Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on Nine reflections
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Brian Micklethwait on The River Thames carpet
Simon Gibbs on The River Thames carpet
Alan Little on The localness of London's weather
Michael Jennings on Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Friday Night Smoke on The River Thames carpet
Michael Jennings on Bombardier Embrio
Brian Micklethwait on ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
Simon Gibbs on ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
Most recent entries
- Quota selfie from 2006
- ASI Boat Trip 7: Other photographers
- Nine reflections
- The localness of London’s weather
- Round headlights equals an old car
- The River Thames carpet
- Cats … on scaffolding … with shadows …
- Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
- ASI Boat Trip 6: Crowd scenes
- Self-healing concrete
- Bombardier Embrio
- Football comment
- Quota bird
- ASI Boat Trip 5: Individuals
- New London bridge competition
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
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Dr Robert Lefever
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Everything I Say is Right
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we make money not art
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This and that
Category archive: Art
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom Feline Friday heaven, in other words:
The internet is altering the balance of power between Art as Silly Complaints About The Bourgeoisie and Art as Fun For Everyone. In a good way.
It was posted in August 2012. Better, far better, late than never. I found this in their list of top twenty postings, top in popularity, presumably.
Another of those Things That Have Been Encouraged By Digital Photography. The Art is temporary, but the pictures of the Art will last far, far longer, on many, many hard discs.
Just now, there is some particularly choice stuff at Colossal:
An Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Hides a Fishy Secret
This is fish being farmed in an abandoned basement.
Click and enjoy.
I see cat faces on bags:
On the left, in Trafalgar Square. On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.
I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:
On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist. (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets. Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows? One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.
And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:
Note the surveillance camera right in front of it. Those things are also now everywhere.
This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.
Apparently the cat face is an art installation. Scroll down here if you doubt me:
A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.
The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.
So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist. Modern Art eat your heart out.
(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)
All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog. This story is now everywhere. The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that. But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat. Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.
Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.
Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.
Number 30 of these Evening Standard photos:
I seem to recall Homer once upon a time saying he didn’t need to learn English, because he would never be going to England.
This portrait of Homer is in the same place as this guy was doing his stuff.
In Germany. Done just with paint. Excellent, I think. Found here (scrolling down is highly recommended). Which I found because 6k recently linked to the same site, concerning something else, also very entertaining.
Only this here today, but that is mostly because I have finally ended my dry spell at Samizdata, with a posting that I started writing only with this little place in mind.
The thing that most pleases me about this latest effort is that I finally managed to pin down exactly what it was that I so liked about those Gormley Men, whom I photographed in 2007 and finally got around to blogging about here in 2011.
Here is part of what I just put at Samizdata:
I still remember fondly the time in London, in the summer of 2007, when the dreary concrete of London’s South Bank Arts district and nearby parts was invaded by a small army of naked metallic Gormleys. The many identical Gormleys were not, in themselves, especially inspiring. But look on the bright side. Nor were these Gormleys bent-out-of-shape semi-abstract grotesques, mid-twentieth-century style.
Bingo. Not heroic, but at least not villainously anti-human.
And although in themselves ordinary, the Gormleys were often standing in very interesting and inspirational places, high above the streets, up on the roofs of tall buildings:
A photo there, of a Gormley on the top of the Hayward Gallery.
Stick anyone on a pedestal – in general, look up at them – and they look more impressive. They look like they deserve to be looked up to. This positioning of all those South Bank Gormleys suggested (yes yes, to me – I admit that all this is very personal) ordinary men at least looking, very admirably, towards less ordinary and more inspiring far horizons. Some of the Gormleys were looking downwards, but most were looking out ahead. What all these Gormleys were not doing was just standing in Art galleries, staring miserably at their own feet, with signs next to them full of demoralising Art-Speak drivel. They raised the spirits of of almost all of those who gazed up at them.
I included in the above paragraph a link to this earlier Samizdata posting, about the difference between how the same sculpture looks, depending on the angle you look at it from.
A great deal of creative thinking consists of putting two things that you have already thought about next to each other, which previously you had only been thinking about in different parts of your brain.
The Gormley Men were ordinary, neither heroic nor villainous. But when looked at from below they looked more heroic than they really are. So to speak.
One of the rules I have developed for my own photographic activities is to try always to take pictures, in among all the merely nice pictures, which tell me where I was and what these nice pictures were of.
I do not always follow this rule. Rules are like that. The ones you follow all the time, automatically, don’t have to be rules. It’s the rules you often break which are nevertheless good which have to be rules, to persuade you to follow them more than you would otherwise.
Here, for instance, is a fun snap:
That was taken on June 29th 2007, 5.38pm (plus 30 seconds), a fact which I now know because my camera automatically recorded it. I called the photo ArtHasItsUses, as this young guy is demonstrating. But, where are we? I have two other snaps of the same scene, but none of them include any information about exactly where we are, like a street name. Nor did I photo the plaque at the bottom of the sculpture, as I often do. This would likewise have given me some useful words to google, and offered me the opportunity to supply a link to other works by the same artist. But I did neither of these sensible things.
I tried following the phone number that you can see behind the Thing, but before anything would tell me anything about that (maybe) then the anythings in question demanded to know all kinds of things about me, and I gave up.
I understand that many cameras nowadays automatically record exact place of shot along with exact time of shot. Mine is not such a camera.
A vague clue is that, judging by other photos taken somewhat earlier, I appear to have been in the general vicinity of Islington, North London. But where? And what is this rather agreeable Thing? Who did it? Anybody?
Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures. He chooses his favourite. I choose this one:
One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.
Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden. My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell. And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing. The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent. So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.
But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it. Literally, some thing, to show. And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art. Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent. See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.
As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.
To the right of this image is to be found the following verbiage:
The reasons for why East London has seen the flowering of street art are manifold. The post-industrial legacy of Shoreditch’s crumbling low-rise warehouses, not only provides an environment in which the artists and designers can do their work, but East London’s proximity to the City of London provides an economic source of support for the artists and designers; and finally Shoreditch with its building sites, old dilapidated warehouses provides a canvas upon which those artists can display their work and increase their commercial value.
Mostly revolutionary chic to pay the rent, I’d say. Which, on balance, I quite like, because it gets up the noses of the real revolutionaries.
Plus it gets up the noses of the Art Twats by being understandable and entertaining without them having to explain what it means.
More East End street art here. In fact, lots more, if you scroll back through the archives there.
Definitely my favourite recent photography related photo:
Pity about the car.
That talk I gave at Christian Michel’s was really just a ragbag of different thoughts I have had over the last few years about digital photography and its effects and uses. One of the effects I speculated about - having already done so beforehand, here was that digital photography has encouraged temporary art, such as graffiti, ice sculpture, and the like, by rewarding it with a permanence and swankableness that would, pre digital photography, have been hard to contrive.
Yesterday, following one of David Thompson’s Friday Ephemera links to some bizarre hyper-realistic painted wood sculptures, I came across yet another variant on the theme of artistic temporariness, in the form of some particularly fine sandcastles, done by someone called Calvin Seibert:
I chose a sandcastle picture that included the sea in it, to emphasise the fact that this wonderful creation will very soon be swallowed up and turned back into beach. In King Canute’s time, that would have been that, but we now live in the post-Canute age. Waves can be stilled, and sandcastles can stand on beaches for ever.
Incoming from Simon Gibbs:
Near the mayors blob
And there was a photograph attached to this message, “sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone”:
On the left there, as we look at it, is the Mayor’s Blob that Simon mentions, near the Shard, and a building I am very familiar with, at any rate from the outside. In the middle, something new, which Simon knew I might be keen to check out. So, he photos it, and sends it to me.
Neither Simon nor I are asking anyone to think that this is a good photograph, in the technical sense. Don’t click on it, because it is quite big enough as is. Simon is probably a bit appalled that I am even showing it to anyone, even in the almost total privacy that is BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. But the photo suffices for its purpose, which is not to delight attenders at an art gallery (real or virtual), merely to provide me with information, should I be interested. (Although actually, this is the kind of thing you often do see in an art gallery nowadays, put there by an artist trying, as most artists must these days, to be contrary. “Good” photos are so twentieth century, my dears. Imagine the blurb, as written by this guy.)
I show this casual snap because it illustrates a typical use of digital photography, which is the communication of information, potentially in real time. Me being so hopelessly twentieth century in my uses of twenty-first century tech, I don’t know when he took this photo. It duly arrived on my desk, via my clunky old twentieth century desktop computer. Was it taken only seconds before Simon sent it to me? Perhaps he can tell us. But my point here is that he could have. And like him, I could have been as much on the move as he clearly was, while still as connected to the world as he was.
Here we see photography not as the nineteenth and then twentieth century mechanisation of oil painting, but as a twenty first century amplification of conversation. “Ooh, Brian might like to see that, snap. Hi Brian. Take a look at this.” Try doing that with a twentieth century phone. You could, in this case, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be nearly so quick, definite and easy.
I am giving a talk on Monday evening at Christian Michel’s about The Impact of Digital Photography, and this is the kind of thing I will be talking about.
Digital photography was, or so I recall reading recently, invented by NASA, not so much to take photos, as to communicate photos, of other planets from robot cameras on space-ships, back to planet earth. Yes.
The logical mid-to-late twentieth century end-point of episodes like this, after you have thrown in a big dash of this sort of stuff, is (see above): telepathy.
I like this, from David Byrne:
I’m not saying that the artist doesn’t put their feelings into it, or any part of their biography, but that there’s a lot of constraints and considerations and templates that they work with – unconscious decisions or constraints put upon them that guide what they’re going to do.
Otherwise, why didn’t people in the 14th century start writing full-blown operas with giant orchestras and whatever? These things just weren’t available to them. Our imaginations are constrained by all these other things — which is a good thing. There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you. And if you decide you want to make pop songs, or whatever, there’s a format. You can push the boundaries pretty far, but it’s still a recognized thing. And if you’re going to do something at Lincoln Center, there’s a pretty prescribed set of things you are going to do. You can push that form, but kind of from inside the genre. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of creative decisions are kind of made for us, and the trick is then working creatively within those constraints.
Happy is the artist whose inner inclinations happen to fit perfectly with the artistic forms he is offered, with audiences as they are - or as he can easily make them.
And, happy is the artist whose artistic wishes are in alignment with his artistic talents.
It is constantly said that “if Mozart had been alive today” he would have done this or that, and in all cases: a lot. But maybe he would have done nothing. Maybe he would have turned away from music-making nowadays in disgust and contempt, or maybe just frustration that it could not be what he wanted it to be. We can never know.
Sometimes mistakes caused by not holding the camera still can be interesting.
Today I took several photos (at Victoria Station, like the previous photo featured here) of the station electronic notice board saying where my train was about to go. Basically, I was taking notes to remind myself later of where I had been. But one of these photos went wrong. On the twiddly little screen on my camera it looked, on account of me having moved my camera vertically at the critical moment, approximately like as you see it, top right.
That one won’t last a second when I go through all these at home, I thought. If I was in the habit of deleting snaps on the fly, which I am not, I would have deleted that one straight away.
But now look at how it looked on my big screen, back home on my desk, this evening:
That’s the middle of the picture, to get how big it is when spread out sideways all over my big screen. Click on that bigger picture to get an even bigger version of the original.
I don’t think it’s just me. The smaller picture is much more legible. But the bigger picture is a lot more fun, on account of being less legible. It stops being annoyingly blurry writing, and instead becomes Art.