Saturday, February 23, 2008

To switch fluidly from the scale of the atom to the scale of entire cities

Design Review 'Design and the Elastic Mind' The Soul in the New Machines By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF The New York Times: February 22, 2008 Bioengineered crossbreeds. Temperamental robots. Spermatozoa imprinted with secret texts. Although the fascination with organic form has been around since the Renaissance, we have now entered an age in which designers and architects are drawing their inspiration from hidden patterns in nature rather than from pretty leaves or snowflakes. The results can be scary, but they may also hold the key to paradise.

“Design and the Elastic Mind,” an exhilarating new show opening on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, makes the case that through the mechanism of design, scientific advances of the last decade have at least opened the way to unexpected visual pleasures.
As revolutionary in its own way as MoMA’s “Machine Art” exhibition of 1934, which introduced Modern design to a generation of Americans, the exhibition is packed with individual works of sublime beauty. Like that earlier show, it is shaped by an unwavering faith in the transformative powers of technology.
Yet the exhibition’s overarching theme, the ability to switch fluidly from the scale of the atom to the scale of entire cities, may sound a death knell for the tired ideological divides of the last century, between modernity and history, technology and man, individual and collective. It should be required viewing for anyone who believes that our civilization is heading back toward the Dark Ages.
Organized by Paola Antonelli, the show opens with an act of high-tech graffiti. A can of spray paint is suspended from a system of cables and pulleys in front of a wall. A small motor guided by computer software winds and unwinds the cables, moving the spray can methodically across the white surface to spell out the show’s title.
It is a nice, mischievous touch. And the precision of the script, in contrast to the paint’s fuzzy edges or the occasional drip, reinforces the show’s point that the old Manichaean duality between the artist and artificial intelligence, nature and machine, no longer holds.
To create “The Honeycomb Vase,” for instance, Tomas Gabzdil Libertiny designed a temporary frame in the shape of a squat vase with a slender neck. A colony of nearly 40,000 bees then went to work for a week constructing a hive over it in what the designer calls “slow prototyping” — a pointed reference to the methodical repetition of the old assembly line.
The resulting voluptuous, translucent form reflects a close collaboration between man and nature in which the artist serves as a gentle guide before allowing the bees to take over.
Similarly, Joris Laarman’s “Bone Chair” was created with computer software that mimics the creation of human bones. The weight and stresses on a typical chair are programmed into the computer, which then works out an appropriate “bone” structure, churning out a series of increasingly refined prototypes. (The final computer version has a raw, undigested quality, but Mr. Laarman couldn’t resist adding a final dash of aesthetic refinement by smoothing over the rough edges, a nice little example of how reluctant some designers are to yield control.)
Other designers are more concerned with developing strategies that allow the machine to adapt to individual tastes rather than with creating the perfect prototype. Using rapid manufacturing systems, the Swedish team known as Front Design have developed a process in which a person sketches a piece of furniture in the air, which is then recorded with motion-capture video technology and transformed into a digital file. The file can then be used to generate a laser-cut piece of real furniture. Individual desire takes precedence over mass consumer tastes.
In all of these cases the computer’s grasp of complex underlying patterns allows the designer to create objects that are not only superefficient but also remarkably adaptable.
But the show is about more than gorgeous, environmentally sensitive design. The human body is repositioned as part of a fluid, elastic chain that extends from minuscule atomic particles to global communication networks.
The best example of this approach is Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch’s “Rules of Six,” which uses algorithms to fashion an organically based architecture. Mimicking the growth patterns of microscopic nanostructures, they envisioned an unpredictable, self-generating landscape that can multiply indefinitely without sacrificing stability. Their design is indifferent to scale: the sprawling matrix of three-dimensional interlocking hexagons could represent rooms, buildings or entire urban neighborhoods.
In another fascinating if fanciful application of nanotechnology, the typeface designer Oded Ezer proposes using it to imprint incantatory typed messages on spermatozoa, the high-tech equivalent of a primitive fertility ritual.
The ease with which human designers can shift from the atomic to the global is driven home by the show’s layout, designed by Lana Hum. Visitors pass between two walls that converge slightly, to create a forced perspective — an architectural trick that extends all the way back to Palladio in the 16th century but here makes you feel like Alice tumbling through the looking glass.
Suddenly you are in a space packed with unfamiliar objects, like a trade fair. The scales shift once again; dystopian visions seep into the picture. “New City,” a projected three-dimensional display of a virtual world by Peter Frankfurt, Greg Lynn and Alex McDowell, is a model of an idealized society where buildings, cities and entire geographic regions all flow seamlessly together. It suggests how the Internet could be used as a testing ground for an emerging utopia.
Perhaps the most unnerving project here is “Architecture and Justice” from the Million Dollar Blocks Project, a graphic study by Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab. Using the computer to filter through masses of data on prison populations, the group studied several American cities and identified the blocks where the highest concentration of prison inmates lived when they were arrested. That more than $1 million a year is spent on incarcerating people from each one of these blocks is shocking misuse of resources.
The graphic display on a blood-red grid is a bold expression of how the computer can be a powerful analytical tool for dislodging received wisdom and enabling us to examine entrenched social problems through a new lens.
If the show has a weakness, it’s when it introduces artsy expressions of futuristic societies that tend to be technologically crude: images of heavy plastic tubes that potential sexual mates can use to sniff each other, for example, or robots that refuse to respond until they are lavished with affection.
The almost unwieldy scope of the exhibition, however, is a virtue: it sends our imaginations spinning in endless directions. The technological optimism and trade-show ambience, for example, may conjure Charles and Ray Eames’s gigantic slide displays from the 1959 Moscow Trade Fair, which flaunted the peacetime technology of cold-war America. I left MoMA already dreaming of a followup show that would map out the link between today’s new design technologies and the wartime military research that generated them.
Or how about a show that looks at the relationships between technology, modernity and fundamentalism?
But I don’t want to detract from the mood. “Design and the Elastic mind” is the most uplifting show MoMA’s architecture and design department has presented since the museum reopened in 2004. Thanks to its imaginative breadth, we can begin to dream again.
“Design and the Elastic Mind” opens on Sunday and continues through May 12 at the Museum of Modern Art; (212) 708-9400, Richard Perry/The New York Times “New City” by Peter Frankfurt, Greg Lynn and Alex McDowell in a show opening Sunday at MoMA. More Photos >

Meditative play of light...searching for silence

Aura of Auroville Ruchika Talwar Expressindia: Saturday , February 23, 2008

A Franco-Swiss family and an Italian, who have left Europe to make Auroville their home, are in the Capital with paintings, which have an almost meditative play of light; gigantic installations embellished with mantras and the red sand of Aurobindo’s ashram; and haiku-like photographs with the aura of Auroville.
The Hymn of Silence, an enormous installation by Veronique Nicolet (above, in picture), a 51-year-old who has been an art teacher at Auroville for the past 11 years, consists of three sheets of glass, painted in blue and engraved with the mantra Om Namo Bhagawataya. But the photographs of the Italian Ireno Guerci, who is enamoured with “the visual paradise that India is”, are simple. “They are an invitation to contemplate the little ideas that we tend to ignore in the lust for big ones,” he says.
Then there is 55-year-old Michel Nicolet, with his installation Prakriti and Purusha, and 36-year-old Karine Applanat Nicolet, who is an interior decorator at the quaint township in Pondicherry. Her paintings probably have the softest colours one has ever seen on canvas, as though they are searching for silence.
The exhibition at the India International Centre comes with a probing title: “Why Art?” Rajan Ghosh, who has written a book on the relationship between art and Aurobindo, explains, “The title is interrogative, but the answer lies in the search within. Aurobindo believed that art doesn’t give what nature does; it gives much more.” The exhibition at the India International Centre Annexe is on till February 29

Friday, February 22, 2008

Surreal-metaphysical imageries and mystical symbolism

Exhibition: ‘South Calcutta Artists’ Academy
Aurelec Cafeteria & Art Gallery (until 16 March) ::: 8:00 AM 17 February to 16 March 2008
Exhibition by members of the South Calcutta Artists’ Academy
Aurelec Cafeteria & Art Gallery
The ‘South Calcutta Artists’ Academy’ is an artists’ organization, consisting of painters, sculptors, graphic and ceramic artists, and so on. It is the quest for empathy, for togetherness, that led us to establish the Academy in 2001.
Our Academy aims to provide a broad platform for artists to overcome their personal and commercial handicaps, without compromising their individual identities. Just as parallel lines can progress together, similarly different ambitions and thought-processes are sought to be accommodated under the umbrella of our Academy.
Representation at ‘Aurelec’ Exhibition :
The members of the South Calcutta Artists’ Academy aspire to represent the Eastern Region, especially Calcutta, at the Pondicherry Artists’ Workshop. All the members of the Academy are upcoming contemporary artists, experimenting with the various genres of both contemporary and traditional Indian art.
Calcutta as we all know is known as the cultural capital of our country. It amalgamates the traditions of Indian classical and folk art forms along with the influence of colonialism.
The artists of the Academy seek a forum to bring international exposure to the artistic traditions of Eastern India, as well as to exchange knowledge of existent and emergent art forms and techniques.
Ten painters will exhibit their work in the forthcoming exhibition in ‘Aurelec’:
Sujit Karmakar seamlessly blends Indian traditional art symbols and monochromatic colour schemes with contemporary themes and concerns.
Pinaki Acharyya’s surreal-metaphysical imageries are juxtaposed with Indian spiritual and mystical symbolism.
Sharmistha Acharjee likes to experiment with lines and form. She focuses on inanimate objects, which she then invests with a new dimension.
Ashok Kumar Dey draws inspiration from folk art forms. His lines are cleanly and firmly etched, giving his figures a certain fixity of purpose.
Sujit Saha uses primitive art forms and animal motifs to highlight his contemporary concerns.
Tapan Biswas likes to place spiritual art forms against contemporary images.
Pradip Laha goes back to Bengal folk art and figurative style for inspiration. The female images in his paintings create a new niche to highlight feminine forms and feelings.
Mahua Roy mixes her fantasies and innocence to express herself.
Amitava Banerjee amalgamates bold brushwork with his simplified folk forms.
Rajib Deyashi works with naturalistic forms and realistic colours.
Lal Malsawma is from Mizoram (North-East ). His paintings portray with honesty the environment to which he belongs.
Aurelec Cafeteria, Auroville, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
posted by Franz

Paintings, silk screens and drawings by Monique Patenaude

Exhibition: "The Blue Invasion"
Pitanga (until 12 March) ::: 8:00 AM
The Blue Invasion and other unseen art works
Paintings, silk screens and drawings
by Monique Patenaude
21 February to 12 March 2008 at Pitanga
Daily open: 8 – 12:30 & 2 – 7 pm Sundays closed
The English version of the book “Made in Auroville, India”,
translated by L’aura Joy, will be launched at the same time.
posted by Pitanga

Monday, February 18, 2008

Still can the vision come, the joy arrive

Archetypal matter-spirit mysteries set for debate again
S. Dorairaj Other States - The Hindu - Puducherry
Three-day meet organised by Sri Aurobindo World Centre for Human Unity
— Photo: T. Singaravelou The brochure of the three-day meet, ‘Sri Aurobindo…The New Dynamism of the Material and the Spiritual’ that will be held in Puducherry from Friday.

“When the circle will be completed, when the two extremities will touch, when the highest will manifest in the most material that the experience will be truly decisive.” – This is how The Mother throws light on the dynamism of the material and the spiritual.
Fathoming out the mysteries of the relationship between matter and spirit, Sri Aurobindo says:
“There Matter is the Spirit’s firm density
Where sense can build a world of pure delight.”

But an attempt to find answers to questions such as “Are these poetic images?,” “Or, do they reflect the nature of changes taking place in our world?” and “Can we discover links to them? And weave them together to form a rich tapestry of our lives?” has been made by the Sri Aurobindo World Centre for Human Unity by organising a three-day meet, “Sri Aurobindo…The New Dynamism of the Material and the Spiritual.”
The meet to be held at Bharat Nivas in Auroville will commence its deliberations on February 15.
The first day will be devoted to the broad topic, “Our Frontiers of Scientific Research.” It will have presentations by experts on the irreversible discoveries in physics, the new findings in biology, economics taking a new look, in search of new organisational structures, how technology impacts the human psyche, how globalisation affects individuals and societies and climatic change and its far reaching imperatives.
Topics such as art as expression of the spirit, the multi-dimensionality of the literary canvas, architecture as form and consciousness, design and its changing contours, education seeking new methods and goals, search for a greater psychology of man and society and the meaning of ‘embodiment’ and evolutionary purpose would be discussed on the second day under the broad subject, “As Life recreates itself.”
The third day would have the session on “Spiritual Experience and the goal of Transformation.” Issues such as “A new sense of the ‘spiritual’ in life-in-matter, its many forms and practices, the supra-mental consciousness and the substance, the supra-mental manifestation, its moment of evolutionary presence and the path of internal yoga” would be discussed.

24 speakers
A total of 24 speakers will make their presentations. Each session will also have collective interaction.
The deliberations on the first day will start with recitation from ‘Savitri’ and conclude with the chanting of “OM” with Narad at Sri Aurobindo Auditorium. The second day’s session will begin with recitation from ‘Isha Upanishad’. Exhibition
An exhibition on “Infinite Matter” would be inaugurated at Kala Kendra.
On the third day, the session would commence with meditation with music of ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary 1972’.
It would culminate in a power-point presentation titled, “A Presence of Roger Anger.”
A power-point presentation on “How the Body’s Development Supports Higher States of Consciousness” in the forenoon at the audio-visual room of Kala Kendra and contemporary dance and live music programme “An Infinite Matter” by Grace and Nadaka at the Sri Aurobindo Auditorium in the evening are slated for February 18.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nishikanta-Dilip Kumar combination that resulted in memorable compositions

ALL THE BEST: Tale of two legends
It is not often that one encounters so many legends in a single week. Art lovers speak of Ramkinkar Baij with the same reverence that connoisseurs of music refer to Dilip Kumar Roy. At the same time came a living legend in the world of dance from Germany, Pina Bausch who had taken Kolkata by storm more than 12 years ago with a production called Carnations. Her performance has been discussed elsewhere and hence we can concentrate on the two who have their roots n Bengal but whose legacy is cherished all over.
Dilip Kumar Roy was born in the same year as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and while the latter spend the better part of his life striving for the freedom that came when he was not around, the former strived for freedom of music compositions that stood apart in an era dominated by Tagore. The point was stressed in an absorbing lecture by Sudhir Chakraborty which was the highlight of Sura Kavya Trust’s 111th birth anniversary programme on Dilip Kumar Roy at the GD Birla Sabhagar. The idea was to emphasise the “parampara’’ that made Dilip Kumar what he was ~ a scholar with a universal outlook but whose creative genius distinguished him from Tagore and who found his m├ętier in several thousand songs which have not yet been comprehensively compiled.
It is left to organisations like Sura Kavya Trust to preserve the heritage through publications, music albums and, most important, getting the new generation to imbibe the power and passion of Dilip Kumar’s music. The programme revealed exciting new talents. One of them was Sujata Majumdar who accompanied Sudhir Chakraborty as an illustrator of the musical legacy handed down to Dilip Kumar from his father Dwijendralal. The raga-based compositions were illustrated with Sujata’s rendering of Barasha elo which was followed up with the Nishikanta-Dilip Kumar combination that resulted in memorable compositions like Tomar andhar nishaye and tunes adapted from the Scotch, Irish and English compositions. The speaker, an acclaimed musicologist, covered different phases of the musical careers of father and son with such depth and perspicacity that the audience consisting mainly of admirers of Sri Aurobindo’s ardent disciple must have returned with a clearer understanding of the musical genius.
The second half was also devoted to the musical spirit handed down by father to son, this time resulting in a visual delight. Alokananda Roy made a stunning presence with movements that were wonderfully in tune with the songs rendered by Shikha Basu and Prabuddha Raha reinforced by Debraj Roy’s commentary written by Biswajit Ganguly. The DL Roy selections were in the patriotic mould but there were images of sheer joy reflected in songs like Ami eshechhi. There were also beautifully nuanced compositions that Shikha Basu used her experience and competence to give the audience a taste of the spiritual strength that went into all of Dilip Kumar’s work.
An equally comprehensive view of Ramkinkar Baij is presented by Anant Art Gallery. This is the most well curated show one has seen in recent times. The highlight is a series of photographs taken by Devi Prasad when he was a student of Ramkinkar at Santiniketan. Most of the photographs of the sculptures were said to have been taken at night with controlled lighting and they produce an ambience that is just right for appreciation of Ramkinkar’s memorable sculptures ~ the Yaksha and Yamini statues, studies of the human form, a study of Rabindranath that has been discussed again and again and images of mother and child, love and innocence.
Along with the sculptures come original paintings in water colour and oil. Most of these have a spontaneous flourish ~ village scenes and quick sketches that carry the energy and universal humanism that he brought to all his work. The credit for all this must go Naman Ahuja of the School of Arts and Aesthetic, JNU, who first presented the show in Delhi to an overwhelming response. In Kolkata there is an audio-visual section that includes an unfinished film on Ramkinkar by Ritwik Ghatak. It adds up to the most intimate portrait of the man who revealed so many shades to a colourful life.
POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps the least talked about side of Satyajit Ray’s creative genius was his contribution to the visual arts. If the show mounted by Ray Society at the Academy was any guide, there is no doubt that the energy and inventiveness Ray displayed elsewhere is reinforced by the plethora of illustrations, book covers, posters, typefaces, set and costume designs, advertisement art works and much more. The question is, where do all these get preserved? Swapan Mullick the Saturday, 9 February 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Money Museum

At a time of uncertainty — as the market quavers, the dollar sinks, sub-prime lenders go belly up, and the Federal Reserve Bank rapidly twists its dials — money becomes more puzzling and more unpredictable, demanding closer scrutiny. So while opening the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street last month might at first have seemed like bad timing — like buying a stock at its top, or selling at its bottom — there was actually no better moment to mount this tribute to the “forces that have made New York City the financial capital of the world” (as one of the museum’s displays puts it). And if our city’s status and the currency that backs it are more contested than they once were, that only makes the enterprise more urgently intriguing.
In fact, the museum was founded just after the 1987 market crash, because John Herzog, chairman of a trading firm that has since become part of Merrill Lynch, said he felt that there was no “institutional memory” on Wall Street. Moments of crisis require that expanded perspective, and, as the museum’s founding shows, they also inspire it...
One display reminds us that Willie Sutton famously explained that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” But we come to this former bank to see exactly what money is — and what America has made of it. That doesn’t really happen. But enough is seen so that money starts to seem less like a material object than like something more ethereal, affected by sea winds and psychology, faith and risk. And at this uncertain moment its mysterious powers seem all the more uncanny: it’s a perfect time to see it in action. This museum is not a bad place to start. The Museum of American Finance is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 48 Wall Street, Lower Manhattan; (212) 908-4110 or More Articles in Arts »