"Austin Kleon's talk 'Steal Like An Artist' is a creative manifesto based on 10 things he wish he'd heard when he was starting out. Austin is a writer and artist. He's the author of Newspaper Blackout, a best–selling book of poetry made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. Austin's talk was delivered as part of the TEDxKC presentation of TEDxChange. Austin's work (including his new book) 'Steal Like An Artist' has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, PBS Newshour, and in The Wall Street Journal. He speaks about creativity, visual thinking, and being an artist online for organizations such as SXSW and The Economist."
(TEDx Talk, 2012, Kansas City)
"For me, it is a cause of some upset that more Anglophones don't enjoy language. Music is enjoyable it seems, so are dance and other, athletic forms of movement. People seem to be able to find sensual and sensuous pleasure in almost anything but words these days. Words, it seems belong to other people, anyone who expresses themselves with originality, delight and verbal freshness is more likely to be mocked, distrusted or disliked than welcomed. The free and happy use of words appears to be considered elitist or pretentious. Sadly, desperately sadly, the only people who seem to bother with language in public today bother with it in quite the wrong way. They write letters to broadcasters and newspapers in which they are rude and haughty about other people's usage and in which they show off their own superior 'knowledge' of how language should be. I hate that, and I particularly hate the fact that so many of these pedants assume that I'm on their side. When asked to join in a 'let's persuade this supermarket chain to get rid of their 'five items or less' sign' I never join in. Yes, I am aware of the technical distinction between 'less' and 'fewer', and between 'uninterested' and 'disinterested' and 'infer' and 'imply', but none of these are of importance to me. 'None of these are of importance,' I wrote there, you'll notice – the old pedantic me would have insisted on 'none of them is of importance'. Well I'm glad to say I've outgrown that silly approach to language. Oscar Wilde, and there have been few greater and more complete lords of language in the past thousand years, once included with a manuscript he was delivering to his publishers a compliment slip in which he had scribbled the injunction: 'I'll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches &c.' Which gives us all encouragement to feel less guilty, don't you think?
There are all kinds of pedants around with more time to read and imitate Lynne Truss and John Humphrys than to write poems, love–letters, novels and stories it seems. They whip out their Sharpies and take away and add apostrophes from public signs, shake their heads at prepositions which end sentences and mutter at split infinitives and misspellings, but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language? Do they ever let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss? Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound–sex of it? Do they use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those they talk to? Do they? I doubt it. They're too farting busy sneering at a greengrocer's less than perfect use of the apostrophe. Well sod them to Hades. They think they're guardians of language. They're no more guardians of language than the Kennel Club is the guardian of dogkind.
The worst of this sorry bunch of semi–educated losers are those who seem to glory in being irritated by nouns becoming verbs. How dense and deaf to language development do you have to be? If you don't like nouns becoming verbs, then for heaven's sake avoid Shakespeare who made a doing–word out of a thing–word every chance he got. He TABLED the motion and CHAIRED the meeting in which nouns were made verbs. New examples from our time might take some getting used to: 'He actioned it that day' for instance might strike some as a verbing too far, but we have been sanctioning, envisioning, propositioning and stationing for a long time, so why not 'action'? 'Because it's ugly,' whinge the pedants. It's only ugly because it's new and you don't like it. Ugly in the way Picasso, Stravinsky and Eliot were once thought ugly and before them Monet, Mahler and Baudelaire. Pedants will also claim, with what I am sure is eye–popping insincerity and shameless disingenuousness, that their fight is only for 'clarity'. This is all very well, but there is no doubt what 'Five items or less' means, just as only a dolt can't tell from the context and from the age and education of the speaker, whether 'disinterested' is used in the 'proper' sense of non–partisan, or in the 'improper' sense of uninterested. No, the claim to be defending language for the sake of clarity almost never, ever holds water. Nor does the idea that following grammatical rules in language demonstrates clarity of thought and intelligence of mind. Having said this, I admit that if you want to communicate well for the sake of passing an exam or job interview, then it is obvious that wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup. I think what offends examiners and employers when confronted with extremely informal, unpunctuated and haywire language is the implication of not caring that underlies it. You slip into a suit for an interview and you dress your language up too. You can wear what you like linguistically or sartorially when you're at home or with friends, but most people accept the need to smarten up under some circumstances – it's only considerate. But that is an issue of fitness, of suitability, it has nothing to do with correctness. There no right language or wrong language any more than are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention and circumstance are all.
I don't deny that a small part of me still clings to a ghastly Radio 4/newspaper–letter–writer reader pedantry, but I fight against it in much the same way I try to fight against my gluttony, anger, selfishness and other vices. I must confess, for example, that I find it hard not to wince when someone aspirates the word 'aitch'. ..."
(Stephen Fry, 4 November 2008)
Fig.1 Matthew Rogers (2010). 'Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language'. http://rogerscreations.com/blog/?p=202
"When [Marco Brambilla] asked us to work with him on Civilization, a vision he had of taking hundreds of stock footage, movie footage and original clips and combining them to create a moving landscape depicting the ascension from hell to heaven, we knew that it was going to be huge challenge but one we were very excited about....
The project had two huge challenges. Firstly we needed to figure out how to create content that could move with the elevator where it would ultimately be viewed. The idea was this, when you go up in the elevator the content goes down and when you go down it goes up. Not unlike a ride film this project was designed to be synced to the moving environment of the hotel elevators in New York. We wanted to synchronize the footage to the movement of the elevator as best as we could.
The second challenge was creative. What are we seeing through this 'elevator window'? We only really knew at the beginning that the canvas or environment would be very tall and skinny due to the physics of elevator travel and we wanted to go from a hellish landscape to a heavenly one.
We began with exploring the idea of using a game engine to house the project. Seemed easy, map footage onto planes in space, attach a PC to the elevator and we can move up and down in the game environment all day. Unfortunately, once we started to collage the clips together in the Flame we knew the game engine idea wouldn't fly. We approximated that we would have 250 looped HD clips in the environment and our Flame could barely handle it (in the end it was closer to 500 looping clips). We compromised by locking ourselves into the idea that we would create a huge vertical canvas that we would scan up and down on once the elevator was in motion. The final piece was approximately 1920 x 7500 pixels.
Another technical wrinkle was more human. Would we create motion sickness by subjecting riders on the elevator to the video art? To test this we shot some footage of a rising and falling landscape on a glass enclosed elevator and played back the footage on a 42inch plasma in a fully enclosed elevator. Not one person in the 30 we used in the test got sick so we knew our gut check was all right.
In parallel to the technical research, Marco and his studio staff began the process of researching and collecting a vast amount of footage sampled from both mainstream and more obscure film sources. Marco then assembled still grabs from each piece of sampled footage into photomontages, which we would review weekly while Marco's editor cut together a linear chronology of what the components in journey from hell to heaven may look like.
The logistical task of collecting and cataloguing all the clips involved a great deal of coordination between our producer and Marco's studio and stretched over a period of almost three months. Once the material was imported into Flame we would invariably make adjustments and receive more photo–collages that would polish to make the 'video mural' look as seamless as possible. The clips were used in much the same way the way a painter would use a colour or texture. We felt it was like audio sampling, using the clips as beats and timing them all to work together to create something new and original. Marco and our team experimented in the Flame and played with the clips for about six weeks, arranging and rearranging them on the 2d canvas over and over to find the right compositions. Most of this work was done at night because we couldn't afford to do it during prime time hours.
Not only were we playing with where on this huge canvas the clips should go, we had to consider the looping aspect of this project. We wanted the canvas to loop once it got to the top of heaven and come right back around to hell again. Once the canvas looped, each of the 500 clips had to be looped individually as well. Along with colour correction, each clip required careful vari–speeding and stabilization to allow all the pieces fit together. We ping–ponged most of the clips as to avoid any cutting on the loop points. With all the clips treated and placed into the canvas we color corrected the entire thing as one big piece of wallpaper. We had over a hundred 'power windows' on the piece to isolate sections and make each station gel together. We ended up with six main stations on the canvas. Hell, lower purgatory, middle purgatory, upper purgatory, heaven and upper heave/lower hell which was the loop point.
After all this was done we set out to redo the entire piece in 3d space! We took each station, rendered it out as a static 2.5 minute plates and then projected those onto geometry modeled to match the stations layout. We then had to go in and render the stations with and without most of their elements so we could achieve the proper parallax. Essentially it was like recreating the entire project over again but with most of the guesswork taken away with the 2d final as our road map."
Credits: Title: Civilization (MEGAPLEX), 2008 By: Marco Brambilla; Client: The Standard Hotel, New York; Editor/Research Assistant: Beau Dickson; Assistant: Swapna Tamhane; Production Company: Crush, Toronto; Representation/Images Courtesy of: Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica; Marco Brambilla Directorial Representation: The Ebeling Group; Ebeling Group U.S.A.