The body beautiful in ancient Greece

The body beautiful in ancient Greece

As I stumble out of the urban swirl, through the usual madding crowds of tourists, into the British Museum’s new exhibition, I am met with a sudden and imposing sense of serenity and beauty. Three visions of the classical Greek ideal of the human form stand to face me – a Roman copy of a statue by the great Phidias, the infamous marble Discobolos of Myron, and the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Despite their elegant pose and their quasi-Platonic physical perfection, despite the colours they have lost (most statues would have had at least some paint), they live and breathe before me – I find myself slightly disconcerted by the vacant, hollow gaze emanating from such vital forms. As I soon realise, this exhibition has a profound central concern, namely the unique and uniquely influential way in which the Greeks conceptualised the human form, and how that ideal evolved through the centuries.

[caption id="attachment_65262" align="alignnone" width="194"]PHOTO/wikipedia PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]

The first thing that strikes me, as I amble further through in amazement, is the way in which Greek society and art of the Classical period were so at home with nudity, at least of the male form. As I behold the juxtaposition of powerful nude Classical sculptures with reliefs from Assyria and elsewhere in the Middle East, where nakedness marks humiliation, failure or defeat, used in the depiction of victims and vanquished foes, the thought crosses my mind that there has been no other culture of such sophistication that has so completely banished the Edenic shame which has haunted us for so long, and perhaps haunts us still today. For us, nudity is usually the province of nudists and free lovers, of pornography and of our most intimate moments – we can scarcely imagine this tranquil, desexualised concept of nudity, this objective viewing of the naked form. As the curator has written: “the Greeks were the first to make the moral distinction between the nude and the naked body,” and it is perhaps a distinction that our highly sexualised culture has blurred.

[caption id="attachment_65263" align="alignnone" width="146"]PHOTO/wikipedia PHOTO/wikipedia[/caption]

For all that, as I move into the next section, devoted to the female form, I am met with a much more restrained artistic attitude, perhaps unsurprisingly given the unequal rights of women in ancient Greece, especially in Athens. The statues of (mortal) women shown are always covered up, yet they are often depicted in a much more sexual way than the male figures, as the sculptors have wrapped them up tightly in sexualising drapery. The Greeks’ complex relationship with female nudity is palpable, and seems even more manifest in their willingness to build sculptures of naked gods – one of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is a 4th century statue of Aphrodite (also known as the Lely Venus), bending over and ineffectually trying to cover herself with her hands. Looking at it seems an almost deliberately disquieting experience – I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur, but at the same time the statue seems, especially given the associations of Aphrodite, to convey a highly self-conscious sexuality. An intriguing (albeit slightly disturbing) story told by Lucian (writing much later) sheds a strange light on all of this: apparently an Athenian sailor broke into the temple of Aphrodite in Cnidos, and was so entranced by the statue of her (made by Praxiteles, ca. 360 BC, famous for its aesthetic perfection) that he tried to have sex with her (leaving a stain on her leg), and ended up killing himself. A dark vision indeed of the phantom beauty of art and its destructive power.

I feel as if I am being forced into the role of an intrusive voyeur

[caption id="attachment_65267" align="alignnone" width="85"]PHOTO/Marie-Lan Nguyen PHOTO/Marie-Lan Nguyen[/caption]

As I move on, there follows a series of pieces which have interesting implications for Greek thought about gender and sexuality in a wider sense. Images of bearded satyrs with absurdly enormous erect penises and grinning features, frolicking with each other on red figure vases (a far cry from the demure elegance of Keats’ Grecian urn) seem almost to parody the excesses of male sexuality; a statue of a seemingly female corpse on a slab of rock is revealed, when the viewer reaches the other side, to have male genitalia (this is the famous Borghese Hermaphroditus, a Roman copy of the Greek original). The sculptor of the latter seems to be playing significantly with the viewer’s expectations; when I see it, I think of the elaborate and bizarre myth unfolded in Plato’s Symposium by Aristophanes about three sexes of spherical double-humans (male-male, female-female, and male-female) who dared to attack the Gods and were punished with division in two, to which Aristophanes attributes the pangs of romantic love. Clearly the idea of the hermaphrodite was prominent in Greek thought, and indeed just as Plato’s Aristophanes uses it to explain the varieties of human sexual desire, so the sculptor of the Borghese Hermaphroditus almost seems to highlight the arbitrariness of sex and gender – there seems, even in a society with fairly clearly delineated gender roles, prejudices, and discrimination, to have been some reflection of such ideas going on, though perhaps this intuition I feel is merely my projection.

Less obviously bound into the structure of the exhibition, but implicit throughout, is a sense of the historical development of the Greek vision. Although, of course, it dwells on the idealised classical form which most of us think of when thinking about Greek art, we are given glimpses, however fleeting, of the full scope of its history. A figurine from the 8th century BC, seemingly of the hero Ajax about to kill himself, is the most alien item on display: two to three inches tall, with a vague sense of a nose and chin, a slender, straight torso, bendy spaghetti-like limbs, a peculiarly erect penis, and some sort of beret-esque headgear, it presents a potent contrast in its primitiveness to the immensely sophisticated visual language that had emerged little more than two centuries later. Nearby, an abstractly geometric female figure – reminiscent of (perhaps an influence on) works by Giacometti and Henry Moore – from 2700-2500BC also stands out in its strangeness. Black figure vases (6th century BC) show the Oriental, solemn and godlike figures that preceded the Classical vision, picked out in eerie negative; a few busts of Greek thinkers display the Alexandrian development of interest in individual features and expressions far beyond the Classical ideal type. These glimpses of the pre- and post-classical are compelling, and I find myself almost more fascinated by the alien and sharply geometric features of the pre-Classical than by the ‘humanist’ figures of the Classical period.

solemn and godlike figures…picked out in eerie negative

[caption id="attachment_65266" align="alignnone" width="276"]PHOTO/ Jakob Bodagard PHOTO/ Jakob Bodagard[/caption]

At last, I walk into a pleasantly understated room that has chosen a few of the most striking echoes of the Greek concept of the human body. Astonishingly, I am confronted with a statue of a Gandhara Buddha (1st-2nd century AD) which looks conspicuously Greek, not only in the features, but also in the flowing, carefully arranged drapery: Alexander the Great reached India, after all, and it is from this interaction that figural depictions of the Buddha seem to have emerged. There could not have been a more powerful reminder of the invisible threads that bind the cultures of our world together, and of the fact that no culture ever can, or will, exist in a vacuum.Beside this, two colossal but fragmented statues face each other – a statue of Dionysus with worn-away features and stumps for hands opposite the ‘Belvedere Torso’, a muscular figure seated on a rock, headless and legless. In these sculptures, despite (perhaps because of) their anonymous dilapidation, Michelangelo (together with other figures of the Italian Renaissance and many others) sought a Greek ideal of physical beauty and perfection to aspire to: the statue of Dionysus contributed to his own sculptures (perhaps especially the prisoners emerging from the rock, as the Dionysus sculpture was itself carved from a huge rock), and he seems to have used the Belvedere Torso for his sketches for the Creazione di Adamo (The Creation of Adam). And so I float out of this exhibition, awash with both a sense of wonder at the aesthetic and humanist revolution the Greeks had wrought and its reverberations through time, and a sense of sorrow for what little remains; for just a moment, I feel the fingers of the rosy Greek artistic and humanist dawn brush against me.

A night at the museum? Robots takeover the Tate.

A night at the museum? Robots takeover the Tate.


Art and robots: an irresolvable dichotomy between art and technology, or a symbiotic and novel way to exhibit art to the world? The Tate Britain’s showcasing of the After Dark project invited the public to decide. Created by design studio The Workers, After Dark was the winning project of the IK prize inaugurated this summer by the Tate Britain. Between Wednesday 13th and Friday 15th August those who logged onto the Tate’s website had the chance to view its galleries at night with the aid of four camera-equipped robots. This interface between art and technology begs the question of whether art is the experience of the viewer or the innovation of the creator.

The IK prize was conceptualised by the Tate with the ambition to “widen access to art through technology.” The Workers, a digital product design studio, received a prize of £10,000 and a £60,000 development budget in order to make the publics’ access to art fun, easy and educational. The robots were created in collaboration with RAL Space, and Colonel Chris Hadfield, former commander of the international space station, was the first person to test the robots out. The four robots roamed the deserted galleries and gave viewers a unique experience of nocturnal art accompanied with commentary on the pieces. Select viewers even had the chance to remotely control the robots and therefore what the rest of the world could see, and I was lucky enough to have this privilege.

I was left to wander through the museum at night, catch glimpses of dark corners, and see art against the backdrop of abyss-like uncertainty… Space was redefined and separated into the known and unknown.

At 9.58pm sharp I sat in front of my laptop praying that the online streaming was not going to be a cultural rendition of Robot Wars. It wasn’t. Instead I felt like a commander of a space station with four screens in front of me linked to four different robots in various exhibitions. I was left to wander through the museum at night, catch glimpses of dark corners, and see art against the backdrop of abyss-like uncertainty. The robots and the commentary ping-ponged back and forth through the centuries, rendering the commentary spontaneous and exciting.  A connection was forged between the commentator and the viewer since we were both at the mercy of the robots and we were constantly being taken by surprise. Throughout the night there was a heady sense of suspense. Space was redefined and separated into the known and unknown. Works by Turner, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst were excavated from unusual angles and areas of light. A Francis Bacon painting of three figures seemed ghoulish in the eeriness of the dark and cavernous space whereas Gainsborough’s ‘Carthorses Taking a Rest’ was bathed in synthetic light illuminating the colours, giving it a whole new concept of technological realism. After being randomly selected, I was able to control the robots on my keypad. This proved to be a challenge for someone who has no spacial awareness. I was allocated room 4- 20th century art, which housed pieces such as Damien Hirst’s ‘shelf’.  Once I learnt how to avoid hitting things, it was actually an enjoyable experience; but I lost focus on the art I was supposed to be viewing and instead became ensnared by this novel mode of transportation. For me the robots had taken over and the art was receding further and further into the dark.


[caption id="attachment_59282" align="aligncenter" width="779"] After Dark Interface[/caption]


One of the creators Tommaso Lanza said, “We’re not trying to give you this perfect representation of the art…It’s giving the art a different angle, and different light.”


[caption id="attachment_59284" align="aligncenter" width="779"]after dark screen shot 3 Screenshot of the experience[/caption]


The Tate Britain has joined the voyage into the modern, an odyssey of technology that promises to make our lives faster, easier and, in the case of art, damn right cooler, but I fear that on this journey we are travelling too fast to take in the view. Admittedly, the idea of enabling the whole world to see 500 years of British art would be impossible without this project. One of the creators Tommaso Lanza said, “We’re not trying to give you this perfect representation of the art…It’s giving the art a different angle, and different light.” He achieved this and at the same time pointed to an important dilemma; the notion that we must sacrifice personal experience for mass convenience. I couldn’t help but wonder if the robots were a fun kind of symbolism for our technologically capable society’s inability to stop and smell the roses. Often It was very difficult to see the paintings clearly since they were partially subdued in darkness and restricted by the diameter of the robot’s light beam.  I could not make out the individual brush strokes, materials or composition of the pieces clearly, nor have time to reflect on the effect the art works were having on me. Unless I was controlling the robot, I was completely at mercy to the will of others, saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear. I found it hard to locate myself and connect to the artwork in this strained compromise of artistic experience and artistic globalisation. The experience was crazily cool and solemnly sacrificial.

So between the hours of 10pm and 3am I found myself wondering how ubiquitous can art ever be if it has to be technologically transmitted within the rigid constraints of time and at the will of those few who were in control? Is this a glimpse of the future or a subtle reminder that, although the world is becoming globalised, humanity is becoming perpetually cemented in front of an LCD display?



8 Times The Vatican Did It First

8 Times The Vatican Did It First


  1. Dude looks like a lady! Michelangelo promoted questioning of gender stereotypes – check out these Sistine chap(ettes)…

1Michelangelo; detailing from the Genesis scene, ceiling of The Sistine Chapel , The Vatican Museum”

“Do you even lift, bro?”

Proof from Michelangelo’s sketches show that all of his women were anatomically based on the bodies of male models. This explains the bulging biceps, thighs, and shoulders, which share little in common with other women painted in the era. Where some argue his apparent distaste for the traditional representation of the female form stemmed from his sexuality, others claim that his exploration instead pushes the viewer to question the way certain religious ideas and biblical concepts, manifested themselves as part of the everyday. This could be seen particularly interesting in light of Eve and her representation of sin, sexuality, knowledge and the fall from grace.


2. “The Photobomb!”


Raphael; The Parnassus (1509-10), Vatican Museums

     3. When anyone who was anyone had a boob job


Michelangelo; Night from the Medici tomb, Florence


I mean…


Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, The Sistine Chapel, Rome




Artemis of Ephesus, The Vatican, Rome (unknown artist) –  Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Two in the wrong place were bad enough, but apparently two ain’t enough for this Turkish goddess of fertility (N.B. Different interpretations have placed this multi-breasted masterpiece as potentially sporting many eggs, or indeed testicles if you will, to show signs of fertility).


     4. Those ‘before’ and ‘afters’


Left: Michelangelo Buonarroti; Last Judgment (1534-41), Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
Right: Marcello Venusti; Last Judgment,  Museo e gallerie nazionali di Capodimonte. 

Whereas Pope Clement VII, who commissioned The Last Judgement, accepted Michelangelo’s artistic choices, his follower Pope Pius IV was not so happy. Consequentially another artist, Daniele da Volterra, was employed to add ‘breeches’ to the nudes. The painting has recently been restored to a state deemed truer to that of the original.


5. “The Candid”: avoiding having subjects in the painting looking out (probably in order to create a ‘natural’ look that could be used for a more effective indie cover photo)


Raphael, School of Athens (1509-1510), Vatican Museums

6. Oops, apart from the person who was ‘taking the picture’ (I should probably say the painter, here) #selfie #poser


Raphael, detailing from School of Athens (1509-1510), Vatican Museums

Looking good Raph. Shame instagram doesn’t have a ‘School of Athens’ filter. I reckon surrounding oneself with famous philosophers would be the ultimate way to make sure you get more than 10 likes.

7. The evolution of the selfie didn’t stop there. Michelangelo went all out in pioneering #natural and #nomakeup respectively. (Although possibly not for breast cancer charity, as we’ve already established he had very little commitment to that area of things.)


“Michelangelo, Giudizio Universale 31″ by Michelangelo Buonarroti 

The Last Judgement was painted much later years in Michelangelo’s life, when he was suitably old and decrepit. In accordance with such a state, the artist chose to depict himself hiding in the face of the skin held up by St. Bartholomew; this is found in the bottom- right corner of the painting.



8. #hatersgonhate


Having been heavily criticized for the nudes by Cardinal Baigio da Cesena, Michelangelo decided to return the critique. He chose to paint the papal master in the depths of hell, complete with donkey (or ass) ears, and entwined in a rather unorthodox and spectacularly uncomfortable position with a serpent…





Image credits

Michelangelo; detailing from the Genesis scene, ceiling of The Sistine Chapel , The Vatican Museum”
Michelangelo Buonarroti 022″ by Michelangelo Buonarroti – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Raphael; The Parnassus (1509-10), Vatican Museums
(“Raphael – The Parnassus” by Raphael – See below.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Michelangelo; Night from the Medici tomb, Florence
(“Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici (casting in Pushkin museum)

Left: Michelangelo Buonarroti; Last Judgment (1534-41), Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
Right: Marcello Venusti; Last Judgment,  Museo e gallerie nazionali di Capodimonte. Images and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; | (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Raphael, School of Athens (1509-1510), Vatican Museums
“Sanzio 01″ by Raphael – Stitched together from Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Raphael, detailing from School of Athens (1509-1510), Vatican Museums
“Sanzio 01 Zoroaster Ptolmey” by Raphael – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – [user: Jacobulus]

“Michelangelo, Giudizio Universale 31″ by Michelangelo Buonarroti – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_Giudizio_Universale_31.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Michelangelo,_Giudizio_Universale_31.jpg [[Category:Photographs by User:Sailko]]

The beautiful desecration of Vivian Maier

The beautiful desecration of Vivian Maier
Above: Self-Portrait, 1953. © 2014 Vivian Maier, Maloof Collection, Ltd.

Vivian Maier. Hers is the name of the moment in the world of art. The reclusive photographer, who died in 2009, has shot to public fame and critical acclaim with her strikingly intimate, curiously detached street photography. But who was this woman? How did an unknown amateur become so artistically accomplished? These are the questions that have whetted the appetite for Maier’s work, and for herself as a kind of posthumous celebrity. The story of an eccentric, intensely secretive nanny who roamed the streets of Chicago, photographing outcasts and loners, whose collection was discovered purely by chance after her death – it is the stuff of the silver screen. Indeed, her enigmatic story has already spawned two excellent documentaries. “Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?”, produced by the BBC was originally released in 2013, and the other, “Finding Vivian Maier” was released earlier this year by Charles Siskel and John Maloof. With the UK release of the award-winning latter, the British art-press and public alike have latched wholeheartedly onto the puzzle of this intriguing recluse.

[caption id="attachment_58703" align="alignleft" width="300"]1955, New York, NY 1955, New York, NY. © 2014 Vivian Maier, Maloof Collection, Ltd.[/caption]

Maier took tens of thousands of photographs of Chicago and its multitudinous denizens. She died destitute in hospital, having spent almost all of her small income on film, developing and storage. Having no family or associates, the contents of her lockers were auctioned off. The succession of men who bought her battered suitcases of photographs began what was to become the establishment of a new name amongst the greats of photography. After the contents of her lockers were snapped up by an auctioneer, many of Maier’s photographs became flea-market fodder, in turn sold on to photography enthusiasts and collectors. As her collection was fragmented and dispersed, academics began to recognise the importance of her work, and her star began to rise. The rest is history, the Maier phenomenon began to sweep the globe and ‘vintage’ prints now sell for upwards of $8,000.

This sounds like a modern rehash of a familiar story: the starving artist, impecunious and ignored in life, posthumously finding fame and fortune – Vivian following, in shit-kicker boots, the footsteps of Van Gogh and his ilk. Yet, there is a crucial difference, with troubling implications for our relationship with Maier’s work. The difference is that she presumed no audience, in the most absolute way. During her lifetime, most of her photographs were never shown to another living soul, and most were never even developed. Maier made absolutely no attempt to gain recognition, in fact she seemed to consciously eschew it. The mother of one of the prominent Jewish families that she worked for was the editor of a photography magazine; Maier never showed her a single photograph. She bumped into Salvador Dali outside a photography exhibition; she hid behind a column and took his picture.

I would like to preface all of what I have now to say with the disclaimer that it is unequivocally a good thing that Maier’s work was discovered. Her work is stimulating, absorbing and technically accomplished. Many of the photographs are exquisitely beautiful. The world of street photography, and art in general, is richer for Maier’s contribution. But just how much of the phenomenon we are revelling in is actually Vivian’s contribution? In the aptly named “Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?”, Steven Kasher, the owner of a gallery selling Maier’s prints, explained that “we believe that she never fully realised her work, so we are helping her to realise it, printing it in a certain way, editing it in a certain way, picking the pictures that have meaning to us”. The sentiment here is proactive and productive, yet also patronising and rather despotic. The emphasis is on ‘we’, ‘us’. The meaning is for ‘us’, the ‘certain way’ of editing and printing is ‘ours’, that is to say, implicitly not Vivian Maier’s. This is something that photographer Joel Meyerowitz also articulates, expressing concern “because we’re only seeing pictures that the people who bought the suitcases decided to edit…and what kind of editors are they? What would she have edited out of this work, and what would she have printed? How do any of us know who the real Vivian Maier is?”.

[caption id="attachment_58705" align="alignright" width="300"]Self-Portrait, 1954. © 2014 Vivian Maier, Maloof Collection, Ltd. Self-Portrait, 1954. © 2014 Vivian Maier, Maloof Collection, Ltd.[/caption]

Of the numerous uncomfortable lines that Maier’s work treads, between amateur and professional, technique and intuition, the one between public and private is the most fascinating. Maier forces us to ask the most fundamental of questions about art – if it has no audience, does it exist? Jeffrey Goldstein, an owner of a large chunk of Vivian’s collection believes that “artwork isn’t artwork until it’s shown”. He may have a point, but at the same time one is put in mind of John Stuart Mill when he contended that the difference between eloquence and poetry is that the former is “heard” whereas the latter is “overheard”. Indeed, the quality most often praised in Maier’s work is its poeticism, and she herself is frequently declared ‘a poet of the streets’. Though this may just be the normal gushing overuse of the word, there could very well be something in the crowning of Maier as a poet.  Most of her photographs were seen only once, through the viewfinder of her Rolleiflex camera, by her alone. These photographs challenge what it means to be a street photographer, and force us to reconsider our presuppositions about the nature of art. We now naturally think of her photographs as works of art, but at the time of production, for the woman we now designate ‘the artist’ were they really ‘art’?

This is the essential paradox that an figure like Vivian Maier (I deliberately do not say ‘artist’, for the term is retrospective) presents us with. In the revelation and publicising of her work, its ‘becoming art’, it is no longer the essential thing that it was created as. The establishment of what was essentially Maier’s diary as artwork could be seen a destructive process, as well as conventionally constructive. Perhaps this offers an explanation for why people are so fascinated with her life story, and so keen to mythologise and sensationalise her, it is an attempt to fill in the hole that has been rent in her work by its revelation. There is an essential something missing from Vivian’s photographs as perfect artefacts, and that is their privacy, their inscrutability, their function as a personal, self-reflexive, hermetically sealed diary. We, as spectators (along with collectors, curators, and the press) have interrupted the dialogue between Vivian and Vivian.

However, whilst we have lost the true nature photographs, we have gained a collection that retrospectively exposes a poignant truth about the nebulous boundary between art and the art market. The claiming and transfiguration of Maier’s photo-diary is also one of the very things that renders the work fascinating. The glimpse into a private mind, the dislocation of the self, the construction of a personal world – is this not what great, visionary art strives for? Vivian Maier exposes a poignant truth about art and its commodification: the tragedy of the necessary subsumption of private lives into a conglobulate public consciousness. Vivian Maier’s work is fated to forever be uncomfortable in its own skin, and it is on this level that it is most fascinating.

But, to return to my original argument: whatever we may be seeing in Vivian Maier’s work, there is a blank spot in our vision. We can never fully appreciate the true significance of these photographs because of the sphere that they now exist in. They have been transposed out of their intended function, and so have been transfigured by circumstance – the death of their creator, the movement of auction hammers and the dusty fingers of collectors. The world stole Vivian Maier’s photographs, and exquisite as they are, this is something that should not be ignored.


A selection of the best world cup inspired art

A selection of the best world cup inspired art

As much as I may try to deny it and attempt to watch Wimbledon instead, there is no getting away from the fact that the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. With viewing figures for the group stages surpassing the 3.2 billion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup according to FIFA, it is unsurprising that there has been an outpouring of art inspired by the event as, in the words of Blake Gopnik, “art needs an audience”. To save you having to wade through the veritable ocean of artistic exploits associated with the tournament, we’ve picked out a few of the highlights. So, in no particular order (after all the World Cup’s about the taking part not the winning) here they are:

Gustavo Berocan Veiga’s ‘Association Ball Cup’ Typeface

As a part of the ‘36 days of type’ project, Majorca based illustrator Gustavo Berocan Veiga has created a typeface inspired by the FIFA World Cup. The ‘Association Ball Cup’ typeface includes letters inspired by both participating countries (E for England, F for France) and concepts associated with football on a wider scale (H is, unfortunately, for Hooligan and K is for keepie-uppie). Veiga has combined wit, stylised vector graphics and bright colours to capture some of the childlike joy of the biggest sporting event on the planet.

The Brazil Team’s New Ride



The Brazilian identical twin artistic duo (what else) who work under the moniker of ‘Os Gemeos’, have given the Brazilian team’s Boeing 737 a subtle paint job. The plane, which is used to transport the players between sites and stadium, was covered in a plethora of vivid, golden-yellow portraits, intended to represent Brazil’s diverse culture. The intriguing mesh of playful and colourful faces are the result of a week’s hard labour from the pair and around 1200 cans of spray pain.

World Cup Pavilion at the Brazilian Embassy in Tokyo

The architects Shigeru Ban have created a pavilion at the Brazillian embassy in Tokyo, which will stand on the front patio of the building for the duration of the tournament. The use of recycled cardboard tubes, mimicking bamboo, and multicoloured footballs has created a space that is both functional as a site for various World Cup based arts events and is a fusion of the two cultures it represents.

Penalty’ by Mandy Barker

British photographer Mandy Barker has used World Cup fever to draw attention to a more serious cause: ‘Penalty’ is a collection of four photographs depicting 769 footballs which have been found on 41 beaches from across the world and collected by Barker’s followers on social media. Barker is hoping that the strangely poignant series will help raise awareness about the issue of marine pollution.

Red Hong Yi’s football portraits



Though undeniably fun and possessed of a unique technical ingenuity, perhaps ‘Red’ Hong Yi’s large-scale group portraits are a step too far in the crossover between art and the beautiful game? The Shang-Hai based artist’s giant portrait of three of the tournament’s biggest stars (Ronaldo, Neymar, and Messi) were created by swapping her paint brush for a football, deftly manipulating the paint dipped ball across the canvas to render the famous features. Although the final outcome is somewhat lacklustre as a formal portrait, the process shown in the video above is captivatingly impressive.

Are All Disney Princesses Just A (Saint) Hoax?

Are All Disney Princesses Just A (Saint) Hoax?

As violins soar, arching high across the rest of the orchestra, you know nothing but to expect that wide-eyes closed, story-stopping kiss; the one that graces the lips of every Disney Princess and her beloved prince, undoubtedly embodying all that we associate with a Disney Princess movie. The tableaux image epitomizes values of true love, success, and ultimately that ‘Happily Ever After’ both perpetuated by Disney and shattered by the reality of life. With a single animated character laden with the burden of so many values, it is easy to see why artists, and even Disney itself, has begun to reassess and challenge the role of the fairytale princess.

Writing under the pseudonym ‘Saint Hoax’,  the Middle-Eastern artist’s recent ‘Princest Diaries’ (June 2014) blog-post uses the comfortable picture of success and happiness associated with the Disney Princess, warped into warnings with statistics and shocking juxtaposition ( The artworks reveal Jasmine, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty each locked in a tight embrace with their fathers, open-eyed with eyebrows uncomfortably raised, and their princess lips pressed firm against those of older men. Visibly less attractive, it creates an incredibly unsettling image. The caption across all three reads ‘46% of minors who are raped are victims of family members. It’s never too late to report your attack’. Pushing art to the verge of propaganda and the concept of the Disney Princess, with her floaty dress and clouds of bliss, towards the state of extinction, the message stands loud and clear. Similarly his ‘Happily Never After’, underlined by the caption ‘When did he stop treating you like a princess? It’s never too late to put an end to it’, explores domestic violence with reference to the same group of princesses. The effect is unnerving and extreme, particularly for viewers familiar with the characters.

This isn’t the first time that artists have adapted the stereotype to make a point. Artist Sashii-Kami (July 2012) depicts the princesses as catwalk models of high-fashion, elongating their already caricatured figures and adapting their signature garments for the runway. Similarly, Dante Tyler relocates their familiar faces to the front of Vogue (February 2012), further flexing the lines, pushing out breasts and enhancing waists, caking on make-up; this time lowering the necklines and pulling up the hems. These perceptions of modern beauty, as imposed on the representations of happiness and fulfillment, illustrate the futility of these characters and what they represent. This extension of the idyllic Disney feature, to match expectation of society and reality today, draws a parallel with Hoax’s work, encouraging the viewer to recreate the familiar in a challenging, unexpected and thought-provoking way. The flexibility of these characters prove that they are more than just a parts in a play, but also a concept to be played around with themselves.

Awareness concerning the impact of these characters has, in recent years, clearly extended beyond public perception to the individual thoughts of the filmmakers themselves. Brave (2012) explores Merida, a frizzy-haired, red-headed princess who single handedly defies both wider societal expectations of beauty and of her personal racial heritage. Similarly Frozen (2013) explores the love between two sisters, rather than the sought-after romantic love of a prince. The song “Let It Go” tracks the changes in discovering ones sexuality for oneself. This clear acknowledgement from Disney regarding the problems surrounding ‘The Princess’ character-type prove that perhaps this is one concept which thrives on its being challenged. Perhaps this set of values we so adamantly wish to associate with our childhood memories are not as crystal cut as we may think.

The provocative work of Saint Hoax therefore extends beyond just the screen or print, but into our thoughts and understandings of the concepts enforced on us from such a young age through the medium of the kid friendly movie. The uncomfortable reaction we experience upon viewing such a work is clearly a comment on both the power and influence on an international phenomenon such as that of the Disney Princess, as well as on the limits of our perception in approaching what we believe we know and love.

PHOTO/Kevin Dooley

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