25 September 2011

Lost and Found

This shows some promise for future episodes – but I will dedicate this to any of you who have woken up somewhere, not quite knowing what has happened the evening before.

Now that I have everyone’s attention, this was originally and experiment by Le Mob to see just how far they could go with creating a story based only on 2D layers in 3D space.

Notably, however, it also introduced Kuriositas readers to Hukkles Vilagur the alien for the first time.  As is right for the time, Hukkles has his own Facebook page! We look forward to sharing more of his misadventures with you in the future!  Lost and Found was directed and animated by Neil Stubbings.

The Alphabet - Animated

The Alphabet (2) is a horn book video experiment - is a developmental, animated spelling video where each character visually represents the meaning of the word itself.

It plays with different techniques and materials into little and big spaces, but always focuses on Helvetica font's proportions.

Altogether, this is a collection of words in a delightful spelling-video.

Björk: Moon

It is so good in this day and age of constant change that some things can stay so reassuringly, well, the same. So it is with our dear friend from the north, Björk who, we are glad to announce, has not gone sane on us and is as assuredly and comfortingly bonkers as ever.

Here’s a new track from Björk’s high-concept forthcoming LP Biophilia called Moon, a spare, swirling cut that puts Björk’s surging vocals up front. It was co-written with Damian Taylor. Overall, it's just gorgeous!


Great Egret Rising

The Ark in Space has a new feature out today which looks at an amazing bird – the Great Egret. As well as being found across the world (in four sub-species) this wonderful creature has a grace and poise all of its own. Along with the usual amazing picture selection, the article takes a look at how the Great Egret population was under threat last century – and all because of our desire to wear nice hats! Click on the picture or here to go to the post.


This is very clever.  The people who live in the small town of Adland are a little different to your everyday folk.  They may all be based on everyday folk - but those seen in TV commercials.

See how many old TV ads you can recognize from this brilliantly animated piece by animation production company A Large Evil Organization

There are way too many to list here – so see what you can do yourself - but among many are the eyebrow twitching kids from a recent Cadbury;s commercial!

Apologies must be made, however, to those of you outside the UK as this does seem to include mostly uniquely British advertising!

Heavenly Appeals

After many millennia of being tortured in Hell, Raymond K. Hessle has finally earned a chance to appeal his sentence of Eternal Damnation. Upon arriving at the "appeals" gate of Heaven he is greeted by the angel who will preside over his case. As Raymond waits at the edge of paradise, he will finally have a chance to prove just how worthy he is.

This is the thesis animation by David Lisbe that he created while he was a student at Ringling College.

The Ruins of Bannerman's Island

Quite how unlucky can one building be? Abandoned, neglected and decaying, at first sight you may think that Bannerman’s Castle is located in Europe, perhaps a Scottish remnant from the days of the lairds or a site in Ireland forsaken by retreating British aristocrats. Yet the Castle, sitting blithely upon Pollepel Island is only 50 miles north of New York City, on the Hudson River. Its history is a long and strange catalogue of disaster.

Bizarrely, it isn’t even a castle. What you can see here are the remains of an abandoned military surplus warehouse.

The fact that it was built in the style of a castle says much for the eccentricities, not to mention wealth, of its builder, Francis Bannerman VI (seen left).

Yet from the moment it was built the castle was, so many maintained, doomed.

What was designed to be a testament to and record of the wealth and power of a single interview was to befall no less than four disasters. In little more than a century it would fall in to complete ruin.

The island, according to Native American lore, is inhabited by unfriendly spirits. It is true that its story might indicate more than the average share of bad luck and not beyond the imagination to speculate that vengeful spirits have caused its decline and fall.

Bannerman had arrived in America in 1854. An immigrant from Scotland, he had grown immensely rich from selling military surplus. The Spanish-American war of 1898 was particularly good to Bannerman – he managed to acquire 90% of the Spanish military equipment abandoned in their hurried retreat from Cuba.

However, his storerooms in the heart of New York City were considered too dangerous a place to hold more than thirty million Spanish cartridges. Were they to explode they would destroy several blocks in an instant. He began his search for land upon which he could build his new warehouse.

It wasn’t long before he found the final destination for his military surplus.  The island, six and a half acres of rock and a thousand feet from the shore of the Hudson, was perfect for his plans. Bannerman bought the island in 1900 – his aim to construct an arsenal in which to store his munitions until they could be sold (often by mail order) to both the military and civilians.  The following year the project began – Bannerman designed the buildings (including a small mansion for himself and guests) and then allowed those constructing them free range with architectural interpretation. Yet why such a design?

The answer was simple – advertising.  In this gilded age, magnates were celebrities and Bannerman aimed to use his castle as a huge, brick built, advert for his business. The castle was clearly visible from the shore and Bannerman instructed the builders to cast the legend – Bannerman’s Island Arsenal – in to the wall which faced both the shore and passing shipping.

Bannerman’s death in 1918 marked the beginning of the end for his business, his castle and the armaments within (not to mention the accompanying Big House - seen below).  Construction stopped and two years later several hundred pounds of shells and powder exploded – this destroyed half the building. It was thought that the explosion had been caused by lightning hitting the flagpoles. Locals must have regarded each other knowingly – the spirits were reasserting themselves.

Worse was to come. In 1950, a passing freighter, the Pollepel, was caught up in a huge storm on the Hudson River. It smashed in to the island during the full force of the storm, exploding on impact.  The explosion did even more damage to the building – and the ill fated boat gave the island its modern name (though many still call it Bannerman's Island).

Two disasters to beset the same building might be considered unlucky, but worse was to come. After the 1950 disaster the house was left vacant and it and the island were eventually bought by New York State in 1967.  Two years after this a major fire broke out and the roofs and floors were completely destroyed – the rest of the building was then effectively unsafe to enter. The island was placed off limits – the spirits had perhaps finally had their way.

Not quite.  Although difficult to get to, the castle and the Big House occasionally played host to small groups of hard-hatted tourists.  Vandals and trespassers continued to ensure its decline but it was years of exposure to the elements that was to deliver another blow. In 2009 about 40% of the front wall and 50% of the east wall collapsed.

The castle is, obviously, beyond restoration now and that is perhaps how it should be left, to slowly moulder in to dust. Maybe it is best abandoned - returned to the spirits to reclaim their home and be left, finally, in peace - a testament to impermanancy and the inexorable nature of entropy. Until then, it makes a beautiful site to explore with a drone camera.

Kate MacDowell Produces Art for New Album from Erasure

We featured the art of Kate MacDowell back in January on Kuriositas.  Great news from the artist – if you have been browsing music stores, online or in real life, you may have come across the new album from synthpop duo Erasure.  You may have thougtht I've seen that artist's work before. Yes, MacDowell’s work is featured on the front of both the album (Tomorrow's World) and the single (When I Start to Break it all Down, below).  Great news for Kate – and a very cool introduction to her art for a whole new audience.

24 September 2011

The Chapel - A Short HDR Timelapse

HDR may not to be to everyone’s taste but you have to admit it has been put to stunning effect in this short time lapse movie of the exceptional protestant temple in Zeliszów, Poland. The chapel was designed by Karl Langhans and built in 1796-1797.

The film was made by Patryk Kizny who is the lead filmmaker at LookyCreative. This is HDR pushed to the point of looking like animation. Personally, I love it even though I must acknowledge that it is not to everyone’s taste but an incredible technical achievement. If this has wetted your appetite then you can see the making of movie below.

18 Things You Should Know About Genetics

Back in March we featured a wonderful animation by David Murawsky entitled A Brief Introduction to Genetics – which was awesome. Well, we are very pleased to tell you that he has gone one further and created this gem – 18 Things You Should Know About Genetics.

Helped out by some wonderful animation and a great voice over by Sarah Henriques, this film presents fundamental background information about genetics, as well as offering some quirky but interesting facts about DNA, genes and genetics.

It was created to be an upbeat, fun educational short film to initiate and draw interest to this sometimes daunting and seemingly complex subject matter.  I wish we had had this sort of educational film when I was at school!

19 September 2011

Stumbling Blocks to Remembrance

It started almost immediately the Nazis came to power. Like stars that twinkle out when the dawn approaches, individuals and families throughout the country disappeared, many never to be seen again. A stumbling block to the happy future of any nation? An extraordinary art project, which is still gathering momentum, reminds us times past which should not be forgotten.

How is a country to remember those of which it disposed so cruelly? That might possibly prove a stumbling block. A small, brilliant idea back in the nineties has led to an art movement which is still thriving and gaining ground to this day. Under your feet throughout Europe you will find stumbling blocks to aid in your remembrance of those long gone. The above remembers Ida Arensberg, deported from Bonn in 1942 at the age of seventy two and murdered the same year.

Gunter Demnig, a performance artist from Cologne, first thought of the idea of a literal stumbling block in 1993. History all too often reduces its victims to numbers, with so many million killed here and so many million reduced to ashes there. What he wanted to do was to create something that would enable ordinary Germans to remember ordinary Germans – something far more personal and immediate than a number, a name. So was born a project in which those long since disappeared and dead were to be remembered, literally under the feet of the general public. Above, an entire family from Lübeck is commemorated. Below, the artist Demnig prepares to lay two new stumbling blocks in Bad Kissingen, June 2009.

Neighbors the Meyers and the Löbensteins may have lived next to each other for years. The Meyers were murdered in Auschwitz, the fate of the Löbensteins remains unclear. Of course, some memories are painful and we may not wish to stumble on them under our feet as it can lead to some discomfort. Although the immediate reaction is down to the individual, there has been some opposition to the stumbling blocks or stolpersteine as they are know in German. That is the literal translation and, put more loosely it means an obstacle or something in the way.

The Prenskis were probably just a normal family. They must have been pleased to have made it through the depression but Martin and Margot only just made it in to their teens before they were murdered. As a reminder of those who were deported and killed by the Nazis in the concentration and extermination camps, the fact that they are so subtly placed may produce as much food for thought as more traditional memorials. The Jewish people of Europe were the primary victims and targets of the Nazi regime but Demnig’s stumbling blocks also remember the smaller minorities whose lives were cut short by the misplaced politics of the time.

The human foot next to the block that remembers Dr Ernst Jacobson, who perhaps entered the medical profession to help people, shows us the size of the stolpersteine, small, discreet but so very poignant. The Romani, the Sinti, the resistance fighters, disabled people, gays and Jehovah’s Witnesses – all targeted by the Nazis in their pursuit of the eugenic Aryan ideals and the hand-in-hand denial of the right to exist of those who by their very being were diametrically in opposition to those ideals – are all remembered in his work.

What started as a relatively small project has grown organically but insistently since the first small exhibition in 1994. The incumbent priest of the Antoniter church in Cologne was one of the first to encourage the project and Demnig began to place the stumbling blocks – such as the ones above - around the city, with a further set in Berlin – all without permission. By 1996 he was able to set out fifty five in the German capital with the permission of the authorities within the scope of a project known as ‘artists investigate after Auschwitz’. The following year he placed the first two in memory of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were persecuted in Salzburg, Austria. The project had, as it were, grown feet.

Gertrud and Helmut Marchand were here, once upon a nightmare, in Berlin. The stolpersteine usually record the victim near their place of abode and typically start with the words “Hier wohnte” which mean in English – here lived. This is a little reminiscent of the blue plaque projects in the United Kingdom but those commemorate the rich and famous whose individual fates were as myriad as the stars. Each stumbling block records the year of birth and that of the deportation and death of the individual it commemorates. It is placed at an even flush with the pavement in front of their last known residence. Although tiny, many feel the urge to leave something to show that they have remembered and people like Else Liebermann von Wahlendorf will not be forgotten.

Many of the people commemorated met their fate between four ruthlessly hard and thick concrete walls. It is without irony that each stumbling block is made of a concrete and each slab has a surface area of sixteen square inches on each of its six sides. A brass sheet covers the top with the inscriptions. Each stolpersteine cost around a hundred Euros so the travelling artist relies on donations by people. They come mostly from individual citizens but whole classes and communities have also raised money so they can help with the project.

The artist, Gunter Demnig, can be seen here preparing a Berlin sidewalk for a new stumbling block – it will eventually serve as a memorial for Dr. Robert Remak. It took the dawn of a new century for the project to take off fully and in the early years of the first decade of this century many cities joined in the act of remembrance and commemoration. Apolda, Bad Kissingen, Bonn, Düren, Frankfurt – the list of towns and cities grows each year. In Berlin alone there are more than a thousand stolpersteine, Hamburg has outdone them all with a total of eighteen hundred stumbling blocks – which may seem a lot but out of the Jewish population alone, the victims of Hamburg numbered over ten thousand.

Solms Heymann (1858-1944) and Adele Heymann (1866-1943) were forgotten. Now, where they once lived in Bad Kissingen, they will always be together, as it is hoped, they were in life. Demnig has put immense amounts of time and work in to this project.

This particular Lazarus may never wake from his sleep. However, his life and times will be remembered by those who come across the small cube embedded in to the sidewalk.

The idea has spread. Braunau am Inn, the place where Adolf Hitler was brought in to this world, has placed eleven stolpersteine around the residences of those whose fates were bound up with this birth. Moedling, near Vienna, placed it own blocks down in 2006, swiftly followed by Salzburg. Vienna is taking the idea even further with a path of commemoration planned over its second district. Hungary (where six hundred thousand Jews were deported and murdered) had its first blocks in 2007 – mostly around the center of Budapest (see first picture above). Makó (second picture) has also followed. The Dutch city of Borne laid its first Struikelstenen in May 2009 (see below).

24 July 2009 marked the placement of the 20,000th stumbling block, which was unveiled in the German city of Hamburg. Present were Demnig, the originator of the project as well as representatives of the Jewish community, local government and descendents of some of the victims. All in all, almost three hundred European cities now have stolpersteine – a permanent underfoot reminder of those who could have made Europe a more enlightened place but who were never given the chance.