Monthly Archives: June 2009

Graffiti in the West Bank

Wall

The recent completion of the spraying of an essay by Farid Esack, professor and anti-apartheid activist, onto the West Bank barrier is a strong example of the power of visual art to become a tool of resistance. Of course, this isn’t the first wall to be turned into a canvas, the Berlin Wall being just one example. In Palestine, local taggers Faris Arouri, Yousef Nijim, and Raji Najamare are funded through the Dutch organization Send a Message and for 30 they will spray a work of your choice onto the wall. Esack’s essay is their largest feat yet. At 1,998 words long, the piece consumed 500 cans of spray paint and 300 cans of white paint. Yet it occupied a mere mile of the 463 mile-long barrier. Esack writes:

Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable. I am struck by the similarities. In some ways, all of us are the children of our histories. Yet, we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved.

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Akiyoshi’s Illusions

moving snakes

Look closely...the snakes appear to move horizontally.

The first page of Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s website says: “This page contains some works of ‘anomalous motion illusion’, which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately.” Great! Not every site is lucky enough to have such a dramatic opening. Akiyoshi’s work in the Ritsumeikan University Department of Psychology plays with optical illusions of movement and color and does actually cause a bit of nausea.

orochi

Two of the spirals appear to be made of different shades of green. In fact, they are identical.

Cubanisimo Vineyards

Hello Fidel

While enjoying some Willamette Valley wine tasting earlier this month, I quite enjoyed the bathroom décor at Cubanisimo. It did pale in comparison to their 2006 Pinot Noir, likely one of my favorite wines. Alas, they do not ship internationally.

‘To Make Love To The Walls’

l'image1

FLY‘s latest short film features the artistic works of Petra Mrzyk and Jean-Francois Moriceau. A masked narrator reads a text about Mrzyk and Moriceau written by Michel Vaillant, exploring the subtleties and novelty of their work. The narrator wears five unique masks, created by Mrzyk and Moriceau exclusively for the film. He reads:

“Last year, Petra Mrzyk and Jean-Francois Moriceau wrote to me to tell me that at the other end of the world they were making love to the walls. This tells us a great deal about the capacity of these two artists to tame the bare walls of a gallery space with a biting iconography that makes the work reactive and sexy.”

The film celebrates their creation of the new Collector’s Edition for FLY: two round series of 25 screenprints.

Success

success

by Rupert Brooke

The Love-Hate Relationship with Google

I’m in the midst of a research project for future technology and was reminded of this video, which I think perfectly captures the ambivalence many people feel about the role of technology in our lives.

Neuroenhancement

Brain Gain

A fascinating article in The New Yorker by Margaret Talbot, Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs, discusses the rising off-label use of prescriptive medicines commonly used to treat ADD and ADHD, in order to achieve a heightened sense of focus in crunch time. Talbot thoroughly explores the intrigue and dangers of these ‘steroids for the brain’.

“Don’t neuroenhancers confer yet another advantage on the kind of people who already can afford private tutors and prep courses? At many colleges, students have begun calling the off-label use of neuroenhancers a form of cheating. Writing last year in the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, a columnist named Greg Crapanzano argued that neuroenhancers “create an unfair advantage for the users who are willing to break the law in order to gain an edge. These students create work that is dependent on the use of a pill rather than their own work ethic.” Of course, it’s hard to imagine a university administration that would require students to pee in a cup before they get their blue books. And though secretly taking a neuroenhancer for a three-hour exam does seem unfair, condemning the drugs use seems extreme. Even with the aid of a neuroenhancer, you still have to write the essay, conceive the screenplay, or finish the grant proposal, and if you can take credit for work you’ve done on caffeine or nicotine, then you can take credit for work produced on Provigil.”

Talbot argues that, like cosmetic surgery, cosmetic neurology is probably here to stay. But, while the comparison to caffeine and nicotine can be drawn, the heart of the problem, as it seems to me, is the lifestyle choice behind such an impulse. While many Americans might perceive neuroenhancers as giving them a competitive advantage and increasing work productivity, it reeks of the mentality that life is about work and nothing more.

One of the supposed benefits of neuroenhancers are that they could reduce intellectual equality across social and economical sectors. Rather than suggesting we should turn to a pill to solve such problem, I have to side with Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column that intellectual ineqaulity can be leveled by promoting the right environment.

But, in the end, neuroenhancers aren’t so much about intelligence and creativity as they are about efficiency and productivity. And, in this era, it’s hard to imagine that the Creative Class will be ousted by straight-faced robots.