Take a Trip Through the History of Modern Art with the Oscar-Winning Animation Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase

The artis­tic mor­ph­ing is already under­way before the very first frame of film­mak­er Joan Gratz’ 1992 Oscar-win­ning ani­ma­tion, Mona Lisa Descend­ing a Stair­case.

Most view­ers will rec­og­nize the title as a mashup of Leonar­do Da Vinci’s famous work and Mar­cel Duchamp’s mod­ernist clas­sic Nude Descend­ing a Stair­case, No. 2.

What fol­lows is a con­stant­ly mor­ph­ing, chrono­log­i­cal trip through the his­to­ry of mod­ern art, begin­ning with Impres­sion­ism and pass­ing through Cubism and Sur­re­al­ism en route to Pop art and hyper-real­ism.

The seam­less tran­si­tions were cre­at­ed by painstak­ing­ly manip­u­lat­ing small pieces of oil-based mod­el­ing clay on a sol­id easel-mount­ed sur­face, a tech­nique Gratz devel­oped as an archi­tec­ture stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon.

Van Gogh’s self-por­trait recon­fig­ures itself into Gaugin’sAndy Warhol’s Gold Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe becomes Roy Lichtenstein’s Woman with Flow­ered Hat—a far trick­i­er tran­si­tion than had Gratz start­ed with Picasso’s 1941 Dora Maar au Chat, the orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for Lichtenstein’s 1963 work.

As Gratz told Olivi­er Cotte, author of Secrets of Oscar-Win­ning Ani­ma­tion:

The tran­si­tions were the most inter­est­ing aspect of the work. A great deal of what they show con­sists of pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion about the style of the paint­ings…. The rela­tion­ship between the images depends on the era, the artis­tic move­ment and the inter­con­nec­tion between the artists.

Thus the work is not just about cap­tur­ing the 55 select­ed images, but also their tex­ture, from the Expres­sion­ists’ thick impas­to to the post-painter­ly slick­ness of 60s pop artists.

The paint­ings were cho­sen over near­ly eight years of research and plan­ning, but not the minu­ti­ae of the tran­si­tions, as Gratz pre­ferred to impro­vise in front of the cam­era. Just as in more nar­ra­tive clay­ma­tions, each painstak­ing adjust­ment required her to stop and shoot a frame, a process that end­ed up tak­ing two-and-a-half years, fit in around Gratz’s sched­ule for such pay­ing gigs as Return to Oz and the fea­ture-length clay­ma­tion, The Adven­tures of Mark Twain.

Giv­en the spon­ta­neous nature of the trans­for­ma­tions from one paint­ing to the next, the exact length of the fin­ished film was impos­si­ble to pre­dict. When it was at last com­plete, com­pos­er Jamie Hag­ger­ty  and sound design­er Chel White were brought in to pro­vide fur­ther his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al con­text, via music, envi­ron­men­tal sounds, and con­spic­u­ous use of a digeri­doo.

See more of Gratz’s clay paint­ing tech­nique in the music video for Peter Gabriel’s “Dig­ging in the Dirt,” and ads for Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

Read Olivi­er Cotta’s analy­sis of Mona Lisa Descend­ing a Stair­case, includ­ing a longer inter­view with Joan Gratz here.

Mona Lisa Descend­ing a Stair­case will be added to our list of Ani­ma­tions, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Ani­mat­ed Film About Vin­cent Van Gogh Will Be Made Out of 65,000 Van Gogh-Style Paint­ings: Watch the Trail­er and Mak­ing-Of Video

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

Hear Mar­cel Duchamp Read “The Cre­ative Act,” A Short Lec­ture on What Makes Great Art, Great

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She’ll be appear­ing onstage in New York City this June as one of the clowns in Paul Young’s Faust 3.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Sgt. Pepper’s Album Cover Gets Reworked to Remember Icons Lost in 2016

We’re just days away from the 50th anniver­sary of the release of The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band. And, as we men­tioned last week, the BBC has kicked off the cel­e­bra­tions with a series of videos that intro­duce you to the 60+ fig­ures who appeared in the card­board col­lage that graced the album’s icon­ic cov­er. Bob Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, William S. Bur­roughs, Albert Ein­stein, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, HG Wells, Shirley Temple–they all get a video intro­duc­tion, among oth­ers.

His­toric as it is, the Pep­per cov­er recent­ly became a good vehi­cle for remem­ber­ing the bewil­der­ing num­ber of musi­cians, artists and celebri­ties who left this mor­tal coil in 2016. Above you can see an illus­tra­tion cre­at­ed by Twit­ter user @christhebarker in the wan­ing days of last year. If you look close­ly, you can see some thought went into the design. Muham­mad Ali, for exam­ple, now stands where box­er Son­ny Lis­ton did in the orig­i­nal. Find them all in a larg­er for­mat here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, 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. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Con­se­quence of Sound

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meet the Icon­ic Fig­ures on the Cov­er of The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band

How The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band Changed Album Cov­er Design For­ev­er

Jimi Hen­drix Plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band” for The Bea­t­les, Just Three Days After the Album’s Release (1967)

Twin Peaks Essentials to Get You Ready for the Debut of Season 3: A 55-Minute Refresher, Maps, Commercials & Behind-the-Scenes Footage & More

Have you pre­pared your­self to return, this Sun­day, to Twin Peaks, that small Wash­ing­ton town, so well known for its cof­fee and cher­ry pie, once rocked by the mur­der of home­com­ing queen Lau­ra Palmer? Fans of the epony­mous tele­vi­sion series, which first made sur­re­al prime-time tele­vi­sion his­to­ry on ABC in 1990, have binge-watched and re-binge-watched its orig­i­nal two sea­sons in advance of the new Twin Peaks’ May 21st debut on Show­time. Even fans who dis­liked the sec­ond sea­son, in which series cre­ators David Lynch and Mark Frost gave in to net­work pres­sure to resolve the sto­ry of Palmer’s mur­der, have re-watched it, and with great excite­ment.

But can sim­ply watch­ing those first thir­ty episodes (and maybe the fol­low-up fea­ture film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, once booed at Cannes, the very same fes­ti­val which will screen the first two parts of the new Twin Peaks on the 25th) suf­fice?

To get your­self as deep into the show’s real­i­ty as pos­si­ble, we rec­om­mend dip­ping into the Twin Peaks mate­r­i­al we’ve post­ed over the years here at Open Cul­ture, begin­ning with the four-hour video essay on the series’ mak­ing and mythol­o­gy we fea­tured just this past Jan­u­ary. You can ori­ent your­self by keep­ing an eye on Lynch’s hand-drawn map of the the town of Twin Peaks, which he used to pitch the show to ABC in the first place, and which appears just above.

But Twin Peaks has its foun­da­tion as much in music as in geog­ra­phy. Just above, you can hear com­pos­er Ange­lo Badala­men­ti, a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor with Lynch, tell the sto­ry of how he and the direc­tor com­posed the show’s famous “Love Theme,” which not only made an impact on the tele­vi­su­al zeit­geist but set the tone for the every­thing to fol­low.  “It’s the mood of the whole piece,” Lynch once said of the com­po­si­tion, “It is Twin Peaks.” Badala­men­ti has scored the new series as well, join­ing the long list of returnees to the project that includes not just Lynch and Frost, but Kyle MacLach­lan as FBI Spe­cial Agent Dale Coop­er and many oth­ers from the orig­i­nal cast as well, includ­ing the late Miguel Fer­rer and War­ren Frost.

“There’s so much more to Twin Peaks than a riv­et­ing mur­der mys­tery,” says Alan Thicke, anoth­er per­former no longer with us, host­ing the 1990 behind-the-scenes pre­view of the show’s sec­ond sea­son just above. “There’s a whole look and a feel and a tex­ture,” an expe­ri­ence “180 degrees away from any­thing else on tele­vi­sion.” As dra­mat­i­cal­ly as tele­vi­su­al pos­si­bil­i­ties have expand­ed over the past 27 years, it seems safe to say that the con­tin­u­a­tion of Twin Peaks, which comes after such expan­sions of its fic­tion­al uni­verse as Frost’s Secret His­to­ry of Twin Peaks, will main­tain a sim­i­lar cre­ative dis­tance from the rest of what’s on the air. “The one thing I feel I can say with total con­fi­dence,” to para­phrase David Fos­ter Wal­lace writ­ing about Lost High­way twen­ty years ago, is that the new Twin Peaks will be… Lynchi­an.

Above, you can watch a mini-sea­son of Twin Peaks, which also dou­bles as a series of Japan­ese cof­fee com­mer­cials. They, too, come cour­tesy of David Lynch. And below, watch “Pre­vi­ous­ly, on Twin Peaks…”, an abbre­vi­at­ed, 55-minute refresh­er on what hap­pened dur­ing the first two sea­sons of the show. (It comes to us via Wel­come­toTwin­Peaks.) Also you can read a recap of every episode over at The New York Times.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch an Epic, 4‑Hour Video Essay on the Mak­ing & Mythol­o­gy of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

Hear 20 Min­utes of Mark Frost’s New Secret His­to­ry of Twin Peaks, the Book Fans Have Wait­ed 25 Years to Read

David Lynch Draws a Map of Twin Peaks (to Help Pitch the Show to ABC)

Ange­lo Badala­men­ti Reveals How He and David Lynch Com­posed the Twin Peaks‘ “Love Theme”

David Lynch Directs a Mini-Sea­son of Twin Peaks in the Form of Japan­ese Cof­fee Com­mer­cials

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. 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.

36 eBooks on Computer Programming from O’Reilly Media: Free to Download and Read

This past week, we fea­tured a free course on the pro­gram­ming lan­guage Python, pre­sent­ed by MIT. A handy resource, to be sure.

And then it struck us that you might want to com­ple­ment that course with some of the 36 free ebooks on com­put­er pro­gram­ming from O’Reilly Media–of which 7 are ded­i­cat­ed to Python itself. Oth­er books focus on Java, C++, Swift, Soft­ware Archi­tec­ture, and more. See the list of pro­gram­ming books here.

If you’re look­ing for yet more free ebooks from O’Reilly Media, see the post in our archive: Down­load 243 Free eBooks on Design, Data, Soft­ware, Web Devel­op­ment & Busi­ness from O’Reilly Media.\

For more com­put­er sci­ence resources, see our col­lec­tions:

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Free Text­books: Com­put­er Sci­ence

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, 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. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn Python: A Free Online Course from Google

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Learn Python with a Free Online Course from MIT

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell Sings Haunting Acoustic Covers of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” & Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”

I entered high school to the huge sounds of Soundgarden’s sec­ond album, Loud­er than Love, play­ing at home, in friends’ cars, on MTV’s 120 Min­utes late at night.… The band’s debut, and two pre­vi­ous EPs released on Seattle’s Sub Pop records, had not attract­ed much notice out­side of a fair­ly small scene. But Loud­er than Love—espe­cial­ly “Hands All Over”—was as hooky and alarm­ing as break­through sin­gles by oth­er emerg­ing bands on the oth­er side of the coun­try, while los­ing none of the propul­sive grit, groove, and raw, metal/hardcore pow­er of their ear­li­er work. Thou­sands of new lis­ten­ers start­ed pay­ing atten­tion.

But there’s anoth­er rea­son the songs on Loud­er than Love res­onat­ed so strong­ly (and scored them a major label deal). The album announced singer Chris Cor­nell as a vocal­ist to be reck­oned with—a singer with incred­i­ble pow­er, melod­ic instinct, and a four-octave range.

On songs like “Hands All Over” and “Loud Love,” he broke away from a fair­ly nar­row Ozzy Osbourne/Robert Plant style he’d cul­ti­vat­ed and intro­duced a sound that took both influ­ences in a direc­tion nei­ther had gone before, one full of anguish, urgency, and even men­ace.

Mil­lions more got to know Cornell’s voice after Supe­run­k­nown’s “Black Hole Sun,” but even then no one would have pre­dict­ed the direc­tion he would go in after leav­ing Soundgar­den. He inject­ed soul and sen­si­tiv­i­ty into songs like Audioslave’s “Orig­i­nal Fire” and “Be Your­self”—love ‘em or don’t—qualities we can hear in abun­dance in his cov­ers of sen­si­tive and soul­ful songs like Prince’s “Noth­ing Com­pares 2 U” and Michael Jackson’s “Bil­lie Jean.” In his unplugged ver­sion of Jack­son’s pop mas­ter­piece the song acquires the heav­i­ness and griev­ous beau­ty of a mur­der bal­lad. And I mean that entire­ly as a com­pli­ment. He brings “Noth­ing Com­pares 2 U” into “soul­ful new life,” as Slate writes, which is say­ing quite a lot, giv­en that Sinead O’Connor’s ver­sion is more or less per­fect.

Cor­nell took his own life at age 52 on Wednes­day night after play­ing with a reunit­ed Soundgar­den in Detroit, and after strug­gling with depres­sion for many years. It’s true he was nev­er laud­ed as a song­writer of a Prince/Michael Jack­son cal­iber. His lyrics were often tossed-off free asso­ci­a­tions rather than care­ful­ly craft­ed nar­ra­tives. One’s appre­ci­a­tion for them is a mat­ter of taste. But like the artists he cov­ers here, both of whom also died trag­i­cal­ly in their 50s, his music reflect­ed a deep con­cern for the state of the world. This comes through clear­ly in songs like “Hands All Over,” “Hunger Strike,” and in some point­ed com­ments he made dur­ing his final per­for­mance.

Rolling Stone has a few more acoustic Cor­nell cov­ers of Metal­li­ca, the Bea­t­les, Elvis Costel­lo, and more, and they’re all great. He did a pro­found­ly affect­ing, gospel-like take on Whit­ney Hous­ton’s bel­ter, “I Will Always Love You.” But for a true, and tru­ly heart­break­ing, exam­ple of how he could imbue a song with his “unfor­get­table vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty,” watch him play Bob Marley’s “Redemp­tion Song” at New York’s Bea­con The­ater in 2015 above, in an absolute­ly riv­et­ing duet with his daugh­ter, Toni. Cor­nell will be dear­ly missed by every­one who knew him, and by the mil­lions of peo­ple who were deeply moved by his voice.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Prince Plays Unplugged and Wraps the Crowd Around His Lit­tle Fin­ger (2004)

John­ny Cash & Joe Strum­mer Sing Bob Marley’s “Redemp­tion Song” (2002)

Watch Nir­vana Per­form “Smells Like Teen Spir­it,” Just Two Days After the Release of Nev­er­mind (Sep­tem­ber 26, 1991)

Pat­ti Smith’s Cov­er of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Strips the Song Down to its Heart

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

An Animated Alan Watts Waxes Philosophical About Time in The Fine Art of Goofing Off, the 1970s “Sesame Street for Grown-Ups”

Time is a mea­sure of ener­gy, a mea­sure of motion. And we have agreed inter­na­tion­al­ly on the speed of the clock. And I want you to think about clocks and watch­es for a moment. We are of course slaves to them. And you will notice that your watch is a cir­cle, and that it is cal­i­brat­ed, and that each minute, or sec­ond, is marked by a hair­line which is made as nar­row as pos­si­ble, as yet to be con­sis­tent with being vis­i­ble. 

Alan Watts

How­ev­er true, that’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly stress-induc­ing obser­va­tion from one who was known for his Zen teach­ings…

The pres­sure is ame­lio­rat­ed some­what by Bob McClay’s trip­py time-based ani­ma­tion, above, nar­rat­ed by Watts. Putting Mick­ey Mouse on the face of Big Ben must’ve gone over well with the coun­ter­cul­tur­al youth who eager­ly embraced Watts’ East­ern phi­los­o­phy. And the tan­gi­ble evi­dence of real live mag­ic mark­ers will prove a ton­ic to those who came of age before ani­ma­tion’s dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion.

The short orig­i­nal­ly aired as part of the ear­ly 70’s series, The Fine Art of Goof­ing Off, described by one of its cre­ators, the humorist and sound artist, Hen­ry Jacobs, as “Sesame Street for grown-ups.”

Time pre­oc­cu­pied both men.

One of Jacobs’ fake com­mer­cials on The Fine Art of Goof­ing Off involved a pitch­man exhort­ing view­ers to stop wast­ing time at idle pas­times: Log a few extra gold­en hours at the old grind­stone.

A koan-like skit fea­tured a gramo­phone through which a dis­em­bod­ied voice end­less­ly asks a stuffed dog, “Can you hear me?” (Jacobs named that as a per­son­al favorite.)

Watts was less punch­line-ori­ent­ed than his friend and even­tu­al in-law, who main­tained an archival col­lec­tion of Watts’ lec­tures until his own death:

And when we think of a moment of time, when we think what we mean by the word “now”; we think of the short­est pos­si­ble instant that is here and gone, because that cor­re­sponds with the hair­line on the watch. And as a result of this fab­u­lous idea, we are a peo­ple who feel that we don’t have any present, because the present is instant­ly van­ish­ing — it goes so quick­ly. It is always becom­ing past. And we have the sen­sa­tion, there­fore, of our lives as some­thing that is con­stant­ly flow­ing away from us. We are con­stant­ly los­ing time. And so we have a sense of urgency. Time is not to be wast­ed. Time is mon­ey. And so, because of the tyran­ny of this thing, we feel that we have a past, and we know who we are in terms of our past. Nobody can ever tell you who they are, they can only tell you who they were. 

Watch a com­plete episode of The Fine Art of Goof­ing Off here. Your time will be well spent.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Wis­dom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Pro­vok­ing Ani­ma­tions

Take a Break from Your Fran­tic Day & Let Alan Watts Intro­duce You to the Calm­ing Ways of Zen

Hear Alan Watts’s 1960s Pre­dic­tion That Automa­tion Will Neces­si­tate a Uni­ver­sal Basic Income

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Guillermo del Toro Creates a List of His 20 Favorite Art House/Criterion Films

When it comes to films released by the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion, we’d all strug­gle to nar­row our favorites down to only ten, but we prob­a­bly would­n’t have quite as hard a time as Guiller­mo del Toro. The direc­tor of Mim­icHell­boy, and Pan’s Labyrinth char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly takes it to anoth­er lev­el, bemoan­ing the “unfair, arbi­trary, and sadis­tic top ten prac­tice,” craft­ing instead a series of “thematic/authorial pair­ings” (and in first place, a tri­fec­ta) for his Cri­te­ri­on “top-ten” fea­ture. The list, whether he meant us to take it lin­ear­ly or not, runs as fol­lows:

  1. Aki­ra Kuro­sawa’s Throne of BloodHigh and Low, and Ran, the Emper­or of Cin­e­ma’s “most oper­at­ic, pes­simistic, and visu­al­ly spec­tac­u­lar films.”
  2. Ing­mar Bergman’s The Sev­enth Seal and Fan­ny and Alexan­der (the­atri­cal ver­sion), which “have the pri­mal pulse of a children’s fable told by an impos­si­bly old and wise nar­ra­tor, both “ripe with fan­tas­ti­cal imagery and a sharp sense of the uncan­ny.”
  3. Jean Cocteau’s Beau­ty and the Beast and Georges Fran­ju’s Eyes With­out a Face, both of which “depend on sub­lime, almost ethe­re­al, imagery to con­vey a sense of doom and loss: mad, frag­ile love cling­ing for dear life in a mael­strom of dark­ness.”
  4. David Lean’s Great Expec­ta­tions and Oliv­er Twist, two “epics of the spir­it [ … ] plagued by grand, utter­ly mag­i­cal moments and set­tings” and laced with pas­sages that “skate the fine line between poet­ry and hor­ror.”
  5. Ter­ry Gilliam’s Time Ban­dits and Brazil, the work of a “liv­ing trea­sure” who “under­stands that ‘bad taste’ is the ulti­mate dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence from the dis­creet charm of the bour­geoisie” and tells sto­ries in elab­o­rate worlds “made coher­ent only by his undy­ing faith in the tale he is telling.”
  6. Kane­to Shin­do’s Oni­ba­ba and Kuroneko, a “per­verse, sweaty dou­ble bill” fus­ing “hor­rors and desire, death and lust” that, when del Toro first saw them at age ten, “did some seri­ous dam­age to my psy­che.”
  7. Stan­ley Kubrick­’s Spar­ta­cus and Paths of Glo­ry, which “speak elo­quent­ly about the scale of a man against the tide of his­to­ry, and both raise the bar for every ‘his­tor­i­cal’ film to fol­low.”
  8. Pre­ston Sturges’ Sul­li­van’s Trav­els and Unfaith­ful­ly Yours, “mas­ter­ful films full of mad ener­gy and fire­works, but Sullivan’s Trav­els also man­ages to encap­su­late one of the most inti­mate reflec­tions about the role of the film­mak­er as enter­tain­er.”
  9. Carl Theodor Drey­er’s Vampyr and Ben­jamin Chris­tensen’s Häx­an, the for­mer “a memen­to mori, a stern reminder of death as the thresh­old of spir­i­tu­al lib­er­a­tion” and the lat­ter “the filmic equiv­a­lent of a hell­ish engrav­ing by Bruegel or a paint­ing by Bosch.”
  10. Vic­tor Erice’s The Spir­it of the Bee­hive and Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, “the two supreme works of childhood/horror [ … ] lamen­ta­tions of worlds lost and the inno­cents trapped in them.”

Hav­ing already fea­tured a tour of del Toro’s man cave and a tour of his imag­i­na­tion by way of his sketch­es here on Open Cul­ture, it makes for a nat­ur­al fol­low-up to offer this tour of his dis­tinc­tive cin­e­mat­ic con­scious­ness. A direc­tor since his child­hood back in Mex­i­co (then equipped with his dad’s Super 8, his own action fig­ures, and a pota­to he once cast as a ser­i­al killer), he went on to study not film­mak­ing, strict­ly speak­ing, but make­up and spe­cial effects design. The resul­tant mas­tery of visu­al rich­ness, espe­cial­ly in ser­vice of the grotesque, shows up even in his ear­li­est avail­able works, such as the 1987 short Geome­tria we post­ed a few years ago.

Del Toro’s next fea­ture, a fan­ta­sy adven­ture set in Cold War Amer­i­ca called The Shape of Water and involv­ing a fish-man locked away in a secret gov­ern­ment facil­i­ty, will no doubt make even more use of all the tastes the direc­tor’s favorite Cri­te­ri­on films have instilled in him: for grand spec­ta­cle, for freak­ish­ness, for the uncan­ny, for “mad, frag­ile love,” and for sheer dis­tur­bance. May he con­tin­ue to do “seri­ous dam­age” to the psy­ches of his own audi­ences for decades to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Geome­tria: Watch Guiller­mo del Toro’s Very Ear­ly, Ghoul­ish Short Film (1987)

Sketch­es by Guiller­mo del Toro Take You Inside the Director’s Wild­ly Cre­ative Imag­i­na­tion

A Guid­ed Tour of Guiller­mo del Toro’s Cre­ativ­i­ty-Induc­ing Man Cave, “Bleak House”

Mar­tin Scors­ese Names His Top 10 Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

120 Artists Pick Their Top 10 Films in the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. 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 Map of Chemistry: New Animation Summarizes the Entire Field of Chemistry in 12 Minutes

Philoso­phers, tech­nol­o­gists, and futur­ists spend a good deal of time obsess­ing about the nature of real­i­ty. Recent­ly, no small num­ber of such peo­ple have come togeth­er to endorse the so-called “sim­u­la­tion argu­ment,” the mind-bog­gling, sci-fi idea that every­thing we expe­ri­ence exists as a vir­tu­al per­for­mance inside a com­put­er sys­tem more sophis­ti­cat­ed than we could ever imag­ine. It’s a sce­nario right out of Philip K. Dick, and one Dick believed pos­si­ble. It’s also, per­haps, ter­mi­nal­ly the­o­ret­i­cal and impos­si­ble to ver­i­fy.

So… where might the per­plexed turn should they want to under­stand the world around them? Are we doomed to expe­ri­ence real­i­ty—as post­mod­ern the­o­rist Jean Bau­drillard thought—as noth­ing more than end­less sim­u­la­tion? It’s a lit­tle old-fash­ioned, but maybe we could ask a sci­en­tist? One like physi­cist, sci­ence writer, edu­ca­tor Dominic Wal­li­man, whose series of short videos offer to the layper­son “maps” of physics, math, and, just above, chem­istry.

Walliman’s inge­nious teach­ing tools excel in con­vey­ing a tremen­dous amount of com­plex infor­ma­tion in a com­pre­hen­sive and intel­li­gi­ble way. We not only get an overview of each field’s intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry, but we see how the var­i­ous sub­dis­ci­plines inter­act.

One of the odd­i­ties of chem­istry is that it was once just as much, if not more, con­cerned with what isn’t. Many of the tools and tech­niques of mod­ern chem­istry were devel­oped by alchemists—magicians, essen­tial­ly, whom we would see as char­la­tans even though they includ­ed in their num­ber such tow­er­ing intel­lects as Isaac New­ton. Wal­li­man does not get into this strange sto­ry, inter­est­ing as it is. Instead, he begins with a pre­his­to­ry of sorts, point­ing out that since humans start­ed using fire, cook­ing, and work­ing with met­al we have been engag­ing in chem­istry.

Then we’re launched right into the basic build­ing blocks—the parts of the atom and the peri­od­ic table. If, like me, you passed high school chem­istry by writ­ing a song about the ele­ments as a final project, you may be unlike­ly to remem­ber the var­i­ous types of chem­i­cal bonds and may nev­er have heard of “Van der Waals bond­ing.” There’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to look some­thing up. And there’s noth­ing wrong with being a pri­mar­i­ly audi­to­ry or visu­al learn­er. Wal­li­man’s instruc­tion does a real ser­vice for those who are.

Wal­li­man moves through the basics briskly and into the dif­fer­ences between and uses of organ­ic and inor­gan­ic chem­istry. As the ani­ma­tion pulls back to reveal the full map, we see it is com­prised of two halves: “rules of chem­istry” and “areas of chem­istry.” We do not get expla­na­tions for the extreme end of the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry. Fields like “com­pu­ta­tion­al chem­istry” are left unex­plored, per­haps because they are too far out­side Wal­li­man’s exper­tise. One refresh­ing fea­ture of the videos on his “Domain of Sci­ence” chan­nel is their intel­lec­tu­al humil­i­ty.

If you’ve enjoyed the physics and math­e­mat­ics videos, for exam­ple, you should check back in with their Youtube pages, where Wal­li­man has post­ed lists of cor­rec­tions. He has a list as well on the chem­istry video page. “I endeav­our to be as accu­rate as pos­si­ble in my videos,” he writes here, “but I am human and def­i­nite­ly don’t know every­thing, so there are some­times mis­takes. Also, due to the nature of my videos, there are bound to be over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tions.” It’s an admis­sion that, from my per­spec­tive, should inspire more, not less, con­fi­dence in his instruc­tion. Ide­al­ly, sci­en­tists should be dri­ven by curios­i­ty, not van­i­ty, though that is also an all-too-human trait. (See many more maps, exper­i­ments, instruc­tion­al videos, and talks on Wal­li­man’s web­site.)

In the “Map of Physics,” you’ll note that we even­tu­al­ly reach a gap­ing “chasm of ignorance”—a place where no one has any idea what’s going on. Maybe this is where we reach the edges of the sim­u­la­tion. But most sci­en­tists, whether physi­cists, chemists, or math­e­mati­cians, would rather reserve judg­ment and keep build­ing on what they know with some degree of cer­tain­ty. You can see a full image of the “Map of Chem­istry” fur­ther up, and pur­chase a poster ver­sion here.

Find Free Chem­istry Cours­es in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Map of Physics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Physics Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Math­e­mat­ics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Math Fit Togeth­er

Isaac Newton’s Recipe for the Myth­i­cal ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ Is Being Dig­i­tized & Put Online (Along with His Oth­er Alche­my Man­u­scripts)

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

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