Monday, April 26, 2010

Flying Spaghetti Monsters

For those not versed in the religious fervor surrounding the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (also known as Pastafarianism) please visit their homepage and be sure to read the letter that started it all.

They are not at all a religion, though. They're a loose group of skeptics actively opposed to the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom in the USA. Much of their work is done through parody of the christian establishment.

My favourite works are their self-labeled propaganda using appropriated and altered imagery.

This has been so successful that they have a following of people sending in sightings and miracles
of the FSM.

I think that the basis of the success is by combining humor and satire to make the opposition look foolish. This has had great success in the past with the works of feminist artists juxtaposing the institution against their own actions and beliefs.

On a personal note, I witnessed my own pastavian miracle at an airshow where several jet trails crossed in His image. Unsurprisingly, there was someone in pirate garb nearby... running a carnival game.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The North American House Hippo

This was a PSA that was on TV when I was a kid. I thought it was awesome then and a friend reminded me of it recently. It very effectively uses documentary style cinematography and authoritative voice to create a believable scenario and then to break the illusion to get its message across.

Have a watch. Show your kids.

Encouraging children to think...What a novel concept.

Maybe it worked on me because I've become a hopeless skeptic.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Elephant painting

There's a phenomenon going on here and there where elephants are being allowed to paint.

Here are a few examples from the adult female Kamala at the Calgary Zoo in Canada.

Now the elephants themselves aren't known for being especially outspoken skeptics, but the art they create makes me think. It makes me question what art is and whether we have fooled ourselves into believing that is what the elephants are making.

I've seen the show and the Kamala seems really happy to paint, however I also noticed all the praise she got for doing so. So is she painting because she wants to or because she's been trained to?

Is an elephant capable of making art? Does the art mean anything to her? Is there emotional expression? Is it actually art? If this is art, what does that imply about our development as a species?

I'm curious if the painting is a consequence of the elephant psyche combined with opportunity or a concequence of human influence and training. I'd really like to believe that the elephant wants to paint and this is evidence of rudimentary desire to create and express. It seems considerably more likely that the elephant is just reproducing trained behaviour.

Those treacherous paintings.

The 1929 painting "La trahison des images" by surrealist artist Rene Magritte is a famous example of fine art demanding its viewer to think about what they are seeing.

(for those not at all fluent in french, this translates to "this is not a pipe")

At first the subtitle is absurd. Of course it's a pipe. It looks just like a pipe. The fact is that this isn't a pipe at all, it is oil paint on canvas (I think) The caption demands that the viewer think about the painting, and then all other paintings or images with the same critical lens.

This painting does a dance with surrealism (dreamlike imagery with heavy freudian influence) early post modernism (art that is self aware of its medium and message) and skeptical thinking (demanding higher levels of questioning and inquiry).

Back to work.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Engaging in debate through rap in the popular media.

So apparently the Insane Clown Posse is a hardcore Christian rap group with enough of a following to get noticed when they create something like this:

It basically claims that everything from heredity to fog is a miracle. I can't define a miracle myself and I suppose you can call whatever you want a miracle. I'm pretty sure that these guys are anti science, though(mostly because they say so in the video). And that has a few people rebutting the song and using the same art form to do it.

The Escapist, a site devoted mostly to nerd humor and gaming news, presented a remarkably cogent rebuttal/parody.

And a slightly higher profile spot on SNL which is straight up satire.

So here we have a raging debate through the medium of song. Artistic expression as argument.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I feel fantastic!

So for my first musical number....

Johnathan Coulton is a comedic musician with a bit of a science geek hiding inside. His music hits on a bunch of exciting themes from fractal geometry to exhibitionist fetishes. The song I want to talk about today is called "I Feel Fantastic".

It's a perky number as the name suggests but it is also a well constructed satire of our over medicated responsibility shirking technology swamped society.

What does this have to do with skepticism? I think that it does a fine job of pointing out questions that should be being asked. What is good and what is necessary about modern life? Where are current lifestyle trends heading? Can steak actually taste better with medication? Asking questions is the basis of skeptical inquiry and I think questioning the status quo is of particular importance.

Here's a fan video on youtube with the song in question.

Here's a link to his website.
Visit it. Listen, laugh, buy songs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Teaching the Controversy has some brilliantly designed t-shirts which hijack the "teach the controversy" phrase used by creationists in the united states.

I'm particularly impressed with the two dinosaur designs. They were the first that I saw and I was actually unsure what side of the debate had produced the designs. I would be unsurprised to find the triceratops pulling the plow at the creation museum gift shop.

I would have posted them even if the designs had been produced by the political right. They made me think long enough about what they were trying to say that I am duly impressed no matter who made them.

On a side note, does it bug anyone else that extreme conservatives get associated with the word "right" which can also mean correct?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Can art be skeptical?

What is skepticism?

In my mind skepticism is rigorous and conscious questioning of information and the world around you. It is the act of investigation and thinking critically about what you perceive and consciously reviewing your own beliefs.

What is art?

Well this is a very difficult question. For the sake of this blog, art is a creative endeavor meant to inform or entertain.

What is skeptical art?

Skeptical art is a creative creation that intentionally encourages the audience to think, to question themselves, and to look again to really believe.

Why am I creating this blog?

I am an artist and a skeptic. I would like a forum to collect to stunning examples of skeptical art that I find and to share it with others. I'm hoping that someday others will start to submit examples to me themselves of skeptical art and perhaps a small community will form.

Being an artist myself, I will be presenting some of my own work as well. I apologize in advance for the apparent arrogance of putting my own work beside the works of great artists. But hey, it's the internet. If I can't stroke my own ego here, then where?

To start, I will put up some work from one of the most famous artists that I am aware of creating skeptical art. I give you M.C. Escher.

Belvedere - 1958
M.C. Escher (1989-1972)