Electric Objects



There’s more art on the Internet than in every gallery and museum on Earth. That’s whyElectric Objects is building a computer made for art. This computer, the EO1, takes the form of a screen that hangs on a wall or sits on a shelf, displaying whatever the owner wishes via an app or web interface. You can display art from institutions and artists that Electric Objects has partnered with or upload your own.

I’m currently testing a “v0 prototype” and even at this early stage, the system accomplishes two things: the art looks great on the screen and the process of choosing it through EO’s web interface is fun and easy. You can browse through what others have displayed on their screens and if your pal Naveen has something interesting up right now, you can pop it up on yours with a couple quick clicks. And with an infinite picture frame, changing the art in your home to suit your mood quickly becomes something you take for granted. They call it “a computer that feels more like a painting or a photograph” and that seems about right to me.

Electric Objects’ Kickstarter launches today so check it out for more info. If you’re quick you can nab one of the limited edition wood frame editions or a beta test version that ships four months early.

Thanks to Electric Objects for sponsoring kottke.org this week.


You Can Now Download 400,000 of the Met’s Artworks For Free

You Can Now Download 400,000 of the Met’s Artworks For FreeYou Can Now Download 400,000 of the Met's Artworks For FreeSEXPAND

New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has a fairly impressive collection of art stashed away—and now you can download almost 400,000 digital images of its pieces for free.

The artworks have been released as Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC), which means students, academics and anyone working on scholarly-like not-for-profit projects can use them free of charge. The collection—which ranges from Rembrandt to obscure Aztec sculpture—is made up of images that the museum feels are in the public domain but aren’t subject to any other copyright restrictions. The ones that are up for grabs are labelled as OASC and have a download icon beneath them. Go check ’em out. [Metropolitan Museum of Art via Slashgear]

Image by Vlad Litvinov under Creative Commons license.

The Artist Who Inspired Maurice Sendak Finally Gets His Due

inShare6AUG 9 2012, 11:01 AM ET 2


Tomi Ungerer got famous from his children’s books in the ’60s, but then fell into scandal. A new documentary finds out what happened when he left the spotlight. 

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Corner of the Cave


Tomi Ungerer is a genius. Or at least Maurice Sendak thought so: Without Ungerer, Sendak is shown saying in a new documentary, there could be no Where the Wild Things Are. One of America’s most prolific and inventive advertising, editorial and children’s book author/illustrators, Ungerer busted taboos in the ’60s and forced the children’s publishing establishment to accept otherwise unconventional characters as protagonists, like Crictor, a boa constrictor. No one had ever dared to make a kids book about a snake before. 

Of course, breaking taboos rarely leads to an easy career, even for a genius. 

Ungerer, despite the popular perception, didn’t disappear entirely. He just disappeared from New York.

Ungerer’s motto, “Expect the Unexpected,” was a tagline used in ads he conceived for the Village Voice. And true to that sentiment, at the height of his career, he stepped over the line of convention by publishing erotic and sadomasochistic drawings. Although those drawings had nothing to do with his kids’ work, many librarians removed his children’s books from their stacks and book reviewers refused to write about his work. He subsequently “disappeared.” Or at least, that’s the premise of Brad Bernstein and Rick Cikowski’s new documentary film, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story.Bernstein, a Miami-based television documentary producer and co-founder of Corner of the Cave Media (a title ripped from a line in Ungerer’s book The Three Robbers), spent four years on the Ungerer film after he read a 2008 New York Times article by Randy Kennedy provocatively titled,“Watch the Children, That Subversive Is Back.”

“Randy’s words literally jumped off the page, almost like a revelation,” Bernstein told me. “The combination of Tomi being such a rich character and the fact that his personal story so uniquely weaved into the seminal events of the 20th century was pretty striking. He recorded the times by capturing it all in such a visually vivid way.”

Ungerer, it turns out, did not actually disappear. After he couldn’t sell another children’s book, he bought a farm in Nova Scotia and wrote and illustrated a book about his experiences. He then moved back to his native Alsace region of France, where a museum devoted to his work was opened, and wrote a harrowing autobiography about growing up under Nazi occupation. In the ’70s, he moved to Ireland. All the while, he continued to produce books, drawings, and exhibitions. In June 2011 the exhibition “Tomi Ungerer: Chronicler of the Absurd,” opened at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. But he did disappear from New York, where he dominated the media for 10 years through his advertisements, books, and editorial art.

“If you poll 20 people on the street where our office is in Miami asking them if they’ve heard of Tomi Ungerer, 19 of them wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about, and one of them would faintly remember hearing the name,” Bernstein says. “But when Maurice Sendak told me [on-camera] thatWhere The Wild Things Are would probably never have happened had it not been for Tomi, I think that speaks for itself. How come the majority of people from my generation can’t even pronounce his name, let alone know who he is?”


Story continues below.

To tell the story, Bernstein looked for funding but found it virtually impossible to find. So almost everyone who worked on the film worked on spec, and the material costs were covered by grants, investments, and Kickstarter. Ultimately, he raised more than $85,000. 

Excerpts from 40-plus hours of interviews with the Ungerer, now 81, are central to the film. Also featured are Maurice Sendak, Jules Feiffer, librarians, children’s authors, and even me. Ungerer is a man of many chapters: “The truth is we didn’t even cover all of them,” Bernstein says. “The goal was to do justice to the stages of his life and career and to keep moving onward.” In fact, there is a lot on the cutting-room floor. “We could package Maurice’s interview as a stand-alone DVD and we’d probably have a 98-minute film,” he says.Although Ungerer is guilelessly critical of himself, the film is not. “We knew this would ultimately be the central criticism,” Bernstein says, regarding the omission of anyone who attacked Ungerer back in the day. “He’s outlived most of the people who were writing for major papers back then, [and] the ones who are still alive—some of the librarians I reached out to, for instance—were reluctant to go on-camera. We did, however, try to show all sides of Tomi and let the viewer come to their own conclusions. He’s a polarizing figure and we didn’t consciously leave anything out of the film that would have made him look worse than he already does, at times.”

A special treat, however, is seeing Ungerer’s work animated by Brandon Dumlao. Ungerer’s expressively minimalist, often wickedly comic brush and pencil work lends itself well to movement. He drew the people and places and events of his time, from Adolf Hitler as a boy to the American napalm bombing during the Vietnam war. “Just as you would cover a segment with archival footage, we wanted to animate his art and use that as our archival instead, or in addition to,” Bernstein says. “Tomi is an artist who is very particular, so we took great care not to change the colors or lines or intent of his originals.”

Recently, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story was selected to be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. The goal now is to get into a few other festivals and then have a theatrical run in North America. The French theatrical premiere is set for December 19th.

The movie’s worth seeing if for no other reason than that all these years after his heyday, Ungerer remains provocative. Take this comment in the film: “I have the full respect of a piece of paper, which I then will rape with my drawing or my writing.” But Bernstein says that behind it all, the film reveals he is still the nine-year-old Alsatian kid who stood on a cobblestone street and watched as Nazi tanks rolled into his hometown and changed his entire worldview—”albeit with a few more wrinkles and a couple of experiences under his belt.”




So I was in New York City last weekend to play a jazz gig (I’m a drummer) and a friend took me into Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle to show me two famous sculptures: Fernando Botero’s “Adam” and “Eve,” which are 12 feet tall, naked, and massively, bulbously erotic in Botero’s style. Turns out, though, that Adam’s protruding penis looks way more worn than the rest of him — because it has become popular for passersby to grab his johnson and pose for photos. Some say it’s good luck, although I’m guessing it has more to do with plain old sex play.


Doubting Thomas

I had no interest in religion, to speak of, until about 1991. Coming to terms with a death in the family. Since then I have felt compelled to turn my attention to religious considerations. Religion is, after all, the arbiter of death. It defines what happens to us afterwards, to say nothing of providing for the ritual of transition. It was the former issue that proved problematic. That issue, as I discovered over time, was ultimately one of faith: What evidence is there that what religion says happens after death is true? In this particular case, what evidence is there that Christianity, the Christian cosmology -what the world is made up of, how it works- is true? “Why, the Bible, of course.”

Of course. But, to put it mildly, I had trouble believing.

I did this painting as a sort of meditation. On religion? Not exactly. Or at least, not entirely. On spirituality. Faith and, as suggested in the title, doubt. The painting was the form that the meditation took. A reflection upon a nexus of ideas. Communicating the issues of contemplation, through familiar symbols.
You might notice that the surface looks encrusted. It’s acrylic on canvas, but there is such a build up it weighs a ton. That’s because it is actually 20 or so variations of this image painted on top of each other. Adjustments in colors, placement. 20 to 30 layers of paint and glazes. Perhaps more. Over a period of about 5 years. There are many paintings beneath the surface of the one you see. It was a meditation. Hence, the journey was at least as important as the end product.

I have always admired this painting. I was thinking that if there were any painting in the history of art that I would like to own, it would be this one. So I was pleased when it occurred to me that this painting provided  the perfect theme by which to represent my meditation. “Doubting Thomas”. Of course my major deviation from the original (apart from a certain modernistic flattening of volume) is my use of light, exchanging the highly naturalistic representation of Caravaggio for something a bit more mystical; a second source of light emitting from the wound in Christ’s side.

Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt

advanced engineering in the temples of the pharoahs…,

gizapower | What does the face of Ramses have in common with a modern precision engineering object, such as an automobile? It has flowing contours with distinct features that are perfectly mirrored one side to the other. The fact that one side of Ramses face is a perfect mirror image to the other implies that precise measurements had to have been used in its creation. It means that the statue was carved in intricate detail to create precise three-dimensional surfaces. The jaw-lines, eyes, nose and mouth are symmetrical and were created using a geometric scheme that embodies the Pythagorean Triangle as well as the Golden Rectangle and Golden Triangle. Encoded in the granite is the sacred geometry of the ancients.

When I was researching for my book, The Giza Power Plant, I had my first encounter with Ramses the Great. This was at the open air museum at Memphis. It was in 1986 and my interest was mostly engineering and the pyramids, so I was not necessarily interested in statues or visiting the temples in the south. It struck me as peculiar at the time, though, that while looking down the length of the 300 ton Ramses statue I noticed that the nostrils were identically shaped and symmetrical. The significance of this feature gained more prominence when I eventually visited the temples in 2004 and became fascinated with the three-dimensional perfection of the Ramses statues at Luxor. This fascination prompted me to gather digital images so that I could examine some of the features of Ramses in the computer. What I discovered was remarkable in that the images revealed a much higher level of manufacturing technology than what has been discussed previously.

In gathering the images of Ramses, it was important that the camera was oriented along the central axis of the head. This way the distribution of material on the left and right side was equal. In order to compare one side of the face to the other, a copy of the image was made, flipped horizontally and made 50% transparent. Then the reverse image was positioned over the original to compare the two sides. The results are remarkable. The stunning implications are analogous to looking through the static interference pattern of time and confusion and seeing the elegance and precision that is normally built into a Lexus in a place where only the most rudimentary techniques of manufacturing are thought to have existed. The techniques that the ancient Egyptians are supposed to have used—those taught us in school—would not produce the precision of a Model T Ford, let alone a Lexus or a Porsche.

We know that the ancient Egyptians used a grid in their designs, and that such a method or technique for design is intuitively self-evident. It does not require a quantum leap of an artisan’s imagination to arrive at what is today a common design method. In fact, it is used now not just for design, but also for describing organizational and conceptual methodology. Grids, graphs, and charts are used to convey information and to plot and organize work.

With this in mind, therefore, I took the photograph of Ramses and laid a grid over it. Of course, my first task was to establish the size and number of the cells used in the grid. I assumed that the features of the face would lead me to the answer, and studied which features were most prominent. After musing over this puzzle for a while, I took a chance on a grid that was based on the dimensions of the mouth. It seemed to me that the mouth had something to tell us due to its unnaturally upturned shape, so I placed a grid with cell dimensions that were the same height and half the width of the dimensions of the mouth. It was then a simple matter to generate circles based on the geometry of the facial features. I didn’t expect, though, that they would line up with grid lines in so many locations. In fact, I was astounded by this discovery. Going through my mind was: “Okay—now when does this cease to be a coincidence and become a reflection of truth?”

Plumbing the grid for further information, I discovered that Ramses’ mouth had the same proportions as a classic 3-4-5 right triangle. The idea that the ancient Egyptians had known about the Pythagorean triangle before Pythagoras, and they may have even taught Pythagoras its concepts, has been discussed by scholars, though not without controversy. Ramses presented me with a grid based on the Pythagorean triangle, whether it was the ancient Egyptians’ intentions or not. As we can see in figure 5, the Pythagorean grid allows us to analyze the face as it has never been analyzed before.

The Ramses geometry and precision and the discovery of tool marks on some of the statues are discussed at greater length in Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt. Small seemingly insignificant mistakes made by ancient tools bring to light information from which a precise controlled method of manufacture can be discerned.

Other remarkable features of machining on granite are also examined, but probably the most stunning example of ancient machining lies on a wind-swept hill 5 miles from the Giza Plateau. Abu Roash has recently been advertised as the “Lost Pyramid” by Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, even though it has been well known and written about for many years. I wasn’t expecting much when I first visited the site in February 2006, but what I found was a piece of granite so remarkable that I returned to that site 3 more times to show witnesses in order to explain its unique features. Those who accompanied me on different occasions were David Childress, Judd Peck, Edward Malkowski, Dr. Arlan Andrews and Dr. Randall Ashton. Edward Malkowski immediately dubbed the stone the new rose-red Rosetta Stone. Mechanical engineer Arlan Andrews independently came to the same conclusion.

via: http://subrealism.blogspot.com/2012/03/advanced-engineering-in-temples-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Subrealism+%28subrealism%29