Mark Day’s hyperlapse of Burning Man 2016.

I have to admit that watching videos like this makes me wish I had a modicum of artistic ability. It’s really amazing to see what folks are doing out in the middle of a desert.

I’m also wowed by how low-power LED lights can add a new dimension to sculptures and other artworks.

Source: Mark Day’s YouTube Channel

What if we lived in a world where the paintings from “Harry Potter” actually existed?

That seems to be the question being answered in the video B E A U T Y by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro. In it he takes many famous classical paintings and animates them with the results being both lovely and creepy. You will definitely want to watch this one full screen and in HD. Note: There’s some amount of nudity and violence in this so consider it NSFW:

B E A U T Y – dir. Rino Stefano Tagliafierro from Rino Stefano Tagliafierro on Vimeo.

One of the things that occurred to me as I watched this is that a lot of classic paintings have some pretty twisted subject matter to them that’s really highlighted when you animate it. Granted, the animation in this is somewhat limited, but even the small amounts that are done are impactful. You can find the full list of all the paintings used here.

My last minute entry into Everyone Draw Mohammed Day!

This little exercise was a lot more painful than I expected it to be. Not because I’m worried about offending someone’s religious sensibilities or because I have some heretofore unknown deeply held respect for the “prophet” Mohammed, but because it reminded me of my total lack of talent at drawing anything. This became especially obvious to me after seeing both ***Dave’s and DOF’s entries for the day. Compared to them alone, I have the artistic ability of a retarded fruit fly that’s been dead for a week.

So I did what everyone who lacks any ability to draw a straight line does in this situation. I resorted to a stick figure. And here it is:

A stick figure Mohammed.

I did this all by myself!

Yes, I believe I’ve managed to create a spectacularly offensive depiction without really trying. That’s supposed to be a turban on his head, but it looks more like a pile of shit. I modeled the beard on my own and it’s probably the most realistic thing in the picture. That’s supposed to be a sword in his right hand even though it looks like a giant leaf of some sort. Based on my drawing, Mohammed was a stunningly short man with a surprisingly huge head and an arm span of at least 10 feet.

So there we go. With just two minutes to spare. My not-meant-to-be-offensive-but-probably-is-anyway entry for Everyone Draw Mohammed Day. ┬áIt’s sad to think that this means I have bigger balls than all the people at Comedy Central.

I’ll never understand modern art.

I like to think I’m a fairly sophisticated fellow, but there are certain topics that make me feel like a Neanderthal. Fashion is one of those topics and the other is modern art. Take, for example, the following picture of an art “installation” that is up for the 2008 Turner Prize:

Click to embiggen!

Cathy Wilkes, 42, is a Glaswegian who gathered together a television, a sink with a single human hair and a pram and titled it She’s Pregnant Again when she represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2005.

This time, she has placed a mannequin on a lavatory next to two supermarket check-out counters. Four horse-shoes and bits of discarded wood dangle from wires attached to the mannequin’s head. They appear to bear no relevance to the check-out counters on which the artist has arranged bowls and spoons, as well as empty jars with the remnants of food. Scattered across the floor are piles of tiles and broken pottery in a plastic bag.

I can appreciate the nude mannequins, but I have no clue what the artist is trying to say with that piece other than perhaps “look at what I can get away with calling art!” It’s interesting in a “uh… OK” sort of way to me, but I see no deeper meaning in it. Which probably explains why I’m not an art curator:

Sophie O’Brien, one of three Turner Prize curators, saw deep meaning in the installation, explaining that the artist was “searching out the language of objects – things we overlook in our daily life” – and making us look at them with “fresh eyes”. She claimed that the artist had placed each found object with extreme precision.

*Squinting at picture closely* Really? OK, if you say so.

When she says the artist placed each object with “extreme precision” I get this mental image of her standing there with a slide ruler, a protractor, and lots of string measuring out precisely where each object should go based on some obscure algorithm she pulled out of her ass. I can’t help but wonder if such levels of precision are really necessary for such an installation. It was all for naught in my case, though, as I’m not seeing anything new about the objects in question.

Her colleague, Judith Nesbitt, the Tate’s chief curator, added: “It’s as if the narrative has been stripped away. You’re left trying to make sense of the objects to each other and to ourselves.”

OK, I’ll agree with that much. I am left trying to make sense of the objects in relation to each other. I still don’t get it.

I mean I can see where a certain amount of skill is involved in something like this. It’s just that the skill in question has less to do with the art itself and more to do with her ability to smooth talk people into thinking it’s art. I can admire that skill, but I’m not convinced it’s art as a result. Perhaps that’s a side effect of my natural cynicism about people and the bullshit they tend to spread. On some level I’m envious because it seems like a good way to earn a living if you can pull it off.

The one part of the exhibit I think is neat is the nude mannequin sitting on the toilet. It’s just weird enough to appeal to me, though it would be better if it didn’t have the random bits and bobs dangling off its head. Just a nude mannequin, posed in the casual way that it is in the picture, with perhaps the nurse’s hat, sitting on a toilet, would be something I could appreciate a great deal. Not because it’s art, but because it’s funky and makes people wonder what kind of drugs you’ve been indulging in.

I actually own a male mannequin head and torso myself. I picked it up back in my early twenties the first time I worked for a Meijers store in Waterford Michigan. They were throwing it out as the trend at the time was away from semi-realistic mannequins to the trendy partial mannequins minus arms, legs, heads, etc. that are used in most stores today. It wears one of the last of the Les’s Place t-shirts I had made up in the mid-80’s in honor of the BBS system I used to run. It doesn’t have any arms or lower half of its body and no hair. I call him Ralph and he usually wears one of my hats when I’m not wearing it.

He’s currently sitting on the floor of the living room in front of the sliding glass door because I’ve not figured out where I want to put him yet, but I’m leaning towards having him stare up out of the basement window once we get a storage rack in place down there for him to sit on and to hold all my spare computer parts. He’d almost never be seen except for the occasional nosy person who happens to spot something odd in the basement window. When we lived in the apartment in Canton he sat on the half-wall that divided the stairway from the living room staring down at anyone who came in the apartment. The first few times you’d come in he’d scare the shit out of you, but after awhile you’d forget he was even there. I could always tell when the maintenance people were coming in because he always startled them.

I loved that. But that’s not art. That’s me just being funky. I can appreciate funky.

Professor Daniel Floyd on sex in video games.

This is a very interesting and entertaining video presentation by Daniel Floyd, a professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, in which he argues that the problem with sex in video games is that there isn’t enough of it. More specifically he argues that before games will be perceived as a respectable art form they’re going to have to find a way to address sexuality in a realistic and meaningful fashion to tell their stories. Check it out:

I’ve never been too worried about games being taken seriously as an art form, but that’s largely because I stopped giving a shit of people thought less of me for being a gamer a long time ago. Still I’d love to see games being taken seriously as an art form before I die. There’s already been more than a few games that managed to provide a story telling experience on par with any movie or book I’ve read and the number of such games will likely increase as time goes by. Considering the media whipped panic attack over the small and far from explicit sex scene in Mass Effect, however, I suspect it’ll be awhile before any developer will try to approach the subject in a serious manner.

What Is Art?

The internet is all abuzz this week about Aliza Shvarts, a Yale student who issued a press release claiming that she artificially inseminated herself, then took various herbs in order to induce a miscarriage. Repeatedly. Yale responded with a release stating that Shvarts was a performance artists, and that her announcement had been the art piece, forcing people across the world into a discussion of what is and what isn’t art. Shvarts has since released another statement claiming that at least portions of her original statement are true.

Which leads me to ask, like many other people across the world, just what defines art?

My initial, instinctive, answer to that is, if someone created it and says that it’s art, it’s art. Tolstoy wrote a whole book on the subject. At one point, he says,

Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and the same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications. To take the simplest example: a boy, having experienced, let us say, fear on encountering a wolf, relates that encounter; and, in order to evoke in others the feeling he has experienced, describes himself, his condition before the encounter, the surroundings, the woods, his own lightheartedness, and then the wolf’s appearance, its movements, the distance between himself and the wolf, etc. All this, if only the boy, when telling the story, again experiences the feelings he had lived through and infects the hearers and compels them to feel what the narrator had experienced is art. If even the boy had not seen a wolf but had frequently been afraid of one, and if, wishing to evoke in others the fear he had felt, he invented an encounter with a wolf and recounted it so as to make his hearers share the feelings he experienced when he feared the world, that also would be art. And just in the same way it is art if a man, having experienced either the fear of suffering or the attraction of enjoyment (whether in reality or in imagination) expresses these feelings on canvas or in marble so that others are infected by them. And it is also art if a man feels or imagines to himself feelings of delight, gladness, sorrow, despair, courage, or despondency and the transition from one to another of these feelings, and expresses these feelings by sounds so that the hearers are infected by them and experience them as they were experienced by the composer.

And later simplifies that to say,

To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art.

So by Tolstoy’s definition, we can say that anything that is created, with the intent to convey a feeling or emotion, is art.

The problem lies in who gets to decide if that criteria has been met? The creator or the receiver? The creator knows his or her intent. After all, they did it. The receiver has to judge, something that by definition becomes subjective. How does this judgment take place? What tests can be administered? What lines are drawn here?

And why does it matter?

This is where we reach the slippery slope portion of the argument.  You see, when people start talking about defining something as art or not art, it’s usually because they’ve found something calling itself art that they find offensive or objectionable. That something is usually on display somewhere, perhaps in a museum or a university. And it’s protected, because it’s calling itself art. If that label can be stripped from it, then it can be made to go away and offend no more. It’s a form of censorship.

I understand the desire to do this. I’m like anyone else. I read an article about some bizarre piece of performance art, like hanging vials of blood from a tree, and I think it’s ridiculous. But I think allowing ourselves to be placed in the position of arbiters as to what is and isn’t art is a dangerous proposition that could eventually lead to the attempted suppression of unpopular ideas.

Think I’m exaggerating? Remember Robert Maplethorpe?

The minute we take it upon ourselves, as viewers/listeners/readers to decide if something is art, we’re giving that same power to other people who might wish to make sure that the things they don’t believe are art remain unseen, unheard or unread. And those people just might be in a position to do something about it.

There are, of course, other ways to define art. Tolstoy is not the sole arbiter on that and neither am I. But the problem exists, no matter how you define it. Who determines if it meets the definition.

I maintain that the only possible answer to that question HAS to be, the artist.

(cross posted from my own blog)

Go check out “The Eloquent Atheist”.

There’s a new webzine on the Interwebs hoping to promote literary/art created by atheists called The Eloquent Atheist and they’re looking for folks to send in submissions. Here’s a snippet of what they’re hoping to receive:

…hopes to provide an outlet to nontheists who would like to publish creative, thoughtful, expressive writing (no rants), and writing that focuses on “reclaiming” the lives and works of nontheists, which have often been neglected in (or deliberately excised from) mainstream accounts of history.

The initial few articles are on a range of topics and it looks to have some potential. With a hat tip to The Friendly Atheist where I first heard about it.