Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

10 DECEMBER, 2009

Moving Minimalism: Solitary Confinement


What Iraqi oil and Swiss filmmaking have to do with the nature of creativity.

From May 1980 to May 1990, nuclear scientist Hussain Al-Shahristani — Iraq’s current oil minister — was thrown in solitary confinement and subjected to torture. Last month, in a revelational and deeply personal interview, Al-Shahristani spoke to The BBC about the experience.

Inspired by the moving story, Swiss filmmaker and animator Mato Atom created a brilliant new campaign for BBC World Service, capturing in abstract form and minimal narration the devastating reality of solitary confinement.

Produced in collaboration with Fallon London, the animation stirs the deepest corners of intuitive understanding and empathy with its subtle yet powerful imagery. What makes the piece so rich, we think, is that Atom turned to disciplines beyond the arts for inspiration — from philosophy to science — embodying the very cross-pollination of ideas that we preach so zealously around here.

A testament to the power of quietly making a powerful point through minimalism and meticulously thought out symbolic narrative.

Psst, we’ve launched a fancy weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s articles, and features five more tasty bites of web-wide interestingness. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

08 DECEMBER, 2009

The Interpretation


Combining microbiology, minimalist music, and motion graphics, or how you can own original art for less than the price of a movie ticket.

The Interpretation still image No longer the sole domain of the leisured classes, art collecting is open to broad audiences like never before. Over the last few years, online marketplaces — like 20×200 and Supermarket — have made works on paper readily accessible.

Somehow, though, this great democratization of patronage seems to have skipped over digital art as a medium for popular purchase. We find this kind of amusing, given that new media creations are the consummate works of art for the age of digitized reproduction. It’s precisely creations made for screens that best lend themselves to mass duplication and distribution.

(Perhaps we consider computers too utilitarian a medium for something as utopian as art; or, more likely, no online dealer has yet established itself as the go-to purveyor. If anyone wants to partner up for that project, we’re game…)

The Interpretation One example of such easily collected work is The Interpretation, a 36-minute DVD that was an official selection of the DOTMOV Film Festival, The Graphic Design Festival, and TodaysArt Digital Art Festival. Created by Michael Paul Young and Michael Cina, co-founders of the Minneapolis-based design firm YouWorkForThem, The Interpretation takes you on an abstract tour through a verdant environment composed entirely of vectors. Green, blue, and brown shapes hint at both seascapes and plant forms. Swirling planes of color take on the dimensions of tornadoes and turbines, turning infinitely around some locus that remains forever hidden.

A soundtrack composed by Cina in collaboration with recording label Ghostly International combines barking dogs, bird chirps, and blowing wind, manipulated from online samples and mashed up into an enigmatic, textured minimalism.

As with an actual forest, we find The Interpretation calming and foreboding in equal measure; it’s almost as though our remove from nature is now so vast, even its virtual incarnation can feel overwhelming. (For more superb works for screen, check out Young’s Vimeo page and iPhone art app, Buamai.)

Young created the work’s visuals first, initially as a commission for the OFFF digital art festival. Originally intended to be installed in a small room with monitors covering the walls, The Interpretation would create an ambient world for contemplation. What’s so cool about the work, though — and the reason we hope new media art finds a larger following — is that you can experience it in a range of settings. Unlike media that can only be in one place at a time, digital work is often created for infinite destinations.

So even if you’re reading this at work, you can dim the lights, press play, and take in an interpretation of nature, rendered by code.

Kirstin Butler has a Bachelor’s in art & architectural history and a Master’s in public policy from Harvard University. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn as a freelance editor and researcher, where she also spends way too much time on Twitter. For more of her thoughts, check out her videoblog.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

02 DECEMBER, 2009

The History of Jazz, Animated in Shadow Art


What five rooms and bleeding-edge software have to do with the cultural heritage of music.

We love, love, love jazz. And we have a soft spot for good animation. So we’re all over Silhouettes of Jazz — a brilliant animated short film from SIGGRAPH Asia 2009, outlining the history of jazz in a virtual shadow art museum.

Shadow art is a unique form of sculptural art that exploits the fact that we can recognize objects from their shadows or silhouettes. Improvisation, a key ingredient of jazz music, is mirrored in the ambiguity of a shadow sculpture: many different 3D shapes can cast the same 2D shadow.

The film focuses on five milestone eras in the evolution of jazz — the early music of field workers, ragtime, New Orleans jazz, swing, and bebop — each represented by a separate room, in which 3D sculptures cast complex shadow images in different directions simultaneously, making each form interpretable as multiple symbolic objects.

The animators used a novel computational method, building 3D shadow volumes through global geometric optimization that allows the artist to later edit the silhouette using 3D modeling tools.

Silhouettes of Jazz does for jazz what This Is Where We Live did for book publishing, a visual and conceptual delight from start to finish.

Thanks, @TrackerNews

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.