Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

Archive for the Retrofuture category

The Sunday Roast Rant

by Suzanne on August 3rd, 2008

A few days ago, I posted about Alex's recently finished project finding it difficult to hold back my pride to see his skills evolve day by day and today, I find it difficult to hold back my disappointment in finding out that he's been ripped off for the 5th time this year.

Ryan Sawyer - a.k.a. "absinthetic" in LiveJournalLand - has gained a lot of undeserved attention and rather shortsighted praise in the blogosphère in the past two days by creating what he calls a Wonderland Expedition Kit.

He says:

"My lovely girlfriend's birthday is on Sunday, and since she's so fantastic, I wanted to make her something very special. She's a big fan of Alice in Wonderland, and we were awe-struck by the incredibly well-crafted and detailed creations of AlexCF, so I combined the two."

So yes, it's there: He admitted his source of "inspiration" black on white. But is that enough? Is copying someone's work simply a peccadillo once credit is given, compliments made here and there and a neat hyperlink added in a sub-clause?

A BoingBoing reader seems to think so:

"[...] AlexCF's kits are fabulous, very imaginative...but what impressed me about your kit was the thought, the time and the effort you put into [...]. Inspiration is one thing; follow-through is something else. [...]"

I don't think so. "Follow-through" just proves one thing alone: Imperturbable determination to keep copying until the copy reaches that thin demarcation line between originality and blueprinting (or "Abklatsch" as the person who once reactivated my brain - the good old Prof. Dr. Gottfried Boehm - used to call it referring to hand prints in cave art).

While determination may be a great trait for an athlete, in the arts it tends to drown out this faint little voice inside of us and overshadows the translucent subconscious authority that enables self-criticism and the ability to differentiate between creating and imitating, contributing and stealing. The authority that stimulates all cultural evolution and progress.

I've long come to the realisation that the majority of humanity will forever prefer the copied, convenient and painless to the original, challenging and unsettling. And I'm not being a kulturpessimist. I just observe and learn.

"[...] you should make a duplicate and sell it [...]"

See what I mean?

I'm very aware of the fact that assemblage art, just like collage art, is a highly tricky medium and a grey area when it comes to copyrights and ownership laws - after all, we will probably never find the guy who invented the box per se or the first individual in mankind's history who put an object into a box for purely decorative reasons. But that's not the point. The point is that even though it's already a great achievement to actually find someone who mentions his Muse by his name, it doesn't justify or authorise imitating. That's just not what rememberable art is made of.

Let's put ourselves into Mr Sawyer's mind for a second right at the moment when he decided upon the contents of his Wonderland Expedition Kit. And let's be honest - would...

i) you really think to include a set of bloody Cheshire Cat teeth or would you only consider it after seeing Alex's Werewolf Anatomical Research Case III?

Left: Detail of Alex CF's Werewolf Anatomical Research Case III | Right: Detail of Ryan Sawyer's Wonderland Expedition Kit - Please click to see details

ii) it really be that obvious that the same Prof. Lake from the same Miskatonic University that appeared in Lovecraft's stories and on the outside of Alex's Shub Niggurath Specimen would lead an expedition to Wonderland?! Errmmm... think again.

Left: Detail of Alex CF's Shub Niggurath Specimen | Right: Detail of Ryan Sawyer's Wonderland Expedition Kit - Please click to see details

I don't care whether you think I'm being pedantic or trying to protect the person I love. The fact of the matter is that I'm sick and tired of seeing some of my best and most visionary friends' oeuvre being ripped off - foremost Trevor Brown's - and trust me, it infuriates me just as much when I see one of his works being copied.

But I'm not an art or copyright lawyer, all I can do to channel my anger is trying to document cases of imitation and plagiarism. It won't make the world a better place, it won't prevent art from being copied because there will always be an abundance of a) bored, b) jealous, c) competitive copycats out there who have no shame to climb into the filthy downward spiral of degenerative mediocrity. However, building a little Wall of Shame has always been a rather satisfactory activity.

Creating art should always be an inventive process, it's work, it's pain, it's sweat, it's being frustrated, breaking down in tears, banging one's head against a wall, it means being too hard on oneself, it means throwing things around the room and starting all over again, but never giving up creating and inventing. It this chaotic, destructive and cathartic process which provides artworks with a soul, a heart, an indestructible Walter Benjaminesque aura that defies space and time and that only an original can ever have.

And as hard as I try, I'm sorry to say that I simply cannot see an aura, or any blood, sweat & tears in your Wonderland Expedition Kit, Ryan.

Maybe, at the end of the day when those cynic smiles are etched into our faces, we can maybe even find the loudest laugh, some consequent truth, the ultima ratio of the liberated villain in this MetaFilter comment:

"I, for one, plan to shamelessly copy this idea!"

Mark Mothersbaugh at Perihelion Arts, Phoenix/USA

by Suzanne on June 29th, 2008

The Petting Zoo by Mark Mothersbaugh

Mark Mothersbaugh, Hermann Rorschach's obsessively photoshopping illegitimate great-grandson, has an upcoming show at Perihelion Arts, Phoenix, due to open Friday, July 4.

Mark describes his ongoing Beautiful Mutants project as "images pulled from man's past, then corrected into sickeningly beautiful beings" and I think you should consider buying his nicely bound monograph if you can't make it to the exhibition.

Details below.

Faery Queen, Lisboa by Mark Mothersbaugh

Opening reception: Friday, July 4, 2008, 6 PM - midnight

On show: July 4 - 31, 2008

Address: Perihelion Arts, 1500 Grand Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007, USA, tel: 602.462.9120

Buy Beautiful Mutants monograph

Artist's website

Jessica Joslin: New Show & Book!

by Suzanne on April 1st, 2008

Adeliza by Jessica Joslin, 2007

It deeply amazes and impresses me to see how tirelessly and committed my friend Jessica Joslin works day and night whenever I confront myself with the plethora of charismatic brass & filigrée creatures that her ingenious brains and hands have given birth to in the past year alone. She seems to be driven by an invisible spectre.

How inspiring it is to see artists like her being pushed by their curiosity and thirst for knowledge, rather than just living of their fame and name!

Jessica's new series of work is entitled Curiosa and will be on show at Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale from Thursday onwards.

Lautrec by Jessica Joslin, 2008

In other great news, Jessica's monograph, Strange Nature, is finally out and available as a beautifully illustrated 152-pages hardbound book through P.S. Studios, Inc.

Opening reception: Thursday, April 3, 2008, 7 - 9 PM

Book signing with the adorable J.J.: Saturday, April 5, 2008, 1 - 3 PM

On show: April 3 - 26, 2008

Address: Lisa Sette Gallery, 4142 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA, tel: 480 · 990 · 7342

Monograph: Strange Nature

"Peat, Salt & Moondust - Panoramic Fictions" by Kahn & Selesnick in Brussels

by Suzanne on February 21st, 2008

4 works from the Apollo Prophecies series by Kahn & Selesnick, 2004

Wurzeltodâ„¢ favourites Richard Selesnick & Nicholas Kahn invite you to see their narrative multidimensional works at the Peat, Salt & Moondust show due to open at Aeroplastics Contemporary in Brussels/BE.

From the Aeroplastics' exhibition text:

The Englishmen Kahn and Selesnick - both born in 1964 - have been collaborating since 1988: First creating installations combining painted portraits on plaster panels and bread, honey, and wax sculptures displayed in wooden ritual architecture.

Tired of working locked up in a studio, they returned to photography on location, experimenting with 360-degree panoramic photographs set in the English countryside, and eventually integrating costumes and sets in vast productions rife with curious anachronisms.

Opening preview: Tonight, February 21, 2008

Exhibition runs: February 22 - March 29, 2008

Address: Aeroplastics Contemporary, Jerome Jacobs, 32 rue Blanche, 1060 Brussels, Belgium, tel: (32) 2 537 22 02

Opening hours: Wed-Sat 2-6 PM (or by appointment)

Strange News From Another Star

by Suzanne on August 26th, 2007

(via Dark Victoria)

Please excuse my long web absence. It was/is mainly caused by two incidents:

i) Long working hours due to the preparations for the Rachel Khedoori opening reception at H&W Zurich.

ii) An adorable humanoid male entity I fell in love with, who forms the other half of my Aristophanian globular sphere, who changed my sleeping habits to those of Elias Alder and who's responsible for the medical phenomenon that my body started growing again. 2cms in 2 weeks. o_O

Oh, and he makes things. With his clever hands. Out of brass, wood, glass, leather, silicone, glue and.. well, steam. Ingenious inventions that inventors of bygone days forgot to invent because they were too busy inventing other inventions. Ermm.. anyway.. I think you should see for yourself:

Necropathic Spectregraph © Alex CF

Available from eBay UK until Aug 29

The Inquisitor #2 © Alex CF
Available from eBay UK until Sep 2


GasMask - only one of an impressive series of unusual ties crafted by Bethany Shorb

Ada Lovelace - Thank you for gracing my desktop, you sexy geek!

Alexander Pichushkin - Hmm.. doesn't every woman have a soft spot for mass-murdering chess players in plaid shirts?!

• Annika from Neurotitan Berlin - Quite possibly the cutest creature I've ever met and the only girl I've ever seen vanishing in a SBB suitcase locker. It was a pleasure meeting you, Annika.

Bethany Shorb from Cyberoptix Tie Lab - Beth creates the greatest ties known to mankind and made my brother look 230% more handsome in no time. Chapeau!

Chic blood clot - Subject line of a spam email I received today. Great name for a fashion brand for haemophiliacs (that I'll launch sometime in the future).

Giant Cosmic Nihil - Echoooo-oooo-ooooh!

Giant Rubber Duckie - *sings Alan Moore's "March of the Sinister Ducks".

Isabelle Huppert - Probably the only living actress who dies convincingly and constantly seems to be aware of her own mortality. I adore her for this emotional intensity, for moments like her slow and painful death from arsenic poisoning in Madame Bovary.

Katie - My neighbour's crazy white fox terrier that looks precisely like Milou. My newest furry friend. Huzzah!

Meredith Yayanos - Mer's sheer existence on this planet makes me unspeakably happy.

Northern Hairynosed Wombat - My alter ego. It knows things.

Patrick Müller from Silent Cooking on 3sat - c.f. Alexander Pichushkin and replace "chess players" with "cooks" and "plaid shirts" with "aprons".

Radioactive Boy Scout - Awww! Cute!

From Her to Eternity

by Suzanne on August 16th, 2005


(via Aeiou)

"Charles François Jeandel (1859 - 1942) was a honourable member of the Archeological Society of Charente.

With his wife Madeleine, he seemed to have a quiet life in the countryside. Or not..."

(via We Make Money Not Art)

"This archive of vintage photographs shows the ingenuity of our testers and traces American consumer products over the decades."

"New York Changing, the current body of work by New York City photographer Douglas Levere, is a photographic record of the ever-changing landscape of New York City. Guided by Berenice Abbott’s 1930’s project Changing New York, Levere revisited neighborhoods and former storefronts, documenting the evolution of the metropolis known for constantly reinventing itself."


(via BoingBoing)

"The Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Elecric Railway, the so-called Daddy Longlegs railway, was built in 1896. This was a proposal by Magnus Volk for a railway that ran along on rails underneath the sea for about 50 to 100 yards offshore, from where his existing electric railway finished all the way to Rottingdean, where it was connected to a pier. The tramcar ran on stilts that were about 24 feet above the sea bed."

→ Related steampunk marvel: New York's pneumatic subway