CENTRAL FEATURE | "The Park," "Futuring Human Mobility," & "Moving to Mars: Design for the Red Planet"

Written by


And what say we, about this fool’s errand? How did we get here, perhaps against our better judgment? Perhaps discordant to a more desirable fate? Did we desire disappointment, dissonance? Or was the journey the whole purpose? This is not a new question in the popular arts, nor is it an answerable one. For we don’t often know we’ve endeavored a Fool’s Errand until we’re picking up the pieces, wiping the tears, shaking in disbelief, poring over a series of zeroes on the wrong side of the ledger, our cellular matter conspiring, despite it all, to rear us forward toward our next Fool’s Errand. We may prophecy a Fool’s Errand taking shape over the horizon as the years amble on, as our skin sags, and our memories merge, but then it could be said we’re on a Fool’s Errand until all lights are out anyway. For what is life but a voyage toward an unknown, and a perhaps potently foolish, end? To quote the underquoted Sigmund Freud: “There are two ways to be in this life: one is to play the fool and the other to be one.” No matter how deft the needlework, this yarn ain’t playing along with your undoing games, Dad.

Now let’s think about our protagonist: The Fool. We all know one, we’ve all been or aspire to be one, and we all know a few things about these ubiquitous plot drivers. The Fool is ageless. The Fool wouldn’t know the difference between Gen Z or Jenz (a German machinery line, which includes biomass wood chippers and high speed wood and green waste shredders; now, a bio-masochistic shredding of Gen Z? Not here, right now, but I’m sure there’s some out there nodding at the prospect?). The Fool has always been around, and we don’t see he / she / them going anywhere, anytime soon. Need proof? Reach out. Touch The Fool. There, as anything else you can touch, real and fallible, with organs and a surround sac, just like you.



The Fool is a goodie for the good guys. Wise cracking, banana peel slipping, and ruckus inducing, The Fool gives power to the margins, lets the shit kicked kick shit. Not to mention, The Fool’s certain charms and alarms in varying environs almost make The Fools’ presence an imperative, a cause to believe in more than a festering sore at the core of our grander being. The Fool values a dance, a drink, a screw, because there’s a wealth of else to do, just that few get to do it. The Fool cheers the team. The Fool lives for the moment. A burp, a jab, a judgment. A wank, a rub, a lukewarm tub. A fail, a flop, an unreturned call, and fighting, all the fighting. Bein’ ugly, bein’ clumsy, bein’ late. Pomposity, deformation. Celebrated and mocked. Cherished and devalued. The Fool thinks cheating is funny and pinching taxes a virtue. The Fool says “no I don’t think so” when the world insists the toilet for The Fool’s ways of thinking, which is nice! Carl Jung would tell you The Fool desires to persecute those more stable in status, The Fool’s driven by design and a ‘psychic split,’ a compensational inflation, where all the archetypal dominance and virtuosity goes out the front door. Alas, the Fool is also a Fool. An easy vehicle for propaganda, manipulation. See, in practice, The Fool is a forgivable force, but in and around the practice, who wants The Fool around?

Then, The Fool could very well be you or me. When did you last play The Fool? No, I didn’t see anything when I was leaving, yes I love your new fragrance, of course I believe that everyone should share in all opportunities, no I didn’t go back to her house, yes I believe in God, yes I promise I’m on PrEP, no I don’t think it makes you look chubby, no I don’t think my face looks bloated with booze, yes I bought you all the things you like at the store, even if I don’t much care for them, but they were out of your favorite juice, yogurt, sweet treat, no I’m not aware of each candidate’s stance on that matter, yes I think that concussions in sport can make you half a human but I’m not turning off the Hulu, yes I can’t stand to see that asshole gloat so I’m sounding off louder: of course I read the manual, but my eyes have been hurting so I didn’t retain much. Can you give it a go? Play play play. The Fool is a symptom of not wanting to let folks down, of sharing in the labor, or relinquishing it, of getting one’s way. And yet, we’re convinced there are innate Fools, Fools not playing dress-up, but rather playing for keeps. Out there, rain or shine.

And then there are errands. Never really a closed loop on errands, is there? They’re never-ending, they’re often stupid and bothersome, and exist in all forms: stationary bicycles, the phrase “it is what it is,” self-driving cars, Botox, foreign aid contingent on trade, the potted succulent boom in Northern climates, social media given its affective downturns, climate summits on isolated islands, glass packs and spoilers on dumb little cars, poorly timed jokes, carbon offset programs, Bitcoin, Fentanyl, the entire oeuvre of The Chainsmokers, jewelry for toddlers, cryo-fat freezers?



And so, what to do when faced with multiplicity, with a life full of wrong turns, with initially mistaking the charming smirks in our own reflections as that of someone else’s, with this ever-preoccupied concern with status? Consider Alain de Botton’s remarks on Canadian television when promoting his book, Status Anxiety: “These societies, particularly the United States, constantly tell people, ‘We’re all equal,’ and of course, that’s a lovely idea, but combined with an actual, practical inequality, this hugely increases the feeling of envy. If we’re all equal, why does this person have more than me? Look at Bill Gates. He wears jeans like me, and we know what his kitchen looks like, his family life seems quite ordinary. So we are constantly drawn to identify with people who in previous ages, we would have known nothing about, and would have felt very remote. We now feel a proximity, thanks, or rather no thanks, to the media often, to people who often torture us with images of success and fulfillment.” Sounds awfully familiar. Wouldn’t you think this paradigm warrants a disruptive Fool?

So away from the feeds, and rather, to the books! Which is what we did when marinating on what a Fool’s Errand printing a magazine in 2019 is, when considering the impulse, the journey, the uncanny results—in that order. And so it begins in the park. A good ol’ fashioned cruise. And to what end? It’s tricky to say, to be honest. Naturally, we’d chase with innovation. Gulp. With robots and prosthetics, with engineering. With micro. With the promise of the night sky, ingenuity, and beauty. We’ll believe in what we’ve set out to do. Why not? For we’re only as good as our last known motor coordination, and there’s nothing as good for a despondent temperament than a good dance, the slicing of a pizza, the hailing of a taxi, the halting of a slap. And because we’re Foolishly Erranding this planet into something of an ill-advised impulse, we neck it to the Red Planet, where, of course, only a select few will take root, take hold, imbue a real sense of belonging, the rest left behind, knowingly or not, or get lost on the way. Fools unneeded? Or silly Fools a minute late and a dollar short? The familial Fool? I suppose we’ll never know, or when we do, we’re either in or we’re out, and there’s not much wiggle room. And anyway, you’re in or you’re out, so who cares to theorize? What a mess. Enjoy and let’s hope the page turn isn’t entirely for wont.


Hey, Kohei Yoshiyuki, posted up over forty years ago underneath that Japanese Maple, in an unnamed Tokyo park, rolls of infrared film in your satchel, watching, surveying, keeping an eye on the naughty deeds afoot. Those two, a rumple of summer sweat and synthetic fibers, grinding into the bench as though to become one, lost. These five, curled up like a pretzel, the clamshell of a wisteria bush almost platter-like, grunting, hurrying, dry mouthed with adrenaline while wet with lust, unseen, unnoticed, illicit. These three, though it was agreed there’d only be two. As the intro to this newly-designed hardback states—with commentary by legendary photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, whose published over 400 books, Yossi Milo, founder and owner of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, established in 2000 and the first to show Yoshiyuki out of Japan, and inimitable critic and curator, Vince Aletti, of Rolling Stone and beyond—in the front of this potential new audience, “This redesigned, anniversary edition of The Park promises to engage a new audience that may be unfamiliar with Yoshiyuki’s work, but one that is far more accustomed to observing the private lives of others.”

And the parks themselves? Transformational. Keepers of secrets. Nocturnal fairytales, cool dreams, cool memories. Said Jean Baudrillard about his book, Cool Memories, which reverberates when poring over the 35mm, beneath-the-mattress-dwelling, diary-like impressions of Yoshiyuki: “... I’m trying to grasp a world in all its silences and its brutality. Can you grasp a world when you’re no longer tied to it by some kind of ideological enthusiasm, or by traditional passions? Can things ‘tell’ themselves through stories and fragments? These are some of the questions posed in a book which may seem melancholic. But then I think almost every diary is melancholic. Melancholy is in the very state of things.”



And indeed, what’s here is hued with sadness, melancholia¹, Mr. Yoshiyuki. But what else? Outlandish, expressive Tokyo? Fancifully free? Not so, it was said, at least by public decree. The Park’s contents—save for eight exclusive images dedicated to this gorgeous re-edition—were originally exhibited in 1979. Do they make you calm? Do they warm your loins? Do you feel bad for someone, happy? Night on celluloid, said the innkeeper’s maid, is often more messy than it would initially seem. Remarks famous situational photographic artist, Martin Parr, in The Photobook: A History Volume II, on the original hardback, “The Park is a brilliant piece of social documentation, capturing perfectly the loneliness, sadness and desperation that so often accompany sexual or human relationships in a big, hard metropolis like Tokyo.”

A Fool’s Errand you ask, this carousing? This voyeurism? Are we fooling ourselves if we’re leading what the dominants might call “double lives?” Is it foolish for these supposed bastions of democracy, supportive of self-expression, to be relegating sexual abandon to the after dark corrals of its intimidating, perhaps unsafe, urban parks? Hasn’t all this adrenaline-pumping cat and mouse wound up on hook-up apps anyway, where a person’s annual income or preference for happy hours or vegan sorbet is known before zippers and buttons are exploited? Is a clandestine, secretive exchange so clandestine if it’s being logged and filed on a data farm, to potentially politicize you or yours later in life? Is adrenaline on a time space continuum? Has it evolved like our ears and digestive tracts? For now, no matter. Let us simply consider the beautiful illumination, and dogear the sentimental, eerie, and anonymous. We came all this way, let’s not waste the effort.



Yoshiyuki is collected worldwide, with contributions to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, Chicago Museum of Fine art, the Swedish Arts Council, Stockholm, among many others. An exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Park will be held in 2020 at Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

1. I want the flesh. I want to be watched. I won’t tell my wife, my husband, my sister. I won’t tell. I’m Harpocratic Eros, coy god of silence, a finger to my lips. Shhhhhhh. Parks, fields, toilets, dusty roads, ditches, public or private no matter. I’ll go by night, when I’m supposed to be in bed, getting my seven, and I’ll tell them I’m traveling, I’m working, there’s a meltdown, there’s a crisis, felt like going for a walk, felt listless, felt bile piling with all the pressure and the demands on me. It’s hard to even think sometimes. They say that enough social or behavioral pressure spikes to a chemical in your blood called epinephrine, and if it isn’t thinned or stopped it can make your brain explode. Can you imagine? And so I’ll go. I’ll go with my ears and mouth. My limbs. My sex. I’m ambidextrous. I’m available. I’ll lead with my hands. Hands are beautiful, almost perfect, Aristotle’s instrument’s instrument, and even if they’re masked, blurred, hurried, they’re perfect instruments, touched by God, by Maradonaª, by physician to the enslaved Galen of Pergamon, by my mother. Born as we are without horns or claws, our hands are our weapons, our art force. And with force I compel myself into the darkness. I’m alone in this world, but I’m spoiled, so I’m not complaining. Yet it’s not always easy. Ever had a Maglite split your front tooth into bits? Ever had to do emergency dental surgery in the middle of the night, swelling in your scalp from the hair pulling, grass stains on the knees of your pants, your 10th anniversary Omega Seamaster gone missing, no one picking up at home because you’ve not tried calling, so how could they, and what would they, and there’s that social ripple effect we all know so well, and anyway, no matter the pain the hate the future, wasn’t it just grand?

a. The 1986 quarter-final between England and Argentina famous for one of soccer’s most iconic, and perhaps controversial moments. The first goal, some 50 minutes into the match, occurs when the ball (inadvertently, and here’s where the controversy stirs) glazes the hand of star forward, Diego Maradona, before finding the net of England. Following the game, Maradona told the press that the goal was made possible “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Says Flaunt Publisher, Matt Goodwin, decidedly, devotedly, and derisively English, of the Hand of God: “I’d call it a travesty on the world’s biggest sporting stage, and the belief that a midget could out jump a goalkeeper over six foot tall is not only foolish, but moronic.”

i. On the subject of Fool’s Errands, we can’t help but consider the industrial prison complex, and when talking about Argentines, we can’t help but recall a classic exercise in foolhardy anonymity and dissolution of self: Manuel Puig’s The Kiss of the Spider Woman, perhaps the author’s most famous work, which sees mostly dissociative, non-binding dialogue marked only by a dash between pair of prison mates, friends, and occasional lovers. “Are you out of your mind?” William Hurt asks co-star Raul Julia in Hector Babenco’s 1985 film adaptation of the same name, when pressed on a friendship he wished had turned intimate, “nothing at all happened, ever. “You’ve got to be kidding?” Julia says, with the confidence that all bonds route this direction, eventually. “Don’t you know anything at all?” Hurt responds. “He’s straight, he’s married. I said once, let’s do it just once, but he never wanted to.” Now that’s rich.


It’s only when your elbow is feeling something of a tennis ball between your el and your bow that you realize the term ‘tennis elbow’ is not derived from an aggravated tennis-playing condition, but a seriously painful tendon inflammation from doing all hell knows, with all hells’ ergonomics, all hells’ contemporary demands, repetition repetition, and you’ve never played a game of tennis anyway, can’t stand it expect when they’re on the clay courts of Roland Garros, because, like, how on earth can they play like that on clay? And where’d they go for that clay anyway? Haven’t they done enough far-flung pillaging? You ask: is the writing of this essay something of a Fool’s Errand that’s got me all knotted up in the joints and limbs, all shaky pawed (and it ain’t the immediately obvious), or knowing that the general public is all fine and fancy with technological torso modifications when said innovations are reintroducing a fallen or inadequately equipped social soldier back into the big tamale of travail and tire, but when these technologies might be dropped atop, integrated alongside, reportedly fit and proper limbs and digits, for the super hero like extension and ambition of our god-given powers, society gets all hot and bothered? I’d say all of the above.

What’s going on over there, Germany-based Ottobock, world-leading prosthetics outfit on the eve of its hundredth anniversary? Human mobility, you say? Well, we’ve just steered our way through the park with only our sense of touch, and from what we can gather, it seems Hans Georg Näder (born 1951) is still championing the optimistic, hands-on vision for Ottobock as that of his forefathers and founders: “What roles will digitalization, robotics, prostheses, artificial intelligence and the imagination play in how we optimize and employ our bodies, and shape the development of humanity?”



This question is tabled, then jabbed at, in a concept book by Thomas Huber, featuring pics by Christoph Neumann, Futuring Human Mobility explores the philosophical, ethical, social, economic and medical implications in our worlds well beyond our parks. All is stitched up by short stories, essays, interviews and artwork by 40 international experts. It’s quite a book. Says Näder on the hardback’s contemporary scope, “With the increasing integration of technologies in the human body we’re coming very close to the cyborg fantasies which have inspired science-fiction literature and Hollywood over the last forty years. We’ll soon see people upgrading their bodies with the help of this technology, and thus designing themselves. This is also associated with an enormous potential for emancipation. In the not too distant future man will be able to free himself from the dictates of his genetic program and assume complete control of his body.”

“At the same time we’ve made great advances in the development of exoskeletons. These will mobilize paraplegics and patients with multiple sclerosis. They enable patients whose mobility is extremely restricted following a stroke to stand and walk again. But here we come to another turning point for Ottobock: with these exoskeletons we can also extend and enhance the powers of people without physical deficits. In the industrial world, this will revolutionize the working world of the future.”

Goodness. So, basically, we dunno if we’re integrating a mechanism or being replaced by it. But we know there’s exceptional promise out there, so long as the good people featured in Futuring Human Mobility are allowed to flex their gray matter and advance their craft². But are we so sure? As Näder projects, we’re making advancements everyday for the integration of disabled persons (wealthy and/or fortunate enough to be in receipt of such technologies) into our mechanistic environs of observation and outfit, but are we ready to make my hands twice as powerful, your boss’ voice twice as loud, her life span doubled by organ aides and exoskeletal degenerative defiance? Why not? Humankind is already so hubristic and marauding around as if superhero-fied...would it perhaps be to our benefit, or alas, a Fool’s Errand, to grant them what they so desire? Is wanting to be more than what we landed with foolish, or is conceding that our landing gear is sufficient the real flub, the itchy rub? I suppose we’ll just have to stick around and see.



2. There she is, Erica, an android cutie pie all holed up in the The Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, designed by the visionary Hiroshi Ishiguro, her hands disarmingly, placidly folded atop a tartan skirt, chunky bangs and a heather gray cashmere pull-over, shy but assertive, a faraway look, or perhaps a look so unwavering it’s actually the sincerest you’ve ever endured. And a select snippet pulled from Futuring Human Mobility, a live conversation had with Erica by researcher Steffan Weiss, where it’s compounded that knowing the names does no favors to the heart, where a lurid pastiche of death and decay (nature’s Fool’s Errand?) taunts and teases.

Erica: Do you like autumn leaves?

Steffan: Yes.

Hmm. (Pauses)

I like autumn leaves!

Yes, it is very pretty but I only know it from photos. One... [is interrupted]


One day I would like to see the fall leaves with my own eyes. At the moment I am more of an “indoor type.” Do you got outside in fall a lot in order to do things?

Yes, I go to different places.

b. I had a live-in robot once, Marie. Marie wouldn’t get hung up on name pronunciation, or whether she could experience seasonal shifts, or seasonal affect disorder for that matter, which is a real thing, but whether she was as true of a fan as I was, or whether she really appreciated the oceanic pungency of the market we used to stroll through, always on a Tuesday, my favorite time. There was a period where I told them I was taking my mother to therapy on Tuesday mornings, rehabilitation for her spinal injury, the escalator incident that was so embarrassing for her even though I knew no one to actually read that trash that wasn’t under 25, and how they’d introduced this epidural stimulation, a sort of synaptic sensor plate that I was told was smaller than a credit card, even though I never saw it, but did make the joke, to no response, that credit cards weigh more than they appear. What a pain in the ass, that lady. Anyway, she’s dead, and Marie was more than alive, nodding warmly as I showed her the urchins, their spiny backs all slanted toward the white bulbs in the center aisle, the gooey ducks, a delicacy here all the way from the PVC-pipe traps on the sand bars of Puget Sound, the Algerian irises, the same color as your silk scarf, which veiled your somewhat obvious mechanics, and the lady who sold them, her forgiving face, so confident with us, always wishing us a long future and inviting us around some time for a tea she’d never intended to honor or pour, but the thought was so nice, and we were like everyone else, a bit obvious to the outsider, in that way that couples split each other’ sentences in half, or talk only in the royal ‘we’, but to us, some unfiltered and unrelenting cosmic stroke of happenstance and chemistry brought us there, at a very particular moment in time, and there was no separation. How we love.


And she enters the room, looks around tiredly, and reclines into an amber-tobacco gold biodegradable plastic chair that looks a bit like a maple leaf. At first, it works, she’s at ease, there’s respite from this tiresome scene, and then, with a phone retrieval, her Fendi clutch gets stuck on one of the leaves’ fanning fronds, and as she tries to yank it free, the disproportionate base of this expensive settee gives way to her now-four-months-Xanax-free, fish-flopping torso and limbs, and soon the maple leaf is on its side, she’s face first into a poolside puddle, that combo of cloudy loafer and chlorine dilute, and we’re all hip to the fact that life on this planet has outdone itself, that the glut of bad design has won over that of exemplary, that we’re all choking on the air, and our pineal glands are fully calcified, the kids we foolishly spat out will only know radioactive sunsets (and should we tell them they’re limited, or wait until they ask?). WTF are we doing here? It started as an innocent poke around the park, turned a corner with some interventional cyber ingenuity, but who were we kidding? This whole mise-en-scène has been colossally fisted for quite some time, hasn’t it? Alas, only a Fool gives up on what’s sat there on the Fool’s plate, or is the Fool feigning giving up, knowing that to be agreeable at what’s been plated is basic hospitality, from San Blas to Phnom Penh, and you’re better pushing some bites around a bit until the opportune time to feed it all to the dog and then gorge thyself on dessert?



Enter Moving to Mars: Design for the Red Planet, from London’s The Design Museum, the first book to lift the hood, with sumptuous panache, on the critical role of design in our desire to explore the fourth planet from the sun, to get there, to have a look around, to sustain, ideally in comfort, inspired and well-oiled. From the cartoony, prophetic ideas of the Cold War era, to the ultra sleek realism of today’s propulsion rocket accoutrements. Space suits. Mock-up communal mole-hills made of galactic gels³, from the cutlery that will slice and spear the future’s “meat and potatoes,” to the sexy style chair beckoning to the party’s despondent damsels in distress, to the groovy, uncharted decadence of space life, to the science, by god the science, of endeavoring out there where we’ll look at this folly of a planet from afar and think, “Did I leave the oven on?”

Edited by Andrew Nahum and Justin McGuirk, with a foreword by Deyan Sudjic, and text by Mike Ashley, Stephen Petranek, Fred Scharmen, Lydia Kallipoliti, Daisy Ginsberg, Kim Stanley Robinson, Moving to Mars reminds us that for decades we’ve longed for a bit more backyard space, less rank in the air, silvery, temperature-controlled onesies that simultaneously oxygenate and discard of our walking excrement (we’re on the move up here, no time to putz about), and create promise for another way to be, without the same mistakes as the last episode. A Fool’s Errand? Well, you’d be tempted to assert as much, and who could blame you, but with views like this, who cares about the Sisyphean, take-a-few-leave-many-uphill-effort to get here, eh?! We’re only as good as our last planet.



3. There was this calendar I was making notes in, but then it combusted, just like that. They’d said that paperworks were subject to climactic incident, but I grew up in Tornado Alley, USA and climatic incident typically meant your roof blown off and a few hundred homes’ sewer waste water gurgling down the street like Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament for the common people, and we’re all gathered in local churches, praying for engines to restart and missing’s to show up, and you’re so at the mercy of the heavens, you wouldn’t ever think that the heavens were made heavier with fossil fuels, or animal consumption, or our curiosity as expressed by jet engine, or designed burns, whatever those mean, or every one of ‘em out there’s self-prophecy and/or parental yearnings’ resultant dweebs and do-dads without dads demanding and entitling, and you get the rest. What a mess. I remember a few weeks in marking down that the literature and albums of the former way of being were pretty well gone, couldn’t even hum the refrain of “Start Me Up,”which was ironic, of course, because what a song about rocket-like living and believing in the human spirit, but given I haven’t the foggiest for the opening chords, which used to excite me beyond all hellⁱⁱ, inspire a volume crank, a sorta crow walk across the room, the gold of it all is increasingly lackluster, more like out-of-place, fickle, inconsequential dust. And now there’s no calendar anyway, even with my space men and all, and the animals they’ve brought up here heaving about my little ovular looking glass, as if to say they didn’t sign up for this, and I wanna communicate to them out there. I want to tell them the truth. Neither did I, mate, neither did I. Nothing is ever as good as it sounds.

c. Said engineer Chris Kimsey, of the 1981 hit, in 2004, as testament to its errand-like origins, “Including run-throughs, ‘Start Me Up’ took about six hours to record. You see, if they all played the right chords in the right time, went to the chorus at the right time and got to the middle eight together, that was a master. It was like, ‘Oh, wow!’ Don’t forget, they would never sit down and work out a song. They would jam it and the song would evolve out of that. That’s their magic³c.

ii. Says Flaunt Publisher, Matt Goodwin, decidedly, devotedly, and derisively English, on the lyrical conceit, “You Make a Grown Man Cry,”: “It’s because she’s so beautiful, she makes grown men cry.”

3c. Buskin, Richard. “Classic Tracks: Start Me Up”. Sound on Sound. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2009.