In Mpls: Material Matters exhibit & American Swedish Inst. Fence

The fence is up at the American Swedish Institute! I designed a back-story, repeating banner for the construction fence to show what the upcoming addition’s ‘LEED’ certification means and to acquaint passer-bys with happenings at the museum and in Swedish culture. Although the museum is closed during the construction, the fence is there for you to visit. See it in the Phillips neighborhood.

Also, the ‘T-Shirt-that Tells it’s Own Story’ and some shawls I developed together with master craftsmen in rural India are on exhibit at ‘Material Matters’ now at MCAD.

Food Tracability: Article

By this Washington Post article, it appears food traceability is set to go main-stream.

The opportunities for communicating the social and environmental sustainability behind such foods are huge. It’s fascinating how it may be the food safety concerns that drive us toward opening to transparency. – Once those doors are open, so many additional communication possibilities exist.

These ideas for the food system are also good validation for the TraceProduct.Info project I initiated as part of an Art(ists) on the Verge fellowship.  More info on the project here.

systems for food tracability

Graphic from the Washington Post

See Behind the Scenes at Västra Hamnen

Come visit the parascope to ‘see behind’ into the sustainability systems in the Västra Hamnen area of Malmö. The installation is accessible today through Monday Dec. 13 [map]. The project was done as part of a artist-residency at MEDEA Collaborative Research Initiative in Sweden. More information here.

The parascope itself was developed by a collaboration between Unsworn Industries and Malmö Stad.

View the sustainability systems behind-the-scenes of Vastra Hamnen, Malmo


MEDEA Talk on ‘Visualizing Sustainability’

Arlene Birt presenting at MEDEA in Malmö, Sweden on Dec.10 (15:00-17:00 Central European time).

Arlene will present two projects that she’s done as artist-in-residence at MEDEA and a behind-the-scenes view on her work on how to visualize ‘background stories’. One project is a visual mapping of the sustainability-oriented systems at work within the Västra Hamnen area of the city through a collaboration with Unsworn Industries to show this information using the parascope technology they’ve developed. Another project visually communicates the benefits of bicycling – in terms of CO2 saved, money saved and calories burned.

Details on the talk here. There will also be a live-stream of the talk.

Artist Residency to Visualize Impacts in Malmö, Sweden

Arlene has begun an artist residency at interactive center for new media MEDEA, where she will develop work to visualize the impacts/benefits of bicycling for the Västra Hamnen area of Malmö in order to encourage and celebrate a culture of bicycling.

More on the progress of the project, which will run Oct-Dec 2010, is posted on the MEDEA site.

sketch of visualizing sustainaiblity in bicycling


I, Pencil – A Sustainability Story From 1958

I, Pencil by Leonard Read, is an essay on the life cycle of a pencil. Written in a way that references all the strings attached and people involved in the back-story of this simple, everyday object; this story is an excellent text to tie products to global social and environmental concerns. And it was written in 1958.

“Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others.”

I, Pencil is referenced in this TED talk by Matt Ridley about the collective effort that leads to innovation,

Tracing a Taco

‘Tacoshed’ tracks the journey (and miles) of all the ingredients from a taco produced by a specific taco truck in San Francisco.

Tracing Food miles from a taco


Compiled by students at California College of the Arts and design group Rebar, this info-visualization highlights the complexity of our food systems.

Tough resulting in complex maps, the results accurately gives people an idea where their food comes from.

Sourcemap for product ingredients

Sourcemap, developed by an MIT-based team, uses Google Earth to map the origins of materials in products. A view inside the open-source application also showcases each ingredient’s carbon footprint – which I hope is an indication that it is only a matter of time until tools like this will expand to highlight other Life-Cycle Analysis data.

Computer components as mapped by a Sourcemap user.

Computer components as mapped by a Sourcemap user.

This tool does a great job communicating that ‘ingredients’ in our products are connected to the world around us. As a next step, it would be great to show the carbon impacts in terms that are relevant to consumers – ‘showing’ what the quantity means rather than just stating the number. And to tell more of a story to help consumers frame these big-picture ideas within their everyday experience.

Revealing Hidden Time

A work by artist Pierre Huyghe, entitled ‘Timekeeper’ uncovers a history of exhibits in this space at the Walker Art Center through sanding down layers of paint on the gallery walls.

Previous layers of gallery paint revealed through sanding.

Previous layers of gallery paint revealed through sanding.

This work is especially interesting in the context of a white-walled exhibition space: the walls are usually forced into the background in order to highlight the work hung on them. In this case, the very history of that back-drop is what’s highlighted.

The work is part of the Walker’s exhibition, The Quick and the Dead;

Surveying art that tries to reach beyond itself and the limits of our knowledge and experience, The Quick and the Dead seeks, in part, to ask what is alive and dead within the legacy of conceptual art.

Communication Design Recognized in Back-Story-Telling Project

For the first time, the prestigious INDEX Design Award has a winner from the field of communication design. ‘PIG 05049’ is a primarily-visual book, designed and conceived by Christien Meindertsma, that traces all the products made from one pig.

Visual spread from the book 'Pig 05049'

Visual spread from the book

Meindertsma’s intent for the project:

Help people in a highly mechanized and “packaged” world understand how things are made and where they come from so that the resources involved can be cared for by enlightened, informed people.

It’s nice to see the role of communication design to build awareness being recognized within the design community.

Read a previous entry on Meindertsma’s project here.