BLDGBLOG 29/09/2012 17:25A few examples of landscapes waking up after long periods of time lying dormant have been in the news recently.
[Image: Maria Thereza Alves's Seeds of Change garden, via Facebook].
First, there is artist Maria Thereza Alves's "ballast seed garden" project, called Seeds of Change, which arose from a moment of revelation:
Between 1680 and the early 1900s, ships' ballastearth, stones and gravel from trade boats from all over the world used to weigh down the vessel as it dockedwas offloaded into the river at Bristol. This ballast contained the seeds of plants from wherever the ship had sailed. Maria Thereza Alves discovered that these ballast seeds can lie dormant for hundreds of years, but that, by excavating the river bed, it is possible to germinate and grow these seeds into flourishing plants.While Alves seems not to have literally dug down into the old layers of the river in order to harvest her seedsinstead sourcing contemporary examples of species known to have sprouted from mounds of ballast over the last few hundred yearsher project nonetheless has the character of a long-lost landscape waking up, popping up like a refugee amidst the rubble in a return to visibility.
[Images: The ballast garden, via Facebook].
This idea of accidental ballast gardensheavily detoured landscapes-to-come lying patiently in wait before springing back to life several centuries after their initial transportationis incredible; I might even suggest parallels here with such 21st-century problems as how we might sterilize spacecraft before sending them offworld, to places like Mars, lest we, in a sense, bring along our own bacterial "ballast" and thus unwittingly terraform those distant locations with escaped landscapes from Earth. Might we someday culture "ballast gardens" on other planets from the tiniest of remnant organic compounds found on our own ancient and dismantled ships?
[Image: Maria Thereza Alves's Seeds of Change garden, via Facebook].
Meanwhile, in a headline that reads like something straight out of Stanislaw Lem or H.P. Lovecraft, we read that "Nunavut's Mysterious Ancient Life Could Return by 2100 as Arctic Warms." In other words, forests that thrived in the hostile conditions of "Canada's extreme north" nearly three million years ago might return to re-colonize the landscape as the region dramatically warms over the next century due to climate change.
This is a relatively mundane resurrectionafter all, it is just a forestbut even the suggestion that future climate conditions on Earth might re-awaken ancient ecosystems, dormant environments in which humans might find it less than easy to survive, is an incredible cautionary tale for the future of the planet. That, and this story offers the awesomely mythic image of human explorers wandering across the thawing earth of the far north as strange and ancient things bloom from cracks in the ground around them.
[Images: Various herbaria pages].
In both cases, I'm reminded of an essay published in Lapham's Quarterly a few years ago, by novelist Daniel Mason. There, Mason writes about "nature's return," a scenario in which dormant and waylaid seeds thrive on the rubble of the present-day landscape. "In the dusty cracks between the concrete, seedlings would germinate, grow," Mason writes, heralding unpredictable landscapes to come.
[Images: More herbaria pages].
However, referring to these remnant seeds left over from older landscapes, Mason writes that "most would not germinate straight away," even if given free rein over an empty field or cracked streetscape. "Rather," he adds, these seeds "would lodge in microscopic nooks and crannies, some to be eaten or crushed, others to be paved over, but most, simply, to wait. A square meter of urban soil can contain tens of thousands of seeds persisting in a state of suspended animation, waiting to be woken from their slumber. After the fire brigades rescued the London Natural History Museum from German incendiaries, Albizia silk-tree seeds bloomed on their herbarium sheets, liberated from two hundred years of dormancy by the precise combination of flame and water."
A square meter of urban soil can contain tens of thousands of seeds persisting in a state of suspended animation, waiting to be woken from their slumber. In Mason's words, this return of dormant life "suggests the parallel existence of a hidden world, fully formed, simply awaiting the opportunity for expression."
Whether dredging up old riverbeds full of ballast from previous centuries, or watching new storms form over the Arctic, bringing back climates unseen for millions of years, what might yet wake up from the ground around us, return from dormancy, resurrect, as it were, and make itself at home again on a planet that thought it had since moved on?
(Ballast garden link spotted via Katie Holten).
BLDGBLOG 11/09/2012 18:44[Image: Cliffs and caves of Nottingham; photo by Nicola Twilley].
For several years now, I've admired from afar the ambitious laser-scanning subterranean archaeological project of the Nottingham Caves Survey.
Incredibly, there are more than 450 artificial caves excavated from the sandstone beneath the streets and buildings of Nottingham, Englandincluding, legendarily, the old dungeon that once held Robin Hoodand not all of them are known even today, let alone mapped or studied. The city sits atop a labyrinth of human-carved spacessome of them hugeand it will quite simply never be certain if archaeologists and historians have found them all.
[Images: Laser scans from the Nottingham Caves Survey show Castle Rock and the Mortimers Hole tunnel, including, in the bottom image, the Trip to Jerusalem Pub where we met archaeologist David Strange-Walker; images like this imply an exhilarating and almost psychedelic portrait of the city as invisibly connected behind the scenes by an umbilical network of caves and tunnels. Scans courtesy of the Nottingham Caves Survey].
"Even back in Saxon times, Nottingham was known for its caves," local historian Tony Waltham writes in his helpful guide Sandstone Caves of Nottingham, "though the great majority of those which survive today were cut much more recently." From malt kilns to pub cellars, "gentlemen's lounges" to jails, and wells to cisterns, these caves form an almost entirely privately-owned lacework of voids beneath the city.
[Image: Map of only the known caves in Nottingham, and only in Nottingham's city center; map by Tony Waltham, from Sandstone Caves of Nottingham].
As Waltham explains, "Nottingham has so many caves quite simply because the physical properties of the bedrock sandstone are ideal for its excavation." The sandstone "is easily excavated with only hand tools, yet will safely stand as an unsupported arch of low profile."
In a sense, Nottingham is the Cappadocia of the British Isles.
[Image: The extraordinary caves at 8 Castle Gate; scan courtesy of the Nottingham Caves Survey].
The purpose of the Nottingham Caves Survey, as their website explains, is "to assess the archaeological importance of Nottinghams caves. Some are currently scheduled monuments and are of great local and national importance. Some are pub cellars and may seem less vital to the history of the City."
Others, I was soon to learn, have been bricked off, taken apart, filled in, or forgotten.
"All caves that can be physically accessed will be surveyed with a 3D laser scanner," the Survey adds, "producing a full measured record of the caves in three dimensions. This point cloud of millions of individual survey points can be cut and sliced into plans and sections, 'flown through' in short videos, and examined in great detail on the web."
[Video: One of very many laser-scan animations from the Nottingham Caves Survey].
While over in England a few weeks ago, I got in touch with archaeologist David Strange-Walker, the project's manager, and arranged for a visit up to Nottingham to learn more about the project. Best of all, David very generously organized an entire day's worth of explorations, going down into many of the city's underground spaces in person with David himself as our guide. Joining me on the trip north from London was Nicola Twilley of Edible Geography; architect Mark Smout of Smout Allen and co-author of the fantastic Pamphlet Architecture installment, Augmented Landscapes; and Mark's young son, Ellis.
[Image: Artificially enlarged pores in the sandstone; photo by BLDGBLOG].
We met the very likable and energetic Davidwho was dressed for a full day of activity, complete with a well-weathered backpack that we'd later learn contained hard hats and floodlights for each of usoutside Nottingham's Trip to Jerusalem pub.
Rather than kicking off our visit with a pint, however, we simply walked inside to see how the pub had been partially builtthat is, expanded through deliberate excavationinto the sandstone cliffside.
The building is thus more like a facade wrapped around and disguising the artificial caves behind it; walking in past the bar, for instance, you soon notice ventilation shafts and strange half-stairways, curved walls and unpredictable acoustics, as the "network of caves" that actually constitutes the pub interior begins to reveal itself.
[Image: A laser scan showing the umbilical connection of Mortimer's Hole, courtesy of the Nottingham Caves Survey].
My mind was already somewhat blown by this, though it was just the barest indication of extraordinary spatial experiences yet to come.
[Image: Examining sandstone with Dr. David Strange-Walker; photo by BLDGBLOG].
Wasting no time, we headed back outside, where afternoon rain showers had begun to blow in, and David introduced us to the sandstone cliff itself, pointing out both natural and artificially enlarged pores pockmarking the outside.
The sandstone formations or "rock units" beneath the city, as Tony Waltham explains, "were formed as flash flood sediments in desert basins during Triassic times, about 240 million years ago,
BLDGBLOG 04/09/2012 20:46[Image: One of Gordon Matta-Clark's many "building cuts"].
If you're in the Bay Area on Thursday night, September 6th, and interested in continuing the discussion that opened up with Breaking Out & Breaking In: A Distributed Film Fest of Prison Breaks and Bank Heists, I will be giving a talk at the UC-Berkeley Center for New Media called "Applied Topology."
[Image: Another type of "building cut" from Rififi].
In the words of the event description, "Applied Topology" explores "burglary, tunneling, and urban perforation... discuss[ing] the city as seenand, more importantly, used and misusedby people other than architects and urban planners."
Ultimately asking if spatial crimes such as breaking & entering and burglary have anything to offer urban theory, Applied Topology explores an alternative, even illicit, understanding of how the city can be used and operated. From Gordon Matta-Clark to the tunneling crew of The Bank Job, from the Mole Man of Hackney to L.A.s notorious Hole in the Ground Gang, how does applied topologythe forced introduction of unplanned connections, perforations, holes, tunnels, and cutstransform our relationship with architectural space?These themes are also part of a forthcoming book I am writing for FSG on the burglar's relationship to the city, or crimeand its preventionas a peculiar lens through which to view the built environment. In all cases, expect bank vaults and border tunnels, "strong rooms" and Nakatomi Space, criminal gangs and 3D-printed lockpicking kits, as we approach architectural space through the eyes of those who would misconnect or undercut it.
The talk kicks off at 5pm and is free and open to the public. It will be in Sutardja Dai Hall, in Banatao Auditorium.
BLDGBLOG 30/08/2012 20:21[Image: The howling of Hell, illustrated by Gustave Doré for Dante's Inferno].
Nearly seven years ago, we took a brief art historical look at the "landscape architecture of Hell," quoting critic Adrian Searle's description of the medieval abyss:
Terraced, pinnacled, travelling forever downward, the ledges, cities and basements of hell are furnished with sloughs, gorges and deserts; there are cities, rivers of boiling blood, lagoons of scalding pitch, burning deserts, thorny forests, ditches of shit and frozen subterranean lakes. Every kind of sin, and sinner, is catered for. Here, descending circle by circle, like tourists to Bedlam, came Dante and Virgil. Following them, at least through Dante's poem, came Botticelli.In a recent issue of The Wire, writer and composer David Toop, in a short article about the various cultural uses of bass, comes to this topic from a different angle, asking what the netherworld of the damned might sound like.
He calls this, citing the Aeneid and Paradise Lost both, the "auditory configuration of Hell": "The auditory configuration of Hell is an opposition of low homogeneous moan and confused Babel, of deep tones and threnodic shrieks, as if combining the outer extremes of human perception is the most authentic expression of damnation." There is acoustic "distress," Toop writes, somewhere "between roaring water and the tumult of the wandering helpless unburied," where dogs howl and angels whirling to their doom are deafened by "the bellowing of the Earth itself."
Toop refers to the recent work of Hillel Schwartz, who has pointed out, in Toop's words, that "Hell was largely silent until Virgil"a place of total silencenot the pandemonium of noise it seems in popular imagination to have since become.
So let's hear it for a much longer paper cataloging the shifting sounds of Hellan interesting thesis topic for an comparative literature department somewhere, at the very least.
BLDGBLOG 30/08/2012 19:25[Image: Curiosity's tire treads, courtesy of NASA and the nation's taxpayers].
It turns out that Bradbury Landing is also a kind of literary site, an interplanetary Newspaper Rock: the tracks left behind by the Curiosity rover are actually a form of Morse code.
The tire treadswheeled hieroglyphsspell out JPL, for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here on earth.
[Image: Curiosity reveals its Morse code, courtesy of NASA].
From a JPL press release: "Careful inspection of the tracks reveals a unique, repeating pattern, which the rover can use as a visual reference to drive more accurately in barren terrain. The pattern is Morse code for JPL, the abbreviation for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover was designed and built, and the mission is managed."
This trackable terrain augmentation is a clever form of so-called visual odometry: "The purpose of the pattern is to create features in the terrain that can be used to visually measure the precise distance between drives," such that the visual appearance of the inscribed code will reveal signs of slippage and, thus, a need to re-chart or correct the rover's navigation. This will be especially useful on "featureless terrain."
[Image: Curiosity's tire treads, courtesy of NASA].
The example NASA uses is a picket fence:
"Imagine standing in front of a picket fence, and then closing your eyes and shifting to the side. When you open your eyes, you wouldn't be able to tell how many pickets you passed. If you had one picket that was a different shape though, you could always use that picket as your reference," said [Matt Heverly, lead rover driver at JPL]. "With Curiosity, it's a similar problem in featureless terrain like sand dunes. The hole pattern in the wheels gives us one 'big picket' to look at."In other words, somewhere on the surface of Mars, codes from Eartha new Linear Awill slowly drift apart over the years, becoming an unreadable road in the sand.
(Thanks to Nicola Twilley for the tip).
BLDGBLOG 29/08/2012 04:08[Image: Bradbury Landing, via the Planetary Society; courtesy of NASA and the nation's taxpayers].
"Bradbury Landing is the first named site on Mars not marked by an object, but by ephemeral burn scars from [Curiosity's] landing thrusters. Project scientist John Grotzinger describes the site as 'four scour marks with wheel tracks that basically begin from nowhere.'"
BLDGBLOG 28/08/2012 22:21Speaking of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, I'm thrilled to be an exhibitor this year in the UK pavilion, as part of a collaborative project undertaken with Mark Smout and Laura Allen of Smout Allen.
[Image: The British Exploratory Land Archive's "capture blanket" in use on Hampstead Heath, London; photo by Mark Smout].
Smout Allen are the authors of Augmented Landscapes, easily one of my favorite installments in the Pamphlet Architecture series, as well as long-time instructors at the Bartlett School of Architecturein fact, many of their students' projects have been featured here on the blog over the last half-decadeand working with Mark and Laura on a project such as this has been fantastic.
Specifically, as part of the "Venice Takeaway" project curated by Vicky Richardson and Vanessa Norwood, Smout Allen and I have proposed what we call the British Exploratory Land Archive (or BELA).
The British Exploratory Land Archive is, in essence, a British version of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, albeit one defined as much by the use of unique instruments designed specifically for BELA as by its focus on sites of human land-use in the United Kingdom as by.
[Images: Going through the archives, maps, and files of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, including one of my favorite headlines of all time: "Emptiness welcomes entrepreneurs"; photos by Mark Smout].
In an essay for the Venice Takeaway book, we describe the inspiration, purpose, and future goals of thestill entirely hypotheticalBritish Exploratory Land Archive:
BELA is directly inspired by the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI). It aims to unite the efforts of several existing bodiesEnglish Heritage, Subterranea Britannica, the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust and even the Department for Transport, among dozens of othersin a project of national landscape taxonomy that will combine catalogues created by distinct organisations into one omnivorous, searchable archive of human-altered landscapes in Britain... From military bases to abandoned factories, from bonded warehouses to national parks, by way of private gardens, council estates, scientific laboratories and large-scale pieces of urban infrastructure, BELAs listings are intended to serve as something of an ultimate guide to both familiar and esoteric sites of human land use throughout the United Kingdom.In the end, a fully functioning BELA would offer architects, designers, historians, academics, enthusiasts, and members of the general public a comprehensive list of UK sites that have been used, built, unbuilt, altered, augmented and otherwise transformed by human beings, aiming to reveal what we might call the spatial footprint of human civilization in the British Isles.
Thanks to the generosity of the Venice Takeaway organizers, with funding from the British Council, Mark Smout and I had the pleasure of traveling to Los Angeles back in April 2012 specifically to meet with Matthew Coolidge, Sarah Simons, Ben Loescher, and Aurora Tang at the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Even better, we were able to take Matt, Ben, and Aurora out on a daylong road-trip through gravel pits, dry lake beds, Cold War radar-testing facilities, airplane crash sites, logistics airfields, rail yards, abandoned military base housing complexes, and much more orbiting the endlessly interesting universe of Greater Los Angeles.
[Images: Exploring Greater Los Angeles with Matthew Coolidge, Ben Loescher, and Aurora Tang; photos by Mark Smout].
That trip was documented in a series of photographs, in a (very) short film, and in the essay mentioned above, all of which will be available for perusal at the UK pavilion for the duration of this year's Biennale.
I'll also include here a few diagrams depicting one the instruments Smout Allen and I devised as part of our land-investigation toolsmaking BELA a kind of second-cousin to Venuewith the real objects, including a portable explorer's hut, also on display in Venice.
[Images: Assembly diagrams for the BELA "clinometer," a speculative device "for the measurement of variable slopes on sites such as scrap yards, landfills, slag heaps and other industrial dumping grounds... functioning as an easily readable survey tool and as a unique design object that calls public attention to the process of measuring artificial landscapes"].
Taken together, these are what we call, in the essay, "prototypical future survey instruments and experimental site-identification beacons." They are "both semi-scientific and speculative, portable and permanently anchored."
From telescopes to Geiger counters, from contact microphones to weather satellites, the devices and scales with which we measure and describe the landscapes around us determine, to a large extent, what we are able to see. BELA will thus work to pioneer the design, fabrication and expeditionary deployment of new landscape survey toolsinstruments and devices both functional and speculative that will aid in the sensory cataloguing and interpretive analysis of specific locations.While the British Exploratory Land Archive is, for now, merely a proposition, I think Mark, Laura, and I are all equally keen to see something come of that proposition, perhaps someday even launching BELA as a real, functioning resource through which the various human-altered landscapes of Britain can be catalogued and studied.
For now, those of you able to visit Venice, Italy, before the end of the 2012 Biennale can see our instruments, photos, drawings, and texts as they currently e
BLDGBLOG 28/08/2012 19:43One of many things you might be missing at the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecturewhich opens this week and runs till November 25this a new acoustic installation by Katarzyna Krakowiak inside the Polish Pavilion.
Her piece, called Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers is, in the words of Michal Libera, the pavilion's curator, a controlled "amplification of the Polish Pavilion as a listening-system."
[Image: A sound-study of the 2012 Polish Pavilion by Andrzej Kosak for Katarzyna Krakowiak].
In an interesting accompanying essay that foregrounds the acoustic experience of space, Libera goes on to suggest that "we live, work and play in gigantic complexes of soundstheir distribution is what we call architecture."
Architectural micro-deformations of the buildings walls and floor, the renovation of the ventilation system, and reinforcement of the resonant frequencies serve to bring this latent acoustic experience to the fore. The focus is on the secret but audible knowledge inscribed in the niches, apses, bays and vestibules, full of long-acknowledged deficiencies and forgotten paradoxes. None of the sounds in the Pavilion are alien to the building. They are all always already there.One of the techniques deployed by Krakowiak, for instance, is to reinforce architecturally the Pavilion's own resonant frequencies; this leads to "excessive reverberation" that will make "even regular conversation difficult" inside as visitors are enveloped in echoes, everything out-of-synch and returning again in time-delay. Further:
To enhance the experience of being immersed in sound, the floor and one of the walls are tilted at a slight angle. The introduction of a different material (a wooden floor) and the incline itself will also influence sound propagation. With 50 sound sources, the interior of the Polish Pavilion will take the visitor to the heart of an unknown, unfathom- able realm of sound.Libera describes in detail how Krakowiak partially dismantled the Pavilion itself, performing a kind of acoustic surgery on the various surfaces and materials used inside, analyzing them for their sonic side-effects and picking and choosing which spaces"the niche, the vestibule and the walls"to augment, tune, or dampen.
[Image: Another sound-study of the 2012 Polish Pavilion by Andrzej Kosak for Katarzyna Krakowiak].
While reading about Krakowiak's work, I was reminded of a short piece by Richard Pinnell in a recent issue of The Wire. There, Pinnell describes the, for him, uncomfortable experience of hearing sound artists Mark and John Bain perform under a railway arch in London, work themed "on the principle of self-destruction." Mark Bain has been mentioned many times here on BLDGBLOG for his ongoing interest in the possibility of architectural demolition using nothing but bass, and this particular performance seems like one of a piece with those earlier explorations.
Pinnell describes how the "American sibling duo" of the Bain brothers used "seismic sensors to translate the feedback of the actual building itself into heavy, really heavy droning bass tones. The wall of subsonic pressure that hit me as I squeezed alongside others into the arch space threatened to turn my ribcage inside out." More to the point, he quips that, "If the shock of how physical the sound was caught me off guard, I was even less prepared for the small chunks of crumbling masonry that began to intermittently fall from the bare brick archway above my head as the Victorian building itself struggled against the assault." We could level whole cities with sound. Building and anti-building with LRAD.
The Bains' "architectural bass tremors" haunted Pinnell's sense of equilibrium so much that, he jokes, now, "whenever I enter a room under a railway arch I keep one eye looking over my shoulder," lest the Bain brothers arrive, acoustic weaponry in hand.
In any case, while Krakowiak's installation is not premised on the idea of demolitionand thus the connection between these two stories is entirely anecdotalI am nonetheless struck by the idea of a pavilion, perhaps some future version of the Serpentine, that deliberately interferes with, or manipulates through time-delay, the acoustic events taking place inside it, whether those are human conversations or simply monstrous waves of sub-bass rumbling up from a concert in the basements below.
In fact, you could imagine some strange new art form, a kind of acoustic variation on Noh theater, that takes place only inside buildings tuned to echo at precise intervals, with whole new forms of dialoguean entire literary genrewritten with actors playing the roles of multiple characters, speaking lines perfectly timed for an endless return of disorienting synchronizations, ten, even fifteen, minutes later still listening for the delayed lines of an earlier phase of self-conversation.
Or, for that matter, a mis-built suburban house somewhere lost in echoes, driving its owner insane, as everything said inside is destructively echoed and reverbed to the point of utter incomprehension, for whole days at a time. A tragi-comedy starring Tom Hanks, muttering to himself in a roaring airplane engine of noisethings he said yesterday!sitting at the dinner table, starring at a salt shaker, unable to talk to his date.
BLDGBLOG 25/08/2012 21:04Speaking of the accidental artistry of colorful street markings, artist Simon Rouby became fascinated by the ongoing painting and repainting of traffic lines on the freeways and streets of Los Angeles, like some vast and unacknowledged readymade art project.
[Images: Photos by Simon Rouby for "Yellow Line"].
Could this huge urban painting apparatus be temporarily repurposed, Rouby wonderedleading him to contact Caltrans directly and embark upon a project with the rather straightforward name of "Yellow Line."
That project, Rouby explains, introduced him "to the California Transportation 'Striping Crew.' I followed them while they poured miles of yellow paint onto the concrete of Los Angeles. With them I got to know the biggest and most congested network of freeways in the United States, and built my understanding of Los Angeles, a gigantic city where people meet everyday, but at 60 miles per hour on the freeways. Millions of cars per day, from which 75% drive alone, despite traffic and smog."
"We also did canvases," Rouby adds, "painted directly with their trucks."
[Image: From "Yellow Line" by Simon Rouby].
Nonetheless, it's not those canvases but the project's most basic conceptual moveputting the Caltrans striping crews into the same context as, say, Jackson Pollack or Marcel Duchampthat interests me the most here, implying new possibilities for interpretation, even whole new futures for art history and landscape criticism, with this recognition of avant-garde projects going on disguised as the everyday environment.
[Image: From "Yellow Line" by Simon Rouby].
Pushing this further, the transportation system itself becomes an earthworks project that dwarfs theby contrastembarrassingly unambitious Michael Heizer or Robert Smithson, revealing Caltrans, not Field Operations or any other white-collar design firm, as one of the most high-stakes landscape practitionersa parallel civilization of mound builders hidden in plain sightat work in the world today.
In any case, Simon Rouby's "Yellow Line" is on display at the Caltrans District 7 Building100 South Main Street, Los Angelesuntil 28 September 2012.
BLDGBLOG 25/08/2012 20:26[Image: From Nick Foster's "Hidden Signals" project].
Intrigued by the colorful dots he found spray-painted on the streets of San Francisco, always near drains, Nick Foster began photographing them.
[Images: From Nick Foster's "Hidden Signals" project].
He soon learned that these marks are not some emerging genre of street artat least not intentionallybut are, in fact, quasi-Pynchonian signals left behind by the San Francisco Mosquito Abatement Courier Team, or SFMAC.
Formed in 2005 following the rapid increase of West Nile Virus in California, this band of pest controllers cycles around San Francisco dispatching sachets of Vectolex into the drains to kill the little biters before they breed. After each drain is treated, the courier sprays a little dot of paint to mark it as completedthis seasons color is blue.Like full-spectrum hieroglyphs, these spray-painted dots are "infrastructural forensic evidence," in Foster's words, marking the ritualistic elimination of insects from urban space.