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Category archive: Sculpture

Friday October 31 2014

First, what’s going on in this picture?  What’s weird about it?  How did I contrive the weirdness?:

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Hint: One of the categories for this posting is “Computer graphics”.  Another hint: I like reflections.

Second, what’s the Feline Friday connection in this photo, taken earlier this week outside the Tower of London?

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Hint: There is also a clue to this one in the categories list.

If nobody else supplies the answers, I will!  Only by refusing to read these answers will you be able to escape them.

Monday October 27 2014

Next Friday, October 31st, Christian Michel is giving a talk at my home entitled, somewhat provocatively: “Soviet and Nazi Art as Illustrations of Ayn Rand’s Aesthetics”.  He is certainly not the first to have pointed out the overlap, so to speak.

Here’s what Christian says about his talk (which I “LATER” (Tuesday) realised I need to insert into this posting, near the beginning):

Art does not feature high on the libertarian agenda. One exception is Ayn Rand, who declared that of all human products art is perhaps the most important. She went on to develop her own theory of aesthetics, and even attempted (as did Jean-Paul Sartre at the same time) to deliver her entire philosophy through the sole medium of literature (both failed).

In my talk this Friday I will sum up Rand’s aesthetics, her contribution to the field, and will show that it was nowhere better illustrated in the twentieth century than in the arts of National-Socialist Germany and Soviet Russia. The point is not to denigrate Rand’s philosophy by that association, but to say that genuine artists find a way to convey their deepest values and sense of life, to express the highest human aspirations and struggles, whatever their circumstances, and that’s exactly what Rand celebrated.

And here is something of what I think about these kinds of things.

Just after World War 2, many an artist said things along the lines of: after Auschwitz, we cannot any longer do purely representational art.  (Similar things were said by classical composers: after Auschwitz, we can’t any longer do pretty tunes.) But the artists had been abandoning pictorial representation (and tunefulness) long before Auschwitz happened, so “Auschwitz” has the air of being a rationalisation rather than the real reason for these artistic trends.

The crimes of Soviet Communism never had quite the same effect on most of the artists, even as an excuse for abstraction, although there were honourable exceptions (Mondrian for instance).  Too many artists admired the Soviet Union, especially during and just after World War 2, during its struggle and after victory over Nazi Germany.

Realistic art had also been seriously deranged by photography.  Photography destroyed the economic foundations of your average painter of realistic portraits and realistic paintings of such things as landscapes, and turned art painting into a sort of cultural bombsite, in which (to quote the words of an early twentieth century popular song) “anything goes”, anything, that is, except realistic pictures of people and of things.  Realism, for the average artist, just made him look like a bad photographer.  Even the claim that “art” now had to be an attack on the delusional bourgeois habit of trying to make visual and conceptual sense of the world has the feel, for me, of a rationalisation.

But there is much more to “realism” than mere realism.  What looks at first glance merely realistic is often aspirational, and to abandon the field of representational art to the mid twentieth century totalitarians was surely a propaganda error, to put it no more strongly.  For the likes of Ayn Rand, this was a surrender by the civilised world that should never have happened.

To point out that Rand favoured images that resembled Nazi and Soviet art is not to accuse her of being a Nazi or a Communist.  It is to realise that she did not want the still immensely potent artistic weapon that is representational painting and sculpture to be monopolised by the totalitarians.

All of which is something of how I see (and hear) the kinds of things that Christian Michel will be talking about on Friday.  As to what Christian himself will say, well, we shall see, and hear.

Meanwhile, here is an abundance of visual clues as to the sort of aesthetic territory that Christian will be traversing in his talk.  It will be an illustrated talk.  Here, without identification or further comment, from me or from him, are the illustrations he has sent me, in the order (I assume) in which he will be referring to them.

A few of these images are small enough to fit within the 500 pixel horizontal limit that prevails at this blog, a couple being very small indeed.  But most can be enlarged (a little or quite a lot) with a click:

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Wednesday October 15 2014

It’s that time of the year when I go into one of my local supermarkets and immediately start taking photos, like that, or like this:

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Yes it’s Halloween.  And the shops, in this case Sainsbury’s, are full of Halloween crap.  And I photo it.  I wouldn’t buy any of it.  Oh no.  I am far above that sort of thing.  But, I photo it.

Except, how about these rather cute buckets?  Just the thing for my Last Friday of the Month meetings, to put crappy food in:

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Only 50p per bucket!  I got two.  And I just might go back for more.

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Not that.  I wouldn’t want one of them.  That’s my picture of Sainsbury’s, having the last laugh.

Friday October 10 2014

The lion statues in Tragalgar Square are famous, and they deserve to be.  But there is another lion statue in London that I am also fond of, namely the one on the far side of Westminster Bridge from the Houses of Parliament.  I like, when I walk along beside the river next to St Thomas’ Hospital, to photo it lined up with the Wheel.

Here is how it looked, on the day I also took these photos, and these, and these:

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I really liked this when I saw it.  You wouldn’t want a guide lion, but, that’s the joke.

And this other guy liked it too:

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I couldn’t wait for Friday to come round so I could show these snaps to you people.  Inconveniently, I took them on a Saturday.

The BBC have been doing cats, in a three part documentary, and the papers are all over it.

It turns out that with us, cats are cats.  Then they go outdoors and become lions.  They get on better with us than they do with each other.  They have evolved to manipulate us into feeding and sheltering them.

With the arrival of the internet, the evolution of cats has entered a new and more intense phase.

LATER: Although guide lions probably wouldn’t work, here’s a 2012 story about a guide cat, who guides a dog.

SUNDAY: I was back there yesterday, and that bit of yellow writing wasn’t there when I first photoed this guide dog lion:

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And they have also sorted out that strap around the lion’s front.

More about what is going on here, here.

Monday September 29 2014

As revealed in this earlier posting, I recently visited Tate Ancient, which is only a walk away from where I live.  I should go there more often.

One of the big reasons being that it is a wonderful place, not just to learn about Art and all that kind of stuff, but to photograph photographers.  All who frequent this blog know that photographing photographers is an obsession of mine.

Photographers like these two:

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The blue-haired lady on the right was photoing the sculpture that can be seen more clearly, behind the man on the left.

Note that neither of the cameras seen in action here are of the old school and conventional sort.  No, they are iCameras.  There was a lot of this going on, not just picture making, but note taking.

Saturday September 06 2014

Late this afternoon I had another go photoing the Ballerina, the idea being to do this photo again, but better.

But then I noticed what comely wenches the statues below her were, photoed them, and then picked one and photoed her with a crane behind her:

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What I like about her is that she looks so relaxed and happy about what she is doing, and for that matter about what she is wearing.  Pavlova, dancing up above them, looks otherworldly and untouchable.  The statues look like girls next door, but really nice looking.  To be more exact, they look like the kind of girls you wish had lived next door, instead of the ones who actually did.

When I click on either of the above photos, I get the big versions rotated ninety degrees.  All I can say about that for now is: my apologies.  It is far too late at night for me to be working out why this happens.  Does it happen for you?  Comments would help, as would explanations of what I am doing wrong or what is going wrong, or whatever.

Thursday September 04 2014

Indeed:

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Taken a few minutes after I had taken this photo.

I should take that shot again, and get those spy cameras looking like they’re looking right at her.

This, you see, is why I like photoing in London, rather than in foreign parts.  In foreign parts it is inconvenient to go back and take a picture again.  In London, I can do this.

Tuesday September 02 2014

Indeed, I love that ballerina and her cranes:

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Photoed by me this afternoon.

A little googling suggests to me that I am almost the only one who enjoys this confluence of balletic grace, old and new.  But my googling is nothing to write home about and maybe the www is awash with Pavlova with cranes photos.

Sunday August 31 2014

The weather in London today was particularly fine.  The light was bright and washed clean by recent rain, and the atmosphere was neither too hot nor too humid.  There was bright blue sky, but there were also plenty of clouds.  I had a bank to visit and electrical items to obtain, all doable on Sunday if you are in Tottenham Court Road, and then I and my companion went south towards the river.

I photoed tourist stuff, hereinafter termed touristuff.  I love to photo touristuff.  It changes from year to year, and it is arranged in hightly photogenic clumps such as you could never enjoy if you merely bought a single touristuff item:

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Those queens seem now to be very popular, but popes less so.  But those decapitated lady bottle openers are a new siting, for me.  It’s amazing what can look sexy, even after being guillotined.

I photoed books, under Waterloo Bridge.  Books in large and sunlit clumps, and particular books, with particular titles:

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It seems that the Conan The Barbarian books were written not by just the one writer, but by a team of writers.  I did not know this.  I wonder how that was organised.

I photoed Art.  I photoed a lady all in white, photoing Art under the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  That’s if you reckon middle of the range graffiti to be Art.  Is this a possible future for brutalist architecture?  Painting such concrete relics would surely make sense.

And I photoed people sitting on Art, in the form of giant green chairs, next to the Imax Cinema roundabout near Waterloo station

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Apparently these big green chairs used to be down in that strange circle of pedestrian space that surrounds the bottom of the Imax Cinema, inside the roundabout.

If my walkabout this afternoon is anything to go by, Art is becoming less about Deep Significance (of the sort that has to be explained with Art Bollocks essays next to the Deeply Significant Art), and more about fun.  Bring it on.

And bring on the day when they have exhibitions of Touristuff in Tate Modern.  I hardly ever go inside Tate Modern, but I bet that would be more fun than what they put there now.  And it might also be more Significant.

Friday August 15 2014

Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back.  Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.

I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.

Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.

Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:

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Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other.  Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:

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This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.

Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:

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No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside.  I only noticed this when I got home.

His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name.  It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.

There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy.  He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats.  Caesar showed up, but not Basil.  Another time, maybe.

Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again.  We got on well.

Thursday July 17 2014

The are two photos which I took last Monday.  The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street.  The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.

They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory.  But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:

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The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world.  It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.

Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject.  The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hut us down and burn us at the stake.  But, we refuse to talk about them.  We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look.  We will not see them.

Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:

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Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about.

Really, really weird.

I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.

What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane.  The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on.  All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.

But those aerials are profane.  They don’t register.  They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer.  That sales pitch is profane.  Forget about it.  Don’t even think about it.

Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane.  And hence invisible.  Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves.  But they are not designed to be looked at.  They are a pure case of form following function.  Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers.  But they don’t because what is there for architects to add?  Nothing.  The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.

Well, I don’t know.  I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway.  Which is all part of why I have this blog.  At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong.  This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins.  This is, you might say, a profane blog.

Saturday July 05 2014
Sunday June 22 2014

I love to look at modern buildings, before they are finished and covered up.  All sorts of strange things are to be seen, that may or may not soon disappear from view.

What, for example, is this peculiar structure, which I photographed this afternoon, on the south side of Oxford Street?

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Here is the original shot I took, before I cropped, rotated, and so forth:

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I include that because there may be clues as to what the Thing is from its context.

But what will this Thing end up looking like?  Will it be covered up?  Will ladders be involved?  I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted.

I’ll also do something obvious that I failed to even attempt this afternoon, which is I’ll try to photo whatever signs on the site I could find, that might enable me to chase down a website with maybe a mock-up of what the final Thing will look like.  I keep telling myself to do this kind of thing, and telling other digital photographers that they should do this kind of thing.  But today, I was not concentrating on photography, I was concentrating on shopping.  Trying to buy a new jacket.  And I forgot to search out signs.  Mistake.

But correctable.  I can go back.  London is what I love to photograph and if I get it wrong, I can try again.  If the weather is bad I can wait until it’s nicer. It’s not like this Thing is in a foreign city I was in last month, and I’m stuck here never being able to photo those signs.  I can go back there, find those signs, if they are there, and chase down that website, if it exists.

Friday June 20 2014

When I say “back”, what I mean is, looking up its arse, at its bollocks:

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Here is the same beast from its better side, together with some history, such as why it’s called the Coade Lion.

It’s one of my favourite London statues, especially when it lines itself up with the Wheel.

And here is something else feline, spotted in the place where all vehicles of interest to me seem to be spotted these days, Lower Marsh:

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It’s the Bobcat E50, as you can see in my photo if you look carefully enough.

So, what is a “bobcat”?  I saw a TV documentary recently about honey badgers, and they are nothing to do with regular badgers.  So, is a bobcat a regular cat nearly, or a regular cat not at all?  Does it merely look or behave somewhat like a cat, to some rather unobservant people?  It turns out bobcats are cats.  Wikipedia has a picture of what it describes as “bobcat kittens” (which ought surely to be: bobkittens).  They look exactly like regular cat kittens.

Wikipedia is reasonably reliable on non-politically-controversial topics, but I was rather expecting the bobcat wikipedia entry to have a clutch of propaganda in it about how bobcats are an endangered species and how this is all the fault of people, capitalism, etc..  But actually the bobcat news here, according to Wikipedia, is quite good:

Although bobcats have been hunted extensively by humans, both for sport and fur, their population has proven resilient though declining in some areas.

See also, this strange guy.  I like the Police Academy movies, in which he appears, despite him rather than to any degree because of him.  The only thing I do like about him is that he omits the terminal e from his surname, thereby making it that tiny bit easier for me to make people spell my surname right.

Wednesday June 11 2014

This kind of thing is why I keep going to dezeen:

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Engineering firm Arup has produced prototype 3D-printed steel construction joints that could be used to create more efficient structures.

Arup says it has produced a new design method for creating “critical structural steel elements” for tensile structures – a development it believes signals “a whole new direction for the use of additive manufacturing in the field of construction and engineering”.

A glimpse of much architecture to come, I think.

Also, featured in the very next posting at dezeen, this looks like it would be worth a visit.  It’s a Gormley, in the form of a Lego man doubling up as a hotel room:

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First impression: don’t much like it.  Gormley is very hit or miss, and this looks to me like a miss.  But, it’s only a tube ride away, so what’s for me to lose if I go and check it out?  I might like it more in, so to speak, the flesh.  Not that it looks very fleshy.

What strikes me, when I look at these two pictures, is how much more sculpturally interesting the purely functional artifact is, compared to the “sculpture”.