Linda Bergkvist’s Furiae

Spoiled, by Linda Berkvist. See the close-up details here.

For the most part, CG art’s not really my thing. I love the surface of paper, the texture of layered paint. There are many techniques to fake this on the computer, but in the end, most CG art still feels a bit sterile and dead-eyed to me. But there are some masters whose digital paintings truly live and breathe; one such artist is Linda Bergkvist, known online as Enayla.

From cyberpunk landscapes to enchanted woods, there’s a story being told by every sensuous detail in Bergkvist’s paintings. Some characters look so compelling that I wish there was more than just one painting; that there was a book, movie or comic where I could get to know them better. I wonder how much of a backstory Berkgvist creates as she paints.

Equally as fascinating as the images are the generous tutorials on Bergkvist’s site. She shares her secrets on how to paint eyes, how to mix skintones, how to create hair texture, and how to make brushes, and more. Even for someone who doesn’t paint, it’s interesting to see her paintings in unfinished form as she explains their completion step by step.

Bottom: “On Saturdays.” Top: Details from “Rëzay” and “Is this what we’re coming to?”

Bergkvist has recently revisited the “analog world” to create some stunning masks in papier mache, which she models on this page. More of my favorite images after the jump!

I am not a Number: Prison Beauty Pageants

Womens’ correctional facilities are the ultimate sleep-over party with all the trappings: pajamas, bunk beds, in-fighting, sloppy joes, getting touched up under the covers, and being told when to go to bed. Some prisons even let the girls play dress-up. Miss America, meet Miss Demeanor:


To be fair, it’s primarily inmates who organize these shows. It’s an increasingly popular phenomenon, with womens’ prisons hosting beauty pageants in Russia, Brazil, Peru, Honduras, Angola and the Philippines, amongst others, with working titles like Miss Captivity. The idea is to ‘boost’ the self-esteem of (at least the better looking portion of) the prison population.

There is arguably an obvious exploitative angle in this, one which perpetuates gender and class divisions in a place where women are their most vulnerable. The media is only too happy to join in, throwing the spotlight on the tragedy of a pretty young woman in distress, putting herself on display. A beauty contest under these conditions probably does next to nothing for the self esteem or prospects of the contestants in any meaningful way.

It’s almost a perverse caricature of a parole board hearing in a Van Halen video, an effort to charm your way into garnering favour from you captors and respite from your situation by any measure necessary. Having said that, spending years trapped like an animal in a gray, clinical dorm framed in razor wire, any warm-blooded woman would thirst for anything beautiful in her world. Participation in these productions transiently refashions the contestant from a shoplifter or drug addict into a graceful, sophisticated and beautiful person of seeming worth, if only for one evening. Who could condemn the contestants for their humble aspirations and for enjoying an event which breaks up the tedium of Gilligan’s Island re-runs on prison TV?

Trailer for Miss Gulag, a 2006 Documentary:

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Han Bing: Walking the Cabbage

Esteemed reader Tanya Vrodova says, “I love cabbage. I will do anything to spread the word about how awesome cabbage is.” To that end, she just introduced me to Chinese multidisciplinary artist Han Bing and his mischievous Walking the Cabbage (2000-2007) series.

Walking the Cabbage in the Subway Beijing, 2004 © Han Bing

Born in 1974 in an poverty-stricken village, Han Bing spent his childhood helping his parents farm the land and was the only student in his class afforded the chance to attend university. There he studied oil painting before moving on to less conventional mediums. His post-university work has focused on creating spontaneous, open-ended discourse that includes members of society who are often excluded or dismissed. He, like many other young Chinese artist, seems compelled to confront the dubious side effects of his nation’s obsession with urbanizing and modernizing at whatever cost.

From Bing’s website:

Walking the Cabbage (2000-2007) series of social intervention performance, video and photography works, Han Bing walks a Chinese cabbage on a leash in public places, inverting an ordinary practice to provoke debate and critical thinking. Walking the Cabbage is a playful twist on a serious subject—the way our everyday practices serve to constitute “normalcy” and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions. A quintessentially Chinese symbol of sustenance and comfort for poor Chinese turned upside down, Han Bing’s cabbage on a leash offers a visual interrogation of contemporary social values.

The Cabbage Walking Tribe in Harajuku I, Tokyo, Japan 2006 © Han Bing

A Dose of Your Daily Discipline

My heart skipped a beat when I saw these images promoting Janet Jackson’s new album, Discipline. Whether it’s the strange photography, the retouching or the black and white, she looks damn hot.

I’m sure someone out there thinks Janet is exploiting the fetish scene for her newest album’s campaign, but I think it’s safe to say at this point that Miss Jackson is a bona fide superfreak. Please note the expression as she drips transparent goo, grips a riding crop and dons skin-tight latex. That is a face that don’t lie.

Three more images beyond the jump.

Ghosts of Fashion

Invitation a la danse by Solve Sundsbo. More at foto_decadent.

One of my problems with runway shows is that they’re often too sterile; there’s not enough of a story being told. You know what to expect; some dance music, some walking, some turning, some clapping. I wish that runway shows were structured more like plays; heroes and villains, gags and surprises. So I commend the fashion world’s recent efforts to incorporate more technology and atmosphere into their runways, like McQueen’s famous Kate Moss ghost two years ago and more recently, Diesel’s flying jellyfish fashion show.

L: McQueen’s famous McQueen “hologram”. R: Target’s ghost bride.

Even though the prolific “holographic technology” fashion spectacles of the past two years actually rely on a technique that’s been around for almost 150 years, the effect is still as fragile and ethereal as ever. The great potential of combining this type of projection with CGI effects is already apparent. I’d love to see some of those techniques used for something more interesting than Target’s goofy effort, however. Can you imagine what Torture Garden would do? I’d also love to see this effect in concert. I’d do anything to see a transparent Liz belt out Song to the Siren in this manner.

The Iron Hand of Gotz Von Berlichingen

Prosthetics are hot! That’s how I’ll console myself if I ever lose my hand in a terrible accident. I picture a long-fingered, razor-nailed chrome hand for everyday wear; a sleek jeweled hand with fingertips that project light (or film!) for the evenings; and for special occasions, I want a sock puppet that’s also a flamethrower. In my toolkit, I would also like to have something Ye Olde. Ideally I’d love to get my remaining hand on the following, eloquently written up for us by guest blogger David Forbes (aka Coilhouse commenter ampersandpilcrow). – Nadya


Götz Von Berlichingen had a problem. It was 1504 and, at the tender young age of 24, the plundering knight, mercenary and all around bastard had the upper part of his right arm torn off in a cannon blast. As someone who made his living off war and already had a sizable enemies’ list, Götz needed his killin’ hand.

So he got another one. Made of iron.


However, this was no crudely shaped hunk of metal — it was a mechanical masterpiece, centuries ahead of its time. The iron hand not only allowed Götz to return to battle, but later helped lay the foundation for modern prosthetics. Complete with articulated fingers, spring action and an array of levers and buttons, the hand allowed a degree of control that’s stunning even today. Fitted with it, Götz could do the following:


I’ve recently come across the flickr stream of Hairport – an aptly-named hair salong in Lisbon, Portugal. Since then I’ve wondered, daily, why more people don’t look like this. It’s 2008! The proverbial Future. Why are there not more artistically shorn heads in the world? One thing I notice about these photos is that not everyone’s a teenager – many Hairport clients and employees are established artists, designers and writers in their 30s. We all know it will grow back should we hate it, yes? Why not embrace the endless possibilities instead of the usual trims, streaks and loose layers! Looking at these pictures makes me downright giddy as I envision a world where one couldn’t be hindered by their hairstyle choices, no matter their profession. Perhaps a trip to Lisbon is in order.

Open source Ghosts – the new NIN

Who’s heard it? What do you think, and why?

I rejoice at the fact that I can turn to my dog from the easel, genuinely say “Man, this is good” and be talking about Nine Inch Nails. It’s been too long. Ghosts I – IV is the album I wished for the entire time I suffered through Year Zero. Here Trent abandons vocals almost entirely and weaves a new sand-swept terrain of noise and atmosphere without deserting the industrial beats we hold so dear. I wouldn’t call it entirely different – it’s more like the subtle details dispersed through NIN’s other music, amplified, developed, mature. The accompanying photography by Phillip Graybill and Rob Sheridan is an elegant and seductive supplement to the sound.

The distribution method will keep fans and non-fans alike talking for some time. Namely, the $75 Deluxe Edition containing “Ghosts I-IV in a hardcover fabric slipcase containing: 2 audio CDs, 1 data DVD with all 36 tracks in multi-track format, and a Blu-ray disc with Ghosts I-IV in high-definition 96/24 stereo and accompanying slide show”. Under a Creative Commons license. This means access to every component of the music, for the general public to share, sample, remix and distribute, legally. Beyond the marketing brilliance it is indeed a revolutionary move that pushes copyright boundaries and adds an open source angle rarely seen in this, often individualistic, scene. Ghosts isn’t NIN’s first foray into this realm – With Teeth was streamed in entirety on the band’s MySpace page, and lossless multi-track audio files of 3 songs from Year Zero were made available for download on the band’s website.

Ground Control alt-karaoke

We had a few requests recently for a favorite spots in LA post, prompted by the sad departure of cafe Nova Express. Here’s one for your Monday nights, especially good for those who simply refuse to believe the weekend has to end somehow.

Held downstairs at Catch One – the same place as LA’s top industrial club Das Bunker, Ground Control‘s song books list music by your favorite alternative artists, including Kraftwerk as you can see above. Industrial, goth, metal, indie, 80s and more are all here in a friendly boozy atmosphere.

It doesn’t get crowded, people are genuinely nice and no one is afraid to make a complete arse of themselves, as I personally proved last night at the pajama party. And for those curious about what one wears to a pajama party held at a bar there are two options – sexy or hilarious, as modeled by me and my lovely roommate. So yes – check out Ground Control – it’s fun, even if you don’t sing.

The sleeping beasts of Werckmeister Harmonies

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Thus opens visionary Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies. The innocent hero Janos orchestrates a model of the solar system inside a bar. With this hypnotic scene the viewer is pulled into the frozen [though snowless] terrain of a poor Hungarian town. Based on The Melancholy of ResistanceLászló Krasznahorkai‘s 1989 novel, Werckmeister Harmonies is a journey through the bleak lives of some rather unhappy people among whom a romantic has the misfortune of existing. People whose sadness, suppressed anger and animal nature need but a trigger to explode into a hurricane of frenzied destruction.

When a circus claiming to have with it a whale carcass and a prince arrive in town square, suspicion and hysteria emerge. As if on queue, townspeople gather around like a pack of hungry dogs, no one daring to actually see the show, their collective agitation growing louder. Curious Janos is the first to enter the exhibit which turns out be no more than an enormous crate just big enough to hold the whale. He’s enthralled by the sight of the sea creature, enamored with its construction. We see his continued attempts to expose his cantankerous neighbors to the mystery and beauty of the world and be treated with patient condescension in return. Rumors about the prince spread, tension inflating until the unforgettable breaking point.