Friday, January 27, 2012

Yin and Yang

Often times in the west we think of the Yin and Yang symbol as a battle between good and evil, but that's not how it really works in Taoism and other aspects of Chinese religion and philosophy. The idea is more that there are opposite qualities that work together in a balanced system. These could be light and darkness, or, as in this Yin/Yang mosaic by Sharon Prue, hot and cold. This beautiful MOC won 'Best Fire' at a recent gathering of LEGO builders.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy New Year

Cai Shen is a god of prosperity in Chinese folk tradition, later venerated in Taoism and some forms of Buddhism. Today figures of Cai Shen (here by rack911) are often included in Chinese New Year decorations as tokens of good luck for wealth in the year to come.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chapelle d'En

Left4bricks built the Chapelle d'En found in Languedoc, France. I guess the original dates from the 13th century.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bible stories

AlfredD has a gallery of the 10 most beautiful Bible stories.

Here we see parable of the good Samaritan:

Here is Joseph first being sold into slavery by his brothers, and then reconciling with them.

This is Queen Esther.

Here is creation week. I thought day 1 was particularly clever.

Jonah being spit up on the beach.

Well, that's it. I hope he posts the other five stories (there's a tower in his Brickshelf gallery that might be Babel, I suppose). I'm not sure how I'd limit myself if I set out to illustrate ten Bible stories. Of course there is nothing here of the life of Jesus, so the nativity, crucifixion and resurrection are pretty obvious calls. I suppose I'd be sure to include at least one thing from the Exodus, but would that be the burning bush, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the law, or what? You kind of need the Fall if you want to tell a cohesive narrative. Other people like Noah, Abraham, David should all make appearances. I'd probably have left out a couple of the ones above if I had to fit an artificial limit of ten.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

LDS Temples

Andrew Johnson has built a series of LDS Temples, including the Washington DC, Nauvoo, and Denver temples.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Holocaust LEGO

In 1996 Polish artist Zbigniew Libera designed seven fake LEGO sets depicting scenes of Nazi Concentration Camps.

These were designed as sets, with faux box art. There was a bit of a controversy in that he put the LEGO logo on the box and said they were sponsored by LEGO. LEGO initially donated him the bricks (which, c'mon, would have cost maybe a couple hundred at the most on Bricklink), but later objected when they saw the product and unsuccessfully sued to get the sets removed. To me this seems a bit disingenuous of them - he was, as far as I can tell, he was already known at this time for taking toys and making them into bizarre or outrageous works (e.g. a baby doll that was partially dissected, etc).

Anyway, Libera made three copies of this, which were sold to collectors. They've been shown at various museums in the interim, always evoking lots of discussion, both pro and anti (see, for instance, this commentary. One of the three installments of seven sets was recently purchased by the Warsaw Museum of Modern art from a private collector for 55000 Euros (~US$71000). By the way, this does raise for me the question of what makes a MOC into Art. As a LEGO creation this is pretty low level stuff - just look around Brickshelf and Flickr and you'll see much better building. I've certainly seen AFOLs build MOCs based on similarly shocking or moving subject matter, including things like waterboarding, the torture of the Falun Gong, and even other Holocaust depictions. Why aren't we in the AFOL community selling our work for tens of thousands of dollars? Oh well, a discussion for another forum. Someone (and I promise this time, it's not me, I just don't have the expertise) really should start an ArtBricks blog.

While the Nazi regime impacted all of Europe, of course their particular evil was focused on Jews, with six million killed. Jewish life today is still impacted by the Holocaust, and Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance, is treated as a holy day in Jewish communities around the world, with prayers said in remembrance of those killed. By the way, I'd highly recommend Michael Goldberg's Why Should Jews Survive?: Looking Past the Holocaust Toward a Jewish Future, in which he argues that remembrance of the Holocaust has become too great a definer of Jewish culture today, and he argues for a return to a deeper purpose, dating back to the covenant at Sinai.

This LEGO creation is one that I've gone back and forth on with regards to this blog. Every so often someone comes across this and posts it to some LEGO forum, where it ignites a debate. Some find this work completely appalling, and say it should be shunned. Personally I think it really works as art in that it starts a conversation. Rather than trivializing the subject, I think showing this in the innocence of a toy emphasizes the horror of the Holocaust. You could also take away messages about how we market violence and war to young boys, or how corporations become complicit in governmental evil. So while I've hesitated to blog this work before, I'm glad that it came up in the news again to remind me to post it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Chinese New Year isn't actually here for a few weeks yet, but 2012 is the year of the dragon (here by ArzLan). The Chinese zodiac is one of those cultural practices that doesn't have any real religious significance now, as far as I can tell, but the origins go way back to days where folk tales and folk religion were tied together. Various origin tales I found have the gods or God choosing the animals of the zodiac, and one origin story specifically says Buddha made this choice.