Thursday 26 April 2018

Julian Opie (2018)

An illustrated piece by Julian Opie HERE in the Guardian. His landscapes, people, birds, train scenes. 

Looking directly at something is not always the best way to see it. Look straight at a dim star and it disappears. If you look down the centre of your train carriage and become aware of the landscape outside the windows, you can see it better, not the details but the shape and colour, the way the hills roll and the fields shift shape as you pass. You can move an object in your hands to understand its shape but you must pass through a landscape to see it properly. 

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Things That Make Us Smart (1994)

Things That Make Us Smart (1994)
Donald Norman.

The power of the unaided mind is highly overrated. Without external aids, memory, thought, and reasoning are all constrained. But human intelligence is highly flexible and adaptive, superb at inventing procedures and objects that overcome its own limits. The real powers come from devising external aids that enhance cognitive abilities. How have we increased memory, thought, and reasoning? By the invention of external aids: It is things that make us smart. Some assistance comes through cooperative social behavior; some arises through exploitation of the information present in the environment; and some comes through the development of tools of thought – cognitive artifacts – that complement abilities and strengthen mental powers.

Sunday 22 April 2018

The case for open computer programs (2012)

The case for open computer programs - a piece in Nature in 2012 by Darrel Ince, Leslie Hatton, and John Graham-Cumming (HERE).


Scientific communication relies on evidence that cannot be entirely included in publications, but the rise of computational science has added a new layer of inaccessibility. Although it is now accepted that data should be made available on request, the current regulations regarding the availability of software are inconsistent. We argue that, with some exceptions, anything less than the release of source programs is intolerable for results that depend on computation. The vagaries of hardware, software and natural language will always ensure that exact reproducibility remains uncertain, but withholding code increases the chances that efforts to reproduce results will fail.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Machine Art (1934)

In 1938, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York put on an exhibition called Useful Household Objects under $5.00. The curator of the exhibition, John McAndrew, had chosen, ‘…approximately 100 articles of household use selected on the basis of good modern design and available at retail stores’. Amongst other things, the following artefacts where exhibited;

adjustable towel rack - $3.50,
aluminum tea kettle - $3.00,
salt and pepper shakers - $0.10,
glass pitcher - $1.50,
steel pocket knife - $1.00,
orange juicer - $4.60,
travelling iron - $3.95,
can opener - $0.18

The press release for the exhibition explained that: ‘The purpose of the exhibition is to show that it is possible to purchase everyday articles of excellent design at reasonable prices’. This was not the first time, nor the last, that MoMA had paid serious attention to mass produced artefacts. Some of the earliest examples of industrial design that the Museum acquired came from an exhibition they held in 1934 called Machine Art (March 6 to April 30, 1934). 

This was a ground-breaking exhibition that treated mass produced objects of a wide variety as beautifully designed objects in their own right. The exhibition catalogue signalled this seriousness, through two opening epigraphs in Greek from Plato and in Latin from Saint Thomas Aquinas respectively. 

The quotation from Plato’s Philebus 51 C, read as follows:

By beauty of shapes I do not mean, as most people would suppose, the beauty of living figures or of pictures, but, to make my point clear, I mean straight lines and circles, and shapes, plane or solid, made from them by lathe, ruler and square. These are not, like other things, beautiful relatively, but always and absolutely.

The catalogue for the Machine Art exhibition is HERE

Image: Laboratory microscope ESA-105. Carl Zeiss, Inc. $159.00

Monday 2 April 2018

Products of a Thinking Hand (2018)

An exhibition of the work of American type designer Cyrus Highsmith at the Royal Academy of Art, Den Haag (HERE). 

Sunday 1 April 2018

A Modified Ouchi Illusion (2016)

Above a variant of an Ouchi visual effect image by Jacques Ninio - part of a wonderfully chatty chapter - Contributions to Contrast and Motion Visual Illusions that is HERE.  When the page is moved with back and forth translations in the ascending diagonal direction, the central red disk appears to move independently of the background.