Review of "Close Up at a Distance"
Oct 24, 2013 — Craig M. Dalton, Geographical Review

"Kurgan's Close up at a Distance is an ingenious and exciting push at the margins of what is possible to see and understand using satellite imagery, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The book is a review of and reflection on her provocative artistic and design projects using geotechnologies since the early 1990s."

Geographical Review, Volume 103Issue 4pages 584–587October 2013

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Review of "Close up at a Distance."
Aug 24, 2013 — UrbanTick

"What do we see, when we see the world? In today's world transcended by digital technology and flooded with representations, models and mashups the question of 'what are we looking at?' becomes more important. The many layers of data and visualisations in many cases start clouding the subject or in some cases appears completely detached from it and develop a dynamic of their own. 

The kind of critiques are nothing new and have been heard through out the past decade. How perception is manipulated with information has been discussed for example in the book How to lie with Maps by H.J. de Blij , 1992. Here de Blij presents examples of representations and how they are used to favour certain aspects. Or also indeed The Power of Maps by Denis Wood, 1992, You are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2003 or the Atlas of Radical Cartography edited by Alexis Bhagat and Lize Mogel, 2008, to name a few of the recent cartography/mapping books of the recent years. 

In a new Zone Books publication Close up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics Laura Kurgan presents her research work and offers a theoretical discussion on the usage and employment of representations."

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"Close Up at a Distance" Review in Society & Space
Aug 24, 2013 — Columba Peoples

Columba Peoples reviews Laura Kurgan's Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics in Society and Space

"Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics is an insightful and innovative book that defies straightforward classification, ‘poised’ as it is “at the intersection of art, architecture, activism and geography” (page 17). Its subject matter—satellite images, satellite mapping and remote-sensing images—is by now an established concern of critical geographical scholarship in particular (see, amongst others, Cosgrove 2001; Crampton 2008; Crampton 2010; della Dora 2012; Dodge and Perkins 2009). Readers familiar with that scholarship will doubtlessly recognise many of the issues and debates broached by Close Up at a Distance: over the military origins of satellite technologies, images and mapping and the extent to which this still imposes secrecy and restrictions on their availability; on the promise and perils of ‘participatory’ cartography and the ‘democratic’ potentialities this may or may not offer; and finally, whether and how the increasingly ubiquitous use of satellite images and mapping might “transform … our ways of seeing and experiencing space” (page 14). The distinctive feature of Kurgan’s work in addressing these issues, though, is that it rejects the proposition that scholars can or should simply evaluate and respond to these at a ‘critical distance’: “[W]e do not stand at a distance from these technologies, but are addressed by and embedded within them”, Kurgan argues. Hence, “Only through a certain intimacy with these technologies—an encounter with their opacities, their assumptions, their intended aims—can we begin to assess their full ethical and political stakes” (page 14)."

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"Prison Blocks" - Atlantic Magazine
Mar 01, 2009 — Laura Kurgan

The Atlantic published an article by Laura Kurgan on SIDL's work in New Orleans:

"Hurricane Katrina Displaced hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents; as they’ve returned, their struggles to remake their lives and communities have been well chronicled. But smaller waves of displacement, followed by straggling return, have been washing through the city, largely unremarked, for many years. In 2003, upwards of 12,000 New Orleans–area residents left the city for prison; more than half were expected to return home within three years. This destructive cycle, interrupted by the storm, is slowly reasserting itself. 

Nationwide, an estimated two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within three years. A disproportionate number of them come from a few urban neighborhoods in big cities. Many states spend more than $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of single blocks or small neighborhoods."

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Million Dollar Blocks, exhibited at Into the Open Positoning Practice
Sep 14, 2008 — Spatial Information Design Lab

"The exhibition Into the Open highlights America's rich history of architectural experimentation and explores the original ways architects today are working collaboratively to invigorate community activism and environmental policy. 

In the absence of large-scale public infrastructure projects in the United States, local initiatives are becoming laboratories for generating new forms of sociability and civic engagement. These new community-minded architects are questioning traditional definitions of practice by conducting unique research into the socio-economic challenges and environmental rifts that define our times. They are going beyond building-- defining architecture not just as a physical infrastructure, but also as a social relationship. 

Into the Open debuted as the official United States representation at the 2008 Venice Biennale, where it offered international audiences insight into the ways America's architects are reinventing public space. Critics noted the exhibition's unusually sober assessment of the challenges America faces, as well as the inspired attempts by grassroots architects to mitigate these conflicts. In presenting the architects featured in this exhibition in Venice, New York, and finally Philadelphia, where the American experiment began, we underscore the power that intellectual entrepreneurs can have in enacting positive change. 

Currently on display in Philadelphia, the projects featured in the exhibition are divided between the National Constitution Center, Independence Mall, and the Slought Foundation on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, off-site community programming is being presented in partnership with local organizations. At the National Constitution Center you will encounter eight of the sixteen projects, including Estudio Teddy Cruz's 89-foot photo-narrative of the U.S.-Mexico border and Alice Water's model Edible Schoolyard outside on Independence Mall. Immersive, bold, and interactive, the intention of this exhibition is to inform and provoke--but commentary and participation are essential. We hope that the ideas presented in this exhibition prompt discussion in your own communities, adding yet another layer to the mix: your thoughts, your voice."

See more: http://intotheopen.org

Venues: 

National Constitution Center 
Slought Foundation 
July 15 through September 7, 2009 

Parsons The New School for Design, 
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 
March 4 through May 1, 2009 

The U.S. Pavilion for La Biennale di Venezia, 
11th International Architecture Exhibition 
September 14 through November 23, 2008

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"Million Dollar Blocks" exhibited in Just Space(s)
Sep 26, 2007 — Laura Kurgan

Million Dollar Blocks project exhibited in Just Space(s)
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)

September 26 – November 18, 2007
Organized by Ava Bromberg and Nicholas Brown

"Everyday we confront spaces that don't work - from our neighborhoods and parks, to our prisons, pipelines and borders. In this exhibition and programming series, artists, scholars and activists reveal how these spaces function - and dysfunction - making way for thought and action to create just societies and spaces.

The projects in this exhibition reflect the renewed recognition that space matters to cutting edge activist practices and to artists and scholars whose work pursues similar goals of social justice. A spatial frame offers new insights into understanding not only how injustices are produced, but also how spatial consciousness can advance the pursuit of social justice, informing concrete claims and the practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space - like justice - is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, differentiated, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice - if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced - must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms."

Read more: http://criticalspatialpractice.blogspot.com/2007/09/just-spaces.html

Read more: http://www.walkinginplace.org/justspaces/overview.htm

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"Architecture and Justice," exhibited in Design and the Elastic Mind, MoMA 2008
Aug 23, 2008 — Laura Kurgan

Architecture and Justice on view at MoMA, New York as part of an exhibition curated by Paola Antonelli.

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/#/14/

 

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"How a Map is Like an Op Ed"
Aug 23, 2013 — Laura Kurgan

How a Map Is Like an Op-Ed

"Thanks to the open data movement, anyone can be a cartographer. Professor Laura Kurgan on geography as a storytelling tool.

Thanks to the open data movement and Google Map Maker, anyone with a computer can create a map. These maps tell a story, but it's a subjective one. And while that can be a powerful tool, it can also skew perspectives and cloud a debate.

"We should really teach people to read maps in that way," says Laura Kurgan, an associate professor of architecture at Columbia University. "Maps are arguments, just like a piece of written journalism is an argument."

That's what Kurgan is attempting to show in her new book, Close Up at a Distance, which includes several of her mapping projects. When Kurgan graduated from architecture school, she says, digital technology was just starting to enter her field. Today, data is everywhere. It opens a much larger realm of mapping and interpretation."

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"Ways of Seeing" Review of "Close Up at a Distance"
Aug 23, 2013 — Trevor Paglen, Bookforum

Treavor Paglen reviews Laura Kurgan's new book Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics in Bookforum. He writes: 

"On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 emerged from its fourth lunar cycle on the first manned mission to another celestial body. “Oh, my God,” cried astronaut Frank Borman as the spacecraft emerged from the moon’s dark side. “Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up! Wow, is that pretty.” Crew member William Anders grabbed a modified Hasselblad camera and shot what has become an iconic photograph. In countless reproductions, Earthrise depicts our planet in the distance, a blue-and-white spot rising above a cratered and ashen lunar landscape, set against the blackness of space.

Laura Kurgan’s Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics opens on a reproduction of Earthrise and of another iconic image of Earth, the Blue Marblephotograph, shot four years later from Apollo 17. These two pictures are some of the most widely reproduced in history. In the popular imagination, they’ve become synonymous with the environmental movement, underlining the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, we live on a small, isolated, and fragile planet. But the pair of images are also emblematic of something else: the dawn of what historian Benjamin Lazier calls the “Earthrise Era.” We are now deep within this revolutionary moment—pictures and dynamic maps generated from space-based platforms are a part of our everyday lives. Since mapping technologies first began trickling into consumer products such as GPS navigation systems and smartphones, the view from above has become so ubiquitous that we seldom reflect on it. “We do not stand at a distance from these technologies,” Kurgan writes, “but are addressed by and embedded within them.”"

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NYC Media Lab Annual Summit

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga will be showcasing his project CitiBike Rebalancing Study at the NYC Media Lab Annual Summit, to be held on September 19th at the New School in New York City.

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