12/31/2008 12:57:55 PM
French cartoonist David B. takes stock in dreams: For more than 35 years, he has faithfully recorded his brain’s nighttime wanderings. He mines this unconscious material in Nocturnal Conspiracies, a new collection of comics.
The artist continues to hone the surreal style he’s known for, one that’s especially well-suited to dreamscapes. Conspiracy is all weird angles, stark coloring, and unsettling proportions. The text, bare-bones and subdued, allows the beautiful, strange images to do most of the talking.
New York magazine arranged a peek into the book.
12/29/2008 3:54:38 PM
The mainstream media have given Elvis Costello’s new talk show on the Sundance Channel a bit of press, most of it assuming viewers can’t process anything subtler or more sophisticated than an episode of MTV’s Rock the Cradle, but Spectacle demands an unabashed rave. Featuring a rough mix of laid-back, consequently revelatory interviews and flat-out stunning performances from Costello and his guests—who have included Elton John, Lou Reed, Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny, and James Taylor—it’s a gloriously unorthodox “talk show” for people who dig music for music’s sake and draw inspiration from the creative process. In other words, it’s not for everyone—which is why it’s on cable, worth every penny your provider will bilk you for, and probably won’t be around for a season or two. Such is always the fate of tuned-up television. Remember Night Music? How about Stars of Jazz? That’s what I thought.
Make no mistake about it, Costello comes to his subjects as a fan, treats them as vocational peers, and is deeply steeped in pop, rock, and jazz history. So, yeah, as some critics have complained, the musical references can get a bit arcane from time to time. But it’s the rhythm of the conversation as much as the questions and answers that fascinates. You actually feel like you’re seeing a real person ruminate on their craft with a pal, as opposed to an interview subject jousting with (or avoiding) a half-witted, smart-ass host or pitching a project. Plus, a bit of musical history could do the world a lot of good. After all, there’s no rule that a person can’t learn a little something while parked in front of the boob tube.
Best of all, this intimate, somewhat sycophantic atmosphere has so far facilitated inspired performances from all involved: Costello and Reed in perfect pitch on the latter’s “Set the Twilight Reeling,” a soulful Taylor crooning about his “Sweet Baby James,” and Haden and Metheny serenading guest Bill Clinton with the tear-jerker, “Is This America? (Katrina 2005).”
There are nine episodes left, featuring the likes of Tony Bennett, Rufus Wainwright, and the Police. And while watching to see whether Costello can find his way around Sting’s titanic head promises to be memorable, it will be hard to beat the season’s highlight so far: filmmaker Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), scotch in hand, reciting the lyrics of Reed’s “Rock Minuet” like a lost poet.
“In the back of the warehouse were a couple of guys/They had tied someone up and sewn up their eyes/And he got so excited he came on his thighs/When they danced to the rock minuet.”
Now, watch every night if you like. But you ain’t going to hear spoken word like that on Leno.
12/23/2008 9:11:09 PM
Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art is in dire financial straits, having dug itself into a hole through rampant overspending. Billionaire Eli Broad has offered $30 million to the museum, but only if the museum raises an additional $15 million itself. Artists David Weiner and Angie Lee tried to help out the old-fashioned way: by holding a bake sale.
Almost all of the treats were based on pieces from the museum’s collection, including Giacometti-shaped baguettes and Jasper Johns-frosted cakes. But the most coveted treat was definitely the financier cookies, selling for a cool $1 million apiece.
In the end, the bake sale made just over $300. Alas, that means none of the high-roller cookies were sold, but the sale still drew quite a crowd to see the wares and watch Weiner dole out Claes Oldenberg-esque slices of fruit pie.
Image courtesy of douglemoine, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/23/2008 1:04:17 PM
Queer youth are taking often-controversial subjects to the stage for discussion in an effort to get out information to those students who need it most. In their fall 2008 issue (article not available online), Bitch magazine gave a nod to About Face Youth Theatre (AFYT), a Chicago theater program for LGBT or questioning youth and their allies. Through performances like Fast Forward, a show about sex education based on the cast members’ own experiences, the program hopes to reach out to those youth who are largely ignored in government funded abstinence-only education. Bitch reports, “the government’s refusal to recognize the variety of sexualities among youth translates to a refusal to recognize those teens themselves.”
For more on ground-breaking queer activism, check out Utne Reader visionary Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.
Image by Seattle Municipal Archives, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/22/2008 4:32:06 PM
Not even movie stars are immune from the effects of recession. Illuminating an unexpected consequence of economic volatility, Minnesota Public Radio reports on research showing that our conception of beauty changes with the market. Reporter Nikki Tundel spoke with psychology professor Terry Pettijohn, who studied the phenomenon by analyzing the physical features of popular actresses during economic booms and busts. Tundel reports:
In the early 1980s, for example, the country was emerging from a recession. Things were looking up. That's when women like Sissy Spacek and Sally Field really made it big on the big screen. Both actresses, says Pettijohn, had young, almost cherubic features. The same could be said for a young Bette Davis, who had one of the most popular faces during the 1940s, another era where prosperity was on the rise.
The early 1990s, on the other hand, were a time of economic struggle. During those years, Emma Thompson and Sharon Stone were among the most celebrated actresses. Both had strong bone structures, smaller eyes and more mature-looking faces.
While Pettijohn found perceptions of female beauty varied with economic conditions, he told Tundel physical characteristics deemed attractive in men were unaffected.
12/19/2008 10:55:52 AM
Michael Franti has never been shy about his politics. The latest album by Franti and his band Spearhead, called All Rebel Rockers, mixes the songwriter's progressive-minded lyrics with some of the best music of his career. It’s also been his most commercially successful album, showing that people are hungry for consciousness-raising music.
In the latest episode of the UtneCast, senior editor Keith Goetzman talks with Franti about recording All Rebel Rockers in Jamaica, Franti's politics of inclusion, and his music's role in rallying progressives.
Listen to the interview below, or subscribe to the UtneCast for free through iTunes.
Michael Franti on Politics and Music: Play Now
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Here is a full transcription of the interview:
Quite a few songs on All Rebel Rockers seem intended to sort of give a morale boost to progressives. Is that what you set out to do?
“Yeah, definitely. When I was writing this record, I was thinking about all the things that the world is facing at the moment, from climate change to the price of gas going up and down, to the stock market and the auto industry, and we were leading up to this new presidency. And I really wanted to make an album that made people feel like they could stay engaged. Because I really believe it’s going to take the efforts of everybody on this planet to get things on the right track again. Some days you wake up and you just go, ‘Oh, my god. I can’t watch the news; I can’t face it.’ So I said I want to make a record that helps people get up in the morning and drive their kids to school or clean their bathroom or do simple things to stay engaged.”
Of all your albums, this one has made the highest debut on the charts. Is that the case?
Has that continued? Is this your best selling album yet?
“Yeah, this album has been our personal best seller, our most popular record. When it entered the chart at number 38 or 39 or whatever—throughout the years, people would say, ‘What kind of music do you make? Is it funk, is it rock, is it reggae, is it hip-hop, is it acoustic folk—what is it?’ So now I just turn to them and say, ‘Oh, it’s Top 40.”
You’ve previously incorporated reggae sounds in your music, and you’ve worked with Sly and Robbie as producers before, but this album has a stronger reggae vibe than any of your previous albums. What made you decide to go in that direction?
“Well, when we’ve been touring, we’ve redone a lot of our songs from previous albums in reggae versions, and people really like them. When we’ve been out on tour, people have really loved the combination of mixing reggae with loud rock guitars. So when we approached this record we said, well, let’s do that: Let’s mix our favorite elements of rock with reggae. So we started working with producer Matt Wallace in L.A. He’s a great rock producer. And then we took the tracks down to Jamaica and worked with Sly and Robbie and really got the rhythm factor up on them.
“And you know, working in Jamaica is a unique experience because you’ll have people who’ll just come in off the street who you’ve never seen before, and they’ll start commenting on your record, you know? They’ll say, ‘On the second verse, you should add a keyboard’ or something, and you’re like, ‘Who the fff … hell are you, man? I’ve never seen you before.’ But then you realize, ‘Oh, man, they’re right.’ Because in Jamaica reggae is so much a part of everyday life—there’s a sound system on every corner, and people really know what moves them.”
It comes through on the album that there was a loose vibe down there. “Rude Boys Back in Town” has a very classic reggae feel. Were you trying to create an old-style Kingston vibe on that one?
“Yeah, definitely. We were trying to get that sound because when you’re in Kingston, you really feel that, and a lot of the musicians that we were recording with, like Robbie Lynn and Sly and Robbie and others, they all played on those records during that era. So it was fun to be around those guys and listen to the stories of that time. But also, I really love that those records today still make people dance. And in this time when there’s so much music that is really drum-machine driven, in terms of dance music, I wanted our record to be one that you could play live and it would still really get people dancing, and also in a club.”
“Say Hey (I Love You)” is an upbeat song about the overarching power of love. What do you mean with the lyric “The more I see the less I know”? Is that about having your beliefs challenged?
“Yeah. You know, as I travel around the world I think, wow, I’m really learning and really seeing—like when I went to Iraq and Israel and Palestine and traveling to the favelas of Brazil and all over Indonesia and Asia, you start to feel like, I’m really getting a grasp on how the world works. And then you realize, man, I don’t know anything. The more places I go to, the more I realize I understand so little about the world. I’m really grateful for the opportunity of music to have the chance to see places and to connect with people that I never would have connected with otherwise, just through playing the guitar in the street—you know, sitting down and through that experience being able to meet an Israeli mother who lost her son in the conflict and a Palestinian woman who lost her sister—to be able to sit down with the two of them and hear them tell the tale of how they met and grieved and were able to move to a place where they said, we don’t the death of our children to be a cry for more war. We want it to be a cry for peace, to end all wars everywhere. To have experiences like that through just having played a song on a streetcorner is like—it’s the greatest blessing in my life.”
In the buildup to the presidential election, you played politically themed concerts but as far as I know you declined to publicly endorse or campaign for a candidate. Why not?
“I really believe that as an artist, my opportunity to help to bring about awakening is one that should come from a personal process that someone has, and not from me telling somebody that this is the way it is. And so, at our shows, whenever there was a political party who called and said, we want a table at your show, I would say you’re welcome to come as long as the invitation goes out to other parties and we do everything to get everybody here—the Green Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, Peace and Freedom, whichever party—reach out to all of them so that when a fan came to the show, they would have an opportunity to hear from everybody. And also so that people would feel welcome to come to the shows. I would hate it to be that somebody said, oh, well, I’m not a Democrat and I hear they’re going to be tabling there so I don’t feel welcome to come to the show.
“I voted for Obama, and the reason is because I felt like he’s a person who has that same message. He wanted to bring people from both parties together, he wants to bring people from around the world together, to create equality for sexuality, for gender, for black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, everybody. It’s that message that really resonated with me, and that was the message that I wanted to bring, not ‘Vote for the guy I like, or the woman I like.’”
Now that the election’s over, I see that you’ve recorded something called the “Obama Song,” so it’s pretty clear where you stand post-election. Are you excited about the prospect of an Obama presidency?
“Very much. I already feel the energy that he’s brought to the whole world. As I’ve traveled around the country and around the world, I’ve seen the spirit that people feel now. It’s almost like a dark cloud has been lifted off the shoulders of everyone, and they say, now we can finally address these things. And you know, maybe he’s not going to be the perfect guy, and I’m not going to agree with him all the time, but climate change—that’s going to be something that we’re going to have a conversation about. And energy policy that works and is sustainable—we’re going to have a conversation about that. And the wars that we’ve seen taking place—we’re going to talk about those. These are going to be part of the agenda. And during the Bush administration, I feel that so many people felt hopeless—like he and Karl Rove and the people in his administration were completely unilateral in their domestic policy and completely unilateral in terms of their attitude toward other nations.”
I get the sense that you try to maintain a holistic lifestyle. I’ve seen you on the cover of an instructional yoga DVD, and I know that you try to eat healthy and stay healthy. How do you maintain a holistic lifestyle amid the craziness of a pop star’s life?
“Well, I have to be organized. Some days I’m successful; other days I’m not. (laughs) That’s the key—to be able to have a routine on the road. I know I’m going to get up at a certain time; I know I’m going to be on the yoga mat at a certain time; I know that I have a certain food that I’m going to eat, and I know where I’m going to get it from; and I know when I’m going to go to sleep, or doing promotions—all those things have to be really well thought out. And so that’s it. My usual day is I get up around 11 o’clock and do yoga and then eat afterwards. Then I have sound check and play soccer and do running with the guys in the band after soundcheck, and then do the show and eat dinner after the show and usually get to bed around 3 o’clock by the time we get everybody on the bus and get rolling. I have a schedule every day.”
12/18/2008 10:18:18 AM
In the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, is art still an investment worth holding onto? Or is the payout from selling a valuable work too tempting to refuse? As the economy teeters and budgets constrict, museums and institutions around the country are considering the dilemma of selling art to pay the bills—setting off heated debates about the moral and social pitfalls of viewing art as an untapped financial resource instead of a priceless public good.
Such was the case this summer, when, just weeks after flooding destroyed much of the University of Iowa’s campus, Iowa Board of Regents member Michael Gartner asked for an appraisal of Mural, Jackson Pollock’s 8’x20’ painting and the crown jewel of the school’s museum. (The piece was donated by Peggy Guggenheim herself.) Media outlets from the Des Moines Register (article not available online) all the way to Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal caught wind of the affair and sounded the alarm. Could a sale be on its way? How dare university officials sniff around this magnificent piece as if it were a piggy bank waiting to be smashed open! Were they seriously considering selling part of the public’s property when insurance and FEMA funds were already on their way?
After almost two months of silence, the Board of Regents finally stated once and for all that the painting would not be sold; no further explanation was given. It could have been that the administration was merely curious about the painting’s value, and looked into it at the most inopportune time possible—or that the condemnation was so vehement that the regents retreated, tail tucked between their legs.
The idea of selling, trading, or auctioning parts of a collection—a practice known as deaccessioning—is more common than we think. Museums often look to clear out lower-quality works in order to purchase new ones or to simply free up space for the rest of their collections. As art buyer Lisa Hunter said on her blog, “If you could trade four mediocre Renoirs for one great Matisse, wouldn’t you do it, too?”
The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which establishes moral and ethical standards for its 190 member museums, has set down guidelines for museums wishing to trim or adjust their collections. Art should be sold or auctioned only for the benefit of the rest of the collection, and proceeds from that sale should be used only for the augmentation of the current collection. These practices ensure that mutual benefit is extended to the museum and the public, for whom the art and the museums exist.
The association is adamant that deaccessioning not occur “in reaction to the exigencies of a particular moment”—a moment like, say, flood damage to the museum’s governing institution.
But the idea of selling Mural did actually find some support. Felix Salmon, financial and art writer for Portfolio.com, reasoned that “some paintings belong not to ‘the people of Iowa’ so much as to the people of the world, and belong in a world-class collection. Which, frankly, the University of Iowa Museum of Art isn’t.” Does such an important work really belong in a small community? On the other hand, isn’t it unfair that a handful of art elitists should decide who has access to great art?
Somewhat less snobby was the reasoning of Gilbert E Schill Jr. and Jacob H. Rooksby, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription or online pass required). “If colleges were not allowed to sell what they own ... institutional progress and the fulfillment of the colleges’ missions would be impeded ... The [public property] argument necessarily fails because it knows no end.” Schill and Rooksby consider a school’s mission to be that of education and overall well-being, not of holding onto art collections as untouchable holy relics.
A case in point is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Last year the gallery's administrators decided to auction off several of its priceless antiquities, saying that they fell outside the gallery’s “core mission” of modern and contemporary art. The gallery made a killing; its prize piece, the early Roman sculpture Artemis and the Stag, was projected to sell for around $6 million. The final bid was for more than $28 million. In total, almost every Albright-Knox piece sold made at least three times its pre-auction estimate, netting the gallery more than $90 million.
A short time later, the museum announced a campaign to expand its facilities that included designs from a “world-renowned architect.” According to the AAMD guidelines, it isn't allowed to use its auction earnings for the new building, though the timing is suspicious to some observers. But the most disturbing facet of the sale wasn’t the possibility of padding out the building fund. It was that Artemis and the Stag, a rare masterpiece, was purchased by a European private collector, meaning that it would perhaps never again be in the public eye.
It’s reasonable to assume that the same thing could have happened to Mural had it been put on the auction block. But due to the surrounding circumstances, the backlash against the Iowa Regents was so virulent that, in the words of Press-Citizen columnist Bob Elliott (article not available online), regent Michael Gartner was “verbally tarred and feathered as if he’d come out against baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.”
Paradoxically, Elliott goes on to name Gartner as the most important figure in the Iowa City art scene precisely due to the emotional rhetoric in support of the Pollock’s place in the community. Even Gartner conceded in the Chronicle (subscription or online pass required) that very few people were even aware of the painting’s existence before this controversy cropped up: The publicity for the museum and for the painting itself was priceless.
But all this analysis may be moot in the face of the world’s current financial crisis. Many of the museums that opted for deaccession were lured by the art market’s out-of-control prices paid for even minor works. For the past 10 years, the art market has been driven onward and upward, with many buyers coming from the financial field. (Lehman Bros. was a particularly enthusiastic collector.) Now that so many companies are tightening their budgets and the United States is in the throes of an official recession, the breakneck buying has dropped off. The art world’s previous feeding-frenzy atmosphere, which threatened to suck works off the wall like a vacuum with its promise of easy money (and lots of it), has lost some of its power. Some remaining art dealers and even gallery owners find the slowdown beneficial overall. For so long, the dominant dialogue had been about art as an investment: Now the talk can return to the art itself.
Image courtesy of the
University of Iowa Museum of Art
12/17/2008 1:10:56 PM
In their efforts to lower the age of the average listener to under 60, classical music ensembles have tried everything from pre-concert happy hours to marketing performers like pop stars to offering ringtones for download on their websites, with limited success.
As a grant writer with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Ronen Givony realized that these strategies were failing to reach young, intellectually curious indie rock fans like himself. He developed the Wordless Music series, which programs 30 minutes of classical chamber music alongside a headlining rock act. Givony contends that his target audience is “ripe for being turned on to the sound world of someone who would meet them halfway about classical music. The world of chamber music and instrumental music, and how great Haydn and Mendelssohn trios were, was a major revelation to me and I wanted to evangelize on the music’s behalf.” His programming has paired Ligeti with Glenn Kotche of Wilco, Chopin and Arvo Pärt with Beirut, and John Adams with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.
So far, this pill-ground-up-in-a-spoonful-of-jelly strategy has been a success—several concerts have sold out, and all have ended in the black. Last season the series began expanding outside of New York City, with an inaugural show at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. While Givony estimates that more than 90 percent of concertgoers come to see the rock act, many contact him after the show with questions like “tell me more about this Osvaldo Golijov guy and why does he sound so much like Beirut and why didn’t I know about him before?”
12/16/2008 2:01:45 PM
Theater critics Isaac Butler and Rob Weinert-Kendt unveiled their Critic-O-Meter blog last week, giving New York theater enthusiasts a one-stop site for play reviews and, in the words of the Los Angeles Times’ Steve Leigh Morris, laying bare a “philosophical divide between criticism that investigates and that which judges.”
Critic-O-Meter gathers any and all reviews it finds on a given play, translates each review into a letter grade, and averages the grades into an overall score. Butler and Weinert-Kendt then write a short blurb summing up the critical reaction. Further links offer visitors the option of browsing excerpts from the original reviews.
Morris’ piece explores feedback to Critic-O-Meter thus far, particularly in the critical community. Their responses have been divided: While some less-established reviewers express gratitude for the exposure (one gushes at the possibilities for “a lil' ol’ aspiring theater critic”), other writers view the blog disdainfully. A particularly apocalyptic critic sniffs that it is “evidence that the final stage in the devolution of the theater review has arrived.”
Morris has some beef with Critic-O-Meter—he rejects, for instance, a logic that assumes subjective reviews can be easily converted into objective grades. But even as he indulges in some editorializing on the blog’s value, he acknowledges that such compilations are already entrenched in our critical culture. After all, movie and music reviews have long drawn on thumbs, stars, and letter grades to assess a piece’s worth.
Morris ends, somewhat breezily, there: We like our criticism to tell us what’s good, and fast. Those who voice dissent, no matter how nobly, are “spitting into the wind.” While there’s doubtlessly a degree of truth to his conclusions, he leaves some strands of analysis underdeveloped. For instance, he might have examined the differences between the critics who support tools like Critic-O-Meter and those who greet it with handwringing. The detractors seem intent on maintaining a certain purity in theater criticism. It’s hard to tell whether this stems from an elitism about the theater world or more practical concerns about the future of their jobs. As reviewers in the fine arts increasingly take their cues from critics of more popular forms, these kinds of issues ought to be explored.
Image courtesy of Joel Telling, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/12/2008 3:21:38 PM
With its 25th anniversary coming next year, book publisher 4th Estate (part of Harper Collins) asked design and marketing firm Apt to help with the celebration. The result is “This Is Where We Live,” a stop-animation video with scenery and figures made entirely out of the imprint’s books (more than 1,000 ended up being used).
The video is sweet and charming, and every viewing reveals another clever use of the material: Watch for The Corrections as a crosswalk and The Perfect Storm in the form of a fishing boat. After watching, take a look at the mind-blowing production stills and videos.
This Is Where We Live
from 4th Estate
(Thanks, Visual Culture
12/11/2008 12:13:37 PM
“We've seen the whole face of America change,” says Los Lobos drummer Louis Perez in Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles, “and that face is brown.” Chicano Rock!, a new documentary scheduled to air this Sunday on PBS, examines this demographic shift through a cultural lens, exploring the musical fruits of the twentieth-century influx of Mexican immigrants to the United States. A recent article in the Indianapolis weekly Nuvo previews the film and talks to its creator, Jon Wilkman.
In the documentary, Wilkman traces the lineages of several groups of Chicano musicians. He looks at performers like Lalo Guerrero, who channeled traditional Mexican sounds, as well as bands like Cannibal and the Headhunters, who drew more heavily from U.S. rock influences. Wilkman seems most interested in a third group that bridged the first two; for him, they tell a story that’s bigger than the music they made, helping us see the cultural give and take that occurs as immigrant groups settle into new lives in the United States.
“We are, like Chicano musicians, beginning to blend cultures, just like they blended musical sounds," Wilkman says. "It's not only a story about the past; it's suggesting what our future is going to be—not only musically but culturally.”
Image courtesy of Riza Nugraha, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/8/2008 3:01:47 PM
When we reflect on evil events of the past and present, it's natural for us to relegate the perpetrators into categories separate from ourselves. We often believe that something innate in these perpetrators’ personalities inclines them toward evil, something neither we nor anyone we know possesses. By placing these individuals outside ourselves, we do not have to think about whether we would be capable of despicable acts.
Photographs recently unearthed from historical obscurity perfectly encapsulate this inner struggle of capability. According to an essay in the latest issue of Culture (pdf available online), a publication of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, an American soldier last year anonymously donated a photo album found in an empty German apartment to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. At first glance, the photos from the album appear to depict summer camp or a corporate retreat; the subjects are laughing, eating, and relaxing. They are on a retreat of sorts, but not from the daily grind of a corporate office. Instead, the smiling faces are decompressing from their duties as SS personnel at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Writer Jennifer L. Geddes points specifically to Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil” and thoughtlessness as a “moral failing of the highest order,” applying these concepts to those in the photos:
“We are given a chilling vision of this ‘strange interdependence of thoughtlessness and evil,’ of the ways in which these SS personnel refused to think about what they were doing, failed to be reflective about the evil in which they were thoroughly engaged, and were able to enjoy a good time together with bowls of fresh blueberries and accordion music, even as they took part in mass murder.”
Nothing about the people in the photos signifies an innate evilness. One can easily imagine themselves and their own friends lounging on a porch or laughing in the rain. With context, however, the photos assume an ominous, eerie sheen. Taken less than 20 miles from the killing center, during a time when Auschwitz was working over capacity, the photos show the “interdependence of thoughtlessness and evil” better than words could ever tell.
12/8/2008 11:58:40 AM
Spend much time contemplating positron emission tomography? Or asymmetric mutant hybrids? Yeah, me neither. Science magazine, sensing a disconnect between scientists and the general public, dreamed up a novel way to make the researchers' jargon more accessible. It challenged them to translate the dense language of their work—into dance.
Science announced the winners of the second-annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest last week. The results, it acknowledges, are “not as data-rich as a peer-reviewed article,” but they’re infinitely more entertaining. Here’s the winning video from the graduate student division, which explains the role of vitamin D in beta cell function with headlamps, bubbles, and a lot of flailing around:
The budding choreographers won the chance to work with real ones, who will help each winner transform a second article into a new dance. The fruits of these collaborations will debut at a “This Is Science” performance in February.
(Thanks, Daily Beast.)
12/5/2008 2:58:21 PM
The single exhibition on display at the Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art illustrates how seriously art museums take their aesthetic commitment through a unique lens: their toilets.
The toilets at the top of the pack fit seamlessly into their museum’s identity. The sleek, contemporary design of the Tate’s urinal (pictured), for instance, is an appropriate companion to the museum’s modern collection. But the photographic evidence gathered from some institutions, like the Russian Museum, is just plain icky.
(Thanks, Design Observer.)
Image courtesy and copyright of Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art.
12/4/2008 10:32:04 AM
The past 100 years have seen a dramatic evolution in the world of cuisine and cooking, from traditional techniques to canned goods and space food to nouvelle cuisine (think big plates and tiny food). A current trend is molecular gastronomy, a combination of science and cooking where chefs use chemicals and special equipment to change the physical properties of food.
An essay in The Smart Set addresses the intriguing question, Is this type of cuisine contemporary art? Of course, food is meant to be eaten. But on the other hand, both contemporary art and molecular gastronomy experiment with form and tradition, often eschewing both just because they can.
And, like contemporary art, molecular gastronomy is not for everyone. One of the essay’s profiled chefs has created a dish called “Kellogg’s paella,” a mix of shrimp heads, vanilla mashed potatoes, and Rice Krispies.
Alinea, perhaps the most famous U.S. restaurant practicing the craft, recently released a cookbook with recipes like “Pheasant, shallot, cider, burning oak leaves,” which calls for ingredients like “8 narrow oak twigs with dead leaves attached” and agar agar.
The question of molecular gastronomy as art is ultimately unanswerable, since “there is something poetic and ephemeral about deliciousness," write
"We don't want that property to be reduced completely to synapses and chemical reactions. Yet through a better understanding of synapses and chemical reactions, molecular gastronomists are creating poetry.”
Image courtesy of Zesmerelda, licensed under Creative Commons.
12/3/2008 1:04:00 PM
In shaky economic times, government arts funding may be quick to land on the chopping block. In a timely article on Depression-era arts funding, DIY magazine ReadyMade questions the wisdom of this political logic.
Apparently, even in the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt (or Eleanor, depending on your sources) viewed artists as an important investment on the road to economic recovery. For nearly a decade, the Federal Arts Project employed out-of-work artists in a slew of public arts projects. Other initiatives, bundled under the larger Federal Project Number One, did the same for musicians, actors, and writers.
FAP-sponsored artists often lent their creativity to the Works Progress Administration’s Poster Division, crafting promotional posters for New Deal programs. The results were often beautiful, vibrant with a sense of optimism both political and artistic. ReadyMade, wondering how such spirit might translate today, asked five artists to create FAP-inspired posters to comment on our current sets of political and economic challenges. The responses range from Christoph Neimann’s abstract celebration of art to Christopher Silas Neal’s exhortation to buy local. All are available for free download, and are accompanied by quick statements from the artists. Some seem to have found the FAP artists' buoyancy contagious. Nick Dewar envisions a cyclist utopia where “reflective bike clips would replace fancy ladies’ purses as the current must-have fashion accessory.”
The posters, while lovely, pose questions more than they provide answers. How, for instance, might artists help rejuvenate the country’s political spirit? As ReadyMade acknowledges, artists will need to do more than look to the past. They’ll also need a “brand-new graphic language,” one “equal in impact to the original initiative, but decidedly different.”
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