The expressions and emotions of Alyaa Kamel

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I get a message from Facebook: the 13th November is Alyaa Kamel’s birthday. Another message tells me it is the first day of her new exhibition. Galerie Cimaise has risen to the challenge of showing her “Expressions and Emotions.” Go to this exhibition. Do not expect to see representations of people’s expressions and emotions. You will find Alyaa Kamel’s people but the expressions and emotions are all hers. This is, after all, #alyaakamel: emoting on-line and “out there.”

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A large canvas reveals her fascination for tagging. It is a crush of hopeless, expressionless people: her main theme. I remain convinced that her inspiration is driven by the all-too-frequent images from daily news: thousands of poor middle-eastern souls in crisis. I try to nail down her thoughts. She cleverly responds in a meaningful abstractness. With a gush of words, she throws ideas at me such as humanity, inheritance, memories and genes. I push…. “We all have our secrets, Robin!”

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Another large canvas moves the theme to the individual. The face is grotesque and haunting. One eye is closed. The nose is broken. The lips are mashed. In describing what was in her mind when covering it with glue and kitchen film she loses me. I see only an attempt to obliterate one of those poor middle-eastern souls in crisis; only this time the crisis has been meted out at a personal level. By my interpretation, this is the battered and bruised face of the final interrogation.

This exhibition carries 36 pieces. Alyaa’s expressions and emotions may be elusive but she has a lot to say and she says it better with her drawings and paintings than with her words. The ensemble of the person and her work is contemporary, enigmatic and intriguing. A visit to Galerie Cimaise will not disappoint.

Aboriginal rock paintings in Brisbane

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It is hot and humid. I am in a natural reserve near the heart of Brisbane, Queensland. I walk up to the J.C. Slaughter waterfalls. There are only rocks. The river is dry. A sign indicates “Aboriginal Art”. A small plaque tells me that these rock paintings from 1993 celebrate the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People and that the aboriginal artists are Laurie Nilsen, Marshall Bell, Laurie Graham and Mark Garlett.

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Blow-painting – with dyes spat from the mouth – was a prominent feature of aboriginal painting. Hands and hunting boomerangs were frequently used as stencils. Here, the paintings include, in white, macropod (e.g. kangaroo) tracks. The works have an instant and earthy appeal. I find them beautiful. They take me closer to an ancient culture born of a harsh environment.

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A fabulous serpentine form uncoils itself from under the over-hanging rock. I guess snakes feature so prominently in aboriginal folklore because, even today, they represent the greatest danger for anyone who goes walkabout.

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A few metres away is a human figure. It is as though the painters wanted to represent the future observer of their beautiful stuff. Is it therefore me?!! Maybe it is J.C. Slaughter himself, the civic-minded administrator who expanded the public amenities of 1960s Brisbane? (I can find no link between him and the falls; he certainly wasn’t their European “discoverer”!)

Despite the fact that these paintings are only twenty-two years old, I accept that they are “aboriginal.” They represent creative impulses of people who were the owners and custodians of this parched land for thousands of years before Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay and the painters are, I assume, descended from these people. As I walk back down the dusty track, a young woman jogs past; she wears Nike shoes, a pink lycra top and an iPhone strapped to her left upper arm. I reflect on the dual and incomparable stories of humanity’s existence on this huge dry continent. A kookaburra cackles its laugh at me. I have a feeling that the bird is ridiculing my attempt to understand what these paintings really mean for aborigine people. But then, maybe it is just telling me to go away.

Urban explosions? Brilliant young scientists are on the case!

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Believe me….. This is beautiful stuff! It may not have great aesthetic appeal. It may not represent your idea of “art.” It may not be what you expect to find on but this is the output of the creative thinking of some brilliant young scientists. It will, without doubt, prove to be a world-changer. A feel-good story, albeit about awful stuff, and you first read about it here!

This is the prototype of a system whereby explosions and other extreme energy events (e3e) can be detected in real-time and geo-located. The “R” and “L” black dots on the board are microphones that detect the position of any explosion or gunshot within 2-3 km. The sound signals are analysed for the unique “acoustic signature” of the explosion, triangulated with those picked up by other detectors and ultimately fed onto a publicly accessible, web-based map.

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The detectors are made from commercially available materials and – with it’s own battery pack – can be fitted into something not much bigger than a brick.

The raison d’etre…… The use of explosives especially in urban areas defined the history of the last century. Will this century be free of the extraordinary human propensity to blow up places where other humans live and work? The daily news is not encouraging. In terms of the nature and extent of the destruction, the reporting of such events still remains in the domain of eye witness accounts and official statements. The e3e detector system would permit monitoring – on an entirely objective basis – of explosions and other extreme energy events in a given context. The watching world would have rapid alert and hard, scientific evidence to compare with verbal reports, claims and counter-claims. Consider this: A town is caught up in conflict. The e3e detectors are in place and ready to transmit data to the website. There is an explosion at a hospital. The system would immediately indicate the time, precise location and the likely weapon. Importantly, it would also indicate whether or not there were shots being fired from the hospital beforehand as is so often claimed.

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Here are just some of the scientists who are applying their considerable brain power to the technological aspects of monitoring explosions and other extreme events. (Yes, that is an old London Transport double-decker bus in the background.)

CERN (the European Centre for Nuclear Research) is a huge international scientific collaboration straddling the French-Swiss border. It is best known for its research based on the Large Hadron Collider. Not so well known is that research in other fields at CERN gave us wonderful things such as the world-wide web, touchscreens and the means to capture solar energy. A number of scientists there want to continue this tradition of pursuing technologies that will positively impact human lives in decades to come. Enter THE Port. This month saw THE Port’s second hackathon in CERN’s Idea Square (in which an old London Transport double-decker bus serves as just one of the interesting discussion spaces.) This event brought together young scientists from all over the world for three days of challenge-based innovation. One of the chosen challenges was to build the e3e prototype and demonstrate its real-time link to a website. They did it! Take a look at the final video presentation.

These guys do not lack forward thinking. They imagine a global network of detectors that can be deployed by any interested party. The detectors could even be assembled by anyone anywhere with the right instructions and access to the materials; hence the importance of using commercially available parts. They also foresee automated monitoring of Twitter activity within a certain distance of and triggered by an explosive event. This would serve to verify the event and give more information regarding the evolution of the context especially the human impact. Just digest the implications!

It’s time for the crunch questions: Who would the end-users be? How would e3e Monitor bring about change? Here are the answers from the team:

  • Peace-keeping / enforcing bodies could reliably monitor conflicts and cease-fire agreements.
  • Humanitarian / relief organisations would be able to use the information to assess damage, their own operational security and the needs of affected civilians.
  • The media would have a more accurate and non-biased picture of events relying less on “reports.”
  • An affected population would have access to better information about what is happening and where and so be able to make their own security decisions if, for example, they are moving from one town to another.
  • Airlines would be able to verify areas of active conflict and so change flight schedules, flight paths and assess security of airports.
  • Lawyers would be able to use the information as “evidence“ in the pursuit of prosecuting war crimes.
  • Academic organisations including those orientated around conflict and peace-building could use the information for a wide variety of research projects.
  • With a view to the long term, e3e Monitor technology and networks should become part of the essential infrastructure of any urban environment.

E3E 4The team has even designed a logo. I love the subliminals: scientific detection and monitoring of a spectrum of explosions and extreme energy events together with black box data storage. If explosions in populated areas is your concern, this is a logo you’ll be seeing in the future.