the shepherd presses his son for medical answers about his son’s impotency and why he and his wife have not consummated their relationship with a child. Meanwhile, the old shepherd’s mastiff has, perhaps, seen better days like his master in his youth before the advent of an urbanized Tibet which draws the film towards a close. A moral and existential crisis precipitating in the mastiff’s fate suggests that there is no monetary value for the erosion of cultural identity. In the final scenes of the film following its brutal ending, the shepherd strides forcefully but slowly through a golden hillside of dried grasses looking much like the opposite of "Bliss" -- Microsoft's Windows XP screen desktop image of blue sky and green hills.
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  13. 13. surface2air 13 Evan Hecox: Dark Island Eric Gould,, 10 June 2012 Evan Hecox: Dark Island Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY May 24 - June 23, 2012 Evan Hecox whose artwork and illustrations have become distinctive with impressionable line-form of urban street settings and bold color continue to mature with time. Joshua Liner Gallery in New York is currently exhibiting Evan Hecox: Dark Island - a new series of work focusing street views of New York City rendered in acrylic and gouache on vintage newspaper. The Colorado native who has done commercial work for Chocolate Skateboards and incase is also best known for his vibrant urban street scenes from locations around the world. His style captures the energy of a moment like bustling traffic in Ho Chi Minh City or the hidden quiet corners of London. His illustrative style remains fresh and almost cinematic, awash in punctuating color and overlaid against a monochromic grain. What makes his work most estimable and exciting is his clarity for composition and content, and finding creative nuance in the spaces of cities and urban street settings. Recent work of New York street locations sees Hecox exploring a merging between his representational content with abstract geometry evocative of minimalism and early modern poster designs thrust with bold color. Hecox also crosses over into font specimen design with his illustration Five Boroughs, offered as an edition, featuring an Art Decostyle lettertype for the names of New York's distinctive communities. His show Dark Island, closing this week at Joshua Liner Gallery on June 23, captures some New York vignettes that offer both a contemporary and nostalgic perspective set against a vintage newsprint canvas. For additional details, visit Joshua Liner Gallery: joshualinergallery. com. Images: Evan Hecox, Wilderness, mixed media on panel, 2012, 48 x 36 in.; Evan Hecox, Carroll Gardens, mixed media on panel, 2012, 48 x 36 in.; Evan Hecox, Five Boroughs, acrylic and gouache on treated vintage newspaper, 2012, 30 x 44 in.; Evan Hecox, The Stranger's Grave, acrylic, gouache and ink, on treated vintage newspaper, 2012, 20 x 25 in.; Evan Hecox, Sun Dat Trading, acrylic, gouache and ink, on treated vintage newspaper, 2012, 20 x 25 in. Images courtesy Joshua Liner Gallery,
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  15. 15. surface2air 15 Coast Modern in Vancouver, July 6 - 12, 2012 Eric Gould,, 10 July 2012 Modernist architecture's West Coast school is the subject of the eagerly-awaited new documentary film Coast Modern directed by Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome. Focusing on three generations of architects whose emphasis on residential design and architecture is explored in the film which is currently having a limited engagement in Vancouver, BC, at the Vancity Theatre centrallylocated in the city's Yaletown-Granville corridor. Viewers will have their last chance to see the film this week before it closes Thursday night on July 12. Filmmakers Bernard and Froome trace the early origins of Modernist architecture in the 1920s and how it took root in Vancouver and other West Coast cities in the United States. The film reveals how Modernism has evolved from its development in the past sixty years along the Pacific Coast. Inspired by the coastal landscape setting and the use of new materials, light and form, these architectural pioneers helped forge an identity in residential design. Architect Henrik Bull says that the "West Coast - including Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco - there always has been a greater respect for nature." Speaking about Modernism's enduring quality and appeal in residential design, Architect Eric Cobb says that "it's here to stay, and not as an aesthetic. It's here to stay because it's about the most important parts about dwelling in a structure: light and space." Coast Modern also features interviews with several architects, photographers and cultural critics including James Steele, Barbara Lamprecht, Dion Neutra, Vancouver author Douglas Coupland, photographer Julius Shulman, and others. Coast Modern, which had its world premiere at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver, BC, in May, returns to Vancouver for this limited engagement. Check out Vancity Theatre for info, visit the official web site for Coast Modern, and view the Coast Modern film trailer at Vimeo.
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  17. 17. surface2air 17 Hong Kong and Zürich: Most Liveable Cities in 2012 Eric Gould,, 12 July 2012 What makes a city ultimately a "most liveable" one? Depending on who you talk to, the criteria can vary and it has with this year's Economist Intelligence Unit 2012 Most Liveable City survey published earlier in July. The EIU, which has been publishing their Most Liveable City index for 10 years, considers up to 150 cities world-wide based on how each city surveyed scores on stability, healthcare, culture and entertainment, education and infrastructure. Those cities at the top of the list are esteemed for their higher scores across the board in their ranking compared to those at the bottom. Last year Melbourne topped the list beating out Vancouver in the coveted Number One spot for nearly a decade. Vancouver, for example, makes for excellent liveability; the city is located on the shores of English Bay and in the shadow of Grouse Mountain. The city's natural landscape setting coupled with an energetic downtown is also noted for its education and business sectors, particularly regarding high-tech, television and film, trade, and its healthcare. In the EIU's 2011 Most Liveable City survey, Melbourne leaped over Canada's young West Coast port edging ahead with just a 0.2 percentage point factoring in Vancouver's increased traffic congestion. This detail is really an oversight because the EIU survey cited the Malahat highway congestion which is not near Vancouver, but near Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. As the capital seat of the Canadian province, Victoria is not even geographically close to Vancouver. It's only accessible by air from Vancouver and Seattle, and from a two-hour ferry crossing in Vancouver's Lower Mainland and south of the border by ferry services from Washington State. This year's survey omits both Vancouver and Melbourne entirely. Together, including Vienna, these cities were the top three cities in the EIU liveability ranking. Subject to newer criteria that is collectively identified as the Spatially Adjusted Liveablity Index, Architect and Urban Planner Filippo Lovato provided seven new indicators for the EIU's survey in a collaboration with BuzzData, a datasharing company. In an EIU competition for generating a new ranking model, Lovato's spatial adjustment assessment was selected as the winning choice. The Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index criteria are physical and geographical assessors that include green space, sprawl, natural assets, cultural assets, connectivity, isolation and pollution. Combined, the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index was assigned a score of 25% or one-quarter of the total assessed score that includes the EIU standard ranking for stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Hong Kong in this year's survey tops the list with the Spatially Adjusted Liveabilty Index applied. How did Hong Kong's ranking compare in Lovato's survey of 70 cities? The Economist reports that Hong Kong earned particularly good scores for green space, less sprawl, natural assets and a lack of isolation. The idea regarding a city's isolation is geographical as well as cultural. Stockholm, according to The Economist ("Hong Kong's Best", July 3, 2012), for example, ranked poorly on this score compared with Shanghai based on Lovato's assertion that isolation "negatively affects leisure opportunities and the possibilities of discovering different ways of life." Hong Kong, as described in the EIU's Best cities and ranking report, is a winner. "It is a very compact city that has managed to maintain its natural heritage, create a dense network of green spaces and enjoy extensive links to the rest of the world," according to the study. Comparatively, Monocle magazine publishes a shorter list of the Top 25 Liveable Cities in their Quality of Life survey. Available in print from their current July/August 2012 issue, Monocle's editors weigh in on similar factors found in the EIU survey, explaining that "the process of finding a favorite has been a global undertaking." Topping Monocle's list of the Top 25 is Zürich. Zürich's ranking in the Top 25 is esteemed for nearly identical criteria applied to Hong Kong in the EIU city survey. Reporting for Monocle, Journalist Gabriel Leigh describes that Zürich is "a city with abundant and interconnected green space cut by rivers leading to its lake." In an interview with David Marquardt, Founder of MACH Architektur in Leigh's video report, Marquardt appreciates the scale of Zurich's size as accessible by bike and notes that "it's too big to be a small village, but too small to be a big city." Anna Schindler, Director of Urban Planning for the City of Zürich, agrees, commenting on the city's metropolitan virtues, scalability, infrastructure as well as its accessibility to the world. Leigh identifies another estimable factor regarding socio-economic changes in Zürich's population demographic. He explains that the city is "becoming less conservative" owing in part to "an influx of people from abroad" leading towards a more diverse community. Although Hong Kong did not figure in the top ten, Monocle's Top 25 Liveable Cities report reveals that the city appears in the Number 13 spot. In a summary about the Pearl of Asia, Monocle writes that "after years of pushing the commerce agenda, Hong Kong is now stepping up its culture game and scoring points for making life here just a bit more interesting in the process." Image credits: Ap Lei Chau Wind Tower Park, Hong Kong, Photo: Chow Zhe; Hanami, Glattzentrum in Wallisellen, Zürich, Switzerland, Photo: (c) Roland Fischer. All photos licensed under Creative Commons.
  18. 18. 18 surface2air World Cities Summit - July 2012, Singapore Eric Gould,, 21 July 2012 Urbanization and the design of cities around the world present new challenges as population density increases. The role of city leaders, urban planners, architects, and engineers face regarding urban infrastructure and communications requires the need to be both innovative and collaborative to help shape the future of cities. It's a fast-moving trend demanding critical focus. On a global scale, Doug Saunders, author of the book Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World, explains: "Between 2007 and 2050, the world's cities will absorb an additional 3.1 billion people. . . . Each month there are five million new city-dwellers created through migration or birth in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Between 2000 and 2030, the urban population of Asia and Africa will double, adding as many city-dwellers in one generation as these continents have accumulated during their entire histories. By the end of 2025, 60 percent of the world will live in cities; by 2050, more than 70 percent; and by century's end, the entire world, even the poor nations of sub-Saharan Africa, will be at least three-quarters urban." Population density and urbanization dominated discussions around how to make cities sustainable at the World Cities Summit 2012 held in Singapore, July 1-4. Urban sustainability played a critical issue at the keynote and throughout the four-day conference plenary sessions. Under the banner Liveable and Sustainable Cities - Integrated Solutions, the World Cities Summit emphasis was on the challenges of urbanization and ways to address these challenges to foster sustainability in cities. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's opening speech on July 1 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Center coincided with three related events in Singapore held earlier in July. The integrated focus on sustainability and urban planning was shared across the third edition of the World Cities Summit, the 5th Singapore International Water Week, and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. At the opening ceremony for the World Cities Summit, the Prime Minister stressed that urban planning, efficient administration and public support are needed to make cities work. He also acknowledged that the world is embarking on urbanization at an unprecedented scale. Among the larger challenges that cities have are to ensure a high quality of life for city dwellers to live, work and play. Singapore has been the host city for the biennial World Cities Summit since 2008, and this year's summit marks the third edition attracting 15,000 delegates, world leaders, academics, business leaders and others to communicate and exchange ideas about what makes cities liveable and how to develop sustainable cities. The World Cities Summit is coorganized by the Centre for Liveable Cities and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Why Singapore? As the host city for the World Cities Summit, Singapore's emergence as a leader for urban planning innovation offers its influence as a model sustainable city. It hasn't always been the case, as it has been a long road getting there.
  19. 19. surface2air Singapore's modern development in the past 50 years demanded a sustainable approach for urban development. The Prime Minister explained that transformation was not easy. The city-state had to overcome the reversals from the 1980s when privatized development without community comment or consultation lead to the disappearance of historical sites and landscape conservation was threatened. Further, the Singapore River fell into decline with pollution in the 1960s and it took a decade to clean it up and to restore beginning in 1978. This effort coincided with a move to transition Marina Bay as the new city center with reclaimed land and green space. Eventually, Marina Bay's redevelopment contributed to an esteemed civic identity for Singapore as the Garden City. The city continues to find ways for innovating its sustainable edge regarding green space, water management, housing and public transportation. The physical limits of Singapore as a city-state without a large land area demands innovating sustainable solutions from both the public and private sector. The platform of the World Cities Summit not only serves to highlight Singapore's track record and to identify its achievements as a model of urban sustainability, but to further engage businesses and individuals to contribute towards its future development. One of the participating projects and exhibitions featured at the World Cities Summit was this year's UP Singapore initiative focusing on urban prototyping. Crowd-sourced data and citizen mapping was identified as a model for urban prototyping. Assembled in a presentation produced by Re:imagine Group, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and Newton Circus, the focus behind crowdsourcing data and citizen mapping leverages mobile communications through applications and locative media. "Data and the ability to act on it is what makes a city more intelligent: the more we know the more we can manage," as the presentation for The Citizen, The Cloud & The Smart City explains. The role technology can offer through the presence of mobile networks can "enable government and the private sector to deploy systems that make our urban environments smarter, more efficient, and more responsive. They also create entirely new and dynamic roles for citizens." Examples of crowd-sourcing data are applications cited include San Francisco's Bike Accident Tracker for cyclists to self-report road safety 19 problems and to improve bike safety policy. Voice of Kibera, a locationbased information and mapping service allowing Kiberans to share community news, report crime and to produce a free and open digital map for their impoverished district in Nairobi, Kenya. Similarly, other examples cited focus on emergency response and natural disasters. Haiti's Open Street Map which is used to compile data from satellite imagery and crowd-sourced information from mobile phones to recreate street maps and even locate displaced people in Port-au-Prince and Carrefour. Open Street Map was developed following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as way for individuals to help communicate information for emergency response and relief efforts. And in 2011, Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster prompted citizens to crowd-source information on radiation levels and reporting this data and geotagged information to online platforms to get a bigger picture about the spread of radiation across Japan. At a UP Singapore event in late June in the run-up to the World Cities Summit, over 200 engineers, designers and developers worked as collaborative teams to produce applications for urban prototyping to be eligible for the Most Innovative Idea Award competition. Six teams were formed to prepare their ideas and participated in a 48-hour hackathon to develop their application. Only one would be selected to earn the cash prize of S$250,000 for further development. The different application project ideas included a platform that addresses the needs of Singapore's aging population, a mobile app designed to help users find and reserve car garage parking spaces, a geolocation app designed to offer urban settings and locations based on users' moods, another geolocation app for sending postcards representing data visualizations of Singapore's mobile network data and other datasets, and a mobile app for tapping into a community complaint platform. The winning project is a mobile application designed to crowdsource climate control conditions in air-conditioned office towers. ClimateRight features a social component as well as serving as a way to gauge energy resource use in offices. The competition represents just one example about how to be innovative with mobile technologies to address sustainability in the urban environment. On a much larger scale city leaders have long-ranging needs to address infrastructure pursuant towards what can and cannot be sustainable. The Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore offered a forum for discussion on 5 Propositions for Sustainable Future Cities at the conference. Their series of panels explored design intelligence, terrain thinking which considers the topographical context of a city, dynamic grassroots communities, abundant energy, and integrated mobility. As cities continue to rapidly develop and change, critical planning for sustainable solutions is imperative. In recognition of cities that have endeavored to achieve urban sustainability, this year's Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize was awarded to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City's Departments of Transportation, City Planning, and Parks and Recreation. Collectively under Mayor Bloomberg, these agencies have been recognized by the award's jury for contributing to New York City's renewal to improve the quality of life for its residents in the last decade since 2001. One of the significant examples of New York's transformational enhancements towards urban sustainability is that the city has become greener with the addition of 700 acres of parks and green space that includes the new sustainable park development on the waterfront and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Additionally, many more biking lanes have been added to surface streets. "New York is an inspiring story of urban rejuvenation," said Kishore Mahbubani, Chairman of the Nominating Committee for the Lee Kuan Yew City Prize. "With a big vision, strong leadership, and excellent partnership between government and citizens, there is a new sense of direction in the city," he said. Six additional cities recognized under the Lee Kuan Yew City Prize received Special Mentions: Ahmedabad, Brisbane, Copenhagen and Malmo, Vancouver and Melbourne. Together, along with Laureates and Special Mentions from 2010, are explored further in a new publication on the Lee Kuan Yew City Prize called Cities in Transformation published by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is named for Singapore's First Prime Minister and is awarded biennially at the World Cities Summit. New York is only the second to receive the prize since Bilbao was awarded for it in 2009. Prime Minister Lee is credited for his leadership regarding adopting policies to create Singapore as a liveable city through strategic land use including green space, improving transportation and housing, and elevating the city's economy. Supertrees are lit against the sunset in Singapore. These Supertrees range from 25-50 meters in height and serve as vertical gardens at the Gardens by the Bay just next to Singapore's busy financial district in Singapore (AP Photo / Wong Maye-E)
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  21. 21. surface2air 21 West Coast Electric Highway Eric Gould,, 1 August 2012 "The road that's followed goes on forever; in half a minute crossed and left behind" - Gary Snyder, Mountains and Rivers Without End Whether or not you're heading down a ribbon of highway, as Woody Guthrie sings in This Land is Your Land, Interstate 5 is a paved conduit for work and commerce, travel and leisure. The Five offers motorists intersections to high density cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and connecting arterials to getaway destinations in California's redwood forests, Oregon's rocky beaches, and the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Stretching 1,300 miles across the West Coast from California through Oregon and Washington to British Columbia, I-5 is more than just the backbone of California. It links an economic network of cities, ports, and options for travel and tourism across the Pacific Coast states. As a vacation and travel corridor I-5 stitches together many destination options for summer. And now that the summer season is here and in full swing, many travelers are hitting the road. It's the time to load up the car with maps, guide books, phone chargers and drive. Camp expeditions, family visits, and a few laps around national parks and landmarks make for some memories from the season, far away from the cul-de-sacs and strip-malls back home. Sharing the road this summer, at least on the West Coast, will be electric vehicles. Gas prices have continued to climb and may deter some long-distance travel for conventional automobile drivers, but for EV motorists there's some relief -particularly when it comes to "range anxiety," or the fear of running low on battery life and being located too far away from the next charge. Earlier this year, the initial rollout of Aeroenvironment charging stations in Washington and Oregon marked the first phase of a West Coast network for accommodating the electric vehicle motorist. The West Coast Electric Highway stretching along the I-5 corridor offers a network of fast-charge charging stations for electrical vehicles, and are staggered at least every 25 miles. Aeroenvironment's visibly distinctive green and silver charging stations are sited near freeway entrances in highly visible locations like at restaurants, hotels and visitors centers, and are currently offered as a free service to EV drivers. The West Coast Electric Highway project is made possible with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and key partnerships with the Oregon Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Washington state has already installed 12 Aeroenvironment fastchargers along I-5 between Bellingham and Castle Rock, US Highway 2, and Interstate 90. Ten Aeroenvironment fast-chargers are also installed along the Oregon stretch of I-5 from Portland to Ashland. By the end of 2012, extended EV routes branching from I-5 are tailored towards green tourism which will allow EV motorists some travel options and reachable destinations off the interstate. Washington's US Highway 2 Stevens Pass Scenic Byway in the North Cascades is one recreational route for EV motorists already in place. Inaugurated earlier this summer in June, the route crossing over the Cascades along Highway 2 marks the world's first EV-friendly Tourism Corridor. The route leafs out north of Seattle on I-5 and welcomes EV motorists traveling east to Stevens Pass, Leavenworth and Wenatchee. Aeroenvironment has installed four 480-volt DC fast-charging stations along Highway 2 that can charge a Nissan Leaf or a Mitsubishi i-MiEV in 30 minutes and provide up to a 70-mile driving range. Four 240volt Level 2 charging stations have also been installed at the same locations. Skiers, backpackers, and other visitors passing through this scenic route and East Cascades region will find these EV charging stations in Sultan, Skykomish, Leavenworth and Wenatchee. In Oregon, two EV tourist routes are getting rolled out and fitted with fastcharger charging stations. One is the Oregon Coast route branching west from Portland and serving Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach and farther south towards Florence mid-way down the Oregon Coast. The second is the Hood River route heading due east from Portland along the Columbia River. The Oregon Department of Transportation is currently working with Aeroenvironment to install 22 of the fast-charging stations throughout these areas to establish Oregon's EV tourism corridors. The U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant is funding $2 million for the project in Oregon, writes the Coast River Business Journal (Construction begins on coastal electrical vehicle chargers, August 9, 2012). EV tourism and travel industry stands to benefit with an expanding electric highway corridor and travel network. In the white paper Electric Vehicles and the Oregon Tourism Industry published by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, the authors note, "By tapping an emerging 'green traveler' market, the tourist industry stands to benefit from participating in the impending EV rollout." The assertion is an observant one. "The tourism industry can be a driver of EV adoption, building a brand that eco-conscious travelers can identify," according to the paper. The authors also suggest that by "building a strong support network for EVs will also send a strong message to visitors that driving an EV can be an easy, attractive and green way to travel." Portland at dusk, above Interstate 5. Photo: Cacophony, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
  22. 22. 22 VIFF 2012 - Mapping Memories of Past Ghosts Eric Gould,, 30 September 2012 What is cinema if not a visual expression of memory, nostalgia and fragments of the past? Beneath the clouds over idle container ships near the South China Sea, Portuguese filmmakers João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata explore these connections channeling Guerra da Mata's memories growing up in Macau. Their film A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (The Last Time I Saw Macau) is a dreamy candy-jar color tribute to the city embellished with a labyrinthine mix of past reflections and old ghosts from a neon-tinged post-colonial urban demimonde and a sensual exoticism. A Última Vez Que Vi Macau unfolds with its noir-imbued narrative as Guerra da Mata intones like a hardboiled detective. He tells of how his old friend Candy -- starring transgendered Cindy Scrash in the role -- is surface2air in Macau and has recently fallen in trouble with the "wrong men" after a friend was murdered. Macau, Candy explains, is where "strange and scary things" were happening. Her situation prompts Guerra da Mata to leave Portugal to find her there and his search also doubles as a personal return to the Vegas of the East after 30 years. Guerra da Mata and Rodrigues describe their mysterious story tinged with off-camera intrigue as an augmented counter-point to the real-life Macau pulsing to its own rhythm near the city's harbor. Their genre-defying film also acknowledges Josef von Sternberg's 1952 movie Macau shot at RKO Studios in Hollywood starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. In the opening scenes of A Última Vez Que Vi Macau Candy lip-syncs behind shadows to Jane Russell's flirtatious jazz number "You Kill Me" wearing a low-cut Chinese dress in front of tigers fenced-off behind her. Establishing an angle with von Sternberg's film Macau - which itself is an embellishment of the port city's location and a form of exoticized cinematic Chinoiserie -- Guerra da Mata and Rodrigues unveil a dramatic narrative combining fictionalized memoir, romanticized artifice and a deconstructed urban profile. "This is Macao," Rodrigues reports in voiceover, ". . . the fascinating Las Vegas of the East is the friendliest and cruelest of cities where nothing is what it seems." Rodrigues is representing both A Última Vez Que Vi Macau and the short film Morning of Saint Anthony's Day at this year's 31st Vancouver International Film Festival. He is also a juror on the panel with filmmaker Shinozaki Makoto and film writer Chuck Stephens for the $5,000 Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, an annual prize at VIFF, to be awarded during the fest. The festival's Dragons & Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia series has been one of VIFF's estimable marqueed programs drawing a variety of new cinema and young talent to Vancouver. It's also crowned with its own awards gala. The Dragons & Tigers series is the largest annual exhibition of East Asian films outside of Asia, featuring established and emerging filmmaking talents from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand ("VIFF brings a world of film to Vancouver screens," The Canadian Press, Vancouver Sun, September 27, 2012). VIFF Programmer and film scholar Tony Rayns has been curating the Dragons & Tigers series since its inception in 1994 and organizes the Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema. He has selected films from Japan, South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand for this year's fest. Co-curator Shelly Kraicer who has been programming VIFF's Dragons & Tigers for four years has selected a combined total of 16 Chinese language films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia in addition to documentaries and features from China. As one of Canada's largest film festivals, VIFF has often been compared with TIFF in Toronto which happens earlier in September just weeks before Vancouver's fest opens. Although both have much in common and scope as international film festivals, VIFF's distinguished Dragons & Tigers program acknowledges the creative range of Asian-Pacific cinema in Vancouver. Festival Director Alan Franey explains to Marsha Lederman of The Globe and Mail about what sets VIFF apart from other festivals, "I really think it's distinctively (because) of this city, which is so multicultural and so oriented towards the Pacific and Asia. And a mark of pride is that for a city that is on the periphery of a lot of
  23. 23. surface2air things we punch beyond our weight class in terms of how large a festival and how vibrant the audience is." (VIFF's director reflects on must-see films and the mistakes that eat him up, The Globe and Mail, September 23, 2012). Many other films opening this weekend at the fest also draw connections that resonate between the past and present, often leading filmmakers and their viewers on a journey stitched together and mapping memories with past ghosts. Photography and archived collections serve as spring boards for the films Gotthard Schuh: A Sensual Vision of the World and The Great Northwest that share common threads. Villi Hermann's documentary Gotthard Schuh: A Sensual Vision of the World follows Hermann retracing the steps of Swiss Photographer Gotthard Schuh (1897 - 1969) whose legacy influenced many post-World War II photographers. With photos in hand, Hermann visits the Ticino region of Malcantone and to Bali noting contrasts with Schuh's early work and the passage of time. Similarly, Filmmaker Matt McCormick from Portland, Oregon, retraces the steps of four young friends from Seattle whose thrift store scrapbook discovery formed inspiration for his photography project and experimental road film The Great Northwest. The four women whose road-trip travels around Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 1958 are documented in their scrapbook with faded photos, postcards, brochures and other ephemera on yellowed pages. As a kind of treasure map from a previous era, McCormick recreates their travels and offers a contemporary perspective comparing notes with their time-capsule archive in The Great Northwest. The intimate space between relationships and the environment haunt characters in both Mekong Hotel and Valley of Saints -- two films that generously allow their setting to fill the screen. Cannes award-winning filmmaker Apichatpong Weeresethakul's latest film Mekong Hotel is set in the Thai-Laotian border region near the Mekong River in northeast Thailand. Originally inspired by an initial script for Weeresethakul's Ecstasy Garden, Mekong Hotel offers a meditative reflection on last year's flooding in the Mekong River region and in Bangkok. Here at this remote hotel a mother reveals herself to her daughter as a Pob ghost, an "infected" person who has a vampiric appetite for eating raw flesh as described 23 in Thai-Lao culture. The afternoon's soft light and gentle current of the Mekong River is inverted from her disruptive spirit. Political unrest and a military curfew in Kashmir disrupts the mountainous valley region of Dal Lake in Musa Syeed's striking film Valley of Saints. Two young friends whose plans to leave find themselves back in town during the military crackdown, but are ultimately drawn to recognize the environmental beauty of Dal Lake through the eyes of a researcher studying it. Dal Lake has been a locally-esteemed setting, however, from years of development, Syeed's film underscores the lake's threatened fragility. Elevating exposure to their locations -- the Mekong River in Mekong Hotel and Dal Lake in Valley of Saints -- both films reveal their risks for ongoing degradation from engineering projects and development. Past memories of youthful desire linger for Peter whose coming-ofage as a gay man is the focus of Paul Agusta's third film Parts of the Heart - Love Shapes Who We Are. As a young gay man from Jakarta, Peter's life unfolds with adolescent awakening and desire. Chronicled in eightpart vignettes, Parts of the Heart reveals Peter at different points in time falling in and out of relationships beginning with a first kiss to render a rich portrait of one man's quest for love. The Vancouver International Film Festival runs for another two weeks, from September 27 to October 12, in the Yaletown-Granville corridor at several venues in downtown Vancouver. This year's Dragons & Tigers Awards Gala on October 4 coincides with the North American Premiere of Lou Ye's 2012 film Mystery marking his return to filmmaking following an official five-year ban. Lou Ye's Suzhou River from 2000 was a critically-acclaimed international debut but his focus on sexual and poltical themes in his later work had breached China's censors. For further film festival information, ticketing and venue details, visit VIFF's web site at or download the free mobile iPhone app from iTunes.
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