Posts Tagged ‘sculpture’

Sophisticated sundial clock in Medellín, Colombia

Saturday, April 12th, 2014


A little hard to tell from these photos how beautiful this clock is. Depending on which side of noon you are, you view either one side or another. I believe noon hits (more or less) the circle in center. ON the top of the two black polls is a tiny mirror that depending on angle hits grooved lines from 1-12 that run horizontal on the curved walls. One of hundreds of beautiful, functional objects in Medellín’s many, many free public spaces.

It’s one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever visited, and one of the best run. Its generous provisions of civic space and enjoyment is actually really moving. The new few posts will gives some examples of this.

I’m really glad the UN Habitat World Urban Forum was held here this year, or I may never have experienced this place. (I attended as part of my research for my upcoming book on UN Habitat ’76 in Vancouver.

sundial clock, Medellín, Colombia



And thanks to Carlos from Medellín who has lived all over the world, speaks a ridiculous number of languages and was a great guide for this UN tour of the city.

Carlos with sundial clock, Medellín, Colombia

Designer Tobias Wong at the Museum of Vancouver

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

A retrospective of the work of Vancouver designer Tobias Wong (1974-2010) opens tonight at the Museum of Vancouver. It’s curated by Todd Falkowsky who, along with his colleagues at the Canadian Design Resource, has perhaps done more to promote Canadian design and designers than anyone else, at least in the last decade. Tobias died two years ago at the young age of 35. The Museum of Vancouver show in his memory is titled (Object)ing: The art/design of Tobias Wong, and it refers to the fact that Wong did make objects, but he made objects that questioned and often objected to the way in which we make and consume objects. His work sat on the border of art and design; he treated design as sculpture. This show brings Tobias’ work to Vancouver, his hometown.

I became more familiar with Tobias’ work when I was in a group design show with him at the Royal Ontario Museum. That show too was curated by Todd along with his colleagues at the well-known Canadian creative agency Motherbrand. It was titled Cut / Copy / Paste and featured work from designers whose methods employ various types of bricolage or re-purposing: perhaps recruiting an object recruited for a new use, or a designer  appropriating another designer’s work, or the hybridization of formerly distinct objects. In the photo below my piece is just behind Tobias’ renowned illuminated chair – a Philippe Starck chair to which he had added an internal lamp. (Photo below; mine’s a quilt made of souvenir, made-in-Japan “Amik” (beaver) mascot scarves from the Montreal 1976 Olympics.) Tobias’ chair will be on view at the MoV in this show.

Read also this article by Guy Keulemans on Tobi’s work; it’s one of the most informative.

For more infomation, see Marsha Lederman’s article on the current Museum of Vancouver show and Tobias’ work in general here. There is also this nice short bio from citizen:citizen:

originally from canada, tobias wong (b.1974) studied art at cooper union in new york city, where he graduated in sculpture. veering across disciplines and materials, wong has created an oeuvre that is immediately accessible, yet contentious. he pursues his own brand of conceptualism, the self coined “paraconceptual,” and “postinteresting,” and uses design as a medium, as he says, to expose the similarities between art and design, rather than to blur their boundaries.

Tobias’ Savoy doorstop, created by pouring concrete into Alvar Aalto’s famous Savoy vase (below). Its production requires the destruction of the vase, thus relegating the glass status object to the function of a mere mold.

Todd Falkowsky’s short introduction to the show is reprinted here from the Museum of Vancouver website:

Welcoming Tobias Home

By Todd Falkowsky, co-curator of Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong

The first time I met Tobias Wong was in New York City in 2004, where we both had shows at the Felissimo House. As I was setting up my space, a small, very pleasant guy kept circling around and nodding his approval at what we were installing. As we were finishing, he finally came forward and introduced himself as a “big fan”. We chatted about the work and he shared some thoughts. It was only after he left, when I asked the curator who he was, did I find out that it was Tobias. Humble, interested, and filled with ideas. It was a genuine pleasure to meet someone with so much talent introduce himself as a fan when in fact he was a celebrated artist/designer with his star on an explosive rise. Well, the feeling was mutual.

I knew that designers appreciated Tobi’s work, but I realized his influence had run deeper when I was teaching at OCAD in Toronto. I was pleasantly surprised by how many design students wanted to do work like his. They were not looking to be designers in the traditional sense, but to become provocative and use product design as a mirror and comment on the status and purpose of our culture. They did not want to be Starck or Rashid; instead they wanted to be Tobias Wong, the artist who used design to break the rules. Tobi’s ideas and approach had impact on design practice, inviting designers to use their craft to create serious meaning and new ways of interacting with our communities.


Karl Mattson’s sour gas escape pod, Rolla B.C.

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Sweetwater 905 Festival, Rolla BC
Pod at Sweetwater 905 Festival 2012. 

Karl Mattson, an artist and filmmaker from the town of Rolla in Northern B.C., produced this “escape pod” artwork last year.  I saw it a few weeks ago on the concert grounds of the Sweetwater 905 Festival. It may look like a space capsule playhouse for kids, and sometimes it is, but it was actually built as shelter from the very real danger of highly toxic sour gas leaks, as well as a protest against the inadequately regulated gas industry in Northern BC. For those who don’t know, sour gas is natural gas containing large amounts of hydrogen sulfide. You’re breathing the gas equivalent of sulfuric acid. It’s a fast killer, ending the lives of many workers and bystanders every year worldwide.

Mattson and the escape pod are the subject of a new documentary to be premiered this fall at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

I visited Karl while in Rolla. He lives with his 4 year old daughter in a beautiful 100 year old house that he’s been adding to, but potential sulfuric acid gas leaks cast a long shadow on any idea of home, let alone home improvement.

Many in BC don’t know that the Peace River District is one of the single most productive grain and farming regions in Canada, producing more crops per acre than many farming areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta. And yet it is increasingly dotted with oil and gas (LNG, fracking) operations, many of which are not even profitable for the province in the long term, and are heavily publicly subsidized yet benefit private and foreign interests. The contamination of this area with industrial toxins and effluent has not sufficiently reached public consciousness.

For more information about sour gas and BC’s oil and gas industry, read Sour Gas: The Smell of Money.

Below is an article on Karl published in Fort St. John’s Energetic City site last year:

Rolla artist uses creation to make statement on health concerns presented by industry

Artist Karl Mattson from Rolla used the unveiling of a rather unusual piece of art to make a statement on his concerns about the dangers the oil and gas industry poses to his family.

With about 50 or more people gathered at their farm just off the Sweetwater Road, Mattson and his family – wife, Inge-Jean, and four-year-old daughter, Hollis – unveiled what can only be described as an escape pod reminiscent of a lunar module. The piece was built out of an old fuel tank and other machine parts, seats three people, and comes equipped with a 12-hour air supply and a beacon on the top.

Mattson said it’s probably not practical in the case of a real emergency, but he built it as expression of his frustration at the lack of a real plan.

“Basically, it’s a response to the lack of an emergency response plan to evacuate people in the event of a serious sour gas leak,” he said. “This is my way to express my concern, because phone calls don’t work.”

The extent of the industrial activity happening on and around his farm was evident that evening, as several well sites could be seen in the area as well as the right-of-way from a pipeline being constructed on an adjacent property. Mattson said the real danger of a leak is something he thinks about constantly.

“We actually had our H2S (hydrogen sulphide) metre go off on our kitchen table last winter. We have fugitive emissions coming through our yard a few times a year, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if they are the right type of emissions, it’s a big deal, and if it’s a leak, it’s a really big deal.”

He said the precautions he and others have been told to take in the event of a leak are not realistic.

“Some of the responses people get is to tape their windows. I live in a house that was built in 1917 – you can’t tape those windows or cracks.”

Mattson said he is not sure how to have his concerns addressed, but he believes the responsibility lies with the government.

“I think rural people here in Northeast B.C. are being treated as expendable, almost. This would never happen near a heavily populated area, but this is what we are dealing with. It’s not about the gas companies, it’s not about the workers, it’s about government regulations that allow them (companies) to monitor their own air and monitor their own everything.”

He said doesn’t think he is alone in those concerns judging by the response he received from the crowd.

In a dramatic conclusion to the evening, a helicopter came by after the unveiling and carried the “escape pod” away (the Mattsons were not inside at the time).

The whole event was captured by Julian Pinder, a documentary filmmaker from Toronto who is exploring the relationship between the oil and industry and rural landowners in the region for his latest project. Pinder also arranged to rent the helicopter.

“A couple of pilots actually wouldn’t do it because they were scared they would be blacklisted from the oil and gas industry, so we actually had to get somebody out of Chetwynd based in forestry,” he said.

Pinder said the event will make for a dramatic final scene for his movie.

“It’s kind of a culmination of all his frustration – Karl is one of the characters in the film – until he physically leaves, sort of ascends into the sky. It’s sort of a metaphor, but also a realistic response.”

He said expects to finish shooting the film this fall and will begin post-production shortly. He said the film will be distributed through theatres and cable television all around Canada once it is completed.

The evening also featured a very blunt and heartfelt poem by Dean Mattson, Karl’s brother, on his views on the changes that have been imposed on the landscape and quality of life in rural communities by industry. Music was provided by local musicians, Folky Strum Strum.

Best decoration of the 2011 holiday season – Xmas tree of books at Vancouver Art Gallery

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

“Xmas greadings,” via Michael Turner’s site websit. It’s Vancouver Art Gallery librarian Cheryl Siegel’s annual Xmas tree.

Mystery paper sculptures left in Edinburgh libraries & museums

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

A mystery sculptor (all that’s known is that she is female) has been leaving these sculptures made from book pages in libraries and museums across Edinburgh. When the sculptures numbered ten she stopped, leaving this inscription in a guestbook: “In support of Libraries, Books, Words and Ideas… a tiny gesture in support of the special places.” As a mysterious public art piece it has fascinated many in Edinburgh. A great public act in favour of one of our most democratic and hallowed institutions—the library. Via NPR.

Apparently the whole “reverse heist” was inspired by Ian Rankin’s novel Rebus. In thanks, the sculptor sent him an eleventh sculpture in the mail; he says you can see it here.

Nice T Rex. That’s its tail protruding from the spine of the Conan Doyle book “The Lost World,” below.


Walking bookcase by Wouter Scheublin

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Walking bookcase by Wouter Scheublin. “The movement is based on the principles of the walking platform devised by 19th century Russian mathematician Pafnuty Chebyshev… when pushed, the legs carry the object along using a complex system of cranks, links and connecting rods. Photo below via cyberneticzoo. The walking bookcase is one of many interesting handmade objects commissioned for Wallpaper Handmade, but it’s the one I liked the most. Chebyshev is known as the father of Russian mathematics, and there’s a moon crater named after him.