Posts from the Film & Video Category

Our back-to-school theme inspired me to revisit my graduate thesis, a document I haven’t looked at in quite awhile, but that I believe still influences my design thinking today. I started by skimming my references and remembering all of the essays that had inspired me while pulling together ideas.

I was taking an art theory class at the time entitled Art and Ecology, and some of the discussions we had really helped me articulate what I thought and felt about being an ecological designer. I remember re-reading one quote in particular, from Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought, which is both simple and overwhelming.

“…ecology isn’t just about global warming, recycling, and solar power and also not just to do with everyday relationships between humans and nonhumans. It has to do with love, loss, despair, and compassion. It has to do with depression and psychosis. It has to do with capitalism and with what might exist after capitalism. It has to do with amazement, open-mindedness, and wonder. It has to do with doubt, confusion, and skepticism. It has to do with concepts of space and time. It has to do with delight, beauty, ugliness, disgust, irony, and pain. It has to do with consciousness and awareness. It has to do with ideology and critique. It has to do with reading and writing. It has to do with race, class, and gender. It has to do with sexuality. It has to do with ideas of self and the weird paradoxes of subjectivity. It has to do with society. It has to do with coexistence.”

This quote and the discussion that followed inspired me to think more critically about empathy and affect in ecological thinking. It seemed to me that metrics and data often dominate ecological talk; I was curious about how I could begin to think about ecological design in a different way. My thesis title turned out to be Transparent Animism: A Framework for Participating in Ecological Design as Agonism. Animism became a way for me to talk about humans and nonhumans as subjects, and the political theory of agonism – a political theory that emphasizes the possibly positive aspects of certain forms of political conflict.

As I dug around and tried to better understand the political theories of agonism, a quote by Belgian political theorist Chantal Mouffe entirely changed the way I thought about ecology. Mouffe stated that, “the fetishization of consensus is an act of silencing”. I suddenly understood that a human idea of a harmonious nature was a fantasy. Rather than emphasizing consensus between humans and nonhumans as a goal, what was required was a platform for ecological design that allows for productive disagreement to take place.

I came up with four design criterias that I believed would help me work towards a more empathetic ecological design process, and I attempted to employ those criteria to four speculative projects. I’ll plug a link to my thesis here, because this ontological brainstorm took me close to a year to complete.

One of the projects, the video shown below, is something I recognize as a relational diagram. It was all about the challenge of exchanging perspectives. The construct is made of layered clear acrylic planes with laser cut holes that I then painted pink and blue. When staked the layers of colors create a visual field with a shifting organization of figure-ground. An understanding of existence as relational proposes that humans and nonhumans are in a continuous process of negotiation with one another.

As a landscape designer today I still feel it is necessary to be critical of and empathetic towards representations of nature and the ongoing discussion of what makes ecological design ecological.

““The unfathomable, gloomy elegance of this splashing and rumbling landscape painting — the movement of the waves, the circling of the birds, the lifting of the cloud cover — is followed by an arc shot resembling a brushstroke that tells us about everything we have already forgotten while gazing at the static and precisely framed mountain: the world beyond the image.” – Alejandro Bachmann

Austrian artist Lukas Marxt initially began in search of landscapes untouched by humankind – remote places across the globe unknown or forgotten, existing in what is often referred to in geological durations as “deep time”. Across these increasingly disappearing spaces devoid of human activity, Marxt’s solitary interactions and observations within barren landscapes conjures the temporal nature of humankind’s imprint upon the planet, appearing in an instant, then as quickly fading back into the confluence of time. Over time his work has evolved to fold humankind into the narrative of the greater landscape, superimposing our world back onto a holistic perspective. His works evoke equal moments of wonder and sadness, connection and solitude.

Currently residing in Southern California during a six month residency researching the ecological and socio-political structures surrounding the Salton Sea, seven of Marxt’s videos will be screening next week on Wednesday at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles. Even if you’re unable to attend next, anyone can immerse themselves into the flow of Marxt’s deep time work thanks to Vimeo.

“Aerial photography has existed since we flew balloons. What interests me is that everybody now has access to it. It has sort of become a common object. I would no longer call it a god’s-eye view because it has become so present. What interests me most is that you can steer it yourself and direct it. You can take flight and rescale the landscape in ways in which it becomes difficult to distinguish between the macro and the micro.” – Lukas Marxt

This is a film about process. In the journey of developing a forthcoming piece about a global framework for urban design, I found myself compelled to create a digital interpretation of Professor Lynch’s seminal text, The Image of the City. Calling upon all of the (digital) tools available to man – i.e. the Adobe Suite, Final Cut Pro, and a Mac – I share my documentation of the four-week digital workflow in service of its creation.

In London’s Hyde Park can be found a sculptural water feature which flows with animated urgency and audible energy, its sounds and flow only hushed once its circular journey comes to rest within a peaceful basin at the fountain’s bottom. This recent Easter holiday I made way to visit Kathryn Gustafson’s 2004 landscape memorial, “Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain” to experience this landscape experience firsthand. I discovered a sculptural channel that resonated with me for its texture – both physical and aural.

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Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s design expresses the concept of ‘Reaching out – letting in’, taken from the values and practices in the inclusive spirit of the Princess of Wales. All photos and video by Evan Mather.

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545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills – were interlocked to create the cascade.

The fountain is not static. Water drawn from London’s water table bubbles, gurgles, falls, twists and turns, bends and breaks – creating distinctive sounds as it flows down the in separate eastward and westward flows. Alongside the simplicity of the project’s materials, the playful layout, and the fountain’s adjacent location near Serpentine Lake, what I will most remember from my visit to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain will be the dynamic nature of the water experience – one rewarding both looking and listening.

If you’re like me – and I figure most people in 2017 are – you listen to music while walking, running, ride sharing, or driving through the landscape. Music has the power to express complex emotional and spiritual concepts, teleporting the mind to a certain time and place, or even bring about an altered state.

Beyond its role in audio-visual bias in spatial perception, your earbuds and track 13 on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album can heavily influence experience and emotions, or even spiritually connect to your surroundings.
This augmented experience becomes landscape around you.

When I think of the tie between music and landscape, or music and nature, I think of a few examples of music augmenting the landscape. An artist can teleport you to a certain setting. An artist can reify a natural landscape’s unpredictability or ominous scale. Music can explain concepts within nature that are too broad for our consumption. Music can mimic nature. An artist can capture and isolate parts of nature.

That is a lot to think about!

Before we get into it let’s get some definitions out of the way:

  • Landscape n. – in a broad sense, the features of an area of land and its landforms; how these features interact with the broader nature and man-made features. This includes features both physical and cultural, natural and anthropological. Landscape can also be described as setting, a geographical location at a moment of time.
  • Music n. – sounds combined to produce a beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
  • Nature n. – the physical world and its organisms; features and products of the earth as opposed to humans and human creations.

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