Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘underground’

v_healey_bft3

Photo: Kolya Kuprich
Outlawed Belarus Free Theatre has been successfully performing
A School for Fools and other plays despite the pandemic. It took some ingenuity, but they have plenty of that.

What kind of theater could handle a pandemic better than one that is of necessity always underground? If you’re fighting an authoritarian regime, you will continually find ways it doesn’t know about for getting your work out into the world — or you’ll go to prison.

Verity Healey writes at HowlRound,* “If any theatre company is going to feel at home during COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic has brought to theatres worldwide, it is going to be Belarus Free Theatre (BFT), an outlawed company based in Belarus and the UK (its artistic directors Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, in fear of their lives, had to seek asylum in Britain in 2011).

In Belarus, where dictator President Lukashenko faces national elections in August — and is busy arresting citizens attending opposition rallies — the BFT ensemble is banned from performing and from registering as a theatre company because it produces democracy-promoting plays and global campaigns advancing human rights.

“Working out of a small garage in a secret location in Minsk, the country’s capital city, BFT is ineligible to apply for national funding, and ensemble members, continuing to perform illegally and underground, face the very real and constant threat of being arrested by the KGB. …

“On top of this, Lukashenko is a COVID-19 denier and has advised his citizens to drive tractors, go to the sauna, and drink vodka to prevent infection. Whilst he has not imposed a lockdown, he is using the virus as an excuse to ban protests of any kind (prescient in the run-up to the elections) and arrest anyone who raises a voice in opposition. This means that, in Minsk, BFT, in tandem with their colleagues in the UK, have voluntarily gone into self-isolation to protect themselves and their families whilst creating work from their living quarters — turning their homes, quite literally, into performance spaces.

“ ‘I get to spend twenty-four hours a day with the people I love, otherwise the lockdown is no different for me,’ says Khalezin.

“It will not come as a surprise then that, since late February, the company has premiered two full-length plays, facilitated and broadcast several online fairy tales with renowned artists such as Stephen Fry, Juliet Stevenson, Will Attenborough, and Sam West for their campaign #LoveOverVirus, and made all of their previous shows accessible for free on YouTube. …

“It’s their latest show, though, A School for Fools (ASFF), which is streaming live online, that has recently made the headlines. Adapted from Sasha Sokolov’s 1960s phantasmagoric modernist novel of the same name … the story charts the experiences of a young boy living with a dual personality disorder attending an oppressive school, a kind of place that used to exist in Eastern Europe (and still does in Kazakhstan). …

“Starring twelve of BFT’s ensemble members, all living in Minsk, in twelve locations (the actors’ mostly small Soviet-style [flats]), and with sixteen different camera setups hosted by Zoom, it is a feat of technical wizardry imagined by [director Pavel] Haradnitski’s artistic vision and Sveta Sugako’s broadcasting direction. …

“Haradnitski calls the need to do ASFF ‘a desire to act, because even in two months, actors can lose their skills.’ Previous conversations had with Haradnitski, Sugako, and Nadia Brodskaya, the producer for ASFF, have also revealed to me that for everyone in the ensemble BFT is a way of life, 24/7. …

“ASFF is not just an ideological road map out of the pandemic — i.e., using technology and social media platforms in new ways to bring live drama to people at home via laptops and devices. It is also a way of doing theatre that, as Khalezin says, we may have to return to more and more if the world faces other pandemics. …

“Zoom is not custom-made to handle large-scale live performances—it was invented purely for business meetings and conferences and it lacks the interfaces custom-made platforms might have (there are ones being developed especially for BFT, but they were not ready in time for the pandemic). ..

“One of Sugako’s and Haradnitski’s main difficulties, for example, was working out how to let the actors know what marks to hit, especially when it was required for actors to make it look like they were physically interacting with each other. In the end, Sugako had to use a webcam, pointed at her Zoom host interface, which allowed her to share her screen with the actors so they could see they were in the right place to make it look like they were connecting across frames.

“The other issue is Zoom’s propensity to kick people off the platform if their internet connection drops — which anyone who has ever been to Belarus will know is a common occurrence. And to make things more complicated, Sugako had to line up the sixteen devices — laptops, phones — in a particular order for actors to hit their cues. If they get out of sync, the whole show is scrambled.” Read how they handled that difficulty and others at Howlround,* here.

By the way, John has been to Belarus. Maybe he will confirm that the internet connections often get dropped.

* The staff of HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College wish to respectfully acknowledge that our offices are situated on land stolen from its original holders, the Massachuset and Wampanoag people. We wish to pay our respects to their people past, present, and future.

Read Full Post »

00sci-mayanlidar7-jumbo

Photo: Takeshi Inomata
Human activity at the Mayan city Moral Reforma in Mexico ended about 1,400 years ago. Recently, researchers figured out that
lidar maps revealing underground Mayan archaeological sites, though ordinarily costly, are free if you know where to look.

It often takes time, a creative thinker, and a hot tip to uncover the best way to access technology. In this example, an archaeologist learned that the expensive underground maps he needed for his research could be found free online.

Zach Zorich writes at the New York Times, “Until recently, archaeology was limited by what a researcher could see while standing on the ground. But light detection and ranging, or lidar, technology has transformed the field, providing a way to scan entire regions for archaeological sites.

“With an array of airborne lasers, researchers can peer down through dense forest canopies or pick out the shapes of ancient buildings to discover and map ancient sites across thousands of square miles. A process that once required decades-long mapping expeditions, and slogging through jungles with surveying equipment, can now be done in a matter of days from the relative comfort of an airplane.

“But lidar maps are expensive. Takeshi Inomata, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona, recently spent $62,000 on a map that covered 35 square miles, and even was deeply discounted. So he was thrilled last year when he made a major discovery using a lidar map he had found online, in the public domain, entirely for free.

“The map, published in 2011 by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, covered 4,440 square miles in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas. …

“Dr. Inomata learned about the map from Rodrigo Liendo, an archaeologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The resolution of the map was low. But the outlines of countless archaeological sites stood out to Dr. Inomata. So far, he has used it to identify the ruins of 27 previously unknown Maya ceremonial centers that contain a type of construction that archaeologists had never seen before. …

“His findings have not yet been peer-reviewed, but Dr. Inomata has presented his work at four conferences during the past year. ‘The stuff he is finding is crucial for our understanding of how Maya civilization developed,’ said Arlen Chase, an archaeologist at Pomona College, who did not contribute to Dr. Inomata’s work. …

“The 27 sites he identified on the map have a type of ceremonial construction that Dr. Inomata and his colleagues had never seen before — rectangular platforms that are low to the ground but extremely large, some as long as two-thirds of a mile.

“ ‘If you walk on it, you don’t realize it,’ Dr. Inomata said of the platforms. ‘It’s so big it just looks like a part of the natural landscape.’ The similarities between these sites and the early buildings they found at Ceibal led them to believe they both date to sometime between 1000 B.C. and 700 B.C. …

“While lidar technology is giving archaeologists new ways to analyze the ancient world, the change in perspective has been shocking and a little disorienting for some researchers. Marcello Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University, was the lead author of a lidar survey that covered 800 square miles of the Petén rainforest in Guatemala. He is also the director of an excavation at the Maya city of La Corona. Seeing the edges of the city as well as buildings between cities and the roads that connected them was shocking to him.

‘The word that all of us used when we started looking at the lidar was “humbling,” ‘ he said. ‘It humbled all of us in showing us what we had missed.’

“Dr. Inomata agreed. Even in areas where they were busy excavating, he said, ‘lidar was showing us things we didn’t notice.’ This included broad causeways and agricultural terraces, which are difficult to see in an excavation. …

“Viewing the archaeology of an entire region, in detail, will allow archaeologists to answer bigger-picture questions, such as the ones that Dr. Inomata has about the interactions the Maya had with the Olmec at the beginning of their civilization. …

“ ‘The future pattern,’ Dr. Inomata said, ‘will be that everything will be covered by lidar, like topographic maps today.’ ”

Lots more detail at the New York Times, here.

Read Full Post »

5942b901caac9e5b368b456c-640-480

Photo: Associated Press
Under the streets of Paris, you can get lost in a whole other world.

I have a friend whose dream is to go to Paris. It has been her goal for decades, and she was all signed up for a trip when she fell and landed in the hospital. But she hasn’t given up, and I expect by this time next year she will have met her goal.

Paris has an irresistible lure for people around the world. If you have already been there, consider discovering the underground version of that city next time you go.

Robert Macfarlane writes at the New Yorker, “The map runs to sixteen laminated foolscap pages, or about ten square feet, when I tile the pages together. I have been given it on the condition that I do not pass it on. It is not like any map I have ever seen, and I have seen some strange maps in my time. The plan of the above-ground city is traced carefully in pale silver-gray ink, such that, if you read only for the gray, you can discern the faint footprints of apartment blocks and embassies, parks and ornamental gardens, boulevards and streets, the churches, the railway lines and the train stations, all hovering there, intricate and immaterial.

“The map’s real content — the topography it inks in black and blue and orange and red — is the invisible city, the realm out of which, over centuries, the upper city has been hewn and drawn, block by block. This invisible city follows different laws of planning to its surface counterpart. …

“The map’s place names traverse a range of cultural registers, from the classical to the surreal to the military-industrial. … Affordance is specified on the map in handwritten cursive words: ‘Low,’ ‘Quite low,’ ‘Very low,’ ‘Tight,’ ‘Flooded,’ ‘Impracticable,’ ‘Impassable.’ More detail is occasionally given: ‘Humid and unstable region (sometimes flooded)’; ‘Beautiful gallery, vaulted and corbelled.’ …

“I have come to the catacombs with two friends — let us call them Lina and Jay. Jay is a caver keen to extend his explorations into city systems. He is droll, unflappable, and strong. Lina is the leader of our group, and she has been here many times. She is passionate about the catacombs, especially about preserving and documenting their swiftly changing features through photography and record-keeping. …

“ ‘We’ll plan to exit by a manhole, whenever we come out.’ She gestures back up the tunnel with a smile, then eases herself feet first into the ragged hole, raises her arms above her head, and disappears.

“All cities are additions to a landscape that require subtraction from elsewhere. Much of Paris was built from its own underland, hewn block by block from the bedrock and hauled up for dressing and placing. Underground stone quarrying began in the thirteenth century, and Lutetian limestone was used in the construction of such iconic buildings as Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and Saint-Eustache Church.

“The result of more than six hundred years of quarrying is that beneath the southern portion of the upper city exists its negative image: a network of more than two hundred miles of galleries, rooms and chambers, extending beneath several arrondissements. …

“For centuries, quarrying was ill-regulated and largely unmapped. Then, in the mid-eighteenth century, the extensive undermining began to have consequences for the upper city, causing subsidence sinkholes, known as fontis, that were reputed to be of diabolic origin. The quarry voids had begun to migrate to the surface; the under city had begun to consume its twin. …

“Louis XVI responded, shortly after his accession, by creating an inspection unit for the ‘Quarries Below Paris and Surrounding Plains,’ headed by a general inspector named Charles-Axel Guillaumot, and tasked with regulating the quarries for the purposes of public safety.

“It was Guillaumot who initiated the first mapping of the void network, with a view to consolidating existing spaces and regulating further quarrying activities. A subterranean town-planning system was established whereby chambers and tunnels were named in relation to the streets above them, thus creating a mirror city, with the ground serving as the line of symmetry.”

There’s a long read at the New Yorker, here.

Read Full Post »


Map: Athanasius Kircher, from Mundus Subterraneus (Amsterdam, 1665)
Beneath Our Feet: Mapping the World Below is on exhibit through February 25 at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library.

You don’t have to be keen on fantasies like Alice’s Adventures Underground or Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth to be fascinated by maps of the world below our feet.

That is why, as Allison Meier writes at Hyperallergic, the Boston Public Library (BPL) is sharing its amazing array of subterranean cartography — from mythology to science, from the God of Death in Pompeii to leaded water in Flint, Michigan.

“Only in recent centuries have cartographers visualized what’s underground,” she writes. “Early mapmakers employed mythology to explain the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that seemed to erupt from some dark force, and sometimes swallow whole communities, like Pompeii or Herculaneum. Even now, our ability to delve below the thin crust on which we’ve built our civilization is limited by the intense pressure and molten magma that churns within the planet. …

“The Leventhal Map Center is exhibiting ‘Beneath Our Feet: Mapping the World Below,’ featuring 400 years of subterranean maps from their collections. These visualize volcanoes, catacombs, pipelines, mines, and seabeds, ranging from 19th-century geological surveys to 21st-century sensing technology. …

“ ‘We’re seeing that these maps were typically produced much later than the weather maps,’ [Stephanie Cyr, associate curator] explained. The exhibition is organized into different underground subjects, such as ‘Earth’s Crust,’ ‘Oceans,’ ‘Mining,’ ‘Archaeology,’ and ‘Beneath Boston.’ These are all further explored in an online component. …

“As soon as people found a way to map the Earth’s underground, they began to exploit it as a resource, drilling natural gas pipelines and digging coal mines.

“Yet as Cyr noted, ‘Before we could actually get down there and explore and survey it, people had to cope with things in the best way they could, and mythology helped people do that.’

“A 17th-century map on view, by Athanasius Kircher, has a tumultuous subsurface scene, with a ball of fire at the center of the Earth and all its bodies of water linked by underground waterways. …

“The maps in ‘Beneath Our Feet’ continue into the 21st century. … And (as the inclusion of maps of lead testing in Flint, Michigan, and the invasive technique of fracking remind viewers) this knowledge can have a significant impact on the lives of the people above.”

If you can’t get to the show, you can at least see some great underground maps here and explore the online features of the show.

Hat tip: Michelle Aldredge (@gwarlingo) on twitter.

Read Full Post »

I can’t remember at the moment how I came across this tidbit, but I knew as soon as I saw it that I wouldn’t be able to resist something cool about  Stockholm.

I took the Stockholm subway a few times in the 1990s, but I don’t remember anything like this. Relatives living in Stockholm will have to let me know if the subway today is really the magical mystery tour that Dangerous Minds suggests.

Go to the Dangerous Minds website for a wonderful array of pictures. It sure doesn’t look like the Red Line. If the Red Line looked like this, I would expect to encounter Ming the Merciless around every corner.

Might make the commute more interesting.

Click here.

Photo: Dangerous Minds
A human emerges from a wall in the Stockholm subway’s “wild underground fantasia.”

ssssdddwwwcccc

Read Full Post »

Loved this Wired article about an unusual artist underground in France that preserves antiquities under cover of darkness.

Jon Lackman writes that the Urban eXperiment (UX) “is sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde — confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new — its only audience is itself. More surprising still, its work is often radically conservative, intemperate in its devotion to the old. Through meticulous infiltration, UX members have carried out shocking acts of cultural preservation and repair, with an ethos of ‘restoring those invisible parts of our patrimony that the government has abandoned or doesn’t have the means to maintain.’ …

“What has made much of this work possible is UX’s mastery, established 30 years ago and refined since, of the city’s network of underground passageways — hundreds of miles of interconnected telecom, electricity, and water tunnels, sewers, catacombs, subways, and centuries-old quarries.” Read more.

I’ve been collecting stories of people doing good by stealth. In fact, if you type the word “stealth” in the search box in the upper right-hand corner, you will find five other stealth stories I have blogged about.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: