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Meet Vitamin’s Team

In order for you to get to know a bit about who’s behind this project, we’ve collected some questions. And we’ve also answered them : )

Fave 5 ingredients?
– Alejandra: Avocado, lemon, zucchini, coriander, garlic.
– Mariona: Potato, artichoke, lemon, manchego semi, chickpeas.
– Georgi: Smoked paprika, fresh figs, anchovies, lemon & honey.
 
– Roman: Water, spirulina, sprouts, sauerkraut, apple juice.

Alejandra Smits

Fave 3 books?
– Alejandra: I think I haven’t read them yet, but for now: The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and A Course in Miracles.
– Mariona: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf & Speculative Everything by Dunne & Raby had a huge impact on me at the time, Permanent Temporariness by Sandri Hilal and Alessandro Petti is what I’m reading now and I highly recommend it.
– Georgi: From the past 3 years- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, The Bluets by Maggie N
elson & every book that Chris Kraus has ever written.
– Roman: The art of mixing by David Gibson. The Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

3 guilty pleasures?
– Alejandra: Watching and commenting on Keeping Up with The Kardashians, taking really long hot showers, Youtube wormhole when I’m on a deadline, oh, I know it was only three but saying that I’ve already got plans and staying in on a Friday/Saturday night.
– Mariona: cinnamon buns, Trump’s IG, reading comments of people I don’t know from Facebook articles and then spying and screenshotting their profiles — most of the times I can tell what their profiles will look like.
– Georgi: reality TV, DiWHY subreddit thread & my blow heater.

– Roman: Youtube wormhole indeed, getting late to bed, waking up late.

Vitamins/supplements?
– Alejandra: Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Maca powder, Reishi mushroom and Magnesium.
– Mariona: lol… Vitamin D, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Primrose oil.
– Georgi: Vitamin B, zinc, vitamin D, Biotin & Serotone

– Roman: Vitamin C, Echinacea.

Mariona Valdés

How would you describe love?
– Alejandra: I would say is the force that pushes everything and makes everything grow and evolve, to me, it is God, it is us : )
– Mariona: I don’t think anyone is interested in my opinion on what love is. Can we actually delete this question?
– Georgi: A feeling of being simultaneously energized and lethargic.
– Roman: a fractal structure that is the unity of the infinite multiplicity.

What is Vitamin for me?
– Alejandra: A platform that doesn’t take life seriously but takes some parts of life seriously, whatever we want it to be, to be honest.
– Mariona: a bit of light for young artists in these dark times?
– Georgi: A multifunctional cyberspace that nourishes and supports young creatives.
– Roman: A place to intersect and explore formats, digital craftsmanship, and powerful individuals.

Georgina Vardy

Favorite way to decompress?
– Alejandra: Fast-walking with my dog around the Vallcarca hills while listening to music and dancing and a glass of wine and taking a nap.
– Mariona: Jumping & red wine.
– Georgi: Dancing & screaming into my pillow.
– Roman: Psychedelic substances, breath, horizontal love.

Something you’ve been willing to try for a long time but haven’t?
– Alejandra: Yoga heh
– Mariona: I really wanna go to Belgrade.
– Georgi: Transcendental meditation.
– Roman: 5 dried grams in silent darkness

Is humanity heading for a better future?
– Alejandra: Yes! We are. I like to think the Universe (and that includes humanity) is an intelligent being that is constantly re-arranging for balance. I am hopeful about the future <3
– Mariona: The idea of progress is complicated, right? We are definitely in the middle of an imagination crisis — aka Jameson’s “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. But I’m increasingly optimistic about alternatives to the current situation.
– Georgi: Not as long as there are no real imaginable alternatives to Capitalism.
– Roman: Better always means confronting, it appears clear in our bodies and contexts that we are in a collapse of.

Roman Daniel

Is there such a thing as wrong or right?
– Alejandra: I don’t think so : ) It’s all a sum of infinite perspectives and points of view.
– Mariona: You tell me.
– Georgi: I dont believe in absolutes or universal truths nor do I adhere to binary modes of thought so- no.
– Roman: Yes if you want to.

 

Portraits by Gema Prades San Nicolás

An Elegy to the Screen
Georgina Vardy

 

 

Inspiration comes when i stare into the world and let my mind wander. It’s ironic, it comes when i look away from the screen. However, i must return to the screen so the product of this inspiration can come to fruition. Unlike the page, the screen allows me to erase all traces of my mistakes and misgivings. The screen, the screen- oh great monolith! Kubrick’s warning to us all. Long before uncle Elon and prof Hawkins came with their learned prophecies about artificial intelligence. Oh, Stanley! How he understood the fragmentary dimensions of human suffering, manifestations of our innermost perversions. But the screen is one that has been ever present in our milieu of modern maladies, doubly encoded as a source of distraction and inspiration. The relationship between the screen & the image is akin to the relationship between Dr Frankenstein & his creation (not accounting for the common misnomer that the monster himself is named Frankenstein). The screen itself is neither medium, nor is it message. It is a channel, a vehicle, a receptacle, a vacuum, a vessel. It is able to contain a three-dimensional world more so than the page or canvas could ever dream of. The page is flat and betrays its artifice immediately. The screen may be flat but it’s teeming with life, a network of signals and information buzzing within its borders. A cluster of pixels arranging themselves to form an image. Shining and vibrating, it summons us with its robotic siren song. Beep beep beep, beep beep, beep beep beep. Long live Morse code! The screen has allowed us to defy the laws of science. We can now be in two places at once, across space and time, through video calling. We can also share our immediate experiences with others in real time. And when we die we will live on in the screen like modern day mummies, eternally encased in portable LED sarcophagi. Although the screen facilitates experiences that the page or canvas cannot, it also curses the viewer with another layer of separation and distance from the image it encases (by image i mean whatever we see on a screen regardless of its form).

/skriːn/
noun
noun: screen; plural noun: screens

  1. a fixed or movable upright partition used to divide a room, give shelter from draughts, heat, or light, or to provide concealment or privacy.
  2. a flat panel or area on an electronic device such as a television, computer, or smartphone, on which images and data are displayed.

The screen separates whatever is contained within it from that which exists in our physical reality. It acts as both a fixed and movable partition between two worlds, material and immaterial. It is movable in moments of real time mediation and fixed in moments of exchange and exposition. The screen is a mirror. In its active state, a state of light, as a camera and in its inactive state, a state of darkness, we see ourselves reflected in its surface. This is the only case in which a complete state of blackness, darkness, which is in turn a complete lack of light, can reveal a clear perceptible image that is true to reality.  This is only case in which darkness acts to illuminate an image thus forcing us to confront our own reflection as the passive disciples of the screen. The screen that holds our attention captive. This moment of darkness exposes the screen’s ultimate weakness, its dependency on an external source of energy. And with this our own weakness is too revealed, that is our well-known dependency on the screen itself. The moment the screen loses its vitality, our hearts sink and panic sets in as we are left staring at an image of ourselves steeped in darkness. At this point we have no choice but to turn our attention towards the screen’s lesser valued prototype, the window.

 

Whose bodies are welcome in cities and why?
Mariona Valdés

There is a general assumption that the purpose of architecture and design in public spaces is to make objects and places more convenient, practical and enjoyable. But the fact is that this rule doesn’t always apply: in some cases, the precise opposite is true. Perhaps the use of the term hostile architecture is quite recent and sounds unfamiliar to us. However, methods of designing and projecting cities and public spaces in certain ways that favour specific groups of people have been in practice for a surprisingly long time. In an article written for Slate magazine about the topic the author Ella Morton explains how, “historically, landowners and city planners have kept sections of the population at bay by incorporating defensive design features into the architecture: spiked fences, barbed wire, a castle moat (…)”. In contemporary times, castle moats have been replaced by more refined features, but are still aimed at exerting some kind of social control in public spaces.

“Sits, London” by Nils Norman

There are many examples of this in our everyday lives, but let us examine the use of a simple public bench for instance. Although its primary function is to provide people with a place to sit, it could also be used for romantic affairs, resting, or skate tricks. But if these alternative uses are considered inappropriate, unpleasant design elements can be added to deter them. Journalist Coby McDonald gives the following examples “strategically placed armrests can make sleeping uncomfortable, skating dangerous, and love-making gymnastic, thereby forcing ‘proper’ use of the bench”. This design approach is examined extensively in the book ‘Unpleasant Design’ by Gordan Savičić and Selena Savić, in which they analyse a range of examples that share a common denominator: all of them are persuasive behaviour shapers and have been designed to “target, frustrate and deter people, particularly those who fall within unwanted demographics”.

The Camden Bench

The perfect example that embodies this principle is the Camden Bench. Often referred to as the perfect anti-object, it was commissioned by the Camden Council and designed by the studio Factory Furniture. The reason why is often mentioned as the pinnacle of hostile architecture is that it has been designed, approved, funded and materialized with the specific aim of repealing various ‘bad’ behaviours such as skating, sleeping, drug dealing and so on. Savić says ‘it deters twenty-two things, and it allows only two’. So much for ergonomics.  

Some case studies are, however, less visible or obvious than the Camden Bench. These include, for instance, the use of blue light in public bathrooms to inhibit drug users (blue light makes veins hard to spot) or reducing suicides in Tokyo’s subway stations (blue light may have relaxing effects), businesses playing classical music and/or high-pitch sound emitters (just audible for young people) to discourage the youth from hanging out in their stores or paint resistant surfaces that repel graffiti. Again these seemingly modern practices stem from more archaic origins. As Savić points out, “the use of lighting as means of public control may be much older than these color-specific interventions… when Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia the government installed unpleasantly bright street lamps in Višegrad to deter night-time gatherings that could lead to resistance or rebellion. The locals, displeased with these lights, would break the lamps at night, and the government would reinstall them the next day”. Sounds like the aim of public lightning isn’t always to make us feel safer.

However, whether the strategies employed to prevent a specific use of the public spaces and objects are more or less explicit, more or less visible to the general public, the message is clear pertaining to the targeted group of people: you are not welcome here. Following this, the question remains the same; what is the inherent bureaucratic advantage with this kind of design approach? Savić answers this question providing a clever example: “the difference between a policeman prohibiting people from sleeping on a public bench versus the use of strategically placed armrests. Whereas the former leaves space for negotiation, the latter clearly doesn’t permit it, it is not possible to argue against this.” He continues to say, “when public space becomes not negotiable, its publicness also becomes questionable’. Moreover, hostile architecture implies a wider problem. That is, making it impossible for the dispossessed to rest at a bus shelter equals making it impossible for the elderly or the pregnant woman who needs to rest. In short, the appliance of more hostile and less human measures obviously creates a less welcoming environment; and when the environment is hostile, we became hostile within it.

 

Archisuits by Sarah Ross

Meanwhile, efforts have been made to subvert the phenomenon by artists such as Sarah Ross. Her project ‘Archisuits’ (pictured above), which she describes as ‘exercise suits for the exclusionary urban environment’, is an example of the push back against these kinds of public advances. These works consist of a collection of leisure jogging suits specifically designed to fit into the hard dividers of Los Angeles benches, making it possible for the user to lie down comfortably.

Others, such as the artist and architect Nils Norman, have been extensively documenting the barely noticeable reality of Defensive architecture since the 90s in order to bring it to light, and the archive is endless. Because, as Norman states; ‘As city spaces become cleaner and more symbolically ‘safe’, defensive design becomes more abundant and paranoid.” But that is not all: he has also been collecting and gathering what he calls ‘Playscapes’ that ‘represent an alternative paradigm and illustrate what an inclusive, playful and creative public space might look like’. This type of work is certainly a beacon hope in the face of the continued invasion of the private into the public sector and the exclusivity and elitism that it promotes.

“Playscapes: London, Evergreen” by Nils Norman

So, whether you think that this kind of design approach is just offensive, or believe that it serves a greater good- because the solution to issues such as drug addiction and homelessness should depend on better reintegrating those targeted groups into society so that they shouldn’t have to sleep in public benches- one cannot deny that defensive architecture acts as a curtain that strives to keep poverty unseen in order to make the rest of us more comfortable in our privilege. It is indeed a revealing representation of our social attitude towards economic inequality in general and homelessness specifically.

As a society, we must recognize and begin to question the impact the public environment has on our everyday lives. To this effect, our interactions and experiences with public spaces are revealing on a number of levels, particularly when human interaction, nuance, and empathy are being replaced with hard, physical and non-negotiable solutions. It reminds me of a question posed by the artist and researcher Sarah Hendren: ‘whose bodies are welcome in cities, and why?’