Listen to Glenn Gould’s Shockingly Experimental Radio Documentary, The Idea of North (1967)

If genius is an infi­nite capac­i­ty for tak­ing pains, Glenn Gould mer­its each and every one of the many appli­ca­tions of the word “genius” to his name. The world knows that name pri­mar­i­ly as one of a genius of the piano, of course, espe­cial­ly when inter­pret­ing the genius of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach, but he also made an impres­sion in his home­land of Cana­da as a genius of the radio edit­ing suite. Hav­ing record­ed for the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion’s clas­si­cal-and-jazz record label CBC Records placed him well to real­ize his ideas on the CBC’s air­waves, most mem­o­rably in the form of The Idea of North, an hour­long med­i­ta­tion on the vast, cold expanse that con­sti­tutes the top third of the coun­try, which first aired on Decem­ber 28, 1967.

The broad­cast’s fifti­eth anniver­sary has prompt­ed Cana­di­ans and non-Cana­di­ans alike to have anoth­er lis­ten to Gould’s best-known radio project, back then shock­ing­ly exper­i­men­tal and still bold­ly uncon­ven­tion­al today. “The pianist used a tech­nique he called ‘con­tra­pun­tal radio,’ lay­er­ing speak­ing voic­es on top of each oth­er to cre­ate a unique son­ic envi­ron­ment sit­u­at­ed in the space between con­ver­sa­tion and music,” says the site of CBC’s Ideas, which recent­ly aired a new episode about the mak­ing of The Idea of North called Return to North.

The page quotes Gould biog­ra­ph­er Geof­frey Payzant as describ­ing it and Gould’s sub­se­quent doc­u­men­taries as “hybrids of music, dra­ma, and sev­er­al oth­er strains, includ­ing essay, jour­nal­ism, anthro­pol­o­gy, ethics, social com­men­tary, [and] con­tem­po­rary his­to­ry.”

One might might well com­pare The Idea of North’s form to that of a fugue, the type of com­plex con­tra­pun­tal com­po­si­tion so close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Bach and thus with Gould as well. But the form also serves the sub­stance, “that incred­i­ble tapes­try of tun­dra and taiga which con­sti­tutes the Arc­tic and sub-Arc­tic of our coun­try,” as Gould him­self puts it in the broad­cast’s intro­duc­tion. “I’ve read about it, writ­ten about it, and even pulled up my par­ka once and gone there,” he con­tin­ues, but like most Cana­di­ans remained ever “an out­sider” to the North, “and the North has remained for me, a con­ve­nient place to dream about, spin tall tales about, and, in the end, avoid.”

The North also offered Gould a pow­er­ful sym­bol of soli­tude, a con­di­tion which he sought through­out his life, espe­cial­ly after quit­ting live per­for­mance to focus exclu­sive­ly on the stu­dio short­ly before mak­ing The Idea of North. In the decade there­after he made two more for­mal­ly and the­mat­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar doc­u­men­taries, one on coastal New­found­lan­ders and anoth­er on Men­non­ites in Man­i­to­ba, and the three togeth­er make up his “Soli­tude Tril­o­gy.” A tele­vi­sion film of The Idea of North, co-pro­duced by the CBC and PBS, appeared in 1970, lay­er­ing images of the North atop of the words about the North Gould had col­lect­ed. It cer­tain­ly adds a dimen­sion to Gould’s painstak­ing­ly con­struct­ed audio col­lage, but some­how pure radio, the old “the­ater of the mind,” still suits it best: the images of the North he want­ed to evoke, one sens­es just as well now as half a cen­tu­ry ago, exist only in the mind.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Glenn Gould: Off and On the Record: Two Short Films About the Life & Music of the Eccen­tric Musi­cian

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach (1962)

Glenn Gould Offers a Strik­ing­ly Uncon­ven­tion­al Inter­pre­ta­tion of 1806 Beethoven Com­po­si­tion

Watch a 27-Year-Old Glenn Gould Play Bach & Put His Musi­cal Genius on Dis­play (1959)

Glenn Gould Gives Us a Tour of Toron­to, His Beloved Home­town (1979)

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.

What Happens When a Cat Watches Hitchcock’s Psycho

Let’s sus­pend dis­be­lief for a moment and watch Hitch­cock give new mean­ing to “scaredy cat.” Enjoy.

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:

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rules for Watch­ing Psy­cho (1960)

Hitch­cock­’s Secret Sauce for Cre­at­ing Sus­pense

Alfred Hitchcock’s 7‑Minute Mas­ter Class on Film Edit­ing

Alfred Hitch­cock Presents Ghost Sto­ries for Kids (1962)

What Is Procrastination & How Can We Solve It? An Introduction by One of the World’s Leading Procrastination Experts

I don’t know about you, but my ten­den­cy to pro­cras­ti­nate feels like a char­ac­ter flaw. And yet, no amount of mor­al­iz­ing with myself makes any dif­fer­ence. Feel­ing bad, in fact, only makes things worse. Per­haps that’s because—as Tim Pychyl, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in Psy­chol­o­gy at Car­leton Uni­ver­si­ty argues—procrastination is not a moral fail­ing so much as a cop­ing mech­a­nism for painful feel­ings, a psy­cho­log­i­cal avoid­ance of tasks we fear for some rea­son: because we fear rejec­tion or fail­ure, or even the bur­dens of suc­cess.

Pychyl should know. He’s made study­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion the basis of his career and runs the 20-year-old Pro­cras­ti­na­tion Research Group. Pro­cras­ti­na­tion is a “puz­zle,” he the­o­rizes (the title of one of his books is Solv­ing the Pro­cras­ti­na­tion Puz­zleA Con­cise Guide to Strate­gies for Change). Solv­ing it involves under­stand­ing how its pieces work, includ­ing our beliefs about how it oper­ates. Pychyl’s lec­ture above address­es grad­u­ate stu­dents charged with help­ing under­grad­u­ates who pro­cras­ti­nate, but its lessons apply to all of us. In his first slide, Pychyl out­lines four typ­i­cal beliefs about pro­cras­ti­na­tion:

It’s me

It’s the task

It’s the way I think

It’s my lack of willpow­er

Pychyl wants to debunk these notions, but he also argues that pro­cras­ti­na­tion is “some­thing we seem to under­stand very well” in pop­u­lar par­lance. One of his slides shows a typ­i­cal “successories”-type poster that reads, “Pro­cras­ti­na­tion: hard work often pays off after time, but lazi­ness always pays off now.” While Pychyl doesn’t use judg­men­tal lan­guage like “lazi­ness,” he does acknowl­edge that pro­cras­ti­na­tion results from ideas about short- ver­sus long-term gain. We want to feel good, right now, a dri­ve com­mon to every­one.

The next poster reads “if the job’s worth doing, it will still be worth doing tomor­row.” The notion of the “future self” plays a role—the you of tomor­row who still has to face the work your present self puts off. “What are we doing to ‘future self?’” Pychyl asks. “If we can just bring future self into clear­er vision, lots of times the pro­cras­ti­na­tion may go away.” This has been demon­strat­ed in research stud­ies, Ana Swan­son notes at The Wash­ing­ton Post, in which peo­ple made bet­ter deci­sions after view­ing dig­i­tal­ly-aged pho­tographs of them­selves. But in gen­er­al, we tend not to have much con­sid­er­a­tion for “future self.”

A final suc­ces­sories slide reads, “Pro­cras­ti­na­tion: by not doing what you should be doing, you could be hav­ing this much fun.” This is one of the most per­va­sive forms of self-delu­sion. We may con­vince our­selves that putting dif­fi­cult things off for tomor­row means more fun today. But the amount of guilt we feel ensures a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. “Guilt is a par­a­lyz­ing emo­tion,” Pychyl says. When we put off an impor­tant task, we feel ter­ri­ble. And often, instead of enjoy­ing life, we cre­ate more work for our­selves that makes us feel pur­pose­ful, like cook­ing or clean­ing. This “task man­age­ment” game tem­porar­i­ly relieves guilt, but it does not address the cen­tral prob­lem. We sim­ply “man­age our emo­tions by man­ag­ing our tasks.”

The word pro­cras­ti­na­tion comes direct­ly from clas­si­cal Latin and trans­lates to “put for­ward” that which “belongs to tomor­row.” This sounds benign, giv­en that many a task does indeed belong to tomor­row. But pru­dent plan­ning is one thing, pro­cras­ti­na­tion is anoth­er. When we put off what we can or should accom­plish today, we invoke tomor­row as “a mys­ti­cal land where 98% of all human pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, moti­va­tion, and achieve­ment are stored.” The dis­tinc­tion between plan­ning or unavoid­able delay and pro­cras­ti­na­tion is impor­tant. When delays are either inten­tion­al or the con­se­quence of unpre­dictable life events, we need not con­sid­er them a prob­lem. “All pro­cras­ti­na­tion is delay, but not all delay is pro­cras­ti­na­tion.”

So, to sum up Pychyl’s research on our atti­tudes about pro­cras­ti­na­tion: “we think we’re hav­ing more fun, but we’re not”; “we think we’re not affect­ing future self, but we are”; and “it’s all about giv­ing in to feel good,” which—see point num­ber one—doesn’t actu­al­ly work that well.

While we might min­i­mize pro­cras­ti­na­tion as a minor issue, its per­son­al costs tell us oth­er­wise, includ­ing severe impacts to “per­for­mance, well-being, health, rela­tion­ships, regrets & bereave­ment.” Pro­cras­ti­na­tors get sick more often, report high­er rates of depres­sion, and suf­fer the somat­ic and psy­cho­log­i­cal effects of ele­vat­ed stress. Pro­cras­ti­na­tion doesn’t only affect our per­son­al well-being and integri­ty, but it has an eth­i­cal dimen­sion, affect­ing those around us who suf­fer “sec­ond-hand,” either because of the time we take away from them when we rush off to fin­ish things last-minute, or because the stress we put our­selves under neg­a­tive­ly affects the health of our rela­tion­ships.

But pro­cras­ti­na­tion begins first and fore­most with our rela­tion­ship to our­selves. Again, we put things off not because we are moral­ly defi­cient, or “lazy,” but because our emo­tion­al brains are try­ing to cope. We feel some sig­nif­i­cant degree of fear or anx­i­ety about the task at hand. The guilt and shame that comes with not accom­plish­ing the task com­pounds the prob­lem, and leads to fur­ther pro­cras­ti­na­tion. “The behav­ior,” writes Swan­son, turns into “a vicious, self-defeat­ing cycle.”

How do we get out of the self-made loop of pro­cras­ti­na­tion? Just as in the fail­ure of the “Just say No” cam­paign, sim­ply shak­ing our­selves by the metaphor­i­cal shoul­ders and telling our­selves to get to work isn’t enough. We have to deal with the emo­tions that set things in motion, and in this case, that means going easy on our­selves. “Research sug­gests that one of the most effec­tive things that pro­cras­ti­na­tors can do is to for­give them­selves for pro­cras­ti­nat­ing,” Swan­son reports.

Once we reduce the guilt, we can weak­en the pro­cliv­i­ty to pro­cras­ti­nate. Then, para­dox­i­cal­ly, we need to ignore our emo­tions. “Most of us seem to tac­it­ly believe,” Pychyl says, “that our emo­tion­al state has to match the task at hand.” For writ­ers and artists, this belief has a lofty pedi­gree in roman­tic ideas about inspi­ra­tion and mus­es. Irrel­e­vant, the pro­cras­ti­na­tion expert says. When approach­ing some­thing dif­fi­cult, “I have to rec­og­nize that I’m rarely going to feel like it, and it doesn’t mat­ter if I don’t feel like it.” Feel­ings of moti­va­tion and cre­ative inspi­ra­tion often strike us in the midst of a task, not before. Break­ing down daunt­ing activ­i­ties into small­er tasks, and approach­ing these one at a time, gives us a prac­ti­cal roadmap for con­quer­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion. For more insights and research find­ings, watch Pychyl’s full lec­ture, and lis­ten to him dis­cuss his research on the Healthy Fam­i­ly pod­cast just above.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Neu­ro­science & Psy­chol­o­gy of Pro­cras­ti­na­tion, and How to Over­come It

How Infor­ma­tion Over­load Robs Us of Our Cre­ativ­i­ty: What the Sci­en­tif­ic Research Shows

Why You Do Your Best Think­ing In The Show­er: Cre­ativ­i­ty & the “Incu­ba­tion Peri­od”

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

Where Are They Now? An Animated Mockumentary Reveals What Happened to Your Favorite 1980s Cartoon Characters After Their Heyday

It’s a cau­tion­ary tale about what hap­pens when the world you pre­pared your­self for changes and leaves you behind. Cold­ly, and some­times with­out warn­ing.

Above, watch Steve Cutts’ 2014 ani­mat­ed mock­u­men­tary, “Where Are They Now?”. Star­ring Roger and Jes­si­ca Rab­bit, and fea­tur­ing cameos by Garfield and The Smurfs, the short film revis­its car­toon char­ac­ters who had it all in the 1980s. Then hit the skids in the ear­ly 90s. Hard. “We had done our jobs,” says an aged Jes­si­ca Rab­bit. “Now we were for­got­ten about. Obso­lete.” It’s a bleak pic­ture that Cutts paints. But, it’s not all bad. He-Man became a wealthy lin­gerie design­er. We could all use a well-thought-out Plan B.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Look Inside Mel Blanc’s Throat as He Per­forms the Voic­es of Bugs Bun­ny and Oth­er Car­toon Leg­ends

Chuck Jones’ 9 Rules For Draw­ing Road Run­ner Car­toons, or How to Cre­ate a Min­i­mal­ist Mas­ter­piece

The Long Game of Cre­ativ­i­ty: If You Haven’t Cre­at­ed a Mas­ter­piece at 30, You’re Not a Fail­ure

Watch Russian Dancers Appear to Float Magically Across the Stage: A Mesmerizing Introduction to The Berezka Ensemble

As the Rock­ettes are to legs, Russia’s Berez­ka Ensem­ble, above, is to the seem­ing absence of them.

There are cer­tain sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two troops. Both are com­posed exclu­sive­ly of young women in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion. The chore­og­ra­phy and cos­tum­ing daz­zle by way of uni­for­mi­ty. So many girls, all doing the exact same thing at the exact same time!

(On a per­son­al note, no one expects the Rock­ettes to out-fem­i­nist Bar­bie, but they could do a bet­ter job at diver­si­fy­ing their annu­al Christ­mas Spec­tac­u­lar cast’s racial make up—unlike the city in which it takes place, that kick line’s mighty white.)

The Berez­ka Ensem­ble, aka the Lit­tle Birch Tree Chore­o­graph­ic group’s whole­some­ness is more in keep­ing with the Wal­dorf School. Their cos­tumes are maid­en­ly folk art affairs—much bet­ter suit­ed to twirling birch branch­es than their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts’ snug sequins…

But on to the sig­na­ture moves…

To mas­ter their famed float­ing step, the Berez­ka Ensemble’s dancers’ sub­mit to a train­ing reg­i­men every bit as gru­el­ing as the one the Rock­ettes under­go in pur­suit of their syn­chro­nized eye-high kicks.

The float­ing step was invent­ed in the 40’s by com­pa­ny founder Nadezh­da Nadezh­d­i­na, and enjoys a mys­ti­cal rep­u­ta­tion, despite var­i­ous how-to videos float­ing around online.

Con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries abound. What’s under­neath those hooped hem­lines? Roller skates?

Motor­ized heel­ies?

A hid­den track?

Calves of steel, as it turns out. A rehearsal video reveals many, many minc­ing steps, tak­en en demi-pointe.

But what real­ly sells the fric­tion­less illu­sion is the dancers’ placid above-waist facades, which one YouTube com­menter apt­ly com­pared to ducks glid­ing about on a pond, their feet pad­dling furi­ous­ly just below the water’s sur­face.

A recent LED-enhanced per­for­mance, below, shines some lit­er­al light on the fan­cy foot­work.

via Nerdist/Twist­ed­Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch an Avant-Garde Bauhaus Bal­let in Bril­liant Col­or, the Tri­adic Bal­let First Staged by Oskar Schlem­mer in 1922

Watch a Step-by-Step Break­down of La La Land‘s Incred­i­bly Com­plex, Off Ramp Open­ing Num­ber

Sta­tis­tics Explained Through Mod­ern Dance: A New Way of Teach­ing a Tough Sub­ject

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

The Favorite Literary Work of Every Country Visualized on a World Map

Begun by user “BackForward24” and crowd­sourced through Red­dit, this map of the world illus­trates the most beloved/popular book of each coun­try by past­ing a scan of the book cov­er over its space on the world map. For book lovers who want to read them­selves around the world, it will prove invalu­able. (And if you can’t read the map, no wor­ries, there is a text ver­sion avail­able.)

But let’s unpack the larg­er (and yes, first world) coun­tries first. The Unit­ed States is rep­re­sent­ed by To Kill a Mock­ing­bird, which ticks off a lot of the marks that make it quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Amer­i­can: most high school­ers have read it, and it deals with both racism and our shame­ful his­to­ry and the faith that the law can even­tu­al­ly right wrongs. Cana­da has Anne of Green Gables. Great Britain has Charles Dick­ens’ Great Expec­ta­tions, and Ire­land Ulysses (no sur­prise there.)

Our Aus­tralian read­ers might want to weigh in on Tom Winton’s Cloud­street (a quite recent nov­el), and New Zealan­ders please tell us about The Bone Peo­ple by Keri Hulme.

My take­away and pos­si­bly yours from the map is how many titles are new to the West­ern­er. Europe has some famil­iar titles: Spain gets Cer­vantes’ Don Quixote (of course), Italy gets Dante’s The Divine Com­e­dy, and France gets Les Mis­érables by Hugo. And while Rus­sia is rep­re­sent­ed by Tolstoy’s War and Peace, East­ern Europe is rather unfa­mil­iar, at least com­pared to South Amer­i­ca, where Argenti­na has Borges’ Fic­tions, Chile has Isabel Allende’s The House of Spir­its, and Colom­bia has Marquez’s One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, all well known from decades of prizes, book club atten­tion, and film adap­ta­tions.

This Red­dit thread con­tains much crit­i­cism and debate, so please check it out. Some good points are raised: if the Ili­ad rep­re­sents Greece, why not the Mahabharata/Ramayan for India? “Hon­est­ly there is work to do (in) the Africa part,” says anoth­er (very polite­ly). There’s also debate over coun­tries not being rep­re­sent­ed at all, such as Tibet (under Chi­nese occu­pa­tion), along with West­ern Sahara, Soma­liland, Kash­mir, Balochis­tan, and Kur­dis­tan. Frankly, if you start try­ing to talk about the cul­ture of nations, there will be debate over what con­sti­tutes a nation. (I’m not sure if Pales­tine is cov­ered, but some Red­di­tors are vot­ing for Susan Abulhawa’s Morn­ings in Jenin.)

Anoth­er thing to keep in mind: the nov­el is very much a West­ern genre. For many coun­tries, that might not be the case. How­ev­er, I sense that that debate (and future map) will be anoth­er Red­dit thread, some­where, some­time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Map Show­ing How Much Time It Takes to Learn For­eign Lan­guages: From Eas­i­est to Hard­est

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

An Inter­ac­tive Map of Every Record Shop in the World

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Hear Lou Reed’s The Raven, a Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe Featuring David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, Willem Dafoe & More

It’s not imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent that Lou Reed and Edgar Allan Poe would have that much in com­mon. It’s true Reed inher­it­ed a goth­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty (though one could argue that this ele­ment in the Vel­vet Under­ground came main­ly from Nico and John Cale), and he worked in a self-con­scious­ly lit­er­ary vein. But in almost every oth­er respect, he spoke a total­ly dif­fer­ent idiom. Drawn to the seedy bars and street cor­ners rather than the great hous­es, lab­o­ra­to­ries, and scholar’s nooks of Poe, Reed inclined his ear toward the com­mon tongue, in con­trast to Poe’s care­ful­ly com­posed Roman­tic dic­tion.

But while it’s hard to imag­ine Poe think­ing much of Reed’s rock and roll, the themes of sex­u­al obses­sion, mad­ness, ter­ror, and mor­bid reflec­tion that Poe brought into promi­nence seem to find their fruition over 100 years lat­er in the work of the Vel­vets (and the thou­sands of post-punk bands they inspired), and in much of Reed’s sub­se­quent solo work—up to his final album, the crit­i­cal­ly-reviled Lulu with Metal­li­ca, which his long­time part­ner Lau­rie Ander­son declared full of “fear and rage and ven­om and ter­ror and revenge and love,” and which David Bowie pro­nounced a “mas­ter­piece.”

While we know where much of Reed’s per­son­al angst came from, we can also hear—in the vivid shock of his imagery and the extrem­i­ty of his emotions—the echo of Poe’s crazed pro­tag­o­nists. Leave it to Reed, then, to take on the task of inter­pret­ing Poe in the 21st cen­tu­ry, in his 2003 album, The Raven, a col­lec­tion of Poe-themed musi­cal pieces (“This is the sto­ry of Edgar Allan Poe / Not exact­ly the boy next door”), with such col­lab­o­ra­tors as Ander­son, Bowie, Ornette Cole­man, the Blind Boys of Alaba­ma, Antony, Eliz­a­beth Ash­ley, and Willem Dafoe, who reads a Reed-adapt­ed ver­sion of the poem at the top (track 9 in the album below), over a video trib­ute to B hor­ror actress Deb­bie Rochon (for some rea­son).

What did Reed seek to accom­plish with this con­cep­tu­al project? As he him­self writes in the lin­er notes, “I have reread and rewrit­ten Poe to ask the same ques­tions again. Who am I? Why am I drawn to do what I should not?… Why do we love what we can­not have? Why do we have a pas­sion for exact­ly the wrong thing?” These are time­less philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions, indeed, which tran­scend mat­ters of style and genre. Again and again, both Poe and Reed pur­sued them into the dark­est recess­es of the human psyche—the places most of us fear to go. And per­haps for that rea­son espe­cial­ly, we are pere­nial­ly drawn back to their work.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Raven: a Pop-up Book Brings Edgar Allan Poe’s Clas­sic Super­nat­ur­al Poem to 3D Paper Life

Famous Edgar Allan Poe Sto­ries Read by Iggy Pop, Jeff Buck­ley, Christo­pher Walken, Mar­i­anne Faith­ful & More

Meet the Char­ac­ters Immor­tal­ized in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”: The Stars and Gay Rights Icons from Andy Warhol’s Fac­to­ry Scene

Edgar Allan Poe’s the Raven: Watch an Award-Win­ning Short Film That Mod­ern­izes Poe’s Clas­sic Tale

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

Invisible Cities Illustrated: Artist Illustrates Each and Every City in Italo Calvino’s Classic Novel

If you want to read a book about cities, you still can’t do much bet­ter than a slim, plot­less work of fic­tion by Ita­lo Calvi­no where­in the explor­er Mar­co Polo tells the emper­or Kublai Khan of what he’s seen in his trav­els across the world. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Ital­ian in 1972, Invis­i­ble Cities has inspired gen­er­a­tions of read­ers, hail­ing from all across the world them­selves, to think in entire­ly new ways not just about cities but about trav­el, place, per­cep­tion, real­i­ty, myth, and lit­er­a­ture itself. Though very much a work con­cerned with what’s seen only in the imag­i­na­tion, the book has also inspired artists to try their hand at ren­der­ing the 55 fic­ti­tious cities Polo describes with­in.

A few years ago we fea­tured “See­ing Calvi­no,” a joint effort by artists Matt Kish, Leighton Con­nor, Joe Kuth to illus­trate, among oth­er ele­ments of the Calvi­no canon, each and every one of Invis­i­ble Cities’ fan­tas­ti­cal, often impos­si­ble col­lec­tions of struc­tures, lives, and, ideas. More recent­ly, the Peru-based archi­tect and artist Kari­na Puente has, with her Invis­i­ble Cities Project, put her­self to work on a sim­i­lar endeav­or. Each of Puente’s intri­cate ren­der­ings takes about a week to pro­duce, and as she tells Arch­dai­ly, “they are not only drawn – I use dif­fer­ent types of paper and draw on each one before cut­ting them out with exac­to knives. All the draw­ings are com­posed of lay­ers of paper which are cut out and glued.”

At the top we have Puente’s city of Dorotea where, bear­ing in mind the rules of its infra­struc­tur­al divi­sion by gates, draw­bridges, and canals and those of the mar­riages between the trad­ing fam­i­lies that reside there, “you can then work from these facts until you learn every­thing you wish about the city in the past, present, and future.” In the mid­dle is Isaura, a city built on a deep sub­ter­ranean lake whose gods, “accord­ing to some peo­ple, live in the depths,” and to oth­ers live in the asso­ci­at­ed buck­ets, pump han­dles, wind­mill blades, pipes, and every oth­er built ele­ment of this “city that moves entire­ly upward.”

Just above you can see Zobei­de, laid out accord­ing to a series of dreams of “a woman run­ning at night through an unknown city,” pur­sued but nev­er found, altered to con­form to each dream until new arrivals “could not under­stand what drew these peo­ple to Zobei­de, this ugly city, this trap.” While at first Polo’s descrip­tions of the cities all across Khan’s empire may strike read­ers as com­plete­ly fan­tas­ti­cal, they’ll soon hear echoes of the places they live in in these metaphor­i­cal metrop­o­lis­es. And if they take a look at Puente’s illus­tra­tions as they read, they’ll see them as well.

Vis­it Puente’s Invis­i­ble Cities Project here.

via Arch­dai­ly

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Invis­i­ble Cities Illus­trat­ed: Three Artists Paint Every City in Ita­lo Calvino’s Clas­sic Nov­el

Hear Ita­lo Calvi­no Read Selec­tions From Invis­i­ble Cities, Mr. Palo­mar & Oth­er Enchant­i­ng Fic­tions

Expe­ri­ence Invis­i­ble Cities, an Inno­v­a­tive, Ita­lo Calvi­no-Inspired Opera Staged in LA’s Union Sta­tion

Watch Ani­ma­tions of Two Ita­lo Calvi­no Sto­ries: “The False Grand­moth­er” and “The Dis­tance from the Moon”

Ita­lo Calvi­no Offers 14 Rea­sons We Should Read the Clas­sics

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.

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