Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bioshock Infinite VS Beyond the Black Rainbow

I suspect someone at Irrational Games has been watching the Beyond the Black Rainbow trailer. The new Bioshock Infinite viral, below, uses a lot of the moody synth, coloured lights and faux 70s corporate logos found in the work of Rainbow director Panos Cosmatos.

I am not adverse to borrowing / imitation, but it's a shame that Irrational, with all their resources and creative talent, didn't add anything new into the mix.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Chapelle de Bethléem - site of a weird reality bleed

Chapelle de Bethléem in Saint-Jean-de-Boiseau, France, was classed as a historical monument in 1911. It was restored in the period 1993 to 1995 by people who clearly have a bit of a sense of humour. The new gargoyles which crouch about the roof are based on geek-culture icons. There is a xenomorph from Alien, Gizmo and evil Gremlins from the cult 80s flick.

On one level this could be viewed as a light-hearted nod to pop culture, or perhaps even a deeper statement about the way our demons have changed from traditional Biblical devils to more other-worldly threats. However, for me I enjoy the Ballard-ian reality bleed of the situation.

Our pop icons are now so embedded in culture, and so many of us are now so far removed from Christian teaching, that the alien is a very real, potent symbol of mortal terror. The horrific biomechanoid was designed to sell a movie over a summer, and perhaps garner some acclaim thereafter (perhaps in the manner of Gort the robot or some equivalent), but has grown to be much more than that. He is cosmic terror incarnate, recognised as such my millions across the globe. In Aliens: Salvation, a licensed spin-off comic by Dark Horse, a group forms a cult to worship the aliens. With their presence on churches, how long will it be before this starts to happen in reality?

More photos here.

Via The Macabre And the Beautifully Grotesque

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Savage Messiah

Savage Messiah is the 1972 biopic of the artist and sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Directed by the late eccentric filmmaker Ken Russell, the piece documents the vivacious but ultimately short life of the French sculptor. Gaudier-Brzeska is best known for his primitive, early-Modern statues which now reside in some of the greatest collections in the world. He exchanged many letters with his lover, Sophie Brzeska, and it was these missives that formed the basis of the published biography which Russell adapted.

The two lead roles are played with great gusto by Dorothy Tutin and Scott Antony. Their complex, firey, sibling-like realtionship drives the piece, although on some occasions their bohemian antics are rather more theatrical than lifelike. Sophie Brzeska was twice Henri's age when they met, and Tutin does a magnificent job of articulating the pain that the older woman feels when the age-gap becomes an issue.

As the film progresses the couple travel from garrets in Paris to exotic bohemian clubs and subterranean studios in London. Russell enlisted Derek Jarman as set designer, who has done a solid job of scene-setting. However, the sets are not quite as magnificent as those featured in the pair's previous collaboration on The Devils (1971). On that note, Russell had become the 'bad boy' of British film with The Devils, with the on-set nudity, rumors of sexual exploits and blatant anti-religious themes inflaming critics' tempers. One gets the impression he was playing it safe with Savage Messiah, and perhaps trying to regain some of the high-brow reputation he had won with earlier works like Women in Love and The Music Lovers.  

Friday, 25 January 2013

Spectral Motion demo reel

Spectral Motion is a California-based effects house that has produced some amazing work. Most notably they did the live-action creature effects for the Hellboy films.  Their showreel below is just draw-dropping and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the art of mechanical effects is far from dead.

Spectral Motion Demo Reel from Spectral Motion on Vimeo.

Superman Lives!

This was the title of the ill-fated Tim Burton/Nicholas Cage superhero movie. I remember hearing rumors about its production in the late 90s but my fleeting interest died as the project faded away. I am not a big fan of the superhero genre, but I do like Burton's work, so over the years I've occasionally wondered 'what if?' It seems Jon Schnepp is slightly more obsessed than I am and he's begun a Kickstarter to fund a serious-sounding documentary about the failed production.

Watching it I suddenly start to realise just how bonkers the film would have been. Rainbow Superman costumes, the Brainiac as a villain, polar bears... you name it. Now I am motivated to find out a lot more about the movie.

What's really inspiring is that Schnepp wants to actually make sections of the film if he reaches his stretch goals. For me this is the most fascinating aspect of the project. Now that very sophisticated production technology is affordable people can actually start to recreate out-of-place versions of the things that never were.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Battle of Grunwald in 3D

Platige Image are a Polish outfit possessed of not inconsiderable talent. They have taken Jan Matejko's 1874 Battle of Grunwald painting and turned it into a 3D model. This has allowed them to create slow, dream like tracking shots which move through the carnage. The result is quite uncanny - the life-like motion coupled with the careful use of the original's oil-painted surface as textures is an experience unlike any other.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A belated happy Minoan Christmas!

Long-time readers might recall that I tend to these my Christmases. This year I got really into Minoan and Mycenaean culture and shaped my festivities accordingly.

The Minoans and Mycenaeans are the two groups we know a good deal about from early Bronze Age Greece. The Minoans (who occupied Crete) flourished from about the 27th to 15th century BC. Their mercantile, bull-worshipping culture was rediscovered in the 20th century and they are most famous for their exquisite "palaces" (which might not have functioned quite as we understand the term). These opulent structures were often decorated with beautiful frescoes. Their culture was beset by some catastrophe, possibly an earthquake, in about 1450BC. The later Mycenaeans resided on the Greek mainland and inherited a good portion of Minoan culture. Their shorter period of influence ran from 1600-1100BC. This is the era of the Homeric sagas. It is now accepted that these old tales have a significant basis in reality and the soldiers of the Iliad and Odyssey were Minoans who mounted a punitive expedition into what is now Turkey. The Mycenaeans built fortified cities and strange, 'beehive' shaped tholos tombs before their culture was destroyed by some event.

The more I learn about them, the more I am fascinated by these two cultures. Their rich visual and architectural history combined with the mythic proportions of the Mycenaean heroes is very inspiring. My Ancient Greek reenactment is focused on a later period - the 5th century BC (known as the 'Classical' century) but I find myself increasingly drawn to its antecedents.

The photos below are shots of a decoration I made in December. It features tiny Minoan bull heads made from Fimo. I used the gold variety of the clay for the main head and neck, and red for the horns. As someone who is used to painting sculptures, it was novel to use polychromed materials which needed no further embellishment!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Gate

An excellent effects-heavy short film. Rumor on the street is that it's now being adapted as a feature-length movie.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Vintage VHS box designs

An awesome collection of vintage packaging at Flyer Goodness.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cyberpunk 1984 is go!

After some prolonged procrastination about how best to deal with the images, I have finally got my act together and started to upload the Cyberpunk 1984 project to my Gimme Bar.

Click-erty-click here to see it.

At the moment I am looking primarily for images made (or of things made) around the early-to-mid 80s. I am trying to stay away from the swathe of modern stuff which looks like it was made thirty years ago. However, it's not a super-strict rule and if bits and bobs slip in that's fine.

Bring it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Holy Trinity Church, Ratcliffe Upon Soar

I had seen this church a few times on my journeys south out of Nottingham. It nestles in greenery on the banks of the River Sour and forms an idyllic counterpoint to the huge power station just to the north. The festive holiday provided a great opportunity to explore this parish church and I was not disappointed.

As I wandered about the churchyard, camera in hand, I was greeted by the Warden, who lives opposite. He kindly revealed the church's fascinating history and pointed out its unique features. Holy Trinity stands on a site that has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The nearby confluence of the  Saor and Trent made it important for water-borne trade. Later Roman remains have been found nearby and it is likely that a temple to Jupiter stood on the site. A wooden Saxon church and water mill is recorded in 1089 and the foundations of the present stone structure were laid shortly thereafter. The spire was raised in 1290. As with almost every building this old, it has been remodeled and rebuilt over time. Much of the structure is 15th century or dates from a significant restoration undertaken in 1891. It has several interesting features including exquisite alabaster effigies on the 16-17th century tombs belonging to the Sacheverall family, who were the Lords of the Manor.

Holy Trinity is a good example of the unique character of the English Parish church. Nowhere else in the world was wealth (both literal and architectural) disseminated in quite the same way through small local sites. The efforts of locals and bodies like The Pilgrim's Trust continue to keep the building in good repair.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Surreal found object

Below is a scan of a rubbing of a tooled piece of leather. I found the piece of paper tucked into a book on leatherwork in the Paul Hamlyn Library in the British Museum. Not only was I excited to find the treasure, I was impressed that anyone could name a chapter in a book "Things made of leather substantially without reinforcement".

Sadly the library is now closed which is a great shame as it was an oasis of calm in an otherwise busy museum.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Star Wars customs - out-of-place artifacts

The awesome Retronaut has just posted a collection of custom Star Wars figures with fan-made card backs. What interests me most about these items is their out-of-place nature. Both the figures and card backs are faithfully crafted in the style of a late 70s product.

I suspect these figures are the shape of things to come. As the Maker movement gains momentum, as technologies like DTP and rapid prototyping are increasingly affordable and as sites like Etsy and Kickstarter make micro-niche markets viable we will see more boutique items like these. The same is true for music and video using the likes of Soundcloud and YouTube.

I can't wait to see what this means for those creatives who, like me, are keen to mine the childhood decades of the 80s and 90s which have been so formative for us.

Kafou voodoo at the Nottingham Contemporary

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Our stupidity blinds us from cosmic horror

Below is a fascinating clip of American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about the position of humans in the universe.

He argues (successfully but possibly as a result of his abundance of charisma more than anything else) that life is the inevitable consequence of the universe's complex chemistry. Furthermore, he explains why he is terrified by how much more advanced we are than chimps despite our DNA being only 1-2% different. The implications of how clever another creature might be with another minor 1-2% difference is truly disturbing. He says, wryly, that the only reason we are not crippled by cosmic dread is because we're too stupid to see how primitive we are.

I saw this video on Lovecraft eZine as Tyson's theories are very in-keeping with the concepts behind Lovecraft's fiction. The author might be proved correct in surmising that alien minds would regard us as nothing more than minute, inconsequential vermin that could be wiped out in an instant if they so choose.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Glass at the V&A museum

I must confess that until rather recently glass and ceramics have not really interested me. However, my appreciation is swiftly growing after a couple of recent museum visits. The British Museum has a wonderful collection of Far Eastern ceramics including some astounding modern pieces. Their form and the colours, textures and effects on the glazes are quite fascinating.

I dropped into the V&A on New Year's Eve and they have an impressive collection of glasswear. The galleries make excellent use of lighting which reveal the objects in all their majesty. I was inspired by the collection en masse and the colours and reflective patterns that form when the one looks along cabinets rather than just into them, as intended. I was rather pleased with the pictures below, taken with my aging little Canon IXUS.

In looking at these cabinets I was reminded of the first segment of Johnny Hardstaff's Sony 'Test' Idents featuring glasses shattering as shelves collapse. Perhaps not something the V&A wants to try though.