Thursday, January 31, 2008

a self portrait...


all the words in the painting, self portrait by shusaku arakawa, 1967. arakwawa who started as a painter, is also a very interesting architect.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

look at the flowers...

1910 cyanotype RPPC

Look at the flowers, so faithful to what
is earthly,

to whom we lend fate from the very
border of fate.

and if they are sad about how they
must wither and die,

perhaps it is our vocation to be their

All things want to fly, only we are
weighed down by desire,

caught in ourselves and enthralled with
our heaviness.

oh what consuming, negative teachers
we are

for them, while eternal childhood fills
them with grace.

If someone were to fall into intimate
slumber, and slept

deeply with Things - : how easily he
would come

to a different day, out of the mutual

Or perhaps he would stay there; and
they would blossom and praise

their newest convert, who now is like
one of them,

all those silent companions in the wind
of the meadows.

words: r.m.rilke, sonnets to orpheus
image:cyanotype RPPC, 1910

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

before moondog...

one man band photo circa 1900

great 1900 candid photograph of a one man band, who seems to have wandered in front of a family being photographed...

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Monday, January 28, 2008

when birds grew on trees...


in the early days of airforms i did a post related to a belief in the middle ages that lambs grew on trees. i'd never seen anything else related to such things until a gift arrived in the mail from the wonderfuls at woolgathersome, in the form of pouchet's "the universe - or the wonders of creation - illustrated". published in 1883, pouchet's history of natural sciences explores both "the infinitely great and the infinitely little". the illustrations are quite wonderful, and lo and behold in the back of the book in a section entitled monsters and superstitions, i discovered the above image of "the bird-tree", based on a sketch by sebastian munster.

pouchet elaborates: "several water birds were long considered to be the produce of certain trees which grow in the marshes or borders of the sea. our credulous forefathers were persuaded that there was one of these growing in scotland or the orkneys, the fruits of which, as large as eggs and having the same shape, opened at maturity and allowed each little duck to escape.

the vulgar would have not dared to doubt such a fact, for it was quoted by the most renowned scholars. sebastian munster attests the truth of it in his great work on "cosmography". "we find", he says, "trees in scotland which produce a fruit enveloped in leaves, when it drops into the water at a suitable time it takes life and is turned into a live bird, which they call a tree-bird." in order to produce a still fuller proof, the writer himself gives a drawing of it!

pouchet goes on to condemn aldrovandus, a renaissance ornithologist, for propagating "such ridiculous fables"; and believes that aldrovandus was actually talking about barnacles. unfortunately, he doesn't explain when barnacles fly or how one mixes them up with birds... but i'd like to give aldrovandus and sebastian munster a break, since the idea of birds growing on trees is kind of beautiful.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

the environment bubble...

environment-bubble / reyner banham, francois dallegret

re: reyner banham and francois dallegret's environment bubble, 1965 - a transparent plastic bubble dome inflated by air-conditioning output.

"the two ideas behind this are to give everyone a standard of living package containing all the necessities of modern life (shelter, food, energy, television) and to do away with all the permanent structures of building, and men would not be constrained by past settlements.

the advantage of pushing present tendencies to such extremes is that the extremes indicate possibilities not otherwise exploited and present alternatives in a clear light. perhaps the furthest limit in increasing ephemerality is either religious mysticism, or a mood controlled environment which is induced entirely in the mind - through drugs, and electrodes implanted on the brain. in this situation, all artifacts would disappear entirely and the only thing left would be a contemplative trance having much the same advantage over tangible things that st. bernard pointed out over eight centuries ago.

it may be doubted whether the mood controlled environment was exactly what he was proffering, but there can be no doubt - what with the eight century trend toward a sensate culture and the present possibility of stimulating the pleasure centres of the brain - that certain groups will be tempted to construct it. what exactly it would look like is best left to the imagination."

charles jencks, architecture 2000, 1969

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

when bakers made art...











i've been collecting catalogs from the museum of contemporary crafts' exhibitions of the 60's and 70's for awhile. the books are always nicely designed and the exhibitions are all over the place - including histories and contemporary works related to bags, enamel, pottery, paper, as well as experiments in "contemplation environments" and decorated blue jeans. i recently came across this one - cookies and breads / the baker's art, featuring an array of breads and bread sculpture from all over the world.

the catalog gives some history of bread sculpture in various religious and folk cultures, as well as offering images of contemporary works by children and "artists". the sixties seemed to be a good time for folk art to enter into a relationship with the artworld and contemporary design. many of the images here certainly reference the interests of herman miller textile designer alexander girard - not to mention a resemblance to the wonky plaster food sculpture of claes oldenburg. like most kids of the 70's, i remember making bread sculpture in school.

the images from the top down are as follows:

book cover featuring sculpture of candy and gingerbread by ilse johnson,
victorian house by marion buckley - hussian school of art philadelphia,
mexican bread dolls for all soul's day,
egyptian coptic bread seal of clay used to sanctify ritual bread,
sicilian bread sculpture by salvatore purpura,
ukranian easter paska of bread dough decorated with icing and candy,
spettkaka swedish holiday cake, cretan wedding bread,
pressed cookies by the class of karl schmid - school of applied arts zurich,
bird of baker's dough by christopher johnson age 8.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

when sample chips look like a painting...

eastman plastics catalog

kupka painting

top: photo of an employee of the eastman plastics company working with the "color library" of "tenite butyrite, tenite acetate, and tenite polyethylene", from a 1950's catalog. the catalog claims eastman manufactured these plastics in over 39,000 different colors. the catalog design is a stunner, looking very much like the work of lester beall...

bottom: painting entitled "cathedral" by frantisek kupka from 1912.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

mandolinian viewed from a tatami...

mandolin man rppc 1910

recently found this rppc from around 1910. i love the odd low camera angle... as if ozu shot hillbilly films.

"In addition to being motionless in his later work, Ozu's camera—from early in his career—was often placed at a very low level as if the viewer were sat crosslegged. It has been noted that this is at the same level one sits on tatami for a tea ceremony in a Japanese home, or while meditating, sitting in silence, observing, reaching meaning through extreme simplificaton. It is also the height Ozu had to position his camera when making a film about children, and it is said he liked it so much that he stuck with it. Ozu clearly had many reasons for adopting such a low position for his camera and it became one of the few facets of his pared down technique." more here.

i like the notion that somehow because of the angle, perhaps, this mandolin player is similarly "meditating, sitting in silence, observing, reaching meaning through extreme simplification"; by simply sitting down and playing some music.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

dissolving clouds...


"according to hatha yoga principles, if you breathe properly and concentrate your pranic (electrical - mental?) energy, you can dissolve a cloud. i tried and photographed the results. this is what happened - see cloud outlined - time elapsed was 3 minutes."

peter hutchinson, aspen, august 1970 (via on site no. 4, 1973)

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Friday, January 18, 2008

how to see...

"the astronaut john glenn may have caught a glimpse of heavenly blue from the porthole of his spaceship, but i have watched the lights of a computer in operation. and they looked like the stars."

allan kaprow, the artist as a man of the world, 1964

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

music in everything...

1920's promo photo, probably from a vaudeville act, signed jack holmes "music in everything".

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the future that was the past and is now the present...

bank of the future

church of tomorrow

two late 50's or early 60's chrome postcards from oaklahoma... one showing the bank of the future, and the other, the church of tomorrow.

it's interesting how much the bank uses a more stylized and familiar take on "the future"; while the church is awkward and comes from an aesthetic left field (although, since it is oaklahoma, maybe the architect was influenced by bruce goff). remarkably, both buildings are still standing and still used as bank and church...

i couldn't find information on either building's architect so i'd love to hear from anyone who knows any more. it seems the church caused quite a stir (as did the original pastor's personality and domestic life) when it was built. i found descriptions ranging from half buried egg, to space ship, and this nice little gem on the sound:

"According to one parishioner, the echoes were so bad under the egg-shaped done of Oklahoma City's First Christian Church of Tomorrow that when the minister spoke it sounded 'as though God were repeating every word he said, only much louder." In the hope of deflecting the echoes, a 20-ft saucer was hung from the apex, but it had no effect. An acoustician finally solved the problem by overpowering the echoes with an amplifying system. Carefully filtered sound now come from the round speakers on the walls and spreads evenly-and without echoes-over the congregation." Time-Life, Sound and Hearing, p189.

there's another interesting article on the church's history here

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

hey friend, say friend ...

'un jour' expo 67 cover

for expo 67, the sun life assurance company of canada held an international competition for a theme song. they received 2200 entries from 35 countries, and lucky for us the winner was stephane venne who wrote the music and collaborated with marcel stellman on the lyrics for "un jour, un jour"(for some reason, the english version was called: hey friend, say friend). the song was recorded by donald lautrec and released as a 7" that i'm assuming was sold at the fair. i would imagine it was also blasting from speakers someplace near the entrance.

on the 7" cover, lautrec looks a bit like françois truffaut, and i'm wondering if paul weller might have seen this photo when he started the style council... the song is certainly sounding a lot like an arrangement of jacques brel via scott walker(with a bit of a mod/ska madness beat deep down under)... the song is a gem, as well as incredibly catchy. i've posted the french because the repetitive chorus in english is just too hard to shake.

click here to listen to "hey friend, say friend".

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Monday, January 14, 2008



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Friday, January 11, 2008

for the expression of method...

louis kahn, city tower (study of sunshades), 1953-57

"i believe that in architecture, as in all art, the artist instinctively keeps the marks which reveal how a thing was done. the feeling that our present day architecture needs embellishment stems from our tendency to fair joints out of sight, to conceal how parts are put together. structures should be devised which can harbor the mechanical needs of rooms and spaces. ceilings with structure furred in tend to erase scale. if we were to train ourselves to draw as we build, from the bottom up, when we do, stopping our pencil to make a mark at the joints of pouring or erecting, ornament would grow out of our love for the expression of method. it would follow that the pasting over the construction of lighting and acoustical material, the burrying of tortured unwanted ducts, conduits and pipelines, would become intolerable. the desire to express how it is done would filter through the entire society of building, to architect, engineer, builder and craftsman."

louis kahn, 1957, image: city tower (study of sunshades), 1953-57. both from visionary drawings of architecture and planning 20th century through the 1960's.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

can you hear me now...

"to all members of the eternal network in canadada
and the united states: greetings. sound. manluck.
womanluck. weatherluck. today after years of practicing
and reflecting upon the subject i propose to you all the
composing and performing of telepathic music to
compliment, butress, and - if need be - replace all
other marvelous loving correspondences. - day or night,
day and night, send waves of greetings sound
manluck womanluck weatherluck to members
of the eternal network all over the world. no proof of
reaching and benefitting is necessary - knowing oneself
expecting others to be a performer of telepathic day and
night music is sufficient.

your robert filliou"

from source, music of the avant garde # 11, 1972

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

small emotions...

"small emotions are what remain. a breeze on a still stretch of countryside can roil my soul. a distant blast of music from the village band evokes an array of sounds in me more complex than those of a symphony orchestra. an old lady on a doorstep makes my heart melt. a dirty child in my path illuminates me. a sparrow perched on a wire delights me in a way i can't explain, like a vision inextricably tied to truth itself."

fernando pessoa, the education of the stoic

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

the fourth dimension, monkey bars, and climbing structures...

early junglegym advertising blotter



images of an old ink blotter advertising the original junglegym, probably 1930's.

the junglegym was designed and trademarked by sebastian hinton in chicago, in 1920. hinton, a lawyer, was married to a schoolteacher at the time. while the idea was indeed to create a climbing structure, according to wikipedia,"hinton's chief goal, was to enable children to achieve an intuitive understanding of 3-dimensional space through a game in which numbers for the x,y, and z axes were called out and each child tried to be the first to grasp the indicated junction. Thus the abstraction of Cartesian coordinates could be grasped as a name of a tangible point in space."

the interesting part, which was not on wikipedia, is that hinton spent part of his childhood in japan. in the early 1900's, his father built a huge bamboo structure in their backyard as a visual representation of the fourth dimension - believing that if people could see the third, they could begin to understand the fourth.

from the web: "Mimicking a Cartesian-coordinate system in mathematics, Hinton’s father named one set of horizontal poles X1, X2, X3, etc. Those horizontal poles at right angles to the X poles were Y1, Y2, Y3, etc., and the vertical poles he identified Z1, Z2, Z3, and so on. Hinton’s father would call out coordinates, "X2, Y4, Z3, Go!", and the children would scramble for that intersection. Hinton said they humored their father with these drills, but what they really enjoyed was simply climbing, hanging, chasing, and playing like monkeys. Now he wanted to build one for his own children."

... and thus the monkey bars were born...

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Monday, January 07, 2008

before the surrealists...

thistle 1866

a small cdv type photograph mounted on a cardstock. it's rubber stamped on the back: joseph ward, looking glasses and picture frames, boston. the image, from a drawing by j.p.soule, is from 1866, and from a series of "animated flowers". the cards are most likely from the 1880's. this is the only one i've been able to find.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

when chessboards reveal eternity...

1963 exhibition announcement alfred jensen

"the checkers traveling in a sequence of their white and black diagonals going both to the right and to the left, the contrast of the vertical and horizontal, both are similar in their alternating rhythms in light and darkness. this physical ordering reflects the cycle of man's destiny; the vastness of my former fears of darkness were resolved as i read first the dark square, meaning: first night. i read second a light square, meaning: then day. the seasons i read, the years i saw appearing as images, the living followed the dying in my checkerboard existence; and since every black is followed by a white, i found my place in eternity."

alfred jensen, 1960 (image: a 1963 postcard announcing jensen's exhibition in madison n.j.)

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

r is for...

r is for...

r is for...

r is for...

images from some 60's/70's flash cards...

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

sola dolente andava...

italian 7" cover 1964

this song is probably the winner for most beautiful recording added to the archives last year. it's a track from a 7" record, published in italy in the mid 1960's called "canti religiosi abruzzesi"; and was recorded by cesare bermani. i believe the singer, nicolina del sordo, is not a professional; as it's clear from a few external noises that this is a field recording rather than a studio recording. the 7" is part of a pair that make up a subset of a series of italian 7"s documenting folk and social songs during the mid 1960s.

i can't say much more about this song, other than it kills me. i think in this case it's better left to ears and hearts to experience, than for brains to dissect...

it seems good to start the year off with a heavy dose of beauty that goes hand in hand with a little bit of humility and wonder... a sure sign that a single human being is capable of just about anything.

click here to listen to sola dolente andava.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

as a new year begins...

RPPC west virginia

"i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces.
the wind that resembles nothing,
understands nothing nor cares what it does,
but is so lovely to listen to.
the soft wind,
soft like oblivion.

when the new morning breaks
i shall wander further,
in the windless dawn begin my wandering afresh
with my very first step
in the wonderfully untouched sand."

par lagerkvist, from aftonland, translated by w.h. auden (rppc of an unknown horn player from west virginia circa 1910)

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