Technisches Museum in Vienna

Today I went to the Museum of Technology in Vienna (the Technisches Museum) and took a trip through time. For 10 Euro you get quite a spectacular walk through the history of human innovation. Inside the 22,000 square meter building you will find giant train engines, trolley cars, early airplanes, a helicopter, and a seemingly infinite plethora of human innovations. 

It’s so interesting to see our evolution in technology, to see the multitude and progression of early vacuums, coffee makers, pianos, engines, measuring devices, lightbulbs and other inventions- this museum is truly impressive. Even the children’s play room is two stories and equipped with a crane that picks up foam bricks to build a wall, has a network of play tubes, and a real antique fire engine.

A few favorite features of mine at the museum include a hand made, layered-paper topographical map of Vienna from the 1850s, a scream chamber that measures the decibels of your pipes, a space room with a full scale model of sputnik, radioactive uranium glassware, and one of the first static generators. 

Layered-paper map of Vienna in the 1800’s

One of the first static generators

The old machines and inventions feel nostalgic, even to me who wasn’t alive when most of them were made. They bring me to think about another time, a time when manufactured things were much more novel and precious, a time before this time of material abundance of mad-made objects.

And yet all these things have lead us to where we are now, to this point in technology where really anything seems possible… eventually. 

If you find yourself in Vienna, I highly recommend this place. Go early- You could spend all day in the museum and not see everything.

More soon~

 

Under The Flaktürme (Nazi gun towers)

Vienna, Austria-

With our new bicycles we can see the city fast. Orien and I cruise through Augarten, a huge gorgeous park in Vienna’s 2nd District. We peddle past couples picnicking, dogs chasing frisbees, children playing and suddenly we stumble upon a massive Nazi Gun emplacement tower positioned at the end of a long promenade. 

The tower, called Flaktürme, (Flak is an acronym for Fliegerabwehrkanone, which translates to anti-aircraft gun.) looms over us ominously, a dark reminder of the un-erasable history of WWII. Its dark grey, reinforced concrete walls stand in stark contrast to the lush green grass and elaborate flower gardens of the park. It gives me chills.image

In Vienna there are three pairs of towers that form a protective triangle around Stephansdom, Vienna’s prized cathedral. 

The towers were built between1943 and 1944 based off of sketches by Adolph Hitler and designed by architect and city planner Friedrich Tamms. However, the Flaktürme only became operational toward the end of the war, and by this time, because aircrafts were flying much higher, they were more useful as bomb shelters for the people.image

Around the towers themselves there is hardly mention of what they are. There is only a small plaque indicating who built the tower and for what purpose. You will probably not find them mentioned in any guidebooks either. People who are old enough to remember tend to want to sweep it under the rug and the younger generations seem almost oblivious to them. The towers are sort of the giant elephants in the room of Vienna.

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They are incredibly well made and virtually indestructible with walls up to 11 ft thick. It is said construction of the towers used enough material to build an apartment for every citizen of Vienna. After the war, the Austrians tried to blow one of them up and it only made a small dent. They abandoned the mission and ended up having to repair it instead.

Now instead of destroying them, a few have been repurposed. One is used as storage for art, one has been turned into an aquarium or “House of the Sea” (Haus des Meeres), another is used as a telecommunications tower, and an elaborate climbing-wall has been installed on another. There are talks of them being used as other things like memorials,  apartments, multi-level parking lots, cinemas, rec centers, restaurants, bars and  but for now most of them sit there with no other purpose than to loom, to serve as a reminder of the violence and the dark deeds of the past.

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Debris piled up over the entrance of the tower in Augarten.

The last time I was in Austria I visited Mauthausen, a forced labour camp in Linz. It is probably the deepest sadness I have ever felt in my life. To see what atrocities human have inflicted on other human beings is entirely unfathomable. All I could think, while standing inside the gas chambers with a queasy stomach, looking at the claw marks on the walls, goosebumps prickling my spine, was how could this happen? HOW!? Here is my post from that day.

After the Holocaust, the United Nations declared the term ‘genocide’ an international crime, defining it as “any of the following actions committed with intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” And even still genocide has reared it’s ugly head in so many places like Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Tibet, Darfur, Syria,

the list goes on.  

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From Time: “The Yarmouk refugee camp, a Palestinian enclave in southern Damascus, has been under a grueling siege for months and its over 20,000 residents are cut off from vital supplies and endure chronic food shortages. 

People must be aware of the past in order for us to prevent these kinds of atrocities from happening in the future. The young people, just entering this world, need to be taught and by remembering this tragedy and educating individuals about the ill effects of hatred and racism, we can begin to ensure that genocide is a thing of history.

I pray that people around the world can learn to recognize and respect the common humanity that we all share regardless of skin color, the country we were born and what status or creed we were born into. I pray that we can all learn to have compassion for ourselves and others.

Hearts of the World, a project I created in 2010, was started to give us a chance to look into the hearts of people around the world to see our similarities, to see where we connect at this fundamental level of humanness and also to see how our differences are also beautiful and essential to our individuality. The project asks people (with a special emphasis on children) to paint the emotions, dreams, and passions of their hearts.

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Children from all over the world hold their hearts, full of stories, emotions and dreams.

We are gearing up to bring the Hearts of the World curriculum to Palestine and Israel, early next year and will be launching a crowd-funding campaign for the work this fall. If you are interested in supporting HOTW in the Middle East, please send me an email so I can let you know when we begin our fund raising. Thank you.

The Donaukanal in Vienna

Vienna

We purchased a couple used bikes at the flea market for 70 Euro each and set off for the Donaukanal, an offshoot from the Danube River.

The canal is a wonderful place to ride a bike. There are paths that run up and down it on either side with benches, tables, sculptures, and lots of stuff to look at. Amateur and expert graffiti and street art fills every possible surface along the water. image

Graffiti along the Donaukanal

There are also many bars and venues on the waters edge. We were advised to check out Flex Bar by a friend who raved about it when he visited Vienna years ago. We went and found it is now an overpopulated, over-priced, venue, that has basically turned into a club… charging 25 Euros to get in. A sad sight. But there are many other small bars and restaurants along the canal that are nice to sit at and drink a beer. A beer will cost you about 4 Euro.image

One small segment of the now enormous Flex Bar (stay away unless you love crowds and paying too much for things)

One really cool venue along the canal is Badeschiff, a boat with a long narrow swimming pool attached. There is a restaurant inside called Holy Moly! I guess the food must be good. I’ll let you know if I get a chance to go there.

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Badeschiff

My boyfriend, Orien is thinking about creating an inner tube event that blends scavenger hunt elements with a capture the flag foundation and so we bike up and down the canal scouting locations that would be interesting to stop to perform various tasks. 

Here’s some art that I saw along the Donaukanal, enjoy!

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Orien standing by a painting of water sport wreckage. 

More soon~

4 Aces, Creating interactive public art in Vienna

I’ve been asked a lot lately what this project “4 Aces” is about and so I want to explain it a little here.

This project, by Pérola Bonfanti, Zel Nonnenberg and myself is set to launch in Vienna on Sept 14th. It consists of a series of free-standing doorways or “portals” placed in public space around the city. Participants must scan the QR code engraved on the back of the door to download the game app and begin their journey.image

It is the next installment of the 13 Portals. A project Perola and I created in New York City’s East Village. To our delight, the project was discovered by an Austrian art lover and he invited us to bring it to Vienna. 

The project is a blend of visual art, technology, history, and urban space. The journey of the 4 Aces consists of solving riddles, cracking codes, and making it though the doors, each one representing an Ace. Players begin at the Ace of Wands and once they have obtained access, they can move forward to the Ace of Coins, then Swords and finally to Cups where they complete their journey with an immersive installation. Along the way they will discover numerous parts of the city, learn of it’s history and hopefully begin to think in a different way about life, reality and perception.

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A mock-up of one of the “portals” in the First District of Vienna.

I can’t say too much more! If you get a chance, come play in Vienna, or follow along here on this blog. I will be posting about my Viennese adventures and insights as well as posting updates on the project.

Tomorrow is Saturday and Orien and I plan to go to the giant flea market here next to the Nosh Market (an epic place with outstanding food). We hope to get some bicycles and see what other fine things we can find.

More soon~

Back to the City of Dreams


The airplane descends. The slight shaking from the turbulence and the extra light from the lifted windows wakes me up and I look out across the land as we glide over quaint looking red-roofed houses and ambling green hills full of grapevines. The Danube river shimmers and soon I can make out the city of Vienna, called the city of dreams after Sigmund Freud who lived and worked in Vienna. From my window seat I can see so many places that I want to visit. I want to go to the top of that Funky art tower, see the old Nazi gun emplacements, the giant communist building, little country shacks in the middle of the woods, walk around the little lakes, over the many pedestrian bridges and bike down the long island between the Danube and the canal.

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I’ll be living here for three months in the 2nd district while working on the 4 Aces public art experience, a collaboration between Perola Bonfanti and I with our friend Zel Nonnenberg and a few more talented artists.

My boyfriend Orien and I leave the airport and meet Perola and Zel at our new apartment in the 2nd district. It is huge and spacious with lot’s of light. In NY it would cost a fortune, but it was a third of the cost here in Vienna.

Our “working class neighborhood” is wonderful. It’s very international with lots of cafes, smoky restaurants and lovely parks. There is an asian market right downs stairs and an Indian grocery down the street. We are right next to Prater amusement park which is home to the famous Wiener Riesenrad, (German for “Viennese giant wheel”) one of the oldest ferris wheels in the world. It was the tallest from 1920-1985 and was actually supposed to be destroyed in 1916, but they didn’t have enough money to carry it out and thus it was saved. It had a starring role in The Third Man, a 1949 British film noir set in Vienna, directed by Carol Reed.  

Perola and I will spend much of these three months finishing the paintings for the portals that we will install on the streets here this September. We will also be going through the long bureaucratic process of checking off permissions for our desired portal locations throughout the 1st and 7th districts of Vienna and planning the final installation.

I will explain more about the project in my next post. And now, we’re going to find some bikes to buy and explore this town…

Dances with Bubbles on the Big Island of Hawaii

Kona, Hawaii

"Wake up! Wake Up!"

I pry open my jet lagged eyes. It’s seven AM and my brother is standing over me with a cup of coffee. 

"It’s time to go fishing!"

We hop in the jeep and drive about thirty minutes down windy roads to my brother’s favorite fishing spot. He’s brought his speargun with him and is determined to catch us lunch. The whole shore is a sort-of shallow cliff made of volcanic rock with some craggy spots where you can get down close to the water.image

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We walk to the water with hands full of supplies; fins, snorkels, a float, and my brother’s spear gun. The lava rock kind of looks like charcoal, or burnt brownies I think to myself as I try not to scrape my bare feet. 

We reach the water and sit precariously on the jaggy ledge of the rocks, waves crashing up all around us and carefully, forcefully, we push off into the water, kicking with all our might to escape from being smashed into the lava rock behind us.

Both of us wear fins and snorkels and my brother dives down like a predator every time he sees a juicy fish that is recommended for eating. I am preoccupied with marveling at tropical fish and trying to see how far I can dive without smashing my ear canals.

After twenty minutes or so of snorkeling, a huge tumultuous wave smashes into me and pushes me underwater. A mass of disorienting bubbles and water swirls around me and panic envelopes me. I can’t tell which way is up and I can’t see anything but a mass of air bubbles. The water is so forceful and rips off one of my fins, thrusting me toward the sharp rocks. With my heart pounding in my chest, I am horrified and completely out of control.

As the water mauls me and tosses me like an insignificant rag doll, I think to myself that it’s quite possible that I could die this way. This could be the end. Tumbling into the sharp rocks I push off of them as hard as I can, gashing my feet. I catch the surface of the waves for a moment and take a huge gasp of air before I am pummeled down by water again. The force rips off my other fin. My kicks do nothing against the power of the waves and the rocks are always seconds away. I pray that the waves won’t smash my head into them.

Another massive surge comes in, shooting me toward the cliffs and without sight I try to imagine where the rocks will be. I brace myself and crash into the shore and with pure adrenaline mixed with pain, I push off with all my strength and  kick away from the unforgiving cliffs as hard as I possibly can. I kick to save my life and swim down through a million bubbles to the coral below where the waves have less power. With my last bits of oxygen, I make it out of the danger zone.

Heaving for air I swim to my brother. Relief floods my body and laughing and choking we swim quickly to shore.

Be careful people the waters around hawaii are no joke! Much respect.

On the bright side, we had fish for lunch, and it was delicious. I am so glad I am alive.

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Next up, we visit the observatory on the top of the Mauna Kea Volcano, a dormant volcano towering 13,803 ft above sea level. Its peak is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. 

Aloha Hawaii

I touch down at Kona International Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii late at night. The Big Island is the largest and most southeastern Island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands. It’s population is very small, just under 200,000.

My brother picks me up at the airport in his jeep and we cruise off into the night, down the palm lined street to Kona on the West side of the island. I am surprised and confused to see a rugged, dry landscape made of volcanic rock spanning as far as the eye can see. The terrain looks barren and bleak with hardly a plant on it. This was not the Hawaii I’d imagined.

The dead, barren terrain on the dry side

Where are the lush tropical plants and flowers? My brother explains to me that the big island has 11 or 13 total climates and that we are in the dry side. With just a 30 minute drive we can reach the tropical side of the island, known as the wet side, or Hilo. I can’t wait to get over there.


Map of the Big Island

Tomorrow we are going to a swim spot near the old burial grounds of Lekeleke to swim and look at colorful fish. My brother will practice his spear-fishing and take a shot at catching us some lunch.

More soon~

The Aces

Pérola and I have been painting the portals for our Vienna project, now a collaboration with three other talented people, Zel Nonnenberg a video artist, Nathan Wheeler, a sound artist and Marilia Vasconcellos a photographer. We will leave for Vienna in late June to get everything ready for the opening on Sept 14th.image

The first portal is Wands, which has the qualities of primal energy, spirituality, inspiration, determination, strength, intuition, creativity, ambition and expansion.

The Wands portal has been approved to sit outside of St. Rupert’s church, the oldest church in Vienna.

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I am so excited to be in Vienna again, the last two times I was there I felt that I could barely scratch the surface. Now I am looking forward to getting under the many layers of the Vienna layer cake.

But first, I just received the opportunity to go to Hawaii to do Hearts of the World. And so I am headed to the Big Island, where I know many adventures and lessons await.

More soon~

Delight and sadness at the Rio Zoo

Jardim Zoológico, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Oh what wonders are there to behold at the Rio Zoo? My boyfriend Orien and I pay our ten real each (approx $5 US) to enter the impressive arched gates positioned at the end of a long promenade. We step inside the zoo into a 30 acre expanse housing over 2,000 animals. The monkeys were some of my favorites. Specifically the Mandril, with his bright blue and crimson snout and ultramarine ass, was one of the most impressive creatures I’ve ever seen. He had such an intense stare and an astounding presence. He snarled his lips open at us, revealing his gargantuas, monstrous, teeth. Then he whipped out his bright red little penis and started inspecting it and waggling it around. He seemed to have a rift with his lady friend, because when he walked in the house where she was, she stormed out with a puff and moped in the corner of her yard.

(You can create your own story from this)

 

The Mandril (photo courtesy of Wikipedia) (Sorry for google images-sourced photos, my camera got destroyed in the Magic Carpet ride adventure)

I adore the marmosets, they are so small and curious. They jumped back and forth wildly in their cage, swinging on ropes with ceaseless energy. They made me want to snip the wires and let them out to bound into the world of trees above. It was a bizarre scene for me. There were the encaged monkeys in front of us, and then the free, wild monkeys over our heads of the same kind. It was a similar situation for many of the birds. Some of the caged birds looked depressed. Most of them could not really fly around in their low ceilinged cages. The Toucan, which we did not see wild, was the most magnificent and gorgeous bird I have ever set eyes on. It’s beak, with an orange, green, red and black pattern was so thin and luminescent. It’s black feathers were so velvety. 

Next we found the giraffe. What a creature! So gentle and awkwardly graceful. We watched him eat half of a large bin of grasses. We both really wanted to see the anteater with it’s strange snout and funny body and we wandered around the zoo looking for it while trying to guess how to say anteater in Portuguese so that we could ask directions. We could not communicate the idea of an anteater with sherades, as funny as it was to try, and so Orien drew up a quick, silly sketch for one of the zookeepers and she pointed us in the right direction. We found him in all his long snouted glory, high up in a tree.

Orien’s anteater sketch.

Now I am saddened by the wildcat situation at the Rio zoo. Those poor, majestic animals were wilting in their cages. The leopard looked oddly obese and had a sick, red eye. The tiger had a limp and the lion, being teased by some thoughtless children, roared so loud that it echoed the park and seemed to rumble the ground. We fled from there feeling sorry and sad.

And then we came across it, The Cow! We laughed and laughed for a good minute about the cow. A common dairy cow. She had her own luxurious pen, one of the nicest and most spacious in all the Zoo. 

Zoos are often hard to stomach, and the Rio zoo was. The animals didn’t seem to be getting the care that they need. Many of them are depressed and have sores on their skin or gimp legs; they don’t look healthy.

On a brighter side, there is a lot of good information about the animals and some of them do seem to be adequately cared for. But, seeing anything trapped in a cage makes me sad. I don’t know whether it’s better to go to the zoo and give them your five real or to boycott zoos altogether. I suppose it’s better to go, this zoo seems to need more funding and if no one went, the animals would surely suffer even more.

Soon we are going to Parque da Quinta da Boa Vista, a paradisiacal park near the zoo in Rio. I hear there are swan boats!

More soon~

MAGIC CARPET RIDE TO THE ISLAND OF GOOD TRAVEL- Part 2

…Continued

In this excursion my phone, despite being sealed in a plastic bag for safety, dies a watery death destroying my photos, so you will have to use your imagination~

We manage to board The Magic Carpet (as we’ve dubbed it) and using Havianas for paddles we steer our craft out to sea.

The waves are powerful and they try to take us into the jagged, barnacle covered rocks which could be detrimental to our inflated boat. We paddle intensely and as we approach the island, Orien jumps out onto the narrow rock next to the staircase. He guides our boat in and I jump out taking care not to slice my feet. We partially deflate the magic carpet for mobility and carry it up the steep, dilapidated stair. We are excited to find the monastery.

But to our surprise we arrive at the top of the staircase and see that at the top, it just stops short and gives way to a cliff, where far below is another beach. It doesn’t connect to the top. We try to hike up the side and find that it just gets steeper and steeper and more and more dangerous. One mistep cold lead you tumbling off the precipice. Getting up would be nearly impossible… but getting down… I guess the only real way you could get down is to fall down.

We decided to remain on our little landing instead and had a picnic of guava paste, blue cheese, crackers, sardines, and fruit.

The sun began to set and we knew it was time to get going before it was too dark to see down the dangerous stairs. The waves were crashing in and it would take a perfectly orchestrated exodus to push off from the island without getting pummeled into its rocky shore. “One, two, three, GO!” We both jumped onto the mattress and pushed off with all our strength. Waves crashed over our boat, getting us completely soaked, but TRIUMPH! We escaped the rocks. We made it back to shore, soaking wet. With a sideways glance to one another, we laughed so hard at what had just transpired. The Island of Good Travel.

As Orien put it, Sometimes the top of the stairs just leads to the top of the stairs.