Brain Pickings

Author Archive

07 APRIL, 2011

Metrocard Collages: 3 Phenomenal Artists

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What Oprah’s diet has to do with the Mona Lisa, Frida Kahlo and the art of meta.

The art of making whimsy out of the mundane is one of the highest manifestations of creativity. We’ve previously seen incredible artwork created out of paper, cardboard, money, spam, books, office supplies and even toilet paper rolls. Today, we turn to an even more narrow byproduct of mundanity: The iconic New York City Metrocard.

JUAN CARLOS PINTO

For the past 10 years, New-York-based Guatemalan artist Juan Carlos Pinto has been using discarded Metrocards to create vibrant mosaic portraits of cultural icons and local heroes alike. His artwork comments on issues of social justice and environmental conservation with a visual aesthetic that emanates the expressive lushness of the ancient Mayan folklore traditions of his homeland.

Frida Kahlo

Louis Armstrong

Zebra

Bruce Lee

METROCARDOODLES

If mosaic collages use the Metrocard as a pixel on a giant canvas-screen, then Metrocardoodles does the opposite, using the Metrocard itself as the canvas and superimposing on it playful doodles that comment on pop culture. From Obama to Oprah, these quirky creations are anything but high art, but we just can’t stop looking anyway.

Metrocardoodles are the work of illustrator, art director and animator Andrew Thomspon, whom we may or may not have met in a past life in Philly.

NINA BOESCH

Artist Nina Boesch doesn’t simply sample from a New York staple, she comments on New York staples with her work. From the Statue of Liberty to Conan O’Brien to the Metrocard itself, for an exercise in ultimate meta, her stunning Metrocard collages portray the Big Apple’s urban iconography, human and architectural, with a remarkable balance of simplicity and complexity.

And for the mandatory digital customization add-on, Boesch even has a microsite that lets you Metrocard yourself.

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06 APRIL, 2011

SubMap: Visualizing Subjective Urban Patterns

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What Twitter in Finland has to do with villages in Hungary and the solipsism of urbanity.

Maps, cities and data visualization are among our sharpest points of interest, so when the the three converge, we’re swooning all over. SubMap, which we stumbled upon on the excellent new ArtsTech News aggregator, is a visualization project that flies in the face of the traditional conception of maps as static and objective representations of the public world, and instead maps the subjective personal experiences of a city’s residents.

From locals’ favorite places in Budapest to Finland’s real-time Twitter chatter to a subjective map of the city plotting the cartographers’ homes as the epicenter, the maps are living abstractions of civic sentiment, part Hitotoki, part ComplexCity, part We Feel Fine, part something else entirely.

The project’s latest iteration, SubCity 2.0: Ebullition, captures 12 years worth of data patterns from origo.hu, Hungary’s leading news site, not only visually but also through a sonic representation.

In the 30 fps animation, each frame represents a single day, each second covers a month, starting from December 1998 until October 2010. Whenever a Hungarian city or village is mentioned in any domestic news on origo.hu website, it is translated into a force that dynamically distorts the map of Hungary. The sound follows the visual outcome, creating a generative ever changing drone.”

SubMap is the work of Dániel Feles, Krisztián Gergely, Attila Bujdosó and Gáspár Hajdu from Hungarian new media lab Kitchen Budapest, a hub for young researchers and experimenteurs looking to explore the intersection of mobile communication, online communities and urban space.

via Creators Project

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06 APRIL, 2011

Computational Origami by MIT’s Erik Demaine

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Brain Pickings is all about the cross-pollination of ideas across disciplinary boundaries. We have a particularly soft spot for the interplay of art and mathematics — from Anatolii Fomenko’s vintage mathematical impressions to Vy Hart’s playful mathematics to Benoît Mandelbrot’s legendary fractals. So we love the work of MIT father-and-son duo Erik and Martin Demaine. In this wonderful presentation from MoMA’s now-legendary 2008 Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition, Erik reveals the extraordinary computational origami he has developed with his father, MIT’s first artist in residence.

Demaine, an endearing tried-and-true MIT-er complete with the ponytail-and-glasses combo and Comic Sans slides, embodies some of our highest ideals: From early childhood entrepreneurship to curiosity across the social strata to collaborative creation to the inspired interweaving of art and science.


Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

One of our growing realizations over the years is that mathematics itself is an art form, and I think that’s what attracted both of us to this area in the first place. [I]t has the same kind of creativity, the same kinds of aesthetics, that you get in art: You want a clean problem to solve, and you want an elegant solution to that problem. Both art and mathematics are about having the right ideas [and] executing those ideas in some convincing way, so in that sense they’re indistinguishable.” ~ Erik Demaine

For more of Erik Demaine’s cross-disciplinary creative genius, we highly recommend the tandem of Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra and Games, Puzzles, and Computation.

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06 APRIL, 2011

Store Front: New York’s Disappearing Face

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Last week, we watched a poignant short documentary about how one British barber is handling the slow demise of his business, driven by the changing face of the modern city. His was one of many voices that reflect the bittersweet aftertaste as “progress” as it touches, and invariably changes, commerce and community. In Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, photographer duo James and Karla Murray bring the same lens of retrostalgia to New York City’s morphing landscape of mom-and-pop shops. For eight years, the Murrays shot the facades of hundred of stores, more than half of which are now gone.

From the retrotastic typographic signage to the beautiful vintage color schemes, these storefronts are priceless time-capsules of an era as faded as their paint coats, haunting ghosts caught in the machine of progress.

Ideal Hoisery, Grand Street at Ludlow, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Katy's Candy Store, Tompkins Avenue near Vernon Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Giovani Esposito & Sons Pork Shop, Ninth Avenue at West 39th Street, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Ideal Dinettes, Knickerbocker Avenue near DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Maries Beauty Lounge, Morris Park Avenue near Haight Avenue, The Bronx (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

We were shooting graffiti around the five boroughs and were always into the letters of graffiti, so we started to notice these signs have a lot of different interesting fonts. And we liked the stores themselves, but we’d come back and shoot the walls, because in graffiti, a lot of the walls are painted over and over, and we noticed the stores were gone.” ~ Jim Murphy

Brand's Wine & Liquors, West 145th Street near Broadway, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Walters Hardware Co., Broadway near 36th Street, Queens (2006)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Erney's Bike Shop, East 17th Street near Third Avenue, Manhattan (2003)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Miller's for Prescriptions, Broad Street near Cedar Street, Staten Island (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Nissan Seafood Wholesale, Madison Street at Catherine Street, Manhattan (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Store Front is equal parts design candy, feat of documentary photography, and visual study in urbanism. For more on the project, Newsweek has a fantastic audio slideshow, featuring wonderful interviews with some of the store owners and the Murrays themselves.

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