Laurie Anderson Introduces Her Virtual Reality Installation That Lets You Fly Magically Through Stories

While the sci-fi dreams of virtual and “augmented” reality are now within the grasp of artists and game designers, the technology of the adult human brain remains rooted in the stone age—we still need a good story to accompany the flickering shadows on the cave wall. An artist as wise as Laurie Anderson understands this, but—given that it’s Laurie Anderson—she isn’t going to retread familiar narrative paths, especially when working in the vehicle of VR, as she has in her new piece Chalkroom, created in a collaboration with Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang.

The piece allows viewers the opportunity to travel not only into the space of imagination a story creates, but into the very architecture of story itself—to walk, or rather float, through its passageways as words and letters drift by like tufts of dandelion, stars, or, as Anderson puts it, like snow. “They’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is,” says the artist in the interview above, “But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” She explains the “chalkroom” concept as resisting the “perfect, slick and shiny” aesthetic that characterizes most computer-generated images. “It has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing… this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.”

Chalkroom, she says, "is a library of stories, and no one will ever find them all.” It sounds to me, at least, more intriguing than the premise of most video games, but the audience for this piece will be limited, not only to those willing to give it a chance, but to those who can experience the piece firsthand, as it were, by visiting the physical space of one of Anderson’s exhibitions and strapping on the VR goggles. Once they do, she says, they will be able to fly, a disorienting experience that sends some people falling out of their chair. Last spring, Chalkroom became part of an ongoing exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, a “Laurie Anderson pilgrimage,” as Mass MoCA director Joseph C. Thompson describes it, that also features a VR experience called Aloft.

In August, Chalkroom appeared at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, where the interview above took place. Watching it, you’ll see why the piece has generated so much buzz, winning “Best VR Experience” at the Venice Film Festival and visiting major museums around Europe and the U.S. “Mostly VR is kind of task-oriented,” she says, “you get that, you do that, you shoot that.” Chalkroom feels more like navigating catacombs, traversing dark labyrinths punctuated by brilliant constellations of light made out of words, as Anderson’s voice provides enigmatic narration against a backdrop of three-dimensional sound design. It’s an immersive journey that seems, as promised, like the one we take as readers, pursuing elusive meanings that can seem tantalizingly just out of reach.

via @WFMU

Related Content:

Laurie Anderson’s Top 10 Books to Take to a Desert Island

21 Artists Give “Advice to the Young:” Vital Lessons from Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Umberto Eco, Patti Smith & More

Go Inside the First 30 Minutes of Kubrick’s The Shining with This 360º Virtual Reality Video

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

Watch Björk’s Hypnotic Music Video for Her New Song, “The Gate”

FYI. Björk has just released a new track, "The Gate," from her forthcoming album. And, with it, comes a hypnotic new video, the product of a collaboration between Björk, artist Andrew Thomas Huang, and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele.

About the video, Andrew Thomas Huang has this to say:

The Gate picks up where 2015's Vulnicura left off. It is the first glimpse into Björk's utopia. The doorway lies within the wound from Vulnicura, which now appears transformed into a prismatic portal channeled between the chests of two lovers. Not lovers in the quotidian romantic sense, but in a broader cosmological way. As a throughway into Bjork's new album, The Gate is a declaration of hope sung by a woman refracted and re-formed into a luminous whole.

Björk's new album, Utopia, is due out in November. The new video is made available by Nowness.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Björk Takes Us Inside Her Creative Process and Explains How She Writes a Song

Hear the Album Björk Recorded as an 11-Year-Old: Features Cover Art Provided By Her Mom (1977)

A Young Björk Deconstructs (Physically & Theoretically) a Television in a Delightful Retro Video

Watch Björk’s 6 Favorite TED Talks, From the Mushroom Death Suit to the Virtual Choir

How a Simple Email Survey Pulled Scripts Out of Hollywood Purgatory & Turned Them Into Award-Winning Films

How did the Black List get started? Not the Hollywood blacklist that ruined the careers of countless directors, actors and actresses during the 1940s and 1950s. No, we mean the Black List, created by Franklin Leonard in 2005, which has allowed more than 300 scripts, once stuck in Hollywood purgatory, to get turned into feature films--films like Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech, Argo and Spotlight.  This all started when Leonard created a simple survey, asking nearly 100 movies executives to name their favorite scripts that had not yet been made as feature films. The new Vox video above tells the rest of the story.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Jean-Paul Sartre Writes a Script for John Huston’s Film on Freud (1958)

When Aldous Huxley Wrote a Script for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

How Movie Studios Rejected Scripts During the Silent-Film Era: A Cold, 17-Point Checklist Circa 1915

New Study Reveals How the Neanderthals Made Super Glue 200,000 Years Ago: The World’s Oldest Synthetic Material

It's become increasingly clear how much we've underestimated the Neanderthals, the archaic humans who evolved in Europe and went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Though we've long used them as a byword for a lumbering, beast-like lack of development and intelligence — compared, of course, to we glorious examples of Homo sapiens — evidence has come to reveal a greater similarity between us and Homo neanderthalensis than we'd imagined. Not only did they develop stone tools, they even invented a kind of "super glue," one that, as you can see in the NOVA segment above, we have difficulty replicating even today.

"Archaeologists first found tar-covered stones and black lumps at Neanderthal sites across Europe about two decades ago," writes the New York Times' Nicholas St. Fleur. "The tar was distilled from the bark of birch trees some 200,000 years ago, and seemed to have been used for hafting, or attaching handles to stone tools and weapons. But scientists did not know how Neanderthals produced the dark, sticky substance, more than 100,000 years before Homo sapiens in Africa used tree resin and ocher adhesives." But in a new study in Scientific Reports, "a team of archaeologists has used materials available during prehistoric times to demonstrate three possible ways Neanderthals could have deliberately made tar."

The process might have looked something like that in the video above, an attempt by archaeologists Wil Roebroeks and Friedrich Palmer to make this of oldest known synthetic material just as the Neanderthals might have executed it. Their only materials: "an upturned animal skull to catch the pitch; a small stone on which the pitch would condense; some rolls of birch bark, the source of the pitch; and a layer of ash, to exclude oxygen and prevent the bark from burning."

Image by Paul Kozowyk

They technically get it to work, managing to heat the bark to just the right temperature, but the experiment doesn't produce very much of this ancient super glue — certainly not as much as Neanderthals would have used to make spears, which might turn out to have been the very first industrial process in history. Innovation, in the 21st century as well as 250,000 years ago, does tend to come from unexpected places.

You can read more about archeologists latest theories on the making of Neanderthal super glue over at Scientific Reports.

via Gizmodo

Related Content:

What Did the Voice of Neanderthals, Our Distant Cousins, Sound Like?: Scientists Demonstrate Their “High Pitch” Theory

Hear the World’s Oldest Instrument, the “Neanderthal Flute,” Dating Back Over 43,000 Years

Richard Dawkins Explains Why There Was Never a First Human Being

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Sex Pistols Make a Scandalous Appearance on the Bill Grundy Show & Introduce Punk Rock to the Startled Masses (1976)

The brainlessness and hypocrisy of television has long been a source of fun and social commentary in punk rock—from Black Flag’s “TV Party” (“I don’t even bother to use my brain anymore”) to the Dead Kennedys’ “M.T.V. –Get Off the Air” (“… feeding you endless doses / of sugar-coated mindless garbage”). It’s fitting then that one of the seminal moments in punk history happened on television, orchestrated by Sex Pistols manager and arch provocateur Malcolm McLaren, who knew as well as anyone how to manipulate the media. The notorious Bill Grundy interview, which you can watch—likely not for the first or even second time—above, rocketed the Sex Pistols to national infamy overnight, simply because of a few swear words and some slightly rude behavior.

Though the U.S. does its damndest to keep up these days, no one in 1976 could match the outrage machinery of the UK press. As rock photographer and manager Leee Black Childers put it in the oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, the tabloids "can work the populace into a frenzy.” McLaren goes on record to say, “I knew the Bill Grundy show was going to create a huge scandal. I genuinely believed it would be history in the making.” We might expect him to take credit after the fact, but in any case, it worked: the day after the band’s appearance on the Grundy-hosted Today show on Thames Television, every tabloid paper featured them on the front page. The Daily Mirror provided the title of Julien Temple’s 2000 documentary with their clever headline, “The Filth and the Fury.”

Even in 2008, a survey showed the Grundy interview as the most requested clip in UK television history. With all this hype, you might be disappointed if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen it. Though f-bombs on TV can still cause a minor stir, a few mumbled curse words will hardly garner the kind of publicity they did forty years ago. McLaren claims punk rock began that day on the Today show, and that’s true, at least, for the viewing public who would have been treated to an appearance from Queen if Freddie Mercury hadn’t developed a crippling toothache. Instead, they were introduced to Paul Cook in a Vivienne Westwood naked breasts t-shirt, and Glen Matlock, Steve Jones, and Johnny Rotten tossing insults at Grundy, who egged them on, hit on the teenage Siouxsie Sioux, part of the band’s entourage, and may have been drunk, though he denied it.

It may be one of the least witty exchanges in television history, and that’s saying a lot. But for all the pearl-clutching over the band's crudity, it's maybe Grundy who comes off looking the worse. More interesting than the interview itself is the hyperbolic fallout, as well as what happened immediately afterward. The station was flooded with complaints, and for some reason, its telephone system rerouted unanswered calls to the green room, where the band and their followers had decamped. “A producer on the programme ignored instructions to remain in the room," notes Jon Bennett at Team Rock. "The result? The group started answering the phones and dishing out even more abuse. How this evaded the press at the time remains a mystery.” Indeed. It’s doubtful McLaren could have planned it, but the image evokes the sneer of every punk who has ever spit on the pious insistence that TV spoonfeed its viewers middle-class decorum with their advertising, sports, wish-fulfilling fantasies, and infotainment.

Related Content:

Watch the Sex Pistols’ Very Last Concert (San Francisco, 1978)

The Sex Pistols’ 1976 Manchester “Gig That Changed the World,” and the Day the Punk Era Began

The Sex Pistols Play in Dallas’ Longhorn Ballroom; Next Show Is Merle Haggard (1978)

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

David Lynch Gives Unconventional Advice to Graduates in an Unusual Commencement Address

Just as we wouldn't expect David Lynch to deliver a traditional movie, nor should we expect him to deliver a traditional commencement address. "I did an interview with the Des Moines Register and said that this would be a strange commencement speech," the creator of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and (with Mark Frost) Twin Peaks tells the 2016 graduating class of the Maharishi University of Management by way of opening not a speech but an on-stage question-and-answer session. The questions came from select students who want to know things like how he sees the world looking in ten years, what makes a good leader, and what makes a meaningful life.

One also wants to know how to "reconcile a job or career with our dharma or purpose." To that question, the very first, Lynch can respond with only one word: "Wow." But then, he had to have expected that question from a student at MUM, an institution established to provide something called "Consciousness-Based education" under which you don't just gain knowledge but "your awareness expands, improving your ability to absorb knowledge and see the big picture."

Integral to all this is Transcendental Meditation, the technique developed by MUM founder (and guru to the likes of the Beatles and the Beach Boys) Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and which Lynch himself has practiced since 1973.

Even if you have no interest in Lynch's memories of the Maharishi (a possible subject of a future movie of his, he implies), or in meditation of any kind, Lynch still dispenses a fair few pieces of valuable advice during these twenty minutes. "I always equate ideas sort of like fish — we don’t make the fish, we catch the fish," he says in response to one student who asks about how he falls in love with the ideas out of which his projects develop. "You fall in love with an idea and for me it may just be a fragment of a whole thing like a script, or a whole film, but this little fragment is so thrilling and you fall in love." And "once you get one fragment, it’s like bait on a hook to catch more fragments."

More concretely, another student asks Lynch to go back to his time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (which draws a "Whoa" from Lynch) and consider whether he'd make all the same decisions again. "I was very lucky," he says of avoiding the drugs in vogue at the time because of the warnings of his friends. "They were all taking them, but for some reason they warned me against it. So I guess I dodged a bullet." But he does admit to, after his daily meditation practice, never failing to imbibe one consciousness-altering substance: coffee. And when an aspiring filmmaker asks for the "one thing that you learned on one of your film sets that then became a life lesson," Lynch reveals something perhaps even more important to him than always getting his coffee: "Always have final cut."

Related Content:

David Lynch Takes Aspiring Filmmakers Inside the Art & Craft of Making Indie Films

An Animated David Lynch Explains Where He Gets His Ideas

David Lynch Explains How Meditation Boosts Our Creativity (Plus Free Resources to Help You Start Meditating)

David Lynch Talks Meditation with Paul McCartney

Daily Meditation Boosts & Revitalizes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Harvard Study Finds

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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

European modernity may never had taken the direction it did without the significant influence of two Russian artists, Wassily Kandinsky and Modest Mussorgsky. Kandinsky may not have been the very first abstract painter, but in an important sense he deserves the title, given the impact that his series of early 20th century abstract paintings had on modern art as a whole. Inspired by Goethe’s Theory of Colors, he also published what might have been the first treatise specifically devoted to a theory of abstraction.

The composer Mussorgsky’s most famous work, Pictures at an Exhibition (listen here), had a tremendous influence on some of the most famous composers of the day when it debuted, which happened to be after its author's death. Written in 1874 as a solo piano piece, it didn’t see publication until 1886, when it quickly became a virtuoso challenge for pianists and a popular choice for arrangements most notably by Maurice Ravel and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who, along with Igor Stravinsky and others, interpreted and expanded on many of Mussorgsky's ideas into the early 20th century.

Mussorgsky’s early death in 1881 prevented any living collaboration between the painter and composer, but it’s only natural that his minimalist musical piece should have inspired Kandinsky’s only successful stage production. In Kandinsky’s theory, musical ideas operate like primary colors. His paintings explicitly illustrate sound. In his stage adaptation of Pictures at an Exhibition, he had the opportunity to paint sound in motion.

Kandinsky was first inspired to paint, at the age of 30, after hearing a performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin. “I saw all my colors in spirit,” he remarked afterward, “Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.” The Denver Art Museum’s Renée Miller writes of Kandinsky’s experience as an example of synesthesia. He drew from the work of Arnold Schoenberg in his abstract expressionist canvases, and “gave many of his paintings musical titles, such as Composition and Improvisation.”

For his part, Mussorgsky found inspiration for his nonrepresentational work in the strangely uncanny representational visual art of Russian architect and painter Viktor Hartmann, his closest friend and member of a circle of artists attempting a nationalist Russian cultural revival. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition sets music to a collection of Hartmann’s paintings and drawings exhibited after the artist's death, including sketches of opera costumes and a monumental architectural design.

The creation of several highly distinctive musical motifs is of a piece with Mussorgsky's opera compositions. Both he and Kandinsky were drawn to opera for its dramatic conjunction of visual art, performance, and music, or what Wagner called Gesamtkunstwerk, the “total work of art.” And yet, despite their mutual admiration for classical forms and traditional Russian folklore, both artists illustrated the title of Wagner’s essay on the subject, “The Artwork of the Future," more fully than Wagner himself.

Mussorgsky’s piece, as composed solo on the piano, is willfully odd, ugly and piercingly beautiful by turns, and always unsettling, like the Hartmann paintings that inspired it. So visually descriptive is its musical language that it might be said to induce a virtual form of synesthesia. In illustrating Pictures at an Exhibition, Kandinsky “took another step towards translating the idea of ‘monumental art’ into life,” notes the site Modern Art Consulting, “with his own sets and light, color and geometrical shapes for characters.”

On April 4, 1928, the première at the Friedrich Theater, Dessau, was a tremendous success. The music was played on the piano. The production was rather cumbersome as the sets were supposed to move and the hall lighting was to change constantly in keeping with Kandinsky’s scrupulous instructions. According to one of them, “bottomless depths of black” against a black backdrop were to transform into violet, while dimmers (rheostats) were yet to be invented.

Rather than translating Mussorgsky’s piece back into Hartmann’s representational idiom, Kandinsky creates an operatic movement of geometrical figures from the lexicon of the Bauhaus school. (Only “The Great Gate of Kiev,” at the top, resembles the original painting.) Rather than create narrative, “Kandinsky’s task was to turn the music into paintings,” says Harald Wetzel, curator of a recent exhibit in Dessau featuring many of the set designs. Those static elements “give just a limited impression of the stage production,” which was “constantly in motion.”

We may not have film of that original production, but we do have a very good sense of what it might have looked like through its many re-stagings over the past few years, including the production further up with pianist Mikhaïl Rudy at the théâtre de Brive in 2011 and the animated video remake above, which brings it even further into the future. See a selection of photos from the Kandinsky exhibit at Deutsche Welle and compare these paintings with the original pictures by Viktor Hartmann that inspired Mussorgsky’s piece.

Related Content:

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

Time Travel Back to 1926 and Watch Wassily Kandinsky Make Art in Some Rare Vintage Video

Night on Bald Mountain: An Eery, Avant-Garde Pinscreen Animation Based on Mussorgsky’s Masterpiece (1933)

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

A Master List of 1,300 Free Courses From Top Universities: 45,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures

Image by Carlos Delgado, via Wikimedia Commons

For the past 11 years, we've been busy rummaging around the internet and adding courses to an ever-growing list of Free Online Courses, which now features 1,300 courses from top universities. Let's give you the quick overview: The list lets you download audio & video lectures from schools like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford and Harvard. Generally, the courses can be accessed via YouTube, iTunes or university web sites, and you can listen to the lectures anytime, anywhere, on your computer or smart phone. We haven't done a precise calculation, but there's about 45,000 hours of free audio & video lectures here. Enough to keep you busy for a very long time.

Right now you’ll find 173 free philosophy courses, 92 free history courses, 128 free computer science courses, 81 free physics courses and 55 Free Literature Courses in the collection, and that’s just beginning to scratch the surface. You can peruse sections covering Astronomy, Biology, BusinessChemistry, Economics, Engineering, Math, Political Science, Psychology and Religion.

Here are some highlights from the complete list of Free Online Courses. We've added a few unconventional/vintage courses in the mix just to keep things interesting.

The complete list of courses can be accessed here: 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Related Content:

900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More.

Watch Author Chuck Palahniuk Read Fight Club 4 Kids

The first rule of Horsing Around Club is: You do not talk about Horsing Around Club.  ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club for Kids

Retooling a popular show, film, or comic to feature younger versions of the characters, their personalities and relationships virtually unchanged, can be a serious, if cynical source of income for the original creators.

The Muppets, Archie, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond have all given birth to spin-off babies.

So why not author Chuck Palahniuk?

Perhaps because spin-off babies are designed to gently ensnare a new and younger audience, and Palahniuk, whose 2002 novel Lullaby hinged on a nursery rhyme that kills children in their cribs, is unlikely to file down the dark, twisted edges that have won him a cult following.

That said, his most recent title is formatted as a coloring book, with another due to drop later this fall.

The same spirit of mischief drives Fight Club for Kids, which mercifully will not be hitting the children’s section of your local bookstore in time for the upcoming holiday season (or ever).

Much like Tyler Durden, Palahniuk's most infamous creation, this title is but a figment, existing only in the above video, where it is read by its putative author.

If you think Samuel L. Jackson’s narration of Go the F**k to Sleep—which can actually be purchased in book form—represents the height of adult readers running off the rails, you ain’t heard nothing yet:

The horseplay would go on until it was done

And everyone who did it would always have fun

Especially the Boy Who Had No Name

Who once just, like, beat this dude, who was actually Jared Leto in the movie, which was so fuckin’ cool and intense, and he’s just pummeling this guy and of course, being Jared Leto, he was essentially a model, but when our guy is done with him, he’s just this purple, bloated, chewed up bubblegum-looking motherfucker covered in blood, head to toe!

(The second rule of Horsing Around Club is: You DO NOT TALK ABOUT HORSING AROUND CLUB!)

Find more printable Chuck Palahniuk coloring pages here.

via Mashable

Related Content:

Jane Austen’s Fight Club

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Bookstore Lists Feature Works by Murakami, Bukowski, Burroughs, Vonnegut, Kerouac & Palahniuk

David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech “This is Water” Visualized in a Short Film

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

Dr. Jane Goodall Is Now Teaching an Online Course on Conservation, Animal Intelligence & Activism

Back in June, we mentioned that the great primatologist and anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall was gearing up to teach her first online course on environmental conservation, animal intelligence, and activism. Now, it seemed worth giving this quick update--Goodall's course is ready to go. It features 29 lessons and costs $90. You can sign up and take the course through Masterclass here.

Above watch a trailer that introduces the course. Below see her discuss the course on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Other courses currently offered by Masterclass include:

Find more courses taught by star instructors here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.





  • Great Lectures

  • FREE UPDATES!

    GET OUR DAILY EMAIL

    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.



    FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.


    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast