Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chambre Ardente :: Island of Ephemera Notes

When we FINALLY raise enough money to get me over to Leiden to conduct a search for clues as to the Skin Armor’s wearabouts, I thought that I’d give myself a well-deserved break afterwards. So I’ve been doing a little research into desirable holiday destinations.

I picked up a travel brochure a few days ago for a place called Island of Ephemera. It sounds really rather nice although I am a bit worried that it might be a bit overcrowded – there’s apparently over 50 million visitors a year. However there are 128 museums – including the renowned Paper Collection and the Museum of the Future, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to write it off against tax as research. Also it has a Latin motto, and I DO love a good motto. Theirs is “populus quisnam operor non lego non exsisto inquisitor,” which translates roughly to “people who don’t read can’t be trusted.”

This is what the brochure says:

A city with a rich history and an exciting future, New Ephemera attracts 50 million visitors annually from all over the world who come to find peace in the gardens, satisfaction in the gourmet selection of wine, cheese, breads and seafood, and intellectual stimulation in the renowned multilingual libraries and extensive museum collections. Transportation is easy, accommodation abundant, the air clean, and the people eager to share their city and their legends. New Ephemera exhilarates, awakening the senses to new experiences as well as to those things usually taken for granted. stroll down its cafe-lined streets, admire its monuments and great works of art, absorb the sun on its beaches. Lose your ties to the drudgery of daily life in an hour in the Honey baths or rent a bicycle to explore the outer bivouacs. There is no right way to spend your time in New Ephemera, no matter if it is your first visit or your fifth. Stay awhile and you will see why New Ephemera is called the City of Fleeting Fulfillment.

If you know more about Ephemera, if you've visited or have a Flickr site with holiday snaps from your stay, please let me know. I like to be well informed before I book anything...

Originally via BLDGBlog >>
Download the brochure >>
Read Metropolis Magazine, The Ephemeral City >>

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Daily Dust :: Dust storm

Another day another dust storm. This one is on the Tavoliere Plain in the south of Italy. Nigel Chatfield happened to be there to catch its dark and moody glamour.

See his others photographs here >>

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chambre Ardente :: Exhibit A

I am absolutely sure that Inky thinks that he is having an exhibition. He's been spending hours with his collection, arranging and re-arranging it. I really will have to do something about it soon. Certainly before he tries to install it in one of the galleries.

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Bestiary :: A Beautiful Death Part III

Inky has really been encouraging me with this recent insect-collecting kick. I’m wondering whether he has ulterior motives. Or maybe he thinks he’ll be able to slide in his collection into the exhibition schedule amongst the rest… I’ll have to prick that particular balloon very soon. I simply can’t have spiders deciding exhibition policy here. And he really doesn’t have a clue about current museological standards. We would be a laughing stock.

We used to have an entire parlour encrusted with butterflies wings when I was a child. Spurred on by its memory, I went looking for more. And found a soupçon.

Great insecticidal shades of Archimboldo! (NB one of MoD’s official patron saints)

Butterfly Utopia retails pictures made from African butterflies picked up dead off the ground… (sure, we’ll believe that…it’s certainly as likely as Fabre’s beetles all having been pre-loved in SE Asian restaurants.) The collages are produced by:

“the fine artisans of Teneyambi who live in the Republic of Central Africa.Each collage is composed of a multitude of delicate butterfly wings, which have been painstakingly arranged to create a beautiful scene or animal. This art work is made exclusively from non-endangered butterfly species that have lived their natural lifespan.”
Butterfly Utopia >>

Vietnamese artists Ho Dac Hiep, “inspired by the charming beauty of butterfly’s colourful wings addicted to artistic creation” creates pictures from butterflies’ wings. The butterflies are caught and injected with formalin to keep intact their colours and dried for two days at an appropriate temperature. Then, Hiep separates each wing of the butterfly, selects and classifies them by their colours. After all stages are finished, he begins to sketch pictures on paper and then meticulously glues the wings down.
Via Vietnam Pictorial ‘Soulful paintings made of butterfly’s wings’ >>

Meanwhile in China :
"The first butterfly pictures sprang up in the 1930s in China's Taiwan Province, and are still developing on the Chinese mainland. Liang Senquan has tried his best to present the most beautiful side of butterfly wings to people. The 60-year-old member of the China Arts and Crafts Association has changed the traditional ways of creating two-dimensional butterfly pictures, initiating a new technique that features bas-relief or 3-D pictures. In 1998, Liang began to study and raise butterflies via artificial propagation. By 1999, he had successfully reproduced the Troides Helena (Linnaeus), Pachliopta Aritolochiae (Fabricius), Danaus Chrysippus (Linnaeus), Catopsilia Pomona F. Crocale (Fabricius) and other butterfly species, supplying sufficient sources for his creations."
Pictured in one of Liang's 3D innovations.
China Culture The Magic of Butterfly Wings >>

Kjell Sandved photographs letters and numbers found naturally on the wings of butterflies. Certainly that sounds less hard on the butterflys than the rest of the pictures here. If you go to his site you can buy posters or read his inspirational story.

Butterfly Alphabet site >>
Via Kircher Society >>

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Day of Dust :: Sunset and a Sand Storm at Uluru

The sun has shifted to Australia where red sands stain the sky. Omer Ziv was there to see it.

See his other photographs

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bestiary :: Insect Art

Spurred on by the entrancing spectacle of Jennifer Angus's installations, and with vague memories of pictures made from butterfly wings at the back of my skull, I took time out from my attempts to hunt down Straandbeasts, and went in search of insects instead. Luckily I was already in the Netherlands, because as soon as I heard about Jan Fabre I knew I had to know more.

It transpires that Fabre was once a Damien Hirst-like enfant terrible of the Belgian art world, notorious for using his own blood and sperm, raw steak and his girlfriend's menstrual blood. Then he discovered beetles and his work has centred around them ever since. Not only does he make sculptures encrusted in beetles, and performs dressed as a giant beetle (shades of Kafka here – unsurprising, I suppose, from someone who lives cheek to jowl with Europe’s most Byzantine bureaucracy), but he has even managed to convince the Belgium royals to share his passion. Fabre’s best known work, Heaven of Delight, is the ceiling of the spectacular Hall of Mirrors of Belgium’s 19th century Royal Palace. The new work was commissioned by the Italian-born wife of King Albert, Queen Paola, who wanted to brighten up the predominantly grey structure.

It took four months for 29 of Fabre's assistants to glue the glistening shells of 1.6million iridescent jewel scarabs to the ceiling, which is 26m long and 11m wide, in intricate patterns that include birds' wings, giraffes' legs and salamanders' eyes and the letter 'P' for Queen Paola. It is the first permanent artistic addition to the palace since Auguste Rodin produced some bas-reliefs for the building in the 19th century. The beetles were obtained by a team of entomologists who scoured the restaurants of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand where the creatures are regarded as a delicacy. (I checked with Inky on this one and he said they are delicious!)
"It looks like a kind of greenish, bluish, violet, yellow golden sea of light that moves around constantly, creating drawings using the light," Fabre told the Guardian. "It will never go away, the colour will never fade and it will stay there for hundreds of years. I am quite satisfied."
Unfortumately, some kind of jinx has made it impossible to bring you a decent picture of any of his work...

Examples of Fabre’s earlier work @ Galerie Mam >>
Some egs of Fabre’s sculptures @ Shugoarts >>
In the Guardian >>
Critical article : JAN FABRE'S 'TOTEM'; Judas kiss with made-up lips >>
Measuring the Clouds: A Conversation with Jan Fabre >>

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Object Annexe :: Stonehenge update

The henges just don't stop coming!

In news just in from Past Thinking Blog, plans are afoot to build a “21st century monument” in Wiltshire, based upon an interpretation of Stonehenge. The new monument will be built from stone shipped from Colin’s quarry in Preseli, Wales, which will be used to build the inner circle. Other types of stone sourced from around the world to complete the trilithons and other circles. The project aims to use modern and traditional methods to raise the stones, and community involvement will be a big part of it. The stone circle will be aligned with the equinoxes and solstices, and hopes to be a “living laboratory for academics as well as an educational visitor attraction”.

Via Past Thinking >>

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Dust of the Day :: Dusty Sunset

This is a sight that is becoming more common around the world. In Olustee, Oklahoma where okprairiemom lives, it's been common for a long time. She makes it look beautiful.

See okprairiemom's other photographs >>

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bestiary :: A Terrible Beauty of Insects

Although I am still pursuing Straandbeast AND negotiating with the Leiden Museum, I have found myself transfixed by the insectoid practice of Jennifer Angus. Her most recent work, ‘Terrible Beauty’ was an installation at The Textile Museum of Canada. Angus used more than fifteen thousand insect specimens from S.E. Asia, pinning the directly onto the walls of the gallery into intricate repeat patterns that evoked wallpaper and textiles. The installation reflected upon and mirrored the Victorian predilection for collecting and incorporating otherness into their cosy aesthetic. Angus created a series of imaginary rooms, each of which reflect the personality of a fictitious explorer and collector. Her earlier work is just as resplendent.

See it at her web site Jennifer Angus >>
A Terrible Beauty @ Toronto’s Textile Museum >>

All images from Jennifer Angus's site from diverse exhibitions.

Fibrearts Magazine has a beautiful gallery and short article about her work >>

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Dust of the Day :: Tunisian Sandstorm

Asand went to Tunisia and, en route to Douz, got caught in a sandstorm. Which was lucky for us...

You can see more of his photographs here >>

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Object Annex :: Stonefridge, a Fridgehenge

The megalithic ruin known as Stonehenge stands on the open downland of Salisbury Plain two miles (three kilometres) west of the town of Amesbury, Wiltshire, in Southern England. It is not a single structure but consists of a series of earth, timber, and stone structures that were revised and re-modelled over a period of more than 1400 years beginning about 2900 BCE. Not only has it fascinated and frightened people for centuries, but it has also, inevitably, spawned imitation.

There have been henges constructed from tanks, car bodies, concrete, plaster, foam, wood and fridges. We like the ones made of fridges best.

The earliest recorded Fridgehenge occurred in Hamilton NZ in 1994. Built by Sam Burke, Adrian McGovern and Graeme Cairns Monday for a summer solstice festival. Forty-one fridges were used in the construction, each corresponding to one of the major Sarsen stones of the original. An avenue was mown in the grass pointing towards the midsummer sunrise, and two fridges corresponding to the Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone were positioned along it. Apparently their affiliations to the McGillicuddy Serious Party and Claudelands Visionary Society are incidental.

Reported in a San Francisco newspaper >>
This is their tale >>

Of course, every idea of genius has its imitators. There are later, unfortunately unsubstantiated, rumours of another NZ fridgehenge on a hill overlooking Carteton. And several US acolytes. The most impressive seems to be by Adam Horowitz whose ‘Stonefridge’ near Santa Fe, New Mexico was never completed. Horowitz calls it "a post-modern, post-apocalyptic temple to waste and consumerism," however its sad current dilapidation is a very effective tribute to the stymieing power of local government.

Nicole Jones, a resident of Austin Texas has deftly documented the monument’s corrosion. Her photographs illustrate this post and her whole set can be found here >>

Horowitz’s Stonefridge was included in a documentary by Scott Herriott about 17 places in America that are truly one-of-a-kind... This Exit Only >>
You can see it from Space via Google (click on the thumbnail) >>
And a bunch of photographs by Mark and Shiree >>
Uncanny Valley Travel Guide to the Unsual report >>

A Burning Man Festival Fridgehenge in 2005 with each fridge containing an interactive art work. The Machine / daytime art >>

STONEHENGE: CLONES AND METAPHORMS explores other variants includes Cadillac Range >>

And the dreaded curse of Stonehenge! The curse of Stonehenge will remain until it is handed back to the druids The Guardian 2006/01/27 >>

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Publicity :: Insight #2

We have been directed to release the next volley in the Director's brilliant publicity and marketing strategy. She said she was too busy cleaning up our mess to have time to do it herself. Whatever.

So here it is -- another breathless insight into the values that shape not only the person herself, but everything she does.


*1 Please direct any inquiries or complaints regarding this picture to the Director herself, as per previous instructions.

Media Archive (aka as I de Plume's picture album) >>

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Dust of the Day :: Cyprus Sandstorm

It was high noon in Cyprus and a couple of photographers thought they would get some pictures of pink flamingos. They hadn't counted on the African Sahara being dumped on their heads. Cypriot Anca Suhan was there to photograph them.

More of Anca Suhan's photographs >>

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Oubliette :: Burt Todd - a diatribe

I was saddened on hearing the news of the unfortunate passing of Burt Todd. Not that I knew the man or even knew of him for that matter. However, upon reading his obituary I was struck by certain similarities between his story and two other tales that have fascinated me over time.

He reminded me of the dashing and thoroughly implausible hero Lessingham of the Zimianvian Trilogy. The trilogy is in reality a quartet of the most brilliantly, psycho-baroque mythologising. Over three (plus one) books the author, one Eric R. Eddison, stretches a tale of implausible grandeur, neurotic attention to pointless detail, sprawling plots, and gaping plot flaws. He leaps from a pan-planetary to a pan-temporal sequential path with nary a blink. It is brilliant. Arduously brilliant - like Proust meets Matthew Reilly. At one stage, in “The Worm Oroborus” a narratively inconvenient army is inexplicably swallowed by the Earth immediately following a hubristic exclamation by its leader.

Regardless, and more to the point, Lessingham establishes an independent kingdom (possibly a republic but definitely not a democracy) in the unlikely location of the Danish Islands. And for some petty reason people with greater access military hardware (probably, however unlikely, the Danes) pummel his dream into rubble.

I know that Todd’s independent Pacific state was not shelled into oblivion. But neither was Lessingham’s. Both dramatic climaxes were fiction. Apart from that both characters were rich, dashing, intelligent, and hopelessly out of touch. But Burt Todd was better.

Which brings me to the real import of this needlessly wordy narrative. Burt Todd developed the most wonderful series of postage stamps for the Bhutanese government. Some of these stamps were small rubber discs that could be played on a record-player. Others were printed 3D on silk, or (our favourite) on metal that rusted. How cool is that?!

For decades governments have used stamps for propaganda purposes. Many beautiful, banal or baffling images have graced envelopes the world over to celebrate, signify or sanctify people, events or objects. Burt Todd’s stamp containing a brief history of Bhutan puts them all to shame. There is something that appeals about a parasitic dependent of a means of communication that becomes as important as the message conveyed; much in the way that postcards don’t.

Todd’s invention was absolutely correct in attitude but seems hopelessly misguided in his choice of technological expression. Although one can scarcely fault him for getting it wrong during such a period of technological turmoil - remember Beta versus VHS etc. It is arrogant to assume that Todd had envisioned these stamps for a wealthy Western consumer. With a moment’s consideration you will realise that most mail from Bhutan would be directed elsewhere on the sub-continent which was largely only slightly more technologically advanced than Bhutan. However, the world’s attention was, as always, directed elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the man was spamming. He turned a passive communication system into a dynamic agitprop outlet. Marshall McLuhen would have understood perfectly. Unfortunately, the communication boom Burt was depending on occurred in cyberspace. Stamps became a thing of the past. As did any idea of an independent republic; anywhere anytime.

If Burt Todd had been able to understand the idea of a “data haven” he would be as famous as Steve Jobs and as hated as Bill Gates. His notion of communication-based economies was ahead of its time. Admittedly it was also pathetically short practical application. But “mighty failure overleaps the bounds of low success” or similar sentiments.

The presentation of economic practice as philosophical notion should be despised. Much to our detriment the practice is widespread. In the last years of the twentieth century an entrepreneur attempted to buy the airspace above a series of Pacific islands. This shallow cad hoped to control the access to all satellites and the data they contained should they pass through “his” airspace. Obviously, correctly and rather quickly he was ruthlessly shown the error of his ways by many of those concerned. Had the prat ever read “The Man Who Sold the Moon” he would have realised the folly of such a career path.

I hope any future attempts to incorporate global communication systems are met with hostility. We need someone with the charm and ineptitude of Burt Todd to add value to the countless pointless communications we make.

The stamps can be seen here >>

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Bone Room :: Anatomical Theatre Plot Discovered

I may have been absent from the Museum, in the Netherlands risking life and limb in pursuit of the elusive roaming Straandbeast for MoD’s Bestiary, but I still run the place! Those ninnys in Administration don’t realise that I keep a close eye on things. They seem to think that whilst the cat’s away, they can say whatever they want. What they don’t realise is that I’m lulling them, giving them as much rope as they need.

When the time is right…

Still, there are some things that you just can’t let go and this is one of them. They have been completely derelict in their research. So carried away by their piffling bureaucratic infatuation with a database – a database! – that they missed the main prize.

Or perhaps, more sinisterly, they were deliberately not mentioning it… knowing how important it could be for me. How could they, I ask you, completely overlook the presence of the original Anatomical Theatre in Leiden’s Museum Boerhaave? After all, it was only the very theatre where the last sighting of the missing Skin Armour was recorded. The museum, which houses one of the most important collections of material from the history of medicine and science in the world, was one of the museums contributing to their beloved database, that ePect thingo.

Those incompetents really should have done their research! Although the museum is modern, founded in the early years of the 20th century, the museum holdings date back to the mid 16th century and the dawn of the modern scientific thought. Concentrating on but not limited to Dutch contributions to the sciences, the museum traces the development of both the mainstreams and the byways of scientific and medical experimentation and practice through to the 20th century. Its collection has many highlights: the largest herberium in the world, Willem Blaeu’s giant quadrant, microscopes by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and clocks by Christiaan Huygens, Dr Zander’s physiotherapeutic devices and papier-mâché anatomical models. It has a huge library specializing in the history of the natural sciences and medicine. And a print collection. But the crown of the collection is the Anatomical Theatre.

This, it must be admitted is not the original 1594 theatre. It is, in fact, a reconstruction – indeed, a reconstruction of Swanenburg’s 1910 engraving, complete with the skeletal memento mori and with a wax anatomical model on the cutting table (as above). Even better it, and all the other exhibition spaces – 24 in all – can be visited via QTVR panoramas.

THE Museum of Dust, you will remember, just last week collected a copy of the Swanenburg’s engraving. It was of extraordinary interest to us, and to all our allies, because it is the first evidence that we have confirming the continuing existence of the Skin Armor.*1

W. Swanenburg: Anatomical theatre in Leiden, engraving (after a drawing by Woudanus), 1610.

This armor that mysteriously disappeared from Musrum’s Iron Castle during the Weedking’s incursion in 1914. I am determined to find it. It will make a fitting centerpiece for my museum. It will demonstrate to everyone, to all those mockers and nay-sayers, that my museum really is world-class. Top-notch. A must see. So these virtual rooms are perfect! They have allowed me to thoroughly case the place in preparation for my forthcoming mission. Now I’ll be ready, just as soon as I’ve raised enough money to cover expenses, to go to the museum and thoroughly search the building for any signs of the armor and any information about its current whereabouts. I intend to question anyone who might know anything. I will not rest. If there is a shred of skin there to find, I WILL find it. And thanks to those helpful QTVR panoramas, I won’t have to waste any time searching in displays that are obviously unrelated.

*Note to self – MUST get that fundraising drive happening. What are Administration doing! That’s really their job to see to…

*1 See previous exhibit :: The Bone Room :: Leiden Anatomical Theatre>>

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dust of the Day :: Arifjan Sandstorm

Here at Museum of Dust we can't get enough of photographs of dust storms. Charles Taber has fine examples of the genre.

More examples of his skills with lens and light >>

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Object Annex :: Attractive technology

1597 Polyhedral Dial from the British Museum
This polyhedral dial is made from an octagonal block of wood, covered with layers of ivory. It has a pin gnomon dial on the top and on one of the faces, and unusual wire dials on the other seven faces.

Whilst Director de Plume is pre-occupied with her investigations into the mysterious goblin seen lurking around the museum, we obviously have to take up the slack. Someone has to get things done around here. The Director will, of course, receive an official memo. *1

Luckily we have, anyway, long wanted to draw attention to something close to our orderly hearts.

A database.

A database storing images and information about medieval and renaissance scientific instruments, to be more exact. Epact is an electronic catalogue of collections from the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence, the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. Together, these museums house the finest collections of early scientific instruments in the world.

There are armillary spheres, some 90 astrolabes to compare one with the others, dividers, gauges, measures, dials, quadrants, mining and surveying instruments and on and on. And they are all exquisite. There are over 520 instruments in all. Each instrument in the catalogue is described with the aid of one or more photographs and two levels of text: an overview text providing a short account of the most notable features of the instrument and a detailed text giving more technical and scholarly information.

Supporting material for the catalogue entries includes a thematic essay providing background information about the medieval and renaissance mathematical arts and sciences as well as a number of technical articles giving explanations of how the main different types of instrument operated. Short entries on all makers and places represented in Epact are supplemented by a glossary of technical terms found in the overview texts and a bibliography lists all references from the detailed texts. Terms from the makers and places indexes and the glossary are all cross-linked from individual catalogue entries.

In short, it’s authoritive, definitive and really very very interesting. And if it’s actually a little hard sometimes to find exactly what you’re looking for – there’s ample opportunity to wander off into fascinating byways and meandering thought associations.

For example: the fact that the past was obviously the habitat of cerebral giants. Nothing was easy then. Even the act of telling the time seemed to demand an advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. At least on the evidence of a common time-telling devices from the 15th and 16th centuries. Take the astronomical ring dial. This timepiece comprised of three circles, one to be aligned with the equator, one with the meridian and the third to indicate right ascension and declination. We certainly can’t figure out how it works. Not a clue. We've thrown all our researchers at the problem. Though they make lovely shadows.

This 16th century example is of German make and can be physically found in the collection of Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza.

A table sundial equally supposed that even children and the serving classes possessed a high level of calculating ability. Or did they have to call a mathematician in when they needed to know the time?

Left: 16th century, Polyhedral Dial made in Florence, Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
This table sundial has eighteen decorated and painted faces. The hour lines are inscribed on every face in a different manner, corresponding to a different type of dial: horizontal, vertical, declining, etc. In use the instrument was oriented with the help of the compass.

Right: Polyhedral Dial, dated 1587. Florence, Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Polyhedral sundials of this kind, with finely decorated faces, are typical of the production of Stefano Buonsignori, an Olivetan friar, who was cosmographer to Francesco I de' Medici. This is richly coloured and also decorated with the coat of arms of the Medici dynasty. The upper cavity has a housing for a compass, which is now missing. Each face of the instrument carries a different type of sundial, complete with gnomon. The compass allowed the instrument to be correctly oriented towards the North. In this way the shadows of the gnomons projected onto the hour lines indicated the time.

*1 And note to self – get busy organising the Steering Committee. We need a body to direct our complaints about senior management to.

Epact >>
Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence >>
British Museum, London >>
Museum of the History of Science, Oxford>>
Museum Boerhaave, Leiden >>

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Dust of the Day :: Dust

The aptly named Dustin Taylor has a keen eye for the reality of dust. That is all we know about him. It's enough.

His other photographs are here >>

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Chambre Ardente :: Food from Hell

I am one very excited Cog! Finally I have found food that hits all the right spots. For a start it comes from Hell. Hell’s Pizza to be precise. Okay, so it is in New Zealand, but that’s the Back of Beyond – ie almost next door to Terra Incognita – and they home-deliver.

Secondly: all their food is entirely hellthy and has devilish names.

Thirdly: it comes in a box that not only features my favorite hotrod flames as a graphic but also can be re-configured into a small but perfectly formed coffin for your leftovers.

Hell Pizza box morphed into a coffin

And fourthly: you can order online from a website that is a breeze to navigate – even if you come from Whangaparoa – and features little devils you can throw around.


Order a pizza… or just play with the imps >>
Hell site by Spikefin >>
Photographs by American in NZ, David Kha >>

And yes, I know that this is a little, shall we say, corporeal for MoD -- but even a museum director has to ingest sometime...

First found on Ektopia with lots of other tasty stuff >>

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Obect Annexe :: Dust Pornography

Here at MoD we are deeply grateful to Sister72 of Monmouth County, New Jersey for drawing our attention to the mechanics of dust creation. "Where's the dust here?" I hear you say sceptically.

Follow the link below and see the dust breed (or just use your imagination if you don't have Broadband). Plenty of other videos there too showing other angles on this and similar demolitions.

Other photographs by Sister72 >>
Ashbury Demolition videos on You Tube >>

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Dust of the Day :: Sandstorm in Xi'an.

Roger Yang is a senior student in Xi'an Jiaotong University, China. Obviously he gets to experience dust VERY up close. Luckily he likes things up close.

See his other photographs >>

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Bestiary :: The Sound of One Wing Flapping

Death's-head Hawk Moth

Until recently there was a tear in the space-time continuum of inner-Melbourne suburb, Carlton. A shop that was called Wunderkammer -- and really was. Pushing open the door of the shop on bleak Elgin St instantly transplanted the visitor to another time and place. Given the sad state of the space and time most Australians find themselves in, it was remarkably uncrowded. I always thought that it was far cheaper than airplane travel and far more accessible than a time-travel machine. Despite the fact that this establishment is itself a reminder that all flesh is dust, our doughty cerebralists have discovered a positive treasure house of remnants and reminders of that marvellous half shop, half idée fixe.

This shard also caught our eye.

A Palette of Wings: The Natural History of Butterfly Collecting reminds us that there are things even more ephemeral than the powdery wings of moths and butterflies. The works of (hu)Man, just for starters. Butterfly collections were once the domain of the enthusiast – captured, killed and arranged in response to personal imperatives, idiosyncratic taxonomies, unknowable desires. Now the great personal collections of the 18th and 19th centuries have mostly been dissembled and re-arranged ‘systematically’, according to the strictures of modern taxonomy. This short essay, replete with gorgeous examples of Lepidoptera, includes a useful overview of the process of preparing specimens for display. It seems to involve a lot of bits of paper and methods to 'relax' the justifiably tense butterfly.

I must say, Inky never seems to fuss around with his collection half so much -- and he's the most distinguished Entomotaxist I know.

Although I got him with this one!

Butterflies you can see through. It turns out that these are not quite as rare as you might suppose. For example, Scotland is not a country one associates with the small and delicate, yet it is the home of the astonishing…Glasswing

And most of South America seems to be infested with the sneaky functionally-invisible things.

The commonest seems to be the Greta oto. This is a butterfly after MoD’s own heart – a poisonous nightshade feeder that converts it toxicity to come-hither pheromones when the time is right...

From Wikipedia >>
“Greta oto is a brush-footed butterfly, and is a member of the clearwing clade. Its Spanish name is espejitos, which means "little mirrors." It is one of the more abundant clearwing species in its home range, which extends throughout Central America into Mexico. Its wingspan is between 5.5 and 6 cm. Adults inhabit the rainforest understory and feed on the nectar of a variety of tropical flowers. G. oto prefers to lay its eggs on plants of the tropical nightshade genus Cestrum. The silvery-gray caterpillars feed on these toxic plants and store the alkaloids in their tissues, making them distasteful to predators such as birds. They retain their toxicity in adulthood. The same alkaloids that make them poisonous also are converted into pheromones by the males, which use them to attract females. G. oto adults also exhibit a number of interesting behaviors, such as long migrations and lekking among males.”
Even Australia has its own Glasswing -- also commonly called Little Greasy and Small Greasy... Australians being the poetic types they are. Australia’s Glasswing Butterflies, found in Queensland, are not quite so impressively transparent.

Of course there really isn’t any truly good news.
“As human populations grow, butterfly populations tend to shrink. Thus, the future of the exotic glasswing butterfly is uncertain. As part of the growing international trade of butterflies, specimens are often taken from the wild, but may also be cultivated for sale on butterfly ranches. Intensive farming with agrochemicals and increased ranching in the Andes greatly threaten the glasswing species and its associates. Other activities that make room for man, such as extensive logging and coal mining, also devastate the crucial habitat of the glasswings”
North Coast Cafe blog >>

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dust of the Day :: Going down?

Joseph Robertson lives in Astoria, USA. Where I live, Astoria is a cab company. He is male and taken. Otherwise an international man of mystery. Lucky his photograph speaks for him.

Personally, I'm waiting for Duchamp's Nude to descend these stairs.

See his other photos >>

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Directorate :: Ministry of Defence Statement

In a rare break with tradition the Ministry of Defence for the Museum of Dust today held a press conference to dispel the rumours and counteract many of the wilder claims surrounding the so-called “Sponge Gun”. “Sponge Gun” is the popular name for an alleged weapons development program being carried out by the MoD in the secretive Area 54. MoD denies any knowledge of Area 54 claiming that it is nothing other than a broom closet at the base of the stairs.

A spokesman today said ‘There is nothing sinister happening in the broom closet. It is locked at all times merely in the interests of public safety. It contains chemicals and cleaning agents that could be harmful if used improperly. Many other museums have broom closets and use similar cleaning fluids without attracting nearly the amount of interest shown to the doings of the Museum of Dust’. He later went on to blame the “media beat-up” on vested interests in the curatorial world. ‘Petty jealousies are at the base of these rumours.’ he said, further adding that to spread these rumours was to give aid and support to the enemy.

In response to ferocious questioning on the topic of the “Sponge Gun” the spokesman was more forthcoming. Media interest had been fuelled by a set of MoD documents found in the members lounge of St Kilda Army and Navy Club. The spokesman said ‘There is nothing unusual in that. The MoD often leaves things lying around – bodies, ruins, unexploded ordnance and so forth.’ He admitted that the papers were authentic and that they were ‘rough working drawings for Project X, a muzzle-loading, nuclear-powered, steam-driven, pneumatic device for the high-speed, long-distance relocation of sponge cats.’

After this unprecedented display of honesty questioning turned to the cost blow-outs related to the project. The spokesman blamed these on a breakdown of standard bureaucratic protocols. ‘When the working drawings were returned to the MoD they were, unfortunately, given directly to the Manufacturing Division. Thus they by-passed the Research and Development Department. Without advice to the contrary the Manufacturing Division put the project into construction. The end result being that they made a full-size, cast-metal, 1/4 cut-away model.’ He added that initial trials of the gun as it now exists have been unsatisfactory. ‘We have found that the present configuration does not allow us to achieve anywhere near the pneumatic pressures we need for a successful launch. Steam escapes out of the holes, the pistons don’t move and the sponge cats just climb out of the barrel and walk away’. He added that the MoD will push ahead with the project although this will require a total rebuilding of the device.

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Publicity :: The Real Director

I don’t think that Administration realises that I’m onto them! I see the malicious little memos they’ve been leaving about the place. I know that my publicity campaign is the right way to go! I just need more time to concentrate on it. There is so much to do around here, what with preparing exhibits and everything, I have hardly had a moment to spare for the campaign.

But when the audience demands, one has to respond!

Many people have asked me ‘What is most important to you?’ ‘What motivates you outside of your passion for and commitment to dust?’ So I have decided to show you all a few of my core beliefs and give you a real insight into what makes the private Cog tick.

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The Chambre Ardente

MoD’s Chambre Ardente is a small hermeneutically-sealed circular room. The wall is lined with matches, their square ends packed together so their ready red tips all point out parallel to the floor. Large metal Zippos hang from fine chains, each primed and regularly checked. The room’s wall stretches up far into the darkness, domed by the giant inverted nozzle of a fire-thrower. Around the lip of the nozzle, deployed at regular intervals, is a series of closed earthen vessels containing Greek Fire. Over each vessel is suspended a small hammer, held poised by a fine thread. These threads are gathered together, twisted into a thin cord that dangles down to the floor alongside a large desk and an extremely comfortable chair. On the opposite side of the desk another chair, this one small and hard, is positioned. A large angle-poise arc-lamp is pointed at it, its hard beam pining the chair to the black sandpaper floor and providing the only illumination in the room apart from a hooded candle on the desk.

This is the chamber in which the objects, texts and individuals deemed unnecessary by MoD are interrogated and, perhaps, dispatched.

The Chambre Ardente gets its name from the ‘Darkened Court’ of the Ancient Regime. Before the Revolution, certain offences in France were tried in a court from which daylight was excluded, and the only light admitted was by torches. These inquisitorial courts were devised by Cardinal Lorraine. The first was held in the reign of François I., for trying heretics – in 1530 it was the Hugonauts. Brinvilliers and his associates were tried in a darkened court in 1680. Another was held in 1716, during the regency. A When judges were ashamed to be seen, prisoners could not expect much leniency.

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Dust of the Day :: Dust in perspective

Charly Broyez is French. This is probably therefore a photograph of French dust. Dust replete with history, generated from the mill of human time.

More of his photos >>

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Garden :: Slime Molds

The 93rd plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting organisms classified as Mycetozoa.

In 1973 people in Dallas, Texas, were alarmed by an outbreak of strange large yellow growths on their lawns. When one of the big yellow blobs appeared on a telephone pole and began to spread, firefighters tried to subdue it with hoses. The mass grew. And began to moved up the pole. Most people thought it was an alien attacking their community.

Fortunately, a local university scientist identified the oozing slime as harmless F. septica. Yup, a slime mold.

Slime molds have it all… starting with their name. Not only does it start with the word ‘slime’ (closely related to dust, only with wet sliminess added!) but the ‘mold’ part is a lie. Fungi are molds… but slimes aren’t. Although people used to think they were. “Long classified together in the Myxomycophyta as part of the Fungi, slime "molds" are now known to be quite unrelated to the fungi.”

And then there is the way that slimes behave. They are the split personalities of the natural world. One minute they’re acting like a plant, doing nothing much just hanging around in rotting vegetation or dung… the next, when conditions become less convenient for them, they’re crawling together like animals, then fusing into a group form called a plasmodium. Moving at speeds up to 1 millimeter per hour (with an exceptional few moving as fast as 2 centimeters per minute), slime mold plasmodiums are slow-motion predators, usually locating bacteria or fungi to consume. They scavenge decaying organic material as well. As slime molds flow over and engulf their food, they ingest it. If an item turns out to be inedible, they eject it. Only to stop and turn back into a ‘flowering plant' for sporing… We all know people who exhibit far less complex behaviors than this.

Slime molds apparently use chemical signals given off by food sources to sense which way to move. Researchers in Japan recently proved that Physarum polycephalum will consistently work out the shortest path between two piles of nutrients in a maze. (This I think, will have to be investigated more closely....)

Adding to the up-side, there’s the way that many slime molds look like vomit… And they come in many slimey colours including pink, orange, green and particoloured. Equally various are the common names for slime molds: wolf’s milk, yellow tinder blossom, Japanese lantern, bubble gum, spaghetti, red raspberry, chocolate tube, and tapioca. Many names suggest edibles, and, indeed, Indians in one area of Mexico scramble and fry Fuligo septica like eggs. They call their tidbit caca de luna or 'moon shit'. Some tropical slimes are bioluminescent and glow in the dark.

Most importantly, the 19th century scientific illustrator, Ernst Haekel, produced startlingly beautiful pictures of various slime molds for his 1904 book Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature). For more than a century, naturalists have cataloged slime molds in drawings, herbariums, and collections of cultured specimens. In Meiji-era (1868—1912) Japan, botanist Minakata Kusagusu was so determined to grow slime molds in his container garden that he trained cats to keep slime-mold-eating slugs out of his extensive collection.

And the fun doesn't stop there! In the early 16th century the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch depicted an estimated 22 species in The Garden of Earthly Delights. More recently slimes were included in the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual and so are now staple in many fantasy role-playing games and computer games. These are truly lifeforms for all occasions...

There are three main groups of slime molds. They do not, however, form a clade. Lucky really. All slimes, no matter what group, have a similar life-cycle.

The groups are:
1. Plasmodial slime molds are basically enormous single cells with thousands of nuclei. They are formed when individual flagellated cells swarm together and fuse. The result is one large bag of cytoplasm with many diploid nuclei. These "giant cells" have been extremely useful in studies of cytoplasmic streaming (the movement of cell contents) because it is possible to see this happening even under relatively low magnification. In addition, the large size of the slime mold "cell" makes them easier to manipulate than most cells.

Slimy plasmodium of Fuligo septica the color of peanut butter. This creeping fungus moves very slowly in amoeboid fashion. A number of descriptive terms have been applied to this slime, including 'vomit slime mold' and 'dog vomit slime mold.' Photo by WP Armstrong

A second group, the cellular slime molds, spend most of their lives as separate single-celled amoeboid protists, but upon the release of a chemical signal, the individual cells aggregate into a great swarm. Cellular slime molds are thus of great interest to cell and developmental biologists, because they provide a comparatively simple and easily manipulated system for understanding how cells interact to generate a multicellular organism. There are two groups of cellular slime molds, the Dictyostelida and the Acrasida, which may not be closely related to each other.

A third group, the Labyrinthulomycota or slime nets, are also called "slime molds", but appear to be more closely related to the Chromista, and not relatives of the other "slime mold" groups.

Physarum Photo from Introduction to the Slime Molds and by Tom Volk.

Slime Mold Photos page by WP Armstrong >>
Wikipedia slime mould entry >>
Introduction to the Slime Molds >>
An Internet Resource for Students of Physarum polycephalum and Other Acellular Slime Molds This includes links to movies, picture galleries and even an ode to this slime. >>
Some lovely pics of slimes : photographs by Stephen Sharnoff >>
The Elegance of Slime Molds >>
Slime Molds on Flickr
taka_itaha, a Dutch programmer with bio-interests and some other great funghi and nature sets, as well as one on slime-molds alone. >>
Myxomycetes-Slime Molds by GORGEous nature >>
Myxomycetes by myriorama >>
Slime Molds by Bistrosavage >>

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Object Annex :: Aberdeen's Zoological Models

Models have long been used in biological and medical education. The University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum has a collection with models made by some of the greatest exponents of the art: Glass jellyfish by the Blashkas, wax mites by Deyrolle, a pull-apart horse's hoof by Auzoux, papier mache botanicals by the Brendels --in fact representatives from the entire pantheon of scientific model-making gods.
The mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Emile Deyrolle

Ctenophore Hormiphora plumosa. Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka

Hydroid. Leopold & Rudolf Blaschka

Please note :: MoD will be undertaking a major retrospective of the Blashkas in the near future...

The Art of the Model Maker >>

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