sticking point

By writing my recent progress report, I became aware of how little practical activity I’d achieved so far in 2016: a creative year, but I also remembered later that I’d taken some night photographs in Edinburgh recently that I didn’t publish here. For some reason, WordPress always reports an error every time I try to upload a photo from this shoot, but I’ll keep trying.

St Andrews Square was host to an installation by Groupe LAPS called Keyframes. It’s worth following the link to see other versions of this installation. But better still, go and see the installation in situ, it’s there in Edinburgh until 28th March 2016. Each stick figure lights in turn, giving the impression of movement, thussuccessfully combining static sculpture with animation, which, together with the soundtrack, made it an impressive piece.

And following that discovery, I went out on another night photography expedition, and I’m working my way through the resulting images this weekend, so I will post the results soon.



Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 animation, photography, sculpture No Comments

museums at night

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.”

museumsatnight-2  museumsatnight-1 museumsatnight-4 museumsatnight-5

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 event, museum, sculpture No Comments

blasts from the past and into the future

There was an interesting combination of programmes on BBC2 on Monday, firstly ‘Horizon: Man on Mars – Mission to the Red Planet’, followed by ‘The Culture Show: Lego – the Building Blocks of Architecture’.  Catch them on iPlayer while you can!

Horizon discussed the difficulties in transporting people to Mars, in terms of logistics (fuel, water, and recycling human waste) and safety: the effects on their bodies of radiation and the lack of gravity, as well as the psychological effects of boredom and confinement over a year-long journey.  It also considered  improvements in spacesuit design, and the difficulty in slowing down sufficiently for landing and what to do once there to survive the dust storms. The distance between Earth and Mars  means that a lot of new technology will be required so the solutions used in the Apollo moon missions are no longer applicable, which means the old assumptions of recruiting astronauts from the ranks of test pilots  no longer apply. It’s therefore perfectly possible, despite the sexist title of the programme that some of the crew may be female (if they can be safely injected with testosterone!)

What the programme didn’t consider explicitly was the reason for sending humans to Mars, other than general curiosity. There appeared to be an assumption that a launch date might be 2033, assuming all the engineering issues could be resolved.  I’l be 72 then, so it’s feasible that I’ll see it take place, just as I did the first moon landing when my father woke me up in the middle of the night to make sure I saw such a historic event. Collecting the set is a possibility! New engines are currently being tested in the United States, but the programme concluded that the scale of the mission is beyond any single country or private company, so a partnership of some form will be required.  Step forward Mr Branson and Mr Gates.

It’s exciting to think that the space exploration I used to read about as a child is once more a possibility.Which leads neatly to the second programme I mentioned.  Like many children  in the 1960s I enjoyed playing with Meccano and Lego, so I was intrigued by the idea of the plastic brick’s influence on architecture.  But the programme turned out to be so much more than that. Starting at the time of post war reconstruction, when playing with Meccano and Lego was a positive, hopeful and non-destructive outlook, the programme moved from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water through 1970s prefabricated system buildings to post-Post-Modernism.

It looked at some of the more futuristic styles of architecture, but most interesting,  at least to me, was the artist using vast piles of white Lego in Albania to start collaborative discussion about how to rebuild the country after the fall of Communism. From there, the programme suddenly moved to the use of Minecraft, both as a game for young children and as a tool for public consultation in town planning circles. When I was a town planner, Sim City was considered adventurous but not particularly useful.

With appropriate timing, given the Culture Show’s topic,  I saw the Kelpies this weekend, two enormous steel horses heads currently nearing completion near Falkirk and Grangemouth.  I say ‘with appropriate timing’ because the Kelpies look like they’re made from tiny futuristic silver Lego, forming yet another leap from our pasts into the future.


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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 art, sculpture No Comments

fluid sculpture

Ferrofluid is so cool.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 sculpture No Comments