future is(ms)

the future will be chrome. rirkrit tiravanija
the future will be curved. olafur eliasson
the future will be bouclette. douglas gordon
the future will be asymmetric. pedro reyes
the future will be a slap in the face. cao fei
the future will be delayed. loris greaud
the future will be tropical. dominique gonzález-foerster
future? … you must be mistaken. trisha donnelly.
the future will be overgrown and decayed. simryn gill
the future will be a remake. didier fiuza faustino
the future will be widely reproduced and distributed. cory doctorow
the future will involve splendor and poverty. arto Lindsay
the future is overrated. cerith wyn evans
the future will be repeated. dariene dumas
the future is private. anton vidokle
the future was. julieta aranda

*found in the tight little preface by (¿who else?) hans ulrich obrist of markus miessen’s did someone say participate? this list is even more incomplete than the one in the book. Another compilation can be downloaded here

word 12 : degenerate



1. a person who has declined, as in morals or character, from a type or standard considered normal.
2. a person or thing that reverts to an earlier stage of culture, development, or evolution.
3. a sexual deviate.


1. to fall below a normal or desirable level in physical, mental, or moral qualities; deteriorate.
2. to diminish in quality from a former state of coherence, balance, integrity, etc.
3. (pathology) to lose functional activity, as a tissue or organ.
4. to revert to a simple, less highly organized, or less functionally active type, as a parasitic plant that has lost its taproot or the vestigial wings of a flightless bird.

see also : degenerate utopia

* comics found by way of things



"the culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises. the promissory note which, with its plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged; the promise, which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory: all it actually confirms is that the real point will never be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu. in front of the appetite stimulated by all those brilliant names and images there is finally set no more than a commendation of the depressing everyday world it sought to escape."

adorno @ marxists.org


sunny (underside) of the street

leave your coat and leave your hat (this is medellín, for chrisakes)
(try to) leave your worries on the doorstep
if life can't be that sweet, at least make the underbelly of the street a little sunnier

that's what young gifted and hot costa rican federico herrero has done in his intervention for the medellín biennale, reports blowdelabarra blog.

although the pitter-pat you hear is probably the f*cking taxis and buses overhead, not the happy tune in your step there is a hint of naïf charm about herrero's work. he mixes ugly with pretty without imposing, or being corny or condescending. paint is splahed on the unsuspecting surfaces of empty ponds and pools, bare concrete corners, school buildings or public transport buses. herrero extracts a drop of innocence from these quiet and somewhat unwelcoming environments, as if he'd found a way to drill into some crevice and hit a gentler vein or marrow of colorful goo.


touring the bush (21) : l.a.tinópolis, parte one (zoots)

topping black, white and asian, the latino population count for l.a. (a.k.a losángeles) exceeds 9 million (considering the whole metropolitan area), and the city is one of the few big u.s. of a. cities with a latino majority. l.a. is at the forefront of what mike davis calls the “latinization” of large central cities across the country, from chicago to dallas to new york, while samuel huntington poops his pants. losángeles is the second largest of all mexican, salvadorean and guatemalan cities all in one, and has one of the world’s largest spanish-speaking urban populations.

even so, as davis himself affirms, at least until very recently, a certain “invisibility” of latinos persisted in certain urban scenes and sectors. that doesn’t mean latinos don’t know how to show-off. maybe it’s the baroque in us sureños, but as a way of countering this social, political and economic invisibility or marginality, latinos have proven to be masters at these games of conscious excessful display, usually concentrated in cultural practice and symbols, from food to style to speak to place gestures. latinos are big on markers.

in the urban history of l.a., there are particularly “colorful” (sometimes blood-red colorful), intense city-marking moments. after decades of white-washing (anglo mass migration and domination came full-throttle in the 1850s, and hispanic l.a. dropped from suddenly second term to practical cultural erasure), it wasn’t until the 1940s that l.a. felt the serious first shakes of the new latino inflow.

even before watts 1.0, latinos were stirring trouble in the zoot suit riots that sparked in l.a. in the summer of 1943. the zoots set the tone of urban (conflict) activism and confrontation that would follow in chavez ravine, the chicano movements of the 60s and other l.a.tino political urban squabbles. but zoots were beyond mexican or chicano, even beyond latino. zoot subculture was an (ethnically charged) offshoot of early bigband jazz/pop and jitterbugging (like the zazous in prewar france, or the swing kids in weimar germany), and shared the elements of these earliest blurry pop/youth style movements (before rock n'roll and before flower power) that ended up being -sometimes unintendedly- highly political. even though zoots were usually associated with pachucos, mexican-american proto-punksters, the gang element was not inherent to them. zoot-suits started in dancehalls and ended on the streets.

in his essay "the zoot-suit and style warfare,” stuart cosgrove notes that “the zoot-suit is more than an exaggerated costume, more than a sartorial statement, it is the bearer of a complex and contradictory history… these youths were not simply grotesque dandies parading the city's secret underworld, they were (quoting ellison’s the invisible man) the stewards of something uncomfortable , a spectacular reminder that the social order had failed to contain their energy and difference.…”

these issues of extreme styling, marking difference and tease tactics still permeate contemporary cultural and political latino production in l.a., on different terms and scales, from gangs to graffiti to front lawns to demonstrations; going beyond simple fashioning to a deeper, more enduring set of spatial practices, including mainstream urban politics and real estate, the ultimate city-markers.

next : l.a.tinópolis, parte two (power shift)

word 11 : mark



1. a visible impression or trace on something, as a line, cut, dent, stain, or bruise.
2. a badge, brand, or other visible sign assumed or imposed.
3. an affixed or impressed device, symbol, inscription, etc., serving to give information, identify, indicate origin or ownership, attest to character or comparative merit, or the like.
4. something serving as an indication of position.
5. distinction or importance; repute; note.
6. an object aimed at; target.
7. a sign, usually an X, made instead of a signature by someone who does not know how or is unable to write his or her own name.

see also : marker

let's all meet up in the year 2000

roofed cities and other wacky ca. 1900 postcards of an imagined year 2000
@ the awesome paleo-future blog


toppings 11 : london 2027

ok, it was an admittedly bad choice of film for close-to-bedtime-cuddling, and it made me so nervous i had a tough time sleeping. but in my book, that’s a definite plus for any movie. i'm talking about the dynamic, supersaturated dystopian pastiche of alfonso cuarón’s children of men, a “political thriller.” a sort of weak and ultimately cheesy plot, a touch of sentimentalism, big fx, beastishly charismatic leading hunk, damsel in serious distress…all you could expect from your average action flick. still, this isn’t your average anything. the movie’s surface is stunning because it’s imbued with gut-reference and style dictates you could expect from a poetic incursion into the process of meat-packing, for instance.

after the film i felt queasy, and my neck ached. even though there’s a lot of blood spattered around (in a particularly sequence, some of it gets on the camera lens, and stays there for a couple of minutes), the toughest thing to take in isn’t the gore, but the overwhelming resonance of the violence, abuse, barren consumption and forlorn everydayness portrayed, in perfect accord with present-day conditions. 2027 doesn’t seem that far away, and that’s what makes it scary.

if you haven’t seen the film, you have to, i don't want to start spoiling. if you’re an architect and haven’t seen the film, you have to, twice at least.

don’t bother with trying out the storyline. just take in the clues between the lines (or the frames, or whatever). the scene is london on the verge of meltdown. see what the professional future might have in store for you. maybe it already does. shady extra-legal government detention camps (ceuta or abu grhaib or guantánamo ring a bell?), wildcat , street-warfare (beirut? ghaza? baghdad?), anti-terrorist checkpoints, spiritual junkies, narcotic media control, corporate grays, consumer depression, radical identity politics, spatial exclusion, and the end of public things. cuarón’s london 2027 is a condensed, scaled and exacerbated simulacrum of the world we live in, now.

the film grips. a review quotes the director saying: “we cannot afford one single frame without a comment on the state of things…the story of this movie is just the coat hanger. what's important is the fabric that you're going to hang.” architects should take note. in fact, a fair share of sting in the movie heads straight for our crowd of “creatives”, designers, artsy types and yes, gulp, architects. here are the modern contemporaries (los modernillos), dining in an appropriately herzog&demeuronesque set staged in the belly of the battersea power station, dubbed the “ark of the arts.” the guy who runs the place is clad in black, sipping wine, probably gay, and all-in-all uncomfortably architecty. he spends his money and time rescuing artistic treasures from around the rotten globe. then he hangs them on white walls as a backdrop to his meaningless life. he too has lost hope, but decides to live on for taste and refinement, like others in the film choose guns or tai-chi or dogs or strong pot. why, the hero asks, choose art, when there won’t be anyone left to look or care? what’s the point? more precisely, what's the justification? the artsy type's demolishing cameo-closing response should sound strangely familiar. you just have to avoid thinking about it.


touring the bush (20) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (epilogue, easterling)

architects concerned with the future of the profession (and practice) would find a certain relief if they shifted from (or added to) the inevitable question(ing) of architecture’s role in contemporary contexts to the apparently more focused but in fact incredibly rich and relevant search that keller easterling has assumed in her recent work:

“an amplified understanding of what constitutes infrastructure.”

this perspective avoids the classic and somewhat stale opposed and simplified dualities of architectural ponderings (form vs. function, style vs. substance, content vs. context, etc. etc. etc…), even though it ultimately entails all of these issues. the relief doesn’t come from finding solutions or making things easier, but from having the option of a more dynamic and significant approach to re-address fundamental problems and challenges. it is the same question other smart people –from kazys varnelis to eyal weizman to sanford kwinter– are asking themselves. this unique approximation requires picking at both the core and the fringes of architectural production (politics, economics, social organization and practice and imagery, technical innovation, etc.)(what is considered the core and what is placed on the margins may vary, and usually does).

“for some time we have been considering infrastructure to be something beyond transportation, communication and utility networks. infrastructure may even include collective standards or shared mechanisms of financing. still some of our spatial skills would find new territories (and seductions) in an understanding of infrastructure as a recipe for political disposition. a recipe for the character of a polity.”

tourist itineraries, marketing literature, promotional leaflets and websites, exceptional localized legal parameters, postmodern piracy, the love boat, freakish tomatoes, wal-mart, terrorists, yogis, maquiladoras; a world of “instrumental fictions,” masquerades and camouflage…these are some of the elements entangled in the triple tragicomedy of politics, economic exchange and architecture easterling evokes in her poignant, analytical (and yes, theatrical) storytelling.

unlikely sites become “aggregates of the global city.” fantasy and folly is “tabulized and capitalized” through organization, marketing techniques and eventually come together in real estate and other types of “spatial products”:

“i kept seeing these formulas for space that developers were able to define and sell even in the absence of a location or a building. there are many such recipes and formulas that naturally index qualities essential to the formula. so a tourist resort is looking for a certain temperature and color of sand. such conditions mesh with a marketing profile and a number of other parameters to create 'the package'... tourism is probably not what we think it is. tourism no longer assumes the diplomacies of the state. the state borrows techniques from tourism. It is how the state has learned to float multiple stories and fabulous stupidities over a revenue stream.”

finally someone came up with a sharper definition of nonplace than mark augé’s supermodern superfrenchy superbland superboring (dare i say passé) first shot.

next stop : los ángeles, city of angels



when my grandmother died i scavenged her closet for a piece of her i could keep. as a kid i loved digging in the hat boxes and the dust-covered fur coats, finding all sorts of little treasures: ancient portable kodak cameras and polaroids from the sixties, silver-framed tinted blue bug-eye sunglasses, fake jewelry, bottles of fermented sparkling wine, unopened decks of playing cards, cigarette holders and the most incredible collection of hotel souvenir ashtrays and matchboxes you could imagine. hawaii, fort worth, veracruz, needles, rio de janeiro, ottawa, monterrey, nice… i was always amazed at how my grandma had managed to put together this wacky world itinerary for herself.

the one i kept was a sober black ashtray with white lettering that read : stardust las vegas. i didn’t smoke back then, but i was well on my way to developing my groping addiction to 50s and 60s americana. i still had to discover doowop and douglas sirk and duckass and develop a crush on james dean, but even at this tender age i was drawn to the dirty delight of this useless piece and the careless age it encapsuled. or so i thought.

i somehow missed the stardust’s implosion. watching the little youtube screen has sent shivers down my everything. i still have to connect tons of dots accumulated in my personal history and my personal tastes and my personal fantasies and wakings. finding this is just another reminder of how everything is tied, how we’re happy little victims of things that stand for nothing and mean everything.

the melody haunts my reverie

touring the bush (19) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (supersudaca)

“the assertion is very bald, very clear : architecture should no longer recoil from the degraded world of business and corporate thinking; on the contrary, it should aggressively seek to transform itself into a research-based business…” michael speak’s assertion is also risky and overwhelming. playing with the rules will always be more difficult than playing against them. the problem is, not all rules are explicit, and even worse, playing can become so seductive that the aim is sometimes lost. for architects embracing the contemporary globlal/corporate state of (building) affairs, this can mean forgetting that they got into the game hoping to get something different out of it, not winning in the usual terms.

we are starting to see the multiplication of architecture programs and practices turned into “research architecture” initiatives. the concept itself is old, and even the earliest cold-war era “think tanks” showed an inclination –although it usually remained indirect– towards architecture –i.e. rand. today architectural think tanks and research architecture initiatives are well established in the mainstream and thriving, from amo to center-periphery programs to localized actuator groups, to the recently notable research architecture program led by eyal weizman at goldsmith’s. they all have different approaches and aims. some have actually parted from the practical (building) requisite, understanding practice as critical practice. this is not architectural theory, but more a different idea of architecture, architecture as a set of complex (beyond architecture) tactics.

supersudaca is one such initiative, a group of people set to “harass latinoamérica with architectural ideas.” super = over, on top, beyond what is normal, beyond what is ordinary, beyond what is usual. that transcends what it is. that develops in a higher degree what is given. sudaca = sudaca is the term –usually pejorative- used in spain to refer about latin-americans. even though it derives from ‘sudamericanos’ in fact it includes all spanish-speaking people of south america, central america, mexico and the caribbean, all those who share a ‘sudaca’ way of being. these berlage kids got together in 2001 to establish a series of project and research networks, that spawn anything from social housing to barrio activism to urban “latinization.”

for al caribe! supersudaca was drawn to the powdered-sand beaches, cruise itineraries and trashy all-inclusive resorts of the caribbean. in their own words :

“al_caribe (meaning latin america_caribbean but also meaning “let’s go to the caribbean” as tourists say) is so far the largest and most ambitious project of the supersudaca collective. the project came about from two initiatives - on the one hand the group was interested to explore the urban network possibilities of this region known for its internal disconnection, this in the framework of our continuous effort to expand (our) experiment to different points of latin america and the caribbean.”

the project was presented as part of the “mare nostrum” exhibition at the biennale in rotterdam, dealing with issues of tourism, exploitation, sustainability, development, and architecture in this somewhat undefined and substantially overlooked “region.” in an interesting combo of statistical compilation and exercising polemics, the supersudacas managed to stir things up a bit and to bring attention to the caribbean as a site of (and for) architectural experimentation.

tackling issues like useless accumulation, overdevelopment, architectural excess, standardized spatial production, and exclusionary architectures, as well as recognizing potentials for development and integration within this contradictory panorama, the work is eventually oriented to rethinking schemes for action. in this sense, a particularly interesting offshoot of the al caribe! project is the cuban workshop :

after the fall of the soviet union, cuba was driven into an economic crisis that triggered the so-called ‘periodo especial’. this is the time that tourism is seen again as economic saviour. already at the beginning of the 80’s in cuba studies are done in relation to the introduction of international tourism and its planning and in the 90’s cuba bets for the development of the tourist industry in a very orderly and highly planned version, far ahead in targets and strategies than most of the caribbean competitors. it’s a strategy that attends macroeconomic interests yet with a clear policy of decentralization in order to benefit most of the national territory..., that prioritizes the products and locations with more demand, profitability and potential. this policy is backed by a well-balanced study of the territory that puts high in the agenda the preservation of the environment and specially the coastline, the very base of beach tourism. still in most cases this high level of planning led to the same all inclusive sun and beach product that characterizes the other caribbean islands... if cancun is the example of uncontrolled exploitation by tourism, cuban beaches are characterized by an endless repetition of the same 350 rooms all inclusive hotels, their golden formula.

next : tropical nonplace (easterling, epilogue)

word 10 : crack



1. a break without complete separation of parts; fissure.
2. a slight opening.
3. a sudden, sharp noise, as of something breaking.
4. a resounding blow.
5. a witty or cutting remark; wisecrack.
6. a break or change in the flow or tone of the voice.
7. opportunity; chance; try.
8. a flaw or defect.
9. pellet-size pieces of highly purified cocaine, prepared with other ingredients for smoking, and known to be especially potent and addicting.
10. a mental defect or deficiency.
11. a moment; instant.


1. to break without complete separation of parts; become fissured.
2. to break abruptly and discordantly, as because of weariness or emotion.
3. to fail; give way.
4. to succumb or break down.
5. to utter or tell.
6. to solve; decipher.
7. to break into.

see also : gutterspace

* guggengraph found @ architechnophilia


touring the bush (18) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (echeverria)

it means snake pit in maya, but lately it's more of a tropical pig-hole. cancún lingers in the minds and loins of (eternally pubescent) springbreakers-to-be across america, and haunts the (small) brains of guys and dolls who took the wild-on pledge of “what happens in cancún, stays in cancún” a little too seriously, filling them with dread, remorse or maybe just the sting of being past their prime. for some people, cancún is the anti-paradise, devoid of taste and calm. unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys flashing tits and asses, pissing in the pool, or mad-drunken-blond-mobs. in that case, you’d probably believe this was heaven on earth.

cancún might have become its own worst nightmare. until we arrive at a full-fledged 90s revival of smoked salmon entreés and techno-line-dancing, cancún will remain a place that is basically sad, proof that luxury for the masses was never a fortunate concept. for a few years it held the promise of the globalized golden resort strip, now that promise has morphed into one of amateur stripping and anonymous second-class “international” food, “fun”, and architecture.

cancún started out as a different sort of paradox. in 1971, mexico was on the quest for third-world leadership, under populist president/repressor luis echeverría álvarez. the country’s old import-substitution development scheme was pretty much eroded by then, and the short-lived oil-econmy glory days hadn’t come yet, so it was a logical steer to tourism. echeverría installed property rights and specialgrants for foreigners who prior to his term had been banned from owning land near the coast. the people’s president was keen on building a new luxury enclave in order to attract much needed foreign investment dollars to feed on for soaring public debt.

a comprehensive plan determined the former island as an ideal location and public infrastructure works were inaugurated to exploit the area’s potential, including bridges that attached cancún to the mainland, roads, utilities, etc. the infamous national tourist development fund (fonatur) was created as a means of financing the enormous projects (fonatur would fall from grace in the nineties with a disastrous program of marina developments scattered throughout mexico’s coastal regions, stained with denounciations of money-laundering and drug-cartel links). from the 70’s to the 90’s, fonatur would finance about 85% of new hotel rooms built in the country.

this was what the “institutionalized” revolution brought in terms of development. the “constructor state” (estado constructor) swayed from building social housing and services to pouring public monies in these quick-cash development schemes. The effects of these policies are now more than obvious : patches of developmental exclusion, environmental degradation, a big fake first-world feel, and good 'ol globalized tackiness galore.

next : tropical nonplace (supersudaca)


touring the bush (17) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (castro)

on new year’s 1959 a different rumble shook havana. it wasn’t the usual stompin’ and rompin’ at the tropicana. it wasn’t the roar of hot-rods around the capri or the glitterati gushing drinks down at the nacional. this time, it was la revolución.

havana was done with the gilded days. done with the fierce batista dictatorship. done with dirty business with the miami mafias and santo trafficante. done with being the continental whorehouse of the rich and famous.

batista fled havana for spain (he died comfortably in mallorca) as castro and his guerrilla troupes marched in. cuba finally had a chance to break with being the sparkling outhouse for the worldpower in turn –first spain, then the u.s. architecture played a key role in building a face for the island in the (modern) world arena. until the fifties, this face was meant to seduce. havana became a very concrete (poured concrete, to be exact) rendering of the tropical arcadia, paradise lost and found. it was a mix of tijuana in the twenties and acapulco in the sixties, or in mtv-realworld-generation terms, what you’d get if vegas and miami decided to have a baby-city. havana was to be a tropical mistress, a western-hemisphere take on honkytonkhongkong.

the castrists must’ve looked (and felt) somewhat out of place in havana, with their ugly commando suits and their unshaved faces, looking like bushmen and smelling of wilderness. they didn’t fit in with the vaults and arches and lounge furniture of the gorgeous max borges addition to the tropicana, or in the supercosmopolitan glass lobby of the riviera hotel. not with the shiny creped silk of the local pop idols like celia cruz and her sonora matancera. havana needed a new face. and castro would make sure she got one.

architecture would join the revolutionary mission. cuba needed an architecture of solidarity, architecture for the dispossessed. in cuba just like everywhere else revolutions sparked in the xxth-century (be it mexico or russia), the first years after the break were times of ferment and rich experimentation –economic, political and certainly in terms of cultural production. and like elsewhere, as revolution turned to regime, these active forces would be subjected and tempered (in mexico the wild and amazing architectural diversity of the 30’s would be substituted by the ugly and poor official architecture of the “institutionalized revolution,” in the former soviet union, stalinism would suppress not only political dissonance, but it would also put out the architectural avant-garde in favor of state-glorifying kitsch.)

cuba’s revolutionary modernism was a relatively late arrival, and it already had a sturdy modernist heritage, basically the canons of international style. the modernist road seemed a bit narrowed compared to the early-xxth-century. still, in these early years, the quest for a new architecture seemed viable. a great example of the (eventually) trampled energies and the failed architectures of the early revolution is the national art schools. in this set of buildings, ricardo porro, the architect for the project, said he wanted to capture a “sensation of explosion.” the school was set on the now-abandoned havana country club, an absolute symbol of pre-revolutionary excess. legend goes that castro thought of building a school at the site playing a round of golf with el che in the months following his rise to power.

the architecture for the art schools was passionate, eloquent, strong, experimental. it was an architecture of search and ideals and hope. it was an architecture that couldn’t last. buried under financial burdens, political doubt and cries against the tinges of bourgeois, the project remained unfinished, and later abandoned.

the same would be the fate of other projects stemming from this brief gap of creative, flourishing architectures, which produced everything from stadiums to innovative housing projects to ice-cream parlors "for the people". architects in cuba were left with one sole client: the castro regime, the became “operatives of the state”. a new set of values and priorities were established : simplistic “rationalism,” prefabricated structures, minimal-resource construction, and standardized architectures.

but most importantly, the productive engine of the cultural revolution had to shift its energies from the revolutionary questioning to the promotion and adoration of the revolutionary regime. havana changed her face, she grew a beard. now she would cater to a different set of just as avid consumers : the fans of enduring state communism. in the end things didn't even change that much : tourists are again getting the special treatment in their own resort microislands, off-limits for cubans; and now they come, skip the cocktails and the bow ties and go straight to the prostitute. the only “democratization” going on is making all these special little treats super-accessible (to dollar bearers), dirt cheap.

next : tropical nonplace (echeverría)


toppings 10 : technotropical

via intersections

neotropical kingdom : phytogeographic area that includes central and southamerica, except the southern tip of the andes. it reaches the two coastal fringes of mexico, as well as southern california and florida.



touring the bush (16) : caribbean, tropical nonplace (smithson)

our tour of the caribbean begins a bit off the actual caribbean. this is perfectly legitimate, given our (consciously) slanted search for the tropical nonplace. april 15, 1969. robert smithson is boarding a pan am flight from new york to mexico, headed for the yucatán, not excactly on vacation. he is on a half-mission, a blurry expedition. he carries a beautiful book under his arm. the book is full of pictures of ancient ruins devoured by the jungle.

the book itself feels ancient and exotic. it’s written by this guy named john lloyd stephens, a reknown explorer / anthropologist from the 1800s. stephens had also gone to yucatán, a hundred and something years before. but smithson was determind to make his the inverse of stephens’s classic voyage that stunk of colonialism and historical prejudice. in smithson’s version of the stephens expedtion, the grand, dead ruins of chichen itzá and palenque en up being dumped for pictures of “displaced” mirrors and the ungreat living ruins of an unfinished cheap roadside motel.

stephens’s travelogue includes exquisite meticulous drawings of mayan architectural relics. in a very xixth-century fashion, stephens resented the abandonment of the monumental remnants to the wild and oblivion, he felt contemporary descendants of the maya had discarded their heritage, erased tracks of memory and identity due to careless disregard, fallen victims to their own cultural disorder and indifference. civilization (or culture relevance, historical time) in yucatán had run its course, it was a site of cultural has-beens, devoid of a current and living sense of meaning. a place and people overwhelmed and left numb by their own fallen greatness.

the same primitive slabs and stone idols that stephens brought back to new york, smithson saw in the american natural history museum when he was a kid (the museum would remain his favorite). eventually he got his own mayan (anti)expedition. stephens’s 1848 travelogue was named "incidents of travel in yucatan,” and smithson played with this tile in his own “incidents of mirror-travel in yucatan.”

in an essay titled "landscapes of indifference", jennifer roberts draws this twisted spiral relation between the two:

"perhaps smithson's most conspicuous inversion of stephens's precedent derives from the fact that none of the famous maya ruins appears in any of his illustrations, even though several of the photographs were taken within eyeshot of the major archaeological sites. dispersed and half-covered by sediment or branches, the blocky mirrors of the displacements suggest the ruins, but their empty reference to the desired historical spectacle proposes a systematic erasure of stephens's visionary enterprise. this refusal to see the maya ruins amounts in many ways to their paradoxical re-covering--to their removal from the conditions of archaeology that, over the past century and a half, had endorsed their use as imperialist trophies or their recontextualization as art objects"

smithson in his ambitions of being a "blind traveler," of doing away with the purpose and the prejudice of the classic archeological enterprise, and stepping away from stephens's faults, ends up falling in a neighboring and even deeper pit:

"the collapse of the visual field in yucatan is attended in smithson's narrative by the collapse of the historical field. smithson's mirror displacements function as models of passive memory as well as passive vision."

futher down his tropical trail, smithson reached antiarchitectural heaven and turned things up a notch. the shitty little hotel palenque (still standing, still growing, and still unfinished today) would be the subject of a smithson slideshow/standup-performance offered at the university of utah in 1972 (only one year before his premature death). part art, part irony, part architectural scam, the hotel palenque piece became mythic.

in the end, smithson fell short of his intentions and his proclamations. hotel palenque is little more than highbrow mexican curios:

“my feeling is that this hotel is built with the same spirit that the mayans built their temples…the structure has all of the convolution and terror, in a sense, that you would find in a typical mayan temple…of serpentine facades loaded with spirals and rocks carved in the shape of woven twigs and things; it's quite nice. do that to me this window, this seemingly useless window really called forth all sorts of truths about the mexican temperament… one can't figure out why they put that door there but it seems to belong, it seems to have some incredible sort of mayan necessity. it just grew up sort of like a tropical growth, a sort of mexican geologic, man-made wonder."

smithson falls prey to the same (albeit ultra-refined) western(izing) b.s. essentialism:

"for all his inversions of stephens's narrative, smithson perpetuates, even amplifies, stephens's belief in yucatecan amnesia, indifference, and myopia. and although he hopes to inhabit this status instead of performing corrective surgery on it, his work maintains much of stephens's imperialist violence. both smithson and stephens picture the yucatan peninsula as indifferent in order to extract from it a heritage. for stephens, the contemporary idleness of the maya authorizes his appropriation of the region's archaeological artifacts. for smithson, the idleness, now seen as eternal, is itself the artifact."

kai vöckler writes that in the scattered mirrors of yucatán (and the soft-glow slides of palenque) “the virtual can be intersected with the real…smithson allows time and space to collapse, opposing the apathy of the material to identity and existence.” withouth knowing it, or with the same self-effacing intentions many avant-garde works share, smithson's non-sites picture, plant and play echoes of the future contemporary superconsumption patterns and economies of the region that render new voids and stylized images of a reality that isn't there, and never was.

next : tropical nonplace (castro)


word 9 : remediation



1. the act or process of correcting a fault or deficiency.
2. the act of correcting an error or an evil.
3. the act of "setting straight" or "making right".
4. action to remedy or correct damage to the environment.
5. cleanup of a site to levels determined to be health-protective for its intended use.
6. correcting degradation.

see also : wastelands,waste


toppings 9 : downfall

the following is not a representation, but it sure as hell might be in the near future.

a blue, affective piece came out in today's nyt, injured in iraq, a soldier is shattered at home." it tells the story of sam ross, a 24-year-old who served in iraq, lost a leg and his sight, came back to a parade and a brand-new log cabin, couldn't deal, went through over 20 surgeries, attempted suicide several times, burned his former trailer down (the same one his father killed his stepmother in) and now faces charges for arson and attempted homicide.

this is dream material for a tear-jerker, for the new wave of repentant films (in the eighties we had vietnam and charlie sheen or tom cruise, in the late nineties the gulf and africa and marky mark wahlberg...) bound to be harvested from heroic u.s. "incursions" and "rebuilding efforts" in the middle east. but before it gets to the scripts and the stars and the screenings, it could stir a lesson and a glimpse of things to come.

this is a near-perfect condensation of america's bushean rise and downfall, the refractory compression of american dream and american nightmare. like iraq, there is guantánamo, and the wtc site, and global warming, and illegal immigration, and corporate scandals, and media manipulation, and issues of privacy and basic guaranties, and... and... there hasn't been time or willingness to come to terms with these issues that have shaken the social core of the country, people are just starting to grip the consequences of the past eight years.

"the story of sam ross has the makings of a ballad..." says the article.

it also has the makings of a cutthroat history lesson : "i came home a hero, and now i'm a bum."

let's wait for the rest of them.

word 8 : appropriate



1. suitable or fitting for a particular purpose, person, or occasion.
2. belonging to or peculiar to a person; proper.


1. to set apart, authorize, or legislate for some specific purpose or use.
2. to take to or for oneself; take possession of.
3. to take without consent; seize; expropriate.
4. to take possession of by force, as after an invasion.
5. to take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself, often without permission.

see also: people's palace, people's choice



mi (méxicocity) hometown is prone to tragicomedy. easter holidays usually aggravate this inherent tendency. rickety station wagons and over-packed vw combis clutter the roads, fat people on rooftops soak up the sun in their underwear, and some poor guy is crucified in front of millions of fans in a whacked-out hyperrealist representation of the passion of the christ.

now we're adding another feature to the semana santa circus list. following relatively succesful experiences in paris, berlin and other far-from-the-sea cities, the city government has inaugurated its own version of urban beaches.

4 of the beaches will be scattered around the city. more than 4 thousand people flocked to one of the largest ones (in the former olympic village area) on opening day. the fake beach-within-reach covers 1500 m2, and 170 tons of sand were imported from nearby sand mines, along with tanning chairs and palms to give a more authentic feel (even though the beach is a few meters away from the main inner-city highway, the periférico).

despite the showers and the cold, the beaches up to now have been a real success. they cater to all : obviously, the folk who don't have the cash to get out of town during vacations, but also prd lovers, and those of us who always enjoy a good dose of pure innocent folklore and gaudiness. the only ones who are disappointed, apparently, are snotty little fresas (local yuppie scum), who quit vacationing in acapulco cause it's full of nacos (folkloric gaudy people) this time of year. bad news : the mayor just brought acapulco to you!