31 May 2012

Blue and Joy - Creations for a Contradictory Century

Blue and Joy is the creation of a duo of Italian born Berlin based artists. Fabio La Fauci and Daniele Sigalot joined forces at the end of 2005 and since then have been making something of a name for their immense media project. The characters of Blue and Joy appear throughout their work - you can probably guess which is which. They have been kind enough to let us share some of their work with Kuriositas readers.

La Fauci and Sigalot often take small commonplace objects and make something quite extraordinary from them.  They combine media, from video to mosaic, drawing to painting to create something of an aesthetic mirror of the times. Certainly their mosaics, which I particularly admire, do have something of the zeitgeist about them. Dreams Keep Me Awake, above, is made up of 4,500 pills. With this knowledge this piece takes on a new dimension. La Fauci and Sigalot have been described as cutesy anti-dreamers and there is much to be said for that description. Yet there is a harder edge to their work than meets the eye.

Joy takes center stage in Pazienza.  I think the above looks more like Impazienza (maybe that is and isn't the point). You see, Joy is the saddest creature in the universe. It is Blue who is the happy one. Voltaire may have called tears the silent language of grief but perhaps in this world they are more the summer showers to the soul. Can you guess what Pazienza is made out of?

There you have it! Like any great art their work is open to infinite interpretation. I see irony in their pieces but also a childlike sense of fun.  Often their work is captioned but I do feel too that there are deeper, hidden messages within.  It really is up to you. What I can't escape from, however, is the contagious enthusiasm of the pieces not to mention their forthright joie de vivre.

No material seems to escape from Blue and Joy.  Here, 40,000 thumbtacks get their inimitable treatment.

Another piece features one cent coins. Thousands upon thousands of them.

Name the medium and it seems the prolific duo have had a go! The above certainly produces a wry smile. Ironic humor is ubiquitous in their work but be careful. The next turn may leave you heartbroken.
Their fiberglass and polyurethane Siesta en el sofa (above) is wonderfully contradictory – emotionally speaking. I can’t look at it without smiling as my eye goes immediately to the happy little guy bouncing up and down. Then I see the (literal) heartbreak of his companion and my mood changes somewhat. Yet remember that appearances should always be deceptive!

Art is stimulation, sometimes like a feather at other times like a veritable cattle prod.  The work of Blue and Joy is something of a surprise: I feel the shock at revelation at times, of recognition, yet at others their work is elusive, a visit to unfamiliar shores. The note below, for example, is made from aluminum.

Blue and Joy show their work at their Berlin headquarter, the Pizzeria. This is where these pictures were taken and, if you would like to see more (and there is so much more) then please visit their wonderfully made website. It has only been online for a month but is already attracting a host of admirers.

The Remarkable Giraffe Weevil of Madagascar

No, this isn’t the monster from the new Ridley Scott film, Prometheus – it is something that our very own Ark in Space, planet Earth, has thrown up.  Called the Giraffe Weevil for reasons that take no soon-ness to become obvious, it lives in Madagascar where it has carved out its own small niche.  The male has evolved this gigantic neck to fight off rival suitors for mating rights. Perhaps a little OTT but the Ark in Space has the story together with a very cool gallery of photos. If you are wondering why you have never heard of it before, that's because it was only discovered in 2008.

Image Credit Wikimedia

Giveaway Time! Cool Neatoshop Tentacle Doorstop Could Be Yours!

Neatorama has been one of my favorite blogs since I was knee high to a bloghopper and I have spent many happy an hour browsing the Neatoshop where there is all manner of wonderful and wacky must have objects. I would say that it’s a great place for finding gifts for others and I would not be wrong, but I tend to end up buying for myself more than anyone else!

However, this time I have something to offer you! Simply visit our Facebook page and find the tentacle doorstop. Make a comment that says yes please underneath it and I will enter you in to a draw to win this great prize! The winner will be announced o 10 June – and you have till Saturday 9 June to enter.

If you just can’t wait that long, then you can always get one from the Neatoshop. Father’s Day is coming up so you can always use that as an excuse to peruse but there are plenty of ideas for friends and (other members of the family too). My current favorite has to be slicey the pig – see the picture above. Click here to visit the Neatoshop – or the picture!

Gnombie Apocalypse - Lawn of the Dead

If you are looking for a little something to brighten up your garden but veer away from traditionalism while secretly quite liking it, then what about a few gnombies? This zombie gnome hybrid could be the very thing your garden needs!The little guy in the middle seems a little horrified by the whole thing, but then when would a watering can make a good weapon in the gnombie apocalypse.

However, if you are going for something a little more realistic, how about these?

Fist Image Credit Flickr User Photo Giddy

Danger of Death!

I am all for art in public places – anything that brightens a place up will get my thumbs up. So I was pleased to notice this piece of art on a squat looking building a kilometer or so from home (which is Honor Oak in South East London).

It wasn’t until I got closer that I realized that it was an electricity sub-station and that on each wall the art had been created around a sign that warns people of imminent danger of death should they try to get inside this sturdily built brick structure.

I particularly liked the way the artist had made the air vents in to bee hives and drawn attention to the danger within by the positioning of the spider. The other two walls I was a little less convinced by, however! Although the power company may well be boasting its green credentials (which I doubt, but let’s give them the benefit of it) the illustrations, to me, are more come hither than keep away!

Do you know of any other artistic electricity sub-stations? Let us know (with pictures if possible!) - email in the links tab above!

29 May 2012

Questions Kids Always Ask About Animals

Kids will ask any number of questions about animals – and it’s best to be prepared with the facts! The Ark in Space has an interesting list of those head scratching inquiries that kids make about the natural world. There are the obvious ones about zebras and stripes, elephants and ear, giraffes and their long, long necks. However, there are the more obscure ones – such as why wombat poo is square and whether spiders have a heart that may trip you up. Head over to the Ark in Space for these answers and more (with their usual marvelous gallery of photos)  – and be prepared!

Image Credit Flickr User Adam Foster

27 May 2012

Equality for Humans

Gay marriage?  Why the hell not? After all, according to some, gay people are going straight there anyway (pun intended) so why not share the misery that is (or can be) marriage with everyone else while alive?

Joking aside, here at Kuriositas I try to celebrate and promote equality and diversity, so when I came across this funny but poignant animated short by Macauley C Johnson I just had to share it with you.  It essentially says what I believe – that under the skin and stripped down to the bone, how on earth do you tell people apart?  We are all the same and so therefore if one person is left alone to love whomever he or she wants by peers, state or church then that should go for everyone. No exceptions. It may be a rather simplistic point of view but what I have never been able to get is when people think they have the right to tell others how to love and live – it’s just preposterous and belongs in the past.

Anyway, thanks for this, Macauley!  I really enjoyed it and hope the Kuriositas readership does too.  Macauley is a motion graphics animator and designer living and working in his hometown, LA. He created Equality for Humans at Otis College of Art and Design. You can see more of his work at his website.

Stairs to No End

You will either find this enigmatic or bizarre – either way I do hope that you get something from this unusual and somewhat profound animated short by Daniella Koffler.

She completed this for her graduation from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, 2011 which consistently releases extremely high quality graduates on to the world of animation and other media.

This is animation on an ambitious scope – I can imagine her professor telling her that she did not have to be so ambitious in her undergraduate work! Yet to her great credit she pulls it off with panache. Daniella is also working on children’s’ books and apps, so do visit her website to find out more about this intriguing young artist.

26 May 2012

The Extraordinary Pink Katydid

You may well be wondering what on earth this extraordinary looking creature is. In fact it’s a katydid and is the result of a genetic accident or mutation which makes around one in 500 of these insects turn a funny shade of pink! The Ark in Space takes a look at this extraordinary mutation with an excellent gallery of images of something it is unlikely you will ever see up close!

Image Credit Wikimedia

Dream Cleaners

Dream Cleaners has already been shown at a number of festivals to great acclaim and once you watch it you will be left in no reason why.  The creative team at SunnyBoy has really come up with something quite special here.

The action centers around a pair of dream cleaners, Artie and Rex (played by Larrs Jackson and Dave Shalansky). It is their job to go around ensuring that dreams do not escape in to the wider world but (you guessed it) one of them is something of a novice and things inevitably go wrong.

SunnyBoy is a Los Angeles based creative agency specializing in original content, marketing, and motion design. The foundation of their work is, as you can see, a combination of unique storytelling and stunning visuals. I could easily envision this being made in to a TV show or, indeed, a full length movie (am I wrong in saying there were a few Ghostbusters elements in there?). Either way, SunnyBoy is certainly a name to remember!


Over to Taiwan, where SolarSonic is a 100 meter long series of 14 discs suspended inside Taoyuan Airport's International Departure terminal’s exterior glass awning. It was inspired by the ancient Chinese Bi, the neolithic jade discs with a central opening that was used to meditate on transcending earth to the heavens.

SolarSonic, was created by sculptor Ray King in homage to Chinese cultural history, aeronautics, space travel and a symbol for Taiwan’s high-tech future. The lenses are connected together with 20 horizontal cables and come together most elegantly. In designing Solarsonic, King was reminded of science fiction author, Sir Arthur Clark’s short story "Wind from the Sun," about a spacecraft that was propelled by the power of sunlight. This method of deep space travel is becoming a reality. Solarsonic is one in a series of chromatic sculptures by King designed to interact with the sun. The sculpture’s concave holographic lenses are positioned to face the southern meridian of the sun and will be illuminated at night.

This video, directed, photographed, and edited by Julian King show the phenomenal piece of art in all its glory.

Doctor Who Star Matt Smith Carries Olympic Torch

Early risers in the Welsh capital Cardiff were today able to watch Doctor Who star Matt Smith carry the Olympic torch. It is the eighth day of the torch’s travels around the United Kingdom and the early morning leg of the relay in Cardiff saw the Doctor take time off from saving the universe (again) to help ensure that the torch got to its next destination.

In fact Cardiff is where the famous TV show is filmed and it was Smith, a well known sports addict, who reflected his complete engagement with the event with a huge ear to ear grin, rather than the good Doctor. The Time Lord would probably have been inclined to use the Tardis to get to the next destination of Merthyr Tydfil rather than wear a tracksuit.

Despite Smith looking elegant in his sportswear, we firmly believe the Doctor would not be seen in anything like it, despite his occasionally dubious fashion statements over the years!

Smith’s early morning appearance helped to prompt hundreds of people to turn out on the streets of Cardiff at an hour when they might usually be tucked up in bed.

If you are a fan of the TV show then you may just be thinking that this is a case of life imitating art.  After all, the tenth Doctor (played by David Tennant, left) also got to carry the Olympic torch at the end of the episode Fear Her back in 2006.

Kuriositas would like to thank Flickr User alun.vega for his kind permission to use his wonderful photos, unless otherwise stated they are by him. Please visit his Flickr Photostream for many more Doctor Who and Torchwood related images. Also thanks to Anthony (aka algernon_iii), Peter Dareth Evans aka Nervous Pete and Martin Berkeley.

20 May 2012

City in the Sky

London may never actually look like this, but you can only hope!  This project started in the English capital with few companies and artists invited to create a vision for the future mega developed city. The overall Megatropolis project didn't make it to its final stage but the concept grew into this architectural utopia and animation. 

City in the sky is a concept about a tranquil oasis above the mega developed and polluted city where one can escape from the everyday buzz, smog and dirt. The concept is inspired by the Lotus flower which is known for its ability to emerge above the murky waters pure and clean. As you can see, it is pretty amazing!

There is No Planet B

This very short animation has a very clever title – there is no planet B – and poses a number of questions about the future of planet Earth taking in to account it is, after all, the only home world that we have! This certainly does not mince imagery (as it were) - man is shown as something which become a monster and which stamps everything in its path without hesitation.

The animation was created by Teodor Hristov and Ivan Boyanov who make up UM Design, with classical animation methods and techniques were used to create it, including much hand drawing.  Illustrator and Flash were then brought in to the equation and After Effects was used in postproduction.

A Sea Slug Symphony

The Ark in Space takes a look today at the nudibranch, a soft bodied marine gastropod mollusk which many people simply refer to, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as sea slugs.  You can see why they gained this nick name (even though it is often taxonomically inaccurate too!) but compared to the land bound version they are an explosion of color and grace.  Go take a look at just a few of the 3,000 species.

Image Credit Flickr User Nick Hobgood

19 May 2012

I.M. - Intelligent Mechanophant

I remember first seeing I.M. (Intelligent Mechanophant) when Catfish Animation Studio first unleashed it on the world – ten whole years ago.  How time flies but IM does not seem to have dated that much – it is still leaps ahead of most of the animation on the block. Although Toy Story had been released seven years previously this sort of photo-realism was very, very rarely seen in any animation – and I guess the same could be said today!

It tells a simple enough story. In a factory in the future some mechanical elephants are submitted to aptitude tests. All seems to work until an elephant loses control and turns into a dangerous killer. You may possibly see IM now as something of a museum piece but if that is the case remember that you only get to see the good stuff from history in a museum!

You've Been Mimed

Take note if you are a hijacker, holdup artist, housebreaker! When you plan your next robbery (daylight or otherwise) make sure that you do not steal from a group of mime artists.  These chaps are tenacious to say the very least and will pursue their stolen property until it is recovered using their special mime secret powers!

This is a hugely enjoyable (not to mention conceptually very clever) animated short by John Kim who created You’ve Been Mimed for his studies at CalArts. It was made using quite a combination of software - TV paint, Photoshop, AfterEffects and Final Cut and comes together very well indeed!  Thanks John!

18 May 2012

Boogie Woogie

There is very little chance that the Blitz was actually like this but certainly the inhabitants of London in the early 1940s certainly sought temporary escape from the everyday threat of being bombed out of house and home by Mr Hitler and his allies.   

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was a major hit for The Andrews Sisters and an iconic World War II tune - and this is a wonderful reinterpretation of the song.

So we are willing to forgive the marvelous Puppini Sisters (who willbe playing Paris in June) their slightly rosier that reality recollection of this period of British history!  This is certainly a beautifully executed piece of escapism, created by the folks at Sherbet. Press play and start tapping your feet!

Princess of the Magical Tears

You have probably had something akin to this yourself- friends and acquaintances discover that you are able to do something (well!) and then with no further ado they take full advantage of your good nature. Before you know it they have told their friends and family and before long you seem to be the all round skivvy for a host of people.

In our world the skills involved might be the ability to repair broken PCs, fix leaks – and so on! In various Disney type kingdoms the skills may be a little more, well, diverse. So, when a princess discovers that she has magical tears she had better be careful that the wrong people don’t see this particular skill at work! This very funny animated short was made by students at CalArts this year – and it could be described as post post ironic – and is perhaps a taste of what we can expect in movie theaters in a few years!

16 May 2012

Question that Kids Always Ask about the Human Body

Kids ask all sorts of instantly perplexing questions and some of them are bound to be about the human body.  Not only that they can often catch you off guard and ask questions which you think you should be able to answer but just can't. Below I present eight questions that youngsters ask a lot and answer them so that you never have to be feel ever so slightly dumb again! If you can remember them, you may impress your offspring no end.  If you cannot then remember the magic answer that can be used whenever a child asks a demanding question – because.

Why does hair go gray?
Image Credit Flickr User Kevin Dooley

The simple answer here is because people get old.  Not an answer that satisfies your average child though!  It is all to do with pigment and cells.  The hair is like a tube that is full of both and in-between are spaces.  In young people this space is filled with a fluid and this has the job of keeping the cells and the pigments in their place.  That means that young people keep their hair color really well because, let’s face it, they are full to brimming with fluids of one kind or another.  As we get older we don’t produce as many – ahem – fluids and the space between the cells and the pigment is filled with air instead.  This means that the pigment is gradually lost and the process of graying reflects that. 

Why do your hands go wrinkly in the bath?
It’s all about sebum!  This can produce hilarity among a group of ten year olds because they see bum everywhere and they love double entendres as much if not more than adults.  Sebum is produced from the sebaceous gland (each hair has one at its, err, bottom) and it is pumped out to make a layer that stops Mr H20 getting in to our skin.  It also keeps it bouncy and stretchy.  However, we do not have any hairs on the palms of our hands – or for that matter the soles of our feet!  The water can then get in to our skin and makes it wrinkly.  The wrinkliness - rather than puffiness or swollenness – is caused because of the ridgy way the layers of our skin are joined together.  A simple answer here might be simply because our palms aren’t waterproof!

Why do we blush?
We have all had a red face at one point or another and it’s all to do with sympathy!  Or rather it is when our sympathetic nervous system goes in to overdrive.  This is a system of nerves that we have no control over whatsoever.  The nerves become more active due to what we are experiencing in the real world.  So, an ordinary encounter with a friend, someone we find attractive or a customer can turn out to be socially embarrassing due to no fault of our own!  Another reason for blushing is a little simpler.  When we experience heightened emotions it causes an increase of blood to the face.  Blood is red and you know the rest of the story.  The reason we don’t stay red – now that would be funny – is that our nervous system returns to normal after a short time.

What is the funny bone?
Well, for a start, you can tell the inquiring enfant terrible that the funny bone is, in truth, a nerve.  It runs through a ridge in the bone really close to the inside of the skin.  The proper name is the ulnar nerve and it is called this because its route is directly through the ulna, which is one of the bones on your forearm. It’s the bone on the outside – get them to give it a feel!  The ulnar nerve is a very important nerve because it gives us the feelings we have in our hands.

When you stick people in the ribs with your elbow, they might tell you that your bones are very sharp!  That is because the ulna sticks out.  So, the ulnar nerve, being so close to the surface, is easy to bump.  When the ulnar nerve is knocked it can be quite painful and pain can often cause people to laugh just as much as cry. This is why it is called the funny bone. 

Why do men have nipples?
Most kids know that women’s nipples serve a purpose.  They can question though, why on earth dad has them too.  Until around the tenth to fifteenth week in the womb there is no evidential difference between male and female embryos. After this, the hormones kick in (strange that it is around the same time, except only in years, when it comes to children!) and if dad has passed on a Y chromosome then a boy begins to form.  When the second chromosome is an X then the embryo will become a girl.  Before the hormonal kick in, however, the nipples have already been produced.  Once made, they cannot be dissolved back into the fluids in the womb!  So, that’s why men have nipples because at some point (for a very short amount of time) everyone is a girl!

Why is urine yellow?
For the answer to this question we have to look inside the body to the kidneys.  The kidneys are there to do two things – the first is to make sure that waste is filtered out of our blood.  The second is to keep the amount of salt we have in our blood at the same level.  So, when we take a leak the main stuff inside the urine is water, salt and the rubbish our body doesn’t need.  The main substance that we don’t want from the cells in our bodies that we get rid of through our urine is ammonia.  From blood it is the “hem” bit of the hemoglobin (Who put the “heem” in the hemoglobin?” as the old song goes!).  This is called bilirubin and was discovered by a gentleman called William Rueben.  That very poor joke aside, the ammonia and the billirubin get to the liver and are converted in to substances that are much less dangerous to us. 

Urea comes from the ammonia and the bilirubin is converted to something called urobilogens.  Salt, urea and water have no color.  But! Urobilogens are yellow!  So if you have had a lot of water to drink your urine will appear lighter.  If you haven’t had much water to drink then your urine will appear yellow, getting darker and darker the more dehydrated you are.  If this is too much information to take in, tell the kid it depends on the amount of bananas we eat.

How fast is the fastest runner?
Very fast.  That’s 43 kilometers per hour, which is twenty seven miles an hour.  This, of course, is only over short distances. At this point reflect that although the adult male can run at this speed for only a short amount of time a small version of an adult can ask questions ad infinitum.  Then go try and figure out why.

Do your ears grow all your life?
Sometimes!  The only parts of the ear that can continue to grow are the lobes.  Most people will not experience this as once the head stops growing (although with some people it never seems to!) then so do the ears.  The only organ of the human body that continues to grow throughout life is the nose – and this only a teensy weensy little bit.  You could perhaps punish your offspring for their interminable biological questioning by telling them that their ears and nose will grow a millimeter a year for their whole life.  That will stop them asking questions for a while as they ponder a Pinocchio like future!

First Image Credit - Flickr User Trippography