A Beautifully-Designed Edition of Euclid’s Elements from 1847 Gets Digitized: Explore the New Online, Interactive Reproduction

For two mil­len­nia, Euclid­’s Ele­ments, the foun­da­tion­al ancient work on geom­e­try by the famed Greek math­e­mati­cian, was required read­ing for edu­cat­ed peo­ple. (The “clas­si­cal­ly edu­cat­ed” read them in the orig­i­nal Greek.) The influ­ence of the Ele­ments in phi­los­o­phy and math­e­mat­ics can­not be over­stat­ed; so inspir­ing are Euclid’s proofs and axioms that Edna St. Vin­cent Mil­lay wrote a son­net in his hon­or. But over time, Euclid’s prin­ci­ples were stream­lined into text­books, and the Ele­ments was read less and less.

In 1847, maybe sens­ing that the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Euclid’s text was fad­ing, Irish pro­fes­sor of math­e­mat­ics Oliv­er Byrne worked with Lon­don pub­lish­er William Pick­er­ing to pro­duce his own edi­tion of the Ele­ments, or half of it, with orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions that care­ful­ly explain the text.

“Byrne’s edi­tion was one of the first mul­ti­col­or print­ed books,” writes design­er Nicholas Rougeux. “The pre­cise use of col­ors and dia­grams meant that the book was very chal­leng­ing and expen­sive to repro­duce.” It met with lit­tle notice at the time.

Byrne’s edi­tion—The First Six Books of The Ele­ments of Euclid in which Coloured Dia­grams and Sym­bols are Used Instead of Let­ters for the Greater Ease of Learn­ers—might have passed into obscu­ri­ty had a ref­er­ence to it in Edward Tufte’s Envi­sion­ing Infor­ma­tion not sparked renewed inter­est. From there fol­lowed a beau­ti­ful new edi­tion by TASCHEN and an arti­cle on Byrne’s dia­grams in math­e­mat­ics jour­nal Con­ver­gence. Rougeux picked up the thread and decid­ed to cre­ate an online ver­sion. “Like oth­ers,” he writes, “I was drawn to its beau­ti­ful dia­grams and typog­ra­phy.” He has done both of those fea­tures ample jus­tice.

As in anoth­er of Rougeux’s online reproductions—his Werner’s Nomen­cla­ture of Colours—the design­er has tak­en a great deal of care to pre­serve the orig­i­nal inten­tions while adapt­ing the book to the web. In this case, that means the spelling (includ­ing the use of the long s), type­face (Caslon), styl­ized ini­tial cap­i­tals, and Byrne’s alter­nate designs for math­e­mat­i­cal sym­bols have all been retained. But Rougeux has also made the dia­grams inter­ac­tive, “with click­able shapes to aid in under­stand­ing the shapes being ref­er­enced.”

He has also turned all of those love­ly dia­grams into an attrac­tive poster you can hang on the wall for quick ref­er­ence or as a con­ver­sa­tion piece, though this sem­a­phore-like arrange­ment of illustrations—like the sim­pli­fied Euclid in mod­ern textbooks—cannot replace or sup­plant the orig­i­nal text. You can read Euclid in ancient Greek (see a primer here), in Latin and Ara­bic, in Eng­lish trans­la­tions here, here, here, and many oth­er places and lan­guages as well.

For an expe­ri­ence that com­bines, how­ev­er, the best of ancient wis­dom and mod­ern infor­ma­tion technology—from both the 19th and the 21st cen­turies—Rougeux’s free, online edi­tion of Byrne’s Euclid can’t be beat. Learn more about the metic­u­lous process of recre­at­ing Byrne’s text and dia­grams (illus­trat­ed above) here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Explore an Inter­ac­tive, Online Ver­sion of Werner’s Nomen­cla­ture of Colours, a 200-Year-Old Guide to the Col­ors of the Nat­ur­al World

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

Where to Find Free Text­books

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

Meet Henry Darger, the Most Famous of Outsider Artists, Who Died in Obscurity, Leaving Behind Hundreds of Unseen Fantasy Illustrations and a 15,000-Page Novel

In his cheeky inven­tion of a char­ac­ter called Mar­vin Pon­ti­ac, an obscure West African-born blues­man, the avant-garde com­pos­er and sax­o­phon­ist John Lurie cre­at­ed “a wry and pur­pose­ful sendup of the ways in which crit­ics can­on­ize and wor­ship the dis­en­fran­chised and bedev­iled,” Aman­da Petru­sich writes at The New York­er. Lurie’s satire shows how the crit­i­cal fetish for out­sider artists has a per­sis­tent empha­sis: a hyper­fo­cus on “mis­shapen yet per­va­sive ideas” about class, race, edu­ca­tion, and abil­i­ty as mark­ers of prim­i­tive authen­tic­i­ty.

The term “out­sider art” can sound patron­iz­ing and even preda­to­ry, laden with assump­tions about who does and who does not deserve inclu­sion and agency in the art world. Out­sider art gets col­lect­ed, exhib­it­ed, cat­a­logued, and sold, usu­al­ly accom­pa­nied by a semi-mythol­o­gy about the artist’s fringe cir­cum­stances. Yet the artists them­selves rarely seem to be the pri­ma­ry ben­e­fi­cia­ries of any largesse. In the case of the fic­tion­al Mar­vin Pon­ti­ac, his sta­tus as “dead and hereto­fore undis­cov­ered” makes the ques­tion moot. The same goes for the very real and per­haps most famous of out­sider artists, whose life sto­ry can some­times make Lurie’s Pon­ti­ac seem under­writ­ten by com­par­i­son.

Reclu­sive hos­pi­tal cus­to­di­an Hen­ry Darg­er spent his ear­ly years, after both par­ents died, in an orphan­age and the Illi­nois Asy­lum for Fee­ble-Mind­ed Chil­dren. He spent his almost com­plete­ly soli­tary adult life in a sec­ond-floor room on the North Side of Chica­go, attend­ing Mass dai­ly (often sev­er­al times a day), before pass­ing away in 1973 in the same old age home in which his father died. He had one friend, left only four pho­tographs of him­self, and his few acquain­tances were nev­er even sure how to pro­nounce his last name (it’s a hard “g”). In his last diary entry, New Year’s Day, 1971, Darg­er wrote, “I had a very poor noth­ing like Christ­mas. Nev­er had a good Christ­mas all my life, nor a good new year, and now… I am very bit­ter but for­tu­nate­ly not revenge­ful, though I feel should be how I am.”

So much for “out­sider.” As for the label “Artist”—inscribed on his pauper’s grave (along with “Pro­tec­tor of Children”)—Darger shocked the art world, who had no idea he even exist­ed, when his land­lord dis­cov­ered the type­script of an unpub­lished 15,000-page fan­ta­sy nov­elThe Sto­ry of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unre­al, of the Glan­de­co-Angelin­ian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebel­lion. Also in his apart­ment were a 8,500 fol­low-up, Fur­ther Adven­tures of the Vivian Girls in Chica­go, and sev­er­al hun­dred “panoram­ic ‘illus­tra­tions,’” notes the “offi­cial” Hen­ry Darg­er web­site: “many of them dou­ble-sided and more than 9 feet in length.”

These works, we learn in the PBS video at the top, “The Secret Life of Hen­ry Darg­er,” now reg­u­lar­ly sell for hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars. Darg­er, it seems, nev­er meant for any­one to see them at all. Per­haps for good rea­son. His work leaves “a set of con­tra­dic­to­ry impres­sions,” Edward Gómez writes at Hyper­al­ler­gic, “a cel­e­bra­tion of child­hood ful­some­ness and a whiff of pedophil­i­ac per­ver­sion.” The lat­ter impres­sion seems to have less to do with crim­i­nal sex­u­al incli­na­tions than with con­tem­po­rary cul­tur­al per­cep­tions about child­hood. Com­pare Darg­er’s work, for exam­ple, with Lewis Car­rol­l’s obses­sion with chil­dren, alarm­ing to us now but not at all unusu­al at the time.

Still, Darg­er’s hun­dreds of “draw­ings of naked, pre­pu­bes­cent girls whose bod­ies promi­nent­ly include male gen­i­tals” have raised all sorts of ques­tions. Crit­ics have point­ed to the obvi­ous influ­ence of Vic­to­ri­an chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, but per­haps even more per­va­sive was Darg­er’s own painful child­hood, his con­sid­er­able dis­com­fort with the adult world, and his expressed desire to pro­tect chil­dren who might suf­fer sim­i­lar­ly (a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion shared by Charles Dick­ens). Learn about Darger’s trou­bled, trag­ic child­hood in the Down the Rab­bit Hole video biog­ra­phy above, and in these two por­traits, see why his work deserves—despite but not because of his mar­gin­al­i­ty and odd­ness, his being self-taught, and his desire for his art to disappear—the posthu­mous acclaim it has received. Like that quin­tes­sen­tial out­sider artist, William Blake, Darg­er left behind a dar­ing­ly orig­i­nal body of work that is as com­pelling and beau­ti­ful as it is dis­turb­ing and oth­er­world­ly.

To delve deep­er into Darg­er’s world, check out the 2004 doc­u­men­tary, The Realms of the Unre­al, which can be viewed on Youtube, or pur­chased on Ama­zon. The film’s trail­er appears below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Data­base, Will Fea­ture Works by 600+ Over­looked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Cen­turies

Near­ly 1,000 Paint­ings & Draw­ings by Vin­cent van Gogh Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online: View/Download the Col­lec­tion

Lewis Carroll’s Pho­tographs of Alice Lid­dell, the Inspi­ra­tion for Alice in Won­der­land

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

Apple Lets You Download Six Free Audio Books Read by Celebrity Narrators: Start with Kate Beckinsale Reading Pride & Prejudice

A quick heads up: Apple has just released six clas­sic books read by celebri­ty nar­ra­tors. And they’re all free. The list includes:

From start to fin­ish, that’s 36 hours of free audio. For much more of that, vis­it our col­lec­tion: 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Look­ing for free, pro­fes­­sion­al­­ly-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with Audible.com, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oscar-Win­ning Actress Vio­la Davis Reads the Children’s Sto­ry, Rent Par­ty Jazz, for Jazz Appre­ci­a­tion Month

Christo­pher Lee Reads Four Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ries by Edgar Allan Poe (1979)

Bill Mur­ray Reads the Poet­ry of Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti, Wal­lace Stevens, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Bil­ly Collins, Lorine Niedeck­er, Lucille Clifton & More

Pat­ti Smith Reads Oscar Wilde’s 1897 Love Let­ter De Pro­fundis: See the Full Three-Hour Per­for­mance

Hear Arthur C. Clarke Read 2001: A Space Odyssey: A Vin­tage 1976 Vinyl Record­ing

The Great Leonard Nimoy Reads H.G. Wells’ Sem­i­nal Sci-Fi Nov­el The War of the Worlds

Leonard Nimoy Reads Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries From The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles & The Illus­trat­ed Man (1975–76)

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See Classic Japanese Woodblocks Brought Surreally to Life as Animated GIFs

Much of the image we have of life in Japan in the 17th through the 19th cen­tu­ry, we have because of wood­block prints, or specif­i­cal­ly ukiyo‑e, or “pic­tures of the float­ing world,” which vivid­ly cap­ture a great vari­ety of scenes and the peo­ple who inhab­it­ed them. The once-closed-off Japan has changed a great deal since that era, on most lev­els even more so than oth­er coun­tries, and the artis­tic por­tray­als of Japan­ese life have also mul­ti­plied enor­mous­ly. Yet even in the 21st cen­tu­ry, ukiyo‑e con­tin­ue to pro­vide a com­pelling image of Japan in its essence.

But that does­n’t mean that ukiyo‑e prints can’t be updat­ed to reflect the present day. Film­mak­er and ani­ma­tor Atsu­ki Segawa, writes Spoon & Tam­ago’s John­ny Wald­man, “takes tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Ukiyo‑e wood­block prints and sets them into motion through dig­i­tal ani­ma­tion. He began his col­lec­tion of ‘mov­ing ukiyo‑e’ in 2015 and has been slow­ly adding to his col­lec­tion.” At those two linked Spoon & Tam­a­go posts you can see a selec­tion of ten of Segawa’s cre­ations, which hybridize not just art forms but eras.

Here you can see Segawa’s take on, from top to bot­tom, Kiy­ochi­ka Kobayashi’s Fire­work Show at Ryo­goku, Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai’s Yoshi­da at Tōkaidō, Toshu­sai Sharaku’s Naka­mu­ra Kono­zo and Naka­ji­ma Wadayemon (“If any­one has ever eat­en oden you’ll know how this man feels,” adds Wald­man), Hokusai’s Ejiri in Suru­ga Province, Hokusai’s Great Wave, and Uta­gawa Hiroshige’s Fujikawa. Keep your eye on that last and you’ll notice Doc Brown and Mar­ty McFly cruis­ing through the scene, only the most obvi­ous of the anachro­nis­tic touch­es (though as time trav­el­ers, what real­ly counts as anachro­nism?) Segawa has added to these clas­sic ukiyo‑e and set into motion.

Segawa’s oth­er “mov­ing ukiyo” intro­duce fly­ing drones into an Osa­ka mar­ket­place, the mul­ti­col­ored lights of speed­ing cars down a qui­et sea­side road, a Shinkansen bul­let train pass­ing a rest­ing place full of weary foot trav­el­ers, and vio­lent motion to the waves and boats in Hoku­sai’s Great Wave off Kanaza­wa, quite pos­si­bly the most famous ukiyo‑e print of them all.

Sheer incon­gruity — incon­gruity between the times of the ele­ments depict­ed and ref­er­enced, between the aes­thet­ics of the past and the aes­thet­ics of the present, and between the tech­nolo­gies used to cre­ate and dis­play the orig­i­nals and these light-heart­ed revi­sions — has much to do with the appeal of these images, but some­how it all makes them feel much more, not less, like Japan itself.

via Spoon and Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

The Evo­lu­tion of The Great Wave off Kanaza­wa: See Four Ver­sions That Hoku­sai Paint­ed Over Near­ly 40 Years

Down­load Hun­dreds of 19th-Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Wood­block Prints by Mas­ters of the Tra­di­tion

What Hap­pens When a Japan­ese Wood­block Artist Depicts Life in Lon­don in 1866, Despite Nev­er Hav­ing Set Foot There

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Pristine Footage Lets You Revisit Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Brothers

Pio­neer­ing film­mak­ers Auguste and Louis Lumière, the inven­tors of the pro­ject­ed motion pic­ture, held their first pri­vate screen­ing in Paris in March of 1895. The streets of the French cap­i­tal would go on to pro­vide the broth­ers with plen­ty of life in motion for their new tech­nol­o­gy to cap­ture in the years there­after, and you can watch eight such real scenes com­piled in the video above. With its star­tling clar­i­ty — and its more recent­ly cor­rect­ed motion and added sound — this selec­tion of pieces of Lumière footage offers a rich six-minute cin­e­mat­ic time-trav­el expe­ri­ence to the City of Light between the years of 1896 and 1900.

Guy Jones, the uploader of the video on Youtube, pro­vides the fol­low­ing guide to the loca­tions:

0:08 — Notre-Dame Cathe­dral (1896)

0:58 — Alma Bridge (1900)

1:37 — Avenue des Champs-Élysées (1899)

2:33 — Place de la Con­corde (1897)

3:24 — Pass­ing of a fire brigade (1897)

3:58 — Tui­leries Gar­den (1896)

4:48 — Mov­ing walk­way at the Paris Expo­si­tion (1900)

5:24 — The Eif­fel Tow­er from the Rives de la Seine à Paris (1897)

These places have con­tin­ued to pro­vide gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion of film­mak­ers with loca­tions for their urban cin­e­mat­ic visions. (The Eif­fel Tow­er now pro­vides an imme­di­ate visu­al short­hand for the city, though it cer­tain­ly would­n’t have in this Lumière footage, when it was less than ten years old.) That goes for French film­mak­ers as well as those of many oth­er nation­al­i­ties: even the Coen Broth­ers used Tui­leries Gar­den for their short film Tui­leries, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture.

Or at least they used the sub­way sta­tion under­neath Tui­leries Gar­den, which would­n’t open until 1900, the same year as the Paris Métro itself — and the year of the Paris Expo­si­tion, also known as the Expo­si­tion Uni­verselle, which gave Parisians the chance to ride the mov­ing side­walk seen in the sec­ond-to-last Lumière seg­ment.

Any­one famil­iar with the Paris of the 21st cen­tu­ry will be quick to observe the dif­fer­ences between the city now and the city 120 years ago. But a Parisian of the 1890s might well have said they were the ones who lived in a city made unrec­og­niz­able to ear­li­er gen­er­a­tions, giv­en Georges-Eugène Hauss­man­n’s com­plete revi­sion of the cen­tral city com­mis­sioned by Napoléon III and car­ried out between 1853 and 1870. For good or for ill, it’s just as much Hauss­man­n’s Paris today as it was Hauss­man­n’s Paris in the 1890s, and crit­i­cisms that the city has remained frozen in time aren’t with­out mer­it. But to see what has most dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed about mod­ern Paris — that is, what has changed about how peo­ple see and inter­act with mod­ern Paris — we must turn to cin­e­ma. Might I sug­gest the work of Éric Rohmer?

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Beau­ti­ful, Col­or Pho­tographs of Paris Tak­en 100 Years Ago—at the Begin­ning of World War I & the End of La Belle Époque

Immac­u­late­ly Restored Film Lets You Revis­it Life in New York City in 1911

The Old­est Known Footage of Lon­don (1890–1920) Fea­tures the City’s Great Land­marks

Time Trav­el Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remark­ably High-Qual­i­ty 1940s Video

Berlin Street Scenes Beau­ti­ful­ly Caught on Film (1900–1914)

Dra­mat­ic Footage of San Fran­cis­co Right Before & After the Mas­sive­ly Dev­as­tat­ing Earth­quake of 1906

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A Short Video Introduction to Hilma af Klint, the Mystical Female Painter Who Helped Invent Abstract Art

It can be both a bless­ing and curse for an artist to toil at the behest of an influ­en­tial patron. Finan­cial sup­port and pow­er­ful con­nec­tions are among the obvi­ous perks. Being ham­strung by some­one else’s ego and time­frame are some of the less wel­come real­i­ties on the flip side.

Hilma af Klint, the sub­ject of a high pro­file exhi­bi­tion at the Guggen­heim, does not fit the usu­al artist-patron mold. She made her paint­ings to suit a spir­it named Amaliel, with whom she con­nect­ed in a seance. Amaliel tapped her to con­vey a very impor­tant, as yet inde­ci­pher­able mes­sage to humankind.

Although af Klint was an accom­plished botan­i­cal and land­scape painter who trained at the Roy­al Acad­e­my in Stock­holm, “Paint­ings for the Tem­ple,” 193 works pro­duced between 1906 and 1915 upon order of her spir­it guide, are bright­ly col­ored abstrac­tions.

As the Guggenheim’s Senior Cura­tor and Direc­tor of Col­lec­tions, Tracey Bashkoff, points out above, af Klint’s work was trad­ing in sym­bol­ic, non-nat­u­ral­is­tic forms ten years before abstrac­tions began show­ing up in the work of the men we con­sid­er pio­neers—Vasi­ly Kandin­sky, Piet Mon­dri­an, and Paul Klee. Yet, she was nowhere to be found in MoMA’s 2012 block­buster show, Invent­ing Abstrac­tion: 1910–1925. Cura­tor Leah Dick­er­man implied that the snub was af Klint’s own fault for con­sid­er­ing her work to be part of a spir­i­tu­al prac­tice, rather than a pure­ly artis­tic one.

In his 1920 essay, Cre­ative Con­fes­sion, Klee wrote, “art does not repro­duce the vis­i­ble; rather, it makes vis­i­ble.”

It was a sen­ti­ment Klint shared, but the spir­i­tu­al mes­sage encod­ed in her work was intend­ed for a future audi­ence. She instruct­ed her nephew that her work was to be kept under wraps until twen­ty years after her death. (She died in 1944, the same year as Kandin­sky and Mon­dri­an, but her work was not pub­licly shown until 1986, when the Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art orga­nized an exhi­bi­tion titled The Spir­i­tu­al in Art.)

Per­haps af Klint did not fore­see how dra­mat­i­cal­ly the respectabil­i­ty of spir­i­tu­al­ism and seances—a pop­u­lar pur­suit of her time, and one shared by Mon­dri­an and Kandinsky—would decline.

Her ded­i­ca­tion to car­ry­ing out her spir­it guide’s mis­sion may remind some mod­ern view­ers of Hen­ry Darg­er, the Chica­go jan­i­tor who cre­at­ed hun­dreds of art­works and thou­sands of pages of text doc­u­ment­ing the Glan­de­co-Angelin­ian War Storm, a strange and gory series of events tak­ing place in an alter­nate real­i­ty that was very real to him.

Thus far no one has ful­ly divined the spir­it’s mes­sage af Klint devot­ed so much of her life to pre­serv­ing.

As crit­ic Rober­ta Smith notes in her New York Times review of the Guggen­heim show, af Klint, a mem­ber of the Swedish Lodge of the Theo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety, was well versed in occult spir­i­tu­al­ism, Rosi­cru­cian­ism, Bud­dhism, Dar­win­ism, and the sci­ence of sub­atom­ic par­ti­cles.

Hints of these inter­ests are thread­ed through­out her work.

Col­or also helps to unlock the nar­ra­tive. She used blue and lilac to rep­re­sent female ener­gy, rose and yel­low for male, and green for the uni­ty of the two. The Guardian’s Kate Kell­away reports that the artist may have been influ­enced by Goethe’s 1810 The­o­ry of Colours.

Mov­ing on to geom­e­try, over­lap­ping discs also stand for uni­ty. U‑shapes ref­er­ence the spir­i­tu­al world and spi­rals denote evo­lu­tion.

Af Klint’s spi­ral obses­sion was not con­fined to the can­vas. Rober­ta Smith reveals that af Klint envi­sioned a spi­ral-shaped build­ing for the exhi­bi­tion of The Paint­ings for the Tem­ple. Vis­i­tors would ascend a spi­ral stair­case toward the heav­ens, the exact con­fig­u­ra­tion described by archi­tect Frank Lloyd Wright’s inte­ri­or ramps at the Guggen­heim.

Per­haps we are get­ting clos­er to under­stand­ing.

For fur­ther study, check out the Guggenheim’s Teacher’s Guide to Hilma af Klint: Paint­ings for the Future. See the exhi­bi­tion in per­son through mid-April.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er Hilma af Klint: Pio­neer­ing Mys­ti­cal Painter and Per­haps the First Abstract Artist

Who Paint­ed the First Abstract Paint­ing?: Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky? Hilma af Klint? Or Anoth­er Con­tender?

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Syncs His Abstract Art to Mussorgsky’s Music in a His­toric Bauhaus The­atre Pro­duc­tion (1928)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City through Decem­ber 20th in the 10th anniver­sary pro­duc­tion of Greg Kotis’ apoc­a­lyp­tic hol­i­day tale, The Truth About San­ta, and the book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Emily Dickinson Writes A Poem: A Short Video Introduction

It became fash­ion­able dur­ing the Euro­pean Renais­sance for poets to write what is called an ars poet­i­ca, a “med­i­ta­tion on poet­ry using the form and tech­niques of a poem.” The form fol­lows Horace’s 19th cen­tu­ry, B.C.E. Ars Poet­i­ca, in which the Roman writer rec­om­mends that poet­ry should both “instruct and delight.”

The­o­ries of poet­ry var­ied from one gen­er­a­tion to the next, but the ars poet­i­ca per­sist­ed through­out mod­ern lit­er­ary his­to­ry and into the mod­ernism of Archibald Macleish, Ezra Pound, and Mar­i­anne Moore, all of whom issued mag­is­te­r­i­al dic­ta about poet­ry that has stuck to it ever since.

“A poem should be motion­less in time / As the moon climbs,” writes Macleish in his “Ars Poet­i­ca,” famous­ly con­clud­ing, “A poem should not mean / But be.” In Moore’s “Poet­ry,” which she revised through­out her life, final­ly whit­tling it down to just three lines, she writes of “imag­i­nary gar­dens with real toads in them.”

Such cryp­tic images and ellip­ti­cal apho­risms enact ambi­gu­i­ty as they pre­scribe it, but they make per­fect­ly clear they are mak­ing crit­i­cal judg­ments about the art of poet­ry. Then we have Emi­ly Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” (1263), a poem that serves as her ars poet­i­ca, argues Evan Puschak, the Nerd­writer, in his video essay above, but pur­ports on its sur­face to be about truth, cap­i­tal “T.”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Suc­cess in Cir­cuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb sur­prise
As Light­ning to the Chil­dren eased
With expla­na­tion kind
The Truth must daz­zle grad­u­al­ly
Or every man be blind —

Rarely is Dick­in­son so “direct,” says Puschak. “Known for ambi­gu­i­ty, odd manip­u­la­tions in meter and rhyme” and “images that seem mys­te­ri­ous and some­times out of place,” she wrote “poet­ry brim­ming with slant truth, poet­ry that’s seem­ing­ly laid out here, in per­fect meter and match­ing rhymes.” The poem’s mes­sage is restat­ed four times, from the the­sis in the first line to the sim­i­le of the final four. “The mean­ing could not be more clear,” says Puschak.

But no, of course it’s not. A poem is not a man­u­al or man­i­festo. Like those poems more explic­it­ly about poet­ry, this one enacts the ambi­gu­i­ty it pre­scribes. Are we, for exam­ple, to “tell all the truth” as in “the whole truth?” or as in “tell every­one the truth”? Does “suc­cess” lie “in cir­cuit” like a patient lies on a table? Or does it tell lies, like, well… like poet­ry? Does the word “cir­cuit” refer to an uncer­tain, cir­cuitous path? Or, as one crit­ic has sug­gest­ed, to “cir­cum­fer­ence” (a term Dick­in­son used to refer to one’s lifes­pan or prop­er sphere)?

The next cou­plet, whose ref­er­ence to “infirm Delight” may or may not take Horace to task, push­es us fur­ther out to sea when we begin to read it care­ful­ly. What is this truth that can be told, slant­ed, but also comes as a “sur­prise,” like lightning—terrible, sud­den, and blind­ing? Is this a poem about “Truth” or about poet­ry?

In the final, heav­i­ly trun­cat­ed, ver­sion of “Poet­ry,” Mar­i­anne Moore con­cedes, grumpi­ly, that “one dis­cov­ers in / it, after all, a place for the gen­uine.” As Dickinson’s poem demon­strates, try­ing to find a “place” in poet­ry for any sta­ble mean­ing may be impos­si­ble. Still she insists that truth should “daz­zle grad­u­al­ly,” an oxy­moron­ic phrase, says Puschak, but it’s as evoca­tive, if more abstract, as real toads in made-up gardens—both are para­dox­i­cal means of describ­ing what poet­ry does.

Dick­in­son real­ized that her poem “had to be the phi­los­o­phy… that feel­ing of the text being desta­bi­lized from with­in, oscil­lat­ing from mean­ing to the nega­tion of that mean­ing.” Truth is inex­press­ible, per­haps inac­ces­si­ble, and maybe even fatal. Yet it may strike us, nonethe­less, in the daz­zling ambi­gu­i­ties of poet­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Online Emi­ly Dick­in­son Archive Makes Thou­sands of the Poet’s Man­u­scripts Freely Avail­able

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Film of Emi­ly Dickinson’s Poem ‘I Start­ed Early–Took My Dog’

An 8‑Hour Marathon Read­ing of 500 Emi­ly Dick­in­son Poems

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

The Revolutionary Title Sequences and Trailers Created by Pablo Ferro: Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, Stop Making Sense, Bullitt & Other Films

Pablo Fer­ro, who died last month after more than 60 years in graph­ic design, had such an impact on cin­e­ma that we’ve all felt it at one time or anoth­er, despite the fact that he nev­er direct­ed a sin­gle fea­ture him­self. Rather, he made his mark with title sequences and trail­ers, each of them exud­ing no small amount of then-rev­o­lu­tion­ary and still dif­fi­cult-to-imi­tate style. Hav­ing emi­grat­ed from Cuba to New York at the age of twelve, Fer­ro taught him­self to ani­mate before find­ing his first free­lance work in illus­tra­tion and then his first real job in adver­tis­ing. For his com­mer­cials he devel­oped a sig­na­ture style of rapid cut­ting, a new aes­thet­ic made to sell new prod­ucts, and that impressed many who saw them, includ­ing a cer­tain Stan­ley Kubrick, then at work on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb.

“He said we could sell the movie as a prod­uct,” Fer­ro remem­bers Kubrick telling him in an in-depth three-part inter­view at Art of the Title. “I said that would be great.” The result­ing trail­er’s inter­play of image, sound, voiceover, and espe­cial­ly text looked like noth­ing that had ever come before, and even it turned out not to be Fer­ro’s most mem­o­rable con­tri­bu­tion to the film.

That hon­or belongs to the open­ing cred­its above, which lay­er Fer­ro’s sig­na­ture hand let­ter­ing — an ele­ment request­ed by clients again and again through­out the rest of his career. (“He asked me what I thought about human beings,” Fer­ro remem­bers of Kubrick in the inter­view. “I said one thing about human beings is that every­thing that is mechan­i­cal, that is invent­ed, is very sex­u­al. We looked at each oth­er and real­ized — the B‑52, refu­el­ing in midair, of course, how much more sex­u­al can you get?!”)

Four years lat­er, in 1968, Fer­ro would use cut­ting-edge split-screen image tech­niques to craft an even more visu­al­ly stun­ning open­ing title sequence for Nor­man Jew­ison’s The Thomas Crown Affair, a mas­ter­piece of style made to open a film itself cel­e­brat­ed as a mas­ter­piece of style. Fer­ro describes it as an expe­ri­ence “where it was a chal­lenge to make it both sim­ple to watch and under­stand, and fit­ting for the film. I was lucky that the cos­tumes and the cin­e­matog­ra­phy had the look of, like, a bizarre mag­a­zine. The whole film felt like a the­atri­cal show.”

Lat­er that same year, anoth­er set of Fer­ro-designed titles would open anoth­er Steve McQueen-star­ring thriller, Bul­litt, which need­ed each and every one of its visu­al ele­ments to reflect the dare­dev­il sen­si­bil­i­ty, albeit a con­trolled one, at its core. Fer­ro got a bit wilder when he worked for Kubrick again, cut­ting togeth­er the trail­er below for 1971’s A Clock­work Orange. Though rem­i­nis­cent of his Dr. Strangelove trail­er in its use of onscreen text — “SATIRIC,” “BIZARRE,” “FRIGHTENING,” “METAPHORICAL,” and “BEETHOVEN,” among oth­er suit­able descrip­tors — it dis­pens­es entire­ly with voic­es, those of the film’s char­ac­ters or oth­er­wise, rely­ing entire­ly on the intri­cate lay­er­ing of music and image for its con­sid­er­able effect.

“Every frame is per­fect with the music and it tells you the whole sto­ry at the same time with­out say­ing a word or read­ing words aloud,” as Fer­ro him­self puts it. “I could see why nobody imi­tat­ed it — it takes a lot of work.”

With all this on his résumé, it makes sense that more work con­tin­ued to come his way until the end, includ­ing trail­ers and titles for  Stop Mak­ing SenseBeetle­juiceMen in Black, and L.A. Con­fi­den­tial, all of which, and much else besides, you can see in the Art of the Title ret­ro­spec­tive video below. Though Pablo Fer­ro him­self has gone, his influ­ence on film will no doubt last for decades and decades to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Cin­e­ma His­to­ry by Titles & Num­bers

Inside the Mak­ing of Dr. Strangelove: Doc­u­men­tary Reveals How a Cold War Sto­ry Became a Kubrick Clas­sic

40 Years of Saul Bass’ Ground­break­ing Title Sequences in One Com­pi­la­tion

Watch 25 Alfred Hitch­cock Trail­ers, Excit­ing Films in Their Own Right

The Art of Film and TV Title Design

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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