Brain Pickings

Time Piece: Muppets Creator Jim Henson’s Experimental 1965 Film on Time-Keeping

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An Oscar-nominated abstract meditation on how we experience time.

The nature and mystery of time is a subject of long-running scientific fascination, but what about its subjective, abstract nature? In 1964, exactly a decade after creating his original Muppets for Sesame Street predecessor Sam + Friends, Jim Henson wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a short experimental film titled Time Piece, exploring in a visceral way the effect time-keeping has on all of us. It premiered on May 6, 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1966.

The film is available on iTunes in its entirety and is very much worth the $1.99.

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Laconia: An Architecture of Thinking

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Multimedia landscape as a language pattern, or what Ezra Pound has to do with Twitter.

In LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film, Masha Tupitsyn explores the curious intersection of the print tradition of books and the micronarrative model of Twitter. The project is essentially an experiment that appropriates the forms of social media — soundbites, fragmented commentary, quotes, condensed reactions — in a work of film criticism that preserves the cultural purpose of the genre but divorces it from its traditional medium of essayistic narrative. What makes Tupitsyn’s project exceptional, however, is that it reverse-engineers the now-familiar frameworks of Twitter anthologies — unlike Tweets from Tahrir, for instance, which sought to capture of a slice of the social narrative about the Egyptian revolution by culling tweets after the fact, Tupitsyn’s approach put the intention of the book before the composition of each tweet, so that every tweet was deliberately crafted with the larger narrative in mind. Rather than a cohesive analysis of one idea at length, however, that narrative instead connects dots across diverse sources and constructs a mosaic of cultural patterns that explore the relationships between films.

LACONIA is, in essence, an architecture of thinking. It is also a book that shows its skeleton. That tackles the multi-media landscape as a language pattern rather than a material phenomenon.” ~ Masha Tupitsyn

At its heart, the book is as much about film itself as it is about how Tupitsyn thinks about film in the age of infinite connectivity and on a platform that has more in common with poetry than with prose. In Tupitsyn’s own words:

In some ways, I think I was born to write this kind of book because for me writing always starts with: a line, a phrase, a fragment. Modeled on the aphorism, while updating and tailoring it to film and pop culture, the goal in LACONIA was to zoom in rather than to zoom out, to write in close-ups, so that every word, to quote Ezra Pound, could become ‘charged with meaning.’ Like the aphorism, which according to James Geary in The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism, must be ‘brief, definitive, personal, philosophical, have a twist,’ and reveal some larger truth, each tweet in LACONIA is a miniature exegesis; an appraisal of the world through film and media since our understanding of the world has become increasingly, if not entirely, shaped and mediated by both.”

In a way, LACONIA is akin to John Chris Jones’s classic, The Internet and Everyone, substituting tweets for Jones’s lengthy letters to piece together a dimensional meditation on a medium through thoughtfully engineered fragments.

Spotted via The Millions, who have a wonderful piece on the future of fragmented reading.

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“Sincerity, Honesty, Conviction, Affection, Imagination, and Humor”: A Profile of Charles Eames, 1946

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“You will not grasp how this furniture came into being or what it really means unless you understand this also about Charles Eames.”

Charles and Ray Eames have pioneered modernist furniture, carved out a new way to think about design, and even changed our understanding of the scales of the universe. Appearing in the September 1946 issue of arts & architecture magazine is a fantastic profile of Charles Eames (PDF) by industrial designer and architect Eliot Noyes, most famous for the IBM Selectric typewriter. Noyes captures Eames’ sprit and vision with equal parts creative admiration, entrepreneurial appreciation, and astute observation of the deeper cultural resonance — with a special emphasis on the designer’s personal values of integrity and intuition (more on that) as the building blocks of his professional legacy.

There is no need to qualify the statement. Charles Eames has designed and produced the most important group of furniture ever developed in this country. His achievement is a compound of aesthetic brilliance and technical inventiveness. He has not only produced the finest chairs of modern design, but through borrowing, improvising, and inventing techniques, he has for the first time exploited the possibilities of mass production methods for the manufacture of furniture. With one stroke he has underlined the design decadence and technical obsolescence of Grand Rapids.

When you stop and try to analyze how he approached the problem, it sounds very easy and obvious. Whatever good modern furniture we have had in this country has always been expensive. Eames wanted to produce a good set of designs and ‘take them out of the carriage trade’ by designing them so that they could be economically in quantity and sold cheaply. This meant that he must be able to use the best ways of doing things that the 20th Century could offer. Naturally he wanted his furniture to be as comfortable and useful as possible, because he never forgot that he was making his designs for use. This very direct approach made it comparatively simple. He never worried much (as many designers do) about ‘what the public wants,’ or ‘what the public will accept,’ because he had a profound belief in the public, and the conviction that if they didn’t want or wouldn’t accept the furniture which he was designing for their use, the fault lay in his designs, not in the public. He knew very well the absurdity of trying to design to an assumed public taste. It is important to realize that the furniture is an expression of this direct approach; each piece is composed as much of the personal ingredients of Charles Eames as of wood and metal. If you examine this furniture, you will find sincerity, honesty, conviction, affection, imagination, and humor. You will not grasp how this furniture came into being or what it really means unless you understand this also about Charles Eames.”

For more on the Eames’ work and legacy, don’t miss the fantastic recent film Eames: The Architect and the Painter.

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