Time Travel Back to 1926 and Watch Wassily Kandinsky Make Art in Some Rare Vintage Video

Have you ever won­dered what it would be like to trav­el back in time and look over the shoul­der of one of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry’s great­est artists to watch him work? In this brief film from 1926, we get to see the Russ­ian painter Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky as he turns a blank can­vas into one of his dis­tinc­tive abstract com­po­si­tions.

The film was made at the Galerie Neu­mann-Nieren­dorf in Berlin by Hans Cürlis, a pio­neer in the mak­ing of art doc­u­men­taries. At the time the film was made Kandin­sky was teach­ing at the Bauhaus. It was the same year he pub­lished his sec­ond major trea­tise, On Point and Line to Plane. The con­trast­ing straight lines and curves that Kandin­sky paints in the movie are typ­i­cal of this peri­od, when his approach was becom­ing less intu­itive and more con­scious­ly geo­met­ric.

Kandin­sky believed that an artist could reach deep­er truths by dis­pens­ing with the depic­tion of exter­nal objects and by look­ing with­in, and despite his ana­lyt­ic turn at the Bauhaus he con­tin­ued to speak of art in deeply mys­ti­cal terms. In On Point and Line to Plane, Kandin­sky writes:

The work of Art mir­rors itself upon the sur­face of our con­scious­ness. How­ev­er, its image extends beyond, to van­ish from the sur­face with­out a trace when the sen­sa­tion has sub­sided. A cer­tain trans­par­ent, but defini­nite glass-like par­ti­tion, abol­ish­ing direct con­tact from with­in, seems to exist here as well. Here, too, exists the pos­si­bil­i­ty of enter­ing art’s mes­sage, to par­tic­i­pate active­ly, and to expe­ri­ence its pul­sat­ing life with all one’s sens­es.

kandinsky 1926

Relat­ed con­tent:

Helen Mir­ren Tells Us Why Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Is Her Favorite Artist (And What Act­ing & Mod­ern Art Have in Com­mon)

The Inner Object: See­ing Kandin­sky

Vin­tage Footage of Picas­so and Jack­son Pol­lock Paint­ing … Through Glass

Watch Icon­ic Artists at Work: Rare Videos of Picas­so, Matisse, Kandin­sky, Renoir, Mon­et, Pol­lock & More

Sonny Rollins Plays Jazz on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1977 Pioneer Electronics Ad

In this 1977 tele­vi­sion ad for Pio­neer Elec­tron­ics, jazz sax­o­phone great Son­ny Rollins wails into the New York City night air while stand­ing on the Brook­lyn Bridge. A voice-over announc­er tells view­ers of Rollins’ 1959–61 hia­tus from the jazz scene, when he took his sound to the streets to redis­cov­er him­self musi­cal­ly. It’s most­ly a true sto­ry. Only trou­ble is, Rollins actu­al­ly retired to the Williams­burg Bridge—admit­ted­ly not quite as pic­turesque! Here’s the sto­ry as Rollins tells it:

In the 50s and 60s, Lucille and I had a small apart­ment on Grand Street on the Low­er East Side of New York. It was a nice time. I had a lot of friends there and I was wel­comed by the neigh­bor­hood peo­ple. Like most of New York, the Low­er East Side has under­gone gen­tri­fi­ca­tion but back then, it was a much more eth­nic place.

I start­ed prac­tic­ing in the house because I had to prac­tice, but I felt guilty because I’m a sen­si­tive per­son and I know that peo­ple need qui­et in their apart­ments.

I was walk­ing on Delancey Street one day, not far from where I lived on Grand Street and I just hap­pened to look up and see these steps that I decid­ed to check out. And there, of course, was the bridge, the Williams­burg Bridge. It was this nice big expanse going over the East Riv­er. There was nobody up there. So I start­ed walk­ing across the bridge and said, “Wow. This is what I have been look­ing for. This is a pri­vate place. I can blow my horn as loud as I want.” Because the boats are com­ing under, and the sub­way is com­ing across, and cars, and I knew it was per­fect, just serendip­i­ty. Then, I began get­ting my horn and going up there reg­u­lar­ly. I would be up there 15 or 16 hours at a time spring, sum­mer, fall and win­ter.

Rollins’ per­fec­tion­ism paid off. He returned to the music busi­ness with his bril­liant 1962 album The Bridge, a chron­i­cle of where he’d been those four years, some­times in freez­ing cold tem­per­a­tures, alone or with friends. British doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er Dick Fontaine cap­tured Rollins dis­cussing his bridge sab­bat­i­cal and has released a 2012 film about Rollins called Beyond the Notes, which fea­tures live per­for­mances of the jazz great in his 80s, and has been show­ing in the UK since last spring. Rollins recent­ly took home three tro­phies from the annu­al Jazz Awards in New York, includ­ing a best-record award for his lat­est album of live record­ings, Road Shows, Vol. 2.

Josh Jones is cur­rent­ly a doc­tor­al stu­dent in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

Science Behind the Bike: Four Videos from the Open University on the Eve of the Tour de France

Right in time for the Tour de France (which gets under­way tomor­row) the Open Uni­ver­si­ty has released a new video series called Sci­ence Behind the Bike. Dur­ing the past two decades, sci­ence has tak­en cycling to new places — some­times good, some­times bad. The intro­duc­tion of per­for­mance enhanc­ing drugs near­ly dam­aged the sport beyond repair, and it cer­tain­ly destroyed the careers and rep­u­ta­tions of many lead­ing cyclists. But all along, some­where out­side the pub­lic glare, many well-inten­tioned sci­en­tif­ic minds have toiled away, try­ing to find legit­i­mate ways to advance the sport. Phys­i­ol­o­gists, physi­cists, engi­neers, soft­ware design­ers, techies from For­mu­la 1 rac­ing — they’ve all brought a new per­spec­tive to cycling.

In the video above, Sci­ence Behind the Bike looks at how sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy have influ­enced the mak­ing and break­ing of the pres­ti­gious World Hour Record first estab­lished in 1893. Then, below, Forces breaks down the physics of cycling; Phys­i­ol­o­gy explains, well, the phys­i­ol­o­gy that boosts per­for­mance; and Tech­nol­o­gy digs deep­er into the high-tech hard­ware that cyclists push along. If you’re a fan of the sport, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly appre­ci­ate appear­ances by Chris Board­man, Francesco Moser, Graeme Obree and Rebec­ca Romero.




Relat­ed Con­tent:

Brus­sels Express: The Per­ils of Cycling in Europe’s Most Con­gest­ed City

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

The Physics of the Bike

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 1 ) |

Two Vintage Films by Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or

While study­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Madrid in the late 1910s, a young Luis Buñuel befriend­ed an even younger Sal­vador Dalí. The first fruit of their asso­ci­a­tion, a short film called Un Chien Andalou, appeared a decade lat­er, in 1929, and quick­ly achieved the inter­na­tion­al renown it still has today. Sev­er­al ele­ments had to fall into place to bring this cin­e­mat­ic dream — or cin­e­mat­ic night­mare, or, most accu­rate­ly, some­thing neb­u­lous­ly in-between — into real­i­ty. First, Buñuel gained expe­ri­ence in the medi­um by assis­tant-direct­ing on major silent-era Euro­pean films like Mauprat, La chute de la mai­son Ush­er, and La Sirène des Tropiques. Then, Buñuel dreamt of the simul­ta­ne­ous image of a cloud slic­ing through the moon and a razor slic­ing through an eye. Then, Dalí dreamt of a human hand cov­ered in ants. With those two visu­als in place, they pro­ceed­ed to col­lab­o­rate on the rest of the film, work­ing under the prin­ci­ple that “no idea or image that might lend itself to a ratio­nal expla­na­tion of any kind would be accept­ed.”

We could dis­cuss Un Chien Andalou’s ratio­nal­ly inex­plic­a­ble images, but would­n’t that defeat the pur­pose? The moon, the eye, the hand, the ants, the cyclist in the nun’s habit — these non­sen­si­cal but endur­ing images must be seen, and you can do that free on YouTube. But at six­teen min­utes, the movie will only whet your aes­thet­ic appetite for Buñuel and Dalí’s par­tic­u­lar fla­vor of flam­boy­ant­ly non­sen­si­cal, grim­ly satir­i­cal imagery. Luck­i­ly, you can fol­low it up with 1930’s L’Age d’Or, which began as anoth­er Buñuel-Dalí joint ven­ture until the two sud­den­ly went their sep­a­rate ways after writ­ing the script. Buñuel took over, craft­ing a wry­ly sav­age five-part cri­tique of the Roman Catholic Church. Buñuel and Dalí had pre­pared them­selves for shock-induced phys­i­cal vio­lence at the pre­miere of Un Chien Andalou, only to find that the crowd had hearti­ly approved. But L’Age d’Or drew enough fire for both pic­tures and then some, get­ting banned in France and even­tu­al­ly with­drawn from dis­tri­b­u­tion until re-emerg­ing in 1979. Now you can watch it when­ev­er you like on the inter­net, sug­gest­ing that the con­tro­ver­sy has evap­o­rat­ed — yet the images remain as sur­re­al a way as any to begin your week­end. A restored ver­sion of the film can be viewed here.

You will find these sur­re­al films list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man: The World’s First Sur­re­al­ist Film

A Tour Inside Sal­vador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Span­ish Home

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Jason Silva Preaches the Gospel of “Radical Openness” in Espresso-Fueled Video (at TEDGlobal 2012)

The TED­G­lob­al 2012 con­fer­ence kicked off this week in Edin­burgh, Scot­land, with “Rad­i­cal Open­ness” being its main theme. How do we learn from one anoth­er and relate to one anoth­er in an inter­con­nect­ed world? And how do ideas spread, as TED would say, in our glob­al com­mu­ni­ty? Those are the basic ques­tions at hand.

Some­times called a “per­for­mance philoso­pher,” the film­mak­er Jason Sil­va offered up anoth­er one of his “philo­soph­i­cal shots of espres­so,” cre­at­ing a video that preach­es the gospel of Rad­i­cal Open­ness. Thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Matt Rid­ley, Steven John­son, Kevin Kel­ly, and Ray Kurzweil pro­vide the inspi­ra­tion.

For the priv­i­lege of con­tem­plat­ing the con­cept of Rad­i­cal Open­ness, audi­ence mem­bers paid $6,000 a pop. The rest of us will get to watch the talks on video in due time.

via The TED Blog

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 2 ) |

The Spanish Earth: Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 Film on The Spanish Civil War

Ger­man war­planes cross the sky. Explo­sions flash. Shell-shocked vil­lagers stag­ger out of their dam­aged homes and begin to grieve. “Before,” says Ernest Hem­ing­way in his flat Mid­west­ern accent, “death came when you were old or sick. But now it comes to all this vil­lage. High in the sky and shin­ing sil­ver, it comes to all who have no place to run, no place to hide.”

The scene is from the 1937 film The Span­ish Earth, an impor­tant visu­al doc­u­ment of the Span­ish Civ­il War and a rare record of the famous writer’s voice. Hem­ing­way went to Spain in the spring of 1937 to report on the war for the North Amer­i­can News­pa­per Alliance (NANA), but spent a good deal of time work­ing on the film. Before leav­ing Amer­i­ca, he and a group of artists that includ­ed Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Pas­sos and Lil­lian Hell­man band­ed togeth­er to form Con­tem­po­rary His­to­ri­ans, Inc., to pro­duce a film to raise aware­ness and mon­ey for the Span­ish Repub­li­can cause. The group came up with $18,000 in pro­duc­tion money–$5,000 of it from Hemingway–and hired the Dutch doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er Joris Ivens, a pas­sion­ate left­ist, to make the movie.

MacLeish and Ivens draft­ed a short out­line for the sto­ry, with a theme of agrar­i­an reform. It was MacLeish who came up with the title. The film, as they envi­sioned it, would tell the sto­ry of Spain’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle through the expe­ri­ence of a sin­gle vil­lage. To do that, Ivens planned to stage a num­ber of scenes. When he and cam­era­man John Fern­hout (known as “Fer­no”) arrived in Spain they decid­ed to focus on the tiny ham­let of Fuent­e­dueña de Tajo, south­east of Madrid, but they soon real­ized it would be impos­si­ble to set up elab­o­rate his­tor­i­cal re-enact­ments in a coun­try at war. They kept the theme of agrar­i­an strug­gle as a coun­ter­point to the war. When Dos Pas­sos arrived in Fuent­e­dueña, he encour­aged that approach. “Our Dutch direc­tor,” wrote Dos Pas­sos, “did agree with me that, instead of mak­ing the film pure­ly a blood and guts pic­ture we ought to find some­thing being built for the future amid all the mis­ery and mas­sacre.”

That changed when Hem­ing­way arrived. The friend­ship between the two writ­ers was dis­in­te­grat­ing at the time, so they did­n’t work togeth­er on the project. It was agreed upon in advance that Hem­ing­way would write the com­men­tary for the film, but while in Spain he also helped Ivens and Fern­hout nav­i­gate the dan­gers of the war zone. “Hem­ing­way was a great help to the film crew,” writes Hans Schoots in Liv­ing Dan­ger­ous­ly: A Biog­ra­phy of Joris Ivens. “With a flask of whisky and raw onions in his pock­ets, he lugged equip­ment and arranged trans­port. Ivens gen­er­al­ly wore bat­tle dress and a black beret. Hem­ing­way went as far as a beret but oth­er­wise stuck to civvies. Although he rarely wore glass­es, he almost nev­er took them off in Spain, clear evi­dence of the seri­ous­ness of their task.” In “Night Before Bat­tle,” a short sto­ry based par­tial­ly on his expe­ri­ence mak­ing the movie, Hem­ing­way describes what it’s like film­ing in a place where the glint from your cam­era lens draws fire from ene­my snipers:

At this time we were work­ing in a shell-smashed house that over­looked the Casa del Cam­po in Madrid. Below us a bat­tle was being fought. You could see it spread out below you and over the hills, could smell it, could taste the dust of it, and the noise of it was one great slith­er­ing sheet of rifle and auto­mat­ic rifle fire ris­ing and drop­ping, and in it came the crack of the guns and the bub­bly rum­bling of the out­go­ing shells fired from the bat­ter­ies behind us, the thud of their bursts, and then the rolling yel­low clouds of dust. But it was just too far to film well. We had tried work­ing clos­er but they kept snip­ing at the cam­era and you could not work.

The big cam­era was the most expen­sive thing we had and if it was smashed we were through. We were mak­ing the film on almost noth­ing and all the mon­ey was in the cans of film and the cam­eras. We could not afford to waste film and you had to be awful­ly care­ful of the cam­eras.

The day before we had been sniped out of a good place to film from and I had to crawl back hold­ing the small cam­era to my bel­ly, try­ing to keep my head low­er than my shoul­ders, hitch­ing along on my elbows, the bul­lets whock­ing into the brick wall over my back and twice spurt­ing dirt over me.

The West­ern front at Casa de Cam­po on the out­skirts of Madrid was just a few min­utes’ walk from the Flori­da Hotel, where the film­mak­ers were stay­ing. Any doubt about whether the pas­sage from “Night Before Bat­tle” is auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal are dis­pelled in the fol­low­ing excerpt from one of Hem­ing­way’s NANA dis­patch­es, quot­ed by Schoots:

Just as we were con­grat­u­lat­ing our­selves on hav­ing such a splen­did obser­va­tion post and the non-exis­tent dan­ger, a bul­let smacked against a cor­ner of brick wall beside Iven­s’s head. Think­ing it was a stray, we moved over a lit­tle and, as I watched the action with glass­es, shad­ing them care­ful­ly, anoth­er came by my head. We changed our posi­tion to a spot where it was not so good observ­ing and were shot at twice more. Joris thought Fer­no had left his cam­era at our first post, and as I went back for it a bul­let whacked into the wall above. I crawled back on my hands and knees, and anoth­er bul­let came by as I crossed the exposed cor­ner. We decid­ed to set up the big tele­pho­to cam­era. Fer­no had gone back to find a health­i­er sit­u­a­tion and chose the third floor of a ruined house where, in the shade of a bal­cony and with the cam­era cam­ou­flaged with old clothes we found in the house, we worked all after­noon and watched the bat­tle.

In May, Ivens returned to New York to over­see the work of edi­tor Helen van Don­gen. Hem­ing­way soon fol­lowed. When Ivens asked Hem­ing­way to clar­i­fy the theme of the pic­ture, accord­ing to Ken­neth Lynn in his biog­ra­phy Hem­ing­way, the writer sup­plied three sen­tences: “We gained the right to cul­ti­vate our land by demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions. Now the mil­i­tary cliques and absen­tee land­lords attack to take our land from us again. But we fight for the right to irri­gate and cul­ti­vate this Span­ish Earth which the nobles kept idle for their own amuse­ment.” (more…)

Stanford Launches iPhone/iPad App Course on iTunesU (with New Peer-to-Peer Learning Features)

Just about every­body these days is devel­op­ing an app, right? A few lucky coders might see their work up in lights if they act fast.

Apps designed by the first 1,000 devel­op­ers to reg­is­ter for Stanford’s new online course on iTune­sU will be con­sid­ered for show­cas­ing on the university’s iTunes site.

The course, Cod­ing Togeth­er, is based on the pop­u­lar class­room ver­sion taught by Paul Hegar­ty at Stan­ford. It cov­ers iOS 5 and focus­es on apps for the iPhone and iPad plat­form. Sign-up ends on July 6 and the course runs until August 27. Lec­tures from ear­li­er ver­sions of the iTune­sU course were incred­i­bly pop­u­lar. Some were down­loaded more than 10 mil­lion times. But the new iTune­sU course offers some new social net­work­ing and learn­ing tools.

Stan­ford has teamed up with the social learn­ing plat­form Piaz­za to enable stu­dents to pose ques­tions to course instruc­tors, oth­er stu­dents and app devel­op­ers around the world 24 hours a day. It’s a fea­ture that on-cam­pus Stan­ford stu­dents already have access to, but it’s a first for iTune­sU. And it adds a whole new degree of inter­ac­tiv­i­ty to the iTune­sU course expe­ri­ence.

As of Thurs­day after­noon, 11,065 stu­dents enrolled in the course, with signups con­tin­u­ing in the hun­dreds per day. And, col­lab­o­ra­tive study groups have spon­ta­neous­ly popped up all around the world — from Sil­i­con Val­ley, to Brazil and Ger­many, to India, Chi­na and Bangladesh.

Again, you can find the Cod­ing Togeth­er lec­tures on iTune­sU here, and sign up for Piaz­za­’s peer-to-peer learn­ing groups here. We also have 50 more Free Com­put­er Sci­ence cours­es in our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Cours­es Online.

Kate Rix is an Oak­land-based free­lance writer. Check out her work at .

Discovered: Conversation with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Timothy Leary at Montreal Bed-In (1969)

On May 26, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko One began their sec­ond “Bed-In,” a form of anti-Viet­nam War protest that com­bined the media impact of a press con­fer­ence with the com­fort of hotel sheets. Their first Bed-In, which hap­pened in var­i­ous rooms of the Ams­ter­dam Hilton in late March of that year, saw them grant inter­view after inter­view about peace all day long with­out mov­ing from the bed in which they had ensconced them­selves. They’d sched­uled its fol­low up in New York City, but Lennon found he could­n’t enter the Unit­ed States due to a pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion for mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion. They relo­cat­ed it to the Bahamas, where the heat soon prompt­ed them to move again to the entire­ly cool­er Queen Eliz­a­beth Hotel in Mon­tre­al. There they record­ed the song “Give Peace a Chance,” aid­ed by such vis­i­tors as Tom­my Smoth­ers, Dick Gre­go­ry, Mur­ray the K, and psy­che­del­ic drug advo­cate Tim­o­thy Leary.

But Leary did­n’t just come to pro­vide a back­ing vocal. With his wife Rose­mary, he record­ed a con­ver­sa­tion with Lennon and Ono about… well, about a vari­ety of sub­jects, but they’d all fall under the broad head­ing of Leary’s one great pur­suit, “con­scious­ness.” Only recent­ly did Leary archivist Michael Horowitz dis­cov­er the tran­script of this ses­sion in “an unmarked enve­lope in a box of mis­cel­la­neous papers,” and this week the Tim­o­thy Leary Archives made it avail­able to the pub­lic for the first time ever. The con­ver­sa­tion begins with the fin­er points of teepee life, moves on to the effects of place on one’s state of mind, touch­es on both cou­ples’ hav­ing found them­selves on the wrong side of drug law enforce­ment, and ends with Lennon and Leary com­par­ing notes on how they use the media to con­vey their mes­sage:

TIMOTHY: John, about the use of the mass media … the kids must be taught how to use the media. Peo­ple used to say to me–I would give a rap and some­one would get up and say, “Well, what’s this about a reli­gion? Did the Bud­dha use drugs? Did the Bud­dha go on tele­vi­sion? I’d say, “Ahh—he would’ve. He would’ve….”

JOHN: I was on a TV show with David Frost and Yehu­di Menuhin, some cul­tur­al vio­lin­ist y’know, they were real­ly attack­ing me. They had a whole audi­ence and every­thing. It was after we got back from Amsterdam…and Yehu­di Menuhin came out, he’s always doing these Hin­du num­bers. All that pious bit, and his school for vio­lin­ists, and all that. And Yehu­di Menuhi said, “Well, don’t you think it’s nec­es­sary to kill some peo­ple some times?” That’s what he said on TV, that’s the first thing he’s ever said. And I said, “Did Christ say that? Are you a Chris­t­ian?” “Yeah,” I said, and did “Christ say any­thing about killing peo­ple?” And he said, “Did Christ say any­thing about tele­vi­sion? Or gui­tars?”

To learn more about Lennon and Ono’s Bed-Ins, you can vis­it the 70-minute doc­u­men­tary Bed Peace (below), pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured on Open Cul­ture and still freely view­able on YouTube:

Relat­ed con­tent:

Tim­o­thy Leary’s Wild Ride and the Fol­som Prison Inter­view

Beyond Tim­o­thy Leary: 2002 Film Revis­its His­to­ry of LSD

Bed Peace Star­ring John Lennon & Yoko Ono (Free for Lim­it­ed Time)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.