Posts tagged Evan Mather

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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.

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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.

Crossing the Continental Divide in "From Sea To Shining Sea"

Crossing the Continental Divide in “From Sea To Shining Sea”

Two themes that have permeated all of my films have been the concepts of travel and journey. This explains the extensive use of animated cartography and dashboard perspectives in my work, an extension of my love for maps, animation, and computer graphics.

Approaching San Francisco in "From Sea To Shining Sea"

Approaching San Francisco in “From Sea To Shining Sea”

Illustrating this love: while funding From Sea To Shining Sea, I put together a compilation of clips from my films – maps from Beijing to Baton Rouge. These include the animated TripTiks® in Fansom the Lizard; the Buckydome from Scenic Highway (and later A Necessary Ruin); Matt Clayfield’s backwards Dutch pidgin speak coupled with a bit of winklecomplexen in 39-A; and Lobot’s journey across Asia, Europe, and the Atlantic in I Am An Artist. There are also clips from Vert, Pavlov’s Bell, Pavillion Dans Les Arbres – and of course the Telly-vision army marching across the UK in Telly.

I am currently working on some beautiful animated maps of Iceland for use in Hringvegur.

Closing bonus: As a landscape architect, I have the opportunity to spend my days creating site plans – aka maps.