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weblog archives
eXTReMe Tracker
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Medical-related artworks by Laura Splan (via two-zero). From here we get to the work of Gail Wight. Many intriguing projects here, such as the Cabinet of Curiosities ('meditations on evolution') and Spike, a brief history of the experiments and explorers who decoded the cells, nerves and electrical impulses that make up our brain. It's full of endlessly fascinating trivia: 'In Germany, Dr. A. Bayer synthesizes barbituric acid, naming it after a friend called "Barbara." Its derivatives, used in medicine as sedatives and hypnotics, will include the first sleeping drug, "barbital."' (and, presumably, Barbiturates)

I once saw grim footage of this particular 'experiment' - the public electrocution of an aggressive elephant at Coney Island's Luna Park (last link needs Quicktime). I'd forgotten it was a publicity stunt designed to promote Edisonís preferred (and ultimately doomed) electrical current system (the original plan was to hang the elephant). There was even a recent competition to design a memorial for Topsy, the tragic pachyderm in question.

We found out more about Topsy's plight at Roadside America's Elephant's Graveyard, eleven tales of 'America's dead, misunderstood titans'. There are some seriously tragic ends: Jumbo was hit by a freight train; Thirsty Mary was shot to death; Norma was struck by lightning. Perhaps most terrible of all is the tale of Big Mary, hung from a crane (how do you hang an elephant? Oh. Ugh). These tales would make a great, but gruesome, childrenís book.

'Living here is like an itch,' an author's thoughts on St Petersburg. Ingrid Bengis, author of Metro Stop Dostoevsky describes her adopted city as a place without destiny or purpose, a city of catastroika ('catastroika - a sign of a complete catastrophe', from this article on the failure of perestroika and, gulp, the need for evangelical missions in post-Soviet Russia). Meanwhile, the caryatids and atlantes just watch, waiting.

Related. Russia's prison tattoos, a fascinating article by David Johnson about Prisoner's Tattoos, a book by former guard Danzig Baldayev. Originally published by Limbus Press in St Petersburg, the book is shortly to be re-issued by, I think, Scalo in Germany. (Limbus also has a couple of St Petersburg/Leningrad galleries: the city during World War II and in the Seventies). Baldayev's obsessive work was carried out against a background of a huge prison population and high levels of crime (indeed, his publisher is even quoted as saying: 'After 50 years, what we're hearing and seeing now will be forgotten. In general, the level of criminalization of society will fall, and this book will be a monument to a culture that has passed.') Baldayev's work is truly a 'dictionary' - these marks are all part of an elaborate language of power. 'A prisoner who has a tattoo of a cat smoking a pipe is a successful thief, Baldayev says. A snarling tiger or wolf means the thief is particularly powerful. A murderer might have a tattoo of a warrior in armor standing on severed heads or a tattoo of a sword piercing a skull.'

Elsewhere. The Foolscap Press produces large, lavish-looking illustrated books. We would like to actually hold one. They also have a useful collection of Artist's Book dealers worldwide / Courageous Ace is one of the world's largest car supercarriers, capable of hauling 6,400 cars across the globe at a time. Launched by the Mitsui O.S.K Lines, it leads us into the world of bulk carriers, where you get whole ships devoted to wood chips, of all things. Bulk-carrying cars has a big advantage - the cargo is self-propelling, so it can haul itself on and off the boat. Related: two images (I, II) of the Tricolor, which took a load of Volvo XC90s to a very watery grave back in December. The salvage operation even has its own website, TricolorSalvage.com.

The tale of the first computer virus, at waxy / chunky, wacky watches from Japan at Tokyoflash / an elegy for the Beetle (one of presumably thousands), via scrubbles (one more Beetle link at the BBC) / Nasty, 'academia at its brattiest', with articles like Jennifer Garrison's Kissing Dementors: Fear and Social Discipline in the Harry Potter Novels'.