Statistical Importance, in Architecture

Art is a subjective experience. Just like those hippie artists to fly in the face of the millenia old of tradition[1] of putting things in order so that we might judge one another. As we know that the average human being is quite likely to go around enjoying just any old piece of art that they find appealing without requiring a full understanding of the work’s place in society, history, and artistic development, it is extremely important that we regularly convene panels of experts to tell us what is good and important. The only other option is chaos. And, as everyone knows from post-apocalyptic novels, chaos always leads to eating babies. The American Film Institute has made a cottage industry out of producing ranked list of mostly American films, providing a convenient framework to demonstrate that almost all arguments over cinematic preference stem from the other person being a cultural Philistine[2]. Vanity Fair has now weighed into the fray of artistic judgment with “Architecture’s Modern Marvels”, a ranked list of the “most important works of architecture created since 1980”.

What, if anything, do these ranked lists tell us about works of art?

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Evolution is Intelligent Design: Neo-Functionalization

As is my wont, I like to highlight examples of art and design that either demonstrate or are inspired by evolutionary theory. While some of the elements of

by Stefano A (CC 2.0)
Nacho Carbonell Interpretative Portrait?

Nacho Carbonell‘s “Evolution” collection could be interpreted as an expression of abiogenesis, the emergence of biological entities from non-biological chemistry is NOT technically a part of evolutionary theory. Instead, I choose to view these works as an expression of neo-functionalization.

Neo-functionalization describes the process by which a gene stumbles upon a new function that is distinct from its original function. If that new function is beneficial, selection can very rapidly entrench that function in the genetic code.

In much the same way, Nacho Carbonell’s furniture starts as one “non-furniture” shape and discovers a new function, which finds discrete form rapidly.

'evolution' - the bench, 2010 paper mâché, iron structure 105 x 200 x 95 cm each piece is signed edition from galleria rossana orlandi, milan

Lovely. This bench would certainly look better in my garden than a few kilobases of coding DNA.

Alien Nature

While I’ve been writing about the apocalypse, aliens, science, humanity and nature, I’ve found this poem to be an apt commentary on the alienness of nature and our tendency to anthropomorphize it:

If there must be a god in the house, must be,
Saying things in the rooms and on the stair,

Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor,
Or moonlight, silently, as Plato’s ghost

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Infography Done Right?

Infographics are the new black. Usually, they simply represent an aesthetically compelling way to present data in order to convince you of the infographers point. Occasionally, this artistic presentation of data represents a thoughtful way to view data in order to address a particular question. Eric Fischer‘s Locals and Tourists images are just such an approach.

<i>Image: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4671589629/">Locals and Tourists #1 (GTWA #2): London</a>, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from walkingsf's photostream</i>

Eric starts with a question:

Some people interpreted the Geotaggers’ World Atlas maps to be maps of tourism. This set is an attempt to figure out if that is really true.

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Now I Just Need a Lego Feynman to Crack It

I love Lego creations that are not just sculpture, but are mechanical devices; and I’m not talking about those programmable Lego robot things. They are ok, I guess. I’m talking about mechanical objects based on simple Lego pieces to create gears, wedges, levers, and all those other fun Newtonian work devices. Like this Lego combination safe (created by Merijn van Wouden).


Now, I just need a Lego Feynman to crack the combination and access my nuclear lego secrets.