Venus of Willendorf

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(Venus of Willendorf on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria)

The Venus of Willendorf is a 4.4-inch figurine made around 28,000 years ago, a famous example of “Venus figurines” from the Old Stone Age (Upper Paleolithic). (Archeologists associate this period with the earliest appearance of modern humans — this is where “Paleo diet” comes from, also called caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet).

The “oldest undisputed example of a depiction of a human being yet discovered” is the Venus of Hohle Fels dating as far back as 40,000 years ago.

These figurines, no more than a few inches high, are carved from stone, ivory, or molded from clay. Many depict women with exaggerated sexual features, faceless heads and missing arms and legs. Their use and meaning are naturally subject to much speculation and nobody will probably ever know.

The exact purpose of the carvings aside, it is worth noting that they show such detail and craftsmanship. It is mind-boggling that such artifacts of great creativity and symbolism already existed in the Stone Age, a manifestation of culture at the dawn of human history.

The Venus of Willendorf, like other Venus figurines, is unusual. But maybe we can also take pride that our species is truly unusual too.


Unusual

A Painting I Would Be Happy to Sign

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If this was a painting I would be happy to sign it. I don’t mean just the scenery on the wall, I mean including the people and everything in it.

I’ve posted about how I wanted to be a painter but couldn’t draw straight lines. I continue to admire creations by hand.

In case you’re wondering, they’re creating this mural out of colored pieces that they stick on the wall. A collage in the original sense (from the French: collier, “to glue” – Wikipedia).

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Sometimes the camera can be handy too, if only to capture a work of art being created by hand.


Collage
(In the province of Bataan in the Philippines.)

Sexy Robot

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Robots are here, and a report estimates that 38% of US jobs will be taken over by robots in 15 years.

As robots are increasingly used to solve human problems, their interaction with humans becomes more important. Think about robot surgeries and driverless taxi cabs.

This relationship can lead to some issues, as Dr Julie Carpenter, a leading expert on human-robot social interaction, explains in this Forbes interview. While she believes that transient human-robot interactions can be healthy, such as in caregiving situations, she also points out the dangers of developing emotional attachments. It is easy to ascribe organic characteristics, such as to a robot pet, and make them substitutes for human companions.

A Fortune article predicts that humans will be marrying robots by 2050.

Whether you think this is scary or exciting depends on your point of view. My personal belief is that robots are tools. Like any tool or technology it is neutral — neither good nor bad. It is how people use and control them that determines ethics and morality.


“Sexy Robot” is a sculpture by Hajime Sorayama on exhibit at the Art and Science Museum in Singapore. You can also buy one for yourself.

Transient
Illusion

I Want to Feel Its Wetness

In a previous post I described the Future World exhibit at the Art and Science Museum.

Its centerpiece is the “Universe of Water Particles” – a seven-meter virtual waterfall. It is serenely beautiful, hundreds of thousands of water particles cascading gracefully down a virtual rock, following the laws of physics. And with a backpacker’s silhouette, it’s picture-perfect.

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But I miss the mist, the unpredictable gust of wetness on my face as the wind blows the water away from its normal free fall. I miss the rustling of the leaves and the way my feet slide on the slippery banks. I miss the smell of decaying trees along the river, and the greenness of young shoots rushing to rise above the rocks and catch the sun.

I like my waterfall to be raw, with the water falling down in complete abandon, daring to defy the laws of physics.

I want nature’s embrace to be sensual. I want to feel its wetness.


Focus

Black Waves in Singapore

Black Waves is part of the Future World exhibition at the Art and Science Museum in Singapore. It is a collaborative work with teamLab, an interdisciplinary creative group.

Black Waves is “an expression of nature, rendered entirely in digital technology.” 

The effect is created by “calculating the interaction of hundreds of thousands of individual water particles, and then representing the movement of waves in a crescendo of white foam.”

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Computer animation is not new, but what is intriguing about this work is that it depicts the seascape in the style of traditional Japanese painting.

There is some kind of formality, a sense of order in what appears to be random, and yet it seems so realistic. Science capturing art capturing reality.

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The artwork invites the viewers to immerse themselves in it. One can literally “step into the waves” or simply watch them from a bean bag on the floor while listening to the soothing background music.

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By blurring the separation between viewer and artwork, it expresses the idea that we ourselves need not be separated from nature.

This vision of the future world is intriguing indeed.

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