Cabinet Cards / Storydress II by Christine Elfman

At first glance, this haunting collodion print looks like an aged Victorian carte de visite. If you look closely, you’ll notice something odd: the dress is trimmed with scraps of paper with typewritten notes. This is a papier-mache sculpture titled Storydress II, designed by artist Christine Elfman. The dress is made of stories recorded from her great-grandmother’s autobiographical reminiscences. On her site, Elfman elaborates on the process and motivations behind this piece:

Finding unknown relatives in my family photograph collection, and noticing old photographs of anonymous people in antique stores, I was taken by how many people were forgotten regardless of photography’s intention to “Secure the shadow, ‘ere the substance fades away.” The older the picture, the more forlorn the subject appeared to me. Holding their image, I was impressed with their absence. Storydress II tries to show this underlying subject of photographic portraiture. The 19th century cabinet card is turned inside out, revealing the presence of absence in a medium characterized by rigid detail and anonymity.  The figure of reminiscence, cast in plaster, parallels the poetic immobility of the head clamp, used in early photography to prevent movement during long exposures, aptly defined by Barthes as  “the corset of my imaginary existence”. The life size cast figure wears a paper mache dress made of family stories: recorded, torn up, and glued back together again.

via hypnerotomachi(n)a

Revisiting The House of Collection

Photo by Trevor Tondro for The New York Times

Two urban faery friends of ours in Williamsburg, ladies who have cultivated one of the most unique and enchanting domiciles you’ll ever see, are attracting a lot of attention, lately! Coilhouse first posted about Paige Stevenson and her Brooklyn loft, now called The House of Collection, in Feb of 2008. Since that time, the ever-inspiring Paige and her consummately luminous domestic partner, Ms. Ahnika Meyer-Delirium, have been working (and playing) toward making their wondrous 2000 square-foot loft more vibrant than ever.

Paige’s interview with All That We’ve Met last month is sure to inspire. Even more recently, the New York Times’ in-depth coverage of the House of Collection, –which features both Paige and Ahnika discussing their kindhearted philosophies of life and decor–  offers a gorgeous tour of their abode. An excerpt from that article, titled “In Williamsburg, a Live-In Cabinet of Curiosities“:

It’s the way objects are deployed — all over the place, in large quantities and with a sense of play — that makes for something unexpected. A mounted deer’s head is one thing. A deer’s head with a pink brocade eye patch, false eyelashes and a glittery nose is another.

Likewise, grouping all the plants in the living room, even when it’s a room as large as theirs, makes an impact. “People sort of melt open,” Ms. Meyer said. “They feel as though they’re in a magical fairyland. But they also feel at home.”

The House of Collection is rich in such contrasts, a place cozy and vast, one that is urban but, thanks to the greenery, the farm tools and animal forms, has a country feel. It’s fitting for a couple who are both very domestic and deeply unconventional.

Photo by Trevor Tondro for The New York Times

New York City can sometimes feel like an especially cold and aloof realm… yet the HoC is as warm, welcoming and accepting a place as you are ever likely to observe.

Ah, you beauties! Well done.

Casualties Of War

A disturbing collection of green, plastic Army Men in distinctly nontraditional poses, “Casualties of War” from the art collective Dorothy, aims to shed light on some of the awful challenges that face soldiers returning from war. It was specifically inspired by a story on one battalion:

The hell of war comes home. In July 2009 Colorado Springs Gazette published a two-part series entitled “Casualties of War”. The articles focused on a single battalion based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, who since returning from duty in Iraq had been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, drunk driving, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides. Returning soldiers were committing murder at a rate 20 times greater than other young American males. A separate investigation into the high suicide rate among veterans published in the New York Times in October 2010 revealed that three times as many California veterans and active service members were dying soon after returning home than those being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We hear little about the personal hell soldiers live through after returning home.

There was also a Frontline episode, “The Wounded Platoon”, which investigates the tragedy surrounding the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry from Fort Carson, for those who are interested. Dorothy’s project is, perhaps, a bit heavy handed in its execution, but it nevertheless draws attention to an all too real and unspoken problem.

Carisa Swenson’s Curious Creatures and Aberrant Animals

“Brother’s Keeper” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

Carisa Swenson of Goblinfruit Studio creates curious critters who seem to have wandered quietly out of a child’s fable of forest creatures, gleaming-eyed and grinning from beneath be-fanged overbites.  Yet for all their grimacing, there is no sense of malice, no reason to fear this peculiar lot;  look closer and you will find something profoundly endearing, familiar, and gentle about this oddball cast of creatures.  Though they are semi-feral fairytale beasties from a dark wood, one gets the feeling from their earnest, even kindly expressions that they, just like anyone, are yearning for a happily ever after.

From the artist’s site:

Carisa Swenson’s passion for creating curious creatures springs from many sources—a love of Greek mythology and Ray Harryhausen’s creations when she was a child, an appreciative eye for Henson Workshop in her teens, to the weird and wonderful films of Jan Svankmajer and The Brothers Quay in her twenties. But when Carisa studied with world-renowned doll artist Wendy Froud, the final die was cast: posable dolls would forever own her soul and trouble her nights, stirring her with a fervor that could only be quelled by stitching and sculpting her dreams into reality.

“Since 2006 Carisa’s work has been featured in several exhibitions and publications, including the Melbourne Fringe Festival, NYU’s acclaimed annual “Small Works Show”, Art Doll Quarterly, and Spectrum 17.

Coilhouse recently caught up with Carisa for a bit of a Q&A; see below the cut for more concerning the Curious Creatures and Aberrant Animals of Goblinfruit Studio.

Shapeways Presents 3D Printed Strandbeests by Theo Jansen

Anybody remember this breathless 2007 Coilhouse post about Dutch kinetic artist Theo Jansen and his awe-inspiring Strandbeests? Eeee! So incredible.

Animaris Geneticus Parvus

Jansen’s kinetic creatures have evolved quite a bit since then, and as of this month, the wonderful 3D printing company Shapeways has made a small version of Animaris Geneticus Parvus, available for purchase through their site.

These wee baby Beests, born from one of Jansen’s original behemoth windwalker designs, are “printed already assembled and [work] right after birth from the machine! No other production method can do this!” (Is 3D printing technology trippy, or what?) Apparently there are more Beests in development as well.

Watch and squee:

The Singing Ringing Tree (A Panopticons Sculpture)

Via DJ Dead Billy, thanks!

Designed and built by the architecture team of Tonkin Liu and completed in 2006, this award-winning sound sculpture called The Singing Ringing Tree stands atop a plateau in the Pennine mountain range overlooking Burnley in Lancashire, England. It’s one of a series from the Panopticons arts and regeneration project.

Galvanized steel pipes of various sizes are bound together in a nine-foot-tall, spiraling configuration. Depending on where and how the wind strikes it, The Singing Ringing Tree creates discordant choral sounds over a range of several octaves. Tonkin Liu tuned the pipes “according to their length by adding holes to the underside of each.” The eerie music created as a result is capable of ringing out across great distances.

Photo by Felix Spencer

See also:

Arturo Herrera Revisits “Les Noces”

A still from the 1923 Ballet Russes’ production of Les Noces.

Les Noces, known as Svadebka in Russian, was a production ten years in the making. Originally commissioning the score from Igor Stravinsky in 1913, Sergei Diaghilev, creator and leader of the Ballets Russes, intended the ballet to be choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. The task was later handed to his capable and innovative sister, Bronislava, who was inspired by Cubism, Constructivists, and the relationship between body and machine as exemplified in the emerging Soviet Russia. More concerned with the dynamic quality of movement rather than the traditional posturing and composition of ballet, Nijinska’s choreography was novel and intensely physical.

With its premiere in 1923, Les Noces acted as a sacred drama that created a liturgy out of a wedding while exploring brutal peasant values through a modernist lens. The dancers, in their somber, simple costumes designed by Natalia Goncharova, were to resemble Byzantine saints leaving little room for expression or romance as they stabbed and spliced the air and stage with their rigid hands and feet. The result was one of the most enduring and influential ballets of the 20th century, still performed today.

Conductor Leonard Bernstein spoke of Stravinsky’s opening “cruel chord, made crueler with the lack of preparation,” and the unsettling score stays with you long after the final note has been sung. Influenced by the ‘folk orchestras’ of peasant weddings, Stravinsky employed only four pianos and soloist singers for his musical score, a far cry from the sweeping ensembles found in his compositions The Firebird, Petroushka and Le sacre du printemps. Now, New Yorkers and visitors to the famously noisy metropolis can get lost in the soundscape of Stravinsky as appropriated by the artist, Arturo Herrera.

On view at the Americas Society until April 30th, Herrera’s Les Noces (The Wedding) is an abstract homage to the classic ballet in the form of jumpy film projections, collage and sculpture. Take the time to visit the modest exhibit if only to experience the rattling pianos and piercing operatic vocals of the Stravinsky recording, haunting as any eulogy, juxtaposed against Herrera’s film of a world as bleak as Nijinska’s peasant girls all too aware of their fates.

The gallery at the Americas Society is located at 680 Park Avenue, NYC and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 12-6 p.m.

Click here for more information on the exhibit. For further reading on Les Noces, visit Ballet UK.

Knitted Flora

Sophie Dalla Rosa’s portfolio of knitted objects deals mostly in natural shapes; aping the contours of stones or coral. My favorites are these strange flora — alien specimens in wool, kept under glass in the study of some interstellar naturalist.

Via who killed bambi?

The Installations Of Myeombeom Kim

Combining man-made and natural objects Korean artist Myeombeom Kim’s installations portray scenes and objects of surreal beauty. My favorite may be the stag pictured above, it’s antlers sprouting into expansive tree branches, giving the impression that the animal is rooted to the ground, the tree having tunneled its way up, through the deer’s body. Likewise, his light bulbs are just as clever, their filaments having been replaced with flowers and twigs, turning them into miniature, hanging terrariums; disparate objects suspended in a state of tranquil co-existence.

Paul Komoda’s King Thalidomidas

Artist Paul Komoda – whose Elephant Man sculpture, Syphilis lady bust, and ‘Blind Love’ illustration were previously featured on Coilhouse – recently sculpted King Thalidomidas, a new model resin kit available from Artist Proof Studio. King Thalidomidas is available for purchase, or you can enter in a contest to win this sculpture, or one of their many other gorgeously grotesque pieces, simply by commenting on the the Artist Proof blog. Details here.