Great Visual Arts from Around the World.

Countless Starlings Flock Together in a Miraculous Bird-Shaped Murmuration Over Lough Ennell


Amazing
Photography

#birds

March 4, 2021
Christopher Jobson

Image © James Crombie, licensed for use
After months of chasing starlings alongside his colleague Colin Hogg, Dublin-based photographer James Crombie captured a phenomenal shot of the flock as it swelled into an enormous bird-like murmuration. Hogg recorded the awe-inspiring experience in a short clip that shows the winged formation taking shape and hovering over Lough Ennell, a lake near Mullingar in central Ireland.
Crombie is known for his sports photography, and last week, he was named Press Photographer of the Year for his shot of a fan perched on a ladder watching the semi-final between St. Brigid’s and Boyle from the edge of a graveyard. Follow Crombie’s work that takes him to soccer fields, bucolic landscapes, and remote marshes on Instagram. You also might enjoy this series documenting murmurations over Danish marshlands.

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#birds

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Banksy Creates Bob Ross-Dubbed Process Video of New Work Depicting Oscar Wilde Escaping Prison


Art

#humor
#Oscar Wilde
#street art
#video

March 4, 2021
Christopher Jobson

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What begins as a soft-spoken clip of America’s most iconic TV painting instructor, Bob Ross from his Joy of Painting show, suddenly shifts into a frenetic and extremely rare behind-the-scenes video of Banksy creating his latest work in Reading, Berkshire. Titled “Create Escape,” the clip was just posted to the artist’s social media channels and depicts the real-time creation of a stenciled artwork of a prisoner escaping the high, red brick walls of HM Prison Reading (formerly known as Reading Gaol). Unlike the bright studio lights that illuminated Ross’s bucolic landscapes, “Create Escape” captures the frantic yet precise execution of a work done in near darkness by an artist completely governed by police response time.
The expansive and unblemished prison wall was a daring and perfect spot for a Banksy piece. It’s best known for its most famous inmate: Oscar Wilde served two years in the prison from 1895-1897 for the charge of “gross indecency” for being gay. The work is clearly a tribute to the poet, as the escape mechanism appears to be a long strand of paper emerging from a typewriter in place of the usual bed sheets. Wilde recounted aspects of his imprisonment in the poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” which centers largely on the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge.

Still from “Create Escape”
Still from “Create Escape”
Still from “Create Escape”
Still from “Create Escape”

#humor
#Oscar Wilde
#street art
#video

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Researchers Digitally Unfold a Renaissance-Era Letter Using X-Ray Technology


History
Science

#letters
#paper
#technology
#Xray

March 4, 2021
Grace Ebert

A 3D rendering of the letter as it unfolds. All images via Unlocking History Research Group archive
Six centuries after it was penned, the contents hidden inside a Renaissance-era letter plucked from a trunk at The Hague are finally readable. The correspondence, which we now know was likely spurred by questions about an inheritance, was part of a larger collection of nearly 600 letterlocked notes, a complex method that involves meticulously folding, rolling, tucking, and adhering the paper into its own envelope. Prior to the advent of other sealing practices, this security measure ensured that no one transporting the note became privy to its contents.
According to an article in Nature, a group of MIT researchers, who work as Unlocking History, digitally unraveled the letter, which otherwise would have to be opened by cutting through the paper, damaging the object and potentially leaving it unreadable. Instead, they employed a particularly sensitive X‐ray microtomography scanner designed for dental practices, including mapping the exact mineral content of teeth. After scanning the paper, researchers constructed 3D models alongside an algorithm built to determine specific folding patterns, allowing them to open the note without physically altering the artifact.
Dated July 31, 1697, the letter contained a request for a death certificate from a man named Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers, who lived at The Hague. “His request issued, Sennacques then spends the rest of the letter asking for news of the family and commending his cousin to the graces of God,” researchers said. “We do not know exactly why Le Pers did not receive Sennacques’ letter, but given the itinerancy of merchants, it is likely that Le Pers had moved on.” It’s unclear why this letter or the hundreds of others, which are written in Dutch, English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, never reached their recipients.
Head to Vimeo to watch Unlocking History unfold replicas of infamous and fictional correspondence—the collection spans from Mary Queen of Scots to Harry Potter to Beethoven—and dive further into the practice on the group’s site, where you’ll find folding guides, a lengthy history, and an entire archive of discreet missives. (via Science Alert)

The scanned letter from July 31, 1697
Digital rendering of the letter as it unfolds
The trunk at The Hague that contains hundreds of letterlocked notes

#letters
#paper
#technology
#Xray

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What We Can Learn from a Bollywood Blockbuster about Periods

“The curse. Bloody Mary. Time of the Month. Shark Week. Code Red. Aunt Flo.” All over the world, euphemisms exist to discretely convey those four simple words: “I have my period”. In the media, the word ‘period’ was not mentioned on television until the 1980s and it seems the western approach for combatting period stigma is to pretend that it doesn’t exist. But in 2018, the muted subject of the female cycle inspired the central storyline of an entire feature film; which became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of that year. Based on true events, “Pad Man” follows the story of struggling labourer turned social activist in India, who developed low cost sanitary pads for rural women who couldn’t afford the expense. It’s an unlikely love story about a young husband who will do anything for the comfort and happiness of his new bride, but finds himself unaware of the unhygienic and discriminatory practices she is subjected to when menstruating. In a part of the world where the topic of menstruation was discouraged in households and social circles; considered ‘unclean’; he risks being ridiculed and ostracised to generate awareness for women’s health in rural India. Arunachalam Muruganantham has since inspired filmmakers, lectured at Harvard University and was nominated as the 100 most influential people in the world…

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In fifteenth century Egypt, menstrual blood was a common ingredient in medicines and ointments. In many hunter-gathering communities, a woman’s period was seen as a source of pride; their cycles celebrated and given much attention and praise. Ultimately, perceptions have shifted throughout the centuries across different cultures.
Historian Robert S. McElvaine suspects this shift began when men developed what he coined as non-menstrual syndrome or NMS, which refers to a theory of reproductive “envy” that led males to stigmatize menstruation and socially dominate women as “psychological compensation for what men cannot do biologically.”
Religious texts in the Bible, the Quran and the Torah each contain passages that refer to menstrual blood as dirty. In Leviticus 15:24, women that undergo menstruation are perceived as unclean for seven days and anyone who touches them during the time shall also be unclean. Instead of being praised for bleeding, women were now avoided, excluded, and shamed for it.

This period of exclusion became exacerbated through the centuries, linked to various cultural and religious influences on society. In the Eastern Orthodox religion, a woman menstruating may not receive communion. Similarly, in Orthodox Jewish communities, husbands and wives cannot touch or engage in sexual intercourse. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that the theory about menstrual blood containing toxicity and disease-causing elements was disproven.
It’s difficult to believe that in the 21st century however, that we are still combatting societal stigma surrounding periods.
© Bunu Dhungana
Arunachalam Muruganantham set out to tackle the problem of the period taboo in his own country. He realized rural women did not have adequate access to the sanitary products they needed, and many were too ashamed to vocalize their concerns.
Since 2006, Muruganantham has provided over 4,000 machines to women in India through grassroots efforts. His machines are given to NGOs, who then employ local women to manufacture low-cost- sanitary pads and distribute them to rural Indian women. Hundreds of his machines are being distributed to other developing countries to provide local women with sanitary pads.
Growing up in a poor Indian village, Muruganantham was dismayed to learn that his wife and female family members used dirty rags and newspapers as sanitary pads. To add to his shock, he learned that the price of menstrual products was too exorbitant for the average lower working-class Indian family. A household would need to choose between food items or sanitary pads, as they could not afford both.

Women manufacturing low-cost pads (Sam Panthaky / Getty)
Muruganantham created a low-cost sanitary pad and distributed them to poor women around his village. This feat proved hard, as he could not find enough women to discuss menstruation with him. He lacked willing participants to try his sanitary pad inventions. Similarly, Muruganantham was discouraged by his family to continue his work, as it brought much shame to them. Women would rather expose themselves to potentially life-threatening infection and death than tell a male family member or friend that she was menstruating.
Despite much progress being made, in Western society, there is still the unspoken norm that this natural healthy sign that a woman’s body is functioning normally, should remain hidden. According to one Australian survey, school girls voted that their period experience would be more manageable if more ‘soundless’ menstrual products were available.
The need for discreet period products is high amongst women. As a result, many businesses are marketing their feminine products to be smaller and more discreet to appeal to consumers. Unfortunately, this works as a double-edged sword. By marketing products to be less noticeable, it reinforces the shame and stigma associated with periods; a topic that should be neither seen nor heard, minimising the chance of valid discussions surrounding the accessibility of menstrual products.
Women hide Tampon out of view (Nadine Ajaka / The Atlantic)
Studies have also shown that women often feel ashamed to buy these products in the supermarket and would avoid purchasing them from male checkout employees. Despite recent efforts and campaigns made to normalize periods, openly discussing one’s period is seldom brought up in a social circle, especially in a males’ presence.
Many UK women report feeling ashamed to tell their fathers that they have their period, which can pose a problem for single-parent households, whereby the sole parent or guardian is male. Girls may be too afraid to tell their fathers about their period and ask for menstrual products, depriving them of adequate care.
Period stigma also prevents women from publicly supporting a shared sentiment: that woman menstrual products are too expensive. Many businesses compete to make sanitary products discreet, soundless, and smaller. However, this optimization does not come with the label “more affordable.” It is estimated about 137,000 girls in the UK miss school each year because of a lack of access to sanitary products. Research from the University of Queensland found that in Australia, young women felt forced to steal menstrual pads because packets could cost up to $10 each. Homeless women were also particularly vulnerable to the high price of menstrual products, with thousands admitting to using old clothes, newspapers, and even leaves during their cycle or stealing from supermarkets.
Ending “period poverty” has noticeably raised more awareness in the mainstream media in the past few years. Just earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron renewed a promise made in December that women’s dignity must be protected from what he termed an “invisible injustice” that could no longer be tolerated. France’s plan follows New Zealand’s decision to roll out free products to all students earlier this month, and Scotland, which became the first country to make period products free in 2020.
Despite increasing attempts to normalize the stigma however, women are largely still left out of their own debate while prominent male figures and legislators still champion women’s period concerns for them.
Women stand in solidarity against menstruating taboo (Denise Maher/ Everyday Health)
Stemming from outdated cultural and religious influences, perhaps it’s time we recognised this taboo as a form of misogyny; one that silences women and instills fear and shame. And if we don’t discourage an attitude of embarrassment and discretion from the outset, it will continue permeate through into general society. So let’s talk about it. Period.
Written by Zakiyyah Job

13 Things I Found on the Internet Today (Vol. DXLIV)

1. These Kitschy Jell-O molds are actually Lamps
Made by mixed media artist Elrod (aka Mexakitsch.com). Found via PeeWee Herman’s blog!

2. Billy Meier’s UFOs
Eduard Albert Meier, commonly nicknamed “Billy”, is the founder of a UFO religion called the “Freie Interessengemeinschaft für Grenz- und Geisteswissenschaften und Ufologiestudien” (Free Community of Interests for the Border and Spiritual Sciences and Ufological Studies) and alleged contactee whose UFO photographs are claimed to show alien spacecraft. Meier claims to be in regular contact with extraterrestrial beings he calls the Plejaren. He also presented other material during the 1970s such as metal samples, sound recordings and film footage. Meier claims to be the seventh reincarnation after six prophets common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Enoch, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Immanuel (Jesus), and Mohammed. (Wikipedia).
He also has great photoshop skills! At Sotheby’s, a lot of his photographs sold for $16,000.
Found here.

3. News footage announcing the discovery of the Titanic wreckage (1985)

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4. A ‘Witch Bottle’ Discovered in an English Chimney
Filled with teeth, pins and mysterious liquid, the charms were designed to ward off witches, but new research suggests they had medical uses as well. Contractors demolishing the chimney of a former inn and pub in Watford, England, chanced upon a creepy surprise in 2019.
Found on the Smithsonian.

5. Mariah Carey’s Secret Alternative 90s Rock Album
Carey secretly wrote, recorded and released an alt rock album in 1995 under the name “Chick”. She initially provided leading vocals but producers told her it could damage her career so she asked her roommate Clarissa Dane to provide lead vocals whilst leaving her own background vocals on the tracks. This wasn’t revealed until 2020.
Here are two music videos from the album which Mariah Carey directed (warning: they’re both pretty terrible): Malibu and Demented
It seems she did provide some clues, her dog was featured in Malibu. In addition, she had a song in her album E=MC2 called “I’m That Chick”. Carey stated in her memoir: “I created an alter-ego artist and her Ziggy Stardust-like spoof band. My character was a dark-haired brooding Goth girl [a version of her, Bianca, showed up a few years later in the ‘Heartbreaker’ video] who wrote and sang ridiculous tortured songs.”
More on Wikipedia.

6. The Qajar series, inspired by the studio portraiture first introduced to Iran in the late 19th century
These photographs are from a series of thirty-three portraits by Shadi Ghadirian, a contemporary artist who was inspired by the studio portraiture first introduced to Iran under the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925). In order to re-create the earlier setting, Ghadirian employs painted backdrops and dresses her models in vintage clothes to emulate the fashion of the day: headscarves and short skirts worn over baggy trousers, as well as thick, black eyebrows. She adds modern elements to these traditional scenes, such as a Pepsi can, a boom box, a bicycle and an avant-garde Tehran newspaper. She has said of her work, “My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”
More found here.

7. An Asian-American owned store in 1942
Oakland, Calif., Mar. 1942. A large sign reading “I am an American” placed in the window of a store, at [401 – 403 Eighth] and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. Found in the Library of Congress.

8. Chilling Underground
Victor Sukhorukov is a young photographer from St. Petersburg who is seriously passionate about extreme sports and photography. He chooses hard-to-reach places as sites for filming – underground mines and tunnels, roofs, high-rise towers and bridges.

9. Magnificently Detailed Porcelain Ceramics
by Hitomi Hosono

10. The Surreal Architecture of Michael Sorkin
Sorkin was house architecture critic for The Village Voice in the 1980s, and he authored numerous articles and books on the subjects of contemporary architecture, design, cities, and the role of democracy in architecture. He died of Covid-19 last year. His prolific body of work is found on his website found here.

11. Los Alamos National Laboratory. Working on nuclear testing projects. 1974
Inside the lab: found here.

12. Jeff Goldblum selling us Apple Computers in 1999

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13. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a 1971 British dark comedy horror film. Its art deco sets, dark humour, and performance by Price have made the film and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again cult classics.

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The film posters are pretty rad if you can find one. Otherwise, there’s the t-shirt.

We’re Back! The Colossal Shop Is Restocked


Colossal

March 3, 2021
Colossal

We just added a few fun goods to the newly reopened Colossal Shop, including these (reversible!) face masks featuring some of art history’s most iconic works. Head to the shop for pins, magnets, and pop-up greeting cards that’ll find a permanent spot on your fridge. Each purchase directly supports Colossal and independent arts publishing, and remember, Colossal Members get 10 percent off nearly everything: just log in to your account and grab the discount code before check out.

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member and support independent arts publishing. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, help support our interview series, gain access to partner discounts, and much more. Join now!

 
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