Brain Pickings

Panorama: A Woodcut Fold-Out Travelogue Promoting Biodiversity

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We have a soft spot for creative, playful takes on the book medium. So we’re head-over-heels with Panorama — an astounding fold-out children’s travelogue by author Fani Marceau and illustrator Joelle Joviet, originally published in France in 2007.

A journey from Bangladesh to Scotland to Antarctica unfolds, literally, in stunning black-and-white woodcut illustrations across 15 magnificent spreads, each a whimsical portrait of a different exotic locale. Underlying the narrative is a subtle yet thoughtful message about sustainability and biodiversity, adding a richer context to the pure aesthetic joy of the experience.

Panorama is as much an engrossing educational experience for young readers as it is an absolute masterpiece of design for aesthetic poeticism aficionados of all ages.

Thanks, Kirstin

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The Future of Art: An Immediated Autodocumentary

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Last week, we featured Aaron Koblin’s insightful thoughts on the digital renaissance. The interview, produced by futurism exploration outfit Emergence Collective, was actually part of a larger “immediated autodocumentary” — a full-length documentary short and edited in an extraordinarily short amount of time — on the future of art, released this week. The film features interviews with 13 leading digital artists and creative entrepreneurs, interviewed at the 2011 Transmediale Festival in Berlin, and explores everything from remix culture to the role of content curators to collaborative creativity.

That is the role that we [curators] play — making connections between things that might not otherwise be obvious connections.” ~ Heather Kelley

The idea of originality and proprietariness also contributes to the whole Great Man Theory, which is slowly disintegrating — the idea of the genius, the Freud, the Marx, the Leonardo, the Einstein… They’ve come up with an idea that’s completely related to the man that came up with it. Whereas, today, the ideas just get thrown out there and used, and it’s that use that in a way is the art, rather than the person who comes up with the idea.” ~ Ken Wahl

via Swiss Miss

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Uncovered Gem: Leo Tolstoy’s Grandson Meets the Dalai Lama

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What tea has to do with critical moments in political history and iconic Russian literature.

In 1942, at the peak of WWII, Japan threw the Allies a formidable curveball — it blocked off the Burma Road, the essential artery supplying China with munitions from India to fight the occupying Japanese forces. Desperate for an alternative, the Allies diverted planes to the Himalayas, but the dangerous terrain and inclement weather caused too many pilots to crash into the mountains. A new land route between China and India had to be found, and two OSS men took it upon themselves to find it: Captain Brooke Dolan, an American explorer, and Major Ilia Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s grandson. To do so, they’d have to cross Tibet and seek the permission of a 7-year-old boy: The Dalai Lama.

Undeterred, the pair proceeded with their mission and came carrying a letter from President Roosevelt. At 9:20 in the morning of December 20, 1942, they were granted audience with His Holiness, establishing for the first time in history direct contact between a U.S. Presidnet and the Dalai Lama and thus bridging two cultures that had never met. Five months later, the two crossed the Tibetan platau and arrived in Northern China, completing the journey of over a thousand miles.

Dolan filmed the entire expedition and rare reels are now held in the motion picture library of The National Archive, who have kindly digitized and uploaded the footage for the world to see — just one instance of the importance of the digital humanities and the open web.

Tibetans are inherently sociable and on the slightest provocation pause their labors to visit over a cup of tea. Native drivers congregate at the ferry crossing. Tea is the chief drink of the country, made of barley, salt and butter. It gives them resistance to hunger and cold. They drink anywhere from 30 to 50 cups a day.”

The film offers a glimpse of a fascinating culture whose unique geopolitical position remains, as it was in 1942, a point of much political tension that has festered into grave human rights violations over the past half-century. For a well-rounded approach to one of modern history’s most critical justice issues, we highly recommend this pairing: The ambitious and scholarly Freeing Tibet: 50 Years of Struggle, Resilience, and Hope by former Reagan strategist Roberts and political journalist Elizabeth Roberts, and the tenderly meditative The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama.

via The National Archives via MetaFilter

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