On Cloud Lamps

I just really, really want one of these for my room. The Cloud by Richard Clarkson is “an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement. The system features a powerful speaker system from which the user can stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device. Using color-changing lights the cloud is able to adapt to the desired lighting color and brightness. The cloud also has alternative modes such as a nightlight and music reactive mode.”

You heard right. You can now experience a mini-storm within the comfort of your own room. You can now own your own pet thundercloud then reacts to your movements.

This piece of art reminds me of that Ray Bradbury story Powerhouse, which is an incredible short story ( 9 pages in my book!) that celebrates electricity, humanity and spirituality in a deserted powerhouse. I can’t help but think Bradbury, the man with the electric mind, would be delighted with this lamp. And then you have the Chihuahua version of the cloud: Tiny Cloud, also kindly produced by Richard Clarkson.

For the full experience: Vimeo

On the Alhambra

The Alhambra is a mystical, beautiful place, a Moorish fortress palace sitting atop a hill rising above the Spanish town of Granda. It is a relic from the time when the Moors ruled Granda and filled it with music, artists, poets and poetresses who dreamt up poetry “like the language of doves”. Granada, the birthplace of the spirited poet Federico Garcia Lorca and his passion for duende. Lorca, Leonard Cohen’s greatest influence and probably the greatest Spanish poet to have graced this earth, lived and died in his beloved Granada at the hands of fascist soldiers during the Spanish Civil War.

Lorca, who weaved immortal words from duende, Spanish nights and roses:

Today in my heart
a vague trembling of stars
and all roses are
as white as my pain.

Listen to Frances Mayes describe the Alhambra’s Courtyard of Lions:

“The root of the word paradise means “walled garden”. The enclosed Islamic gardens profoundly influenced the western medieval gardens. The cruciform designs of the monasteries conveniently paralleled Christian iconography, but the design previously reflected the Islamic concept of paradise, with four rivers flowing out in the cardinal directions from a single source. “Four-chambered heart,” Ed muses. “Did they think of that too?”

Leslie Stainton speaks of the view from the Alhambra:

“From the heights of the Alhambra I have often watched the sun linger on the horizon and contemplated the mournful sound of Granada’s church bells at dusk. Lorca said there were a thousand of them. They blend with the music of the city’s two rivers and its hundreds of fountains and hidden springs. The water in Granada is somber. In its presence you feel you have touched the city’s pulse.”

Intricate and elegant Arabic inscriptions have been carefully carved into the walls of the Alhambra. Tourists and visitors continue to be perplexed by the artful words, a language beautiful but incomprehensible. “The form of script is angular kufic, whose uprights sprout into decorative foliage, or intertwine; curlicue cursive; or a mixture of forms. In a culture that banned human images, the form as well as the content of the calligraphy was designed to exalt temporal and heavenly rulers.” These writings have been decoded by researchers and they reveal stunning lyricism.

On the basin of the Fountain of Lions:

For, are there not in this garden wonders
that God has made incomparable in their beauty,
and a sculpture of pearls with a transparently light,
the borders of which are trimmed with seed pearl?
Melted silver flows through the pearls,
to which it resembles in its pure dawn beauty.
Apparently, water and marble seem to be one,
without letting us know which of them is flowing.
Don’t you see how the water spills on the basin,
but its spouts hide it immediately?
It is a lover whose eyelids are brimming over with tears,
tears that it hides from fear of a betrayer.
Isn’t it, in fact, like a white cloud
that pours its water channels on the lions
and seems the hand of the caliph, who, in the morning,
grants the war lions with his favours?

And in the Hall of the Two Sisters, it is declared:

I am a garden adorned by beauty:
my being will know whether you look at my beauty.
Oh, Mohammed, my king, I try to equal
the noblest thing that has ever existed or will ever exist.
Sublime work of art, fate wants me to outshine every other moment in history.
How much delight for the eyes!
The noble one renews his desires here.
The Pleiads serve as his amulet;
the breeze defends it with its magic.
A gleaming vault shines in a unique way,
with apparent and hidden beauties.
The hand of a devoted to Gemini;
and the Moon comes to converse with her.
The stars wish to rest there,
and not turn around the celestial wheel,
and they wish to await submissively in both courtyards,
and serve tenaciously like slaves:

The Alhambra stands as one of the pinnacles of Islamic architecture, overflowing with light, shadows and the Arabic love of numbers, poetry and geometry. I shall continue to dream of it, hazy in the golden sunlight, the sound of water trickling past walls carved with untold stories, a paradise tended to by the hearts, hands and minds of men.

Gregory Crewdson and Edward Hopper

As a segue from my post on Psycho where I mentioned Edward Hopper, who is, to me, one of the best American Realist artists to date, I’d like to talk about Gregory Crewdson, a photographer who is strongly influenced by Hopper, as many others were.

I first encountered Crewdson’s photographs at an exhibition in the Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, which is a very fine establishment (with free entry! and choral performances too! ). It was his Brief Encounters exhibition. You can clearly see Hopper’s influence in the scenes staged in Crewdson’s works. Again, small town America is the subject, with surreal shots of American suburbs, the pavements lit by lonely streetlights, creepy family dinners, the silence that looms over it all. And these photographs, like Hopper, make you wonder, they incite imaginations of the stories behind these unnamed characters. The technique that Crewdson uses makes the photographs seem like paintings, but not quite, which adds to the surrealism of the scenes. There is a disquieting element to his works, again, much like Hopper, detailing the dark side of the “American Dream” and the imperfections of idyllic suburban life. Silent despair, anxiety, insecurity, isolation are undercurrents running through both Hopper’s and Crewdson’s works. We can only thank them for peeling away the facade and showing us the dark heart beneath normalcy. The following are absolutely masterful, sweeping, dramatically lighted, painstakingly crafted works from some of Crewdson’s sets. It’s no wonder he’s attracted big names to play his characters, such as Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow to name a few.

Why is this girl barefooted, what is she holding, and is she has she just exited the cab behind her, or is she running away. From what? If she is returning, what is she returning to?

Is this a happy scene? A mother observes her newborn. But what runs through her mind?

Man. Close encounters of the third kind?

If you are interested in learning more, this blog does a better commentary that I could ever aspire to. And here is the trailer for Crewdson’s Brief Encounters documentary, providing fascinating insight into his work.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer from Benjamin Shapiro on Vimeo.