Archive for January, 2011
Remember that creepy chap in the black hat who used to make art out of dead bodies? He’s now looking rather passé. At the end of January, the Science Gallery in Dublin is opening the doors on Visceral, an exhibition of “bio-art” that makes art out of living organisms, such as home-grown chunks of human tissue.
“H. G. Wells thought that a living being is raw material, something that may be shaped and altered,” says Oron Catts, the curator of the exhibition. “Our group of artists, SymbioticA, explores this idea. We make people feel uncomfortable, and that is part of the point. We test the boundary where art becomes emotionally unacceptable.”
It’s not easy being an atheist. Your rational self informs you that God – or Zeus, or the Ju-Ju, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – does not exist. Your intuition, however, often has other ideas. Despite your best efforts, you can’t rid yourself of the feeling that things happen for a reason; that there exists some benevolent force greater than yourself; that departed relatives are still, in some sense, around. After all, whose brain isn’t prone to breaking the wind of superstition from time to time? And, more importantly: why?
Israel’s latest literary sensation was something of a late starter. Until 1999 she was a puppeteer in northern Israel and would have laughed at the notion of writing a novel. After all, she had never read one before. “I suffer from ADHD,” Sara Shilo explains when we meet in London. “As a child, I didn’t have enough concentration to read.”
Eleven years ago, however, when she was 40, she decided to give books a second chance. The first novel she picked up was Be My Knife, a dense exploration of obsessive love by the pre-eminent Israeli novelist David Grossman. Shilo was deeply affected. “The book awakened something profound inside me,” she says. “Suddenly I saw the world through someone else’s eyes. Nothing could be the same again.”
This encounter with fiction threw her into an existential crisis. The very next day she put her life on hold, stopped work and cancelled all social engagements. Without knowing why, she wrote a long letter to Grossman, explaining how his book had moved her.
“From the very first words of her letter, I could tell that Sara Shilo was special,” Grossman tells me from his home in Jerusalem. “She was not only describing reality with her writing. She was generating reality. There was something in the way she juxtaposed words, the rhythm of her sentences. It had a tangible, primal beauty.”
Now that VAT has increased to 20 per cent, you’re probably checking price tags a little more carefully before parting with your hard-earned cash. The problem is that shops are fighting back. According to Philip Graves, author of Consumer.ology, a study of the psychology of shopping, retailers are using their knowledge of the human mind to turn the VAT increase to their advantage.
“Thousands of people are being manipulated into actually spending more,” he says. “Many shops are claiming that they are not increasing VAT, and that is encouraging people to spend. But there is more to this than meets the eye.”
Behind the price tag, Graves explains, lie a variety of psychological tricks. For example, research has shown that people are more inclined to buy an item when it has a “charm price” of .99 on the tag. The VAT increase, however, would demand strange prices such as £32.20, which are not attractive to the consumer. So the shops are taking a two-pronged approach. “On the one hand they are keeping some items at the original charm price, and highlighting the fact that the VAT is staying the same,” Graves explains. “With other items, however, they are raising the price even higher than the VAT increase demands, from £34.99 to £39.99, for example. Amazingly, people will buy something for £39.99 more readily than £32.20. So overall, the shops come out on top.”