Category: dortmund

NOW WHAT – about getting out of here

Nowadays, we are treated to a wealth of information about the current global crises — poverty, environmental destruction and all those finance markets supposedly teetering on the edge of the abyss. Yet the time for far-reaching political change is long overdue. After all, despite the dramatic consequences of a consumerist lifestyle, the goal of non-stop growth continues to be propagated. Natural resources are being wasted as though there were no tomorrow, while the international finance markets seem to operate free of any legal or ethical restraints. Is the public sector today ruled by economic interests and nothing else?

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dortmund filmfestival

If we really want to reshape our urban way of life on a sustainable and ecological basis, we will have to take tangible measures. But how and where can we create green oases in the concrete jungles of our towns? On the window ledge, the balcony or the rooftop?

The multimedia artist and activist Annemie Maes will use her workshop to give us some answers and practical tips. She has long been involved in eco-technologies and grass-roots activism and, in 2004, she and Guy van Belle set up OKNO, an artists collective that aims to develop innovative cultural projects linking art and technology. For example: Connected Open Greens – the outskirts of town where culture and nature can come together symbiotically, where regenerative energy technologies meet traditional gardening and where art projects might make new biotopes. The question is this: to what extent can new organisms, new surroundings and new landscapes be generated by merging the artificial with the natural?

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OKNO members operate two Open Green Rooftop Gardens in Brussels. They observe and record the growth, flowering and decay of plants as well as providing a habitat for insects and keeping bee colonies. They organise related workshops and an »Adopt a Bee« scheme (a bee hive, to be more precise). Here in Dortmund, Ms Maes will be talking about her Connected Open Greens project, one feature of which is urban bee-keeping. There will also be instructions on how to roll seed bombs, which we will subsequently put to practical effect during a city stroll … and so help Dortmund’s urban bees make more honey.

biodetective honeybees and air quality

German airports use “Biodetective” honeybees to monitor air quality. Environmental monitoring has come a long way since the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Now we use bees. Airports in Germany are using honeybees as “biodetectives,” regularly testing their honey for a suite of pollutants, the New York Timesreports. This year’s first tests were conducted in early June at Düsseldorf International Airport, and the bees got a clean bill of health. That means the air was clean, too. Members of a local beekeepers’ group keep the bees, and the honey, “Düsseldorf Natural,” is bottled and given away as gifts, the Times says. About 200,000 bees are involved in the Düsseldorf program; seven other German airports also work with bees.

A German lab tests honey samples twice a year and looks for compounds like hydrocarbons and heavy metals. The latest tests showed the bees’ honey was comparable to honey produced in areas with no industrial activity. Airplane, taxi, bus and car emissions — as well as local industry — contribute to poor air quality around airports, the Times reports. Airport officials say the industry has made progress reducing pollution, but the Times quotes two studies that suggest particulates can be a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency financed an airport air-quality study set to be released soon, and one of the lead researchers says fine ultra-fine particles and lead are a potential public health concern. Bees are one way to track those toxins because their honey would have telltale signs of pollution. If they use nectar from flowers produced by toxin-exposed plants, that would show up in the honey.
The Times quotes one honeybee expert who said the work seems promising, if inconclusive: “We all believe it can be done, but translating the results into real-world solutions or answers may be a little premature,” says Jamie Ellis, assistant professor of entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, University of Florida-Gainesville. Other experts caution that bee-monitoring should not replace traditional monitoring systems.
But at the very least, the work is a simple way for the public to understand the effects of pollution.
[New York Times, by Rebecca Boyle]

e-culture fair / ISEA dortmund

Okno participates in the e-culture fair : ‘Future of the Labs’.

As part of the E-CULTURE FAIR 2010, BALTAN Laboratories is organising and hosting a presentation of Dutch, Belgian and German media art laboratories, brought together around three shared themes. This is an international presentation of BALTAN’s Future of the Lab research and one of the 12 projects from the Netherlands at the ECF.

The E-CULTURE FAIR 2010 will be showcasing innovative projects in the cross-over fields of creative industry, research, education and media art from August 23 – 25 on the second floor of the Dortmunder U – Centre for Art and Creativity. It is the first step of the envisaged long-term cooperation between the three partners, namely Virtueel Platform of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, BAM of Ghent, Flanders, Belgium, and of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, organised by Hartware MedienKunstVerein (Dortmund, DE). In line with previous events held in the Netherlands since 2000, the E-CULTURE FAIR is being presented for the first time in Germany as a partner event and cooperation project of ISEA2010 RUHR, 16th International Symposium on Electronic Art.