Art that originates in science is one of the most interesting kinds. Everything has more meaning because the images come from somewhere that feels so real and substantiated. Magnified single-cell organisms and organic molecules are turned into abstract compositions, and it makes you realize how beautiful and miraculous this world is because living things look like art close up.
But bioart isn’t just photography – “it describes any intersection between Biology and Art. It can range from an aesthetic representation of the life sciences, to using biological forms as a medium to produce ‘live art.'”
That definition comes from a new project called DIYSect, a new documentary web series that introduces people to DIY Biology and Bioart. Bioartist Mary Tsang and filmmaker Ben Welmond are going to travel across North America and interview biologists and bioartists to create 6-10 minute webisodes for the world to learn from.
“Bioartists have the ability to translate complex scientific discourses in a way that is relatable to a non-expert. They can even reveal contradictions or ambiguities in how biotechnology is used in our society. It confronts the norm because it isn’t product-driven.”
Graphic designer Saul Bass would have been 93 today. The pioneering artist brought design aesthetics to film, designing the title sequences of legendary movies like Vertigo and West Side Story. He created a style that still sticks in our brains decades later.
He worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese, and for more than 40 years he brought his one-of-a-kind aesthetic to the big screen. The graphics in Catch Me if You Can and Mad Men pay homage to his style and innovation.
This ad came on my television this morning and it made me stop and look. I can’t remember the last time I actually watched a commercial… It’s a campaign from July of last year made by Art.com, an amazing website selling fine art prints of the best, most beautiful kind. You can even choose a living room that looks like yours to see what the prints would look like in the space.
In the commercial, the framed Art.com poster works as a portal into masterpieces turned three-dimensional, emphasizing how different a room feels when there’s a painting inside it. The three-dimensional part is kind of mind-blowing, it volumizes the paint, transforming the works of art into a really incredible Pixar movie the we float through one at a time. The whole thing is set to the upbeat rallying sounds of “I Could Go” by Oberhofer.
Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies, Claude Monet 1899
The Hours (2002) is a sad, thoughtful movie filled with powerful women. Only, they don’t seem powerful at first. Instead they come across as complacent, frazzled, and confused, but in the end they find what they’re looking for, and it isn’t what you’d expect them to find either.
The movie opens on Virginia Woolf, writing her goodbyes into letters before she walks into the woods and fills her pockets with rocks. Foreshadowing at it’s most obvious, she writes to her husband, “Everything is gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.”
The rest of the movie’s beginning works to thrust you into the lives of three women – Virginia Woolf in 1923 played by a very intense Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore as Laura Brown in 1951, and Clarissa Vaughan in 2001, played by the ever fabulous Meryl Streep.
Phillip Glass wrote the movie’s cascading piano melodies that rush the film along and link the women’s lives together. At the beginning we quickly flip between time periods – we hear three different ages of alarm clocks go off as the women awake in their own time. We follow them through one day alone; three days in three decades that are all somehow linked to Virginia Woolf’s book Mrs. Dalloway.
Behind each woman’s eyes is a kind of emptiness, a longing for something more, for that elusive feeling of happiness that keeps slipping through her fingertips. This movie does an incredible job of capturing that feeling, that hollow feeling that makes the absoluteness of death seem less scary. Clarissa’s storyline in New York city is cast in a gray light that makes our modern age seem bleak and weary. But somehow the brightness of the 1950s and even the vivid nature scenes in the 1920s work to emphasize the unhappiness that our protagonists are stuck in. Even when Laura Brown has her lips painted red, her eyes still well up with tears and her mouth breaks into a silent cry when no one is looking.
One of the most beautiful scenes comes when Virginia buries a bird with her little niece who came to visit. Even though age and experience separates them, the two girls have an understanding, the little girl can just sense the sadness within the woman who lives more for the characters in her book than for herself.
“What happens when we die?” the little girl asks her.
“We return to the place where we came from.”
“I don’t remember where I came from.”
“Nor do I.”
More than anything though, this movie is intense, slowly building up to an ending you can’t guess at until it arrives. There are scenes of sexual confusion that arise out of desperation, and abrupt closeups of little things that shouldn’t matter, like trash cans when things get thrown into them and eggs as they’re cracked into a bowl.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Meryl Streep’s character Clarissa, who tells her daughter:
“I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.”
Although this movie came out last year, it only recently made it to theaters in my area. And even though I’m not too adept at movie reviews yet, Monsieur Lazhar deserves some description.
This film was sad in ways I wasn’t expecting, but not terribly depressing. Instead, the sadness was balanced by a poetic side that became more literal at the movie’s end. It wasn’t hard to like Lazhar, especially when his history as an Algerian refugee is revealed through scenes with his lawyer and the Canadian board of immigration.
Usually I prefer movies with a clear and defined plot structure, but this one was just ambiguous enough that I didn’t mind. It’s about the benefit of getting things out in the open, and how that’s the most important lesson Lazhar teaches his new students, even if their parents don’t agree. It doesn’t help to keep everything inside, no matter how normal you might seem to everyone else. This story of a Montreal classroom sharing an experience this heavy, as heavy as a teacher’s suicide, is somehow made uncomplicated and beautiful through simple shots and direct dialogue.
It’s interesting how much emphasis Lazhar places on French pronunciation and dictation in his classroom, almost as if it parallels his desire for the students to be able to properly express themselves. His eagerness to get involved in the classroom therapy sessions is almost adorable, as he walks around outside the room when he’s rejected. Somehow, Lazhar understands things the other adults don’t: that you can’t truly compartmentalize your life when something this tragic happens to those so young. Even if he doesn’t attend the group therapy sessions in class, the kids will still be thinking about it once he’s rejoined them and begun the lesson. The only way to deal with grief is directly and together– not alone inside yourself; that’s what Monsieur Lazhar tries to teach us as we become students too.
In honor of The Artist winning the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical (and therefore beating my favorite movie 50/50), I’m going to review it. Now, I’ve never done a movie review before, but for some reason I think silent film has more in common with fine art than normal film. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but just that you have to read deeper into it because nobody’s telling you anything. But that’s just my opinion. Hopefully it will make my transition to movie reviewing slightly easier. (And don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for those of you who’ve yet to see it:) Wish me luck!
The Artist movie poster. Photo from heyuguys.co.uk.
For some reason, I had a tremendous amount of faith in this movie. I had only heard rave reviews from every online news source along with my friends who had already seen it, so I knew everything would work out for the best in the end. Even though in the middle there it got kind of crazy. I don’t mean that as a spoiler; my faith in the movie actually made the whole experience better because I never got frustrated with the plot since I knew it would all work out in the end. The whole idea of the film was interesting. In an age of 3-D television and instant streaming, the thought of creating a silent film that anyone would be able to sit through must have seemed so far off. But it did more than entertain. It provoked thought by telling the story of the last silent film star. The whole movie being silent just felt like a giant metaphor for the protagonist’s unwillingness to speak on screen. And the fact that there was no dialogue made the written words that you actually had to read that much more important. The very first words that indicated dialogue read something along the lines of, “I won’t speak!” as a part of a scene from the first silent film we see our protagonist starring in. He’s the one saying it, and he’ll be saying it for the remainder of the film in a different context. But his journey is saddening and mysterious. He’s fading, but it’s hard to understand why he doesn’t make the transition to talkies when offered the opportunity. That’s where having faith in the film came in handy. I knew there had to be a good explanation. Which made it easier to connect and sympathize with him as he struggled. Plus, his dog managed to be more talented than adorable, a pretty difficult feat.
Screen shot. Photo from thesun.co.uk.
One of my favorite parts of the movie was his relationship with the girl who’s career he had to see flower while his faded, Peppy Miller. She’s too adorable not to love, and she clearly loves him in some kind of way too. But whether or not their love is romantic is never really made explicit. In most movies, this would have been annoying because I’d usually be hoping for them to get married and settle down, but the difference in their ages made it more appropriate that they just left that part out. She is obviously fascinated with him in the beginning, and it seems romantic-ish, but he doesn’t really treat her like that (more like a child than anything else) and their lips don’t touch once. When he stays with her, he sleeps in a separate room. And she has a boyfriend. Although this poster I found makes it seem more romantic than I picked up on, she’s still smiling as opposed to leaning in for the kiss. But he does seem just a tad too old to be with Peppy, who looks like she could be 17 at the start of the movie. Plus, I bet they’re much better at dancing together than they would be at kissing.
Hi, I'm Lindsey and welcome to 'things worth describing,' an art blog dedicated to finding meaning in aesthetic simplicity.