Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Japanese, they are a Koi people: The art of Yoske Nishiumi

From Design Boom
"'koi' in japnese has a number of diverse meanings: 'falling in love', 'come here','ancient way', 'intensive',
'with purpose' and ... 'carp'. fittingly it's also the name of the ongoing projects from yoske nishiumi.
the über cool creative movement 'koi klub' boasts a collection of work, which includes art pieces,
sneaker designs, a magazine and a free monthly club-night - from which the iniative began.

designboom caught up with the berlin-based japanese
designer and asked him to shed some light on his activities which he calls 'koi klub'.

after working at an american company in tokyo
for 8 years (to be more specific, selling shaving razors!),
I left japan to travel for a while, which eventually brought
me to berlin in 2000, where I have stayed since. for me
berlin is an amazing city where you define people not by
where they live or the company they work for, but by who
they are as a person - the music they listen to, food they
eat and other interests...I have a strong feeling that this is the the biggest influence
on my work."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Square, Circle, Square, Triangle for God Mode

More fun mixing of 'real' reality and 'cyber' (or game) reality. Aram Bartholl:

The number of online computer game players increases every day. Millions of players explore the virtual worlds in so called MMORPGs Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games like World of Warcraft for example. Every Player creates his own virtual character by choosing an outfit, race and special capabilities. But every players most unique sign for the virtual charackter is the name. The so called nickname is hovering above the head of the players avatar and visible for all other players in the game.

The Installation Speed is a transformation of the big flashing arrows from the computer game “Need for Speed Underground 2, NFSU 2” to real space.

Although computer games always try to imitate the physical world there are always elements, objects and behaviours which only exist in the virtual world.

In the game NFSU 2 the player drives a car through a simulated city. Part of the game is to drive races against opponents in the city. To make the race track more visible big flashing arrows separate the track from the rest of the streets. These arrows have a special semipermeable function. The car of the player bumbs into them and can not cross them. For the “normal” simulated city traffic these arrows have no effect, they are passing right through them.

In "The Sims", one of the most successful computer games of recent years, the player controls a family or other social group through their everyday lives. The welfare of each individual game figure lies in the hands of the player who can switch between characters. Diagrams and bar displays show statements on the condition of the virtual people. Are all their needs gratified? Love, fun, comfort, nutrition, ...
The game takes place in a three-dimensional house which is transparent for the player. When the Sims earn enough money, players can buy new furniture and other objects for them or enlarge the house. The characters have a certain self-sufficiency, though not enough to maintain their well-being.

The daily routine is planned: interests, hobbies, school and work are important components of everyday life. New social relationships are made and nurtured.

"The Sims" reflects our life. It attempts to simulate our complex everyday social life with its various relationships. The reproduction of the green rhombus which hovers as a three-dimensional marking over the head of the active figure transforms the world the Sims into our world.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Places We Wish Existed But Don't: The Duchy of Grand Fenwick

From Wikipedia:
The Duchy of Grand Fenwick is a tiny fictional country created by Leonard Wibberley in a series of comedic novels beginning with The Mouse That Roared (1955), which was later made into a film.

The duchy, ruled by Grand Duchess Gloriana XII, is described as bordering Switzerland and France in the Alps. It retains a pre-industrial economy, dependent almost entirely on making Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. It takes its name from its founder, the English knight Sir Roger Fenwick, who, while under the employ of the French, settled there with his followers in 1370. (The story of Sir Roger's conquest of the duchy is told in Wibberly's 1958 book, Beware of the Mouse.) Thanks to Sir Roger, the national language is English.

In the novels, Wibberley goes beyond the merely comic, placing the tiny nation (15 square miles /39 square kilometers) in absurd situations so as to comment on then-contemporary politics and events.

In The Mouse That Roared, for example, the duchy seeks to stop American counterfeiting of Pinot Grand Fenwick. Grand Fenwick's formal protests are ignored by U.S. State Department employees, who think the documents are pranks. Grand Fenwick then plans an attack on the United States, certain this will lead to immediate defeat followed by generous American aid. The duchy's forces, clad in chain mail and armed with longbows, arrive in New York during an air raid drill and can find no one to surrender to. Ultimately they take prisoners and return to Grand Fenwick. One captive is the inventor of the Q-bomb, and the duchy finds itself the possessor of the only working model of this devastating weapon. Grand Fenwick forms an alliance of small nations, the Tiny Twenty, and uses its control of the bomb to obtain world peace.

In The Mouse on the Moon (1962), Grand Fenwick beats the U.S. and Soviet Union in a space race by using a new rocket fuel, the secret ingredient for which is a "premier grand cru" crop of Pinot Grand Fenwick.

In The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), the duchy disrupts the world's finances.

Grand Duchess Gloriana: How did the war go?
Tulley Bascombe: Well, this is a bit of a surprise. A pleasant one, I hope. I think we've won.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Damn kids: The Bōsōzoku

From Wikipedia:
Bōsōzoku (暴走族) (literally "Violent Running Tribe") is a Japanese subculture very similar to car clubs: gangs of young men who share a common interest in designing (often illegal) modifications for cars and motorcycles. These modifications often include removing the silencing features so that more noise is produced. They also engage in dangerous driving, such as weaving from side to side on the road, not wearing crash helmets, and ignoring red traffic lights. Japanese police call them "Maru-So"(police code:マル走)

Among their activities is shinai bōsō (市内暴走), which consists of driving down city streets at illegally high speeds. It is not properly a race; it is typically done for the thrill. With many cars (or bikes) involved, the leading one is driven by the sentōsha (先頭車), the leader, who is responsible for the event. Nobody is allowed to overtake him. Others keep a lookout for side and rear cars/bikes. Although they do race, some groups prefer to just bōsō, or violently run. They modify their exhaust systems to be extra loud and drive through suburbs at speeds of 5-10 miles an hour, waving imperial Japanese flags and shouting obscenities, occasionally throwing Molotov cocktails and carrying swords/spears, daring bystanders to challenge them.
Bōsōzoku members tend to be perceived as criminals and misfits, and they are commonly said to be recruiting grounds for the yakuza. Very few bōsōzoku members are older than 20 as they are then considered adults under Japanese law and can earn a criminal record. Bōsōzoku members older than 20 are considered immature and childish.

Bōsōzoku were first seen in the 1950s as Japanese youth began to see more products of industry, such as cars and bikes. The first bōsōzoku were known as kaminari-zoku (雷族) or "Lightning Tribes". There are bōsōzoku clubs throughout Japan, including female bike gangs, identified by their stylish fashion and customised motorcycles. Members take part in mass rallies and have had gang wars amongst themselves. As a fashion and youth subculture, bōsōzoku are subject to increasing state and police pressure.

Bōsōzoku are known to modify their bikes in peculiar and often showy ways. A typical customized bosozoku bike usually consists of an average Japanese road bike that appears to combine elements of an American chopper style bike and a British café racer, for example: oversized visored fenders like those found on café racers, "sissy" bars and raised handle bars like those on a chopper. Loud paint jobs on the fenders or the gas tanks with motifs such as flames or kamikaze style "rising sun" designs are also quite common. The bikes will often be adorned with stickers and/or flags depicting the gang's symbol or logo. There is also marked regional differences in motorcycle modifications. For example, Ibaraki Bosozoku are known to modify their motorcycles in an extensively colorful, flashy way. They will often have 3 or 4 oversized visored fenders in a tower like way in a motorcycle painted in bright yellow or pink with Christmas light like adornments.
Want to know more about the the lightning (and sometimes called "speed") tribes?, go directly to the source.

Our Favortite heroes ... or in this case coward and bully: Flashman

"These stories will be completely truthful; I am breaking the habit of eighty years. Why shouldn't I?

When a man is as old as I am, and knows himself for what he is, he doesn't care much. I'm not ashamed, you see; never was -. So I can look at the picture above my desk, of the young officer; tall and handsome as I was in those days, and say that it is the portrait of a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat. since many of the stories are discreditable to me, you can rest assured they are true....."

Brigadier General Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB KCIE

From Wikipedia:
Brigadier-General Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC KCB KCIE (5th May 1822 - 1915) is a fictional character originally created by the author Thomas Hughes in his semi-autobiographical work Tom Brown's Schooldays, first published in 1857. The book is set at Rugby School, where Flashman is a notorious bully who persecutes its eponymous hero, Tom Brown. In Hughes' book, Flashman is finally expelled for drunkenness.

20th century author George MacDonald Fraser had the idea of writing a series of memoirs of the cowardly, bullying Flashman, portraying him as an antihero who cuts a swathe through the Victorian wars and uproars (and the boudoirs and harems) of the 19th century. Flashman - a self-described and unapologetic 'cad' - constantly betrays acquaintances, runs from danger or hides cowering in fear, yet he arrives at the end of each volume with medals, the praise of the mighty, and the love of one or more beautiful and enthusiastic women. Ultimately, Flashman becomes one of the most notable and honoured figures of the Victorian era.

In Tom Brown's Schooldays he is called only Flashman or Flashy; Fraser gives him his forenames, a lifespan from 1822 to 1915, and a birth date of 5 May.
In the novel Flashman, Flashman mentions that his mother was a relation of the socially prominent Paget family, but that the Flashman family were descended from a grandfather who'd made his fortune in America trading in rum, slaves, and "probably piracy". His father is a dissolute ex member of parliament, who is "not quite the thing in society." As Flashman says, quoting Greville, "the coarse streak showed through, generation after generation, like dung beneath a rosebush". Flashman's taste in recreational activities etc. reflect his father's heritage, but, we are encouraged to suspect, his ability to pass himself off as a member of the upper crust, and his arrant cowardice, are traits inherited from his aristocratic mother.

The series is a classic use of false documents. The books describe the discovery of the nonagenarian General Flashman's memoirs in a Leicestershire saleroom in 1965. Posing as the editor of the papers, Fraser produces a series of historical novels that give a racy, colourful, mostly pragmatic (or arguably cynical) view of British and American history in the 19th century. Dozens of major and minor characters from history flit in and out of the books, often in an inglorious or hypocritical guise. Other fictional characters, such as Sherlock Holmes, can also be found in the tales, complementing Flashman and sundry figures from Tom Brown's Schooldays and Tom Brown at Oxford.

Fraser's research is extensive and the books illuminate the historical events they depict. The books are heavily annotated, with end notes and appendices, as Fraser (in accordance with the fictional existence of the memoirs) attempts to "confirm" (and in some cases "correct") the elderly Flashman's recollections of events; in many cases, the footnotes serve to aid the reader by indicating that a particularly outlandish character really existed or that an unlikely event actually occurred.
In outline there are some similarities to the Thomas Berger novel (and movie) Little Big Man, in which a 121-year old man recounts his numerous adventures and escapes in the Old West. Mark Twain also wrote a short story about a high decorated English general who was a total idiot, but whose misadventures always ended in success.

The half-scholarly tone has occasionally led to misunderstandings; when first released in the United States, ten of 34 reviews published took it to be a real, albeit obscure, memoir. Several of these were written by academics - to the delight of The New York Times, which published a selection of the more trusting reviews.[1]
For the purposes of American publication, Fraser created a fictional entry of the 1909 edition of Who's Who. This lists Flashman's laurels as: VC, KCB, KCIE; Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur; Congressional Medal of Honor; San Serafino Order of Purity and Truth, 4th Class. In addition, he is inexplicably listed as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War in 1862, and a general in the Confederate Army the following year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"My Eye! I'm not supposed to get juice in it!"

From 2 Camels:

In 2001 the carnival celebrated its 194th edition, but the area had started celebrating the events as early as the 1600s. Its main history dates back to the end of the 12th century, in 1194 to be exact. The earliest beginnings of the Carnival are shrouded in the mists of the past, in the 17th and 18th centuries. At the time, each of Ivrea's five districts celebrated the grand occasion according to its own lights, but at the beginning of the 19th century, the libertarian spirit to which this season gives ample vent, eventually became a cause of concern to the French officials now in charge. In 1808, therefore, a grande alliance was imposed: a single city carnival would replace those celebrated in its several districts. The originator of this unification was to be most meetly underscored by allowing a chosen townsman to deck himself out in the rig of a General in Napoleon's army, no less, and surround himself with a staff bearing an evident resemblance to Bonaparte's entourage.

But... let's get back to the real history of the Carnival. The first revolt was that of Violetta in 1194, a second revolt appears in the annals for 1266, when the men of Ivrea "expelled" the Marquis of Monferrato. This event is enshrined in the "Preda in Dora" ceremony described in the account of the Carnival of Ivrea that follows. But the most important and remembered event took place in 1194. At that time a Count that ruled the town, (Conte Rainieri di Biandrate) had made a new law to sleep with every new bride, he called it the "right of the first night" (yes...that story in "Braveheart" is true!!). Well, he got away with it until a miller's daughter named Violetta rebelled against him. Violetta's father ran one of the floating mills that once exploited the waters of the Dora. She killed him with a sword she had hidden under her dress, and then she proceeded in showing his cut off head to the people, she then started a fire in the castle (Castellazzo), which started a revolt against the tyrant's troops. They fought by mainly throwing stones to them, and they won.

That fight for liberty is recreated with the Battles of the Oranges, which substitute stones. Italy exceeds its production quota of oranges as agreed within the EEC (the European Economic Community) , so the excess needs to be destroyed (just to keep up the retail price). My co-citizens cooperate in the difficult path towards a unified Europe by helping to smash some oranges...

Imagine about 10,000 people dressed with colorful costumes, with a large blouse with a deep V opening in front: that's where they keep the oranges they're about to throw. They're supposed to protect themselves from incoming oranges with their non-throwing arm. These people on foot are recreating the people of Ivrea revolting against the tyrant. The Count's soldiers are represented by people on horse-pulled trucks (about 10-12 people on each carriage); these people are padded with american-football-type suits, and wear fencing-like masks. Since such a small number of these brave men have to fight hundreds...possibly even thousands of people on the ground, they have two advantages: the extra padding, and throwing downward from above, rather than upward from below. With the mask, their eyes can't be directly hit. However, imagine how amusing it is to get freshly squeezed (on impact against the grid) orange juice right into your eyes... An interesting fact is that this representation only started after WW2, beforehand, and only starting in the mid 19th century, people threw oranges from the balconies to the people walking by underneath...and viceversa. Anyone can become "Eporediese" (someone that lives in Ivrea) during carnival time and become an orange-thrower just for fun. A lot of people in fact, do just that. The Battle of the Oranges is a quite interesting event, and oranges fly all over the place, some being thrown by people several meters away, and will hit just about anything: the enemies, the horses, the horse driver, the spectators on the other side of the carriage who think they're safe, the buildings nearby (whose owners take special care in sealing all windows with wood panels; those who have recently repainted the outside walls, cover the endangered side with a net). A red hat is the symbol of liberty, and a sign of the carnival, everyone is supposed to wear one...and if anyone is guilty of not wearing it is considered an enemy, and quickly becomes the target of the carnival police, who punish the culprits with some well aimed oranges. Yikes!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Films you should see but probally never will: The Monitors

"If you don't like air pollution, war, body odor, hard pizza rolls, exercise, hairy musicians, sexy blonds, tooth decay, smiling heroes, population explosion... you'll love The Monitors"

"The Earth is taken over by The Monitors, aliens who run it like hall monitors in a 1950's high school, with overtones of Big Brother. The film follows the progress of the human underground rebellion. The twist is that as the film goes on, the audience's sympathies shift to the aliens, who are basically benevolent. When the humans manage to oust them, it's back to corruption and bribery by the usual suspects. -Phil Olenick

Little else is know about this brilliant sixties science fiction political fairy story, but there is a great write up on 1000misspenthours:

"Taking the form of immaculately groomed men in black topcoats and bowler hats who speak in soothing monotones, the Monitors install themselves as a sort of global police department, enforcing peace, cooperation, reason, and tranquility all over the inhabited world. Obviously, they can�t do so indefinitely without humanity�s cooperation, and so the Monitors flood the airwaves with tacky public service announcements in which various people extol the influence of the aliens upon their lives.

Hey there fun seekers. You know what I like about the Monitors? well, They've got no sex drive, and because they don't like to get involved. and because they just sit and watch things, and because they don't get excited much, and well, they are just my kind of guys.

Naturally, all these TV and radio spots are accompanied by upbeat little jingles of the sort that modern viewers may have trouble believing really did represent the state of the art of broadcast advertising in the late 1960s."

The Monitors are here oh boy! The Moooonitooooooooooorrrs! They're loved by young and old� hurray! They cured the common cold� oh boy!

The start of this surreal film begins with electronic chorus that sings a peaceful if not somewhat troubling song:

We are here to serve humanity, here to reafirm gentillity, wipe away from fear to sanity, care-ful-ly promote tanquilty, grant us neither gifts or gratitude.

If you listen carefully when helicopters fly over you can still make out thier pre-recorded message blaring over the loudspeakers. I wish they would come back.

....The monitors are your friends, depend on the Monitors..

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Is it art or not? I don't care! There is no definition, it's just Sharmanka."

From Living Scotsman:
IN THE HALF LIGHT OF The Sharmanka Gallery, Eduard Bersudsky's magical machines sit in silence, but you can't help feeling that if you turned your back the whole lot might come alive.

And they do come alive. Each at its appointed time, whirring and clanking in an intricate dance to a music all its own. Bersudsky's "kinemats" are less sculptures than performers waiting for their cues.

This winter marks the tenth anniversary of the Sharmanka Gallery (the word is Russian for "street organ"), opened when Bersudsky and his wife Tatyana Jacovskaya made Glasgow their home ....

Working in secret under the Communist regime, his sculptures came straight from his heart. Shaped by ancient myths and tales and by his memories of childhood, they were also haunted by the darker experiences of Russian history. He would later say of the 12 suffering figures in the "belfry" of the Millennium Clock: "To make it took eight weeks and all my previous life in Russia."

The collapse of Communism brought freedom, but spiralling rents. Support of friends and curators in the West, including Julian Spalding of Glasgow Museums, encouraged them to move to Scotland, where Bersudsky's work took on a new lease of life. The ideas poured out as he scavenged for scrap metal - typewriters, bicycles, sewing machine parts - in scrapyards and markets.

They survive on piecemeal grants from the Lottery and Arts Council, and occasional international commissions, drawing a subsistence wage and ploughing the rest back into the sculptures. Sergey, who graduated from the RSAMD in lighting design, looks after the technical side of Sharmanka in his spare time. "We are a family business," says Jacovskaya. "That's how we survive."

"The more I am here, the less I am in Russia," says Bersudsky. He increasingly draws on the mythology of this country. Tree of Life pays tribute to the Celtic idea of an integration between the worlds of humanity, animals and plants which is also common to the mythology of Northern Russia. "You cannot come from one culture and turn yourself into another culture," says Jacovskaya. "But you discover common roots."

Life in Scotland has not been without its struggles. The Millennium Clock was saved in its present location only after a public campaign. Titanic, the enigmatic sculpture which was once a star attraction at GoMA, was returned to the Sharmanka Gallery when GoMA was reorganised. Bersudsky, more medieval master-craftsman than contemporary artist, doesn't fit into prescribed categories.

Jacovskaya says: "A lot of people think that modern art is conceptual, intellectual. It speaks to the head, we speak to the heart. We don't care, we're happy that we are working, surviving. Is it art or not? I don't care! There is no definition, it's just Sharmanka."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Our favorite (anti) heroes: The Foolkiller

The Foolkiller is a character appearing in the Marvel comics. He was created by writer Steve Gerber He also had a ten-issue limited series that ran from 1990 to 1991. There have been three different individuals to adopt the mantle of the Foolkiller. The character was inspired by a southern legend that was the basis for a short story by O. Henry. This in turn was the inspiration for a later novel by Helen Eustis. An character of the same name also appeared in L. Frank Baum's The Enchanted Island of Yew. A play by Stephen Vincent Benet, called "Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller," has recently appeared on broadway a a musical.

The original Foolkiller was more of a reactionary crusader than subsequent versions of the character. Upset by anti-Vietnam War protests and counterculture movements, he decided that sinners, dissidents, and criminals alike were "fools" who must be eliminated, and that he had been chosen by God to do so. He was inspired by a faith healer, Reverend Mike Pike, who cured his childhood paralysis. As a result, he became an evangelist with Reverend Mike as his mentor and soon became as popular as the Reverend. But after catching Reverend Mike in a drunken orgy, he killed his former hero, preserved the corpse in formaldehyde, and used the preacher's money to fund his vigilante activities. He donned a flamboyant costume and acquired (by unknown means) his "purification gun", a raygun which disintegrated people instantly. Some of his victims were given a 24-hour warning in the form of a calling card:

"Foolkiller / e pluribus unum / You have 24 hours to live. Use them to repent or be forever damned to the pits of hell where goeth all fools. Today is the last day of the rest of your life. Use it wisely or die a fool."

In his comic appearance, the Foolkiller attempted to kill two major characters in the series: F.A. Schist, a real estate developer whose projects threatened the ecology of the Florida Everglades, and Richard Rory, a disk jockey who had denounced the Foolkiller's activities. During a struggle with the monstrous Man-Thing, the Foolkiller died in a freak accident, impaled by a shard of glass from the tank containing Reverend Mike.

The Foolkiller lived on as several other comics including as cabal of fundamentalist super soldiers of 2099 modelled themselves after the Foolkillers of the 20th Century-but none as good (or some say pure) as the original. Marvel have recently announced that a new Foolkiller limited series, written by Gregg Hurwitz, will be released under their Marvel MAX adult imprint beginning February 2007.

Today is the last day of the rest of your life. Use it wisely or die a fool.

The worlds best stinkwheel, Or the story of the bicycle that rolled on its own

"In 1940 Marcel Mennesson would a prototype of a 38cm-engine assited bycycle. Its characteristics are the ones of the actual Solex, including, among other things, a transmission with a running wheel, a cylinder out of the line of the wheel, and a gas pump that brings the gas back to the tank. By december 1940, this engine is installed on a men's bike - the "Alcyon" which is black with a gold trim, and which wheels are 700mm. This is indeed the first model of Velosolex.
In 1953 100,000 bikes are manufactured, and this model is the last of the "bicycles with emergency engines." Its success is phenomenal, Solex are sold to dealers 50 at a time and the dealers pay cash. All that was possible because orders were placed three months in advance. Furthermore, it is now said that at the time, bikes could be available sooner through black market.
On january 29 th 1974, Félix Goudard dies at the age of 86 in charge of the worldwide commercialisation of the Solex company the company wained. This same year Renault (the frensh car producer) takes control of the Vélosolex. In 1988 the production line of Saint-Quentin stopped on november 7 and the last 100 units were be sold at an charity auction for "Les resto du coeur".
If your lucky you can still see the early Solexs chugging around the E.U. irritating both traffic and noses alike.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Visit me in the hospital after my pass: The Cresta Run

The St Moritz Tobogganing Club is a private Club, founded in 1887. Although it is a British club, its principal activities: "…the conduct of races and practice on the Cresta Run and the encouragement of tobogganing generally…

The Cresta Run is a natural ice run, built with snow anew every year since the winter of 1884/85. It is approximately ¾ mile in length with a drop of 514 feet. The gradient varies from 1 in 2.8 to 1 in 8.7. There are two starting points, Top and Junction. Riders from Junction begin opposite the Clubhouse, about one-third down the Run from Top. Only experienced riders can qualify to ride from Top. The Run has 10 corners, all of which are named. The most famous (or notorious) is Shuttlecock. This left-hand bank, about half-way down the Run acts as a safety-valve; if a rider is out of control he will fall out at Shuttlecock into a carefully prepared falling area of snow,straw, and perhaps some sort of hard rock.

Fallers at Shuttlecock automatically become members of the Shuttlecock Club and are entitled to wear a Shuttlecock tie after being discharged from hospital. The clubhouse walls are covered with framed x-rays of the victims of Shuttlecock.

The St Moritz Tobogganing Club Reccomends riders arrange your own insurance before coming to St Moritz, and to check your policy, as some "specifically exclude tobogganing or skeleton riding".

Although it is a private Club, it is possible for non-Members to ride. Certain conditions apply:

a) Riders must be over 18.
b) Women are not permitted to ride the Cresta Run as they are far too smart for that sort of thing.
c) Non-members may not ride on race days (generally Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays throughout the season).
d) You must be crazy-eight bonkers to ride.

The home of the the world's steepest escalator

"In November 1954, the engineer André Waterkeyn, who wished to celebrate scientific progress for the 1958 world expo, hit upon the idea of the Atomium. This was to represent the atomic lattice of iron crystals, magnified 165 billion times linearly, according to the "cubic body centered" system. The Atomium is the visiualization of microscopic molecular structures on a great enlarged scale.

The fact that the Atomium rests on a single sphere, so that the diagonal of the cube is vertical, results principally from aesthetic considerations. The three bipods which start at ground level and support the three lower spheres have therefore no symbolic significance.

The Atomium was the star of the Expo and it still is a worldwide attraction for tourists today. As France has the Eiffel Tower so got Belgium its Atomium."

Now I know where to store the second hand atom smasher I just bought on e-Bay.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ernst Neizvestny and the mask of sorrow

The Mask of Sorrow is a monument perched on a hill above Magadan Russia, commemorating the millions of prisoners who suffered and died in the Gulag prison camps in the Kloyma region of the during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It consists of a large stone statue of a face, with tears coming from the left eye in the form of small masks. The right eye is in the form of a barred window. The back side portrays a weeping young woman and a headless man on a cross. Inside is a replication of a typical Stalin-era prison cell.

The statue opened on June 12 1996 with the help of the Russian government and financial contributions from seven Russian cities, including Magadan. The design was created by famed sculptor Ernst Neizvestny (Ironically, his surname (often taken for a pseudonym) translates to "unknown" or "not famous" in English.). His parents fell victim to the Stalinist purges of the 1930s; the monument was constructed by Kamil Kazaev. The mask stands 15 meters high and takes up 56 cubic meters of space.

Neizvestny remains to be prolific, and currently resides in N.Y. City.

All dues must be paid in advance: The Dangerous Sports Club

From Wikipedia

The Dangerous Sports Club was founded by David Kirke, Chris Baker, Ed Hulton and Alan Weston. They first came to wide public attention by inventing bungee jumping, by making the first modern jumps on 1 April 1979, from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England. They followed the Clifton Bridge effort with a jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, CA, and with a televised leap from the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge in Colorado, sponsored by and televised on the popular American television program That's Incredible Bungee jumping was treated as a novelty for a few years, then became a craze for young people, and is now an established industry for thrill seekers.

The Club also pioneered a surrealist form of skiing, holding three events at St. Moritz, Switzerland, in which competitors were required to devise a sculpture mounted on skis and ride it down a mountain. The event reached its limits when the Club arrived in St. Moritz with a London double-decker bus, wanting to send it down the ski slopes, and the Swiss resort managers refused.

Other Club activities included expedition hang gliding from active volcanoes; the launching of giant (60ft) plastic spheres with pilots suspended in the centre (zorbing); microlight flying; and BASE jumping (in the early days of this sport).

After a heyday in the early to mid 1980s, the Club declined in numbers and activity level. However, in the early period, it was highly active, with several dozen active members and a holding a wide range of events. The Club was heavily covered in the press, and made a film released in 1982 ("The History of the Dangerous Sports Club") as a supporting feature. The group split into various factions over the years. Monty Python star Graham Chapman was perhaps their most famous member, and he was at work in a feature movie about the club when he died in 1989.

The Club, although later achieving a degree of social diversity, was rooted in the English upper class and centred geographically in Oxford and, later, the West End of London. The style of dress adopted by members during their activities often included top hats and tailcoats, and the Club had a deserved champagne-swilling image.

However, it is the invention of bungee jumping for which the Club is mostly renowned

Friday, March 16, 2007

Our friend Hugo

"Hugo Ball was born in Pirmasens, Germany and was raised in a Catholic family. He studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg (1906–1907). In 1910, he moved to Berlin in order to become an actor and collaborated with Max Reinhardt. He was one of the leading Dada artists. He created the Dada Manifesto:

Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means "hobby horse". In German it means "good-bye", "Get off my back", "Be seeing you sometime". In Romanian: "Yes, indeed, you are right, that's it. But of course, yes, definitely, right". And so forth. An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement. Very easy to understand. Quite terribly simple. To make of it an artistic tendency must mean that one is anticipating complications. Dada psychology, dada Germany cum indigestion and fog paroxysm, dada literature, dada bourgeoisie, and yourselves, honoured poets, who are always writing with words but never writing the word itself, who are always writing around the actual point. Dada world war without end, dada revolution without beginning, dada, you friends and also-poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists. Dada Tzara, dada Huelsenbeck, dada m'dada, dada m'dada dada mhm, dada dera dada, dada Hue, dada Tza.

..and so on...

His involvement with the Dada movement lasted approximately two years. He then worked for a short period as a journalist, for Freie Zeitung in Bern. Eventually he retired to the canton of Ticino where he lived a religious and relatively poor life. He died in Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland.

His poem "Gadji beri bimba" was later adapted to the song entitled "I Zimbra" on the 1979 Talking Heads album Fear of Music; he received a writing credit for the song on the track listing."

Dadaism is certainly not be confused with less successful "Mamaism" a Madison Avenue approach to the bored housewife-cum-surrealist of the late fifties.

Talking to the ruins: Hashima Island

"Hashima Island (meaning "Border Island"), commonly called Gunkanjima (meaning "Battleship Island") is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself. The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island's most notable features are the abandoned concrete buildings and the sea wall surrounding it."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Pastor Brown was right; and two Branton Hills girls, a Salvation Army lady, and a tiny tot of six had won crowns of Glory - "

From wikipedia:
A lipogram is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is missing, usually a common vowel, the most common in English being e (McArthur, 1992). A lipogram author avoiding e then only uses the 25 remaining letters of the alphabet ....

Gadsby is a novel by Ernest Vincent Wright, written around 1939. It is famous for not containing the letter 'e', the most common letter in the English language ....
Gadsby, Chapter 1:
If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn’t constantly run across folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.”A child’s brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult’s act, and figuring out its purport.

Up to about its primary school days a child thinks, naturally, only of play. But many a form of play contains disciplinary factors. “You can’t do this,” or “that puts you out,” shows a child that it must think, practically or fail. Now, if, throughout childhood, a brain has no opposition, it is plain that it will attain a position of “status quo,” as with our ordinary animals. Man knows not why a cow, dog or lion was not born with a brain on a par with ours; why such animals cannot add, subtract, or obtain from books and schooling, that paramount position which Man holds today.

But a human brain is not in that class. Constantly throbbing and pulsating, it rapidly forms opinions; attaining an ability of its own; a fact which is startlingly shown by an occasional child “prodigy” in music or school work. And as, with our dumb animals, a child’s inability convincingly to impart its thoughts to us, should not class it as ignorant ....

Monday, March 12, 2007

... there are about ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body, and most of them have a gallery opening this weekend

From We Make Money Not Art:

Bacterial Orchestra is a self-organizing evolutionary musical organism made of audio cells. Every cell -consisting of microphone and a loudspeaker- listens to its surroundings and picks up sounds trying to play them back in sync with what it hears. It can be the background noise, people talking or sound played by other cells. Every cell is simple, but together they create a complex whole. Every cell is born with a unique set of characteristics (its DNA) that control the way it will react to sound. If it’s not fit enough, the cell dies and is reborn with a new DNA ....
There's also Andy Gracie's autoinducer_Ph-1 (cross cultural chemistry) bio-artificial ecosystem for growing rice:
The installation features an assemblage of pond-like structures, electronics, laboratory and hydroponic equipment designed to probe into and interfere with the symbiotic relationship between the cyanobacteria Anabaena and the water fern Azolla. Notions of data and information systems inherent in the organic protagonists of the installation, and how they may be augmented, are realised by a synthetic software-based bacteria that interacts with them in its assumed roles of part time symbiont and part time parasite. Video projections which display evolution of the GCS graphic environment, and highly magnified video of Anabaena cultured under a video microscope.

The Generalized Cellular Signaling system, a platform for exploring emergent behaviour and intelligence using cellular systems, is the artificial intelligence model powering the synthetic bacteria. A complete virtual environment exists within GCS where individual cells act independently and communicate with other cells in either a neural fashion using relatively fixed connections, or bacterially, where signals are propagated as molecules through a medium. The installation loops biological, electro-robotic and computing processes together in a literally fertile interaction where the “primal soup” aspect of the Anabaena and Azolla cultures, and fragility of the young rice shoots, contrast strikingly with the computer-generated artificial chemistry molecules of the GCS.

The only problem with using "digital artworks that invite technological sytems to dialog with natural living systems or phenomena" is when idiots with badges think you're a bioterrorist.