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Archive for February, 2010

*speechless*

Click for full article:  Space-age stovetop eliminates pots, pans and cookbooks.

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Before I launch into the review, let me say that I’ve spent the past two weeks in Jury Duty, and it is one experience I’ll never forget.  Though it wasn’t a major case, just the responsibility of having someone’s future in your hands is quite profound.  It’s not easy to be a juror for a variety of reasons, but we’re very privileged to be given the opportunity to take such a vital role in our system of justice, and we should never take that for granted, no matter how inconvenient it may seem at the time.  When the twelve of us reached our verdict we really felt the gravity of our collective decision, and it was truly moving.

’nuff said.  Now on to the review…

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As I’ve said before, the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Beijing was probably the best anything I’ve ever seen.  But I tried to put that aside and give Vancouver a fair shake, as it’s got to be nerve-wracking to follow such an unforgettable lead in.  

Prior to the ceremony, the show’s producer, David Atkins, primed us for a “more intimate” and “emotional” presentation that would be different from the spectacle of Beijing.  The one goal they had in mind is that it would make us cry, as stated by Gordon Campbell, the Premier of British Columbia, on the Today Show.  Let’s see how they did.

Here are my thoughts on the best and the worst of the 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Vancouver:

As Johnny Lyall swooped into the arena, after what was a pretty cool intro video, I got a quick look at the set elements for the show and must say that I liked what I saw.  The fresh chill of Canada was transported indoors by way of snowy ground cover and crystalline set pieces, and the very smart way that the crowd was dressed in white ponchos created a continuous field from floor to ceiling that could be constantly transformed through light and projection.

The multi-level stage platform with its icy shapes and frosted materials was a strong focal point for the event and incorporated a really good use of levels (which can be a thorn in my side as it’s a pet peeve of mine when the lack of levels diminishes a space).  My only complaint would be that perhaps there were too many sets of Olympic rings – below the stage, on the stage, on the screen behind the stage, etc.  They became visually redundant by being in such close proximity.

Next we were introduced to the hosts and delegates of the event.  Being that we, as Americans, live in a country with a native population, I was very impressed that Vancouver gave such respect to its Aboriginal nations by featuring them as the hosts and presenting them at the beginning of the show.  Their segment felt like a standard cultural pageant, though, and it would have been nice if they had been presented in a more intriguing way.  The ice totems weren’t my cup of tea.

During the Parade of Nations, while each country walked onto the snow-covered floor of the arena, I took note of the creamy white and pillowy uniforms of the ceremony ushers, and the signage for each country, which looked like they were made of crystalline ribbons.  Beautiful details.  And, it was great to know that by coming out so early, the athletes would be able to see most of the show.

Now here’s where we run into a little snag.  Let me first say that I love Nelly Furtado, and growing up in the 80’s, I have much respect for Bryan Adams, but that original song (“Bang the Drum”) was kinda awful.  It was like a song from a half-rate theme park show with terrible canned instrumentation and poor lip syncing.  I actually felt a little embarrassed for both of them that they had to sing it, and wondered why they weren’t asked to write the song, too.  And then I found out Adams wrote it.  *cring*  

At this point in the ceremony, I asked myself what I thought so far.  And to be honest, I was fairly underwhelmed as “experience” goes.  I did like the look and feel of the environment as it gave a good sense of a Vancouver winter, but the performances thus far (including the person who sang their national anthem) were rather lackluster, and everything was a bit bland.  To be really honest, that’s unfortunately a stereotype I have about Canada: that it’s kinda milquetoast.  The ceremony wasn’t helping their case.

Luckily we then transitioned into my favorite part of the ceremony:  The Cultural Section.  This is where the producers could really inject concept and artistry into the equation.

As the first of the four segments in the Cultural Section began, I breathed a sigh of relief that the Voice of God changed from what was a very cheesy, corporate speaker to a familiar soothing and mystical tone (thank you, Donald Sutherland!).

Part One revealed the use of expansive projections on the floor of the arena, much like the technology used in Beijing, and a great use of the arena space, in my opinion.  Above the floor hung cloud-like, concentric projection surfaces that really worked for me and carried the eye up.  In between, projected falling snow, constructed constellations, the crowd holding thousands of lights, and the glistening sounds were magical.  I applauded the strong use of 2- and 3-D elements as the ice “broke” on the floor and revealed an ocean with spouting Orca whales, and then shifted into salmon ascending “upstream” into the heavens…transforming the streams into totems, and the totems into trees…with the concentric clouds above morphing into the leafy canopy of the forest. 

As mentioned before, I have a certain stereotype of blandness about Canada, so I think that capitalizing on the beauty of the land and using the inspiration from its environment and from nature were the best ways to promote the country.  That would be the main reason for me to go to Canada, and they made a strong case here.  The only complaints I had with this segment were the slightly boring performance by Sarah MacLachlan and the somewhat inconsistent dancers intermingling with the trees.

In the next segment, for Quebec, we followed a folktale that featured a shadow on the moon and its owner having a one-man fiddling duel.  Again, the use of projections and 3-D elements (like a descending canoe, and floating maple leaves) created an immersive experience that worked well.  The raucous fiddler and then a lone tap dancer were lively injections into the show, and really highlighted Newfoundland’s Celtic ties.  The supporting dancers were weak, and I didn’t much care for the sparklers on the tap shoes, but the featured performer did his job well.

The third segment, by far my favorite segment of the whole ceremony, was the only one that really mesmerized me enough to make me forget everything else and just go on the journey.  This segment highlighted the prairies of Canada and featured a young aerial performer accompanied by the wistful song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell.  Golden fields of prairie grass moved about the floor as the performer ran along and floated above them in a Peter Pan-esque show celebrating individuality and freedom and rural contentment.  Amazing.

The fourth segment, which focused on endeavor, was a gorgeous display of rain and lightning and clouds (with a field of lights from the audience) that morphed into fire and then to mountains, with a ring of clouds above them.  All of this with just the floor and the convertible projection surfaces that hung overhead at the start of the show (with probably a little help from additional surfaces fed from the floor).  Around the mountain flew acrobatic skiers and aerial snowboarders; on the floor were inline skaters; and onto the mountain were projected images of winter athletes.  From this, the scene shifted into the energetic flow of a cosmopolitan city as the mountains became sky scrapers and the skaters acted as rushing people and automobiles.  In the center, we heard the proclamations of a compelling slam poet who symbolized youthful individualism and the approachable authenticity of Canadians as he was joined below by individual after individual.

Before the official opening of the games, we were given a “candlelight” serenade by k.d. lang, which – to me – was a maudlin choice.  I love k.d. lang, and I especially love the song “Hallelujah”, but I think the song is overplayed these days by many performers, and it along with the other songs during the ceremony portrayed a sort of sad and melancholy tone which is probably not in Canada’s best interest.  But as performance goes, it was well done.

Cue the pomp and circumstance, the entry of the flag, operatic singing, and Anne Murray!  (I realized there are a lot of Canadians that I like – even though I do tend to think of Canada as bland.)  As we all know, the lighting of the torch had its issues.  I think most event producers have had an experience where something just would not go off as planned despite all of the best laid plans, so I totally sympathize.  But I thought it was well-played to have four torch bearers – male and female, and olympic and para-olympic athletes.  And the design of the cauldron(s) with the four ice towers fit perfectly with the look and feel of the entire ceremony.

The producers seemed to give the audience plenty of participatory opportunities with lights and ponchos, but I think giving them drums to use was somewhat regrettable as it deadened the sound of what should have been applause.  For the television viewer, it sounded like a quiet audience, or occasionally even sounded like low booing.  To the next ceremony producer:  please avoid this.

Before I close, I was very saddened by the luge athlete who passed away before the ceremony, and feel for his family and his teammates.   The ceremony did its best to honor his memory and to still carry on with a solid event, which was appreciated.

So, as to the real test of success:  Did the ceremony, as Premier Campbell hoped, make me cry?  Well, no.  With the exception of briefly welling up when the VOG announced the start of the ceremony, I was surprised that I did not shed a tear since I can cry at the drop of a hat at any well-staged spectacle.  The absence of tears was probably due to the sense that, while the ceremony was lovely and had some very striking moments, I found some of the musical performances dull to melancholy and there was something slightly missing with the storytelling. If I compare the ceremony to Beijing’s for just a moment (sorry!), perhaps it lacked some charm or wit or surprise that could have taken it from a good event to something even better.

Ultimately for me, the lone boy flying above the prairie was the most affecting moment of the show because, perhaps, it told a simple story that we all can relate to no matter who or where we are in the world, and at the same time it conveyed the most important things we need to know about Canada – its nature, its beauty, its simplicity, its kind people, its individuality.  If the goal of any Olympics Opening Ceremony is to share the host country’s strongest attributes with the world and to encourage others to visit, then I think Vancouver succeeded (whether I cried or not).

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CLICK HERE for a slideshow of some of the ceremony’s highlights (though photographs truly don’t do the projections any justice).  And CLICK HERE for assorted highlight videos from NBC.

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I’ll be checking in with a recap and review of the Olympics Opening Ceremony soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a couple of recent articles with you.

First, Randy Kennedy of the New York Times wrote an article about Jerome Neuner, director of MoMA’s department of exhibition design and production.  As I learned from taking a wonderful course in Experience Design with Merritt Price, the design manager at the Getty Museum, not many museums have an exhibition design department –  it’s quite a luxury to have a staff that’s dedicated solely to the design and production of a museum’s shows.  This article gives a nice little sneak peek behind the scenes at just such a department:

Click Here:  NY Times – Invisible Hand in MoMA Shows

Second, my friend Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events recently produced the world premiere of 3-D Imax surf film The Ultimate Wave Tahiti at the California Science Center, and – lucky for me – he asked me to come and co-manage the event.  (Lots and lots of very cute surfers make for a good night!)   As usual, Robb did a stellar job with production and design, and he was rewarded with a write-up in BizBash complete with some great photos of the event.  I’m crossing my fingers it leads to a cover! 

Click Here:  Bizbash – 3D Surf Film Premieres

So that’s the scoop for now.  Until next time, Mahalo!

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In a few short hours, I’ll be sitting in front of my television ready to watch the Holy Grail of experience design (with the exception, perhaps, of all things Disney):  the next Olympics Opening Ceremony. 

I’m still over the moon about the last ceremony in Beijing, which was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life…ever.   Directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, it told the story of China’s history and its achievements using China’s chief resource – its people.  The symbolism of thousands of Chinese citizens coming together in synchronicity – to drum out the countdown to the ceremony, to paint the story of invention on a massive scroll, to use their bodies to form a human represenation of the ceremony’s Bird’s Nest Stadium – was the most striking way for China to show its strength in its people and to let the world know that because of its citizens, China is a true force.  Plus the raising of the torch bearer into the sky as he was trailed around the circumference of the stadium by the imagery of the faces of the people was just mind blowing.  If you are one of the few people who didn’t witness that amazing spectacle, please find it, rent it or buy it – NOW! 

So tonight, poor Vancouver is tasked with following this incredible feat.  I doubt that they nor any other country will ever be able to meet or exceed the artistry and spectacle of Beijing.  But I still look forward to seeing what they’ve created, and I plan to keep an open mind and not hold them to any 2008 standards.

As I understand it, they are eschewing grand spectacle in favor of telling a story that will take viewers on an emotional journey (and as I heard from Gordon Campbell, the Premier of British Columbia, on the Today Show this morning, he hopes it will make us cry).  As some may know, I’m a crier (I cry when I see something sweet, something sad or something spectacular), so this should be right up my alley. 

The details of this evening’s event are totally hush hush, but the ceremony’s producer, David Atkins, spoke with Matt Lauer this morning on NBC to help set the stage (click to see video):

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/35017294/vp/35366993

So, in the spirit of the Olympic Games (cue swelling theme music), I hope you will join me and the billions of hopeful hearts across the planet as we gather together tonight in great anticipation of the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  After all, we are the world.

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In my very first article, I wrote about LOST and the recent Lost Underground Art Project, which took place in the latter half of 2009.  Now, the fabulous LostARGs blog has interviewed the man, the myth, the marketer behind the entire experience.  In a one-hour interview, Jensen Karp – owner of Gallery1988 and Tyson Givens Marketing – discusses the genesis and working process behind the viral campaign, which gives us a glimpse into the future of experience marketing.

Click HERE to go to LostARGs for the interview.  🙂

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As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been neglecting poor dandee a bit due to a crazy schedule.  But I’m here to report back on my visit to LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) to see their recent exhibition, I Feel Different – a multi-media show organized by guest curator Jennifer Doyle, which sought to explore both “the experience of feeling different from others and the transformational power of art to make one feel differently.”

Before I get to the show, let me say that I have never been to LACE before, and just heard about the show while looking for something interesting to do.  When I saw the theme of the show, it seemed to speak to me so I decided to check it out.  I am certainly not an art expert, so the descriptions of the art are based solely on my own gut reactions.  The real reason I went to see the exhibit was to see how such an exhibition would be set up, and if – despite being a small show in a small space – there were indeed signs of experience design present.

LACE is a mid-sized space on Hollywood Boulevard with a few rooms and typical white gallery walls.  The front of the gallery has a reception desk, a small open bookstore area, and a few colorful murals all set around a large curtain that one must pass through to get to the first gallery space.  On the day I attended, there were two shows:  I Feel Different and Mark Tribe: Port Huron Project. 

Upon passing through the curtains, the first space was tranformed into a darkened room with two off-set video screens and a few round seats to show the Port Huron Project – a two-channel video installation showing reenactments of protest speeches by Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and Cesar Chavez during the Vietnam era.  The striking thing about this piece is that one screen showed the actor giving the speech surrounded by a crowd, but the other screen showed a only section of the crowd farther back and detached from the speaker.  This second screen and the way the video was shot made me feel as if I was actually in the crowd, because as anyone in a crowd knows, you’re not always necessarily paying attention to the speaker – you’re noticing the guy next to you fidgeting with his camera, or the girl leaning over to talk to her friend, or the film crew pulling up to shoot the event.    The round seats in the space reminded me both of stone seats in a park and of people dotting the scene. As such, the piece (and the space in which it was set) grabbed me by not only reenacting the speech, but by reenacting the experience around the speech which made it all the more tangible.

Beyond the first space, and through another set of curtains, was the main exhibition, I Feel Different.  As I walked in, I realized that it was basically contained in one room with about eight pieces or groupings, as well as two additional pieces down the hall.  A rather small show, but a nice manageable exhibit to analyze for my purposes. 

As I walked in, the most striking piece was a group of mixed-media portraits, Tragic Mulattos, by Lezley Saar.  The collection – which was created with paint, fabric, beading, wood, lace and other adornments – made me feel as if I was in an old home looking at a wall of family history, and one that became a shrine to that history of folksy, spiritual, slightly freakish otherness.

Looking around the rest of the room, I heard sounds from several of the other pieces (as well as an installation down the hall), but couldn’t see why.  By walking in and around the space, it was revealed that the fronts of these pieces were behind walls or facing away from the entrance – having the effect of both drawing me into the room and of reinforcing the feeling of separation and isolation (and of turning one’s back on life) offered by the show.

As an example, to the left of Saar’s collection was a wall of three prints depicting twisters by Susan Silton, and separated by a small, temporary wall  was a fourth piece by Silton – a silent video entitled twisted, which seemed to be showing various lone people rocking in the cold to keep warm.  The choice of putting the small video monitor behind the temporary wall was brilliant in that it highlighted the feeling of “other” and the shame and isolation associated with it. 

To the right of Saar’s assemblage was an installation, History of the Luiseno People:  La Jolla Reservation, Christmas, 1990, which I believe had originally been a performance piece by artist James Luna.  In this instance, performance had been exchanged for a video reenactment.  Beneath a wall of striped colors – perhaps tribal colors – was a single armchair strewn with cans of beer, a tabloid magazine, string lights and other debris across from a coffee table with a small christmas tree and a television.  The television played video of a man – presumably the one who sits in the chair – talking to a relative on Christmas as he stays home alone.  The piece required me to walk around it to see all of the elements surrounding it, and to view the video which is facing the chair, not the viewer. 

Looking up from Luna’s work, another work (entitled Neopolitan by Nao Bustamante) which had its back to me upon entrance becomes fully visable.  It’s a rather strange pillar of knit yarn covering a monitor, which features a single woman crying with her remote control as she watches television.  Above the monitor is an assemblage of house plants on top of which is a black crow wearing what appears to be a grandmotherly hat.  When I first walked in the room, I had no idea what this piece was, but upon walking around to see the woman on the screen, it struck me that this piece was about the loneliness of a single woman – perhaps one that stayed home with her television every night and knit herself into this monsterous prison of isolation.  The crow reminds me of Poe’s Raven, sitting above the woman as a stark reminder of the loss of the possibility of love as she descends into further reclusion. 

Additional pieces in the room, as well as two more video pieces down the hall, all highlighted separation and loneliness in a striking way.  This was the most successful part of the exhibition to me, as the other intention – to explore the power of art to make one feel differently – wasn’t as successful.  I seemed to take on a clinical, observer’s role when viewing the show, and I didn’t find the that the pieces moved me especially, other than to elicit a general sense of melancholy that exuded from the pieces.  Certainly, art does have the power to wrench emotion from us, especially in the form of film and music, but I’m not sure that these sorts of pieces would be especially transformative to a viewer in the moment.  They are, instead, much quieter pieces that ask the viewer to meditate on feeling separate from everyone and everything around you.  And I give credit to the curator and to those that set the show in that, with a few simple things such as placement, spacing and relationship, the design of the show supported the art and created something much more meaningful.

Forgive my sucky photos and video…for better photos, check out the exhibition website by clicking here.   😉

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Back to life…back to reality

So…

I have been a little bit MIA on my blog.  Sorry dandee.

Let’s just say I had an interesting “situation” pop up with a friend, and in combination with my work schedule, it took its toll.  Though I wasn’t able to go to the lecture at LACE due to said “situation”, I did go and check out the exhibition a couple of days later and took plenty of photos and video of the art and the space.  It was a great little show, and I’ll be posting my thoughts on the selection of art and how it was displayed this week.

In the meantime I just wanted to pop in to give my little blog some love, and also to remind everyone that today is a VERY special day…it’s the first day of LOST’s final season.  Though I’m sad it’s the last season, I can’t tell you how excited I am for all that’s in store in the next few months.  Believe me, LOST is so much more than a show, as evidenced by my first article on this blog, and this season is going to be amazing.  I hope you’ll join me in watching tonight.

Happy Lost Day!

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