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TEDxVancouver - Jer Thorp - The Weight of Data

Jer Thorp is an artist and educator from Vancouver, Canada, currently living in New York. Coming from a background in genetics, his digital art practice explores the many-folded boundaries between science and art. Recently, his work has been featured by The New York Times, The Guardian, Scientific American, The New Yorker, and the CBC. Thorp's award-winning software-based work has been exhibited in Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Australia and all over the web. Most recently, he has presented at Carnegie Mellon's School of Art, at Eyebeam in New York City, and at IBM's Center for Social Software in Cambridge. He is currently Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times, and is an adjunct Professor in New York University's ITP program. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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Looking at portfolios from Critical Mass 2011...

A number of photographers are looking at old family photographs and finding new ways to revisit history. Jackson Patterson has a particularly intriguing approach to the retelling of his familial legacy of westward migration. As my own relatives migrated across the west, these images of family and landscape feel familiar, revealing a poignancy and sense of historical memory that are perfect compliments to each other.

Born and raised in Arizona, Jackson developed an appreciation for both the beauty and austerity of the desert and the lush diversity of nature. His artistic and personal curiosities have led him throughout the U.S., Mexico, South America and Europe, but always returning to the American West where he finds the expansive and diverse scenery to be home. Jackson received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and has been exhibiting work in Pennsylvania, Oregon, California and Arizona , in particular, at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, the Pendleton Art Center, The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Togonon Gallery. His work is included in the Paul Sack Collection at the SFMOMA. He is an instructor at the Art Academy University, the San Francisco Photo Center and the San Francisco Art Institute ACE program.

In the latest series, Recollected Memories, I was inspired by the tales of my families westward migration and am merging the landscapes of the American West with my family albums, attempting to collocate the medium of photography, 21st century digital practices, with the personal. The results that come into focus are new fantastical stories. Each blended piece possesses its own original story while the viewer takes away another version that is his or her own. They are stories of perseverance, pride, struggle, life and death. They are human stories intertwined in a majestic landscape.

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This week, the world’s attention centers on the United Nations in New York where, following months of build-up, the Palestinians have brought their case for statehood to the U.N. Security Council. Given the certainty of a U.S. veto, the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition will be stillborn. What follows after this high-profile diplomatic “showdown” is anybody’s guess, but there’s little cause for optimism. Co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians in the bitterly contested Holy Land grows ever more fraught. Seeking to break through barriers, Israeli photographer Natan Dvir decided to cast his lens on the others in his midst — the largely marginalized Israeli Arabs, who comprise nearly a fifth of Israel’s total population. Dvir sums up their plight:

“They are living as a minority in a Jewish country at war with people [the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza] they see as allies or even brothers… Many see themselves as being discriminated against and are hoping for a change that would allow them and the rest of the Arab population in Israel an equal position in society.”

Yet that prospect seems remote, especially now under the watch of a particularly right-wing Israeli government. The Arab and Jewish communities, says Dvir, have been drifting apart over the years, pointing to surveys that now suggest nearly half the Israeli Jewish population would not object to Israeli Arabs being deprived of some of their civil rights. A loyalty oath to Israel as a “Jewish” state further polarized feelings.

Sensing their alienation, Dvir went around photographing Israeli Arabs —in particular, Israeli Arabs all of a certain age. Eighteen is a project not just about youth, but about what it means to grow into adulthood in some of the most politically-charged and challenging circumstances possible. As Dvir points out, the age of 18 is the moment of real separation between Jewish and Arab Israelis; most of the Jews leave for military service, most of the Arabs stay put.

Dvir’s pictures of Israeli Arabs move from intimate portraits to scenes of quotidian ennui to glimpses of the grim, bleak desolation that can shape the collective psyche of an embittered community. Throughout, the photos convey a kind of unvarnished, human normalcy. For fellow Israelis, says Dvir,  he hopes his project “is a point of contact serving as an invitation. A project aimed at reconciliation through understanding and respect. If I, a Jewish Israeli man, have been accepted and was allowed into my subjects’ lives – so can others.”

Ishaan Tharoor is a writer-reporter for TIME and editor of Global Spin. You can find him on Twitter at ishaantharoor. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEWorld .

Natan Dvir is a photographer who shares his time between New York and Israel. Eighteen has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Israel. To see more of Dvir’s work visit his website.

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