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  • feedwordpress 07:01:08 on 2019/03/14 Permalink
    Tags: , art, , Genevieve von Petzinger, , , , , , Worsaae,   

    “We communicate through art with symbols that transcend the boundaries of time and culture”*… 


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    consistent-doodles

     

    While studying some of the oldest art in the world found in caves and engraved on animal bones or shells, paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has found evidence of a proto-writing system that perhaps developed in Africa and then spread throughout the world.

    The research also reveals that modern humans were using two-thirds of these signs when they first settled in Europe, which creates another intriguing possibility. “This does not look like the start-up phase of a brand-new invention,” von Petzinger writes in her recently published book, The First Signs: Unlocking the mysteries of the world’s oldest symbols (Simon and Schuster). In other words, when modern humans first started moving into Europe from Africa, they must have brought a mental dictionary of symbols with them…

    A painstaking investigation of Europe’s cave art has revealed 32 shapes and lines that crop up again and again and could be the world’s oldest code– its ur-language: “Stone Age Cave Symbols May All Be Part of a Single Prehistoric Proto-Writing System.”

    * Richard Clar

    ###

    As we honor ancestral accomplishment, we might send carefully-excavated birthday greetings to Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae; he was born on this date in 1821.  An archaeologist and historian, and the second director of the National Museum of Denmark, he played a key role in the foundation of scientific archaeology.

    Worsaae was the first to excavate and use stratigraphy to prove C. J. Thomsen’s sequence of the Three-age system: Stone, Bronze, Iron.  He was a pioneer in the development of paleobotany through his excavation work in the peat bogs of Jutland. And he contributed to the discussion of the origins of human populations around the world.  He proposed a route by which prehistoric people spread from Africa, through Asia, across the Bering Strait to the Americas, and from South America to Australia and the South Sea islands.  (Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition a century later [see here and here] proved the latter voyage to be possible.)  He suggested that Europe was populated later, with Scandinavia one of the last areas to be reached by humankind.

    220px-Jens_Jacob_Asmussen_Worsaae_from_Familj-Journalen1885 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:22 on 2019/03/02 Permalink
    Tags: art, , art market, Berthe Morisot, Geraldine Norman, Impressionism, investments, Peter Wilson, Southeby's, Times-Southeby's Index,   

    “Damien Hirst should run Lehmann Brothers”*… 


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    Peter-Wilson_Goldschmidt-sale_Sothebys_1958-720x536

    Peter Wilson presiding over the Goldschmidt sale at Sotheby’s, October 15, 1958. For maximum drama, Wilson limited the sale to seven star lots. Guests included Kirk Douglas, Somerset Maugham, and Lady Churchill. The rising prices paid for Impressionist paintings during the 1950s caught the attention of the press and attracted a surge of new buyers

     

    “Works of art have proved to be the best investment, better than the majority of stocks and shares in the last thirty years.”

    This was the confident declaration of Peter Wilson, the then chairman of Sotheby’s, during his 1966 appearance on the BBC’s Money Programme. Though he was only eight years into his chairmanship, Wilson had already overhauled the fusty image of the art trade. His ingenious pre-sale marketing efforts, celebrity invitations, and black-tie sales had transformed Sotheby’s auctions into major news affairs, and deepened the perception of Christie’s as an antiquated rival.

    Reacting shrewdly to the post-war wave of prosperity, Wilson was determined to bring newly moneyed buyers into the fold. He sought to convince businessmen and bankers that collecting was no longer the exclusive preserve of cultured, old-money dynasties such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, or Mellons. Crucially, Wilson wanted to instill the notion that art can be an investment. The sudden and precipitous rise of the Impressionist art market during the 1950s may be cited as proof of this. If you inherited an Impressionist painting, you could now sell it for vastly more than your family paid to acquire it. Wilson’s idea just needed to be packaged in an immediate and compelling fashion.

    A year after Wilson’s television appearance, twenty-seven-year-old Geraldine Keen — now Geraldine Norman — received a letter in Rome. A graduate of Oxford University and UCLA, Norman had left her job as an editorial statistician for the Times newspaper in London to work for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. The letter was a job offer from the paper’s City editor, George Pulay, asking Norman whether she would consider returning to London. He wanted her to spearhead a new editorial collaboration between the Times and Sotheby’s.

    Few people active in the art world today have heard of the Times-Sotheby Index. Those who have are most likely veteran art dealers or retired auction staff…

    But it had a lasting effect: the project galvanized the concept of art as an investment asset.  Find out how at “‘Your Money Is Safe in Art’: How the Times-Sotheby Index Transformed the Art Market.”

    * Alberto Mugrabi

    ###

    As we diversify our holdings, we might spare a thought for Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot; she died on this date in 1895.  A pioneering painter, she was one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism (with Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt).

    In February 2013, Morisot became the highest priced female artist, when After Lunch (1881), a portrait of a young redhead in a straw hat and purple dress, sold for $10.9 million at a Christie’s auction (exceeding the $10.7 million paid for a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois in 2012).

    220px-Morisot_berthe_photo

    Berthe Morisot

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:57 on 2019/02/11 Permalink
    Tags: Anish Kapoor, art, balck, , , , , , Stuart Semple, ,   

    “Friends share things”*… 


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    Black header

    Readers may recall that (R)D has contemplated black before [and here], more particularly, the emergence of the (then) “blackest black,” Vantablack.  Here, via the always-amazing Imperica, an update:

    I’ve featured Stuart Semple and his work in here quite a lot over the past few years; this is the latest in his gloriously petty (but also actually sort of serious) one-man project to annoy Anish Kapoor by creating a paint as-black as Kapoor’s famously VERY black Vantablack (if you want the background to the story you can read all about it [at the link below], but basically Semple thinks that Kapoor is a pompous, self-important arsehole and, by all accounts, Semple is absolutely 100% right). Anyway, if you want the chance to own some of the blackest paint EVER MADE, here’s your chance – the Kickstarter for it is 3x funded with over a month left to go, so this is definitely happening, and it’s worth backing it purely to have the chance to draw ACME-style Wil E Coyote-esque fake tunnels on walls all over London…

    Semple says, “we’ve created a paint that absorbs 98-99% of visible light, we want to share this black hole in a bottle with all artists and creators.” Learn more– and but some of your own– at “The blackest black paint in the world! Black 3.0.”

    * Pythagoras

    ###

    As we get dark, we might spare a thought for a man who did his best to dispel a different kind of darkness:  René Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was; he died on this date in 1650.

    Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

    “In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
    – Rene Descartes

    Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2019/02/03 Permalink
    Tags: , art, , , John Butler Yeats, , , , William Butler Yeats   

    “I don’t like the ALPHAbet. I’m going to wait for the BETA version.”*… 


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    alphabet zoomable version here

     

    The chart shows how the letters used to write English (and many other languages) evolved from Proto-Sinaitic, through Phoenician, early Greek and early Latin, to their present forms. You can see how some letters were dropped and others ended up evolving into more than one letter…

    From Matt Baker of UsefulCharts, this chart traces the evolution of our familiar alphabet from its Proto-Sinaitic roots circa 1850-1550 BC.  As Kottke observes, it’s tough to see how the pictographic forms of the original script evolved into our letters; aside from the T and maybe M & O, there’s little resemblance.  Helpfully, Baker also produced a video:

    * Anthony T. Hincks

    ###

    As we follow the thread, we might spare a thought for John Butler Yeats; he died on this date in 1922.  An artist many of whose works are displayed in the National Gallery of Ireland, he was the father of poet William Butler Yeats (and his accomplished siblings Lily YeatsElizabeth Corbett “Lolly” Yeats and Jack B. Yeats).

    202px-william_butler_yeats_by_john_butler_yeats_1900

    W. B. Yeats, by his father J. B. Yeats [source]

    183px-john_butler_yeats,_by_john_butler_yeats

    Self-portrait, J. B. Yeats [source]

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:51 on 2019/01/29 Permalink
    Tags: Albert O Hirschman, art, , , , , Jeremy Adelman, John Gay, The Beggars Opera, ,   

    “Emergencies have always been necessary to progress”*… 


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    economy

    The 2008 financial crisis continues to plague the world economy and our politics. It’s also messing with how we understand our narratives of global integration. Until recently, going global implied exuberant stories about one-world connectivity and technocratic togetherness. Now, it’s the other way around: the stories of our times are consumed with collapses, extinctions and doom. It’s a playbook for nativists, who see interdependence as a recipe for catastrophe.

    Our big narratives were once capable of more nuance than the pendular swing from euphoria to dysphoria. For every 18th-century Enlightenment story of hope, there was a shadow of decline; in the 19th century, liberals had to joust with conservative and radical prophets of demise. Some even saw crisis as an opportunity. Influenced by Karl Marx, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942 made a virtue out of ruin. There could be something creative about bringing down tired old institutions. The late German-born economist Albert O Hirschman thought of disequilibria as a potential source of new thinking. In 1981, he distinguished between two types of crisis: the kind that disintegrates societies and sends members scrambling for the exits, and what he called an ‘integrative crisis’, one in which people together imagine new ways forward…

    Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea professor of history and director of the Global History Lab at Princeton, argues that we should look for opportunities in our travails: “Why we need to be wary of narratives of economic catastrophe.”

    See also: “The Three Revolutions Economics Needs.

    * “Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was hunger that drove us to exploration. And it took a depression to teach us the real value of a job.”                               – Victor Hugo

    ###

    As we search for silver linings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1728 that John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera premiered at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre in London.  It ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in English theater history and second longest run in the Western world up to that time (after 146 performances of Robert Cambert’s Pomone in Paris in 1671).

    260px-william_hogarth_016

    Painting based on scene 11 Act III of The Beggar’s Opera; by William Hogarth, c. 1728 [source]

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:30 on 2019/01/27 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , Birds of America, , lichen, , , ,   

    “It is a good day to study lichens”*… 


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    lichen

    Wolf lichen

    Science is sometimes caricatured as a wholly objective pursuit that allows us to understand the world through the lens of neutral empiricism. But the conclusions that scientists draw from their data, and the very questions they choose to ask, depend on their assumptions about the world, the culture in which they work, and the vocabulary they use. The scientist Toby Spribille once said to me, “We can only ask questions that we have imagination for.” And he should know, because no group of organisms better exemplifies this principle than the one Spribille is obsessed with: lichens.

    Lichens can be found growing on bark, rocks, or walls; in woodlands, deserts, or tundra; as coralline branches, tiny cups, or leaflike fronds. They look like plants or fungi, and for the longest time, biologists thought that they were. But 150 years ago, a Swiss botanist named Simon Schwendener suggested the radical hypothesis that lichens are composite organisms—fungi, living together with microscopic algae.

    It was the right hypothesis at the wrong time. The very notion of different organisms living so closely with—or within—each other was unheard of. That they should coexist to their mutual benefit was more ludicrous still. This was a mere decade after Charles Darwin had published his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, and many biologists were gripped by the idea of nature as a gladiatorial arena, shaped by conflict. Against this zeitgeist, the concept of cohabiting, cooperative organisms found little purchase. Lichenologists spent decades rejecting and ridiculing Schwendener’s “dual hypothesis.” And he himself wrongly argued that the fungus enslaved or imprisoned the alga, robbing it of nutrients. As others later showed, that’s not the case: Both partners provide nutrients to each other…

    Gorgeous and weird, lichens have pushed the boundaries of our understanding of nature– and our way of studying it.  Learn more at: “The Overlooked Organisms That Keep Challenging Our Assumptions About Life.”

    * Henry David Thoreau, A Year in Thoreau’s Journal: 1851

    ###

    As we contemplate cooperation, we might spare a thought for John James Audubon; he died on this date in 1851.  An ornithologist, naturalist, and artist, Audubon documented all types of American birds with detailed illustrations depicting the birds in their natural habitats.  His The Birds of America (1827–1839), in which he identified 25 new species, is considered one of the most important– and finest– ornithological works ever completed.

    Book plate featuring Audubon’s print of the Greater Prairie Chicken

     source

    Happy Birthday, Dante, Mozart, and Lewis Carroll!

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:08 on 2019/01/26 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , , Hogarth, longest fall, , , Vesna Vulović   

    “What’s in a name?”*… 


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    46611234662_eb1d9e9f9a_o

     

    Familiar to many will be that exasperating feeling that arises when accused of being that very thing you pride yourself on not being. It’s a feeling the English artist William Hogarth evidently felt acutely when critics derided him for being a mere “caricature” artist. So moved was he by this ongoing slight, that he produced this 1743 print explaining the difference between characters and caricatures — which Hogarth saw as radically different — and demonstrating his style as being firmly aligned with the former. For Hogarth the comic character face, with its subtle exploration of an individual’s human nature, was vastly superior to the gross formal exaggerations of the grotesque caricature…

    More on Hogarth’s defense of his self-perception at “Characters and Caricaturas.”

    * Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

    ###

    As we lament labels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Vesna Vulović entered the Guinness Book of Records.  A stewardess for JAT Airlines, she survived a fall of 33,330 ft. when (what is believed to have been) a briefcase bomb exploded on her flight, and she was sucked through the resulting hole i the fuselage.  She was the sole survivor of the incident.

    220px-vesna_vulovic source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:57 on 2019/01/25 Permalink
    Tags: art, Elvis Presley, , , jacket, Jailhouse Rock, Melchior Tersen, , patches, rock music,   

    “Full Metal Jacket”*… 


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    metal jacket

    Heavy metal is a vast and complex subculture, with supremely elitist followers and heavily codified attire, impenetrable to those outside of its fanbase. As heavy metal’s influence continues to spread throughout culture, from Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour imitation of Pentagram’s logo to Tommy Genesis wearing Toxic Holocaust merch,  Melchior Tersen’s timely and impressive book, Killing Technology [here], documents the frontline of its symbolism: patches and patch jackets, DIY garments that fans build up themselves, sometimes over many years. Patches are bought at festivals, on merch tables at gigs and from record shops and online distros. Sites like T-Shirt Slayer exist both to trade in rare items and, more importantly, to show off collections of rare items. The breadth of the genre is overwhelming, but most true metal fans would be able to size you up immediately by the patches you wear on your jacket…

    metallica

    Metal style was a fashion in the 90s. Now we are in an era that’s more based on reblogging than pure avant-garde creation.  Still, metal visuals fascinate a public that’s not necessarily into metal as music. A consideration of the form– and more photos– at Paper Journal‘s interview with Tersen: “Killing Technology.”

    * (the title of a Stanley Kubrick film)

    ###

    As we get loud, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” become that first single to enter the U.K. pop charts at #!.  The record (the B-side “treat Me Nice”) would stayed on top for three weeks.

    220px-jailhouse_rock source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:49 on 2018/12/08 Permalink
    Tags: Adam and Eve, art, , Immaculate Conception, Original Sin, , , The Fall, , , Virgin Mary   

    “There’s no such thing as an original sin”*… 


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    adam_and_eve

    Paradise, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

    Still…

    … The philosophical ideas behind the concept of Original Sin were explored in detail by St Augustine, developing the seminal thinking of St Paul, who saw Original Sin as a concept of radical equality; that no one speaks from a position of strength. All are flawed and when mankind seeks perfection, it is setting itself up, literally, for a fall.

    Though fundamental to Christianity, the concept survived the Enlightenment, despite Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s argument that man was born innocent. The rationalist philosopher Immanuel Kant, for example, wrote of the ‘crooked timber of humanity’. Two centuries later, Sigmund Freud offered a secular version of Original Sin, tracing the  dark forces that lurk within the subconscious. Original Sin is a tenacious idea…

    The fall of humankind and the concept of Original Sin: “Adam and Eve.”

    Original thought is like original sin: both happened before you were born to people you could not have possibly met  – Fran Lebowitz

    * Elvis Costello, “I’m Not Angry”

    ###

    As we sort out sin, we might recall that today is The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a solemn celebration in some form in most Christian faiths, of belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

    290px-Rizi-inmaculada

    Mary’s holy and immaculate conception, by Francisco Rizi

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:59 on 2018/11/20 Permalink
    Tags: art, , , , , , , ,   

    “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numerals, and those who don’t”*… 


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    Guide to Computing

    From a collection of vintage photos of computing equipment by “design and tech obsessive” James Ball…

    Guide to Computing

    More at Docubyte

    [TotH to Kottke]

    * vernacular joke, as invoked by Ian Stewart in Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

    ###

    As we rewind, we might spare a thought for Christian Goldbach; he died on this date in 1764.  A mathematician, lawyer, and historian who studied infinite sums, the theory of curves and the theory of equations, he is best remembered for his correspondence with Leibniz, Euler, and Bernoulli, especially his 1742 letter to Euler containing what is now known as “Goldbach’s conjecture.”

    In that letter he outlined his famous proposition:

    Every even natural number greater than 2 is equal to the sum of two prime numbers.

    It has been checked by computer for vast numbers– up to at least 4 x 1014– but remains unproved.

    (Goldbach made another conjecture that every odd number is the sum of three primes; it has been checked by computer for vast numbers, but also remains unproved.)

    Goldbach’s letter to Euler (source, and larger view)

    (Roughly) Daily is headed into a Thanksgiving hiatus; regular service will resume when the tryptophan haze clears…  probably around Monday, November 26.  Thanks for reading– and have Happy Holidays!

     
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