31 May 2015

Fight for Food

If you own dogs then this scenario may be familiar.  One dog will hog the food while the other has to wait patiently for his turn.  Not this dog-bot, however.  He will do whatever it takes to claim his fair share and if you can’t fight clean then you don’t give up: you just fight dirty instead.  A 3D by Californian teenager Preston Platt, Fight for Food was created as a personal project but it’s great to see it on the interweb too.

30 May 2015

Covert Cashew: The Secret Life of a Nut

It’s difficult to know quite where to start when it comes to the cashew nut.  To many people it is nothing more than an occasional (if moreish) snack. So, let’s begin with a picture of one on the tree – there it is, above.  Not quite what you expected?  It’s a nut with a number of secrets hidden in plain view, not least the way it grows. And before we go any further, let’s get another thing straight: it isn’t a nut either.

The way it grows will only be a surprise to you, of course, if you live outside the regions where it is farmed – and there is one good reason for that too.  Originating in Brazil the cashew was introduced elsewhere in the 1500s and is now grown in countries such as India, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Vietnam. In fact anywhere between the latitudes of 25°N and 25°S, where the tropical evergreen can flourish, it is farmed.  It takes shape like this...

29 May 2015

The Last One


Forty years in the future and humanity has succeeded in creating robots that look exactly as we do.  So similar yet so vastly different, conflict was inevitable.  A war began which had to, through sheer necessity, end in the extinction of one or the other.   Created by students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, this is short, concise storytelling which immediately involves the audience in the plight of the last survivor of his race, the titular last one.

Spinning Daggers


This is hypnotically fascinating.  Benjamin Ducroz has created Spinning Daggers, a series of small wooden zoetrope sculptures composed next to trees during autumn. The sculptures consist of 18 instances - their form is in the shape of different sine and triangle waves modulating over 18 frames. Three of seven models were filmed – you can see the other models along with documentation can be viewed at Ducroz’ website.

Antelope Richards


The Richards are a lovely couple and everyone is so happy when they finally conceive.  Yet the child they produce is an… antelope.  Still, never let anything hold you back, and this young buck certainly doesn’t.  Quirky, funny and just a tad surreal, Antelope Richards is a highly improbable story about some highly unlikely things. It was created by Gary Ye during his time at Sheridan College.

Desert Yogi


You don’t see this in the desert every day – but then most of us don’t get to visit a desert on a regular basis. Dylan Werner, a world leader in yoga strength training and body weight movement is captured in the desert by director Russell Brownley. It combines a mixture of beautiful cinematography with the sight of how one man finds clarity, peace, presence and meditation.

The Strange Life Cycle of the Ladybug

Over at the Ark in Space, there is an excellent article about the strange - no, bizarre - life cycle of the ladybug. What you can see above is what they look like before they become those ravishing little dots of red and black in your garden.

These insects are the favorite of many children but behind the pretty exterior lies an eating machine of devastating proportions which will stop at nothing to get at its next meal and involves itself in some quite ghastly goings on in the shrubbery, even involving intraguild predation (cannibalism, basically).

Altogether it is quite a remarkable life cycle, going on right under our noses.

Take a look


Image Credit Flickr User Giles San Martin

27 May 2015

Interlude


Interlude is a film that interprets time and its connection with life. The abstract notion of time is defined in this piece by the relationship between math, science, memories, and nostalgia.

It was created at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) as part as the Senior Motion Media Design B.F.A project. It was directed by Daniel Uribe and Chris Salvador.

The Mystery of the Margate Shell Grotto

In 1835 a labourer was digging a field just outside the English seaside town of Margate.  His work was interrupted when he thrust his spade in to the soil and it simply vanished in to the ground.  The master of the nearby Dane House School, James Newlove, was made aware of this strange disappearance.  He volunteered his young son, Joshua, for the task of being lowered, candle in hand, in to the void via a length of rope

Regardless of our modern sensibilities about the health and safety of children, when Joshua was pulled back to the surface his wide-eyed tale astonished everyone. He told of a magical temple adorned in shells, hundreds, thousands… millions of them.  All told, 4.6 million.

26 May 2015

PomPom Mirror: Seeing is Believing


PomPom Mirror by Daniel Rozin is very clever art but despite that it does exactly what it says on the metaphorical tin. It features a synchronized array of 928 spherical faux fur puffs. Organized into a three-dimensional grid of beige and black, the sculpture is controlled by hundreds of motors that build silhouettes of viewers using computer-vision.   Just watch it – huge fun to experience in a gallery I would imagine.  I would venture to guess that it was a massive pain to construct – I wonder how many times Rozin thought why did I think of this? to himself.

You can currently find PomPom Mirror at bitforms Gallery in New York City.

Swan Cake


Written, directed and produced by students Nikitha Mannam (India) and Amos Sussigan (Switzerland), Swan Cake is the result of an experiment of collaboration with an international crew. The movie has been entirely produced via Skype and Dropbox, involving artists and students from Canada, United States, England, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Iran, and several parts of India. It’s just lovely!

The Walrus


This walrus is world-weary.  The French probably have a word for the way he feels (it escapes me) but in English we might just settle for depressed.  Something is bugging him and he cannot quite put his finger on it until, until...

This engaging short film by Luke Randall and starring Rodrigo Huerta as The Walrus will hit a nerve if you have ever felt a similar longing.  Now I come to think about it, my own language has a word which fits the bill perfectly – hiraeth. Look it up - it's worth it.

Black Square


Dancers Mikalai Radziush and Olga Lanceray give an emotive performance of Black Square, which I interpret as a couple on the verge of a pivotal moment in their relationship – will they stay together or will they part? That may not be what it’s all about (I often get these things wrong!) but see what you think.  With choreography by Elena Kuzmina and directed by Timo Zhalnin this is beautifully filmed contemporary dance at its best.

The SS United States


The SS United States was built in 1952 and held various records including the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction.  The ship was in service for seventeen solid years. Yet since 1996 she has been docked, abandoned, on Pier 82 in Philadelphia.  Take a look at this majestic ship (shot by Chris DeAntonio), surely too iconic to allow to rust away out of sight and out of mind?

23 May 2015

Rise Like A Phoenix - London Contemporary Voices & Kin Choir


The Eurovision Song Contest is upon us again.  However, here’s something a little familiar yet unusual.  Rise Like a Phoenix, sung by Conchita Wurst, won the competition last year.  Here is a rather different take on the song by London Contemporary Voices (London's leading alternative choir) and Kin Choir.   Jonathan Rippon of LCV gives a stirring solo performance with fantastic support from members of the two choirs.

The Richat Structure – Earth’s Bull's-Eye

Imagine if you were an alien species intent on conquering the earth by force.  Now, you might just appear over the various capital cities of the world and wait for your countdown to get to zero or you might, being a little timid of the explosive force that you are about to unleash, wish to do it from a safe distance.  What you would need to look for, then, is a handy bull's-eye – on the bull's-eye that is the Earth itself.

Look no further, alien invader.  The Richat Structure in Mauritania provides the perfect target towards which you can aim your death ray, annihilation laser or whatever you call your extraterrestrial weapon of mass destruction.  It’s almost as if another species, in a previous visit, had chalked in a target already and then become bored and wandered back to Betelgeuse.

22 May 2015

What Happens Next?


It’s a crying shame that over 17,000 children under five years of age still die each day from causes that could be easily prevented.  Diseases like pneumonia and malaria still claims so many who have hardly started their lives.

World Vision, who created the video above in partnership with Don’t Panic are having a Global Week of Action.  The hope is that many millions of people will show their leaders that an end to preventable deaths though hunger and violence against children can and should be stopped within the next 15 years.

Over the past 20 years, there has been amazing progress in ending the avoidable deaths of children and reducing extreme poverty on our pale blue dot of a planet. Strides have been made but 17,000 a day is 17,000 too many.  When you do the math it becomes even more startling a number – that’s over six million children under the age of five every year.

You might think that zero poverty is a pie in the sky idea.  However, over the last two decades the number of children under five dying has halved.  If use our influence on those who lead us this number can go down further, to the magical zero figure. For more information you can go to World Vision’s website.  However, please share this video on your social media sites with the hashtag #Stopatnothing.

18 May 2015

Stellar Moves: The Story of Pluto


The hottest dance group in the universe, The Planets, has eight members but they might begrudgingly allow another entry in to the team if they can be suitably impressed.  A competition is held to find the missing planet so that eight might become nine. At home, young Pluto does not think he has what it takes, but receives encouragement from his best friend, one of his satellites you might say! 

Charmingly made by the creative team of Millivette Gonzalez, Tabia Lees and Valerie Sattazahn this will have you rooting for the little guy of the solar system all over again. Stellar Moves is – and you may not believe this such is the high standard of animation - their senior thesis short film. It was produced at Ringling College of Art and Design (if you want to study computer animation in the USA, then this is always in the top three places to go). No doubt they will be inviting the trio back to give talks to their undergraduates in a few years.

The 10am


There are some times in life that you need help from external sources. Step forward the Great British Workman – and his apprentice son of course. Together, Senior and Junior make up Auron & Son Ltd and they are ready to take on a range of commercial residential contracting services.

The first job of this particular day – their “10am” is something special – the first time that Junior will take the lead on a job. And it’s some job. Written, directed and produced by Colin O’Toole this is idiosyncratic short British film-making at its entertaining best.

Bokor Hill Station – Cambodia’s Abandoned Town

The history of Cambodia in the twentieth century is one of almost continual struggle and conflict. One place which encapsulates the traumatic events which the country persevered is the Bokor Hill Station. This eerie ghost town has been abandoned not once, but twice in its history.

Even its birth was savage. Designed as a resort for the French colonists of the early twentieth century, the construction of Bokor Hill Station was complete by 1925. Built by indentured Cambodian laborers it took nine months to build. Almost a thousand men perished during that time.

17 May 2015

Pale Blue Dot


I think I have lost count of the number of times I have seen animations of Pale Blue Dot, possibly the most seminal words of Carl Sagan. However, I had to include this new version because it is simply outstanding.  Using an eclectic combination of art styles woven seamlessly together through music and visuals, this short reminds us of the significance of our insignificance. The animation and screenplay is by Chin Li Zhi with the music and sound design by Leo Frick.

The Sounds of Star Wars


Sounds can evoke memories in a way only rivalled by our sense of sight and smell.  If you enjoyed the Star Wars films as a child then this feast of sounds from the original three movies will transport you back in time as effectively as a Tardis!  This video is a celebration of those iconic sounds that have been rattling around the head of Rishi Kaneria since childhood which are, indeed, ingrained in our collective pop culture psyche.

The Way Home


A mouse needs a house.  And when you have a house you need things to put in it.  The Way Home is a very sweet combination of live footage and animation which tracks the journey of our new murine friend as he gathers new belongings with which to decorate his humble abode.  The animation was created by students of Liu Song, a tutor at Hangzhou Normal University in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China.

And Then I Vanish


Have you ever looked in to somebody’s dreams? And Then I Vanish, created by Cornel Swoboda may be as close as you get to doing that for a day or two – at the very least.  This surreal motion poem started life as a spare time project for Swoboda but, as these things do, it evolved in to something quite different. It is also one of the most visually different videos I have seen in an age – so apologies if it keeps you awake tonight!

A Conversation About Growing Up Black


In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.  It makes for sobering viewing when you appreciate just how much the society in which they should feel in their element has effectively excluded them as full citizens.  Yet it is also a noteworthy tribute to the human spirit that these boys and young men refuse to conform to the stereotypes with which they have been assigned.

15 May 2015

Incredible Crepuscular Rays - Sunbeams Caught on Camera


Sunbeams are everywhere – yet when they are caught on camera they are often unwanted additions to a photograph. They cut swathes through the picture, chopping off heads and obscuring detail in a burst of light. However, when they are deliberately captured the results can be nothing short of magical.

10 May 2015

VE Day 70 in 70 Seconds


Friday 8 May 2015 was the anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe.  If you have been visiting another planet over the last few days and want to know what all the fuss is about then here it all is – VE Day 70 in 70 seconds. It was created by Raw 
Productions for the Royal British Legion.

The Cruel Mother


The Cruel Mother is a murder ballad which has been doing the rounds for centuries.  It tells the story of an unmarried mother who kills her twin boys after they are born and buries them deep in a wood.  Yet this is not the last time that she will meet her sons… Animated by Gavin C Robinson and beautifully sung by Fiona Hunter, one of Scotland’s foremost traditional singers, this is entrancingly dark.

The Hedgehog


A young boy wanders a deserted urban landscape dressed in a home-made Sonic the Hedgehog outfit.  On a superficial level this film is very simple but is in fact an extended metaphor about how life can run away with itself once one is caught in a rut and by the time one realises, it’s too late.  Written and directed by Chris Lee and Paul Storrie, Hedgehog was nominated for the British Council Best UK Short Film at London Short Film Festival 2015.

9 May 2015

Gargoyles – Glorious Gruesome Grotesques

Gargoyles – they are strange, bizarre, unpleasant or just plain ugly. They have been hovering around our towns and cities for centuries, for so long that it can be forgotten that they have meaning and purpose. Take a tour of the weird world of the gargoyle.

A gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque statue, and they were designed to convey water away from the roof and the sides of large buildings. We associate them mostly with medieval times thanks to a certain hunchback but they have been around much longer than that. They are more than just scary statues as if they were not there then the mortar between the stones of their buildings would, in time, erode away and the building would fall over. Many gargoyles take the shape of animals and – lost to our modern minds – these creatures were chosen for a purpose. This is why...

4 May 2015

Blast it Biggs! Where are you?! - A Star Wars Day Doc


Biggs Darklighter was set to be a more prominent character in Star Wars than what we see when we watch the movie.  In fact, many casual Star Wars fans (isn’t that an oxymoron?) might struggle to locate the character at all.

However, actor Garrick Hagon spent weeks filming scenes in Tunisia for Tosche Station on Tatooine (left with Mark Hamill) and again at Elstree studios where he participated in the attack on the Death Star.  Documentary maker Jamie Benning interviewed Garrick Hagon and the result is a fascinating glimpse in to what might have been.  So, for Star Wars Day, here is the documentary – with the deleted scenes included. May the Fourth Be With You!


Quiz: Name the 20 US City Skylines

Can you name these 20 US cities just from a picture of the skyline of each?  It may be a little more challenging than it sounds because although all of these cities are in the US Top 50 (at least in terms of population) we have restricted it to just one city per state, despite places like California being awash with places that have huge populations.  So, give it a go – and please pass it on!

If the answer you choose goes GREEN, then you got it right.  If it goes RED then you got it wrong.  You will also see how many other people chose the different answers (in terms of a percentage). Ready? Let's go!



Want a hideously hard quiz?
Do you know your Dali from your Dürer, your Goya from your Gauguin? Then try these 20 multiple choice questions.

You will take a back and forth whistle-stop tour through almost a thousand years of art history.  Yet which painters were responsible for the 20 masterpieces you are about to see?  Click HERE or on the picture to do the quiz.

Image Credits
1, 2a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

3 May 2015

The Outings Project: Museum Paintings Experience Life on the Streets

Outings is a world participative project, initiated by Julien de Casabianca, a French visual artist.  The idea is for people to liberate portraits from their homes in museums and other municipal building and place them on the walls of their towns and cities.

You can see these paintings, of course, if you make the special journey to where the hang in their frames.  Yet they are surrounded by tens, often  hundreds of other paintings.  By placing the paintings in random streets and alleyways, de Casabianca hopes that their beauty will be fully appreciated once more.

Earth Song


If you have ever been to Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks in northern England then you will have been, no doubt, struck by their incredible natural beauty.  They have never looked so magnificent in this short time-lapse film about the ever changing light and beauty in nature made by Alex William Helin. The stirring music is Epic Journey by David Tobin, Jeff Meegan and Malcolm Edmonstone.

Melody Gardot - Preacherman


Inspired by the tragic true story of Emmett Till who was killed in a racially motivated murder in 1955, this is a music video for Melody Gardot's single Preacherman. It was directed by Calum Macdiarmid and shot over 4 days in the Mississippi Delta. The film features performances from local characters and an appearance from Emmett Till's cousin (the woman who puts her hand up to the glass at the end).

Pet Peeve


Pets die – that’s a fact of life.  Yet for one boy the death of his beloved goldfish is not followed by a year in mourning: it’s the green light for the start of the epic search for the next pet.  However, his choices are questionable.  This light-hearted and immensely enjoyable short (animated on paper and colored digitally) comes from Jared Liffreing who created it as his CalArts fourth year film.

These are Magpies? You’re Kidding, Right?

No, we’re not.  There are a number of magpie species which confound the notion that the whole lot of them are black and white.  They come in a number of different colors. Yet, despite this gorgeous plumage they still seem to be rather thuggish members of the bird world, robbing nests and eating chicks and so on.  Our sibling site , the Ark in Space, has the lowdown on these quite different (appearance wise at least) species of magpies.

2 May 2015

The Red Witch



Mars is slowly being terraformed.  As the planet slowly comes to life a geologist wanders the surface of the once barren planet, seeking answers.  Yet as the planet’s human-driven evolution outpaces her, she becomes myth.  The Red Witch is Aron Bothman’s fourth year film for the CalArts Character Animation program, made using a combination of stop-motion, CG, and drawn techniques.

This Video Will Change The Way You Think About Police Brutality In 30 Seconds


#AsAMotherSpeakOut is the first campaign of its kind to challenge police brutality with a video that inspires us to think about the issue in a new light. It’s not just victims and their families that are affected, everyone now has the responsibility to speak out and question lethal force and investigate racial prejudices.

 The campaign calls for us to stand together and share an urgent message of action with our friends and family and build an online conversation at AsAMother.com that our elected officials and police cannot ignore.

In the wake of Walter Scott, Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s tragic killings, the landmark project from the creatives at Shape History hopes to build support for the many people and grassroots organizations in the United States who are working tirelessly to end police brutality, and who need our support to mobilize now more than ever.
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