Critical Sections

    By Greg J. Smith
    Design by Erik Loyer

    Open Project

    The resulting index is a dense constellation of fragments that merges text with image and fiction with concrete reality to construct a new narrative space, an archive for thoughts, observations and commentary on domesticity in Los Angeles.

    - Greg J. Smith, Author's Statement

    Users can create their own compositions mixing architectural and cinematic elements.
    Screengrab:     1     2     3  
    Alternative views of Critical Sections project data:

    All info and conversations from this project page
    http://vectors.usc.edu/xml/projects/critical_sections_v1.xml

    RSS feed of the conversations from this project page
    http://vectors.usc.edu/rss/project.rss.php?project=88

    XML feed that drives Critical Sections
    http://vectors.usc.edu/issues/06_issue/criticalsections/scripts/retrieve.php
    Peer Response
    A directional interface takes the viewer through variations of the LA School of architecture (Mayne, Gehry, etc.), through fragments of text that comment on the role of cinematic memory, on the multiples of LA that seem to fly above each other. As an LA specialist, of course, I immediately sense certain limitations in presenting the city on the fly, but probably what is needed is even more engagement of what "on the fly" leaves out, not trying to fill in with urban facts.

    1. A networked flourish of short phrases and textual subjects. Am I correct in assuming that the LA of their piece is not the LA where people live, but rather the LA we see on line, or through the emphasis on the film industry as the best way to understand Southern California. And also: various traditional assumptions about how fortified and suburban and insular LA is. Not untrue certainly, but every city labors under myths as broad as that. These urban myths will be vaguely connected to facts; but I am left with a first question: Are these elements "presuming" that the LA myths are self-evident: the LA of surfaces, of screenwriters on the make, of lousy apartments in Van Nuys, etc.)? It would seem so. Is it fair to call this an ironic, narratized critique about LA spaces. That "no-space" is certainly not the historic reality of 13 million people? Or perhaps, the directional interface suggests that these myths indicate that the Internet is the last suburb-- that LA fantasy ( and not LA alone), but certainly the hyper-privatization in LA looks a lot like multiple user software? I assume that the artist certainly is not trying to reinforce the misunderstandings that erase the city, that obviate what lies beneath this surface. Who needs another of those. This should be a surgical irony on the city of circulation, it seems to me.

    2. A similar response: This piece is not so much a view of a city as the view when your airplane prepares to land, and drops to a thousand feet. You look down, see the diamonds on black velvet: the grid of a city that seems endless, because the airport (LAX) is at the center of the LA basin, of an ancient dry lake; and the towns around the airport were set up along very systematic right angles, almost like Chicago, more than LA lights along a the curving ocean front, or inside the canyons; or toward the foothills five miles north of downtown. That brings the idea of the piece closer to (let us say) dromadology in Virilio than LA Studies (just for argument's sake; so many theorists and mapping strategies come to mind). Or various social theories on the Global City. Its darts of text are almost parodies of abstraction. What abstraction? One thought that comes to mind: the horizontal city turned into sound bite. The space becomes so horizontal (globalized) it turns into an abstraction of the Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw, now almost twenty years ago. It records where we have not managed to go.

    Anyway, obviously the interface could be even more like a surgical action, not more of a political "correction." And the archive should seem richer, or surprising in some way. What action: the act of navigation as an allegory for the madness of our culture today. He plays with that madness in the way a comic novelist or a poet might, or a composer, or even a sculptor -- in this case an architectonic sculpture....

    — Norman Klein, November 12th, 2008