2011 January

How to Solve Berlin’s Gentrification War.

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Berlin’s slow-burn emergence as Europe’s cultural capital has resulted in a deep rooted creative scene, but that is being threatened. Berlin’s artists are now rebelling against a Yuppy invasion.
One of the problems with gentrification is that the people that originally make an area more desirable (artists) don’t gain and the people that gain (yuppies), often make it less desirable. The reason for this is that creatives rent and can’t buy, and yuppies buy but don’t create.
But imagine a property fund that was based on a simple rule – follow the artists, it would make a fortune. It should be possible then to fund the arts through some mechanism that capitalizes on this.
An arts fund that created artists mortgages with the expectation that they increase the value of properties without normally benefiting (as happened in Shoreditch) could really help mitigate this kind of change, without any external subsidy. It could be run as a non-profit – but would make a healthy one which is fed back into urban regeneration.
The artists wouldn’t be squeezed out at the inflection point of gentrification (the subsidized mortgages would be funded by the those who decided to sell out, since the capital value increase would be higher than for ordinary mortgages, and a percentage of the profit would be taken by the arts fund). This would dampen the negative effects of change and mean that instead of artist flight and a process of gentrification which destroys the very character that started it (as has happened in NY’s SOHO) you would get organic and long-term, sustainable improvement to neighborhoods.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

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Claiming that a work of art is nothing more than an example of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is often met with derisory ‘you just don’t get it’ eye rolling or the ‘can’t you think of anything more original to say’ look.
Yet its often the best way to describe what is rarely acknowledged: that art, particularly in a secular age, is necessarily deceitful, in a way that religion and alchemy are.
Art is a religion where you only have to believe temporarily, for 90 minutes in a movie theater, it mostly has no meaning at all, and fails most when it tries to (like anything in a white walled gallery post Duchamp). But like a magnificent cathedral its is often no less fantastic.
I’m going to build a collection of links and examples here, for a larger post on the subject.

The Genealogy of Tools

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For organisms, their shape is the phenotype, which is created by the genotype – the DNA. A true family tree is ultimately based on DNA. There is no exact equivalent for man made things, however some objects are more like the phenotype and others more like the real DNA, tools vs the things that make them.
The Midnight Moses explains what I am getting at better: “Every single manufactured object was created using a tool or set of tools, and every single tool itself was manufactured using a tool or set of tools, and so on. Every single manufactured object, therefore, possesses a vast and complicated ‘family tree’ that pares and branches back through time”.
Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to trace the family history of Large Hadron Collider back to a flint axe. Ironically, since the LHC is a demolition tool for making sub atomic particles, you could potentially go full circle.
How could this be done.
First you need to separate what a tool is from any other type of object. A tool is something that can make another object. Some tools make objects that in turn cannot make another object (this is like having infertile offspring). Some tools make objects that have already existed before, and some tools can make new objects that have never existed before. A chain of tools that can make new tools that can make new tools that couldn’t have been made before, is the most interesting one from a genealogical perspective.
The process is similar to genealogy but with three differences: (1). a tool can have components with different sets of parents for each (parents being the tools that are needed to make it), for human beings, the same parents make the arms as the legs, body, liver, head etc. (2). each component can have more than two parents (there might be three of more tools that needed to exist before something could be made). (3) Tools potentially keep having offspring forever (they don’t die), a simple axe might be needed to develop something new, today.