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Monday, July 18, 2005
More ingenuity harnessed in the name of commerce: the Shadow billboard is designed, quite literally, to only make sense when the sun comes out. The image, which advertises a brand of sunscreen, is composed of hundreds of small raised aluminium posts. When the sun is out and in the right place, the cast shadows form the image - a sunbathing woman. Interactive billboards aren't new - a while ago an environmental group put up a poster at, I think, Vauxhall Cross: it started out completely blank, and then as the days went by a message appeared as dark sooty particles accumulated on the surface, clinging to special glue.

Perhaps surprisingly, contemporary London isn't as festooned with billboards as it was in the Victorian era, when advertising pervaded every nook and cranny. This extract from Successful Advertising (1885) gives ten reasons when to stop advertising, one of which is: "When every man has become so thoroughly a creature of habit that he will certainly buy this year where he bought last year." As a result, public spaces were a riot of posters, all hawking this and that, in a totally unregulated, and unscrupulous market. Yet there has to be a happy medium between billboards so clever they detract totally from the experience of the sights, smells, people and activity of the city behind them (quite literally, as in the billboard photos of Stephen Gill) and the Delete! project, which stripped out all extraneous white noise from advertising in a single street in Vienna - creating a rather oppressive, dull space.

Vauxhall Cross has become a symbolic location for a variety of things, including London's traffic chaos, public transport complexity, the growth of the surveillance society, the mediocrity of most private development and the political nature of the planning process. All of these things were explored in last summer's Vauxhall Pleasure project, which juxtaposed the serene with the constant assault of traffic, appropriate for a site that once housed London's principle Pleasure Gardens. See also
and this image of the Effra Site, named for the now-hidden River Effra, before Broadway Malyan got their hands on it and demolished the (in)famous Nine Elms Cold Store. Also see Lambeth Landmark, which has excellent archive images of Vauxhall and ephemera ('One More Ascent This Season of the Royal Vauxhall Balloon').

*

Simulated society may generate virtual culture, a New Scientist piece on the intention to simulate a community of 1,000 'intelligent' agents, observing how social groupings and structures emerge through the creation of simple tasks. The NEW-TIES project (wait for it, New and Emergent World models Through Individual, Evolutionary, and Social Learning. That's the kind of acronymn that was arrived at during an uninspired night at the pub) is a bit like The Sims but without humans to contaminate the gel in the petri dish. Other scientists scoff at the idea, which will include characters and environments modelled using Counter Strike to ensure it looks accessible and interesting for human observers. One Edward Castronava is quoted as saying, "The most sensible research project, it seems to me, would be to study [real human societies that grow up on their own within computer-generated fantasy worlds], rather than conjure artificial ones." Castranova has a proposal for a "university-based synthetic world", which he calls Arden. Smacks a bit of Live As a Tudor to me.

Other things. The new wave of tomorrow: personal outsourcing. This generational niche is crying out for its own Microserfs / the rather spooky Inversion, an installation project by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck at Art League Houston. More images / building sites, photos by Isabelle Pateer / Buildings R Us urge you to consider a round of Urban Golf / Week in Review, hand drawn graphics illustrating the past week's major news story (via information aesthetics) / this screen-based keyboard is really rather clever / forthcoming Urban Modelling Application. Name it / GTA Batmobile mod.

Every kind of building system is available at The Construction Site, including one of our favourites, Fischer Technik. There wasn't a lot you couldn't do with Fischer Technik, and you could also marvel at the gazillions of bits and the Bauhaus-like perfection of their packaging and instruction leaflets (last link is from Kugelbahn, just one of many rolling ball sculpture sites. More Kugelbahn, this time from Switzerland, with the focus on kinetic art).