Sweet Colour Overload

…is the way Tanya Schultz, the Perth-based artist behind Pip & Pop, describes Pip & Pop.

Tanya Schultz loves stories about paradise and imaginary worlds, and especially stories about lands made entirely of food. It is a kind of fantasy found in many cultures throughout history. There is the French mythological Land of Cockaigne, a place where sugar rains from the sky and the streets are paved with pastries, or Big Rock Candy mountain, a hobos idea of paradise, or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. She is fascinated by the idea of a paradise where you could have everything that you possibly desire and more. Clearly on the same wavelength with little bears!

Little bears love strolling through the Lollypop Woods or hiking up the Gumdrop Mountains of Candyland. Pip and Pop’s tiny sugar-coated dreamscapes are delicious realizations of every little bear’s candy-filled dream 🙂

The magical works are made up of sugar, glitter, and plastic toys that come together in a pastel mirage. These sculptural treats are like a sugary version of Japanese pop art with cartoonish shapes and eye-popping colours. The brightly coloured installations celebrate the traditions of storytelling. Works by Pip & Pop encourage viewers to revisit the unbridled wonder associated with childhood through the use of a dizzying array of materials. The artist combines glitter, stickers, washi tape and powdered sugar to create magical worlds inspired by fictional lands made of food. This commission by Pip & Pop for the NGV, supported by MECCA Brands, is an immersive, mythical landscape involving kaleidoscopic wallpaper and handcrafted sculptures.

Pip & Pop began as a collaboration with fellow artist Nicole Andrijevic in 2007. After four years Nicole left the partnership to pursue a different career. Tanya Schultz now works solo and with other friends and artists creating projects in many parts of the world. She has exhibited her work in Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, the UAE and the UK. When creating an installation in another country, she always reads folk tales and children’s stories from that place. She is interested in imagined worlds, places that only exist in stories or in our imagination. And she also finds travelling inspirational – going to new places, discovering traditional crafts, flea-markets, visual details, new people and their stories.

Prior to creating an installation, Tanya Schultz summons together a rabble of objects, substances and images in her studio. She likes to create immersive installations and artworks from an eclectic range of materials including sugar, glitter, candy, plastic flowers, everyday craft materials and all sorts of objects she finds on her travels. In her studio you’ll find prints of wacky Japanese monsters, taped to the wall; something resembling a baked Alaska with a face gawking from atop a cabinet; plastic gemstones tinkle in the doorway. Within this palette of objects, you might expect to glimpse a My Little Pony toy or some other pink, branded item. Yet the charm of Schultz’s work is that her materials are so wholly crafted that they don’t look like anything you could buy off the shelf. Objects like a mint-green felted boulder or a cascade of pearlescent pebbles are completely original, even though their qualities are familiar and evocative. A few weeks before the exhibition opens, this trove of rainbow-coloured and normally supercilious items will be removed to the gallery, and sorted by colour, texture and size.

Often ephemeral, her meticulously constructed and highly detailed works embrace notions of abundance, utopian dreams and fleeting pleasure. She is fascinated with ideas of paradise and wish-fulfilment described in folk tales, mythologies and cinema.

Time for some sweet colour treats 🙂

Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual

Finnish-born PhD student Wilhelmiina Toivo, from the University of Glasgow School of Psychology, has won the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) 2016 -17 writing competition Making Sense of Society, in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

l-r: Martin Rosenbaum, ESRC Council member and an executive producer in the BBC Political Programmes department; Wilhelmiina Toivo; and Dr Alan Gillespie, Chair of the ESRC

Brought up in Helsinki, Finland, Wilhelmiina came to Glasgow in 2011 to study psychology as an undergraduate student; last year she completed a Master of Science in Psychology and is currently six months into her PhD.

The competition, which is now in its second year, celebrates and fosters the writing skills of the next generation of social scientists. This year students were asked to write 800 words about why their research matters, and how it helps us make sense of and understand the society in which we live. There were nearly 300 entries which demonstrated the incredible breadth and depth of social science research taking place across the UK. Topics ranged from Big Data, to climate change, class, immigration, dementia, the economy and education. You can find all the winning entries here: Making Sense of Society

Entrants were encouraged to temporarily take off their academic hat, and write in a style different to what they might be used to, using their imagination to think of new ways to capture the interest of the public. A wise requirement, as academic writing, frankly, is incredibly tedious to read and it appears designed to exclude all but the chosen few. And no doubt it contributes a great deal to the failure to transfer knowledge from research into practice.

In her winning essay Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual, Wilhelmiina Toivo wrote about her experiences growing up in Scotland speaking English as a second language, and how speaking in her non-native tongue gave her a sense of liberation when it came to swearing and discussing her emotions. This personal insight linked well to her PhD research project, which focuses on why many bilinguals report feeling less emotionally connected to their second language, a phenomenon known as the ‘reduced emotional resonance of language’.

Below is the essay written by Wilhelmiina Toivo that made her joint winner with Lauren White, from the University of Sheffield. Wilhelmiina’s research caught my attention because I can relate on some level. With English as my second language, I find that the emotional force of swearwords and taboo (S-T) words is much stronger in my native language, so I switch to that when I really need to unload! It also helps that people around me can’t understand me then 🙂 And that is despite the fact that my entire life now unfolds in English and I think (and probably dream) in English. I also find it much easier to discuss some subjects in English, they don’t carry the same emotional weight as they do when I try to discuss them in my native language.

To take a short tangent now, it turns out even if you learn a second language to a very high standard, you’ll never speak it like a native unless you were exposed to it by around the age of eight. This is mirrored by brain scans. Languages you learn after eight go into a subtly different area of the brain to those acquired earlier.

Due to the complex nature, and often diverse subject matter, the value of social science research is too often overlooked or called into question, despite its significant impact on society. It turns out using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases. Four experiments show that the framing effect disappears when choices are presented in a foreign language. Whereas people were risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses when choices were presented in their native language, they were not influenced by this framing manipulation in a foreign language. Two additional experiments showed that using a foreign language reduces loss aversion, increasing the acceptance of both hypothetical and real bets with positive expected value. The hypothesis is that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native language does.

Once more, with feeling: life as bilingual, by Wilhelmiina Toivo

My dad had a rather liberal philosophy of bringing up children, but he would always tell us off for swearing. As a result, I grew up feeling very uncomfortable using swearwords. Or, at least, so I thought – when I first moved to Scotland, I noticed that it was actually very easy to swear in English. Interestingly enough, I also found it easy to talk to my flatmates about topics that felt too intimate to discuss in my native tongue. In a flat of seven girls from all over Europe, we discussed the full magnitude of emotions and topics; the fears of living abroad, falling in and out of love, death, sex – everything. Swearing and talking about these emotions was not easy just because of the inherent rowdiness of the student community, or because we felt liberated being away from home for the first time. The effect I was observing is something that goes deeper and touches a huge number of people who live in multilingual settings.

Language is so much more than just a communication device; it is a way to understand the world around us

Many bilinguals report ‘feeling less’ in their second language; it does not bear the same emotional weight as your native language. Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary, which is precisely what I was experiencing with my ease of swearing and talking about sensitive topics in English. The scientific term for this is ‘reduced emotional resonance of language’. It is a fairly well-established phenomenon, but many specific questions still remain unanswered. For example, what exactly makes one’s second language less emotional? How does this affect different immigrant communities? My research project aims to address these questions by looking into the reasons and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language.

It is still unclear what exactly shapes emotional resonance of a language and in what way – results thus far have been inconclusive. In the first part of my project we are exploring which factors in a person’s language background contribute to reduced emotional resonance. For example, is it influenced by the age at which you have learnt your second language? Does it matter how frequently and in which context you use the language? Or is your emotional experience of a language predictable from whether you dream or can do maths in it?

To investigate these questions, my project uses eye-tracker technology to measure bilinguals’ pupil responses to emotional words in English. Typically, when shown highly emotional words or pictures, people’s pupils dilate as an uncontrollable, emotional reaction. Previous research has shown the effect is smaller in bilinguals’ second language, which suggests reduced emotional resonance. Understanding the reasons why this happens can, in turn, help us explain how you experience a foreign language community, and how this could be taken into account in acculturation and adaptation.

Wittgenstein said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” This is particularly true for your second language. For fluent bilinguals living in a community where their native language is not
spoken, reduced emotional resonance sets ‘the limits of the world’. While your language skills can be more than adequate, not being able to fully structure your surroundings through language might leave you feeling alienated; not a part of the society you live in. Or perhaps you are perceived as rude or socially awkward for using the wrong words in the wrong emotional context.

Many bilinguals report ‘feeling less’ in their second language

However, not all the implications of reduced emotional resonance are negative – bilinguals can actually benefit from being able to approach things in a less emotionally involved way. For example, bilinguals have been shown to be able to make more rational decisions in their second language. Also, switching languages can be used as a tool in therapy when working through emotionally difficult or traumatising experiences. Imagine how it would be if it were easier to talk about your emotions with your partner – maybe bilingual couples have a communicative advantage? Ultimately, understanding the full scale of implications of reduced emotional resonance is a way to understand how bilinguals experience the world.

In the increasingly globalising world where studying abroad, immigration and sojourning are more and more common, as well as pervasive issues in international politics, understanding the realities of bi- and multilingual people is crucial. Being bilingual no longer means just being exposed to two languages from birth – it can refer to a person who uses two languages in their everyday life, regardless of their level of fluency. As the number of people with versatile language backgrounds grows, understanding all aspects of language and how these mediate our lives become important. Language is so much more than just a communication device; it is a way to understand the world around us, defining our reality and what it actually means to be human.

The Beauty And The Cutie

Shhh, little Honey and Isabelle are finally watching the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast. For some unknown reason the release date in Australia was delayed a week.

The movie adaptation brings some of the biggest names in Hollywood together for a fresh take on the classic story.

Emma Watson as Belle
Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, the teapot
(Emma Thompson was the voice of Queen Elinor in Brave)
Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra
(Ewan McGregor was the voice of Valiant in the film of the same name)
Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord
Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock
Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, the wardrobe
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster
Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle
Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp
(Josh Gad was the voice of Olaf in Frozen)
Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father
(Kevin Kline was the voice of Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Dan Stevens as the Beast

The 1991 animated film was the Frozen of that generation. It was nominated for several awards, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (for the first time in an animated movie), with two other awards for its music. Famously, Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was the only animated film to hold this honor until 2009. It received a total of six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and three nominations for its song. It ended up winning two, for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the song Beauty and the Beast.

So the live action remake was a film Disney couldn’t afford to have fail. To ensure a success, they deployed the full creative might of their empire and a very generous budget ($160 million, $10 million more than Frozen, plus another $140 million for marketing). The film honours everything that came before, without being slavish to it. There is even a tribute to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et le Bete, which is the original French version of Beauty and the Beast, through the lights on the terrace and staircase in the Beast’s castle and the rose colonnade on the castle grounds. There is excellence everywhere, from the superb cast, to sumptuous costumes and detailed design.

Emma Watson is faultless as the winsome, brave, loyal, kind and independent-minded Belle. And if you’re wondering if Emma can sing or not, wonder no more.

Emma worked hard to create a strong, individual, modern, emancipated kind of Belle. But she still had to wear the iconic yellow ball gown which can work against a modern Belle in a sense of being a pretty, princess-y kind of dress. The dress designer worked with Emma to try to find balance and design a yellow dress that would work for the new Belle.

The dress was made from about 55m of feather-light satin organza, accentuated with 2160 Swarovski crystals. The crystals were part of Madame Garderobe’s finishing touch to the yellow gown, when added to the dress’ golden print they provided the final magical flourish. (You’ll understand this if you see the movie.) It took more than 12,000 hours to make the dress and 914m of thread.

Swarovski also made the glass bell jar for the rose, based on Disney’s original design. And the film has inspired a new jewelry line by Atelier Swarovski.

The yellow ball gown is not the only gorgeous dress in the film, check out this celebration dress.

Little Honey and Isabelle want to know when exactly will the dress be available in their size?!?

While one of the messages of the film is that beauty comes from within, Disney spared no expense on the set and costumes. About 27 mammoth sets were built to bring the film to life, including the Beast’s castle, library and ballroom, the enchanted forest and the town of Villeneuve. About 1500 red roses and 8700 candles were used during the research and production stages of the film.

The 10 glass chandeliers in the ballroom are real and are based on chandeliers from Versailles and each measure 4.26m by 2.13m. The enchanted forest surrounding the castle features real trees, hedges, a frozen lake and 20,000 icicles. It took 15 weeks to create.

The massive sets and huge stages were connected. The actors could go from the dining room of the castle and walk all the way through to the entry way, to the front stairs, and into this massive ballroom. That aspect emerges clearly in the IMAX format. The film is being presented in an expanded aspect ratio which means you get to see 26 per cent more of the scenes. Which worked beautifully for the ballroom. The ballroom is framed by the chandeliers even though they are high in the air.

The turret fight between the Beast and Gaston looks great in the new ratio because of the sense of being high in the air and the sense of danger you feel as the Beast is forced to jump from turret to turret, twenty stories in the air.

While Beauty and the Beast is packed full of memorable tunes and stunning dance numbers, there was always one scene that was going to have the highest of expectations — when Lumière sings Be Our Guest. Just like in the original 1991 animated movie, Be Our Guest was the pivotal scene of the live action remake full of colourful dishes and sparkling cutlery dancing across tables.

The scene took over a year to put together — and six months before that to plan it. It was one of the most intricate and elaborate musical numbers ever shot.

The visual effects team approached it as though they were going to put on a stage number on a Broadway stage. And the animators had a challenge on their hands. They had to make a knife dance like a four-limbed dancer. After choreographing the extensive routine, the team then shot footage of real plates and silverware to understand the way the light would hit each object. The incredible planning (and generous budget) resulted in a four minute musical number that rarely relied on CGI and has set the precedent for live-action remakes.

Full poster showing all the cast – enchanted and human, though there is one person missing. Prince Adam.

Time for a treat and to plan a shopping trip to Swarovski 🙂

Having Fun

And looking gooooood… 🙂

Dearest, by Margarita Sampson with Fieldy, NSW

At Sculpture by the Sea 2017

Homeless, by Kerrie Argent, WA
Aqua Fauna, by Britt Mikkelsen, WA
Aqua Fauna, by Britt Mikkelsen, WA
Plastic Paradise, by Kathy Allam, WA
Stasis III, by Aliesha Mafrici, WA
Stasis III, by Aliesha Mafrici, WA
Murmur, by Anne Neil, WA
Untitled Coral (aqua), by Alessandra Rossi, WA with Drawing on the Ground, by Kayako Nakashima, Japan in the background
The Big Fish Eats The Little One, by Evi Savvaidi, Greece
Narration of the Sea, by Lei Huan, China
The Sound of Space – Physical Ring II, by Wataru Hamasaka, Japan
Beginning of Landscape, by Tsutomu Matsunaga, Japan
In the Grain of Sand, by Andrea Vinkovic, Croatia/WA with Green Life, by Milan Kuzica, Czech Republic in the background
The Window of the Future, by Sang Sug Kim, South Korea