25 February 2012

Our Feathered Friends

I recently came across this marvelous homage to the art of Max Ernst, created by Flickr User Seriykotik1970. You can find a number more at his extremely groovy photostream.

City of Samba

You may not believe your eyes when you watch this. Created by Keith Loutit and Jarbas Agnelli, this is a tilt shift capture of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval Party. You may have seen tilt shift movies before, but this will really make you sit up! It begins with a panoramic view of the city (including a helicopter rescue from the sea) and then, as night draws in, Carnaval begins.

It may not be quite the same as being there but this film captures the intense excitements as the floats pass by the immense crowds. Yet because of the tilt shift method employed everything looks tiny – you get to be Gulliver for a short time! You also get to see much more of it in five minutes than you normally would, thanks to the stop-motion technique also employed. This is simply dazzling!

Animal Beatbox

I had to include this on Kuriositas but not necessarily because Animal Beatbox breaks new ground in animation or that it will go on to be nominated for an Academy Award. Rather, I wanted to include it because it is so seriously, deliriously silly – and it’s also rather cleverly put together!

It was created by freelance editor Si Bennett, aided and abetted by Adam Merten and Jag Kiranmay. It must have been huge fun to put together though I have to say I probably wouldn’t have the patience to do anything as seamless as this – even if I did have the talent! 

Thanks, guys, for a highly enjoyable 47 seconds!

24 February 2012

Look What's New on the Fourth Plinth

The power that art has to divide opinion! The newest addition to the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square is doing just that: some see a vision of childish innocence (as I did I have to admit) while others see the continuing almost nonchalant victory of the lazy upper classes over the oiks (the rest of us in other words).

Whatever your opinion (and of course you will have one) it is a remarkable piece. Perhaps the subject lends itself to lightness but I was astonished to discover that it weighs two tonnes. I suppose it would, being made out of bronze. It is also gold plated – perhaps a nod to one of its sponsors, Louis Vuitton. Since 2005 there have been eight attempts to temporarily fill the empty space, this being the latest. It is certainly monumental – looks can be deceptive: this sculpture stands over four meters in height.

The sculpture, by Elmgreen and Dragset is bizarrely titled Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 but is already being called Rocking Horse Boy by many admirers. It was unveiled by AbFab star Joanna Lumley two days ago – with Boris Johnson the Mayor of London already trying to co-opt it as a mascot for the upcoming Summer Olympics in the city (as if it needs any more marketing).

The fourth plinth was vacant for an age – it was originally intended to be the home of a statue of William IV who was to be depicted atop a horse signalling victory. Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 is certainly surrounded by many a warlike statue - it is seen by the artists as a response to its environment.

In other words it is something of a critique which might make some people a little cross – yet another pop at British history they might say. Yet it is difficult not to be charmed by the rocking horse boy – blithely spirited as he is. His gilt may not presage a new golden age for Britain (all that glitters...) but he is a pint-sized puck who will cheer up many a passerby.

Image Credit
First Image - Flickr User Streatham Mike

22 February 2012

The Big Egg Hunt - Featuring Vicky Scott's Egghog!

You may remember that a year or so ago we featured the artist Vicky Scott (above) and her wonderful artwork. There’s a reminder on the left: click on the picture to see the interview and examples of Vicky’s wonderful work.

Well, you just can’t take your eyes off these artists for a second! Vicky has been involved with an upcoming event in London which promises to be great fun! As Easter is coming it is more than appropriate that the project is all to do with eggs. They may not be chocolate but they are, nevertheless, quite special.

The project is known as the Big Egg Hunt –and you may well have guessed by the name what it entails. A number of artists and celebrities, including Vicky, have been invited to create 209 eggs which will then be cunningly hidden all over central London from 21 February to 3 April. This huge hunt (hopefully the largest stalking of Easter Eggs the world has ever seen) has been organized by the Elephant Family and Action for Children.

Vicky’s design is called Egghog (love it!) and, like the event, pretty much does what it says on the label, as you can see from the pictures! Once the hunt is done the eggs will be auctioned for charity. You can get lots more information from the Big Egg Hunt website – and of course, you do not have to be resident in London to make a bid for the egg of your choice!

21 February 2012

Landscape with Duck

When you are duck and you can’t fly that presents a singular problem when it comes to flying south for the winter.  Our hero in this hand drawn animated short by Patrick Neary comes up with some novel ways in which to catch up with his brothers and sisters – not all of them legal!

This ‘toon harkens back to the early days of animation – I swear I recognize some of the characters here but have no clue as to where I may have seen them before.  They are most likely new creations but I love the retro feel of the whole animation.

Anyway, rest assured that the exploits of our NBDF (New Best Duck Friend) has a happy ending! Or does it? Watch and find out!

The Unearthly Beauty of Antelope Canyon

The Navajo call it ‘the place where water runs through rocks’ and that is literally true. One of the most unearthly places on the planet, take a look at the astounding Antelope Canyon.

The peculiar formation of a slot canyon can make for an eerie experience and certainly the Antelope Canyon, on the lands of the LeChee people of the Navajo Nation is one of the stranger places you might choose to visit if your budget doesn’t quite run to a space shuttle. The shuttle, though, never lands on alien planets – yet you can still get the experience for very little here on our very own third rock from the sun.

One almost expects to turn a corner and run in to a group of Vulcans performing one of their weirder ceremonies. Pointed ears aside, however, this place is very much down to earth and is one of the most visited slot canyons in the world. It is easy to see why. Its out of this world beauty is capable of transforming the visitor, as it were, to another world. Split in two parts, the Upper and Lower canyons have their origins in pre-history. It is little wonder that the Navajo revere them so greatly.

Light somehow manages to find a way through the walls of the canyon, despite its narrowness. The color of the rock is a giveaway to those in the know – the walls of the canyon are made of sandstone. And one thing that sandstone is susceptible to is water. The medieval cathedrals of Europe will slowly weather away under the aqueous precipitation of the millennia. So it is with the Antelope Canyon – in fact it owes its existence, in one of the driest places on earth, to the erosive qualities of life sustaining H20.

With a leap of the imagination, this gorgeous view upwards of twin light tubes allows us to believe we are privy to the blueprints that Mother Nature surreptitiously provides for the continuous evolution of the canyons. The spirals show us where the water has slowly but persistently eroded the sandstone through the ages. Can any man-made structure match the sheer grace of this canyon below the ground?

So how exactly was this beautiful canyon formed? Although you might hesitate before accepting the fact, for the most part it is due to flash flooding. There are other sub-aerial processes involved as well but rainwater during the monsoon season is the primary culprit (if one were to assign anything like blame for this marvel of nature). There are large basins above both parts of the Antelope Canyon and the rain gathers here until it reaches a kind of critical mass.

When this happens it gushes in to the canyon. Over the thousands of millennia it took to create the full effect the water slowly but inexorably made the corridors of the canyons deeper and steeper. The hard edges of the rock were inevitably worn down and formed the flowing shapes on the rock face. So it was not the work of mighty and ancient Navajo spirits (perhaps…) but of the sheer tenacious persistence of the elements. Flooding still happens to this day – as recently as 2006 a thirty six hour flood forced the tribal authorities to close the lower part of the canyon for half a year. The sand arising from the erosion gets everywhere.

As can be imagined, this natural phenomenon attracts photographers (and more casual tourists) like bears to honey. However, a permit must be obtained nowadays as it was announced a Navajo Tribal Park in 1997. Although it may for some spoil the picture, as it were, to get an idea of the sheer scale and depth of the canyon it is perhaps a good idea to place someone down there – just to get a sense of perspective.

Although these pictures belie the fact, photography is pretty difficult to get right here due to the necessarily wide exposure range needed to get the picture right. This is due to the fact that light reflects off the walls of the canyon like a ball on a table tennis board. Ping pong, ping pong. Although I initially hesitated to include a picture with a human presence this does something to give an impression of the sheer scale of the canyon.

The upper canyon is known by the Navajo as ‘the place where water runs through the rocks’ and the lower as ‘spiral rock arches’. The former is the most visited as its entrance is at ground level, as is its entire length. Thus the tourist does not need to climb – and the famous beams of light are more prevalent in the upper canyon. They can be seen at their best in the summer months when the sun is at its highest in the sky. Between March and October each year the canyon gives the visitor the feeling of being on a beautifully shot Hollywood set – is that Indiana Jones disappearing around the corner?

The lower canyon has stairways to facilitate human travel to its base. Even with these aids to the tourist it is a much more difficult proposition than the upper, situated a few kilometers away. It is quite easy to stumble as the footing is never quite even but this should not deter the visitor even though, unsurprisingly, casual visitors are rarer in the lower.

Due to the danger of rain in the monsoon period, visitors are not allowed to visit the canyon on their own – they must take a tour guide with them. Flash floods can happen, well, in a flash and there was a tragedy in 1997 when eleven tourists were killed by a flood. The only survivor, without irony, was the tour guide who had had training in dealing with swift flowing water. As a result of this the stairways were fully bolted in to place and there are even cargo nets at the top of the canyon which can be deployed to ‘catch’ people in the event of a flood.

So, like so many other things in nature, Antelope Canyon is beautiful but can be deadly too. It remains, however, a superlative example of the inexorable power of nature and a reminder to us that there are many things more powerful on this planet than the human race.

First Image Credit
Image Credit Flickr User lurw

20 February 2012

Insert Coin

Who said that boys have no imagination? Well, here are two who will admit that to the end –  boy’s lives are dull, dull, dull. Except, of course, that we can see what they are thinking!

Underestimate the imagination of the boys at your peril -  especially if you are taken along for the ride! Yet forbid the moment if you have to insert a coin – boys sometimes need aids.

This is a wonderful animated short, realised by Alisson Thiebaut, Nicolas Garcia Tunon and Louis Beucler. They are or were students at Haute Ecole Albert Jacquard (HEAJ). Remember when you were a boy, gentlemen? Enjoy!

19 February 2012


If you were to see this old woman in a junk yard you might think that she was a little mad. After all, she seems to pass over all the objects of use and instead choose things which were broken long ago and have no apparent purpose left to their existence whatsoever. You might even argue that the old lady shares that certain characteristic with her strange booty. Yet there is a method to her madness..

This is quite an adorable animated short, created by Chelsea Bartlett at the Ringling College of Art and Design for her degree thesis. Short and sweet it may be, but it serves as a reminder that perhaps we should never judge a book by its cover.


You really do have to be careful what you say – or in some cases what you don’t say, especially if you are on a blind date. Here Ernie, in the pursuit of love and romance, ends up on a blind date.

Yet his date, Helga, is not quite what he expected either (perhaps not quite as advertised you might say – and she can get the wrong end of the stick.

This amusing animated short was created by Justin Sklar for his degree thesis at Ringling College of Art and Design. I am not sure it necessarily has a moral as such, but if there is one it is that opposites can often attract (wait, that’s not a moral!).

The Shard Nears Completion

Twelve years after the idea for this remarkable building was first mooted, The Shard nears completion in London. It dominates the city’s skyline and is by far the tallest building in London (and the European Union), reaching up a staggering 1017 feet. These pictures, all taken in late January and February 2012, show just how The Shard will become an integral part of the London skyline.

If you look closely towards the top of the tower you will see a crane. This is firmly attached to the building’s 55th storey and can slide sleekly upwards to almost the very top. Unsurprisingly this makes it the highest crane in the United Kingdom – and its operator may well qualify as Britain’s bravest crane driver!

At least he has a cabin – for many of the builders involved in the final touches of the spire – constructed of steel and glass – everyday work involves being exposed to the chilly London weather over a thousand feet above the ground. One can only imagine the triple checking of safety harnesses before they venture out!

If you think that the weather has been cold enough in London over the last few weeks at ground level, spare a thought for the workers atop The Shard. Temperatures are a few degrees lower at that height and the winds are often so strong that work has to be temporarily suspended for hours at a time.

The 72nd floor will be home to an observation deck which will afford visitors views of London which until now have only been experienced by those literally in the air – for helicopter or plane passengers. The observation deck will open in February of 2013 and will provide the ‘money shot’ as it were – the view that only a US$ 690M (£435m) tower can deliver!

It must be admitted, it has come a long way in a year. The above was taken in January 2011.

The Shard will house offices up to its 28th floor. Above that there will be three floors of restaurants with a 19 story hotel. Each of the hotel’s 200 rooms will commands the highest nightly rates in the UK capital. As for the ten apartments which will near the top of the tower – whether you think in pounds, euros or dollars then think in the tens of millions before you consider placing a bid for one of them!

The crowning glory on top of all of this, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, will be the observation floor. Admired and vilified in equal numbers he envisioned, together with the Broadway Malyan firm, a slither of ice, clothed elegantly and entirely in glass. He also drew inspiration from old pictures by Canaletto of the graceful masts of the sailing ships of yesteryear.

Love it or hate it, The Shard (but not its observation floor) will open in May 2012 – just in time for the London 2012 Olympics. Mr Piano is anticipating it will draw in excess of two million visitors each year. If each visitor is charged £20 (and it was the sole source of the building’s income) it would take over ten years to recoup the cost of the construction!

Image Credit Flickr User Pondspider
Image Credit Flickr User Aurelien

Image Credit
First Image - Flickr User George Rex
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