Hear a Radio Drama of George Orwell’s 1984, Starring Patrick Troughton, of Doctor Who Fame (1965)

Take two of the most prominent English cultural properties of the past several decades, bring them together, and what have you got? You’ve got Patrick Troughton, better known as the Second Doctor in TV’s Doctor Who, in a 1965 BBC Radio adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. Troughton was not yet the Doctor; the honor would not fall to him until the following year when he replaced William Hartnell (with the latter’s full approval, it seems). But he was a well-known character actor, the first to play Robin Hood on television (in a 1953 BBC mini-series), and a figure who inspired a good deal of respect in the British entertainment industry. Troughton was also a decorated World War II veteran (who, when the year 1984 finally arrived, suffered his second major heart attack).

Troughton brings to the role of everyman Winston Smith a gravitas shared by a number of actors who have inherited the role since the very first radio adaptation in 1949, starring David Niven. Of course Orwell’s story is not an ongoing series like Doctor Who, but it has remained remarkably relevant to every generation post-World War II, and like the Doctor’s character, has been constantly re-imagined in adaptations on radio, film, and television. The conditions of government repression, censorship, and mass surveillance Orwell foresaw have seemed imminent, if not fully realized, in the decades following the novel’s 1948 publication, though the adjective “Orwellian” and many of the novel’s coinages have suffered a good deal through overuse and misapplication.

Just as the first radio play of 1984 warned of a “disturbing broadcast,” this 1965 version begins, “The following play is not suitable for those of a nervous disposition.” It’s interesting that even this long after the novel’s publication, and in the midst of the swinging sixties, Orwell’s dystopian fable still had the power to shock. Or at least the producers of this broadcast thought so. Perhaps we’ve been so thoroughly inured to the prospects Orwell warned of that revelations of the NSA’s massive data collection, or of the global expropriation disclosed by the Panama Papers, or of any number of nefarious government dealings often elicit a cynical shrug from the average person. Those who do express alarm at such documented abuses are often branded… well, alarmists.

But then again, we keep returning to Orwell.

Continuing in the tradition begun by David Niven and carried forward by Patrick Troughton (and on film by Edmond O’Brien and John Hurt), another respected British actor recently took on the role of Winston Smith in a BBC 4 radio adaptation three years ago. This time the actor was Christopher Eccleston, who also, it turns out, once played Doctor Who.

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

Hermeneutics of Toilets by Slavoj Žižek: An Animation About Finding Ideology in Unlikely Places

It’s been part of Slavoj Žižek’s schtick for years. He’s mentioned it in talks about Donald Rumsfeld and America’s misadventures in Iraq. In lectures about architecture in Spain. In English-language talks. And other languages too. Maybe you’ve never heard Žižek’s spiel about finding ideology in the unlikeliest of places. Yes, toilets. If you’ve missed out, this new animation has you covered.

via Philosophy Matters 

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Behold the “3Dvarius,” the World’s First 3-D Printed Violin

There is a perpetual argument among stringed instrument aficionados about the esoteric value of so-called “tonewoods.” Certainly, to most discriminating ears, the differences between an acoustic guitar, mandolin, or violin made of solid spruce or maple and one made of plywood seem sonically obvious. When it comes to electric guitars, the distinctions between materials can seem more negligible. In blind tests many of us might have some difficulty telling the difference between an electric guitar made of the finest woods and one made of cheap balsa, lucite, or even an oil can. (Not that differences don’t exist!) It’s hardly controversial to point out that acoustic instruments depend upon their materials and workmanship in ways electric instruments don’t.

So how might discriminating ears respond to an electric, digitally 3-D printed acrylic violin, based loosely on a real Stradivarius? Can such an instrument replicate the sweet sustain of an acoustic violin, Strad or otherwise? You can judge for yourself in the demonstrations here. Created by French engineer and musician Laurent Bernadac, the “3Dvarius”—the world’s first 3-D printed violin—is perhaps, reports Wired, “a harbinger of what’s to come for musical instruments.” Critics have shown how it falls far short of recreating the sound of a traditional instrument. (See violinist Joanna Wronko compare the two at a TEDx Amsterdam talk here). And yes, the 3Dvarius may look “more like an avian skeleton than a stringed instrument.” But it does have some advantages over traditional violins made of wood.

For one thing, synthetic instruments are highly durable and lightweight (violins and cellos made of carbon fiber have been on the market for several years). For another, the 3Dvarius can indeed make some pretty sweet sounds when plugged into Bernadac’s rig, consisting of various effects pedals and loopers. At the top, see how he uses his setup to create jazzy multi-layered, multi-track arrangements of popular songs with the 3Dvarius. And hear a few of those songs here, along with snazzy videos—including U2’s “With or Without You,” the Game of Thrones and X-Files themes, and “Se Bastasse Una Canzone” by Italian singer/songwriter Eros Ramazzotti. (See many more on Youtube.) The 3Dvarius website has a step-by-step explanation of how the instrument is made, from initial design to surface treatment and final assembly.

Despite its name and inspiration, the 3Dvarius doesn’t claim to actually duplicate a Stradivarius, a feat long thought impossible by even the finest modern luthiers. Even computer scientists admit: no matter how good machines get at replication, replacing traditional, handmade violins with printed copies “would lead to digitally cloned instruments,” writes Wired, “and the loss of sonic character that makes music, well, music.” And it isn’t only sonic character that matters to musicians. Surprisingly enough, in blind tests, many violinists can’t tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a high-quality newer model violin, but these findings do not diminish the Stradivarius mystique. The look and feel of an instrument and its make and pedigree matter. As musician and writer Clemency Burton-Hill points out, much of our fascination with the Stradivarius violin has to do with the “story of Stradivari,” as well as those of the musicians who have owned and played his instruments.

And though it may be possible to come close to their tones with cheaper modern copies and digital technology, we still gush over Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster or Jimmy Page’s Les Paul. The 3Dvarius, I’ll admit, is a very cool idea, but it’s hard to imagine a digitally-produced plastic artifact ever acquiring the same intangible aura of not only the most famous instruments in the world, but also of unique, hand-crafted new instruments on their way to making history. As Walter Benjamin argued in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility,” it’s the authenticity of “aura”—the specific traces of history and the fingerprints of artists and master craftsmen—that we treasure in art. These are qualities that elude the most advanced technological processes.

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

Download 6600 Free Films from The Prelinger Archives and Use Them However You Like

Features, commercials, art pieces, stock footage, home movies, propaganda: the history of cinema so far has produced countless individual forms, all of which also count as documentaries. Watch any kind of film made sufficiently long ago and you look through a window onto the attitudes, aesthetics, and accoutrements of another time.

And if it’s one made long enough ago or of obscure enough ownership to fall into the public domain, you can incorporate that piece of history into your own modern, era-spanning work in any way you like. Now, Prelinger Archives has made that easier than ever by making more than 6600 films free on the Internet Archive to download and use.

“Prelinger Archives was founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger in New York City,” says the collection’s about page. “Over the next twenty years, it grew into a collection of over 60,000 ‘ephemeral’ (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films. In 2002, the film collection was acquired by the Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division,” and now holds “approximately 11,000 digitized and videotape titles (all originally derived from film) and a large collection of home movies, amateur and industrial films acquired since 2002.” Its mission? “To collect, preserve, and facilitate access to films of historic significance that haven’t been collected elsewhere.”

And what can you find amid these 6000-odd pieces of ephemera hosted on Archive.org? At first glance, they may really strike you as 6000 odd pieces. We’ve previously featured 1958’s Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?, a UCLA student short Ayun Halliday described as the tale of “a white-collar dad and housewife mom… marooned in their individual existential hells, unable to connect” due to the labor-saving devices of the day. 1965’s equally cautionary (as well as often unintentionally hilarious) Perversion for Profit, offers a stern twopart warning against the “pornography which may appear at the local newsstand, malt shop or drugstore.”

Midcentury moralism manifests in countless entertaining forms across the Prelinger Archives collection, including in Make Mine Freedom, a Cold War cartoon treatment of the various treacherous “-isms” out to undermine truth, justice, and the American Way. That came out in 1948, just as fears started roiling again after the United States’ victory in the Second World War. The year before, the husband-and-wife experimental filmmaking team of Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren completed The Private Life of a Cat“Using their own cats in their own apartment,” writes Dangerous Minds’ Amber Frost, “they chronicle the interior world of a cat ‘family,’ and it’s just insanely compelling, even outside of the cat-lady milieu!” Further down, we have House in the Middle (1954), which suggests that a clean, tidy house can help you survive an atomic blast.

But you don’t have to watch everything you dig up from the Prelinger Archives collection in an ironic or avant-garde frame of mind. Some pieces, like amateur filmmaker and inventor Tullio Pellegrini’s 1955 Cinemascope homage to the city of San Francisco just above, offer much in the way of pure historical interest. You can find a few more suggestions about where to start from Tim Brookes at MakeUseOf, who highlights even earlier footage of the City by the Bay, perhaps the most generic film ever made, and instructions on what to do on a date as well as what to do in the event of a nuclear attack — all valuable material for those of us remixing history, one ephemeral clip at a time.

One final thing worth keeping in mind, the Archive comes with this invitation:

You are warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free. Any derivative works that you produce using these films are yours to perform, publish, reproduce, sell, or distribute in any way you wish without any limitations.

If you happen to get creative with the films in the Archive, please feel free to share your creations in the comments section below.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Walter Benjamin Jots in His Notebook Every Book He’s Read Since He Was 18

benjamin gallery 4

If you’re in Berlin, stop by the Galerie Max Hetzler, which is currently staging an exhibition where the Jewish mystic philosopher Walter Benjamin plays a prominent role. Here’s how the gallery sets the scene:

[British artist British artist Edmund] De Waal first came to know the city of Berlin through the writings of Walter Benjamin, particularly his autobiographical fragments in A Berlin Childhood around 1900. The exhibition title, Irrkunst, has been taken from Benjamin’s concept of the art of getting lost, the art of noticing what has been disregarded.

In the Bleibtreustrasse gallery, offering a room with a view on Walter Benjamin’s former school, [De Waal] will show works that reflect Benjamin’s childhood, his passion for gathering objects and the idea of collecting as memory work. Here, amongst others, de Waal will present a major new series of vitrines. Furthermore, a selection of original notes and manuscripts from the Walter Benjamin archive in Berlin will be on view at Bleibtreustrasse and illustrate Benjamin’s own way of working as well as de Waal’s deep fascination with the œuvre of this thinker.

One such item on display, we discovered through Julia Michalska’s Twitter stream, is “Walter Benjamin’s notebook in which he noted all the books he read since he was 18”–a picture of which you can find above. When I zoomed into the image, I couldn’t make out the books on the list. But I did get this detail: By 1931/32, the 40-year-old Benjamin had amassed 1200 books on his list, which means he was reading, on average, 100 books per year. No doubt, they weren’t light ones. If anyone stops by Galerie Max Hetzler and identifies actual titles in the notebook, we’d love it if you could note some in the comments section below.

Update: Some titles were added to the comments below–books by Cocteau, Hemingway, Malraux and more. Check them out.

h/t @TedGioia

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T.S. Eliot Reads From “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” & “The Hollow Men”: His Apocalyptic Post WWI Poems

The T.S. Eliot of the post-World War I period was a poet who stood Janus-faced on the threshold of old and new worlds. He looked backward to the mountain ranges of European tradition and marveled at their alpine peaks. At the same time, he seemed acutely aware of what a ridiculous figure he sometimes cut in his self-serious, pedantic veneration for the past. Eliot acknowledged the inexorable movement of time in poems like “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and “The Hollow Men,” even if time only moved forward into entropy and mediocrity. When Eliot looked ahead, after the horrors of war and the increasing speed of modernization, what he saw was fragmentation, wreckage, and waste. I have heard his strategy in “The Waste Land” described as a “terminal aesthetic”—a beautifully destructive poetics, and one which could go no further.

Eliot’s high modernist poems stand in very different relation to the post-WWI world than the work of forward-looking 20th century avant-garde artists of the period. As James Martin Harding notes in Adorno and “A Writing of the Ruins,” what “distinguishes Eliot from the avant-garde is that… the politics of the avant-garde evinced a faith in revolutionary progress…. One would have to ally Eliot’s imagery with the dawning of the postmodern”—with ideas, that is, of the “end of history.” In terms of form—characterized by pastiche, irony, self-referentiality, and a blending of high and low culture—Eliot’s poetics were distinctly post-modern.

But postmodernists have generally celebrated the fragmenting of tradition and the loss of grand narratives. Eliot cherished the old, destroyed world, and mostly despaired of anything of value replacing it. His immediate predecessors, whom he imitated and referenced often, were the French symbolists and decadents; modernist aesthetes who mourned unnamed catastrophes and catalogued absurd correspondences. Critic Cleanth Brooks singles out one poem that Eliot quotes at the end of “The Waste Land,” Gerard de Nerval’s “El Desdichado,” for its suggestion that “the protagonist of the poem has been disinherited, robbed of his tradition.” Even in translation, we can hear in Nerval’s lines the darkly comic, cosmically ironic, despair of Eliot’s Prufrock:

My very supernova’s been snuffed out, and my one
shiny-tendoned lute has been silenced by DEPRESSION.

I think you can hear that same world-weary depression and sense of cultural exhaustion in Eliot’s voice as he reads from both “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” above and from “The Hollow Men” below (unfortunately drowned out near the end by some added music). I don’t mean to suggest that Eliot himself suffered from some form of clinical depression. But his poetic speakers—and in the case of “The Waste Land” his jumble of competing voices—all join in an apocalyptic chorus as though witnessing the world’s end. Perhaps the poetry exaggerates Eliot’s own personal attitudes for effect, perhaps it acts as a series of guises for the philosophical and critical ideas he explained without artifice in his essays.

This is how many people have read Eliot’s poems, myself included: as containers for abstract ideas about cultural decay and the nature of art and tradition. But Eliot and his sometime editor and friend Ezra Pound would likely object to this kind of approach to poetry. Added at the insistence of his publisher, Eliot’s footnotes to “The Waste Land” seem to mock readers anxious to leap to interpretation. Instead, the poet would ask us to attend not to ideas, but to the images, and the emotions they evoke—and in this case, to attend also to the poet’s voice.

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

Hear “Starlight,” Michael Jackson’s Early Demo of “Thriller”: A Version Before the Lyrics Were Radically Changed

The definitive blockbuster albums of an 80s childhood… maybe you weren’t there, but the Internet has made it so you might as well have been. Prince’s 1999 and Purple Rain, Van Halen’s 1984, Michael Jackson’s Midnight Man, the best-selling album of all time and biggest thing to happen to pop music since Off the Wall. Surely you remember the hit single “Starlight.” Its smooth grooves have burrowed into the brain of anyone who has ever seen a radio. Hit play above and tell me you don’t immediately start singing the chorus:

We need some starlight starlight sun
There ain’t no second chance we got to make it while we can
You need the starlight some starlight sun
I need you by my side you give me starlight starlight tonight yeah

But this sounds an awful lot like that other song, the one you actually remember singing—and dancing—along to every Halloween. In fact, it sounds exactly like “Thriller.” But what’s with these lyrics?

“Starlight” is the song writer Rod Temperton originally penned. And the album title? Temperton tells The Telegraph that after Quincy Jones gave him the assignment, he went back to his hotel room, “wrote two or three hundred titles, and came up with the title ‘Midnight Man.’” It didn’t last long. The next morning, Temperton had an epiphany:

I woke up, and I just said this word… Something in my head just said, this is the title. You could visualize it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as “Thriller.”

The rest is a history so thoroughly embedded in the pop culture matrix that it’s nearly impossible to think things could have been otherwise. “Imagining ‘Thriller’ as anything else,” writes Patrick Rivers at American Music Review, “can be puzzling, even unfathomable.” In his short, but comprehensive survey of Thriller’s creation, Rivers wonders “whether unpolished products of popular artists should be made available.” Do such demos compromise or enhance our appreciation of the final, commercial product? “‘Starlight’ can really disturb prior understandings of Jackson’s career and image,” Rivers concludes; it “does not fit the product or artist that is Michael Jackson.”

And yet, such recordings almost invariably become public eventually: “While years of popular music creation remain behind the blissful curtain, the presence of ‘Starlight’ on social and peer-to-peer networks demonstrates an appetite for this content.” While no similar appetite may exist in the case of great literary works, the shock and surprise at hearing “Starlight” (readily available on YouTube) is akin to that feeling many students of T.S. Eliot’s poetry experience when they discover that his masterpiece The Waste Land was originally titled “He Do the Police in Different Voices” and was a very different work of art before it was heavily edited and even rewritten by Ezra Pound.

The comparison illuminates an important point about all art, commercial or otherwise: that it is very often the product of many hands and the result of many prior versions, and its success depends upon an often ungainly, trial-and-error process that might have led to very different results. “Starlight,” Rivers writes, “elucidates the calculated decisions made in the creation of commercial popular music.” Surely we knew this, yet when it comes to an artist like Michael Jackson at the height of his creative powers, we assume a kind of instant pop perfection, rather than the hit-by-committee process Rivers describes in his article.

In the case of “Thriller,” the committee mostly consisted of Temperton—whose “Starlight” demo had been chosen from hundreds submitted by others—and Quincy Jones, who gently pushed the songwriter toward an edgier theme and secured the great Vincent Price for the song’s outro (written by Temperton in a taxi on the way to the studio; Hear a studio outtake of Price’s voiceover above.) Album engineer Bruce Swedian remembers “the words ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ going between Quincy and Rod. Quincy saying it should be more Edgar Allan Poe. And that ‘Starlight’ isn’t, ‘Thriller’ is.”

Temperton recalled later in his commentary for the 2001 Thriller: Special Edition that as “Thriller” took shape along with “Billie Jean” and “Wanna be Starting Something,” the production team “were kind of giving the whole thing an edge and a direction that some of the other tracks didn’t have.” It was an edge, Rivers notes, “intended to represent Jackson’s unveiling as an adult recording artist,” jumpstarting his transition from child star and the boyish twenty-year-old of Off the Wall.

Delivering to the world a grown-up Michael Jackson in the artist’s next massive hit record was certainly Jones’ intent, though it was Jackson who penned most of album’s edgier songs. Hits like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” arrived nearly fully formed. (Hear “Billie Jean” in a home demo above and an a cappella demo of “Beat It” below.) But it took the brilliance of Quincy Jones and his production “A-Team” to bring these songs to the pop music marketplace, supplying just the right embellishments—like Eddie Van Halen’s “Beat It” solo—to etch these tunes into our collective consciousness forever.

via Kottke

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

Sir Ian McKellen Releases New Apps to Make Shakespeare’s Plays More Enjoyable & Accessible

tempest app

FYI: Ian McKellen, who first made his reputation performing at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s and 80s, has just released the first of a series of iPad apps meant to make Shakespeare’s plays more accessible, especially for high school and college students.

As McKellen explains above, Shakespeare’s plays were originally meant to be seen performed live in a theatre, not read as books. And so these apps feature actors performing dramatic scenes from the plays, while text scrolls by. They’ve just launched the first of 37 apps. It’s devoted to The Tempest, runs $5.99 on iTunes, and frankly seems well worth the price. Benedict Cumberbatch likes it. See below.

The app also includes these features:

  • The full text of The Tempest as published in the First Folio.
  • A full digital version of Arden Shakespeare The Tempest.
  • The ability to switch between three different levels of notes depending on the level of reader’s needs.
  • A full breakdown and explanation of every character and all of their lines across every scene.
  • A linked historical time line of Shakespeare’s life, his plays, his theatres, and contemporary context to put it all into perspective.
  • Video explanations and discussions by both Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate on characters, themes, and the meaning of the play.
  • A full “play at a glance” with illustrations and summaries to explain the play’s plot with key quotes and events.
  • A history of all the major productions of The Tempest from the 17th century to the present day.
  • The option to make notes, copy and highlight text that can be collected, correlated and exported for later use.
  • The option to search the play’s full text and essays.

Keep your eye on Heuristic Shakespeare’s iTunes site for new Shakespeare apps down the line.

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Watch a Video Essay on the Poetic Harmony of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Filmmaking, Then View His Major Films Free Online

“What words would best describe a Tarkovsky film?” asks Lewis Bond, creator of the cinephile video-essay Youtube channel Channel Criswell. He offers a few right away: “Haunting, ethereal, hypnotic, serene.” But appreciators, scholars, and even critics of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, the Soviet director of such austere yet visually rich, serious-minded yet dreamlike, and long artistically scrutinized pictures as Andrei RublevSolarisStalker, and The Mirror (watch them all free online here), could come up with many more. And though the man himself may have denied drawing any inspiration from similarly respected filmmakers — Bresson, Antonioni, Bergman, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, “I have no desire to imitate any of them” — few could avoid exposure to his own widespread and lasting influence on cinema.

Why has Tarkovsky’s work made such an impact? One might argue that the answer has do to with his commitment to “pure cinema,” or in Bond’s words, “to do with film that which couldn’t be done with other art forms.” Solaris may have emerged, extensively rethought, out of the source material of Stanislaw Lem’s eponymous science fiction novel, and Stalker may have more recently provided the elements of a video game (which went on to become a series of novels itself), but none of Tarkovsky’s works can truly exist outside the medium, with all its emotional and experiential power, in which he and his collaborators made them.

In this video essay called “Poetic Harmony,” Bond identifies the purely cinematic qualities of Tarkovsky’s films: from the textures of their visual composition to their selective use of sound (and quietness as well) to build moods and the resistance of their abstraction and ambiguity to intellectual analysis (despite how much viewers continue to fling at them); from their lack of symbolism to their building of characters through not words but action, the connection of scenes through metaphor (as in Nostalghia, which cuts from a man who lights himself on fire to a man who struggles to light a candle), and their use of long takes to build the “pressure of time.” Tarkovsky enthusiasts could hardly disagree, though the time soon comes to put away what The Sacrifice‘s central character calls “words, words, words” and simply watch.

When you’re done watching Bond’s video, you can watch many of Tarkovsky’s major films free online, thanks to Russian film studio Mosfilm.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Making of Japanese Handmade Paper: A Short Film Documents an 800-Year-Old Tradition

For many of us, washi paper is the art supply equivalent of a dish that’s “too pretty to eat.” I love to look at it, but would be loathe to mar its beauty with my amateur creative efforts.

Originally intended for use in lanterns and shoji screens in Japan, its simplicity makes it a stand out among the far more ornamental decorative sheets populating the fancy international paper selections. Though there is no shortage of machine-produced washi on the market these days, the loveliest examples are still handmade in Kurotani, a small town near Kyoto.

Kurotani has the distinction of being Japan’s oldest paper-making town, and as documented by filmmaker Kuroyanagi Takashi, above, the washi process has changed little in 800 years.

In the pre-industrial age, washi-making was seasonal. Farmers planted the paper mulberry (kozo), mitsumata, and gampi plants essential to the process along with their food crops. Come havest-time, they would soak these plants’ fibrous inner barks until they were soft enough to be cleaned and pounded.

Then as now, the resulting pulp was added mixed with liquid and a mucilage to yield a (not particularly delicious sounding, and definitely not too pretty to eat…) spreadable paste.

The sheets are formed on bamboo screens, then stacked and pressed until dry.

The end result is both strong and flexible, making it a favorite of bookbinders. Its absorbency is prized by printmakers, including Rembrandt.

If you have a yen to witness the labor-intensive, traditional process up close, Dutch washi craftsman Rogier Uitenboogaart runs a guest house as part of his studio in nearby Kamikoya.

The rest of us must content ourselves with Takashi’s meditative 5-minute documentary.

via The Kid Should See This

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She writes a monthly column about people who love their jobs for Mainichi Weekly, a bilingual Japanese newspaper. Follow her @AyunHalliday