Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vivian Maier, or the unsustainable nothingness of being

Cameras don't take pictures, photographers do.

"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."

"Vivian came here from France in the early 1930's and worked in a sweat shop in New York when she was about 11 or 12. She was not Jewish but a Catholic, or as they said, an anti-Catholic. She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men's jacket, men's shoes and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn't show anyone." John Maloof

I just started to look through the newly discovered works of this exceptional, unknown artist, and I cannot imagine the thrill and sadness of John Maloof when he realized to be the only one to have the responsibility of what remains of Vivian's life, and had to show her treasure to the world.

There is nothing I can say about those wonderful shots except that they are... well, wonderful. For my personal aesthetic sensibility, this is the best street photography I ever saw.
This lifelong work really risked to be destroyed or forgotten forever... and this makes me think about the impermanence of our lives. 

This post is only to add a stone to the grave of a great photographer; like many other great artists, she did not have the satisfaction to have her talent recognized in life. 
Friday, January 29, 2010

The underestimated role of brass in western contemporary world

A minimal history

After the Copper Age came the Bronze Age, followed later by the Iron Age. There was no 'Brass Age' because, for many years, it was not easy to make brass.
Only in the last millennium has brass been appreciated as an engineering alloy. Whilst pre-dynastic Egyptians knew copper very well (in hieroglyphs copper was represented by the ankh symbol 'C' also used to denote eternal life), the use of brass was very uncommon, except where its dark yellowish colour was required. 
Several Roman writers then refer to brass, calling it 'Aurichalum'. It was used for the production of coins and helmets.
In medieval times brass was popular for church monuments, thin plates being let in to stone floors and inscribed to commemorate the dead.
In Shakespearean times, because of its ease of manufacture, machining and corrosion resistance, brass became the standard alloy from which were made all accurate devices such as clocks, watches and navigational instruments. 
With the coming of the industrial revolution, the production of brass became even more important.
Even today, brass is usually the first-choice material for many of the components for equipment made in the precision engineering industries. It is indispensable where a long, cost-effective service life is required. This combination is matched by no other material.

Transitional considerations

Since the appearance of brass on the planet, it always has been associated to beauty, strength, magic and power. Even during the industrial revolution, its use in high precision environments has been deeply intermixed with an artistic view of technology, something we started to lose at the beginning of the 20th century. Technology has gradually become something so unrelated to art to be antagonistic to it. Such a shame.

Modern times

With the advent of new technologies, new materials, new needs in the everyday life, brass objects have been more or less discontinued, or hidden. The transition has been so smooth no one noticed its disappearance.
Look around you, and try to find a brass object, or something brass-coloured.
In a common house or office, you will find none. None at all.

If you eventually find something, probably it will be in one of these categories:

1) Door handles - those devices you use to open the Magical Gates to The World (or to Your Home).

2) Name plates - those Little Gadgets Silently Telling Your Name To Strangers

3) Artsy thingies - those Undefinable Contraptions that Make You Feel Warm And Fuzzy Inside

4) Nautical 'anything' - Everything you can find on a Floating Machine Made To Cross Perilous Waters During Adventurous Voyages

Got the point?

If yes, this will become a viral thought. Suddenly, there will be a gaping hole in your life of which you were hitherto unaware [cfr. 2dGoggles...]. You will start to search brass everywhere, at first simply because it is SO strange that a whole colour and/or material has been (almost) removed from our world, then because you will become addicted to the warm glow it emanates.

[As a side effect of its removal, little reproductions of monuments once cast in brass now are made of synthetic materials, wood, or marble. If you take in your hands a brass object (let's use as a casual example something like a souvenir of Milan) it inspires strength, determination, will. It is solid, sincere. You feel you can do great things with it. On the other side, if the same object is made of a less noble material, it inspires weakness and a feeling of impending failure. <giggle>]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why a new blog?

The contemporary Internet is already full of them, and somehow the 'blog' concept itself reached its built-in obsolescence; with the advent of the 'web 2.0' (now almost 3.0...) the idea of fruition as the assimilation of a sequential flow of thoughts and links already smells of naphtalene and lavender.
Not citing the web resources I use at work, I already have a Flickr pro account in the Yahoo multiverse, Facebook, Google Mail, a website with a domain, a account with a beautiful cloud, I use Skype and I am registered on LinkedIn. I lost track of all the mailboxes I have, because they NEVER expire, the Net is now more immanent than a mountain. And eBay, payPal, the bank account, even the access to my electricity meter!!! And I am forgetting something for sure. So until now I strenuously resisted to the idea of a personal blog. It takes time, has to be maintained, the XML/CSS/html/@ç#*§whatever has to be mastered at some degree.


Take a look at this definition, and think about your digital self, surrounded by all the information coming from everywhere:

exteroception - sensitivity to stimuli originating outside of the body
sensitivity, sensitiveness, sensibility - (physiology) responsiveness to external stimuli; the faculty of sensation; "sensitivity to pain"
visual modality, visual sense, vision, sight - the ability to see; the visual faculty
cutaneous senses, sense of touch, skin senses, touch modality, touch - the faculty by which external objects or forces are perceived through contact with the body (especially the hands); "only sight and touch enable us to locate objects in the space around us"
audition, auditory modality, auditory sense, sense of hearing, hearing - the ability to hear; the auditory faculty; "his hearing was impaired"
gustation, gustatory modality, sense of taste, taste - the faculty of distinguishing sweet, sour, bitter, and salty properties in the mouth; "his cold deprived him of his sense of taste"
olfaction, olfactory modality, sense of smell, smell - the faculty that enables us to distinguish scents

All those stimuli coming to our new digital body are becoming day after day so fragmented and incoherent I felt the need of an index, to discriminate the good from the bad and the ugly, and keep one's mind aired. Think about this blog as a metastructure of thoughts, where there will be no apparent logic except in the interstitial glue between the posts. [In addition, this is a great initial excuse for any crazy babbling that surely will appear here...]

PS1 - I have to get the hang on how to obtain the best results in Blogger (font type, colours etc... so maybe the first posts will be a bit awkward...
PS2 - Linking my site here, and working with a new laptop 1680x1050, I noticed more than ever that it has to be adapted to the new huge resolutions, and updated with a lot of new contents... I promise it will be done soon at some point in the future...


search into visions

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