Animator Anna Samo Scripts a Love Letter to Artists in Her Short Film ‘Conversations With a Whale’

Artists know this story well: an opportunity opens for an exhibition or a festival and in goes the application, but all that comes back is a rejection letter. While one or two letters of this kind might be easy to dismiss, they weigh heavily on one’s mind if they start to pile up. Animator Anna Samo taps into the unique emotional and mental fatigue endured by creatives who keep hitting roadblocks. In her stop-motion film “Conversations with a Whale,” she turns the prospect of a “no” into a fresh perspective on growth.

Created directly under the camera lens using a variety of analog filming techniques, the short follows a filmmaker who grapples with one rejection letter after another. Samo wrote in a director’s note that the piece “grew out of the necessity to reinvent my own creative process. It is based on my experience of rejection and failure. Why do I make films? Is it the success I long for and depend on? Does anyone need what I am doing? And if no one needs it, do I still have the right to do it?”

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New Generation of Land Artists Embodies a Call for Action 

David Brooks, “Death Mask for Landscape” (detail) (photo Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

TEMPE, AZ — A monumental hydroponics tower by interdisciplinary artist Steven Yazzie (Diné/Laguna Pueblo) glows with a bright white light inside a gallery space at Arizona State University (ASU) Art Museum, where its spiral form echoes Robert Smithson’s renowned “Spiral Jetty.” It’s been just over half a century since Smithson created his earthwork sculpture on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where it remains a marker for the ecologically focused Land Art movement launched during the 1960s. 

Titled “Yuméweuš” (2022), Yazzie’s tower bears amaranth plants grown using seeds sourced from Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson. Working inside the museum, which is located on the university’s Tempe campus, Yazzie surrounded the base of the totemic cylindrical garden with a sand painting that combines Native American and scientific imagery.

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Vivid Compositions in Thread Enliven Hollow Spaces in Diana Yevtukh’s Striking Embroideries

“No cage can hold the radiance of hope” Image © Diane Yevtukh

Ukrainian artist Diana Yevtukh draws inspiration from her surroundings by carefully situating cornucopian floral arrangements made of thread in the hollows of trees.  Base in Lviv, her work has assumed more urgency since the invasion of her home country by Russian forces earlier this year, and pieces like “Why did they do that to us” draw on her background in photography and design to spread the crucial message that Ukraine remains under threat.

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Massive Butterflies Alight on Architecture in Larger-Than-Life Trompe L’oeil Murals by Mantra

Image © Andrea Karoline Eder

In October 2020, a remarkable scene unfolded on the side of a building in the neighborhood of Jussieu in Versailles, France. Larger-than-life ladybug legs scurry along a stem, violet flowers blossom, and ornate butterflies perch on delicate petals. Over the course of six days, the French street artist Mantra completed the painting “Là où fleurit l’émerveillement,” which translates to “where wonder flourishes,” using rollers and brushes to apply acrylic painting to the multistory residential building. In the neighborhood named for French botanist Bernard de Jussieu (1699-1777), the artist pays tribute to nature and local wildlife.

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Intricate Visions

UK-baed JR CHUO is is a paper cut and spray paint artist whose work explores the notion of façades in society that conceal harsh realities. His work is inspired by the tragic beauty and striking colours found in dying coral. CHUO cuts all of his designs by hand – thousands of individual shapes work in harmony to form large, seamless designs.

A: What first drew you to working with paper cut and spray paint techniques?
JRC: I discovered the art of paper cutting during a trip to Japan in 2015 and was immediately struck by the intricacy of the medium and the wide range of subject matter that artists were able to capture in one single sheet of paper.

I began experimenting with paper cutting straight after the trip and became fascinated by the versatility of the medium. In terms of spray painting, I spent a lot of time in Shoreditch, London as a child and grew up admiring street artists and creating my own stencils and spray paintings. Unlike stencils used for spray painting, my paper cutting work places emphasis on the paper itself and I often display my original paper cut artworks in fluorescent acrylic.

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Step Inside the Brooklyn Waterfront Studio of Martha Friedman as She Stretches Herself to Cast 75 Giant Rubber Bands

Martha Friedman, Floating Thought #1, from “A Natural Thickening of Thought” (2022). Photo: Glen Cheriton, courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco. © Martha Friedman

Martha Friedman is a maestro of rubber, casting the bouncy, stretchy material into sheets, ropes, and tubes that she incorporates into artworks that range from sculptures to choreographed performances—and, most recently, the painterly light boxes on view in her current solo shows at San Francisco’s Jessica Silverman Gallery and the Princeton University Art Museum.

The series “A Natural Thickening of Thought” consists of 10 works, each featuring colorful, vaguely organic shapes made using dyed rubber. They were inspired by drawings of neurons by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the Spanish scientist who won the 1906 Nobel Prize for his research on the nervous system, which included detailed, groundbreaking drawings of what he saw beneath the microscope.

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What Exactly Is a ‘Museum of the Future’?

Inside the “OSS Hope” display at the Museum of the Future, Dubai. © TG MEDIA

In one of the galleries in Dubai’s recently opened Museum of Future, near the beginning of its futuristic displays, flickers in lavender-green neon the ancient Chinese proverb, written in three languages, Arabic, English, and Mandarin: “The ancestors plant the trees / the descendants enjoy the shade.”

The writing on the wall is literally and figuratively clear. Given the multiple pressing challenges our planet faces today, it becomes all the more paramount for the present generation to acknowledge and address these mounting crises to safeguard the planet for future ones. It’s a task that no doubt must be a collective, concerted undertaking.

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Ancient Reliefs and Engravings Discovered During Restoration in Egypt’s Temple of Esna in Luxor

Photo : Courtesy the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced earlier this week that the ongoing restoration project inside the Temple of Esna in Luxor revealed colorful reliefs and engravings on the ceilings and walls of the structure. Though the temple’s engravings had been previously studied, this is the first time such markings have been detected.

The Temple of Esna, located along the west bank of the Nile River, was originally dedicated to the ram-headed god of creation Khnum, who is associated with procreation and water. The temple’s construction began during the reign of Egyptian pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1479–25 BCE) and was completed during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (40–250 CE).

The temple currently sits nearly thirty-feet below street level, surrounded by centuries of accumulated desert sand and debris since its abandonment.

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On Opacity

View of the exhibition “Kapwani Kiwanga: Safe Passage,” 2019, at the MIT List Visual Arts Center.PHOTO PETER HARRIS STUDIO/COURTESY MIT LIST VISUAL ARTS CENTER, CAMBRIDGE, GALERIE TANJA WAGNER, BERLIN, AND GALERIE POGGI, PARIS

IN SANDRA MUJINGA’S VIDEO Worldview (2021), a chilly pastoral scene plays for eight hours across three framed screens. Are we looking through a window? A portal? Mujinga shot the footage at the innermost part of the Norwegian fjords at Gudvangen (from the Old Norse for “a god’s place near the water”), an area in the west of the country where archaeologists have uncovered pagan Norse ritual sites. I never saw any creatures in Worldview, but Mujinga claims that little animals scamper about in the film and, occasionally, a sea monster shows a fin or two. Mujinga, who is influenced by Afrofuturism and speculative fiction, aims to depict a space where “gods, monsters and other beings with exaggerated humanoid bodies” are moving about in broad daylight, yet are also hidden from viewers. “The co-inhabitants of this world seem not to care about the watchers,” the press release accompanying the video’s recent presentation at Swiss Institute in New York states, “but nonetheless, they prefer not to risk too much visibility.” Visibility, here, might mean becoming vulnerable to predators who could capture, study, or ogle them without regard for their well-being. Here, time functions as a means of obfuscation. The video is so long that most viewers won’t see much of it. This is a way for her subjects to exist without the tyranny of a viewer.

In some ways, Mujinga’s video aptly exercises what the Martinican writer and poet Édouard Glissant (1928–2011) called “the right to opacity.” In his final collection of essays, Philosophie de la relation (2009), Glissant described a stance intended to preserve all the nuances of one’s humanity amid forces, often colonial or imperialist, that seek to capture and flatten one’s subjectivity for easy legibility or categorization.

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