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Author Archive

Giant Paper Airplane Soars

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

A 45-foot paper airplane made out of pizza-box-like material flew across the desert sky.

The basis of the design was a 12-year-old kid’s entry in the Pima Air & Space Museum’s Paper Airplane Fly-Off in Tuscon, Airzona. The man who developed the design into a monstrously big masterpiece also, no big deal, helped design the B-2 stealth bomber.

Read more about it here in the L.A. Times. Regarding the lucky 12-year-old: ” … before the Great Paper Airplane Project he thought that he might pursue a career in engineering, but after … seeing his plane realized in giant size, he now knows he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up.”

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Photographs of Spectators

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

Photographer Thomas Struth recently caught my eye, not only with his photographs, but with what he says in interviews.

In a discussion of one of his mentors, Gerhard Richter, Struth says quite astutely, “And his paintings of photographs, once questioned by purists, now seem to have prefigured a Tumblr and Facebook era in which finding, posting and recycling images are an everyday activity … Everyone is in an archival roller-coaster process of picture language.”

Struth captures a range of subjects, from cityscapes to family portraits. Here’s one photograph of his that reminds me of the constant documentation of mundane daily details in social media:

The reversal of point of view, of the art looking back upon the museum patron, endows these gawkers with profundity. A difficult thing to do. I mean, look at them! And to think that’s what kind of empty-headed look I probably make at the world’s art galleries.

“The museum photographs each show people doing what you are doing yourself – looking at a picture,” says Struth. “For every frame, I waited between one hour and four or five hours for the decisive composition.”

I cannot help but quote at length a famous scene in the Don DeLillo novel White Noise.

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides — pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”

Another silence ensued.

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.

Posted by Jaime Gassmann in Photography, Uncategorized | No Comments »

No Picture

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

I spent a long weekend in Memphis. I enjoyed myself. But I found it a bit painful to be a tourista on Beale Street. I darkened no doors. I took no pictures. I tried to pretend the Hard Rock Cafe wasn’t there. I tried to walk quickly past the place playing 1990s Lenny Kravitz at a volume that eclipsed the 12-bar blues being played live next door. The change from black neighborhood to tourist mecca is the subject of books, a Joni Mitchell song (Furry Sings the Blues), and this blog post.

Rather than record the neon-lit gaudy re-imagining of the authentic with my cheap digital camera, I give you a sedate historic photo.

Beale Street, 1974

In 2012, what I saw glaring at me up and down that block was nothing particularly new. Simply the co-optation and gentrification of vibrant (and often oppressed) subcultures for profit. And I was the target audience.

We are nostalgic for a singular time and place.
We hope for redux. A thing brought back or restored.
We get simulacrum. A superficial representation. Or more precisely (see Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation), a copy with no original.

Posted by Jaime Gassmann in Music, Photography, Uncategorized | No Comments »

David Lynch’s Taste in Music

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

Deep, dark filmmaker David Lynch released an album of music that’s, well, experimental and moody, as you might expect. Watch a clip of him in the studio masterminding Crazy Clown Time.

I found this nugget of behind-the-scenes coolness while looking into the band Zola Jesus, who are gaining a lot of momentum lately. Lynch remixed the song In Your Nature from their album Conatus (listen).

Turns out, Lynch listens to a lot of strong female vocalists. Obviously Nika Roza Danilova, the Russian-American lead for Zola Jesus. He tweets his appreciation for Lissie. And, get this, Karen O does vocals on the opening track to Crazy Clown Time: Pinky’s Dream.

Posted by Jaime Gassmann in Cinema, Music | 1 Comment »

Daily Practice

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

A Buddhist’s daily practice of mindfulness follows a path that leads to understanding and liberation. Stefan G. Bucher’s daily practice leads to blooming creativity and now two hundred daily monsters.

Daily Monster is Bucher’s blog, his book, and his obsession. Ink gobbed on via toothbrush and splayed across the page with canned air is documented in its journey from splotch to sketch. If you want to watch a video of his process, might I suggest last year’s New Year’s monster.

You can also make your own monster using his incredibly cool app.

The point for me, however, is not the monsters themselves. It’s the regimen. Inspiration can spring out of discipline. And, note to self, these monsters teach the ever-relevant lesson that viral blogs and book deals can spring out of following your quirky passion.

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Biker Chicks

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

While cruising for last-minute gift ideas, I came upon none that topped the 2011 National Geographic book Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way).

It appeals to the feminists for whom I shop. To the enthusiasts who love bike culture and teach their children how to use the word “peleton” before “potty.” And to everyone who is a friend of Alupa Creative, since all of you will delight in the following quote:

“The bicycle is the devil’s advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances.”

(For more images and quotes, see this Atlantic review.)

Posted by Jaime Gassmann in Photography | No Comments »

perfection comes in threes

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

In religion: The Holy Trinity.

In film: The Star Wars Trilogy.

In horse racing: The Triple Crown.

In sandwiches: The Three Little Piggies.

Sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Mastery of pork three ways (double smoked and braised ham, pork tenderloin, and of course bacon, accessorized with Gruyere, a fried egg, and an onion ring—Hallelujah!) is an accomplishment that rates as a creative and oh-so-fine art in my book.

I have trekked to Chicago two different times now to prevail upon The Silver Palm Restaurant to muster America’s best sandwich. Best! Who would make such a promise? Who could lure me to an old railroad dining car on my first ever foodie trip? Tony Bourdain.

And, yes, it is as good as he says. In fact, the first bite elicited such an ecstatic countenance from me that my husband accused me of looking like I was making love to the sandwich. In response, I shrugged and smiled, glazed-over with happiness that only ham and an impending cardiac arrest can bring.

One other sandwich bears mentioning in the category of great sandwiches: The grilled cheese with roast beef and green chile at Tomasita’s Restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It, too, has ties to this country’s railroading past, nestled by an old Denver & Rio Grande railroad station. Whereas I can’t finish the Pigs, I can eat two of these blessed (and gloriously cheap) conglomerations. Next time, I’ll order an extra to take on the road.

Who’s comin’ with me on a holy quest to find the third-best sandwich in America?

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Stepping Off into UI for Albums

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

Björk, that ethereal sprite whose music is sometimes capable of piercing both souls and galvanized steel, brings us something relatively new. Her album Biophilia is best experienced as an iPad app.

It creates an imaginary galaxy that houses ten other apps in its song-constellations. The user can view musical notation, play games that correspond to the theme and composition of each song, and in many cases manipulate the tablet to manipulate the very sounds that create the music. The power to call forth (and save) new versions of her songs exists in the tilt of your device and the swipe of your fingertips.

At Alupa Creative, we are often concerned with user interface (UI). It’s inspiring to see artists (Björk and Scott Snibbe) team up across media to connect … well, I’ll just leave the description to the two simple triumvirates found in the introduction on bjork.com:

nature music technology

listen learn create


Posted by Jaime Gassmann in Music | No Comments »

art on the edge … of nowhere

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

Driving through southwestern Kansas, I approached the berg of Mullinville, Kansas, population 255. My pea-green bus was greeted by an incredible collection of folk art that lines the property of artist M.T. Liggett along Highway 400 … and on around the corner … and back to his workshop.

The garish beauty of the scrap metal totems (some three times as tall as a man), whirligigs, and scathing caricatures of famous people jived with my mode of transportation.

I believe the sign out front says, “The World’s Largest Collection of Coffee Stirrers.” Get it? Largest stirrers, not largest collection. I’m a sucker for clever.

Most of the pieces in this collection are named (e.g., Macbeth, Romulus and Remus, Bubba Clinton, and some for the artist’s personal acquaintances). The construction and composition of Liggett’s art impress me greatly. The layers of meaning in some of the sculptures left me standing at the side of the dirt road, as agape as I’ve ever been in the world’s finest fine art museums.

If ever in your life you do make it to Mullinville, and if the old guy with the arc welder is still around, maybe you can strike up a conversation and hear him utter a gem like this: “You can make millions, and millions, and millions and have a big ranch and do all of this other kind of stuff and you’re dead 10 years and everybody forgets about you. This stuff will be here in a hundred years. So I have left a legacy. I’m going to be here.”

I know it’s another long shot, but if you someday stop off of I-70 to visit the Grassroots Art Center in Lucas, Kansas, Liggett’s work is on permanent display there, too.

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words manifest

Posted By Jaime Gassmann

Brian Dettmer’s “Altered Books” series of sculptures crafted from a single book or books in a series will alter your relationship with the printed word. The above painstakingly carved, pasted, and re-envisioned book, The Household Physicians, is one of my favorite examples of how Dettmer has given books three-dimentional expression. The books no longer hide their intent in a monotony of lines and pages, passively awaiting a patient reader behind smooth, opaque covers. Rather, the books now highlight their own phrases and connect those ideas to the world of objects, all in styles that speak to and often comment upon the subject matter.

As you browse his collection, question Dettmer’s choices: Why organic shapes for this volume but architectural styling in that series? Is it ironic that either words or pictures are dominating a particular sculpture, or is he playing it straight?

Books act upon readers’ emotional and intellectual lives in powerful ways. But us readers can act upon books in physical ways that range from dog-earring pages to hoarding to burning. Dettmer’s sculptures set books free to act back upon the physical world.

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