Ben Newman is a British illustrator and designer who’s doing some beautiful things with shapes. Obviously a lot of artists worth with shapes but Ben’s work is extremely geometric, similar to the aesthetic of old kids books. But he also has a great, kinda of weird sense of humor that makes his work really enjoyable. I also like the subtle details he throws into his pieces like the subtle textures on the bird image or the smiling face in the sun. I’m gonna need to write Ben and get him to do a wallpaper for us!
The Space Suit of the Week is the EX-1A! In the video above, you can see Bill Elkins, the man largely responsible for the suit, demonstrating the mobility of his design in the late ’60s. The range of movement in this suit is superior to previous suits because it uses a special kind of toroidal joint. “Toroidal” sounds fancy, but it basically means that the joints are shaped like donuts, albeit really complicated metal donuts… for outer space. The Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine has an excellent interview with Elkins that covers the territory from the time he withstood 16.5 magnitude g-forces while staying conscious to the EX-1A suit.
About the battle between hard and soft suits, Elkins says:
“There are some advantages of the hard suit, although I did not remain a proponent of it. The hard suit had value for being able to go to much higher pressures. The higher you go, the less likely you are to have the bends when exiting a higher-pressure space vehicle. So if you were wearing [a hard suit], you could scramble to do an emergency [spacewalk] because you didn’t have to pre-breathe for four hours. It’s a very mobile little spaceship, if you will. Vic Vykukal, a NASA Ames engineer, also did pioneering work on the hard suit. The soft suit came from a line of pressure suits used by the Air Force and Navy. BF Goodrich’s soft suits for the Mercury project were evolved from a Navy pressure suit… It was a question of cultures and politics within the R&D labs. There was the West Coast technology such as Litton, and NASA’s Ames Research lab; but then the older timers from the East who knew soft suits. Ultimately, soft suits won out.”
Every time I read suit engineers talking about suit design (and the one time I’ve actually asked an astronaut) they say the biggest challenge of the suit is accommodating movement at pressure. Which doesn’t sound very exciting, but has lead to innovative design solutions, including hard suits like the EX-1A. And even though hard suits never made it off the ground, maybe it’s better that they explore space only in our heads, floating around between the moon and donuts.
Last night I was telling Kyle how exciting it was that Radiohead had a new album coming out on Saturday, that it kinda’ felt like X-Mas was coming early. So imagine my surprise when I woke up and the album was available a day early! And there’s a new music video as well to go along with it? Radiohead, you’re too good to your fans.
I’ve only just started listening to The KIng of LImbs but I’m digging it so far. The video above is for their song Lotus Flower which is a good song with a silly video. Watching Thom dance around for 5 minutes isn’t exactly innovative, kinda feels like an early 90’s throwback, but it’s kinda funny to watch him anyhow.
I can’t say that I have ever found taxidermy terribly fashionable. The process is fascinatingly odd, but the end result is not necessarily something I would want lurking around the empty corners of your home. Trust Opening Ceremony to change my mind; their collaboration with legendary Parisian taxidermy boutique Deyrolle breathes life into the somewhat antiquated craft with their new collection. Bastien Lattanzio’s accompanying short film brilliantly showcases the clothes in the rustic setting of the shop, thereby juxtaposing the natural and botanical prints with the creatures that inspired them.
Featuring foxes, cats and beetles, the designs make up a small menagerie transposed to shirts, skirts and dresses. Now that is the kind of taxidermy I can live with.
I know, I know, it’s totally an overly sensational title. Bear with me and let me explain. The other day four new Banksy pieces went up here in Los Angeles, causing a flutter among street art blogs and Banksy hanger-on-ers alike. As potentially residing in either or both of these camps, I can say that I was flatly disappointed.
First off, the two top pieces, which are definitely him, seem a bit… too easy. A child soldier with a machine gun full of crayons, hasn’t that been done before? It feels like something a person would do if they wanted to try and rip off Banksy. A dog wizzing on the side of a building? That’s it?
I did find the Charlie Brown one funnier once I saw the image on Banksy’s website, giving it the proper context. The problem is, a lot of the people who wrote about the piece failed to mention that it was painted onto a building that had been condemned after it had been through a fire. Still, it seems a bit cookie cutter as well. Take on part pop icon, mix it with another part anarchist ideology and voila, you’ve made art. Good grief.
The last piece I’ve read was commissioned by Banksy, but that story seems weird to me. At the same time it certainly doesn’t seem like his style. Sure, there are people who can fake a different style but for whatever reason none of it feels like him. Either way I find this last piece totally out of character, and that’s a shame. It almost diminishes him in my eyes, like he was going for a cheap joke, even if it is well done, instead of being more clever, but clever is what makes him so good. It’s what separates him from all other street artists. Perhaps this is a fluke, perhaps I’m overthinking all of this, either way I think Banksy needs to try harder next time.
I came across this guy Zach Yudin and his musical project Oregon Bike Trails the other day over on Smoke Don’t Smoke and have been listening to his stuff a lot lately. My favorite track of mine is his song High School Lover which also has this great video to go along with it that totally fits the vibe of the music, kind of old school Beach Boys feeling. What’s crazy is that he’s making all of his music out of his bedroom, but he sounds so great. If you dig this be sure to click the link and listen to two other tracks from his Bandcamp. Definitely excited to see what else Zach comes up with.
Over the weekend the ABC screened a documentary based on Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which details the sex, drugs and debauchery that catapulted a new generation of filmmakers to the top of Hollywood in the late 1960s and 1970s. Although each of the first wave filmmakers of the New Hollywood movement have their crazy quirks, I have always been intrigued by the stories surrounding William Friedkin: his erratic anger outbursts, rampant chauvinism and unflinching obsession with the dark side. He was undoubtedly made more enticing by the fact that The Exorcist (1973) was the only film that I can remember being absolutely forbidden to watch as a child. I did manage to see it a number of years later at a slumber party filled with petrified sixteen-year-old girls. It remains one of the most chilling and unsettling films I have ever seen.
Well, I think it’s the underlying idea that it deals with, the mystery of faith. A lot of people are interested in the mystery of faith, even if they call themselves non-believers. If you call yourself a non-believer, you’re referring to disbelief in something, and you’re acknowledging that there is something to believe in or not. Like Christopher Hitchens, in his new book, God Is Not Great. But he’s referring to God and the mystery of faith, which he doesn’t happen to possess. The Exorcist, I think, deals unflinchingly with the mystery of faith, and I think that a great many people all over the world find that of constant interest.
Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, I am sure that many of you are already familiar with the film’s plot that involves a 12-year-old girl’s possession by the devil and the involvement of a priest (Jason Miller) who is suffering from a crisis of faith. When it was first released The Exorcist apparently induced illness, fainting, miscarriages and unsurprisingly upset the feminist community with its implied links between the pubescent female body and evil. Many horror films lose their “edge” with the passing of time for a number of reasons – the special effects are dated or conceptions of what is terrifying shift with the years or audience members become desensitised – however, the grotesque visual decay of Blair’s body is so hideous that no matter how many times I watch the film I still have to look away during some scenes.
This has a lot to do with Friedkin’s straightforward directorial style whereby he shoots without the aid of cinematographic trickery. And the effects themselves are astoundingly good given that the film was made in the 1970s. In an interview Friedkin discussed how they achieved some of the more ambitious effects: “All the special effects at that time were experimental. I mean they hadn’t really been done. And they were all done mechanically. None of the effects are done optically. There are no opticals in The Exorcist – if the bed goes off the floor, you see it go off the floor. If the little girl rises off the bed, we had to bring her off the bed literally by means of a rather simple set of mechanisms.” To this end, the film unfolds in an almost documentary style that involves the viewer as a witness to every detail.
When I was contemplating what in particular makes this film so frightening I decided that has a lot to do with the perverse nature of the content and that possession is something that resides within the realms of possibility (obviously more so if you belong to the Catholic faith). The representation of horror as sacrilege is far more terrifying than Jason or Freddy Kruger and perhaps this is why The Exorcist passes the test of time.
Video games can be art and art can be video games, but rarely are either regarded as such. You don’t play a video game, enamored by its beauty. And, if you do, you are probably losing the gameplay. Video games are rarely written up in Artforum and art is rarely written up in IGN. The two worlds do not collide and do not seem to have a reason to, beyond the limits of the tangential video art world.
Limbo, an Xbox Live game released last summer, straddles this line. It is a video game, but it also is an incredibly deep artistic thought. The game plays simply enough, side-scrolling in 2D with only two “moves” (jump and push/pull) that you must discover for yourself. The game is “trial by death,” if you will. The story is simplistic and is not really explained: you play as a little boy who is just roaming through a dark, dangerous world searching for something. You deduce from the name that he is in a purgatory of sorts, which manifests itself as many different demons. There are many puzzles and “challenges,” but it being so simultaneously basic and difficult makes it a gamer’s delight: good gameplay, good story, good visuals–and nothing is ever explained.
In terms of artistry, the game–literally–feels like you are manipulating a melancholy, minimalist, monochromatic animated painting. It’s a dark cartoon-like version of a German Expressionist film. Created by Danish independent game studio Playdead, Limbo is the brainchild of Arnt Jensen, the game’s director. Through ups and downs over creative control, the group decided to ensure that the product was exactly how they wanted it–not Microsoft, not IO Interactive. The result is magnificent: a stoic, dark meditation on the search that befalls us in the afterlife. In this case, the search for answers and meaning underlines the ultimate goal in the game, which is stated in the tagline: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.”
No one actually knows what limbo or purgatory or “the in-between” is like at all. But, if it is actually like this, then I guess we have a beautiful, puzzle filled, black/white/gray pre-heaven to look forward to.