jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Wouldn't Like Me)
Last month I visited the Tate Modern while in London, but totally forgot to blog about it. I've never been the biggest fan of (a lot of) modern art, so I was dubious going in, but open to try it and hopeful that I'd come away with a newfound appreciation. Well, I did. Mostly. I was lucky enough to see the latest Damien Hirst show, which was interesting and beautiful and grotesque and frustrating all at the same time. Not all of the pieces worked for me, but a couple of them worked strongly enough that I came away with a general good feeling about the exhibition. I'm still not sure if modern art is my thing, though I'm much more amenable to giving it a whirl.

Pieces that were hits: the shark, the butterfly room and Black Sun.

Pieces that did not hit: The medicine cabinets lost their charm after the third or fourth. I get that our bodies-will-ultimately-fail-us, and they may have provided a thematic thread through the whole exhibition, but I didn't need three roomfuls. And I admit, as much as I loved the concept of the butterfly room, I could only stick it for about three minutes before I had to duck out (literally). A lot of them were tropical butterflies and they were bloody humungous! One landed on my head as I went in and gave me the wiggins.



He's very focused on birth/health and death/decay. You go from the butterfly room, with its canvas-lined walls embedded with pupae that the butterflies hatch from and carry out their life cycle, to the black sun room which is a gigantic mural made of dead flies in resin. Yum.

Another piece of note—one I'm still not sure whether I liked or not—is A Thousand Years. It's a massive glass box with a smaller white box inside that's filled with maggots (you can't see them). These maggots are continuously hatching into flies, which fly out of the white box and feed on a severed cow's head on the floor. There's also an electric insect-o-cuter in the box which draws many of the flies and obliterates them. Others just die naturally—they litter the floor like a black carpet. I must say, I felt a bit squiggly looking at that one. Plus, you could smell this faint undercurrent of flies and rotting cow's head. But at the same time, conceptually, it was pretty well executed.

The Hand That Feeds, by Nine Inch Nails.
jenniferkoliver: (Let the Right One In | Eli & Oskar)
This Thursday I'll be attending StorySLAM: Live at the Southbank Centre in London. I'm not reading, as I doubt I'll have time to write something to the theme "Sheet Lightning" by then, but I will be listening happily and hopefully networking, and at the very least learning some tips and tricks we can apply to our own Slam on the 20th.

Over the last few days I've been making new story flyers and booklets to give out in a couple of weeks. I love this stuff, though it does take up quite a bit of time, so I have to be firm and only allow myself an hour or two each day. I've also discovered the joy that is the bookmarklet, which is a slim notebook the size of a bookmark you can use to take notes on whatever book you happen to be reading. I've made a few with our amazing Slam poster design by Dan Morison (see it here).

Here is my stash so far – new flyers, bookmarks and bookmarklets, as well as a few leftovers from last year ) Craftypants!

My new website and blog design is also nearing completion, at least on a Photoshop level. I've yet to start chopping it up and coding. But I'm really excited about getting a new look! I just hope it's not too much pink. OK, I was going to sit on it until it's ready, but I need to re-learn how to make image maps for LJ-based layouts which could take some time, so I might as well post a preview: New journal layout WIP – The Curious Evolution of JKO )

In between writing and designing, I'm trying not to get too distracted by Zombie Swipeout, a new game by Zynga for the iPhone. It's like Fruit Ninja, but with zombies instead of fruit. Zombies are better to swipe than fruit ("Zombies vs. Fruit"–the next big anthology, Y/Y?). The app has issues, though—issues I hope Zynga rectify, otherwise they'll be missing out on such a big investment. At times it almost feels like the app is only three-quarters finished. And I don't recommend buying the paid version, because apparently it's barely worth it. But still! Zombies.

Pretty Life, by Jakalope.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Butterfly Hat)
I always used to say "Trust your story to know what it needs to do" but all my flash fiction seems to end up too long to be flash fiction, even when I set out with a clear plan that's as self-contained and streamlined as possible. The idea starts off small and doable, but in the writing, it explodes and branches off down irresistible avenues. I'm starting to think not all stories know what's best for them—some of them actually want some discipline, otherwise they run away, like the terrible little delinquents they are.

Yeah, I'm having difficulties writing a piece of flash fiction for the Storyslingers Story Slam. Reading slots are approximately five minutes, which equals about 780 words, give or take a few. I had an exciting idea last night, but I already know it'll be a full short story rather than a flash. Grrr. (I'm still jazzed about writing it, though!)

Speaking of the Slam, we've had some incredible custom-illustration done for the promotional posters and flyers. The artwork is by Dan Morison, a London-based artist who draws cool mecha-centric characters and scenes among other things:

Check out his design for Storyslingers here. Cut for size, but you should totally take a look because it is brilliant! )

So far the organisation seems to be going well, although we're aware time is slipping away fast. We have a couple of judges for the panel and we've come up with ideas for prizes and some small tokens for participants. We've also had some sign-ups for the competitive readings, and a number of writers are interested in reading out their flash fiction in the non-competitive slots. Oh, and we may also have a didgeridoo for musical accompaniment (because everyone should have a didgeridoo for musical accompaniment).

Lucky Pressure, by Roni Size / Reprazent.
jenniferkoliver: (Deftones | Chino)
We're halfway through the year (er, how did that happen, exactly?), so I thought I'd update on my progress at [livejournal.com profile] getyourwordsout. Like I mentioned before, April and May were a bit of a wash, but the first three months of the year were highly productive, and it's picking up again now in June. As of this second, so far this year I've written 90,506 words, plus however many I've jotted in my notebook that I never moved over to the computer (I don't count those words, only the ones that make it into documents). Not bad going, if I do say so myself! Sadly, I currently only have one short story on submission, and that's way below what I wanted by this time. But never mind, there are still words. Many, many words. Without words, there would never be any submissions, right? Yeah, I'll keep telling myself that…

I was staring at the Fightstar album cover for Be Human (NSFW!) the other day, and I thought: that's really cool, I'd like to do something like that on my new website and/or blog layout, which prompted me to try and find the original image. Well, I did find it—that and a load more incredible pieces.

The artist is Ryohei Hase. Here are a couple of my favourites, but I recommend checking their entire gallery:

Go Forward and Forward – After the album cover, this was the first one I found. I love it. I love the tangle of it and the pretty surrealism of it, the differing sizes of the rabbit faces, how one or two of them look mean, the detail of the fine white hairs torn from ears, and the movement, the surge of it. My only gripe—and it's a small gripe—is that I find the concept a tad obvious. But it doesn't matter, because this is so very cool.

Album Cover Art – This one is made for a new album by Japanese band L'Arc-en-Ciel. Lookit them colours! And it's quickly dawning on me that I have a thing about animal heads on human bodies. Not sure if I should worry about that or not. Hmm.

Grand Unification Pt. 2, by Fightstar. It's all about that drop at 2:12. Gets me every time. :)
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Balloons)
At my last creative writing group meeting we explored Dadaism, a cultural movement that started during WWI. From Wikipedia:

Dada is the groundwork to abstract art and sound poetry, a starting point for performance art, a prelude to postmodernism, an influence on pop art, a celebration of anti-art to be later embraced for anarcho-political uses in the 1960s and the movement that lay the foundation for Surrealism.

Many Dadaists believed that the 'reason' and 'logic' of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war. They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality.

Our own Dada exercise focussed less on politics and more on letting go of authorial control, something I struggle with a lot. It's easy enough to try at home, or anywhere, really. All you need to do is pick a couple of passages from any book, magazine or printed source, print them out and then cut out individual words and/or small sentences, mix them around, then reassemble them into something new—without forcing them to make sense. One of the key things about this, and one of the things I found most difficult to start with, is allowing the word order to be totally random. I kept wanting to put certain words next to each other to form a coherence. So after a semi-Dada practise run, I managed to make a fully random Dada paragraph.

We used excerpts from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. I don't know if I'd call it a poem, because even that suggests some kind of 'ordering', so I'll just say it is what it is:

Patriarch's Ponds. Associations, dressed in a Berlioz, an awe horn-rimmed glasses my utterance / And and with who called Massolit / broad-shouldered drag drink deep and by thee, O torments me. Hair, eternal my.

And these are my semi-Dada pieces, where I'd not quite let go of control and there was a little conscious placement:

The lips should utterance / One of you pseudonym of Homeless / And his conduct and vengeance

I must excited quickly dark-haired, plump, bald / Destroy him by perish / The spirits their murderer / The poet feel, poet agony; this shall feel the dead over


Sharing them with each other was most of the fun. Some of them were hilarious, others a little eerie, and all contained interesting concepts or prompts that could be expanded into longer pieces. This is definitely an exercise I'll be trying again in the future.
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Girl with Wolf Hat)
A bitch of an eye infection has kept me away from LJ lately, but I think I've managed to chase it off now. That was a frustrating three or four weeks, though! At one point I was sat in a room with the curtains closed and two pairs of sunglasses on, and I could still barely keep my eyes open. I also got a free eye blister, on special offer, apparently, for picking up the infection. So that was a barrel of laughs. ;)

Anyway, I meant to post about the Arts Festival but the eye thing buggered up my plans. Basically, it went well and we learned loads about promotion and presence—things we can put into action next time. And speaking of the next time, there's a local literary festival in October and we've booked a table. This means the writing of more short pieces for flyers, printing out more copies of the old ones, making more bookmarks and fun things. Woohoo! I love getting crafty.

A while ago, back in May or June this year, I wrote a short story about an unfortunate young man afflicted with magnetic skin, who attracted cutlery wherever he went. On Tuesday someone at my writing group handed me an article from The Times, dated 16 September 2011:

Boys show off their magnetism
Two "magnetic" boys in Serbia have shown that they can apparently attract metal objects. David Petrovic, 4, and his cousin Luka, 6, have been declared healthy by doctors. Similar cases have been reported in the region.

See that? MY STORIES ARE COMING TRUE. Next I'm writing about how I became rich. What? It's worth a try!
jenniferkoliver: (Vintage | Stressed is Desserts)
This week I've been art and craft shopping like crazy, searching for interesting materials with which to make promotional stuff for the arts festival. And I must say, my wanderings have been extremely fruitful! I've got multi-coloured card and paper, stencils and stickers, as well as some beautiful calligraphy pens in silver and gold ink that are perfect for writing and drawing on dark backgrounds. I'm gradually transforming my spare back room (that also serves as my cat's bedroom) into a studio. Not sure how Harry the cat feels about this!

I'll be showcasing three separate pieces, two of them printed on large postcards, and an A5 folded booklet for a slightly longer piece that was written for one of the writing group's prompts. See a sample here )

More indulgently, I've also discovered a little craft shop in a nearby town that sells Paperblanks notebooks. Do check out their website, if only for the pictures of their books. They're exquisite. I'd eventually like to get a notebook from their Fabulous Footwear collection (no major surprises there, eh?). Their magnetic wrap closures are a dream, as you don't get frayed or rumpled page edges and it keeps the paper clean. So far I've bought their Filigree Floral Ebony book and the smaller, extremely cute Swirling Peacock Ivory. ♥

I've also just started a new website design commission for a local picture framing business. It's always nice designing for people who are arty, as they generally know what they want in terms of style/texture/etc.

The writing front has been dominated by research lately, but that's ok—I have a gazillion notes, and it's enjoyable work. I'm almost ready to tackle the first draft of my steampunk story, which needs a rewrite and some TLC.
jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Kitty Love)
I forgot to mention in my Watchmen icon post that I was looking through SFX magazine recently and saw a link to this hilarious parody Watchponies. Whoever made it is a genius and has lip-synced the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic movie with the audio from the Watchmen trailer. Featuring Pinkie Pie as Rorschach and Rainbow Dash as The Comedian, this had me rolling. Genius, I say!

These past few days I've mostly been preparing for an arts festival taking place in my home town in a couple of weeks. The writing group will have a showcase area, so we're making flyers and promotional material to hand out to the public, and with any luck we'll tempt a few new members. It's a shame we're still a relatively new group, otherwise we'd have more time to create home-made books of our stories and poems, but the flyers and posters should be enough, and we may put on an interactive exercise where members of the public can get involved, kind of like those Consequences stories (you know the ones, where you write a line then fold the paper over and pass it to the next person. I spent most of my French lessons at school playing Consequences!). Anyway, I've been messing about in Photoshop and come up with some booklet covers and flyers for the festival )

I'm also toying with the idea of making micro-fiction bookmarks. If anyone has any other ideas for creative promotional goods, let me know! They'd need to be reasonably small and doable in a short period of time, though.

And while I'm on the subject of creative endeavours, I'm also considering making some bags out of old books, much like these. If nothing else, they would sort out Christmas and birthday gifts for tricky female relatives and friends. :)

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Jennifer K. Oliver

March 2017

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