What is the nature of human uniqueness? Where did the Human Spark ignite, and when? And perhaps most tantalizingly, why? In a three-part series to be broadcast on PBS in January 2010, Alan Alda takes these questions personally, visiting with dozens of scientists on three continents, and participating directly in many experiments – including the detailed examination of his own brain.
Inside THIRTEEN spoke with Alda and “The Human Spark” series producer Graham Chedd and executive producer Jared Lipworth about the upcoming series and what we can expect to learn about the nature of humanity itself.
“Between the Folds” premieres Sunday, December 27th at 10pm on THIRTEEN
Think origami is just paper planes and cranes? A determined group of theoretical scientists and fine artists have abandoned careers and graduate degrees to forge new lives as modern-day paper folders. Together they reinterpret the world in paper, creating a wild mix of sensibilities towards art, science, creativity and meaning. Inside THIRTEEN spoke with filmmaker Vanessa Gould about her fascination with this unique art form and her film “Between the Folds.”
Q. What got you interested in documenting the world of paper folding?
Well, for many years I’ve been keenly interested in ideas and forms that have roots in both art and science, the creative and the technical – music and architecture, for example. When I learned about mathematicians using paperfolding in their research, I was intrigued and loved that it had such a visually compelling quality. Soon I learned that not only mathematicians, but also artists and scientists, were finding new and substantive exploration in paperfolding – all with incredible outcomes.
Given the breadth of voices and the elemental nature of the medium – a simple paper square – I thought, “Wow, imagine the possibilities! What an amazing starting point for an artform!”
Q. Do you think origami and paper folding gets enough respect as an art form on par with other arts like painting and sculpture?
One of the things that I love about paperfolding is how special the process of arriving at a finished piece is. There’s this pure transformation that occurs when turning 2D into 3D – all while working within a set of great limitations (no cutting, no tape, no glue). It becomes an intellectual and creative challenge, where “the making” is as significant as “the product”. And, so while, admittedly, origami has not reached the elevated status of other fine arts, it’s still a young and evolving artform. I think once the broader population has the experience of witnessing firsthand the transformation that occurs behind every folded work – and acknowledges that transformation as central to the piece’s artistic merit and beauty – that then artform will be better understood. And we tried to reveal that as best we couldin the film.
Q. Is there a particular piece of origami that you saw during filming that moved you?
Impressionistic squirrel from handmade paper by U.S. artist Michael LaFosse.
Well, everything that made it into the final cut moved me in one way or another. But what remains most moving to me, without a doubt, is the totality of the artform, and the scope of ideas and metaphors which it holds – transformation, untold potential, intellectual accessibility. Context is so critical in making art intellectually or emotionally moving, and when you consider the infinitely broad context of the paperfolding medium – spanning the spectrum from folk art to high art to theoretical science – that’s ultimately more moving to me than any single piece of work. And, I loved working on a documentary project where the challenge was to visually communicate the emotional content of ideas.
Q. How old is the art of paper folding, in comparison to other forms of art?
Paper has been around for centuries, and is one of the most abundant materials on earth. And so, paperfolding has happened in all kinds of forms for a long time. However, I believe the medium is earlier in its evolution than more mature forms of art like painting, sculpture or printmaking. I think paperfolding has yet to reach its evolutionary or conceptual peak, and has a very rich future ahead of it. And the fact that it has abundant practical applications makes it that much more amazing.
Q. Origami seems to involve a lot of planning and mathematics – is there room for improvisation in creating some of these intricate designs?
I think there’s plenty of room for improvisation in everything. There’s always room for thinking differently and getting creative. The scientists and mathematicians in the film are no less creative – by any measure – than the artists. That’s one of the wonderful things I witnessed while making the film and watching its subjects at work – science and math are driven by creativity. And so, any good models in paper, no matter how intricate, are also a product of creative and improvisational thinking.
Q. Can origami lend itself to practical uses beyond cute animal figures?
Hopefully the film itself is the best answer to that question!
Congratulations to the entire “American Masters” team!
In September, the program won an Emmy® for Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About, and Inside THIRTEEN spoke with Susan Lacy about that win and what makes the program so great. Read the full interview here.
Gwen Ifill of “PBS NewsHour” appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where she praised Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and described the president’s decorating taste in the Oval Office.
Founding General Manager of WNET/Thirteen Richard D. Heffner spoke with current WNET.ORG President & CEO Neal Shapiro on “The Open Mind” about the growth, promise and challenges of public television in today’s economic climate.
Heffner began interviewing major opinion makers when Dwight Eisenhower was president in 1956, and “The Open Mind” is the longest-running television interview program on public television. You can watch “The Open Mind” every Saturday at 12 p.m. on THIRTEEN.
She discussed everything from Christmas carols to atheism, looking at all the major religion headlines that shape our world. She also gave advice for future religion reporters, stressing that the beat has suffered during the recession that has rocked the media.
From New York’s heavy-hitters and influencers to emerging talent, THIRTEEN spotlights the people who make our region the epicenter of politics and arts & culture. Metrofocus – a new local series that will offer in-depth discussions about politics, arts & culture and the history of New York – premieres this Friday, featuring interviews with Eliot Spitzer, Rick Lazio and Anne Heller. Spitzer offers his perspective on New York’s current political climate; Lazio discusses his bid for governor; and Anne Heller discusses her new biography on Ayn Rand. Future episodes will feature Sir Harold Evans, Cy Vance, Norman Podhoretz, TJ Stiles, and many others.
“THIRTEEN is in a unique position to be able to produce relevant and intelligent programs like Metrofocus,” said Neal Shapiro, president of WNET.ORG. “We’re surrounded by an incredible amount of talent in New York, and to be able to fill a void for smart, uninterrupted programming by bringing local innovators and thinkers to our viewing community is exciting.”
What is known about the H1N1 influenza outbreak? How is the government preparing for the next big threat? Join the PBS NewsHour’s Ray Suarez for an exploration of the science and policy of this year’s swine flu pandemic, from federal vaccination headquarters to big city hospital emergency rooms. “Anatomy of a Pandemic” airs Monday, December 14 at 9 p.m. on THIRTEEN.
For the latest news and information about the H1N1 flu outbreak here in New York, please visit our comprehensive website that features the latest headlines as well as original reporting from the field.
‘Tis the season to set your DVR for the best holiday programming that public television has to offer!
Saturday, December 12
3 p.m. National Christmas Tree Lighting 2009
A star-studded tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse, with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, military band music and special guests.
Sunday, December 13
3 p.m. Chanukah Celebration
Actress Fran Drescher (The Nanny) hosts a fun-filled hour celebrating Chanukah. This entertaining public television special is filled with stories, ideas and information to bring new meaning to the holiday season.
Tuesday, December 15
10:30 a.m. Angelina’s Holiday Treats / Angelina and the Front Row Ticket
Angelina is anticipating her performance in “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” at the holiday showcase. She also can’t wait for the holiday party afterwards. But in between final rehearsal and the performance, she and Marco overindulge in candy canes and a few too many slices of Mum’s fruitcake.
Bob the Builder
It’s snowy and icy in Sunflower Valley and Bob is building an ice-rink at Bobland Bay. Dizzy is delighted since she loves to ice skate. Tumbler declares that he loves to skate too and will show her how it’s really done!
Thomas & Friends
It’s winter and James is bringing coal to the wharf so that Duncan can take it to the villages in the hills. Duncan challenges James to a race – he’ll deliver the coal faster than James can bring it to the wharf.
8 p.m. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians
FRONTLINE explores the life of Jesus and the movement he started, drawing upon new and sometimes controversial historical evidence and interviews with the nation’s leading New Testament scholars. (more…)