Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two View Video Game Review: Limbo

W-w-what? Video Game? That's right. This last summer, during Fourth of July, I was with the family at my brother's house. He had an Xbox 360 & was playing a game called Limbo & I was enthralled. I use to be a game geek in the past, but now, I don't have the time or money to bother, but I still have that itch to pick up a controller every now & then. Well, let me say, I did not spend too much time with the family that holiday or watched any fireworks. Luckily, the game is short & I was able to feel satisfied when I completed it.

You play the game as a nameless boy who is looking for his sister in Limbo. You take him through a forest to an urban landscape while encountering other ruthless boys & a relentless, hungry giant spider. Dead ends seem common, but often the pull of a lever or the push of a switch causes the earth to rotate or gravity to reverse, opening up a new path.

I picked a video game this month because of Roger Ebert's statement that "video games can never be art," which I find striking for him to say because critics said the same about cinema upon its dawning. Limbo wasn't released when Ebert made these statements, otherwise, video game fans would have a strong example as to why his statement was wrong. I haven't seen a video game with such a clear art direction. Its heavy influences include German Expressionism & film noir, with the main color palette being black & grey. Not only does the shadowed atmosphere look menacing, but also everything is potentially deadly, & trust me, your character is going to die when you play it & the creators, Playdead, created many ways to show the death of the protagonist. Puzzles require many tries in order for you to figure them out & Playdead made these puzzles more nerve racking by making lethal leaps only obtainable by mere inches.  Luckily, this is Limbo & death is never final. You start back right before your last dangerous task.

The game costs about 10 bucks & even if you don't have an XBox 360, I'm sure you know someone who does. Persuade them so you can borrow it & the game takes about 6-10 hours to complete. I know, that even if you don't play video games, you'll enjoy the eerie mood the game creators made for you. Because, if this isn't art, I don't know what is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Center Paige: The Alphabet of Time

Jim Machacek & Sibyl Rubottom's The Alphabet of Time is their abecedarium involving different theories, thinkers, & symbols involving time & space. The book is accordion bound with a red cloth covered board. The images are letterpress printed on polymer plates & wood type along with collage, hand painting, marbling & silk screening. I enjoy how the book uses many techniques in order to convey the message of each letter. Every page is different in design & often contains layered printing in different typefaces & colors. My favorite pages particularly are "B" for its striking hand painting combined with inkjet transparent waves, "O" for the handsome drawing of the oak tree & "T" for the removable time cards printed with quotes (which include the lyrics to "Time-Warp" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.)
A is for Astrolabe & Aristotle
B is for Black holes
C is for Clocks & Joseph Cornell
D is for Decay
E is for Evolution
F is for Fossil
G is for Greenwich Mean Time
H is for The Hubble
I is for Infinity
J is for The Julian Calendar
K is for Kronos
L is for Longevity
M is for Music, Moment, & Mozart
N is for Nocturnal
O is for Old Oak
P is for Marcel Proust
Q is for Quantum Theory
R is for Relativity
S is for Seasons
T is for Time
U is for Universal Time
V is for Vanitas
W is for Water Clock
X is for Expressionism
Y is for Year
Z is for Time Zone

*As you can see we have a new name for the "Artists' Book of the Month" segment. This was created by blog reader Jessica, so thank you Jessica & also Amy Letter for your suggestions.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Graphic Novel of the Month: Little Nemo in Slumberland

The King of Slumberland, Morpheus, invited six year-old Nemo to be a playmate for his daughter, the Princess. Slumberland can only be gained when Nemo is sleeping, so every night, King Morpheus & his attendants find ways to get him to the kingdom, but Nemo's dreams quickly turns into nightmares & he wakes up, usually falling out of his bed. He gets woken up right before some sort of serious injury, like falling off a flying horse or being crushed by giant mushrooms, or by running into Flip, the mischievous son of the Sun & nephew of Dawn. Flip is competing with Nemo for the Princesses attention, despite being an outcast in Slumberland. Every time Nemo sees Flip's "Wake Up" hat, he wakes up. Nemo does make his way to Slumberland, but he gets lost in the Palace. In the Palace, reality isn't a factor & every room is a new funhouse, with the rules of physic being forgotten.

Winsor McCay created Little Nemo in Slumberland in 1905. It first appeared in the New York Herald every Sunday, and then moved over to New York American where the strip changed its name to In the Land of Wonderful Dreams. McCay definitely has the creativity & the skill to pull off the surreal. He drew some of the most imaginative images ever in comics, at a time when the comic strip was still in its infancy. These creative images are so striking because McCay's artwork contains clean lines & flat coloring that caused the large & highly detailed backgrounds & weird characters to stand out from the rest of the other comic strips. A strip titled "Night of the Living Houses," where Nemo gets attacked by walking houses, was the first comic strip to be entered into the Louvre.

Readers will have to overlook the racially influenced caricature of the Imp, whose face resembles minstrel show make-up. Fans of the strip state that the Imp is treated positively & is not shown any form of humiliation throughout the tales. Also, McCay followed the method of "draw first, write later" causing the text to be sometimes squeezed in the bubbles & in the gutters of the panels. Fortunately, McCay sometimes numbers his text, so the reader knows where to go.

Nemo has been reprinted many times, but it is best seen in the So Many Splendid Sundays! edition, as the comic is shown in its original scale & is an impressive display of the illustrations.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interview w/ John Cutrone: Parte Due

Here is the second & more personal part of my Q & A with Director John Cutrone

What is your education background?
I received a BFA in Art & a BA in English from FAU in 1995 & in 2001, an MFA in the Book Arts from the University of Alabama. The in-between years involved many amazing months at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina & I've attended a few sessions of Paper & Book Intensive, as well, which is held in various places across the county each summer.

What are some of your favorite books in the JCBA?
My favorite books are the ones where the artist has really created a unified whole; where the text informs the structure & the choices of materials & type choices... everything that the book brings to the table. Some of my favorites are In the Presence of Absence by Harriet Bart & Möbius Circle by Coriander Reisbord & I am totally enamored with a book we've just recently acquired: A Line by Suyeon Kim.

Bart's book is perfection in the way the concept is brought together: this text, about the importance of what is absent, is presented in a manner that astounds me every time I see it. (I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it.) Reisbord's book is, I think, perfect in its simplicity & form. What better way to discuss a bad relationship you can't get out of than through an infinite loop? And as for the new book Suyeon Kim: this book brings to mind, for me, everything that brought me to the book arts in the first place. A wonderful story, told with care, presented almost as a silent movie. I can't get enough of it.

What about your books at home? Give me three books that you always go back to.
Oh, you're making me choose just three? Okay. In no particular order: The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving, Dubliners by James Joyce, Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White & Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor. Is that five? Well, too bad.