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Meet Aria, the band known as ‘the Russian Iron Maiden’
02.20.2017
12:16 pm
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An early shot of Soviet-era heavy metal band Aria, “the Russian Iron Maiden,” (looking here very much like the actual Iron Maiden)

Born during a tumultuous time in Russia where the Communist government was still routinely attempting to repress musical expression—metal band Aria became one of the first Russian bands in the genre to rise up and achieve commercial success in the 80s.

Aria (or if you prefer Ария) came to be around 1985 and if vocalist Valery Kipelov didn’t perform his vocals in his native tongue, the casual metalhead might be inclined to believe that Aria was some undiscovered gem that was a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands (or “NWOBHM” as I like to abbreviate it) that included heavy hitters such as Motörhead, Def Leppard, Venom, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. After releasing their debut Megalomania in 1985 the Russian music press and metal fans quickly bestowed the band with a weighty comparison, calling the group “the Russian Iron Maiden.” Which begs the question—did Aria deserve to be compared with a band that is as synonymous with heavy metal as leather pants, ear-piercing vocals, and sweaty, bare-chested hedonism? The answer is Da my devil-horn throwing friends.

As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t easy to get a band going as scrutiny by the Soviet government not only made it difficult for bands to do their thing, it also made their ability to procure the things they needed to do their thing difficult. Like instruments and amps and tape recorders. So repressive was the environment in Russia that it was conceivable that it might take more than a decade for a band to go from forming to actually releasing music as even acquiring basic necessities like guitars and drum kits could be next to impossible. Despite these challenges, Aria would thrive much in part to the death of Russian rock and roll’s worst enemy, Konstantin Chernenko, and the appointment of his successor Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. They would also seemingly pepper their music with anti-US propaganda, which is especially apparent in the title of a song from their debut “America is Behind.”
 

A vintage shot of Aria.

The band’s heavy, melodic sound and use of synth has also been compared to the work of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtrack composer, Greek electronic wizard Vangelis. I’ve included a number of selections from Aria’s massive catalog that spans over 30 years as well as some live footage, below. If the existence of Aria—who are still active and currently on tour with a 40 piece orchestra—is news to you, I’d highly recommend adding Megalomania to your vinyl collection as a start.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.20.2017
12:16 pm
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Stunning color photographs of the Women of Tsarist Russia 1909-15
11.10.2016
09:53 am
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1ProkudinGorsky.jpg
 
Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) was a successful chemist and leading pioneer of color photography in Russia at the turn of the last century. He was financially independent enough to take up the fashionable hobby of photography. His knowledge of chemistry enabled him to master new techniques in color processing.

He decided to use these advances in color photography to document life in Russia.  Using different techniques, including those first formulated by Scottish pioneer James Clerk Maxwell, Prokudin-Gorskii started taking color pictures of his homeland in 1909.

Photography was an expensive pastime. As his hyphenated surname suggests,  Prokudin-Gorskii came from a long line of Russian nobility and was closely linked to the Romanov royal family. Tsar Nicholas II gave Prokudin-Gorskii a specially designed railroad carriage with its own specially converted darkroom to help him on his travels documenting Russian life.

Between 1909 and 1915, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled across the country photographing this rich, diverse and multicultural world.

On his travels, Prokudin-Gorskii found Greek women harvesting tea on the shores of the Black Sea, Italian nannies (the woman standing at the open gate below) raising middle class children in St. Petersburg, Muslim families farming on the land, Bashkir (the old woman sitting on the grey wooden steps) or Uzbek women (the woman standing on red rug of full native dress outside a yurt) and peasant girls along the Sheksna River. The wealth and richness of Russian culture surprised and impressed Prokudin-Gorskii. He decided to use his color photographs to teach all children across the land about diversity and tolerance.

Unfortunately, the commencement of the First World War led Tsar Nicholas to believe God had told him to lead his men into battle. The Tsar conscripted the bulk of Russian men off the land. These men were no longer serfs—serfdom having ended in 1861—but they were indebted to their landowners, who had taken the best of the land. This meant when Tsar Nicholas conscripted his troops he denuded farms of their laborers. The land was no longer worked, the rent no longer paid, the families no longer fed. Famine spread across country. This led Russian mothers to march for bread on International Women’s Day March 1917. Their march merged with a workers strike which turned into the first major revolt (or February Revolution) that led to the eventual demise of Nicholas.

Prokudin-Gorskii moved to France after the Revolution. His stunning color photographs beautifully capture a rich diversity of life in pre-revolutionary Russia.
 
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More photos of Russian women from the early 1900s, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.10.2016
09:53 am
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Russian prison tattoo-themed plateware (NSFW)
10.31.2016
12:34 pm
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In Russian tattoos, the cat symbolizes a successful thief
 
It was just a couple of weeks ago that we brought you old-school ceramics with pictures of German nuclear power plants on them. There may be something of a trend happening here, for today our offering consists of similar ceramic plateware with astonishing illustrations derived from Russian prison tattoos.

Valeria Monis is the “multidisciplinary designer” who creates these amazing plates and vases, invariably in cobalt blue. Every object is handmade, so they are also quite individual; there is no mass production here. Monis was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and currently lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The title of Monis’ project is “From Russia With Love.” It combines “the subversive art of Russian criminal tattoos” and “traditional blue porcelain design,” bringing together “two opposed but equally important and influential strands of Russian art history.” As Monis writes of this Russian tradition, “In the criminal world, a man with no tattoos has no status. ... The illustrations they wear on their skin tells the story of their closed society, a society with its own hierarchy and social structure.”

While transmitting information to others about a person’s crimes and prison terms, the tattoos more fundamentally express a kind of folk understanding of sex, love, honor, sacrifice, and happiness. Many of the images are deeply misogynistic, bestowing warnings of the perils of “whores” and “bitches,” although others celebrate sex, orgasm, and the delights of “playing with your body.” 

Not all of the tattoos are bawdy or boastful or are intended to denote status. Some of the tattoos depict visions of failure or loss, while others are markers of connubial bliss.
 

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I, by Danzig Baldaev
 
Monis’ source material is FUEL Publishing’s remarkable series of Russian prison tattoo books by Danzig Baldaev.

These intriguing items are available for purchase. Small plates (roughly 6 inches in diameter) cost $95 or $99, large plates (11 inches) cost $120, and the vases cost between $250 and $300.
 

Vologda Transit Prison, 1950s
 

“Girls, find yourself a generous hand. You’ll be fed, dressed, and entertained, and you’ll play with your body….”
 
Many more of these marvelous ceramic items after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.31.2016
12:34 pm
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From Russia with drugs: The twisted erotic surrealism of Dmitry Vorsin
07.18.2016
02:27 pm
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A creation of artist Dmitry Vorsin.
 
According to Australian art collective beinArt the Surrealist responsible for the provacative Dali-esque creations in this post is Russian artist Dmitry Vorsin—a 36-year-old based in Moscow.

Though Vorsin originally set his sights on studying ecology when he enrolled in college he decided instead to pursue art—a passion that began when he was a child. The self-taught Vorsin uses ink, pencils and watercolors to weave his distorted figures that contain elements and images inspired by Renaissance-era paintings. Vorsin’s work was included in a fantastic looking book put out by beinArt in 2011 Metamorphosis: Volume 2: 50 Contemporary Surreal, Fantastic and Visionary Artists along with other modern masters of the surreal such as Shawn Barber, Travis Louie, Paul Booth and Swiss surrealist, the late, great HR Giger.

If you are digging on Dmitry like I am, I highly recommend you keep up with the prolific artist over on his Facebook page. A selection of Dmitry Vorsin’s avant-garde creations follow. Many are delightfully NSFW.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.18.2016
02:27 pm
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The unhappiest places on earth: Nightmarish playground structures from around the world
06.16.2016
09:59 am
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A strange reverse “human centipede” style playground sculpture.
 
Many of the images in this nightmare-fueled post were taken in playgrounds around Russia, and they are about as bleak as a vodka shortage in Moscow in the middle of winter.
 

The “peeing rainbow kids” of Kiev, Ukraine.
 
Some of the other perplexing playground structures that you’ll see, such as a rock climbing “thing” that looks like a giant dick, and the reverse human centipede sculpture (pictured at the top of this post) were photographed in China, Tokyo and some European locations. Each of them has one thing in common: they appear to have been created by people who don’t like children at all. Of course there are plenty of demented looking clowns as well as depressed looking bears (because, Russia), and other odd animal-themed slides and such that are just too inexplicably odd for words. Unless those words consist of the triple-threat known as “WTF.”

If you need me, I’ll be under the bed.
 

Moscow.
 

Tokyo.
 

‘Goblin’ merry-go-round.

More images of strange playground structures that need to be put out of their misery, after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.16.2016
09:59 am
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Fascinating document of Soviet rock shows before they were legal
02.09.2016
08:36 am
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“In Soviet Russia, party finds you.”
 
Shest’ pisem o bite or Six Letters About Beat is a Soviet student film from 1977 examining the cultural impact of rock music, which was very underground at the time, through a series of “letters to the editor” from people of different ages and backgrounds. The attacks, defenses, and explanations of rock music come from a conservative couple, some young fans, members of a band, and a sociology professor.
 

 
According to Russian film website Obskura:

This film is an amazing historical document and a living proof that Soviet rock music didn’t start in the 1980s with Viktor Tsoi and “Kino”, as it is believed by many. The film contains recordings of the 1970s underground concerts with bands like “Rubinovaya ataka” (Ruby Attack), “Visokosnoe leto” (Leap Summer) and “Mashina Vremeni” (Time Machine). Rock music sessions were not completely legal at that time, which makes the footage even more exclusive.

Six Letters About Beat was directed by a documentary film-maker Aleksei Khanyutin, back then a student of VGIK (All Union State University of Cinematography), as part of his university course. This coursework was gathering dust on a shelf of some archive until the collapse of the USSR, mainly because the film doesn’t exhibit any negative attitudes towards rock music scene and even poses a question whether this music can be considered a form of art.

 

 
The music in Six Letters About Beat is not necessarily mind-blowing, but it is pretty interesting in that it sounds like a slightly “off” version of Western music. There are even a few moments of killer fuzz. It’s interesting to note how ‘60s-dated the music sounds for 1977, when the rest of the world was undergoing a musical revolution with punk, dance, and hiphop—but anything youth-counter-culture-related, especially in such an under-reported scene, is worthy of attention. This short doc is totally worth a gander, not only for the interesting Soviet take on rock music, but for the attractive Russian teens dancing to the beat.

After the jump, watch ‘Six Letters About Beat’...

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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02.09.2016
08:36 am
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Weird bus stops of Soviet Russia
09.09.2015
01:13 pm
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Photographer Christopher Herwig spent roughly a dozen years roaming the vast expanses of the former Soviet Union, in search of the wild roadside shelters, for want of a better term, dotting the landscape in locales as exotic as Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Last year Herwig successfully funded a print run of 1,500 copies of his photo book of Soviet bus stops on Kickstarter, and now FUEL Publishing has decided that it merits a larger audience; the book, Soviet Bus Stops, will be released at the end of the month.
 

 
It turns out that bus stops were a medium of startling vitality with a great deal of local control in the otherwise repressive Soviet Union. Local architects apparently didn’t think too much about budgets, and experimented in a variety of styles including brutalism or outright weirdness. During his journey Herwig covered more than 18,000 miles in 14 countries of the former Soviet Union, traveling by car, bike, bus, taxi and who knows what else. There are examples from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia.

 

 

 
Many more of these wild Soviet structures after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.09.2015
01:13 pm
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Hidden camera shows what it’s like to be gay in Russia
07.13.2015
01:12 pm
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Americans became aware during the run-up to the Sochi Olympics last year that Russia was undergoing something like the opposite of the social revolution that has brought some approximation of equal rights to homosexuals within the United States. If anything, Russia was regressing, and the persistence of anti-gay hate was depressing to behold, just as Russia was the athletic center of the world, and just a few months before that country’s ominous annexation of parts of Ukraine.

ChebuRussiaTV are something akin to the Yes Men of Russia—they make political points and further social progress through the use of pranks. Just a few weeks ago they ruffled some feathers by mimicking oral sex on public park benches.

Their latest idea is incredibly simple and yet devastating in the virulence of the reaction it has elicited. All they did was have two young men walk through public places in Moscow holding hand—not kissing, not engaging in crazy PDA behavior, just holding hands—and documented the reactions of ordinary citizens, most of which are pretty nauseating.

In addition to the occasional resigned sentiment of “Where is this country going?” and various epithets of abuse, ChebuRussiaTV documented two cases of assault (arguably), taking the form of a rough shoulder hit—the second of which certainly threatened to get out of hand.

The Cyrillic headline of the video—”Избиение гомосексуалистов в России”—translates as “Beating homosexuals in Russia” according to Google Translate. The English title is “Reaction to gays in Russia social experiment,” which is a good deal more euphemistic.
 

 
via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider
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07.13.2015
01:12 pm
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Do not take a selfie next to an oncoming train: Russia’s goofy ‘Safe Selfie’ campaign
07.08.2015
11:59 am
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(Click on the image for a better view.)
 
According to the Izvestia newspaper, the Russian government has recently launched a campaign to persuade people not to take selfies in dangerous situations. The government was induced to take action after a series of incidents in which young people were seriously injured or even killed in the process of taking pictures of themselves.

The slogan of the campaign runs, “Even a million ‘likes’ on social media are not worth your life and well-being.”

I really wish I understood Russian, so that I could read the captions in the chart.

It’s difficult not to think of the Darwin Awards, which were and are bestowed on people who obliged humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool, by dying from what can only be called “stupidity.” Actually, a recent submission to the Darwin Awards recounts an incident from Kenya involving death-by-selfie; the opening line reads, “An attempt by two men to take photographs while touching an elephant’s trunk and tusks turned tragic when the beast suddenly turned against them and trampled them to death.”

It’s difficult to say how much a sign will help a person who is willing to entertain the idea of taking a selfie next to an oncoming train—and yet, who knows, maybe they will make a difference.
 

(Click on the image for a better view.)
 

 

 

 
More from Russia’s “Safe Selfie” campaign after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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07.08.2015
11:59 am
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Bootleg Led Zeppelin album covers from Soviet Russia
05.15.2015
11:50 am
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The Cold War seems an awful long time ago, long enough that it’s sometimes hard to remember that a huge percentage of our planet’s land mass was officially denied the right to listen to classic rock. You couldn’t just wander into the USSR with a bunch of Mott the Hoople albums under your arm and expect anyone not to mind, there were actual policies about this. Those people who had heard about and liked Led Zeppelin had to resort to illegal, grassroots ways of disseminating the music, and that process included pressing albums illegally and creating fake, yet plausible, album covers.

In the r/vinyl/ subreddit, reddit user “zingo-spleen” uploaded scans of several awesome album covers that were created for illegal Russian pressings of Led Zeppelin albums. Represented are the band’s second through fifth albums, being II, III, IV, and Houses of the Holy, which is hilariously called V in the Russian version.

Helpfully, “zingo-spleen” provided some background about the fantastic covers:
 

these are two double albums in gatefold sleeves, with a cover on each side. II and III are together as a set, while IV and V (Houses of the Holy) are together as a set. Not sure why the first one is not included - blame the Russians and their twisted logic. I found these in a thrift shop a long time ago and couldn’t bear to get rid of them, even though I’ve had offers.

 
The record label, AnTrop, was a major force in underground bootlegs, releasing illegal versions of all the most notable classic rock acts:
 

AnTrop was named after the legendary Russian underground producer and sound engineer, Andrey Tropillo, who in 1990, on the wave of “perestroika,” became the head of the St. Petersburg branch of Melodia. Since there was much turmoil in Russia at the time, he made the St. Petersburg branch independent of central headquarters and started releasing a series of classic Rock albums. These releases were not legitimate. They started with releases by The Beatles, Jesus Christ - Superstar, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and eventually Pink Floyd. All these records were released using Melodia facilities, but AnTrop was operating as an independent record label and was putting the Antrop logo and their own numbers and copyrights on the covers. However, since all the records were printed in Melodia owned and run facilities, AnTrop had to give its releases additional Melodia catalog numbers, which is why there are two catalog numbers on the releases. Antrop is the label that released most of the Pink Floyd albums in Russia. “P” in the AnTrop catalog numbers stands for Russian letter “P” (that looks like Greek “Pi”). AnTrop records were all pressed in Aprelevka.

 
According to “zingo-spleen,” the quality of the pressings is “really not bad at all ... certainly listenable.”

I think reddit user “arachnophilia” speaks for us all when he says, “oh man, i love aeg threenneauh.”

(Clicking on the images will spawn a larger version.)
 

 

 
More Soviet Zeppelin after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.15.2015
11:50 am
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Unimpressed man calmly sits in restaurant while it’s invaded by masked gang
11.18.2014
02:37 pm
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There’s not too much information about this video which surfaced on the Internet yesterday of an unimpressed man sitting in a restaurant while 35 armed and masked men invade the place. The whole thing went down somewhere in Russia. 

“Couldn’t Care Less Guy” just calmly sits there, casually sipping on his bottled water… waiting for the whole thing to blow over. He doesn’t even flinch.

Perhaps he was in on it?

 
via Daily Dot

Posted by Tara McGinley
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11.18.2014
02:37 pm
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Steve Jobs memorial dismantled for fear that it would turn Russia gay


 
This gets the eyeroll of the week award. Not as bad as when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that there were no gay people in Iran, but still, it’s up there. There was a six-foot-tall iPhone St. Petersburg, Russia, to honor Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple who passed away of pancreatic cancer in October 2011. The current CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, came out of the closet last week in the form of an editorial for Bloomberg Businessweek in which he wrote that he is “proud to be gay.”
 

 
That was it for the memorial. The touch-screen monument was designed to emit free Wi-Fi in temperatures as low as negative-30 as well as take photos via a built-in camera. After Cook’s announcement, Maksim Dolgopolov, director of West European Financial Union, the Russian company that originally commissioned the memorial, said that it was now “gay propaganda.” In addition the fact that Edward Snowden used Apple products to leak NSA documents in 2013 also played a role in the decision to remove the monument.

Hilariously, Dolgopolov said that he would reinstall the monument if it can be modified to instruct people to use products made by Apple’s competitors.

Eyeroll.

You can watch workers removing the big black slab here:
 

 
via Vocativ
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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11.03.2014
01:16 pm
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Nightmarish horror photography from Russia
10.09.2014
02:26 pm
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Dens by Moppaa
Dens by Moppaa
 
After looking through several pages of photographs by 27-year-old Russian photographer, painter and digital artist Moppaa, it didn’t really come as a surprise to learn that he started his art career engraving portraits on gravestones. Beyond that, there is not much known about this young artist but I did manage to dig up an interview he gave less than a month ago over at In Dark We Trust and gained a bit of insight into what makes Moppaa tick.
 
Moppaa (Eugene Kuleshov) says his interest in photography started in 2012 after he surprised his girlfriend with a photograph and “liked” her reaction to it. I can only assume that her reaction was positive as Moppaa has gone on to create some fairly terrifying images that often feature his girlfriend (who appears to be his wife now) as the subject. Moppaa’s goal as an artist is to make people “shit their pants” (me = mission fucking accomplished!) and is planning to publish a children’s book of horror stories. When asked to describe himself in three words he choose, “maniac”, “paranoid” and “artist” (me = agreed). So please, grab another pair of pants before you view the following images from this young, beautifully deranged artist. You can also view his full gallery here. If you need me, I’ll be under my bed.
 
Clown by Moppaa
Clown
 
Scout by Moppaa
Scout
 
They by Moppaa
They
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.09.2014
02:26 pm
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The Russian dash-cam video to end all Russian dash-cam videos!!!
09.02.2014
03:33 pm
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I’m not going to explain what’s happening here. You’ve seen enough Russian dash-cam videos to know the drill. But this one in particular stands out on its own because, well, something unexpected happens. You’ll just have to watch and go with the flow.

BTW, I’m repeatedly clicking my heels together like Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz and telling myself, “Please let this be real. Please let this be real.”

As someone on reddit points out, “He’ll never tell a soul what happened that day…”

 
via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.02.2014
03:33 pm
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Soviet anti-war animation told entirely with wooden matches
08.01.2014
03:59 pm
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Garry Bardin’s 1983 short “Konflikt” has the rich color and narrative intensity often associated with his work, but unlike his other stop-motion films, which use malleable materials like clay and origami paper, “Konflikt” works almost solely with a mundane, seemingly lifeless object—the wooden match. With very little in the way of a set, Bardin constructs an entire war, from segregation (the tell-tale wall), to initial conflict, to escalation, to doomsday. It’s a strange thing to be moved by a bunch of matchsticks, but somehow they’re animated into truly expressive characters.

There’s a US tendency to assume every piece of Soviet political art is somehow centered on America, but it’s difficult to argue the short as a literal depiction of the Cold War. Most obviously, the titular conflict involves a direct border dispute and open battle, something that wasn’t the context for the US and USSR. Still, the final act of warfare in the film is so violent (yet so expected), it’s difficult to ignore parallels with nuclear fears.
 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost
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08.01.2014
03:59 pm
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