Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race

We missed it this year, but it looks like the 2007 Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race was great fun! On Saturday, May 5, Kinetic Sculpture enthusiasts gathered from far and wide on the shore of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in central Maryland to partake in an eight-hour race that covered 15 miles on pavement, mud, sand and water.

In its purest form, the term kinetic sculpture refers to a class of moving art that originated in Europe, but became internationally popular from the late 1950s through 1960s. The moving parts of a kinetic sculpture can be powered by anything from wind to the maker’s hand, but a sculpture that is to be raced must cary the artist with it and be entirely human-powered. As you can see by the photos the race participants have come up with some very creative and interesting contraptions to race. More photos can be seen here.

The awards contestants can win for their efforts are extremely entertaining and include prizes for such off-the-wall categories as “Sock Creature of the Universe”, “Golden Flipper”, and “Worst Honorable Mention”. The grand prize bestows upon its winner the esteemed title of “Grand East Coast National Mediocre Champion”.

It is highly suggested that spectators refer to Karen Wallace’s Kinetic Costuming Guide when putting together their outfit for the day, and they are expected to abide by the “Official Spectator Code Of Conduct“, which states:

  • Hands, equipped with white gloves should be waved VIGOROUSLY over head whenever viewing Kinetic Sculptures or when on camera.
  • Tall Spectators must take care to stand in back row when witnessing Glorious Events. On no account should Spectators throw their bodies in the path of oncoming Sculptures.
  • Cardboard Grin must be worn at all times when personal misery or state of mind interferes with maintaining a normal happy smile.
  • Be sure to remove lens cap from camera before serious picture-taking.
  • Eat a good breakfast for extra stamina for the day’s rigorous events.
  • Littering, if it fits your character, is OK. However, see Official Spectator Code of Conduct rule #10.
  • Refrain from pushing or otherwise assisting Sculptures while Race Officials are watching.
  • Do not tie up Port-a-Potties in order to apply makeup or to eat lunch or to escape inclement weather.
  • You are a Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Spectator Ambassador to the World. Remember that local, national, and international cameras are on you (your mother is watching). It is your Kinetic Duty to represent our Glorious City with Dignity and Distinction.
  • At the end of the day, Spectators shall pick up all litter, depositing same in suitable receptacles. Kinetic Sculpture Race Officials, Pilots, Pit Crew, Barnacles, and Spectators are very tidy people. Furthermore, this is the only Glorious City we’ve got to race in. If you are derelict in your Spectator Duties, this Glorious race will be banished from this Glorious Kingdom of Baltimore.

Spencer Tunick Shoot In Mexico City

Spencer Tunick is an artist known for assembling large groups of nudes, arranging them in aesthetically beautiful ways and photographing them. He assembles these monumental projects using volunteers in various cities thru-out the world. I first became aware of his work when Courtney and I visited Montreal several years ago and stumbled across one of his exhibits in the Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal. We were amazed at the interesting textures and colors he was able to achieve by using the nude human form in repeating patterns.

This Sunday Tunic shattered his previously set Barcelona record when, an estimated 18000 to 20000 people lined up naked in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square to be photographed. The event was of so much interest to locals and onlookers that a no-fly zone had to be declared above the plaza to keep airplanes away! Tunic also did a smaller shoot this morning with a group of 105 naked women resembling Frida Kahlo, the eccentric artist known for her extremely personal paintings.

Tunick is planning another shoot later this year in Amsterdam and is looking for volunteers who are interested in being a part of his photographs.

Spencer Tunic - Mexico

Spencer Tunic - Mexico

Spencer Tunic - Mexico

Spencer Tunic - Mexico

Spencer Tunic - Mexico

Spencer Tunic - Mexico


2005 New England Bonsai Show

Last Saturday, New England Bonsai Gardens held their annual Fall members day and bonsai show. For years now I’ve been attending this event, but it was only this year that I finally decided to enter my best tree into the show. I’ve owned the Japanese Maple I entered for six years now, and have taken a number of private tutorials with John Romano and Kenji Miyata to get the tree where it is today.

Going into the show, I had very high hopes for my tree to do well. After all the scores were tallied, however, I received no awards. Reading the score sheet I was extremely interested to find that my tree scored quite low on surface roots, which are known as nebari. I was surprised not only because the nebari on the tree is quite pronounced and prominent, but because I had always felt that the surface roots were one of the strongest points about the specimen.

Talking with the judges, I discovered that, while the nebari is nice where it is present, there are not enough surface roots surrounding the trunk to create an overall pleasing effect. Because the tree has only one truly pronounced surface root, it gives the impression of a “foot” and not the general effect of age and strength found in trees with truly exquisite nebari.

Nebari, being one of the most difficult features of a tree to develop, is a major factor when selecting bonsai for the purposes of show. In many cases, the Japanese, always looking to the future, will select a tree based almost entirely on the quality of its nebari and resolve whatever other aesthetic problems the tree has by pruning and wiring over time.

To resolve my tree’s nebari problems, I will need to do the following:

Year 1: Root cuttings from the tree
Year 2-3: Grow out cuttings
Year 4: Graft cuttings to base of trunk
Year 4-5: Allow graft to take
Year 5: Bury grafts, remove foliage, and get them to sprout roots
Year 6-Futire: Grow out roots and let them grow bark

Jon’s Office Sculpture

Office life can be dull and boring, but office artist Jon Emmons has discovered a creative outlet between meetings, business luncheons, and process mapping reports by creating sculptures out of every day objects. These "everyday objects", of course are things like computer memory, Ethernet cable, and USB mice, but none-the -less, they are compelling works that give us insight into the complex mind of this office drone, and express to us his unique form of hard-hitting social commentary.

For instance, in his piece "Diagonal RAM climbing" , we can see the artist’s worries about how consumerism is constantly expanding, not only by his choice of medium, but by the way his strict and rigid lines are constantly climbing upwards towards the sky. He also seems to be predicting, by his use of thin and weak joints, that the American corporate model is fragile, and on the verge of falling apart at the slightest jolt.

We also can’t help but notice that much of Jon’s art takes the form of abstract trees and plants. Is he simply longing to see the light of day from his cubicle, or is there something deeper at work here? Perhaps, by his heavy use of wires and synthetic media, he is warning us that such over-use of these materials is damaging and mutating our environment. Or perhaps it is the artist’s own perception of reality that is being damaged and mutated by spending long days under fluorescent lights, surrounded by meetings and the sounds of copy machines.

We may never know. Like many artists, Jon is a secretive and reclusive man. He seems unwilling to divulge much about the intent or purpose of his artwork, and he declined an interview for this story. More images of Jon’s sculptures can be viewed by clicking his picture above.


Rainy Day Stupid Museum Tours

Back in September, Casey, Will and I were getting pretty tired of all the rainy days this summer, so we decided to entertain ourselves by touring the strangest museums Massachusetts has to offer. Our first stop was the Plastics Museum in Leominster, where we learned all about the history of plastic, and explored the how plastics can be used. Will even rolled up his sleeves and built a fort out of plastic logs.

Next we made our way to the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham. It was a little hard to find, since it’s in the basement of the town community theater, but once we found the building, getting to the museum was just a matter of following the signs to the bathroom. You’ll know you’re there when you you’re in a 15′ by 30′ room with one, flickering fluorescent light, some really bad art, and the ugliest rug you’ve ever seen


The Plastics Museum

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA)