The 1991 Tokyo Museum Exhibition That Was Only Accessible by Telephone, Fax & Modem: Features Works by Laurie Anderson, John Cage, William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard & Merce Cunningham

The deep­er we get into the 21st cen­tu­ry, the more ener­gy and resources muse­ums put into dig­i­tiz­ing their offer­ings and mak­ing them avail­able, free and world­wide, as vir­tu­al expe­ri­ences on the inter­net. But what form would a vir­tu­al muse­um have tak­en before the inter­net as we know it today? Japan­ese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions giant NTT (best known today in the form of the cell­phone ser­vice provider NTT DoCo­Mo) devel­oped one answer to that ques­tion in 1991: The Muse­um Inside the Tele­phone Net­work, an elab­o­rate art exhib­it acces­si­ble nowhere in the phys­i­cal world but every­where in Japan by tele­phone, fax, and even — in a high­ly lim­it­ed, pre-World-Wide-Web fash­ion — com­put­er modem.

“The works and mes­sages from almost 100 artists, writ­ers, and cul­tur­al fig­ures were avail­able through five chan­nels,” says Mono­skop, where you can down­load The Muse­um Inside the Tele­phone Net­work’s cat­a­log (also avail­able in high res­o­lu­tion). “The works in ‘Voice & sound chan­nel’ such as talks and read­ings on the theme of com­mu­ni­ca­tion could be lis­tened to by tele­phone. The ‘Inter­ac­tive chan­nel’ offered par­tic­i­pants to cre­ate musi­cal tunes by push­ing but­tons on a tele­phone. Works of art, nov­els, comics and essays could be received at home through ‘Fax chan­nel.’ The ‘Live chan­nel’ offered artists’ live per­for­mances and tele­phone dia­logues between invit­ed intel­lec­tu­als to be heard by tele­phone. Addi­tion­al­ly, com­put­er graph­ics works could be accessed by modem and down­loaded to one’s per­son­al com­put­er screen for view­ing.”

“We need to rec­og­nize hon­est­ly that there were numer­ous prob­lems with The Muse­um Inside the Tele­phone Net­work,” writes cura­tor and crit­ic Asa­da Aki­ra in the cat­a­log’s intro­duc­tion. “Nei­ther the prepa­ra­tion time nor the means for car­ry­ing it out was suf­fi­cient. Thus there were not a few cre­ative artists whose par­tic­i­pa­tion would have been a great asset to the project, but whom we were forced to do with­out.” Yet its list of con­trib­u­tors, which still reads like a Who’s-Who of the avant-garde and oth­er­wise adven­tur­ous cre­ators of the day, includes archi­tects like Isoza­ki Ara­ta and Ren­zo Piano, musi­cians like Lau­rie Ander­son and Sakamo­to Ryuichi, direc­tors like Kuro­sawa Kiyoshi and Derek Jar­man, writ­ers like William S. Bur­roughs and J.G. Bal­lard, com­posers like John Cage and Philip Glass, chore­o­g­ra­phers like William Forsythe, Mer­ce Cun­ning­ham, and visu­al artists like Yokoo Tadanori and Jeff Koons.

The Muse­um Inside the Tele­phone Net­work launched as the first ven­ture of NTT’s Inter­Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter (ICC), a “21st-cen­tu­ry muse­um that will pro­vide inter­face between sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and art and cul­ture in the com­ing elec­tron­ic age,” as Asa­da described it in 1991. Hav­ing recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed its 20th year open in Toky­o’s Opera City Tow­er, the ICC con­tin­ues to put on a vari­ety of non-vir­tu­al exhi­bi­tions very much in the spir­it of the orig­i­nal, and involv­ing some of the very same artists as well (as of this writ­ing, they’re ready­ing a music instal­la­tion co-cre­at­ed by Sakamo­to). But offline or on, any union of art and tech­nol­o­gy is only as inter­est­ing as the spir­it moti­vat­ing it, and the cre­ators of such projects would do well to keep in mind the words of The Muse­um Inside the Tele­phone Net­work con­trib­u­tor Kon­dou Kou­ji: “I hope that peo­ple will think of this as the expe­ri­ence of acci­den­tal­ly drift­ing into a tele­phone net­work, where­in awaits a vast world of plea­sure and fun.”

via @monoskop

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of the 1913 Exhi­bi­tion That Intro­duced Avant-Garde Art to Amer­i­ca

Take a Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Tour of the World’s Stolen Art

Japan­ese Com­put­er Artist Makes “Dig­i­tal Mon­dri­ans” in 1964: When Giant Main­frame Com­put­ers Were First Used to Cre­ate Art

Good Morn­ing, Mr. Orwell: Nam June Paik’s Avant-Garde New Year’s Cel­e­bra­tion with Lau­rie Ander­son, John Cage, Peter Gabriel & More

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

A Digital Archive of 1,800+ Children’s Books from UCLA

In the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry, the nov­el was seen as a friv­o­lous and triv­ial form at best, a moral­ly cor­rupt­ing one at worst. Giv­en that the pri­ma­ry read­ers of nov­els were women, the belief smacks of patri­ar­chal con­de­scen­sion and a kind of thought con­trol. Fic­tion is a place where read­ers can imag­i­na­tive­ly live out fan­tasies and tragedies through the eyes of an imag­ined oth­er. Respectable mid­dle-class women were expect­ed instead to read con­duct man­u­als and devo­tion­als.

Eng­lish nov­el­ist Samuel Richard­son sought to bring respectabil­i­ty to his art in the form of Pamela in 1740, a nov­el which began as a con­duct man­u­al and whose sub­ti­tle rather blunt­ly states the moral of the sto­ry: “Virtue Reward­ed.”

This mor­al­iz­ing expressed itself in anoth­er lit­er­ary form as well. Children’s books, such as there were, also tend­ed toward the moral­is­tic and didac­tic, in attempts to steer their read­ers away from the dan­gers of what was then called “enthu­si­asm.”

“Pri­or to the mid-eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry,” notes the UCLA Children’s Book Col­lec­tion—a dig­i­tal repos­i­to­ry of over 1800 children’s books dat­ing from 1728 to 1999—“books were rarely cre­at­ed specif­i­cal­ly for chil­dren, and children’s read­ing was gen­er­al­ly con­fined to lit­er­a­ture intend­ed for their edu­ca­tion and moral edi­fi­ca­tion rather than for their amuse­ment. Reli­gious works, gram­mar books, and ‘cour­tesy books’ (which offered instruc­tion on prop­er behav­ior) were vir­tu­al­ly the only ear­ly books direct­ed at chil­dren.” But a change was in the mak­ing in the mid­dle of the cen­tu­ry.

Pamela attract­ed a rib­ald, even porno­graph­ic, response—most notably in Hen­ry Fielding’s satire An Apol­o­gy for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews and the Mar­quis de Sade’s Jus­tine Mean­while, the world of children’s lit­er­a­ture also under­went a rad­i­cal shift. “The notion of plea­sure in learn­ing was becom­ing more wide­ly accept­ed.” Illus­tra­tions, pre­vi­ous­ly “con­sist­ing of small wood­cut vignettes,” slow­ly began to move to the fore, and “inno­va­tions in typog­ra­phy and print­ing allowed greater free­dom in repro­duc­ing art.”

That’s not to say that the didac­tic atti­tude was dispelled—we see codes of con­duct and overt reli­gious themes embed­ded in children’s lit­er­a­ture through­out the 19th cen­tu­ry. But as we point­ed out in a post on anoth­er children’s book archive from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da, the more staid and tra­di­tion­al books increas­ing­ly com­pet­ed with adven­ture sto­ries, works of fan­ta­sy, and what we call today Young Adult lit­er­a­ture like that of Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott. You can see this ten­sion in the UCLA col­lec­tion, between plea­sure and duty, leisure and work, and edu­ca­tion as moral and social train­ing and as a means of achiev­ing per­son­al free­dom.

Of the adult lit­er­ary imag­i­na­tion of the time, Leo Bersani writes in A Future for Astyanax that “the con­fronta­tion in nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry works between a struc­tured, social­ly viable and ver­bal­ly ana­lyz­able self and the wish to shat­ter psy­chic and social struc­tures pro­duces con­sid­er­able stress and con­flict.” I think we can see a sim­i­lar con­flict, expressed much more play­ful­ly, in books for chil­dren of the past two hun­dred years or so. Enter the UCLA col­lec­tion, which includes not only his­toric chil­dren’s books but present-day exhib­it cat­a­logs and more, here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Enter an Archive of 6,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized and Free to Read Online

The First Children’s Pic­ture Book, 1658’s Orbis Sen­su­al­i­um Pic­tus

The Anti-Slav­ery Alpha­bet: 1846 Book Teach­es Kids the ABCs of Slavery’s Evils

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

1934 Map Resizes the World to Show Which Country Drinks the Most Tea

Not a day goes by that I don’t use Google Maps for some­thing or oth­er, whether it’s basic nav­i­ga­tion, research­ing an address, or find­ing a dry clean­er. Though some of us might resent the dom­i­nance such map­ping tech­nol­o­gy has over our dai­ly inter­ac­tions, there’s no deny­ing its end­less util­i­ty. But maps can be so much more than use­ful tools for get­ting around—they are works of art, thought exper­i­ments, imag­i­na­tive flights of fan­cy, and data visu­al­iza­tion tools, to name but a few of their over­lap­ping func­tions. For the impe­ri­al­ists of pre­vi­ous ages, maps dis­played a mas­tery of the world, whether cat­a­logu­ing trav­el times from Lon­don to every­where else on the globe, or—as in the exam­ple we have here—resizing coun­tries accord­ing to how much tea their peo­ple drank.

But this is not a map we should look to for accu­ra­cy. Like many such car­to­graph­ic data charts, it pro­motes a par­tic­u­lar agen­da. “George Orwell once wrote that tea was one of the main­stays of civ­i­liza­tion,” notes Jack Good­man at Atlas Obscu­ra. “Tea, assert­ed Orwell, has the pow­er to make one feel braver, wis­er, and more opti­mistic. The man spoke for a nation.” (And he spoke to a nation in a 1946 Evening Stan­dard essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea.”) From the map above, titled “The Tea is Drunk” and pub­lished by For­tune Mag­a­zine in 1934, we learn, writes Good­man, that “Britain con­sumed 485,000 pounds of tea per year. That’s one hun­dred bil­lion cups of tea, or around six cups a day for each per­son.” We might note how­ev­er, that “the pop­u­la­tion of Chi­na was then nine times big­ger than that of the U.K., and they drank rough­ly twice as much tea as the Brits did.” Why isn’t Chi­na at the cen­ter of the map? “The author made a ten­u­ous point about the cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences between the two: the Chi­nese drank tea as a neces­si­ty, the British by choice.”

Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty library’s descrip­tion of the map is more forth­right: “While Chi­na actu­al­ly con­sumed twice as much tea as Britain, its posi­tion at the edge of the map assured that the focus will be on the British Isles.” That focus is com­mer­cial in nature, meant to encour­age and inform British tea mer­chants for whom tea was more than a bev­er­age; it was one of the nation’s pre-emi­nent com­modi­ties, though most of what was sold as a nation­al prod­uct was Indi­an tea grown in India. Yet the map brims with pride in the British tea trade. “Thus may be told the geog­ra­phy and alle­giance of Tea,” its author pro­claims, “an empire with­in an empire, whose bor­ders fol­low every­where the scat­tered ter­ri­to­ries of that nation on which the sun nev­er sets.” A lit­tle over a decade lat­er, India won its inde­pen­dence, and the empire began to fall apart. But the British nev­er lost their taste for or their nation­al pride in tea. View and down­load a high-res­o­lu­tion scan of the “Tea is Drunk” map at the Cor­nell Library site.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Orwell Explains How to Make a Prop­er Cup of Tea

10 Gold­en Rules for Mak­ing the Per­fect Cup of Tea (1941)

Col­or­ful Maps from 1914 and 2016 Show How Planes & Trains Have Made the World Small­er and Trav­el Times Quick­er

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

Expensive Wine Is for Dupes: Scientific Study Finds No Strong Correlation Between Quality & Price

If wine is on your Thanks­giv­ing menu tomor­row, then keep this sci­en­tif­ic find­ing in mind: Accord­ing to a 2008 study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Wine Eco­nom­ics, the qual­i­ty of wine does­n’t gen­er­al­ly cor­re­late with its price. At least not for most peo­ple. Writ­ten by researchers from Yale, UC Davis and the Stock­holm School of Eco­nom­ics, the abstract for the study states:

Indi­vid­u­als who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoy­ment from more expen­sive wine. In a sam­ple of more than 6,000 blind tast­ings, we find that the cor­re­la­tion between price and over­all rat­ing is small and neg­a­tive, sug­gest­ing that indi­vid­u­als on aver­age enjoy more expen­sive wines slight­ly less. For indi­vid­u­als with wine train­ing, how­ev­er, we find indi­ca­tions of a non-neg­a­tive rela­tion­ship between price and enjoy­ment. Our results are robust to the inclu­sion of indi­vid­ual fixed effects, and are not dri­ven by out­liers: when omit­ting the top and bot­tom deciles of the price dis­tri­b­u­tion, our qual­i­ta­tive results are strength­ened, and the sta­tis­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance is improved fur­ther. These find­ings sug­gest that non-expert wine con­sumers should not antic­i­pate greater enjoy­ment of the intrin­sic qual­i­ties of a wine sim­ply because it is expen­sive or is appre­ci­at­ed by experts.

You can read online the com­plete study, “Do More Expen­sive Wines Taste Bet­ter? Evi­dence from a Large Sam­ple of Blind Tast­ings.” But if you’re look­ing for some­thing that puts the sci­ence into more quo­ti­di­en Eng­lish and makes the larg­er case for keep­ing your hard-earned cash, watch the video from Vox above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Old­est Unopened Bot­tle of Wine in the World (Cir­ca 350 AD)

Vin­tage Wine in our Col­lec­tion of 1100 Free Online Cours­es

Sal­vador Dali’s 1978 Wine Guide, The Wines of Gala, Gets Reis­sued: Sen­su­al Viti­cul­ture Meets Sur­re­al Art

The Corkscrew: The 700-Pound Mechan­i­cal Sculp­ture That Opens a Wine Bot­tle & Pours the Wine

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See the First Photograph of a Human Being: A Photo Taken by Louis Daguerre (1838)

You’ve like­ly heard the rea­son peo­ple nev­er smile in very old pho­tographs. Ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy could be an excru­ci­at­ing­ly slow process. With expo­sure times of up to 15 min­utes, por­trait sub­jects found it impos­si­ble to hold a grin, which could eas­i­ly slip into a pained gri­mace and ruin the pic­ture. A few min­utes rep­re­sent­ed marked improve­ment on the time it took to make the very first pho­to­graph, Nicéphore Niépce’s 1826 “heli­o­graph.” Cap­tur­ing the shapes of light and shad­ow out­side his win­dow, Niépce’s image “required an eight-hour expo­sure,” notes the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, “long enough that the sun­light reflects off both sides of the build­ings.”

Niépce’s busi­ness and invent­ing part­ner is much more well-known: Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, who went on after Niépce’s death in 1833 to devel­op the Daguerreo­type process, patent­ing it in 1839. That same year, the first self­ie was born. And the year pri­or Daguerre him­self took what most believe to be the very first pho­to­graph of a human, in a street scene of the Boule­vard du Tem­ple in Paris. The image shows us one of Daguerre’s ear­ly suc­cess­ful attempts at image-mak­ing, in which, writes NPR’s Robert Krul­wich, “he exposed a chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed met­al plate for ten min­utes. Oth­ers were walk­ing or rid­ing in car­riages down that busy street that day, but because they moved, they didn’t show up.”

Vis­i­ble, how­ev­er, in the low­er left quad­rant is a man stand­ing with his hands behind his back, one leg perched on a plat­form. A clos­er look reveals the fuzzy out­line of the per­son shin­ing his boots. A much fin­er-grained analy­sis of the pho­to­graph shows what may be oth­er, less dis­tinct fig­ures, includ­ing what looks like two women with a cart or pram, a child’s face in a win­dow, and var­i­ous oth­er passers­by. The pho­to­graph marks a his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant peri­od in the devel­op­ment of the medi­um, one in which pho­tog­ra­phy passed from curios­i­ty to rev­o­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­o­gy for both artists and sci­en­tists.

Although Daguerre had been work­ing on a reli­able method since the 1820s, it wasn’t until 1838, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art explains, that his “con­tin­ued exper­i­ments pro­gressed to the point where he felt com­fort­able show­ing exam­ples of the new medi­um to select­ed artists and sci­en­tists in the hope of lin­ing up investors.” Photography’s most pop­u­lar 19th cen­tu­ry use—perhaps then as now—was as a means of cap­tur­ing faces. But Daguerre’s ear­li­est plates “were still life com­po­si­tions of plas­ter casts after antique sculp­ture,” lend­ing “the ‘aura’ of art to pic­tures made by mechan­i­cal means.” He also took pho­tographs of shells and fos­sils, demon­strat­ing the medium’s util­i­ty for sci­en­tif­ic pur­pos­es.

If por­traits were per­haps less inter­est­ing to Daguerre’s investors, they were essen­tial to his suc­ces­sors and admir­ers. Can­did shots of peo­ple mov­ing about their dai­ly lives as in this Paris street scene, how­ev­er, proved next to impos­si­ble for sev­er­al more decades. What was for­mer­ly believed to be the old­est such pho­to­graph, an 1848 image from Cincin­nati, shows what appears to be two men stand­ing at the edge of the Ohio Riv­er. It seems as though they’ve come to fetch water, but they must have been stand­ing very still to have appeared so clear­ly. Pho­tog­ra­phy seemed to stop time, freez­ing a sta­t­ic moment for­ev­er in phys­i­cal form. Blurred images of peo­ple mov­ing through the frame expose the illu­sion. Even in the stillest, stiffest of images, there is move­ment, an insight Ead­weard Muy­bridge would make cen­tral to his exper­i­ments in motion pho­tog­ra­phy just a few decades after Daguerre debuted his world-famous method.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The First Pho­to­graph Ever Tak­en (1826)

See The First “Self­ie” In His­to­ry Tak­en by Robert Cor­nelius, a Philadel­phia Chemist, in 1839

Ead­weard Muybridge’s Motion Pho­tog­ra­phy Exper­i­ments from the 1870s Pre­sent­ed in 93 Ani­mat­ed Gifs

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


Watch “Alike,” a Poignant Short Animated Film About the Enduring Conflict Between Creativity and Conformity

From Barcelona comes “Alike,” a short ani­mat­ed film by Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Mén­dez. Made with Blender, an open-source 3D ren­der­ing pro­gram, “Alike” has won a heap of awards and clocked an impres­sive 10 mil­lion views on Youtube and Vimeo. A labor of love made over four years, the film revolves around this ques­tion: “In a busy life, Copi is a father who tries to teach the right way to his son, Paste. But … What is the cor­rect path?” To find the answer, they have to let a dra­ma play out. Which will pre­vail? Cre­ativ­i­ty? Or con­for­mi­ty? It’s an inter­nal con­flict we’re all famil­iar with. 

Watch the film when you’re not in a rush, when you have sev­en unbur­dened min­utes to take it in. “Alike” will be added to our list of Free Ani­ma­tions, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

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 Design Taxi

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Employ­ment: A Prize-Win­ning Ani­ma­tion About Why We’re So Dis­en­chant­ed with Work Today

Bertrand Rus­sell & Buck­min­ster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More

Charles Bukows­ki Rails Against 9‑to‑5 Jobs in a Bru­tal­ly Hon­est Let­ter (1986)

William Faulkn­er Resigns From His Post Office Job With a Spec­tac­u­lar Let­ter (1924)

60-Second Introductions to 12 Groundbreaking Artists: Matisse, Dalí, Duchamp, Hopper, Pollock, Rothko & More

Some art his­to­ri­ans ded­i­cate their entire careers, and indeed lives, to the work of a sin­gle artist. But what about those of us who only have a minute to spare? Address­ing the demand for the briefest pos­si­ble primers on the cre­ators of impor­tant art, paint­ings and oth­er­wise, of the past cen­tu­ry or so, the Roy­al Acad­e­my of Arts’ Painters in 60 Sec­onds series has pub­lished twelve episodes so far. Of those infor­ma­tion­al­ly dense videos, you see here the intro­duc­tions to Sal­vador Dalí, Mar­cel Duchamp, Edward Hop­per, Jack­son Pol­lock, and Mark Rothko.

Though short, these crash cours­es do find their way beyond the very basics. “There’s more to Dalí,” says the Roy­al Acad­e­my of the Arts’ Artis­tic Direc­tor Tim Mar­low, than “skill­ful­ly ren­dered fever dreams of sex and decay.

He paint­ed one of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry’s great cru­ci­fix­ions, but it’s more about physics than reli­gion, and he was as influ­enced by phi­los­o­phy as he was by Sig­mund Freud.” Ducham­p’s unortho­dox and influ­en­tial ideas “came togeth­er in one of the most ambi­tious works of the 20th cen­tu­ry, The Large Glass, an end­less­ly ana­lyzed work of machine-age erot­ic sym­bol­ism, sci­ence, alche­my, and then some.”

In the seem­ing­ly more staid Depres­sion-era work of Edward Hop­per, Mar­low points to “a pro­found con­tem­pla­tion of the world around us. Hop­per slows down time and cap­tures a moment of still­ness in a fran­tic world,” paint­ed in a time of “deep nation­al self-exam­i­na­tion about the very idea of Amer­i­can­ness.” Hop­per paint­ed the famous Nighthawks in 1942; the next year, and sure­ly on the very oth­er end of some kind of artis­tic spec­trum, Hop­per’s coun­try­man and near-con­tem­po­rary Jack­son Pol­lock paint­ed Mur­al, which shows “the young Pol­lock work­ing through Picas­so, con­tin­u­ing to frac­ture the archi­tec­ture of cubism” while “at the same time tak­ing on the lessons of the Mex­i­can mural­ists like Siqueiros and Oroz­co.”

Yet Mur­al also “starts to pro­claim an orig­i­nal­i­ty that is all Pol­lock­’s,” open­ing the gate­way into his hero­ic (and well-known) “drip peri­od.” Rothko, prac­tic­ing an equal­ly dis­tinc­tive but entire­ly dif­fer­ent kind of abstrac­tion, end­ed up pro­duc­ing “some of the most mov­ing paint­ings in all of the 20th cen­tu­ry: sat­u­rat­ed stains of col­or.” Mak­ing ref­er­ence to clas­si­cal archi­tec­ture — going back, even, to Stone­henge — his work becomes “a kind of thresh­old into which you, the view­er, project your­self,” but its soft edges also give it a sense of “breath­ing, pul­sat­ing, and some­times, of dying.”

If you hap­pen to have more than a minute avail­able, how could you resist dig­ging a bit deep­er into the life and work of an artist like that? Or per­haps you’d pre­fer to get intro­duced to anoth­er: Hen­ri Matisse or Grant Wood, say, or Kaz­imir Male­vich or Joan Mitchell. You may just find one about whom you want to spend the rest of your years learn­ing.

See all videos, includ­ing new ones down the road, at the Painters in 60 Sec­onds series playlist.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Edward Hopper’s Icon­ic Paint­ing Nighthawks Explained in a 7‑Minute Video Intro­duc­tion

Jack­son Pol­lock 51: Short Film Cap­tures the Painter Cre­at­ing Abstract Expres­sion­ist Art

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

Walk Inside a Sur­re­al­ist Sal­vador Dalí Paint­ing with This 360º Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Video

An Intro­duc­tion to 100 Impor­tant Paint­ings with Videos Cre­at­ed by Smarthis­to­ry

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

Colorful Maps from 1914 and 2016 Show How Planes & Trains Have Made the World Smaller and Travel Times Quicker

This time of year espe­cial­ly, we com­plain about the greed and arro­gance of air­lines, the con­fu­sion and inef­fi­cien­cy of air­ports, and the sar­dine seat­ing of coach. But we don’t have to go back very far to get a sense of just how tru­ly painful long-dis­tance trav­el used to be. Just step back a hun­dred years or so when—unless you were a WWI pilot—you trav­eled by train or by ship, where all sorts of mis­ad­ven­tures might befall you, and where a jour­ney that might now take sev­er­al dull hours could take sev­er­al dozen, often very uncom­fort­able, days. Before rail­roads crossed the con­ti­nents, that num­ber could run into the hun­dreds.

In the ear­ly 1840s, for exam­ple, notes Simon Willis at The Econ­o­mist’s 1843 Mag­a­zine, “an Amer­i­can dry-goods mer­chant called Asa Whit­ney, who lived near New York, trav­elled to Chi­na on busi­ness. It took 153 days, which he thought was a waste of time.” It’s prob­a­bly eas­i­er to swal­low plat­i­tudes about des­ti­na­tions and jour­neys when the jour­ney doesn’t take up near­ly half the year and run the risk of cholera. By 1914, the explo­sion of rail­roads had reduced trav­el times con­sid­er­ably, but they remained at what we would con­sid­er intol­er­a­ble lengths.

We can see just how long it took to get from place to place in the “isochron­ic map” above (view it in a large for­mat here), which visu­al­izes dis­tances all over the globe. The rail­ways “were well-estab­lished,” notes Giz­mo­do, “in Europe and the U.S., too, mak­ing trav­el far more swift than it had been in the past.” One could reach “the depths of Siberia” from Lon­don in under ten days, thanks to the Trans-Siber­ian Rail­way. By con­trast, in Africa and South Amer­i­ca, “any trav­el inland from the coast took weeks.”

The map, cre­at­ed by roy­al car­tog­ra­ph­er John G. Bartholomew, came pack­aged with sev­er­al oth­er such tools in An Atlas of Eco­nom­ic Geog­ra­phy, a book, Willis explains, “intend­ed for school­boys,” con­tain­ing “every­thing a thrust­ing young entre­pre­neur, impe­ri­al­ist, trad­er or trav­eller could need.” All of the dis­tances are mea­sured in “days from Lon­don,” and col­or-cod­ed in the leg­end below. Dark green areas, such as Sudan, much of Brazil, inland Aus­tralia, or Tibet might take over 40 days trav­el to reach. All of West­ern Europe is acces­si­ble, the map promis­es, with­in five days, as are parts of the east coast of the U.S., with parts fur­ther Mid­west tak­ing up to 10 days to reach.

What might have seemed like wiz­ardry to Wal­ter Raleigh prob­a­bly sounds like hell on earth to busi­ness class denizens every­where. How do these jour­neys com­pare to the cur­rent age of rapid air trav­el? Rome2rio, a “com­pre­hen­sive glob­al trip plan­ner,” aimed to find out by recre­at­ing Bartholomew’s map, updat­ed to 2016 stan­dards. You can see, just above (or expand­ed here), the same view of the world from its one­time impe­ri­al­ist cen­ter, Lon­don, with the same col­or-cod­ed leg­end below, “Dis­tances in Days from Lon­don.” And yet here, a jour­ney to most places will take less than a day, with cer­tain out­er reaches—Siberia, Green­land, the Arc­tic Cir­cle, stretch­ing into two, maybe three.

Should we have rea­son to com­plain, when those of us who do travel—or who must—have it so easy com­pared to the dan­ger, bore­dom, and gen­er­al unpleas­ant­ness of long-dis­tance trav­el even one-hun­dred years ago? The ques­tion pre­sumes humans are capa­ble of not com­plain­ing about trav­el. Such com­plaint may form the basis of an ancient lit­er­ary tra­di­tion, when heroes ven­tured over vast ter­rain, slay­ing mon­sters, solv­ing rid­dles, mak­ing friends, lovers, and ene­mies…. The epic dimen­sions of his­toric trav­el can seem quaint com­pared to the ster­ile tedi­um of air­port ter­mi­nals. But just maybe—as in those long sea and rail­way voy­ages that could span sev­er­al months—we can dis­cov­er a kind of romance amidst the queasy food courts, tacky gift shops, and motor­ized mov­ing walk­ways.

via  1843 Mag­a­zine

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Col­or­ful Map Visu­al­izes the Lex­i­cal Dis­tances Between Europe’s Lan­guages: 54 Lan­guages Spo­ken by 670 Mil­lion Peo­ple

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

The Roman Roads of Britain Visu­al­ized as a Sub­way Map

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

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