An Animated History of Dogs, Inspired by Keith Haring

That quivering teacup Chihuahua…

The long-suffering Labrador whose child-friendly reputation has led to a lifetime of ear tugging and tail pulling…

The wheezing French bulldog, whose owner has outfitted with a full wardrobe of hoodies, tutus, rain slickers, and pajamas

All descended from wolves.

As anthropologist and science educator David Ian Howe explains in the animated TED-Ed lesson, A Brief History of Dogs, above, at first glance, canis lupus seemed an unlikely choice for man’s best friend.

For one thing, the two were in direct competition for elk, reindeer, bison, and other tasty prey wandering Eurasia during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Though both hunted in groups, running their prey to the point of exhaustion, only one roasted their kills, creating tantalizing aromas that drew bolder wolves ever-closer to the human camps.

The ones who willingly dialed down their wolfishness, making themselves useful as companions, security guards and hunting buddies, were rewarded come suppertime. Eventually, this mutually beneficial tail wagging became full on domestication, the first such animal to come under the human yoke.

The intense focus on purebreds didn't really become a thing until the Victorians began hosting dog shows. The push to identify and promote breed-specific characteristics often came at a cost to the animals’ wellbeing, as Neil Pemberton and Michael Worboys point out in BBC History Magazine:

…the improvement of breeds towards ‘perfection’ was controversial. While there was approval for the greater regularity of type, many fanciers complained that standards were being set on arbitrary, largely aesthetic grounds by enthusiasts in specialist clubs, without concern for utility or the health of the animal. This meant that breeds were changing, and not always for the better. For example, the modern St Bernard was said to be a beautiful animal, but would be useless in Alpine rescue work.

Cat-fanciers, rest assured that the opposition received fair and equal coverage in a feline-centric TED-Ed lesson, published earlier this year.

And while we applaud TED-Ed for sparking our curiosity with its “Brief History of” series, covering topics as far ranging as cheese, numerical systems, goths, video games, and tea, surely we are not the only ones wondering why the late artist Keith Haring isn’t thanked or name checked in the credits?

Every canine-shaped image in this animation is clearly descended from his iconic barking dog.

While we can’t explain the omission, we can direct readers toward Jon Nelson’s great analysis of Haring’s relationship with dogs in Get Leashed:

They’re symbolic of unanswered questions, prevalent in the 80s: “Can I do this?” “Is this right?” “What are you doing?” “What is happening?” Dogs stand by people, barking or dancing along, sometimes in precarious scenarios, even involved in some of Haring’s explicitly sexual work. Dogs are neither approving nor disapproving of what people do in the images; their mouth angle is neutral or even happy. In some cases, human bodies wear a dog’s head, possibly stating that we know only our own enjoyment, unaware, like a dog, of life’s next stage or the consequences of our actions.

Visit Ethnocynology, David Ian Howe’s Instagram page about the ancient relationship between humans and dogs.

Related Content:

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

Discover David Lynch’s Bizarre & Minimalist Comic Strip, The Angriest Dog in the World (1983-1992)

Photos of Famous Writers (and Rockers) with their Dogs

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City April 15 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Seder-Masochism, Nina Paley’s Animated, Feminist Take on the Passover Holiday: The Animated Feature Film Is Free and in the Public Domain

Seder-Masochism, copyright abolitionist Nina Paley’s latest animated release, is guaranteed to ruffle feathers in certain quarters, though the last laugh belongs to this trickster artist, who shares writing credit with ”God, Moses or a series of patriarchal males, depending on who you ask.”

Bypassing a commercial release in favor of the public domain goes a long way toward inoculating the film and its creator against expensive rights issues that could arise from the star-studded soundtrack.

It also lets the air out of any affronted parties’ campaigns for mass box office boycotts.

“The criticism seems equally divided between people that say I’m a Zionist and people that say I’m an anti-Zionist,” Paley says of This Land Is Mine, below, a stunning sequence of tribal and inter-tribal carnage, memorably set to Ernest Gold’s theme for the 1960 epic Paul Newman vehicle, Exodus.

Released as a stand-alone short, This Land Is Mine has become the most viewed of Paley’s works. She finds the opposing camps’ equal outcry encouraging, proof that she’s doing “something right.”

More bothersome has been University of Illinois Associate Professor of Gender Studies Mimi Thi Nguyen’s social media push to brand the filmmaker as transphobic. (Paley, no fan of identity politics, states that her “crime was, months earlier, sharing on Facebook the following lyric: 'If a person has a penis he’s a man.'”) Nguyen’s actions resulted in the feminist film’s ouster from several venues and festivals, including Ebertfest in Paley’s hometown and a women’s film festival in Belgium.

What would the ancient fertility goddesses populating both art history and Seder-Masochism have to say about that development?

In Seder-Masochism, these goddess figures, whom Paley earlier transformed into a series of free downloadable GIFs, offer a mostly silent rebuke to those who refuse to acknowledge any conception of the divine existing outside patriarchal tradition.

In the case of Assistant Professor Nguyen, perhaps the goddesses would err on the side of diplomacy (and the First Amendment), framing the dust-up as just one more reason the public should be glad the project's lodged in the public domain. Anyone with access to the Internet and a desire to see the film will have the opportunity to do so. Called out, maybe. Shut down, never.

The goddesses supply a depth of meaning to this largely comic undertaking. Their ample curves inform many of the patterns that give motion to the animated cutouts.

Paley also gets a lot of mileage from replicating supernumerary characters until they march with ant-like purpose or bedazzle in Busby Berkeley-style spectacles. Not since Paul Mazursky’s Tempest have goats loomed so large in cinematic choreography…

Paley’s use of music is another source of abiding pleasure. She casts a wide net—punk, disco, Bulgarian folk, the Beatles, Free to Be You and Me—again, framing her choices as parody. "Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here" accompanies the seventh plague of Egypt (don’t bother looking it up. It’s hail.) Ringo Starr’s famous "Helter Skelter" aside (“I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”) boils down to an apt choice for plague number six. (If you have to think about it…)

The elements of the Seder plate are listed to the strains of "Tijuana Taxi" because… well, who doesn’t love Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass?

Paley’s own religious background is of obvious interest here, and as with her previous feature, Sita Sings the Blues—also in the public domain—the autobiographical element is irresistible. A 2011 audio recording provides the excuse to portray her father, Hiram, who died the year after the interview was conducted, as a Monty Python-esque God. The senior Paley was raised in an observant Jewish household, but lost faith as a young man. An atheist who wanted his children to know something of their heritage, Passover was the one Jewish holiday he continued to celebrate. (He also forbade the kids from participating in any sort of secular Christmas activities.)

A wistful God with the complexion of a dollar bill, Hiram is at times surrounded by putti, in the form of his parents, his contentious Uncle Herschel, and his own sweet younger self.

For these scenes, Paley portrays herself as a spirited “sacrificial goat.” This character finds an echo at film’s end, when “Chad Gadya,” the traditional Passover tune that brings the annual seder to a rollicking conclusion, is brought to life using embroidermation, a form Paley may or may not have invented.

Perhaps Paley’s most subversive joke is choosing Jesus, as depicted in Juan de Juanes’ 1652 painting, The Last Supper, to deliver an educational blow-by-blow of Passover ritual.

Actually, much like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Jesus was ghost-voiced by another performer—Barry Gray, narrator of the midcentury educational recording The Moishe Oysher Seder.

As you may have gleaned, Paley, despite the clean elegance of her animated line, is a maximalist. There’s something for everyone (excepting, of course, Mimi Thi Nguyen)—a gleaming golden idol, a ball bouncing above hieroglyphic lyrics, actual footage of atrocities committed in a state of religious fervor, Moses’ brother Aaron—a figure who’s often shoved to the sidelines, if not left outright on the cutting room floor.

We leave you with Paley’s prayer to her Muse, found freely shared on her website:

Our Idea

Which art in the Ether

That cannot be named;

Thy Vision come

Thy Will be done

On Earth, as it is in Abstraction.

Give us this day our daily Spark

And forgive us our criticisms

As we forgive those who critique against us;

And lead us not into stagnation

But deliver us from Ego;

For Thine is the Vision

And the Power

And the Glory forever.

Amen.

Watch Seder-Masochism in its entirety up top, or download it here. Purchase the companion book here.

Related Content:

Sita Sings the Blues Now on YouTube

Celebrate the Women’s March with 24 Goddess GIFs Created by Animator Nina Paley: They’re Free to Download and Remix

Watch Nina Paley’s “Embroidermation,” a New, Stunningly Labor-Intensive Form of Animation

Introduction to the Old Testament: A Free Yale Course 

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

An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

Ancient Greece and Rome have provided fertile hunting grounds for animated subject matter since the very inception of the form.

So what if the results wind up doing little more than frolic in the pastoral setting? Witness 1930’s Playful Pan, above, which can basically be summed up as Silly Symphony in a toga (with a cute bear cub who looks a lot like Mickey Mouse and some flame play that prefigures The Sorcerer’s Apprentice…)

Others are packed with history, mythic narrative, and period details, though be forewarned that not all are as visually appealing as Steve Simons’ Hoplites! Greeks at War, part of the Panoply Vase Animation Project.

Some series, such as the Asterix movies and Aesop and Sona staple of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from 1959 to 1962have been the gateways through which many history lovers’ curiosity was first roused.

(Russian animator Anatoly Petrov’s erotic shorts for Soyuzmultfilm may rouse other, er, curiosities, and are definitely NSFW.)

And then there are instant classics like 2004’s It's All Greek to Scooby in which “Shaggy's purchase of a mysterious amulet only serves to cause a pestering archaeologist and centaur to chase him.”  (Ye gods…)

Senior Lecturer of Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt, Chiara Sulprizio, has collected all of these and more on her blog, Animated Antiquity.

Beginning with the 2-minute fragment that’s all we have left of Winsor McCay’s 1921 The Centaurs, Sulprizio shares some of her favorite cartoon representations of ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond. Her areas of professional specializationgender and sexuality, Greek comedy, and Roman satireare well suited to her chosen hobby, and her commentary doubles down on historical context to include the history of animation.

The appearance of cartoon stars like Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye further demonstrates this antique subject matter’s sturdiness. TED-Ed and the BBC may view the genre as an excellent teaching tool, but there’s nothing stopping the animator from shoehorning some fabrications in amongst the buxom nymphs and buff gladiators.

(Raise your hand if your mother ever sacrificed you on the altar to Spinachia, goddess of spinach, in hopes that she might unleash a mushroom cloud of super-atomic power in your puny bicep.)

You’ll find a number of entries featuring the work of Japanese and Russian animators, including Thermae Romae, part of the juggernaut that’s sprung from Mari Yamazaki’s popular graphic novel series and Icarus and the Wise Men from the legendary Fyodor Khitruk, whose retelling of the myth sent a message about freedom from the Soviet Union, circa 1976.

Begin your decade-by-decade explorations of Chiara Sulprizio’s animated antiquities here or suggest that a missing favorite be added to the collection. (We vote for this one!)

Related Content:

Watch Art on Ancient Greek Vases Come to Life with 21st Century Animation

18 Classic Myths Explained with Animation: Pandora’s Box, Sisyphus & More

An Animated Reconstruction of Ancient Rome: Take A 30-Minute Stroll Through the City’s Virtually-Recreated Streets

25 Animations of Great Literary Works: From Plato, Dostoevsky & Dickinson, to Kafka, Hemingway & Bradbury

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

Mythos: An Animation Retells Timeless Greek Myths with Abstract Modern Designs

Designer Stephen Kelleher and animator Chris Guyot present "Mythos," an animation that tells timeless stories--Greek myths--with simple abstract designs. Here's how they describe this project where the ancient unexpectedly meets the modern:

For centuries the Greek Myths have been used as cautionary tales and teaching tools for people both young and old. These stories convey deep wisdom about the human condition which continue to resonate with us. I wanted to honor these ancient stories by interpreting them in the age of the pixel and gif.

The challenge was to communicate these complex stories in the most minimal way possible while retaining their essence. By having each vignette loop seamlessly, the timeless and perennial nature of these stories are reinforced. Ultimately these animations serve as visual shorthand for ancient truths which are as relevant today as they were when first told.

Sisyphus:

After numerous transgressions, Zeus decided to punish the deceitful king Sisyphus once and for all by forcing him to push a huge enchanted boulder up a steep hill. As soon as he reached the top, the boulder would roll back down to the base of the hill, condemning Sisyphus to an eternity of frustrated labor.

Icarus:

King Minos imprisoned Icarus in a tower alongside his father, the master craftsman Daedalus. As a means of escape Daedalus created a set of wings made of feathers and wax for his son but warned him not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus did not however heed his father’s advice. His wings dissolved and Icarus fell into the sea below and drowned.

Persephone:

The daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone was abducted by the god of the underworld Hades. Although Zeus intervened and brought her back to the land of the living, Persephone was bound to Hades for four months of each year. In her grief, Demeter would make the soils barren thereby creating winter while Persephone’s return would mark the start of the spring.

Narcissus:

As punishment for mortal Narcissus’ cruel treatment of the nymph Echo, he was cursed by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. She led him to a pool where upon seeing his own reflection, he became besotted with his image and was unable to leave. Fixated, starving and in despair, he fell into the pool and drowned.

Midas:

Having done a great service for the god Dionysus, King Midas was granted one wish of his choosing. He wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. Upon turning food, water and even his own daughter to gold however, he soon realized his foolishness and prayed to Dionysus to undo his wish. Dionysus took pity on King Midas and duly undid the wish.

Theseus:

A Greek hero of many adventures, Theseus is best known for his defeat of the Minotaur. Under the decree of King Minos, every year fourteen young Atheneans were sacrificed to the Minotaur - a monstrous half bull, half man who resided deep within the Labyrinth. Not only was Theseus able to slay the Minotaur but he also successfully escaped the complex Labyrinth, solidifying his legend.

Enjoy...

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. 

via Aeon

Related Content:

A Short Video Introduction to Hilma af Klint, the Mystical Female Painter Who Helped Invent Abstract Art

36 Abstract Covers of Vintage Psychology, Philosophy & Science Books Come to Life in a Mesmerizing Animation

Free Courses on Design from the Famous California Design Firm IDEO Start This Week

An Animated Introduction to the Famous Thought Experiment, the “Trolley Problem,” Narrated by Harry Shearer

You don't have to get too deep into the study of ethics before you run across the trolley problem. It comes up so readily that it hardly needs an introduction: a runaway train is on course to collide with and kill five people working on the tracks, but you can pull a lever that will switch it to another section of track on which stands only one person. Do you pull it? According to a purely utilitarian interpretation, you should, since one life lost surely beats five lives lost. But faced with the decision, real individuals tend to struggle: not pulling the lever feels like letting five people die, but pulling it feels like murdering one.

What if you could stop the train by pushing one especially large individual off a bridge into the train's path, stopping it but killing him? Few say, or at least admit, that they would do it. But why not? The Harry Shearer-narrated animation above, a part of BBC Radio 4 and The Open University's series on the history of ideas, considers what our responses reveal about how we think ethically.

"What the trolley problem examines is whether moral decisions are simply about outcomes, or about the manner in which you achieve them," says Shearer. "Lots of people say they would switch the points, but they wouldn't push the man off the bridge. Are they simply inconsistent... or are they on to something?

The TED-Ed video just above, written by educator Eleanor Nelsen, gets deeper into what they might be on to. "The dilemma in its many variations reveals that what we think is right or wrong depends on factors other than a logical weighing of the pros and cons," says Nelsen. "For example, men are more likely than women to say it's okay to push the man over the bridge. So are people who watch a comedy clip before doing the thought experiment. And in one virtual reality study, people were more willing to sacrifice men than women." The study of "Trolleyology," a subject since Philippa Foot first articulated the problem in 1967, now finds "researchers who study autonomous systems" collaborating with philosophers "to address the complex problem of programming ethics into machines." Alternatively, of course, they could just put the question to the nearest two-year-old.

Related Content:

How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch Philosophy Animations on Ethics Narrated by Harry Shearer

What Is Freedom? Watch Four Philosophy Animations on Freedom & Free Will Narrated by Harry Shearer

48 Animated Videos Explain the History of Ideas: From Aristotle to Sartre

Oxford’s Free Course A Romp Through Ethics for Complete Beginners Will Teach You Right from Wrong

Watch a 2-Year-Old Solve Philosophy’s Famous Ethical “Trolley Problem” (It Doesn’t End Well)

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.

An Animated Introduction to the Chaotic Brilliance of Jean-Michel Basquiat: From Homeless Graffiti Artist to Internationally Renowned Painter

By the late 1970s, New York City had fallen into such a shambolic state that nobody could have been expected to notice the occasional streak of additional spray paint here and there. But somehow the repeated appearance of the word "SAMO" caught the attention of even jaded Lower Manhattanites. That tag signified the work of Al Diaz and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the latter of whom would create work that, four decades later, would sell for over $110 million at auction, a record-breaking number for an American artist. But by then he had already been dead for nearly 20 years, brought down by a heroin overdose at 27, an age that reflects not just his rock-star status in life but his increasingly legendary profile after it.

"Born in 1960 to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat spent his childhood making art and mischief in Boerum Hill," Brooklyn, says University of Maryland art history professor Jordana Moore Saggese in the animated Ted-Ed introduction above. "While he never attended art school, he learned by wandering through New York galleries, and listening to the music his father played at home."

He seems to have drawn inspiration from everything around him, "scribbling his own versions of cartoons, comic books and biblical scenes on scrap paper from his father’s office" (leading to a method that has something in common with William Burroughs' cut-up techniques). He also spent a great deal of artistically formative time laid up in the hospital after a car accident, poring over a copy of Gray's Anatomy given to him by his mother, which "ignited a lifelong fascination with anatomy that manifested in the skulls, sinew and guts of his later work."

A skull happens to feature prominently in that $110 million painting of Basquiat's, but he also made literally thousands of other works in his short life, having turned full-time to art after SAMO hit it big on the Soho art scene. The day job he quit was at a clothing warehouse, a position he landed, after a period of unemployment and even homelessness, when the company's founder spotted him spray-painting a building at night. Success came quickly to the young Basquiat, but it certainly didn't come without effort: still, when we regard his paintings today, don't we feel compelled by not just what Saggesse calls a distinctive "inventive visual language" and hyper-referential "physical evidence of Basquiat’s restless and prolific mind," but also of the glimpse they offer into the rare life lived at maximum productivity, maximum intensity, and maximum speed?

To delve deeper into the world of Basquiat, you can watch two documentaries online: Basquiat: Rage to Riches, and Jean Michel Basquiat-The Radiant Child.

Related Content:

Take a Close Look at Basquiat’s Revolutionary Art in a New 500-Page, 14-Pound, Large Format Book by TASCHEN

The Odd Couple: Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, 1986

Google Puts Online 10,000 Works of Street Art from Across the Globe

Big Bang Big Boom: Graffiti Stop-Motion Animation Creatively Depicts the Evolution of Life

The Creativity of Female Graffiti & Street Artists Will Be Celebrated in Street Heroines, a New Documentary

How to Jumpstart Your Creative Process with William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Technique

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.

Jim Morrison Declares That “Fat is Beautiful” …. And Means It

There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance in a young rock god giving voice to the fat pride movement some four decades after his death.

Years before social media amplified celebrity weight gain coverage to the realm of national news, The Doors’ lead singer, Lizard King Jim Morrison, was the subject of intense bodily scrutiny.

The musician’s drug of choice—alcohol—swiftly added some extra cushioning to the sexy, shirtless young lion image photographer Joel Brodsky managed to capture in 1967.

That lean, leather-panted version is the one the Morrison director Patrick Smith went with for the Blank on Blank animation above, using audio from a 1969 interview with the Village Voice’s Howard Smith (no relation).

Occasionally animator Smith balloons the 2-D Morrison’s belly for humorous effect, but let’s be frank. By today’s standards, the 5’11 Morrison, who by his own estimate tipped the scales at 185lb, was hardly "fat."

Pleasingly plump perhaps...

Filling out...

Eating (and drinking) like someone whose bank account didn't require belt tightening.

His compassion toward generously proportioned bodies likely sprang from early experience.

As photographer Linda McCartney recalled in Linda McCartney’s The Sixties—Portrait Of An Era:

He … told me that he’d grown up as a fat kid that no one wanted to know and that this had caused him a lot of emotional pain.

Then he explained what had brought it all to the surface. Apparently he had been walking around Greenwich Village that morning and a girl who he knew as a child had spotted him and started going crazy over him. That bothered him because he sensed the hypocrisy of it all. When he was a fat military brat these people had rejected and ignored him but now, because of his new public image, they were fawning over him.

That “new public image” is the one most of us think of first when thinking of Jim Morrison, but as a flesh and blood exemplar, it was unsustainable. Photographer Brodsky reflects:

The shot on the inner sleeve of the Greatest Hits album was pretty near the end, I think. By that time, he was so drunk he was stumbling into the lights and we had to stop the session. Morrison never really looked that way again, and those pictures have become a big part of The Doors’ legend. I think I got him at his peak.

Morrison didn’t dwell on childhood miseries in his Village Voice interview, nor did he show any self-loathing or regret for physiques past.

Rather, he gave voice to the positive effects of his increased size. He felt like a tank, a beast—a body of consequence.

(To consider the implications of bodily size for a female in Morrison’s world, have a look at cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu’s California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas and The Papas.)

Related Content:

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Preserves Jim Morrison’s Final Poetry Recordings from 1971

The Last Known Photos of Jim Morrison, Taken Days Before His Death in Paris (June 1971)

The Doors Play Live in Denmark & LA in 1968: See Jim Morrison Near His Charismatic Peak

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City March 11 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

More in this category... »
Quantcast