We found this great sign at The Imaginary Foundation (they put it on a t-shirt). Great!
inspiration blogs + sites
Dutch artist Theo Jansen has worked for over 20 years trying to make “new forms of life”, mechanical beasts made of PVC pipe, whose power to move on their own comes from the wind. He calls them Strandbeests.
“The breeze gives it life…I want to put this out into the world where they can live in the future…And they don’t have to eat because they get their energy from the wind…
…What I’ve find about this experience of making new forms of life is that you discover all the problems that the real creator must have had creating this world.”
His words make us wonder if that is what all creative people are doing: making new forms of life, echoing the process of discovery and problem solving that has been in play for eons.
Check out Jansen’s website.
Thanks Holton, Christopher, and others who kept reminding us via email of this amazing guy!
We are completely smitten with our latest find in the blogsphere: artist Roy Arden‘s UndertheSun. Totally visual, with variously-sized, in-your-face photos and video, Arden posts riffs whose connections can start out clear and then veer into wild territory: this is blog as artwork. This crazy good video of James Brown’s dance lessons (which makes us want to DANCE) followed a groove on makeshift and human-powered ferris wheels, among other things. We love how it surprises us and shakes us UP. Maria Robledo described Arden’s blog perfectly:
“roy Ardens blog is inmensly compelling with these rich juxtapositions.
I lost myself.
After reading our post on painting fabric-covered furniture, Stacey Harwood sent us an email about her great “guest” chair. “I knew a white chair would not stay white for long in my NYC apartment so I bought some fabric markers and I invite our guests to sign it. I’m happy to say that it has been signed by some of our most celebrated poets: Mark Strand and John Ashbery are toward the top; Charles Simic is on the seat. You can also distinguish Jim Cummins, Susan Wheeler and Star Black (poet, collage artist, photographer). To the lower right is Gabriella Gershenson, a senior editor at Saveur. On the left is Deborah Landau and Richard Howard…”
Harwood’s husband, David Lehman is series editor of the annual The Best American Poetry books, which is how they come to have to many fine poets and writers as friends. Their blog is The Best American Poetry.
“It’s a wonderful record of the first two years in our apartment and truly a one-of-a-kind piece that gives us much pleasure.”
Harwood improvised a whole other order of guest book…
….That long list of poets made us poke around the internet to read some poems. Here’s a beauty by Mark Strand: read more…
The Happiness Project recently posted Tolstoy‘s Ten Rules of Life, found in Tolstoy, Henri Troyat’s biography of the great Russian writer. Among maxims like “Get up early” and “Keep away from women” is one that we found incredibly clarifying and focusing:
“Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater.”
We discovered that asking ourselves “What is our goal for this moment” can mean the opposite of the usual “goals-for-getting-ahead-and-keeping-tight-control-on-life” thinking. It makes us ask “What’s REALLY important here?”
Browsing through our archive, we found this image we’d filed several years ago of a desk designed by Gerrit Rietveld, the Dutch minimalists architect and furniture designer, known for his iconic pieces made out of ordinary crates. We were surprised all over again by the range of Rietveld’s vision for furniture made of simple pine boards. Made the early part of the 20th century, they hold their uniquely modern feel due to their thoughtful lines and colors. The 1934 desk has become a sculpture (now worth thousands of dollars).
We found it on the understated-yet-full-of-treasures blog of artist Bill Schwartz via Digital Media Tree. Here’s Schwartz’s comment:
“. . .a piece of furniture of fine wood, made wholly according to traditional methods, is shipped in a crate to prevent damage and breakage. Someone receiving such a crate at home says, at most: well packed. But it has never been established that such a crate represents a freely rendered method of carpentry aimed straight at its goal. The plain materials of which it is composed make it stronger than its precious contents. . .Therefore, there must finally be someone who chooses the crate instead of the piece of furniture.”
…though the story is very cool:
‘think-make-think’ by Clifton Burt (at 20×200, Jen Bekman’s great virtual gallery of affordable art)…was inspired by a haiku graphic designer John Maeda “quietly posted on his blog…Over the next few months, that haiku often found its way to the forefront of my mind. When our studio acquired the remnants of a discarded arrow sign, it was clear to me that think-make-think was a perfect fit, both in form and function.
I have fond memories of my wife, Kate, Will Bryant and I digging through a Mississippi junk store in an old railroad warehouse on the rumor that there were arrow-sign letters in there… somewhere, if we could find them.”
With heartfelt thanks to Pamela Hovland!
Related post: what’s your ideal cookbook shelf?
We were knocked out by Ariston Anderson’s interview in 99% with the great director Francis Ford Coppola who made The Godfather, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now among other astonishing films. In talking about film, he talks deeply about making any kind of art, and about living. Here are some excerpts (read in context, they are even better):
Our favorite: “The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do….”
“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before…” read more…
This stunning video is well worth the riveting 9 minutes it takes to watch it, even (or especially) in the midst of a busy day. Part of Sundance’s short film program, it is a moving, beautifully filmed documentary about Skateistan, Afghanistan’s first co-educational skateboarding school, created by Oliver Percovich to help kids dealing with a life of war, poverty and destruction, “to build kids’ confidence…and give them a voice.”
Says Fazilla, a 12-year-old girl living in Kabul:
I work in the street and sell chewing gum. Life is hard for me personally because my family is poor, sometimes we can’t afford enough eat. At Skateistan, I dont feel that my surroundings are ruined, I feel as though I’m in a nice place.
Skateboarding totally changes the view. Such a simple brilliant idea.
This piece in the New York Times tells the story.
The Fun Theory is a website dedicated to the idea that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different…”
It issued a challenge, inviting the public to submit ideas for the best way to make good-for-us things – like throwing trash in the bin, or recycling glass bottles - fun. Check out the videos of General Entrees and Finalistst, which include a Diet Elevator and a Future Ex-Smoking Helper. Our favorite: this video illustrating how to make walking up stairs more fun than taking the escalator: make the stairs into a giant piano!
With heartfelt thanks to Andrea Raisfeld.
We found this nugget in an email from our friend Tim Slavin, who’s written some great guest posts (listed below):
…I spent a few hours rooting through the 400 plus stories you’ve published since the start of last year. Lots of neat stuff in the Improvised Life “attic”!
Our ATTIC!!! …indeed, a virtual one, full of strange and compelling stuff. What better way to spend some lazy weekend hours than clicking randomly on our Archive or the Big Index to discover forgotten treasures?
We found this good idea in Covet Garden, an appealing online shelter magazine that features spaces of real people (slightly ripping off The Selby‘s questionnaire). Here, Photographer Tracy Shumate’s converted factory space…”Necessity being the mother of invention, Tracy uses large MDF panel covered in chalkboard paint to hide her unsightly electrical panels.”
A number of people alerted us to this compelling video about Viviane Meier, who, while working as a nanny in Chicago during the 50′s and 60′s, was secretly photographing life the street-life of Chicago during her time off. It was not until years after her death that her enormous body of photographic work was found.
Maier was private, eccentric, and determined in her pursuit: a true artist committed to her singular vision, which she quietly funded through her work as a nanny, and which few people seemed to know about. Her work is an evocative and beautiful record of a time long gone, and of a truly improvised life.
You can view Maier’s work on the site created by the young man who found, and is archiving, her work.
via our readers, with thanks
We discovered that it is from a poem called Instants (Instantes), which in fact, may not have been written by Borges after all. There’s an unresolved dispute about it on the internet.
Nevertheless, Rolu’s distillation of the poem is perfect New Year’s Eve inspiration for thinking about what’s past and what’s ahead, as is the errant poem, below. We’re not crazy about making resolutions (failure seems built in), but we like the thought process. For us, it involves asking “What if…” and imagining possibilities, unfettered.
We discovered that if you change ‘resolution’ to ‘wish’, or ‘goals’, the whole vibe changes, as in this Tweet from Yoko Ono:
We are big fans of d-i-y gift wrapping made of found, free, repurposed or cheap materials. Why spend the money on bought wrap when there’s so much good stuff just lying around. We really like Joel Henriques’ idea (of the ever-inspiring blog Made by Joel): use torn out pages from old art magazines…
or design magazines…
or foreign language newspapers newspapers…
…or kid’s drawings…
His paper-cutouts-as-ribbons are swell, too! read more…