RSA Animate – The Divided Brain

While the festival of samhain may be over, and as the West slips somewhat grudgingly into the darker half of the annual cycle, there may be a few theory-type zombies remaining with a thirst for braaains.  In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist may help satiate their need for a time.  In this talk he explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.  The talk is based on his influential book of last year, The Master and His Emissary (2010).  The full, 30 minute lecture is here for those interested.  The introduction to the book, for those really interested is here, where he writes that the overall thesis of the book is:

that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognisably human world; and that their difference is rooted in the bihemispheric structure of the brain. It follows that the hemispheres need to co-operate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and that this explains many aspects of contemporary Western culture (McGilchrist, 2010, p.3).

The book sounds fascinating but, at over 600 pages, I simply will not get to it in the next 12 months.  Which is why I like the RSA Animate series so much.  Perhaps you will.  Enjoy.

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Skhizein (2008) by Jérémy Clapin.

This is another of my favourite animation shorts of the last few years.  It received a commendation form the Oscar committee that year but it really should have been nominated.  It, in any case, won the audience award at Annecy, the Kodak award at Cannes, and the “best short” at the Manhattan Short Film Festival so to hell with the Oscars!

The film itself is a humorous yet deep meditation on being “beside yourself”, literally.  Clapin says the word derives from the Greek, meaning “to split” or “to cleave”, and shares the same root as the word schizophrenia.

I don’t want to spoil the story but for me it is about alienation, and the loss and loneliness that many of us experience as the contemporary condition. Part two is here.   Enjoy…


La Maison en Petits Cubes (2008)

As promised when I posted Hedgehog in the Fog some time ago, here is another of my favourite animated short films.  This one, La Maison en petits cubes (つみきのいえ, Tsumiki no Ie, “The House of Small Cubes”) is a 2008 Japanese animated short subject film created by Kunio Katō, with music by Kondo Kenji. It won the grand prize for short films (the Annecy Cristal) at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 2008 and the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2009.  It is a haunting, beautiful and evocative poem on narrative and memory; transience and love.

Wikipedia give a completely on-the-nose plot summary as follows:

As his town is flooded by water, an aged widower is forced to add additional levels onto his home with bricks (cubes) in order to stay dry. But when he accidentally drops his favorite smoking pipe into the lower submerged levels of his home, his search for the pipe eventually makes him relive scenes from his eventful life.

Comments welcome…

Norstein.1975.Hedgehog in the Fog

Perhaps my favorite animated short of all time, and actually voted the “best animated film of all time” in Japan in 2003, Hedgehog in the Fog is a haunting, evocative and poetic film that deserves to be seen by everyone.

The contrast between the Soviet animation emanating from Russia in the 70’s and 80’s and the saccharine schlock being peddled by Disney et al is striking and well known.  In Russia and Europe, animation was not reduced to the role of children’s entertainment, and retained respect as a serious artistic endeavor. Norstein’s work, at Soyuzmultfilm and after (they fired him for being too slow in 1985), often achieved in collaberation  with his wife Franchesca, is considered among the most artistic.  I will post more from him here at another time.

Continue reading “Norstein.1975.Hedgehog in the Fog”