The Rotten Apple Project: Quick and Dirty Urban Hacks

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[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Rotten Apple Urban Hacks 1

Sometimes, a reclaimed piece of junk is all it takes to make a bus stop, bike rack, subway station or virtually any other urban setting more comfortable and fun. The Rotten Apple project consists of incredibly fast and cheap urban interventions that anyone can replicate in their own cities, from a simple hinged wooden board that turns a bike rack into a folding seat to improvised tools that transform scaffolding into a musical instrument.

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A piece of scrap wood and some chess pieces, fitted onto the top of a fire hydrant, becomes a public game board. An old, unused newspaper dispenser is a cold weather clothing bank with the addition of a sticker.

Rotten Apple Urban Hacks 3Commuters waiting on the bus have a place to hang their bags thanks to an old IKEA clothes hook added to a street sign. Other signs were modified into sidewalk tetherballs or double-height bike racks.

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Magnetic boards on the subway platform aren’t just a fun way to pass the time, they can also brighten up someone’s day with a cheerful message. A window of an abandoned building, bricked up long ago, is a public bookshelf, and a sticker applied to an electric main notifies passersby that there’s an outlet hidden inside so they can charge their phones.

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The people who run Rotten Apple have chosen to remain anonymous, leaving only this quote from Victor Pananek as a clue to their motivations: “Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical in the truest sense. It must dedicate itself to… maximum diversity with minimum inventory… or doing the most with the least.”


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Colorful Contrast: Geometric Street Paintings in France

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[ By Steph in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

Geometric Street Paintings France 1

A broad stripe of bright paint in a zig-zag pattern contrasts with muted, understated urban surroundings in the latest urban art installation by artist duo Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann. Working together since 1990 as Lang-Baumann, the artists bring unexpected visuals to public spaces. Street Painting #7 in Rennes, France will be visible in the heart of town until May 25, 2014.

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The installation was applied directly to the asphalt using road marking paint, introducing a new sense of vibrancy and modernity to this historic city block. The painting obliterates expectations for the type of public art that’s acceptable for this kind of setting.

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Six previous geometric street paintings have graced smaller, even quainter communities like the picturesque Vercorin, Switzerland, as well as major cities like Moscow.

outside-stairs-stairway-heaven

Other works by Lang-Baumann are similarly disruptive, including inflatable parasitic sculptures clinging to the sides of buildings, and terrifying stairs to nowhere that will make your stomach drop just from looking at the photos.

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Looping Roller-Coaster Stairway You Can Actually Walk On

[ By Steph in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

From afar, it looks like a forgotten relic of a theme park that has since picked up and moved on – but it’s actually a walkable sculpture. ‘Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain‘, as it’s named, rises on a dirt hill above the city of Duisburg, Germany, promising a strange adventure to those who approach.

As you come closer, you’ll see that there’s a portion of this looping, curving stairway that seems to go upside-down, just as a real roller coaster would. Unfortunately, that’s part of the ‘magic’.

Architects Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth explain, “Having a closer look, the public is disappointed in a disarming way. The visitor climbs on foot via differently steep steps the roller-coaster-sculpture. So the sculpture subtly and ironically plays with the dialectic of promise and disappointment, mobility and standstill.”

LED lights were integrated into the handrails so that the sculpture is not only accessible at night, but acts as a landmark, visible for miles. It was built on the site of a toxic zinc-slag pit left over from a local zinc operation that was cleaned up and made fit for public use.


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Cement Bleak: Haunting Shadow Faces on the Sidewalk

Ghostly faces appear in shadows on the sidewalk – cast, of all things, by kitchen colanders. ‘Cement Bleak‘ is an urban installation project by artist Isaac Cordal that employs street lights to reveal the visages trapped in carefully sculpted metal mesh.


Cordal hand-shapes each metal sifter into a face, which appear three-dimensional when light passes through them and casts a shadow on a surface.

The colander faces are just the beginning of a larger project Cordal plans to implement, using city lighting on darkened streets. The artist told Design Boom that he’s “interested in using lo-fi technologies to create complex results arguing about the abuse of usage we make with new technologies in many cases.”

Cordal is known for his miniature cement figures, which are placed in small and often poignant street installations that could easily be overlooked by passersby who are not paying attention to their environment.

Of these works, called Cement Eclipses, Cordal told London Street-Art Magazine in 2010,  “This project intends to catch the attention on our devalued relation with the nature through a critical look to the collateral effects of our evolution. These scenes zoom in the routine tasks of the contemporary human being. They present fragments in which the nature, still present, maintains encouraging symptoms of survival.”

“The precariousness of these anonymous statuettes, at the height of the sole of the passers, represents the nomadic remainders of an imperfect construction of our society. These small sculptures contemplate the demolition and reconstruction of everything around us. They catch the attention of the absurdity of our existence.”


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Cement Bleak: Haunting Shadow Faces on the Sidewalk

[ By Steph in Art & Street Art & Graffiti. ]

Ghostly faces appear in shadows on the sidewalk – cast, of all things, by kitchen colanders. ‘Cement Bleak‘ is an urban installation project by artist Isaac Cordal that employs street lights to reveal the visages trapped in carefully sculpted metal mesh.


Cordal hand-shapes each metal sifter into a face, which appear three-dimensional when light passes through them and casts a shadow on a surface.

The colander faces are just the beginning of a larger project Cordal plans to implement, using city lighting on darkened streets. The artist told Design Boom that he’s “interested in using lo-fi technologies to create complex results arguing about the abuse of usage we make with new technologies in many cases.”

Cordal is known for his miniature cement figures, which are placed in small and often poignant street installations that could easily be overlooked by passersby who are not paying attention to their environment.

Of these works, called Cement Eclipses, Cordal told London Street-Art Magazine in 2010,  “This project intends to catch the attention on our devalued relation with the nature through a critical look to the collateral effects of our evolution. These scenes zoom in the routine tasks of the contemporary human being. They present fragments in which the nature, still present, maintains encouraging symptoms of survival.”

“The precariousness of these anonymous statuettes, at the height of the sole of the passers, represents the nomadic remainders of an imperfect construction of our society. These small sculptures contemplate the demolition and reconstruction of everything around us. They catch the attention of the absurdity of our existence.”


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Power Tower Transforms into Robot: DOMA’s Neon Colossus

[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

A massive power line tower in Buenos Aires, Argentina now has a glowing face, hands, shoulder spikes and heart thanks to a daring installation by Argentinean art collective DOMA. Known as Colossus, this urban intervention is 45 meters (almost 148 feet) tall. Best of all – the neon is animated.

DOMA created Colossus for Tecnopolis 2012, an annual event showcasing Argentina’s science, art and technology. This ‘artistic intervention’ turns a pylon into a luminous robot that stands as a guardian and point of reference in Buenos Aires’ Bicentennial Park. The neon lighting system puts on a show, highlighting the eyes and heart.

DOMA debuted on the street art scene in 1998 and is known for wacky, attention-grabbing urban installations (like Victima, below) as well as stencils, street projections and strange campaigns verging on performance art. The individual members – Mariano Barbieri, Julian Pablo Manzelli, Matias Vigliano and Orilo Balndini – come from varied backgrounds including illustration, film and graphic design.

“We could write a book about reactions,” DOMA told Illustration Mundo. “That’s what interests us the most about our work, it’s like we’re addicted to the reactions people have when they see our work. The day of the Giant Dummy in Buenos Aires downtown, it was amazing to see how there were people that would not have any reaction whatsoever, they wouldn’t look at it, they would just keep walking, continuing their said and monotonous routine with their suits and briefcases.”

“The ones who paid the most attention were the ‘street kids’ (homeless) that were asking for money or cleaning shoes, they literally stopped doing whatever they were doing to start playing with us for the whole evening. They wouldn’t let us take the dummy away.”


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Shwopping: Store Covered in 10,000 Hanging Garments

[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Covering the outside of a four-story building like tattered shingles, 10,000 colorful garments hang – and they represent just five minutes’ worth of discarded clothing in the United Kingdom. The ‘Shwopping’ campaign by UK retailer Marks & Spencer (a portmanteau of ‘shopping’ and ‘swapping’) calls attention to clothing waste in a way that temporarily transformed an urban setting in London.

A building in East London became the basis of a massive urban art installation for the Shwopping initiative, making a visual statement that simply couldn’t be ignored. The garments were layered over each other, lending a shaggy appearance to the structure.

Each of these garments was no longer wanted by its owner – but that doesn’t mean that nobody else would want them. The ‘Shwopping’ campaign involved setting up over 1,200 ‘Shwop Drop’ boxes at Marks & Spencer stores across the UK to collected unwanted clothing. The garments were taken to Oxfam where they could be resold or recycled.

This creative architectural art installation is reminiscent of Jennifer Marsh’s crocheted gas station project, which covered an abandoned gas station with donated crochet squares. It also calls to mind ‘yarn bombing’, the practice of adding knitted covers to objects like trees, street signs, shopping carts and – yes – buildings. Check out 51 amazing examples of yarn bombing.


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Removing Moss as Art: Reverse Graffiti Goes Subtractive

[ By Steph in Architecture & Design & Graffiti & Drawing & Urban & Street Art. ]

Moss has gained a reputation as one of the best natural art mediums, a living swath of vivid green with an irresistible texture that can be coaxed into various shapes and patterns. While most moss art involves either gluing sheets of preserved moss to a surface or painting on a mixture of live moss that will adhere to the surface and grow, this method – illustrated here by Stefaan de Croock – takes the opposite approach.

Rather than adding something – like spray paint -  to a surface in order to create a design, subtractive graffiti strips something away. That ‘something’ might be dirt on a sidewalk, or soot on a wall. In this case, it’s moss.

Using a pressure washer, de Croock (a.k.a. Strook) carefully removed moss growing on a wall in Leuven, Belgium. As the moss was stripped away, urban scenes full of giant robots were revealed. The mural was created outside the STUK art center, and likely grew back over within a few weeks.


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Painting Reality: Surprised Motorists Make Sudden Street Art

[ By WebUrbanist in Guerilla Action & Art & Urban & Street Art. ]

Ingredients: 500 liters of brightly-colored, eco-friendly, wash-away water-based paint, one elevated location with video camera and a whole mess of (2000) cars just waiting at an intersection to be unwitting participants in creating a huge mural.

Guerilla artists of IEPE dumped blue, yellow, purple and red along each major motorway crossing at a single (huge) central space during a pause in traffic, all from their own well-timed vehicular conveyances stopped on the various sides.

When they peeled away, bicyclists and moped riders began to trail thin lines of color, crossed in turn by larger leavings from four-wheeled vehicles around them. Mixed paints overlapped and bled to form new colors along the way. A beautifully simple act of interactive and chaotic art on the street – fortunately, no drivers were too distracted to stay the course despite the rather complex nature of this particular intersection.


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Trashcam Project: Dumpsters Turned into Pinhole Cameras

[ By Steph in Urban & Street Art & Urban Images. ]

The images are breathtaking: black-and-white urban scenes with all the organic drama and character that only low-tech photography methods can produce. Would you believe that these beautiful photos were taken from inside the grimiest, least glamorous objects that lurk in alleys and on street corners? The ‘Trashcam Project’ transforms dumpsters into traveling pinhole cameras that roll around the city of Hamburg.


Photographers Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and Matthias Hewing teamed up with the Hamburg sanitation department to alter ordinary dumpsters. Drilling tiny holes into the containers, they taped Ilford photo paper to the back wall of the interior. The length of the exposure is calculated based on the strength of the sun or other ambient lighting present in the scene.

The Trashcam Project has produced a rather haunting series of photographs of the city of Hamburg. The images have the typical vignetting, slight light leaks and other imperfections that often come with this photography technique. The single small hole drilled into the dumpster projects an inverted image of the scene outside on the opposite side of the container. The smaller the hole, the sharper the image produced.

As opposed to high-tech photographic innovations, pinhole photography is all about simplicity and unpredictable results. Among the first forms of photography to emerge in the 19th century, it’s based on a concept that has been around since the 5th century BCE. The first lens was added around 1600 CE, and it wasn’t until 1850 when pinhole devices were first used to take photos rather than simply displaying an inverted image inside a box or a room.

See the whole series at the Trashcam Project’s Flickr.


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