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20 Amazing TED Talks for Art Majors

Posted on Monday August 22, 2011 by Staff Writers

Art majors often face a lot of teasing about the uselessness of their major and the difficulties they’ll face finding a job after graduation. For many students, it proves a disheartening phenomenon detracting from some of the pleasure of learning and creating. While cautions about finding a job post-graduation do have their place, it’s important for online students to remind themselves of art’s value in society and remember why they were so inspired to initially pursue the path. These TED Talks will do just that, showing off some impressive artwork, exploring the deeper meanings of art in culture and even showing the amazing impact creative pursuits have on the world. Among these 20 talks from artists, scientists and thinkers, students are bound to find something that strikes a chord and makes them proud to be an art major.

  1. Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

    Museum curator Thelma Golden shares some recent shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem, involving prominent African-American artists like Kara Walker and Glenn Ligon. Golden explores how these artists have examined and changed culture as well as how their work has helped strike up a new dialogue about race in America.

  2. Vik Muniz makes art with wire, sugar

    Vik Muniz creates art with often unconventional materials, making use of wire, thread, chocolate, diamonds and even garbage to create artwork that is at once playful and poignant. In this talk, he shares a collection of his work and gives some insights into the thought process behind it.

  3. Paola Antonelli treats design as art

    Do you consider great design art? Paola Antonelli, curator of the MoMA, does. In this talk, she showcases some impressive examples of design from around the world. It just might sway you if you’ve never thought of practical objects as art.

  4. Ursus Wehrli tidies up art

    Take a humorous look at art with Wehrli, a comedian, as he tidies up and organizes well-known works of modern art, ordering them by color, shape and size. While funny, it’s also a great look at composition and components.

  5. Miru Kim’s underground art

    Artist Miru Kim finds her artistic inspiration in the industrial underworld of New York City, juxtaposing these stark, dirty spaces with the naked human form. In this talk, you’ll see some of her sketches as well as some of her more well-known photographs.

  6. Tom Shannon’s anti-gravity sculpture

    Sculptor Tom Shannon’s work might look otherwordly, but the materials he uses are simple, common and sometimes even everyday objects. Listen and learn about how he combines elements of art and science to create some amazingly beautiful sculptures defying gravity.

  7. Arthur Ganson makes moving sculpture

    If you’ve never seen the kinetic sculptures of Arthur Ganson, this talk will give you a chance to get an up close and personal view. You’ll also learn about the existential principles and ideas behind the beautifully-constructed works.

  8. Olafur Eliasson: Playing with space and light

    Perception is at the heart of all art — performed, drawn or sculpted — and it’s the focus of this world-renowned artist’s work as well. Viewers will get a chance to hear Eliasson talk about his work and see some of the large-scale pieces using space, light, distance, color and even temperature. He intends to create an all-encompassing experience for viewers.

  9. Raghava KK: Five lives of an artist

    Have you ever stopped to think about how art has affected your life? In this talk, Raghava KK explores how art has driven his life experiences and the ways he has changed and evolved as a result.

  10. Tom Shannon: The painter and the pendulum

    It’s not often you get to see inside the studio of a well-known artist, but this TED video will let you see how artist Tom Shannon works. He uses both the laws of physics and his early Parkinson’s symptoms to create large paintings — quite different from his other sculptural work.

  11. Alwar Balasubramaniam: Art of substance and absence

    Art is as much about what’s not there as what is, and in Balasubramaniam’s sculptures you’ll get to see this concept at work. He plays with time, perspective, shape and shadow to create dynamic works forcing the viewer to confront the limits of their own worldly perceptions.

  12. Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty

    Animator Andrew Park brings to life Dutton’s theory of beauty in this engaging talk. Dutton believes that beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder at all. Rather, we are all hard-wired by evolution to seek it out — a wonderful thought for artists.

  13. Janet Echelman: Taking imagination seriously

    What would you do if you suddenly had to work with a new material? Echelman faced just that challenge, and used the power of her imagination to create works both jaw-droppingly beautiful and unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

  14. Golan Levin makes art that looks back at you

    Straddling the line between art and engineering, the work of Golan Levin isn’t just meant to be looked at. As you’ll see in this talk, he creates works that interact with viewers in a whole new way.

  15. Ravin Agrawal: 10 young Indian artists to watch

    If you don’t know much about modern Indian art, that’s OK. This talk will highlight some of the best and the brightest in the scene, helping you broaden your horizons and get inspired to make your own noteworthy art projects this semester.

  16. Evan Grant: Making sound visible through cymatics

    Can you see a sound? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. In this talk, Even Grant show just how it’s done. Through a process called cymantics, which creates complex and beautiful designs that let us see the heard environment.

  17. Edward Burtynsky on manufactured landscapes

    The idea that art can change the world for the better is readily apparent in the landscapes of TED Prize winner Edward Burtynsky. Here, Burtynsky shares some of his artwork as well as what inspires him to create pieces capturing the urgency of developing a more sustainable way of living.

  18. Shirin Neshat: Art in exile

    While art may be protested, banned and even hated in this country, artists rarely have to face exile for the work they create. Other countries around the world aren’t so understanding, and no one knows that better than Iranian-born artists Shirin Neshat. In this talk, she shows some of her powerful photographs and explores her role as an artist in exile.

  19. Frans Lanting’s lyrical nature photos

    Nature photographer Frans Lanting has captured some compelling and beautiful images of the place we call home. Compiled here in a slideshow, they’ll take you from the beginnings of our planet to the explosive diversity we now enjoy.

  20. Willard Wigan: Hold your breath for micro-sculpture

    A lonely childhood drove artist Wigan to begin creating tiny sculptures, with his most recent works existing as literally microscopic. This talk will not only let you learn more about the artist as a person, but show you that art can be awe-inspiring — even on the tiniest scale.