Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Mechanical Spiders Are The Signs Of The Future

It seems that the future is, indeed, now and that the inevitable War of the Machines has come to pass. Sometime in June of this year, sixty foot arachnid appeared on a derelict building near Liverpool’s Lime Street station. The mechanical spider is the work of art collaborative La Machine, who’s previous work includes the Sultan’s Elephant, which captivated London in 2006. The £1.8 million robot was commissioned for the 2008 Capital of Culture celebrations, and is being billed as the highlights of the event.

Expected to “wake up” some day, the eight-legged monstrosity will descend on your House on Thursday night and begin exploring your neighborhood the day after, ending with a “spectacular finish”. I encouraged you to arm yourselves accordingly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going down into my concrete bunker.

  • Click HERE to check out the Flickr set
  • Click HERE for the BBC News script
Advertisements

Review: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

There are numerous movies and films that speak the truth about the man’s testament and ever lasting courageousness, yet few can truly resonate those complex emotions with the viewers and deliver them perfectly. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly belongs to this mighty minority. This film illustrated the final years of a paralyzed Magazine editor so beautifully, that elegantly morphed the film from what would be considered a nightmare to an everlasting painting brushed by a gifted artist.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the remarkable true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful and charismatic editor-in-chief of French Elle, who believes he is living his life to its absolute fullest when a sudden stroke leaves him in a life-altered state. While the physical challenges of Bauby’s fate leave him with little hope for the future, he begins to discover how his life’s passions, his rich memories and his newfound imagination can help him achieve a life without boundaries.

First off, I feel it is very important to commemorate Mathieu Amalric’s extraordinary talent in creating a character that was so convoluted, so engaging, and so mesmerizing without moving a muscle. He commanded the screen so perfectly with his excellent captured narration of his thoughts and the events that happens around his character. He easily translated the pain of the Locked-In Syndrome without ever grossing us. He truly demonstrated his merits in capturing the spirits of Jean-Dominique Bauby and honoring his struggle. Next comes the outstanding direction and cinematography. Despite the fact that the first-person perspective isn’t new, it is still very hard to do well without turning it into a melodramatic gimmick. At precisely the right moment the film’s perspective changes, and the film adheres more closely to the demands of traditional biography. One by one, screenwriter Ronald Harwood introduces friends and family from Bauby’s life, never in ways you can predict, never in scenes that rest on cliches. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a fluid blend of flashbacks and dream sequences all merged with scores of marvelous original piano themes. The vision that the direction Julian Schnabel saw with this in unbelievable; from the first artistic shot to the tearful ending scene, his imaginatively-made motion capture is viscerally emotional and sensational, and that’s what movies should be all about.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly proves that our capacity for joy, and our ability to process it through whatever senses are available to us, are more durable than we think. While being Simultaneously uplifting and melancholy suffused, the film invites us to witness the marvelous that is the human spirit and to listen to our inner senses as Bauby noted in his autobiography: “My hearing does not improve, yet I hear them better and better. I must have butterfly hearing.” Outstanding!

The Bottom Line

A+

Review: Braid

  • Platform: Xbox360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)
  • Genre: Puzzle / 2D-Advanture
  • Rating: Everyone (10+)

If you take it purely as entertainment, Braid is nearly flawless. Taken it as an artistic work, it’s like an ambitious film that just overreaches its limits, flawed in an interesting and compelling way. As a whole, it is gripping and original far beyond conventional videogames, and is the perfect antidote for the current sequel-driven industry. At first blush, Braid seems like an exceptionally beautiful Super Mario Brothers knock-off, but there are numerous twists that extend its definition far beyond that.

To put it simply, Braid is a 2D platform game stars a guy named Tim. In this game, you can almost run through Braid‘s levels without a problem, but the true objective is to search out the puzzle pieces in each level, which you can then assemble into still photos that connect thematically to that level, and in order to do that, you control time. Simply by pressing the X button, the time rewinds almost everything, Tim, the enemies, the environment and even the music. This is the pivot point of some of the game’s best puzzles, and it becomes the primary tool you will be using until you reach the game’s shattering conclusion. As you progress through the six or five worlds, you will notice that you will have to think about time manipulation, and especially how to manipulate time with objects that respond differently to it, as each world produces a specific theme or mechanic for time manipulation. This consistent underlying logic ensures that you hardly ever feel cheated by the design. Braid certainly feels like a game that spent a year or two being polished.

By virtue of the imagery alone, Braid presents a true special experience. From the first moment you boot up it up, as it bypasses a title screen in favor of beginning play immediately; you’ll be struck by the look. Braid is like a painting in motion, with lush swirling colors and expressive caricatures. What’s most impressive is how effectively the visuals convey the mood of every area. From light and breezy meadows to disturbingly lifeless parodies of levels you have completed before, there’s instant emotional impact every time you enter a new area. It works as the bridge that gives you to a sense that there’s more going on here than just some tricky puzzles. You’ll also appreciate the soundtrack. Like the visuals, they capture the desired mood, though with it switching between being played forward and backward at the whim of the player, it never quite hits a rhythm. Still, the music is an appropriate mix of mellowness, melancholy, and nostalgia. An absolute musical masterpiece!

It’s pretty important to say that the puzzles can be incredibly frustrating sometimes to the point you would think there is a flaw in the game’s mechanics, and there are moments where will you reaching for GameFAQs every so often. My advice: don’t do it. Braid isn’t about the puzzles and the jigsaw pieces; it’s about the collective, emotional experience you receive at the end. In the later levels, you will absolutely have to think outside the box and try to reflect creatively to solve each puzzle you encounter because the game demands you to be creative.

Even though I usually don’t state anything about the ending of the games, but I’d like you to pay attention at what happens during the end, and also go through the books that were presented at each chapter because the conclusion that you will derive eventually will shatter any thought you might have had of enjoying Braid only for its gameplay. I won’t spoil the end, but do you remember all those times when you spent a great deal of skill and brainpower to finish a game, and were rewarded with a pleasant, tidy ending. Well, Braid‘s ending is the precise opposite. And it is powerful in such a way that you will more likely than not want to start digging into the story a lot more than you did. If you start digging enough, you’ll find out about an alternate ending, which puts an even more interesting spin on things. Without spoiling anything, what you must do to get it affects your understanding of the ending itself.

Life is short. Time is precious yet we waste plenty of it. There’s plenty of money in the world, and fifteen dollars worth of Microsoft Points isn’t much. With beautifully crafted and wonderfully realized mechanics, Braid is a shining example of the intersection between art and technology, love and loss, desire and despondence. In other words, Braid is beautiful. Beautiful is Braid.

Overall Score

9.5 out of 10

Book Review: My Name Is Red

The American Bookcover of My Name Is Red

The American bookcover of My Name Is Red

It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has based his facts and intuitions about Turkey through a portal of a TV show, that even though it captivated the hearts of many people, it also agitated many to the extent it won several fatwas from several Saudi and Gulf clerics, condemning the show upon the level of secularism that “exposes”. It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has neglected the fact that despite that Turkey has one of the most successful democracies in the Muslim world (you might hold a different view in that regard), it still holds its Islamic identity dearly: from breathtaking, magnificent mosques that rival the beauty of churches, from the elevated level of spirituality of the influenced Sufi tradition that would put any sect to shame, and finally, to the superlative paintings and captivated poems that Turkey brought to the Islamic art and culture. Which brings me to the context of this great book that was brilliantly printed by the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. This historical novel has brought a plethora of information to me through its fictional story that combines the elements of mystery, art and romantic novels.

My Name Is Red is set in 16th century of Istanbul where The Sultan has commissioned an illustrated book to demonstrate his power to the Venetian Doge. Because it will employ controversial aspects of the Frankish style, head illustrator Osman has been bypassed and the project given to Enishte, who coordinates miniaturists nicknamed Elegant, Stork, Olive, and Butterfly. But when Elegant suspects the orthodoxy of the final page and threatens to denounce the project to the followers of the conservative preacher Nusret Hoja, he is murdered by one of his colleagues. Enishte’s nephew Black, newly returned to Istanbul after twelve years absence, is asked to investigate. To complicate things, he revives an old passion for Enishte’s daughter Shekure, who is technically still married to a husband missing in battle, and who has other suitors. The brilliance of this novel comes to light with its distinctive narrative where each chapter is told by the perspective of those mentioned main characters, along with minor ones including the murderer and the subjects of the illustrated book (a dog, a gold coin, a horse, Satan, etc) given voice by a storyteller in a coffeehouse.

As a mystery and a reworked folktale, My Name Is Red has some surprising twists and turns, powering a readily engaging plot; as a historical novel, its setting in late sixteenth century Istanbul is convincingly detailed; and as a novel it offers some memorable characters and complex relationships. But what is most notable about My Name Is Red is the extent to which it is a novel about art, indeed almost a study of Islamic illustration. It contains descriptions of paintings, some of which verge on prose poems. It is full of stories about the great miniaturists and their history, going back to Bihzad and the Chinese influences brought by the Mongols. And it is riddled with discussions and debates about form and style, the relationship of art to morality and society and religion, the effects of Western ideas, the future of Ottoman illumination, and the significance of blindness. Even though Pamuk is a western modernist, his intention wasn’t to destroy his 16th-century artists, but instead, illuminates their world as no one has before. It brilliantly captured the past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty that makes it so perfect that it is deserved to be taught in history courses. Unfortunately, the length of book (500+ pages) and the rigid use of vocabulary and terminology are bound to turn off some people in seeing this novel to the end.  As much I want to recommend this book to everyone, it would be a futile effort to convince those who crave straightforward historical mysteries to pick up this book. Regardless of that, this book deserved the Nobel Prize that it won for, and a permanent place in your bookshelf.

~Rating~

Yoshitaka Amano – The Fantasy That Never Ends

Yoshitaka Amano deserves no introduction for Final Fantasy devotees such as myself. He isn’t the guy who builds the 3D models of the characters in the games, but the person who draws the cover, the booklet, and designs the actual look for the characters, although that only applies for the first six Final Fantasy games. Since Final Fantasy VII, he settled in doing character’s artwork and designing the title logo for Final Fantasy games. Mind you, he doesn’t work in the videogame industry exclusively, his work can be seen in anime, fantasy novels, high class painting exhibits, and even theater design.

Amano’s work has to be one of the finest and intricate designs I’ve seen so far; it has very minimalist and wispy quality to it. It’s elegant, fresh, atmospheric and dynamic. His creation definitely has stood the test of time. In order commemorate his excellent work and his 56th birthday (July 28th), I’m going to change the banner of my blog and replace it with one of his fine work.

Review: Helvetica

Documentaries usually prospect to tell a story of certain significant events or people; they can also be awfully mundane, or incredibly entertaining. Helvetica is the result of the outstanding prophecy from the award-winning director Gary Hustwit, which describes the ups and downs of a typeface, one of the most used typefaces in the English language that is. But the question is, will a documentary about a font provide any sort of entertainment?

Helvetica produces a cheerfully engaging investigation into the world’s most ubiquitous typeface, uncovering a minor hit storm in the world of graphic design as well as broadening the cinematic and analytical potential of the documentary form in the process. Tracing the roots of the Helvetica back to a small factory in Switzerland in the 1950s, the film charts its rise as a staple of corporate logos, warning signs and any form of communication that requires a direct and functional mode of expression. At personal level, I’m not a designer by any stretch, but have always been fascinated by the use of language and text. It really is empowering for a non-talent like myself to observe the proliferation of the democratizing of the tools of production. It has caused me to look much more closely at the written word in the world around me. It explores the way a typeface can polarize a society. While the topic may be considered mundane to some, this films’ treatment of it was anything but that. By the end of the movie, I felt artistically inspired on so many levels, and I definitely place it as one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen recently.

Artfully photographed, sharply edited and propelled by a gorgeous rock soundtrack, Helvetica is a film that owes probably more to philosophy than style. Don’t let the ordinary subject matter put you off. This is one of the wittiest, most diligently researched, mysteriously intelligent and quietly captivating documentaries of the new millennium. Helvetically recommended.

The Bottom Line

A-

Nightmare Photography

===============
WARNING!
===============

Do not, I repeat, do not scroll further down if you have a weak heart or get terrified easily. The following photographs are exceptionally bloodcurdling and can easily awaken your dormant childhood nightmares. You’ve been warned!

Photographer Joshua Hoffine takes pictures of the things we all love to hate: nightmares. There’s a wide array of horrors in his online portfolio but the selected images below are easily favorites of mine since they awfully resonate to my own childhood nightmares . According to Joshua:

I believe that the horror story is ultimately concerned with the imminence and randomness of death, and the implication that there is no certainty to existence. The experience of horror resides in this confrontation with uncertainty. Horror tells is that our belief in security is delusional, and that monsters are all around us.

Don’t Look Under The Bad!

Don’t Go Downstairs!

Don’t Open The Fridge!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE