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Urban Hackscapes: Augmented Reality 1.0

iPhone vs. pencil, or what the Library of Congress has to do with cartoon dinosaurs.

If you think augmented reality is a recent fascination woven from the fabric of the camera phone age, think again — artists, photographers and casual creative pranksters have long been using camera tricks to hack urban landscape by layering additional fascination over the naked eye’s view of the city. Here are three of our favorite photographic hackscapes.


You recall Michael Hughes‘ wonderful Souvenirs collection from pickings past. The British photographer travels the world and “replaces” some of its most iconic landmarks with their cheap touristy souvenir replicas — miniatures, snow globes, plates, postcards — by holding them in front of the camera at just the right angle.

The result is a playful take on tourism which, depending on how philosophically inclined you are, even exudes subtle commentary on the artificiality of souvenir collecting in the context of the actual experience and our often excessive propensity for sentimentality.

Prints from the project are available on Hughes’ website.


Because we love the cross-pollination of ideas and the transference of creative inspiration, we love Jason Powell‘s Looking Into The Past project (which you may remember from one of our most popular features of all time, Photographic Time Machine), inspired by Hughes’ Souvenirs.

Powell prints out historical photographs from The Library of Congress digital archive (remember that, too?) and holds them up against the physical locations depicted in them, offering an absolutely fascinating glimpse of how urban landscape, dress and transportation have evolved over the past couple of centuries.

To contribute to this fold in the space-time continuum, submit your own photographic time capsules to the eponymous Flickr pool Powell set up for the project.


After object-in-photo and photo-in-photo, it’s only fitting that someone comes up with drawing-in-photo. Artist Benjamin Heine did — his series Pencil vs. Camera adds an element of playful fantasy to the already innovative cross-medium technique.

We imagine being trampled by cartoon Godzilla while staring at a four-eyed cat is among the eeriest yet most amusing of deaths.


The Art of Money

Gangsta Abe, Russian plagiarism, and how to pay for food with your art.

Previously, we’ve looked at how artists use ordinary materials to transform them into incredible art creations — from paper to cardboard to toilet paper rolls to whole books. Today, we turn to the one “material” that makes the world go ’round: Money. Here are five of our favorites.


After our recent obsession with surgical book sculptures, we’re turning to tattoo artist Scott Campbell‘s incredible carved currency sculptures. Beyond the indisputable aesthetic merit of his work, there also seems to be a subtle undercurrent of political commentary, which we quite enjoy.

There’s an excellent recent New York Times story about Campbell and his work — worth the read.


You may recall these Japanese moneygami from pickings past — the delightfully irreverent origami portraits of world leaders gracing various bank notes, outfitted with entertainingly incongruous hats and head attire.

Explore the rest of these bad boys for some comic relief at the expense of expenses.


Art Money is a curious project that seeks to offer a global alternative currency — a barter object to use instead of money that is both an exposure vehicle for participating artists worldwide and a financial crutch that allows them to support themselves while focusing on their art.

The idea is simple — artists create an original art money “bank note” measuring 12x18cm, which becomes the equivalent of 200 Danish Kroner (roughly $34), growing in value by five Euro per year for seven years. This money can be used as currency within the Art Money ecosystem, which includes various registered shops and businesses, as well as Art Money hosts who accept this payment for accommodation for traveling artists.

We love the idea of “paying” for necessities with original art — we’ve seen it before with Wants For Sale, and this recent news of the world’s biggest taxi tip offers another delightful example of art as a transactional alternative. Intrigued? Join the project and create your own art money or register your business to accept it.

Thanks, @haverholm


For his senior thesis project, Cuban design student Yordan Silvera embarked upon an ambitious exploration of the aesthetic qualities of money. The result was The Art of Money — a design analysis of the typography, iconography, color and techniques used on different currencies from around the world.

The resulting book is absolutely stunning — we just wish Silvera would make the content available online and/or offer physical copies of the book for sale.


Brooklyn-based artist Mark Wagner is a master of the X-acto knife. His intricate currency collages look laser-cut but are all meticulously hand-carved to a remarkable effect.

The one dollar bill is the most ubiquitous piece of paper in America. Collage asks the question: what might be done to make it something else? It is a ripe material: intaglio printed on sturdy linen stock, covered in decorative filigree, and steeped in symbolism and concept. Blade and glue transform it — reproducing the effects of tapestries, paints, engravings, mosaics, and computers-striving for something bizarre, beautiful, or unbelievable… the foreign in the familiar.” ~ Mark Wagner

So brilliant are his collages that they’ve incited the highest form of flattery — shameless plagiarism by Russian design getup Art Money. Case in point.


If you find yourself fascinated by the design and art direction of currency, we highly recommend checking out Currency Museum — an incredibly rich, albeit tedious to navigate, collection of banknote designs from 155 countries, which is just 40 short of all the world’s recognized political states.

*** UPDATE 04.29 ***

Thanks to commenter C.K. Wilde, who pointed us to some of his incredible money art on Alternating Currency — arguably the most ambitious and, we imagine, painstakingly crafted of the bunch.

See more of Wilde’s work here — it’s absolutely amazing.


Follow The Money: Visualizing the Structure of Large-Scale Communities

Visual economics, or what virtual currencies have to do with real neighbors.

Money makes the world go ’round. Or so the saying goes. Whether or not that’s true, money does go around the world, wrapping it in an invisible web of socioeconomic and geopolitical patterns.

Northwestern University grad students Daniel Grady and Christian Thiemann are on a mission to visualize these patterns. Their project Follow the Money investigates the structure of large-scale communities in the US through the prism of how money travels. Using data from the popular bill-tracking website Where’s George?, the team identified geographically compact communities based on how much currency is changing hands within them as opposed to between them.

This may sound like dry statistical uninterestingness, but the video visualization of the results is rather eye-opening, revealing how money — not state borders, not political maps, not ethnic clusters — is the real cartographer drawing our cultural geography.

When we made the video, we wanted to produce something that anybody could watch and understand what was happening, but at the same time we didn’t want to have to dumb down any of the ideas.” ~ Daniel Grady

The project was a winner at the 2009 Visualization Challenge sponsored by the National Science Foundation and AAAS and.

But as cash nears extinction in the age of plastic and electronic transations, we’d be curious to see a visualization of payment networks in all the forms and formats today’s money lives in — physical, electronic, and even virtual currencies like Facebook’s AceBucks, World of Warcraft’s gold, or Second Life’s Linden dollars.

via Visual Complexity


The Apology Line

How to exorcise your indiscretions, or what art from the 80’s has to do with modern guilt.

In 1980, conceptual artist Allan Bridge began his Apology Line project — a telephone hotline, where anonymous callers could unburden themselves from their guilty confessions on an answering machine. Two decades before PostSecret and a quarter century before We Feel Fine, the project pioneered crowdsourced layman voyeurism and went on to collect hundreds of daily confessions for over fifteen years. It was featured in the most groundbreaking cultural commentaries of the day, from an article in then-toddler Wired to an early episode of This American Life.

Though Bridge’s original tape anthology, The Apology Line: Uncut Gems From Year Zero (1980-1981), is long lost in the analog ether, after a few hours of relentless poking around the intertubes, we were able to uncover the only surviving digitized recording of the project, which you can download for your listening pleasure. Uncomfortably honest, sometimes funny and often shocking, these anonymous confessions offer a raw slice of human complexity, with all its tortured tribulations and daily dramas.

But something much richer than a digital recording is taking the project’s legacy into the present era.

In 2007, UK filmmaker duo James Lee and William Bridges revived The Apology Line, launching it across the UK and inviting Britons via posters, flyers and newspaper articles to call the anonymous line and unload whatever is weighing them down. They then made a short documentary about it, which went on to grain critical acclaim across the film festival circuit, showing at Sundance and Cannes in 2008 and being awarded at the Prix UIP Best European Short Film at the Cork International Film Festival.

Now, the team behind The Apology Line is using Kickstarter (which we so love) to bring the project to the US. Their goal is to collect confessions from Americans all over the country, eventually unleashing an art exhibition beginning in New York and traveling all over America.

You can pledge anything from $5 to $100 and help create an avenue where we can safely scratch the itch of guilt for lunching on someone else’s sandwich in the office fridge and telling grandma you’re abstaining until marriage. In exchange, you’ll get a varying magnitude of voyeurism fixes with randomly selected apologies from stranger.

Go ahead, microfund the apologetic exorcism of guilt. You won’t be sorry.

via Coudal


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