The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'surrealism'
In addition to inventing the death machine, helping terminally ill patients end their lives and serving eight years in prison for murder for having done so, Jack Kevorkian also painted. His paintings weren't like the all-too-ignorable kitsch painted by other historical figures like Hitler or Churchill, though, but something heavier odder; they had the surrealism ponderous, didactic symbolism of Eastern European poster art, and Kevorkian's obsessions—death and suffering—were everywhere:
During his prison years, Kevorkian published an anthology called glimmerIQs: A Florilegium, which compiled his serial limericks, philosophical manifestos and scientific treaties, reproductions of his paintings, and even handwriting samples and a natal chart, in case anyone wished to analyze him astrologically. In a chapter called “On Art,” Kevorkian rhymes:Kevorkian's artworks are on display at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.The subjects of art should be more
Than the aspects of life we adore;
Because dark sides abound,
Surreal paintings profound
May help change a few things we abhor.
Erratum is a new exhibition in London by the artist Jeremy Hutchison, who contacted factories in China, India, Turkey and Pakistan and commissioned them to make versions of their products with one intentional error rendering them useless:
And here is a piece about it in the Guardian:
Hutchison was inspired by allegations last year about the working conditions in Apple's Foxconn factory, including a story from one worker who said he would deliberately drop a spanner on the floor so that he could have a few seconds of rest while picking it up. "I became fascinated by this idea of an intentional human error to break the tedium of mass-production," says the artist. "I wanted to see what would happen if you commissioned this kind of intentional mistake into the smooth logic of a hyperefficient globalised machine."
And more on the subject of Siri; while the technology is available only on Apple's iOS platform (and currently only on the latest and greatest iPhone), an Android software company have taken it upon themselves to make their own version, in an 8-hour hackathon. It's named Iris (see what they did there?), and it sort of works:
Me: Remind me at 9pm to go and buy milk
It Recognised: remindme at 9 pm to go in hawaii
It Replied: I have two pets.
Me: Where is siberia
Replied: Wherever you make it I guess
Q: Where can I get a recipe for cheesecake?If one views this as a competitor to Siri, it falls well short (even without the bizarre voice-recognition results, it doesn't seem to contain the sort of evolving model of the user, their relationships and preferences, and the current context that makes a system like Siri work), though one could hardly expect this from an 8-hour hacking session. (If one views it as a publicity stunt to promote Dexetra's other apps, it'll probably be far more successful.) However, as a surrealist tool for injecting chaos into the lives of those who use it, it looks to be far superior, escaping the shackles of bourgeois practicality that constrain Apple's more polished product. Iris looks to be a virtual assistant André Breton could love.
A: En la esquina, con minifalda.
("In the corner, wearing a miniskirt.")
Zoë Williams (not the Grauniad columnist) is an artist whose works look like surrealistic taxidermy:
(via Boing Boing)
Google Scribe is an experimental engine which autocompletes entire words based on previous input in a text box (I suspect it's a Markov chain-like system powered by Google's corpus of text). It's also a perfectly serviceable surrealistic text generation tool; start writing something, then at some point, just hit Enter on the autocompleted choices until you have enough, and you might get a rambling, whacked-out monologue like this:
Now watching in the New Yorker and the New York Times Company will answer questions about their own lives and their communities together with their respective organizations and to their families and friends of these two types of information that is not appropriate for all users of the catalogue should also be noted that there is anything you would not believe how much I loved them all and I'ma let you finish but Beyonce had one of these days I'll bet your life on the road today and they are nothing but another form of therapy for these patients is not known whether these are the only ones who can not afford to pay for their own users and groups to their Friends
Tetsuya Ishida was a Japanese painter who, until his death in 2005, painted surrealistic scenes, which tended to involve images of himself transformed into various unhappy-looking automatons or inanimate objects. Beautiful, in a somewhat disturbing, vaguely Kafkaesque way:
There are more paintings here (note: text is in Japanese).
(via Boing Boing)
A new frontrunner has emerged in Colombia's presidential elections: Antanas Mockus, a former academic and two-time mayor of Bogotá whose terms in power there were characterised by a sort of surrealist urbanism (previously). While Mayor, he inaugurated voluntary women-only nights in the city's streets, deployed mimes to mock those flouting traffic rules and issued citizens with thumbs-up and thumbs-down cards for commenting on others' behaviour. Mockus is running for the Presidency under the banner of the Green Party, and has attracted an Obama/Clegg-style following of young voters, who have joined the campaign with another kind of surrealist intervention, the flash mob.
Mystery Google: the web's first surrealist search engine?
The Dadaist/Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp was best known for his "ready-mades"; mundane, mass-produced objects recontextualised into art by virtue of being presented as such. Duchamp's ready-mades were shocking at the time, challenging what "art" was, and paved the way for the conceptual artists of the 20th century. Now, however, an artist named Rhonda Roland Shearer claims to have the proof that the ready-mades weren't; that, far from picking up manufactured items and effortlessly transforming them into "art", Duchamp actually went to considerable effort to produce objects which were almost—but not exactly—identical to mass-manufactured objects. Shearer supports her thesis with research into the practicality of these items, or minor differences between them and the manufactured goods they were purported to be.
Duchamp's readymade glass ampoule, which he named ''50 cc of Paris Air,'' is larger than any that would have been readily available to pharmacists. (And she has a tape of a man from Corning Glass saying so.)
The readymade snow shovel, which now exists only in photographs and replicas, ''would hurt your hand'' if you tried to use it, Ms. Shearer says, because it has a square shaft. And it doesn't have the normal reinforcements to keep it from breaking. (She has hired people to make her a snow shovel like Duchamp's and use it until it breaks.)
There is more: the bird cage is too squat for a real bird, the iron hooks in the photograph of the coat rack appear to bend in an impossible position, the French window opens the wrong way, the bottle rack has an asymmetrical arrangement of hooks and the urinal is too curvaceous to have come from the Mott Iron Works, where Duchamp said he bought it.If Shearer's thesis holds, it implies a staggering degree of foresight on the part of Duchamp. Common knowledge has him and the rest of the Dada movement as iconoclasts, concerned with upsetting the bourgeois orthodoxies of art; the punk rockers of the period, if you will. If Duchamp painstakingly crafted these objects, designing them to be almost indistinguishable from the real things, he was more akin to a virtuoso composer meticulously arranging combinations of three guitar chords and energetically pounded drums, with obsessive precision, into the right sort of chaos so that it has the right sort of enthusiastic artlessness and naïveté to sound like a bunch of angry youths with no musical training playing the instruments.
And precision is the key; if Shearer is correct, Duchamp would have had to get it exactly right. The objects would have to look sufficiently ready-made to fool the audiences (and the tutting commentariat, whose outrage was the punchline of the joke) of the day. And yet, the fact that he laboured on building shovels and urinals rather than buying some from the local ironmonger's suggests that he had in mind a secondary audience, in the distant future, who would piece together what he had done; in other words, his artefacts wouldn't be fully appreciated until long after the initial wave of Dada, an possibly long after his death. Unless, of course, he meant, and failed, to get the details exactly right, producing artefacts indistinguishable from ones he could have just bought except to himself, in which case his motives would be even more mysterious.
The city of Detroit has seen more than its share of misfortune; hollowed out by the slow decline of the US car industry, it has already been synonymous with post-industrial urban decline, even before the oil crunch and the Great Recession. Now, however, the economically depressed conditions are apparently bringing in artists, drawn to Detroit by the rock-bottom real-estate prices (think $100 houses, albeit in need of work), faded grandeur of near-mythical proportions and potential for experimentation and regeneration:
Buying that first house had a snowball effect. Almost immediately, Mitch and Gina bought two adjacent lots for even less and, with the help of friends and local youngsters, dug in a garden. Then they bought the house next door for $500, reselling it to a pair of local artists for a $50 profit. When they heard about the $100 place down the street, they called their friends Jon and Sarah.
Admittedly, the $100 home needed some work, a hole patched, some windows replaced. But Mitch plans to connect their home to his mini-green grid and a neighborhood is slowly coming together.
But the city offers a much greater attraction for artists than $100 houses. Detroit right now is just this vast, enormous canvas where anything imaginable can be accomplished. From Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project (think of a neighborhood covered in shoes and stuffed animals and you’re close) to Matthew Barney’s “Ancient Evenings” project (think Egyptian gods reincarnated as Ford Mustangs and you’re kind of close), local and international artists are already leveraging Detroit’s complex textures and landscapes to their own surreal ends.It'll be interesting to see what happens; will Detroit's new artist-settlers find their dreams foundering, turn tail and run, or will they succeed? Will Detroit become a new East Berlin, attracting artists and then scenesters, then showing up in boutique tourist guidebooks as the new hip destination, until eventually the process is completed and the well-off and aspirational move in, most of the artists are priced out of it and move on in search of another locus?
(via Boing Boing)
"Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged," an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video's first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. "It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence."
According to a 2007 CIA executive summary, the terrorists responsible for masterminding the attack are likely hiding somewhere in Berlin's vast labyrinth of cafés. Though officials said they didn't know if any of those involved in carrying out the plot were still in Chicago, several dozen local performance artists and interpretive dancers have been brought in for questioning.
Hayden said the CIA is working closely with the National Endowment for the Arts to cut off all grants that may serve as funding for the group. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has begun monitoring any large purchases of gravy, tinfoil, pig's blood, and barbed wire in hopes of preventing another aesthetic tragedy.
Montréal artist Cesar Saez is building a giant dirigible banana which he plans to float 20 to 30 miles above Earth, where, viewed from the Earth, it will appear to be between 15 and 20% of the size of the full moon.
(via Boing Boing)
Momus has posted several extremely short stories he made up for telling at an art show:
Each time an ice skater completes a lap of the rink, he adds a decade to the faces in the crowd watching him. Guilty that he's killing many in the audience, he's relieved to discover that by skating backwards he can remove a decade from their ages. But many people still "die" by being taken back before the time of their birth.
A man follows a toothpaste trail to a small room in the red light district. In a room at the end of it he finds a woman surrounded by money. He asks why she's surrounded by money. She says "Pay me, and I'll tell you." He pays, and she says other curious fools like him have paid to learn the same thing. He goes off and starts a similar business, but makes less money at it.
A wild goose is flying in V formation with fellow geese, flying south over and away from Denmark. Surveying the land below, the goose longs to land, to peck at corn. It lags behind its comrades, and lands. The winter comes on fast, and the goose is buried by the snow.
A man buys an inflatable woman and takes her to a love hotel. He tries to make her sing karaoke with him by controlling the flow of air escaping from her. It's so exhausting blowing her up and squeezing the air out that he falls asleep without trying to have sex with her. The next day they go to the beach. The man uses the inflatable woman as a lilo, and floats with her around the coast to a temple. He tries to have the doll accepted as a new monk, but when she's having her hair shaved off she deflates.Brilliant.
This book looks interesting; it's apparently a travel guide for aspiring surrealists and such, filled with suggestions for offbeat ways of experiencing foreign locales:
Do you yearn for the glories of yesteryear? Pack an octogenarian guidebook and replace the subway with a penny farthing for an Anachronistic Adventure. Do you like to gamble? Taste the real thrill of adventure with Trip Poker or Monopoly Travel. Are you desperate for a holiday but strapped for cash? To undertake Budget Tourism low funds are not an obstance but a prerequisite.
(via a BBC News 24 segment on Saturday)
During the Spanish civil war, anarchists inspired by surrealist and abstract art developed torture cells based on non-figurative art and the psychological properties of shapes and colours:
Beds were placed at a 20 degree angle, making them near-impossible to sleep on, and the floors of the 6ft by 3ft cells was scattered with bricks and other geometric blocks to prevent prisoners from walking backwards and forwards, according to the account of Laurencic's trial. The only option left to prisoners was staring at the walls, which were curved and covered with mind-altering patterns of cubes, squares, straight lines and spirals which utilised tricks of colour, perspective and scale to cause mental confusion and distress. Lighting effects gave the impression that the dizzying patterns on the wall were moving.
The surrealistic cells were used to torture Francoist Fascists, as well as (of course) members of rival leftist factions and splinter groups. (via Charlie's Diary)
(If they built something like that these days, mind you, they could probably pass it off as the latest clubbing sensation and charge admission for it.)
This afternoon, I went to the Museum of Modern Oddities (today was its last day, and I hadn't managed to find the time to go earlier). It was interesting, in a surrealistic sense; it was in an old hardware shop in Collingwood (looking very much like something from decades ago, with decades-old stock still remaining amidst the exhibits), and had a number of exhibits, which took the form of found objects and dioramas thereof, with stories attached.
Some of the exhibits they had were Jock the Racing Possum (a dessicated possum corpse and a glimpse into a little-known aspect of colonial Australian life), the Geoffrey Dunstable Mania Dioramas (arrangements of nails and screws said to depict various states of mania and depression), and various arrangements of objects in boxes, often with labels attached giving them new meanings. There was also a do-it-yourself souvenir stand where one could take souvenirs home, in the form of pre-bagged objects from prior visitors, as long as you placed an object of your own in a bag provided, leaving it for another visitor. There was also a book for sale, of which I bought a copy; it's vaguely surrealistic, and has a lot of nice photographs of objects and other good design.
I also ran into Michael from Beebo there (whom I knew from my days at Monash).
The museum is now closed, but with any luck, they'll reopen at some stage somewhere else.