Friday, September 23, 2011

Matthew Curran

Really unusual stencil work from British-born skate punk Matthew Curran. His lines have the energy of random occurrences, but the forms they describe are so delicate and graceful. Quite nice. More here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Spanish Cinema

This week brings the third edition of the Festival of New Spanish Cinema to the SIFF Cinema in downtown Seattle. This traveling series, both more beautiful and more popular than anyone expected, brings a dozen recent films by Spanish filmmakers both new and renowned. Every film looks to be a highlight, though I'm particularly drawn by La Mitad De Oscar - a drama set on the windswept landscape of Almeria - and a revival of the creepy 1976 classic ¿Quien Puede Matar Un Nino? or "Who can kill a Child? - a tale of a remote island full of only giggling children who seem to have murdered all the adults.

And I'm fascinated to see Bicycle, Spoon, Apple, a documentary on the immensely popular Catalan politican Pasqual Maragall. Maragall is the Grandson of renowned Catalan poet Joan Maragall, was the Mayor of Barcelona who brought the 1992 Olympic games that forever changed the city, and stepped down from his position as President of the Catalunya upon his announcement that he had Alzheimer's Disease. He is still a beloved figure among left-leaning Catalans, and this should be a remarkable portrait.

The series runs from September 21 to 25 and series passes are available here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

To Autumn

On this day, September 19 in 1819, English poet John Keats wrote "To Autumn," a three-stanza ode to the bounty and melancholy of fall.

Keats's odes are considered his greatest poetic accomplishments and with the exception of "To Autumn," the odes were composed between March and June of 1819, a period during which which he struggled with his own fatal illness, while mourning his brother's recent death, and engaging in an intense love affair with Fanny Brawne.

Keats died of tuberculosis on February 23, 1821, just twenty-five years old.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the ground, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Johan Rijpma

Completely unexpected and wildly creative animations by Dutch animator Johan Rijpma. Up above, he organizes thousands of photographs of sidewalk tiles and street cracks to create the illusion of motion. Down below he arranges rolls of scotch tape - yes, scotch tape - to an utterly hypnotic effect. Don't take my word for it, you just gotta see this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Portable Sanctuary

At a one-time-only performance on September 18, percussionist, composer and percussionist Paul Kikuchi is will fill Seattle's Union Station with music composed specifically for the unique acoustics of that unusual colosseum. The performance is the culmination of the artist's residency in the Great Hall at the station, which included open rehearsals and a work-in-progress performance on April 5. Kikuchi's long gestating site-specific work has also included recording sessions and performances in abandoned train tunnels, underground cisterns, and nuclear cooling towers around Washington state. The concert on September 18 features Kikuchi and his ensemble Portable Sanctuary, and coincides with the release of their first album. The performance runs from 1pm to 3pm in Union Station, 401 South Jackson Street. Admission is based on a sliding scale - no more than $15 - and the first 30 guests receive a free copy of the new Portable Sanctuary album.

Nice profile of Paul on the Earshot Jazz website.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hobo Nickels

Since at least the 18th century unknown and uncelebrated artists have carved miniature bas relief sculptures into the surfaces of coins. In the early 20th century the Buffalo nickel was introduced in the U.S., and this particular coin, which featured the portrait of an Indian with bold features, was minted using soft metal making it easier to deface and transform. With the flood of idle hands and unemployed artists resulting from the depression, the phenomenon of the Hobo Nickels was born. Here's a great series of images of nickels carved to reveal skulls - a particular sub genre of the art form. Hobo nickel carving remains a popular hobby today and it even has its own society.

Via Colossal Art & design.

Friday, September 9, 2011

George Kuchar

Legendary underground filmmaker George Kuchar died on Tuesday in San Francisco.

Kuchar and his twin brother Mike made films together from childhood, using an eight-millimeter camera, props from their family’s New York apartment, and actors enlisted among friends and neighbors. Their entire career was spent making beautiful and heartfelt movies on a shoestring budget, inspiring hundreds of self taught film makers, not to mention the many thousands of amateur directors who post their work on Youtube, Vimeo and other sites.

The Kuchar brothers began receiving outside attention in the early ’60s with cheaply made and riotous films like “I Was a Teenage Rumpot.” Their film "Pussy on a Hot Tin Roof" caused a scandal at the New York Eight Millimeter Club, which brought the Kuchars to the attention of underground filmmaker Ken Jacob and Village Voice film critic Jonas Mekas. In 1964, at 22 years old, they had their first retrospective at the New Bowery Theater.

Kuchar had something of a popular breakthrough with his 1966 film short “Hold Me While I’m Naked,” a semi-autobiographical rumination on the frustrations of a maker of soft-core pornographic films. That film, along with a series of films he made on annual visits to a trailer park in Oklahoma during tornado season, became his best-known work. There is a terrific selection of Kuchar's work right here on UbuWeb.

In 1971 he was invited to teach filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he remained on the faculty until earlier this year. Teaching provided him with a steady income as well as hundreds of amateur actors — his students — willing to be cast in some of his movies. After a long career, during which he made hundreds of movies, Kuchar died in San Francisco at the age of 69.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Alfred Jarry

Today is the birthday of Alfred Jarry, born September 8 1873.

Jarry was a novelist, playwright and philosopher whose work prefigured Dada, Surrealism, Futurism and the Theater of the Absurd. He is best known for his anti-authoritarian satire Ubu Roi, which premiered in 1896 and immediately ignited a scandal with its scatology and it's relentless absurdity. It has been a theatrical cult classic ever since.

Jarry was vehemently eccentric, riding a bicycle everywhere - into restaurants, the theatre and his apartment - always armed with pistols, and perpetually intoxicated. He ate his meals backwards, dessert first, and adopted the nasal, monotone speaking style he invented for Ubu, enunciating every syllable equally and referring to himself in the royal "we."

His work veered from the bizarre to the disturbing. His book Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician describes the exploits and teachings of a sort of philosopher who, born at age 63, travels through Paris in a sieve and teaches all who will listen about "pataphysics" - a science invented by Jarry in which "every event in the universe is accepted as an extraordinary event." Jarry also wrote what is often called "the first cyborg sex novel," Le Surmâle. Jarry was also very involved in the world of printed images, making woodcuts and drawings to ornament his own books.

In his final years, he was a legendary and heroic figure to some of the young writers and artists in Paris, including Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, and Max Jacob. After his death, Pablo Picasso acquired his pistol, and later owned many of his manuscripts.

Jarry lived in Paris until his death at 34 years old from tuberculosis aggravated by drug and alcohol use. Per his request, he was buried upright, bestride a bicycle.

Right here you can read Jarry's prose poem The Passion Considered As An Uphill Bicycle Race alongside J.G. Ballard's parody/homage The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race .

From the poem:

Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily. It is not certain whether a female spectator wiped his brow, but we know that Veronica, a girl reporter, got a good shot of him with her Kodak.

The second spill came at the seventh turn on some slippery pavement. Jesus went down for the third time at the eleventh turn, skidding on a rail.


The deplorable accident familiar to us all took place at the twelfth turn. Jesus was in a dead heat at the time with the thieves. We know that he continued the race airborne -- but that is another story.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rochester Gets Faith

Artist Faith47 out of South Africa was in Rochester, NY recently to work with local artists in transforming a large concrete wall in Troup Street Park into a message of hope, with a second location on North Union Street by the Rochester Public Market. The Synthesis Collaborative, a Rochester nonprofit organization, sponsored the multi-site mural project. Faith47 joined other South African artists including Mak1one, Freddy Sam and Dal along with the FUA Krew out of Rochester, and while there she found time to hit up this underpass deep with the network of Rochester roads. Pretty.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wild Animals

Wild Animals - a beautiful self-published book by Dutch illustrator Rop van Mierlo — is already in its second printing. They're pretty tough to find around here, but you can buy one direct from the illustrator. Rop's biography states that "He is a man" who "once had a dog that bit off the tip of his ear." The rest, apparently, is history. More here.