Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

21 OCTOBER, 2009

Art, Science, Food: Kevin Van Aelst

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The sweet side of the Periodic Table, or what kitty litter has to do with your DNA.

Jackson Pollock’s near-fractal paintings notwithstanding, science and art have always had a tortured Cold War of a relationship. But photographer Kevin Van Aelst is on a mission to change this — his series of food photography presents scientific and mathematical concepts through creative images of donuts, crackers, gummy bears and other such wildly unscientific snackables.

Cantor Set

Chromosomes

The images aim to examine the distance between the ‘big picture’ and the ‘little things’ in life — the banalities of our daily lives, and the sublime notions of identity and existence.

Cellular Mitosis

The Golden Mean

We’re also quite taken with his fingerprint series — a visceral reminder of how the physical environments we construct reflect the intimate realities of our personas.

Right Index Finger

Right Middle Finger

While the depictions of information — such as an EKG, fingerprint, map or anatomical model — are unconventional, the truth and accuracy to the illustrations are just as valid as more traditional depictions. This work is about creating order where we expect to find randomness, and also hints that the minutiae all around us is capable of communicating much larger ideas.

Left Pinky Finger

Right Ring Finger

via SEED Magazine

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16 OCTOBER, 2009

Experimental Cartography: The Map as Art

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What tattoo art has to do with fashion, vintage atlases and Nazi concentration camps.

We’ve always been fascinated by maps — through various elements of design, from typography to color theory to data visualization, they brilliantly condense and capture complex notions about space, scale, topography, politics and more. But where things get most interesting is that elusive intersection of the traditional and the experimental, where artists explore the map medium as a conceptual tool of abstract representation. And that’s exactly what The Map of the Art, a fantastic Morning News piece by Katharine Harmon, examines.

Matthew Cusick, 'Fiona’s Wave,' 2005

Cusick's oversized collages are painted with fragments of vintage atlases and school geography books from the golden era of cartography, 1872-1945.

Corriette Schoenaerts, 'Europe,' 2005

Schoenaerts, a conceptual photographer living in Amsterdam, constructs countries and continents out of clothing.

(You may recall Schoenaerts from our Geography, Topography, and Everythingography issue.)

Arie A. Galles, 'Station One: Auschwitz-Birkenau,' 1998

A grim allusion to Nazi concentration camps, these drawings, based on Luftwaffe and Allied aerial reconnaissance film, were made over the course of a decade.


Qin Ga, 'Site 22: Mao Zedong Temple,' 2005

In 2002, China's Long March Project embarked upon a 'Walking Visual Display' along the route of the 1934-1936 historic 6000-mile Long March, and Beijing-based artist Qin kept tracked the group’s route in a tattooed map on his back. Three years later, Qin continued the trek where the original marchers had left off, accompanied by a camera crew and a tattoo artist, who continually updated the map on Qin’s back.


Paula Scher: The World, 1998

Paula Scher: Africa, 2003

These maps come from Harmon’s The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography — a remarkable collection of 360 colorful, map-related visions of experimental cartography by well-known artists and design thinkers like Olafur Eliasson (remember him?), Maira Kalman (another TEDster), Paula Scher (and yet another), and Julian Schnabel, as well as more underground creatives whose art is greatly inspired by maps. The book also features essays by Gayle Clemans, introducing a richer layer of insight into the work of some of these map artists.

Be sure to read Harmon’s excellent essay below the Morning News images, which offers a fascinating look at the historical relationship between maps and the art movement, both products of the shifting political and aesthetic influences of the time.

via Coudal

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12 OCTOBER, 2009

Journalism Redefined: The Photographer

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A photographer, a graphic novel, and the remarkable story behind the headlines.

As we observe the eighth anniversary of Afghanistan’s latest occupation, the world would do well to reflect on the history that brought us to this most recent impasse. That complex history deserves a fittingly complex treatment, which it gets in the genre-breaking masterwork The Photographer.

First published in 2003 in French, The Photographer was reissued in English this year. Melding a graphic novel, photo essay, and travelogue, it tells the story of photographer Didier Lefèvre’s journey through Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Lefèvre documented the group’s harrowing covert tour in 1986 from Pakistan into a nation gripped by violence in the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion. While a few of his 4,000-plus images were published upon his return to France, years passed before Lefèvre was approached by his friend, graphic novelist Emmanuel Guibert, about collaborating on a book that would finally tell his remarkable story.

The resulting effort, assembled by graphic designer Frédéric Lemercier, is a seamless tour de force of reportage unlike anything else in modern journalism. Through hybrid forms of history, The Photographer tells one tale of what is of course an ongoing narrative in a part of the world we usually hear about in abstract headlines. We were moved by the courage and strength of the Afghani people and the MSF doctors who risk their lives to help them under exceedingly difficult conditions, especially the team’s young, female head of mission. Although we know how this particular piece of the story works out—against long odds Lefèvre makes it back to his native France, and MSF will stay until forced to abandon its operations temporarily in 1990—that does nothing to diminish the book’s suspense.

The Photographer is a true hybrid of artistic approaches. Frames of photos run in succession to provide parallax views of a scene, and Lemercier’s coloration of the drawn panels enhances the immediacy of the experience. (The Persian script in several scenes was even penned by Persepolis artist/author Marjane Satrapi.) Moved along by interwoven panels of photography and illustration, we were completely absorbed by the action and had to be pulled away to tell you about it.

For a singular storytelling experience, let The Photographer take you on a trip through time to a place we still need to understand better.

Kirstin Butler has a Bachelor’s in art & architectural history and a Master’s in public policy from Harvard University. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn as a freelance editor and researcher, where she also spends way too much time on Twitter. For more of her thoughts, check out her videoblog.

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