Thesaurus Word Loops Booklet

This is a new version of a booklet first produced in 2006. The booklet has been redesigned and some changes made to the content.

Each of these word loops takes a pair of words with opposite meanings as its starting point. A thesaurus was used to find a synonym for one of these words and then to find a synonym for that synonym and so on. Each new word suggested by thesaurus involves a slight slippage of meaning. These slippages accumulate resulting in a complete inversion of the original meaning. This process is repeated using the second word from the pair until the loop has been completed.

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy please send me your address: niall(at)

I’m a real photographer

I’ve been looking at the work of Keith Arnatt recently. He began as a conceptual artist who used photography as tool – he’s famous for the piece where he wore a sign saying “I’m a real artist” and a series of images where he appears to be sinking into the ground.

Later he reinvented himself as a photographer working on various series including photos of notes his wife left for him around the house and a series of photos of objects found on the dump (one of which is pictured above).

I’m a Real Photographer: Photographs by Keith Arnatt is an excellent catalogue of his work.

A Geometry of the Pitted, Pocked, and Broken Up

This quote from James Gleick’s book Chaos: Making a New Science refers to the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot who is considered the “father of fractal geometry”. I think its interesting to think about in relation to contemporary sculpture.

Clouds are not spheres, Mandelbrot is fond of saying, Mountains are not cones. Lightning does not travel in straight lines. the new geometry mirrors a universe that is rough not rounded, scabrous, not smooth. it is a geometry of the pitted, pocked, and broken up, the twisted, tangled, and intertwined. The understanding of nature’s complexity awaiting a suspicion that the complexity was not just random, not just accident. It required a faith that the interesting feature of lightning was not its direction, but rather the distribution of zigs and zags. Mandelbrot’s work made a claim about the world, and the claim was that such odd shapes carry meaning. The pits and tangles are more than blemishes distorting the classic shapes of Euclidian geometry. They are often the key to the essence of a thing.

Photos of Atom Bomb

I’ve been reading Terry Winters: Paintings, Drawings, Prints 1994-2004 in advance of the show of his work at IMMA coming up in a week or so. The book includes some pages from Winter’s notebooks where he has pasted in found photos. One of the pages includes photographs of atomic bomb explosions (pictured above and below).

The photographs were taken by Harold Edgerton at night with an extremely fast a shutter speed and a special 10 feet long lens which was set up in a bunker 7 miles away. These 3 pictures show the first 3 milliseconds of an atomic bomb detonation. The bomb was at the top of a steel gantry anchored to the desert floor.

The Drunkard’s Walk

Ì have just finished reading a book about randomness called The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
by Leonard Mlodinow. The book aims to explain us the role of chance in everyday life.

One of the interesting facts in the book is that people are not capable of making up a sequence of numbers that pass mathematical tests for randomness. For certain mathematical calculations strings of random numbers are required. In 1947 scientists at the RAND corporation created a system using electronic noise to generate random numbers. They did not succeed in generating a string of numbers that was entirely free of regularities but did produce results which were random enough to be useful. The numbers were published in 1955 as A Million Random Digits (which sounds like an avant garde novel or piece of early conceptual art).

I looked up the RAND book on Amazon and found a strange user review :

This is surely the most depressing book I have ever read. I am an amateur historian, who has spent many years analysing history and watching it repeat itself… or at least that is what I thought. After reading this book it is obvious that what I perceived to be recurring patterns, were if fact just random events being repeated randomly.

As a result, I no longer read history with the same enthusiasm. On the bright side, this book is a wonderful testament to man’s ability to think the unthinkable. It also questions my sanity that I tried to read it in the first place!

Here is another from Amazon:

I took a class in statistics in college. I used this book to help me select random phone numbers for a poll I was conducting for my class project. (The most popular household cleanser in the greater Siouxland area is Bon Ami, by the way.) One of those phone calls was answered by the woman who is now my wife. We’ve been happily married for ten years! Thank you, RAND.

Below are three graphs from Mlodinow’s books which I also found interesting:

They show an example of ‘normal distibution’. To explain this idea Mlodinow writes about an experiment in which 300 students were each asked to guess heads or tails in a series of ten coin tosses. When these results are presented in a graph they form a bell-shaped curve centred on 5 correct guesses. The curve drops to about two thirds of its maximum height between 3 and 4 correct guesses and between 6 and 7 correct guesses and tapers off in a bell shape with 0 and 10 correct guesses having the lowest heights. This type of curve is know as ‘normal distribution’.

The graphs below chart the number in rows of pascal’s triangle – a chart which can be used to show the number of possible combinations of given set of elements eg the number of ways 100 people can be seated at 10 tables.

Where do you get your ideas?

There’s a booklet with today’s Guardian called “How to write fiction”. There’s a article by Kate Pullinger addressing on of the most common (and most annoying) questions  asked of artists and writers.

Writers are often asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?” as though there is a special place where you can buy them: Asda for chick-lit, perhaps, Waitrose for literary fiction. But, even though this question gets asked a lot, most writers find it difficult to supply a decent answer. The truth is that ideas are all around us, in the people you meet, in the things you read and see and hear and experience, in your own childhood and family, in the wilder reaches of your imagination.

The complete article is here