Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

14 DECEMBER, 2009

The Story of Cap & Trade

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What lurks beneath the buzzwords and how to digest the hard-to-swallow.

You may recall The Story of Stuff — Annie Leonard’s brilliant 20-minute animated film, dissecting the “materials economy” and dispelling a number of sustainability myths.

This month, Leonard and her team release The Story of Cap & Trade, an equally cunning, captivating and fact-rich look at COP15′s favorite sustainability solution. The engaging, fast-paced film probes into the hidden dangers of the proposed (non-)solution, from how the biggest polluters are exploiting the system’s loopholes to why climate Band-Aids like fake offsets don’t work, and exposes the dysfunctional reverse logic at the core of the concept.

A growing number of scientists, students, farmers and forward-thinking business people are all saying, ‘Wait a minute…’ In fact, even the economists who invented the cap-and-trade system to deal with simpler problems [...] say cap-and-trade can never work for climate change.

Though in this day and age, climate conspiracy theorists abound, Leonard’s film delivers a punchy yet sober account of an incredibly complex, multifaceted and little-understood issue — all in just under 10 minutes.

We like the idea of illuminating a political buzzword, allowing us common folk to digest the hype-coated serving of headline-worthy fluff. (We also like that the film puts its money where its mouth is and “recycles” some of the Story of Stuff footage, whether or not the wink is intentional.) Because without an open social conversation, there can’t be widespread understanding, which means there can’t be widespread action. And without that, COP15 is just a bunch of suits burning up jet fuel to spend a week in a Scandinavian hotspot.

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10 DECEMBER, 2009

Moving Minimalism: Solitary Confinement

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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.

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08 DECEMBER, 2009

The Interpretation

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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.

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