Elgin Park

9 minutes

The physarum experiments

5 minutes

Kierkegaard’s horror of doubt

7 minutes

Is our attention for sale?

4 minutes

Art in public places

28 minutes

A recluse creates a dreamworld in miniature to grapple with his world at large

After a childhood scarred by bullying and dark family secrets, Michael Paul Smith found himself working in a series of dead-end jobs and battling depression. Seeking catharsis, an escape, or both, Smith embarked on a photography project that combined the iconography of his mid-20th-century childhood with clever visual trickery. The result, Elgin Park, is a beguiling photography series featuring 1/24th-scale models of quintessential Americana that Smith describes as a ‘dreamlike recreation’ of his past. In Elgin Park, Smith describes how he’s found redemption through the project after bouts with suicidal spells, creating a world that has pockets of darkness, but where he is never lonely.

Director: Danny Yourd

Website: Animal

Creeping through mazes, repelling adversaries – the slow-motion smarts of slime moulds

To the naked eye, the organism Physarum polycephalum – commonly referred to as ‘slime mould’ – might seem an unexceptional creature, despite its bright-yellow glow, as its acellular existence is dedicated to tracking nutrients at a speed of 1mm per hour. But this protist’s surprising computational cunning becomes apparent when viewed in time-lapse, revealing a life form that seems to possess intelligence despite lacking a nervous system. Between 2009 and 2018, the UK artist and researcher Heather Barnett conducted a series of clever experiments in which she probed slime moulds’ capacities for forming complex tube networks and adjusting to obstacles. For this short film, Aeon Video compiled Barnett’s ‘creative collaborations’ with P polycephalum into a montage that builds in complexity, emphasising the slime moulds’ surprisingly sophisticated capacities for problem-solving.

Director: Heather Barnett

Sound designer: Graham Barton

Editor: Tamur Qutab

Want to think for yourself? Start with an agonising state of doubt, says Kierkegaard

Influenced by Socrates’ sense of irony, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) came to believe that a state of doubt – disorienting and horrifying as it could sometimes be – was the cornerstone of a sound philosophical practice. This scepticism of objective truth and ardent belief in thinking for oneself is omnipresent in his pseudonymous works, in which his assumed names sometimes even spar with one another. While amusing, the peculiar literary device also undercuts any sense that the works were written by a voice of authority. In this video from the London Review of Books, the British philosopher and historian Jonathan Rée traces the theme of doubt in Kierkegaard’s life and work using his unfinished, posthumously published novel Johannes Climacus: Or a Life of Doubt as a starting point.

Video by the London Review of Books

Producer: Anthony Wilks

A handful of executives control the ‘attention economy’. Time for attentive resistance

From fitness tracking devices to search engines, it’s easy to think of personalised technologies as convenient shortcuts and useful tools for working towards goals. But, argues James Williams, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and a former Google employee, the primary aim of personalised tech is to keep users coming back by any means necessary – and often in a way that encourages empty distraction. In this brief animation featuring audio from a 2017 lecture at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in London, Williams makes the case that the consolidation of the ‘attention economy’ to just a handful of companies is an unprecedented and deeply fraught human experiment – and one that demands active, attentive resistance.

Video by the RSA

Director: Olga Makarchuk

A guided tour of New York’s public art in 1973, in all its charms and contradictions

‘The streets and parks of Manhattan are really a great place to explore what happens to art, and what happens to us, when art steps out from behind the velvet rope … and stands each day in the public eye.’

As evidenced by the increasingly contentious debate over public art, those pieces that a society chooses to exhibit and celebrate in its shared spaces say a lot about its tastes, values and power structures. Released in 1973, the film Art in Public Places is at once a time capsule of its own and a rich window into centuries of New York’s history. Produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the film provides a meditative tour of Manhattan’s eclectic displays of public art, expertly guided by the US painter and writer Russell Connor. Spanning the works of artists famous and forgotten, and pieces both improvised and years-in-the-making, the US director Fred Barzyk captures New York’s public displays in all their eclecticism, charms and contradictions.

Director: Fred Barzyk

Website: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A recluse creates a dreamworld in miniature to grapple with his world at large

After a childhood scarred by bullying and dark family secrets, Michael Paul Smith found himself working in a series of dead-end jobs and battling depression. Seeking catharsis, an escape, or both, Smith embarked on a photography project that combined the iconography of his mid-20th-century childhood with clever visual trickery. The result, Elgin Park, is a beguiling photography series featuring 1/24th-scale models of quintessential Americana that Smith describes as a ‘dreamlike recreation’ of his past. In Elgin Park, Smith describes how he’s found redemption through the project after bouts with suicidal spells, creating a world that has pockets of darkness, but where he is never lonely.

Director: Danny Yourd

Website: Animal

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