vol ii: speculative geographies

1. Some places are built on swamps. You feel it most in the summer, when the air turns murky, rancid, darkly potent. And some places are fabricated out of thin air—from blood and sweat, and perfected ideologies. Dubai is among the latter, existing at the interstice between speculation and the geography of a dream. It’s a funny, beautiful, futuristic place to grow up in, where announcements become architecture within a matter of months. At the same time, it’s a difficult city to read. Even after several decades, its denizens can feel like they’re still waiting for it to make sense, become legible. When we left Dubai, we thought that our only relation had been to its people, and not to the city itself.

In our inaugural issue, we wondered whether cultural production could have terroir. We asked how you might speak a place, and also how you speak from a place, or non-place. When we returned to Dubai, however, we realised something else was at play. Perhaps cities and places had alterior lives, and could speak for themselves.

2. This time around, we selected 15 projects that interrogate the futures of place. Together, they present diverse interpretations of ‘speculative geography,’ realised across urban, rural and temporal fabrics. Topics range from psychogeographic meanderings through Kathmandu and the psychic topography of New York, to displacement and belonging in Accra and the Spanish Canary Islands. Others look to planned cities in Brazil and in a mysterious totalitarian state, Indonesian arts education, the cartographic sonics of mortgaged real estate, and placehacking London’s skyline. A third category considers virtual terrains, with pieces on the socially mediated red carpet, and the need for a new politics to go with our increasingly weird techy futures. And lastly, the purely speculative: a corpus of networked lighthouses in New Zealand, an Afghan agricultural belt-made-machine, a carnivalistic, biosynthetic robot zoo and what would have happened if the atomic bomb was dropped on Berlin.

3. In this volume, designed by Lejla Redja, we continued to experiment with design. How else might we be able to suggest a reverse skeuomorph, and implicate the screen on a page? Does navigating the bookform insist on mechanical gestures, like the page flip? Must the leaves be attached, glued, or stitched? Or can we extend the metaphor of tabbed browsing, and store data—characters and pixels—within the covers of a book? We thought about the accordion, the folder, Spaces, paint and paper swatches, the address bar, and the favicon in various states of unzip. The result is a printed constellation of places—those that are, or will be, or could have been.

—The Editors

FEATURED IN THIS ISSUE:

  • Jansen Aui, Nick Roberts and Henry Stephens—Syndromes and a Sentry
    Against the rugged sublime of New Zealand’s topography, a corpus of networked lighthouses work to preserve their environments

  • Nick Axel—Metric | Space
    A mysterious City-corporation, a new five year plan, a manifesto for an architectural future. Why isn’t it working?

  • Khairani Barokka—Indonesia’s Double Mountain
    Twin peaks, a sun, and a winding road, and what they reveal about Indonesian arts education

  • Greg Barton—Marja || Marja
    The Afghan agricultural belt is bifurcated by a man-made machine and ordered its social algorithms

  • M.F. Benigno—Dériving KTM
    Mapping the Nepali capital through the dérive, an artisanal curd maker, midnight hankerings for dried peas and a glove of Indian whiskey, Room 53.

  • Frances Bodomo—The House at Haatso
    A family home in Accra becomes a locus to interrogate distance, space, time, and belonging

  • DEMILITThey Came to the Desert and were Consumed by a Flickering Fortress
    A DARPA zoo, epidermal biodomes, a towering grey impasse in the gloaming, a militarised Disneyland

  • Daniel Fernández Pascual—Displaced Soils
    Soils from contested sites along the Spanish coastline speak to the real estate crisis, extra-territorialisation, and salinity as a judiciary arbitor

  • Bradley L. Garrett—Edgework: Getting Close, Getting Cut, Getting Out
    Placehacking, gonzo urbanism, and teetering on the aerial edges of pre-Olympics London

  • Maryam Monalisa Gharavi—A New City for a New Man
    Brasilia, Sao Paulo, utopian rituals of modernity and Brasilidade, and a young boy’s coming into moral sentience

  • Karen GregoryGeography of Intimacy
    A psychogeographic passage through three New Yorks, and an ethnography of its psychic storefronts

  • Sarah Handelman—Faded Maps, Fleeting Histories
    Red carpets, social media, passworded memories and digital ephemera

  • John KraussLet’s Map!
    Thermal cartography exploring the relations between speculation, real estate, and the rise and fall of music venues in NYC

  • Justin Pickard—Chalice Flag, Hydroelectric Sublime
    An allohistorical diptych: Messianic Christianity, mine-ready steam pumps, and an early modern Internet-of-lighthouses, meet Arab nationalism, rigid-hull airships, and the creeping authoritarianism of the rentier state

  • Adam Rothstein—New Politic
    Dissecting the future-present, post-tarot cards, and a non-corporeal resource-collecting board game

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