Decadence and Elegance

I have been re-listening to the Kraftwerk album, Trans Europe Express, that I first heard back in the late 70’s and was inspired by the lyrics “elegance and decadence” from the track Europa Endloss (Europe Endless) to create a variation of one of my art photographs.

Ironically though it was the much more widely known track Hotel California, by The Eagles which ended up directing how I modified the image. It’s funny how things turn out.

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~Richard

 

One Way Forward

The rise of the self-drive vehicle (SDV) is inevitable and I, for one, and quite happy with this. Having spent the last couple of weeks commuting back and forth along the I-76 beside the Schuylkill River in and out of Philadelphia I am quite sick to death of the pointlessly aggressive driving habits of the average driver. The sooner we have computer controlled cars that communicate with each other the better. However, in conversations over the last few months, my own view  to be quite the opposite of just about everyone I know. I seem to be the only one (at least in my circle) who sees that a networked set of vehicles will reduce traffic congestion, reduce environmental impact, be more efficient in getting us where we want to go, reduce stress and, in the end, be safer.

I also think we aren’t thinking big enough. For example, this technology could, if we have the foresight, result in redesigned vehicles with, say, rearward facing seats for safety. It could even finally dispense with the need for personally owned vehicles.

Imagine the efficiency on a national level if whenever we needed a  vehicle we just called it up from the local “hive” of automatic cars, trucks, and minivans and our specialized vehicle came along in a few minutes, took us and our passengers and cargo to where we wanted to go and then went back to the collection of available vehicles for immediate re-use. There would be fewer vehicles on the road and even fewer parked up rusting unused for 22+ hours a day on driveways and full parking lots. That has to be a better world for everyone.

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My vision is summed up by this wonderful Philly street sign I saw earlier in the week – we have one way to go logically – a sort of “super Uber.”

But, unlike many drivers I have seen just this week, will we adhere to the road sign…?

~Richard

When does an artwork cease to be original?

I was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) yesterday for several hours and as I walked in I saw that three artists/restorers were at work retouching/restoring the huge canvas on the ground floor by Marc Chagall, “A Wheatfield on a Summer’s Afternoon.” Later, as I was looking at the works of Marcel Duchamp I noticed on the wall plaque that this famous “Fountain” was actually a 1950 replica of the 1917 original and that, similarly, his 1919 work “50cc of Paris Air” had been “broken and later restored.”

As I was contemplating these pieces the thought came to me – when does an artwork cease to be original? Using these three examples I can understand that artworks deteriorate and may need to be restored, and I fully see the requirement to “preserve” Chagall’s work by retouching, but at what point does it become the restorers work? The original brushstrokes are not preserved. Are the pigments used exactly the same composition and color as the original – in every stroke?

This concept becomes even more problematic in the case of the Duchamp examples.  

When “50cc of Paris Air” was repaired the glass vial may well look the same (well, sort of – it’s hardly an invisible mend), but was it repaired in Paris, in the same place that Duchamp created it? And even if so, it certainly would not contain the same air from 1919 which was no doubt differently polluted than more modern atmosphere. 

170316_Duchamp_ParisAir
Finally, in the case of making a replica piece, what are we to make of this? Is it original art or is it not? I assume that as long as Marcel Duchamp was involved in the process then it is still original, albeit derivative, but if not then is it simply a “worthless copy” created by someone else?

170316_Duchamp_Fountain

And what of the digital world? Almost all my 2-D art is created electronically and exists in multiple backup copies as binary data stored on my laptop and other drives. Where is the original art in this case?

So, a lot of questions – does anyone have any thoughts on this?

~Richard

 

A Commerce Drive

We are at a junction. Which path should we take to drive commerce and make us all as rich as Croesus, left or right?

Better make the decision soon as those lights don’t stay red forever…

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~Richard

St. David’s Day and tradition

Today, March 1st, is St. David’s Day, which commemorates the date of the death of Dewi Sant in 589 AD. An aristocrat by birth, David founded several monasteries, most famously that at Glyn Rhosyn, where St David’s Cathedral now stands.

Traditionally, this day is celebrated by the wearing of a daffodil flower, which is the national flower of Wales. It seems to be a fairly obvious choice of bloom really given that these beautiful, bright trumpets of yellow are one of the earliest flowers to herald in the Spring. However, given that it is likely that the plant is not, in fact, native to Britain but was introduced from Europe from the 15th century onwards, it does seem an unusual choice, especially given St David’s death some 900 years earlier.

It turns out, in fact,  that the Welsh for the narcissus we know as the daffodil is Canninen Pedr which translates to St Peter’s Leek. The leek, of course, is the other symbol of Wales.

Strange how things work out.

Incidentally,  the daffodil is a symbol of good fortune, according to Chinese legend, so may today’s image bring you good fortune.

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~Richard

Haiku: Eight Hours

Earlier this week we spent an interesting (!) eight hours in the local ER, to a large extent at the behest of my daughter’s pediatrician. Nothing overly serious in the end, but it did give me some thinking time, and the Monty Python Hospital sketch did creep into my mind…

~ Eight Hours ~

Needles and vitals
And the machine that goes ‘ping.’
Emergency Room.

170215_eighthours

~Richard

Ephemeral Art: Snow Warning

Today we had our first major snowfall of the season in Southern Pennsylvania. A few inches of wet, sticky snow. I took the opportunity to create a temporary piece of art on the lawn using the yellow paint left over from the yellow submarine oil tank.

This is not only a tribute to the late, great, Frank Zappa, but also a useful warning to all who pass by! Anyone watching be contort to get this sprayed without getting my feet in the way, and shaking the can in the cold air may also have considered this to be a one-off performance art too!
170209_yellowsnow
~Richard

What you feel, or why a painting is like a pizza

This is the first time I have composed a book review for this blog (I have reviewed hundreds of items on Amazon, but that’s another story), however, I felt compelled to mention this particular book simply because of the effect it has had on me, which has been little short of transformational.

I have been a photographer for several years and I maintain that the simple act of using a camera viewfinder and considering the composition of a shot has literally and figuratively opened my eyes on how I see the world. As someone with little formal art background and a career in a scientific world this subjective area of my life has always played “second-fiddle,” so to speak, to the practicalities of successfully raising a family in an ever-changing world.  

Recently we visited MoMA in New York and I was amazed by much of the artwork and confused by much of the more abstract works too. I was fortunate to visit another gallery the following day (The Frick Collection) with an extremely knowledgeable friend and, importantly, I listened as he explained the nuances of many of the historical art pieces on display.

This outing spurred me on to visit my local library and the selection of the book, Why a painting is like a pizza, by Nancy Heller so that I may get to grips with contemporary art. I am so glad I did.

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Heller’s introduction and simple comparison to real-world examples at the start of this relatively compact book suddenly made everything click into place. Working through the concise chapters and the color and monochrome plates I was drawn into the world of contemporary art through abstractionism and abstract art forms. I now have a much clearer understanding of these highly complex pieces of art and appreciate the why monochrome works and minimalist pieces can evoke responses in critics which appeared often insane to me, but a few short weeks ago!

To be honest, reading this single book, timed as it was with my gallery visits and friendly guidance, has been like an epiphany to me. Needless to say, I have now ordered a copy and I am sure I will keep coming back to it again and again. Heller’s work is by no means comprehensive, nor does it profess to be. It does however extend from painting to sculpture and installation art forms, and has certainly whet my appetite to explore more. I cannot wait to get back to MoMA and other art museums…

To paraphrase what I have learned from this small book:

“art is not what you see, but what you feel

~Richard

 

Boxing Day

Every year since I have lived in the USA I have been asked the question, “what is Boxing Day?” by at least one person during the Holiday Season.

This year I thought I’d use this blog to explain.

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In Britain, the day after Christmas, also known as St Stephen’s Day, is traditionally the time to extend the excesses of the previous day’s obligatory over consumption of rich food and alcohol, known collectively as “the festivities.”

Being the day after Christmas Day, and living in a society subject to the the law of supply and demand kicking in, it is also the time for the biggest sales of the year as shop keepers try to offload all those items they overstocked for Christmas gift sales that didn’t happen.

The ability to purchase products for 75% or 50% of the price you paid for them only 48 hours previously made hard working people angry and this would often result in a round of fisticuffs in the stores and brawling in the streets, leading to the creation of the term “Boxing Day” as people let of steam. This was often fueled by copious amounts of alcohol that was available at this time of year since 63% of the annual alcohol consumption in Britain occurs over the week between 5pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

So, there you have it – the true meaning of Boxing Day!

In the spirit of fairness I must point out that one conflicting theory still persists that “Boxing Day” refers to parental treatment of ungrateful children who were unhappy with not receiving worthy gifts being subject to a “cuff round the head,” or a “clip round the ear,” or having their “ears boxed,” which are all jovial references to a little seasonal parental abuse, but I don’t ascribe to this analysis.

Happy Holiday!

~Richard

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