Archive for January, 2007

Adam Frank – interactive design

Posted: January 28, 2007 in creativity
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brooklyn based artist and designer adam frank offers one product on his site, a seemingly beautifully crafted and nicely designed oil lamps (lumen) that create shadow images if mounted close to a wall – the rest are references to quite interesting interactive larger-scale installations.

shadow (by adam frank and zack booth simpson) is an interactive installation that projects a disembodied, autonomous, human shadow on the ground. this apparently living shadow attempts to merge itself with the viewer’s real shadow. when this occurs, the invisible figure, implied by the virtual shadow, inhabits the viewer’s own personal space. Real-time 3D graphics and video sensing are used to produce this work of interactive light.

performer is an interactive installation in which a virtual audio audience applauds viewers lit by a spotlight. the installation uses a real-time audio audience simulation and movement sensors to produce an illusion which reverses the traditional relationship between viewer and subject. viewers actually feel as if they are being observed by a real 100-member audience.

replica places a live virtual replica of a museum on a pedestal inside one of its own galleries. The installation allows observers to view the museum as a sculptural object part of its own collection.

 



sunray (currently proposed for ‘grand central station’ in new york city) projects an animated sun on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. the sun appears to rise over the east side of the ‘main concourse’ and set in the west. at certain times of day, it appears as if the roof is invisible. viewers have the momentary sensation of seeing the real sun.

finally, inside builds an immersive simulation of its surroundings from only the environment’s available, reflected light. an out-door, cubic enclosure is constructed with one small hole in each of the walls and ceiling. this produces a full-surround, upside-down, 180-degree shifted, moving image of the surrounding site projected on all the interior surfaces of the room. the nature of the room changes from an opaque enclosure to a transparent viewing space.

Novel written based on SMS text

Posted: January 27, 2007 in creativity
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Right now I’m rather busy with setting up a Flickr site, but here’s something that’s worth noting. Someone in Finland published a book entirely consisting of text messages. It’s the fictitious story of an IT executive who quit his job, travels through Europe and India and keeps in touch with friends and relatives via SMS. The 322 page novel typically is full of grammatical errors and word abbreviations – which makes me wonder how much influence texting will have on the English language. I do have friends who would be totally appalled by the prospect of any affect; I think it’s great to see language being alive ;).

Interesting to see this experiment coming from Finland, a country that wholeheartedly embraces technology (it’s the country that gave birth to Nokia). SMS in particular has become a way of life in Finland; even the Finish prime minister was reported by the gutter press to have broken up with his girlfriend via a text message. Just imagine John Howard or George Bush breaking up with their partners, leave alone with girlfriends or doing it through a SMS message … it seems Finish society is much much younger in spirit than Australia’s or the empire’s. Back to the book: it must be popular – the publisher is planning to translate it into other languages. Given the novel’s approach to language, that should be an easy job. And I hope they’ll be successful ;).

If it weren’t for his singing voice, so full of smoke and ether, one would be hard-pressed to believe that Till the Sun Turns Black was made by the same man who recorded Trouble just two years prior to it. Ray LaMontagne takes a brave leap from the rootsy singer/songwriter material of his stellar debut album and goes nearly 180 degrees. Once more collaborating with legendary producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns, the singer and songwriter turns in a highly textured, atmospheric, and subdued performance on his sophomore effort — and hell yes that’s a good thing. All the grit and earth in LaMontagne’s voice on Trouble, and the basic country-folk and even R&B (on the title track) has been swept out the backdoor here. This new set of songs is startling all on its own. The reliance on skeletal yet delicate string arrangements adds so much to the interior nature of these songs. LaMontagne has used the projection in both his lyrics and his voice and turned them inside out. He’s slower, more subtle, more restrained in everything he does. His lines are economical, full of space and tension, as if they were being performed in the middle of the night in a room alone. Johns‘ use of strings and keyboards paints LaMontagne’s voice and underscores his sung lines with a drama that reveals itself inside the listener. Whole comparisons to Nick Drake will be forthcoming, no doubt, but it’s only really accurate when thinking of Drake in his work with John Cale, who fully and implicitly understood the singer’s intent.

Check LaMontagne’s opener, “Be Here Now,” with the guitar finding its way toward the singer as a quartet of violins, two cellos, and a bowed bass emerge to support his voice in the void of silence Johns creates around it. Johns‘ piano fills in odd spaces. They don’t seem to add up, but they do when LaMontagne’s vocal whispers its way forward into that small swell of shadow. Even on tracks like the bluesy “You Can Bring Me Flowers,” where a full-blown horn section is used to highlight and extol LaMontagne’s tough words; there is more Tim Buckley and Tom Rush here than Redding or Stills, but it’s all LaMontagne. The jazzed up flute and funky dobro don’t sound like country, but more like country-blues at the Village Vanguard circa 1968. Again, horns come into play on “Gone Away from Me” and let his words spill out, not rattle. The whispering acoustic guitars and strings that usher in the title cut are frames for a voice to fit inside, and LaMontagne’s does for a while, he paints himself in and then shatters the frame when the gradually confessed emotion blurs the edges and stress fractures it. These songs are songs no one else can sing. LaMontagne’s sense of phrase and rhyme is idiosyncratic and never overbearing, he allows his listeners into his world, slowly, deliberately, until he can no longer bear to keep his observations and nearly overwhelming emotion to himself — as the strings swell, all he can do is begin to moan, and nearly growl, wordlessly. Till the Sun Turns Black is a giant leap forward for a songwriter who has a lot on offer already. No longer able to be lumped in with the new crop of folk practitioners or the whiny, indie singer/songwriter types who come from disaffected parts of the psyche and disaffect themselves from audiences larger than a few hundred, LaMontagne is a sophisticated pop artist who can find in simple forms something utterly engaging and communicative. This record will not sound dated in 20 years. And indeed it could have been made 20 years ago. There is nothing here that remotely echoes anything his peers might be up to. He’s in his own league. One gets the impression that as fine as this music is, he’s still feeling his way into it. We can only hope this partnership between LaMontagne and Johns will continue because we will no doubt be surprised at what comes next.

[reviewed by Thom Jurek]

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Love/Hate

Posted: January 19, 2007 in creativity
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An interesting little drawing … from a guy who seems to specialise on cartoons drawn on the back of business cards (Stormhoek label designs). I love how accurately this little drawing expresses what hate feels like when looking at it from love; it certainly tears love apart. But it also is destruction and chaos, being lost in world without colour, where life disintegrates into a confused mess of loose, directionless threads – despite the delusion of having clarity and a justified purpose.

Guggenheim Bilbao

Posted: January 17, 2007 in creativity
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Wikipedia describes the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao as a modern and contemporary art museum designed by Canadian/American architect Frank Gehry and located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. It is built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic Coast. The Guggenheim is one of several museums of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The museum features both permanent and visiting exhibits featuring works of both Spanish and international artists.

The Museum opened to the public in 1997 and was immediately vaulted to prominence as one of the world’s most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism. The museum’s design and construction serve as an object lesson in Frank Gehry’s style and method. Like much of Gehry’s other work, the structure consists of radically sculpted, organic contours. Sited as it is in a port town, it is intended to resemble a ship. Its brilliantly reflective panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic life (and, in particular, fish-like) forms that recur commonly in Gehry’s designs, as well as the river Nervion upon which the museum sits. Also in typical Gehry fashion, the building is uniquely a product of the period’s technology. Computer-aided design (CATIA) and visualizations were used heavily in the [Titanium] structure’s design.

Computer simulations of the building’s structure made it feasible to build shapes that architects of earlier eras would have found nearly impossible to construct. Also important is that while the museum is a spectacular monument from the river, on street level it is quite modest and does not overwhelm its traditional surroundings. The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city of Bilbao and for the Basque Country. Almost immediately after its opening, the Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe. It was widely credited with ‘putting Bilbao on the map’ and subsequently inspired other structures of similar design across the globe, such as the Cerritos Millennium Library in Cerritos, California.

The building was constructed on time and budget, which is rare for architecture of this type. In an interview in Harvard Design Magazine Gehry explained how he did it. First, he ensured that what he calls the ‘organization of the artist’ prevailed during construction, in order to prevent political and business interests from interfering with the design. Second, he made sure he had a detailed and realistic cost estimate before proceeding. Third, he used CATIA and close collaboration with the individual building trades to control costs during construction.

As already said, some people think that the Guggenheim Museum put Bilbao on the tourism map; the last picture below certainly shows its popularity. The Guggenheim is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 8pm. A good time to visit the museum seems to be at 6 or 7pm when there’s almost no queue (and hopefully less people inside as well).

(All pictures being used in this post are available in the public domain except two which have been inserted courtesy of virtourist.com)

Luciano – Lessons of Life

Posted: January 14, 2007 in creativity
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Cover of "Lessons of Life"
Cover of Lessons of Life

Peace, love, and positive vibes couldn’t ask for a better campaigner than the man who delivers the conscious lyrics with the heart of a lovers rock singer, Luciano. With Lessons of Life he’s back in top form and you can thank Fat Eyes, the production team that blends roots and ragga with grooving style, for that. A hand-on team, Fat Eyes adds dub twists, sweeping synths, and ping-pong noises to a solid, non-digital base. It allows Luciano’s passions to run freely as he bounces between the roles of Romeo and prophet effortlessly and convincingly. That he delivers the roots-and-culture tracks with approachable warmth and a learned voice won’t be news to any Luciano regulars, but Lessons of Life is a standout due to the risks it takes and the genre wandering it does. “Sweetness” is a soulful, steamy surprise with more of an Al Green feel than usual, crazy bleeps and bloops make “Humble Yourself” a highlight, and “Love Is the Future” could pass for an R. Kelly/Lenny Kravitz team-up. Luciano eases into every twist and turn the album takes like a champion Formula 1 driver, and no song here is without purpose. Another killer album in a discography that has more than its fair share.

Review Reviewed by David Jeffries, All Music Guide

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Gustavo Santaolalla – Babel

Posted: January 13, 2007 in creativity
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Cover of "Babel"
Cover of Babel

The soundtrack to Alejandro Gonzalez ’s film Babel — which takes place on two continents and in three countries — is a whopping double disc of cues with original score cuts by the venerable — and prolific — Gustavo Santaolalla, with other material including beautiful folk songs by Chavela Vargas, ambient cuts by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, original compositions by the great oud master Hamza el Din, urban/soul/funk by Earth, Wind & Fire, house music by Fatboy Slim, Japanese pop by Susumu Yokata, and Mexican popular music by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, El Chapo, Nortec Collective, and others — a truly international mixed bag. This said, other than the tune by Hamza, it was left to Santaolalla to capture many of the other Moroccan moods and themes in his cues — he did a tremendous job. But this is also where the problem lies. These two discs are such a sprawling mass with moods and textures that compete and clash, without the storyline to tie them together, that they don’t always work as a stand-alone soundtrack. Some will have no trouble with great leaps in style over two discs, and for the engaged listener, Babel’s soundtrack is a true delight. A case must be made, however, for a separate recording of Santaolalla’s haunting and deeply moving score, accomplished with a minimum of instrumentation, immediate and intimate production, and plenty of space. This takes nothing away from the rest of the music here; it’s just that the original score comprises 19 different cues in a total of 36 and deserves to be heard as a complete piece. If there’s any doubt, try recording his own cuts to your iPod and hearing the result for yourself. For those who have seen the film, it is true that this set does not carry or reflect the gut-tightening tension inherent within it — and yes, that’s a very good thing. It does serve as a pleasurable listen over one disc at a time. Cautiously recommended.

Review by Thom Jurek

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