Showing 12 posts tagged culture

Place has always been important for the emergence of new products and entire industries. They form crucibles wherein people, ideas, and organizations come together. Silicon Valley outpaced established East Coast electronics centers when young engineers and innovators began to cluster there — committed to the place rather than to particular employers. The same is true of Detroit and motor vehicles, Los Angeles and motion pictures, New Orleans and jazz, Nashville and country music, Boston and publishing, Chicago and advertising, New York and visual art, and San Francisco and product design.

Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa (from Metris Arts Consulting) in Creative Placemaking (PDF), a white paper published by the National Endowment for the Arts on the role of arts and culture in urban planning, livability, and economic development.

Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave: ‘The Louvre of the Paleolithic Galleries’*

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the story of Chauvet Cave’s great art discovered only in December 1994. It’s a beautiful film offering a sensory experience into Paleolithic man’s paintings (and perhaps early attempts at animation) through music, storytelling, and images that you can only revisit through the DVD. With Herzog as the mediator and a small cast of archeologists and historians, we’re offered a rare glimpse into the human history of the cave and the search for meaning in the artwork as well as nearby landscapes and cultures.

What’s interesting is that even as Herzog follows the scientific investigation, its speculative nature is always present. As the unicyclist-juggler turned archeologist points out, the past cannot ever fully be known or reconstructed. There is just as much mysticism surrounding the people who decorated the caves and the panels upon panels of stunning depictions of horses, ibexes, lions, rhinoceroses, and bears. Two characters named Carole and Gilles have traced and analyzed the contours, layering, and compositions. They believe they can tell truths about the creators (down to one six-foot-tall person with a crooked pinky finger) and the creative process, all by reading line weight, shading, and human handprints.

What scientists DO know about Chauvet is that at approximately 31,000 years old, it’s the oldest known rock art — predating the art in Lascaux. The 1,300-foot cave has been spatially mapped (see above) in its entirety using laser scanners. (These digital images of the cave have stuck with me.) But for all of the scientific research that’s been conducted, we’re still fascinated by the earliest acts of artistic expression. The mysteries of modern human origins, especially early arts and culture, are what keep us searching for answers. Joe Morgenstern wrote in a Wall Street Journal review, “The unknowable or the mysteriously ambiguous in human behavior is what sets Mr. Herzog’s synapses to firing with singular intensity.”

I’ve seen Cave of Forgotten Dreams on four occasions. The first time was in a small, packed theater in Savannah, and it took my breath away. I felt especially moved because in 2007 I studied in the South of France and visited several nearby caves (including Lauscaux II, the recreation) during a Paleolithic rock art course. But the connection is more universal. Do yourself a favor and watch this film on Netflix streaming.

* According to sociobiologist E.O. Wilson in "On the Origins of the Arts" for Harvard Magazine.

Credit: Photo by unknown source. Screencaps by Whitney Dail.

This Hybrid Age, then, is the frontier of the Information Age. We will witness how humans co-evolve with technology, making ourselves the template for advances in medicine, prosthetics, neuroscience and other fields. And we’re turning into a man-machine civilisation, as robots, avatars and even humanoids become ordinary social and professional actors in our lives. Technology will shape us as much as we shape it.

Parag Khanna (visiting fellow of LSE Ideas and co-author of Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilisation) in "So long, information age. Hello, hybrid age" for WIRED UK

Yuri Suzuki: The Sound of the Earth (2009-2012)


The Sound of Earth by Yuri Zuzuki is a spherical record, whose grooves represent the outlines of the geographic land masses. Each country on the disc is engraved with a different sound, and as the needle passes over, it plays field recordings collected by Yuri Suzuki from around the world over the course of four years; traditional folk music, national anthems, popular music and spoken word broadcasts. 

I was going to post about this piece! Take away land mass, visual imagery, religion, nationalism, and currency and you get an aural experience of world cultures — the human condition embodied in sound.

Credit: Video by Alice Masters. Photo by Hitomi Kai Yoda.

Lee Boot on Researching Human Nature

At the beginning of the year, I was wrapping up a year and a half’s worth of research for my master’s thesis on organizations at the artscience nexus when I stumbled upon Lee Boot. Boot is experimental media artist and researcher who teaches film and video at UMBC and is also the associate director of the university’s Imaging Research Center. I ended up contacting him for a phone interview to discuss his experiences with applying for funding on projects that overlap art with science. Boot has applied to eight science grants and received three; two of which were awarded by the National Institutes of Health for Euphoria, “a science-based-self-help-art-film” about happiness and natural-versus-chemical highs.

In our conversation I was struck by Boot’s ideas on the greater implications of art on science, human behavior, and society. He believes that art can play a more active role in science by doing more than explaining or communicating scientific concepts. He said, “[Art] can translate into the human sphere the meaning of science.” So art can actually create new knowledge. Later, Boot went on to talk about how the social sciences are looking into the importance of culture on human behavior, saying:

IF in fact culture is the driver of human behavior as it appears to be and art is the language of culture, just like math is the language of science, the implications for the potential of art to do pro-social things seems amazing and very non-modern and really interesting.

The video above features Boot introducing Who We Am, a research project of UMBC’s Imaging Research center that aims “to stimulate transdisciplinary discourse and research at intersection points in the wide landscape of human nature-related knowledge and research.” They hope to explore the following:

1) How ideas become established in social and cultural environments?
2) How individual perceptions of social normalcy develop?
3) What sources of ideas do individuals report influence their beliefs, attitudes and decisions?
4) What have other civilizations done to infuse their cultures with prosocial ideas?
5) What types of cultural interventions might produce positive behavior change today?

Needless to say, I’m very excited to see where this research leads.

Thinking in Practice: Issue 12

Ethical enhancement and the quest to become ‘Superhuman’ is explored by transhumanist Anders Sandberg. Historian Erik Gheniou redefines spatial boundaries and examines new debates in architectural thought. And in 9 things We Like explore new products that harvest energy from moonlight, learn quantum physics from comic books and we ask if the low-cost robot revolution has finally arrived.

TiP (Thinking in Practice) is a bi-monthly online publication that explores and interrogates fresh thinking across a variety of fields, from mathematics and science to art, design, architecture, philosophy and culture.

The Metagame

Colleen Macklin loves games — digital and non-digital. As Director of PETlab, a joint project of Games for Change and Parsons The New School, she believes games are a form of public interest and engagement. Macklin, John Sharp, and Eric Zimmerman created The Metagame, a card game where you argue and debate about culture. There’s two editions, culture and videogames, both of which are easy to play. The culture edition has 120 cards with questions including “Which is more influential: Duchamp’s Fountain or the Big Mac?” and “Which is more poetic: Tetris or To Kill a Mockingbird?” It spans the 100 years of culture including art, books, movies, architecture, TV, comics, etc. Learn more…

The Metagame is like ‘Apples to Apples’, but better. Buy the Videogame 1.0 deck and expansion pack on Amazon. Although, you can only get the Culture 1.0 deck if you buy the November 2011 issue of Esopus Magazine.

Credit: Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS) / Hazen Creative, Inc..

The Art Collection of the National Academy of Sciences

Did you know the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has an art collection? Or that they have cultural programs (CPNAS), including exhibitions and a monthly art-science rendezvous? It’s true! You can visit their collection in Washington, DC. But if you aren’t nearby (or without a teleporter) you can transport yourself to their gallery via this 136-page catalog.

The book opens with an introduction by CPNAS director J.D. Talasek who writes:

The boundaries that once separated painting, sculpture, and other disciplines are now giving way to multimedia approaches to solving aesthetic problems. Like scientists, artists are not restricted by past divisions between disciplines.

There are some great essays from E.O. Wilson (Evolution and Visual Culture), David Edwards (Art, Science, and Discovery), Roald Hoffman (Reflections on Art and Science), Anne Collins Goodyear (Picturing Creativity: Portraits of Scientists in the Genetic Age), Lee Boot (See. Wonder. Shhhhhhhhh. Aha!), Andrew Solomon (From Imaging to Image), and more. Not to mention, contemporary art from Suzanne Anker, (ART)n, and Charleston curator/photographer Mark Sloan as well as historic works.

Ignite your scientific senses and add Convergence to your bookshelf by purchasing it on Amazon or National Academies Press. It’s worth having a hard copy; but if you can’t splurge, browse the online version.

In The District

I recently began an internship at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) where I work in the Office of Program Innovation on projects related to art and science. The photos above are a highlight of spending the last two weeks in the District (DC).

As a daily commuter (Annapolis → New Carrollton Metro → Federal Triangle), I have a different perspective than that of a museum goer. I also have the enlightening experience of viewing the inner-workings of the NEA, a federal grant-making agency for the arts in America. I’m at the heart of the Arts & Culture Machine! This insight is everything I’ve been working towards with my Arts Administration degree. And I’m surrounded by passionate arts lovers who are well-connected and established in their careers—actors, poets and writers, musicians, dancers, and so on.

It’s a wonderful feeling to play a tiny part.

I just came across Daylight Magazine's Cosmos issue with Vincent Fournier on the cover at Barnes & Noble. This is a teaser featuring some of the work included in Issue #9 where you can hear a few artists telling stories about themes and artistic processes. You can buy a print copy for $10 or get a PDF for $5 here. I couldn’t resist adding it my collection of odds-and-ends periodicals about space. (In fact, one of my favorites is Cabinet’s Issue #34 on Testing.)