Monday, 30 May 2011

North of the World

I've become weirdly obsessed with Norway. Bergen, fjords, wooden stave churches (more on them later) and for today the poetry of Rolf Jacobsen, here translated by Roger Greenwald.


Up on the city’s roofs there are large fields.
That’s where silence crept up to
when there was no room for it on the streets.
Now the forest comes in its turn.
It needs to be where silence lives.
Tree upon tree in strange groves.
They don’t do very well, because the floor is too hard.
So they make a sparse forest, one branch toward the east,
and one toward the west. Until it looks like crosses. A forest
of crosses. And the wind asks
—Who’s resting here
in these deep graves?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Chechen border toys

Shatili, Georgia, August 2009

Shadows run for mountains
Disintegrating light confetti

Gonio Sunset

The sun melted into the sea
40 seconds of honeyed sky
and water without tides
waiting for the moon and
slivers of silver shadows
holding onto evening

The owls of Belgrade (and imaginary Stoke on Trent)....

I love owls - they're magical and strange and obviously know what's going on, so I was obviously thrilled when one child, Ebonie, created an owl land as her imaginary version of Stoke-on-Trent for our Mapping Dreams project (at Abbey Hulton Primary School). The photos are of some particularly knowing owls from Belgrade zoo - a somewhat depressing place, but the owls were wonderfully haughty and I liked to imagine that they escaped at night to have their own Depeche Mode discos and sesame pizza on boats on the Danube...

Maybe they also have the power to turn into teapots and spy on the gossip of a civilised sunny afternoon... (genuine Serbian hands courtesy of Jelena).

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Ruined themepark of the day - Dinosaur World, Arkansas

Now as my good friends know I do like a good selection of random life-size dinosaurs dotted around a landscape (i.e. Crystal Palace Park obsession, see one of my earliest posts))- in fact I like dinosaurs in general. I also like ruined themeparks, so imagine my delight when I discovered that in Arkansas there's a place that encompasses both - Dinosaur World! Closed in 2005 after a somewhat bizarrely right wing political history often involving its giant statue of King Kong it has been left to grow over, but is hard to get into to explore I think. I am not fussed about King Kong - but dinosaurs on the other hand...

These photos are from agility nut, which is worth exploring in general for its whole website dedicated to roadside dinosaurs - a deeply worthwhile exploration!

This from secretfunspot which has some good photos of general decay.

Fun, fun, fun... I like the idea that the dinosaurs come to life at night and so the be careful not to be eaten sign still applies...

Cornelius's genius - The Human Body, what it is and how it works...

I am slightly obsessed with this early children's illustrated guide to the human body, published in 1959 and illustrated by the wonderful Cornelius De Witt. The images are startlingly strange and beautiful whilst informative, but what I really love is how he has somehow managed to bring science facts to life by illustrating the dreamy inner life of the body - his illustrations represent and interpret what happens rather than show as a grizzly medical photograph would, or rather in many cases he shows through his drawing what a photo never could - the invisible processes that make a body human - what it thinks, feels, sees and smells. He shows the wonder of what it is to be human, making a learning biological facts a thing of optimism rather than a dehumanising falling back down to earth - yes we are made of cells and governed by functions, but we have the ability to dream, communicate and discover the world around us. This can only be a good way to learn about life.

Another truly wonderful example of the power of good illustration... Oh and this last photo shows scientists that discovered interesting things about the body - v cool...

Friday, 6 May 2011

Of secret codes and Warja Honegger-Lavater

My fixation of the week is definitely the work of Swiss artist's book fairy tale encoding illustrator extraordinaire Warja Honegger-Lavater. I have always been obsessed with secret codes, especially those created by us when we're young or writing codes for diaries - they are a fascinating look into the personal - a way of distilling meaning for only a few and shutting out a public view. Codes by definition keep most people out. This has always fascinated me in terms of their use in writing projects - I love making up alphabets too and writing stories in them that somehow are in keeping with the visual impact of the letters created (I think there's an old post of one of these on here somewhere). This balance of drawing in the reader/viewer with intrigue, but still keeping them guessing to the meaning of the code whilst maybe understanding its essence is an incredibly interesting challenge to me. One of the things I love about Lavater's work is that she is not trying to hide meaning by using code, but to bring a story's meaning out further, or to distill the essence of the story. She gives us code translators (see William Tell example below) at the beginning of her books so we know what each symbol means - she lets us into her private world so that we may understand the world of a story better. And the fact that she illustrates folk tales (the example I've uploaded here is Little Red Riding Hood) means that she is illustrating a story we probably already know and have our own image of, probably an image that has become quite archetypal, but she takes the idea of archetypal away from the danger of cliche to an abstract essence. The words are erased as unnecessary as her pictograms speak to the viewer - she is illustrating the function of the words as well as what is happening. It is an incredibly brave and interesting way of interpreting illustration. And lest I forget, of course her work also looks lovely. And Maeght Editions
in France have published reproductions of her original accordian fold out artist books. Birthday list!

P.S. If anyone would like to send me any childhood or teen codes they made up that would be amazing for a project I'm working on...