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Errol Morris on Photographs and Truth

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One of my favorite documentary directors, Errol Morris, has begun blogging for The New York Times. His first article is entitled Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire and explores the nature of photography, photographic context (captions, among other things), and truth. Here's a sample of his article:

So here's a story.

On the evening of May 7th, 1915, the RMS Lusitania was off the coast of Ireland en route to Liverpool from New York when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat and sank. About 1,200 of the nearly 2,000 passengers and crew aboard drowned, including more than 100 Americans.* The loss of life provoked America out of a hereunto neutrality on the ongoing war in Europe. With cries of "Remember the Lusitania" the U.S. entered into WWI within two years.

To modern viewers, this image of the Lusitania is emotionally uncharged, if not devoid of interest. But to a viewer in the summer of 1915, it was charged with meaning. It was surrounded by many, many other photographs, images and accounts of the sinking of the Lusitania, a cause celèbre.

If you're interested in photography, documentary, or history, you'll likely enjoy the rest of the article. You can also keep up with his latest posts (there have only been two so far) here. Those interested in the subject of photography and truth may enjoy the 1991 film Proof (with an early appearance by Hugo Weaving), the story of a blind photographer who attempts to use photographic documentation as evidence of truth.

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Art
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to Launch Mobile Interactive Art Museum
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Since not everyone in America has easy access to first-class culture, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts wants to bring it to them: As Smithsonian reports, the Richmond-based institution plans to launch an interactive mobile museum in fall 2018.

Called “VMFA on the Road,” the museum-on-wheels will visit rural schools, community centers, colleges, retirement homes, and small museums. At each stop, art lovers can enjoy lectures, distance learning opportunities, and rotating virtual reality tours of the museum's exhibitions.

The mobile museum is a modern offshoot of another VFMA initiative, the Artmobile, which was launched by the late architect and VMFA director Leslie Cheek Jr. From 1953 to 1994, the museum loaded tractor-trailers with works by artists like Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso, and toured the state's remote areas to compensate for their lack of art institutions.

By the 1990s, the Artmobile program had swelled to include four high-tech Chevrolet tractor-trailers, each one laden with historic art treasures. Eventually, though, the VMFA discontinued its Artmobiles due to conservation and financial issues, including the challenges of protecting the artworks on the road.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, the VMFA's new traveling museum will be a specially designed, 53-foot Volvo tractor-trailer, paid for with corporate funds, foundation grants, and donations. It's been dubbed "Artmobile 2.0"—a fitting nickname for a high-tech take on a decades-old public service.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former World War II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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