virtualDavis

ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.
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virtualDavis

3D Art on Sidewalks

3D Art on Sidewalks (Photo: RedRoseRattus)

3D Art on Sidewalks (Photo: RedRoseRattus)

Have you witnessed 3D art on sidewalks? Chalk murals that create optical illusions so compelling they stop traffic?

I’ve mused about 3D sidewalk artwork before, wondering not only if it can blow minds but possibly also slow speeding vehicles. But I haven’t pondered its potential as a vehicle for storytelling. And yet it obviously is!

Telling a Story via 3D Art on Sidewalks

Literature and film have explored the idea of stepping into drawings for ages, using artwork as a gateway between reality and illusion. And yet 3D sidewalk and street artists are often dismissed with an amused shrug.

“Cool.”

“Weird.”

“It’s not graffiti exactly, but who’s going to clean it up?”

Julian Beever Creates 3D Art on Sidewalks (Photo: HMHung)

Julian Beever Creates 3D Art on Sidewalks (Photo: HMHung)

 

Is 3D Art on Sidewalks Just Chalk Graffiti?

3D art on sidewalks is cool and weird and graffiti, but cleaning it up is rarely a problem. In fact, it tends to vanish altogether too quickly. Rain. Pedestrians. Vehicle traffic. Perhaps its ephemeral nature is part of what makes 3D art on sidewalks and roadways so appealing. An invitation into another reality that will expire almost before you’ve decided whether or not to dive in.

Street artists like Julian Beever, Edgar Mueller, Eduardo Rolero, Manfred Stader and Kurt Wenner distort perspective with little more than chalk, unfettered imaginations and a near perfect ability to render anamorphic illusions. When their artwork is viewed from the correct angle, an ordinary street or sidewalk creates the illusion of three dimensions.

Example Of 3D Sidewalk Art: A "Coca-Cola ...

Coca-Cola Bottle (Photo: RedRoseRattus)

Their chalk art transcends mere graffiti and many other art forms in its capacity for interactive storytelling. 3D art on sidewalks introduces a narrative possibility that engages viewers. Pedestrians and drivers stop and look. Perhaps they reorient themselves to better appreciate the optical illusion. They pause and let their eyes wander over the mural, actively suspending disbelief in order to engage with the image. In many cases the audience/viewer even choose to step into the image, playing along with the illusion, often posing for friends with cameras to memorialize the encounter.

A bit like a real life video game…

Smile! I’m blogging you…

Smile! I'm blogging you... (image of and by virtualDavis)

Smile! I'm blogging you... (image of and by virtualDavis)

I remember seeing a t-shirt for sale once that said, “I’m blogging this.” Nothing more. Just a black t-shirt with bold white lettering across the front. I’m blogging this!

I should have bought it. It would make people laugh. People who know me. Especially the ones who don’t quite get it. Blogging, I mean.

But I didn’t buy it. I liked the idea, but I wanted to edit the message slightly as follows:

Smile! I’m blogging you…

On the one hand, it’s humorous, and on the other it’s an increasingly relevant disclaimer. The “fine print”. Not just for me, but for all bloggers. All journalists, storytellers, writers, artists, etc.

What do I mean by relevant? We are photographing and video recording and quoting each other around the clock nowadays. Look at the ubiquity of blogging, micro blogging, YouTubing, Facebook-ing and Google Plus-ing. We are busy documenting our lives as well as anyone else who flits across our paths.

I walked down Madison Avenue this evening as a man filmed all of us. Not a news reporter, but a plain clothed civilian. John Doe. Or Juan Sanchez… Why was he filming us? What will he do with our stolen souls? Thievery! Or not…

Smile! I’m blogging you…

One of my favorite English language writers, Michael Ondaatje, returns again and again to the theme of thievery in his writing. It’s a large part of storytelling. I suspect many writers, artists, etc. ponder the idea.

I prefer to think of storytellers as borrowers, not kleptomaniacs. We borrow characters, scenes and plots. We borrow the smell of bacon cooking three doors down, the sound of a cello being practiced (badly) somewhere on the other side of an overgrown juniper hedge.

Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948)

Vicente Huidobro (image via Wikipedia)

Not all writers admit that they are recyclers, borrowers or thieves. Chilean poet Vicente Huidobrodeclared, “The poet is a little God.” He aspired to invent worlds of words out of thin air and ambition. I invite you to evaluate his success.

With the advent of widespread social media it’s easier and more enticing than ever to collect and curate the perfect pair of eyebrows, the seemy backstory, the unpredictable twist of fate, the melodic denouement peppered with the fragrance of jasmine and fireworks on a summer evening… All from the comfort of our own desktops. Or smart phones. The 21st century storyteller is everywhere you are.

Of course, flanerie still serves the storyteller well, but his boulevards have been extended exponentially. I am an unabashed flaneur, but not just in the Baudelarian sense. I’m an urban flaneur, but I’m also a rural flaneur. I’m a café and sidewalk flaneur, but I’m also a digital flaneur. And I’m collecting and curating 24×7 (to the occasional regret of my bride and friends, I hesitate to add.)

I apologize. I understand that not everyone wants to be onstage all the time. Not everyone wants to have their almost lofty soufflé or their offkey arias recorded for posterity. I get it. I’m with you.

But, I can’t resist. You’re interesting. Not just your eyebrows and your bacon and your cello practice and your seemy backstory and your perennially deflated soufflé and your upside down melodies. You.

But rest assured that mine is an imperfect lens, a distorted microphone. I won’t steel your soul. I promise. I can’t. It’s yours as long as you choose to nourish it. I will borrow liberally, borrow, not steel, and I’ll do so with a sometimes distorted, always playful filter.

Will you lend me the mischievous glimmer in your eye when I ask you what you want for Christmas? Will you lend me the fierce gate, knees high, hips restrained, stride impossibly long that I remember from the first time I watched you walk toward your airplane when heading back to New York City from Paris? Will you lend me your hurt and confusion and quirks and dreams?

I’ll do my best never to betray you, and I’ll always resist your soul.

I promise.

virtualDavis Caricature #1

 

virtualDavis Caricature #1Remember fiverr?

Remember “Martial Folly and Sando”?

I’ve enjoyed dabbling with fiverr gigsters from time to time since the site launched, and I recently returned to create some small graphic and video content snippets. Some of these will be incorporated into a longer video and/or a site redesign. Watch this space!  ;-)

In the mean time I’m going to show off some caricatures produced by fiverr gigsters, starting with a fellow named Kyle (aka gmcube) who created that caricature above. Not 100% certain it resembles me, but it’s a fun enough image to start the collection. By the way, if you’re interested having your own caricature produced, just run a fiverrr caricature search. I see that Kyle’s no longer offering the service, but plenty of others are, and the price point is low enough that you [almost] can’t lose.

It reminds me of walking, walking, walking around Paris in 1980 with my mother and her friend, Tanya. I was a young boy of seven-going-on-eight, and I’d grown equally weary of trying to speak French and keeping abreast of my mother’s ambulatory ambitions. Apparently I spent more time kicking pigeons than looking up at the architecture. I do remember getting shit upon by a pigeon in the Jardin des Tuileries while eating a picnic lunch…

One afternoon we arrived at the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, the artist thronged plaza near the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. The three of us walked around watching artists drawing and painting, many whipping off quick caricatures for tourists. Suddenly I was lifted from the cobbles and plunked onto a folding seat by an old wrinkly babbling away in French to my mother. And then my mother and Tanya walked away. Abandoned me! Just like that.

I considered. Looked at the man scribbling madly away while looking at me out of the corner of his eye. I reckoned that he’d see me better if he weren’t looking through a blue cloud of cigarette smoke. Then I glanced to where my mother and Tanya had been. Gone! A large crowd had swallowed them up and I was left alone without cash to pay the doodler.

I panicked. Leapt up and raced into the crowd where they had vanished, the artists shouting after me. I raced willy nilly through the crowds, making my way almost all the way around the plaza before finding my mother. I was scared, frustrated and furious. She explained that they’d planned to walk around the plaza and then return to me to pay for the caricature. Needless to say, I did not return to the artist nor retrieve the incomplete caricature. So far as I can recall Kyle’s image above is my first. But there will be others…

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Jeff Scher's "Memento Mickey"Jeff Scher’s Memento Mickey (video via NYTimes.com)

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A Muse to Amuse Your Ego

I’ve just polluted a perfectly wonderful blog post over at Multi-Hyphenate, and I’m feeling a little ashamed.

No, not the blog troll sort of graffiti that I find reprehensible. But the kind of run-on comment that should have been a blog post instead of clogging up someone else’s blog post (which I alsofind reprehensible.) So… aside from a mumbled apology at the end of my comment, I’m reposting my thoughts so their wise editor is free to abbreviate or remove the comment I posted to Annie Q. Syed’s “There is No Muse“.

A “muse to amuse your ego” is an amusing and clever tongue twister that I can’t resist borrowing for a quick blog post… But I’m not sure I’m 100% convinced.

I’m with you here: “At the end of the day… you are simply a storyteller and you have a job to do: tell the damn story. ” Just spent this morning listening to Tom Ashbrook interviewing Eric Bogosian about his novel, “Perforated Heart”. (You can hear the On Point rebroadcast, but note it was originally broadcast May 26, 2009.) He tells the story. In more modes, manners and muddles than most storytellers,

Eric Bogosian

Eric Bogosian (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Bogosian tells the damn story. An acquired taste, especially if you’re not male and/or not connected in some way with NYC, but Bogosian is a storyteller without precious, pretentious muse mongering.

Or is he? Perhaps we just don’t meet his muse. Perhaps Bogosian’s muse is personal, intimate, private. Perhaps it is a changing muse, evolving along with his own writing style, ambition, skill. I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t much care because his storytelling stands on its own, muse or no muse.

What’s the point? I think that storytelling need not be divorced from muse. A muse. Many muses. But the story, the finished product, need not reflect the role of the muse in the creative process. A storyteller’s craft is complex, and the journey is often long (as you’ve readily acknowledged) between story seed and finished story. For me, the muse is one part of that journey. She’s part inspiration, as you’ve mentioned above, but she’s also my collaborator. I don’t mean to get too fanciful hear, but recall that storytelling is not a hermetic art. It requires an audience. Else it is mere babbling! The burps and farts of a crazy man. You’ve said, “Sometimes when I write words feel like picking precious beads in sand.” Right! And why? Because you’re not writing for yourself alone. You’re telling a story for an audience and precise, accurate language is the currency of a storyteller if s/he is to find a receptive audience. I’ve slipping into pedantic drivel, sorry…

So inspiration, yes, but my muse is also more of a collaborator. Like music to a dancer. And perhaps also like a dance partner. I’m a crumby (but enthusiastic) dancer, so take this comparison for what little it is worth. I can dream up a clever dance, practice and refine my steps, my rhythm, my gesture, my poise, etc. But it’s only when I attempt this creative process in conjunction with music — real or imagined — that my dance evolves away from the dizzying courtship of a park pigeon into something more compelling, more complete. And better still when I extend my hand to a dance partner — real or imagined — to enter into the dance with me, to mirror, to oppose, to resist and beguile and charm and challenge that something beautiful can be born.

Yes, I’ve overextended the metaphor. Apologies! But there’s an idea in there, an idea that a creator can extend the limits of his or her creativity significantly when amused by a muse. ;-)

That indulgent difference aside, there’s much we agree on. The work of a storyteller is also to know the difference between this creative dance and the hard work of distilling the finished product from the draft. After narcotic creativity transports the storyteller beyond initial inspiration and indeed often beyond the anticipated scope of the story, it’s time to begin the hardest work. The editing, the weeding, the focusing, the revising. The muse does not belong in this process, at least in my own writing. She’s a temptress, a dazzling temptress who’s creative genius forever outstrips my own. And so the time comes when I must bid her farewell, for a while, remove my dance shoes, sit down at my desk and work. Dancing is divine, but I have a job to do!

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