All the laser beams, neon lines, wireframes, Knight Rider-esque cars called Fairlady Z, and er… giant salamis floating in space that you could want in this 1983 demo reel by Japan Computer Graphics Lab.
修理、魅せます – Fascinating Repairmen– is, I’m sure, a nice skill to have but in this case it’s not an unusual talent or the first scene of an erotic film. Instead it’s the title of a Japanese series celebrating craftsmen and craftswomen who give new life to various old objects. This one is about a Tokyo bookbinder called Nobuo Okano and his process of restoring a much loved and therefore fairly well trashed English-to-Japanese dictionary. Its owner’s daughter is starting university and he wants to pass it on to her, so Okano does what he can to rescue and regenerate the book.
It’s a fascinating process, and you don’t really need to speak Japanese to appreciate what’s going on. The incidental music’s a bit overpowering, but it goes with the Japanese territory. About the only relevant information you can’t get just from watching is the client actually being quite pleased that the restoration will obliterate the embarrassment of his high school girlfriend’s initials still being written on the side (though you probably won’t miss the narrator triumphantly saying “sayonara” as the ex is amputated), and that it took Okano about four hours to re-flatten all 1000 dog-eared pages with tweezers and a small iron.
PS: Don’t try ironing or guillotining the edges off your Kindle if it stops working correctly.
Some bonkers choreography with Heather Parisi, from the 80s Italian variety show Fantastico. Firstly, Frankie Goes to Hollywood never seemed so… confusing? It looks a bit like a toned down, bowdlerised high school production of Cruising. Still molto gay, though. If Heather’s dance partner is thinking about relaxing, doing it or coming, I very much doubt it involves her. Put some trousers on Heather, love. You’ll catch your death of cold.
Even better, here’s Heather again doing some way-ahead-of-their-time Gangnam Style ridiculous dressage pony moves and gurning to Tullio De Piscopo’s nail in Italo Disco’s coffin, Stop Bajon (Primavera). The smoke in these bubbles must be what the choreographer was inhaling when they came up with this number.
Watch out for a random, drunken, camp fellow enjoying his big acting break at 11:48, a bit of very irresponsible chiropraxy at 12.49, some very unsexy from 13.35, and– saints preserve us!– pierrots throughout.
(Let’s pass silently over the fact that I haven’t posted anything new for more than a month.)
The experimental films made by Ukrainian-American Maya Deren in the 1940s and 1950s are incredibly influential, whether most people know it or not. Once you’ve seen them you’ll notice reflections of them all over the place, in everything from art photography to pop videos. Her work has also definitely had a huge effect on me, particularly 1943’s Meshes of the Afternoon, whose haunting imagery– and imagery of haunting– is done an injustice when it’s described as merely surreal or dreamlike, even though it is surreal and dreamlike among many other things. It’s actually as if time has been turned inside out like a glove, but when it turns right side out again it’s a different glove, belonging to someone or something else entirely. It’s particularly fitting that reflections or decontextualised fragments of her most famous film turn up so often in popular culure, given the way that Deren dwells upon imagery of reflection and fragmentation in Meshes of the Afternoon.
Her obvious interest in ritual, repetition, nonlinear time and the perils of inner journeys has found its way into some of my own work too; these subjects can all be seen obliquely in Deren’s Meshes and much more directly in her collaboration with Marcel Duchamp, Witch’s Cradle (also embedded here). In the late 1940s she took a more documentarian interest in the practice and ritual of Haitian vodoun.
Although resident in Los Angeles, Deren resolutely resisted Hollywood and was proud to be involved in every aspect of her own films. She made them, she said, “for what Hollywood spends on lipstick.” She also gave the great advice that independent or artistic film makers shouldn’t try to ape Hollywood but instead “use your freedom to experiment with visual ideas; your mistakes will not get you fired.” Deren paved the way for many of the independent American makers who created personal artistic statements in film (and later, video) rather than following a formula, but sadly Deren’s career wasn’t as long as it should have been. She died in 1961 at the age of 44, most likely because of prescription drug abuse.
Below you can watch Meshes of the Afternoon (with a soundtrack commissioned in 2012 by the late, lamented Bird’s Eye View Festival for film making by women) and Witch’s Cradle.
PS: There’s a Tumblr called Fuck yeah, Maya Deren! Of course there is.
A Japanese vegetable juice company has made a backpack robot with a tomato-shaped head, designed to feed its wearer tomatoes… because of course they have. Another solution to a problem nobody in their right mind ever thought was a problem.
It is at least credited to an artist, so we’ll give him some leeway to not be entirely utilitarian, and possibly even satirical. In the picture above it looks disconcertingly like some kind of high tech kawaii BDSM ball gag get up, and even more disconcertingly like these mechanoid, fetor-powered parasites from the manga ギョGyo (Fish) by Junji Ito, who seems to have a boundless imagination for scatology, body horror and despair. Probably not the vibe that Kagome were going for.
“I wonder if they’ll be humans or vegetables?” You can love vegetables without making love to vegetables, OK?
The Rite of Spring (Onions) Vegetable children extol the virtue of eating vegetables through the medium of J-pop, dancing and Japlish word play.
Some lovely and surreal Renaissance images of marvels and unexplained phenomena, from Taschen’s The Book of Miracles.
To be pedantic, bees don’t really have knees, just a number of joints in their legs. But if they did, their knees would be clearly viewable with a new imaging device that combines the functions of a microscope and a cell analyser: Cytell. Follow the link to find out how it genuinely was inspired by a bee leg.
I’m mainly interested in the detailed, hypersaturated and Pixar-esque aesthetic of the images produced by the Cytell. So different from what most people would imagine when the only experience of scientific images they’ve had was their dull and probably outdated school textbooks.
The Cytell images are also interesting to me in the slightly more narcissistic sense that real science has finally caught up with the micro-made-macro rainbow look I devised in 2007 for a video installation and book about genomics and cellular biology that I did with the University of Edinburgh. Though to be fair, that aesthetic was in turn inspired by the real life microfluoroscopy that was obviously an ancestor of Cytell.