Kalishnikov’s Dream

Until a couple of years ago, the Ontario Society of Artists’ annual Open Juried Exhibition (OSAOJE) had a theme each year. In 2013, the theme was Unintended Consequences, and that tied in with some things that were running around in my head at the time. For some reason, I had read the Michael Kalashnikov regretted inventing the AK-47, as it had been used for so many awful things that he never intended. Not everyone believed his regrets, but still – interesting link for Unintended Consequences.

Here’s the final image. I’ll go through my thinking and some technical aspects below. Note: All the images are from the Internet; I was unable to get clear attribution on any of them, since various organizations had re-posted the images without attribution.

A photo collage of Mikhail Kalashnikov & child soldiers with an AK47
Kalashnikovs Dream

From the beginning, I wanted the child soldiers represented in overlapping ranks, with colouring that would look like a flag. I started with a single image and trimmed out all the background. Overlapping was much harder than I expected, especially since I wanted the central child soldier in each rank to be in front of those to each side, as you can see. There was a lot of positioning by pixel coordinates, then grouping, copying and pasting in new positions. The colour bands are rectangles, sized by pixel dimensions and partly transparent. I also checked to make sure that the colours I had chosen did not match any existing flag, because it’s not about any specific conflict.

The AK-47 is simple isolated from its background and given a golden glow so it floats above everything else.

My original thinking for the left side was to have a map of Europe at the end of the Second World War, with AK-47s pointing out from the USSR like the defensive line Kalashnikov wanted. There was a little infographic comparing intended defence and unintended child soldiers. It just didn’t work.

Then I got the idea to have the 3-frame graphic novel you see in the final version above. Turning a photo into an image that looks like it’s from a graphic novel took a lot of interesting learning. Here’s a clip showing the third frame’s layers.

How I made Kalashnikov Frame3
How I made Kalashnikov Frame3

You can see that there are two layers with the base image of his face (which I tilted to reflect how traditional portraits are made, and to add a sense of motion). The upper layer is partly transparent so that, when the modifications are added, the unaffected bottom layer still shows through. This adds a little definition to the final result. The three adjustment layers are, in order, brightness/contrast, threshold and posterize. Together, they create the pen-and-ink effect I wanted. The top two layers are for the thought clouds and text.

This is one of my favourite images, not just for the technical difficulty and the learning I had to do, but for all the thinking I had to do to relate it to the OSAOFE theme. I hope it makes you think, too. I doubt it will ever sell, though.

(BTW, I have another Unintended Consequences image in mind, based on the American Constitution’s Second Amendment, layered with their Founding Fathers and maybe a single day’s worth of American gun violence.)

Prospect houses

Prospect House 1

Newmarket’s Prospect Street has many lovely houses. It is a troubled street, though, required to handle many more cars, trucks, emergency vehicles and, recently, GO buses. Between Timothy and Queen, the section I live nearest to, the road  is narrow, even though you can see that it was widened in the past to accommodate cars. On top of that, there’s on-street parking. It’s a hard street to walk beside, let alone cycle on.

There are many rental housing units in converted houses on this stretch of Prospect, as well as a number of group homes and a seniors’ residence. Quite a few locals do not drive, and some have mobility issues.

I suspect that over the next few years we will see houses in this area torn down and replaced with condos. I wonder what will happen to the current residents; where will they live? Will the Town and Region (and Province) strengthen requirements for affordable housing?

These photos are just sketches really, quick images taken over a few days in Winter, with the thought that the “real” pictures would be taken in the Spring. But now, when I worry about the possibility that the houses may not last, maybe quick sketches are best.

The Fallen

Catalog of The Project Examining the Fall

February, 2125

Preface

We do not know the population of the Earth. We do not know the breadth of the empty lands or whether other areas thrive.

We are 2,537.

Protected by lakes and frequent rains that keep our forests from burning, we are safe and often comfortable. We are able to endure the storms and other unpredictable weather. Like children, we have known no other lives, yet we are often reduced to tears of loss and loneliness.

That is the purpose of our project – to examine what we know of what we have lost, what was taken from us long before our births. How do we know what we know? What are the puzzle pieces and how do they go together? And why, after all this time, do we all care so very much?

We are gleaners. Shuffling through the scraps and waste of those who fell, we find things. And here, even though all the roads were long ago dug up, wanderers find us. Almost all stay. Almost all carry some paper, some fragment or scrap, burned, torn, soiled and somehow holy, blessed by mere survival.

We have books from before the first fall, many from the time of the slide. We have scraps of writing – magazines, newspapers, even personal notes and images – that survived, somehow, even through the collapses and the burnings. Most of what we have are just scraps.

When the Project began several years ago, we had one central question: What happened? How is it that we are living in the remains of a civilization that fell to this, our current state of living close to the land, close to the bone, far from others? We hoped that we could sort through our collected books, papers, pictures and scraps, develop explanations and interpretations, and then figure out what happened, what caused the fall.

As we worked, as we learned more and more, as we came to prove that the clear signs of global climate change had been ignored until it was far too late, we saw that it no longer matters just what happened – our climate is different from before, our civilization is different from before, this world is just our world.

We shared our scraps, and talked and debated their meaning, and our central question became this: Can we forgive? If we cannot forgive those who brought about our current fallen state, will we ever be able to learn to live our lives in circumstances as they are?

The Works

Beauty, it seems, has often been paired with temptation and destruction.

In Copper Sky, you see soaring towers carrying wires across the sky, transporting electricity to light up their lives, while clouds loom, both beautiful and threatening. Now, perhaps more than then, we are in awe of the power of storms, both for their beauty and their power.

Too Cheap To Meter and Base Load show us how the night sky glowed then, with wasted electrical light. The texts displayed with them tell of the hubris, the folly, of those who truly believed, even after it was known that the climate was changing, that they could live like that, forever.

Base Load is also accompanied by a fragment from the time of the Slide, when rumour became news, and any sort of study, scientific or social, was nearly lost.

In Melt My Ice Cream, a rant against the ruination of the Earth is made of ideas that were “in the air” early in this century. It was recovered by researchers mining data from a web archive server found at facilities in Los Alamos in what was the state of New Mexico. The date of its writing, about 2015, was, according to our research, about the time it became too late to do anything, as the threshold to runaway climate change was passed. Was the anger found in this rant a portent of the violence that was to come?

And what are we to make of the small sculpture depicting a hooded prisoner, apparently representing Nature, attached to electrical power lines?

Conclusion

We print on paper we make, with machines we have salvaged and kept working. Paper fades, and our future is still uncertain. We have made copies etched in glass. If you are reading a glass copy, mourn our passing, and celebrate your survival.

The Archivists of The Project

2124

Scanograms – a new medium?

There are things I miss about traditional “wet darkroom” photography – the magic of watching an image appear in the developer; the photogram, where objects are scattered on photographic paper, which is then exposed and developed; even the anticipation during the time, often days or weeks, between the exposure and the print. Scanograms use a technique I have invented to create the digital equivalent of the photogram. I open the flat-bed scanner and start a scan. I then “paint” with some object – in this case a tulip – over the moving scanning bar. I don’t get to see the result until the scan finishes, so I also get back some of the anticipatory delay that I have missed.

If you look closely, you will see bands of red, green and blue around some of the scanogram’s features. These are a result of the way the scanner works – sequentially scanning in the digital primaries – combined with the flower’s motion.

The only processing I do on the result is to (laboriously) take out the inevitable dust spots. I also crop it a little bit to make its proportions better for standard frames.

Inspirations & Aspirations

Minor White | Edward Weston | Richard Avedon | Margaret Bourke-White | Ansel Adams | Walker Evans | W Eugene Smith | Dorothea Lange | Edward Burtynsky | Diane Arbus | Paul Strand | Lewis Hine | Shin Sugino | Man Ray | Harry Callahan | André Kertész | Group of Seven (+) | Abstract Impressionists | Peggy Stevens | Margaret Atwood | Roo Borson | George Bowering | Susan Musgrave | Christopher Dewdney | A K Dewdney | Heisenberg | Existentialism | Elizabeth May | Bill McKibben | Naomi Klein | Leah Buechley | William Gibson | Beethoven | Douglas Cardinal | China Miéville | Paolo Bacigalupi | Al Gore | Georgia O’Keeffe | Garry Winogrand | Jeff Nye | Jerry Uelsmann | …