Posts tagged with "Film":

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Origami Inspiration

The documentary Between the Folds is a brisk study of the intersection of intelligence and aesthetics in origami. The film, by the first time writer and director Vanessa Gould, gives an overview of the field, looks into the methods of folding, and interviews some of the big paper players of the past 50 years. Even with the film's minor faults, Gould deserves enormous credit for producing a film that will fascinate everyone from precocious kids to high-minded architects. The film, the first on the subject in English, explores the combination of art, mathematics, diagrams, computational power, inspiration, and raw desire to create held within a simple piece of paper. Starting off a bit heavy on the arts-and-craftsy side of origami, Gould eases the audience into the topic, but if you wait patiently the wow factor is delivered momentarily. The film jumps forward to contemporary practitioners who are pursuing more abstract and complicated objects. Their efforts can easily be compared to abstract artists, classical composers, and mathematicians. Indeed, not only have many trained in the field of mathematics, but they often use origami as a visual devise to teach to students in primary schools in Israel and universities in the U.S. During one of the more mirthful moments Tel Aviv artist Paul Jackson discusses the "single fold" technique where he works to reduce the project to its bare minimum. In a breath-holding scene we watch Chicago folder Chris Palmer do his thing--he pushes forward at moments when most would either be satisfied the work was done or just be too timid to go any further. Unfortunately, the movie does not dwell long enough in these moments and only briefly touches on real world applications like a compacted solar array designed to unfold in outer space or airbags in new cars. With a brief running time of 55 minutes apparently there is only so much that could be fit into this survey. What the film does best is relate the vast potential in origami. Paper folding may be an ancient art-- practiced for centuries in Asia by masters and currently at dinner tables everywhere by restless eaters--but the greater concepts and methods of physical folding have yet to come close to breaching its own boundaries. Sure, many architects have spent hours toiling in seminars and design reviews with the concepts of the Smooth / Striated. But these efforts simply do not compare to the elucidation experienced watching Erik Demaine (a MacArthur Genuis grant winner and professor at MIT) and his father Martin explain their solution to the single cut and fold problem. It looks simple in essence, but you realize how untapped the field is and how fantastic the potentials are. The fascination really starts when we see the possibilities in origami techniques for architecture. These systems may provide more methods for tackling the currently vexing question of ornament. With ever tightening budgets, continued reduction of skilled labor in construction, and misappropriation of the minimalism as a way to make less expensive projects, macro and micro folding solutions may present new avenues for generating evocative, meaningful, and well executed facades and structures. Or for the morphologists / blobists / maya-masters in the room, the deep focus of origami's methods may provide the refining and strengthening of processes needed to grow the field out of its toddler stage and into a more mature phase. Like the great documentary Rivers and Tides about the artist Andrew Goldsworthy, Between the Folds makes you want to run out and start practicing and tinkering with the art form. The apparent simplicity and unbounded sense of opportunity are great seducers, but it is the shear sense of fun that makes us want to try it, a spirit amply captured in the film.

Between the Folds will be shown on PBS stations as part of the Independent Lens series across the USA in December 2009 and early 2010. Check your local listings. PBS and Independent Lens will be streaming the film in December until 22nd. Click here for more information and interactive games.

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A Star Turn for Sambo

Architectural documentaries are all the rage these days, from Louis Kahn to Frank Gehry and, most recently and sadly, Julius Shulman. Now comes another, Snakebit about Rural Studio and its inimitable founder Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee, that, like its predecessors, seems unexpectedly moving, even for architecture buffs. The Alabama-based architecture school is well known for the phenomenal, important work it does for a market rarely, or at least not often enough, visited by "serious" architects. It's affecting rhetoric and work all right, but to see the immense impact good architecture can have on the depredations of poverty on the big screen--or even on YouTube--puts Rural Studio's work into a whole other context. Mockbee died in 2001, but the filmmakers dug up archival interviews, in addition to talking to such like-minded luminaries as Cameron Sinclair and Peter Eisenman as well as current instructor and students, making it feel as though Mockbee were still alive, especially as building after building his unique approach inspired rise before the viewers' eyes. The film has not yet received wide distribution, but check out the official site as broadcast dates are expected soon enough.
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Architecture Gets Its Close Up

What is SMIBE? Is it a brand of paint? Or maybe a government agency? No, it's something much more interesting: the Society for Moving Images about the Built Environment. The Los Angeles-based, volunteer-run organization just announced the winners of its inaugural "Story About a Place" competition, which looked for short films (less than 6 minutes long) that "reveal new sides or issues about a place told by memorable characters." The competition, which launched last fall, received over 90 entries from 13 countries. In the student category the jury chose two winners: Matthew Bendure's Matthaei Botanical Gardens, a visual essay about a  greenhouse complex whose warm, verdant, highly-mechanized environment contrasts starkly with the bleak, frozen winter of Ann Arbor, Michigan just outside; and Allyson Oar's Adapt, a film about unique, informally-created areas of Portland, Oregon, like its homemade skatepark under the Burnside Bridge, and the city's "not-so-homeless"  collection of handmade dwellings called Dignity Village. In the general category, no first prize was handed out, but four films were noted as finalists. They included Ilai Arad, Ernst Kabel, and Bart-Jan Polman's Opinions or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Palast, a community-wide reflection on East Germany's former political headquarters, the Palast der Republik, which was recently torn down; Jo Barnett's Tale From No Where, a story narrating the intimate experiences that revolve around normally ignored, tiny public spaces; Jooyoung Chung's A Letter from Joon-Su, which reveals the lonely, faceless experience of an immigrant as he drives through LA's freeways (which begin to take on a life of their own); and Matthew Hahn's Lassie’s Mother, a personal and historical tale of Buck's County PA told by a computer animated 3d avatar.