Category Archives: Technology

Years and Years — Highest Recommendation

Just watched the sixth and final episode of Years and Years on HBO, and what a thrill ride that turned out to be!

The series follows the multi-generational, diverse Lyons family of Manchester, England, through the next 15 years, as technology keeps getting better, while life keeps getting worse. At the same time, it charts the rise of the populist demagogue Vivian Rook, played brilliantly by Emma Thompson as a cross between “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and a much smarter version of “Short-Fingered Vulgarian” Donald Trump.

Stand-outs, in addition to Thompson, are Russell Tovey as Daniel Lyons and Anne Reid as Muriel Deacon, the Lyons family matriarch. Reid’s monologue in the final episode will probably win her a BAFTA award next year.

Here’s the original BBC One trailer:

And here’s the one from HBO:

Years and Years was a huge hit in the UK, where it got rave reviews across the board.

I’m posting only one tiny spoiler beyond what’s in the trailers: In the final episode, the recounting of the fate of two famous buildings made me laugh out loud.

You gotta watch it yourself.

Another Highest Recommendation.

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“Infinite Space” at ARTECHOUSE

“Infinite Space, the first major retrospective of the work of award-winning, Los-Angeles-based, Turkish-born artist Refik Anadol, invites visitors to open their senses to the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of man and machine.”
—from the program notes

That quote got me thinking about the endless transformation and infinite possibilities at the intersection of me and my vacuum cleaner, but perhaps I was taking it too literally.

The current environment in the main room at ARTECHOUSE suffered from a long, dull opening sequence that drove many of us from the room. It was only later that the artist gave us a taste of the mesmerizing beauty that keeps us coming back to the venue:

The walls in ARTECHOUSE’s main room are 30-feet high, so the video is best viewed full screen.

The real fun at this show was in the Infinity Rooms in the side galleries, where mirrored, angled walls created a high tech funhouse effect. Seeing two people who look vaguely familiar simultaneously approaching you from a corridor on your right and from a side hall on your left, and then realizing that they’re both you, is a wonderfully disorienting experience.*

If you wanted, you could be a one-person chorus line.

Two’s company, four’s a crowd.
Look closer. There are only four people in this picture.

“Infinite Space” will run through 2 September 2019.


The Lady From Shanghai
That Scene from Orson Welles’ 1947 film noir.


*Even though those two people are considerably older and heavier than you are.

Downton Abbey — Look Out! Here It Comes Again!

Downton Abbey is coming back, this time in the form of a movie.

Most of the cast—except for Isis, the unfortunately named dog, and the actors whose characters were killed off by Lady Mary (aka “The Black Widow”) or by the murderous Mr and Mrs Bates and their creepy secret son, Norman—will return.

UK release is scheduled for 13 September 2019, with US release a week later.


While You’re Waiting…

Meanwhile, back at the stately manor, tickets are available for Downton Abbey: The Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida, through late April 2019. No word yet on where the traveling show will land next.

Return to ARTECHOUSE (with Much Better Video)

I had a delightful visit from my Left Coast brother and sister-in-law this week, which included another trip to ARTECHOUSE, to see touch experience the current “New Nature” installation.

I’ve never been able to come close to capturing the HD quality of ARTECHOUSE’s visual displays with my IPad, but I’ve found some online samples from the shows.

In “New Nature”, a side room contains “The Menagerie”, a collection of large monitors displaying fluid abstract designs. The “creatures” on screen respond to the hand movements of the person watching the monitor.

Like this:


Here’s an overview of the current installation. The main room, at the start of the video, is 24 feet high*, and the installation covers 270°.

Love this place! ARTECHOUSE has become one of my favourite hangouts in Washington.


*To put that in perspective, imagine four six-foot-tall people, standing on each other’s heads. Or imagine six four-foot-tall people, standing on each other’s heads, if that works better for you. The point is, it’s big.

Burning Man at the Renwick (2)

My earlier post about Burning Man at the Renwick took a look at the first floor of the museum and focused on artifacts. That part of the exhibition has now closed. The second floor, which will be open until 21 January 2019, is about environments.

These, uh, “things” are identified as “steel polyhedral sculptures” that “generate tension between hard geometric surfaces and soft interior illumination, promoting a sense of contemplation and awe of the inherent beauty of universal forms.”

(I made a note of the name and the description, because that’s the kind of stuff that comes up a lot in casual conversations.)

What fascinated me was the use of light and the everchanging colours. One of the “steel polyhedral sculptures” was large enough to hold several people inside.


The Grand Salon

The largest room in the Renwick is called the Grand Salon, and until the building’s most recent renovation, that was a perfectly descriptive name—it was heavy on the damask, and the walls were full of (mainly) 19th- and early 20th-century paintings by American artists.

That’s all gone now. For the Burning Man exhibition, the space was given over to David Best, the designer of many of the Burning Man “temples”.

The structure in the above picture hangs from the room’s ceiling. The photograph below, from the Renwick’s website, is a look at the full room.

At Burning Man in Nevada, these temples are among the things burned at the end of the festival.  That won’t happen to this one. The Renwick says it will be “on view indefinitely.”

David Best Temple, 2018, Rernwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt

David Best Temple, 2018, Renwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt


The Mushroom Room

Oh, this was fun!

The giant “mushrooms” changed colour and seemed to breathe and grow when someone activated them by standing of the red-circled control panel on the floor.


The “Before I Die” Room


Last stop before the exit.

The Renwick set up a room, painted black and stocked with of coloured chalk, at the end of the Burning Man exhibition. Visitors were invited to write or draw a message about what they hope to see or do before they die.

Love, travel, drugs, self-fulfillment, and the future of Donald Trump were frequently mentioned.


The Burning Man exhibition has been wildly popular. Great show!

Burning Man at the Renwick (1)

The Renwick Gallery, the branch of the Smithsonian Institution dedicated to American crafts and decorative arts, is currently presenting a knockout of an exhibition called “No Spectators: The Art Of Burning Man”.

Finally made my first visit a few weeks ago.

Entrance

“Abandon All Inhibitions, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Admission to the Renwick is free. Tickets for this year’s Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, ranged from $190 to $1,200.


Burning Man Haute Couture


Last year, a group called Catharsis on the Mall asked for approval to install a 45-foot-tall sculpture of a nude woman on the National Mall, near the Washington Monument. For some reason, the National Park Service rejected the application.

What we did get was this artifact at the Renwick. She’s not 45-feet-tall, but she gradually changes colour.


The Dragonmobile


The Inevitability of VR


No contemporary art installation is complete without a sampling of Virtual Reality. The monitor at the top of the picture shows a flat-screen version of what the user is experiencing in VR.

We’ve been hearing that the big VR breakthrough is just around the corner since—Let’s see now, Neal Stephenson published Snow Crash in 1992, and 2018 minus 1992 equals 26—more than a quarter-century ago. Gotta say, Oculus Rift is looking really tempting these days.

“Fractal Worlds” at ARTECHOUSE

The current show at ARTECHOUSE, “Fractal Worlds” by Julius Horsthuis, is the venue’s most impressive immersive experience since Thomas Blanchard’s “Kingdom of Colors” played last November.

Here’s a brief video I took at the site, offered with the usual apology:  My decidedly low-tech hardware comes nowhere close to capturing the beauty and power of the huge HD projections on the site’s walls. The image at the top of this post is from the program notes, and gives a hint of the clarity and detail of the show.

Some images from the show: