30 April 2010

ARTIST: Mirror Play

Argentinian Artist Leandro Erlich creates solid works of marvelous illusion.  Swimming pools viewed from beneath become the viewing experience of those viewing from above.  A ladder reaching up to a window that floats in the sky. A hotel hallway seen from above displays museum visitors floating in air.  

Here is one image from his 2004 installation piece B√Ętiment.

B√Ętiment (2004)
Nuit Blanche. La Cour de l'Observatoire de Paris

More info on Erlich can be found here and here.

29 April 2010

Playing By the Rules, or Not

Religion scholar, James P. Carse, wrote a philosophical tract titled Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility (© 1987. ISBN: 978-0345341846). Finite games have a set start and end point. The purpose of a finite game is to win, and since a winner can only be identified by the game ending, rules are created to define the end. An infinite game are bit more alpha-omega; there is no set beginning or end.  Play is ongoing; the goal is playing itself.  Humans, it seems, love to play and, Carse suggests, need to play.

Several summers ago at a family reunion, my Beloved Spousal Unit and his sister created a card game. They called it 3 Card Wenceslas. There were no rules, no points, no purpose, except some serious, in-the-moment-silliness.  Watching them create it, spontaneously, and then watching others try to figure out what they were doing was hugely entertaining.

In college I was the T.A. for an English teacher who assigned 'the inventing of a game as one class project. The best one was an elaborate board game named Utopoly by its makers. It was submitted complete with a carefully painted playing board, multi-colored pieces, a detailed set of instructions, and a spinner used to determine the moves. To grade the assignments we (me, the prof, and anyone else we could snag who wasn't in the class) had to play the game.  Grading was based on how well the game played, if the rules of play were understandable, how the game looked, and generally how imaginative and fun it was.  Pretty much everyone got a good grade: being asked to have fun brought out the best in them.

Jim Macdonald, in a posting titled Fairy Chess (A term coined in World War II Britain where "fairy" meant "whimsical.") describes some playful variations to the game of chess.  One version, called Blue Queen, adds a third queen to the board (painted blue so as to distinguish it from the other pieces).  Whoever is currently playing can use the blue queen as she wishes. When the other player begins his turn, the blue queen is then his to maneuver.  A version called Behemoth adds an indestructible piece to the board, the placement of which (and the destruction of which) is created by random throws of an eight-sided and four-sided dice. Alice Chess takes you through the looking glass: two boards are played with a single chess set. 

A version  of chess known to many fans of the original Star Trek series is the three-dimensional game played between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk.  There are a number of rule variants out there.  Parmen's Page lets you play "Spock's Board" online.  A Trek wiki page describes the original variation and its subsequent history in the Trek universe.  Diane Duane, author of a number of Star Trek novels, posits a 4D version  in My Enemy, My Ally (© 1984, ISBN 0-671-50285-9), where pieces are permitted to travel in and out of play via player-selected time increments on a specially-designed board cube. (D. Joseph Creighton termed this version Hyperchess, which he devised and tested.  The rules can be found here.)

Image by Keith Schengili-Roberts

It's not uncommon for archaeologists to unearth games of humans long gone.  Senet was an Egyptian game thought to be an earlier version of Backgammon. Written rules have yet to be discovered for it.  Senet was so integral to the culture of that time that it would seem its players felt no need to note them. The folks at KingTutShop have provided info on the board, pieces, posited rules, and game variants here.

Hnefatafl (or King's Table) was a precursor to chess and known in Scandinavia before 400 A. D.  Played on a marked board with set pieces the goal was to reach a corner square with one's King.  The game could play out unevenly, so a game etiquette evolved.  Each game played was actually a pair of games in which players switched sides, each player noting the number of pieces he lost or took from his challenger.  More info and the game rules can be found here.

The late 1960s saw a movement which its founders called "New Games." The founders sought to challenge traditional game philosophies (text quoted from this site):  

Play and physicality were as important to adults as they were to children.

Competition and cooperation should co-exist; but while competition can be important, winning and losing is not.

No one should be left out, eliminated, or unable to play.

Games are living culture, adapted and changed as required.

Play should require no or little equipment.

The rules should be dirt simple and fun.

The guiding philosophy for the New Games movement was: Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. (Note: While out of print, The New Games Book is still available via Amazon as a used book.)

Well, please excuse me. I have to end this post now and go out and play!

28 April 2010

Random No More

It used to be with Blogger that when you clicked on the Next Blog link at the top of the page you were randomly taken somewhere (at least that is how I recall it!).  Now when I click, I find I get to places that The Blogger Deity deems similar to the blog I was just at.  It's both disappointing and not.  Also occasionally odd.

The Hermitage blog of artist Rima Staines is an extravagantly designed home a multifaceted mind and maker.  Each piece she does is a moment captured, her artist's creative soul captured in the moment as well. 

Soup and Pipe
by Rima Staines

For no real reason, one day I clicked on the Next Blog from her page.  Where it led me to was a series of blogs about families, new babies, and a bunch of new-agey stuff.  What meta info is buried in Staines' blog to make that the connection followed by Blogger?

At the Natural History Museum, New York
by Tommy Kane

Conversely, when I jumped from Tommy Kane's Art Blog I was taken on a truly entertaining and intriguing journey to and through the blogs of illustrators, painters, shy watercolorists, unpublished artists, and all.  The quality of the art (and the blogs) varied considerably.  Were it not that I had places to go and people to meet this day, I'd be lost for hours.

26 April 2010

Daily Gratitude

I came across the website of Leah Dieterich.  It's called THXTHXTHX.  Amuses and provides the occasional, much needed perspective. Here are a few examples.

Thanks, Leah.

25 April 2010

A Funny: Judi Dench Does the 3 Little Pigs

I always thought that Judi Dench could read
a telephone book and still capture my adoring attention.

21 April 2010

Exhibit: Art and Dreaming

"The PaperVeins Museum of Art is focused on the creation, curation, exhibition, and study of contemporary art about the human body in medicine and technology."
Artist Anna Willieme is a lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library in New York City.  At the PaperVeins Museum of Art she has created a combined exhibit and laboratory for the study of dreaming.  Called the Dream Room.  She describes it: "The Dream Room will be created in a laboratory, hospital, office or any space where scientists are involved in research. The scientist will be able to allocate time to go "dreaming" as part of his research process. Scientists will be coached in methods to increase dream recall and techniques of dreaming such as dream incubation, dream reentry, and waking dreaming. These methods will help scientists use their dreaming for creative problem solving."

She goes on to describe how the Dream Room will work:

"The Dream Room will be designed to create an atmosphere conducive to sleeping and dreaming. It will have a flexibility in regards to decor so it can be adapted according to individual preference. The room will have a portable "camp" style bed, light and easy to move. Whoever is using the Dream Room will be able to set up the bed according to his preference. A large scroll will be hung on one of the walls. The scroll will have an image connected to the dream world such as a moon, mandala, labyrinth or a theme relating to the area of study of the scientist. It will serve as a support for meditation and enable the scientist to create and choose a mood for the room. A series of scrolls will be available to choose from. A small foldable table will be attached to one of the walls. It will be equipped with pencils, inks, pastels etc. for the scientists who wishes to record in drawing some of his dreams. A sound system will provide a choice of music or sounds (such as drumming) to entice sleeping and/or waking dreaming. The density of the room's ceiling lights will be adjustable and it will be possible to change the colors of the lights."

The exhibit web site also includes a section by the artist on Developing Dream Recall and Keeping a Dream Diary.

13 April 2010

A Typewriter Replaced (Thrice)

In high school and college I typed all my papers on the typewriter my Dad used when he was in school: an Underwood desk top model.  It was black, tall, and elegant.  So writerly!  In grad school I found my own typer, a Royal Empress.  It was the color of a Navy battleship and about as heavy.  At some point, its innards did something to themselves and it no longer worked.  I stashed it away and stubbornly moved it several times to new homes, and finally gave it away in 2005. 

But I missed it and missed the joy of physically making words with a metal machine.  This Spring I searched The EBay, and my joy was returned to me!  I bid on a pretty little model, and lost.  So I bid on another, and lost again.  And a third time, lost.  Determined to get the model I wanted (nothing fancy, a Smith Corona portable with a metal housing - I'm a typer not a curator), I bid on two simultaneously.  No way, given my betting track record (read: cheap) was I likely to win both. Wrong! 

One was a Smith Corona Classic -- big and heavy, for all that it is a portable, and mustard-colored.  The second was a more compact Smith Corona Galaxie II, grey and ivory with a tidy footprint and responsive strike action.  I gave the Classic to a friend who, mirabile dictu, was herself inspired to type letters once again. 

The Galaxie II I have kept and, if I am true to form, will soon give a name to.  But the tale does not end.  For though I had two, loved the one and gave the other away, my lust for metal words was not satiated.  I wanted -- needed -- a smaller, sleeker creature; one I might take with me when travelling or when I visit Hoja, a friend who values words and their making. 

I returned to EBay and there my imagined machine sat -- without a single bid on it.  Would I be so fortunate as to win her?  Reader, I shall not keep you in suspense.  I did and now she is mine.  A dark-as-storm-clouds grey Royal Dart: made in Holland the snug-fitting case tells me.  She is nothing grand.  A collector's discussion list I frequent derides her plain visage and loud key strikes.  I care not, for she is dark and comely.

She is also, sadly, in the repair shop.  The ribbon-advance mechanism seems not to be working.  But I am assured  by the Magic Man who cures these ailments, that all will be well in a sevenday. 

The story does not end, however.  My in-laws, hearing of my interest, sent to me their electric Smith-Corona.  Also dark grey.  She reminds me of a Star Fleet shuttle craft (the TNG not TOS version).  Which makes me think that ner name is likely to be Galileo.  (The Dart has been named Mouse.)

So my word machine life has come full-circle. What I gave away has returned, as it were. And my happiness is great.


Image credits:  The Underwood, Royal, and Smith-Corona pics are from the wonderful website, Machines of Loving Grace.  The pics of the Royal Dart are from the EBay seller's posting.  The electric Smith-Corona image is from this site.

Dante's Wardrobe Revisited

What is Dante's Wardrobe?  Best to say what it was.  In the mid-1990s I had a small mail order business for artist rubber stamps.  I named it Dante's Wardrobe.*

Dante after one of my favorite authors: Dante Alighieri (May/June c.1265 – September 14, 1321), the Italian poet.  (The image of Dante in the header of this blog is from the Mural of Dante in the Uffizi Gallery, by Andrea del Castagno, c. 1450.) His best known work, La Divina Commedia, was a mythic journey into the afterlife of the soul (as framed by the Medieval Christian worldview). 

Wardrobe comes from the C.S. Lewis work The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in his Narnia series.  I chose the name long before the Disney movie came out.  The notion of exploring unknown worlds as represented by the magical armoire was captivating.

My company was less literary than its namesake inspirations. The purpose of the business of Dante's Wardrobe was simple: fun, silliness, and creativity.  The stamps were mostly of my own design and focused on imaginary lands, fictional letters, and fanciful clothing.  The Anne Herbert quotation at the top of this blog was its mantra.  The company lasted only a year.  The current rage of scrapbooking and journaling hadn't hit yet. There was no real market then for my images and my ideas. 

Enter the 21st-century, and Dante's Wardrobe was reborn as a blog, twice in fact.  The original blog was a journal of my personal re-connection with art and its making.  This new incarnation is a return to my original intent: entertaining the world, encouraging others to entertain the world, and simply, to have fun.  Future posts will explore such things as decorated letterboxes, imaginary correspondences, mail art, letter writing, the sewing and design of clothing, and whatever else of a creative nature that comes to mind. 

As with any creative experience, it will ebb and flow.  My posts will be of a myriad rather than focused nature.  Images that intrigue, books I've read, people I find of interest, created and made things . . . whatever comes to mind.  It will be a microcosm of what makes the Internet such a fascinating world, a virtual cabinet of curiosities.

I welcome you to play.


UPDATE (Nov 2023): In 2020, when Covid hit, I put this art blog mostly on hiatus. I also created a new website for my writer self: https://jajablonski.com/

I have a blog there that is more oriented to writerly/literary topics. Dante's Wardrobe will remain active, though perhaps not quite as often. (I also use my Instagram account for my visual art. You can find it here: https://www.instagram.com/judeajablonski/

Image credits:  The portrait of Dante is by Sandro Botticelli. The image is in the public domain.  The Narnia wardrobe is a photo from Barry Wallis' Flickr photostream.  It is of the armoire created for the Disney movie.
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