May 31, 2008

eidolon by jasmine justice + jesse farber

Hello superdigit readers, another post from my visit to Amsterdam.
While there, I got to see my friends, Jesse Farber and Jasmine Justice's SUPER new video collaboration. In this piece, Death is posited as an eidolon, or astral double, of Life.

May 29, 2008

David Altmejd (May 3 - June 14, 2008)

Check out David Altmejd's rad show at Andrea Rosen. Giants, mirrors, spiral staircases, crystals, mixed up body parts, hairy body parts. It's your quasi-queer Six Million Dollar Man meets sculpture fantasy.

May 20, 2008


Vincent Van Gogh, Cottages, 1883
The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

For me, Rembrandt was all about the browns, and Van Gogh was all about the greens. Standing in front of this painting was HUGE.

John Everett Millais

Millais' most famous picture, Ophelia, is burned into my brain. However, my knowledge of Millais' other works were a bit sketchy. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam had a large showing of his work that made me a huge fan. Millais' early mystical Pre-Raphellite paintings are preceded by earlier paintings like, The Artist Attending the Mourning of a Young Girl. This early work hooked me at the start of the exhibition.

John Everett Millais
The Artist Attending the Mourning of a Young Girl
about 1847, Oil on board

An inscription from the picture’s back described this scene: ‘The painting represents an incident in Millais’s own life when he was sent for by people unknown to him, but who knew him to be a young artist, to draw a portrait of a girl in her coffin before her burial. The scene moved him so much that when he got home he made this sketch showing himself being asked to draw the girl’s portrait.’

Other later pieces that stood out were...

John Everett Millais
The Rescue 1855, Oil on canvas

The glazes of red in this painting are super intense (not like this jpeg) and almost feel like a photoshop technique when seen in person...this glazing is totally crazy in its' ability to suggest 'fire space' versus 'non-fire space' within the composition....."Inspired by a brewery fire Millais witnessed, and a rare painting of physical action, this scene of modern life shows a fireman carrying three small children he has saved from a blaze, the youngest of whom he delivers into the embrace of their anxious mother. Ruskin praised The Rescue, writing ‘it is the only great picture exhibited this year’, clearly impressed by this novel scene of nocturnal heroism."

Lastly, I wanted to mention an amazing drawing called Awful Protection Against Midges 1853 (Pen and brown ink on laid paper) is a drawing of the artist and a friend sketching plein air while midge insects swarm around them. They smoke cigarettes as a repellent and wear hoods to protect themselves from the biting bugs.

This exhibit came from the Tate London to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the link attached to this post's title enables you to view the exhibit room by room as it was presented in London.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jewish Bride, oil on canvas, 1667

This Rembrandt painting, Jewish Bride, is at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and is simultaneously subtle and energetic. The brushwork completely differs across the canvas....the area detailed below and the space behind the figures especially fascinated me. In person, the brushwork, the charged emotional content, and the mysteriousness of the couple's gaze, provided me with a newfound Rembrandt love.

May 18, 2008

Maria Sibylla Merian

I have just returned from Amsterdam, where I saw so many incredible exhibitions and met so many wonderful people. I will be doing various posts from this trip, here is the first on Maria Sibylla Merian, whose work I saw at the Rembrandt House. This exhibition travels to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and is on view there from June 10 - August 31, 2008.

Maria Sibylla Merian (Frankfurt am Main 1647–1717 Amsterdam) was an exceptional woman who produced a no less exceptional oeuvre. Working in the Netherlands and Surinam, she was the most important and influential natural history artist of her age. Her greatness lies in the way she combined art at the highest level with innovative science. It was her years of scientific research and painstaking observations of insects, reptiles and plants that enabled her to make her meticulously detailed watercolours and prints. She was the first person to depict caterpillars, butterflies and moths at the different stages of their life cycles, together with the host plant on which they fed.

Merian’s adventurous life was as extraordinary as her work. As a child she was taught to draw by her stepfather, who had been a pupil of the famous Jan Davidsz. de Heem. As a newly-married woman she found fame with the publication of a three-volume work on flowers and two books on caterpillars. In 1685 Merian divorced her husband and took her two daughters to the Netherlands, where they joined a religious community in Friesland. Some five years later, when the community ran into financial difficulties, she moved to Amsterdam, where she and her daughters established a flourishing business. The firm of Merian & Daughters sold pigments, brushes, prepared insects and animals preserved in spirits to the countless collectors, dealers and printers who lived and worked in the city.

At the age of 53 Maria Sibylla travelled with her younger daughter to Surinam to study insects in the rain forest there. She returned to the Netherlands two years later—seriously ill but with hundreds of drawings and specimens of butterflies, moths, lizards, snakes and iguanas. They provided the basis for her book Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensis, Ofte Verandering der Surinaamse Insecten which she published in Latin and Dutch in 1705. It brought her international fame. More than three hundred years later her scientific discoveries still stand, and her watercolours and gouaches have lost none of their power and astonishing beauty.

May 1, 2008

The Mundaneum + Paul Otlet

Paul Otlet (b. August 23, 1868, Belgium - December 10, 1944) was the founding father of documentation, the field of study now more commonly referred to as information science. He created the Universal Decimal Classification, one of the most prominent examples of faceted classification. Otlet was responsible for the widespread adoption in Europe of the standard American 3x5 inch index card used until recently in most library catalogs around the world, though largely displaced by the advent of online public access catalogs (OPAC). Otlet wrote numerous essays on how to collect and organize the world’s knowledge, culminating in two books, the Traité de documentation (1934) and Monde: Essai d'universalisme (1935).

Otlet, along with his friend and colleague Henri La Fontaine, founded the now-bankrupt Institut International de Bibliographie in 1895 which later became in English the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID). In 1910, following a huge international conference, they created the Union of International Associations, which is still located in Brussels. They also created a great international center called at first Palais Mondial (World Palace), later, the Mundaneum to house the collections and activities of their various organizations and institutes.

Otlet was also a tireless idealist and peace activist, pushing internationalist political ideas that were embodied in the League of Nations and its International Institute for Intellectual Cooperation (forerunner of UNESCO), working alongside his colleague Henri La Fontaine, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1913, to achieve their ideas of a new world polity that they saw arising from the global diffusion of information and the creation of new kinds of international organization.

Paul Otlet devoted his professional life to the art of collecting, recording, organizing and disseminating knowledge. Although he lived decades before computers and networks emerged, what he discussed prefigured what ultimately became the World Wide Web. His vision of a great network of knowledge was centered on documents and included the notions of hyperlinks, search engines, remote access, and social networks—although these notions were described by different names.

Otlet not only imagined that all the world's knowledge should be interlinked and made available remotely to anyone (what he called an International Network for Universal Documentation), he also proceeded to build a structured document collection that involved standardized paper sheets and cards filed in custom-designed cabinets according to an ever-expanding ontology, an indexing staff which culled information worldwide from as diverse sources as possible, and a commercial information retrieval service which answered written requests by copying relevant information from index cards. Users of this service were even warned if their query was likely to produce more than 50 results per search.

The bibliography or Table of Contents of Paul Otlet's Permanent Encyclopedia grew from 400,000 entries in 1895 to over 15 million in 1934[citation needed]; the Encyclopedia itself eventually contained 100,000 files and an image database also eventually achieved million of items, all organized and searchable according to the UDC, a significant achievement for a paper-based, human-powered search engine. Although Otlet encouraged collaborative authorship as in the Wikipedia, his collections required centralized indexing according to the Universal Decimal Classification.

Paul Otlet also aimed to extract "substance" from books much like we strive to separate content from presentation on the Web, and then cross-link this substance with other contents and automatically provide enriched combinations in ways unforeseen by the original book authors. This vision is strikingly similar to Tim Berners-Lee's late-1990s concept of the Semantic Web.

Abandoned by the Belgian government, suffering from mismanagement, financially strapped, the Mundaneum was dealt a serious blow by German troops marching into Brussels at the outbreak of World War II. Requisitioning the Mundaneum's quarters and destroying substantial amounts of its collections in doing so, the Germans forced Otlet and his colleagues to find a new home for the Mundaneum. In a large but decrepit building in the Parc Leopold they reconsituted the Mundaneum as best as they could and there it remained after Otlet's death in 1944 until it was forced to move again in 1972. After many vicissitudes, including several more moves, the Mundaneum as an archive and museum devoted to Otlet and his colleague La Fontaine and the work of others associated with them was opened in Mons (Belgium) in 1998. Here are to be found the personal papers of Otlet and La Fontaine and the archives of the various organizations they created along with other collections important for the modern history of Belgium.

In the wake of World War II, the contributions of Otlet to the field of information science were lost sight of in the rising popularity of the ideas of American information scientists such as Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson and by such theorists of information organization as Seymour Lubetzky. After all he was a Belgian writing in French in the pre-computer era and by the end of his long life had already fallen into international obscurity compared to the great days of his success. However, in recent years with the advent of networked communication, digitization and the World Wide Web, new interest has arisen in Otlet's forward-looking, pioneering speculations and theories about the organization of knowledge, the use of new information technologies, and globalization. His 1934 masterpiece, the Traité de documentation, was reprinted in 1989 by the Centre de Lecture publique de la Communauté française in Belgium. The original edition has recently been digitized ( Unfortunately, neither the Traité nor its companion work, "Monde" (World) has been translated into English so far. In 1990 Professor W. Boyd Rayward published an English translation of some of Otlet's best writings (available at He has also published a biography of Otlet (1975) that has been translated into Russian (1976) and Spanish (1996, 1999, and 2005). (from Wikipedia) (inspiration from Mr. Scott Bodenner)