Friday, October 6, 2017

Augmented Reality Art Project


A new Snapchat Lens will allow users to project Jeff Koons’s sculptures onto international landmarks. Here, his “Rabbit” appears next to the Eiffel Tower. CreditJeff Koons and Snap Inc.

Wait, when did they put that giant metal rabbit under the Eiffel Tower?
If you receive photos of the provocative artist Jeff Koons’s sculptures looming under and over international landmarks, don’t be alarmed: It’s just augmented reality. Snapchat has partnered with Mr. Koons to allow users to project his sculptures in specific sites around the world — including in Central Park in New York, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and on the Champ de Mars in Paris.
The project, part of Snapchat’s Lens feature that is available starting on Tuesday, lets users animate photos and videos — the app’s dancing hot dog, for instance, which used the technology, has become a viral sensation. Mr. Koons’s sculptures will be Snapchat’s first site-specific lenses, and will only be able to be activated within about 1,000 feet of a location.
“The lenses are an example of the way Snapchat is trying to remove friction from the creative process,” Evan Spiegel, founder and chief executive of Snapchat, said at a news conference at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit on Tuesday. “The fact we can bring these ginormous sculptures anywhere in the world is just the beginning of inspiring young people all over the world to create with our cameras.”
Users would be able to take photos of themselves with famous Koons sculptures — like “Balloon Dog” (in front of which Jay-Z performed on a recent tour), “Rabbit” and “Play-Doh.” Some of their locations also include Millennium Park in Chicago, the National Mall in Washington, the Venice Boardwalk in Los Angeles, Hyde Park in London and Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The sculptures would appear to be about three stories tall.
Over the last year, Mr. Koons has dabbled in designing handbags and snowboards; last year he created a special edition smartphone case for Google. He praised Snapchat in an interview with i-D this year: “I think it’s wonderful that people can, you know, pick up a phone and feel the freedom of — like Snapchat — making something that is aesthetically and emotionally pleasing, and fun, and to just feel that experience.”

Biking to Work, Arriving in Style

Alex Lightman, an architect, is among the legions of New Yorkers who bike to work.CreditSam Polcer for The New York Times
With the subways faltering and Citi Bikes expanding, biking is now an established part of New York City’s commuting culture.
But there’s a conundrum: How do you bike to an office job without looking like a messenger all day?
Most offices still expect a modicum of sartorial decorum, even if they’re run by millennials with a laid-back Silicon Valley ethos. That leaves stylish men searching for ways to arrive looking fresh, despite having already logged a few miles on their morning ride.
For the architect Alex Lightman, 30, who bikes nine miles each day from his home in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to his office in Midtown Manhattan, a full change of clothes is helpful.
Mr. Lightman starts his nine-mile commute in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.CreditSam Polcer for The New York Times
“I don’t commute in what I’m going to be wearing to work,” Mr. Lightman said. “I wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and I’ll change at the office. I have shoes and a couple blazers at work so I can just pack a pair of pants and a shirt in my bag.”
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Additionally Mr. Lightman wears a cycling cap under his helmet, to help with the dreaded helmet hair. He places his backpack in his bike’s front basket, as opposed to wearing it on his back, to avoid unseemly sweat.
There are downsides. “It takes some forethought to stash some stuff at work,” he said. “I just wear one or two pairs of shoes at work, so if you want to wear something different every single day, it’d be kind of difficult.”
And he once forgot to bring his work clothes, which meant he had to buy an outfit before starting his day.
To look fresh at the office, Mr. Lightman keeps shoes and several blazers there. CreditSam Polcer for The New York Times
Cesar Villalba, 31, a designer at Coach who bikes six miles to his office in Hudson Yards from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, finds versatility in an unexpectedly quotidian piece of clothing: a button-down shirt. “I wear it around my waist in case I have to go to the theater, or if it gets colder,” he said. “Or if I get sweaty, I can hide it.”
Mr. Villalba also advises against a backpack (he has been using a cross-body bag lately) and to think about fabrics. He prefers linen in the summer and breathable merino wool for the rest of the year.
He also notes that having a reputation as the resident bike fanatic helps.
“Many times things have happened like I’ve gotten a flat before an important meeting and arrived with my hands covered in oil and grease,” he said. “Most of the people in the company know that I’m a cyclist. I’m that sweaty person with his hair always wet.”
While some office workers might not want such a reputation, Nick Rosser, 30, an account manager at the creative agency King and Partners, isn’t bothered by it. He bikes two and a half miles from the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn to NoHo, and often arrives drenched.
“I’m really sweaty,” he said, laughing, “and then I’ll stand in front of the air-conditioner for like five minutes. Everyone in my office just understands that I have to do that because I ride my bike to work.”
Sometimes he’ll even throw his T-shirt over the air-conditioner, whether or not his co-workers mind. “Everyone’s staring at me, but that’s the only way to cool down,” he said. “You either do that or splash cold water on your face.”
On the occasions when appearance matters more, Mr. Rosser has a stick of deodorant and pomade in his bag, so he can step into the bathroom and quickly freshen up before starting the day.
The best advice may be Mr. Lightman’s. “You don’t have to ride fast,” he said. “I do the nine miles, but I’m cruising, I’m not going for a personal best.”
After all, part of the pleasure of the morning bike commute is the scenery and the fresh air. “I’m cruising,” he said. “I’m enjoying it.”

Review: In ‘Blade Runner 2049,’ Hunting Replicants Amid Strangeness


Ryan Gosling stars in “Blade Runner 2049,” directed by Denis Villeneuve. CreditStephen Vaughan/Warner Bros.

A lot of the movies released in the late 1970s and early ’80s have spawned franchises, merchandising empires and what we are now invited to call “cinematic universes.” “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s initially underrated 1982 adaptation of a novel by Philip K. Dick, accomplished something more unusual. It sent tendrils of influence — pictorial, conceptual and spiritual — into every corner of the culture and inspired a mystery cult.
Like other sacred texts, the film invites doctrinal arguments and esoteric inquiries. One of my fondest memories as a father and a film critic is of an impromptu post-screening seminar with two 11-year-olds about occult meanings and hidden clues in the director’s cut. How do we know (if indeed we do know) that Harrison Ford is a replicant? What is the significance of the origami horse? Are Sean Young’s shoulder pads for real?
[Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling Discuss “Blade Runner 2049”]
Alongside these basic interpretive questions, an academic subfield has blossomed, isolating “Blade Runner” as one of the original symptoms of postmodernism, a terminal and interminable disease of the mind. The film’s blend of curatorial nostalgia and dystopian prophecy captured a mood of self-conscious melancholy in its moment and set a tone of melancholy self-consciousness that has endured ever since. Maybe the real world never quite achieved the smoky neon-noir glow of Mr. Scott’s Los Angeles, but the map of our collective dream world was permanently redrawn.


Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner 2049.” CreditStephen Vaughan/Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros.

The precise future “Blade Runner” projected is now less than two years away, and the next chapter, once something to be dreaded, seems, if anything, overdue. “Blade Runner 2049,” directed by Denis Villeneuve from a script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, tries both to honor the original and to slip free of its considerable shadow. That’s no easy feat, and it’s worth noting right away that, in narrow movie terms, Mr. Villeneuve, who also directed “Arrival,” mostly succeeds. From the opening aerial shots of a thoroughly denatured agricultural landscape and the lethal confrontation that follows, we know we are in the presence of a masterly visual tactician and a shrewd storyteller.
[The “Blade Runner 2049” Look]
We are also in territory that is both familiar and disorienting. A brief note explains what has and hasn’t changed in the 30 years since the events in the first “Blade Runner.” Three-wheeled spinners still zoom through the California skies, and the building-size video advertisements have evolved into seductive, R-rated holograms. The titular profession — hunting down and “retiring” renegade members of the almost-human, genetically engineered android species known as replicants — is practiced with the same brutal doggedness as in the old days.
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A new, more obedient type of replicant has been developed by a corporation led by a tech visionary played by Jared Leto. (His lieutenant Luv is played by Sylvia Hoeks, a far more vivid and persuasively terrifying presence than the mannered Mr. Leto.) One of these models is our hero, an L.A.P.D. employee known as K. (It’s an abbreviation of his serial number and also, maybe, an allusion to Franz Kafka’s avatar of modern alienation. That poor fellow’s full name was Josef K; when this K acquires a human pseudonym, it’s Joe.)
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Anatomy of a Scene | ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Denis Villeneuve narrates a sequence from his film featuring Ryan Gosling.
 By MEKADO MURPHY on Publish DateOctober 2, 2017. Photo by Stephen Vaughan/Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures. Watch in Times Video »
Speaking of avatars of alienation, K moves through his days with the unhurried shuffle and downcast baby blues of Ryan Gosling. This is impeccable casting. Mr. Gosling’s ability to elicit sympathy while seeming too distracted to want it — his knack for making boredom look like passion and vice versa — makes him a perfect warm-blooded robot for our time. He is also, in 2017, something close to what Harrison Ford was 35 years ago: the contemporary embodiment of Hollywood’s venerable ideal of masculine cool, a guy whose toughness will turn out to be the protective shell encasing a tender soul.
At first, of course, we must take that sensitivity on faith. K does his grim job thoroughly and without complaint, showing the weary, cynical patience of an old-time shamus. His commander (Robin Wright) is a human who believes that everything depends on policing the border between her kind and K’s. The whole point of “Blade Runner,” though, is that such boundaries are always blurred and porous. K comes home each night from work to the company of Joi (Ana de Armas), his devoted girlfriend, who happens to be a commercially produced artificial intelligence application.
We are prepared to acknowledge the pathos and the paradox of her condition, which is a version of K’s own. The idea that synthetic humans harbor feelings, desires and dreams — that they are mirrors of us, that we are replicas of them — has long been a staple of speculative cinema. “Blade Runner 2049” does not wander as deep into this ontological thicket as, say, Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” or Spike Jonze’s “Her,” but like those movies it uses the conceit of the suffering cyborg as ethical and emotional ballast, a spur to the audience’s curiosity as well as our compassion. A political theme also asserts itself: These replicants are an enslaved labor force; their exploitation is the fuel on which this civilization runs.
There is a something to think about here, a fair amount to feel and even more to see. Mr. Villeneuve has conspired with the cinematographer, Roger A. Deakins; the production designer, Dennis Gassner; and the special effects team to create zones of strangeness that occasionally rise to the level of sublimity. The movies Mr. Villeneuve has directed — his recent English-language features include “Sicario,” “Prisoners” and “Arrival” — are full of violence and psychological intensity, but what distinguishes them from other high-end genre spectacles is an unnerving calm, as if he were exploring and trying to synthesize the human and mechanical sides of his own sensibility.


Sylvia Hoeks as the character Luv.CreditStephen Vaughan/Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros. \

Movies are by their nature hybrids of technology and sentiment, machines for the delivery of human emotion. The first “Blade Runner” approached this as a philosophical problem and an artistic challenge. Mr. Scott used imagery borrowed from old Hollywood, German Expressionism and the nascent art of music video to create a dazzlingly artificial environment where authenticity was out of the question. Except, of course, that it wasthe question: How do we know what is real, ourselves included?
“I know what’s real,” says the hero of that movie when — at long last! — he shows up in this one. K finds Deckard, the original Blade Runner (Mr. Ford, as if I needed to tell you), in an abandoned Las Vegas casino, surrounded by shimmering bottles of whiskey and primitive 3-D projections of Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Mr. Gosling, suddenly overmatched in the masculine cool department, acquits himself well enough, and Mr. Ford does exactly what you expect him to do.
Which is not something I’m going to explain, at least as far as it relates to the story. The studio has been unusually insistent in its pleas to critics not to reveal plot points. That’s fair enough, but it’s also evidence of how imaginatively impoverished big-budget movies have become. Like any great movie, Mr. Scott’s “Blade Runner” cannot be spoiled. It repays repeated viewing because its mysteries are too deep to be solved and don’t depend on the sequence of events. Mr. Villeneuve’s film, by contrast, is a carefully engineered narrative puzzle, and its power dissipates as the pieces snap into place. As sumptuous and surprising as it is from one scene to the next, it lacks the creative excess, the intriguing opacity and the haunting residue of its predecessor.

As such, “Blade Runner 2049” stands in relation to “Blade Runner” almost exactly as K stands in relation to Deckard before the two meet: as a more docile, less rebellious “improvement,” tweaked and retrofitted to meet consumer demand. And the customers are likely to be satisfied. But now and then — when K and Deckard are knocking around the old gambling palace; when K visits an enigmatic mind-technician played by Carla Juri — you get an inkling that something else might have been possible. Something freer, more romantic, more heroic, less determined by the corporate program.
Then again: Who knows at this point if that sense of loss, of lost possibility, is even real? It might be nothing more than an artificially implanted memory.

Correction: October 5, 2017 
An earlier version of this review misidentified the actress who plays Dr. Ana Stelline, the mind-technician. She is Carla Juri, not Mackenzie Davis (who plays Mariette).

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