Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Very Best of Jazz Club

Why on earth have I never seen this television show??? Well, the fact that I haven't owned a television set since 1993 could have something to do with it... But at any rate, it's a really funny parody of both avant garde jazz as well as the annoying hosts on TV music shows. What's great about it is that it's even more funny if you are actually a jazz fan because you get all the little inside jokes they throw in.

After a bit of research on the Wikipedia, I've discovered that Jazz Club was a regular sketch on the BBC comedy show called The Fast Show. The format as well as the host were meant to parody the classic British music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bowerbird builds a house of illusions to improve his chances of mating

I have been a fan of Mo Costandi's blog called Neurophilosophy for a while now. His blog has recently been picked up by The Guardian, so congratulations to him. As a visual artist interested in why people began making art in the first place, his recent post struck a chord with me. Check out the entire post here. But here is a bait to attract your attention:
Male bowerbirds use their intelligence to impress the females, constructing elaborate structures called bowers to attract mates. They are not only master builders, but also accomplished artists. Males of some species decorate their bowers lavishly with flower petals and sparkly manmade objects. The Satin bowerbird even paints the walls of his bower with charcoal or chewed up berries. Male Great bowerbirds are even more remarkable. Their bowers, which are among the most complex of all, are true marvels of avian architecture. But as well as being builders and artists, males of this species are also magicians – the bowers they build are like a house of illusions, with built-in visual tricks that manipulate females' perceptions and increase their likelihood of choosing the builder as their mate. Bowerbirds are a family of twenty species that are native to Australia and New Guinea that are renowned for their unusually complex mating behaviour. The Great bowerbird of northern Australia is the largest species in the family. Males sport brownish-grey plumage build bowers, and spend many months building their bowers. The bowers consist of a thatched twig tunnel forming an avenue of approximately half a metre in length, opening out onto a court whose floor is covered with bones, shells and stones. When a potential mate steps into the avenue, the male stands in the court just by the avenue's exit, displaying to her the colourful objects he has collected, one after the other. Two years ago, John Endler of Deakin University and his colleagues reported that the males use visual illusions when constructing their bowers. They do so by arranging the objects covering the floor of the court in a particular way, so that they increase in size as the distance from the bower increases. This positive size-distance gradient creates a forced perspective which results in false perceptions of the geometry of the bower, which is visible only to the female when she is standing in the avenue. From her point of view, all of the objects in the court appear to be the same size. Consequently, she may perceive the court as being smaller than it actually is, and the male to be bigger.

Conlon Nancarrow: Studies for player piano

I’ve been thinking about Conlon Nancarrow recently. His use of the player piano as a compositional device in the 1940′s and 50′s allowed him to imagine piano compositions that no human hands could ever duplicate. In a way, his work predated MIDI sequencing by at least thirty years. From Wikipedia:
Conlon Nancarrow (October 27, 1912 – August 10, 1997) was a United States-born composer who lived and worked in Mexico for most of his life. Nancarrow is best remembered for the pieces he wrote for the player piano. He was one of the first composers to use musical instruments as mechanical machines, making them play far beyond human performance ability. He lived most of his life in relative isolation, not becoming widely known until the 1980s.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The music of a tree ring wood-playing turntable

A modified record player that is designed to read the subtle variations in tree rings on thin slices of wood in much the same way a record needle reads the grooves on a vinyl record.

YEARS from Bartholomäus Traubeck on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fotoshop by Adobé

Fotoshop by Adobé from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

This commercial isn't real, neither are society's standards of beauty.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Metropolis II by Chris Burden

Chris Burden seems to have had two very distinct artistic selves… Those two selves would be Chris Burden the Younger and then Chris Burden the Elder. He has gone from the extreme self-mutilating performance artist of his early years in the 1970′s into his current incarnation as the Willy Wonka artist who brings to reality the wildest dreams of many pre-adolescent children.
A short doc about a kinetic sculpture that took four years to build. We had the honor of spending three days in Chris Burden's studio filming this sculpture before it was moved to the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) where it is being reinstalled.

Friday, January 13, 2012

ART THOUGHTZ: Damien Hirst

 Hennessy Youngman has become one of my favorite commentators on the art world at large.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ferrofluid- Liquid Magnetic Sculpture

I've never seen anything quite like this. I am normally a bit skeptical of artwork that relies too heavily on new technologies. After the wow-factor wears off, you are left with something that is purely decorative. But I have to throw all that skepticism aside with this one and just sit mesmerized after I pick my jaw up off the floor. The sculpture apparently uses electromagnets to control an iron/oil-based liquid called ferrofluid.

From the website:
The body of the tower was made by a new technique called “ferrofluid sculpture” that enables artists to create dynamic sculptures with fluid materials. This technique uses one electromagnet, and its iron core is extended and sculpted. The ferrofluid covers the sculpted surface of a three-dimensional iron shape that was made on an electronic NC lathe. The movement of the spikes in the fluid is controlled dynamically on the surface by adjusting the power of the electromagnet. The shape of the iron body is designed as helical so that the fluid can move to the top of the helical tower when the magnetic field is strong enough.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant [1 of 3]

An Interview with Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat/Fugazi/Dischord Records

If you've got some extra time, sit down this weekend and listen to this excellent lecture by Ian MacKaye given in the form of a Q&A session for the music business students at Loyola University.

Don't get discouraged when you hear the annoying first question, "Why straight edge?". Ian seems as annoyed by that question as I was, but he gives a very thoughtful answer and moves on.

The rest of the questions focus mainly on the history of the various bands he has been part of and the DIY mentality and work ethic that he and Dischord records are famous for. He's got some great stories about the sordid business tactics of the music industry (Ticketmaster specifically) that would make even the most chipper idealist cry. I'm not exactly sure when this was filmed, but it must have been a few years back because he also questions the validity of, and correctly predicts the demise of Myspace as a springboard for new bands.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nine weeks of weather in three minutes.

 Weather radar rarely shows more than six hours of movement at a time. I have always wanted to see what it looks like as a continuum over a long period of time.

Over 3500 individual infrared images from the GOES East weather satellite, collected between October 28,2011 to January 1, 2012 and made into a movie.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why Creative People are Eccentric

I've recently read an article from The Scientific American called The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric. I have always intuited a bridge between creative thought and schizophrenic thought patterns; just look at the music of Captain Beefheart, the writing of James Joyce or the artwork of Max Ernst.  But I have never known exactly why nor have I had any evidence to back up that claim. This article does a great job in explaining why our most creative thinkers are also often ill-fitted to blend in with society at large.
Apparently, our brains are equipped with neurological filters designed to overlook the vast majority of information coming in through our sense organs and to look for only the things necessary for survival. But these filters vary from person to person and sometimes allow completely irrelevant information into our brain, most often associated with schizophrenic or schizotypical behavior. But this irrelevant information can sometimes lead a person to make connections that we often associate with creativity or even  genius.
Shelley Carson says it much more eloquently than me. Here is a portion of the article:
How could weird thoughts and behaviors enhance a person’s ability to think creatively? My research suggests that these manifestations of schizotypal personality in and of themselves do not promote creativity; certain cognitive mechanisms that may underlie eccentricity could also promote creative thinking, however. In my “shared vulnerability” model of how creativity and eccentricity are related, I theorize that one of these underlying mechanisms is a propensity for cognitive disinhibition.
Too Much Information
Cognitive disinhibition is the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival. We are all equipped with mental filters that hide most of the processing that goes on in our brains behind the scenes. So many signals come in through our sensory organs, for example, that if we paid attention to all of them we would be overwhelmed. Furthermore, our brains are constantly accessing imagery and memories stored in our mental files to process and decode incoming infor­mation. Thanks to cognitive filters, most of this input never reaches conscious awareness.
There are individual differences in how much information we block out, however; both schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals have been shown to have reduced functioning of one of these cognitive filters, called latent inhibition (LI). Reduced LI appears to increase the amount of unfiltered stimuli reaching our conscious awareness and is associated with offbeat thoughts and hallucinations. It is easy to see that allowing unfiltered information into consciousness could lead to strange perceptual experiences, such as hearing voices or seeing imaginary people.
Cognitive disinhibition is also likely at the heart of what we think of as the aha! experience. During moments of insight, cognitive filters relax momentarily and allow ideas that are on the brain’s back burners to leap forward into conscious awareness, in the same manner that bizarre thoughts surface in the mind of the psychotic individual. Consider this example from Sylvia Nasar’s 1998 book A Beautiful Mind, about Nobel Prize winner (and diagnosed with schizophrenia) John Forbes Nash. When asked why he believed that aliens from outer space were contacting him, he responded: “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.” (Nash’s case illustrates how the cognitive mechanism of the eureka moment is similar to the delusional experience called thought insertion, in which individuals suffering from psychosis believe that outside forces have placed thoughts in their brains. Most people suffering from psychosis or schizophrenia do not produce ideas that are considered creative, however. The ability to use cognitive disinhibition in a creative way depends on the presence of additional cognitive abilities associated with a high level of functioning.)