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13 MAY, 2009

Hyper-Marketing Meets Meta-Art: Tate Tracks


How to lure twentysomethings, or what Basement Jaxx have to do with high art.

We love seeing “advertising” that swells far beyond the traditional commercial boundaries of the industry and into the broader cultural realm in a way that inspires, provokes, and adds poetic resonance to the cultural dialogue. 

Today, we take a lesson in culturally enlightened marketing — an inspired effort by London ad agency wunderkind Fallon for the Tate Modern. The project, dubbed Tate Tracks, aimed to get more 18-to-24-year-olds into the gallery. And it did it brilliantly, through the one medium most relevant to that demographic — music — using it as a vehicle to connect young people to art.

So they invited several prominent music artists — including Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, Graham Coxon from Blur, and more — to walk around the museum and find a piece of art that inspired them to write a music track. The rest is, well, art history.

Another layer of the effort included Your Tate Tracks, a music competition aimed at unsigned bands and musicians aged between 16 and 24. The YouTube community chose 20 finalists, out of which the judging panel — Graham Coxon, Basement Jaxx, Roll Deep and Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens — selected the winner: U.K. indie trio Kotki Dwa.

But what really makes this effort special isn’t just that it redefines the notion of “advertising” — it also expands the traditional conception of what a gallery is, from a place that merely collects art to one that helps create it.

See the project’s full music output here. For more Tate goodness, check out their iTunes outpost, where you’ll find 4 years worth of incredible talks by some of the art world’s biggest thinkers.

11 MAY, 2009

We Got Time: Hand-Illustration Meets In-Camera Animation Magic


What a French invention from 1877 has to do with superb modern animation.

A couple of weeks ago, a fantastic video for Moray McLaren‘s We Got Time made waves with its brilliant in-camera animation magic. It’s pure creative genius — despite the utter visual indulgence, it isn’t stop-motion, no computer super-imposing was used, and everything you see is exactly what rolled off the camera.

The animations in the side-on views were produced by the camera capturing the moving reflections from the mirrored carousels, and the animations in the top-down views were created by matching the cameras frame rate to that of spinning record.

Now, we go behind the scenes with London-based animator David Wilson, who directed it and hand-drew all the illustration.

Beyond being a pure joy to watch, We Got Time is a testament to our belief that creativity is simply the genius of combining existing resources — knowledge, ideas, inspiration — in completely revolutionary ways: In this case, a vintage Praxinoscope device and old-school hand-drawn illustration.


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08 MAY, 2009

Curating Twitter: Three Hand-Picked Must-Follows


Because #followfriday is insufficient, props are to be given, and we like Big Words.

Twitter is quickly evolving into a superb way to discover fascinating content you normally wouldn’t have, by following interesting people who tweet with great editorial curation. The key, of course, is exercising your own curatory judgment in identifying said interesting people. And since we’ve been in the business of sparing you unnecessary curatory work since 2006, here’s some help — 3 incredible Twitter personas on whom we have a massive, butterflies-in-the-brain culture-crush.


Nick Bilton may work at a pillar of traditional media — The New York Times, to be exact — but his interests are closer to what we like to call enlightened futurism: Cultural and technological innovation of the most compelling kind. You can count on him for a steady stream of fascination across technology, new-age publishing, media, data visualization and miscellaneous finds of cultural relevance.

Nick may tweet infrequently, but when he does, it’s quality stuff.


  • Followers: 3,072
  • Following: 342
  • Tweets/day: 0.8

Underwritten by Mel Exon and Ben Malbon, @BBHLabs is the Twitter outpost of — you guessed it — NY-and-London-based neo-agency BBH Labs.

These guys just “get it” — “it” being all the diverse incarnations of the business of ideas, from design to advertising to social media to interactive wizardry. Mostly, they seem to share our belief that the future of the marketing and advertising industry is not in the pushing of product but in the pulling of ideas — from innovators, from artists, from various cultural agents who pursue their own passions that may just so happen to make for great marketing.

You can count on @BBHLabs for a variety of creative explorations, but especially for bleeding-edge developments across data visualization and crowdsourcing.


  • Followers: 2,888
  • Following: 802
  • Tweets/day: 3.6

If you’ve been reading Brain Pickings, you’re well familiar with TED and thus with Chris Anderson — TED’s brilliant curator but oh-so-much-more.

Unlike most people who tweet as the “public face” of a big organization or institution (sorry, @SamsungMobileUS), Chris goes well beyond simply promoting TED’s (already fascinating) content and actually walks the walk of what TED stands for — ideas worth spreading — sharing brilliant ones across all facets of culture: Design, art, sustainability, technology, social media, philanthropy and miscellaneous curiosity about the world.

Chris also writes The Untweetable — a roomier outpost for insight that can’t be contained in 140 characters. There, you’ll find anything from the continuation of compelling, heated Twitter discussions to bonus content beyond Twitter to original social media experiments.

He comes with our highest stamp of approval — a rare combination of superb editorial judgment, compelling cultural curiosity and, to use a TEDism, incredible moral imagination.


  • Followers: 100,422
  • Following: 269
  • Tweets/day: 5.6
07 MAY, 2009

Writing Without Words: Visualizing Jack Kerouac’s On The Road


Literature as a canvas, a book as a living organism, and rhythm as a texture.

London-based artist Stefanie Posavec has a gift for words. Or for the lack thereof, to be exact. Her latest project, Writing Without Words, explores the literary world when its most important building blocks are removed by visually representing text.

The project uses Jack Kerouac’s iconic On The Road and takes a number of different approaches in dissecting its content visually. One examines “literary organism patterns” through simple tree structures that divide each of the book’s three parts into chapters, which divide into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences, and sentences into words. All these elements are color-coded based on key themes in the book.

Another visualization technique looks at sentences, representing them by lines organized according to the number of words per sentence and color-coded to the theme.

Finally, there’s an exploration of rhythm textures — visualizing sentences by using their punctuation to create circular diagrams. Each line represents a word, with the thickness of the lines and the space between them representing the cadence, pauses and emphasis created by the punctuation.

So if you fancy yourself a fan of the written word and an advocate of visual literacy, now’s your chance to nail both — to your wall, that is: The work is available as on-demand posters here.

More about Stefanie and her work from NOTCOT.

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06 MAY, 2009

Running The Numbers: Oceanographic Visualization


What 20,500 tuna have to do with your old toothbrush, or how a plastic comb ended up on top of Japan’s most iconic volcano.

We love TED. We love data visualization. We hate environmental demise.

Naturally, we love artist Chris Jordan‘s (remember him?) response to the overlooked but tremendously concerning issue exposed by legendary ocean researcher Sylvia Earle in her TED Prize wish — overfishing and the rapid decline of oceans’ natural vitality.

In Running The Numbers II, the second installment of his Portraits of Global Mass Culture series, Jordan looks at mass phenomena on a global scale. Again, each image portrays concrete data about a specific issue.

Depicts 270,000 fossilized shark teeth, equal to the estimated number of sharks of all species killed around the world every day for their fins.

Partial zoom

Further zoom

Detail at actual print size

Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses.

Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour.

Partial zoom

Detail of the top of Mt. Fuji

Detail at actual print size

Jordan’s work is both a reminder of and an antidote to our individual sense of insignificance as we face these disturbing global issues with an increasing sense of urgency — we love the idea of juxtaposing the effect of our collective actions with the tiny individual contributions that make them up. It’s a new kind of call for personal responsibility — could that be your old toothbrush at the foot of Mt. Fuji?

We are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics. Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand; yet every day we read of mass phenomena characterized by numbers in the millions, billions, even trillions.

Depicts 20,500 tuna, the average number of tuna fished from the world

Partial zoom

Detail at actual print size

For a deeper look at our collective individualism in its cultural context, be sure to check out Jordan’s absolutely brilliant book, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait — it comes with our highest stamp of recommendation.

via @TEDchris

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