Monthly Archives: November 2007

Disperate Magazine (.com), Architecture & Giant Mirrors

Until June this year, I lived with an architecture student. As a result, I’ve had many discussions about the subject, mainly in relevance to my friend’s (Matt) study and practice. Its a subject that really inspires me. A significant factor in contemporary architecture seems to be the prevalence of symbiotic, bland, and ever-similar designs in all, or at least many, of our cities and towns.

Everywhere I go block after block of seemingly identical residential and office buildings spring up. Week after week.
Making matters worse, these entirely uninspired architectural works, are the very things that today’s up-and-coming affluent young-professionals aspire to own and live in.

Although I would love to be in that such a “flush” position myself, actually aspiring to reside in such a dull and everyday entity seems an awful prospect.

It has sprung to mind, because over the weekend I assisted another friend in setting up his website for a forthcoming publication, in paper and online, Disparate Magazine. I think one of the key areas that the magazine is set to have a standpoint on is potential disconnection between a place, what that place actually represents, and the actual buildings that make up the landscape; especially with regard to the urban built environment. Its a complex subject, but certainly one that I’m interested in.

As an aside, this then got me thinking about my one, grand, architectural idea. Its something that I’ve been thinking about since well before my days as an artist. I may have come up with the idea originally at school, but I can certainly remember thinking about whilst sat in my office at Hilmore House, working for Morrisons Supermarkets.

Sunlight was a precious commodity, in my eyes at least. For some of the year, for some of the daylight hours, my office would have plenty of sunlight streaming in through the windows. However, much of the time was spent admiring a shadow on the opposite side of the road slowly working its ways up the buildings. I could see the powerful and precious light, within a few meters of where I was sitting; yet it was never rarely actually reached me. I was forced to sit and wish I were sat in the sunlight.

Although the idea came whilst sitting at my work desk, in front of a computer screen, I’m continually reminded of the problem. Any town or city I visit; inevitably one (or both) sides of a street suffer in someway. Our precious sunlight is continuously blocked, wherever you are. For instance, almost all the streets in the centre of Manchester are lined with buildings so tall, that throughout most of the day one side of the street is always plunged into darkness; and its the same story in any city you choose to visit. Even smaller towns have the same issue. It even extends to residential streets; often some houses are deprived of a huge amount of their light due to shadows cast by surrounding buildings (or such like).

I was reminded of it again – and again discovered an idea that I came up with, but someone else has also come up with entirely separately – whilst watching a TV documentary yesterday. It was a programme about “the Sun”, in general, but featured a small town in Austria. The town sits behind a huge hill, and for 8 months of the year gets absolutely no sunlight (resulting in high cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder). The SAD affect is highlighted here, because the town just over the river, which doesn’t sit in the shadow of the hill, has far fewer cases of SAD. They have come up with the same idea that I had; use a series of giant mirrors to bounce sunlight around and provide it to areas that don’t receive it naturally.

Although not implemented yet, there are plans to build a network of mirrors around the town so that through the winter sunlight will be available to the townspeople.

My concept has mainly been focused on cities; I envisage setting up extremely large mirrors on the tops of city buildings. There mirrors will track the sun, and move to the correct angle so as to redirect the sunlight (visible at the top of the building) down to street level. The same could be applied anywhere though; on a much larger scale in the deep and dark valleys of the Alps in Europe (and doubtless many other similar places throughout the world). The valleys could have access to the natural light. Light that has proved health benefits.

I must develop the concept further, and get some drawings done.

Something that I’ve always loved, is “remote control”, and I think that this has shades of that in it. I used to have a train set, and the thing I loved about it was not necessarily the trains, but the fact that they could be controlled without touching them. I knew how it worked, the electric circuit was obvious to me; but somehow it intrigued me immensely. This has continued throughout my life, with many remote control toys and gadgets. Most recently my immersion in using the Internet, both for “business and pleasure” (as it were) has meant I have access to hundreds of other permutations of the idea of controlling something through a distance, or without actually touching it.

I can access my home computers from anywhere, not just the files, I have remote control of the actual computer. I can get my email sent to my mobile phone. I can control my computer through my mobile phone. I can send information to my websites through mobile, email, web. Even a BT payphone would allow me to update my websites. Adding imagery into all this, I can actually look into my own home, from anywhere in the world, and get a live picture of whatever is (or isn’t) going on there.

I think the giant street mirrors, are born from this interest in remote control. Its an almost identical “joy” that I experience thinking about it. It is even better in a way. Although all the internet and technology things are extremely clever, and that interests me no-end, the fact that a mirror is such a simple and “understood” (by almost anyone) thing I think it adds to how accessible and really “real” the concept is.

Should Art “Whinge”

Having just written up my rant about Virgin Media – I got to thinking about its artistic resonance.

From what I can tell, Artists often use populist complaints, and ill-feelings, as a basis for “the message” of their art, whatever their art form may be. It could come from war, famine (or any of the other horsemen) or falling out of love, losing something, feelings of despair; anything really. You also get the inverted side of it, you get artists making work that reflections populist (and personal) ‘good things’ that happen, love, wealth, beauty and so on.

I’d love to make something representing the inherent difficulties consumers face, in my case with Virgin Media ripping me off most recently, but also Vodafone, Three (mobile network), insurance companies, banks; all of them seem to insist on making life much more difficult.

Still. It seems trivial in the bigger picture, at the end of the day I’m pretty well off, I live a good life, I’m healthy. I should be content.

I declare this “waffle”.

Virgin Media; Overcharging and Sending the Bailiffs

When I moved house in August, I needed to get a broadband connection in. For a while I managed to use my neighbour’s unencrypted wireless, but I concluded I really needed to get my own connection.

I would have got Be Unlimited; which is very fast, and a very good deal. Unfortunately, BT said there was no line installed (even though I can see one….) and it would cost me £150 to install a phone line. The only option to avoid this charge, was get cable internet, now available through “Virgin Media” (what used to be NTL, Blueyonder, Telewest and the rest of them).

At the time Virgin Media were running an offer, that would provide 2Mbit cable broadband, for £10/month (for the first year) – this is a really good deal. I was unsure, because of reports of how terrible Virgin Media’s customer service was, and also talk of them throttling users during peak hours. In the end I decided to bite the bullet and ordered!

I ordered online, and was expecting my “Welcome pack” within a few days. In the end it didn’t come, so I called them up. Something had gone wrong, said the lady on the phone, because of them transferring their computer systems. She sorted it out, and promised that I would have my welcome pack in a few days. Sure enough, it arrived. The only thing was there were two of them! The courier noted this too, and we decided that he should take one of the welcome packs away.

So I get to installing everything… it didn’t work. Each welcome pack contains a cable modem, each of these has its own unique ID number. Unfortunately I sent back the one with the right ID number, so until I spent about £30 on phone calls to Virgin it didn’t work. They did sort it out eventually. During all these phone calls, it was obvious that they had created two “back office” accounts in my name – for one of these my name was “Lintley” rather than the correct “Lindley” – I told them several times about this, and they assured me that they had fixed the problem of the two accounts, they were very sorry, and everything would be fine.

At this point; I have paid Virgin Media a £25 one-off debit card payment. They told me this would be deducted from my bills. I had also given them my bank account details to set up a direct debit payment, and got confirmation back from them about that.

On the 24th October (according to my bank statement) Virgin Media took £34.80 from my account. This is in addition to the original £25 one-off payment. So since ordering at the end of August, I have paid them £59.80. Remember this contract is meant to be £10/month!

The next thing I know; I receive two bills. Photos of the two bills I got (at the start of November) are below. Obviously Virgin Media had not fixed the dual-account problem; each bill has a different account number. And they say drastically different things.

virginmedia-bill-1-medium.jpg

According to this bill, Virgin Media owe me, £28.35. I don’t know how they arrived at this figure, but I think it is probably correct. I had had the service 3 months, so that should have cost me £30. If you subtract what Virgin Media say they owe me from what I’ve actually paid; it leaves you with £31.45 – very close to what it should be.

HOWEVER!

At the same time I received the above bill I got this one;

virginmedia-bill-2-medium.jpg

As you can see, it is a different account number, and they’re claiming that I owe them £15. Given that the monthly bill should be £10 – I had no idea why they were saying £15. I decided I would ignore this, and let Virgin sort it out themselves, as it is obviously their mistake.

That was the wrong thing to do, 10 days late I got this letter, with reference to the £15 in the second bill, saying that my services will be disconnected and the file passed to debt recovery agency. Immediately I telephoned Virgin’s customer service people to ensure that they did not do this. They said (again) that they had fixed the double-account problem, and cited the merger of computer systems as the cause. Ok, I thought, the bailiffs won’t be calling, my credit file will be untarnished and so on. Think again…..

disconnection-letter-medium.jpg

When I spoke to Virgin about this they assured me that they understood it was their problem, and that it was all sorted out. They said I would not have my details passed to the debt recovery people, and they acknowledged it was not my fault and I did not owe them any money.

Lo and behold a few days later I get this letter;

debt-recovery-medium.jpg

So, it seems, Virgin Media have not ‘called off the dogs’. There will be plenty of angry phone calls flying out of my phone on Monday!

All of these errors are very annoying, scary, and potentially will end up with lots of ‘black marks’ on my credit file. However the shambles doesn’t end there. During my telephone correspondence with Virgin Media last week; they claimed that the offer (£10/month) that I signed up for never existed. “I’m sorry sir, we never had any offers at that price, your service costs £18/month”. There is plenty of proof available on the internet that the offer did exist.

I’m at a loss, this feels like Virgin Media are willfully trying to steal my money.

A few phone calls later; for no apparent reason the agent I was speaking to decided that the offer did exist, and said she would apply an £8 discount to my account, for the next 6 months. At which point I will have to call up again, and ask for the discount again.

I’ve found out I’m not alone, there are hundreds, if not thousands of very dis-satisfied Virgin Media customers writing about their experiences all over the web.

I’m extremely angry about being overcharged, but that seems to be the lesser of the issues. Effectively Virgin Media have stolen my identity. They’ve created two accounts in my name, at my address, and they’re threatening to come into my house and take my possessions. This if pretty rich, considering at the moment; they owe me money!

I’m in a right old Branston pickle, and I’m very angry about it.

Low Fi, Net Art Locator

Artists are utilising the net as a medium for developing art projects, however these projects are often hard to find. The range of activity is extensive: artists use the net to experiment; to display and distribute their art projects; to collaborate; and sometimes to intervene critically in the increasingly commercialised and politicised space of the net.We intend to make these art projects more visible and accessible by seeking out key current projects and by encouraging artists to input information about their projects in low-fi’s open submission database.

http://www.low-fi.org.uk/

however these projects are often hard to find.

Unfortunately I only just found it! Still, interesting thing, seems to have been dormant for a while though.

Speech Play Ideas

I used to live with a linguist and we often chatted about how words were formed aurally, psycho-linguistics and etymology. I’m also just personally interested in accents and what people sound like. I’m sure my interest stems from being born in Yorkshire, and growing up there, but having parents who both spoke with fairly bland southern accents. My accent has now become amorphous to whatever environment I’m in, but I used to have a significantly different accent to my peers and friends at school. I never felt stigmatised, but maybe it sparked this interest. Language in general and particularly links and differences between the European languages also intrigue me.

I’m considering the idea of dissecting some words into their component syllables, then writing each syllable in a variety of different ways. Each “iteration” will only have one change from the previous one. For instance with the word “singleton”;

Sin – gle – ton

Cin – gle – ton

Cin – gal – ton

Cin – gal – town

Cyn – gal – town

Cyn – galle – town

Cynne – galle – town

Cynne – galle – touwn

I thought this would make an interesting animation manipulating the form of the words as they appear on the page. Also I think it would be a nice documentary-style film asking people to read through the different versions, but out of sequence. The idea with that would be that they were not entirely sure what the word they’re trying to say is.

Maybe a combination of the two formats. Who knows, this is just an idea at the moment.

Diwali at Platt Fields Park

I went to a pre-Diwali celebration at Platt Fields Park a couple of weeks ago. It was fantastic. Not really directly relevant to my artistic practice, but certainly a good thing to do (for me) to keep my mind happy and creative. It was a really nice community event, but the dramatic climax was hugely enjoyable.

Dewali Fire Poi

Fire Poi.

A 30′ tall effigy of the ten-headed demon king Ravan was burnt, along with atmospheric music and a beatifully choreographed fireworks display. The effigy was buily by an arts company called Walk the Plank.

Platt fields seems to be a hotpot of these brilliant events; the other one I’ve been to being the fire-art-french-thing.

Burning Davan, at Diwali

The burning of Davan.