Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Sculpture

Monday April 14 2014

This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do.  On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:

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Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling.  Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC.  He also scored four DSOs.  My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four.  It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.

Blog and learn.

I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters).  Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz.  I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.

Thursday April 03 2014

So, speaking as I was lately about Lego, and loving as I do bridges, how about this?!?!:

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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.

Sunday March 30 2014

I read recently that there is some insane plan afoot to ban classic cars from London, on account of them all having the wrong kind of wicked global-warming-type engines or some such crap.  I hope this plan is strangled at birth, but it is just the kind of plan that may not be.

Meanwhile, I here celebrate the occasional presence of beautiful antique cars in London with some photos, of a beautiful antique car:

image image imageimage image image

That’s a Sunbean Talbot that I spotted in Lower Marsh, on July 6th of last year, which was an appropriately sunny day for photoing a Sunbeam.

Here is a close-up of the front, crop from what I originally snapped, for legibility.  Click for even more legibility:

image

As you can see, STAR stands for Sunbeam Talbot Alpine Register.  I reckon if you drive around in a fancy car like this you are fair game for internet searching, so I tried to see if I could find other photos of this exact car, who owns it, etc.  But I failed.  My commenters are typically cleverer at this kind of thing than I am, so, as I often say here: Anybody?  Is it someone famous?

Thursday March 27 2014

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.

Bingo again.

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.

Tuesday March 25 2014

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:

image

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?

Saturday March 15 2014

Last Wednesday, I was finally able to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather London has been enjoying for last week or so, and walked down Victoria Street to Parliament Square, and then across the river.

And the photography is well and truly back in business.  There ought to be a nominated day, when photographers all gather to photograph the first grouse of the season.  What would be the urban equivalent of that, I wonder?

I photographed other things besides photographers, but mostly I did photograph photographers:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Those are just little square bits from bigger pictures.  Click to get the latter.

The fountain behind the lady photographer in 3.1 is the one in the garden of St Thomas’s Hospital, which doubles as the roof of a big car park.

Smart phones getting smarter all the time.

Thursday March 06 2014

I heard about this from two married friends who are expecting, and today I read about it in that book about 3D printing that I already quoted a bit from a few days ago:

… Yet for me, the most memorable 3D printing innovation of the last year or so was the launch of a $1,200 service called ‘Form of Angels’ from the Japanese pioneer Fasotec.  Here an MRI scan is taken of a pregnant woman, and then used to produce a 3D printed model of her unborn baby. The plastic foetus can even be supplied embedded in a resin model of its mother’s midriff for presentation on the expectant parent’s mantelpiece.

Pictures of what that looks like here, among (as you can imagine) many other places.

Monday March 03 2014

imageYesterday I did something that is often rather hard.  I photographed some wind.  Any idiot who can video (a category of idiot that does not really include me – although I hope to be changing that Real Soon Now) can video wind.  You video trees swaying.  Roof clutter swaying.  Things being blown around.  Whatever.  But how do you photo the wind?  Answer you photo its static dislocative (my word processor says that isn’t a word – it is now) effects.  But these effects are rather rare.  What you need is something like sails on boats, or some kind of urban substitute for sails on boats.  Yesterday, when on my way to Victoria Station, I encountered just such a substitute.

Once again (see this), I like the colour.  And once again, I note Mick Hartley’s fondness for colour.  For me, here, it is blue.  For him, most recently, it was yellow.

Did you detect a whiff of verbosity in the first paragraph above?  If so you would, I think, be right.  This is because I was writing verbiage to go next to a big vertical picture, verbiage that needs to be enough to prevent the picture impinging upon the previous posting.

The first two paragraphs of the above verbiage did not suffice to accomplish this task.  Hence these final five paragraphs.

And hence the fact that they are five paragraphs rather than one.

I was just making sure.

I can’t tell until I post it, whether this problem has been sorted, so I am now over-reacting.

Sunday March 02 2014

From the Preface of Christopher Barnatt’s 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution:

Within a decade or so, it is likely that a fair proportion of our new possessions will be printed on demand in a local factory, in a retail outlet, or on a personal 3D printer in our own home. Some objects may also be stored and transported in a digital format, before being retrieved from the Internet just as music, video and apps are downloaded today. While the required technology to allow this to happen is still in its infancy, 3D printing is developing very rapidly indeed. Some people may tell you that 3D printing is currently being overhyped and will have little impact on industrial practices and our personal lives. Yet these are the same kinds of individuals who once told us that the Internet was no more than a flash in the pan, that online shopping would have no impact on traditional retail, and that very few people would ever carry a phone in their pocket.

In 1939 the first TV sets to go on sale in the United States were showcased at the World Fair in New York. These early TVs cost between $200 and $600 (or about the same as an automobile), and had rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens. Most of those who attended the World Fair subsequently dismissed television as a fad that would never catch on. After all, how many people could reasonably be expected to spend a large proportion of their time staring at a tiny, flickering image?

The mistake made by those who dismissed television in 1939 was to judge a revolutionary technology on the basis of its earliest manifestation. Around 7S years later, those who claim 3D printing to be no more than hype are, I think, in danger of making exactly the same error.

I’m guessing that what I saw in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, was the 3D Printer equivalent of those “rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens”, at the New York World Fair, the first stumbling steps.

I haven’t read much of this book yet, but I have already learned one excellent application of 3D printing, which is to print not the Thing itself, but the mold for making the Thing.  You then make the Thing itself in the regular old way.  Clever.

LATER: Here is Barnatt’s description of that last thing (p. 9):

A particularly promising application of 3D printing is in the direct production of molds, or else of master ‘patterns’ from which final molds can be taken. For example, as we shall see in the next chapter, ‘3D sand casting’ is increasingly being used to print molds into which molten metals are then directly poured to create final components. As explained by ExOne - a pioneer in the manufacture of 3D printers for this purpose - by 3D printing sand casting molds, total production time can be reduced by 70 per cent, with a greater accuracy achieved and more intricate molds created. In fact, using 3D sand casting, single part molds can be formed that would be impossible to make by packing sand around a pattern object that would then need to be removed before the mold was filled with molten metal.

Like I say, clever.

My scanner turned “molds” into “maids” throughout that piece of scanning.  Not clever.

Sunday February 23 2014

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.

So anyway, here’s the link.

And here is the quota photo:

image

That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos.  It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.

I like the water on the window.

Friday February 21 2014

When I saw this camel, this afternoon, in Station Approach Road, on my way to meet someone in Waterloo Station, I was baffled.  I photoed it, but I was baffled:

image image image

But now, through the magic that is the www, I can tell you that this camel is to be found round the back of a pub in Lower Marsh, called the Camel & Artichoke.  I walk past this pub a lot, on my way to Gramex, in Lower Marsh, but had never really registered that its name involved a camel, or that when I saw the camel, I was round the back of this pub.

Blog and learn.  Photograph and learn.

Sunday February 16 2014

Tonight on BBC4 they just showed a programme about Carl Faberge, blingster to the Czars.

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I learned a lot.  Next up, a show done by Jonathan Meades, about Brutalist architecture.  He’s for it.

This seems an appropriate juxtaposition, and I am recording both.  The insanely ornate and extravagant trinkets unleashed by Faberge, and all the other riche and nouveau riche junk that flooded into the world in and around 1900, had a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the anti-ornamental puritanism of architectural brutalism.  Many, including me, some of the time, react to Faberge eggs not just with indifference but with aggressive hatred.

I also beheld Brutalist architecture for most of the last half century with even greater loathing.  This loathing is only now abating, as the buildings themselves start to diminish in number.

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That building used to adorn the roundabout on the other side of the river from Parliament.  It is now no more.  I photographed it.  Then, I photographed its demolition.  I did not mourn its passing.

Meades is now, as promised, rhapsodising about Brutalism.  Why, he asks, does architecture have to be nice?  He is likening it to Victorian architectural oddities of earlier times.

What he misses, or is missing so far, is that Brutalism’s aesthetic aggression went hand in hand with huge collectivist power grabs.  Brutalism was the architectural face of state centralism.  For me, Meades makes a big distinction between “Brutalism” and regular modern.  I don’t really see this.  Both went hand in hand, I’d say.

Meades’ injunction that people should not hate Brutalism is rather like expecting conquered Europeans not to be such philistines about the obviously beautiful design of Junkers 87s or Tiger Tanks.  Ah, correction.  Now he is acknowledging quite explicitly the roots of Brutalism in second world war concrete bunkers, most notably those constructed by the Nazis.  “Forget” that the Nazis built these things, says Meades.  But I suspect that the Brutalists actually liked the very quality that made the Nazis do this kind of thing.  Nazis conquered twee old Europe.  Brutalism assaulted the twee architecture of post-war Europe, the Europe that is still awash with Fabergerie.  There is a deep affinity here.

The show is still going as I post this, and is in any case only part one of two.  This was live blogging.

Monday February 10 2014

Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures.  He chooses his favourite.  I choose this one:

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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.

Thursday February 06 2014

I think it just possible that I may have invented that clutch of blogging phrases involving the word “quota” - “quota post”, “quota photo”, or (my favourite, I think) ”quota quote”.  I rather doubt it.  More likely I invented such phrases simultaneously with several other bloggers.  But, if I did invent this quota stuff, kudos to me.  Either way, I do genuinely suspect that 6k at least caught this usage from me.  This being because, like me at the moment (although not always), he (always) likes to stick up something every day.  Despite him having a life, a job, a family, and other such peripheral blogging paraphernalia.

Often, it’s a quota photo.  Like, for instance, this one, …:

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… which I hereby steal, because I like it so very much.  (The rest of that days 6k photo-output from that day can be viewed here.)

I had been trying for a while to work out just what it was that I found so particularly appealing about this snap.  What was it that I found so particularly … particular?  Then, I got it.  It looks to me, not so much like a real sea, as like a static, plasticated sea, as made by a really, really good maker of models.

The sea looks like it is made not of sea, but of solidified glue, or that see-through plastic stuff, called whatever it’s called.  Throw a tiny ball bearing at this solid sea, and the ball bearing would just bounce off, with no splashing, and making the same noise it would make if bouncing off a table.  The immobile sea would remain immobile, untouched, impervious.

The effect of a solid object rather than a regular sea is, I think, partly the result of the lighting.  The effect is more like the way a lamp is reflected in a shiny table top than the way we usually see light on the sea.

But most of all, it looks somewhat weird because it’s a photograph.  Photographs freeze moving objects into static objects, and sometimes this makes them look entirely different and unrealistic.  A video of the sea would look sea-like.  Videoed sea swallows ball-bearings, just like regular sea.  Just not this sea, as seen and immobilised by 6k.

All this because 6k likes to have something up, often.  And that’s the point of quota posting, for those of us who are suited to it.  If you have reasonable taste, then the mere fact of starting doing a blog posting ensures not only that something will go up, but that, really quite often, something really quite good will go up.  Like this photo, which I consider to be very good indeed.  Often what takes the time, with blogging as with life, is not doing it, but getting round to doing it.  The actual doing is often quickly done, and often very well done.

Some of my best blog postings have happened because I wanted to put up any old something, however bad, and it turned out really good.

Sunday January 26 2014

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:

image

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.