At 22:19 tonight I was out in the back garden equipped with camera, tripod and shutter cable release, waiting for the first of four passes tonight by the International Space Station over the UK. The sky was almost completely clear of cloud apart from a few wisps, and there was no breeze so it was a perfect evening for long exposure shots of of the night sky. I didn’t see the station, however, because I was busy setting up the camera kit. It had been a last minute decision to try to capture the ISS. I’d just been reading Twitter feeds and saw a message from Virtual Astronomer retweeted by Prof Brian Cox, alerting the world to the bright passes tonight. It will be pass overhead several times again over the next few days but the weather forecast is bad, especially for Saturday.
Still, according to Meteor Watch, there will be many more passes over the UK during June, and it will return in August evenings during the Perseid Meteor shower, but perhaps my best chance of photographing it will be to wait for the second pass tonight at 23:55. I’d better go and make sure the kit is ready in time, because although I might be around to capture the third pass at 01:32, I definitely won’t be awake for the final pass at 03:08.
Update at 23:59. The pass was definitely “overhead” as described on Meteor Watch, so much so that my tripod head couldn’t cope. Ah well, it was still a splendid sight in a clear night sky.
I’ve negotiated hedge mazes, maize mazes, mirror mazes, turf mazes and brick mazes, but never one made from glass. But that’s exactly what sculptor, Robert Morris has made: It’s in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park in Kansas City, whose website seems to suggest that they use the term ‘interactive’ to mean that you can get up close and personal with it rather than a pathway that changes in response to your actions like the game Labyrinth. The park is part of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, whose website also lists, in its modern and contemporary collection, work by an amazing list of artists, including Sol LeWitt, who featured in Week 1 of the Creative Coding course I wrote about yesterday. I like Twisted Sifter‘s analysis:
“In spirit, Glass Labyrinth acknowledges similar prehistoric markings on stones and cave walls, ancient Greek myths, and Christian metaphors for pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem. Thus, it transcends time and space to remind us of the power of deeply felt archetypes. In form and material, however, this labyrinth is a departure from the more familiar circular and rectangular labyrinths of old. Triangulated and constructed of glass plate walls capped with bronze, it speaks to this moment in the language of modern architecture and design–streamlined, dynamic, transparent, and elegant.”
The whole sculpture park looks a wonderful place, but, for me, the labyrinth is the jewel in the crown, so I shall:
- add a visit there to my (unwritten) bucket list
- resume my visits to mazes and photographing them
- recreate (with improvements) my very first website for which I bought the domain www.whatmaze.co.uk
(Hat tip to Twisted Sifter.)
Yesterday was the first day of Week 1 of Creative Coding offered by Monash University through Future Learn. The free course introduces complete beginners to Processing, taking a fascinating visual and philosophical approach to the subject. It offers great resources as supporting material, so although I’ve already completed the tasks for week 1, I’m already impatient to get started on the remaining five weeks.
On first inspection, Swift appears, at least to an innocent like me, to be far more approachable, like Processing, than Objective C, on which it’s built. I can see that while battle-weary developers may groan at yet another proprietary language, this could be a good time for a beginner to get to grips with Swift. I’ve looked round to investigate some of the options for creating apps such as Appcelerator , but I remain unconvinced. I’m still keen to learn more about Processing, but perhaps I’ll hop on board Swift, though it feels like I would be committing myself to a life-changing decision, like someone deciding which football team to support.
Brian Eno has again proved his status as a Renaissance Man. He and Karl Hyde have created, with a little help from Holo Decks, a free interactive Augmented Reality App for iOS, to accompany their new album Someday World. If you point your camera phone at the vinyl version of the album or at the online version you see abstract graphics described as outsider architecture that you interact with by double tapping the screen. It seems more specific than his generative app Bloom. If you point the camera elsewhere, you merely see the camera view with no graphics.
This is the weekend of Museums at Night 2014. Most of the Cambridge University museums arranged something for the evening. I had imagined moody atmospheric lighting with dramatic shadows, so I was keen to take photographic advantage of the unusual light, not appreciating that we have, in fact, moved on from the dark evenings of winter to longer summer days. Indeed, we’re only a month away from the longest day!
So I was fortunate that my museum of choice, the Museum of Classical Archaeology, is relaxed about photography (though not tripods) and has collections that are far less sensitive to atmospheric conditions than many museums. It can therefore allow in far more daylight than most. As a result, I spent a very enjoyable few hours yesterday taking photographs in the gentle light of the setting sun as it entered the said museum at a shallow angle. The Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculptures, casts and especially the friezes looked amazing with just a hint of light bringing out the shapes, as though it had all been carefully planned. And who am I to suggest that it hadn’t?
With all of the historical objects around me, it was reminiscent of the stunning Neolithic cairn at Maes Howe on Orkney where the entrance tunnel to the tomb lines up with the setting sun on the winter Solstice, thus illuminating the rear wall of the central chamber. I’m certainly not suggesting that the museum’s architect aligned the entire building and roof light purely for the setting sun on Museums at Night night, but it would be impressive if s/he had.
It seems fitting to end with a quote from Historic Scotland about the significance of Maes Howe and the nearby sites of Skara Brae:
“The monuments at the heart of Neolithic Orkney and Skara Brae proclaim the triumphs of the human spirit in early ages and isolated places. They were approximately contemporary with the mastabas of the archaic period of Egypt (first and second dynasties), the brick temples of Sumeria, and the first cities of the Harappa culture in India, and a century or two earlier than the Golden Age of China. Unusually fine for their early date, and with a remarkably rich survival of evidence, these sites stand as a visible symbol of the achievements of early peoples away from the traditional centres of civilisation … Maes Howe is a masterpiece of Neolithic peoples. It is an exceptionally early architectural accomplishment. With its almost classical strength and simplicity it is a unique survival from 5000 years ago. It is an expression of genius within a group of people whose other tombs were claustrophobic chambers in smaller mounds.”
It’s been a good day for music. First of all, I stumbled across Brian Eno and Karl Hyde performing tracks from their new album Someday World live on BBC Radio 6. And tonight I received advance notice of a new release next week of music by Philip Glass’ String Quartets performed by The Dublin Guitar Quartet.
To quote the WXQR website:
“String Quartet No. 5 is full of plucked and bowed chords that sound like wild strumming even on violins, but the cool, restrained interpretations of the Dublin Guitar Quartet speak more like a virginal harpsichord with an unusually sweet voice—a glowing tone, not a flashy one. And of course, it helps that their flawless rhythmic unison and tonal blend makes the four instruments sound like one.”
The transposition to guitar is beautiful, almost as striking as The Balanescu Quartet performing Kraftwerk. Someone has helpfully posted the Quartet’s version of The Model on YouTube, not my favourite track, either of the Quartet’s covers or of Kraftwerk’s, but the whole Possessed album is worth a listen. I’ve taken back my iMac from the repair shop so I can now listen to music while I work. And now I have two more albums on my list to buy.
It’s going to be a puppet-filled few days: firstly ‘The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer‘ at Cambridge Junction tomorrow, then the National Theatre Encore Broadcast (As Live) of ‘War Horse‘ at The Picturehouse on Tuesday. I’ve been waiting to see the stage version of War Horse since 2011.
After I recently wrote about Monomania’s solitary obsessions, Prosthetic Knowledge has posted with what seems like perfect synchronicity about Six Pacmen by Tacit Group in South Korea. The audio visual performance of a multiplayer version of Pacman, combined with ‘Six Pianos’ by Steve Reich smacks of the relentless obsession involved in Monomania. OK, neither the Pacman element nor the piano playing is solitary, but the obsessively intense and repetitive nature of each, combining to form visual and audio patterns seems appropriate for Monomania and is an example of the generative art that has been fascinating me recently, as well as an example of someone else mining of the 1970s as a source of rich material because ‘Six Pianos’ was released in 1973.) ‘Structural‘, Tacit’s work based on Tetris, is slow but equally fascinating, with a soundtrack closer to 1970s Kraftwerk than to modernist classical music.
I’m looking forward to Saturday’s Monomania Festival at Cambridge Junction, though that’s almost despite the advance publicity, which describes the festival as “a one-day international festival of solitary and obsessive creativity…” making it sound unfortunately like unhealthy teenage bedroom practices. The publicity goes on to add:
“…from meticulousness, self-sufficiency and DIY enthusiasm to all-consuming compulsions, rituals and isolation, solo artists across live art, live music, installations and sound explore the ways our personal obsessions and fixations pervade art and everyday life.”
which isn’t necessarily much better. But then it lists:
“See robots, balancing rocks, listen to pins drop, house music on Casio keyboards, indoor bamboo, Super 8 films, light controlled speakers, a telescope, crafted folk, experimental noise, and everything in between…”
So all in all, I’m still glad I’ve already bought my ticket. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this after the event.
Great service today when looking at electro acoustic guitars @PMTCambridge Thanks guys!