Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All of the ancient world, in a bookcase or two

Here, then, is 1,400 years of human culture, all the texts that survive from one of the greatest civilizations human beings have ever built -- and it can all fit in a bookcase or two. To capture all the fugitive texts of the ancient world, some of which survived the Dark Ages in just a single moldering copy in some monastic library, and turn them into affordable, clear, sturdy, accurate books, is one of the greatest accomplishments of modern scholarship -- and one of the most democratic.
September 7, 2011
The Other Socrates

Sunday, September 04, 2011

When cucumbers make music

'parthenocarp' by dutch artist ronald van der meijs is a large-scale musical instrument whose sound is affected by the growth of growing cucumber plants.
the work consists of three sound cabinets, each with its own steel string suspended over a small black wheel sunken into the top face. these cables are connected at one end to an electric drill and at the other to a metal cage housing a living cucumber plant; a mechanical teflon 'finger' against the string changes position depending on the length of the vegetables as they grow. thus each cabinet, functioning something like a mechanical hurdy-gurdy,
plays a tone that mutates slightly over the course of the exhibition, relative to the cucumbers' growth. The installation is representative of the transformation of the urban zone of overstad in alkmaar, netherlands,
which has shifted from a farming region to an industrial area to now a modern downtown center, 'a slow urban transformation process', van der meijs reflects, 'not only associated with changes in the built environment  but also include the surrounded noise, the skepticism and opposition from residents and political opposition parties.'  likewise, the 'combined sound of the [parthenocarp] system transforms very slowly during the exhibition,
and is subject to a variety of harmony and discord