Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shine in the Dark: From Light Graffiti and Light Writing to Bachelor Party Installations and Activist LED Signs

Shine in the Dark: From Light Graffiti and Light Writing to Bachelor Party Installations and Activist LED Signs

Compared to the traditional paint-and-stencil graffiti, light graffiti (also known as light art, light writing and light painting), may seem minor to some of you if not entirely esoteric. Yet, this emerging concept, described by the Guardian as a new wave of ephemeral street art, is a most fascinating zeitgeist phenomena. Light graffiti can also be described as an organic, environment-friendly yet non-vandalistic channel for self expression in public. In most cases, no public space is being "liberated" for more than 30 seconds. Here, wall paint is replaced with flash lights and laser pointers, street walls - with megapixels.

Naturally and as expected, where creativity, innovation and buzzy weather meet major companies (and their finest creative teams and branding divisions) can also be found. They are here because their job is to tag along the hype but with their corporate media power they also fuel the trend and make it stronger. The result: a new colorful scale of innovative human expressions such as the following selection of seven light art projects.

1. Lichtfaktor

The German collective Lichtfaktor has been well known for pioneering lightart photography since 2006 after, according to, Marcel Panne - a video mixer with a background in photography - was approached to produce new material for an event themed "Energy in Motion". In the past two years major brands such as Absolut Vodka, Mark Ecko, Audi, Phillips and PlayStation have already paid Panne and his partners David Lüpschen and Tim Fehske to participate in a few innovative print campaigns. The above image, for example, is of a set recently shot in London and Brighton for British TV channel current.

In March this year the first ever Lichtfaktor TV commercial was released and included some of the most high-budget light art images ever created. The commercial was made for the BEKO ALL-STAR brand in Istanbul and includes music by Jingle Jungle. See selected snapshots above or just watch the whole clip here:

2. Illum

Conceived in summer of 2007 Illum is the brainchild of Sean Nelson and Chuck Grimmett - senior high school students from Amherst, Ohio, USA with a strong passion for photography art experimentation. Focusing on long exposures and different kinds of light art, light graffiti and light writing the Illum portfolio includes astonishing nature shots, self-brand signatures such as above, winter images and more.

Nature and Light Art shot


Winter shot

Urban shot

3. The Path of Light

Another creative two-man project started in Aalborg, Denmark in summer 2007 is The Path of Light. Using "the cityscape as a playground and flashlights as toys" Long Shutter and his (unanimous) are officially inspired by the works of Lichtfaktor. With pieces such as Satan's car, Turning on the lights (above) and Thoughts away (below) The Path of Light let their imagination "fill the streets with flowers and creatures" giving life to static environments.

The following is a recent stop-motion clip released by The Path of Light:

4. robokon_gt

Also with his own personal vision for car photography robokon_gt's "Getting chased..." and "The chaser becomes the chased..." (above) are excellent examples of how composition and motion vectors can be used cleverly within this medium. Other sets from this artist such as Gabe vs Gabe! and Feb light graffiti 010 (below) show a sense of humor is also on the checklist.

5. MRI

Ryan Warnberg and Michelle McSwain from Queens Brooklyn, USA turned their light art fascination into a local New York metro area business branded MRI, also known as M::R::I. Other than peculiar brand signatures such as the above ("m r i i n m n") the couple go with the slogan "Long exposures. Bright lights." and make unique kaleidoscopic portraits with original look and their own slightly sexy style. Version and Saint (below) are two excellent examples.

Above: items from the Version set. Below: Saint

If you happen to plan an odd drunken bachelor party or are otherwise interested in your own personal light session you are welcome to pick up your favorite email application and contact Ryan (the weird one) or Michelle (the pretty one). Worried about technical aspects of the production? There’. According to the MRI fellows Cameras, lights, cables and other must have accessories are all included. All you have to bring for a successful light event is yourself and your wildest ideas. See also the MRI Light Painting blog.

6. Luke Doyle

Luck Doyle from Oxford, UK uses acid purple lights to manipulate human figures into glowing super high-res light art photos. The above, titled Light people in bed, is in my humble opinion a true light art masterpiece. Click for image for a higher-resolution version or here for huge super high-res one. Another interesting set by Doyle that utilizes his branded purple is Glowing guitar. Super high-res version here.

7. Graffiti Research Lab: Night Writer

Another emerging method of using light to make your voice heard is using low-power led technology. Graffiti Research Lab, a division of the Eyebeam R&D OpenLab run by a couple of NYC-based artists who like projecting light beams onto buildings, had developed the LED Throwies as an inexpensive way to create a less temporary draw in light.

Consisting of a lithium battery, a 10mm diffused led and a rare-earth magnet taped together, The Throwie's functionality was recently extended by the Night Writer – a cheap easy way to make 12-inch glowing letters setup. With Night Writer letters are placed up on an iron or steel surface forming the coolest low-budget neon-style sign or a shockingly prominent activist electronic billboard - make your own choice. Just two important notes before you consider setting your Night Writer up:

The first one is that according to the GRL folks it's hard to conceal a 10-foot pole.

In addition: please note the NYPD vans are ferromagnetic. The GRL are also a prominent player in the fields of architectural light graffiti and projection bombing - another two forms of lightart utilizing more advanced yet still pretty simple accessories. Here the creation takes the form of realtime or pre-planned sequences of light, feed through high-powered digital projectors and projected on public buildings and walls. Check out WebUrbanist for more architectural graffiti and projection bombing on urban surfaces.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Me: 3 Early 20th Century Self-Portrait Masterpieces

Me: 3 Early 20th Century Self-Portrait Masterpieces

Did you know it was not until the mid 1400s, when mirrors became more popular, that visual artists dared to refer to themselves as main subjects in their own work of art? Approximately 500 years later vocabulary of human culture was dramatically changed and self-portraits were already a popular form of expression. Used by true groundbreakers to express the zeitgeist of the pre-World War I and stretch the borders of their medium, the following are three self-portrait masterpieces made by early 20th century expressionist artists. Don't miss the click for high-res versions.

Ludwig Meidner


My Night Visage, 1913

Otto Dix


Self-Portrait as a Soldier in a Red Shirt, 1914

Egon Schiele

Self-Portrait Pulling Cheek, 1910

Self-Portrait Pulling Cheek, 1910

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Art of Junk: 7 Creative Approaches to Trash Reuse

The concept of "recycling" usually refers to the breaking down of used items into raw materials and then using those materials to make new items. In contrast, the concept of "reuse" includes both using an item again for its original function, as well as for "new-life reuse" where it is used for a brand new function. "ReUsing is similar to Recycling, only we aren't getting rid of things, we are finding new uses for them" explains INSPIRE, administrator of The ReUse Project group on Flickr that serves as an International hub for reuse artists. The following are 7 outstanding examples of creative approaches to the art of junk.

1. Two-and-a-half Dimensional Eggcubism Paintings by Enno de Kroon

Leading both recycling art and cubism into the 21st century Enno de Kroon from The Netherlands uses ordinary egg crates instead of canvas to make spectacular "two-and-a-half" dimensional paintings in a style he defines as Eggcubism. "The waves of the eggcartons limit the viewer's perception" explains de Kroon, making him "aware of his positioning towards the image." Classroom is a mega in-progress Eggcubism painting on which de Kroon has been working over the past 4 months. "I don't know the exact size of painted surface, but it has to be at least in the order of 40-50 square meters" he estimates. Above is a snapshot of the Classroom March 27 stage: Acrylic paint on eggcrates, 217 x 245 x 10 cm.

Lichtekooi (left angle shot): Acrylic on eggcarton, 29,5 x 30,5 cm, 2004. Collection Bouman Foundation, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Also see front shot of Lichtekooi shown at the top of this article.

Schooldays (right angle shot): Acrylic on eggcrates, 2007. Dim. app. 90 x 60 x 10 cm. Collection of the artist. More Eggcubism art here or on de Kroon's official website

2. Creative Ecodesign by Mario Caicedo Langer

Ecodesign creative expert Mario Caicedo Langer from Bogotá, Colombia makes toys, props and accessories from trash, ordinary day-to-day objects, computer parts and other reused elements. Above: The Attack of the evil Scorpions.

Decorative element for Cyclus Ecodesigns.

MOUSER 2.0 Toy made of plastic pieces.

Desk accessory made of PVC, and other plastic pieces. It has clamps and magnrtic clips. More reused ecodesign by Mario Caicedo Langer here.

3. The Heidelberg Project by Tyree Guyton

Two people have told the tragic story of the Michigan car industry better than everyone else: The second (chronologically) was Michael Moore in his groundbreaking 1989 documentary Roger & Me that illustrated the devastating impact of the closing of several GM auto plants in Flint, Michigan. The first was Tyree Guyton of The Heidelberg Project. Named after the street on which it exists in Detroit, Michigan, The Heidelberg Project was started by Guyton in 1986 and has since become one of the most influential art environments in the world.

Tyree was raised on Heidelberg Street and, at the age of 12, witnessed the tragic effect of the Detroit riots where vivid neighborhoods and live communities became segregated urban ghettos characterized by poverty, abandonment, and despair. With the help of his wife, Karen and his grandfather and mentor Sam ("Grandpa") Mackey, Guyton began cleaning up vacant lots on Heidelberg and Elba Streets. Soon they began using the refuse they collected to transform the street into a massive art environment turning the street, sidewalks and trees into a vast installation.

In 1991 and again in 1999, despite its international recognition as an art installation masterpiece, the city demolished parts of the Heidelberg Project. The rest of it is still there, serving as a source of inspiration for many artists and social activists.

The "Dotty Wotty" House has been in Tyree's family since 1947 and is considered the most famous house in the Heidelberg Project. This is where Tyree was first inspired to paint. The dots represent two things: His Grandfathers love of jellybeans, and the unity of all people.

In Detroit, a huge dot used to be painted onto a building designated for demolition. Tyree has taken the dot and made it his emblem, using it a great deal in his artwork. The above dotted bus, for example, can't run but it's so cool.

This house is located at one of the entrances to the Heidelberg Project. The animals used to be on the inside but are being relocated and glued to the outside. According to Tyree Guyton this is "to protect the house".

The penny car is dotted with a miraculous mosaic of coins. It honors the great motor city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the entire American car industry "that once stood strong". A bit broken down and beat up, indeed, but still a fine example for this cultcase list.

Vacuum cleaner forest. Just think of all the dust these folks have busted. Don't they deserve a medal? Here is a short video glimpse of the project. For more about the Heidelberg non-profit organization and how it raises funds to keep art education in elementary schools see

4. Newspapers and Junk Mail Vessel by UrbanWoodsWalker

After spending decades as a "gun for hire" in a variety of positions including illustrator, graphic designer, animator and art educator UrbanWoodsWalker from Chicago, USA has finally turned to creating her own art. Though notably obsessed about detail she challenged herself to "use nothing thought of as having any lasting value". In other words, the art of UrbanWoodsWalker is made out of pure trash: objects found in the woods, garbage dumpsters, sidewalks, and recycling bins are reborn into art.

"MONA", measuring 5.5" wide by 4.25" wide, and 3.5" deep, is made from newspapers and junk mail and belongs to the "Trash Chaos Vessel" series. The vessel cannot be washed or used for food but it has a lot to say about modern society, hyper-media era, over stimulating culture and bombardment of visual noise.

To avoid fading of the inks and dyes on the paper MONA was given several coats of a gloss UV protective sealant. A tiny handmade clay human head is added as a bonus at the bottom of the interior. If you like her you can get MONA for $40.00 at More reused art from UrbanWoodsWalker here.

5. Fused Plastic Bags by The Creative JAR

"Take recycled plastic bags and thread - add some scraps inside - fuse them together, sew them up - add a button - what do you get?" The Creative JAR's answer stands for awesomely cool reused fused plastic bag.

Wife, mother, daughter, worker, creator, crafter, artist and designer: this dame from Nashville, Tn, USA must be as hyperactive and busy as she is talented.

6. Junk Art by Steve Oatway

Australian junk artist, painter and art-director Steve Oatway helps to make the world cleaner and more beautiful through Junk Art – a formation of sculptures from found objects or junk found in the "most remote" Australian locations. "By the time I was 15 I learnt to fight and fight I have" writes Oatway on his site, explaining his major motives: "through alcoholism, asthma and a disabled son, who is my shining light for without him I have no heart".

Above: Knight’s Tale - metal horse sculpture, H190 x W240 x D160 cm, built from car chassis and abandoned junk which was harvested from the discarded junk piles found on farming properties. Below: Harley sculpture and horse.

More Oatway's Junk Art here.

7. Tin Can Dolls and Party Dress by Janet Cooper

In the 1980s Janet Cooper turned rusty bottle cap collection into a jewelry business and sold jewelry to stores, galleries and museum shops in the USA, Europe and Asia and sold it four years ago. Today, Massachusetts artist and curator Janet Cooper reuses vintage bottle caps and tin cans, tobacco tags and other memorabilia items as art and craft. Her work has been showcased in many folk art and contemporary craft museums.

Above: Tin can works: Made from Vintage Tin Cans. Below: Assemblage party dress made with materials from Cooper's travel. Fabric, Paper Images and Decorations. More reused art from Janet Cooper here.

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