The Unbearable Banishment: Shadow Hallucinations

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shadow Hallucinations

Take a look at this bit of fun that's on display in MoMA's atrium until the end of the year. Seemingly rational, mature adults are dancing and flailing their limbs in front of a giant lightbox.

This installation is Shadow Monsters by British artist Philip Worthington. Before throwing a shadow up against the wall, it's first filtered through some custom Java script and physics software. This is the result:

Not only are the images distorted, but motion-generated sounds are added to include chirps, grunts, squeaks and, best of all, great, wallowing belches.

Groups of people are fun to watch because they generate the most noise, but there's a beauty and elegance to watching a lone dancer.

*     *     *

In honor of the holiday season, The American Atheist organization erected this billboard just north of Times Square.

This is pretty inflammatory stuff and it's going to offend a lot of people. Some poor mom and pop just want to bring the kiddies to Radio City to watch the Rockettes high-kick. They turn the corner and get smacked with this. The next thing you know, the kids are asking a lot of questions.

The atheists aren't going to win any converts this way. Aside from the name-calling, they've mixed up their holidays. It looks like they're referring to Easter. My initial reaction was a surprise to myself. Instead of passing judgment on the appropriateness of the message or sparking an internal debate over whether or not God exists, I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride that I live in a democracy. You'd never get away with something like this if you lived in China or the Middle East. Can you imagine if you put up a big billboard implying that Allah is a myth?! You'd get chopped up into tiny morsels.


Blogger dinahmow said...

Yes, someone has confused the crucifixion with the nativity.
Wrong place, wrong time to open public debate, but I'm with you on the democracy angle.Just a pity that some folk think "democracy" means they can plead the 2nd and do what they damn' well like.
Perhaps "Happy Holiday" is appropriate, after all.

December 14, 2012 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

And not for nothing, that ad sits atop a strip club. Ahem -- gentleman's club. The kids will have questions about that, too.

December 14, 2012 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

To the videos, I say, YES! YES! YES!

To the rest,

Amen, Brother! xox

December 14, 2012 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger OldLady Of The Hills said...

I loved watching the Shadow Dances and enjoyed the 'sound effects', too....It has to be a lot of fun to particpate in this!

December 15, 2012 at 2:50 AM  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

My guess is you'd get chopped into tinier morsels if you lived in Saudi Arabia. The Iranians are unpredictable in their response to insults. I'd like to see Village People do their YMCA dance in front of that light screen.

December 15, 2012 at 3:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Lots of drunken people would be fun to watch in front of the screen, so much more entertaining than any relgious nonsense, regardless of any cardboard personal beliefs.

December 15, 2012 at 5:23 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

It was fun! I went back for a second helping the next day. It's pretty impressive in person.

December 15, 2012 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Excellent point, my simian friend. The Saudis are all business but it's fun and games and unpredictability over in Iran. I'd like to see a chorus line of apes to YMCA in front of that light screen.

December 15, 2012 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Just the same, I wouldn't trade our religious nuts for theirs. Those guys went off the deep end.

December 15, 2012 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

The best part of the exhibit is watching people lose their inhibitions. The kids, especially, really cut loose!

December 15, 2012 at 7:55 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

love the shadow dancing! there's an exhibit in one of the Chicago Museums (Science and Industry?) that has butterflies landing on your shadow - responding to your movements...

as for the billboard? probably lost in the noise. the kids just want to go to toys-r-us, buy some M&Ms and pose with Spiderman... i had a hard time training my spawn to question advertisements. for a long time they referred to catalogs as magazines. had to nearly beat the distinction into their little consumerist heads!

December 15, 2012 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Here's a late development. Walking through Times Square last night on the way to the theater I saw a Mormon/Jesus Rules billboard about one block north of this one. The battlefield has changed but the war rages on.

December 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a very, very mature individual, I'd probably be in front of that shadow puppet display for hours trying to make it burp.

December 16, 2012 at 2:58 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sadly, that was me. I was doing the idiot-white-man dance. Spastic movements lacking any kind of rhythm. It was appreciate by people taking videos.

December 16, 2012 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger mapstew said...

We had a similar installation in our City Gallery earlier this year, the Map had great fun! I posted pics somewhere.... :¬)

December 16, 2012 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Pics on your site? Did I miss that? I don't remember. It's fun to participate, ain't it?

December 16, 2012 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

A fun way to get exercise.
Freedom of speech is a precious commodity and it would be miraculous if people remembered my Mum's homily: is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?

December 17, 2012 at 5:59 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Your Mum's sentiment is lovely but I'm afraid it would fall on too many deaf ears. Is that cynical of me? Still...we're lucky to live in a society that tolerates this sort of thing. We're better off for it, methinks.

December 17, 2012 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Completely agree that free speech is to be applauded; I'm no Jesus Freak. Agnostic myself, but I'm not a fan of the atheist conversion movement. Seems just like they are proselytizing just like any other group of believers.

December 17, 2012 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I'm agnostic, too. Not really believing in the institutions and maybe there's no God, but I'm too freaked out to just come out and say it. Glad you're back from your self-imposed time out.

December 17, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Shadow Monsters is tops, I want to play!

I'm pretty sure I don't believe in a god (I certainly don't believe in a one moment loving, one moment vengeful super-male), and am very glad I live in a society in which I can say that without risking my safety. But I have to say the atheists piss me off as much, if not more, than most religious sorts. They insist they have reason on their side, then fail to make use of it, preferring instead to appeal to emotion, as this poster shows.

If I don't make it back here before it all kicks off I'll say now: have a marvellous Christmas and New Year with Mrs Wife and the girls.

December 17, 2012 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

That's an excellent point. You're clever. They're just another organization who co-opts God for their own means. It'll never end. Happy holidays to you, too. It's aways nice to see you pop over.

December 17, 2012 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I hope you-all have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

December 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM  

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