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Gloomy Sunday

3 minutes

A day in Pompeii

9 minutes

This adorable sea slug is a sneaky little thief

4 minutes

The human voice

3 minutes

Mobilize

4 minutes

A neural network that keeps seeing art where we see mundane objects

When mundane objects such as cords, keys and cloths are fed into a live webcam, a machine-learning algorithm ‘sees’ brilliant colours and images such as seascapes and flowers instead. The London-based, Turkish-born visual artist Memo Akten applies algorithms to the webcam feed as a way to reflect on the technology and, by extension, on ourselves. Each instalment in his Learning to See series features a pre-trained deep-neural network ‘trying to make sense of what it sees, in context of what it’s seen before’. In Gloomy Sunday, the algorithm draws from tens of thousands of images scraped from the Google Arts Project, an extensive collection of super-high-resolution images of notable artworks. Set to the voice of the avant-garde singer Diamanda Galás, the resulting video has unexpected pathos, prompting reflection on how our minds construct images based on prior inputs, and not on precise recreations of the outside world.

Video by Memo Akten

Music: Diamanda Galas – Gloomy Sunday

A neural network that keeps seeing art where we see mundane objects

When mundane objects such as cords, keys and cloths are fed into a live webcam, a machine-learning algorithm ‘sees’ brilliant colours and images such as seascapes and flowers instead. The London-based, Turkish-born visual artist Memo Akten applies algorithms to the webcam feed as a way to reflect on the technology and, by extension, on ourselves. Each instalment in his Learning to See series features a pre-trained deep-neural network ‘trying to make sense of what it sees, in context of what it’s seen before’. In Gloomy Sunday, the algorithm draws from tens of thousands of images scraped from the Google Arts Project, an extensive collection of super-high-resolution images of notable artworks. Set to the voice of the avant-garde singer Diamanda Galás, the resulting video has unexpected pathos, prompting reflection on how our minds construct images based on prior inputs, and not on precise recreations of the outside world.

Video by Memo Akten

Music: Diamanda Galas – Gloomy Sunday

From eruption to obliteration – the sights and sounds of 48 fateful hours in Pompeii

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds: 

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world. 

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris.

Video by Zero One Studio

Far from sluggish: the remarkable sea creature that weaponises its dinner

Nudibranchs, also commonly known as sea slugs, are a group of snail-like sea invertebrates. Despite appearing more or less defenceless, nudibranchs broadcast their whereabouts with their flamboyant, brightly coloured bodies. From an evolutionary standpoint, it might seem like a curious move, but their luminous skin actually serves as a warning to would-be predators to let them know they’d make for a dangerous meal. While some nudibranchs accumulate toxins and other defensive chemicals in their bodies, others – like the star of this film – have an even craftier method of warding off enemies. This remarkable short from the science and nature documentary series Deep Look details the clever way that some nudibranchs protect themselves by stealing defences from stinging sea animals known as hydroids. You can read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Josh Cassidy

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

‘My God! Where’s the human voice?’ A charming reflection on our pre-recorded world

From to Siri to subways to customer service calls, pre-recorded and robotic voices are becoming an increasingly inescapable part of the human experience. In this short animation from StoryCorps, the US author, historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel (1912–2008) reflects on this trend away from human interaction and toward disembodied sentence fragments. Recalling a scene from a tram ride at Atlanta airport with exceeding wit and charm, he considers the richness of the human voice, and what we lose when it’s replaced.

Director: The Rauch Brothers

Producer: Lizzie Jacobs

From canoes to cities, a frenetic celebration of the power of indigenous Canadians

In her short film Mobilize, Caroline Monnet – a Canadian filmmaker and artist of French and Algonquin origin – uses archival documentary footage to honour the restless diligence of Canada’s indigenous people. Given access to more than 700 films from the National Film Board of Canada for the project, Monnet crafts a fervent visual collage that spans the country’s rural north, where indigenous craftsmen are seen fashioning canoes, to scenes from skyscraper construction in the urban south. According to Monnet, in making the film, she sought to explore the trajectory of her own family’s history, as well as to simply bombard viewers with ‘images of indigenous people kicking ass on screen’. Heightened by a feverish score from the Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq, Monnet’s film offers a deeply original and personal perspective on the indigenous Canadian experience.

Director: Caroline Monnet

Score: Tanya Tagaq

Producer: Anita Lee

Website: National Film Board of Canada

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