Monday, February 25, 2008

the silence moves the hand

If antiquated metaphysical ephemera interests you (and realistically, how could it not?), you will want to visit The Museum of Talking Boards.

It's an online gallery with a fascinating history of spirit-writing, and many of the fascinating designs and gimmicks of talking boards through the first half of last century. The design alone on some of these boards is just marvelous, and they range from the simple and beautiful, to the utterly ridiculous.

You'll also find enough theories, stories, and superstitions here to keep you reading well into the night, though the page designer's choice of text-to-background color combinations isn't always forgiving to the eyeballs.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Lives of Perfect Creatures

If you're a lucky person, you have made it to Culver City, California and raked up the courage to walk to a locked door on a busy city street, and ring the buzzer once, only to hear it swing open, and be ushered inside a blindingly dark and deafeningly quiet room.

The entrance to The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

When I tell people about this place, I always struggle for just the right descriptors - I'm sure people call it "weird" or "creepy", but it's not really those things, and every bit those things at the same time. Very few places strike me as "forbidden", and as I wandered around the windowless, curtained rooms of this modern museum, I couldn't help but feel like I was somehow given permission to see this place, it is so occult, so secretive.

Realistically, it is open to the public nearly every day, and for a modest admission fee you are free to roam the rooms and even have some Russian tea and cookies in an upstairs tearoom.

But if the daunting, quiet, dark atmosphere isn't enough to throw you, the exhibits probably will. It's a self-titled "
educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge", but what that knowledge is, and the degree of its provability or scientific integrity is often debatable.

Topics from old folk remedies to humans growing horns, to tiny sculptures within the eyes of needles, to a very large and involved display about the (alleged) capture of the (alleged) Deprong Mori, a bat-like creature who can use its sonar to move through solid objects.

I can't say enough good, strange, or fanatical things about this place. If I lived in Southern California I would definitely be a regular patron, and go a few times a year.

There is a great book written about the museum, which I read a couple of years ago, and wrote a fairly lengthy journal entry about. If you've been to the museum, I highly recommend the book, and if you haven't been there, book a flight now.

Edited to add: here is a Wikipedia article on the MJT.

Monday, February 18, 2008

glass eye

It's not often you hear of photographers that construct their own cameras, let alone cameras that are made from skulls or contain infant human hearts or HIV positive blood. Wayne Martin Belger happens to do all of the above. It would be a gross misinterpretation to take his usage of controversial materials as shock art. Each pinhole camera is masterfully created with precision, purpose and profound respectful meaning.
Not only are the cameras themselves amazing works of art, but the photographs that are taken with them are stunning and haunting.
Each camera has a brief description of the meaning behind the concept as well as the materials used.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

two worlds

The Sheep Child
by James Dickey, 1966

Farm boys wild to couple
With anything with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth mounds
Of pine straw will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There's this thing that's only half
Sheep like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol because
Those things can't live his eyes
Are open but you can't stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?

Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying saying

I am here, in my father's house.
I who am half of your world, came deeply
To my mother in the long grass
Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
Listening for foxes. It was something like love
From another world that seized her
From behind, and she gave, not Iifting her head
Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
Of sobbing of something stumbling
Away, began, as she must do,
To carry me.  I woke, dying,

In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
The great grassy world from both sides,
Man and beast in the round of their need,
And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
I ate my one meal
Of milk, and died
Staring. From dark grass I came straight

To my father's house, whose dust
Whirls up in the halls for no reason
When no one comes piling deep in a hellish mild corner,
And, through my immortal waters,
I meet the sun's grains eye
To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
Dead, I am most surely living
In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
They go into woods into bean fields they go
Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
They groan they wait they suffer
Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.


This is one of my very favorite poems.  You can read some writing about it here.  The mood Dickey sets is amazing, tangible, realistic, and unsettling.  I could almost believe that it were possible for human and animal to create some kind of doomed life this way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

leather-bound beasts

More Walton Ford goodness. Actually, this ,admittedly, makes me a little sad, mostly because I don't have the kind of ducats necessary to purchase his new book, Walton Ford: Pancha Tantra. There are two editions, but the prices are the likes of nothing I've ever seen in a newly printed book. The first "art" hardcover is going for a whopping $1800, and the "collector's edition is selling for a staggering $7000. More on the books at TASCHEN's website. I was lucky enough to snag his first book for the cover price a few years back, but I see it's going for over $300 on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

tiny legions

"Bulla's photograph of hundreds of children wearing gas masks was not meant to be ghoulish, a commentary on war or lost innocence, but rather exemplified a reason for pride--the country was blessed with well-trained, well-equipped and obviously courageous young fighters. "

-- excerpt from Propaganda and Dreams

Saturday, February 9, 2008

are we still married?

I know that animation from the Brothers Quay isn't exactly news - but I thought I'd share one of my favorite shorts of theirs, a music video for His Name is Alive. I think the haunting, off-kilter music is just absolutely appropriate for the animation. Plus my love for battered old stuffed bunny toys will never subside.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

still life

By now I'm sure that it's no secret that we here at Darkened Forest have an affinity for all things taxidermy, especially old, haggard, Victorian historical taxidermy. Perhaps this is a contradiction in interests being that we are both vegetarians and aren't particularly keen on the killing of animals. But maybe it's by sheer adoration of the animal form that draws us to their likeness, stuffed or otherwise.
All that said, I've found that THIS SITE is a very comprehensive resource on the the history of modern taxidermy, for institutional, scientific as well aesthetic interests.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

flying firecracker flirtation

Fast, flashy, flighty little birds, and a woman whose job I envy.

(How could the females resist, with those moves, those crackly sounds, and those hot yellow pants?)