The rhetoric of data, or how to reconcile human and algorithm in the age of collective intelligence.
After their fantastic 7-minute documentary on typography, the fine folks at PBS Off Book are back with another micro-documentary, this time spotlighting generative art and featuring creators like generative composer Luke Dubois, game designer Will Wright, and software artist Scott Draves, who discuss everything from new narratives in visual storytelling to negotiating the relationship between humans and algorithms to the rhetoric of data.
This century is the century of data, that’s the defining thing. Last century was the century of electricity.” ~ Luke Dubois
What the silent film era has to do with the architecture of atmospheric control.
Over on Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley has a fantastic longform piece tracing the painstaking production that is the life cycle of bananas as they make their way from tropical Ecuador to your fruit bowl. This reminded me of a fascinating vintage documentary from the end of the silent film era I’d come across some time ago. The 11-minute black-and-white film, currently in the public domain courtesy of the Prelinger Archives, was produced in 1935 and zooms in on the banana industry, from virgin jungle being converted into banana plantations to the fifteen-month growth cycle between root planting and banana bunch to the shipment of the fruit into the American markets, and even ends with a stop-motion visual jingle about the health virtues of bananas.
Bananas are more than a delicious fruit — they are one of America’s most important foods…”
Now, contrast that — the manual farming and inspection, the pick-up locomotives, the “specially constructed ships of the Great White Fleet” — with today’s sophisticated banana-ripening facilities and their “evolving architecture of atmospheric control.”.
In other words, in order to be a global commodity rather than a tropical treat, the banana has to be harvested and transported while completely unripe. Bananas are cut while green, hard, and immature, washed in cool water (both to begin removing field heat and to stop them from leaking their natural latex), and then held at 56 degrees — originally in a refrigerated steamship; today, in a refrigerated container — until they reach their country of consumption weeks later.”
And in observing how far we’ve come technologically, it’s bittersweet — like a green banana, perhaps — to observe how much further we’ve gone from the groves.
What a mischievous chimney sweep has to do with tricking Hitler out of power.
To those of us who grew up in Eastern Europe, Czech puppet maker, illustrator, and animator Jirí Trnka (1912-1969) is best-known for his illustrations of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm (recently included in Taschen’s epic volume collecting the best illustrations from 130 years of the Brothers Grimm). In fact, he came of age as a children’s book artist during World War II, when he illustrated books for children and eventually started dabbling in animation. In 1945, just as the war was winding down, he began working on Perak a SS (The Springer and the SS Men, or Springman and the SS, or The Jumper and the Men of the SS) — an animated anti-Nazi film, based on a WWII urban legend about a mischievous chimney-sweep-turned-superhero who taunts the Nazis, reminiscent in both appearance and action of an early Spiderman.
Trnka went on to have a prolific career in experimental animation, creating some astounding and brilliantly innovative, not only for their time but also by today’s standards, puppet films.
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