In his new book, Beautiful LEGO, Mike Doyle has curated more than 200 pages of the world’s best Lego art. From museum-ready sculptures to indulgent geek references, the book highlights the impressive evolution of the legendary toy.
“Every year this stuff gets more and more intricate and the technique gets better, so I thought it would be great to celebrate the merits of the medium,” says Doyle, who is also a Lego artist and includes some of his own work in the book.
A graphic designer by day, Doyle re-discovered Legos four years ago after visiting Legoland with his two sons and then cruising around the internet to see what other people were doing.
After a lot of research on technique, he tackled his first project. It was 2009 and the housing crisis was in full swing, so he decided to make an abandoned and decaying house. It took him hundreds of hours to complete, but he was hooked. Now he spends months building larger and larger houses that have an increasing amount of detail and several hundred thousand pieces.
The appeal for Doyle is the ability to “go beyond the medium.” At some point, he says Legos stop being the subject, and instead just become a tool. Like a painter seeing beyond the paint to envision the painting. He calls it a kind of “transcendence.”
Physicists wonder if there are other universes, but biologists have already found them. Just look through a microscope and there you are, in a different world of life.
Igor Siwanowicz, a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, visits often. Acclaimed for his macroscopic photography of insects (like the jumping spider above) and other small animals, he uses microscopes to explore ever-smaller realms.
"I first laid hands on my microscope only three years ago, when I changed fields," said Siwanowicz. "I used to work as a biochemist, but I decided that neurobiology was more in tune with my naturalist approach. Plus they have these cool toys: confocal laser-scanning microscopes."
[MORE PHOTOS: Under the Microscope, Some Things Look Too Crazy To Be Real]
By definition, UFOs should not be built.
In order to have an “unidentified flying object,” the origins of said object must be unknown. And yet, technically, we know how to identify UFOs – or at least as pop culture has imagined them. They are flying saucers covered with lights that float through the air like spinning plates. Or something. Some people spend their lives looking for one, others fear what would happen if they were abducted by one.
Yet, artist Peter Coffin has built one.
“The question I get excited about is ‘Well, why did you make the UFO in the first place? Isn’t a UFO something that people don’t make? Isn’t it supposed to be an alien thing?’” Coffin told WIRED. “Does it make it more real or less real at that point because it’s man-made?”
It’s a lavish book of eye-popping images from the telescope camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), called HiRISE. All the images are in black and white and consistently cover areas of the planet that are just over three miles across, with no enlarged segments included.
“This camera equals a naked-eye view of the planet at a flight level of approximately one kilometer,” says astrophysicist Francis Rocard. “All of the images in the book retain their original range, an editorial decision having been made to not present images that have been artificially zoomed.” Even so, the variety of surfaces represented can be overwhelming.
Imagine you’re a 16th century Scandinavian sailor. Alright, I’ll help you. Just pretend you’re drunk and sway around a bit like you’re on a bobbing ship. And you have an eyepatch for good measure.
Now comes along Olaus Magnus. He hands you the most magnificent map you’ve ever seen – his Carta Marina, which happens to also include profoundly bizarre and ferocious sea monsters. Some are big enough to be mistaken for islands, others have blades on their backs for slicing open ships, and almost all have a taste for human meat.
You’re no longer lost, but unfortunately for you, you’ve gone catatonic with fear, because you’re holding what is perhaps history’s premier document of sea monster lore. And you’re on the sea.
In a beautiful new exploration of the Carta Marina, Sea Monsters: A Voyage Around the World’s Most Beguiling Map, scholar Joseph Nigg dives deep into the history and wide influence of Olaus’ bizarre creatures. “It’s like today’s whale-watching tours,” Nigg told WIRED via email, “but this one is up a seam in time, just as medieval thought was fading and marine zoology was in its infancy.”
"I’ve always been fascinated by how the imagination creates its own beasts from those of the actual animal kingdom," he added. "By their very size, the medieval monsters in the northern seas of the Carta Marina dominate the hundreds of historical, cultural, and natural history figures on the map. To Olaus, the hearsay monsters were just as real as familiar land animals.”
Take the ziphius, shown above, which gets its name from xiphias, Greek for sword. It is so named because it swashbuckles all over the high seas, “doing mischief” by cutting open vessels with its sword-like dorsal fin. The critter has the head of an owl, which Olaus just calls “ugly.” And he can’t even bring himself to name the monster that’s in the process of taking a bite out of the ziphius, though if I were to take a stab at it, it’d be the stink-eyed saber-tooth mohawk fish. In the ziphius’ mouth is a seal, whose own mouth is agape, as if to say, “Oh, dang.” And the inspiration here, writes Nigg, is likely the orca, which has a similar dorsal fin and propensity for eating seals and sea lions in the gutsiest way possible.
We’ve compiled the most fearsome, weirdest, and most ridiculous creatures from Nigg’s book, which is available September 15. So come with us now on a journey through rough waters and nasty, big, pointy teeth.
Hi, I’m Taylor-Ruth, I’m a 19 year old comic artist and illustrator from Indianapolis. I don’t know how or why but for some reason Doug Aitken invited me to be a part of Station to Station, which is amazing and terrifying. Then WIRED asked me to send dispatches from the train.
Here’s Day One.
Follow along with WIRED’s live coverage of Station to Station - along with Taylor-Ruth’s dispatches from the road - over at Underwire!
WIRED’s been on a train with a bunch of musicians, artists, and other creatives as part of the cross-country extravaganza that is Station to Station.
When the train rolled into Chicago’s Union Station, it was met by a slew of new musicians—including, according to backstage rumors, at least one big-name surprise guest (MAVIS STAPLES!!!). Punk duo No Age will be ripped it up again, as did Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore and avant-rocker John Moloney. And the colorful nomadic sculptures were open to patrons; if this is was your first exposure to artists like Liz Glynn and Urs Fischer, well, yurt in for a treat.
Check out our coverage of Chicago’s event over at Underwire!
Photo by Kendrick Brinson/WIRED
Last April interactive designer Ben Tricklebank was testing out a concept for his collaboration with data visualization artist Aaron Koblin – a long-exposure photography project called Light Echoes – and in the process was projecting a series of rainbow-esque color bands on a canyon wall using an RGB laser. Koblin had purchased the laser on eBay for $600 and sent it to Tricklebank, who then mounted it to his car and was photographing the colors it spit out to see if it could leave very temporary graffiti on the landscape. He was in the middle of nowhere outside of his current hometown of Los Angeles and thought he was alone. He wasn’t.
“I scared the wits out of this poor old guy,” Tricklebank told WIRED. “It was really late at night on this canyon road and there’s nobody around then this car just came out of nowhere, slowed right down and stopped – then just drove really slowly right through the laser. It looked incredible, but the look on this guy’s face was like he was having a close encounter.”
The creation of the Light Echoes photos and video – premiering as part of Doug Aitken’s Station to Station traveling art circus (also online here) – weren’t created while strapped to the roof rack of an Audi A3. Instead the images were created using a laser mounted on a specially made crane that rolls slowly along train tracks projecting an image pixel by pixel. The images were then captured using a Red Epic high-definition camera. The project is just the kind of thing digital artists Koblin and Tricklebank would dream up, but its rolling-stock aesthetic was inspired directly by Aitken.
“Doug reached out to me a while back and said, ‘I’m working on this train-based art extravaganza, what could you do in that context?’” Koblin told WIRED. “Basically, I thought the train itself, the physicality of the train was really interesting – the idea of space and time and how those play into perception.”
Photo: courtesy of Aaron Koblin and Ben Tricklebank
Five years ago, 26-year-old designer Mike Wrobel decided that he’d had enough. After spending his entire life in Nantes, a medium-sized city in western France, where he studied literature, philosophy, and graphic arts, he had grown sick and tired of what he calls the “very French attitude of complaining about pretty much everything.” So one day, he up and moved to Tokyo.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Wrobel, now 31, is still living and working in Japan, independently operating his own design company Moshi Studios with clients that range from magazine art departments to brands to independent websites. He also runs a personal blog where he posts his very popular illustrations that reimagine the characters of Game of Thrones in fashions from the ’80s and ’90s. Now, he’s shared his latest work with WIRED, a Muppets-themed look at AMC’s meth drama Breaking Bad.
(We knew Cookie Monster had an addiction; we just never guessed it was this bad.)
“Whenever I saw pictures of India, they were images of impoverished people in the streets,” says Young. “I was curious to see this other side that everyone was talking about.”
His title is a nod to India’s 7 percent GDP growth rate in 2011, which is when he made the photos. His subjects are businessmen, professionals, and ex-nobility. They’re photographed in cravats and blazers and posed beside horses, pools, and vintage cars. Designer furniture and designer pets abound.
Historically, social status in India has been tied to the country’s caste system, which organizes people, particularly Hindu, into a hierarchy of groups. But the current Indian constitution bans discrimination on the basis of caste, and the Indian government has instituted affirmative action programs to help lower classes gain political, social, and financial success.
Young’s impression is that it remains difficult to move beyond and outside any given caste. Some of his subjects, however, don’t see things as absolute.
“Some thought India had become a country where if you worked hard, you could be successful,” Young says.