Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘animation’

09 JULY, 2010

The War Prayer: Mark Twain on War and Morality, Animated


“None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.”

On March 22, 1905, a famous author received a rejection letter from one of the most powerful publishers of the era, calling his latest piece “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine.” The publisher was Harper’s Bazaar, the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens — better known as Mark Twain — and the piece The War Prayer, a short story written in the heat of the Philippine-American war of 1899-1902 offering a poignant reflection on the double-edged moral sword implicit to war.

Because Twain had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, the rejection letter was a death sentence for the piece, prohibiting him from publishing it elsewhere. In fact, eight days after he received the letter, Twain wrote to his friend Dan Beard:

I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.

And right he was. It wasn’t until 1923, some thirteen years after the iconic satirist’s death, that The War Prayer finally saw light of day as Twain’s literary agent collected it in the anthology Europe and Elsewhere. But what makes the short story timeless and particularly appropriate today is the relevance of its central argument — that while “the weapons of slaughter” are ever-changing, the immorality of war is universal — in the face of the ongoing wars in Middle East and elsewhere.

More than a century later, here comes a moving animated adaptation of The War Prayer produced and directed by Markos Kounalakis, with wonderful illustration by Greek artist Akis Dimitrakopoulos.

Grab a copy of The War Prayer for some of the most wrily intelligent critique of humanity’s greatest transgression as Mark Twain pokes at it with tenfold the eloquence and wit of today’s political satirists.

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06 JULY, 2010

Blu is Back: The Story of Evolution, Told in Graffiti


Lo-fi Darwinism, or why art and algorithm don’t hold hands on Buenos Aires sidewalks.

Nearly two years ago, Italian street artist Blu made waves with MUTO — arguably the most creative graffiti-driven animation of all time. Today, Blu is back with BIG BAG BIG BOOM, the latest gem in his treasure chest of stop-motion urban storytelling — an abstract exploration of the beginning and evolution of life.

What makes this so remarkable is that all of the animation effects were achieved in-camera, “animated” simply by filming the progression of painting on buildings, sidewalks and objects, with no post-production composting whatsoever. This analog, organic, lo-fi visual storytelling offers a complete paradigm shift, challenging us to think differently about a medium that is, at least today, inherently digital and software-assisted.

At least for today — Art: 1, Algorithm: 0.

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05 JULY, 2010

Versions: The Purpose and Repurposing of Images


Originality, recycling, and why everyone is stealing from Disney.

The evolution of remix culture is something we’re quite fascinated by — from the notion of originality in creation (how similar is too similar?) to the moral tensions of sampling and borrowing. That’s exactly what occupies artist Oliver Laric in Versions, a visual essay about the re-appropriation of images, the borrowing of intellectual property and the manipulation of visual media.

Narrated with a no doubt intentionally robotic voiceover, the essay is as much an eye-opening exposé on the unabashed visual recycling in popular culture as it is a bold defense of the importance of creatively borrowing from greats of yore. From Greco-Roman sculpture to quantum physics, the essay explores the multifaceted dialogue about visual culture and the nature of authorship.

I express unlimited thanks to all the authors that have in the past, by compiling from remarkable instances of skill, provided us with abundant materials of different kinds. Drawing from them as it were water from springs and converting them to our own purposes, we find our own powers of writing rendered more fluent and easy, and relying upon such authorities we venture to release new systems of instruction.” ~ Oliver Laric

As remix culture continues to thrive in the grey areas of art and legislature, it’s fascinating to observe how different creators grapple with its complexities and interpret its blend of opprtunities and challenges.


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