Tag Archives: art

Dead people be doin’ it

Pax Arcana

larry_kingAmong the more clever zombie threats of recent years has been the popular art exhibits of German artist Gunther von Hagens, who displays cadavers and in various positions and states of disrepair to the gawking delight of paying guests. Not only do the Bodyworlds exhibits fill the war chests of our zombie enemies, they also serve to inure the living to the danger posed by the shuffling hordes of the undead.

Von Hagens is clearly a war profiteer, but his latest stunt proves he is a traitor to his living brethren.

As reported in the Guardian, von Hagens has stirred some controversy lately by posing two corpses in mid-coitus:

The exhibition has drawn angry protests from a cross-party group of politicians as well as church representatives. They have called for the work to be withdrawn, saying it is pornographic and an insult to the dead.

Alice Ströver, an MP for the Green party, said: “This couple is simply over the top, and it shouldn’t be shown.”

Frankly I didn’t know any kind of sex acts were too “over the top” for the Germans, but I guess I’ll take your word for it.

But these goodly MPs and churchgoing wurst-slurpers are missing the entire point. By showing two dead people having sex, von Hagens is almost certainly desensitizing humans to the idea of zombie procreation. Within a few years they’ll start agitating for government-funded Head Start programs for their little brain-eaters and buying three-bedroom houses in the suburbs. The hippies in your town will argue that we should “bring the zombies into the fold” in order to quell their violent urges, but before long your property values will plummet and your kids will be hanging out behind the abandoned warehouse.

“So what if I ate some brains last night?” they scream at you from the top of the stairs. “I’m 14 now and I can do what I want!!”

Fucking zombies.

Fury at exhibit of corpses having sex [Guardian]

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Streetfights! Swordsmen! Artists! Scandals! Puns!

Pax Arcana

van_goghIf the central thesis of a new book by a pair of art historians is correct, everything you knew about how Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear is wrong.

When we were kids, we were told he cut his own ear off after being jilted by the love of his life. When we were teenagers they finally told us that he was a bit deranged and the “love of his life” was really a local prostitute.

Now it seems the mystery has even deeper and smellier layers of onion [Ed Note — I’m pretty sure I’m using this metaphor incorrectly].

The researchers claim that Van Gogh did not even cut his own ear off. Instead it was severed by…

… his contemporary artist Paul Gaugin!!

Van Gogh and Gauguin’s troubled friendship was legendary. In 1888, Van Gogh persuaded him to come to Arles in the south of France to live with him in the Yellow House he had set up as a “studio of the south”. They spent the autumn painting together before things soured. Just before Christmas, they fell out. Van Gogh, seized by an attack of a metabolic disease became aggressive and was apparently crushed when Gauguin said he was leaving for good.

Kaufmann told the Guardian: “Near the brothel, about 300 metres from the Yellow House, there was a final encounter between them: Vincent might have attacked him, Gauguin wanted to defend himself and to get rid of this ‘madman’. He drew his weapon, made some movement in the direction of Vincent and by that cut off his left ear.” Kaufmann said it was not clear if it was an accident or an aimed hit.

Of course they didn’t have Twitter back then, so we’ll never really know what happened. What we do know is that Van Gogh proceeded to deliver his ear to the brothel with a note that said “Ear you go!” Haha just kidding. It said “Sorry for being so ear-rational!”

Art historians claim Van Gogh’s ear ‘cut off by Gauguin’ [Guardian]


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Like Whistler’s Mother only with more broken glass

Pax Arcana

In America, when someone puts on a mask, spray paints the inside of a train, then smashes a window and hurls himself onto a platform in the station, we call it vandalism. In Sweden they call it an art project:

The unidentified student included video of the vandalism in his thesis at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. The school said it doesn’t allow students to break the law, but added it wasn’t clear whether the student participated in the vandalism or merely recorded it.

Train vandalism is on the rise in Sweden

Surprisingly, the Swedish authorities seem to be against this sort of highbrow post-postmodern expressionism:

Chairman Christer Wennerholm said the transit authority filed a complaint against the student Monday, demanding 100,000 kronor ($12,000) in damages.

That fine might not seem like much, but you have to consider how the global economic downturn has affected the intra-Scandinavia exhange rate. 100,000 Swedish kronor is the equivalent of 5,000 Icelandic shark carcasses or 22 Norwegian herring presses. In Finland you could buy 700 sauna rocks for that kind of money.

Swedish train vandalized as part of art thesis [AP]

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Your animal paintings are all wrong

Pax Arcana

dogPablo Picasso once said that art is the lie that tells the truth. He also said French chicks will screw anyone with a paint brush and a fancy grammaphone, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that artists sometimes get things wrong. And not on purpose, like the surrealists or whatever, but just because they don’t know which leg goes where when painting a dog or horse walking. Luckily we have some squirrely academic types to point this out for us:

After analyzing more than 300 depictions of walking animals in museums, veterinary books and toy models, the researchers report that in almost half of them the leg positions are wrong. The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

The researchers studied only depictions where it could be determined unambiguously that the animal was walking, and not trotting or otherwise running, as in those gaits the leg movements may differ. (In walking, two or more legs are touching the ground at all times while in galloping, for example, there are moments when all the legs are lifted.)

The researchers found, for example, that a skeleton of a dog at a Finnish museum depicts the right hindleg in a rearward position while the right foreleg is lifted and moving forward. In a proper depiction the hindleg would be forward too, having moved before the foreleg.

It’s a good thing they didn’t interview any dogs for this story, since I happen to know that many of them are proud of their idiosyncratic walking styles. My Beagle — Hallgeir the King Slayer — busts into a sideways creep when approaching a female of the species. I call it his “pimp walk.”

In Lots of Animal Art, Wrong Foot Is Forward [NYT]


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The man who made things awesome

Pax Arcana

Have you ever seen this before?


OK, how about this one?


OK fine, but have you ever seen one of these before?


If you recognize these branding icons and dozens of others, then you’re already familiar with the life’s work of Raymond Loewy, French expatriate and creator of many of the world’s most influential industrial designs.

Wired celebrated Loewy’s 115th birthday yesterday with a short reflection on Loewy’s influence over fields ranging from soft drinks to space travel:

Loewy’s classic designs include the Coca-Cola bottle, the sleek-sided 1929 Gestetner duplicating machine, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s streamlined S-1 Locomotive, the World War II Lucky Strike cigarette package, the 1954 Greyhound Bus, JFK’s Air Force One, and corporate logos for Exxon, Shell and dozens of other firms.

But wait, there is more: the 1947 line of Hallicrafter radio receivers that influenced home sound-system design through the 1970s, Studebaker’s 1947 Starlight coupe, 1953 Starliner coupe and 1961 Avanti — the only auto exhibited in the Louvre — and the interiors of the Concorde and NASA’s Sky Lab and Space Shuttle.

His client list is also astonishing: Revlon, Faberge, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Hanes, Levis, Butterick, Bulova, Omega, Mont Blanc, Seth Thomas, Rosenthal, Frigidaire, Formica, Koehler, IBM, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Studebaker, BMW, Jaguar and even the government of the Soviet Union.

Basically he’s the reason your grandparents’ old refrigerator seems so elegant, even as it drips rusty water all over the garage.

Nov. 5, 1893: A Design Star Is Born [Wired]

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Jesus was eating eels

Pax Arcana

Probably the most disturbing Bible story — at least to high-minded epicureans food snobs like Pax Arcana — is that of the transubstantiation. According to mainstream Christian dogma, Jesus turned the wine and bread served at the last supper into his blood and body. (And lo did his disciples say unto him “Aw, gurrrg, awww… what the F Jesus?” as they did spit bits of soft tissue and coagulated hemoglobin upon the ground).

But what about the other stuff? In Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper, bread and wine are not the only victuals on the table. There are plates of heretofore unidentified dishes scattered about the table-top. The rapid decay of the painting — writings from as far back as 1517 had already noted that it “had begun to spoil” — rendered many of the finer details of the work, including the actual type of food on the table, impossible to discern.

According to an article in Gastronomica (via Boing Boing), the mystery has now been solved. The 1997 restoration of The Last Supper has revealed that Jesus — at least in DaVinci’s imagination — spent his final evening pounding not only bread and wine, but also grilled eels.


Turns out the possibly-vegetarian DaVinci was likely inserting a bit of his own culture into the scene:

The eels in the Last Supper may or may not have been on Leonardo’s diet, but they certainly enhance the realism of the representation. Eels were especially popular in Renaissance Italy because they could survive out of water for days and be easily transported in grass-filled baskets or, once dead, be preserved in brine.15 According to Bartolomeo Scappi, the best ones came from Comacchio, near Ferrara. G.B. Rossetti, another sixteenth-century author, gives thirty different recipes for preparing them.

What is most remarkable about all of this is how it confirms my belief that I am an artistic visionary on par with DaVinci. In my own artistic interpretation of the life and meaning of Jesus, I also intimated that he ate eels before his crucifixtion.

OK, so they were electric eels. What are you, some kind of art critic now?

Last Supper Menu revealed: mmm, delicious eels [Boing Boing]
At Supper With Leonardo [Gastronomica PDF]

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They killed the art jacket

Pax Arcana

Most advocates for expansive stem cell research will cite potential benefits such as curing cancer or regrowing damaged human nerve cells.

Not this guy. I’m holding out for tiny living mouse jackets.

That’s why I was saddened to hear of the demise of the Victimless Leather exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

What, no Bunsen burner? You call this science?

The exhibit, created by Australian scientists, comprised an itty-bitty jacket made from embryonic stem cells taken from mice. The jacket was made of living, growing tissue fed by a tube full of nutrients.

Sadly, the tissue grew too fast and was clogging its own incubation system.  Show curator Paola Antonelli was then forced to pull the plug on the exhibit, effectively “killing” the living tissue. Then she got all squirrelly about the decision and started going all big picture on everyone’s ass:

“And [the artists] were back in Australia, so I had to make the decision to kill it. And you know what? I felt I could not make that decision. I’ve always been pro-choice and all of a sudden I’m here not sleeping at night about killing a coat…That thing was never alive before it was grown.”

She’s right. And think of all the tiny people who dream of one day owning tiny mouse-leather coats. What is to be done for them now, you jacket-slaying barbarian?

Click the image below to see an artist’s rendition of the jacket.

MoMA exhibit dies five weeks into show [Art Newspaper]

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Great moments in hilarious graphic design

Pax Arcana

Years ago, I didn’t know graphic design from Father Scott’s beard. Then I married the joyous and age-appropriate Mrs. Pax Arcana, a designer so talented her skillz will literally set your eyeballs on fire.

I can’t say I’ve absorbed any of that talent (though this guy might beg to differ), but I do know this — when you hire a designer for your project, make sure they don’t half-ass it. The world is filled with crap design — cluttered Web sites, comic sans overload, and Ugg boots, for some — so hiring a good designer is an absolute necessity to lift your product, invitation, political poster, whatever, above the rabble.

Via Boing Boing, the UK office of Government Commerce failed hilariously in its most recent effort at logo design.

Here’s what they came up with:

Seems fine, right?

Let’s just tip that bad boy on its side and see if anything pops up:

Uh-oh. Looks likes we caught this guy in a private moment. Better close the door and pretend we were never here.

For its part, the OGC says it’s gonna stay the course, despite the obvious puerile possibilities:

Quite remarkably, our informant suggested that, having spent the cash, OGC intends to roll out the logo anyway. Well, we contacted the OGC for comment, and a spokesman gamely explained: “The OGC is currently overhauling the design of its corporate materials following a new strategy and forward direction. As part of this, the OGC has been developing a new visual identity, one aspect of which is a new logo.

“The proposed version, which you have sent over, has been shared with staff, and is now going through final technical stages. It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters ‘OGC’ – and is not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on government spend!”

Stiff upper lip and all that.

Graphic graphic: UK Office of Govt Commerce’s new logo [Boing Boing]
UK Office of Government Commerce cracks one off [The Register]

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Virginia newspaper takes courageous stand against art, freedom of speech

Pax Arcana

Whenever people ask my thoughts on the current crisis in newspapers, I offer the following anecdote:

I was once told to cut a reference to eBay from one of my stories, because the paper did not want to “call attention” to the Internet. This was in 2006.

In related news, Romenesko* today links to a story in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot about the bizarre tale of Beth Reid — a 17-year-old high school student and artist.

Reid recently entered an art contest sponsored by the paper and was awarded 1st place for her self-portrait. The judge who awarded her the honor was Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary.

But the paper’s marketing director nixed the honor because Reid was nude in her self-portrait — despite the fact that she is crouching and none of the goodies are showing. So they judged again and a second judge awarded first prize to a student who sculpted a nude torso of a pregnant woman. Again, rejected.

Here’s how the newspaper executive in charge explains herself:

“We honestly don’t believe those two pieces are appropriate to be held up as the winners of a high school art show, because they do depict the nude,” Pam Smith-Rodden, director of marketing for The Pilot, said at the time. The marketing department runs the Student Gallery. Two Pilot employees, one from the marketing department and one from advertising, were selected to conduct a third judging, from which a winner was chosen and announced Tuesday.

I think Pam Smith-Rodden is a hero who should be given a medal. It’s not really nudity that’s so offensive, but thinking about nudity. And nothing makes me think about nude girls more than seeing them not-nude. Or nude but with the good stuff covered up. Or with clothes on.

Furthermore, nudity has no place in the art world. Art is about paintings of lighthouses and dogs. And NASCAR legends.

Da Vinci meets Jim Neighbors meets exhaust fumes

Some art is just swirly lines and geometric shapes. That art is weird and I don’t understand it, but at least there’s no naked people.

Reid disagrees:

“My work is on display at the Chrysler, but they could not suffer me to receive a ribbon,” Beth said. “I think it seems ludicrous.”

“And, of course, there’s naked men on the front porch,” said Beth, referring to a monumental statue of torch bearers at the museum’s main entrance.

Look, young lady. You have a very active imagination, and that’s good! But take it from us media professionals — there is no Internet and there is no nudity. Neither thing exists, because if they did, advertising might suffer.

Art lovers raise money for teen who lost Student Gallery title [Virginian-Pilot]

* For those unaware of the Web-surfing habits of journalism nerds the world over, Jim Romenesko’s blog at the Poynter Institute Web site is like a gossip site for buttoned-up old media types. If you are truly interested in what makes journalists tick (short answer: Equal parts anger, nostalgia, and self-aggrandizement disguised as self-deprecation), you would do well to read it often.


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We at Pax Arcana feel bad for wasting so much of your time with goofy videos, goofy writing, meat, and news about colleges and sports teams you hate.

To make amends, we offer the following discourse on the history and importance of the Mona Lisa:


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