Art follows money, and the money’s in China

It is said that great art can only thrive in great turmoil, and China with its growing pains and political cramps, definitely has this in spades.

I went to an interesting lecture on Chinese contemporary art at the Gibsone Jessop Gallery last night in the Distillery District. Jessop, who’s a great speaker, weaved a tale of historical and artistic intrigue as he talked about his recent travels in mainland China.

It appears that, as an artist in a land of billions of people, there is an intense urge for self-expression.  And unlike Western modern art, China’s works are irreverent, self-deprecating, and most of all, full of what Jessop called “psychological danger”.

Apparently all the buying demand is from Westerners. All throughout Beijing and Shanghai are painters and sculptors sitting in empty, deserted galleries. Sadly, the Chinese seem to be disinterested in their own art. (The government’s hands are off as well, just as long as you don’t desecrate Chairman Mao or show sexual activity.)

Afterwards, we got a hands-on examination of another kind of contemporary art: a pulled pork pizza at the Mill St. Brewery!

What can brown do for you

Ive finally recovered from a nasty bout of food poisoning. It’s pretty bad when you step in the shower, then shut the faucet off and go back to bed because you’re too weak to stand up.

There is still a mystery revolving around what exactly poisoned me, since I’ve been eating weird things for the past 24 hours. It could have been Jerusalem artichoke soup, sushi, a Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich, and Mom’s homemade “jungle stew”.

Anyway, on an unrelated note, this quote from
Anil Dash cracked me up:

“I don’t mean to belabor the macaca point, and the story is much more nuanced than it seems, but I hope all the slobbering politicians, regardless of political persuasion, take away a simple lesson from this: If you fuck with Indians in America, you will lose control of both houses of Congress.”

You know that in 50 years, North Americans will be running call centres for __them__.

Passed while on the gas

I passed my final road test today, and so ends a sordid eight year journey to get a driver’s license. It’s not because I’m necessarily a bad driver – I’m just a good procrastinator.

In other news, because my roadtest was in the morning and I would be using my dad’s Buick (I don’t own a car; another reason for being rusty), I elected to stay overnight at my parent’s house. It’s weird sleeping in your old bed in your old room. To top it off, my mom as usual was saving on hydro by turning the thermostat waaay down. Everything is so small, and cold. And dusty.

Global snacks

My dad travels a fair bit, and he’s been recently giving me all manners of snacks he’s picked up on the odd airplane or hotel around the globe. 

Global snacks

From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Dragonair peanuts (double-wrapped in plastic with its own serviette)
  • Lay’s paprika flavoured chips from the Netherlands
  • Cereal mix from Switzerland
  • Cathay Pacific peanuts, from Hong Kong
  • Arnott’s biscuits, Australia
  • Walker’s shortbread cookies, Scotland

Not shown is a TimeOut bar from Dubai that has been consumed by my wife. The most interesting thing I find about the chocolate bars he brings me is how “clean” their packaging looks – I suppose its because they only need to say what they need to say in one language instead of two.

Love, written

“The feature spoke of this and that position — and I am not talking about positions during a football game or the Middle East position.”

– Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, regarding a “distasteful” expose on teen sex that appeared in the local Weekend Mail newspaper

“Obnoxious, drunkard uncle for hire (62). Belches the national anthem in three octaves, scratches inappropriately and is seemingly never satisfied by your very best efforts. Is dinner ready yet – and if not, why not? December will be magic again at Box no. 5610.”

– one of the bizarre personal ads that has appeared in the London Review of Books magazine

The new desert of the real

The world’s most powerful virtual reality simulators are not in a million-dollar laboratory – they’re available on CD-ROM for $50 at Best Buy.

During high school, Woofer and I briefly talked about using the then hottest game titles (Doom II and Quake) to make virtual reconstructions of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.  Those shoot-em up games came packages with tools that allowed aspiring CG artists to construct their own levels that could then run on the game engines.  We figured, if we could somehow remove the guns, it would be cool to be able to browse through this art gallery via virtual reality.

Unfortunately, the discussion didn’t go further, because we felt the graphics engine was not powerful enough to render and contain the hundreds of individual textures that would make up the paintings.

But now, the technology is here. Witness this video demonstration of a Half-Life 2 map containing Franklin Lloyd Wright’s Kaufmann House and acreage in astonishing visual and audio detail (Source: Digital Urban blog):

Or the large-scale reconstruction of portions of New York, Tokyo, and Las Vegas as witnessed in Project Gotham Racing 3:

There are now dozens of PC games with powerful graphics engines, and where the game developers have thrown in for free the very same tools they used to build their fantasy environments.  Giving SDKs out to your fanbase can drastically increase your product’s lifespan; the most popular multiplayer FPS ;today is Counter-strike, a Half-Life mod created by two university students. 

Giving away the tools also means opening the doors to thousands of creative minds. Now, these SDKs are being used in ways once not thought possible.

Creating CG movies with videogames (a genre called machinima) has recently become popular, but many have now realized that the very same tools can now be used to replicate environments found in real-life. The software is cheap, the authoring toolkit is documented and robust, real-world physics and human models are pre-existing, and anyone with a PC and a copy of the same game can replay one’s creations.

Interested in modeling real-world environments? Look at what your kids are playing at home. Don’t underestimate ubiquity and simplicity.