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Remember that rather spaced-out picture of Nelson I posted yesterday?

Nelson_1stWk - 2.jpg

Over on Facebook my friend Ewan (WINOLJ) ran it through Prisma, a new app that sends a picture up to a server where it's apparently run through some neural-net software trained to try to emulate various art styles. The results were quite impressive so I downloaded it onto the iPad and had a go myself.

Twelve variations on spaced-out Nelson )

Several of these I'd like as artwork. And third row middle looks like an excerpt from a graphic novel I'd love to read.
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Robert McCall, noted space artist and illustrator, has died at the age of 90. Still working until very recently, he may be most familiar to sf fans for the dramatic poster artwork for 2001.

His style, although in some ways rather fanciful with its vapour trails and near-cloudscape nebulas, was both distinctive and very influential. McCall was very skilled at making space look like an environment rather than just a backdrop, and his work arguably inspired a generation of space advocates and hard-sf writers.
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I took advantage of my very flexible working arrangements to bunk off for a couple of hours this afternoon (and then stay at work a bit later) to pop over to Piccadilly and the RA to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition. I had some sort of odd idea that it might be quiet around about 3; instead, I spent 40 minutes in the freezing cold queuing across Burlington House quad. And when I finally got to the till the payment system had crashed; in a rare moment of the universe taking pity on me, the woman behind the till then declared that I'd have to pay cash but as for some odd reason they only had student tickets on cash sale I need pay only £8 instead of £12.

Once inside the exhibition confirmed my impression of Kapoor from previous works of his I've seen, viz. he is mad, but my sort of mad. Once room is full of huge polished curving mirrors, like a far superior version of those ones at the funfair that make you all wobbly. The thing about these ones, other than their size, was that they were made of very highly polished metal with, unlike a normal mirror, no glass in front. Now with a back-silvered mirror you can always see to some extent the glass and it puts a window pane between you and the reflection. Here, that wasn't the case, making the reflected image seem much more real. Given that it was also slightly distorted - a little stockier or taller than normal - the effect was oddly disturbing. There was another Simon in front of me, but not quite right.

The weird, massive concrete worm casts were impressive although to be honest they lost a little something by having so many of them; to me it seemed that you couldn't help rating some as rather less good than others. But some were very good indeed, and you could picture yourself as faced with the detritus of some odd alien creature. The massive sliding block of red wax worked through sheer scale, whilst the much-vaunted wax cannon was amusing but a bit anticlimactic.

The exhibition is on for another week, but from today's experience I'd suggest booking online rather than queuing for tickets.

(Image links from Guardian / RA)
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I finally got around to taking 25 years' worth of the Journal of the British Astronomical Association to the BAA's office at Burlington House off Piccadilly. All I can say in terms of getting them there is thank goodness for solidly-constructed roller suitcases! It was also a good thing that the Royal Astronomical Society's offices, which the BAA works out of, have a lift.

And it's a very cool lift, too. When I got in I thought "Ooh, that's nice, there's a big picture of the Earth from space on the lift wall." Then the lift started and the Earth disappeared downwards to be replaced by a nebula... the lift has glass walls and there are space pictures stuck up the length of the liftshaft!

Burlington House is of course also home to the Royal Academy and is currently hosting an exhibition of Anish Kapoor's works. The courtyard is accordingly occupied by Kapoor's Tall tree and the eye, which is perhaps what you get when you generalise the concept of the Christmas tree bauble to encompass the actual tree itself.

Kapoor TT&E 1 Kapoor TT&E 2 Kapoor TT&E 3

I love the way you get endless reflections of the spheres in each other, tailing off to infinity - it's like a sort of 3D chrome Mandelbrot set. I'll have to go back, both for the exhibition as a whole and to take my main camera and get some more pictures.
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Is anyone else interested in attending this talk in London next Wednesday evening?

Conceptions of the Mind
Speaker: Professor Fairfid M. Caudle PhD, PhD, FIET, FRSA

Conceptions of the mind have fascinated humankind since prehistoric times and have come from diverse perspectives, including philosophy, psychology, physiology, engineering, and the visual arts. Explanations and depictions of the mind have often employed metaphors as tools to explore the location, organization, and dynamics of mental contents.

This illustrated lecture examines ways in which the mind has been conceptualised and represented. With regard to engineering, some metaphors have been influenced by technologies in place at the time, such as hydraulic systems, industrial machines, and, more recently, computers and transportation route maps.

Metaphors representing contents of the mind have been abundant in the visual arts. However, in neurophysiology and medicine, metaphors are increasingly being supplanted through ever more revealing images of the functioning brain

The talk is from 6.30-8 with refreshments beforehand and a reception afterwards. It's free, but you have to register online to attend.

The talk is at the Savoy Place, the London HQ of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (formerly the Institution of Electrical Engineers). It's at the north end of Waterloo Bridge, opposite Somerset House and close to Embankment and Temple tube stations.
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I've just skimmed Mann J's voluminous judgment. In a nutshell, Ainsworth was facing 3 parallel claims:

- That he infringed copyright in the UK.
- That he was subject to the judgment Lucasfilm obtained against him by default in the US.
- That he could be sued in an English court for US copyright infringement.

Ainsworth won on the first two (and some subsidiary issues) but lost on the third. There will now have to be a further hearing to assess the claim under US law.
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Today was Art Appreciation, as [ profile] bugshaw and I headed off to the Hayward Gallery to catch the end of the Antony Gormley exhibition. And yes, art definitely was appreciated - we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Blind Light, the title piece, is just as amazing as everyone says. A glass box, about ten metres square, filled with very, very dense fog. Inside, you are in a little white-out world of your own, until people loom out of the haze in front of you, or a barely-perceptible darkening heralds your arrival at one of the walls. There was quite a queue to get in, as entry was limited to 25 at a time. This sounds like a lot, but in hindsight it contributed to the disorientation as you couldn't move more than a metre or two without having to avoid another visitor fumbling slowly around. I found that I rapidly lost any sense of scale of the installation: one minute I could be in a very small space, as the random walk of avoiding people kept on bringing me back into walls; a few moments later I could be in a vast, unknowable void. After perhaps five minutes - I also lost all track of time - I felt my way along the wall to the exit and emerged (somewhat moist with condensation) to the clear air outside.

Space Station was also very impressive, but in a very different way. Photos don't to justice to the sheer size and scale of the thing; according to the notes, it weighs 27 tonnes and it jolly well looks like it. Close up, it does indeed give you the feel of flying around some vast science-fictional structure; only from the upper gallery does the overall shape, that of a fetally-curled body, become apparent. I am overcome with the urge to make a 1/10 scale Lego version.

What really tickled my fancy though was a gallery of various of Gormley's space-filling human forms. Varied in their execution, they mostly feature a human form at their heart, some more easily distinguishable than others. After a little while I could discern a vague taxonomy of technique, and I began to suspect that Gormley was applying some form of algorithm to produce at least the initial idea of each sculpture.

Freefall, for instance, seems to follow the plan of taking a 3D mesh model of a body, and then projecting a fixed-length rod normal to each node of the mesh, then forming a new mesh with the outer ends. The effect is to have a body embedded in a sort of 'personal space' delineated volume, with a pleasing radial effect. Static I is a sparser implementation of the same idea.

Drift II and Ferment, by contrast, are much more like assemblages of bubbles, with the process used to derive them from the human form less obvious. Indeed, close up there is no embedded body to see, with torso, head and limbs only becoming apparent from further away. And the Quantum Cloud sculptures seemed oddly familiar, until I remembered work I'd seen on radio antennas designed via genetic algorithms (this page, near bottom).

Outside, the Hayward Gallery's roof spaces allowed us to spot the rooftop statues of Event Horizon. Apparently there are 31 of them; I'm not sure if we saw them all. Or maybe we saw 30, but someone blinked...

EDIT Thinking back, something many of the exhibits did for me was to distort my sense of scale, either making me feel very large or very small. I've experienced the latter before, notably in the spectacular The Weather Project at the Tate Modern a few years ago. But feeling big was odd.


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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