Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

19 APRIL, 2012

If Darth Vader Actually Raised Luke Skywalker

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“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”

What if “Luke, I am your father” wasn’t the beginning and end of pop culture’s tensest father-son relationship? That’s the premise of comic artist Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son — a sweet, funny, charmingly illustrated story that imagines an alternate universe in which the Dark Lord of the Sith actually raises his son. From potty training to lightsaber batting practice to ice cream runs, the endearing absurdity of the duo’s dynamic makes for a remix treat of the most entertaining variety.

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18 APRIL, 2012

Yayoi Kusama, Japan’s Most Celebrated Contemporary Artist, Illustrates Alice in Wonderland

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Down the rabbit hole in colorful dots, twisted typography, and strange eye conditions.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass endure as some of history’s most beloved children’s storytelling, full of timeless philosophy for grown-ups and inspiration for computing pioneers. The illustrations that have accompanied Lewis Carroll’s classics over the ages have become iconic in their own right, from Leonard Weisgard’s stunning artwork for the first color edition of the book to Salvador Dali’s little-known but breathtaking version. Now, from Penguin UK and Yayoi Kusama, Japan’s most celebrated contemporary artist, comes a striking contender for the most visually captivating take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yet.

Since childhood, Kusama has had a rare condition that makes her see colorful spots on everything she looks at. Her vision, both literally and creatively, is thus naturally surreal, almost hallucinogenic. Her vibrant artwork, sewn together in a magnificent fabric-bound hardcover tome, becomes an exquisite embodiment of Carroll’s story and his fascination with the extraordinary way in which children see and explore the ordinary world.

A breathtaking piece of visual philosophy to complement Carroll’s timeless vision, Kusama’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the latest affirmation of what appears to be the season of exceptionally beautiful books.

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18 APRIL, 2012

The Rainbow as a Metaphor for Understanding Consciousness

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‘The viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process.’

The question of what makes us human has long occupied scientists and philosophers alike, and holding the promise of an answer is an understanding of consciousness.

Over at The New York Review of Books, Tim Parks talks to Riccardo Manzotti, who holds degrees in engineering and philosophy and teaches in the psychology department at Milan’s IULM University. Manzotti, a “radical externalist,” offers a model of consciousness he calls Spread Mind, proposing that consciousness is an intermediary between various distinct processes. The rainbow, he says, is the perfect example. Parks explains:

For the rainbow experience to happen we need sunshine, raindrops, and a spectator. It is not that the sun and the raindrops cease to exist if there is no one there to see them… But unless someone is present at a particular point no colored arch can appear. The rainbow is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be an instrument of sense perception. It doesn’t exist whole and separate in the world nor does it exist as an acquired image in the head separated from what is perceived (the view held by the ‘internalists’ who account for the majority of neuroscientists); rather, consciousness is spread between sunlight, raindrops, and visual cortex, creating a unique, transitory new whole, the rainbow experience. Or again: the viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process.

(So even though Brian Cox’s explanation of why everything is connected to everything else may have been proven less than scientifically wholesome as it applies to quantum mechanics, the message at its heart might just be true of human consciousness.)

Manzotti is the author of Situated Aesthetics: Art Beyond the Skin, which synthesizes the results of a workshop taking an externalist approach to art and examines the intersection of cognitive science and art.

The Dish

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