“Do nests for humans really reduce our so-called footprint? Do we need woven wood to entice us to the forest?” Dushko Petrovich looks at the dark side of “natural architecture” projects like Doug and Mike Starn’s Big Bambú and Porky Hefer’s birdsnest-like bamboo abodes in South Africa: “The less they address a specific problem, the more these tiny shelters start to feel like design-world hubris, a dangerously aestheticized form of distraction.”
- San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island will host Ai Weiwei’s new exhibition, @Large, opening September 27. The dissident artist—who himself was locked up by Chinese authorities for 81 days in 2011—will use seven site-specific installations to “prompt visitors to consider the implications of incarceration and the possibilities of art as an act of conscience.”
- Among ten finalists for Write-A-House’s inaugural writers residency are a New Mexico poet, a Brooklyn fiction author, and a Chicago journalist and comics artist. They’re all vying for a permanent residency: winner gets a renovated home in Detroit for life.
- Collaborating with Independent Diplomat, Amsterdam-based design studio Metahaven created a billboard in St. Louis that draws the eye with pop-culture terms—Play Station 4, Lana Del Rey, 50 Shades of Grey—as a way to highlight a less well-known issue: Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara. In August they did the same, but with art-world themes, on the cover of Art in America.
- After weeks of criticism and a petition signed by more than 18,000 animal rights advocates, the Aspen Art Museum has removed a trio of tortoises from its Cai Guo-Qiang show. For Moving Ghost Town, the artist had affixed iPads to their shells and was streaming video of local ghost towns on them.
- Meanwhile, back in his native China, Cai’s installation The Ninth Wave—a Noah’s Ark loaded with dying animals, a commentary on China’s disastrous environmental policies—has brought record attendance to Shanghai’s Power Station Art, the country’s first state-run contemporary art center.
- Thomas Allen Harris’s new documentary film, Through A Lens Darkly, meditates on the history of Black photography and the Black subject, weaving in the insights of artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Dawoud Bey, and Lyle Ashton Harris. A Sundance 2014 selection, its theatrical run began last week at New York’s Film Forum.
- “The prospect of a direct response, rippling through a populace, inspires Stunt art, which pointedly evades the commercial and institutional rat mazes that channel careers in art today.” Peter Schjeldahl, writing on unsanctioned art from Banksy and Bambi to the Brooklyn Bridge flag swappers, notes, “Stuntism is to art as weeds are to horticulture: plants in the wrong place. Authorities, social or botanical, define the wrongness, which becomes more arbitrary the more you think about it. Some weeds are as lovely as tulips.”