Brain Pickings

The Day After Tomorrow: Our Aerial Future

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What Spanish ponds have to do with Canadian tissues and Georgia O’Keefe.

We love aerial photography — there’s something about a bird’s-eye view that puts this Earth, and our place in it, in perspective. Nowhere is this more poignant and gripping than when it opens our eyes to the concrete scale and magnitude of something we hold as abstract guilt in our collective conscience: The environmental impact of human activity and consumer culture. That’s precisely what photographer J. Henry Fair explores in his compelling new book, The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis — a rousing invitation to bear witness to the environmental devastation we continue to inflict on our own home, and a visceral call to arms to take responsibility and change our ways.

Fair does a remarkable job of reconciling the book’s powerful artistic vision with the near-investigative feel of the work as it turns a lens on the industries most vital to post-industrial society — oil, fertilizer, coal, factory farming — and unearths their dirty not-so-little secrets.

It is first and foremost an art book, the pictures compelling in the manner of painters like O’Keefe, Giacometti, and Caspar David Friedrich. But it’s also a book about the power that the consumer has to shape the world through the purchase decisions she makes.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Crime and Punishment, Gulf of Mexico, 2010 | Oil from BP Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf of Mexico | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Herbicide, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Crucible, Convent, LA, 2005 | Heavy metal waste, resulting from fertilizer production | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Lightning Rods, Fort McMurrary, Alberta, Canada, 2009 | The inside of a holding tank at an oil sands upgrader facility | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Dendrite, Rio Tinto, Spain, 2008 | Run-off pond at Rio Tinto mine | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Gangrene, Luling, LA, 2010 | Herbicide manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Facial Tissues, Terrace Bay, Ontario, Canada, 2005 | Paper pulp waste, resulting from facial tissue manufacture | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Bottom Ash, New Roads, LA, 2010 | Bottom ash disposal pond at coal-fired power plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Phospho-Gypsum, Geismar, LA, 2005 | Phospho-gypsum waste at a fertilizer manufacturing plant | Courtesy of J Henry Fair/Gerald Peters Gallery

Images via Flavorpill

As an artist with a message, one asks oneself: how do I translate my message to my medium such that it will effect the change I want? At first, I photographed ‘ugly’ things; which is, in essence, throwing the issue in people’s faces. Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter.” ~ J. Henry Fair

Provocative and breathtaking, The Day After Tomorrow is out today and won’t disappoint.

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PICKED: Macro Kingdom

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We’re longtime fans of Austrian filmmaker and multimedia artist Clemens Wirth, better-known as Clemento, whose magnificent Macro Kingdom series looks at ordinary phenomena, from water bubbles to dripping honey to icicle formation, with an extraordinary lens of visceral curiosity and otherworldly whimsy.

After releasing the first film a year ago and a sequel a few months later, he is back with the third and arguably most breathtaking installment. Gathered here are all three parts, for your jaw-dropping pleasure. Enjoy.

If this ongoing visual poem doesn’t give you pause about the remarkable world we inhabit, we don’t know what would.

And if you enjoyed this, you won’t be disappointed by Refraction: The Alphabet.

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The Strange Case of Edward Gorey

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Last month, we featured the whimsically macabre, Tim-Burtonesque work of mid-century illustrator Edward Gorey, who was an oddball character in his own right. Today marks the release of The Strange Case of Edward Gorey — an appropriately uncommon and colorful portrait of the eccentric artist by Gorey’s best friend, Alexander Theroux.

With his unique access to Gorey’s extraordinary wit, intelligence and creative genius, Theroux delivers a brief but lively read that’s equal parts loving memoir and fascinating cultural collectible.

It is a falsehood that Edward Gorey refused to give interviews. Nevertheless, to those acquainted with his hundred or so menacing little books, written as if by moonlight, the very thought of tracing out this eccentric artist (for Gorey was a solitary) might somehow have seemed to recapitulate to a nervous heart the monstrous dread felt in approaching the unholy chambers of the demented Ambrosio or the trap-doored of the satanic Caliph Vatek of the Abassides.” ~ Alexander Theroux

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Bohemian Rhapsody 5 Ways

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What The Muppets have to do with hearing disabilities, self-cloning and TED.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” from Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera, is one of the most iconic songs in modern music history. And like any creative icon, it has been the subject of countless covers, remixes, parodies, mashups and homages. Today, we look at five of our favorites.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY IN SIGN LANGUAGE

Could this be a new form of syneshtesia? ASL interpreter Sam Farley rocks out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his car and we don’t care that his handless wheel is a road safety hazard — we’re just grateful his sister secretly captured him on film from the driver’s seat, because he’s that hat-tip-worthy.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON FOUR VIOLINS

Joe Edmonds arranges and performs the classic on four violins, all written out by hand without any sheet music. Pure joy. He’s also kindly made the track available as a free download.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON SLIDE WHISTLES

He’s kooky. And he’s wonderful. Watch LA-based artist Joe Penna, better-known as Mystery Guitar Man, perform the classic on slide whistles. Don’t miss the excellent making-of.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY BY THE MUPPETS

A huge cast of the Muppets takes on Freddie & co, and it might just be the best “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover in history — and they’ve even got a Webby win to show for it. From the ingeniously modified lyrics to the priceless a-cappella, it’s equal parts hilarious and brilliant. Lo and behold, the track is even available as a fully legitimate download, proof that the Sesame Street empire can merchandise anything. (But we love them anyway.)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ON A UKULELE

We loved it when we saw it live, and we love it still — Jake Shimabukuro’s phenomenal, virtuoso performance of the Queen classic on a tiny Hawaiian ukulele at TED 2010 is a heart-stopper.

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