dirty windows


photo: Alpern. Dirty Window.

I used to have a recurring dream, it went like this: I’m spying on some activity in the window.

when,suddenly, the subject becomes aware of my presence and looks up. We lock eyes.

I know I’am in big trouble. Igasp and wake up.

The New York winter of 1993-94 was something like the second coldest or snowiest in history.

Weekly Blizzards vied for one- upmanship, causing depression in some people and exhilaration in other. The Saniration Department ran out of salt.

I spent most of my nights that winter down on Wall Streer looking into a bathroom window, watching people I didn’t know urinate, take drugs, have sex and count money.

This routine started in October when a men’s club opened in my friend Norman’s building. He showed me how the configuration of his loft space enabled a view across the airshaft, into the empty windows, one flight down, maybe 15 feet away. As we stood looking into the empty windows one of them was suddenly filled by an astonishing body, wearing a sparking harness, and doing something with toilet paper. I was transfixed. The body vanished a minute late and I wondered if I’d seen a mirage. I began calling Norman all the time, as relentless as the snow. Could I come over for just a little while?

Around 5 or 6 o’clock I’d arrive and climb the stairs past the club’s door– unmarked, just lots of locks and a peephole. A group pf men on the steps, laughing and drinking, sometimes called out to me. “Hey, aren’t you working tonight?” Bundle up, trying to make my photo equipment inconspicous, I’d duck my head and murmur some unintelligible sounds.

When I arrived at Norman’s loft we skipped the small talk and would soeculate instead on the likelihood of a “good night”, the indicators being everything from current weather conditions to the level of bass vibrations coming through the floor. Then I would head into the back room to arrange my setup amd begin my vigil. It was always such a relief to see the windows lit against the familiar darkness, their lunimous rectangles casting light up at me in a reassuring way.

So now I’m situated– dark clothes, camera on tripod, lens extended through the window bars– and waiting. I’m staring at the squares of light, eager for somebody to apper, but nobody does so I sip my cocoa, watch and wait, eyes on the windows, on the lookout for any stirrings of life. i listend for the music and wonder if the night’s snowstorm will slow business down.

Maybe twenty minutes later I’m in a trancelike state, still staring at the empty glowing squares, unable to discern whether the windows are flat planes of light or openings onto thress dimenstional spaces.

The room is freezing. I wrap up in some blankets and close my eyes, afterimages float in my brain- the same unwavering shape in a multitude of colors. I start to court, tell myself that when I get to 100 someone will appear. I try, like a two- bit psychic, to will a subject into view; it doesn’t work/ I’m hungry and wonder what’s in Norman’ refrigerator. It’s getting late. I keep checking my watch every few minutes, then I force myself not to look anymore. Finally, there’s nothing left to do but examine my motivations: Why am I sitting alone again in a darkened room, waiting to watch straners fuck?

I’d something get a look lije I’d announced I was twisting the heads off kittens when I tried to explain my evenings stationed at the windows. I loved to watch even the most mundane of anthropological details like how each man, after he urinated, shook his penis a little differently and none of the men ever seemed to wash his hands. I compared the tawdry, circus- like costumes the women wore, and was intrigued by the procedures of the sexual transactions: when the condom came out, when the money was handed over, how long it took, did they kiss goodbye.

Recuuring characters gave these pantomimes a soap opera quality and I’d try to decipher plot lines and guess the next scene. These minidramas and their unvarying props– condoms, tattoos, silicone, crack– filled my head and I began to think abot the windows all the time. They found their way into my dream.

I started to feel watched, always closing blinds and turning off lights. Sitting in the dark with my camera, I’d scan the buildings and rooftops and wonder who wathched me while I sat and watched. When a mirror was propped up in the window, blocking a portion of my view, I becaome convinced I’d blown the spot but it gave me a new perspective for several weeks; eventually pieces strarted breaking off and it finally disappeared altogether.

As February turned into March I became aware that the longer days were cutting into my shooting time. The warming air meant open windows and I felt I was pushing my luck with my subjects so close, the sound of the camera’s motor easily recognizable . And then one spring day, one thousand frames later, a message on my machine from Morman. “It’s over, baby, hope you got all your pictures, some kind of bust, hot tub being carried out last night…”

I felt freedom, relief, disbelief. I had to go back several times to share at the windows and absorb this turn of events, like viewing a body at a wake. I ran into the building’s real estate agent in the hallway and found myself improvising a frantic story about my search for a commercail space, a loft. Was  there a spave available in this building? Could I just take a quick peek?

And finally I stood with the agent in the enormous empty room, painted in shades of turquoise and lavender, a makeshift wooden platform in the center of the space. I rushed toward the back room marked WOMEN and, ignoring the agent’s questioning looks. I began to take all sorts of measurements, recording every dimension of the little bathroom on a scrap pf paper. It seemed important to gather this information, the numbers giving the mythical room a concrete reality.

This tiny, tiny bathroom was so anticlimactic. How could all that I’d witnessed have taken place in such cramped quarters? I gazed out and across, Locating my former perch. It was really so inconspicous: I realized then the unlikelihood of my ever having been discovered/ And I took one last look up at the windows, from which I had watched. for so many days, the pastimes of perfect strangers.

                                                                                                                      Merry Alpern





Alpern, M.(1995) Dirty Windows. New York: scalo


Today MUJI, a Japanese band has over 7,000 product items, including household products, clothing, stationeries , all of them emphasizing the brand’s concepts such as the ability to be recycled, extremely simple exterior and minimal wastage. (Narain, 2007, p.9)


photo: Narain,S. MUJI. cover

 This book talks about the story and concept of MUJI and its products. The initial purpose of this brand is against fashion and “brand free”, however, none can deny, it have become the most famous brand and leading fashion since 1990s. For me, its simplicity attract me a lot, especial the 2d advertisements are always nature, clean and get the point.


photo: Narain,S. MUJI. p.197

As we can see from the above images, using hazy household showroom as background, ‘simply’ set the main product in the centre. Following the tile( home) and the brand’s name. Not only easily make people understand the idea, MUJI devoted to help costumes to built their home and set up a living style, but also is warming and friendly graphic design.     


photo: Narain,S. MUJI. p.197

Narain, S. (ed.)(2007) Brands A To Z: MUJI. London: Southbank Publishing

It is a project i made for the December ” almost an island” exhibition. We were gave a poem Drunken Boat and asked to response. However, in the beginning, I did not feel like I really got involve, so i decided to make a in- boxing etching print to express my negative attitude.

As we can see from the picture, there are extracts of e-mails which printmakers using to communicate for organizing the December show on my print, however, I use in -boxing to make the words become hard to read. So that, audiences can feel there is a article but none has enough patience to read. And, that is exactly my attitude toward to hold an exhibition.


According to my peers, this is an interesting idea, as it represent my thought honestly. And I think making audiences’ reaction become one part of my work can increase the communication between artist and audience, help people to have more chance to understand me by the prints.



However, all of us agree this is interesting, but not a strong image, people gave me different suggestions, some like mix screen-print and etching, means add more professional technique; some like using different subject instead of six plums.

It is right, not strong enough, so next step try to rearrange the composition. I want to make it related to typographic and graphic design. So I read some books, Hope can make something more professional, not only for fun. But, sure, fun in daily life is very important to me.

weather– snow

well, i did not actually see the snowing, just when i went home in the morning, found something ‘ice’ lies on the windscreen. and touched it…



camera– Canon EOS 350D 

the following information also come from wiki website:


The Canon EOS 350D (Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT in North America and the Canon EOS Kiss Digital N in Japan) is an 8.0-megapixel entry-level digital single-lens reflex camera manufactured by Canon. The model was initially announced in February 2005. It uses Compact Flash storage and a Lithium ion battery. Part of the EOS, it is the successor to the EOS 300D and the predecessor to the EOS 400D (or Digital Rebel XTi), which was released in August 2006. Since early 2008, the 350D has been remaindered (production ceased in December 2007).[citation needed]

The 350D is an upgraded version of the popular Canon EOS 300D, which was the first sub-US$1000 digital SLR, introduced in 2003. The differences between the 350D and the 300D are significant and are present in almost all aspects of the camera. Many of the features ‘locked out’ by Canon in the 300D were unlocked in this camera, so it has been subject to less unofficial ‘hacking’ to release the locked features. In addition to these unlocked features, a number of other improvements have been made. Some of the most significant upgrades include:

  • 8.0 megapixels (up from 6.3)
  • DiG!C II image processor
  • Near instantaneous turn on and wake up times (0.2 seconds)
  • Compact Flash type II capability (includes microdrives)
  • 14 (JPEG) or 4 (RAW) frames continuous shooting buffer
  • Smaller and lighter body
  • Vastly increased function customizability
  • E-TTL II flash algorithm (improvement over the old E-TTL flash algorithm)
  • Mirror lock-up
  • Selectable AF and metering modes
  • USB 2.0 interface (improved from the slower USB 1.1 interface on the 300D)

    According to used this camera, i feel the most annoying issue is the 1G CF card is too small, that means 140 pictures is the maximum. And the shutter cannot adjust to under f/5.6, quite abnormal. 




Hampstead is covered by a large number wood and village, i try to find a place to set up my works. However, even i have been to this area four times, still easily get lose. 

The following information came from wiki websit( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampstead):

Hampstead is an area of LondonEngland, located 4 miles (6.4 km) north-west of Charing Cross. It is part of the London Borough of Camden. It is situated within Inner London. It is known for its intellectual, artistic, musical and literary associations and for the large and hilly parkland Hampstead Heath. It is also home to some of the most expensive housing in the London area, or indeed anywhere in the world, with large houses regularly listed for sale at over twenty million pounds sterling (about US$40 million in 2008). The village of Hampstead has more millionaires within its boundaries than any other area of Britain[1].

Saturday i entered into the green by another entrance, there are more people and usually waking their dogs. it looks more like a park, lake, grass, wild bird and fishing and running people. Could see a landscape view from the small hill.


 but, the weekend london transportation confused me a lot, it took me 4 hours to go back to lcc……and its so cold…..



 A Type Primer is a practical book for beginning students, the main purpose of the book is telling where the reader can understand and demonstrate basic principles of typography. At the introduction, John said that students have asked” is this right?”, when in fact there is no such thing in typography as ‘right’. The question they should be asking themselves is, “Does this work? Is it useful”.( Kane. J introduction) I quite like the answer, as I was confused a lot about what should fine art look like? Did i make it right? Now, maybe we can have another direction  to think about how is the work going. By ask myself, does it approach the idea i want to clarify, could it bring some positive information to audiences and something like that.

At the end of the introduction, John also takes three ideas separately from Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Louis Kahn: Content dictates form/ Less is more/ God is in the details. The ideas sound quite appropriate, but i still have to prove how does it work by practicing.

this book is including some excises, basic, but still useful.

for example. on 152 mm squares, present sections of a letterform that highlight it unique characteristics, keeping in mind the contrast between form and counter form. Note the point at which the letterform is no longer recognizable.

i chose adobe caslon pro as typeface, but, after enlarging, it is hard to tell. it is help to recognize the tiny details in different typeface, and make me more sensitive to letter form. 


and another excise is: pick up a letter, redraw them as often as it takes for you to feel the typeface, its nuances, and unique characteristics. when i can not decide use which letterform, i would try to redraw it by hand and enlarge it, and then find the one more suitable quickly.


Kane, J.(2004). A Type Prime. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd

Yesterday, i went to Candem Art Centre, a little bit disappointed. As in my mind, Candem Art centre might have something related to Candem Town, also full of strangers… but, in fact, that just is a quite small and quite gallery. Nothing like what i was expecting. I made two mistakes, first, forgot to bring my camera, that means i could record the thing attract me; second, i should check the information about the visiting group online before decided which team, so that can increase the proportion of finding the group i would really enjoy.

Now, add some background about this art centre, all information come from Candem Art Centre website( http://www.camdenartscentre.org/home/ ).


Built in 1897, originally a library, the grade II listed building became an arts centre in the 1960s. Following a reburbishment by Tony Fretton Architects, Camden Arts Centre re-opened to the public in 2004. The beautiful and sensitively designed building combines the original victorian gothic features with a contemporary urban design to enhance space and light. The new galleries attract artists of the highest calibre, able to display a broad range of work including installation, film and video, light sensitive drawings and sculpture. (As i can see by the visiting group, the ground floor is cafe and bookshop, tutor said we can oder the books in the gallery bookshop by UAl’s library.i think this centre fours on education, because there are many children’s book, library, and also allowed taking photos under some certain conditions. first floor has two exhibitions at the moment ) 

current exhibition:

Wallace Berman


(picture comes from Camden Art Centre website)

26 September – 23 November 2008

This is the first retrospective exhibition of American artist Wallace Berman (1926 – 1976), considered by many to be the ‘father’ of Californian assemblage. He was hugely influential on a group of artists and poets to emerge from the legacy of the Beat generation in the late 1950s and 1960s. 
It includes early drawings for Jazz record covers; his mail-art publication Semina containing poetry and images by Berman and his friends; his signature Verifax collage work as well as paintings such as ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ and his ‘Portrait of Kenneth Anger’. 
Look out for Berman’s only surviving sculpture, ‘Homage to Herman Hesse’ – it was made for his first exhibition which was prematurely closed by police. Shown alongside are his fragile rock boxes and photographs he took throughout his life. His 16mm film ‘Aleph’  is screened as well as posters, book covers and postcards. 
Berman’s influence is far reaching, Peter Blake included his portrait on the cover of The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and he appeared, with a punning reference to his publication Semina, as a seed-sower in the film ‘Easy Rider’. 
Supported by Neville and Emma Shulman.
(this exhibition has something related to printmaking, like lithographic. the thing impressed me is the works presented by postcard. )
Allen ruppersberg

(picture comes from Camden Art Centre website)

26 September – 23 November 2008
Allen Ruppersberg’s first solo show in a public gallery in London is based on ‘Literatura de cordels’ – pamphlets produced by travelling poets and writers in Brazil.

‘Literatura de cordels’ roughly translates as ‘Stories on a string’, these simply made booklets contain folk stories, poems and songs and are illustrated with wood cuts. 

It coincides with the exhibition by Wallace Berman (1926 – 1976), who was a huge influence on Ruppersberg as well as other artists and poets emerging from the legacy of the Beat generation in the 1960s. 
For this exhibition Ruppersberg has produced his own versions of ‘Literatura de cordels’. These pamphlets are hung from the ceiling over a red, black and white floor piece – ‘Reading Standing Up’ (2004). The text in the floor is made up of oppositions – us/them, left/right, text/margin, Italy/France, compelling you to read aloud and form your own rhythm and sounds.Ruppersberg  transforms Gallery 3 into a room for reading, recalling Camden Art Centre’s former life as a library. 

Throughout his life he has collected thousands of books, postcards, photographs, magazines, slides, posters, as well as industrial and educational films from 1931-1967. Ruppersberg uses these items as source material reflecting his interest in the cultural mythologies, narratives, and common truths of everyday life. 

(the form artist used is interesting, hanging art work in air, so that can give another way to reader or visitor to read the images, the special thing is, in this hall, it allowed us taking photos and touch it… )

Today, i wasted almost all day to make myself clam down, thanks to komomo, i feel better now. But, i also found i am always controlled by my feeling and emotion, well, maybe having rich sentiment is good for an ‘artist’, however, please not too much…

i still went to Hampstead, but, its too late, sunset is 4 pm everyday, so the sun is hiding after 2 o’clock, and it was light raining, so, i am not really shooting good images. shame…


small details make the world becomes different, so it deserve to put an eye on small things.

even in the same place, always can find new aspect.


sometimes, reflect the scene truly is important to photographic, i think it is easy to understand why.

and sometimes, i would like to chose some tiny subjects and take it from an unusual angle. in this situation, it could help to discover things which appear daily life everyday but not noticed by people.     


by the way, talk a little bit about the camera, it is borrowed from Camberwell College of Art, the model is Canon EOS 350D digital SLR. It is my first time using SLR camera, i just try all the button to see what would happen. Later, i will check online to find out the technique of SLR.  and i think i also need to look at some photos took by other photographer, to break the frame.