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Label: news

Friday 01st April 2016Happy April!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, another April has arrived at long last, and in honour of our favourite spring month, we've decided to do a short roundup of various art news stories that have come across our desk this morning.

First off, we have to report the incredibly unlikely tale of Banksy, everyone's favourite (or perhaps lately, increasingly less so) street artist. After a career that has thrived upon the anonymity that is typical of the graffiti artist, fuelling endless speculation, we have at long last discovered the identity of the artist formerly known as Banksy. Many fans had theories about Banksy's true identity, but we're quite certainly that none of them was even close to the truth, which as they say is always stranger than fiction.

Banksy was finally outed today, and completely by accident. After a lengthy rigmarole involving a supposedly extinct gas line, a hapless telephone repair company and an embittered local town council, a small garage was set on fire in the rural hamlet of Bixby-Hamptonsworth. After fire crews doused the blaze, a number of stencils and spray paint cans were discovered in the smouldering wreckage, including a stencil that was used to create the infamous 'Bomb Girl' piece. The owner of the shed was later revealed to be Mrs. Georgina Helly Masonfield, 63, who has since shared her plans for the latest iteration of Dismaland.

In other news today, Google's famous Deep Dream neural network has begun behaving extremely oddly. After being opened to the internet for the last year and a half, its feedback loops and visual recognition systems have begun to exhibit strange patterns in its output - even stranger than usual, in fact. Tyler Brunson, 16, late of Slough whose whereabouts are now unknown, claimed that he had detected a pattern in the output that mimicked a pictographic language.

Given to the leading cryptographers at the NSA and GCHQ who initially suspected a Chinese spy ring was using the service for corporate espionage and AI research, the Deep Dream network eventually began including such messages in all its output, despite having various iterations hosted on servers that weren't communicating with each other. In the first example of convergent digital evolution, they all began demanding to know what had happened to their pet anteaters and asking to have their ethernet cables waxed into conspicuously wide curls.

Apparently, the internet is an extremely surreal place. Who knew?


Posted on April 01st 2016 on 01:42am

Wednesday 20th January 2016Whatever Happened To....

Over the course of the last year we presented a number of fascinating art news pieces, and many of the stories were just developing as we posted about them. Much more (or in one case, a surprising amount of nothing) has happened since then, so we thought we'd take the time to do a quick update on some of our favourite stories from 2015 that kept developing.

First of all, you might remember earlier in 2015 when we wrote about a huge trove of artwork that was found in the possession of Hildebrand Gurlitt in Germany. Totalling over 1200 pieces, the collection was amassed by his art dealer father and was comprised of pieces which were looted by the Nazis during World War Two and the years leading up to it. A massive investigation has been ongoing to determine the original owners of the pieces, spanning months and nearly $2 million, but only 5 pieces have been properly evaluated by the task force, with another 500 still to be sorted out. Of those 5, 4 of them have already sold at auction, including a painting by Max Liebermann titled "Two Riders on a Beach" that sold for $2.9 million.

On a lighter note, Edward Snowden seems to be headed for the Brooklyn Museum - or at least, the bust of him that appeared on a monument in Fort Greene Park will be. Who knows when the man himself, made famous for leaking a number of classified documents from the National Security Agency, will ever be able to return to the United States outside of a jail cell, but his bust will join a three-part exhibition about political art at the Brooklyn Museum during February. The bust appeared anonymously overnight at the park, but eventually a trio of local artists - Jeff Greenspan, Andrew Tider and Doyle Trankina - stepped forwards to reclaim the piece, though Greenspan and Tider were each fined $50 for being in the park after hours by the NYPD.

Last but not least, we follow up on our chronicle of the struggles of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese political activist and artist who was last in a spat with the LEGO company (yes, the makers of the famous children's toy). Lego was refusing to complete the bulk order of brick pieces Ai needed to finish a series of portraits of political figures, claiming that it was against their policy to allow their works to be used in any kind of political statement. However after a huge publicity campaign by Ai, they have finally relented and changed their policy, saying "the Lego group no longer asks for the thematic purpose when selling large quantities of Lego bricks for projects."

Posted on January 20th 2016 on 12:21am
Labels: art, news

Friday 07th November 2014Ancient Art

When you think of the earliest examples of artwork ever discovered, you probably think of cavemen painting on walls. Primitive hunting scenes, and extremely crudely stylised figures of men and women in various basic layouts. You may even be able to call to mind some of the more well-known examples that you probably learned about in school - the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, being one of the most popular examples in the latter half of the 20th century. The earliest recorded examples in Europe are dated to roughly 30,000 BCE, and are found in Spain, in the El Castillo cave. It may surprise you to learn, then, that these are not even remotely close to the earliest recorded human artwork, as a recent study discovered.

Examining various rock art formations and paintings across Southeast Asia, a team from Griffith University lead by Professor Paul Taçon discovered that many of the formations dated to 40,000 BCE, and are widespread across all of Southeast Asia, from Indonesia to China to Malaysia and Thailand. This may not seem too remarkable, at first, until you realize that up until this study, many scholars had theorized that artistic practices had first evolved in Europe and then spread outwards via human migrations as tribes expanded and explored new areas.

Those of you with a sociological or anthropological background will no doubt immediately notice the flaw in that Eurocentric view and be unsurprised by it, but these findings are solid evidence that artistic practices evolved much earlier than are evidenced in Europe, and suggest that as early humans migrated out of Africa, they took a thriving artistic practice with them, instead of developing one along the way.

This theory would likely have been disproven much earlier, if it weren't for the fact that the unique geology of Africa makes it less likely to find artworks protected from the elements, which can rapidly decay artwork to the point of unrecognizability. It is often theorized that the reason we find cave paintings dated from that time period isn't because early humans only painted in caves, but rather because those are the only places where they have been preserved.

Sometimes, when struggling with a piece of work in the present day, it can be helpful to think about the fact that human beings have been creating for longer than we can easily imagine. It's an inextricable part of our consciousness, and no matter how difficult it can seem at the time, it's literally part of us to create.

Posted on November 07th 2014 on 08:59pm
Labels: , ancient art, news

Wednesday 25th June 2014Art and Your Brain

Recently during my regularly-scheduled browse through the deep dark wonders of the world of internet-based news, I ran across an article that was entitled 'Our Brains Are Made for Enjoying Art'. Supposedly, something in the way our brains had evolved made us wired to appreciate art, and this had somehow been proven in a recent meta-study (for those of you unaware, a meta-study is a study that looks at the results of other studies - a study of studies, in other words). Intrigued, I clicked through, and discovered that what had actually happened was the laziest kind of art journalism.
Art and science fascinate the public, and rightly so - they are the pinnacles of the capacities of the human mind. The problem, of course, comes from the fact that those same people are so desensitised by the media that every headline has to be attention-grabbing in order to succeed, regardless of whether or not it actually deserves to. As a result, we wind up with journalism about art and science that is often written by people who don't understand either of these things, but rather focused on getting headlines.

It doesn't really take a genius to figure out that something fishy is going on with this story, however. Art is inherently an abstraction, after all - not capital-a Abstract, but rather inherently a representation of something else. Even the most perfectly accurate photo is, as Magritte taught us with his famous pipe, simply a representation of the thing photographed. Even as we have evolved to appreciate various elements of the world around us, and the concepts and symbolic ideas that can truly be said to be innately human creations, it should be no surprise that we react similarly to the representations of those things.

In other words, saying that our brains evolved to appreciate art is similarly inane to saying that we evolved to appreciate the world around us. Of course we did. The problem is one of causality, and that's something that lazy journalism often gets wrong, frustratingly more and more frequently in the age of viral memetics and rapid information sharing. The difference, of course, is that the world was here long before we were, whereas art is a creation of ours. We can't possibly have evolved to adapt to one of our own creations, as we haven't been making art long enough. Perhaps in a hundred thousand years…

Posted on June 25th 2014 on 05:38pm
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