5/29/2009 1:28:29 PM
Click on any square in the grid and it lights up, pulsing a single musical note. Click on another, and you’ve got the beginning of a looping, tone-drenched pattern. Flashcoder Andre Michelle describes his ToneMatrix as a “simple sinewave synthesizer triggered by an ordinary 16step sequencer.” How about rephrasing simple as addictively delightful?
(Thanks, Brandon Ivers.)
5/29/2009 11:40:23 AM
I was delighted to discover the cartoons of the artist known simply as Lunchbreath. His twisted infographics borrow from the visual vernacular of flow charts, bar graphs, how-to diagrams, and cross sections but inject a subversive and often hilarious viewpoint. Scroll down to see several of my recent favorites, and visit his Flickr photostream for more.
All images courtesy of Lunchbreath.
5/26/2009 3:06:17 PM
Workers renovating a 270-year-old church in Bunker Hill, West Virginia have uncovered the work of Civil War-era graffiti artists. "It's down low. It's up high. It's just everywhere," says local bishop W. Michie Klusmyer. The scribblings are apparently the work of both Northern and Southern troops. Among the scribblings ("Down with traitors" and "I should not have written on the walls of the house of God") Klusmyer has seen drawings of pigs and a woman being chased by a man with horns. Somebody notify the Wooster Collective!
Culpeper Department of Tourism
5/26/2009 11:30:11 AM
It’s a gut reaction thing. When confronted by a musical composition called “Burning Piano” that involves, yes, playing a piano as it burns, you’re probably going to be curious or dismissive: It sounds either brilliantly subversive or like a horrible waste. Here at Utne Reader, we were so taken by composer Annea Lockwood’s description of “Burning Piano” from an interview in the New Zealand arts mag White Fungus that we’re reprinting an excerpt in our July-August issue. (Look for it soon on Utne.com.)
“It’s very magnetizing,” she said in describing her first performance of the piece decades ago. “It turned into an event of itself, almost a funny little ritual, something in its own right.”
Too bad we didn’t know that “Burning Piano” was about to be performed in our backyard as we read those words. Some lucky students at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, got to partake in the ritual April 30 in a “Burning Piano” concert attended—and ignited—by the composer herself. The student who instigated the project, Carleton senior Caitlin Schmid, confirmed our impression of the polarizing effects of torching a piano.
“Watching Lockwood’s performance really generated a lot of discussion among the students,” Schmid told the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune. “Some of us were really moved by the piece, while others were deeply offended. They couldn’t get past the idea of destroying a piano and calling it ‘art.’ ”
The ensuing reaction in the newspaper’s “Comments” sections turned—as it too often does, unfortunately—into a partisan battle, with one commenter even speculating that “this flaming idiot ‘performance artist’ also likely voted for Obama.”
Perhaps. But sometimes maybe a burning piano is simply a burning piano.
Sources: White Fungus, Star Tribune
Images by Nate Ryan, courtesy of Nate Ryan.
5/22/2009 3:41:35 PM
Happy Memorial Day, dear readers. It's a time to enjoy the outdoors and it's a time to remember—even mourn. It's a time, we can all agree, for goths in hot weather.
Art Fag City
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5/22/2009 3:34:44 PM
Growing up in suburban Cincinnati with Indian immigrant parents and a penchant for makeup and ballet, Kiran Sharma knew he was different. The children at Martin Van Buren Elementary School wouldn’t let him forget it. At twelve years old, though, Kiran couldn’t quite figure out the problem. One day he thought he came to a realization: Maybe he was actually the long-awaited reincarnation of the blue-skinned Hindu deity Krishna.
As the main character of Rakesh Satyal’s debut novel, Blue Boy (Kensington Books, 2009), Kiran overflows with personality like rich Indian cooking exudes smells. Struggling with the painful awkward pre-teen years, Kiran explores his Indian heritage, American identity, gender, and sexuality in endlessly endearing prose.
Rakesh, who happens to be a friend of mine, recently read from his novel in Minneapolis. Hearing him perform the voices of Kiran’s protective mother and his penny-pinching father in a flawless Indian accent reinforced the humor and wisdom infused throughout the novel.
As Kiran endures the youthful jeers and growing pains, a delightful portrait emerges of growing up gay and Indian in America. Explaining the endemic danger of suburbia, Satyal writes: “India may be full of man-eating tigers, but Ohio is full of Ohioans.”
5/22/2009 10:13:11 AM
Ian Albinson and Alex Ulloa collect intriguing title sequences from film and television at their blog, The Art of the Title Sequence, where you can watch the opening credits roll on Dexter, Soylent Green, Iron Man, or even the much-maligned super-bomb The Island of Dr. Moreau, which can count its beautiful title sequence as, perhaps, its only merit.
Ulloa tells Creative Review (May 2009): “We want to be to the history and future of the form of title sequencing what the opening sequence to Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris is to cinema: an exploration of what is universally felt, but with some fresh discourse.”
Sources: The Art of the Title Sequence, Creative Review
5/21/2009 3:02:20 PM
I get lots of unsolicited visual arts submissions (keep ‘em coming, links to online images are preferred), many involving the use of recycled materials, but this one really caught my eye. Brian Mock creates amazing sculptures from 100% recycled materials (discarded Xerox machines, sewing machines, clocks, tractors, escalators, garden tools, etc.). Lots of folks use recycled materials in their artwork, which is awesome, but few do it in such a refined manner. His sculptures have tons of cool details, and are meticulously crafted. Brian has a solo show coming up at the Gallery of Functional Art in Los Angeles, June 27th-August 10th. Check him out if you are in the area, I’m sure these pieces are incredible to see in person.
5/20/2009 5:02:41 PM
When Fox News reports on Banksy’s latest $191,000 sale , it may be time to rethink the subversive value of street art.
Bay Area artists Sabina Nieto and Tarak Shah have taken art back indoors with the establishment of mauve? , an office-space micro gallery in Berkeley, CA.
Situating aesthetic creativity within austere productivity, the gallery provides three 3’x6’ cubicle panels to local artists for one-month engagements. The gallery's third show, “Strategic Alternative Payback Plan” by William Calabrese and Harish Bhandari opened May 12.
5/20/2009 2:55:39 PM
Without tickets, concessions, or a traditional screen, guerilla drive-ins retain a 1950s drive-in nostalgia without a lot less consumerism. According to Toronto’s Spacing magazine, guerilla drive-in theaters are reclaiming public spaces and screening films on the sides of buildings from Maine to Oregon, and even in Norway.
The participants don’t bother with permits or screening rights for the movies, but so far, the Guerilla Drive-In Victoria hasn’t had any problems with the law. A representative from the Santa Cruz, California, collective told Weekend Edition’s Scott Simon that the police once shut down a screening, but participants just picked up and moved to another location.
For more information, the website Instructables has detailed instructions of how to set up your own guerilla drive-in.
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Sources: Spacing (article not available online), Weekend Edition, Instructables
5/20/2009 11:40:45 AM
For Ananya Chatterjea, dance is a means to fuse art with social justice. For the past twelve years, this groundbreaking choreographer, dancer, professor, and mother has been steadily building a movement. Her vision: to bring together a diverse ensemble of women-of-color artists and create original works inspired by women’s issues around the globe. Out of this came Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), a revolutionary model of community-based, socially engaged work, which is currently developing the final piece of its trilogy on environmental justice, Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon.
Chatterjea founded ADT, originally called Women in Motion, in New York in 1996 and relocated to Minneapolis two years later. The company’s aesthetic can be described as a contemporary movement hybrid, blending diverse traditional forms with modern sensibilities. Grounded in classical Odissi dance and informed by the politicized street theatre traditions of Bengal, ADT also takes cues from women’s movements, which Chatterjea remembers as a vibrant part of Indian society.
“There was always something happening,” she says. “You’d go to the bus stop, and someone’s doing a play on dowry. The women’s movement was very strong in India, but in all the history I’ve studied, that’s always left out.”
In ADT Chatterjea has created a space for both artistic creation and community dialogue. Her dancers are of different ages, shapes, abilities, and backgrounds. A piece may take a year to develop, involving input from company members as well as invested community members.
“Women have always learned to make alternative spaces,” Chatterjea says, “such as the kitchen as a space of discourse. [ADT] can never reach any decision in less than an hour (laughs). Because we collaborate with a lot of people, and different artists bring in their own agendas, we become essentially a queer space. The intimacies we work through are queer intimacies. We recognize that difference is different than diversity.”
Yet, this intensely negotiated process of art-making is always grounded in highly refined form and technique, realized through rigorous training and rehearsal.
“Because we are creating marginalized work, artistic excellence is an absolute. You simply have to get there to be taken seriously.”
For Chatterjea dance is a form of resistance, an ephemeral act of creation that defies boundaries.
“There is that moment of live, charged encounter,” she explains. “That moment can be transformative. That moment will never come back again. It harbors so much possibility. To do this work, you have to be an existentialist. You have to be a philosopher. At the end of the day, you have nothing but a broken body.”
Image from Ashesh Barsha, courtesy of Ananya Chatterjea
5/18/2009 3:04:21 PM
The good people at Things magazine tipped us off to a set of manipulated photographs posted to a Russian blog. Each photograph features a shot of a war-ravaged St. Petersburg street seemingly rubbed into a recent photograph of the same spot. The results are simply incredible.
5/18/2009 1:26:44 PM
The new issue of Asian pop-culture mag Giant Robot got me hooked on Makiko Ogawa’s bento art, or “charaben” (character bento), which is charming, adorable, and entirely Cute Overload–worthy. “Basically,” she tells Giant Robot, “I just make bento that my children would want.”
She began making charaben a few years ago, when her son started kindergarten. "He cried and cried," she says. "I hoped that my bento would make him happy."
Her children are a bit older now (7 and 8), but Ogawa still sends them off with cute bento and shares her favorite creations on her (adorable!) Flickr page. Don’t miss Ogawa's pirate bento, inspired by a recent viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean, or her walruses, elephants, and tiny quail-egg polar bear.
Source: Giant Robot
Image courtesy of Makiko Ogawa.
5/18/2009 11:37:05 AM
For many film buffs, there are no “guilty pleasure” movies. If you think a film is good, then preach it proudly, even if that film is Road House or Purple Rain. But that doesn’t mean people can’t change their minds. Phillip Lopate writes for Film Comment about a few films he’s seen in a new light, for better or for worse.
After an initial distaste for Annie Hall, Lopate eventually came to view Woody Allen as “an American Master.” On the other hand, it took him seven times viewing The Third Man with Orson Wells to see it as “tinny and calculating and shallow.”
For my part, I loved the Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn film The African Queen the first time I saw it, at the age of 17 while trying to impress a woman with my knowledge of classic films. Now I think it’s overwrought and ultimately unsatisfying. Dumb and Dumber, however, distracted me at first blush with its physical comedy, before I realized how funny the writing was in the film.
For a more juvenile take on the issue, read a list of “Five Shitty Movies that Everyone Loves,” including Braveheart and the Karate Kid.
Image from the film Dumb and Dumber.
Source: Film Comment
5/15/2009 1:25:41 PM
It's happened again: We're knee-deep in baseball season. The University of Nebraska Press is capitalizing with the release of Take Me Out to the Ball Game: The Story of the Sensational Baseball Song. Those of you who need all 123 pages of that story will no doubt find your way to it. For the rest of you, let me attempt to distill the story to two rather fantastic elements.
First, there is this, as told by author Amy Whorf McGuiggan:
Dashed off, with accompanying doodles, on a scrap of paper during a New York subway ride by Jack Norworth, a vaudeville song and dance headliner who, it was said, had never attended a professional baseball game, 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game,' with music by Tin Pan Alley composer Albert von Tilzer (who also had never attended a game), was debuted on a vaudeville stage in April 1908.
Second, there are the copycat songs that went nowhere and, even better, the sheet music art work that accompanied those songs. Here's a sampling:
5/14/2009 4:15:39 PM
“It’s amazing how times change.” That’s how Marc Schiller from the website Wooster Collective, a stalwart booster of international street art, began a letter to their readers explaining why they had been invited to the White House, why they accepted, and what they found there (namely, that there are graffiti artists working in the White House).
Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
When Sara and I started the Wooster Collective eight years ago, it felt to us at the time that the ONLY lens the media was providing as a way into understanding street art and graffiti was vandalism.
We want this to change.
Last month when we received an invitation to attend a briefing at The White House (yes, that one), we were at first a bit shocked, definitely skeptical, and finally, after giving it a lot of thought - absolutely delighted. To be included in the conversation at the level of The White House, we felt, was a huge testament that our voice (meaning our collective voice) was being heard.
Yesterday, along with about sixty amazing organizations who are committed to grassroots arts initiatives, we met with various officials in the Obama Administration, to listen and learn what the administration was thinking in regards to the Arts, to ask questions, and then to participate in working sessions on issues that we felt passionate about. (Ours was the need to better understand the issues around public and private space)
Read the entire letter and the conversation it sparked.
Source: Wooster Collective
5/13/2009 4:40:02 PM
Draw tattoos on Henry Rollins, play punked-out word games, and color this picture of Iggy Pop! It’s all in Aye Jay’s new Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book, just out on ECW Press.
Thanks to the kind folks at ECW, you can download and color the book’s 10th page: this awesome (if mildly pornographic) drawing of Iggy Pop (PDF).
If punk-rock activities aren't your thing, check out Jay's previous crayon-friendly works: the Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book and the Gangsta Rap Coloring Book.
Source: Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book
Image copyright © 2009 by Aye Jay Morano.
5/13/2009 2:28:05 PM
Finding a girlfriend is difficult on the remote Kazakh steppe, where it can take a full day of travel to reach the nearest single woman. In the film Tulpan, the postpubescent protagonist Asa, freshly home from the Navy, sets out on a quest to find a wife and fulfill his dream of owning a herd of sheep. Director Sergey Dvortsevoy, who gained recognition with his 1998 documentary Bread Day, lends the film a hyper-realistic feel, allowing the humor and affection of rural Kazakhstan to linger naturally, like a slow-moving dust storm seen from a distance.
The film gives an inside-the-yurt view of Kazakhstani family life surrounded by the harsh steppe climate and depicted by many non-professional actors. Dvortsevoy told Reverse Shot magazine that the actors and crew lived together in yurts in preparation for the film. Two of the main actors and some of the child actors lived together for a month, even before the filming had started, to prepare them for the climate and to get the actors comfortable with each other. The result is a series of endearing familial scenes that feel spontaneous and unforced.
The beautiful desolation of the Kazakh countryside plays a central role in the film, as do the various sheep, dogs, and camels. One of the most talked about scenes centers around a rather graphic sheep birth that the main character is forced to perform. Considering the unplanned nature of the livestock, Dvortsevoy allowed the film to develop freely, changing the script and the film in the middle of production. He told Reverse Shot, “I didn’t try to think up a special approach, I just followed the material, followed the characters. Maybe I’ll use this approach again, we’ll see, I don’t know. It doesn’t come from calculation, from mathematics. It comes from my soul.”
Tulpan played as a part of the Premieres: First Look series at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
You can watch a trailer for the film below:
5/13/2009 11:20:14 AM
“More than in any other field, misperceptions about contemporary art keep audiences from effectively engaging it,” writes Alt Wire alumnus Paddy Johnson in her latest L Magazine column.
In an effort to “give the gallery-goer a few tools to make sense of what they see,” Johnson, who also blogs at the wonderful Art Fag City, has constructed a list of myths about contemporary art. We’ve included a crib sheet below, but you really ought to read her rundown of each item.
Paddy Johnson’s “Eight Fallacies About Contemporary Art”:
1. This work generated so much discussion, it must be good!
2. Anything can be art!
3. Value is completely subjective.
4. Anyone could do that.
5. Elitism rules the art world.
6. Pioneering artists are “ahead of their time.”
7. I don’t know enough about art to talk about it.
8. Art professionals wear black.
Source: L Magazine, Art Fag City
My Hobo Soul
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5/12/2009 2:29:08 PM
Dan Bergeron seems to have done the impossible: he's found a way to make pedestrians on busy sidewalks look at homeless people. His life-sized, full-body shots of men and women appealing to passersby with handmade signs have been pasted to walls on the streets of Toronto. The people look real, though they are merely black and white reproductions of real people. The signs are the message, and read "I'd rather die than be homeless another winter" and "The system is broken. I am not."
The artist explains the project to Wooster Collective:
The project is called "the Unaddressed" and it focuses on the under-housed, giving voice to their personal opinions. Over the course of 3 months I met with 18 individuals who are currently or have recently been homeless. Through meeting, talking about their lives and discussing issues that were important to them, they developed their announcements and created a cardboard sign to reveal them. By photographing homeless and formerly homeless individuals holding cardboard signs that announce their concerns, the hope is challenge preconceived notions of homelessness and make the passers-by realize how serious the situation is and that everybody deserves the same basic necessities of life and to be treated the same way. Basically do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Source: Wooster Collective
5/7/2009 2:52:15 PM
David Levinthal's haunting photographic recreations of the tragedy and drama of war in Afghanistan and Iraq evoke the words of the novelist and Vietnam veteran Tim O'Brien: "A true war story makes the stomach believe." Levinthal's soldiers and civilians are toys scuffed and posed for his camera. Still, they are photographs you believe—with your stomach.
For each photograph in I.E.D. there is a short burst of text—excerpts from the exceptional military blog The Sandbox, a collection of narratives and observations from service members deployed in Iraq.
"It's interesting to watch people trying to be normal in the aftermath of a fundamentally disturbing event," writes Owen Powell in 2006. "A few blocks away, corpses were littering the blackened asphalt of a city square, burning. Ambulance crews would be arriving and trying to find the wounded amongst the debris and the dead. But not us. It was someone else's job, and there really wasn't anything to do here but carry on with the mundane details of the still alive. So, we all walked around and fiddled with our gear or stood and tried to make small talk through clenched jaws."
Stories like this push Levinthal's photographs deeper into your stomach and don't fade easily from your mind. Here are some of the images:
Images courtesy of powerHouse Books.
5/7/2009 11:07:40 AM
As anyone who’s lived in an urban apartment knows, it’s nearly impossible to turn off your sense of hearing. Plug your ears, and you can still feel vibrations echoing in your head. Knowing this, US soldiers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay have used popular music to “break” detainees into giving up information. Pundits tend to focus on the absurdity of using the theme song from the kids shows Barney and Sesame street as an interrogation technique, but Martin Cloonan writes for the New Humanist, “musical torture is far from being a laughing matter.”
Music as a weapon is often characterized by an “assault on identity and the lack of control,” Cloonan writes. He points out that British soldiers used white noise to attack Republican detainees in Northern Ireland, and classical music is still being played in various public places to keep young people from congregating. While researching music in neighborhood conflicts, Cloonan found, “Often what began as a request to turn sound down escalated into another form of sonic warfare, resulting in court injunctions and physical violence – including murder.”
Bands like Rage Against the Machine and Massive Attack are pushing back against the torturers, showing support for the Zero dB campaign, aimed at banning music for the purposes of torture. Jonathan Mann, on the other hand, has used his music to call attention to the torture memos that were recently released. You can watch that below.
Sources: New Humanist, Zero dB, Jonathan Mann
5/5/2009 12:17:01 PM
In the throes of the H1N1 frenzy, it is perversely subversive to seek beauty in the microscopic actors at the center of the public health scares and tragedies of our times. That's exactly what artist Laura Splan has done—or did. A dusty Discover review of her "Doilies" project, which has resurfaced in the clamoring for public health information on the internet, describes the collection:
"Layers of stitches form delicate portraits of pathogens. The genetic material of the virus is depicted in the doily's center, and viral surface proteins appear as protuberances around the edge. The discs retain the dainty grace of an antique armrest cover. Splan says she aims to inspire 'beauty and horror, comfort and discomfort.'"
Here are Splan's beautiful and horrible doilies. In order of appearance: SARS, HIV, Herpes, and Influenza:
5/4/2009 5:54:27 PM
Driving to Louisiana for the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, music writer Sean Michaels learns that his beloved Percy Sledge is a regular in Baton Rouge car dealership commercials. When he hears this, he writes at the MP3 blog Said the Gramophone, a small corner of an imaginary world turns to ash. “The Percy Sledge in my mind,” Michaels writes, “the one who sings ‘When A Man Loves A Woman,’ is too distracted by love to ever do something so commercial. He is always staring out the window, or across the street, or over the butcher counter at a pretty girl. He stumbles on the sidewalk, neglects his chores, forgets to call his mum—all because of a passing woman's perfume, her smile, her lovely knees.”
It’s a beautiful snapshot on its own, but the up-from-the-ashes moment at the end of Michaels’ tale—when Sledge appears on stage in a royal blue suit, sunglasses, and a Hawaiian shirt—is even better.
Michaels marvels: “The gap-toothed singer glows. He is grinning wider than I have ever grinned in my life. He is grinning so wide that his grin cannot possibly be fake." Sledge, he writes, brings “the self-confidence of a man who was once at the top of the world, and who has decided to never leave. Like all the best soul singers, Percy Sledge's greatest talent is the vitality of his mind's eye.”
Friends, there’s only one place to go from here:
Source: Said the Gramophone
5/4/2009 11:15:37 AM
Kristina Wong’s performance art blends a biting wit with moments of disarming vulnerability, holding a mirror to both self and audience. The Los Angeles-based performer’s new one-woman show, Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest tackles the problem of high suicide rates and depression among Asian American women, exposing the charred underbelly of issues such as race, identity, and mental health with refreshing candor and yes, humor.
Creating the show was not an easy process, and she swears she wouldn’t do it again.
Read the full interview, “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Back Again.”
Watch an excerpt from Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:
Image by Diana Toshiko, courtesy of Kristina Wong.
5/1/2009 2:09:27 PM
Chicago gangs of the '70s and '80s carried calling cards. There were no numbers or addresses, just a crude logo and a list of crewmembers with names like Nacho, Sun Down, Bubbles, Sir Lazy, and Lil Bear. The blog We Are Supervision features a rich selection. Here's a sampling:
We Are Supervision
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