OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER
The ability to admire, even be moved by, the beauty of both the natural and the human-made seems, in fact, to be part of what makes us human. A report on the ivory trade reminds us that the willingness to kill for objects, beauty, and transcendence seems uniquely human, too.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN THACKARA
In Lars von Trier’s 2003 film Dogville
there is almost no set. Buildings in the town are represented by a series of white outlines on the floor. Dogville
was a to-the-limit exercise in what von Trier calls ‘pure cinema’ — a commitment to use only real locations, and no special effects or background music, when making a film. I was reminded of Dogville
during a this year’s Transition Conference in London.
OBSERVATORY : MARK LAMSTER
One night when he was a much younger man, Nick Tobier watched a procession of elephants walk out of the Midtown Tunnel and into the cacophanous streets of New York. Following them was an attendant with a shovel for you know what. This was the Ringling Brothers annual elephant parade, a great New York tradition, but Tobier had no idea at the time. It seemed an unexpected revelation, a wondrous moment of random transcendence. Tobier is now an artist, and his works
aim to deliver that sense of wonderment and odd pleasure wherever he performs them.
PLACES : ROBERT MACFARLANE
One recent winter Robert Macfarlane journeyed from his home in England to western China, and from there, along with a friend and a guide, on to Minya Konka, which has long attracted both devout Buddhists and intrepid mountaineers. The group did not attempt to summit the notoriously difficult peak. As Macfarlane's friend warns him: “You’ll never get up Minya Konka, and you wouldn’t want to try. When we’ve set eyes on the mountain, I’ll tell you a story that will absolutely convince you of this.”
OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE
A round-up of recent additions to Tumblr from the Museum of Modern Art, the Miller House & Garden and Vitsoe, all demonstrating different ways of making archives part of our daily media diet.
OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR
In the past three decades, the 1970s punk movement has received many respectful assessments. There can’t be much left to say about the music, clothing, media outrage and legendary gigs, but the graphic expression of punk has received less critical attention. Now we have two thick, illustrated volumes: Punk: An Aesthetic
and The Art of Punk.
What conclusions do the authors draw about punk’s graphic history?
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Nighttime has always held a powerful and integral place in the arts. Literature abounds with the metaphor of night. Writers and poets use the dark as a foil for mystery, intrigue, evil and as a contrast to light in all its forms. Visual artists — painters and photographers stalk the night for sublime and dramatic contrasts. It is where film noir resides, with loneliness, fear, and the unknown its comfortable companion. With midnight called "the witching hour," it's no wonder it's the preferred time that goblins and haints awaken for their work.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE
Award-winning glassware for the visually impaired.
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 1995
A tour of Splendid China, the "world's largest miniature scenic spot.