Thursday, May 28, 2009

Simon Schubert

Artists have a tendency to have their attention caught by one "thing" for long periods of time. Whether that "thing" is a technique, a medium, a style, or a theme doesn't really matter. It is the almost obsessive exploration of the "thing" that makes their work so interesting.
An example would be Constantin Brancusi's Bird In Space series, where he worked and re-worked his concept through less and less detail and more and more into pure form--the goal being not to divorce form from content, but to express content with the purest and most minimal form.

Bird In Space 1923 marble

Another such artist, working through his own obsessions is Simon Schubert, a German artist with a show currently at the Upstairs Berlin Gallery. Besides his sculptures and installations, Schubert is working with folded paper, creating works of quite impressive depth and impact with nothing more than paper and folds.

Larger versions are viewable on his website.
Essentially working with nothing more than shadow and light, Schubert creates texture and image in the simplest of fashions, and recreates traditional painterly techniques in nothing more than changes in the reflectivity of his medium.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tool Use--Not So Damn Smart?

Turns out the last remaining dinosaurs are pretty damned smart when it comes to tool use. Captivity-reared rooks (corvids, part of the same family that counts crows and ravens) not only can solve tool-use puzzles, but can translate that solution to new puzzles. And, as we've seen before, they can also create tools from components--taking a bit of wire and bending it into a hook in order to access food bits. The Guardian website is hosting a lovely bit of video that shows a rook first using a large rock to release a reward snack, and then facing the same problem, but this time with a different sized tube. The rook first leans toward the large rock it used in the first case, but then realizes that the tube is smaller, and grabs the small rock to release the snack.
To quote the article:
Corvids are among the most social of bird species, and it is thought their intelligence helps them to recognise each other. The birds do not appear to have evolved tool skills, but are simply intelligent enough to work out how they can help.

So intelligence doesn't necessarily have anything to do with tool use. Ain't that a kick in the head?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Julia Dales

Yeaaaaah Booooy! Two casual minutes in the back seat of a car with a cellphone--taking a break from reading Death of a Salesman--Julia lays down some beats that are good enough to get her into a wildcard spot at the Beatbox Battle World Championship in Berlin this weekend. That's top 20 worldwide, y'all.

To quote Karl, "anything humans can do, they'll do competitively," and Julia just takes us all to school. Again, I am amazed at what humans are capable of, because not only is Ms. Dales in the beatbox battle, but she's holding a 95% average down, sings, writes music and plays guitar, and is in the process of choosing the university at which she will pursue studies in global development and political science.
Back in Grade 9, she knocked out her friends and schoolmates:

Humans have the most unexpected talents and they come out in the most unexpected times and places--often during wars, emergencies, or other times of great stress. It is up to us as a culture, as a society, to find ways that everyone's talents get a chance to develop--without the war, emergency, or great stress. Do I really have to tell you why?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The extraordinarily well preserved fossil of Darwinius masillae - nicknamed Ida - is being described by researchers as a "Rosetta stone" for understanding early primate evolution.  Ida is a transitional form in the evolution of primates, coming just after the split between lemurs and monkeys.

One reason Ida is so special is her exquisite preservation, and that is because the Messel pit, near Darmstadt in Germany, is a very exceptional place. Forty-seven million years ago it was a volcanic lake surrounded by a steamy sub-tropical forest. Because of the unique conditions there, Messel – which is now designated a Unesco world heritage site – has yielded countless fabulous fossils including bats, pygmy horses, crocodiles and even insects with the colours on their wings still visible.
As usual, the Guardian has a tremendous amount of information on Ida, her discovery and acquisition, and her display on their website--which is where the picture and information here come from.

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