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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Rubin’

Ode to Moveable Type


When we said that the NYT Building installation Moveable Type was like poetry, we were dead serious, but that doesn’t even come close to how witty, how poignant, Gray Lady Mad Libs can be. Here’s the verse, culled from 156 years of New York Times articles, that revealed itself to us over the course of a few minutes when we met with Ben Rubin (please note forlorn man looking out over the falling leaves above for tone).

when teenagers have parties
On Dec. 6
on Dec. 2 in an unknown place
at 3:02am
Will I see it coming or will I fade away?

Her mother is a statistical analyst in the Melville office of National Grid, a British utilities company.
She graduated from the Juilliard School of Music.
8.6 points and just more than 5 rebounds

$55,000 for those who violate the embargo
We make little bands big bands.
They’ve made it to the big time.
We pay and the people agree. There are no problems.

They call it a ‘spinner for the upper body.’

Basically, watching this for an hour or two would make for a pretty awesome drinking game, something we’re sure the security force in the lobby of the New York Times Building would really appreciate.

Photo by Michel Denancé.

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Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen’s Installation at the New York Times Building Moves Us


The idea to siphon the words and images from the New York Times’ 156-year archive onto 560 small screens at the paper’s new Renzo Piano headquarters seems like an innocent, obvious proposition—a printed paper, in a new age, “going digital.” But Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen‘s installation Moveable Type, which holds court in the lobby, has choreographed that content into an unimaginable art: It has made poetry out of the news. And it’s good.


To start, the algorithm crafted by Hansen (a statistician) is very picky about what it selects from the Times, and how those selections appear. Sentences that start with “I” are juxtaposed with those that start with “you.” There’s today’s news, then news organized into phrases starting only with numbers. There are heartbreaking lines from obituaries. Or simply the shapes of countries, a single line slowly tracing their borders.

Lean in and you’ll recognize the chattering of typewriters, gentle telephone tones, or another sound we imagined to be one of those old teletype machines cranking out wire stories, which gives it a very vintage newsroom vibe (matching the retro-optimism of the newsroom upstairs; you almost expect people to be smoking at their desks). Each sound is then paired impeccably with the proper words. Letters to the Editor, for example, appears with a sharp staccato typing that. sounds. like. someone. is. giving. you. a. piece. of. their. mind.


Rubin calls it an “organism” that “metabolizes the content,” and just in our few minutes stationed in the corridor with him not a single person walked by who didn’t engage with the piece; at least two people got their photos taken with it, and even hustling employees gave it a knowing smile (or maybe looked for their bylines to scroll up).

David Byrne recently wrote on his blog he had fun identifying the countries and this news of approval from a fellow designer of sound especially floored Rubin, whose work with audible seems to have made him into a human boom mic. As we switched on our camera his ears literally perked at the chirping tweet of our Canon PowerShot powering up. “Did your camera make that sound?” We played it for him again. “Hmm, I wonder why they chose a bird?” Rubin designed the sounds for some of HP’s products; it appears he’s always doing research.

As cool as our camera sounded, the shoddy photos we took on the scene were not as impressive, so we asked Rubin if he had any good ones, and what do you know, he did. Beautiful shots–a few more below–by Michel Denancé. Officially opened to the public December 17, you can see Moveable Type whenever the Times building is open, or by viewing this lovely making-of video on

Inside Art Center’s Open House


The exhibition “Open House: Architecture and Technology for Intelligent Living” is a contemporary take on the “Home of Tomorrow” concept–it even opens with dozens of actual models you’ll recognize from those flickery 60s movies. There’s one by Bucky Fuller and the Monsanto House that used to be at Disneyland (until it was torn down, waah). But after a little history lesson, the content shifts to the exciting concepts of ten design teams instructed to envision living spaces 30 years from now. Our hands-down favorite was the creation of Joel Sanders, Karen van Lengen and sound designer Ben Rubin which turns the home into a giant microphone where residents can capture and mix ambient sounds to connect with their environment. Finally, the third portion of the exhibition poses questions to the audience along one long wall about their visions for the future of the home.

All of this takes place, quite miraculously, in the Art Center’s South Campus, which is named the Wind Tunnel for a very good reason–it used to be one. That’s a big, dark, empty, echo-y 16,000 square foot footprint with 60-foot ceilings. The show–which originated at the Vitra Museum in Germany–was adapted to this large white box by UeBERSEE (that’s “over sea”). Last night Nik Hafermaas, Boris von Bormann, Jamie Barlow and Carolina Trigo walked an attentive audience through the challenges, like scaling the space to human-size and down again to serve the tiny models, stringing fluorescent lights close to the exhibits using a cable car-like web, and guaranteeing accuracy when water jet-cutting the perforated typeface into the floor-to-ceiling panels. (The answer to the last one is lots of X-acto work by hand.) Good questions after the presentation–and there were a lot of them–were rewarded with custom police tape printed with messages like CONNECT TO YOUR CITY. We snagged a roll in blue.

Hafermaas passed along plenty of photos he shot with Jessica Haye…

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