Goodbye uncanny valley

15 minutes

The secret language of trees

5 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Tarikat

17 minutes

Why did the Mexican jumping bean jump?

4 minutes

Gardening with Nietzsche

8 minutes

As reality and CGI become indistinguishable, we need guidance from those at art’s frontiers

Since the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the 1970s, digital animation has progressed incredibly swiftly towards photorealism as computer-processing has become exponentially more powerful. Today, the best CGI has escaped the ‘uncanny valley’, the strange space where humanoid objects approaching realism provoke a sense of eerie unease in the viewer. In his video essay Goodbye Uncanny Valley, the UK artist and animator Alan Warburton explores where we are going now that the virtual and the real are increasingly indistinguishable to our eyes. Probing everything from the latest in Hollywood blockbusters to the next wave of political propaganda and the frontiers of digital art, Warburton foresees a future where the possibilities of distorting and augmenting our experience of reality with CGI are endless – for better or worse.

Video by Alan Warburton

The incredible – and still quite mysterious – way trees trade information via their roots

While researching her doctoral thesis, Suzanne Simard, now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, made an astounding discovery – trees in forests seem to possess complex information superhighways in their root systems that allow them to share information. Her 1995 doctoral thesis on the topic has been part of a revolution in how scientists view plants, leading many to suggest that they possess cognitive abilities, and even intelligence. This animation from TED-Ed details the symbiotic relationship – between tree roots and fungi called mycorrhizae – that serves as the foundation of these intricate intra-tree communication networks, allowing them to trade news on topics such as drought and insect attacks, and even detect if an incoming message has been sent by a close relative.

Video by TED Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writers: Camille Defrenne, Suzanne Simard

Dissolve into the immersive, entrancing rhythms of a Sufi chant

A ritual at the heart of Sufism, the dhikr is a demonstration of devotion in which worshippers share in a meditation on Allah via synchronised group chants, rhythmic movements and, in some instances, the spinning dances of whirling dervishes. The Dutch-Chinese-American filmmaker Jasmijn Schrofer drops viewers into the rhythms of the dhikr in her short film Tarikat (‘The Path’). Through the ritual of sound and movement, the individuals seem to dissolve into a unified whole, even as Schrofer often lingers on the close-up expressions of each one. The result is an intimate and immersive viewing experience in which viewers might just find themselves lost in a trance alongside the faithful.

Director: Jasmijn Schrofer

Producer: Rianne Ebeling

How moth larvae carve out cozy, mobile homes inside Mexican jumping beans

You might know that moth larvae are the hidden creatures that make Mexican jumping beans jump. You might also know that Mexican jumping beans aren’t ‘beans’ at all, but seed pods – those of a shrub native to the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the border of Mexico, Arizona and California. But, as this video from the science documentary series Deep Look explores, burrowing further into the lives of Mexican jumping bean inhabitants still makes for highly fascinating viewing. Captured in stunning 4K resolution, this short film documents the months that a jumping bean moth larva spends hollowing out, residing inside, and manually repairing and relocating its 10mm home, before ultimately emerging in its mature form.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Mike Seely

Narrator and Writer: Laura Klivans

Cinematographer: Kevin Collins

Amid the chaos of being, Nietzsche believed that plants offer us inspiration for living

Aristotle thought that plants possess what he called a ‘vegetative soul’. Centred on growing and reproducing, this primordial, unthinking state of being was encompassed and far surpassed by the ‘rational soul’ of humans. Friedrich Nietzsche, however, believed that, in the overwhelming confusion of considering how we might live, there was much we could learn from plants – deeply rooted in the ground and yet limitlessly expressive as they are. Borrowing from some of Nietzsche’s lesser-known writings, this short video essay might just inspire you to look at a plant growing through a crack in the ‘inhospitable ground’ – and perhaps even Nietzsche himself – in a new light.

Video by The DOX Channel

Writer: Zoe Almon Job

Animator: Theo Garcia

As reality and CGI become indistinguishable, we need guidance from those at art’s frontiers

Since the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the 1970s, digital animation has progressed incredibly swiftly towards photorealism as computer-processing has become exponentially more powerful. Today, the best CGI has escaped the ‘uncanny valley’, the strange space where humanoid objects approaching realism provoke a sense of eerie unease in the viewer. In his video essay Goodbye Uncanny Valley, the UK artist and animator Alan Warburton explores where we are going now that the virtual and the real are increasingly indistinguishable to our eyes. Probing everything from the latest in Hollywood blockbusters to the next wave of political propaganda and the frontiers of digital art, Warburton foresees a future where the possibilities of distorting and augmenting our experience of reality with CGI are endless – for better or worse.

Video by Alan Warburton

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Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 1982. Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

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