Category Archives: Utopian/Dystopian Relics

Stunning Portraits Of The World’s Remotest Tribes Before they Disappear

Living in a concrete box with hot water pouring from the tap, a refrigerator cooling our food and wi-fi connecting us to the rest of the world, we can barely imagine a day in a life of, say, Tsaatan people. They move 5 to 10 times per year, building huts when the temperature is -40 and herding reindeer for transportation, clothing and food. “Before They Pass Away,” a long-term project by photographer Jimmy Nelson, gives us the unique opportunity to discover more than 30 secluded and slowly vanishing tribes from all over the world.

Spending 2 weeks in each tribe, Jimmy became acquainted with their time-honoured traditions, joined their rituals and captured it all in a very appealing way. His detailed photographs showcase unique jewellery, hairstyles and clothing, not to forget the surroundings and cultural elements most important to each tribe, like horses for Gauchos. According to Nelson, his mission was to assure that the world never forgets how things used to be: “Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.”

All of his snapshots now lie in a massive book and will be extended by a film (you can see a short introduction video below). So embark on a journey to the most remote corners and meet the witnesses of a disappearing world. Would you give up your smartphone, internet and TV to live free like them?

Source: beforethey.com

Kazakh, Mongolia

Himba, Namibia

Huli, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Asaro, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Kalam, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Goroka, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Chukchi, Russia

Maori, New Zealand

Gauchos, Argentina

Tsaatan, Mongolia

Samburu, Kenya

Rabari, India

Mursi, Ethiopia

Ladakhi, India

Vanuatu, Vanuatu Islands

Drokpa, India

Dassanech, Ethiopia

Karo, Ethiopia

Banna, Ethiopia

Dani, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Maasai, Tanzania

Nenets, Russia

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Cybernetic Fields: Simon Stålenhag’s incredible ‘Swedish Sci-Fi Suburbia’ paintings

Gallery Photo:

By Dante D’Orazio via the Verge

Welcome to rural Sweden, sometime in the late ’80s. Citizens go about their mundane lives and children explore the countryside. But something isn’t quite right. Robots and hovercrafts are commonplace, and decaying science facilities sprout from the harsh Scandinavian landscape. There’s even a rumor circulating that dinosaurs have returned from the dead after some failed experiment.

This is the world that exists in artist Simon Stålenhag’s mind, and it’s only accessible through his paintings. The alternate universe he’s created is inspired by the sci-fi movies he watched as a kid growing up in the rural areas around Stockholm. As he explains to The Verge, “The only difference in the world of my art and our world is that … ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favor of science and technology.” So boxy Volvos, Volkswagens, and Mercedes share the landscape with robots. But science has lost some of its luster. In Sweden, a massive government science facility (equipped with an underground particle collider, of course) is long past its glory days in the field of “experimental physics.” Despite developments in robotics and “anti-grav” technology, the difficulties of the modern human experience haven’t changed.

The artwork is impactful as a result of this juxtaposition between the harsh realities of life and the sci-fi technologies of our dreams. It’s reminiscent of worlds like the one so effectively portrayed in games likeHalf-Life 2, and like such great video games, the universe created by the artist seems to continue well beyond the edge of the canvas.

Simon Stålenhag used a Wacom tablet and pen to digitally paint the works below. More of his work, including prints and shots of some of the paintings below in detail, are at his website. All images used with permission, and copyright Simon Stålenhag.

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Commie Spy Costumes: The declassified fashions of East German spies

For more than three years, German photographer Simon Menner has immersed himself in the invasive culture of the Stasi, the security service that snooped on East Germans for 40 years. Officially known as The Ministry for State Security, the Stasi recruited from all walks of life, enlisting over 2.5 percent of East Germany’s adult population as unofficial informants just before the Berlin wall fell. So powerful was the agency that Simon Wiesenthal, famous for hunting Nazi criminals, said “the Stasi was much, much worse than the Gestapo, if you consider only the oppression of its own people.” For the Stasi, the key to effectively managing East Germany’s population was blending in.
While researching his new book, Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives, Menner uncovered troves of documents and photographs detailing the inner-workings of the Stasi, including a dress code for undercover agents. “Once top secret, and now preposterous, these images are both comical and sinister,” says the book’s synopsis. We spoke with Menner, who gave us some insight into the disturbing reality of Stasi East Germany.

 
Menner’s collection includes many example disguises, which were formulated to help agents blend into everyday East German life. It’s a stark contrast to the Nazi Gestapo’s ominous black uniform, showcasing the insidious nature of the Stasi’s integration into East German life. The photographs were shown at Stasi seminars, as a guide for undercover operatives. “The sad thing is they had to try hard to dress up like ordinary citizens. Something that normally should come easily.”
“Friends of mine who are older than I am and who grew up in East Germany tell me that this is exactly what [Stasi operatives] looked like.”

“As an artist I am very much interested in how images work and how they are used to manipulate people. I did a lot of research on the nature and structure of surveillance systems, because I thought that these are the people who deal with images a lot and use them against the will of those shown – or even those who have taken them in the first place.”

Although the disguises are the most visually interesting aspect of Menner’s book, he says they aren’t the most disturbing photographs by a long shot. Above are the first images Menner ever requested, and his reason for embarking on his search for more.

“The Stasi used to perform secret house searches. They broke into private apartments to search them… The victims of these actions, the people living there, were never to learn about the fact their private belongings had been searched. To achieve this, the Stasi agents used Polaroid cameras. These enabled them to put everything back into its original position after the search had been performed. So when you see a Polaroid of an unmade bed, it is actually an unmade bed before it has been searched. I find that revolting.”
“I am not so much interested in East Germany or the Stasi than rather our own time and place.If I could I would choose the last two weeks of surveillance of the CIA, [the German intelligence agency] BND, and [the British intelligence agency] GCHQ for my project. But I can’t. These archives remain closed.”

“What does the collection tell us about the Stasi and East Germany? Maybe some things we already know… How terrible the Stasi was, and how extensive their operation has was. Maybe some things we did not expect. But a key element is missing. Was the Stasi agents’ state of mind different to those of their Western counterparts? I doubt it, but this remains a mystery.”

Menner ended our conversation with a story, relayed to him by an archivist that aided him in his research.

The story tells of the archivist’s aunt, who was unaware that her husband was in cohorts with the Stasi. While she was at work, her husband rented the private apartment to the Stasi for secret meetings. “She was the only person in the family who drank coffee, and she was left-handed.” Before she left the apartment each morning, she cleaned the family coffee maker and placed it back into the machine, handle on the left.
Occasionally, the lady returned from work and found the handle would be on the right. Her husband wasn’t a coffee drinker, and when she asked him about it, “he accused her of being paranoid.” Secretly, the husband relayed her concerns to the Stasi, who created an entire file specifically on how to correctly clean and arrange coffee makers. “She only learned of this after the wall came down while looking through her files,” says Menner, “She also learned that he spied on their entire family — her included.”
It’s a small anecdote, but one that perfectly demonstrates the extent to which the Stasi infiltrated everyday life, dividing families and creating a surveillance state.
Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives will be released on November 30th. You can pre-order it here. A collection of images from the book, including more disguises, images of house searches, hand-to-hand combat techniques, hidden cameras, and even fake beards, is available free of charge at Simon Menner’s website.
Article via the Verge
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Inside the Kowloon Walled City- The Most Densely Populated Place on Earth

Once thought to be the most densely populated place on Earth, with 50,000 people crammed into only a few blocks, these fascinating pictures give a rare insight into the lives of those who lived Kowloon Walled City.

Taken by Canadian photographer Greg Girard in collaboration with Ian Lamboth the pair spent five years familiarising themselves with the notorious Chinese city before it was demolished in 1992.

The city was a phenomenon with 33,000 families and businesses living in more than 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, all constructed without contributions from a single architect.

Kowloon Walled City was notorious for drugs and crime but many of its 50,000 residents lived their lives peacefully until it was demolished in the early 90sKowloon Walled City was notorious for drugs and crime but many of its 50,000 residents lived their lives peacefully until it was demolished in the early 90s
Canadian photographer Greg Girard and Ian Lambot spent five years getting to know the residents and taking pictures of the densely populated buildingsCanadian photographer Greg Girard and Ian Lambot spent five years getting to know the residents and taking pictures of the densely populated buildings
Mir Lui was assigned to work in the city as a postman in 1976 and had no choice but to go. He was one of the few people who knew the ins and outs and wore a hat to protect him from the constant drippingMir Lui was assigned to work in the city as a postman in 1976 and had no choice but to go. He was one of the few people who knew the ins and outs and wore a hat to protect him from the constant dripping

Ungoverned by Health and Safety regulations, alleyways dripped and the maze of dark corridors covered one square block near the end of the runway at Kai Tak Airprot.

‘I spent five years photographing and becoming familiar with the Walled City, its residents, and how it was organised. So seemingly compromised and anarchic on its surface, it actually worked and to a large extent, worked well,’ said Mr Girard on his website.

Dating back to the Song Dynasty it served as a watch post for the military to defend the area against pirates and to manage the production of Salt before eventually coming under British rule.

However, during the Japanese occupation on Hong Kong in the Second World War parts of it were demolished to provide building materials for the nearby airport.

Once Japan surrendered from the city, the population dramatically increased with numerous squatters moving in. Eventually it became a haven for criminals and drug users and was run by the Chinese Triads until 1974.

The shrieks of children playing on rooftops were frequently drowned out by the sounds of jet engines as aircraft powered through their final 100 metres on the runway at Kai Tak AirportThe shrieks of children playing on rooftops were frequently drowned out by the sounds of jet engines as aircraft powered through their final 100 metres on the runway at Kai Tak Airport

For many residents who lived in the upper levels of the city, ion in particular, the roof was an invaluable sanctuary: a 'lung' of fresh air and escape from the claustrophobia of the windowless flats belowFor many residents who lived in the upper levels of the city, ion in particular, the roof was an invaluable sanctuary: a ‘lung’ of fresh air and escape from the claustrophobia of the windowless flats below
The city, lit up during the night, was the scene of the 1993 movie Crime Story starring Jackie Chan and includes real scenes of buildings exploding The city, lit up during the night, was the scene of the 1993 movie Crime Story starring Jackie Chan and includes real scenes of buildings exploding
A Kowloon Walled City resident who is dissatisfied with compensation payouts from the government sits on a pavement in protest as police start the clearance operationA Kowloon Walled City resident who is dissatisfied with compensation payouts from the government sits on a pavement in protest as police start the clearance operation
Food processors admitted they had moved into the city to benefit from the low rents and to seek refuge from the jurisdiction of government health and sanitation inspectorsFood processors admitted they had moved into the city to benefit from the low rents and to seek refuge from the jurisdiction of government health and sanitation inspectors
A workplace during the day would turn into a living room at night when Hui Tung Choy's wife and two young daughters joined him at his noodle business. The children's play and homework space was a flour-encrusted work benchA workplace during the day would turn into a living room at night when Hui Tung Choy’s wife and two young daughters joined him at his noodle business. The children’s play and homework space was a flour-encrusted work bench

By the early 1980s it was notorious for brothels, casinos, cocaine parlours and opium dens. It was also famous for food courts which would serve up dog meat and had a number of unscrupulous dentists who could escape prosecution if anything went wrong with their patients.

The city eventually became the focus of a diplomatic crisis with both Britain and China refusing to take responsibility.

Despite it being a hotbed of crime many of its inhabitants went about their lives in relative peace with children playing on the rooftops and those living in the upper levels seeking refuge high above the city.

The rooftops were the one place they could breathe fresh air and escape the claustrophobia of their windowless flats below.

Eventually, over time both the British and Chinese authorities found the city to be increasingly intolerable, despite lower crime rates in later years.

The quality of life and sanitary conditions were far behind the rest of Hong Kong and eventually plans were made to demolish the buildings.

Many of the residents protested and said they were happy living in the squalid conditions but the government spent $2.7billion Hong Kong dollars in compensation and evacuations started in 1991. They were completed in 1992.

Law Yu Yi, aged 90, lived in a small and humid third-floor flat with her son's 68-year-old wife off Lung Chun First Alley. The arrangement is typical of traditional Chinese values in which the daughter-in-law looks after her inlawsLaw Yu Yi, aged 90, lived in a small and humid third-floor flat with her son’s 68-year-old wife off Lung Chun First Alley. The arrangement is typical of traditional Chinese values in which the daughter-in-law looks after her inlaws
Grocery-store owner Chan Pak, 60, in his tiny shop on Lung Chun Back Road. He had a particular passion for cats and owned seven when this picture was takenGrocery-store owner Chan Pak, 60, in his tiny shop on Lung Chun Back Road. He had a particular passion for cats and owned seven when this picture was taken
This hairdresser puts curlers in a customer's hair at a salon in the city. Many people continued to live their lives normally despite drug and crime problemsThis hairdresser puts curlers in a customer’s hair at a salon in the city. Many people continued to live their lives normally despite drug and crime problems
A child with a grazed knee sits on a counter top in a tiny shop which sells essentials like toilet paper and canned foods. Cigarettes are also on display in a cabinet A child with a grazed knee sits on a counter top in a tiny shop which sells essentials like toilet paper and canned foods. Cigarettes are also on display in a cabinet
The area was made up of 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, built without the contributions of a single architect and ungoverned by Hong Kong's health and safety regulationsThe area was made up of 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, built without the contributions of a single architect and ungoverned by Hong Kong’s health and safety regulations
Thousands of people went about their lives daily with many making do with what space they had to grow plants or hand washing on balconies above the busy shops and streets belowThousands of people went about their lives daily with many making do with what space they had to grow plants or hand washing on balconies above the busy shops and streets below
A rooftop view of the city at night which shows just a few of the thousands of TV aerials which sit on the buildingsA rooftop view of the city at night which shows just a few of the thousands of TV aerials which sit on the buildings
Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the massive, anarchic city to be increasingly intolerable - despite the low reported crime rate in later years
Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the massive, anarchic city to be increasingly intolerable - despite the low reported crime rate in later years

Over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the massive, anarchic city to be increasingly intolerable – despite the low reported crime rate in later years

Workers in a fish market prepare eels and other fish for sale to people living in the city
A wall in a house is adorned with clocks and pictures of relatives

Workers – not restricted by health and safety regulations – prepare their fish for sale and, right, a wall in a home adorned with clocks and pictures of relatives

Daylight barely penetrates the rubbish-strewn grille over the city's Tin Hau Temple which was built in 1951 on an alley off Lo Yan StreetDaylight barely penetrates the rubbish-strewn grille over the city’s Tin Hau Temple which was built in 1951 on an alley off Lo Yan Street
The government spent around 2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars in compensation to the estimated 33,000 families and businesses. Some were not satisfied and tried to stop the evacuationsThe government spent around 2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars in compensation to the estimated 33,000 families and businesses. Some were not satisfied and tried to stop the evacuations

Read more: Daily Mail (UK)

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Suburbia, Cold War Style : 70s Era Home Built 26 Feet Underground

You wouldn’t happen to be in the market for a 1970s underground family home, equipped to live in for up to a year without resurfacing in the event of a nuclear missile strike that wipes out humanity, would ya? Because it just so happens one has just come onto the market. And this piece of real estate gold could be all yours for the bargain price of $1.7 million.

The subterranean Las Vegas home at 3970 Spencer St. near Flamingo Road boasts a 15,200-square-foot basement beneath a two story home above ground. From the street, number 3970 looks like any other American home, except with a few extra ventilation and air conditioning units planted around the yard. Camouflaged by clusters of rocks, an entrance with an elevator takes you down to the underground lair. Another stairway is hidden inside a shed.

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The Forgotten Futurist Monuments of Yugoslavia

spomenik_04These amazing, massive structures were commissioned by Yugoslavia’s former president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where important WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where former Nazi concentration camps stood, like Jasenovac and Niš.

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The Forgotten Utopian Dream of Biosphere 2

omnireboot.com has a fantastic photo essay by Megan May Daadler on the utopian ruins of  Biosphere 2, an experimental project located in the Arizona desert near Tuscon.  Biosphere 2 was meant to be an experiment in human self sustainability in controlled environments. In 1991, 8 ‘bionauts’ were locked in the Biosphere with a mass of flora and other fauna with the intent of establishing a balanced ecosystem. That never happened, and Biosphere’s spectacular failure (bug infestation, dangerous CO2 levels, oxygen depletion, angry physical confrontations between scientists etc.)  is practically a parable for utopian ideals gone awry, to the point that it the interperson squabbling became the inspiration for the TV show Big Brother. 

All this said, the author of article (link above) does a remarkable job of salvaging the valuable lessons learned from the Biosphere debacle, presenting the possibility that this failed vision of the future is actively directing us towards solving current environmental dilemmas through current research being conducted on site by the University of Arizona.

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