Tuesday, September 20, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Performing Lights

For those of us unlucky enough to not be there (sheesh, double negative split infinitive much?) on opening night, here's a video of the quite kick ass light show displayed on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

I'm proud to say that a long time friend and one of the most talented people I know was one of the architects on this project. Word up Mr. P!

Opening Night 'Projections'. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Kansas City - September 16, 2011 from Quixotic Fusion on Vimeo.

tagged: , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making the UTmost of history

Around about 500 years ago Machiavelli was writing The Prince, Martin Luther was denouncing abuses of the Catholic Church, and the ecosystem on Easter Island was beginning to fail.

I'm not trying to imply that those events are causally related, but I think they each reflect, on a thematic level, some of the baser human traits which seem to be coming so much more prevalent today.

The case of Easter Island, in particular, is the one I want to focus on now.

For about 700 years, the Polynesians who settled Easter Island (Rapa Nui, as they called it) had it pretty good —nice beaches, plenty of fish, fertile soil to grow their taro root, yams, and cassava.

Thing were so good that there was plenty of leisure time that needed to be filled. And the Rapa Nui invented a cool kind of puppet theater using giant stone statues they called Moai. They were like the action figures of the day. You'd set them up on a field and pretend they're having treasure hunts, or wars or deep philosophical discussions.

No, don't judge. What might seem a bit ridiculous to you and me was really a smashing success on Rapa Nui. The pastime became so popular that the Rapa Nui people decided to create more and more of these giant statues. They would dress them in garish attire and sometimes pretend they were in great sporting events.

It was all great fun.


It wasn't.

At some point, the theater and games the Moai were imagined to play became less important than Moai themselves. Different tribes began to compete to see who could build the most and the biggest Moai and who could dress them in the craziest uniforms. Giant (by Easter Island standards) corporations got involved to sponsor the creation of the Moai and market them to the Rapa Nui public.

But it didn't take too long for that public to take a look at the insane Moai arms race, at the completely batshit crazy amount of resources it was taking up, and realize that something had gone terribly wrong on Easter Island.

The Moai that they once depended upon for entertainment and diversion from their idyllic life on Rapa Nui had come to consume the very resources they depended upon for survival.

And by the time the Rapa Nui powers-that-had-been saw what their audience saw, the island had been completely deforested. There were no trees to build boats, so fishing came to a halt. With no forests to hold the soil, it began to erode and became less fertile.

With less capacity for farming, the people began to eat the birds and small rodents on the island. When those were pretty much gone, they began to eat each other.

They had, in essence, entertained themselves into cannibalism and near extinction.

On a bit of an unrelated note — Man, the Big XII used to be a really great football conference, right Texas?

tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

As Seen in Kansas: Paul Boyer Gallery

Anyone taking a trip through the northern third of Kansas is probably taking Highway 36.

It's not as speedy and high-octane as I-70, on which I've never seen a speed limit enforced (at least, not once you get passed Topeka). And Route 36 certainly doesn't have the historical cachet of its venerable cousin Route 66.

In many ways, Highway 36 is just a utilitarian point-A-to-point-B strip of tarmac. But it still has it's fair share of interesting side excursions for those not too busy to get off the beaten path.

One of my favorites is the Paul Boyer Gallery in Belleville, Kansas.

According to the museum, Boyer began carving and working with small machines as a child in Michigan. But when he lost a leg during an accident at the age of 35, he threw himself into carving, drawing and sculpting to help occupy his time.

The result has been a life's work in animated sculptures, or cartoons brought into the kinetic art world. And though many so-called "art experts" would look down their noses and derisively call his work "folk art," in my humble opinion Boyer is one of the artistic treasures of Kansas.

Many of his sculpture do focus on the humorous. He has fashioned a style of big-nosed, saggy-breasted hillbilly characters to be the target of his mischievous sense of humor. That's on the surface. But what lies beneath is a dizzyingly complex set of clockworks that would give any steampunk fan squeals of delight.

And on what I consider his finest pieces, those complex mechanics become the art itself.

My personal favorite is a set of models of mechanical wings. I think the piece is titled (something like) "Flight of Man, Flight of Bird," and it wonderfully demonstrates the grace and subtlety of Boyer's artistic vision.

I've tried to capture it and a couple of my other favorites in this quick video, but my videographer skills pretty much suck. Anyway, you really must visit yourself to get the full effect. There is a minimal admission fee to the gallery, which is operated by Boyer's daughters and is open May through September, Wednesday through Saturday from 1-5 p.m.

tagged: , , , , , ,