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Art and Design

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On Tuesday June 26, 2012, Heritage Auctions is hosting a reception and preview of its upcoming illustration art auction featuring The Jerry Weist Collection of
science fiction and fantasy art, pin-up, pulp and paperback art, and classic golden age/mainstream illustration art. Above: Gil Elvgren's "Skirting the Issue" (1956). Below: Wally Wood's "Mars is Heaven!" complete 8-page story, Weird Science #18 (EC Comics) (1953).


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It's probably the level of concentration required, but these kids do not look nearly as excited about what they are doing as I think they should.

For the last two years, University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student Arthur Nishimoto has been working on this incredible-looking video game based around a multi-touch interface. According to the YouTube page, the game:

... explores how a real-time interactive strategy game that would typically rely on complex keyboard commands and mouse interactions be transferred into a multi-user, multi-touch environment. Originally designed for use with TacTile, a 52-inch multi-touch LCD tabletop display, "Fleet Commander" game play has been ported to
EVL's 20-foot wide multi-touch LCD wall, Cyber-Commons. "Fleet Commander" uses Processing, an open source programming language.

There's more about the game's development at Nishimoto's website. Also: In before the Orson Scott Card jokes!

Video Link

Via and Carl Wirth

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Michael Rosenthal Gallery [San Francisco] is thrilled to present Schema, Brooklyn-based artist Justin Amrhein’s first solo exhibition. In a series of intricate yet gracefully spare drawings and lightboxes, Amrhein plots and charts the inner workings of imaginary machines. Evoking patent diagrams, textbook illustrations or the work of an evil mastermind intent on destroying the world, the works capture the viewer’s curiosity on both an intellectual and technical level.

Immediately apparent is Amrhein’s spirited inquisition into his chosen subject matter, whether that be the terminally-elusive weapons of mass destruction or the bio-mechanical processes that allow insects to live. If an object is to be defined by the listing of its attributes, the combination of Amrhein’s labeled parts creates complicated, purpose-driven and often humorous machines. In parallel, the separate works in Schema combine to implicate the fine-tuned machinations hiding just under the surface of all organizations, objects and systems we take for cohesive wholes.

A Sacramento native, Amrhein completed his MFA at San Jose State University in 2006 and moved to New York the following year. He has exhibited widely in group and juried shows on both coasts. Most recently, his work was part of a three-person show at Lesley Heller Workspace on the Lower East Side. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

Justin Amrhein's Schema

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[Video Link]

Leon Botha, a South African artist and DJ who became widely known through his association with the band Die Antwoord, died on Sunday from complications related to progeria. He was 26. He died one day after his birthday. Botha was one of the longest-living persons ever to have been diagnosed with this rare disease.

Word spread online last night. Leon had been struggling with increasing physical challenges in recent months. He shared some of that experience with me, along with news of his creative explorations, in occasional emails. Boing Boing pal Griffin of the South African counterculture blog WatKykJy today confirmed the sad news for us: Leon's condition became grave last week, and he died Sunday from a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot on his lungs).

Leon was working on a new painting of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord just this last week, Yo-Landi tells us. "He was an angel," she said today.

I did not know Leon as well as Ninja, Yo-Landi, and other friends in South Africa's art and DJ circles, but I would like to share a little of the interaction I had with this gentle and singular soul by way of Boing Boing.


I first became aware of Leon through his appearance in some of Die Antwoord's early music videos; he appeared in them as a DJ/"hype man," and his unusual physical appearance made him instantly unforgettable. At the time, I didn't know his name, or anything about him beyond that physical appearance. For many, that first physical impression, what progeria does to the human form, defined him. But Leon did not want to be defined by this difference.

We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.

One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for the disease he had, progeria.

"I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn't be in there, in case something happened to me," he said.

Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else's better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.

Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include news of greater physical hardships for Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I cannot imagine the physical suffering he endured.

"I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay," he wrote in one email. "Just please don't let it reach the levels where it is now."

"And now, I just need to flow with it. What else can I do? It is important, to reach back and remember all the lessons I have learned on my journey so far. I think the main lesson is that we are not victims to life... and then, the other lesson, is that we must live life."

How are you holding up, I asked him once after he went through a particularly painful medical procedure. Things were not sounding good.

I am here, he said. "I am trying to work and focus, not letting the outer world speak more loudly than my inner. Because I think we tend to forget. Have a great day, peace."

[Video Link]

Below, I will paste without edits the autobiography he sent me in 2010, when he was frustrated by Wikipedia. These words, his own words, best defined who he was and what he'd accomplished so far, in that last year of his life.

Leon Botha was born on the 4th of June, 1985. Brought up and still living in Cape Town, South Africa.
He started drawing at the age of three. And was diagnosed with progeria around the age of 4 years.
 He took art in high school. Painting and Jewelery design for two years. He did not receive any formal training, and did not study art any further.

After school he dedicating himself to painting full time. Doing commissioned work, as well as working on a solo exhibition.
In 2005 he underwent heart bypass surgery having been at critical risk of heart attack, due to Progeria, which calcified his arteries.

This was successful and he hosted his first solo exhibition in January, 2007 at the Rust-en-Vrede gallery in Durbanville. It was called: "Liquid Sword; I am HipHop", and revolved around HipHop culture, explained as a way of life.
It was opened by close friend, the late Mr. Fat of the South African HipHop group Brasse Vannie Kaap (B.V.K.) 
It received great responses, as well as media coverage. Television, radio, magazine and newspaper articles and interviews.

In mid March, 2009 he hosted his second solo exhibition entitled "Liquid Swords; Slices of Le[m]on", 
The exhibition was a break away from HipHop. The title was a play on his name, with the "M" crossed out, so to read "Leon". The exhibition featured "slices" of the artist's life. Based around a twist of the phrase; "when life gives you lemons you make lemonade", with the attitude of; "When life serves you lemons, you slice it and serve it back." Hinting at the artist's attitude and alchemical philosophy, and struggles under Progeria. It featured a large spectrum of more dark, personal as well as spiritual work.

The responses and media coverage grew even more than before and sold a third of the entire collection of 33 paintings under the first week. 

Many of the articles, images of the paintings etc. are to be found on his flickr page. A video clip of a news insert about the opening of the second exhibition can be found on youtube.

In the beginning of 2010, he hosted the first showing of: "Who Am I? ...Transgressions," a photographic-collaboration exhibition with friend and photographer Gordon Clark. 
In which they collectively conceptualized images and shots to reveal Leon Botha to the world, which was a bold step due to the nature of his condition, of which he is currently one of the world's oldest survivors.

'Who am I? ... Transgressions' aimed at stereotypes, ideas of time, life and death and immortality.
 This exhibition is planned to travel around the world. Again, it received a lot of attention, locally as well as internationally.

Leon is well known for his spiritual outlook and philosophy in interviews. 
He also dj's under the name Solarize, and occasionally opened for Die Antwoord.

Botha was featured alongside Ninja, in the music video 'Enter the Ninja', from Die Antwoord. As of March 2010 the video had received over 2 million views on Youtube.

Leon Botha: website, myspace, youtube

Here is Leon's Wikipedia page now. He seemed pretty happy with how it represented him in the end, thanks to the thoughtful work of dedicated Wikipedia editors who took the task of crafting a living person's biography seriously. It's funny how something as simple and transient as a page on Wikipedia can have significance in someone's life.

Related blog and news coverage of Botha's passing: Leon's Facebook page, where friends and fans are posting condolences; Durban Live, SaFindIt,,, Mail and Guardian.


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CASSINI MISSION from cabbas on Vimeo.

Filmmaker Chris Abbas created the beautiful short film above, and explains:

I truly enjoy outer space. It's absolutely amazing that we now have the ability to send instruments out into the void of the universe to observe all sorts of interesting things. Asteroids! Moons! Planets! Dark matter! This is the perfect opportunity for a Carl Sagan quote: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

The footage in this little film was captured by the hardworking men and women at NASA with the Cassini Imaging Science System. If you're interested in learning more about Cassini and the on-going Cassini Solstice Mission, check it out at NASA's website.

(via Colin Peters)


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The Smithsonian has announced the selection of titles that will appear in its Art of Video Games exhibition next year. The set ranges from Nintendo classics to arty modern fare such as Sony's Shadow of the Colossus (above). I posed some questions to organizer Georgiana Goodlander and exhibition curator Chris Melissinos.

Rob Beschizza: How have games influenced the arts?

Georgina Goodlander: Video games have had a huge influence on the arts! I should note that The Art of Video Games exhibition is not about art inspired by video games, It is about the video games themselves. We want to show people that video games are more than they might appear on the surface, that they can have incredible depth, beauty, and emotion. Yes, they provide rich fodder as inspiration for contemporary visual artists, but they can also stand alone as powerful works created by talented and creative people. One of my favorite quotes from the interviews that we are conducting with game designers and developers was from David Perry, CEO of Gaikai. At the very end of the interview we asked him what he hoped visitors would take away from the exhibition and he said "Video games aren't this trivial little form of entertainment. This is something that touches people deeply, it changes people's lives. It's going to change education profoundly, it's already started. And so if you don't play video games yet, we're going to get you. Trust me, we're going to find a way to get a game to you so you can understand just how powerful this medium is." I truly believe this! Games are becoming so incredible and pervasive that we're reaching the point where no one will be able to avoid them. And, more importantly, they won't want to.

Rob: Nostalgia seems to be a major inspiration here. Is there a broader reason for this? Has artistic value emerged from early games that wasn't clear at the time?

Chris Melissinos: Nostalgia certainly plays a part in the games we are experiencing today, but that is to be expected. As the children who grew up with video games are having children that start playing video games, there is renewed interest in latent gamers. This is the same cycle that we observe in any other form of media. One of the fantastic outgrowths of this is the rediscovery of games and mechanics that have held up over time, but were neglected due to the march of technology, changes in tastes, or accessibility of content.

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald, released in 1925, was not considered to be a literary masterpiece until the 1960's and, in fact, was not as popular as Fitzgerald's other works during his lifetime. Time and perspective helps to illuminate the past in ways we can't foresee. The video games industry is at an age where it is now old enough that we can apply that perspective.

Rob: Is the art in the game or is the game itself the art?

Georgina: Definitely both! There are so many aspects of art involved in video games that it is quite overwhelming. Almost every element that makes up a video game can be considered art, from the initial sketches and concept art, to the finished graphics, music, and even the code. With this exhibition though, we're particularly interested in exploring the entire game experience as the artwork--the combination of the visual and audio effects with the player interaction.

Rob: What sort of art are video games? How important is creative flair and ingenuity -- the visuals, audio and technical accomplishment -- in the art of video games?

Georgina:: I don't think you can define video games with any of the existing language that we use to define art. I attended a great presentation by John Sharp at the 2010 Game Developers Conference titled "The Game Renaissance: Art History for Game Developers." He said (I'm paraphrasing) that we should stop worrying about whether or not video games are "Art," but instead think of them as the new medium for creative expression in the 21st century. I love this concept! Why should we try and fit video games into existing categories or genres? Art is constantly evolving, as is the language we use to talk about it, and I think we've only just started to explore how video games can and should be incorporated.

Rob: Games are designed to be played. How do games best resolve the tension between the artist's narrative control and the player's need for freedom?

Chris: This is one of the misconceptions about video games, that the voice of the author is lost due to interactivity. I believe there are three voices in games: that of the designer or artist, the game itself, and the player. By this I mean that the designer lays down the plot, visual framework, mechanics, rules, and arc that the game encompasses, the gameplay communicates this, and the player internalizes that message and, from it, emerges an experience that is unique to that player.
Consider that, regardless of the path the player takes as Cloud in Final Fantasy VII, Aeris always dies. There is no way for the player to avoid this. However, on the road to that event, the player can laterally explore the narrative arc, crafting an experience that retains the intent of the author while allowing the player freedom. In Missile Command, you eventually hit the "The End" kill screen. This is why I believe that video games will become one of the most powerful storytelling mediums we have ever experienced. While the stories told in games today may seem immature or less refined compared to other forms of media, it is only due to the lack of time that video games have been with us. They will continue to evolve.

Rob: Like movies, game development is an extremely labor- and cash-intensive medium. And it's one where the cutting edge is always moving on. What can the exhibition teach game artists about how to express themselves on a budget?

Georgina: I hope that the exhibition will serve as inspiration for aspiring game artists and designers. We want to show people that this is an incredible field in which to work and that there are numerous different types of creative jobs involved. Interviews with the pioneers of the industry, such as Nolan Bushnell and Don Daglow, will serve as a reminder that in the 1970s and early 1980s, one person was responsible for every aspect of a game, from the code and visuals to the music and even the box art. It's interesting to compare the early days with what's happening now, as in some ways we have come full circle. Developments in online and mobile gaming have reached a point where it is possible again for a single person or small team to create and distribute entire games. By showing the progression of the medium over the last four decades the exhibition will, hopefully, give visitors an idea of where it might be going

The Art of Video Games at the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be opening March 16, 2012 and be on display until September 30, 2012.

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Image: Wylfa Magnox, Wylfa, Anglesey, UK. Wall chart insert, Nuclear Engineering, 1965

Now seems like a good week to revisit this set of 105 reactor wall charts, uploaded by the University of New Mexico. The dates next to each chart relate to the issue of Nuclear Engineering International magazine in which they first appeared. Ronald Knief, a nuclear engineer from Sandia National Laboratories, assembled the image collection.

More about the images, and links to the complete set, here at Bibliodyssey. Here's the direct Flickr set link.

(via BB Submitterator, thanks cinemajay)

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