Monday, May 31, 2010

Spera: Part IV Now Online

Every escapist fantasy must end sometime, and for Pira, Lono and Yonder that end comes in the form of a horrific reality. A battle for freedom ensues that will physically and mentally change the princesses. It is a change that will colour all future adventures to come.

The fourth and final part of the collaborative fantasy comic Spera is now online at Part IV features the artistic talents of Louise McLennan, Rachel Saunders, Nick Edwards, Sallamari Rantala, Kyla Vanderklugt, Olli Hihnala, Anna Wieszczyk, Giannis Milonogiannis, Eva Eskelinen, Inés Estrada and Sloane Leong. The site was designed and coded by Joel Hentges.

But it can't really be the end, can it?

Spera will be continuing in various forms in the future. Think of the four available parts as Volume I.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Old City Blues

Everyone (yes, everyone) should check out Old City Blues ( ), a sci-fi thriller webcomic by the impossibly amazing Giannis Milonogiannis. Noir detectives, robot ninjas, badass mechs, violent cybernetic crime scenes, intense rooftop action, New Athens -- any of those would be reason enough to get excited, and Giannis combines them all in Old City Blues without breaking a sweat.

The comic is being released monthly, online and completely for free, in full, thick issues of stunning black and white. The first issue is up now, so if you want to be one of the lucky readers who can say they've been there since the beginning, now is your chance.

Is one of your favourite comics / animations (in any of its iterations) Ghost in the Shell? This is the comic for you. Do you still find the time to watch Blade Runner at least once a year? This is the comic for you. Is one of your favourite videogames the Hideo Kojima adventure Snatcher? This is the comic for you. Do you get the slightest pleasure from anything even remotely cyberpunk? This is the comic for you.

HamletMachine for

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Conversations with Oliver Hull

Oliver Hull has an interesting project going on at CK++. Different artists are given the same piece of art (created by Oliver) and asked to respond to it as though it were the opening line of an artistic conversation. Their response comes in the form of another art piece. Oliver then responds to their response with another piece, and so on and so forth, until the conversation either ends or trails off. Seeing how the different artists react is fascinating. A highly recommended experiment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A 10-second Pira sketch by Paul Pope

One of my many treasures from TCAF, including a non-stop succession of great new memories and friends.

Matt Marblo for

Ingunn Dybendal for

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I'll be walkin' around at TCAF on Saturday if anyone wants to meet up.

On Ambient Films

On Ambient Films
(Text and art excerpted from the narrative essay Softcore World, viewable in its entirety at Art by Sam Beck.)

An ambient film is largely plotless, focusing on character through a more objective yet also more intimate viewpoint. In ambient films we see characters live their lives in long takes that are typically soundtracked with diegetic sound. There are only a few pages of dialogue to be found in these films, the characters preferring to speak when spoken to. More discerning audiences are able to see the character as nothing other than the actor broken down to his or her barest elements: we have Ana Torrent in Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive, Lee Kang-sheng in Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There? and Yo Hitoto in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Café Lumière as examples. By watching the characters/actors go about their daily routes, accompanied by what is often mistakenly referred to as ‘silence’, the audience is more easily able to acknowledge the fact that characters are also actors, real people asked to do real things.

These films are referred to as ambient rather than minimalist as the minimalism is done in service to the ambience and not vice versa. We are able to experience the serenity of a small town in Spain, along with the bustling cities of Taipei, Paris and Tokyo on their own terms – by following these characters/actors as they quietly make their familiar treks, we are able to visit and breathe these locations with them, as opposed to films which relegate their settings to half-seen flashes of artifice.

What prevents all this from crossing over into documentary is the seemingly universal approach to gorgeous cinematography of ambient films: the camera tends to be set up for the framing of a setting rather than the framing of a character, while the character is there to balance out the composition and add humanism to the shot. With locations having the most major role in these films, they are filmed as lovingly as a genre film’s stars.

Along those lines, when non-diegetic music is incorporated into ambient films, it is used to complement the scenery rather than as a link to the emotional state of the characters – examples here would be Luis de Pablo’s score for The Spirit of the Beehive and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ennio Morricone’s score for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven.

To watch an ambient film is to enter the time and place in which it was made; not only are they objective experiences but also the purest form of escapism I have yet to come across. They are made to reflect upon us as we reflect upon them.

Ten examples of ambient films, in no specific order:

Café Lumière - Hou Hsiao-hsien (2003)
The Spirit of the Beehive - Víctor Erice (1973)
Linda Linda Linda - Nobuhiro Yamashita (2005)
What Time is it There? - Tsai Ming-liang (2001)
Days of Heaven - Terrence Malick (1978)
Small Change / Pocket Money - François Truffaut (1976)
Syndromes and a Century - Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2006)
L'eclisse - Michelangelo Antonioni (1962)
Flight of the Red Balloon - Hou Hsiao-hsien (2007)
Whisper of the Heart - Yoshifumi Kondo (1995)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Softcore World

The narrative essay Softcore World has been added to The piece is several things: it is an essay on the act of watching a movie, a short story where the locations are as important as the characters and a screenplay for an ambient film. Each of these aspects relies fully on the others.

Sam Beck illustrated each segment of Softcore World with a series of art pieces presented as frames from the titular film. Through the painstaking attention to detail and atmosphere in these frames the film becomes utterly real.

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