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why: Introduction

Art and science have always had interesting connections. From Leonardo da Vinci to Len Lye, from the builders of the Greek temples to the creators of the geometric gardens of France, the cultures of science and of the arts have overlapped, merged and sparked off each other in myriad ways. In the 21st century exciting new possibilities are developing to extend this tradition. One of these new possibilities is to be found in the development and design of cities.

Advanced work in nonlinear dynamics and network theory has revealed the fascinating patterns of organisation that underlie complex natural processes like the changing weather and the flocking of birds. What has now become clear is that the complex interweaving systems that animate great cities are astonishingly similar to these natural patterns.

This understanding of the city involves seeing it as a moving field of forces. These forces may be cultural as well as physical, and investigating their flow can be more insightful than merely thinking about the objects in a city.

Artweb offers a way of becoming involved in this new investigation of the city. A multi-disciplinary design and planning strategy for the urban development of Auckland, New Zealand, Artweb focuses on marginalised and under-utilised urban spaces. By tapping into the forces that exist within those sites, artistic interventions are carried out, offering huge opportunities for new and visionary forms of urban planning and design. By finding links between these sites, Artweb is also creating a physical network of arts and science projects in the Auckland region.

The result is an evolving real-time web of places and spaces that emerges through the creative work of designers, artists, ecologists, landscape architects and architects. A new kind of public realm becomes possible, where citizens and their visitors can interact with the unique geography of the region, its flora and fauna, its stories and histories – at home in a landscape of flows.

The project has commenced with a series of GIS mappings of the region depicting social, cultural, ecological and biological layers. Cartographic data is explored by creating new ways for classifing regional information. Data sets are superimposed as layers, one on top of each other. Where interesting data on the layers intersect, intensities have been identified as sites for intervention.

A team comprising artists, scientists and designers has been established to work together on the implementation of a network of physical pathways linking these sites. Utilising railway corridors, urban streamways, motorway medians, school grounds, golf courses, wetlands, private and public property, the project proposes a physical network of marginalised, left over, under-utilised and under-actualised sites and passages, distributed throughout the region and linked in a number of different ways, both physically and electronically. The urban web thus generated is an evolutionary circuit that changes and absorbs, emits, transmits and conducts information and experiences. It also helps to rebuild the ecological structure of the region by focusing appropriate funding, expertise and imagination on the incremental development of an ecologically sustainable urban infrastructure.

Shifts in the political climate, in cultural patterns, in arts practices and funding, in research methodologies - in anything at all in fact - register as perturbations on both physical and online Artweb sites. Like an evolutionary barometer, Artweb harnesses the ebbs and flows of urban forces and expresses them visibly as fluctuations in the landscape.

Artists and designers are working with local authorities, landscape architects, ecologists and engineers to establish a site development trajectory which permits the artwork to emerge in interaction with the entire situation (instead of happening as an afterthought, as is often the case). Thus, if the artwork is located in a specific terrain - a "site"- it becomes identical with the site, a quality of the site, or a site condition. The artists', scientists' and designers' proposals are realised in the urban network through local authority, corporate and private sponsorships, and through science and arts grants. The potential for academic research is matched by the potential for landscape architectural practitioners to become involved in projects that 'bubble up' through the community system as well as being commissioned.

The strategy underpinning artweb interventions enshrines the modus operandi of nonlinearity - time-sensitivity, bottom-up patterns of self-organisation, and a disorderly rhythm of growth. By working with nonlinearity, the project is at the same time investigating it.

Artweb artists and designers can work with the mathematical, spatial, geographic and cartographic conventions that designate intensities. They may create new classification systems, and realise these in the physical realm. Or the outcomes of an intervention may require technology to become visible - as a counterpart to the physical urban web, the project also proposes the implementation of a virtual network that models and monitors the physical one. Changes that take place in the urban field are accessible via this website.

The Auckland metropolitan area is a network of interactive distribution systems, such as capital, traffic, water, telematics and information. A survey of this field is not restricted to physical objects and processes, but includes the invisible and ephemeral along with the visible and enduring; incorporating the sonic, the olfactory, the legislative and infrastructural, unformed matter and raw energy; the outlawed and marginalized.

Artweb views the sites where it intervenes - called intensities - not as autonomous points but rather as microsystems constituted by specific "ways of seeing." The classification schemas that inform these ways of seeing (both conventional and radical) have been translated into spatial maps for the purpose of locating and informing these intensities.