playlist

Using art history to examine modern day

Observe our modern times through the lens of art history with these compelling, masterful talks.

  1. 12:48
    Anthony D. Romero This is what democracy looks like

    In a quest to make sense of the political environment in the United States in 2017, lawyer and ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero turned to a surprising place — a 14th-century fresco by Italian Renaissance master Ambrogio Lorenzetti. What could a 700-year-old painting possibly teach us about life today? Turns out, a lot. Romero explains all in a talk that's as striking as the painting itself.

  2. 4:32
    Dread Scott How art can shape America's conversation about freedom

    In this quick talk, visual artist Dread Scott tells the story of one of his most transgressive art installations, which drew national attention for its controversial use of the American flag and led to a landmark First Amendment case in the US Supreme Court.

  3. 13:15
    Alexander MacDonald How centuries of sci-fi sparked spaceflight

    Long before we had rocket scientists, the idea of spaceflight traveled from mind to mind across generations. With great visuals, TED Fellow and NASA economist Alexander MacDonald shows how 300 years of sci-fi tales — from Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne to H.G. Wells and beyond — sparked a culture of space exploration. A fascinating look at how stories become reality, featuring a goose machine sent to the Moon.

  4. 12:52
    Titus Kaphar Can art amend history?

    Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There's a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?

  5. 4:36
    Camille A. Brown A visual history of social dance in 25 moves

    Why do we dance? African-American social dances started as a way for enslaved Africans to keep cultural traditions alive and retain a sense of inner freedom. They remain an affirmation of identity and independence. In this electric demonstration, packed with live performances, choreographer, educator and TED Fellow Camille A. Brown explores what happens when communities let loose and express themselves by dancing together.

  6. 12:19
    Ariana Curtis Museums should honor the everyday, not just the extraordinary

    Who deserves to be in a museum? For too long, the answer has been "the extraordinary" — those aspirational historymakers who inspire us with their successes. But those stories are limiting, says museum curator Ariana Curtis. In a visionary talk, she imagines how museums can more accurately represent history by honoring the lives of people both extraordinary and everyday, prominent and hidden — and amplify diverse perspectives that should have always been included.

  7. 7:01
    Paul Rucker The symbols of systemic racism — and how to take away their power

    Multidisciplinary artist and TED Fellow Paul Rucker is unstitching the legacy of systemic racism in the United States. A collector of artifacts connected to the history of slavery — from branding irons and shackles to postcards depicting lynchings — Rucker couldn't find an undamaged Ku Klux Klan robe for his collection, so he began making his own. The result: striking garments in non-traditional fabrics like kente cloth, camouflage and silk that confront the normalization of systemic racism in the US. "If we as a people collectively look at these objects and realize that they are part of our history, we can find a way to where they have no more power over us," Rucker says. (This talk contains graphic images.)

  8. 17:05
    Judith Jamison and members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Revelations from a lifetime of dance

    "Dance can elevate our human experience beyond words," says Judith Jamison, artistic director emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In between performances of excerpts from Alvin Ailey's classic works "Revelations" and "Cry," Jamison reflects on the enduring power of dance to transform history into art that thrills audiences around the world. (Performances by Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins and Constance Stamatiou)

  9. 14:29
    Alexis Charpentier How record collectors find lost music and preserve our cultural heritage

    For generations, record collectors have played a vital role in the preservation of musical and cultural heritage by "digging" for obscure music created by overlooked artists. Alexis Charpentier shares his love of records — and stories of how collectors have given forgotten music a second chance at being heard. Learn more about the culture of record digging (and, maybe, pick up a new hobby) with this fun, refreshing talk.

  10. 8:29
    Françoise Mouly The stories behind The New Yorker's iconic covers

    Meet Françoise Mouly, The New Yorker's art director. For the past 24 years, she's helped decide what appears on the magazine's famous cover, from the black-on-black depiction of the Twin Towers the week after 9/11 to a recent, Russia-influenced riff on the magazine's mascot, Eustace Tilley. In this visual retrospective, Mouly considers how a simple drawing can cut through the torrent of images that we see every day and elegantly capture the feeling (and the sensibility) of a moment in time.