A dark, disturbing look at art Beyond Reason.

Close photo of bronze figures of Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Close photo of several bronze figures in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.

A very disturbing and powerfully thought-provoking exhibition has recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. Yesterday I walked through the dark galleries that contain Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, and this morning my mind is still digesting the half dozen fantastic installations created by the celebrated artist.

Tim Shaw is a Northern Irish sculptor who, as a child in 1972, witnessed firsthand the bombing of a Belfast cafe during Bloody Friday. That exact, horrifying moment is recreated in a bloodless, abstract way in his installation Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous. Eerily spinning trays hover in the air above suddenly upset tables and chairs; the shadows of fleeing people stream across surrounding windows.

That same feeling of malice and inescapable chaos seems to echo elsewhere in Tim Shaw’s work.

Walking through the dim galleries containing Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason feels inhumanly bleak. Little light, the low sound of a hollow, echoing, machine-like vibration all around, no human warmth. Like the corridors of a dark artificial video game world where there is no hope for actual daylight. Where synthetic horrors await around corners.

Themes explored by the six immersive installations range from the primal, unconscious complexity of human beings, to cynical exploitation in a materialistic society, to the uncertainties that rise in a technologically directed world.

I found the first installation that I encountered, Middle World, to be extraordinarily rich with symbolism. A massive sculpture, Middle World presents many small bronze figures that appear to have emerged from ancient mythology, Shakespeare, or the fleshy canvases of Hieronymus Bosch. The weird, expressive figures, some in masks, are arranged on a throne-like stage above what seem to be stalactites and beneath what seem to be Gothic columns and skeletons in catacombs. The sculpture incorporates the shapes of objects that are both modern and ancient, commonplace and supernatural. It’s a mixture of space and time and human passion and compulsion and perplexity. A melting, flowing work of sculpted substance like an unending dream.

Other more disturbing installations that compose the exhibition concern dehumanization and include subjects like the silencing of free speech, vigilantism, human exploitation and depravity.

Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be presents two rocking-chair-like figures that are in constant back-and-forth motion. Both are gagged, and the muffled voices that emerge from either are unintelligible. According to a nearby sign, the piece represents how voices are silenced with money, and how people are influenced by the proliferation of disinformation on the internet. (What it fails to mention is that billions of ordinary people now speak their thoughts more freely than ever because of the Information Age. As a blogger who pays close attention to such things, I can tell you that many ideas don’t go unheard because of stifling propaganda or censorship, but because the internet has become a complete babel of voices all desperately competing to be heard.)

Another unique installation concerns technology and our evolving understanding of what it is to be human. Aptly titled The Birth of Breakdown Clown, the interactive sculpture seems to have a great deal of potential. Visitors enter a small room and stand before a human-like robot that moves its head and limbs while engaging with the audience. A member of the audience is invited to stand before the robot and converse with it. Breakdown Clown is said to possess artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, during the performance that I witnessed, I couldn’t detect any sort of autonomous machine intelligence, or even working speech recognition. With an odd combination of humor, condescension and poetic rambling, the Genesis-quoting robot guided the entire conversation. Its often disconnected statements and responses were apparently composed by the artist.

Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason as a whole is a very forceful, challenging work of contemporary art that will strongly engage active minds. It presents unspeakable horror. It isn’t for the squeamish. It’s an examination of human darkness and potential inhuman darkness. It undertakes a quest for understanding. That which has come into existence tries to understand its own creation. An electronic clown tries to define the Mystery that underlies all things.

However, to my thinking, darkness should be contrasted with light. And clowns that are witty have a beating heart.

These photographs were taken by my poor old camera in very dim darkness, where no flash photography is permitted. The images are a bit blurry, but somehow that makes them more potent!

If you want to be intellectually challenged, and journey through galleries that are filled with warnings, uncertainty and darkness, check out Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, which is now showing at the San Diego Museum of Art through February 24, 2019.

Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.

If you’d like to read a few philosophical works of fiction that I’ve written–stories about the complexity of life–about the mingling of darkness and light–please visit Short Stories by Richard.

Creepy clowns, ghosts and demons in a park!

Legions of creepy clowns, ghosts, demons and undead are slowly gathering in a popular city park. I photographed them lurking among shadowy trees and spooky buildings, waiting to terrify nice, innocent, completely unsuspecting people who happened to be walking down the park trail!

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As you might have guessed, this morning I took a stroll around the perimeter of The Haunted Trail, which is being built once again in the southwest corner of Balboa Park for Halloween!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Public art painted from dark, painful experience.

Smears of red, a flag, two faces.
Smears of red, a flag, two faces.

There are three new works of art on display in the breezeway between the downtown Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Santa Fe Depot. These pieces concern disturbing emotions felt by combat veterans, and the ongoing battle of many with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I believe–but I’m not certain–that the art you see in these photos was produced by military personnel who participate in the museum’s ArtOASIS program. ArtOASIS was created for PTSD patients in conjunction with Combat Arts, a local organization that provides opportunities for combat troops to express themselves.

These images are raw and painful. They are brutally honest. To paint these dark, secret things requires great personal courage.

Someone walks through the breezeway between MCASD and Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
Someone walks through the breezeway between MCASD and Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
PTSD. What happens when you get home and realize you will never be this awesome again. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to the Light.
PTSD. What happens when you get home and realize you will never be this awesome again. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to the light.
A lone figure lies against the wall of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
A lone figure lies against the wall of Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
REAL TALK. Life.
REAL TALK. Life.

I live in downtown San Diego, and walk through the city with my camera. You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter.

Six creepy Halloween faces in shop windows.

This morning I walked past a variety of small shops in Hillcrest. Several had placed mannequins dressed up for Halloween in their windows. On a whim I took photos.

When I goofed around a bit this evening editing the images, concentrating on the creepy faces, I managed to terrify myself.

Now it’s your turn!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The Walking Dead eat fans at 2017 Comic-Con!

A hungry zombie eyes dinner at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con . . . and it's me!
A hungry zombie eyes dinner at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con . . . and it’s me!

If you are nervous or squeamish, don’t look at these photos or read the captions. I’m warning you. It’s all quite gruesome.

The events you are about to witness happened today at 2017 San Diego Comic-Con. Some of the fans were completely unprepared for what happened…

Everyone was having a great time at Comic-Con. I was just wandering about, not paying very close attention.
Everyone was having a great time at Comic-Con. I was just wandering about, not paying very close attention.
That place looks cool. I'll go check that out. I wonder what they mean by Deadquarters?
That place looks cool. I’ll go check that out. I wonder what they mean by Deadquarters?
They've got a nice lounge! Awesome! My feet are tired!
They’ve got a nice lounge! Awesome! My feet are tired!
Let's all sit here and watch AMC's show Walking Dead. How entertaining and relaxing.
Let’s all sit here and watch AMC’s show The Walking Dead. How entertaining and relaxing.
Oh, wow! They've got pinball, too! This place rocks!
Oh, wow! They’ve got pinball, too! This place rocks!
A lady suddenly screamed and started running! Huh? What happened?
A lady suddenly screamed and started running! Huh? What happened?
Oh my gosh. That door says Dead Inside, and some hands are trying to open it from the inside.
Oh my gosh. That door says Dead Inside, and some hands are trying to open it from the inside.
Oh my goodness! They've got zombies loose in here! Where'd they come from.
Oh my goodness! They’ve got zombies loose in here! Where’d they come from.
Thank goodness this one doesn't seem to see me.
Thank goodness this one doesn’t seem to see me.
But this one does!
But this one does!
Get away from me! Seriously, I probably don't taste all that good!
Get away from me! I probably don’t taste all that good!
The Walking Dead Encounter! I wish I'd seen that sooner. Maybe some caffeine from a Mountain Dew will help me escape...
The Walking Dead Encounter! I wish I’d seen that sooner. Maybe some caffeine from a Mountain Dew will help me escape . . .
I see people are learning fighting skills to fend off these roving zombies.
I see fans of The Walking Dead are learning fighting skills to fend off these hungry zombies.
A tiny version of Deadpool was swinging a bat wrapped with barbed wire. I think he nailed a couple zombies.
A tiny version of Deadpool was swinging a bat wrapped with barbed wire. I think he nailed a couple zombies.
Over here, quick! Help! Where's that little superhero?
Over here, quick! Help! Where’s that little superhero?
Nobody seems to take these zombies very seriously. Watch out, people! They appear to be hungry!
Nobody seems to take these zombies very seriously. Watch out, people! They actually appear to be hungry!
Told you so!
Told you so!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Comic-Con prepares for a zombie apocalypse!

The first of the walking dead have arrived in San Diego for 2017 Comic-Con. Fortunately, this guy was able to jump out of a hungry zombie's grasp just in time.
The first of the Walking Dead have arrived in San Diego for 2017 Comic-Con. Fortunately, this guy was able to jump out of a hungry zombie’s grasp just in time.

Workers at AMC’s Deadquarters on MLK Promenade are busy preparing for a zombie apocalypse! A small army of walking dead will be attending 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, and we’d like these hungry zombies to feel right at home.

As I walked around downtown this morning taking photos, it appeared to me that some of the living dead have already arrived!

In anticipation of rampaging zombies, workers at AMC's Deadquarters on MLK Promendade are applying dirt up the shabby furniture.
In anticipation of rampaging zombies, workers at AMC’s Deadquarters on MLK Promenade are applying stains to the shabby furniture.
This worker is busy applying blood to a file cabinet. Because the walking dead like to feel welcome when they gather around old, dilapidated junk.
This worker is busy applying blood to a file cabinet. Because gory zombies like to feel at home when they gather around old, dilapidated junk.
A lot of work is required to prepare for your average zombie apocalypse.
A lot of work is required to prepare for your average zombie apocalypse.
I saw this bloody Derry High School bus in the Petco Interactive Zone. Looks to me like it already brought in some zombies. They might be walking around San Diego right now...
I saw this bloody-looking Derry High School bus in the Petco Interactive Zone. Looks to me like it already brought in a few zombies. They might be walking around San Diego right now…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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A look inside the Laika Experience at Comic-Con!

Models of characters in the stop motion animated film ParaNorman displayed inside the Laika Experience San Diego for Comic-Con.
Models of characters in the stop motion animated film ParaNorman displayed inside the Laika Experience San Diego for 2017 Comic-Con.

The Laika Experience San Diego opened this afternoon! This very cool exhibit created in the Gaslamp by Laika Entertainment runs through the end of Comic-Con. It’s free to the public and well worth checking out! You can find it at 520 Fifth Avenue.

Here are a few photos I took of the many highly detailed models, props, sets and puppets used by Laika in making their four films: Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Laika still uses the stop motion method to create their awesome animation. I learned they only use CGI sparingly, for things that are difficult to animate, like fire and water. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and the kids in our small group had a blast. There are lots of amazing models from each of their four movies, and a video and informative displays that explain the stop motion animation process.

Kubo greets passersby in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. A free exhibit by Laika Entertainment demonstrates their animation process and includes puppets, sets and props.
Kubo greets passersby in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. A free exhibit by Laika Entertainment demonstrates their stop motion animation and includes puppets, sets and props.
This cool artwork, made of LED lights, is from Laika's acclaimed first movie Coraline.
This cool artwork, made of LED lights, is from Laika’s acclaimed first movie Coraline.
Detailed model of Beldam from the movie Coraline.
Detailed model of Beldam from the movie Coraline.
Awesome model of the crooked house from ParaNorman!
Awesome model of the crooked house from ParaNorman!
Cool models of characters from ParaNorman.
Cool models of characters from ParaNorman.
From a hallway locker scene in ParaNorman!
From that hallway locker scene in ParaNorman!
Archibald Snatcher in his giant robot in the movie The Boxtrolls. Amazing detail!
Archibald Snatcher in his giant robot in the movie The Boxtrolls. Amazing detail!
A miniature set from Kubo and the Two Strings.
A miniature set from Kubo and the Two Strings.
The model of The Moon Beast from Kubo and the Two Strings was made using 3-D printing.
This model of the Moon Beast from Kubo and the Two Strings was made using 3-D printing then pieced together.
Norman is out on a San Diego sidewalk! You can meet him during Comic-Con and see a very cool exhibit created by Laika!
Norman is out on a San Diego sidewalk! You can meet him during Comic-Con and see a very cool free exhibit created by the stop motion animation wizards at Laika!
Shoe and Fish of the Boxtrolls wave hello!
Shoe and Fish of the Boxtrolls wave hello!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!