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Flickr user NK Eide
Flickr user NK Eide

The Story Behind the Peculiar Poem in NYC's Port Authority Tunnel

Flickr user NK Eide
Flickr user NK Eide

Actually, the poem is posted in the corridor between the Port Authority subway station and the Times Square subway station. Each line of the poem occupies its own six-inch tall panel affixed to the support beams in the ceiling of the underground, tiled tunnel. As swarms of city-dwellers make their morning and evening trek between the high-traffic subway stations, they need only to glance up to see a sympathetic message.

Overslept.
So tired.
If late,
Get fired.
Why bother?
Why the pain?
Just go home.
Do it again.

A final panel shows a black and white photo of an empty, rumpled bed.

The poem, by Norman B. Colp, is aptly titled "The Commuter's Lament" or, perhaps more cryptically, "A Close Shave." The alternate title is a reference to the Burma-Shave ads of the mid-20th century, which employed a similar style of a series of one-line signs drivers would read as they sped past. Colp told the New York Times he was inspired by the highways out west that he and a girlfriend used to drive along in the '60s where the Burma-Shave billboards were prevalent.

Colp, a native New Yorker who passed away in 2007, was known as an artist and photographer for his witty installations. He was commissioned to create a piece in 1991 as part of the MTA's Arts for Transit, a program started in 1986 which dedicated 0.5 to 1 percent of a station’s rehabilitation budget to bring museum-worthy artwork into the otherwise-utilitarian public transportation system. Colp was paid $5000 for the sardonic piece.

The poem was originally intended as a one-year display, but the MTA chose to leave it up ever since, allowing it to join the ranks of permanent art installations throughout the subway system. The final panel with the slept-in bed went missing after a 2005 station renovation but was reinstalled two years later.

In 2011, two optimistic young college students in the area set out to change the tone of the poem. Feeling that Colp's original work was too pessimistic, the pair of 20-year-olds took it upon themselves to brighten some of the lines—“Overslept” became “Overexcited,” “So Tired” became “Energized.”

The artist's widow, Marsha Stern-Colp, did not appreciate the amendments, saying at the time, “Why be optimistic in these times? Be realistic—life sucks. You get through it the best you can.”

Whether or not that's true, she conceded that what Colp had originally intended to project was not quite as bleak. “His empathy for the overtired, overworked populace trudging to get to work was what it was all about."

Original photo by Flickr user NK Eide.

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iStock
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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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