Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

01 MARCH, 2011

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day One

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This week, we’re letting our brains explode so you don’t have to.

This week, we’re reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. Earlier, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s speakers and a lovely urban revitalization art project by TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, we’re back with highlights from Day One. Ingest, enjoy and ponder.

TED curator Chris Anderson, one of our big cultural heroes, opens the first session of Day One: Monumental. It certainly was.

In an exclusive TED reveal, Martin Scorsese revealed a new project using cutting-edge digital technologies to restore Luchino Visconti’s iconic 50-year-old film Il Gattopardo to its full glory. A partnership between Scorsese’s nonprofit, The Film Foundation, and Gucci, the effort will grow the collection by at least one film from a visionary filmmaker every year.

Astronomer and physicist Janna Levin asked some mind-bending questions about the nature of the universe and played some incredible black hole demonstrations by Andrew Hamilton.

Astronomer Janna Levin tickles the underbelly of the universe with the profound touch of human curiosity.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

We have to ask, is it possible that our universe is just a plume off some greater history? Is it possible that we are just one patch in a multiverse? Are there others wondering who else is out there?” ~ Janna Levin

New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of our favorite magazine writers, probed into social psychology and the depths of consciousness.

The effectiveness of a group is not determined by the IQ of the group but by how well they communicate.” ~ David Brooks

David Brooks points out that the human mind takes in about a million pieces of information per minute, of which it's onl consciously aware of about 40.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Emotions are not separate from reason, but they’re the foundation for it because they tell us what to value.” ~ David Brooks

Eric Whitacre told the story of his deeply inspirational virtual choir, which brought together nearly 200 talented singers from around the world in a spellbinding collaborative performance of “Lux Aurumque” via YouTube:

Whitacre finished with the premiere of the project’s sequel, “Sleep 2.0,” bringing together over 2,000 videos from 58 countries in an ambitious collaborative performance of Whitacre’s original 1999 song, “Sleep.” It was revealed to the world for the first time here at TED and debuting online in April.

Al Jazeera founder Wadah Khanfar offered timeless insight on human rights and democracy, wrapped in timely insights from the recent Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. He shared that Al Jazeera has been banned from Tunisia for years, but the people in the streets became the network’s “reporters,” filling Al Jazeera’s newsrooms with raw footage, tweets and constantly flowing real-time information.

Al Jazeera's Wadah Khanfar delivers an impassioned defense for the monumental importance of journalism in today's global politics.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The values of democracy and the freedom of choice sweeping the Middle East right now are the best opportunity for the world to see stability and tolerance and peace.” ~ Wadah Khanfar

The lovely Sunni Brown goes bold in defense of doodling as a way of making sense of the world and sparking the kind of thinking at the root of innovation. Her book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, is an absolute must-read.

Doodling has a profound impact on the way we process information and solve problems.” ~ Sunni Brown

The Handspring Puppet Company brings to life the Joey the War Horse.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company demonstrated their remarkably lifelike puppets that live at the intersection of design and engineering, with a delightful Steampunk feel. Here’s a little teaser from the Indaba design conference:

British architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick showcased some of his remarkable, thoughtful architecture projects, including the mind-blowingly brilliant Seed Cathedral UK pavilion from Shanghai 2010 and London’s astounding rolling bridge.

Seed Cathedral was the only project we ever built that when it was done, looked more like a rendering than the rendering.” ~ Thomas Heatherwick

Arctic photographer Paul Nicklen took us on a bittersweet journey to a frozen wonderland, showcasing the breathtaking beauty and vibrant character of its inhabitants and stressing that by losing polar ice, we risk losing this entire fascinating and rich ecosystem.

Polar photographer and conservation advocate Paul Nicklen made friends with a female leopard seal, who kept bringing him dead penguins as a token of her love. We all have our ways.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

See more of his breathtaking work in the most excellent Polar Obsession:

Looking towards an uncertain future, a huge male bear triggers a camera trap, taking his own picture. Leifdefjorden, Spitsbergen, Norway

A gentoo penguin chick peeks, checking for patrolling leopard seals before tempting fate. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Mother bear and two-year-old cub drift on glacier ice. Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Canada

As longtime fans for Bobby McFerrin, whose insight on music and emotion is unmissable, we were overjoyed to see him take the stage and call on TED audience members to join him in some incredible improvisation.

The one and only Bobby McFerrin unleashing his improvisational magic.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Improvisation isn’t about music or talent. It’s about doing what you do and keeping on going.” ~ Bobby McFerrin

Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab made a compelling case for using digital tools to better understand and engage with cities. He spotlighted the brilliant Trash Track project, which we’ve raved about before.

Cities account for 2% of the land’s surface, 50% of its population, 75% of its energy production and 80% of its carbon emissions.” ~ Carlo Ratti

Ratti proceeded to demo MIT’s stunningly futuristic FlyFire swarm of bioluminescent robotic mini-helicopters. By the end of the year, Ratti expects to have a working cloud of these “flying pixels.”

We were thrilled to see our friend Aaron Koblin, wildly talented visual artist and data visualization mastermind, finally take the TED stage and showcase some of his brilliant projects, including The Sheep Market, an early creative project using crowdsourcing long before crowdsourcing was a buzzword, Bicycle Built for 2000, an audio-visual collage of 2,088 voice recordings stitched together to sing the iconic “Daisy Bell” HAL song, and The Johnny Cash Project, a mesmerizing global collaborative “resurrection” music video for the legendary artist’s final studio recording.

Data viz wunderkind Aaron Koblin, an authentic geek-rockstar.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The day wrapped up with the announcement of TEDED, an ambitious new effort focusing on global education, currently seeking educators, filmmakers and other creative professionals to contribute to the TEDED Brain Trust.

Keep an eye on our live Twitter coverage and come back here tomorrow evening for highlights from Day Two.

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01 MARCH, 2011

Before I Die: Reclaiming Urban Aspiration

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I love the work of artist, designer and TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, I caught up with her at TED 2011, where she shared her brilliant new project in New Orleans: Before I Die I Want To — an abandoned house turned into a giant chalkboard, on which people share their deepest existential aspirations.

I never expected such an amazing outpouring of responses so quickly. Within 24 hours, the entire wall was completely filled out. And the responses range from humorous to overwhelmingly thoughtful — from ‘be a YouTube sensation’ to ‘go 200 mph’ to ‘be completely myself.’ I hear that people are gathering at the house and it’s stopping traffic. I’m blown away.” ~ Candy Chang

The notion of turning neglected space into an active invitation to engage with your community and get to know your neighbors is a wonderful embodiment of enlightened urbanism. What’s more, it’s a reminder that not all meaningful social platforms are accessed through a screen — an inspired antidote to the Foursquarification of urban social quasi-interaction.

For live coverage of TED 2011 this week, follow my Twitter feed and check Brain Pickings nightly for exclusive photos and speaker quotes. And don’t miss this primer of 5 must-read books by TED 2011 speakers.

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24 FEBRUARY, 2011

5 Must-Read Books by TED 2011 Speakers

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What doodling has to do with the evolution of consciousness and the raw beauty of the Arctic.

Last year, our selection of 7 must-read books by TEDGlobal speakers was one our most popular articles of 2010. Today, as we prepare for next week’s big event, we’re back with 5 essential reads by TED 2011 speakers, once again litmus-tested for brilliance in the world’s most reliable quality-control lab: the TED stage.

SELF COMES TO MIND

You may recall iconic neuroscientist Antonio Damasio from his insights on what it means to be human. Published last fall, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain is his ambitious exploration of the underpinnings of the self. From distilling cognitive phenomena like creativity and memory to illuminating vital distinctions like brain vs. mind and self vs. consciousness, Damasio does for neuroscience what Malcolm Gladwell does for business, synthesizing complex notions and rigorous research into a digestible, absorbing narrative. The book is a surprisingly worthy follow-up to Damasio’s excellent, impossibly unmatchable 2005 Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.

AS THE FUTURE CATCHES YOU

Harvard Business School professor and futurist Juan Enriquez, whose Homo Evolutis was one of last month’s revolutionary first crop of TEDBooks, is a thoughtful observer of the profound cultural and biological changes that genomics and other life sciences are sweeping through society. In As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth, he takes a provocative look at the trajectory of technological progress, contextualizing scientific milestones in relative historical terms that help us grasp the true scale of innovation that surrounds us. (He argues, for instance, that February 2, 2001 — the date that anyone with Internet access could access the entire human genome — is equivalent in magnitude of importance to Columbus’s 1492 discovery of America.)

Sample Enriquez’s genius with his excellent 2009 TED talk on how the evolution of technology is impacting the financial crisis:

Besides the compelling thinking, the As the Future Catches You is a beautiful experience in and of itself, adorned with sophisticated typography and eye-popping graphics. Enriquez has purposely left blank pages for your notes in an effort to stress that the issue is an ongoing conversation with no conclusive answers, inviting you to partake in its intellectual exploration.

GAMESTORMING

We’re big proponents of the value of play in enhancing creativity, productivity and well-being. And while most people have an intuitive understanding of this correlation, it remains a taboo in the formal world of business. In Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, visual thinker and tinkerer Sunni Brown, along with co-authors Dave Gray and James Macanufo, makes a compelling case for the tangible, practical applications of play in business, applying game mechanics to revolutionize business models and work environments across a remarkably wide spectrum of industries.

The book features 83 actual, playable games designed specifically for honing the creative process, facilitating problem-solving, overcoming organizational tensions, and even making meetings shorter and more productive. Playful and pragmatic, the book is an absolute treat from cover to cover.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Bill Gates is no stranger to TED. But while the world may have had more than its fair share of Gates exposure in recent decades, it’s undeniable that the iconic geek is a bold visionary. To truly appreciate his keen grasp of the future, we need only look at the past: Published more than 15 years ago, The Road Ahead is a priceless compendium of insights from Gates, who predicts the development and application of present-day information technology with astounding accuracy and further projects its future in shaping our lives with the provocative vision of a true entrepreneur. From personal computing to business to education, the book is both a rare timecapsule of the dawn of ubiquitous computing and an extraordinary lens for what lies ahead.

Sample the book’s retrofuturistic genius with this teaser about Gates’ 1995 vision for the future of education:

POLAR OBSESSION

Naturalist and wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen grew up in one of the only non-Inuit families on Baffin Island, Nunavut, in a tiny native settlement in the sprawling ice fields of Northern Canada. In Polar Obsession, he reconnects with his roots in a striking and powetic visual ode to the Arctic at the intersection of art and science. At once a bittersweet portrait of climate change and a passionate call to action in honoring the incredible planet we inhabit, the book is a visceral and deeply alive reminder of just what’s at stake as we talk about a topic so chronically overpoliticized and sterilized of aliveness.

A kittiwake soars in front of a large iceberg. Svalbard, Norway

Looking towards an uncertain future, a huge male bear triggers a camera trap, taking his own picture. Leifdefjorden, Spitsbergen, Norway

A gentoo penguin chick peeks, checking for patrolling leopard seals before tempting fate. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Mother bear and two-year-old cub drift on glacier ice. Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Canada

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.