Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

20 AUGUST, 2013

This Is Israel: Miroslav Sasek’s Iconic Vintage Children’s Book, as an Animated Short Film

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A bittersweet time machine of vibrant illustration.

Celebrated Czech emigre architect-turned-illustrator and author Miroslav Sasek is best known for his now-iconic This Is… series, which was enormously influential in the history of children’s picturebooks. (His This Is New York was among my 10 favorite books on NYC in my recent collaboration with The New York Public Library.) Created between 1959 and 1970, the books explore some of the world’s most beloved cities in vibrant vintage illustrations, bringing the urban organism to life through charming anecdotal details.

In the 1960s, four 12-minute animated films were produced to accompany some of the books, using the signature “iconographic” method of Weston Woods Studios to create the illusion of animation from still images, including one based on This Is Israel (public library) — a bittersweet and perhaps idyllic piece of cultural memory, at once timeless and dated as we confront a half-century of conflict in the very land Sasek so beautifully depicted:

The entire This Is… series is a treasure — highly recommended.

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10 JULY, 2013

David Lynch on Using Meditation as an Anchor of Creative Integrity

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“It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it.”

“Mindfulness meditation is essentially cognitive fitness with a humanist face,” it’s been said. And what more essential cognitive fitness than that required to stay sane in a world that constantly demands more and more?

In 2005, the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, held the first annual “David Lynch Weekend for Peace and Meditation” — an initiative by the David Lynch Foundation, which has invested millions of dollars in teaching Transcendental Meditation techniques to students around the world. Lynch gave the keynote at the conference, which was followed by the typical audience Q&A. In this short video, he answers a young man’s question about the age-old tension between commercial pressure and creative integrity, pointing to meditation as a gateway to shaking free of the creativity-squashing discomfort that comes from practical pressures like deadlines and budgets. A year later, Lynch would come to collect his wisdom on meditation and creativity in Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (public library).

I came from painting. And a painter has none of those worries. A painter paints a painting. No one comes in and says, “You’ve got to change that blue.” It’s a joke to think that a film is going to mean anything if somebody else fiddles with it. If they give you the right to make the film, they owe you the right to make it the way you think it should be — the filmmaker. The filmmaker decides on every single element, every single word, every single sound, every single thing going down that highway through time. Otherwise, it won’t hold together. When there’s even a little hint of pressure coming from someplace else — like deadlines or going overbudget… — this affects the film. And you just want support, support, support… in a perfect world… so that you can really get the thing to be correct.

Now, this doesn’t happen these days — so, “support, support, support” — when you do dive within and experience this pure self — atma — pure consciousness — it’s the home of all the laws of nature. You get more in tune with those and … nature starts supporting you. So you have that feeling, even if they’re breathing down your neck, and there’s pressure here and pressure here, it doesn’t matter — inside … I say, “Every day is like a Saturday morning” — you got a great feeling, and it grows and grows and grows.

Catching the Big Fish is excellent in its entirety. Pair this short teaser with David Lynch’s instructions for how to make a Ricky Board and Bill Watterson’s indispensable 1990 commencement address on creative integrity.

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18 JUNE, 2013

How to Make a Ricky Board: A Creative Exercise from David Lynch

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An avant-garde reminder that it’s all in a name.

It’s not uncommon for creators chiefly acclaimed in one medium to make lesser-known yet wonderful art in another: Patti Smith’s poetry, Sylvia Plath’s drawings, Marilyn Monroe’s unpublished verses, Richard Feynman’s sketches, René Magritte’s sheet music covers, J.R.R. Tolkien’s original drawings.

Though the leap between surrealist cinema and avant-garde art might not seem so great, there’s something especially striking about celebrated director David Lynch’s 1994 coffee table book Images — a collection of his private paintings, sketches, photographs, and short fiction that offered a never-before-revealed glimpse of the inner workings of his uncanny imagination. The most palpable unifying theme across the works were Lynch’s esoteric personal obsessions, from snowmen to suburban housewives, among which was his kooky concept of Ricky Board collages — dead flies neatly stacked in rows, a kind of morbid precursor of Ursus Wehrli’s The Art of Cleanup. Lynch writes:

The Ricky Board is my idea, right or wrong, of what the Japanese might do to organize controlled accidents in a formal environment.

From Do It: The Compendium (public library) — the fantastic collection of famous artists’ wide-ranging instructionals for art anyone can make, based on 20 years of legendary curator and provocateur Hans Ulrich Obrist’s project of the same title — comes a creative exercise from Lynch, who shows us how to make our own Ricky Board:

Do It: How To Make A Ricky Board (2012)

This board can be any size you want.

The proportions are dictated by four rows of five rickies.

Each ricky is, as nearly as possible, exactly the same as every other ricky.

The ricky can be an object or a flat image.

The thing about the rickies is you will see them change before your eyes because you will give each ricky a different name.

The names will be printed or written under each ricky. Twenty different names in all.

You will be amazed at the different personalities that emerge depending on the names you give.

Here is a poem:

Four rows of five
Your rickies come alive
Twenty is plenty
It isn’t tricky
Just name each ricky
Even though they’re all the same
The change comes from the name

Do It features contributions — from the kooky to the profound to the subversive to the sentimental — from beloved contemporary artists like Lawrence Weiner, Louise Bourgeois, Ai Weiwei, Douglas Coupland, and Sol LeWitt. See some of them here and complement with these activity books for grown-ups.

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