Brain Pickings

Animation Spotlight: Invent


The frontiers of creativity, the art of printing, and the beauty of not printing.

Today’s short-and-sweet is a stop-motion animation by design students Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth, using nothing but printers and (we shudder to think how many sheets of) printing paper.

Invent was done in response to the D&AD Student Awards brief set by Hewlett Packard. The brief:

Present an idea which promotes HP Workstation’s ability to bring to life anything the creative mind can conceive.

And while the animation is indisputably brilliant, it’s also an indisputable tree-killer. Then again, it’s art, which probably makes it okayish.

But there’s nothing even remotely cool about the everyday waste of printing paper. Which is why we dig the new i.Saw USB-powered chainsaw — a spoof, of course, promoting Papercut, a neat free app that plays a chainsaw sound every time you print.

Genius. And a The Office episode in the making.

Photography Spotlight: Things


The cultural anthropology of things, or what Hitler’s head has to do with Barbie.

It’s fascinating how we all use things — objects, products, trinkets, stuff — to define ourselves and make sense of the world. This is the backbone of consumer culture, but also a precious piece of cultural anthropology from a historical perspective.

Polish photographer Andrzej Kramarz explores both in Things.

The series, inspired by the horror vacui style of folk art, captures “portraits” of objects from the past, laid out on the ground into densely packed displays.

A typical sight in Eastern European antique street markets, the objects — old, worn-out souvenirs of the past — are of little monetary worth, but offer an incredible glimpse of eras gone by.

In a word: that, which is left of a previous life; that, which used to live, now leads a life after life, sometimes an imagined existence.

From war paraphernalia to antique jewelry to vintage hardware tools, the images read like powerful visual chapters from a textbook on sociocultural and political history.

Explore Things in its entirety over at Lens Culture, and think about what a portrait of your own trinkets-laden past would look like.

Mapping Big Ideas: BIGVIZ


200 pages of world-changing thinking, or what a sheep and a dog have to do with universal compassion.

When two of our favorite ideas — TED and data visualization — converge, it’s a beautiful thing. Naturally, we’re all over BIGVIZ — an ambitious effort by the fine folks at Autodesk, who took it upon themselves to visualize the entire 2008 TED conference.

BIGVIZ is the work of visual cartographers David Sibbet and Kevin Richards, who created over 700 spontaneous sketches in real time at TED. The 200-page PDF book — a free download — visually captures the gist of each speaker’s talk, mapping out the broader themes and the connections between them.

You’ll also find a number of fascinating charts and graphs on information patterns, some rather humorous illustrations of memorable TED moments, and even a few blank pages for you to sketch whatever ideas, connections or insights the talks may have sparked in you.

Go behind the scenes with the Autodesk team as they create the visualizations on-site, using multi-touch technology to interact with the sketches and view them as a history timeline or an interactive digital corkboard. Then, download BIGVIZ and enjoy.

And in case you’re wondering just why this visualization model works, watch information designer Tom Wujec’s excellent short TED talk about the 3 ways the brain creates meaning out of words, images, feelings, connections.

Cinematic Enlightenment: The Auteurs Project


The long tail of film culture, or why content curation really is the future of everything.

Some time ago, we did a run-down of the top 3 sites for hardcore film buffs. And we wish The Auteurs — Europe’s visionary cinematic enlightenment project — had been around.

It’s a fascinating film library spanning everything from the timeless classics to the hidden gems of the world’s most prominent independent festivals — foreign language, art-house, documentary, animation, experimental, short films, and everything in between.

With its inspired long-tail view of cinema, The Auteurs revolves around the idea that popular doesn’t always mean good.

And it’s not your grandma’s YouTube, either — The Auteurs harnesses bleeding-edge technology that lets you stream feature-length films in high definition, something the team spends a lot of energy on and thus takes great pride in.

Four things that were on our minds when we first dreamt the Auteurs: Number one: why can’t you just watch In the Mood for Love in an airport lounge? Number two: why is it so hard to get hold of Antonioni’s complete filmography? Number three: Wouldn’t it be great to instantly send Tati’s Playtime to a friend if you think they need it (there’s nothing like film therapy)? Number Four: why do films on the Internet look just awful? And that was that.

It requires no software installation (take that, Netflix), works on both Mac and PC (take that, Blockbuster), is available anywhere in the world (take that, Hulu), and it’s beyond affordable — most films cost just $5 to watch, with some being completely free.

It’s also highly social, brimming with a vibrant community of fellow film buffs hungry to discuss anything from the best dream sequence to the most overrated director.

Our favorite part is the Auteurs Cinemateque — an editorially curated rotating online film festival, further proof for our content-curation-is-the-future-of-culture theory.

So go ahead, take the tour and dive into this brave new world of film culture. If anything, just imagine all the dinner party talking points it’ll give you.