Fat Cats on a Plank

Pleasure Wheel Fat Cat

AssignmentAnnie Belle has come up with one of the more bizarre, wacky and exciting ds106 assignments in recent memory with: Fat Cats Make Art Better. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being drawn into an assignment described in such a way:

Using this site: http://fatcatart.ru/category/klassy-ka/ as a platform for ideas, and using Photoshop (or something like it) as your tool, place a fat cat into a photo of a classic art piece. The goal is to make it convincing: make the art become on with the cat.

I first saw this assignment early last week. Last time I checked, I noticed sixteen submissions already. If I’m quick in writing this post, this hybrid – mash-up version will be number seventeen. For inspiration, you might want check some of these recent contributions:

What was done, what was learned: It’s exciting to see the various angles and approaches people put in to completing such an assignment. We’re all coming to it with the same basic assignment description and look at the rich and surprising variety that results. And what do we learn from doing such an assignment?

For me, I learned a bit more about how to use Pixlr. It is now my preferred web-based image editor. In fact, I’d probably choose it over GIMP for most projects so long as I’m connected to the net.

I also learned about an interesting historical character. The engraving upon which the two different types of fat cats were placed was done by a seventeenth century German librarian named Adam Olearius. The name of the original work is called Pleasure Wheel, which according to Cerebral Boinkfest is one of the earliest depictions of what we now call a Ferris Wheel. I found the image through some Google image search using the word engraving and some other term which I can’t recall.

Recently, as mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve become interested in colorizing old time drawings and engravings. I hope to eventually devise a new ds106 assignment in which we find such an image, colorize it and come up with some interesting story based on the associative trails formed through interrogating the artifact.

For me, reading about Olearius, his journey to Russia and Persia as the secretary to an embassy sent by the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp (Frederick III) in 1634-35, and his duties as the keeper of the Cabinet of Curiosities was a fanciful escape into history and imagination. So let me try to briefly summarize what I think this means and why it matters.

Had I not taken the challenge to try this Fat Cats assignment, I’d not find myself where I now do. That is, totally excited by how tightly this idea of some old rich geezer from a few hundred years ago hiring some smart guy to be his librarian to build a collection of everything known in the world connects to the present day. Even back then, there was the desire to assemble, index and present collected knowledge. I’d never known of a Cabinet of Curiosities until a few hours ago. Now I have new metaphor to help me try to make sense of this connection between me, cyberspace and society. I’m sure I’m not the first to put this idea forward, but I would like to consider that the Net is our civilization’s Cabinet of Curiosities. To me that is very deep and powerful and gives this particular assignment great personal value.

curiosity cabinet

Franz Francken's "Kunst- und Raritätenkammer" (remixed)

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5 Responses to Fat Cats on a Plank

  1. roundhouseslap says:

    This gave me a different perspective on Cabinets of Curiosities. I’m not sure I can quite explain how. I’ve always known they existed, but only so far as being decorations at Steampunk or 1800s themed events in order to convey the feeling of an eclectic explorer or similar persona. While the concept seems entirely realistic, I guess I’ve always thought of them as flavoring for a fantasy world or a time that never was. 🙂

    And Pixlr is great! Coming from using Photoshop, I find Pixlr way easier to use than GIMP. So it’s been my preferred image editor for a while. I especially like their vintage photo effects editor too.

    • lockmantuj says:

      I’ve never been anywhere close to a Steampunk event except in Second Life. But I can see how a Cabinet of Curiosity would fit in to that aesthetic and mindset.

      The more I think about, the more I seem to recall that it was you who introduced me to Pixlr. It is pretty amazing for what it is. I’ve not played with the vintage effects editor yet. But I’m looking forward to the chance.

      • roundhouseslap says:

        Glad everybody seems to be taking to it. I found Pixlr exactly because I no longer had access to Photoshop and needed a good image editor. I initially went to GIMP but I found their GUI to be less intuitive. Pixlr was more familiar having come from PS.

  2. Norm Wright says:

    Nice. Another new twist on the Fat Cat theme.
    I appreciate your remarks about your discovery while doing this project. I can’t even start to count how many times a simple Google search on one topic has introduced me to completely new and interesting things. Not to mention all the cool stuff that comes over various other feeds like Twitter and G+. I guess even something as silly as Fat Cats can be a launch pad to new learning, and I suppose that’s really the whole point, isn’t it?

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