Photo weaving

What is it?

First seen on My Modern Met, here, this is a project by Swiss-based photographer, Corinne Vionnet, that explores the complex associations between tourism and visual culture by superimposing tourists’ photos of significant landmarks one over the other. The result is a fascinating collage series of elusive yet immediately identifiable monuments and places that exist somewhere between photography, drawing and oil painting.

Vionnet has sifted through online photo-sharing sites, selecting between 200 and 300 photos each of landmarks like Big Ben, Mecca, the Alhambra, Disneyland and the Colosseum. She chooses a central point of reference to link the layered photos, like the Ka’aba at Mecca for instance, or the portrait of Mao in the Forbidden City, and leaves the rest of the collage to chance. Though the photos are taken from similar vantage points, changes in lighting, visitor attendance and perspective all leave their mark on the final image. Surrounding landscape is like mist and people are ghosts, together creating a strong contrast against the sharp central reference point.

What do we think?

This contrast between centre and periphery imbues the works with a perhaps unintended quality, revealing the dual processes that went into their making. Whilst the repetitive, careless tourist snapshot and Vionnet’s unique, highly-crafted assembly could not derive from more different processes, the gaze of both are fixed firmly on the same point, a connection that elaborates on the rich and profoundly reciprocal relationship between place and tourism.

Vionnet’s work is grounded in the endlessly repetitive process of travel, in the identical small journeys made by hundreds of millions of travellers every year. However, through her intervention, the individual journeys somehow overcome their similitude to reveal the collective cultural power of the places we visit.

Creepy Back to the Future kid

What is it?

Seen in Craig Platt’s column on The Age website recently, someone has noticed a disturbing detail in the final scene of Back to the Future III and posted it up on YouTube. Check it out here.

What do we think?

There are two good reasons why we should not be drawing your attention to this weird, little YouTube tidbit: 1) we love and respect the entire Back to the Future trilogy (though the first film is undoubtedly the best), and 2) Panfilocastaldi is not in the business of re-distributing the flotsam and jetsam floating along the endless data stream that is the world wide web.

That said, this clip made us laugh, so we thought why the hell not?

WWF energy report

What is it?

The Energy Report is a feasibility study into sourcing 100% of the world’s energy from renewable resources by 2050, commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund in collaboration with renewable energy consultancy, Ecofys, and dutch architecture firm, The Office for Metropolitan Architecture. It is available here for download.

The future scenario explored by Ecofys is based on a unique model that predicts a decrease in energy consumption of 15% by 2050, despite the expected growth in global population and wider access to energy-intensive activities such as industry and travel. This will be achieved via ambitious but achievable energy-saving measures like an increase in the use of recycled materials, a reduction in the quantity of meat we eat, a switch to more energy-efficient transport, and thermal upgrades to new and existing building stock.

The report provides some startling insights into the realities of climate change and resources demand, including the assertion that “1.4 billion people [currently] have no access to reliable electricity”, but none more eye-opening than its ultimate conclusion that a 100% sustainable future is indeed a realistic goal. It argues that whilst this future will require an annual investment over the next 25 years in the order of 1 – 2% of global GDP (which currently sits at AU$58 trillion), this investment will become cashflow positive by 2035 and will generate savings equal to 2% of GDP by 2050.

What do we think?

Ecofys explores in an extraordinary amount of detail the various social, economic and technical hurdles that must be overcome in order to achieve the aim of 100% renewable energy. In so doing, it expands the somewhat limited issues of climate change into their true dimensions, clarifying the many conflicting elements of a planet-wide ecology in a way we have never before witnessed. We are particularly impressed with the financial study that crystalises the endless rhetoric surrounding the “cost” of sustainability into comprehensible figures: 1 – 2% of GDP is, as it happens, not that much more than the current global subsidies provided by governments for fossil fuel extraction and refinement processes.

This is a remarkable, ambitious and exciting contribution to the energy debate. WWF has set its sights high: in aiming for a 100% renewable and sustainable future, it offers a serious vision with the power to transform the way the entire world thinks. We applaud WWF for proposing a scenario that goes all the way in rectifying the damage the 20th Century has wrought on the planet’s climate and resources.

What should we learn?

With the opportunity of 100% renewable energy on the table, Australia’s pledge at Copenhagen to reduce energy demands by 5% from 2000 levels is revealed as an unethical and politically weak commitment by a country clearly disinterested in playing any significant part in safeguarding our environment for future generations. This is only more apparent after reading the Australian addendum to the Energy Report that claims we “could lead with [the] world’s cheapest renewable energy”. Just what does our government think it’s doing?

With the Energy Report, WWF has illustrated that a 100% renewable future is technically possible. All that remains to be seen is whether we, as a people, have the courage and determination to make this possibility into a reality.

Traffic light health warnings

What are they?

Discussed this morning on talkback radio, the Obesity Policy Coalition is lobbying government to introduce regulations that would require traffic light labels on the front of food packaging and fast food menus. A red traffic light label would mean high levels of sugars, fats or salt, an orange label would mean medium levels and a green label low levels. This is in response to a study performed by the group into the effect packaging has on parents’ buying habits. According to the study, parents are twice as likely to buy a product that has healthy-sounding words on its package like “nutrients” or “fibre” and two a half times as likely if the product is also endorsed by a sports star.

What do we think?

This is yet another example of the Australian Nanny State trying to regulate positive lifestyle decisions into its populace. Rather than trusting parents to be capable of ignoring marketing hyperbole, the very idea of the traffic light labels reveals the implicit expectation that parents are too stupid to look after the best interests of their own children.

So what if an unhealthy food is backed by a sports star or a cereal box has the word “fibre” splashed across its front? We live in the information age, one where parents must learn to do what their children have been doing from the moment they learned to pick up a computer mouse: to filter information. Food packaging already lists its contents’ key nutrient indicators; do we really need them to also be festooned with garish traffic lights that render in lowest-common-denominator graphic format what anyone with half a brain can already learn just by reading the back of the box?

127 Hours

What is it?

Danny Boyle’s new film about American climber, Aron Ralston, who in 2003 was trapped in a Colorado slot canyon, his right arm pinned between the canyon wall and a boulder he inadvertently dislodged during his passage. The film tracks the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions that brought him to that fateful place and then the 127 hours of his entrapment, as he cycled from disbelief, through alternating dispair and determination and finally towards liberation. The film is to be released today and was premiered last night at Cinema Nova in Carlton. In addition to what proved to be another excellent offering from Boyle, Ralston himself appeared after the film to engage in a memorable Q+A session with the audience.

What did we think?

With a story already well known amongst the general population, at least in a general sense, Boyle was set the film-making challenge of an inevitably predictable plot. However, even having read Ralston’s autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, we were not prevented from enjoying a film that is well-crafted, honest and engaging. James Franco’s performance is admirable, augmented by Boyle’s directing that simultaneously explores Ralston’s psychological state and intimately relishes his sensory details. Using plenty of close-cropped camera angles, the audience is thrust into the very centre of Ralston’s traumatic, life-changing experience. At times, our eye is in the bottom of his fast-emptying water bottle, at others in the tube through which Ralston drinks his own urine, and still others from the point of view of an ant crawling across the boulder, Franco’s exhausted face filling the entire screen.

What should we learn?

It was perhaps telling that it was Ralston who made the Q+A appearance, not Boyle nor Franco, his comments making it clear that this is not just another film but one with the distinct purpose of sharing his story. He wanted audiences to live it along with him, to understand both the circumstances that lead to his entrapment and the extraordinary mental fortitude that allowed him to liberate himself. Surely here is a man that, when faced with one of life’s many obstacles, need only look at his missing right forearm to understand the true extent of his inner strength.

Ralston is humble, gentle and humorous, the sort of bloke you’d happily have around for a barbecue. And 127 Hours, the film that brings his remarkable story to life, is a beautifully-made, well-acted, moving and ultimately uplifting film. 4 and a half stars.

The Art of Chess

What is it?

A travelling exhibition of fifteen chess sets commissioned by London gallery, RS&A, that has visited Milan, Reykjavik and, most recently, the Bendigo Art Gallery. The chess sets are part of an-ever growing collection designed by international artists including Barbara Kruger, Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama.

The inspiration of the RS&A collection can be traced back to Marcel Duchamp and his close friend, Man Ray, both 20th Century artists well known for their love of, and artistic dedication to, chess. Their chess set designs, together with those of Max Ernst, Joseph Hartwig and others appeared in the archetypal 1944 exhibition, The Imagery of Chess. RS&A was established in 2001 with the intention of recreating this exhibition in the modern era, commissioning artists with powerful and distinct voices to design sets that would reflect the values of a society half a century on.

What do we think?

The exhibition is engaging, humorous and thought-provoking, with each artist re-imagining the qualities of chess in unique and surprising ways.

Italian Maurizio Cattelan, for instance, populates the black and white pieces of his highly figurative set with individuals he admires and despises: Adolf Hitler and Cruella de Vil as the black king and queen, and Martin Luther King and Jesus as the white. Englishman Alastair Mackie has built an exquisite specimen table with each piece crafted of an insect encased in rich amber: flying insects for white and ground-based insects for black. Look close enough and ants, flies, mosquitoes and a large scorpion all make an appearance. Paul Fryer’s set is a tribute to Nikola Tesla, each piece a vacuum tube connected to an electrified board that illuminates those pieces still in play. The pieces of Kruger’s set utter either a provocation or a retort when moved that string together to form a semi-coherent dialogue that is as unique as the sequence of moves in a game. And Hirst continues his enfatuation with medicines by way of a set comprised of glass and silver bottles etched with titles such as Bishop Syrup and Castle Capsules.

It is clear that none of the sets are interested in simple playability, instead continuing in the tradition of the Fluxus artists of the 1960s that aimied to layer the act of playing with further meaning and nuance. In the case of Kruger, this additional layer is chance, an interesting counterpoint to what is otherwise an entirely ordered game; for Rachel Witheread and Paul McCarthy it’s personal experience, their boards and pieces copied and extracted from objects in their own homes; and for Gavin Turk it’s history, his contribution referencing the Mechanical Turk, a fabled 18th Century automaton that was the precursor to today’s chess-playing supercomputer, Deep Blue.

What did we learn?

Whilst we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, we were frustrated by one disappointing (though expected) aspect; the Do Not Touch signs plastered in front of every set. Whilst we understand the tricky responsibilities of a gallery with an art collection on loan and recognise that one is rarely permitted to touch gallery art anyway, we feel it somewhat counterproductive to have art applied to chess, the greatest of all games, only to have the sets locked inside glass boxes. To our minds, it was an excellent exhibition though one only half-experienced.

From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.
– Marcel Duchamp