Posts from the Film & Video Category

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In 2013, I completed the feature film From Sea To Shining Sea – a contemporary portrait of the United States of America experienced via a cross-county time-lapse video and audio collage. This incredible landscape diversity – through twenty-two eco-regions, from the Atlantic, over the Rockies, and to the Pacific – is united by a common visual element: the Interstate Highway System.

By watching the film, one essentially takes the journey itself, and gains a greater appreciation for the sheer beauty of the American landscape. My co-pilot on the journey was the Australian journalist Matthew Clayfield (“The Caucasian Semi-Circle: A Journey Along Russia’s Exposed Nerve”), who documented the filming in his Kindle single “Hauling Ass”.

While shooting the film, Matt and I visited many places along the interstate that were oriented exclusively toward serving those making the same journey. These towns and truck stops such as Beckley, West Virginia, Haubstadt, Indiana, and Radiator Springs, Utah are places to stop to get gas, grab food, take a shower, etc. These towns exist only within the context of driving along the interstate, and are virtually unknown within the greater day-to-day American experience. These places represent a cultural landscape – an ecology – that only exists because of the framework of the interstate.

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The Anthropocene is a proposed term for the present geological epoch during which humanity has begun to have a significant impact on the environment. I believe the United States Interstate Highway System – due to its impacts on geology, habitat, and microclimate – is clearly an example of the Anthropocene.

This month, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) will host the 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture in Canberra. Part of the program is a short film competition about the Anthropocene. I submitted a video for consideration revolving around a theory that the Interstate is a cultural ecology and a natural evolution of an ancient biomigratory ecology – a physical manifestation of the Anthropocene. The piece has been shortlisted and will screen during the anthropoScene event during the festival.

In my video Sic Erat Scriptum – as personified by this character of instructor (preacher?) Melvin McNally – the development of the interstate highway can be traced back to its precursors: the United States Numbered Highway System followed the routes of the railroads, which in turn were built over the routes of the pioneer wagon trails that originally followed the paths established by of Native American footpaths made over generations following the migratory paths of buffalo and big game – and presumptuously – back to the era of the dinosaurs, where the clusters within the fossil record of these thunder lizards correlates with the towns along the interstate.

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So, the next time you are driving across the country playing the license plate game, say a little prayer of thanks to the dinosaurs who made this all possible.

2016-09-26

What do you see when you read this island?

Flying home earlier this year, having drank too many Frescae, I was staring out the window when an island came into view. It was a bright and clear summer day and the island was well-framed in the water. What is this place? As an ardent cartogrivore, I did not recognize it.

With a few minutes until landing, I took out my iPhone and as an exercise in landscape interpretation and reading land use patterns, I began to scan it for clues: fields, roads, some boat traffic, the alignment of the roads, the location of the structures, an air strip, a dock …?

What do you see when you read this island?

Send me – via email or in the comments below – your thoughts, theories, and interpretations. The country or continent I was flying over is not important (Hint: I am not flying over the USA.). I am going to gather the responses and incorporate them in a video – tentatively titled How To Read An Island – and share the results later this fall.

Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters. Creative Commons photo by Jose Olivares.

Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters. Creative Commons photo by Jose Olivares.

On a recent trip to New York City, I made a visit to the Cloisters in upper Manhattan, a museum dedicated to medieval art, artifact, and architecture. Located within Fort Tryon Park, I made my way through the park, enjoying the idyllic setting and views of the Hudson River. By the time I arrived at the Cloisters, I left behind the pace of the city, mellowed by the orchestration of hilly paths, forested enclaves, flowering gardens, and river views by the park’s designers, the Olmsted brothers. Once inside the Cloisters, I felt a quietness and calm inside myself, despite the crowds of visitors.

The slowing down of time seemed stronger for me as I sat in one of the inner open-air courtyards, where nature came alive. Bird sounds interrupted the quiet, and I was able to distinguish different sounds. But I wished I knew more about our diverse bird species.

Photos by Linda Daley

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Photos by Linda Daley

When I closed my eyes, I could hear the flow of the distant Hudson River. I became aware how much of nature’s sounds I tune out or miss as I go about my daily routines—a process of “learned deafness” that we experience as a result of our urban lifestyle.

“My advice is to go to your protected areas and experience what you are missing.” – Derrick Taff, social scientist at Pennsylvania State University

Good advice when you want to unlearn urban deafness! For fun, find a quiet room and take this auditory tunes test to determine your sense of pitch. Good luck!

 

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This is Iceland at 768 mph – the speed of sound – a time-lapse circumnavigation via the (Ring Road) that circles the island.

As a landscape architect and experimental filmmaker, I am always looking for new ways to communicate the profession. A few summers ago, I strapped an iPhone to my dashboard and compressed the four-hour drive from Malibu for Las Vegas into a twelve-minute time-lapse video in order to capture the shifting landscape ecologies along the route: the ocean coast, the urban megalopolis, the high desert.

The result – Twelve Minutes To Vegas – surprised me. Not only was the landscape continually shifting and mesmerizing, but I felt drawn in, as if by watching the video I was reliving the drive and I was in the landscape.

I have dubbed this genre of experimental film the land-lapse, a technique using video to immerse the viewer into a landscape to achieve an experiential quality. The use of time-lapse video compresses the journey into both a manageable length and allows the viewer to observe the dynamics of shifting landscapes. Finally an audio collage (wild sound, music, interviews, commentary) is added to provide a layer of cultural landscape interpretation.

Additional land-lapse films I have created include Westbank To Westbank (Baton Rouge to New Orleans) and S,M,L,XLA – a circumnavigation of Los Angeles created for a group installation at the Architecture and Design Museum, Los Angeles.

I culminated this series of films with From Sea To Shining Sea. This is a contemporary portrait of the United States of America experienced via a cross-county land-lapse and audio collage. This incredible landscape diversity – through twenty-two eco-regions from the Atlantic, over the Rockies, and to the Pacific – is united by a common visual element: the Interstate Highway System. By watching the film, one essentially takes the journey itself, and gains a greater appreciation for the sheer beauty of the American landscape.

In my latest film, Hringvegur, my goal was to capture the incredible diversity of the Icelandic landscape.

Iceland – the Nordic island country in the North Atlantic – is one of the most volcanically and geologically active places on Earth. This small European country has been described as if “someone put the American West in a blender: California’s poetic central coast, the Nevada desert’s barren expanses, Alaska’s glaciers and Yellowstone’s geysers”. The 828 mile (1,333 kilometer) long Ring Road (Route 1) that encircles the island and traverses these dynamic landscapes, has been characterized as “the ultimate road trip”.

Starting in Reykjavík, we travelled east across the lava fields along the North Atlantic and views of Vatnajökull glacier to Höfn; then heading north by northwest in a foggy darkness along fjords and blind curves. Twisting over the mountains (where a flat tire did not stop us), we crossed the inland gravel fields of Iceland’s desert interior to Akureyri; then west through alpine mountains, lava fields and fjords along the Norwegian Sea, and then through Hvalfjörður Tunnel back to Reykjavík.

Hringvegur was funded via a Kickstarter campaign during World Landscape Architecture Month 2015, and runs 70 minutes in length. Enjoy this 15 minute highlight reel – 3/14ths of Hringvegur.