An Animated Introduction to H.P. Lovecraft and How He Invented a New Gothic Horror

Howard Phillips Lovecraft died in obscurity at the age of 46, but he left behind a body of work formidable enough that even today's readers approach it only with great trepidation. They do so not so much because of its size, though Lovecraft did manage to write a fair bit, but because of what it dares to contemplate — or rather, because of its deep roots in the things mere humans dare not contemplate. Born in 1890, Lovecraft grew up on horror of the Gothic variety. But by the time he began writing his own in the year 1919, "World War I had cast a long shadow over the arts. People had seen real horrors, and were no longer frightened of fantastical folklore. Lovecraft sought to invent a new kind of terror, one that responded to the rapid scientific progress of the era."

Those words come from the TED-Ed lesson above, "Titan of Terror: the Dark Imagination of H.P. Lovecraft." Written and narrated by Silvia Moreno-García, a writer of science fiction and editor of several books on Lovecraft's work, the video offers a four-minute primer on how this "weird fiction" permanently upped the ante for all writers who sought to instill fear and dread into the hearts of their readers.

"Like then-recent discoveries of subatomic particles or X-rays," Moreno-García says, "the forces in Lovecraft's fiction were powerful, yet often invisible and indescribable. Rather than recognizable monsters, graphic violence, or startling shocks, the terror or 'Lovecraftian' horror lies in what's not directly portrayed — but instead left to the dark depths of our imagination."

Hence the cast of unspeakable "dark masters" beneath the placid New England surface of Lovecraft's stories. Yog-Sothoth, "who froths as primal slime in nuclear chaos beyond the nethermost outposts of space and time"; "the blind, idiot god Azathoth, whose destructive impulses are stalled only by the 'maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes'"; and of course Lovecraft's "infamous blend of dragon and octopus, Cthulhu": even those who have never read Lovecraft may well have heard of them. And as anyone who has read Lovecraft knows, we who have only heard of them, these beings "who exist beyond our conceptions of reality, their true forms as inscrutable as their motives," should count themselves lucky — far luckier, certainly, than the humans Lovecraft puts face-to-face with them.

Related Content:

H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories Free Online: Download Audio Books, eBooks & More

H.P. Lovecraft’s Monster Drawings: Cthulhu & Other Creatures from the “Boundless and Hideous Unknown”

H.P. Lovecraft Gives Five Tips for Writing a Horror Story, or Any Piece of “Weird Fiction”

H.P. Lovecraft Highlights the 20 “Types of Mistakes” Young Writers Make

H.P. Lovecraft Writes “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance,” a Devastating Parody of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1923)

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (Free Documentary)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Short Animated Film Explores the Fluidity of Gender in the Thought of Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler

In hindsight, it seems like a very different world when I first read Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble in college in the 90s. (Mash together all your stereotypes about college campuses in the 90s and you’ve pretty much got the picture.) For one thing, columnists in major national newspapers and magazines weren’t writing controversial, or simply explanatory, articles about gender fluidity. The concept did not exist in the mainstream press. It seemed both hip and rarified, confined to theory discussion groups, academic seminars, and punk zines.

As radical as Butler’s ideas about gender seemed, she acknowledged that she did not originate the critique. She found it first articulated in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, in which the French existentialist feminist wrote, “one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.”

In the short film above, Devenir (To Become), by French filmmaker Géraldine Charpentier-Basille, Butler describes her reaction to reading the passage. “I wrote something about this problem of becoming. And I wanted to know: does one ever become one? Or is that to be a woman is a mode of becoming… that has no goal…. You could say the same of gender more generally.”

As the images illustrating this extract from a 2006 interview with Butler show, the goalposts of feminine and masculine identities move all the time, from year to year, from culture to culture. Gender is a pastiche of representations we inhabit. It is produced, performative, Butler thought, but we can never get it “right” because there is no true referent. The idea descends from the existentialist insights of de Beauvoir, who wrote about and dramatized similar problems of the personal and social self.

De Beauvoir extended Sartre’s claim that “existence precedes essence” in her pioneering feminist work—we come into the world, then acquire identities through acculturation, social conditioning, and coercion. Butler extended the argument further. “For her, writes Aeon’s Will Fraker, “gender wasn’t predetermined by nature or biology, nor was it simply ‘made up’ by culture. Rather, Butler insisted that gender resides in repeated words and actions, words and actions that both shape and are shaped by the bodies of real, flesh-and-blood human beings. And crucially, such repetitions are rarely performed freely.”

From our earliest years, we are trained how to behave as a gender, just as we are taught to perform other identities—trained by the expectations of parents, teachers, religious leaders, advertisers, and the bullying and social pressure of our peers. Hear Butler explain further how gender, in her theory, functions as “a phenomenon that is produced and is being reproduced all the time…. Nobody really is a gender from the start. I know it’s controversial,” she says. “But that’s my claim.” It is one that poses complicated questions more broadly, notes Aeon, about “the pursuit of the ‘authentic’ self” as a meaningful idea—questions Western philosophers have been asking for well over half a century.

via Aeon

Related Content:

Theorist Judith Butler Explains How Behavior Creates Gender: A Short Introduction to “Gender Performativity”

Judy!: 1993 Judith Butler Fanzine Gives Us An Irreverent Punk-Rock Take on the Post-Structuralist Gender Theorist

Simone de Beauvoir Explains “Why I’m a Feminist” in a Rare TV Interview (1975)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Stream Free Online 200 Films from Tribeca Film Festivals

FYI: The Tribeca Film Festival is getting underway today. And to mark the occasion, Kanopy is showcasing a lineup of 200 titles from past festivals and letting you stream them free online. Kanopy writes:

Kanopy’s selection of Tribeca Film Festival titles includes recent festival favorites The Lovers, starring Debra Winger (An Officer and a Gentleman) & Tracy Letts (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and Back Roads starring Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) and  Jennifer Morrison (House). A selection of dynamic documentaries such as Dior and I and Planet of Snail is available alongside films with unforgettable female performances including Woman Walks Ahead, starring Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Oscar-award winning short film The Phone Call, starring Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). Several Tribeca-winning films including the 2015 Best Director winner About Elly and the 2017 Audience Award for Best Narrative Film, The Divine Order are also available.

You can find a complete list of Tribeca films here. As you may know, Kanopy offers a large collection of award-winning films and documentaries that are free to members of participating libraries. To see if your library is a participating member, visit this page on the Kanopy website.

Beyond the 200 films featured in the Tribeca collection, there are currently 30,000 films on the Kanopy service. Enjoy the shows.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 



Freddie Mercury Reimagined as Comic Book Heroes

Pop culture thrives on superheroes, both fictional and real. This isn’t unique in human history. Read most any collection of ancient myth and literature and you’ll find the same. The demigods and chieftains beating their chests and talking trash in the Iliad, for example, remind me of macho professional wrestlers or characters in the Marvel and DC universes, cultural artifacts indebted in their various ways to classical legends. One thread runs through all of the epic tales of heroes and heroines: a seeming need to immortalize people who embody the qualities we most desire. Heroes may suffer for their tragic flaws, but that's the price they pay for universal acclaim or an iron throne.

The traits ascribed to late modernity’s fictional heroes haven’t changed overmuch from the distant past—power, wit, agility, persistence, anger issues, spicy, complicated love lives…. But when it comes to the real people we admire—the celebrities who get the superhero treatment—creativity, style, and musical talent surely top the list. Why not?

David Bowie’s larger-than-life personas surely deserve to live on, transmitted not only via his music but by way of his posthumous transformation into a series of pulp and comic heroes as imagined by screenwriter and designer Todd Alcott, who has given the same treatment to beloved musical characters like Prince and Bob Dylan.

Performing a similar service for Freddie Mercury, Brazilian artist Butcher Billy satisfies the cultural craving for demigods in his immortalization of Freddie Mercury as various heroes like The Hulk, Superman, and Shazam (or “Flash”); a contender for the Iron Throne; and himself: riding on Darth Vader’s shoulders, breaking free in housewife drag, and sporting Bowie’s Aladdin Sane lightning bolt. What are the superpowers of these super-Freddies? The usual smashing, punching, and flying, it seems, but also the essentials of his real-life power—an impossibly big personality, huge stage presence, personal magnetism, and a godlike force of a voice.

Add to these characteristics a unique talent for writing  lyrics punchier than your favorite Twitter feed, and we have the makings of a modern epic giant with abilities that seemed to surpass those of mere mortals, with the swagger and ego to match. This tribute to Mercury is unabashed hero worship, turning the singer into an archetype. In the simple, bold, colorful lines of comic cover art we might just see that there’s a Freddie Mercury in all of us, wanting to break free, pump a fist in the air, and belt out our biggest feelings in capital letters and giant exclamation marks.

See more "Planet Mercury Comics" below and at Butcher Billy's Behance site.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content:

David Bowie Songs Reimagined as Pulp Fiction Book Covers: Space Oddity, Heroes, Life on Mars & More

Classic Songs by Bob Dylan Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Book Covers: “Like a Rolling Stone,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” & More

Scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody Compared to Real Life: A 21-Minute Compilation

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear J.R.R. Tolkien Read from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in Vintage Recordings from the Early 1950s

J.R.R. Tolkien was not a big fan of his fandom. He had serious doubts about whether any of the millions of readers who adored The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy understood anything about what he was trying to do. But none of them can be blamed, since he didn’t at first set out to write fiction at all—at least not when it came to The Lord of the Rings. The books, he said, were “an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real.”

The most famous fantasy series of all time began its life as a linguistic experiment, in other words. “The invention of languages is the foundation,” said Tolkien. “The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse.” Of course, Tolkien fans know quite a bit about how personal his stories became, even as they incorporated more and more mythical elements. How could we possibly understand these stories the way Tolkien did?

Authors do not get to choose their readers, nor can they direct the interpretations of their work. Still Tolkien may have been more misunderstood than others, and maybe more entitled to complain. The scholarly work of philologists like himself—academics who studied the roots of languages and mythologies—had been mangled and misused by the Nazis. The fact caused Tolkien to confess to his son “a burning private grudge against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler” for “ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed” the history Tolkien had made his life’s work. (He also penned a scathing reply to a German publisher who asked him for proof of his "Aryan" descent.)

He would also have been appalled that not long after his death, Middle Earth became a “merchandising juggernaut,” as one student of his effect on popular culture puts it. Tolkien had strenuously resisted efforts by Disney to buy the rights to his fiction, objecting to what he saw as vulgar, mercenary commercialism. The hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, and the empire of games, action figures, t-shirts, etc., might have seemed to him the very image of power-mad wizard Saruman’s designs for world domination.

This isn’t to say we should hear Tolkien scolding us as we pick up our box set of special edition books, Blu-Rays, and LOTR tchotchkes. He was no stranger to marketing. And he produced the inspiration for some of the most beloved adaptations with his own cover art designs and over a hundred drawings and paintings of Middle Earth and its English referents. But perhaps it would repay fans of the many LOTR-themed consumables to attend to the creator of the now-self-existent world of Middle Earth every now and then—to get closer, if not to Tolkien’s intentions, then at least to his mind and voice, both recorded in his letters and his own readings from his work.

In the clips here, you can listen to Tolkien himself read from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, including a recording at the top of him reading one of the fantasy languages he invented, then created an entire world around, the Elvish tongue Quenya in the poem "Namarie." Some of these YouTube clips have received their own cinematic treatment, in a YouTube sort of way, like the video below with a montage of Tolkien-inspired media and a dramatic score. This may or may not be to your liking, but the origin story of the recording deserves a mention.

Shown a tape recorder by a friend, whom Tolkien had visited to pick up a manuscript of The Lord of the Rings, the author decided to sit down and record himself. Delighted with the results, he agreed to read from The Hobbit. He liked the technology enough that he continued to record himself reading from his own work. Tolkien may not have desired to see his books turned into spectacles, but as we listen to him read, it's hard to see how anyone could resist the temptation to put his magnificent descriptions on the big screen. Hear the second part of that Hobbit reading here, and more Tolkien readings in the many links below.

Related Content:

J.R.R. Tolkien, Using a Tape Recorder for the First Time, Reads from The Hobbit for 30 Minutes (1952)

Listen to J.R.R. Tolkien Read Poems from The Fellowship of the Ring, in Elvish and English (1952)

J.R.R. Tolkien Reads From The Two Towers, the Second Book of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Hear J.R.R. Tolkien Read From The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien Expressed a “Heartfelt Loathing” for Walt Disney and Refused to Let Disney Studios Adapt His Work

J.R.R. Tolkien Snubs a German Publisher Asking for Proof of His “Aryan Descent” (1938)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” Played on the Theremin

Pink Floyd is surely the most quotable of psych-rock and progressive bands. Everyone, no matter their musical tastes, knows lines like “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control,” “I have become comfortably numb,” and “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.”

The band’s first album with Syd Barrett was full of wordplay and whimsy. Later songwriting cut right to the heart of things, with razor-sharp observations, heartbreaking statements, sneering jibes, and strident pronouncements. In their finest iterations, they were a band with something to say.

These qualities make it all the more striking that one of their most moving compositions is a song without any words, unless we count the vocal samples at the beginning from writer Malcolm Muggeridge. Smack in the middle of Dark Side of the Moon, “The Great Gig in the Sky” showcases a soulful improvisation by guest vocalist Clare Torry (who finally, rightfully, received a writing credit in 2004). Her voice provides all the dramatic tension the song needs, communicating more, in purely emotional terms, than any lyric the band might have written.

Does the effect come through when her performance is replayed on a Theremin? You be the judge. The song made famous by its wordless intensity meets an instrument played without any touch—it’s a poetic kind of mashup, and a well-executed cover. Theremin player Charlie Draper doesn’t only play Torry’s vocal, but also David Gilmour’s pedal steel guitar parts, which are probably better suited to the instrument. As an added bonus, he plays over one of the earlier instrumental demos of the song with samples from Apollo 17 astronauts, adding a few more words that serve only as more atmosphere behind the melody.

The Theremin is often pegged as a novelty instrument, defining the sound of B-movie sci-fi, but it has a long and distinguished history. First called the Etherphone by Russian inventor Leon Theremin, it became the passionate instrument of choice for classical player Clara Rockmore in the early 20th century. A sort of mini-Theremin revival has brought it back into prominence as a serious interpreter of classical and modern music. On his YouTube channel, Draper demonstrates his appreciation for the Theremin’s range, playing Mozart, Grieg, Gershwin, and the theme from the film First Man. Just above, Hank Green tells us all about the physics of the Theremin, in a SciShow crash course that could answer many of the questions you might have had while watching Draper play Pink Floyd on one.

Related Content:

Hear How Clare Torry’s Vocals on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” Made the Song Go from Pretty Good to Downright Great

Watch Jimmy Page Rock the Theremin, the Early Soviet Electronic Instrument, in Some Hypnotic Live Performances

Meet Clara Rockmore, the Pioneering Electronic Musician Who First Rocked the Theremin in the Early 1920s

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him

The Medieval City Plan Generator

The Medieval City Plan Generator. It's the free online tool you've always wanted. It doesn't create maps of actual medieval cities--only nice looking maps of imaginary cities, with the ability to add plazas, castles, rivers, city walls, and even shanty towns. Enter the Medieval City Plan Generator here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related Content:

How Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Were Made: A Step-by-Step Look at this Beautiful, Centuries-Old Craft

How the Brilliant Colors of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made with Alchemy

Behold the Beautiful Pages from a Medieval Monk’s Sketchbook: A Window Into How Illuminated Manuscripts Were Made (1494)

The Aberdeen Bestiary, One of the Great Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts, Now Digitized in High Resolution & Made Available Online

1,600-Year-Old Illuminated Manuscript of the Aeneid Digitized & Put Online by The Vatican

Dante’s Divine Comedy Illustrated in a Remarkable Illuminated Medieval Manuscript (c. 1450)

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

The Daily Rituals of 143 Famous Female Creators: Octavia Butler, Edith Wharton, Coco Chanel & More

Certain kinds of content have flowered on the internet that we can't seem to get enough of, and if you frequent Open Culture, you may well have a weakness for one kind in particular: the daily schedules of notable creators. When we know and respect someone's work, we can't help but wonder how they spend their finite time on this Earth in such a way that allows them to create that work in the first place. Mason Currey, creator of the blog Daily Rituals, knows this well: not only did all his posting about "how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days" lead to a book, Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work, it just last month produced a sequel, Daily Rituals: Women at Work.

"In the first Daily Rituals, I featured far more men than women," writes Currey. "In this second volume, I correct the imbalance with profiles of the day-to-day working lives of 143 women writers, artists, and performers," including Octavia Butler, "who wrote every day no matter what," Isak Dinesen, "who subsisted on oysters and champagne but also amphetamines, which gave her the overdrive she required, Martha Graham, "who eschewed socializing in favor of long hours alone in her studio," and Lillian Hellman, "who chain-smoked three packs of cigarettes and drank twenty cups of coffee a day (after milking the cow and cleaning the barn on her Hardscrabble Farm)."

You can read a few excerpts of the book at the publisher's web site. Coco Chanel, we learn, usually arrived late to the office but "stayed until late in the evening, compelling her employees to hang around with her even after work had ceased, pouring wine and talking nonstop, avoiding for as long as possible the return to her room at the Ritz and to the boredom and loneliness that awaited her there." Edith Wharton, by contrast, "always worked in the morning, and houseguests who stayed at the Mount — the 113-acre estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Wharton penned several novels, including The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome — were expected to entertain themselves until 11:00 a.m. or noon, when their hostess would emerge from her private quarters, ready to go for a walk or work in the garden."

The other subjects of Daily Rituals: Women at Work, a full list of which you can read here, include everyone from Maya Angelou to Diane Arbus, Joan Didion to Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Parker to Emily Post, and Agnès Varda to Alice Walker. Not only do no two of these creators have the same routines, their strategies for how best to use their time often conflict. "Screw inspiration," said Octavia Butler, but her colleague in writing Zadie Smith takes quite a different tack: "I think you need to feel an urgency about the acts,” Currey quotes her as saying in an interview, "otherwise when you read it, you feel no urgency either. So, I don’t write unless I really feel I need to." For all tips as you might pick up from these 143 women, as well as from the creators of both sexes in the previous book, the most important one might be a meta-tip: develop the set of daily rituals that suits your personality and no one else's.

Related Content:

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Daily Routine: The Discipline That Fueled Her Imagination

The Daily Habits of Famous Writers: Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Stephen King & More

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People, Presented in an Interactive Infographic

74 Essential Books for Your Personal Library: A List Curated by Female Creatives

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Database, Will Feature Works by 600+ Overlooked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Centuries

The Daily Habits of Highly Productive Philosophers: Nietzsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Here’s What Ancient Dogs Looked Like: A Forensic Reconstruction of a Dog That Lived 4,500 Years Ago

Images by Historic Environment Scotland

We’re pretty sure dogs aren’t obsessed with ancestry, despite the proliferation of canine DNA testing services.

That seems to be more of a human thing.

However, with very little digging, nearly every dog on earth could claim to be descended from a handsome specimen such as the one above.

This news must be gratifying to all those lapdogs who fancy themselves to be something more wolfish than their exteriors suggest.

This beast is no 21st-century pet, but rather, a reconstruction, forensic science’s best guess as to what the owner of a Neolithic skull discovered during a 1901 excavation of the 5,000-year-old Cuween Hill chambered cairn on Orkney, Scotland would have looked like in life.

About the size of a large collie, the "Cuween dog" has the face of a European grey wolf and the reasonable gaze of a family pet.

(Kudos to the project’s organizers for resisting the urge to bestow a nickname on their creation, or if they have, to resist sharing it publicly.)

Whether or not this good boy or girl had a name, it would’ve earned its keep, guarding a farm in the tomb’s vicinity.

Steve Farrar, Interpretation Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, the conservation organization that commissioned the reconstruction, believes that the farmers’ esteem for their dogs went beyond mere utilitarian appreciation:

Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the 'dog people'.

Radiocarbon dating of this dog’s skull and 23 others found on the site point to ritual burial—the animals were placed within more than 500 years after the passage to the tomb was built. Historic Environment Scotland posits that the canine remains’ placement next to those of humans attest to the community’s belief in an afterlife for both species.

The model is presumably more relatable than the naked skull, which was scanned by Edinburgh University's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, enabling Historic Environment Scotland to make the 3D print that forensic artist Amy Thornton fleshed out with muscle, skin, and hair.

What a human genealogist wouldn’t give to trace their lineage back to 2000 BC, let alone have such a fetching picture.

via Live Science

Related Content:

40,000-Year-Old Symbols Found in Caves Worldwide May Be the Earliest Written Language

An Animated History of Dogs, Inspired by Keith Haring

An Animated History of Cats: How Over 10,000 Years the Cat Went from Wild Predator to Sofa Sidekick

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this May for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Enter, Explore, and Learn About Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson with a New Augmented-Reality App

More than 350 years after he painted them, the paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn still look real enough to step right into. Now, thanks to a new augmented reality app from the Mauritshuis museum, you can do just that through the screen of your phone, starting with Rembrandt's famed early canvas The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. "The augmented reality experience, a first for a museum, allows the user to experience the anatomical theatre of 1632 digitally," says the Mauritshuis' press release, "and to observe Dr. Tulp and his fellow physicians, as well as the subject of their examination, the corpse of Aris Kindt."

"I entered it and was surrounded by its enveloping darkness, its piecemeal illuminations," writes Hyperallergic's Seph Rodney on his augmented-reality experience of The Anatomy Lesson. "I walked in front of and sometimes faced each of the characters arrayed around a central figure, a corpse, with its left arm missing its skin below the elbow. One man, rather overdressed in a black doublet with a white shirt collar and white sleeves accenting his head and hands uses a pair of forceps to hold the corpse’s exposed arm muscles and tendons stretched away from the bones beneath."

As Rodney approaches the figure, "a small text box pops out telling me precisely this: that he is gazing at the book to make sense of what the body beneath him is saying in all its vascular and muscular complexity."

Sans text boxes, the scene will sound familiar to Rembrandt enthusiasts, but not even the most enthusiastic of them will have seen it in quite this way before. To build an augmented-reality version of the scene Rembrandt painted 387 years ago, "lookalikes of the main figures in the painting dressed up in seventeenth-century outfits and were then scanned with a 3D scanner made up of 600 reflex cameras. The original theatre in the Waag where Dr. Tulp gave his anatomy lesson in 1632 was then captured with the 3D scanner. These scans were then combined, after which 3D modelers gave the figures and the space the correct colors, textures and light."

You can get a glimpse of the process in the short video at the top of the post, then download the Rembrandt Reality app in either its Google or Apple version and step into The Anatomy Lesson yourself. It may feel somewhat odd at first to simply stroll around the scene of an ongoing dissection of a human body, but in a way, the Mauritshuis' digital opening of this immortal lesson to the world re-emphasizes the true nature of the original scene. When a physician of Tulp's stature dissected a corpse, people from all around — medical professionals and otherwise — would come to watch the spectacle that could last for days. But could even Tulp, then Amsterdam's city anatomist and later the city's mayor, have imagined that this particular spectacle would last 387 years and counting?

via Hyperallergic

Related Content:

Enter an Online Interactive Documentary on Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Learn About the Painting’s Many Hidden Secrets

Scientists Create a New Rembrandt Painting, Using a 3D Printer & Data Analysis of Rembrandt’s Body of Work

See the Complete Works of Vermeer in Augmented Reality: Google Makes Them Available on Your Smartphone

13 of Van Gogh’s Paintings Painstakingly Brought to Life with 3D Animation & Visual Mapping

Van Gogh’s 1888 Painting, “The Night Cafe,” Animated with Oculus Virtual Reality Software

Walk Inside a Surrealist Salvador Dalí Painting with This 360º Virtual Reality Video

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

  • Great Lectures



    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.


  • About Us

    Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast