An image of trainers, a television and 1980s gaming items produced by an unknown artist for the clothing retailer Diesel. Featuring their new SKB model of trainer, the picture draws its influence predominately from the vaporwave art movement (combining pastel and bright colours, retro designs and 1980s nostalgic throwbacks), but with a slight nod to the photography trend known as ‘flat lay’.
This Photo Moment is a cast back into the mists of time. It’s a photo I took of my bedroom window in Morley Road, Plaistow, east London as the sun was setting. This was taken six years ago to the day (29 July 2011).
Smog is probably one of the most useless… and dangerous things known to humanity. The thick all-enveloping clouds of chemical particulates, water vapour, smoke and other atmospheric ingredients kills thousands of people globally per year, causes disruption to traffic and the economy and is an inescapable hazard to sufferers of breathing problems such as asthma. But now, in the notoriously polluted cities of China, they are not only fighting back, but are making a tidy profit from it too.
China has some of the most polluted aerial environments on earth. With a 1 billion-plus population and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, as well as a determined quest to become a major world superpower, the country’s citizens pay the price for China’s great march to prosperity, enduring extremely high smog levels owing to the proliferation of factories, industrial units and slash-and-burn farming creating smoke which blows in from the countryside. In some large cities, including the capital Beijing, smog occurs almost on a daily basis, and is particularly evident in the summer months. One nationwide smog incident in late 2015 sparked red alerts and health warnings in ten cities, and the dirty air is thick enough to reach California, thousands of miles away in the Pacific.
However an artist from the Netherlands has proposed a novel solution that could not only rid cities in China, and in other rapidly developing nations, of their peasoupers, but also provide a boost to the diamond industry, turning a killer into a sparkler.
Dutch national Daan Roosegaarde is the in-charge of the Smog Free Project. The premise of the project is simple. First erect a seven metre tall tower which looks like it was made from window blinds and resembles a portly windmill. The tower draws in the polluted air and purifies it. As it does so, the carbon from the smog is extracted and compressed into carbon, the building blocks for organic life and the core ingredient of diamonds. The tower transforms the carbon dust into valuable gems, in a process that takes just thirty minutes. Beijing’s smog alone is 32 per cent carbon particulates, which will mean a lot of gems. The towers are, not surprisingly considering the background of their designer, influenced by Dutch architectural styles, and are intended to not look too obtrusive or space-consuming, a form of functional urban sculpture.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Roosegaarde told the assembled delegates and press: “It started with a dream,”
“The dream of clean air for everyone.”
The idea for the Smog Free Project first formed in Roosegaarde’s imagination when he was observing Beijing’s notorious smog from a hotel window.
“On Saturday, I could see the world around me, the cars, the trees, the people. But on Wednesday it was completely covered in smog, with pollution, and that image made me a little bit sad.”
Determined to free people from being forced to stay inside during smoggy days and to give them freedom to breathe safe air, he began planning the project.
Tests done in Beijing have shown the technology does work. Areas where the towers were tested were found to have air 70 to 75 per cent cleaner than places which did not have them. The success of the tests was picked up on by Beijing’s city government who have decided to endorse the artist’s project. Roosegaarde will now tour other cities in China to display the virtues and benefits of the towers.
The diamonds produced by the Smog Free Project will be used in jewellery making and the profits made ploughed back into the project, particularly in funding the construction of more towers.
Guerilla artistBanksy, famed for his powerful street art laced with socio-political commentary, has resurfaced again, this time at the notorious refugee camp, dubbed ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, France, online magazine The Wrap and the New York Timesreported yesterday.
As the debate on the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis reverberates across Europe and much of the world, the Bristol artist, famed as much for his guarded anonymity as for his works of many of which have sold for several thousand pounds, left behind an artwork on a wall in the Jungle, depicting the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, whose father was said to have emigrated from Homs in Syria to the United States shortly after World War II.
The technology visionary is shown in his characteristic black turtle neck top and denim carrying a sack over one shoulder and holding a vintage Apple monitor in the other hand. The look in his face mirrors the same of many Syrian and other refugees, who often face dangerous trips across open seas and walking thousands of kilometres to reach safety in Europe.
Job’s birth father, a Syrian named Abdul Fattah Jandali, met Job’s mother one summer in his native hometown and later emigrated to the US.
“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant,”Banksy said in a statement. “Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes — and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
Nowadays, the debate about allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States has became increasingly negative, in comparison to places such as Germany and Canada, where refugees have been largely welcomed with open arms, including one planeload of refugees who were greeted by the Canadian prime minister himself. In the recent light of the tragic San Bernardino killings, where a foreign-born health service worker and his wife gunned down fourteen of their colleagues last week, and comments about banning Muslims from American territory made by presidential candidate Donald Trump, a recent poll among American state governors said that thirty-one were not open to allowing refugees to move to their states, according to The Wrap.
Banksy’s artworks, nearly always done in public areas using traditional stencils and paints have commented on everything from rampant consumerism, the credit crunch, politics, the war on terror to social media, celebrity culture and the British monarchy.
In celebration of the festival of lights, Diwali, which arrives this year on the Wednesday, 11th of November and which coincides with Armistice Day in the UK, the Half-Eaten Mind has unveiled a special commemorative graphic.
The graphic is part of a long tradition on the blog for what is termed in the business as ‘homemade graphics’. Every Diwali since 2013, HEM’s blogger and editor Vijay Shah uses his graphic designs skills to produce special edition graphics which serve as not only a bit of fun and celebration, but also as a tip of the hat to the talent that goes on behind the scenes.
This year’s image is derived from a wallpaper offered by HappyDiwaliGreetings.in and created via image design site piZap. It features three symmetrical and stylised diyas (lamps) arranged over Paisley patterns in a nod to traditional north Indian art. The design carries the official HEM branding as well as a QR code which when scanned with a suitable app on a mobile phone, can take the viewer to the blog.
The graphic will be featured on the HEM social networks nearer the occasion.
The Half-Eaten Mind would like to wish our readers, supporters and the Community a very happy Diwali in advance.
An underwater memorial to the victims of the Atlantic slave trade, situated off the coast of the Caribbean island of Grenada. It pays respects to the thousands of people abducted from Africa to be enslaved in the Americas who were thrown overboard to perish in the Atlantic Ocean after becoming sick or rebelling. These sombre heads with their eyes closed in peace form part of the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park, the world’s first sea-based sculpture gallery and a poignant reminder of when it was considered acceptable to trade in our fellow humans.
The board of trustees for the museum, based at the Schloss Hubertendorf (castle) in Blindenmarkt, a small town around 5 kilometres from Amstetten in central Austria, have organised the first ever such biennale for contemporary arts in Austria in a bid to increase networking and exposure to those engaged in the artistic life. The event will also offer up and coming contemporary artists across Europe and the world a unique and sympathetic chance to showcase their best pieces to a discerning international audience.
The Schloss, which is a large stately home built in 1614 by a local knight, Georg Löffler on old farming lands and a disused mill, was chosen as the Biennale’s venue by MAMAG for its rustic charm, and its relevance as a European hotspot for old and new art and culture, according to the museum’s website.
Details on which artists will be exhibiting are not yet available as the Biennale is still in the very earliest stages of preparation. However the company’s Twitter account has a pinned tweet dated the 11th April, calling on artists to enter submissions for the Biennale this August. Visitors are also being offered free entry during the festival’s opening hours of 11:00 am to 6:00 pm local time.
The MAMAG museum is a privately owned art museum for modern and contemporary art in Lower Austria. Much of the pieces held in situ are by local Pop Art artist Tanja Playner. The museum regularly organises special exhibitions on modern art, photography, scenic views and panoramas, lithographic works, sculptures and mixed media contemporary art.
MAMAG will also be playing host to the International Modern Art Fair of Austria at the Schloss Neuberg in Loeffelbach on the 11-19 July, 2015.
London, a leader among the world’s cities. A population of eight million.
Frantic, busy, popular, cultural, fast, slow. A giant urban sprawl where everything runs at breakneck speed and even life can ill-afford to catch a breath. People go past each other in a flurry of activity, not a glance or a smile. No-one asks about anyone else, their fortunes or their misfortunes. For those with no fortune in life, the loneliness and dismissal is even more profound. Aside from the casual toss of coins or the countless stares and avoided looks, those who take the streets as home feel as invisible and inconsequential as ever.
Out of many voices, one is captured. On a simple piece of nondescript cardboard, an anonymous individual asks for help. Not to buy a sandwich or get twenty pence for a phonecall, but to feel what the luckier ones feel. Eager to sample the delights of one of the city’s upmarket restaurants or for people to wish him a simple ‘happy birthday’, the owner of the mysterious sign pleads for assistance from a known, yet invisible public. To realise an ambition, just a helping hand to make it happen.
Behind the cardboard voices, capturing the less-photographed side of London and making a social stand against poverty, is a new artist and blogger, known only by the pseudonym ‘IMPREINT’. His latest project sees a visual night-time trip to the nooks and crannies beyond where most tourists and Londoners venture and where their eyes pass over. The solitary cardboard sign, with its well-written and urgent message, is part of IMPREINT’s latest photographic project, entitled CUT OFF – an acknowledgement of the invisible, the homeless, the forgotten – and their ambitions and desires. Taken among the city lights under the cover of night amid London’s distinctive red phone boxes and its bright lights, IMPREINT preserves with their camera the wishes of a down-and-out asking to be accepted and noticed by society. We see neither the sign’s creator nor the audience, but the loudness of the sign holder’s dream rings true amid the serenity and harshness of London’s cold grey streets.
CUT OFF is a long-time concern for the artist, who had previously exhibited works under the titles of “The Space” and “The White Frame Collection”, since his career began more than five years ago. Seeing a world where people were just asking and giving, IMPREINT felt something was wrong. He thought that rather than a give-or-take situation which is the norm regarding the homeless, it needed to be more about equality and letting them speak for themselves. The piece of cardboard became a metaphorical message, a symbol of seeking opportunity to change its owner’s condition while doing their best to bring about that change. Work on the CUT OFF project began in January 2015, which saw IMPREINT take to the streets of London with cardboard signs in tow. While more comfortable with paint and found objects, IMPREINT saw no challenge in arming themselves with a smartphone and camera and getting down and personal with London’s pavements to capture the images for CUT OFF.
CUT OFF is a project that works in its simplicity, yet subtly laced with a deep message. In one way, IMPREINT forces us to confront this reality of life without thrusting it into our faces. While popular culture and urban living has forever linked the homeless person with the cardboard sign, IMPREINT’s work challenges us to sit up and take notice of these often ignored signs, set amid the empty domains of those without roofs. By making the homeless the focus of CUT OFF, IMPREINT has reached out to society in its own terms, making art that opens people’s eyes to the harsh world of street living. IMPREINT has done well in a theme where many artists fear to tread, that of making art reflect on the more negative attributes of society. Not simply to show it on a white wall and say ‘ this is it!’ but to stir in the viewer a need to change their outlook, and perhaps, do something about it.
The artist began their work in the UAE in December 2009, with a wish to make art not just something to be sold at auction or admired by gallery visitors, but to make a social impact, benefitting society and not just depicting it. IMPREINT themselves transcends the default role of artist as name and brand, seeing themselves as not just a person, but a concept stretching far beyond the individual. IMPREINT has exhibited at impromptu art galleries and spaces of creativity all over London, as well as self-created international shows in places such as India, Spain and Hungary.
Okay, so I might have completely lost the punchline to this joke, but the popularity and artistic capacity for expression of the userbar certainly isn’t any laughing matter. For almost a decade, gamers, geeks and online artists have used userbars as decorations and virtual badges of honour to announce their presence and creativity on the internet.
So what exactly is a userbar?. It’s a small and slender graphic which is a really skinny version of the ubiquitous advertising banners found all over the web. The big difference though is that they aren’t ads for companies. Instead they are used to express a person’s interests, skills and passions; or to advertise their gaming level and prowess. Cramming a lot into a space usually measuring no more than the standard 350 by 19 pixels (with a border of 1 pixel thick, userbars can be larger though), userbar designers will often incorporate imagery, text and even animations and gifs taken from videos or popular TV shows. The most widely used typeface (font) for userbar text is Visitor TT2 BRK with the standard size of letters set at 13 pixels in height. The font gives a very computer generated and retro appearance to the bar and often, rather like a framed picture, designers can choose to make their userbars visually presentable by applying a ‘glass finish’ that gives the design a glossy look. The natural home of the userbar is usually forums, mainly those connected to gaming or technology, but I have seen them being attached to signatures used in a popular South Asian young people’s forum.
Userbars reached their zenith in the mid 2000’s, as the internet was already becoming well entrenched in people’s lives and gamers made the transition from downloading PC games to battling and co-operating with fellow hobbyists on online portals such as World of Warcraft. While userbars have never broken the mainstream like other ‘geeky‘ expressions of culture have done, and their popularity has declined since their heyday, userbars still retain a loyal fanbase and several thousand are being painstakingly handcrafted by forum users and passionate gamers today. There are vibrant online communities built around the designing of userbars as a hobby. One, userbars.be, is “a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about creating and sharing userbars they make ” with a showroom of more than 40,000 userbars sorted into categories such as brands, celebrities, computer hardware, patriotic, and sports. The site currently has over 28,000 members and contributors. Another, called userbars.name, is a German-based forum dedicated exclusively to the online art form, the 21st century evolution of the miniature paintings of 17th century India and Persia. It has a cult popularity among gamers from Russia and east Europe in particular.
One of the ideal things about userbars is their democratic nature, and that given such a limited space, there are countless millions of ways to express any vignette of personality or interest you like. Anyone with at least some basic graphic skills can make one, and there are sites, such as best-signatures.com, which offer easy to use userbar generators for the fresh-faced userbar novice. For the experienced artist, photo-editing and image suites like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP offer capabilities for making userbars from scratch and there are web-based tutorials and forums for anyone who wants to learn how to make them using photo-editing software. For those who don’t have the money or the inclination to get to grips with the complicated DIY Photoshop option and are frustrated by online userbar generators, there is also the option of downloading special software that creates userbars without the need for broadband. The one I used for this article is the AmitySource UserBar Generator 2.2, which is a small program that gives you the capability of designing your own bars, using images saved on your computer and your choice of colours and filler effect from a preset menu. Although not without its limitations, such as being only able to use the standard Visitor font and that only in one colour and style, the Userbar Generator is very easy to use, even if you’re utterly new to the game, like I am.
To celebrate the miniscule artistic awesomeness that is the humble userbar, I have used both best-signatures.com and the AmitySource generator to make some userbars of my own. In honour of their original spirit, I drew inspiration from other’s creations to make a series of bars that reflect my personality and interests, as well as things that are special to me. As well as the static userbars, I also found another website, www.myspacegens.com, which will quite happily take up to 10 static ones and blend them into a GIF that shows each individual bar in 2-second intervals, transforming your creations into a sort of uber-cool userbar slideshow. That’s very handy if you have a lot to say and display to your fellow gamers or forum commentators.
A brief explanation of the static userbars.
1. ANGLO MAURITIAN: This bar represent my ethnic heritage, half-English (British) and half-Mauritian. The image is a pin badge featuring the intertwined flags of the two nations
2. CADBURY’S CREME EGG FAN: In honour of one of my favourite items of confectionary and a childhood favourite. The image is of a batch of the UK version of these sweet treats
3. CASUAL PHOTOGRAPHER: I do like to pull out my phone once in a while and take some jaw-dropping pictures, and I humbly appreciate the great expression of photography as an art. The image is a Nikon camera lens or some other specialist model
4. EMOJI ABUSER: As my Whatsapp and Facebook contacts can attest, I am trigger happy when it comes to emoticons. Well it does save on typing. The image is of a gallery of emojis commonly used on messaging services and social media.
5. FREQUENT WHATSAPP USER: Whatsapp, the almost-free messaging service is very important for me to keep in contact with distant family and friends. I used the app’s logo and made the background the same colours.
6. HALF-EATEN MIND: Why should I have all the fun?. This was the first userbar I made, using the Best Signatures site. In honour of this wonderful blog which helps me express myself and keep the reporting dream alive, I used the blog mascot, Woodsy the Owl, as a background.
7. INFORMA PLC.: Made with pride to represent the company I work for, using their corporate logo.
8. KEBABISH KING: This one is to pay homage to one of my favourite restaurants, Kebabish Original (K.O.). As with the Informa bar, I used their logo.
9. KRAVING FOR KELLOGG’S KRAVE: In honour of one of my favourite breakfast cereals. Full of chocolatey goodness.
10. LONDON COMMUTER: They say if you tire of London, you tire of life. I don’t always enjoy commuting, but it is a fundamental part of my day-to-day life. I used a Transport for London (London Underground) ‘Tube Map’ as a background.
11. NEWHAM RESIDENT: In honour of the London borough where I live and grew up in. The logo is that of Newham Council, our local government body.
12. NEWSPAPER JUNKIE: I can’t get enough of that black and white, baby. In honour of a news media that has inspired my journey as a journalist and taught me so much about the world. Graphic used comes from a picture of various British newspapers.
13. POUND STERLING USER: In honour of my currency of choice when at home. This userbar features Bank of England paper money.
14. PROUD HINDU: This bar celebrates my religious identity. The symbol is ‘Aum’ the first sound to originate in the universe and an identifier of my faith. The orange colour is another marker of my beliefs.
15. REPPIN’ PLAISTOW: A little statement of local pride here, Plaistow is the part of east London where I now live and also grew up in. The logo is a signblind from the N69 night bus which cuts through Plaistow and Stratford. I used to take the daytime 69 route to go to college in Leyton.
16. SAMSUNG GALAXY S4 MINI USER: Influenced by the userbar’s original purpose, I made this one a technology special. The mobile phone in question is my current model.
17. SHANIYA’S UNCLE: I made this in honour of one of my nieces, who I’m very close to. I used a family photo of her and chose pink as a background as it’s her favourite hue.
18. SIMPSONS FAN: Depicting the yellow-skinned family at rest, this bar celebrates one of my all-time favourite cartoons.
19. TAX STAMP COLLECTOR: A homage to one of my pastimes. The picture was supplied by a fellow collector of some stamps I was swapping with him.
20. TRADITIONAL ASIAN DUDE: Paying my respects to one of my ancestral cultures. Unlike a lot of South Asians in the UK, I try to remain close to my roots.
21. WORDPRESS BLOGGER: As my blogging friends know, old WP is our bread and butter.
I hope you have enjoyed my userbar collection, and perhaps are inspired to make your own.
By the way, this will be the last article I will be publishing for 2014. This one came out on the 31st December 2014, New Year’s Eve and the very last day of this year. I will not be posting tomorrow, but will be back on Friday 2nd January hopefully. I wish you all a prosperous new year 2015.