Against Peer Review

I've recently made the decision to say no to requests for peer reviews (outside of editorial boards on which I already participate, of course). While in the future, I may reconsider on my terms, I am finding at least one request a week for these and I think that it would be useful for to explain why this is so. 

Obviously, I am well aware that peer-reviewed work is part of system that academics established in order to verify that work is up to scholarly standards and that it plays an important role in the tenure system. But the peer review system, as presently constituted, is broken.

First, there are far too many requests going around. Given the pervasiveness of global telecommunications, I get requests not just from the US, Ireland, and Lithuania, but from worldwide. Some of them are from entirely different systems and I am so far outside of the context that I have no framework to accurately respond with. If a dissertation is done badly by the standards that I would apply to it, is my evaluation appropriate if the person's work is head and shoulders above that of their own peers? How do I evaluate such work? 

Moreover, academics asking for peer review are asking for free labor, time spent away from my work and my family. In an ideal world, this is communistic in which we all participate equally and do so for the mutual good of the system.

But my own position, outside of the tenured framework with have no sign that this will change any time in the near future, is the norm today. During the last decade, universities eager to engorge themselves with administrative staff have done so at the expense of tenure-track and tenured positions. If in the past, tenure-track was the rule, it is now the exception. The vast majority of my colleagues are not tenured or even tenure track. Most of us are not evaluated on the basis of peer-reviewed accomplishments, so asking us to peer-review work is to ask us to provide free labor for a system we are excluded from, and frankly that adds insult to injury. 

Nor is this something that can simply be fixed. For every ten people who get a tenured position, I hear at least one unbelievable story of tenure denial. I couldn't think of a denial that I know of that has hit the press and therefore I can mention, apart from this famous one (ok, they have some grounds in denying him, no question), but if you are in academe and don't have friends who have been scarred in the process, then you are either a student or should still consider yourself "freshly minted" in the lingua franca.  

Finally, Lyotard is right. We speak in incommensurable languages and, particularly in the messy realm of digital and network culture, we often have no way to evaluate each other's work. For example, the trumpeting of sources, in which a pastiche of names is strung together with nary an argument, is endemic in certain strains of sociology, but it would get a failing grade from a student in one of my courses. How do I evaluate it fairly? In another strand of geography, writers constantly refer to how their feelings about a place and the way that the ground feels under their feet. Normally I try to weed that out of my students like so much poison ivy in a yard. What am I to do with a review request regarding that sort of work?

I don't mean to say that these strains of academia should be snuffed out like old candles whose wick has burned down, although I suppose that I enthusiastically urge that on, but given that I have encountered this sort of work recently in reviews, was it appropriate to have a reviewer like myself on board? I'll leave it to your imagination as to how I might have responded to such requests, but obviously I have to balance being objective about the quality of the work with the fact that there is another person on the other side, no matter how ill-informed. In my own case, my attempt to find balance is informed by having been the victim of reviewers who I still think of as unqualified to be considered my peers. A long wihle back one of my articles was rejected for publication in one venue only to win an award in another. Another piece that I submitted as a talk to a conference was turned down because "the author's is derivative of research being done at the Center for Land Use Interpretation." This so-called peer was not sharp enough to fathom that the work was not derivative but was rather done in collaboration with the Center for Land Use Interpretation! Given that the submission was to be anonymous, I did not find it appropriate to list the Center any more than I would have listed the university I teach in. Another peer reviewed a project negatively and their decision stood even though the editor said it was quite clear that they had not actually read what I had submitted (believe me it perfectly was clear to me!). And so on.  

Peer review is broken and I have no good ideas for fixing it, but more than griping my experiences with it or making excuses about why I am not responding to over-the-transom peer reviews, I want to put this complaint on the blog, and therefore, in public as a political statement, as a call to openly discuss the failings of this system. 

Finally, I really miss Lingua Franca. If you are too young to have read it and you are in academe or planning to be, check out that link. Lots of grist for the mill there. 

On Drupal, or Wither Web 2.0?

With the end of the year approaching, I might as well begin my reflections with yet another rote lament for why I don't post enough anymore. Blogging is dead for many and has been dead now for about as long as it thrived. Somehow, I resolve, I'll turn back to blogging one day, but other things come first, like my kids, my project at MoMA, various projects at the Netlab, teaching, articles that I have neglected too long, writing my book, working on the restoration of my house and so on.

But every now and then it turn back to the Web, if not to blogging then to working on the infrastructure beneath my stable of Web sites. In this case, this morning I took the Networked Publics site and converted it to from a live Drupal installation to a static site. Networked Publics ceased to be live years ago as it was the record of a year-long workshop that took place from fall 2005 to fall 2006 and the book that came out of the workshop was published in 2008. Besides me the last log at Networked Publics comes from my late colleague and friend Anne Friedberg some six years, twenty-four weeks ago. I find it sad that the group we formed doesn't stay together virtually, but such, I suppose, is the nature of scholarly collaborations involving individuals from radically disparate fields. Still, as a historian, the record of a year spent by a team of scholars investigating a topic seems worth paying a few dollars to keep registered so I spent a couple of hours to ensure the site wouldn't be tied to an aging Drupal 6 infrastructure.  

Looking back at the low-fi Web 2.0 site and the low-fi videos on it, it already seems like ancient history. But this was the state of the art not 15 or 20 years ago but rather a mere eight years ago. The trends that the Networked Publics group identified—the rise of DIY media in particular—are now not the province of nerds and geeks but rather part of our everyday lives. It's stunning to think back and remember showing the group the first video iPod that I had purchased soon after its release that year. Such, I suppose is the process of aging in the technological future. One gauges oneself as much by the personal milestones one experiences as by the tech one leaves behind.  

For me, development on Drupal has become something to leave behind as well. Last year I concluded my development of Docomomo-us.org, which I had transitioned from outdated custom cgi code to Drupal back in 2006, by having Jochen Hartmann take over as web developer and earlier this year I replaced the Drupal sites for both AUDC and the Netlab with sites driven by Indexhibit. This process of steadily whittling down my Drupal sites means that this remains the only one I have left (minus the seriously neglected Lair of the Chrome Peacock). 

But this isn't a mere status update regard the infrastructure of these sites. Changes in infrastructure, as my readers should know, are never innocent, but rather embody ideological and social changes. When I first came to Drupal back in 2005, I was encouraged by the ease of extending the system and its Open Source development. For a time I was active in the community at Drupal. Not being much of a coder anymore, I asked questions, gave suggestions, and helped out with some problems people had on the forums, but it became clear to me that most people on Drupal's communty site fell into three categories. Those just starting out, those trying to help out as they could (and usually fleeing when they felt overwhelmed… this typically happened after they had submitted a new module or theme), and those who were either dedicated hobbyists or worked with Drupal for a living. Not being part of the latter two, I wound up retreating.

As a designer, I had this foolish idea that my site should look the way I want it to look so I spent a ridiculous amount of time tweaking these sites by building themes for them and outfitting them with extensions called "modules." Unfortunately in an effort to optimize its code base, the developers of Drupal have adopted a mantra which states that "the drop is always moving" which simply means that Drupal will actively break any themes and modules during each major point release. The result is that I found myself needing a month of down time to upgrade my sites from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6. For a scholar to do this is preposterously difficult. For a scholar with kids to do this is virtually impossible. 

Drupal 7 came out a while back, but lacking any compelling features, I chose not to upgrade. After all, a month of down time just to get back to where I was is hardly attractive. Now Drupal 8 promises adaptive themes that will appropriately react to the mobile platforms that increasingly drive Web traffic so I am likely to go to it, but even though new development was frozen in the system a year ago, it seems far from prime time. I spent more than half an hour today looking for a release date for the first beta and couldn't find anything but long-outdated information. If this site is to be believed, there are more critical bugs in Drupal 8 today than a year ago. 

Therein lies the trouble with Drupal and modern coding: immense complexity (see my comments on complexity at Triple Canopy). Projects of this size become impossible to manage, impossible to code, and impossible for users to work with. My front page is aging, an artifact from an era in which laptops commonly had screens with a resolution of 1024 X 768 not 1920 X 1200 (as my current one does) but to redo when it will only break again soon seems ludicrous. Perhaps I'll use another system like Wordpress to run this site or maybe I'll pickle it and fork off to another platform. Any of this is possible, but I'll hardly recommend Drupal to anyone again or do anything but build the most minimal theme I can for it.  

Beyond a stern caution about the complexity that Open Source projects can generate and that can choke them, as Drupal has been choked, for all of the technological maturation that we've seen over the years since Networked Publics, the one thing that we've drifted away from is Web presence. If the static Web marked the 1990s, Web 2.0's dynamic Web sites dominated the time in which we wrote Networked Publics. Bringing varnelis.net back to life with Drupal in 2005, I envisioned it as part of an interlinked ecology of sites, both local (AUDC, DoCoMoMo-US, the Netlab, etc.) but also global, interlinking to other sites through RSS feeds and commenting systems. This hasn't happened, to this site or any other. Web 2.0's strongest links such as social bookmarking (repeated problems with Delicious at the hands of Yahoo! and AVOS and the meltdown at ma.gnolia) and RSS suffered a similar fate after Google Reader shut down this summer. As Open Source withers when it becomes over-complex, struggling corporations like Yahoo! and Google undo matters in their binge and purge cycles, buying up whatever they can in hopes of monetizing the Web and then wiping out communities when they turn out to be too hard to profit from.    

Instead of the open Web then, we have apps and the privatized, Balkanized world they promise. It's hard not to be gloomy about this, hard to find a happy face to put on all this. Perhaps that is my wont, but sometimes there isn't one. The problems of cooperation, collaboration, and democratic decision-making remain the thorniest of problems for Networked Publics. 

@ the Amber Festival, Istanbul

Greetings from Istanbul, where I will be speaking today on "Control and Identity in the Algorithmic Landscape" at 3pm in the Amber Art and Technology Festival in a panel ominously called "Urban Media: Quo Vadis?" with Martjin De Waal moderated by Martin Brynskov. See here for a little more. 

darklyeuphoric: Banksy, astute architecture critic. "Today’s...

darklyeuphoric:

Banksy, astute architecture critic.

"Today’s piece was going to be an op-ed column in the New York Times. But they declined to publish what I supplied. Which was this…”

via http://banksy.co.uk/

Slaves of the Internet, Unite! - NYTimes.com

Slaves of the Internet, Unite! - NYTimes.com:

Well, I suppose it’s better than when I’m expected to contribute my own money to get a project for which I’m not paid realized, but this piece by Tim Kreider rings very true.  

Strange but True (most of the Time): Architecture Between Research and Fiction

I will be speaking the California College of the Arts in San Francisco tonight, October 21, 2013 at 7pm. My lecture will address the Yerba Buena show "Dissident Futures," for which I wrote a catalog essay as well as the topic of research and (fictional and non-fictional) speculation in architecture, ending with a presentation of work by AUDC and the Netlab. If you are in the area, I hope to see you there. 

Uneven Growth Show @ MoMA

It's my absolute delight to finally be able to announce that the Network Architecture Lab will be collaborating with MAPOffice in the 2014 "Uneven Growth" exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Pedro Gadanho, curator for contemporary architecture at MoMA is curating the exhibit which runs from November 22, 2014 to May 10, 2015. The show will be launched on October 26 of 2013 with presentations by the different teams at MoMA's PS 1. More details here.  

It's an incredible opportunity for myself and the Netlab, not only because of the importance of the venue and Pedro's brilliance as a curator, but also because of the subject matter. It's going to be a great journey!

Text from the press release follows:

In 2030, the world’s population will be a staggering eight billion people. Of these, two-thirds will live in cities. Most will be poor. With limited resources, this uneven growth will be one of the greatest challenges faced by societies across the globe. Over the next years, city authorities, urban planners and designers, economists, and many others will have to join forces to avoid major social and economical catastrophes, working together to ensure these expanding megacities will remain habitable.

To engage this international debate, Uneven Growth brings together six interdisciplinary teams of researchers and practitioners to examine new architectural possibilities for six global metropolises: Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. Following on the same model of the MoMA exhibitions Rising Currents and Foreclosed, each team will develop proposals for a specific city in a series of workshops that occur over the course of a 14-month initiative.

Uneven Growth seeks to challenge current assumptions about the relationships between formal and informal, bottom-up and top-down urban development, and to address potential changes in the roles architects and urban designers might assume in the evolution of cities. The resulting proposals, which will be presented at MoMA in November 2014, will consider how emergent forms of tactical urbanism can respond to alterations in the nature of public space, housing, mobility, spatial justice, environmental conditions, and other major issues in near-future urban contexts.

Urban Case Study Teams:

New York: Situ Studio, New York, and Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra), Rotterdam

Rio de Janeiro: RUA Arquitetos, Rio de Janeiro, and MAS Urban Design ETH, Zurich

Mumbai: URBZ, Mumbai, and Pop Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge

Lagos: NLÉ Architects, Lagos, and Inteligencias Colectivas, Madrid

Hong Kong: MAP Office, Hong Kong, and Network Architecture Lab, Columbia University, New York

Istanbul: Superpool, Istanbul, and Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée, Paris

Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in collaboration with the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna.

This is the third exhibition in the series Issues in Contemporary Architecture, supported by Andre Singer.

The accompanying workshops at MoMA PS1 are made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.

See MoMA's press release.

Netlab Project Team

Kazys Varnelis, Director
Leigha Dennis
Jochen Hartmann
Robert Sumrell

Syllabus for Network Culture. The History of the Contemporary

Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

A4515: Network Culture. The History of the Contemporary  Fall 2013

Professor                                Kazys Varnelis
Description

The purpose of this seminar is to come to an advanced historical understanding of the changed conditions that characterize our networked age. As a history of the contemporary, the seminar is organized around a series of topics tracing a genealogy of present-day culture, focusing on the network not merely as a technology with social ramifications but rather as a cultural dominant that connects changes in society, economy, aesthetics, urbanism, and ideology. It's a primary thesis of this course that the network is not an innocent technology but rather a social construction that serves to naturalize and exacerbate uneven growth and the distribution of power.

Topics to be addressed include network theory, changing concepts of time and space, the rise of networked publics, contemporary poetics, new forms of subjectivity, and methods of control. Throughout, we will make connections between architecture, urbanism and this insurgent condition.

The theme for fall 2013 is Uneven Growth and responds to a MoMA exhibition that will open in October 2014. Students will be welcome to participate in the workshop at MoMA leading to the exhibition and are encouraged to pursue the topic of Uneven Growth in networks in their research projects.

RequirementsParticipation: 20%

Each class will consist of a presentation by the instructor on selected themes, followed by an in-depth discussion in seminar. Students are expected to prepare all readings in order to facilitate a discussion in which all students participate. Active participation by all students in each session is required. 

Tumblr: 20%

Each student is expected to maintain a tumblelog on tumblr.com and to post at least twice a week. Beyond mere reblogging of information pertinent to the course, the tumblelog will form a record and commentary upon their research during the semester.

Research Project: 60%

For a research project, students have an option of either undertaking a curatorial project or an essay. Either is due on Monday, December 16.

The curatorial project will explore the topic of uneven growth in networks. The Netlab’s specific focus in this exhibit is research on the future of uneven growth in Hong Kong but students are encouraged to explore uneven growth as a constituent of networks.

Both design and scholarship are integral to the term project, which should take the form of an exhibit catalog as might be found in a museum. A carefully curated and designed book will be accompanied a 2,000 word essay (roughly 10 pages double spaced, 12 points) on the curated material. If students choose to write an essay, they should turn in an essay of roughly 4,000 words (roughly 20 pages double spaced, 12 points).

Plagiarism of any sort will result in immediate failure.

Reading

All readings will be available on-line.

01

09.06

Introduction

02

09.13

An Overview of Networks

Manuel Castells, “Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint. In Castells, ed. The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2004), 3-45.

Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies,” Negotiations, 1972-1990 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 177-182.

Charlie Gere, “The Beginnings of Digital Culture,” Digital Culture (London: Reaktion, 2008), 21-50.

Optional: Kazys Varnelis, “Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture,” Networked Publics, 145-163.

03

09.20

Network Theory

Albert-László Barabási, “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Small Worlds,” and “Hubs and Connectors,” Linked: The New Science of Networks (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2002), 25-63.

Nicholas Carr, “From the Many to the Few” The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 127-149.

Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, October 2004,  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

Clay Shirky, “Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality,” Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet. http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html

Optional:

Mark S. Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology 78 (May 1973), 1360-1380.

Duncan J. Watts, “The Connected Age,” Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), 19-42.

04

09.27

Control

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology,” http://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/theory-californianideology-main.html.

Saskia Sassen, “Electronic space and power,” Journal of Urban Technology 4 (1997): 1-17.

Alexander R. Galloway, “Physical Media,” Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 29-53.

Optional:

Saskia Sassen, “On Concentration and Centrality in the Global City,” Paul L. Knox and Peter J. Taylor, eds., World Cities in a World-System (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 63-78.

Stephen Graham, “Communication Grids: Cities and Infrastructure,” in Saskia Sassen, Global Networks. Linked Cities (London: Routledge, 2002), 71-92.

Kevin Phillips, “Preface,” “Introduction. The Panic of August,” “Finance: The New Real Economy?” Bad Money. (New York: Penguin, 2009), xi-lxxiv and 1-68.

05

10.04

Postmodernism and Periodization

David Harvey, “Fordism” and “From Fordism to Flexible Accumulation,” in The Condition of Postmodernity, (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1989), 125-172.

Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” New Left Review 146  (July/August 1984): 53-92.

Jeffrey Nealon, “Once More, With Intensity, Foucault’s History of Power Revisited,” Foucault Beyond Foucault, 24-53.

Optional:

Hal Foster, “Postmodernism: A Preface,” in Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Townsend, Washington: Bay Press, 1983), ix-xvi.

Jean François Lyotard, “introduction” “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984), xxiii-xxv, 71-82.

 

06

10.11

Time

Jean Baudrillard, “The End of the Millennium or the Countdown,” Economy & Society 26 (1997): 447-55.

Bruce Sterling, “Atemporality for the Creative Artist,” http://www.transmediale.de/en/keynote-bruce-sterling-us-atemporality

transcribed: http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2010/02/atemporality-for-the-crea...

optional: Robert Sumrell and Kazys Varnelis, “Personal Lubricants. Shell Oil and Scenario Planning,” New Geographies 02(2010), 127-132

 

07

10.18

Space

Michel Foucault, “Docile Bodies,” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 135-156.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, “Capitalist Sovereignty, Or Administering the Global Society of Control,” Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 325-350.

Marc Augé, “Prologue” and “From Places to Non-Places,” in Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, (London; New York: Verso, 1995), 1-6. 75-115.

Hans Ibelings, “Supermodernism,” Supermodernism (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 1998), 55-102.

George Simmel, “Metropolis and Mental Life,” Donald N. Levine, ed. Simmel: On individuality and social forms, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971), 324-339.

Optional:

Kazys Varnelis and Marc Tuters, “Beyond Locative Media: Giving Shape to the Internet of Things,” Leonardo 39, No. 4 (2006): 357–363.

 

08

10.25

Uneven Growth Workshop, MoMA

 

 

09

11.01

Subjectivity

Kenneth J. Gergen,“Social Saturation and the Populated Self,” The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 48-80.

Brian Holmes, “The Flexible Personality. For a New Cultural Critique,” Transversal,  http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/1106/holmes/en

Jeffrey Nealon, “Once More, With Intensity, Foucault’s History of Power Revisited,” Foucault Beyond Foucault, 24-53.

Warren Neidich, “From Noopower to Neuropower: How Mind Becomes Matter,” Cognitive Architecture:From Bio-politics to Noo-politics; Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information(Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010), 538-581.

 

10

11.08

Publics

Yochai Benkler, “Chapter 1. Introduction: A Moment of Opportunity and Challenge” and “Chapter 4. The Economics of Social Production,” The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 1-28 and 91-127.

Bill Wausik, “My Crowd. Or Phase 5: A Report from the Inventor of the Flash Mob,” Harper’s Magazine (March 2006), 56-66.

Bill Bishop, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 1-77.

Optional

Selections from Michael J. Weiss, The Clustered World: How We Live, What We Buy, and What it All Means About Who We Are (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1999).

 

11

11.14

Poetics

Geert Lovink, “Blogging: The Nihilist Impulse,” Eurozine (2007), http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-01-02-lovink-en.html

Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002), 7-48.

Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), excerpts.

Jordan Crandall, “Showing,” http://jordancrandall.com/showing/index.html

 

12

11.21

Complexity

Joseph A .Tainter, “Introduction to Collapse,” The Collapse of Complex Societies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 1-21.

Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1977), 13-32.

Charles Perrow, “Normal Accident at Three Mile Island.” Society 18, no. 5 (1981): 17–26.

 

13

11.29

Thanksgiving Break / No Class

 

Fast Flux Opening, Studio-X Soho

Fast Flux: New Art from Lithuania Opening
Tuesday 10 September 2013, 7:00-8:30pm
Studio-X NYC, 180 Varick St., Suite 1610 (map)

Free and open to the public. No RSVP required.

This opening marks the beginning of Fast Flux, a residency and exhibit by young Lithuanian artists from Rupert at Columbia University's Studio-X NYC.
A panel of speakers will discuss the exhibit, the role of art and architecture in Soho, and the role of Lithuanian artists George Maciunas and Jonas Mekas in the establishment of the arts community in the area.

Juan de Nieves, Director, Rupert, Vilnius, Lithuania

Inesa Pavlovskaite, Co-Curator of Fast Flux, curator, Vilnius, Lithuania

Lytle Shaw, Associate Professor of English, NYU, Editor, Chadwick Family Papers

Kazys Varnelis, Co-Curator of Fast Flux, Director, Network Architecture Lab

Mark Wigley, Dean, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

In August 1966, George Maciunas set out to found an artists collective in Soho with the help of Jonas Mekas. Together, they envisioned a Kolhkoz with a Fluxshop and a 120-seat cinema at 16-18 Greene Street, just east of the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, in an area that was the site of Manhattan’s first Lithuanian-American community.

Although the Greene Street cooperative was not to be, Maciunas would go on to develop a series of lofts in Soho, all the while lurching from one crisis to another as he faced issues with money and deadlines. In November 1975, thugs hired by electrical contractor Peter D. Stefano administered a severe beating, causing Maciunas to lose an eye. Ten years after Maciunas had begun his project in Soho, he set out for New Marlborough, Massachusetts, where he would purchase a farm in hopes of starting a new, exurban Flux collective. His obituary in the May 11, 1978, edition of The New York Times was titled “George Maciunas, Artist and Designer Organized Fluxus to Develop Soho.”

In the thirty-five years after Maciunas departed Soho, the postmodernization of the area has long been complete. Not only is the industry in the area long gone, so are the art practices that eulogized it. Contemporary Soho is a preeminent location for flagship stores, boutiques, and a new infrastructure of media and design that services  the needs of this global city.

On the farthest western reaches of Soho, Studio-X NYC, part of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation's global network of urban research labs, offers a site to investigate, if only temporarily, possible transactions between art and architecture, New York and Lithuania.

Between Tuesday, September 10, and Friday, October 4, 2013, Studio-X NYC will host a group of Lithuanian artists whose work will explore these transactions of art and architecture (real estate), New York (the core, the global hub) and Lithuania (the periphery, that which makes the core possible).

The exhibition will be open for public view Monday through Friday, from 1 to 6pm daily, or by appointment.
 

Sponsored by Rupert, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, and the Network Architecture Lab and Studio-X at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University.

 

 

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