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What is the treachery of images?

7 minutes

Lonesome Willcox

12 minutes

Jonah stands up

16 minutes

Want a whole new body? Ask this flatworm how

5 minutes

ORIGINAL

Dance, dance evolution

4 minutes

How René Magritte turned philosophy into painting

The Belgian surrealist René Magritte (1898-1967) is known for his startling paintings that often double as philosophical riddles. One of his most stark and provocative works, The Treachery of Images (1929) is an exploration of meaning and language, juxtaposing an image of a pipe above the sentence ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’ – French for ‘This is not a pipe.’ A reflection on the fraught nature of words, this video essay explores The Treachery of Images in the context of the work of the influential Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), who argued that the relationship between an object and its name is arbitrary.

Video by The Nerdwriter

Dispatches from a cowboy past: a one-room classic country radio station (barely) holds on

Before KHIL was pulled off the air by its new owners in October 2018, the radio station for Willcox in Arizona had been broadcasting classic country music to the small town’s residents and passersby for more than half a century. While much of the United States has moved on from sparsely strummed songs of whiskey and heartbreak, such music still very much defines this remote place: the singer and Western star Rex Allen (1920-99) is Willcox’s most beloved native son, and the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame its most notable attraction. In Lonesome Willcox, the US filmmakers Ryan Maxey and Zack Wright profile Mark Lucke, KHIL’s unlikely lone employee in the station’s waning days. Living and working from the studio, Lucke keeps the classic country crooners alive for the town’s mainly elderly population, who sense their heritage and way of life being buried beneath the Arizona dust. But while Lucke finds satisfaction in playing songs that lift the locals’ spirits, he has a complicated relationship with the boozy, ne’er-do-well characters that populate them, following his own abusive childhood.

Directors: Ryan Maxey, Zack Wright

Exit, pursued by Death: a young artist and rabble-rouser mines comedy from mortality

In her short documentary Jonah Stands Up, the US director Hannah Engelson profiles her friend Jonah Bascle: a creative, defiant spirit and New Orleans native who is dealing with a terminal heart condition related to his muscular dystrophy. The setup might sound familiar, but the short film and its subject are refreshingly subversive, refusing to fall into tired clichés about confronting disability and illness with bravery. A scrappy and heartfelt DIY production, the film uses animations inspired by Bascle’s artwork, footage of his standup comedy sets, and emotionally raw doctor’s visits to tell his story. Through Engelson’s tribute, Bascle is never presented as an inspirational force, but rather as the many things – a 20something artist, a disability-rights advocate, a rabble-rousing political candidate, a friend – he was in life.

Director: Hannah Engelson

The blob with a superpower: cut a flatworm in four pieces and watch it regenerate four-fold

Planarians are small flatworms that live in wet and humid areas around the globe. Although these creatures are relatively simple, their small, soft bodies possess one of the most amazing secrets in the animal kingdom. Cut a planarian into as many as 279 pieces and, within a few weeks, each bit will regenerate into a full new worm – head, eyes, digestive system and all. This incredible ability raises interesting questions for philosophers, who might wonder which, if any, of these worms is the ‘original’, and for medical researchers, who are hoping to harness the adaptability of planarian’s powerful regenerative stem cells to help regrow tissue, and potentially even limbs, on humans. Read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Gabriela Quirós

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

Dance seems to be the ultimate frivolity. How did it become a human necessity?

Every culture dances. Moving our bodies to music is ubiquitous throughout human history and across the globe. So why is this ostensibly frivolous act so fundamental to being human? The answer, it seems, is in our need for social cohesion – that vital glue that keeps societies from breaking apart despite interpersonal differences. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) theorised that ‘collective effervescence’ – moments in which people come together in some form of unifying, excitement-inducing activity – is at the root of what holds groups together. More recently, Bronwyn Tarr, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist at the University of Oxford who is also a dancer, has researched the evolutionary and neurological underpinnings of our innate tendency to bust a move. Drawing on the work of both Durkheim and Tarr, this Aeon Original video explores that unifying feeling of group ‘electricity’ that lifts us up when we’re enthralled by our favourite sports teams, participating in religious rituals, entranced by music – and, yes, dancing the night away.

Directors and Animators: Rosanna Wan, Andrew Khosravani

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Writer: Sam Dresser

Associate producer: Adam D’Arpino

Sound designers: Eli Cohn, Ben Chesneau, Maya Peart

Narrator: Simon Mattacks

How René Magritte turned philosophy into painting

The Belgian surrealist René Magritte (1898-1967) is known for his startling paintings that often double as philosophical riddles. One of his most stark and provocative works, The Treachery of Images (1929) is an exploration of meaning and language, juxtaposing an image of a pipe above the sentence ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’ – French for ‘This is not a pipe.’ A reflection on the fraught nature of words, this video essay explores The Treachery of Images in the context of the work of the influential Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), who argued that the relationship between an object and its name is arbitrary.

Video by The Nerdwriter

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Essay/
Stories & Literature
The great disillusionist

In an age when so many people are at a loss to give life meaning and direction, Giacomo Leopardi is essential reading

Tim Parks

Essay/
Stories & Literature
Pagans against Genesis

Confused, inferior and philosophically unsound: the Greco-Roman critique of the Old Testament could have been written today

Pieter van der Horst