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Behind the Scenes of Project N.A.S.A.

From Jamaica to L.A., by way of the underground.

Five years in the making, the N.A.S.A. project — which stands for North America South America — made waves last year as one of the biggest creative collaborations between iconic “underground” artists across music, art, film and more.

One of N.A.S.A.’s most high-profile manifestations was the video for the track Money, featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, and Z-Trip, directed by Syd Garon and Paul Griswold, and with artwork by none other than the now-iconic Shepard Fairey.

Today, we go behind the scenes, with background on the N.A.S.A. project and the unprecedented but excellent idea of pairing up music artists with animators.

N.A.S.A.’s first album, The Spirit of Apollo, is an equally impressive string of unlikely but brilliant collaborations, including Karen O, Method Man, Santogold, M.I.A., The Cool Kids, and many, many more — grab it now.

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Into Post-Digital Creative Culture: OFFF 2009

What Lisbon and spaghetti have in common, or why failure is the key to creative success.

Since 2001, the OFFF festival has been showcasing the best of post-digital creative culture — interactive design, motion graphics, new music ventures, and other explorations of all media platforms.

OFFF is spreading the work of a generation of creators that are breaking all kinds of limits. Those separating the commercial arena from the worlds of art and design; music from illustration, or ink and chalk from pixels. Artists that have grown with the web and receive inspiration from digital tools, even when their canvas is not the screen.

The 3-day event is part design conference, part multimedia trade show, part digital animation festival, celebrating our new relationship with visual media.

OFFF dreams about the future, and then writes the code for it.

This year’s event, titled Fail Gracefully, wrapped earlier this month and was a cultural gem from start to finish — literally: Even the opening sequence for the festival, directed by Ilya Abulhanov and produced by Prologue Films, is a hypnotic piece of neo-digital genius.

The panel roster was equally impressive — including our favorite data visualization artist, Aaron Koblin, the iconic Paula Scher, and revolutionary film director and animator PES. (Remember Western Spaghetti? Yep, that guy.)

The discussion revolved around the notion of “graceful failure” as an essential strategy for creating in the digital space — we wouldn’t do it any justice by summarizing, but you can read the transcript from the Fail Gracefully panel here.

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Artist Spotlight: Zee Avi

From island paradise to bushfire, or why the best new music puts all of SXSW to shame.

At just 23, Malaysian singer-songwriter Zee Avi isn’t simply formidable up-and-coming musical talent — she’s also a poster child for success via social media. Her story goes a little something like this: After months of recording songs on her webcam and uploading them to YouTube, Avi woke up one morning to find a message from a major talent scout in her inbox. Beds were rolled off of in excitement, contacts were exchanged, and the rest was indie music history.

One thing led to another and, next thing I know, I was on a plane to L.A.

With vocals that are part Ingrid Michaelson, part Billie Holiday, and the lyrical sensibility of Feist, Zee Avi is the antidote to the general mediocrity that spewed from SXSW this year — and positively the best performer we’ve come across in 2009. 

Her self-titled debut album drops today, under Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label. So go ahead, get in the know before she goes… gasp… mainstream.

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Beautiful Connections: The Art of Conversation

The color of conversation, 6 million colors, and why Flash is more antisocial than your misanthropic uncle.

Universal love for the iPhone aside, when it comes to the creative exploration of a gadget’s cultural context, Apple has nothing on Nokia. To promote the Nokia’s E71 smartphone, Wieden + Kennedy London came up with Beautiful Connections — a multimedia homage to the art of conversation.

From text art to a mobile app to short films inspired by the beauty of everyday conversation, the microsite is pure visual indulgence.

It also invites visitors to create their own audiovisual art piece, using their computer’s webcam, microphone or keyboard to explore how text, sound, color and motion influence your message. Here’s ours:

The winner of the film contest, Ewan Watson, used rotoscoping to create S I G N A L S — a colorful play on communication signals.

You can see the other 4 film finalists here, here, here, and — our uncontested favorite — here.

You can't really watch now – Flash does suck that way

Which brings us to our only gripe with the project: The inherent unshareability of Flash content — the medium blatantly contradicts the message if none of the work can be shared in “everyday conversation” via individual permalinks or… gasp… embed code.

How did the W+K team miss the irony here?

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