Eternity Clock

I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I like objects around the concept of time.

I like how time is simultaneously stretchy and rigid, I’m endlessly challenged by the notion of planning for the future but living for the moment, and the necessity of thinking about projects and life beyond our own lifetimes strikes me as both elemental and Quixotic.

So here’s the Eternity clock by Alicia Eggert and Mike Fleming.

It’s made of thirty clocks hidden behind a white sheet of acrylic, the hands of the clocks arranged so that every twelve hours, you can see Eternity.

I imagine sitting and meditating on the passage of the hands between each momentary vision of the word might seem like an eternity, or if you are contemplatively inclined, might actually take you there.

The Eternity clock poses a nice temporal counterpoint to the work of the Long Now foundation, which is building the 10,000 Year Clock. A clock for an eternity, at least by human standards.

Cross-species Collaboration

A basic caddisfly cocoon Credit: Ashley Pond V /Wikipedia

A basic caddisfly cocoon
Credit: Ashley Pond V /Wikipedia

Over the past year, I’ve highlighted a few examples of land art by some wonderful artists. Land art is the integration of land, space, and natural elements as art. The works are often impermanent, or subject to slow alteration and deterioration, as part of the artist’s intent. Art that is written in the sand and sketched on water.

Caddisfly  Photo: heatherkh/Flickr

A fancier caddisfl cocoon y
Photo: heatherkh/Flickr

I hesitate to call the caddisfly an artist in the human sense of the word. But to the extent that artwork is a manifestation of intuition, instinct and functionality, then the caddisfly – related to moths and butterflies – is an artist when it comes to its cocoon. Like moths and butterflies, the caddisfly larva builds a cocoon of silk in which to pupate.

What makes the caddisfly different is that it often uses a variety of materials as a part of its cocoon, seeking objects and weaving them together into unique home.

Caddisfly cocoons, made in water tanks filled with gold flakes, semi-precious and precious stones.  Credit: Hubert Duprat

Caddisfly cocoons, made in water tanks filled with gold flakes, semi-precious and precious stones.
Credit: Hubert Duprat

It should come as no surprise that this predisposition has been put to human use. I’m not sure the caddisfly is any happier whether using pebbles or gold and precious gems for its cocoon, but the results – by human standards – are undeniably interesting.

And it is a collaboration of sorts between artist, Hubert Duprat and the larvae, even if the larvae seems to be providing an unwitting service.

According to a gallery featuring his work (he works in many other mediums), artist Hubert Duprat is “a supporter of an artistic tradition inherited from the Renaissance that does not compartmentalize the different forms of inquiry and curiosity; the artist sees the world as an inexhaustible repertoire of images mineral, plant, animal and cultural.”

Caddisfly cocoons made solely from their own silk. Image:  James C. Hodges, Jr.

Caddisfly cocoons made solely from their own silk.
Image: James C. Hodges, Jr.

 

Pocket of Protest

We were in Trondheim, Norway, last week – the third largest city in the country. It’s a tidy collection of picturesque wood houses, some modern developments that blend in well to the existing architecture and environment – and then this small stretch of alternative existence between a posh harbor development, an industrial area of what used to be WWII submarine docks, and a natural park. It came as a bit of a surprise – a sort of free-wheeling, politico-enviro encampment that resonated of the 1970s and early 80s.

The ‘environmental experiment’ known as the Reina area is co-administered by the self-named Svartla’mon residents and the city itself. Lots of shared urban gardening in the more private space behind this row of 19th-century buildings, lots of activist shops and cafés tucked here and there, a free shop (Gratisbutikken) and a large anarchic-looking playground/kindergarten that reminded me a bit of my own early childhood in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

Alternative neighborhood, Trondheim, Norway Photo: PK Read

Alternative neighborhood, Trondheim, Norway
Photo: PK Read

At the end of the street, just before the neighborhood morphed suddenly into a large natural park, was this piece of wall art which I imagine is a statement on plastic, consumer goods, recyclability, as well as being a good signpost to the pocket protest area itself.

Recycled wall. Trondheim, Norway Photo: PK Read

Recycled wall. Trondheim, Norway
Photo: PK Read

A couple of close-ups:

Recycled wall detail. Trondheim, Norway Photo: PK Read

Recycled wall detail. Trondheim, Norway
Photo: PK Read

We noticed that none of the items were spray-painted – they were ordered by their original colors. A nice, sassy installation. I particularly liked the bathroom segment below, including the plastic soap holder, as well as the old typewriter above, very similar to the one I learned on myself.

Recycled wall detail. Trondheim, Norway Photo: PK Read

Recycled wall detail. Trondheim, Norway
Photo: PK Read

A ten-minute hike from this area, the Lade neighborhood looks like this:

Lade Walk. Trondheim, Norway Photo: PK Read

Lade Walk. Trondheim, Norway
Photo: PK Read

An abrupt transition, but no less interesting.

Barrel Art, Without the Whisky

I feel that so many traditional handicrafts qualify as art, and one of these still has to be barrel-making – the cooper’s art. When it comes to whisky, the type of barrel used and what was previously stored in the barrel make up a good portion of the art of the spirit.

Cooper's workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany Source: Helge Klaus Rieder

Cooper’s workshop, Open air museum Roscheider Hof, Konz, Germany
Source: Helge Klaus Rieder

A few years ago, Glenfiddich commissioned Barrel Art from Johnson Banks, and I liked some of the results. All are quite clearly made from whisky barrels.

And then there’s this wood-less piece:

Johnson Banks Barrel Art - Double Helix Source: Johnson Banks

Johnson Banks Barrel Art – Double Helix
Source: Johnson Banks

Here are some more recognizable barrels from a set commissioned by Brown-Forman Travel Retailer:

Brown Forman Barrels Source: Bornrich

Brown Forman Barrels
Source: Bornrich

From Wikipedia:

“Examples of a cooper’s work include but are not limited to casks, barrels, buckets, tubs, butter churns, hogsheads, firkins, tierces, rundlets, puncheons, pipes, tuns, butts, pins and breakers.

“A cask is any piece of cooperage containing a bouge, bilge, or bulge in the middle of the container. A barrel is a type of cask, so the terms “barrel-maker” and “barrel-making” only refer to one aspect of a cooper’s work.”

These days, coopers are mainly called upon to make barrels for wine or spirits, and most barrels are no longer produced by hand.

Many years ago, I found an old example of a cooper’s work in Germany, a well-used, hand-made wooden washing tub that had been dismantled. It’s not quite whisky barrel art, but I made a small shuttered window in a door that had been permanently bricked up in the old stone tower of our house.

A stone door in our tower, with an installation we put in. The stripes on the wood doors are from the metal bands, the frame of the piece is from the bottom of the old wash barrel. Photo: PK Read

A stone door in our tower, with an installation we put in. The stripes on the wood doors are from the metal bands, the frame of the piece is from the bottom of the old wash barrel. 
Photo: PK Read

The interior of the barrel window.

The burnt-looking stripes mark where the level of the water and soap once churned. A tiny Balvenie dram with lavender from the garden. Old ceramic plates we found in the house form the mosaic. Photo: PK Read

The burnt-looking stripes mark where the level of the water and soap once churned. A tiny Balvenie dram with lavender from the garden. Old ceramic plates we found in the house form the mosaic.
Photo: PK Read

More:

A video on barrel-making:

Reflected Structures

Hippocampus II Artist: Greg Dunn

Hippocampus II
Artist: Greg Dunn

I came across these images today – paintings by Greg Dunn, a painter who recently completed a PhD in Neuroscience. Or a neuroscientist who is currently painting. At any rate, he paints natural subjects, some of the neuroscientific kind, using a lot of gold leaf and influences from the Japanese Edo Period.

I like the image parallels between the micro-world of what we don’t see every day –

Synaptogenesis Artist: Gregg Dunn

Synaptogenesis
Artist: Greg Dunn

– and the larger world of what we see around us. As Dunn says on his website, “Neurons may be tiny in scale, but they posess the same beauty seen in traditional forms of the medium (trees, flowers, and animals).”

Japanese Maple Artist: Gregg Dunn

Japanese Maple
Artist: Greg Dunn

A beautiful intersection.

More:

Greg Dunn Design

Animal Aesthetics

A male bowerbird's gesso. Photo: L.A. Kelley/Science

A male bowerbird’s gesso. Photo: L.A. Kelley/Science

Who hasn’t marvelled over an intricate spider’s web at one point or another, admiring the beauty of its filigree almost-uniformity? Or wondered how birds know just exactly how to construct a nest that will make efficient use of available materials, withstand the elements, and be able to hold both eggs and then squirmy young?

Still, when it comes to aesthetics, I would venture to say most of us assume that humans stand alone – after all, animals are just running on instinct. Right? And if art appreciation is one of those things that make us uniquely human, then it might also be one of those things that makes us feel separate to and apart from other living beings.

Maybe it has to do with intent. There are many who say that art must exist solely for the purpose of itself – otherwise it’s not art.

Humans appreciate and create art for a variety of reasons – communication of ideas, ritual practice, amusement, commerce.

As far as we can tell, animals create what looks like art mainly for shelter and reproductive purposes – attracting a mate, constructing a safe place to mate. I’m not talking about the painting elephants or the chimp who takes photographs – I’m talking animals doing their own animal work, with their own tools.

The top image, for example, is a gesso, a ‘bower’ nest built by a male bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchidae family, native to Australia/Papua New Guinea) to attract a female. The nests, built of vertical sticks, can be decorated in a variety of ways. I personally find this one pleasing, but a female bowerbird probably has other selection criteria.

Underwater structure, Anami Oshima, Japan. Approx. 6 ft. (2m) in diameter. Photo: Yoji Ookata

Underwater structure, Anami Oshima, Japan. Approx. 6 ft. (2m) in diameter.
Photo: Yoji Ookata

The second image, a nest built by a male puffer fish (Tetraodontidae family) to attract a female, is constructed by the fish beating its fin in the sand. Males often line the inner circle with bits of shell. Females tend to be more drawn in by nests that have the most intricate set of grooves. The pattern in the middle, where eggs are laid, apparently also serves a function of protecting the eggs from currents, while the shell decorations degrade and provide nutrition to the eggs and spawn.

It may be true that  animals are aesthetic only by instinct, but surely there are vast differences between the creations within a population of individuals, with some nests being more pleasing than others.

And what else would we call attention to detail, personal preference and design choices but ‘aesthetics’?

Male puffer fish at work Photo: Yoji Ookata

Male puffer fish at work
Photo: Yoji Ookata

More:

Wired.com articleAnimal-Made ‘Art’ Challenges Human Monopoly on Creativity by Brandon Keim

Spoon & Tamago articleThe Deep Sea Mystery Circle – a love story by Johnny

Communicative and Integrative Biology articleBowerbirds, art and aesthetics by John A. Endler

 

Smoky Tornado

The Bompas & Parr Whisky Tornadovia: The Spirit Business

The Bompas & Parr Whisky Tornado
via: The Spirit Business

The creation of a good whisky, like any other good alcohol, involves an alchemy of place, weather, ingredients, containers and skill. All the tangibles that go into making an intangible experience, taste. Bompas & Parr have created an art installation that refines a whisky experience (in this case, of Talisker single malt) into the very vapor of intangibility: A whisky tornado in a bell jar, imbibed via straw.

“Many things go into creating the flavours of a whisky,” said Sam Bompas. “Some whisky writers argue that whiskies in the casks take flavour from the atmosphere around them, and it is easy to believe this when watching the windswept seas battering the coastlines of the islands on which many single malts are distilled and matured.”

The installation is meant to show the impact of Scottish weather on whisky flavors, but for me, it’s almost a metaphor of the whisky experience itself. An alchemy that crosses the lines between neuroscience, food and art.

More:

The Spirit Business article

Bompas & Parr homepage – a website that is well worth a visit.

I was looking for a tune that would convey the smoky ephemerality of a whisky tornado. This is what I found.

Seeing all the way through

A Boeing 777, the largest x-ray ever taken. It required 500 separate x-rays.Photo: Nick Veasey

A Boeing 777, the largest x-ray ever taken. It required 500 separate x-rays.
Photo: Nick Veasey

Nick Veasey is a 47-year-old English artist who x-rays things. Lots of things. “I’m interested in how things work, and x-rays show what’s happening under the surface,” he says. “Plus, they look cool.”

I’m not quite sure what Nick Veasey is up to with his x-ray art – but I like the way it looks. And sometimes, maybe that’s all that matters.

HatPhoto: Nick Veasey

Hat
Photo: Nick Veasey

http://www.nickveasey.com/