Brilliant artwork

By chance, I spotted a gallery/shop/whatever window display in Liverpool One, piled high with unsettling baby dolls. This was arresting enough as a sight and it was drawing the attention and laughter of almost every other passerby.

But the explanation that accompanied the exhibition showed that the whole project is close to genius:

To produce a written constitution for the UK, by outsourcing the job to China.

You can read all about the project – with some fascinating posts – and track the journey using Google Maps and even see photos of the disturbing dolls on


Some sort of tribute

Benoit Mandelbrot died on 14th October.

(Non-breaking news from me. i.e. Probably 4 days after everyone else knows it. A good tribute on the BBC by the way but the images are poor.)

He was the main man for making maths beautiful, even to mathematically challenged people like me.. Fractal mathematics is the mathematics of life. In fact, for atheists, fractal maths is pretty much a direct route to what simpler people call looking at the face of “god” .

Here’s a beginner’s guide to what fractals are with links to some image galleries.

In the mid-nineties there were any number of graphics packages that let you play around with creating fractals, from a standing start, on a 486…. Especially the venerable and respected fractint.

I found a version that’s still online. version 20. It’s been updated to work on Windows 3.0…. Hmmm, even my PC isn’t quite that elderly.
(Wahay. I found a 2008 ftp site. Must try it out again.)

Here are a few fractal image links from tinterwebs.

* The classic Mandelbrot set.From a site that explains why it isn't evidence of Intelligent Design

I like the source that I got this image from. It points out that someone might see a visual representation of a Mandelbrot set as evidence for “Intelligent Design” and answers

But in fact, the Mandelbrot set is the product of a relatively simple mathematical equation.

That’s the non-divinely miraculous nature of fractal images. A few simple changes in start conditions and/or a slightly different equation and another infinite set of magical things appears.

* A fractal vegetable.

from wikipedia- image of a romanesco broccoli

Romanesco broccoli

Ok that’s cheating. Pretty much any living thing is “fractal.” The difference is that romanesco broccoli LOOKS like a generated fractal.

* The coastline of Norway
Space view of the coast of Norway

The coast of Norway looks like a generated fractal too. But, then, any coast is fractal. Zoom in and it breaks up into infinitely recursive self-similar patterns.

In fact, everything is pretty much fractal. Incredibly simple and endlessly complex. And we can see this mainly thanks to teh work of Mandelbrot.

April evening

April evening

April evening,
originally uploaded by Amymillerphotos.

This is stunning.

This is yet another amazing picture on Flickr. There is little point in writing about it, because its beauty speaks for itself.

Please log into your flickr accounts now and say hi to the person who managed to capture this beauty.

Un mercoledi da tigrotti

I am a sucker for high contrast black and white. Too often BW images get uploaded to flickr when they are actually tones of grey. This can look good in its place, but for me at least, black and white wins out every time.

This is a great example of the contrast working well. In colour, if you didnt know the people, this may well be a bland image. In black and white it screams dramatic.

Lard Buddha vs Chocolate Jesus

Spot the difference between a relatively-godless religion and a god-heavy one.

Gurkha chefs won a silver medal in some military cooking competition with a lard Buddha. Well, not really much of a news item, but 100 hours of solid and “boring” lard-sculpting must count for something. At least some Gurkha Buddhists can obviously mix comedy, creativity and philosophy in a way that could shame the monotheists.

Compare and contrast this appealing effort with the hysteria over chocolate Jesus in 2007, which sparked a response the BBC, perhaps hyperbolically, described as an “outcry.” (A bit strange, given how much more appealing chocolate is than lard, when measured only by the criterion of edibility.)

A New York art gallery has decided to cancel an exhibit of a chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ after protests by a US Catholic group…..
We’re delighted with the outcome,” said Kiera McCaffrey, spokeswoman for the League.
Ms McCaffrey had called the exhibit “an assault on Christians”.

The chocolate fuss was as nothing compared to the Piss Christ issue. Although to be honest, it seems as if the artist was blatantly taking the piss. $15,000 of funding for a plastic crucifix and a cup of urine. (Then again, Damien Hirst can get sums exponentially larger for pieces of “art” that are physically created by his workforce and his work doesn’t even make you laugh. So, good luck to Serrano.)

That one actually made it to the Congressional record. I started counting the rant words (“outrage”, “shock”, “indignity”, and so on) but got distracted by the idea that it was obviously some game of outrage bingo. With congressmen trying to outdo each other in their plundering of an imaginary Rhetorical Rage Dictionary.

Do I even need to mention the Mohammed cartoons furore? And so on,

So congratulations, Gurkha chefs, for your charming lardtastic efforts.

Will they be on the test?

Seeing or doing x number of things before you die has become a widespread – if daft – concept. (It’s not as if doing things after you die is a viable alternative.)

Today’s Guardian starts a “1000 artworks to see before you die” theme. It got up to artists whose names start with the letter C (going from Albrecht Altdorfer to the Chapman Brothers) today.

I was hoping it would at least show you the artworks in jpeg format, so I could save whole years of my life that would otherwise have to be dedicated to trainspotting objects from the Guardian’s art canon. The online Guardian just describes most of the art but, phew, the print Guardian has enough pictures to allow me a few months’ idleness.

In any case, I feel obliged to cheat. I think I’ve seen the Mona Lisa, for instance. I haven’t actually seen the Mona Lisa on the wall in the Louvre. But I’ve seen it many hundreds of times in reproduction, so it feels as if I’ve seen it. In fact, people who’ve seen it in the flesh (their flesh and its pigments on canvas) don’t tend to be impressed by the experience of shuffling along in a crowd of tourists. Although they can tick it off a mental list of “seen” things, which must bring its own satisfactions.

Google throws up lots of things to do before you die (215,000) e.g This site has a “100 things to do before you die” tickbox. This one refers to a more modestly-enumerated BBC 50 things to do before you die.

Swimming with dolphins seems to come in at number 1. Oh shit, that makes 51 for me then, as I will have to learn to swim properly first. It seems that a fair few of them are too demanding of aquatic-skills for me. Diving with sharks, for instance. Make that 52 things then, if diving is in there, although it’s unlikely I can perfect my swimming skills to scuba-diving level in the limited number of years I have left on this planet.

Oh shit, as far as I can make out, despite my life’s having been relatively incident-packed (or so I naively thought until now) I can only find ONE thing that I’ve done out of the fifty. I will never fit all the rest in. Plus, I’d better become a millionaire first so that I can afford the gap year life that seems necessary.

Seeing your life as a a giant scorecard must be almost the ultimate form of alienation. A life lived as an experience consumer, with things having no meaning in themselves, just being steps in pursuit of some arbitrary achievement.

No one except yourself is going to be impressed if you tick something off. I’m certain there isn’t a final test. Those people who think Pascal’s wager is a reasonable justification for worshipping God X might have a problem though. What if there’s a god who’s a cosmic experiences auditor and s/he will send you to hell if you haven’t used your time wisely ticking experiences off on your scorecard? In that case, you may have to work your way through every list on google.

Hockney and lenses

This is an advert for something you can’t see, unless it’s repeated on BBC4 some time this week, if you can get BBC4….. (I checked BBC iplayer and youtube, to no avail.)

I know that the thought of a documentary about art might not strike you as utterly compelling, but that’s what it was – both “compelling” and a “documentary about art”.

It was an old Omnibus programme made by David Hockney. He argued that optical instruments and techniques had been used in Renaissance art, making it possible for the artists to produce accurate perspective and photorealistic effects. (According to Hockney, van Eyck, used camera obscura techniques, Caravaggio used mirror projections, and so on.)

This viewpoint has been pretty much discredited by many art critics and scientists. That’s not really the point, though.

Hockney’s attempts to recreate the paintings and his great enthusiasm and skill are mesmerising. It’s a real pleasure to watch.