A 5-Hour, One-Take Cinematic Tour of Russia’s Hermitage Museum, Shot Entirely on an iPhone

In 2002, Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov made cinema history with Russian Ark, which dramatizes a wide swath of his homeland's history in a single, unbroken 96-minute shot. What's more, he and his collaborators shot it all in a single location, one both rich with historical resonance and not exactly wide-open to movie shoots: St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, whose complex includes the former Winter Palace, official residence of Russia's emperors from 1732 to until the 1917 revolution. What viewer could forget Russian Ark's breathtaking final scene, which opens as the camera floats into the midst of a grand ball set in 1913 — taking place in the very hall it would have in 1913?

Now, at least in terms of duration, Apple has gone to the Hermitage and done Sokurov one better: its new advertisement for the iPhone 11 Pro is a five-hour journey through the entire museum, shot by filmmaker Axinya Gog in one continuous take — all, of course, on the phone itself. Like Russian Ark, it constitutes a cinematic achievement not possible before recent technological advances. Sokurov demonstrated the new possibilities of digital video camera that could capture film-like images; Gog demonstrates the new possibilities of a camera-phone with not only the battery life to shoot five straight hours of video, but at a resolution that looks at least as good as the cutting-edge digital video of 2002.

Just above appears the trailer for the ad, which hints that what the full production might lack in storytelling ambitions compared to a film like Russian Ark, it makes up for in not just duration but other human elements. Gog's camera — or rather, iPhone — captures a Hermitage Museum without the usual crowds, striking enough in itself, but also with the addition of skilled dancers and musicians (even beyond those who recorded the video's score). This in addition to no fewer than 588 works of art spread across 43 galleries, including paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Rubens. The deeper you go, the more you'll realize that, even if you've spent serious time in the Hermitage yourself, you've never had this kind of aesthetic experience there before. It may sound excessive to say "watch to the end," but if any five-hour video has ever merited that insistence, here it is.

via Colossal

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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.

Chinese Museums, Closed by the Coronavirus, Put Their Exhibitions Online

Photo by Tom Winckels, via Wikimedia Commons

If you happened to have a trip to China scheduled for this time of year, chances are you don't anymore. Travel to and from that country has been severely curtailed since the Chinese city of Wuhan saw a large-scale outbreak of the novel coronavirus, about which you can get up to speed through the selection of free online courses we featured last week. On an interactive web site from Johns Hopkins you can also keep an eye on the virus' spread, the range and speed of which reminds us of where the expression "going viral" comes from. But a real, biological virus at least can't be transmitted in the digital realm, and so into the digital realm some of China's attractions have begun to migrate.

"Museums around the country have been forced to temporarily close their doors due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak," writes CNN.com's Maggie Hiufu Wong. "In response, China's National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) has asked them to stay active on social media and offer their services digitally."

And so "many museums have opened the doors of their galleries virtually, including Beijing's world-famous Palace Museum, which sits inside the Forbidden City." Though the developing online museum portal at the National Cultural Heritage Administration's web site isn't available outside mainland China, "100 online exhibitions and galleries are linked to from the NCHA website — here and here (both in Chinese)," accessible everywhere and sometimes including information in English.

The variety of online exhibitions highlighted by Wong includes one at the Palace Museum on "how Spring Festival was celebrated in the Forbidden City in ancient China"; Beijing's National Museum's "The Journey Back Home: An Exhibition of Chinese Artifacts Repatriated from Italy" (a country with coronavirus challenges of its own); Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, which "lets online visitors access the museum from the entrance as if they were really there"; and the terracotta warriors at the Mausoleum of Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum, previously featured here on Open Culture. These "new online resources also offer culture seekers an opportunity to experience museums in less-visited cities, including historically rich Wuhan": Wong names the former Site of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Museum of Wuchang Uprising of 1911 Revolution.

The NCHA's urging of cultural institutions to shore up their presences on the internet isn't the only such measure being taken in China. As the MIT Technology Review reported last month, "China has launched a national cloud learning platform and started broadcasting primary school classes to ensure the country’s 180 million students can still keep learning even though schools are closed." The temporary shutdown of schools, museums, libraries, and other such core facilities of civilization in not just China but an increasing number of places around the world offers an occasion to reflect on the nature of our world in the 21st century. Unprecedented interconnectedness across the globe has made possible unprecedented cultural, intellectual, and technological exchange across the globe — but of course, there are always some things we'd rather didn't spread worldwide.

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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.

The Smithsonian Puts 2.8 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain

No matter how many public institutions you visit in a day—schools, libraries, museums, or the dreaded DMV—you may still feel like privatized services are closing in. And if you’re a fan of national parks and public lands, you’re keenly aware they’re at risk of being eaten up by developers and energy companies. The commons are shrinking, a tragic fact that is hardly inevitable but, as Matto Mildenberger argues at Scientific American, the result of some very narrow ideas.

But we can take heart that one store of common wealth has majorly expanded recently, and will continue to grow each year since January 1, 2019—Public Domain Day—when hundreds of thousands of works from 1923 became freely available, the first time that happened in 21 years. This year saw the release of thousands more works into the public domain from 1924, and so it will continue ad infinitum.

And now—as if that weren’t enough to keep us busy learning about, sharing, adapting, and repurposing the past into the future—the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, making them searchable, shareable, and downloadable through the museum’s Open Access platform.

This huge release of “high resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections,” notes Smithsonian Magazine, “is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.”

There are those who would say that these images always belonged to the public as the holdings of a publicly-funded institution sometimes called “the nation’s attic.” It’s a fair point, but shouldn’t take away from the excitement of the news. “Smithsonian” as a conveniently singular moniker actually names “19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo," an enormous collection of art and historic artifacts.

That’s quite a lot to sift through, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, the site’s highlights will direct you to one fascinating image after another, from Mohammad Ali’s 1973 headgear to the historic Elizabethan portrait of Pocahontas, to the collection box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society owned by William Lloyd Garrison’s family, to Walt Whitman in 1891, as photographed by the painter Thomas Eakins, to just about anything else you might imagine.

Enter the Smithsonian’s Open Access archive here and browse and search its millions of newly-public domain images, a massive collection that may help expand the definition of common knowledge.

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

Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download & Color Hundreds of Free Images

There are many roads to wellness. Meditation, yoga, exercise, and healthy diet are all effective therapies for bringing down stress levels. But we shouldn’t discount an activity we once used to while hours away as children, and that adults by the millions have taken to in recent years. Coloring takes us out of ourselves, say experts like Doctor of Psychiatry Scott M. Bea, “it's very much like a meditative exercise.” It relaxes our brain by focusing our attention and pushing distracting and disturbing thoughts to the margins. The low stakes make the activity easy and pleasurable, qualities grown-ups don’t get to ascribe to most of what they spend their time doing.

Reducing anxiety is all well and good, but some art and history lovers can’t accept just any old mass-market coloring book. Luckily, a consortium of over a hundred museums and libraries has given these special customers a reason to stick with it. Since 2016, the annual #ColorOurCollections campaign, led by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), has made available, for free, adult coloring books. The range of images offers something for everyone, from early modern illustrations like the cat at the top, from Edward Topsell’s Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607)—courtesy of Trinity Hall Cambridge; to the poignant cover of The Suffragist, below, from July 1919, a month after U.S. women won the right to the vote (from the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

There are, unsurprisingly, copious illustrations of medical procedures and anatomy, like that below from the Library at the University of Barcelona. There are vintage advertisements, “canoe-heavy content” from a Canadian museum, as Katherine Wu reports at Smithsonian, and war posters like that further down of Admiral Chester Nimitz asking for “the stuff” to hit “the spot,” i.e. Tokyo –from the Pritzker Military Museum. “The only commonality shared by the thousands of prints and drawings available on the NYAM website is their black-and-white appearance: The pages otherwise span just about every taste and illustrative predilection a coloring connoisseur could conjure.”

One Twitter fan pointed out that the initiative provides “a great way to get to know some of the collections held in libraries around the world.” Their enthusiasm is catching. But note that few of the institutions (see full collection here) have uploaded a large quantity of colorable images. Most of the “coloring books” consist of only a handful of pages, some only one or two. Taken altogether, however, the combined strength of one hundred institutions, over four years (see previous years at the links below), adds up to many hundreds of pages of coloring fun and relaxation. If that’s your thing, start here. If you don’t know if it’s your thing, #ColorOurCollections is a free (minus the cost of printer ink and paper), educational way to find out. Grab those crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils, etc. and calm down again the way you did when you were six years old.

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

Radical Women: Stream the Getty’s Podcast That Features Six Major 20th-Century Artists, All Female

Only recently has “actor” become an acceptable gender-neutral term for performers of stage and screen.

Prior to that, we had “actor” and “actress,” and while there may have been some problematic assumptions concerning the type of woman who might be drawn to the profession, there was arguably linguistic parity between the two words.

Not so for artists.

In the not-so-distant past, female artists invariably found themselves referred to as “female artists.”

Not great, when male artists were referred to as (say it with me) “artists.”

The new season of the Getty’s podcast Recording Artists pays tribute to six significant post-war artists—two Abstract Expressionists, a portraitist, a performance artist and experimental musician, and a printmaker who progressed to assemblage and collage works with an overtly social message.

Hopefully you won’t need to reach for your smelling salts upon discovering that all six artists are female:

Alice Neel

Lee Krasner

Betye Saar

Helen Frankenthaler

Yoko Ono

and Eva Hesse

Host Helen Molesworth is also female, and up until recently, served as the much admired Chief Curator of LA's Museum of Contemporary Art. (According to artist Lorna Simpson’s take on Molesworth’s abrupt dismissal: "Women who have a point of view and stand by it are often punished. Just because you get rid of Helen Molesworth doesn’t mean you have solved ‘the problem.’")

Molesworth, who is joined by two art world guests per episode—some of them (gasp!) non-female—is the perfect choice to consider the impact of the Radical Women who give this season its subtitle.

We also hear from the artists themselves, in excepts from taped '60s and ’70s-era interviews with historians Cindy Nemser and Barbara Rose.

Their candid remarks give Molesworth and her guests a lot to consider, from the difficulties of maintaining a consistent artistic practice after one becomes a mother to racial discrimination. A lot of attention is paid to historical context, even when it’s warts and all.

The late Alice Neel, a white artist best remembered for her portraits of her black and brown East Harlem neighbors and friends, cracks wise about butch lesbians in Greenwich Village, prompting Molesworth to remark that she thinks she—or any artist of her acquaintance—could have “easily" swayed Neel to can the homophobic remarks.

It’s also possible that Neel, who died in 1984, would have kept step with the times and made the necessary correction unprompted, were she still with us today.

A couple of the subjects, Yoko Ono and Betye Saar, are alive …and actively creating art, though it’s their past work that seems to be the source of greatest fascination.

When New York City’s Museum of Modern Art reopened its doors following a major physical and philosophical reboot, visitors were treated to The Legends of Black Girl’s Window, an exhibition of the 94-year-old Saar’s work from the ‘60s and ‘70s. New Yorker critic Doreen St. Félix bemoaned the “absence of explicitly black-feminist works,” particularly The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, a mixed media assemblage, Molesworth discusses at length in the podcast episode dedicated to Saar.

MoMA also played host to a massive exhibition of Ono’s early work in 2015, prompting the New York Times critic Holland Cotter to pronounce her “imaginative, tough-minded and still underestimated.”

This is a far cry better than New York Times critic Hilton Kramer’s dismissal of Neel’s 1974 retrospective at the Whitney, when the artist was 74 years old:

… the Whitney, which can usually be counted on to do the wrong thing, devoted a solo exhibition to Alice Neel, whose paintings (we can be reasonably certain) would never have been accorded that honor had they been produced by a man. The politics of the situation required that a woman be given an exhibition, and Alice Neel’s painting was no doubt judged to be sufficiently bizarre, not to say inept, to qualify as something ‘far out.’”

Twenty six years later, his opinion of Neel’s talent had not mellowed, though he had the political sense to dial down the misogyny in his scathing Observer review of Neel’s third show at the Whitney...or did he? In citing curator Ann Temkin’s observation that Neel painted “with the eye of a caricaturist” he makes sure to note that Neel’s subject Annie Sprinkle, "the porn star who became a performance artist, is herself a caricature, no mockery was needed.”

One has to wonder if he would have described the artist’s nude self-portrait at the age of 80 as that of “a geriatric ruin” had the artist been a man.

Listen to all six episodes of Recording Artists: Radical Women and see examples of each subject’s work here.

And while neither Saar nor Ono added any current commentary to the podcast, we encourage you to check out the interviews below in which they discuss their recent work in addition to reflecting on their long artistic careers:

"‘It’s About Time!’ Betye Saar’s Long Climb to the Summit" (The New York Times, 2019)

"The Big Read – Yoko Ono: Imagine The Future" (NME, 2018)

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, February 3 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates New York: The Nation’s Metropolis (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The First Real Museum of Philosophy Prepares to Launch: See the Museo della Filosofia in Milan

You've almost certainly been to more art museums than you can remember, and more than likely to a few museums of natural history, science, and technology as well. But think hard: have you ever set foot inside a museum of philosophy? Not just an exhibition dealing with philosophers or philosophical concepts, but a single institution dedicated wholly to putting the practice of philosophy itself on display. Your answer can approach a yes only if you spent time in Milan last November, and more specifically at the University of Milan, in whose halls the Museo della Filosofia set up shop and proved its surprisingly untested — and surprisingly successful — concept.

"What we had in mind was not an historically-minded museum collecting relics about the lives and works of important philosophers, but something more dynamic and interactive," writes University of Milan postdoctoral research fellow Anna Ichino at Daily Nous, "where philosophical problems and theories become intuitively accessible through a variety of games, activities, experiments, aesthetic experiences, and other such things."

In the first hall, "we used images like Mary Midgely’s ‘conceptual plumbing’ or Wittgenstein’s ‘fly bottle’ to convey the idea according to which philosophical problems are in important respects conceptual problems, which amount to analyzing concepts that we commonly use in unreflective ways."

In the second hall, visitors to the Museo della Filosofia "could literally play with paradoxes and thought experiments in order to appreciate their heuristic role in philosophical inquiry." The experiences available there ranged from using an oversized deck of cards to "solve" paradoxes, the perhaps inevitable demonstration of the well-known "trolley problem" using a model railroad set, and — most harrowing of all — the chance to "eat chocolates shaped as cat excrement" straight from the litter box. Then came the "School of Athens" game, "in which visitors had to decide whether to back Plato or Aristotle; then they could also take a souvenir picture portraying themselves in the shoes (and face!) of one or the other."

In the third, "programmatic" hall, the museum's organizers "presented the plan for what still needs to be done," a to-do list that includes finding a permanent home. Before it does so, you can have a look at the project's web site as well as its pages on Facebook and Instagram. At the top of the post appears a short video introducing the Museo della Filosofia which, like the rest of the materials, is for the moment in Italian only, but it nevertheless gets across even to non-Italian-speakers a certain idea of the experience a philosophical museum can deliver. Philosophical thinking, after all, occurs prior to language. Or maybe it's inextricably tied up with language; different philosophers have approached the problem differently. And when the Museo della Filosofia opens for good, you'll be able to visit and approach a few philosophical problems yourself. Read more about the museum at Daily Nous.

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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.


14 Paris Museums Put 300,000 Works of Art Online: Download Classics by Monet, Cézanne & More

First trips to Paris all run the same risk: that of the museums consuming all of one's time in the city. What those new to Paris need is a museum-going strategy, not that one size will fit all. Tailoring such a strategy to one's own interests and pursuits requires a sense of each museum's collection, something difficult to attain remotely before Paris Musées opened up its online collections portal.

There, a counter tracks the number of artworks from the museums of Paris digitized and uploaded for all the world to see, which as of this writing comes in at 321,055. 150,222 images, notes a counter below, are in the public domain, and below that, another counter reveals that the archive now contains 621,075 pieces of digital media in total.

Among these, writes Hyperallergic's Valentina Di Liscia, "masterpieces by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, and Anthony van Dyck, among many other familiar and lesser-known names, can now be accessed and enjoyed digitally."

She highlights "Paul Cézanne’s enchanting 1899 portrait of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard," pictures taken by "Eugène Atget, the French photographer known for documenting and immortalizing old Paris," and Gustave Courbet’s Les demoiselles des bords de la Seine, which became "the subject of controversy at the Paris Salon of 1857 for what some deemed an indecorous and even sensual portrayal of working class women."

Paris Musées oversees the fourteen City of Paris Museums, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Petit Palais as well as the Maison de Balzac and Maison de Victor Hugo. That last now has a virtual exhibition up called "Light and Shade," which, through the illustrations of Hugo's literary works, reveals the "frenzy of images that adorned 19th century literature," from "the blossoming of the romantic vignette, to the flood of popular editions, and the swansong of those collectors’ editions celebrating the glories of the Third Republic." The "thematic discovering" section of Paris Musées portal also features sections on caricatures of Victor Hugo, on the 18th century, on portraits, and on Paris in the year 1900, when Art Nouveau made it "the capital of Europe."

"Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image," writes Di Liscia. Shown here are Claude Monet Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver, Célestin Nanteuil's La Cour des Miracles, Léon Bonnat's Portrait de M. Victor Hugo, Cézanne’s Rochers et branches à Bibémus, and a postcard for the Exposition universelle de Paris 1889. These images are released under a CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) license, and "works still in copyright will be available as low definition files, so users can still get a feel for the museums’ collections online." Do bear in mind that Paris Musées does not have under its umbrella that most famous museum of all, the Louvre. If you're looking to get a feel for that world-renowned destination's formidable collection, you may just have to visit it — a cultural task that necessitates a battle plan of its own.

via Hyperallergic

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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.

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