Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'art'

Woven Scars

March 19th, 2013 · 1 Comment

One of the tangential characters in The Skies Belong to Us is the late William L. Eageleton, one of the most storied diplomats of the Cold War. When he wasn’t busy representing American interests in global hot spots, Eagleton passed the time by delving into the minutiae of rugs: He was a noted collector of […]

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Male Ruffled Grouses in the Mist

February 8th, 2013 · No Comments

The latest post from the indispensable Camoupedia recounts the career of Gerome Brush, an artist with whom I was previously unfamiliar. His anonymity is undeserved, however, as he played an instrumental role in the advent of military camouflage; he helped fellow artist Abbott Handerson Thayer patent the first concept for the visual concealment of ships […]

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A Serious Approach

January 17th, 2013 · No Comments

If you pay the slightest bit of attention to high-profile criminal cases, you have doubtless encountered the sketches of Harvey Pratt. The Oklahoma-based forensic artist is one of the masters of his craft, and thus a frequent attendee at trials where cameras are verboten. He is also a pioneer of post-mortem reconstruction techniques, which allow […]

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The Mouths of Babes

January 11th, 2013 · No Comments

Given its obviously confrontational nature, it’s a wonder that Shurooq Amin’s series of paintings entitled “It’s a Man’s World” were shown in Kuwait City at all. The exhibition lasted all of three hours before the secret police shut it down, citing complaints that the art was both “anti-Islamic” and “pornographic.” To her great credit, Amin […]

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Unequal Trade

December 12th, 2012 · 1 Comment

If you have even a passing interest in colonialist cunning, you owe it to yourself to check out the National Museum of Australia’s dynamite exhibit on Aboriginal breastplates. These were baubles that the European arrivals provided to Down Under’s native inhabitants, ostensibly to honor certain individuals for being community leaders. But the givers desired something […]

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When Curves Were King

October 17th, 2012 · No Comments

We’re all aware that standards of beauty shift over time, which is why there is such a vast difference between the body types of Peter Paul Rubens’ subjects and today’s Olive Oyl-ish fashion icons. How the taste pendulum swings seems largely tied to a basic law of economics: our species values things according to their […]

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My Father, the Sniper

June 4th, 2012 · 2 Comments

There is now a whole sub-genre of literature that deals exclusively with the lives of snipers. The public fascination with these lethal technicians is easy to understand: We see them almost as warrior monks, able to hush their thoughts so as to withstand the sheer boredom of their task. And there is something almost Zen […]

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Wandering Minds

March 23rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

A big part of my book research has consisted of purchasing obscure, tattered tomes that have obviously passed through dozens of hands before reaching my global headquarters. One of the delights of obtaining such artifacts is the marginalia they sometimes offer—I just recently discovered, for example, a scribbled note in a discarded library book that […]

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On the Downslope

March 15th, 2012 · No Comments

Unlike the fine fellows in the tsarist poster above, the title of which translates as “A Time for Relaxation,” I ain’t got time to kick back and Microkhan today. Still stuck on the second paragraph of my book’s fifteenth chapter, and I need to push through that block. Acquaint yourself with some fantastic Siberian artifacts, […]

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Art Amidst the Mustard Gas, Cont’d

March 9th, 2012 · 4 Comments

One of the very first Microkhan posts was about so-called trench art, a catch-all term for the artifacts that (usually ill-fated) soldiers created during their World War I downtime. It’s a genre I love dearly because it basically amounts to a big middle finger to madness—a way for the cannon fodder to achieve some small […]

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The Christmas Fake-Out

December 23rd, 2011 · 4 Comments

Put yourself in the shoes of a G.I. slogging his way across Italy or New Guinea in December 1943. You’ve been subsisting on tinned ham and cold coffee for days; your feet are bleeding; your best friend took a bullet to the skull on Thanksgiving. The last thing in the world you want to think […]

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Reeling in the Days

November 23rd, 2011 · 2 Comments

One of my very first posts, way back in the unenlightened days of April 2009, was about the art objects crafted by World War I’s unfortunate grunts. Since then, I’ve always kept an eye peeled for the artwork of combat soldiers, which is often formed in the most desperate and uncomfortable of circumstances. I love […]

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Mo’ Problems

November 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Given that I’m all about narrative arc these days, Barnaby Barford is an artist who’s right up my alley. He uses his ceramic skills to tell stories, and his latest project is a doozy—a modern update on A Rake’s Progress that recounts an English lottery winner’s rise and fall. One moment our protagonist is sitting […]

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The Roots of the Infographic

October 13th, 2011 · No Comments

I’m almost ashamed to admit how much time I’ve wasted over the past few days sifting through this nifty archive of World War II “newsmaps,” which were essentially weekly progress updates published by the Army’s Special Service Division. Though tinged with the air of propaganda—it’s not like they ever reported on setbacks, and the enemy […]

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Combat in Charcoal

August 11th, 2011 · 5 Comments

Along with the transmission methods for mass psychological illness, one of the main themes I’ll be exploring in my next book is how traumatized Vietnam veterans coped with their homecomings. As such, I’ve been digging into the history of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly the ways in which the condition was glossed over by the medical […]

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Let it All Come Down

May 2nd, 2011 · No Comments

If you desire a brief respite from today’s deluge of bin Laden-related news and punditry, take a sec to check out the work of Bern Will Brown. He’s sort of the Paul Gaugin of the frozen north, having settled into the tiny Arctic hamlet of Colville Lake many decades ago. Though he originally journeyed up […]

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The Rickshas Tell All

January 20th, 2011 · No Comments

I’m a big fan of the theory that the key to understanding societal shifts is to pay close attention to the art of the everyday. A Chinese politician who may or may not have been Deng Xiaoping is credited with summarizing this logic during the sunset of Mao Zedong’s reign, when he was asked to […]

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House Rules

January 18th, 2011 · No Comments

Got lots of good stuff lined up for the coming days, including posts about syphilitic composers, porcine economics in the New Guinea highlands, and the latest in ostrich ranching technology, to name just a few. And I’ll be moving the show over to Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ space at The Atlantic next week, so keep an eye […]

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How to Wreck a Nice Atoll

January 14th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Followers of Microkhan’s microblog may have noted that I’ve developed a recent fascination with World War II-era combat art, which was created as part of an official War Department program to depict the conflict in oils, inks, and water colors. Once the the war was over, the painting continued as the U.S. speedily developed its […]

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The Fine Art of Terrible Lizards

December 28th, 2010 · 4 Comments

On Christmas Night, the ingestion of too much fine red wine led the Grand Empress and I to spend a pleasant few minutes researching Thrinaxodon, one of the many Therapsids to be found in mankind’s evolutionary tree. We were intrigued to find great disagreement on what this critter looked like; due to a paucity of […]

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Saints and Sinners

December 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

In the midst of researching an upcoming post on the cigarette economy in prisons, I came across this image of juvenile prisoners in Russia. I was struck by the extreme youth of these convicts, and thus motivated to look a bit more deeply into how Russia handles criminals who’ve yet to become adults. As I […]

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The Picasso of Cartography

December 10th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I distinctly remember the first time I was surprised by a geographical truth that ordinary maps conceal. I was about ten years old, and thought of myself as pretty sharp when it comes to map-related matters. Seeking to impress my pops with my knowledge, I mentioned at the dinner table one night that Maine was […]

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Music is Our Underwater Torch

November 23rd, 2010 · 4 Comments

While I enjoy a good sci-fi concept album as much as the next khan, few bands are adept at creating mythologies that measure up to their music. Ziggy Stardust’s backstory has always struck me as prosaic, for example, while the “Red Star of the Solar Federation” from Rush’s 2112 is only a tad less schlocky […]

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The Proverbial Thousand Words

October 15th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The current issue of Granta contains an enlightening Jane Perlez piece about Muhammad Ali Jinnah (right), Pakistan’s founding father. In making the argument that Jinnah’s vision for the nation has been grossly misinterpreted, Perlez notes that it’s easy enough to determine where a Pakistani official resides on the political spectrum. All you have to do […]

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Jerks and Great Art

July 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

(Cross-posted from Ta-Nehisi Coates) Growing up, Jack London was high atop my personal literary pantheon. The first time I read “To Build a Fire”, it absolutely rocked my world—I mean, who knew you could have a story in which the protagonist’s death-by-freezing could be portrayed in such a sweet manner? (That closing vision of “the […]

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Her Dark Materials

June 18th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Despite our general abhorrence of slasher flicks and Eli Roth-style “torture porn,” we do have a soft spot for macabre statues. Hyungkoo Lee’s series of cartoon skeletons, for example, still ranks as one of the finest exhibits we’ve ever seen in New York. And we’re similarly enthralled by the work of Jessica Joslin, who incorporates […]

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Fuel for a Growing Nation

February 12th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The lamentable advent of Bud Select 55 got us thinking about the history of nutritional science—or, rather, the ways in which dodgy scientific claims have been used to peddle all manner of food products. We’re of a mind that such science-y pitches do an excellent job of reflecting cultural neuroses. So just as today we’re […]

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Against Ivan Barleycorn

January 21st, 2010 · No Comments

More than we might care to admit, cultures are defined by their attitudes toward alcohol consumption. And so it makes sense that amateur anthropologists can learn a lot by paying attention not only to consumption habits, but to the psychological tactics that societies use to scare folks away from Demon Rum. Those tactics are on […]

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Let There Be Hydroelectricity

December 16th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Explicitly Communist architecture gets a unfairly bad rap from critics. Sure, builders behind the Iron Curtain were overly fond of dismal panelaks and other multi-dwelling units that reeked of dingy misery. But when the last true believers in the dictatorship of the proletariat decided to go the triumphalist route, man, did they ever pull it […]

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A Life Spent in Limbo

November 13th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Since 1983, the average amount of time a condemned American convict spends on death row has tripled to 153 months. Yet that mammoth stretch of time is nothing compared to that endured by Sadamichi Hirasawa. When he passed away from natural causes in 1987, the alleged mastermind of Japan’s most infamous and lethal bank robbery […]

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