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
http://www.mrdemocracy.org/.

Brilliant.

Some sort of tribute


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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.

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.

Do you want blood?

I don’t know about art (as the saying goes) but I know what I like. Or, alternately, see as a piece of shite.

A lipstick doodle by Kate Moss has been auctioned and sold for £33,000, according to the Daily Telegraph. It’s basically what you’d expect a teenager to scribble on the back of an exercise book during an especially boring lesson.

Impossible to imagine that anyone has enough spare cash to spend about three year’s minimum wage salary on a piece of random scrawl. Maybe magic celeb dust gives this a value but it’s not even signed, ffs. If you cost the paper and materials – assuming it’s an expensive lipstick – it must be worth all of, oh, I don’t know, 4p.

No, wait, it’s got Pete Doherty’s blood on it. In that case, surely, you’d imagine that you’d have to pay someone to take it away.

Well, it seems that we have to take the auctioneer’s word that it was sold for this sum, and to someone other than Kate Moss herself. No one was fool enough to actually bid in the auction

The work was auctioned by Lyon & Turnbull in London. It was not sold during the auction but bought by someone after the event.
A self-portrait by Doherty, signed in blood, also went under the hammer but a buyer could not be found

The National Blood Transfusion Centre might be a more suitable recipient for Doherty’s artworks. I think they at least give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.

For entertainment purposes only

Matthew Parris is much saner than a former Tory MP has any right to be. He proved this again with a good piece in the Times. He was arguing against thought crimes.

I am driven to my wits’ end by my fellow humans’ feeble grasp of principled reasoning. .

I feel your pain, brother!

He discussed the new proposal that “anyone found with drawings (or computer-generated images) of child sexual abuse will face up to three years in prison.” Parris pointed out that making images of abusing real children is genuinely different from making imaginary representations, however repellent such imaginary images are.

Maria Eagle, the Justice Minister, said that the move was not intended to curb creativity or freedom of expression but to tackle images that had “no place in society”. Crikey – the intellectual sloppiness!….. The logical extension of Ms Eagle’s principle is almost boundless.

That is, there are an endless number of things that “have no place in society.” But, as soon as we start restricting expression to things we like, we start down a dangerous road. Surely, almost every TV show or Hollywood movie shows things that we don’t want to be true. And not just the endless shootings and stabbings in crime shows and action movies. What about the bickering morons portrayed in soaps? These definitely should have “no place in society”.

In fact, if it was left to me, there is no end to the things I don’t think have a place in society. Luckily, it’s not left to me. Thank your personal deity for that, all you women carrying miniature dogs in your handbag and masquerading as Paris Hilton, for example.

In fact, on the topic of deities – personal or otherwise – Parris extended the point about attempts to outlaw people’s chosen means of expression, however repugnant, to the issue of the new law

requiring fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, astrologers and mediums to stipulate explicitly that their services are for “entertainment only”

He pointed out that this principle should surely apply equally to faith-healing and, indeed, to all churches.

Is Parliament aware of any harder evidence for the efficacy of faith-healing than for the reliability of clairvoyance? I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, let the collecting boxes in church display a sign “for entertainment purposes only” and let Catholics buy candles to light “for entertainment purposes only”; and let trips to Lourdes be sold “for entertainment purposes only”. And let the raiment of the priest administering the Sacrament be embroidered likewise.
Imagine the churchyard billboard: the Power of Prayer (for entertainment purposes only).

Well, we can but dream… All the same, if laws to save people from their own gullibility are going to be passed, why should more mainstream official churches be exempt?

The art of war

As a reminder of the UK’s old TWAT, there are some amazing photos of Belfast’s militant art in the Belfast set on the Flickr site of Gerry Ward.

I have been told that many of these Northern Ireland murals have been painted over as part of the peace process, which is a pretty powerful artistic metaphor for political processes that are painting over the old sectarian divisions.

I feel completely ambivalent about these images. I’m not exactly convinced that seeing adverts for murder – with direct sentimental appeals to religion, nationalism, a sense of injustice – can be anything other than spurs to cultivate hatred. I am, deliberately, putting this in too mealy-mouthed a way. In reality, this is propaganda that helped to foster violence for decades.

At the same time, I don’t like the idea of erasing history. And many of these murals are chillingly beautiful. On balance, I would like to feel that the NI population is reaching a condition in which they can appreciate the paintings as historical truth, while marvelling at the alienness of the world-views expressed in this art of war.

But, what has the UK government learned after 30-odd years of homegrown warfare? Nothing like enough, it seems. Gordon Brown seems to think there is no comparison with the current TWAT, almost presenting the IRA/UVF with the same self-deluding nostalgia as the lunatics who talk about the era of the Krays, as if they were lovable cockney villains.

One lesson is surely be that repression fuels resistance. As in the instance of the murals, repression can spark awe-inspiring levels of creativity in the expression of resistance. But, repression, in itself, is pretty bad at dispersing the will to resist. (Think French Resistance or Yugoslav and Italian partisans in World War II.) The only road to peace is conflict resolution. It always comes to that in the end, unless we are going to make war on abstract nouns for ever.

Bodiam Castle

A while ago (19 Mar), I made a post here looking at the search terms most people used to get here. At the time we were comfortably getting 400 hits a day and the huge majority of them were people searching for Bodiam Castle.

Bodiam CastleWell, nothing has changed. We are still hovering around 400-450 hits a day, although there was a spike to 600 when a previous post got Stumbled. These are still around 80% first time hits, so we need to think about why people aren’t coming back. Of the first time hits, 80% (slight increase) are from search engines but still nearly all are from Google searches. Shame really, as I now prefer Yahoo search… 🙂

Anyway, the odd part is that the search terms haven’t changed either. Depending on your source (firestats differs from Feedburner and google analytics) the most searched for term is either “Fine Art” or “Bodiam Castle.” This terms are supplemented by such relevant terms as “castle” “castle with moat” “bodiam” “fairytale castle” and “art.” In all 60% of the top ten search terms through which people find our wonderful blog are castle ones. The remaining four are “McCann Blog”, “Obama” and the very odd “wtf” & “there.” I feel sorry for the people who arrive from some of these terms – no wonder we dont get repeat visitors.

I can live with two of them… It is strange, given the well thought out social commentary Heather posts that nearly all the searches people use to find our sites are for castle pictures. Is this a sign that more people search for castles than (say) Surveillance state or that our blog is just better ranked for castles…?

Still beggars cant be choosers, so as you can see I have pandered to the masses once more with another picture of the gorgeous Bodiam Castle, it really is an artistic castle picture (:-) ). If you are in the south west of England, you really should visit.

Ear today

An Australian artist has had an ear grafted on to his forearm.

I am tempted to suggest a more accurate self-identification would have involved him grafting another part of a man’s anatomy onto his cranial region….

Is this fine art?

Short one – I am curious about the concept of “fine art” and how it relates to photography.

Now as “disclosure” I am as artistic as a box of elephants and can barely comprehend what “art” is, let alone what would count as “fine art.” However, looking around a bit, it strikes me that any old tosh, turned black and white with the contrast upped a bit seems to count.

In that vein, can I ask for some feedback regarding these two pictures. Do they count as fine art?

Fine Art or not? Picture one.Fine Art or not? Picture two.

All comments welcomed!

EDIT: I should update this to clarify, I am not asking if you think the pictures are “good” or not, I am trying to work out what “fine art” means. I still haven’t managed this…