Pink Floyd Plays in Venice on a Massive Floating Stage in 1989; Forces the Mayor & City Council to Resign

When Roger Waters left Pink Floyd after 1983’s The Final Cut, the remain­ing mem­bers had good rea­son to assume the band was tru­ly, as Waters pro­claimed, “a spent force.” After releas­ing solo projects in the next few years, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright soon dis­cov­ered they would nev­er achieve as indi­vid­u­als what they did as a band, both musi­cal­ly and com­mer­cial­ly. Gilmour got to work in 1986 on devel­op­ing new solo mate­r­i­al into the 13th Pink Floyd stu­dio album, the first with­out Waters, A Momen­tary Lapse of Rea­son.

Whether the record is “mis­un­der­stood, or just bad” is a mat­ter for fans and crit­ics to hash out. At the time, as Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock writes, it “would make or break their future abil­i­ty to tour and record with­out” Waters. Richard Wright, who could only con­tribute unof­fi­cial­ly for legal rea­sons, lat­er admit­ted that “it’s not a band album at all,” and most­ly served as a show­case for Gilmour’s songs, sup­port­ed in record­ing by sev­er­al ses­sion play­ers.

Still A Momen­tary Lapse of Rea­son “sur­passed quadru­ple plat­inum sta­tus in the U.S.,” dri­ven by the sin­gle “Learn­ing to Fly.” The Russ­ian crew of the Soyuz TM‑7 took the disc with them on their 1988 expe­di­tion, “mak­ing Pink Floyd the first rock band to be played in out­er space,” and the album “spawned the year’s biggest tour and a com­pan­ion live album.”

Uncer­tain whether the album would sell, the band only planned a small series of shows ini­tial­ly in 1987, but are­na after are­na filled up, and the tour extend­ed into the fol­low­ing two years, with mas­sive shows all over the world and the usu­al extrav­a­gan­za of lights and props, includ­ing “a large dis­co ball which opens like a flower. Lasers and light effects. Fly­ing hos­pi­tal beds that crash in the stage, Teles­can Pods and of course the 32-foot round screen.” As in the past, the over-stim­u­lat­ing stage shows seemed war­rant­ed by the huge, quadro­phon­ic sound of the live band. When they arrived in Venice in 1989, they were met by over 200,000 Ital­ian fans. And by a sig­nif­i­cant con­tin­gent of Vene­tians who had no desire to see the show hap­pen at all.

This is because the free con­cert had been arranged to take place in St. Mark’s square, coin­cid­ing with the wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed Feast of the Redeemer, and threat­en­ing the frag­ile his­toric art and archi­tec­ture of the city. “A num­ber of the city’s munic­i­pal admin­is­tra­tors,” writes Lea-Cather­ine Sza­c­ka at The Archi­tects’ News­pa­per, “viewed the con­cert as an assault against Venice, some­thing akin to a bar­bar­ian inva­sion of urban space.” The city’s super­in­ten­dent for cul­tur­al her­itage “vetoed the con­cert” three days before its July 15 date, “on the grounds that the ampli­fied sound would dam­age the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basil­i­ca, while the whole piaz­za could very well sink under the weight of so many peo­ple.”

An accord was final­ly reached when the band offered to low­er the deci­bel lev­els from 100 to 60 and per­form on a float­ing stage 200 yards from the square, which would join “a long his­to­ry… of float­ing ephemer­al archi­tec­tures” on the canals and lagoons of Venice. Filmed by state-run tele­vi­sion RAI, the spec­ta­cle was broad­cast “in over 20 coun­tries with an esti­mat­ed audi­ence of almost 100 mil­lion.”

The show end­ed up becom­ing a major scan­dal, split­ting tra­di­tion­al­ists in the city gov­ern­ment and pro­gres­sives on the council—who believed Venice “must be open to new trends, includ­ing rock music” (deemed “new” in 1989). It drew over 150 thou­sand more peo­ple than even lived with­in the city lim­its, and while “it was report­ed that most of the fans were on their best behav­ior,” notes Dave Lifton, and only one group of stat­ues sus­tained minor dam­age, offi­cials claimed they “left behind 300 tons of garbage and 500 cubic meters of emp­ty cans and bot­tles. And because the city didn’t pro­vide portable bath­rooms, con­cert­go­ers relieved them­selves on the mon­u­ments and walls.”

Enraged after­ward, res­i­dents shout­ed down the May­or Anto­nio Casel­lati, who attempt­ed a pub­lic rap­proche­ment two days lat­er, with cries of “resign, resign, you’ve turned Venice into a toi­let.” Casel­lati did so, along with the entire city coun­cil who had brought him to pow­er. Was the event—which you can see report­ed on in sev­er­al Ital­ian news broad­casts, above—worth such unsan­i­tary incon­ve­nience and polit­i­cal tur­bu­lence? The band may have tak­en down the city’s gov­ern­ment, but they put on a hell of a show–one the Ital­ian fans, and the mil­lions of who watched from home, will nev­er for­get. See the front rows of the crowd queued up and rest­less on barges and boats in footage above. And, at the top of the post, see the band play their 14-song set, with bassist Guy Pratt sub­bing in for the depart­ed Roger Waters. It’s appar­ent­ly the orig­i­nal Ital­ian broad­cast of the event.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Pink Floyd Play Live Amidst the Ruins of Pom­peii in 1971 … and David Gilmour Does It Again in 2016

Pink Floyd Films a Con­cert in an Emp­ty Audi­to­ri­um, Still Try­ing to Break Into the U.S. Charts (1970)

How Pink Floyd Built The Wall: The Album, Tour & Film

Pink Floyd’s Debut on Amer­i­can TV, Restored in Col­or (1967)

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

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Inside the Beautiful Home Frank Lloyd Wright Designed for His Son (1952)

Being Frank Lloyd Wright’s son sure­ly came with its down­sides. But one of the upsides — assum­ing you could stay in the mer­cu­r­ial mas­ter’s good graces — was the pos­si­bil­i­ty of his design­ing a house for you. Such was the for­tune of his fourth child David Samuel Wright, a Phoenix build­ing-prod­ucts rep­re­sen­ta­tive well into mid­dle age him­self when he got his own Wright house. It must have been worth the wait, giv­en that he and his wife lived there until their deaths at age 102 and 104, respec­tive­ly. Not long there­after, the sold-off David and Gladys Wright House faced the prospect of immi­nent demo­li­tion, but it ulti­mate­ly sur­vived long enough to be added to the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places in 2022.

Giv­en that its cur­rent own­ers include restora­tion-mind­ed for­mer archi­tec­tur­al appren­tices Tal­iesin West, the David and Gladys Wright House would now seem to have a secure future. To get a sense of what makes it worth pre­serv­ing, have a look at this new tour video from Archi­tec­tur­al Digest led — like the AD video on Wright’s Tir­ran­na pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — by Frank Lloyd Wright Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent and CEO Stu­art Graff. He first empha­sizes the house­’s most con­spic­u­ous fea­ture, its spi­ral shape that brings to mind (and actu­al­ly pre­dat­ed) Wright’s design for the Solomon R. Guggen­heim Muse­um.

Here, Graff explains, “the spi­ral real­ly takes on a unique sense of longevi­ty as it moves from one gen­er­a­tion, father, to the next gen­er­a­tion, son — and even today, as it moves between father and daugh­ter work­ing on this restora­tion.” That father and daugh­ter are Bing and Aman­da Hu, who have tak­en on the job of cor­rect­ing the years and years of less-than-opti­mal main­te­nance inflict­ed on this house on which Wright, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly, spared lit­tle expense or atten­tion to detail. Every­thing in it is cus­tom made, from the Philip­pine mahogany ceil­ings to the doors and trash cans to the con­crete blocks that make up the exte­ri­or walls.

“David Wright worked for the Bess­er Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pa­ny, and they made con­crete block molds,” says Graff. “David insist­ed that his com­pa­ny’s molds and con­crete block be used for the con­struc­tion and design of this house.” That was­n’t the only aspect on which the younger Wright had input; at one point, he even dared to ask, “Dad, can the house be only 90 per­cent Frank Lloyd Wright, and ten per­cent David and Gladys Wright?” Wright’s response: “You’re mak­ing your poor old father tired.” Yet he did, ulti­mate­ly, incor­po­rate his son’s requests into the design — under­stand­ing, as Bing Hu also must, that fil­ial piety is a two-way street.

Relat­ed con­tent:

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Hous­es Offer Vir­tu­al Tours: Hol­ly­hock House, Tal­iesin West, Falling­wa­ter & More

A Beau­ti­ful Visu­al Tour of Tir­ran­na, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Remark­able, Final Cre­ations

130+ Pho­tographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mas­ter­piece Falling­wa­ter

What Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unusu­al Win­dows Tell Us About His Archi­tec­tur­al Genius

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Japan­ese Mas­ter­piece, the Impe­r­i­al Hotel in Tokyo

When Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Dog­house, His Small­est Archi­tec­tur­al Cre­ation (1956)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Steven Spielberg Calls Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange “the First Punk Rock Movie Ever Made”

Steven Spiel­berg and Stan­ley Kubrick are two of the first direc­tors whose names young cinephiles get to know. They’re also names between which quite a few of those young cinephiles draw a bat­tle line: you may have enjoyed films by both of these auteurs, but ulti­mate­ly, you’re going to have to side with one cin­e­mat­ic ethos or the oth­er. Yet Spiel­berg clear­ly admires Kubrick him­self: his 2001 film A.I. Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence orig­i­nat­ed as an unfin­ished Kubrick project, and he’s gone on record many times prais­ing Kubrick­’s work.

This is true even of such an un-Spiel­ber­gian pic­ture as A Clock­work Orange, a col­lec­tion of Spiel­berg’s com­ments on which you can hear col­lect­ed in the video above. He calls it “the first punk-rock movie ever made. It was a very bleak vision of a dan­ger­ous future where young peo­ple, teenagers, are free to roam the streets with­out any kind of parental excep­tion. They break into homes, and they assault and rape peo­ple. The sub­ject mat­ter was dan­ger­ous.” On one lev­el, you can see how this would appeal to Spiel­berg, who in his own oeu­vre has returned over and over again to the sub­ject of youth.

Yet Kubrick makes moves that seem prac­ti­cal­ly incon­ceiv­able to Spiel­berg, “espe­cial­ly the scene where you hear Gene Kel­ly singing ‘Sin­gin’ in the Rain’ ” when Mal­colm McDow­ell’s Alex DeLarge is “kick­ing a man prac­ti­cal­ly to death. That was one of the most hor­ri­fy­ing things I think I’ve ever wit­nessed.” And indeed, such a sav­age coun­ter­point between music and action is nowhere to be found in the fil­mog­ra­phy of Steven Spiel­berg, which has received crit­i­cism from the Kubrick-enjoy­ers of the world for the emo­tion­al one-dimen­sion­al­i­ty of its scores (even those com­posed by his acclaimed long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor John Williams).

Less fair­ly, Spiel­berg has also been charged with an inabil­i­ty to resist hap­py end­ings, or at least a dis­com­fort with ambigu­ous ones. He would nev­er, in any case, end a pic­ture the way he sees Kubrick as hav­ing end­ed A Clock­work Orange: despite the inten­sive “depro­gram­ming” Alex under­goes, “he comes out the oth­er end more charm­ing, more wit­ty, and with such a dev­il­ish wink and blink at the audi­ence, that I am com­plete­ly cer­tain that when he gets out of that hos­pi­tal, he’s going to kill his moth­er and his father and his part­ners and his friends, and he’s going to be worse than he was when he went in.” To Spiel­berg’s mind, Kubrick made a “defeatist” film; yet he, like every Kubrick fan, must also rec­og­nize it as an artis­tic vic­to­ry.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Steven Spiel­berg on the Genius of Stan­ley Kubrick

When Stan­ley Kubrick Banned His Own Film, A Clock­work Orange: It Was the “Most Effec­tive Cen­sor­ship of a Film in British His­to­ry”

Peter Sell­ers Calls Kubrick’s A Clock­work Orange “Vio­lent,” “The Biggest Load of Crap I’ve Seen” (1972)

A Clock­work Orange Author Antho­ny Burgess Lists His Five Favorite Dystopi­an Nov­els: Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Island & More

Ter­ry Gilliam on the Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick & Spiel­berg: Kubrick Makes You Think, Spiel­berg Wraps Every­thing Up with Neat Lit­tle Bows

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Hear Flannery O’Connor Read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1959)

Flan­nery O’Con­nor was a South­ern writer who, as Joyce Car­ol Oates once said, had less in com­mon with Faulkn­er than with Kaf­ka and Kierkegaard. Iso­lat­ed by poor health and con­sumed by her fer­vent Catholic faith, O’Con­nor cre­at­ed works of moral fic­tion that, accord­ing to Oates, “were not refined New York­er sto­ries of the era in which noth­ing hap­pens except inside the char­ac­ters’ minds, but sto­ries in which some­thing hap­pens of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, often death by vio­lent means.”

In imag­in­ing those events of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, O’Con­nor could some­times seem outlandish–even cartoonish–but she strong­ly reject­ed the notion that her per­cep­tions of 20th cen­tu­ry life were dis­tort­ed. “Writ­ers who see by the light of their Chris­t­ian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the per­verse, and for the unac­cept­able,” O’Con­nor said. “To the hard of hear­ing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and star­tling fig­ures.”

In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ven­tured away from her seclud­ed fam­i­ly farm in Milledgeville, Geor­gia, to give a read­ing at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. She read one of her most famous and unset­tling sto­ries, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, acces­si­ble above, is one of two known record­ings of the author read­ing that sto­ry. In her dis­tinc­tive Geor­gian drawl, O’Con­nor tells the sto­ry of a fate­ful fam­i­ly trip:

The grand­moth­er did­n’t want to go to Flori­da. She want­ed to vis­it some of her con­nec­tions in east Ten­nessee and she was seiz­ing at every chance to change Bai­ley’s mind. Bai­ley was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sit­ting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports sec­tion of the Jour­nal. “Now look here, Bai­ley,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the oth­er rat­tling the news­pa­per at his bald head. “Here this fel­low that calls him­self The Mis­fit is aloose from the Fed­er­al Pen and head­ed toward Flori­da and you read here what it says he did to these peo­ple. Just you read it. I would­n’t take my chil­dren in any direc­tion with a crim­i­nal like that aloose in it. I could­n’t answer to my con­science if I did.”

After you lis­ten to this rare track, you can fol­low this link to a record­ing of O’Con­nor read­ing her 1960 essay, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion,” in which she writes: “I have found that any­thing that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the North­ern read­er, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called real­is­tic.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion’ (c. 1960)

Hear Flan­nery O’Connor’s Short Sto­ry, “Rev­e­la­tion,” Read by Leg­endary His­to­ri­an & Radio Host, Studs Terkel

Flan­nery O’Connor’s “Every­thing That Ris­es Must Con­verge” Read by Estelle Par­sons

A Guided Tour of the Largest Handmade Model of Imperial Rome: Discover the 20x20 Meter Model Created During the 1930s

At the moment, you can’t see the largest, most detailed hand­made mod­el of Impe­r­i­al Rome for your­self. That’s because the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana, the insti­tu­tion that hous­es it, has been closed for ren­o­va­tions since 2014. But you can get a guid­ed tour of “Il Plas­ti­co,” as this grand Rome-in-minia­ture is known, through the new Ancient Rome Live video above. “The archae­ol­o­gist and archi­tect Ita­lo Gis­mon­di cre­at­ed this amaz­ing mod­el,” explains host Dar­ius Arya, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his tour of Pom­peii. Work­ing at a 1:250 scale, Gis­mon­di built most of Il Plas­ti­co between 1933 and 1937, with lat­er expan­sions after its instal­la­tion in the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana.

Archae­ol­o­gists and oth­er schol­ars have, of course, learned more about the Eter­nal City over the past nine decades, knowl­edge reflect­ed in reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed dig­i­tal mod­els like Rome Reborn. But none have showed Gis­mondi’s ded­i­ca­tion to painstak­ing man­u­al labor, which allowed him to craft prac­ti­cal­ly every then-known archi­tec­tur­al and infra­struc­tur­al fea­ture with­in the walls of Rome in the Con­stan­tin­ian age, from 306 to 337 AD.

Arya points out rec­og­niz­able land­marks like the Colos­se­um, the Forum, and the Pyra­mid of Ces­tius as well as bridges, riv­er for­ti­fi­ca­tions, aque­ducts, and even land­scap­ing details down to the lev­el of indi­vid­ual trees.

Even when the cam­era zooms way in, Gis­mondi’s Rome looks prac­ti­cal­ly hab­it­able (and indeed, it may appeal to some view­ers more than do the mod­ern Euro­pean cities that are its descen­dants). It’s no won­der that Rid­ley Scott, a direc­tor famous­ly sen­si­tive to visu­al impact, would use the mod­el in Glad­i­a­tor. And while a video tour like Arya’s pro­vides a clos­er-up view of many sec­tions of Il Plas­ti­co than one can get in per­son, the only way to ful­ly appre­ci­ate the sheer scale of the achieve­ment is to behold its phys­i­cal real­i­ty. Luck­i­ly, you should be able to do just that next year, when the Museo del­la Civiltà Romana is sched­uled to reopen at long last. But then, no more could Rome be built in a day than its muse­um could be ren­o­vat­ed in a mere decade.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A Huge Scale Mod­el Show­ing Ancient Rome at Its Archi­tec­tur­al Peak (Built Between 1933 and 1937)

Rome Reborn: A New 3D Vir­tu­al Mod­el Lets You Fly Over the Great Mon­u­ments of Ancient Rome

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

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

Claude Mon­et, 1915:

We’ve all seen their works in fixed form, enshrined in muse­ums and print­ed in books. But there’s some­thing spe­cial about watch­ing a great artist at work. Over the years, we’ve post­ed film clips of some of the great­est artists of the 20th cen­tu­ry caught in the act of cre­ation. Today we’ve gath­ered togeth­er eight of our all-time favorites.

Above is the only known film footage of the French Impres­sion­ist Claude Mon­et, made when he was 74 years old, paint­ing along­side a lily pond in his gar­den at Giverny. The footage was shot in the sum­mer of 1915 by the French actor and drama­tist Sacha Gui­t­ry for his patri­ot­ic World War I‑era film, Ceux de Chez Nous, or “Those of Our Land.” For more infor­ma­tion, see our pre­vi­ous post, “Rare Film: Claude Mon­et at Work in His Famous Gar­den at Giverny, 1915.”

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1915:

You may nev­er look at a paint­ing by the French Impres­sion­ist Pierre-Auguste Renoir in quite the same way after see­ing the footage above, which is also from Sacha Gui­t­ry’s Ceux de Chez Nous. Renoir suf­fered from severe rheuma­toid arthri­tis dur­ing the last decades of his life. By the time this film was made in June of 1915, the 74-year-old Renoir was phys­i­cal­ly deformed and in con­stant pain. The painter’s 14-year-old son Claude is shown plac­ing the brush in his father’s per­ma­nent­ly clenched hand. To learn more about the footage and about Renoir’s ter­ri­ble strug­gle with arthri­tis, be sure to read our post, “Aston­ish­ing Film of Arthrit­ic Impres­sion­ist Painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1915).”

Auguste Rodin, 1915:

The footage above, again by Sacha Gui­t­ry, shows the French sculp­tor Auguste Rodin in sev­er­al loca­tions, includ­ing his stu­dio at the dilap­i­dat­ed Hôtel Biron in Paris, which lat­er became the Musée Rodin. The film was made in late 1915, when Rodin was 74 years old. For more on Rodin and the Hôtel Biron, please see: “Rare Film of Sculp­tor Auguste Rodin work­ing at his Stu­dio in Paris (1915).”

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, 1926:

In 1926, film­mak­er Hans Cürlis took the rare footage above of the Russ­ian abstract painter Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky apply­ing paint to a blank can­vas at the Galerie Neu­mann-Nieren­dorf in Berlin. Kandin­sky was about 49 years old at the time, and teach­ing at the Bauhaus. To learn more about Kandin­sky and to watch a video of actress Helen Mir­ren dis­cussing his work at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York, see our post, “The Inner Object: See­ing Kandin­sky.”

Hen­ri Matisse, 1946:

The French artist Hen­ri Matisse is shown above when he was 76 years old, mak­ing a char­coal sketch of his grand­son, Ger­ard, at his home and stu­dio in Nice. The clip is from a 26-minute film made by François Cam­paux for the French Depart­ment of Cul­tur­al Rela­tions. To read a trans­la­tion of Matis­se’s spo­ken words and to watch a clip of the artist work­ing on one of his dis­tinc­tive paper cut-outs, go to “Vin­tage Film: Watch Hen­ri Matisse Sketch and Make His Famous Cut-Outs (1946).”

Pablo Picas­so, 1950:

In the famous footage above, Span­ish artist Pablo Picas­so paints on glass at his stu­dio in the vil­lage of Val­lau­ris, on the French Riv­iera. It’s from the 1950 film Vis­ite à Picas­so (A Vis­it with Picas­so) by Bel­gian film­mak­er Paul Hae­saerts. Picas­so was about 68 years old at the time. You can find the full 19-minute film here.

Jack­son Pol­lock, 1951:

In the short film above, called Jack­son Pol­lock 51, the Amer­i­can abstract painter talks about his work and cre­ates one of his dis­tinc­tive drip paint­ings before our eyes. The film was made by Hans Namuth when Pol­lock was 39 years old. To learn about Pol­lock and his fate­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with Namuth, see “Jack­son Pol­lock: Lights, Cam­era, Paint! (1951).”

Alber­to Gia­comet­ti, 1965:

The Swiss artist Alber­to Gia­comet­ti is most famous for his thin, elon­gat­ed sculp­tures of the human form. But in the clip above from the 1966 film Alber­to Gia­comet­ti by the Swiss pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ernst Schei­deg­ger, Gia­comet­ti is shown work­ing in anoth­er medi­um as he paints the foun­da­tion­al lines of a por­trait at his stu­dio in Paris. The footage was appar­ent­ly shot in 1965, when Gia­comet­ti was about 64 years old and had less than a year to live. To learn about Gia­comet­ti’s approach to draw­ing and to read a trans­la­tion of the Ger­man nar­ra­tion in this clip, be sure to see our post, “Watch as Alber­to Gia­comet­ti Paints and Pur­sues the Elu­sive ‘Appari­tion,’ (1965).”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1922 Pho­to: Claude Mon­et Stands on the Japan­ese Foot­bridge He Paint­ed Through the Years

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

When Hen­ri Matisse Was 83 Years Old, He Couldn’t Go to His Favorite Swim­ming Pool, So He Cre­at­ed a Swim­ming Pool as a Work of Art

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Humans First Started Enjoying Cannabis in China Circa 2800 BC

Judg­ing by how cer­tain Amer­i­can cities smell these days, you’d think cannabis was invent­ed last week. But that spike in enthu­si­asm, as well as in pub­lic indul­gence, comes as only a recent chap­ter in that sub­stance’s very long his­to­ry. In fact, says the pre­sen­ter of the PBS Eons video above, human­i­ty began cul­ti­vat­ing it “in what’s now Chi­na around 12,000 years ago. This makes cannabis one of the sin­gle old­est known plants we domes­ti­cate,” even ear­li­er than “sta­ples like wheat, corn, and pota­toes.” By that time scale, it was­n’t so long ago — four mil­len­nia or so — that the lin­eages used for hemp and for drugs genet­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed from each oth­er.

The old­est evi­dence of cannabis smok­ing as we know it, also explored in the Sci­ence mag­a­zine video below, dates back 2,500 years. “The first known smok­ers were pos­si­bly Zoroas­tri­an mourn­ers along the ancient Silk Road who burned pot dur­ing funer­al rit­u­als,” a propo­si­tion sup­port­ed by the analy­sis of the remains of ancient bra­ziers found at the Jirzankal ceme­tery, at the foot of the Pamir moun­tains in west­ern Chi­na. “Tests revealed chem­i­cal com­pounds from cannabis, includ­ing the non-psy­choac­tive cannabid­i­ol, also known as CBD” — itself rein­vent­ed in our time as a thor­ough­ly mod­ern prod­uct — and traces of a THC byprod­uct called cannabi­nol “more intense than in oth­er ancient sam­ples.”

What made the Jirzankal ceme­tery’s stash pack such a punch? “The region’s high alti­tude could have stressed the cannabis, cre­at­ing plants nat­u­ral­ly high in THC,” writes Sci­ence’s Andrew Lawler. “But humans may also have inter­vened to breed a more wicked weed.” As cannabis-users of the six­ties and sev­en­ties who return to the fold today find out, the weed has grown wicked indeed over the past few decades. But even mil­len­nia ago and half a world away, civ­i­liza­tions that had incor­po­rat­ed it for rit­u­al­is­tic use — or as a med­ical treat­ment — may already have been agri­cul­tur­al­ly guid­ing it toward greater poten­cy. Your neigh­bor­hood dis­pen­sary may not be the most sub­lime place on Earth, but at least, when next you pay it a vis­it, you’ll have a sound his­tor­i­cal rea­son to cast your mind to the Cen­tral Asian steppe.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Drugs Used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans

Alger­ian Cave Paint­ings Sug­gest Humans Did Mag­ic Mush­rooms 9,000 Years Ago

Pipes with Cannabis Traces Found in Shakespeare’s Gar­den, Sug­gest­ing the Bard Enjoyed a “Not­ed Weed”

Reefer Mad­ness, 1936’s Most Unin­ten­tion­al­ly Hilar­i­ous “Anti-Drug” Exploita­tion Film, Free Online

Carl Sagan on the Virtues of Mar­i­jua­na (1969)

Watch High Main­te­nance: A Crit­i­cal­ly-Acclaimed Web Series About Life & Cannabis

The New Nor­mal: Spike Jonze Cre­ates a Very Short Film About America’s Com­plex His­to­ry with Cannabis

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Daniel Dennett Presents the 4 Biggest Ideas in Philosophy in One of His Final Videos (RIP)

A week ago, Big Think released this video fea­tur­ing philoso­pher Daniel Den­nett talk­ing about the four biggest ideas in phi­los­o­phy. Today, we learned that he passed away at age 82. The New York Times obit­u­ary for Den­nett reads: “Espous­ing his ideas in best sell­ers, he insist­ed that reli­gion was an illu­sion, free will was a fan­ta­sy and evo­lu­tion could only be explained by nat­ur­al selec­tion.” “Mr. Den­nett com­bined a wide range of knowl­edge with an easy, often play­ful writ­ing style to reach a lay pub­lic, avoid­ing the impen­e­tra­ble con­cepts and turgid prose of many oth­er con­tem­po­rary philoso­phers. Beyond his more than 20 books and scores of essays, his writ­ings even made their way into the the­ater and onto the con­cert stage.”

Above, Den­nett, a long-time phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor at Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty, out­lines the “four eras he evolved through on his own jour­ney as a philoso­pher: clas­si­cal phi­los­o­phy, evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry, memet­ic the­o­ry, and the inten­tion­al stance. Each stage added depth to his per­spec­tive and under­stand­ing… Dennett’s key take­away is a request for philoso­phers to reeval­u­ate their method­olo­gies, urg­ing mod­ern-day thinkers to embrace the insights offered by new sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies. By com­bin­ing the exis­ten­tial and the­o­ret­i­cal view­points of philoso­phers with the ana­lyt­i­cal and evi­den­tial per­spec­tive of sci­en­tists, we can begin to ful­ly and accu­rate­ly inter­pret the world around us.”

To help you delve a lit­tle deep­er into Daniel Den­net­t’s world, we’ve also post­ed below a vin­tage TED video where the philoso­pher dis­cuss­es the illu­sion of con­scious­ness. We would also encour­age you to explore the Den­nett items in the Relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Daniel Den­nett Presents Sev­en Tools For Crit­i­cal Think­ing

How to Argue With Kind­ness and Care: 4 Rules from Philoso­pher Daniel Den­nett

Daniel Den­nett and Cor­nel West Decode the Phi­los­o­phy of The Matrix

Hear What It Sounds Like When Philoso­pher Daniel Dennett’s Brain Activ­i­ty Gets Turned into Music

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Discover the Singing Nuns Who Have Turned Medieval Latin Hymns into Modern Hits

We now live, as one often hears, in an age of few musi­cal super­stars, but tow­er­ing ones. The pop­u­lar cul­ture of the twen­ty-twen­ties can, at times, seem to be con­tained entire­ly with­in the per­son of Tay­lor Swift — at least when the media mag­net that is Bey­on­cé takes a breather. But look past them, if you can, and you’ll find for­mi­da­ble musi­cal phe­nom­e­na in the unlike­li­est of places. Take the Poor Clares of Arun­del, a group of singing nuns from Sus­sex who, dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, “smashed all chart records to become not only the high­est-chart­ing nuns in his­to­ry, but also the UK’s best-sell­ing clas­si­cal artist debut,” reports Clas­sic FM’s Mad­dy Shaw Roberts.

“Music is at the heart of the nuns’ wor­ship,” writes the Guardian’s Joan­na Moor­head, but the idea of putting out an album “came about ini­tial­ly as a bit of a joke.” Not long after receiv­ing a vis­it from a curi­ous music pro­duc­er, the singing Poor Clares — skilled and unskilled alike — found them­selves in a prop­er record­ing stu­dio, lay­ing down tracks.

Roberts describes the result­ing debut Light for the World as “a col­lec­tion of Latin hymns pro­duced for a twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry audi­ence, bring­ing calm and beau­ty dur­ing a time when so many were sep­a­rat­ed from their loved ones.” Just a few weeks ago, they released its fol­low-up May Peace I Give You, the video for whose title track appears at the top of the post.

May Peace I Give You comes from Dec­ca Records, a label famous in part for their rejec­tion, in 1962, of a scruffy rock-and-roll band called the Bea­t­les. Pre­sum­ably deter­mined not to make the same mis­take twice, they’ve since tak­en chances on all man­ner of acts, start­ing with the Rolling Stones; over the decades, they’ve reached beyond the well-trod­den spaces in pop­u­lar and clas­si­cal music. The suc­cess of the Poor Clares goes to show that this prac­tice con­tin­ues to pay off, and that — like the pop­u­lar Gre­go­ri­an chant and gospel booms of decades past — ven­er­a­ble holy music retains its res­o­nance even in our trend-dri­ven, not-espe­cial­ly-reli­gious age. And as the pro­mo­tion of their new Abbey Road-record­ed album proves, even for the monas­ti­cal­ly dis­ci­plined, some temp­ta­tions are irre­sistible.

via Clas­sic FM

Relat­ed con­tent:

A YouTube Chan­nel Com­plete­ly Devot­ed to Medieval Sacred Music: Hear Gre­go­ri­an Chant, Byzan­tine Chant & More

Expe­ri­ence the Mys­ti­cal Music of Hilde­gard Von Bin­gen: The First Known Com­pos­er in His­to­ry (1098 – 1179)

10 Rules for Appre­ci­at­ing Art by Sis­ter Wendy Beck­ett (RIP), the Nun Who Unex­pect­ed­ly Pop­u­lar­ized Art His­to­ry on TV

Man­u­script Reveals How Medieval Nun, Joan of Leeds, Faked Her Own Death to Escape the Con­vent

Reli­gious Songs That Sec­u­lar Peo­ple Can Love: Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Sam Cooke, John­ny Cash & Your Favorites

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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.

Watch Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mind-Bending Masterpiece Free Online

“I feel like every sin­gle frame of the film is burned into my reti­na,” said Oscar-win­ning actress Cate Blanchett about the movie Stalk­er (1979). “I had­n’t seen any­thing like it before and I haven’t real­ly seen any­thing like it since.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film in the USSR seems like an unlike­ly movie to have a devot­ed, almost cultish, fol­low­ing. It is a dense, mul­ti­va­lent, mad­den­ing­ly elu­sive work that has lit­tle of the nar­ra­tive pay-offs of a Hol­ly­wood movie. Yet the film is so slip­pery and so seem­ing­ly pli­able to an end­less num­ber of inter­pre­ta­tions that it requires mul­ti­ple view­ings. “I’ve seen Stalk­er more times than any film except The Great Escape,” wrote nov­el­ist and crit­ic Geoff Dyer,” and it’s nev­er quite as I remem­ber. Like the Zone, it’s always chang­ing.”

The movie’s sto­ry is sim­ple: a guide, called here a Stalk­er, takes a cel­e­brat­ed writer and a sci­en­tist from a rot­ting indus­tri­al cityscape into a ver­dant area called The Zone, the site of some unde­fined calami­ty which has been cor­doned off by rings of razor wire and armed guards. There, one sup­pos­ed­ly can have their deep­est, dark­est desires ful­filled. Yet even if you man­age to give the guards a slip, there are still count­less sub­tle traps laid by what­ev­er sen­tient intel­li­gence that con­trols the Zone. Ratio­nal­i­ty is of no help here. One can only progress along a mean­der­ing path that can only be fol­lowed by intu­ition.

The Stalk­er, with his shaved head and a per­pet­u­al­ly haunt­ed expres­sion on his face, is a sort of holy fool; a man who is both addict­ed to the strange ener­gy of the Zone and bound to help his fel­low man. His clients’ motives, how­ev­er, are far less altru­is­tic. Once deep in the room, the three engage in a series of philo­soph­i­cal argu­ments that quick­ly turns per­son­al.


The movie’s pow­er, how­ev­er, is not found in tra­di­tion­al dra­mat­ics. Instead it’s a cumu­la­tive effect of Tarkovsky’s hyp­not­ic pace, his philo­soph­i­cal com­men­tary and per­haps most of all his imagery. Shot with smudgy, almost com­plete­ly desat­u­rat­ed col­ors, the world out­side the Zone seems to be a grim, dis­mal place – as if Tarkovsky were try­ing to evoke the indus­tri­al hellscape of Eraser­head by way of Samuel Beck­ett. (Stalk­er was in fact shot in an indus­tri­al waste­land out­side of Tallinn, Esto­nia, down riv­er from a chem­i­cal plant. Expo­sure to that plant’s runoff might very well have caused the filmmaker’s death.) Inside the Zone, how­ev­er, the sur­round­ings are lush and col­or­ful, filled with glimpses of inex­plic­a­ble won­der and beau­ty.

Stalk­er screen­writer Arkady Stru­gatsky once said that the movie was not “a sci­ence fic­tion screen­play but a para­ble.” The ques­tion is, a para­ble of what? Reli­gious faith? Art? The cin­e­ma itself? Reams of paper have been devot­ed to this ques­tion and I’m not offer­ing any the­o­ries. Tarkovsky him­self, in his book Sculpt­ing Time, wrote “Peo­ple have often asked me what The Zone is, and what it symbolizes…The Zone does­n’t sym­bol­ize any­thing, any more than any­thing else does in my films: the zone is a zone, it’s life.”

Of course, that expla­na­tion does lit­tle to explain the film’s star­tling, utter­ly cryp­tic final min­utes.

Above, you can watch the film online, thanks to Mos­film. You can also find oth­er Tarkovsky films in the Relat­eds below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films Free Online: Stalk­er, The Mir­ror & Andrei Rublev

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Stu­dent Films, 1956–1960

Andrei Tarkovsky Answers the Essen­tial Ques­tions: What is Art & the Mean­ing of Life?

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

Beautifully-Preserved Frescoes with Figures from the Trojan War Discovered in a Lavish Pompeii Home

Image via  Pom­peii Archae­o­log­i­cal Park

Imag­ine vis­it­ing the home of a promi­nent, wealthy fig­ure, and at the evening’s end find­ing your­self in a room ded­i­cat­ed to late-night enter­tain­ing, paint­ed entire­ly black except for a few scenes from antiq­ui­ty. Per­haps this would­n’t sound entire­ly implau­si­ble in, say, twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry Sil­i­con Val­ley. But such places also exist­ed in antiq­ui­ty itself: or at least one of them did, as recent­ly dis­cov­ered in Pom­peii. Pre­served for near­ly two mil­len­nia now by the ash of Mount Vesu­vius, the ruins of that city give us the clear­est and most detailed archae­o­log­i­cal insights we have into life at the height of the Roman Empire — but even today, a third of the site has yet to be exca­vat­ed.

That archae­o­log­i­cal dig con­tin­ues apace, and its lat­est dis­cov­ery — more recent than the Pom­pei­ian “snack bar” and “piz­za” pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — is “a spec­tac­u­lar ban­quet­ing room with ele­gant black walls, dec­o­rat­ed with mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ters and sub­jects inspired by the Tro­jan War,” includ­ing such mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ters as Helen, Paris, Cas­san­dra, and Apol­lo.

“It pro­vid­ed a refined set­ting for enter­tain­ment dur­ing con­vivial moments, whether ban­quets or con­ver­sa­tions, with the clear aim of pur­su­ing an ele­gant lifestyle, reflect­ed by the size of the space, the pres­ence of fres­coes and mosaics dat­ing to the Third Style.”

Fres­coes in that Roman Third Style, explains Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Rhea Nay­yar, fea­ture “small, fine­ly paint­ed fig­ures and sub­jects that seem to float with­in mono­chro­mat­ic fields,” designed “to mim­ic framed works of art or altars through illu­sions resem­bling carved beams, shad­ed pil­lars, and shin­ing can­de­labras — all of which were paint­ed on flat walls.”

The col­or of those walls, in this case, seems to have been cho­sen to hide the car­bon deposits left by oil lamps burn­ing all night long. As report­ed by BBC Sci­ence News, the com­mis­sion­er of this room, and indeed of the lav­ish house in which it’s locat­ed, may have been Aulus Rustius Verus, a “super-rich” local politi­cian who — assum­ing deci­sive archae­o­log­i­cal evi­dence emerges in his favor — also knew how to par­ty.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed con­tent:

A New­ly-Dis­cov­ered Fres­co in Pom­peii Reveals a Pre­cur­sor to Piz­za

Take a High Def, Guid­ed Tour of Pom­peii

Archae­ol­o­gists Dis­cov­er an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pom­peii

Behold 3D Recre­ations of Pompeii’s Lav­ish Homes — as They Exist­ed Before the Erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

Pom­peii Rebuilt: A Tour of the Ancient City Before It Was Entombed by Mount Vesu­vius

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, 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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