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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Art outside of the box

I have been following an artist who has an eye for visuals as well as for politics and irony. His work was in the beginning illegal graffiti, but as he became more renowned the houses which he has “smeared” have actually increased their value.

image from banksy.co.uk

Banksy questions our everyday perception and popular culture icons. He has decorated the “new Berlin wall” which separates Israel and Palestine. He makes sometimes big public installations in the center of London and Bristol without getting caught. Although I am in awe of his highly skilled stencil work which is really funny and sometimes provocative, in the spirit of this blog I will concentrate on the one side where an idea has been twisted on its head and given a really clever new perspective.

image from banksy.co.uk

Have you ever considered that all the security inside museums has the objective of keeping the art inside? Well, Banksy has considered this and decided to embrace it and he has smuggled his art into the museums. Doing this I am not sure whether he is breaking any rules or law, but it looks like a lot of fun and can make the audience find something that they really were not in for when they entered the museum of classical art.

image from banksy.co.uk.

One thing that he observes is the time it takes for the personnel to notice the added works and to remove them. Sometimes they last for several days on the walls of respected art institutions. I am not sure whether this is a sign of the lack of attention of the personnel or their understanding for this new way of using a museum as a public space. Whatever the case, I am sure that most of the guests can appreciate these works of art, at least after realizing that it was not the national treasure that was vandalized, but that the remakes are possibly cheap copies or some Sunday painter’s interpretation of art classics.

He has also revised the CD album of Paris Hilton by modifying the cover art and adding some “inspirational” catch phrases to the album. He then delivered hundreds of these to various CD stores in Great Britain and put them next to the original Paris Hilton records. With these projects he takes a stand on all the right reasons, some of them being shallowness of modern life, intolerance and conventional view of art and the institutions which decide on who gets exposure and who does not.

image by Banksy.

There is a new documentary out about Banksy called Exit Through the Gift Shop. I have not seen it yet but I intend to see it in the near future.  In my opinion, he walks the thin line on annoying the authorities and also delivering a welcome message through everyday citizens by some quite unconventional measures. He does not raise his fist but a can of paint instead. What kind of ideas does Banksy give to you? Is he a criminal, disobeying citizen or an underground artist? Are his guerrilla tactics to Palestine wall, art museums and CD stores called for? If not, how should ordinary citizen approach these institutions if they wanted to make a change or have their say?

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I have been a regular viewer of TED Talks for about two or three years now. I can’t really remember how it all began but I suspect I followed a video link either from Facebook or some news page. I got hooked right away and since then I have seen hundreds of short speeches from varying topics. I usually watch them from my phone on my way to the office or back home.

TED is a conference in held in California each winter and in Oxford each summer which last for about a week each. Among the guest speakers in there are some paying attendees in the audience as well. Conference has a theme or themes around which the speeches revolve around. The idea is for speakers to give a speech on a topic of their interest which should last about 16 minutes. And o boy, what you can fit into 16 minutes! I have learnt, or should I say become of aware of hundreds of different projects, products or ideas that are making this world a better place to live in. There are architects, heart surgeons, lawyers, statisticians, musicians, physicists, engineers, entrepreneur, people of various backgrounds sharing  ideas of making a difference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, but it covers quite many different things beyond these three words. Conferences allow people to mingle and ideas to collide and TED is not exception. But there are differences to “regular” conferences, as you will soon notice.

Unlike most conferences where talks can take 30, 60 or 90 minutes and usually go to the speakers bread and butter topic, maybe something they are making a dissertation or a book about, they can easily be quite boring. And I don’t mean the message as such, it’s just that those people are usually experts in their field, but not at making speeches that have an impact to a wider audience. Usually it is enough to give hard data to colleagues or co-researchers who can appreciate all the subtleties of one’s latest scientific findings. In TED, the speakers speak of things that pour out of their heart and not necessarily what’s on their work desk. And they are coached in their speech in order to make it as appealing as possible in the time frame that has been given. And usually this means less statistics or numbers and more feeling. You literally lean forward when an architect speaks about renovating houses to become greener or a designer who explains how to design a handheld device for emergency care nurses while making sure that the humane connection between the nurse and patient is considered as well.

I kid you not when I say that looking at these talks is like going to the movies. But they are not like movies but more like a mix of the intensivity of Actors Studio and information of any documentary squeezed into 16 minute long, often emotional infomercial.

Here are some of my favourite speeches to be digested at your own discretion. First of them is about a project in India where the slum kids are given internet accessed computer and they start to learn by themselves. Second one is encouraging modern kids to get active with their surroundings and to explore. Third and last one explores the variety of things that one pig helps to produce. Prepare to be amazed. And be advised, you might get addicted!

 

 

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Screentone

Karlito - La Rue Cause (screenshot from http://www.get-bacc.com)

One thing that has always interested me is screentone. I remember 15 years back when I was a teen and I made a couple of t-shirt prints. I bought this special paper for my printer and printed and ironed two pictures. I went to pains to get a screenshot from Karlito’s music video “la rue cause” and another picture was manga girl with a gun which I ironed on the side of the shirt. I couldn’t find the original pictures which I used but here are some reference pictures so that you get the idea.

Manga girl in screentone (picture from liz-kicks-butt.deviantart.com)

Anyways, where I was getting at was screentone.  Screentone is basically one way to make pictures with color. Screentone is an area that is filled out with  many dots that make that area appear to be fully covered. Actually, when you look close enough to maybe a newspaper picture, you can differentiate these dots and see how the picture is made up by the printing machine.This technique saves coloras it leaves areas blank.  It is also used in manga and other cartoons as a shadowing technique.

The thing that fascinates me maybe the most is that it’s original purpose being ingenious in itself (=saving loads of color when printing pictures) it has been adopted by artists as a way to make a visual impact. It has also found it’s way to pop art.

Bloc Party t-shirt (picture from http://www.merchco-online.com)

But the coolest thing I found was on a Bloc Party gig about 2 years ago. The gig was out of this world and after that I wandered of to the merchandise booth to somehow encapsulate that moment of beautiful music. And there it was. A shirt with Bloc Party’s Intimacy album cover redone in screentone! I just had to have it. The dots are that big that if you haven’t seen the original album cover the screentone stays obscure and you don’t see what is really going on. You have to stare the shirt from 10 metres so that the dots start making sense. It has been fun to see my colleagues reaction after they have ignored the shirt for the whole day and then I ask them to step back and take a closer look.

 

This I think is something that in different forms has taken my interest; the effort one has to make in order to see something beautiful or clever. Sometimes it means that you have to climb up a hill, take an elevator to the top of Eiffel Tower or find a spot where everything lines up. I want to find people who have marked the spot and to see the beautiful and sometimes hidden view. And with this blog, I hope to share those views with you.

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