Archive for the Conceptual Art Category

Village Facility

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami was locked out of AMP Co. Maybe the lock was stuck, so he tried his key again, turning it both clockwise and counter-clockwise, but without success. He rang the bell twice and banged on the door. He opened the mailbox in case there was a new key in there, but there wasn’t. He called Alfred’s phone but didn’t get through, then walked around the back but that door also was closed.

“Thanks for all your help,” Alfred had said to him last week. “Next week, we’ll be ready to open the store. Advanced 3D printing will at last be available to everyone!”

Maybe Alfred had been so busy chasing technical progress that he had forgotten to pay his mortgage and business rates. Had the bank instructed repo men to remove his equipment and lock up the place?

Sami heard a sliding sound somewhere above him. It was Alfred at a second floor window of the old general store that was now his 3D fabrication lab.

Sami called up, “Hey Alfred! Let me in.”

“I’m sorry Sami, I can’t let you in. You won’t believe what’s happened. The Authority has declared my lab a National Strategic Asset; it’s been nationalized and is now closed to the public.”

“You’re kidding me!”

Alfred opened the window further and leaned out a little. “I am sorry, I’m not. I am now a government employee and must obey their protocols. I can’t let you in.”

Sami was a peaceful guy, but right now he wanted to climb and haul Alfred out, maybe throw him out. “But what about our work together? We’ve spent weeks preparing for the launch.”

“It was really good of you to help me, Sami, but I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. The Authority heard about my technology.” Sami knew it had better capabilities than fused filament or deposition, laser sintering, powder bed, lamination, sterolithography, digital light processing, or anything else currently available.

Alfred continued, “They declared it a National Strategic Asset, and banned me from revealing it to the general public. That’s it.”

Sami wasn’t Alfred’s business partner; he wasn’t even an employee. He was simply a keen amateur helping out, who had become very involved in the testing phase of Alfred’s printer. Together they had produced another printer, a worm, a baby girl (now adopted by Alfred’s family), a 4D crab, holy objects and programmable matter. They were fully ready to open the facility, and now this!

“There is some good news though,” said Alfred, waving his arms in the window like a broken little windmill. “The Authority does want a public interface for the technology, to introduce it gradually. They want to extend their 3 R’s philosophy, following the Proximity Principle to reduce the waste stream, and achieve responsible self-sufficiency at a sub-regional level…”

Too much jargon already, thought Sami. You can tell he’s become a bureaucrat.

Alfred continued, “…by producing, transforming, consuming and recycling on site indefinitely. They asked me to run a facility at the Transfer Station but I am too busy, so I suggested you could do it instead.”

Just then a text came through on Sami’s phone. It was from The Authority. It said that he was starting work at the Transfer Station’s new 3D Unit next week.

“What about my job as Guru Baba’s assistant?”

“My friend, it looks like you have been repurposed.”

Ulysses

Posted in Conceptual Art, Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“We have a dramatic issue here,” said Sophie. “How do we chronicle the passage of Leopold Bloom during an ordinary day in Dublin, and establish the parallels with Odysseus’s journey across the Mediterranean to Greece?”

She had seen a production of Ulysses in the New City, where Bloom wore a baby goldfish costume and swam alongside Odysseus’ ship. At first she had giggled continuously, but then become grumpy. It was great to be creative but not ridiculous.

When she had later questioned the director, he said, “Did you know that Joyce first encountered Odysseus in a children’s book called The Adventures of Ulysses?” Sophie knew that Ulysses was the Roman name for Odysseus, in the same way that they called Poseidon, Neptune, and Aphrodite, Venus. “He later wrote an essay at school called My Favourite Hero. That is why I wanted to portray him as a youngster.”

“And why a goldfish?”

“The publication of Ulysses attracted great controversy and scrutiny. Joyce was tried for obscenity, and there were protracted textual wars. It was as if his characters were contained in a goldfish bowl, being watched constantly. That was also the manner in which Joyce dissected the city of Dublin. You see the…” His eyes jerked towards Molly, emerging sans make up from backstage. “Oh darling! You were so fabulous! Mwah! Mwah!”

Sophie agreed that Molly had been fabulous, in the way that only a naked rainbow dolphin could be.

The production team at QARY, the old quarry now used to stage multimedia shows, said nothing at first. Maybe they were unfamiliar with the text. But after a while Danny said, “Couldn’t we do the whole thing as a stream-of-consciousness piece? I know it is heavily structured, but maybe we can find some anchor points to demarcate flow.”

Sophie stared at Danny. He was usually the troublemaker in the team, the jester and trickster, but here he was producing constructive ideas. She said, “It sounds like you know the work well.”

He blushed and said, “Well, not really. I studied it at high school. It was a choice of that or Dante’s Divine Comedy. Joyce seemed the easier option.”

The production team suggested other ideas.

“Dress Bloom as Odysseuss. As he walks through Dublin he is transformed into a Centurion, Britannia, a Knight of the Round Table, and a Celtic warrior.”

“Set the whole thing on a ship with the characters as crew members.”

“Make it a huge feast with each chapter as a different course.”

The best suggestion was to use each of the three chambers for different parallel characters – Bloom-Odysseus, Molly-Penelope, and Stephen-Telemachus.

When the production opened, Sophie saw that this structure worked well. The audience wandered between the chambers continuously, integrating the three persons of this holy family, the archetypal father, mother and son.

In other shows the audience had mainly stayed put, lined up along walls and gathered in corners. This had annoyed The Authority as they couldn’t keep an eye on them there. The more people that moved between rooms, the better CCTV could track them.

Odysseus was watched by the gods of Olympus. The citizens of Lucerne had The Authority’s Security Officers.

Percival

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie didn’t want to return to work after the flood. A hundred people had died at the old quarry at an event that she had produced. It was doubly bad because as well as Lucerne Valley’s Chief Producer she was also its Crisis Manager.

How could this have happened on her watch?

She had asked herself that question a hundred times, and always came to the same conclusion – because she had been overruled by her CEO. Knowing this had caused her to have a nervous breakdown, but what could she do against the instant, modern, social media spin machine?

The Authority had put their weight behind her boss and Sophie was made out to be the villain. It was said that despite the Flood Alert, she had permitted the Gilgamesh multimedia show to continue. It was highly irresponsible to have five hundred people underground whilst there was active flood risk. Sophie’s denials were in vain, and she was suspended with immediate effect. The local paper’s headline was “Soph-ictitious!”

A month later the official story changed. Sophie was now portrayed as a hero. They said that never for a moment did she forget her duty as Crisis Manager. She had managed to manually override systems and save the lives of four hundred people. She was reinstated on a higher pay scale. The paper now read “Soph-antastic!”

Sophie wished that she’d never had the idea of using the quarry, now branded QARY, for multimedia productions. The Authority had invested heavily in the project, and this commercial juggernaut was now unstoppable. Production meetings had continued in her absence for the next scheduled production, the earliest version of the Grail quest, that of Percival. Most of the preparations were complete, but she had always been the hub of operations and they needed her on site. That explained her reinstatement.

Sophie asked to meet her CEO, who was, for some reason, wearing big sunglasses indoors. She must have been on the martinis last night. Sophie said, “The script is okay, but I need to change the set projections.” She was wary of this woman now and wanted to keep the meeting brief.

Her boss said, “Go on, I am listening.”

“We should establish a green theme throughout the show. From the forest where Percival is raised by his mother, far away from knightly culture, to his arrival at Camelot and defeat of the Green Knight and taking of his armour, to his meeting the Fisher King at a pool in the woods, the colour green is essential. Even when he witnesses the strange procession in the castle, the Grail gives off a greenish glow.”

Her boss took off her sunglasses. She had two shiners, both fresh and green.

Should Sophie ask her about them? She decided not to. This woman had screwed her over royally. Who cared about her bloody eyes.

Sophie continued, “And when the castle disappears, Percival finds himself again in the forest. When he gets a second chance to see the Grail, he asks the question, and…”

Sophie stopped suddenly. Of course, the question. Percival had been instructed at Camelot that it was wrong to talk too much, and not to ask personal questions. He was taught to be a man of culture rather than one of nature. So he hadn’t asked the question in his heart; he hadn’t asked the Fisher King about the cause of his pain, and the suffering that cursed his kingdom.

Was Sophie making the same mistake?

She asked her CEO, “What happened to your eyes? Are you okay?”

Her boss began to cry. She told Sophie that she had been beaten by her drunken husband. She said he did it “now and then”. This time he was annoyed by her screaming during nightmares. She had suffered from them since being told to lie about the hundred people dying in the flood. They hadn’t really. It was all a stunt to reduce demand for QARY productions. The Authority wanted to change it into a corporate venue. She was so sorry for making Sophie look like a villain, she’d had no choice.

Sophie was stunned. By asking the question, she had discovered the answer that she needed to hear. She hadn’t killed anyone.

Gilgamesh

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by javedbabar

The line was crackly but clear enough to hear her CEO, who said, “Gilgamesh is the world’s earliest recorded story. We put ‘The First Story of Mankind’ on promotional materials. The show is a sell out for two weeks straight. We can’t cancel it now.”

Sophie had two jobs at Village Hall. One was Chief Producer and the other was Crisis Manager. She was delighted that QARY, the old quarry now used for multimedia shows, was a commercial success. The Authority had supported her project wholeheartedly and invested $10 million there.

The issue was that she was well informed meteorologically. The danger of flooding was high. There was an Evacuation Alert in place, but no Evacuation Order, meaning that everybody should be prepared, but nobody should go anywhere yet. There was no excuse for sloth, but also no need for panic. What was needed was awareness.

Sophie said, “You can’t have people underground at a time like this. It is highly irresponsible, and if…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” said her CEO. “You’re breaking up.”

“I said that you can’t have…”

Click. Her CEO had hung up.

Sophie had faith in the warning indicators, whose specs she had reviewed before installation. They had failsafe mechanisms built in giving at least three hours warning, so whatever happened there would be no surprise. Maybe she was worrying without reason.

QARY’s hundred digital projectors, its fibre-optic cabling, and dynamic event lighting were worth a lot of money but were replaceable. The people here were not.

Damn it! Even this story concerned the preciousness of human life. It was not something to risk casually.

Her multimedia productions were in constant development. The first show had been an amateur affair featuring the works of local artists, and the next one, slides of Old Masters. In the second season, The Authority’s support had made epics such as Osiris, Beowulf and Gilgamesh possible; each show with a different style.

Alongside the usual paintings, photos and texts, Gilgamesh required live action filming. There was no shortage of bearded men in the Lucerne Valley to play Sumerian extras. No shortage of cattle and horses either.

Gilgamesh was a nasty king. He was proud and boastful, and oppressed his male subjects and pressed himself upon female ones. To distract him from op/pressing people, the gods created wildman Enkidu, who was his equal in strength, and his twin in appearance, though covered by hair.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu symbolized, respectively, culture and nature, and soon became best friends. Together they went to the Cedar Forest to kill the giant Humbaba, and then they slaughtered the Bull of Heaven. The gods decreed that Enkidu must die as punishment for these crimes. Gilagamesh’s distress at his twin’s death set him upon an epic quest for the secret of immortality. A ferryman took him across the river of death, where he met Utanapishtim, survivor of the ancient Great Flood.

Sophie saw dark pools building. Water trickled down rock pillars and from in between cracks. Was the quarry flooding? Had the warning system failed?

She ran to the control room in an upper chamber.

She saw that the system had been manually overridden.

Sophie had a thoughtflash. Her job as Crisis Manager had long term aims, including tackling overpopulation. There were five hundred people in the quarry. Was this what was going on, a deliberate population reduction?

Gilgamesh learnt that there was no such thing as Immortality. Everyone’s time on earth is finite, so you must live your life well.

If this was the end, thought Sophie, what better way to go than to join her small story to mankind’s first one?

Beowulf

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Osiris was a commercial success, though not a romantic one. Things ended badly for Isis, who lost her beloved husband Osiris, and for Sophie, whose love interest Ahmad disappeared. Maybe the shows at QARY were too real, thought Sophie, and affecting material reality. What a crazy thought.

As the next production Sophie selected Beowulf, which also had an underworld theme. To be precise it was an underwater cave, but that was near enough.

“I’ve seen monsters here,” said Albert, the quarry’s last manager before mining operations ceased. “There were days when you couldn’t bear to go in for fear of what lurked in the shadows. You tasted the dust, darkness made you see things, and rocks made you hear things. The quarry seemed alive to us and sometimes when we went too far, she punished us. Many good men were lost over the years, about one every season. They were our sacrifices to the mine. I’m glad you’ve brought the quarry back to life, but you better be careful with her.”

They gathered for a pre-production meeting. Sophie said, “Okay, we’ve pretty much decided on layout. We’ll make the first chamber Heorot, the mead hall, the second chamber Grendel’s mother’s lair, and the third chamber the Dragon’s cave.” Everyone nodded. “Instead of a linear narrative, this time we’re trying something less structured.” They nodded again. “Each chamber has a monster which can move between the stages, so raising the drama.”

This was their fourth production together, and the team had gelled. They had a good understanding of each other’s preferences, relative weaknesses and strengths.

Within four weeks the production was ready to go. The first three nights were sold out in advance. QARY had become a big money spinner for Lucerne.

The first chamber was stunning. Its bare rock walls, floors, ceiling and pillars were filled with projections. They seemed covered by rich tapestries and paintings, and hung with swords, shields and armour. The gems on the weapons glittered like stars.

Feasting Dane warriors were slaughtered by gruesome Grendel. He crushed their skulls and ribs and feasted on their brains and hearts. Brave Geats came from across the waters to help them; their King, Beowulf, killed the monster by ripping off his arm.

The second chamber used mood lighting only. It was the underwater lair of Grendel’s mother, who had continued to slaughter warriors as revenge for her son’s death. The epic battle between her and Beowulf caused splashes of red to multiply till they filled the whole chamber.

The third chamber also used mood lighting. After Beowulf’s victory in Denmark, he had returned to Geatland and ruled for fifty years. One day a dragon guarding a hoard of gold was awoken, and laid waste the land. Beowulf’s final heroic act was to rid his kingdom of this cruel dragon, and whilst doing so he was injured and died.

During the performance, groups of people hid in chambers and moved around. There was indeed no separation between mythic and historical, and real and imagined events. These people were fighting modern monsters – drugs, alcohol, glue, lust, greed, anger and many other addictions. The dark corners of QARY were the perfect place to indulge them all.

Osiris

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the second season of the old quarry’s projection project. The first season’s experiment had gone so well that The Authority had changed its zoning from community use to commercial operation and approved a $10 million investment. Sophie’s business plan stated the operation would break even in Year Five.

She now had one hundred digital projectors, fibre-optic cabling, dynamic event lighting and a ten-man production crew. The project also had a new name, QARY, and an associated logo with the tails of the Q and Y joining. It reminded Sophie of a Viking boat.

They could now stage more ambitious shows, such as the myths and legends she had dreamed of since childhood. Sophie had somehow known this would happen. She had fainted upon first entering the quarry, and from that moment onwards the real and imagined seemed intertwined.

A resident of Lucerne came to see her. Hello handsome, she thought.

“I am Ahmad, I come from Egypt,” he said. “Before the revolution I worked as an archaeologist. I would like to be involved in the QARY project, and as the first show of this season may I suggest Osiris?”

“I was thinking of Percival,” she said. “I have always liked the Grail stories.”

His eyes lit up. “Me too, but Osiris is God of the Underworld. He is a perfect fit for QARY.”

“That’s a good point. Do you want to join the production team?”

They spent the next week fleshing out the story. Many versions of the Osiris myth are scattered through the ages. He is God of the Dead, a merciful judge, an underworld agency granting the power of life, responsible for sprouting vegetation and the Nile’s fertile flood. Better stay on his good side, thought Sophie. We don’t want a repeat of the Lucerne Valley’s 2004 inundation.

Sophie and Ahmad collected texts, made recordings, and conducted negotiations to license images. The rest of the production team worked on structure and flow. It took a month to pull it all together. Sophie held her breath on the first night, and also Ahmad’s hand. They were a team now, both on and off set.

The crowd smiled as the good god Osiris travelled the world spreading maat, righteous order. They tried to warn him that he was about to be tricked by his evil brother Set, and shouted, “Don’t get into the chest!” They cried when the chest was sealed and thrown into the Nile, the watery mood enhanced by blue lighting. There were cheers when Isis found the coffin stuck in a tree in Byblos, and quiet during the corpse’s mummification, enhanced by overwhelming white light.

Osiris’s magical reanimation led to many  “Ah’s” and “Wow’s”. They grinned during Horus’s miraculous conception, and someone shouted, “That stiff is really stiff!”

Isis stored Osiris’s body in a swamp. The audience was horrified when Set found the body and chopped it into fourteen pieces, and red light poured down the walls. There were smiles again when his body parts were gathered and buried, and he became an underworld god.

The production was flawless. Sophie breathed out.

The second week, someone in the crowd became hysterical. His screams drowned out the commentary for a while. The next morning the cleaner found chunks of meat scattered. Bloody kids hunting again, he thought, leaving meat out for the wolves.

Sophie wondered where Ahmad had gone. Maybe he didn’t like the way the show had turned out. Or maybe he didn’t like how she was turning out. She wondered if he had managed to have that profit-share meeting with her CEO. Surely that would be a brutal encounter.

Old Masters

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was relieved that the It’s Mine! show was a success. Her first project at the old quarry could have gone wrong, with people turning their noses up at the local eyesore with a history of accidents, pollution, corruption, industrial action and financial trouble. Instead they welcomed its reopening as the return of an old friend, albeit a very artsy friend.

Rather than praise Sophie, her CEO said, “The show was good, but it didn’t bring any money into the village. My name was attached to the project. It would have been nice to have commercial success.”

“But the site was approved for community use only. It wasn’t meant to make a profit.” God, her CEO was a bitch. Why was she making a fuss for no reason?

“Well, we need to produce another show, this time to make money.”

Sophie began working on it right away. The last one had taken three months to arrange, and this one should be quicker.

The production process proved an uphill struggle though. She couldn’t get anybody interested in a second community event.

The notion of projecting images across the vast, bare spaces of an old quarry should excite people. It was hardly a run of the mill event. But the artists involved argued about the order of the work shown, copyright fees, and signing waivers.

The Director of Lucerne Arts council, Eric Yahoo, said, “We are artists, not used to success. Fame and adoration are difficult issues for people seeing themselves as outsiders. We are now seen as valuable members of the community, and what self-respecting artist wants that?”

Sophie called the art critic of the New City Sun. He said, “The Lucerne Set is now old news. The old quarry has been done before, and the public wants something new.”

Wasn’t an old thing a good thing? thought Sophie. Her grandma always said, “Old is gold”, but then again she did have self-interest.

But good things are timeless, like the world’s great stories that her grandma told her at bedtime. Myths like Osiris, Beowulf, Gilgamesh and Percival, classic novels like Ulysses, and ancient texts like Tao Te Ching and Bhagavad Gita. Yes they have all been “done before”, but you can do them again, and again, and again. What would the art critic say to those?

Such productions take time to arrange, and myths require scale. She would like to get digital projectors, each with an individual server, add high-end fibre-optic technology, and computer-controlled dynamic event lighting. The impressionistic evocations and intriguing relief effects would be enhanced by audio-punch and video-precision. That would all cost money. Right now she must work with what she had.

Eric Yahoo managed to source ten more slide projectors. One came with a carousel full of slides of Old Masters’ paintings.

Sophie sat with Albert, the old quarry’s manager, viewing the slides. They saw Leonardo’s virgins, Michelangelo’s nubile boys, Raphael’s coronations and weddings, Titian’s flaying and mauling, Bosch’s hell on earth, El Greco’s disrobing, Constable’s horses and carts, Turner’s mystical seascapes, and Blake’s heavenly visions.

Sophie and Albert looked at each other. He said, “Old is gold.”

The Old Masters show drew crowds daily, and most productions were sold out. The Old Masters were innovators, trying new colours, perspectives, textures and forms. They would have appreciated the latest technology. Their paintings’ multiple viewpoints, bright colours, sharp details, and superhuman scale made them seem hyper-real.