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Retrospective on Futurism: N55

What snail shells and walking houses have to do with 13 years of art-science.

Remember Danish art collective N55 of walking house fame? Turns out they’ve been in the business of revolutionary ideas since 1996, and they have a book to prove it.

The N55 BOOK is a 200-page tome chronicling 7 years of innovative thinking — an accumulation of manuals for various things made by N55, from a clean air machine to a modular boat to a portable fish farm.

Perhaps the most fascinating part is the incredible retrospective the book provides on the relationship with public space and the art-science of sustainability — something that only recently reached critical mass, but has clearly been on the minds of the brightest creative innovators for nearly two decades.

Besides the practical concept-models playing with space and motion, the book also includes a series of exceptionally compelling essays on broader themes like the intersection of art and reality, the ownership of knowledge, and the ritual of living.

There is no meaning in talking about art without imagining persons, their behaviour, things and concrete situations. When one wants to talk about art, one must therefore talk about: persons and their behaviour with other persons and things in concrete situations.

The N55 BOOK is available as a free PDF download. It comes highly recommended as an intellectual and creative indulgence.

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Digital Choreography: Synchronous Objects

Twenty desks, one python, and what the human body has to do with lines of code.

Motion is a thing of beauty. Think about dance choreography — the human body in motion. Or the best stop-motion animation — pixels in motion. Naturally, the convergence of the two — choreography and digital motion — would be a magnificent thing.

Enter Synchronous Objects — a collaboration between German choreographer William Forsythe and Ohio State University Dance & Technology director Norah Zuniga Shaw.

The film plays off of the famed Forsythe piece One Flat Thing, Reproduced, using digital technology in a way that lets motion inform choreography. The project embodies the cross-pollination of ideas from different fields — dance, software, technology, sound design, motion graphics.

With this project, we seek to construct a new way of looking at dance, one that considers both discipline specific and cross-disciplinary ways of seeing.

Although this version of the film was done in Adobe Flash, upcoming work is experimenting with Field — a rich new open-source authoring environment built on Java and Jython (Python on the Java VM), designed for use in digital movement and visual expression. Field was conceived in — where else — the MIT Media Lab and has been used for anything from choreographic sequences to HD motion graphics installations.

Synchronous Objects and the technologies that inform it present a brave new frontier for motion arts, a future where human and algorithm come together to orchestrate beauty.

We highly recommend watching Synchronous Objects with headphones on — the sound effects alone are a piece of magic, adding a whole new layer to the already superb visual experience.

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Animation Spotlight: Invent

The frontiers of creativity, the art of printing, and the beauty of not printing.

Today’s short-and-sweet is a stop-motion animation by design students Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth, using nothing but printers and (we shudder to think how many sheets of) printing paper.

Invent was done in response to the D&AD Student Awards brief set by Hewlett Packard. The brief:

Present an idea which promotes HP Workstation’s ability to bring to life anything the creative mind can conceive.

And while the animation is indisputably brilliant, it’s also an indisputable tree-killer. Then again, it’s art, which probably makes it okayish.

But there’s nothing even remotely cool about the everyday waste of printing paper. Which is why we dig the new i.Saw USB-powered chainsaw — a spoof, of course, promoting Papercut, a neat free app that plays a chainsaw sound every time you print.

Genius. And a The Office episode in the making.

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Photography Spotlight: Things

The cultural anthropology of things, or what Hitler’s head has to do with Barbie.

It’s fascinating how we all use things — objects, products, trinkets, stuff — to define ourselves and make sense of the world. This is the backbone of consumer culture, but also a precious piece of cultural anthropology from a historical perspective.

Polish photographer Andrzej Kramarz explores both in Things.

The series, inspired by the horror vacui style of folk art, captures “portraits” of objects from the past, laid out on the ground into densely packed displays.

A typical sight in Eastern European antique street markets, the objects — old, worn-out souvenirs of the past — are of little monetary worth, but offer an incredible glimpse of eras gone by.

In a word: that, which is left of a previous life; that, which used to live, now leads a life after life, sometimes an imagined existence.

From war paraphernalia to antique jewelry to vintage hardware tools, the images read like powerful visual chapters from a textbook on sociocultural and political history.

Explore Things in its entirety over at Lens Culture, and think about what a portrait of your own trinkets-laden past would look like.

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