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Artist Spotlight: Stephan Zirwes Aerial Photography

Soccer field species, abstracting nature, and why you aren’t nearly as big as you think.

We’re aware we don’t go easy on superlatives here. But German photographer Stephan Zirwes is of the most deserving kind — words like incredible, phenomenal and fantastic are all but an understatement of his unlike-anything-else aerial magic.

One series, fields, explores the diverse “species” of soccer fields.

Leisure takes a look at the landscape of our free time.

Industry puts into perspective the vast scale of our man-made environment through geometric images that are aesthetically stunning, but somehow unsettling at the same time.

In construction, Zirwes takes a birds-eye look at the making of said man-made scale.

Leisure II presents a curious intersection of the above series — the unusual places people choose as oases of relaxation and recreation. If you look very closely at each image, you’ll find someone sprawling on a beach towel amidst the industrial clutter.

But perhaps our favorite series of his is titled snow — it abstracts nature with such simplicity and beauty that each image is more akin to a textured art canvas than a photograph.

There’s something incredibly humbling about seeing ourselves, from 10,000 feet, as the tiny figurines on a miniature set of life — a potent antidote to our grandeur-obsessed culture.

For the full Stephan Zirwes experience, we recommend fullscreen immersion.

via VSL

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Behind the Scenes of Project N.A.S.A.

From Jamaica to L.A., by way of the underground.

Five years in the making, the N.A.S.A. project — which stands for North America South America — made waves last year as one of the biggest creative collaborations between iconic “underground” artists across music, art, film and more.

One of N.A.S.A.’s most high-profile manifestations was the video for the track Money, featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, and Z-Trip, directed by Syd Garon and Paul Griswold, and with artwork by none other than the now-iconic Shepard Fairey.

Today, we go behind the scenes, with background on the N.A.S.A. project and the unprecedented but excellent idea of pairing up music artists with animators.

N.A.S.A.’s first album, The Spirit of Apollo, is an equally impressive string of unlikely but brilliant collaborations, including Karen O, Method Man, Santogold, M.I.A., The Cool Kids, and many, many more — grab it now.

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Into Post-Digital Creative Culture: OFFF 2009

What Lisbon and spaghetti have in common, or why failure is the key to creative success.

Since 2001, the OFFF festival has been showcasing the best of post-digital creative culture — interactive design, motion graphics, new music ventures, and other explorations of all media platforms.

OFFF is spreading the work of a generation of creators that are breaking all kinds of limits. Those separating the commercial arena from the worlds of art and design; music from illustration, or ink and chalk from pixels. Artists that have grown with the web and receive inspiration from digital tools, even when their canvas is not the screen.

The 3-day event is part design conference, part multimedia trade show, part digital animation festival, celebrating our new relationship with visual media.

OFFF dreams about the future, and then writes the code for it.

This year’s event, titled Fail Gracefully, wrapped earlier this month and was a cultural gem from start to finish — literally: Even the opening sequence for the festival, directed by Ilya Abulhanov and produced by Prologue Films, is a hypnotic piece of neo-digital genius.

The panel roster was equally impressive — including our favorite data visualization artist, Aaron Koblin, the iconic Paula Scher, and revolutionary film director and animator PES. (Remember Western Spaghetti? Yep, that guy.)

The discussion revolved around the notion of “graceful failure” as an essential strategy for creating in the digital space — we wouldn’t do it any justice by summarizing, but you can read the transcript from the Fail Gracefully panel here.

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Artist Spotlight: Zee Avi

From island paradise to bushfire, or why the best new music puts all of SXSW to shame.

At just 23, Malaysian singer-songwriter Zee Avi isn’t simply formidable up-and-coming musical talent — she’s also a poster child for success via social media. Her story goes a little something like this: After months of recording songs on her webcam and uploading them to YouTube, Avi woke up one morning to find a message from a major talent scout in her inbox. Beds were rolled off of in excitement, contacts were exchanged, and the rest was indie music history.

One thing led to another and, next thing I know, I was on a plane to L.A.

With vocals that are part Ingrid Michaelson, part Billie Holiday, and the lyrical sensibility of Feist, Zee Avi is the antidote to the general mediocrity that spewed from SXSW this year — and positively the best performer we’ve come across in 2009. 

Her self-titled debut album drops today, under Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label. So go ahead, get in the know before she goes… gasp… mainstream.

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