The 10 Best Arts and Culture TED Talks


It seems like every day someone is sending us a new TED talk. We are big fans of the forward-thinking smart-people conference, but there’s just no way we can watch everything posted on the site. That said, there’s no way we would miss “David Byrne: How architecture helped music evolve,” a speech from this year’s event that just appeared on the site. Once we checked out that show stopper (seriously, watch it now), we couldn’t help scanning the TED archives to find the best arts and culture-related talks. Our ten favorites, spanning the realms of art, design, literature, music, and TV, are after the jump.

Lawrence Lessig: “Re-examining the remix” (April 2010) The author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy discusses what Democrats can learn from Republicans about copyright and free collaboration. A surprising jumping off point, but a convincing argument nonetheless.

David Carson on design + discovery (February 2003) You may not recognize his name, but if you ever stumbled upon Ray Gun magazine, you’ve seen Carson’s striking typography. Watch a slideshow of his work and watch him get serious about design.

Maira Kalman: The illustrated woman (March 2007) Kalman tells an often hilarious story of how she became an illustrator. Apparently, it all comes down to figuring out how to live, how to die, and how to get paid to daydream.

Isaac Misrahi on fashion and creativity (February 2008) Famously chatty, Misrahi talks about inspiration and why sleeping so little and making mistakes have helped him in his fashion career. Think of it as The Anxiety of Influence for designers.

J.J. Abrams’ mystery box (March 2007) We may be smarting over Lost‘s unsatisfying ending, but we still admire creator J.J. Abrams’ gift for storytelling. Here, he traces his fascination with “unseen mystery” back to his beloved grandfather, who indulged his creativity.

C.K. Williams’ poetry of youth and age (February 2001) Instead of giving a more structured talk, the accomplished poet treats us to some of his most distinctive works.

Olafur Eliasson: Playing with space and light (February 2009) The world-famous art star gets back to basics with a talk that makes us reconsider our assumptions about boundaries and reality in modern art.

Virginia Postrel on the power of glamour (February 2004) The cultural critic dissects the very un-glamorous process of manufactured glitz. What does our obsession with glamour mean, and what messages does the culture it creates send?

Milton Glaser on using design to make ideas new (February 1998) The legendary graphic designer talks through one of his works inspired by Piero della Francesca before moving on to topics he’s uniquely qualified to speak on: the process of design and the relationship between posters and the ideas behind them.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story The young Nigerian novelist talks about the complexity, multiple points of view, and what an “authentically African” story really is.