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Sarah Wilson: Blind Prom

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An interesting exhibition is currently on at New York’s Foley Gallery where Sarah Wilson combines photojournalism and portraiture to document prom night for the students of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The press release for the exhibition is true in that it is certainly inspiring to see a group of marginalised teenagers enjoy an American rite-of-passage.  Wilson has worked with the blind community for many years and understands that this is an important ritual in which they have a right to participate.  Yet I can’t get my mind off a darker narrative that underpins these full-colour images.

This narrative gives rise to many questions that I would probably not externalise outside the safe confines of the internet: namely, what’s the point of a blind prom?  Why do they dress up if they can’t even see each other.  Is the photographer exploiting these children simply for the sake of interesting subject matter?  Are they dressing up for themselves or their parents?  And am I a bad person for daring to ask these questions?

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Posted by on June 14, 2009 in looking, photography

 

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Melbourne Grammar: It’s All In The Detail

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In architecture as in life, it’s often the small things that make the biggest difference.

This is certainly the case in the Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership, the latest building to grace the ancient grounds of Melbourne Grammar School.  The new building, by John Wardle Architects, won the 2009 Interior Design Awards.

In times where schools are turning inward rather than outward, the Centre exudes confidence in its interactions with the city. Located on a busy road, the building is actually a series of interlinked pavilions offering views to the green quadrangle inside the school, and the wide world outside.

Sure, soaring ceilings, a clever take on that oh-so-Melbourne material bluestone, and clever angles all make the Centre look and feel fantastic. But what really makes the difference is the intricate brickwork, the play between light and shadow, and the delicate glass embossing.  Just lovely.

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Tokyo Architecture Week: Mode Gakuen (Cocoon) Tower

Cocoon, originally uploaded by tk21hx.

Last week culturepublic reported on High School No. 9 in Los Angeles, declaring it the best-looking educational building ever. I think I’ve found a worthy challenger across the Pacific.

Mode Gakuen (Cocoon Tower) stands proudly above Tokyo’s frenetic Shinjuku district. Home to three tertiary educational institutions (including a fashion college), the tower – by Tange architects – is the second highest educational building in the world. According to the architect, the building aims to cocoon its students in a safe learning environment, while proclaiming to the city that “education is cool!”

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2009 in architecture, focusing

 

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Building: Los Angeles High School for the Visual and Performing Arts

My high school was a wasteland of concrete, leaks and bright orange furniture from circa-1971, whose unnatural colours and wonky legs only heightened the depressiveness of their surroundings.

In dramatic contrast, LA County High School #9 has just opened for business. Situated across the collossal 101 Freeway from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, this public school is aimed at visual and performing arts students. Such dramatic architecture is a bold gesture for a building type rarely known for its great architecture. Alongside the Disney Concert Hall, it has also helped turn the once-derelict central LA area into a must-see architectural destination.

Would my education have been any better had I been taught in an architecutral masterpiece by CoopHimmelb(l)au that cost eight times more than anticipated? Probably not. But at least the chair legs would have been straight.

Sublime photography by Roland Halbe.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2009 in architecture

 

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Reminiscing: Roller Granny

day 254: i don't want to take them off.

As a kid, roller skating on a Friday afternoon was the highlight of my week. We would jump on the big red bus, drive to Village Skateland in North Albury (sadly now a big-box chain store) and go ballistic for two hours. There was a disco ball. There were lollies. There were injuries. There was even a bit of romance. But best of all, there was an 80-year-old grandmother perched high up in a DJ booth, spinning vinyl.

Rhythm is a Dancer, Gloria, Flashdance and Depeche Mode were peppered with Disco-era Whitney and a few slow-and-sultry numbers to aid the aformentioned romance. Disco granny knew her tunes and could mix tracks with the best of them. And although the kids all laughed at her, deep down we wished our grandparents were half as cool.

If she’s still alive, I’m sure she’s holed up in a retirement home somewhere, eating corned beef and rice pudding. But I like to imagine they let her bring out the deck every now and then, for old time’s sake.

BTW, thanks to Krisan for the awesome self-portrait.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2009 in thinking

 

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