Book Reviews
Books New to the Shelves of the CLUI Library

An Expanding Subterra
by Wayne Barrar, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2010
New Zealand photographer Wayne Barrar’s excellent book on man-made underground spaces lingers longest on mines and power stations in Australia and New Zealand, but it features many interesting images of sites in the USA, especially storage facilities in converted old mines. Barrar focuses on the interface between the excavated and the quotidian, how the raw surrounding rock is integrated with the more ordinary building materials, structures and furnishings of office and work spaces. This collision is what makes these spaces so unique, and alluring. Essay by the great underground writer and theorist David Pike. Barrar was a participant in the CLUI’s Wendover Residence Program in 2001.

Working the Line
by David Taylor, Radius Books, 2010
It’s finally out. The best book yet on the Mexican/US border is a visual survey of all kinds of structures and activities in this staggering marginal zone. Taylor spent years getting to know this space, from both sides, and spent hundreds of hours on patrol with the Border Patrol. His mission was to document every one of the 276 official border marking monuments, and to capture the rest of the story in the process. The result is this well designed slip-case publication, with an accordion folded large format insert showing 45 of the monuments, and a larger accompanying book, describing the larger context, in images and text. Taylor was an invited Independent Interpreter at the CLUI in 2010.

Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth
by Robert Poole, Yale University Press, 2008
Great to have the complete skinny on how the first photographic images of the earth came to be, the cultural climate that engendered them, and their immediate effect on us, and our ideas about our planet. Especially impactful was the “Earthrise” image of Apollo 8, taken in 1968, and the “Blue Marble” image of Apollo 17, in 1972. Interesting to learn about the relationship between these images and things like Stuart Brand’s mid 1960s campaign to get the government to make and distribute such an image, his use of a satellite image taken of the earth in 1967 on the first edition of the “Whole Earth Catalog,” and to consider the influence of that catalog on the people who made the World Wide Web what it is (Stuart Brand of course among them), and the reappearance of the earth as an electronic “Blue Marble” on GoogleEarth.

Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life
by Brandon LaBelle, Continuum, 2010
An inventory and assessment of the contemporary landscape of sound – the “acoustic territory” that surrounds us. It starts with the underground, and heads to the sky, passing through things like busking in the subway, suburban housing development sound restrictions, deprivation of sound in prisons, sidewalk textures, car interior and exterior sounds, transmission towers, malls, airports, and many other forms of urban space. Not a descriptive tour but a thoughtful, street-academic essay on place-based psychoacoustic phenomena, and the culture and politics of the soundscape.

Newtown Creek: A Photographic Survey of New York’s Industrial Waterway
by Anthony Hamboussi, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
A photo journey through the edgescape of Newtown Creek, the notorious industrial channel that cuts three miles into Brooklyn between Roosevelt Island and the Williamsburg Bridge. More than 200 clear, color images, taken between 2001 and 2006, presented mostly uniformly on the right page face of each spread, and on the left face, no captions, just a label with the name of the site, objects, or view depicted, company name (if there is one), address, and the general heading that the photographer was pointing. A very effective portrait of an important urban place.

Detroit Disassembled
by Andrew Moore, Damiani/Akron Art Museum, 2010
Big color photo book that does Detroit’s ruins justice, without the problematic voyeurism of many previous attempts. The photos, taken in 2008 and 2009, include the requisite depictions of the Michigan Central Station, the cars parked in the Michigan Theater/parking lot, and the Packard and Fisher Body buildings, but his view also includes the process of decay, its life: the scrappers harvesting metal, the decadent paintball game wastes that add a new layer to the Packard Plant ruin, the graffiti, the police training targets in the Chase Tower, and the rotting books in the public school book repository that form the soil for new birch trees emerging out of the collapsed roof. The spaces are glorious temples of rot. Clearly Detroit is way ahead of the rest of us.

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
by Christopher Payne, MIT, 2009
Nice big photo book about those amazing, huge complexes, many of which are now mostly or completely abandoned, looking like the ultimate Victorian nightmare halls from another era. For over a hundred years, these unique facilities, these Insane Asylums, were the place where the state took charge of the “indigent insane,” and other people judged to have major psychological problems. At their peak in the late 1940s, there were over 260 in the USA, with more than half a million resident patients. With the development of psycho-active drugs, and mandated changes in patient care practices (outlawing the use of patient labor, something these facilities depended on, as they were largely self-sufficient in many of their operations), these hospitals became oversized, and outmoded. Nice explanatory essay by the photographer, and an introduction by Oliver Sacks.

Spaced Out: Crash Pads, Hippie Communes, Infinity Machines, and other Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties
by Alastair Gordon, Rizzoli, 2008
Organic architectural experiments, LSD, Electric Circuses, domes, zomes, sheds, blobs, Jersey Devils, inflatables, and lots of naked people dancing around and in tubs together – while this may sound like college to some of us, it allegedly was life for a bunch of influential cultural figures between 1966 and 1970, when places like Morning Star Ranch, Libre, Lama, Drop City, Solux, and Millbrook housed experiments in perception, living, and being. These places and people are depicted and described in this sympathetic sort of retro scrapbook-style $65 Rizzoli tome. Fun, but maybe the hippies never went away, they just got practical.

The End of New York
by Jean Kahler and Jessica Rowe
Elevator Alley
by Michael Cook and Andrew Emond
Grossinger’s: City of Refuge and Illusion
by Jonathan Haeber
Furnace Press, 2010
These three similarly bound and styled small volumes are Furnace Press’s Decomposition Series, books 1, 2 and 3, respectively, and are treasures of search and discovery. They represent a form of urban exploration that is thoughtful, engaged, and literate, not just out for a thrill. We look forward to the next batch!