This is a new one on me – Manhattanhenge or Manhattan Solstice?

Apparently it is an event which happens twice a year when the setting sun aligns itself with the East/West streets of Manhattan.

It was named in 1996 by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and he uses it to promote interest in his subject.  It obviously comes from the similarity to the sun’s alignment with the stones at Stonhenge on Salisbury Plain (England), but occurs between the very modern skyscrapers of New York.

Apparently similar events occur in other cities with gridded road systems such as Toronto, Chicago, Baltimore and Montreal.  It would be interesting to see in a few thousand years time, when archeologists root around the remains of these cites, whether they claim that the societies that lived there worshiped the sun.  Of course a large proportion of them do – but it has nothing to do with the alignment of their cities and it is definitely not in a religious context.

There is something magical when we are suddenly stunned by the immensity and beauty of the universe; but when it is an everyday event which suddenly confronts us and makes us look again in awe, it seems to have a special power.

I could mention our historic connection with the phases of the Sun and the passing seasons, when nature governed all our daily lives.  But I won’t, and will leave you with a few of the pictures of Manhattanhenge in action – careful you don’t get blinded!

Manhattanhenge 1

Manhattanhenge 2 Manhattanhenge 3

Last Phase of The High Line

The High Line – the conversion of the disused elevated freight-railway in Manhattan into a nature park – is nearing completion.  It is a beautiful idea, an elegant combination of the old industrial infrastructure supporting an injection of nature, all in the depths of the most iconic of modern cities.  It is one of the reasons why I want to go back to New York.

The final section is due to open in late 2014 and will include a bowl-shaped structure called The Spur, which will become the access point at the railway yards and allow walkers to sit encompassed by foliage in the heart of the city.  Maybe that would be a good time to visit…

The Spur 1

The Spur 2

The Spur 3

Banksy Does It Again!

Pre-blog warning – there is an inordinate amount of inverted commas in this posting and an excessive use of the word ‘Brilliant’!!!

Banksy is in the middle of a month-long residency in New York, called Better Out Than In, (well I laughed!) and is busy doing his graffiti all over the city, and not all of it is on the walls.

Some of his more traditional wall-based ‘graffiti’ has already be ‘defaced’ by local graffiti ‘artists’ – a) can you deface graffiti, b) was it intentionally ironic, and c) are you an ‘artist’ if you don’t have a message?  It is interesting that on some internet forums people are arguing that it’s not his ‘turf’ anyway, so he deserves to get his work tagged by the locals (irony intended or not).  Many other people are simply bemused and wonder who Banksy is anyway – where have these people been for the last decade?  Even my Dad rates Banksy!

Anyway, the reason I decided to write this posting was because of his latest brilliant spoof – a man sells original Banksy art on the streets of New York, near Central Park, and hardly anyone notices.  Those that decide to buy a few of them obviously do not believe they are original and casually pay the $60 each (or £37.50) or less, and think nothing more of it.  Their current value on the art market is about $32,000 or £20,000 each!  Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!  He just keeps on sticking two fingers up at the ‘professional art world’ – this is true graffiti, not pointless scribbles, but subversive and anti-establishment!

I wish I had been in New York on that day – but unfortunately I know that I would have passed by and not taken a second look at the stall.  I would automatically have thought they were prints someone had ripped off the internet.  Watch this video of the one-day-only Banksy art sale, here.

Banksy one-day art saleThe one-day art sale obviously got a lot of news coverage because of the apparently casual way that such a huge amount of valuable art was essentially ‘given’ away.   But he has been doing his art in different districts of the city every day this month, and one of the most hard-hitting so far was about animal cruelty.   It is a mobile piece called ‘Sirens of the Lambs’ and highlights the often terrible conditions that animals are kept in and transported to slaughter houses all over the world.  It will be active for about a week and is, appropriately, circulating the Meatpacking District.  It is apparently very loud and quite unsettling, but yet again, Brilliant! – watch this video.

The Siren of the LambsWith a half a month to go, I’m sure there will be plenty of similarly incisive comments on modern society to come – and I can’t wait!

How To Lose Your Seat

What if you turned up for an interview, were directed to a waiting room, and upon opening the door found that the room was apparently empty?  If you look closely the room might well be full of seats but you simply can’t see them.  This could happen if the room was full of mirrored furniture like the ones pictured below.  At first it might be a bit of a surprise, but then, as you eyes adjust to the new perspective and the seats materialise, the surprise could go one of two ways and either turn into bewilderment or excitement.  It could unsettle you enough to cost you the job, but equally it may excite you enough to fire you up and gain you the position you applied for.  This could even be a clever first hurdle in the selection process, particularly if the job is design related.

The furniture pictured is from the Visible/Invisible Furniture Series by New York based Takeshi Miyakawa (images via designboom), the pieces are made from mirror finished acrylic which has, in places, been distorted by heat.  The heating causes ripples and cracking on the surface which breaks down the pristine reflections.

I think I would prefer not to have the blemishes, but I can see how the effect is meant to disrupt the apparent ‘perfection’ of the pieces.  To extend the mirror theme (and its obvious art over function aesthetic) I would have liked to have seen an identical series of furniture arranged on the opposite wall of the exhibition space but without the imperfections, as though the whole room was divided by a giant invisible mirror…

Mirror Chair

Mirror Table

Close up of cracking

Mirror Chair 2