Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

(four seasons...) art & imagination: `blue remembered earth' by alastair reynolds

trailer for blue remembered earth by alastair reynolds

in the thread on the four seasons, i discussed the novel `the botticelli secret' in the previous post. it did not really capture me, but it rekindled my enthusiasm for botticelli's wonderful painting `primavera' (`spring').

it then struck me that the four seasons are in fact a result of our earth revolving around the sun. did you know that the seasons do not have equal length? on the northern hemisphere currently (and for a long time to come) summer and spring are longer than autumn and winter...(see this website on the length of the seasons). the landmass on the northern hemisphere being the larger by far, this is likely to contribute to global warming.

but to be honest, it provides me with a nice opportunity to discuss one of my favourite writers: alastair reynolds. here we have a science fiction author who imagines whole worlds and futures in an astonishingly visionary way. and more importantly, the science in his fiction to me is always daring yet convincing. it is clear that everything is carefully thought out and executed, just like in the `primavera', with amazing eye for detail and yet never forgetting the larger picture.

it turns out that reynolds is a scientist, who worked for ESA before turning professional writer. no wonder then that his descriptions of space and science are so rich. still, no author really captures me if the characters remain too `flat'. in this respect also i find reynolds' books fascinating. the humanity of the (human(oid)) characters is ever present, and rings true.

doesn't it tell us something though, that the word for `imagination' is ... `imagination'? in other words: creating images? a writer creates images in our minds. art and imagination are seldom far apart.

perhaps no coincidence then, that reynolds imagines art-rich africa to be so important in the scheme of things to come. in `blue remembered earth', one of the protagonists (sunday akinya) is a future artist. not only are reynolds' descriptions of her works intriguing, he also manages to capture something of the struggle that each true artist faces, in any time. simply an engrossing and wonderful novel, thank you alastair!

Friday, June 13, 2008

icarus intermezzo 2: who is icarus anyway?

[this blog seems to be attracting quite a number of interested people from all over the world. amazing. but noblesse oblige: to be read means to be held to write.]

how did i get to icarus from science and apes...well that's not so difficult of course, since from greek mythology icarus is traditionally depicted as the foolish son of scientist/inventor/architect daedalus (and he's the one who built the palace on knossos with the labyrinth for the minotaur, and who was then marooned off on a deserted island with icarus, but contrived to escape using wings made of bird feathers and wax) who flew too close to the sun, thus melting the wax of his wings, thus crashing to his death in the sea below.

unwise use of science/technology. apes playing with fire...

but actually, i've always felt uncomfortable with the icarus story. the myth itself -though instructive- also begs for reinterpretation.
[i will -i promise- come back to the themes of quality & art, brave new world, personal fabrication, but i cannot leave poor icarus be]

the fall of icarus (own work, 2006)

the fall of icarus, own work 2006

Sunday, June 8, 2008

science: we are apes playing with fire

rembrandt, doctor faust (detail)
rembrandt van rijn, doctor faust (detail)

another aspect of brave new world & scientific progress: it seems to me we resemble apes playing with fire. we uncover and unleash forces more powerful than ever before unleashed by mankind. but we have not grown significantly in a spiritual sense these past thousand or so years.

so we are left with serious threats to life on the planet (and therefore our own existence) such as nuclear war or nuclear terrorism or other nuclear disaster, the creation (through genetic engineering) of life forms -perhaps viral perhaps not- which can wipe out ecosystems or more, toxic waste / global pollution, global warming, to name a few.

less known but potentially just as dangerous (in my eyes): the ongoing creation of nanomachinery, and physical experiments aiming at the creation of a black hole on earth.

i've begun a sculpture series called `The World Circus Proudly Presents!!!' , probably as a way to vent my incredulity at our common human stupidity in these matters. pennysmart, pounddumb about sums it up for me. whatever brilliant scientific discovery is made, it will be swept up into the vortex of human greed, arrogance, intolerance, unwillingness to see further consequences, personal gainseeking etc.

we desperately desperately need spiritual growth. much more & much more urgently than any other growth.

The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (own work, 2006)
The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (own work, 2006, 150 x 90 x 90 cm, turning mobile)

The World Circus Proudly Presents!: The Terrorist Turtles with their Nuclear Balancing Act on Top of their Twin Towers!!! (detail of own work, 2006)

Monday, April 14, 2008

art & generalized open source (2)

king (1982-2001), wood, iron, plastic - dreamer, thinker, chesspieceking, 1982-2001

just having written about images being publicly available, i was contacted by an image research studio, working for a major educational publisher. they want to use a picture of the above sculpture in a textbook on art for secondary school, in a paragraph where chess-pieces-as-works-of-art are examined.

so this touches immediately on the current discussion. however, (especially since the sculpture has not yet been sold) i think few will disagree that in order for artists to pay their bills, they should ask for some (pecuniary) recompensation for the use of their art work, at least for commercial use.

still, wouldn't one want to give everybody the opportunity to see any (worthwile) work of art, even be it only a reproduction? a less elegant solution is to make available freely (and still restricted by copyright- the necessity of which i will comment on later) only low-res images. this is widely practiced, see most artists websites. better in my eyes would be to have generalized open source: high quality images available freely to the non-commercial public. but then the artists would somehow need to be assured of income in some other sense.

actually, a similar situation occurs in university science - or does it? well, at least university scientists generally are employed by government(-funded institution). their income therefore is mostly reasonably assured. and in this way much of science is paid for out of the public's pocket. but nonetheless, most current science results are not really freely accessible. scientific publishers like kluwer, springer, elsevier etc. charge quite highly for access to scientific articles. but they don't pay scientific authors a dime (really). scientists are supposed to be happy when their article is accepted for publication, since this gives (peer) ranking. as anyone who follows the news can gather, the profits of these companies are often staggering. universities pay heavily to have subscriptions (both for their libraries and for electronic access for individual researchers). the general public wishing to access scientific results which it already paid for, is left with a significant financial barrier.

the moral of this to me seems that closed source gives power to a small number of people (in this sense usually some sort of elite) who are naturally extremely reluctant to `open up'.

and, letting some art cat out of my bag as promised: this seems to describe to me extremely well the situation with modern art and its curators, be it museal or gallerial or institutional.