Posts Tagged With: art

Occupy White Walls Does Doctor Who (part one)

Today, gentle reader, and after a protracted absence – hey, it’s sunny and we’re allowed out now! – we delve deep into the heady realms of art, and how it’s displayed. And yes, there is a definite Doctor Who link, but you’ll have to read on (or casually scroll to the bottom; it’s bad manners but I’ll be none the wiser) to find out exactly what it is.

It’s a strange name for a video game, but then Occupy White Walls is a strange sort of game. That’s if you can call it a game at all. It’s more of a virtual art curator / gallery-building experience. Broadly speaking you’re given a sea of blank space (literally: the game opens on a pleasant oceanic backdrop and an island of floating white floor in the middle of it) and encouraged to build your own gallery. You do this by placing blocks – different floors, different walls, ceilings, lighting, architecture – wherever you want them. You’re free to redesign your space at will, change colours, move and even delete structures entirely: some objects will snap into place, but as a general rule nothing is off limits. When you’re ready, you hang artwork on the walls. Well, it’s a gallery, right?

Said art can be aquired from DAISY, the in-house virtual AI, who lists paintings seemingly at random and then learns over time to filter them according to the sort of stuff you like. This never really seemed to work in practice for me – I’d find renaissance art and dull Victorian portraits all over the place, despite concentrating almost exclusively on modern art and photography – although I gather things have improved since I stopped buying new art. Paintings vary in size and scale, from small photos that you have to squint to examine to the likes of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, which is so big it required me to build a new room (well, outside platform) in which to house it. Artists range in scope – traditional landscape painters, religious artworks and surrealist masterpieces are all represented, and anything has the potential to be included provided they’ve either struck a deal or it’s in the public domain (so there is, alas, no Dali as of yet).

Expanding your gallery space costs money – which takes place in the form of virtual currency known simply as ‘cubes’ – and you earn more of these by opening your viewing space to the public in thirty-minute sessions, whereupon it may be visited either by anyone who happens to be logged in, or a collection of bots who phase in and out of the gallery space, nod appreciatively at whatever you happen to have hanging there and perform the occasional backflip. Opening and closing repeatedly is the quickest way to level up, which means there’s a certain amount of grinding early on, but once you reach level 30 you unlock all the assets in the range and things really start to get interesting.

If you want the gist of how the whole thing works, you could do a lot worse than read this, but the biggest selling point of OWW is that it’s got no selling point at all – it’s available at no cost, bar a supplementary soundtrack album (which you are under no compulsion to buy, although I did) and the option to upload your own artwork at $9 a pop. And if it seems a little silly, having your own space on which to buy and hang virtual art, it’s worth bearing in mind that the game came out not long before Covid hit, and given that we spent much of last year stuck indoors, its presence on Steam couldn’t have been any more timely. Certainly the nature of the experience – log on, do a little world-building, casually and graduallly expanding your rooms, changing the sky, re-imagining the floors, filling a room with statues, perhaps adding an extra wing when you’re particularly flush…there’s something vastly therapeutic about it. It’s not a substitute for the Tate, but it’s a good start.

I’ve seen a fair bit in OWW – celestial glass-walled viewing areas looking out onto the wilds of the universe; vast Nordic-themed lakeside galleries; underwater treasure troves; homages to the London underground where Monet and Renoir jostle for space next to the ‘MIND THE GAP’ signs; even a recreation of the space station from 2001, with a door that leads into the hotel room that Keir Dullea reaches at the film’s conclusion. But it doesn’t really do a lot when it’s written down. Walking round a virtual gallery or two really is the best way to fire up your imagination, and it was only when I’d seen what other people had achieved that I started to come up with a creative vision of what I could do with a workspace limited only by funds and my ageing computer’s memory.

Scroll up a bit. That overhead shot you can see? The one with the chess board in the middle? That’s my gallery. Well, a part of it. The waterfront theme didn’t really kick into gear until I built the pier you can see just above. It takes its cue from the one at Boscombe: long and minimalist, and there’s a copy of The Scream hanging on one of the glass walls at the end. From its edge, you can see the corners of the bricked industrial area and the large installation space where I hung a Mondrian and then built an enormous replica out of coloured walls to go alongside it. The whole space grew organically, and owes quite a lot to Frank Lloyd Wright, but I didn’t realise this when I was expanding – it was all about just adding rooms to offset the tedium of lockdown.

But why stop at one gallery? Why just one, when you can do this?

The Highway is perhaps the work I’m most proud of. I’d already made the Chapel – a church interior designed as a place of reflection and remembrance – but wondered what would happen if I built a long, straight road that stretched off into the distance, as far as I could, and just put things alongside it. There is an abandoned, crumbling warehouse and an electrical substation. There is a gaudy sixties bridge and a tunnel that leads to nowhere. Halfway up there is a memorial garden. And there is a vast slab of grey stretching off to the right, all tall oppressive corridors, that opens out into a large open plaza where I built a mosaic on the walls.

But there was another reason to build the Highway, and this, oh faithful reader, is where the Doctor Who connection kicks in. Because if you wander up, you’ll notice that the Angel of the North overlooks a nondescript-looking building that might be just a wee bit familiar.

Designing the interior required a certain amount of improvisation, but after a bit of jiggery pokery I managed to get the counter area more or less the way I wanted it. The seats were trickier, because of what’s available – what you see here is a second draft, and it’s still not quite got the booth feel I really wanted, but it’s not a bad estimate. While it was impossible to recreate all the art they had in the original, I managed to at least capture the feel – and another mosaic on the back wall served as a decent substitute for the stars-and-stripes flag.

But the best bit? There’s a door at the back, and – well…

All right. It’s a disaster. You have no idea how difficult it was to build a convincing hexagonal structure that looked like it might pass for a console. What you can see is a collection of metal desks, awkwardly grouped together into something that looks vaguely right until you get too close. Oh, and there’s a single column of light stretching upwards; it doesn’t move but perhaps we could just say it’s parked? The round things are good, anyway. Even if I don’t know what they’re for.

It wasn’t the only TARDIS I built – but you’ll have to wait until next time to see that one, as it’s a whopper and it’s going to take us some time to walk around it properly. In the meantime, here’s a little post-credit scene. It takes place at Mr Webley’s World of Colour (yes, that is a ‘Nightmare in Silver’ reference). Unlike many of my other creations, this was always envisaged as a definitive place with a beginning and an end – a large, multi-storeyed building in which each room deals with aspects of a different slice of the rainbow, with lighting, decor and artwork to match.

You get the idea. It’s a one-way system (which was disturbingly prophetic) but there is a place of respite halfway along, taking the form of a rooftop garden of which I’m reasonably proud.

In case you’re wondering how I managed black and white, the black is a small dark room with a projector broadcasting looped footage from Un Chien Andalou – something a number of people have done. Although I’m pretty sure none of them have did what I did in the white room.

“And that,” says the First Doctor, “is a chair with a frog on it.”

Coming up next time: swimming pools that are not in the library, and a never-before-seen shot of the TARDIS toilet. Speaking of which, I’ll just leave this here…

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A Portrait of the Modern Artist as a Young Time Lord (part one)

“I do not think,” my friend Jay once said to me, over a network connection, “that you can possibly write me an email with the subject line ‘Empty shells, ghosts’ and escape with your dignity intact. Unless you were planning on using up your entire 1998 stock of irony now, I think you might want to reconsider.”

At the time, I was hurt. Retrospectively he was quite correct, and I wonder what Jay would say if he could see the rubbish title I’ve given this post. Oh, it fits, of course – but aren’t you, he’d say, in that Estuary English voice he has, in danger of devolving into that pretentious idiot you once were? To which I’d shrug and say “Perhaps he never really left”.

Anyway, artistic pretension is kind of the topic. And we’ll start here.

London_2016 (02)

What was I doing at the Tate Modern? We were on a Cultural Visit. I’d pulled the boys out of school (all pre-approved, of course) and we went on one of Emily’s Grand Excursions, all timetabled and planned to the last detail so as to avoid long periods of inactivity and waiting around – not because either of us are impatient but because the boys get restless when they have to queue. It’s the way of things for us, and something I’ve learned to tolerate. It was the reason we didn’t go to the Natural History Museum and the start of the chain of events that led to me threatening to delete Thomas’s Xbox profile.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the converted power station. Visiting the place was an experience – a good one, by and large, but the sort of thing that has you scratching your head. I’ve decided, in the first instance, that I will never understand Marcel Duchamp.

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I mean, it’s a bloody toilet. I don’t care that removing it from its intended setting and labelling it ‘art’ gets it a glass case. If I was to nail a door handle to a piece of chip board and call it art, would you give me a wing to myself? I don’t bloody think so. What’s that? A snow shovel? Oh, very well. Just let me deal with the burglars first.

One floor down, and we found a room full of enormous Polaroids where people’s heads had been exchanged with different fruits. It’s supposed to be a statement on rejoining with nature. It looked like something I do in Fireworks for the sake of a cheap pun. This person had a gallery to themselves. A gallery! In another room, we found twelve TV sets, each displaying a different piece of looped footage; the installation was entitled Workers Leaving the Factory in 11 Decades, and included scenes from Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon (thought to be the first film ever made) through to Dancer in the Dark, a film I’d hoped never to see again. Bjork’s lovely, but I still don’t understand how David Morse ever got his equity card.

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On the other hand, there were some wonderful pieces. They have Warhol, which Thomas (who developed something of an interest after a school topic) refused to believe was genuine. They have a large, primal-coloured Lichtenstein taking up most of a wall. They have a magnificent stack of radios, floor to ceiling, designed to emulate information overload. And in a darkened screening room they were running loops of Hito Steyerl’s How Not To Be Seen, which was simultaneously  bizarre and, I think, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

Oh, and they have this. It is thirty feet high and it reminds me of the last time I had to clean the bathroom wall.

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“I mean, seriously,” I said. “You could have done that.”

Josh glanced up at the thing, clearly interested. “Maybe it’s supposed to be a cyclone.”

“…You know, it does look uncannily like a cyclone.”

“Or my bedroom.”

“…”

What does all this have to do with Doctor Who? Well we’ll get to that another day, when I’ve processed the myriad ideas I have in my head about how to reconcile Doctor Who and modern art. In the meantime, we should be grateful that the TV show was never quite so pretentious.

Right?

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Dogtor Who

Oh, this is lovely. Well done, that artist.

dogtorwho

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What happened about the statues

Cambridge is in a bit of a tizzy. According to reports in the Cambridge News, there is much consternation about a proposed sculpture that would sit outside an office block in Hills Road. Said work, a commission by a Uruguyan sculptor named Pablo Atchugarry, has thrown up all sorts of arguments about whether it’s art, whether it’s acceptable for public viewing, whether anyone will actually see it, and whether it is in fact any worse than another local piece of art that visually resembles jelly beans.

You can read all about the public spat in the article I’ve linked to above, but here’s an image of the statue itself.

Don_1

The online friend who’d linked to this said “We were concerned the local children were not getting enough nightmares”. I mean, it’s pretty creepy. Never mind the end of ‘Blink’, in which we’re treated to a pointless and stupid montage of statues THAT LOOK NOTHING LIKE WEEPING ANGELS in a bid to frighten the wits out of any kids watching (it was a dismal failure as far as Josh was concerned). This really is the stuff of nightmares.

Anyway, the gleaming bronze / brass head got me thinking, and I thought we could improve it, like so:

Don_3

Or even like this –

I have probably mentioned before that Gareth lives in Cambridge. Perhaps they should do a statue of him. With jelly beans. Or perhaps jelly babies. At least that way we link back to ‘Shada’.

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K-1

Years before the events of ‘The Invisible Enemy’, Professor Marius’s early prototype for K-9 was a resounding failure.

K-9

 

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“The phone’s just a dummy and the windows are the wrong size.”

“You think you’ve seen it all,” said Vikki. “Then someone shows you a stained glass TARDIS.”

Stain_Glass_TARDIS

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You’re a bad girl, Chloe Webber (revisited)

Today, I bring you the stuff of nightmares.

the_gallifreycrumb_tinies_by_eattoast-d5p4bnf

As acquired from here, and sent to me by sj and Gareth (separately, but within the same week). There’s an annoying reliance on New Who, with a couple of old standards thrown in (almost as if the artist decided to make it exclusively post-2005 and then ran out of ideas when he got to A, N and Q, and then more or less gave up once he reached W), and some of the scansion is downright appalling. Still, the images are lovely, and a lot of work has clearly gone into this, even if he has mis-spelled ‘Lazarus’…

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“I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.”

We were up at the John Radcliffe Children’s Hospital yesterday, and the corridors are covered with artwork, thank-you letters from grateful children and a few sensory installations. You can sort of see what this one – well, the left hand part – reminded me of…

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You’re a bad girl, Chloe Webber

Last week, I asked the boys to draw pictures for their grandmother’s birthday card.

Daniel scribbled. Thomas came up with a complicated Rube Goldberg contraption that dispenses pasta. Joshua, after five minutes, was clearly struggling, and when I asked what he’d managed to do, this was what he had to show me. It was the beginnings, he said, of a Where’s Wally? picture.

My first thought was that we’d probably be here for a while, but I encouraged him to stick with it. Halfway through, he had something of a rethink, almost certainly because of the amount of figures he’d have to draw.

Anyway, this is what he eventually came up with.

 

He calls it ‘The Doctor and Wally grow lots of grass in the TARDIS and then get lost in it’. Which is fair enough. (I helped with the green!)

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A brush with death

Last Thursday, my colleague popped over from Ireland. Jim works from his home in County Clare, and his visits to the UK are infrequent, so it was a good excuse for lunch. We held a team meeting in a pub in the middle of Abingdon, and drank ale and talked about old times.

Jim probably won’t mind me telling you that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Kenny Rogers – music, indeed, is one of his great passions and we’d often discuss the relative merits of Peter Case, Johnny Cash or Joy Division on the way to dinner in Oxford back when he was working and living in the UK. His other hobby is art – he paints and draws whenever the opportunity presents itself, and it was during a conversation last week that he reminded me of a project he’d been involved in a couple of years back in Ireland.

“Wallcandy street art project,” says the website, “has drawn together artists & designers with diverse skills to create pieces of art on walls and buildings around the town of Ennis. The aim of Wallcandy is to give artists the opportunity and freedom to conceive and create a piece of art that uses a particular site in an interesting and quirky way. The resulting artworks hope to engage, surprise and entertain viewers of all ages. All of the sites chosen have interesting or unusual features and, although some of the sites are a little run down or have deteriorated due to damage or neglect, they have been given an artistic twist that totally changes the way you see them.”

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I only just remembered what he did with the dingy wall near the Ennis grocer’s. Here it is.

After he’d worked his magic, it looked like this:

And here are the close-ups:

They may be seen in their original context here.

Sometimes I think some of us are wasted in our day jobs…

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