Invasion of the Living Statues

Living statues "“ those people who dress in bizarre costumes, frequently involving head to toe metallic paint, and plant themselves in well-traveled thoroughfares "“ are already a staple of London's urban landscape. Some are pretty cool, others simply annoying and weird.

But this summer, British artist Antony Gormley is elevating the living statue, or perhaps more accurately, soap-boxing it, to the realm of high art. Gormley, a well-respected British sculpture artist, has put together the "One & Other" project, which will see 2400 regular British folks hoisted up on the empty fourth plinth ringing London's historic Trafalger Square, one for each hour of every day for 100 days, rain, shine, or pigeons. The ordinary Joes (or Nigels or Janes) are each given an hour to do exactly what they want from their very public perch, whether it's celebrating a birthday party, appealing on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or dressing as a panda bear. Right now, as I'm watching, some guy is shouting something about the Christian Aid organization (it's a bit difficult to hear).

The project generated quite a lot of buzz in the weeks of its organization "“ 21,136 potential "plinthers," as they're being called, applied for only 2400 spots. [Image courtesy of Flickr user Where The Art Is.]

Gormley, whose previous works have included life-size bronze casts of himself perched atop buildings around the city, said that he hoped that the project would inspire a "certain degree of anarchy," and that the project is an exploration of the connection between the individual and the society he or she represents.

Anti-smoking activist disrupts kick off

ban-tobaccoSo, while the project and its intended "certain degree of anarchy" is in and of itself very interesting, it was the unplanned anarchy (I know, that's somewhat redundant) around its opening on July 6 that perhaps eclipsed it. Just five minutes before the first plinther was scheduled to ascend the platform, a lone, rabid anti-smoking activist slipped the guards, sprint across the balustrade, threw himself on the safety netting around the plinth, and shimmied, unassisted, up to the top. Stuart Holmes, a veteran soap-boxer who typically harangues from out in front of the High Courts and who may also be Spiderman, carried a sign reading "Save the Children. Ban Tobacco and Actors Smoking." [Image courtesy of Flickr user aarkangel.]

Gormley, who appeared not too fazed by Holmes's stunt, appealed to the protestor's better nature, asking him to do the "gentlemanly thing" and make way for the real plinther. At one point, Holmes yelled, "Give me a mic!" to which Gormley gamely responded, "You should have brought your own, that's the rules!"

This was unplanned art at its best "“ even Boris Johnson, London's mayor who was part of the kick-off festivities, seemed to agree: After alternately lauding Holmes for his attempt to hijack the show and pleading with him to get down with some exceptionally bad puns ("one day your plinth will come"), Johnson ultimately said, "I want to thank the organizers and thank this man for ascending the plinth as brilliantly as he has... What is fame? Is it a lottery or is it self-selected as this chap's demonstration? This is one of the questions the fourth plinth asks us to meditate on."

Holmes, who gave his occupation as "anti-smoking activist," said, on his descent, "Actors smoking in films is enticing children to the holocaust of smoking," but little else.

The project will continue through October 14 and is visible to the world via a live feed.

10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.


When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.


Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.


As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”


Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.


Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.


As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”


Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”


A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]


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