Architectural Kaleidoscope

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Manon Piernot

The following films explore the disappearance of nature and the taking over of the natural world by humans. Architectural kaleidoscope films show images of industrialized cities and portray them as somewhat dangerous and sinister. In Deborah Stratman’s film Energy Country, she shows energy companies in Texas fenced off with warning signs as eerie music plays in the background. Images of industrial buildings letting out smoke into the atmosphere feels toxic and unnatural. The mood of this film is rather melancholic. The point of these films seems to be exposing what mankind has done to our Earth. Bruce Baillie’s Castro Street shows scenes of flower fields interrupted by a train making loud industrial sounds. It feels unnatural to simply look at the train going through the field as an aesthetic choice, it instead gives off the impression that the train is disturbing this natural scenery.

Deborah Stratman also uses images of oil drills and sound tracks of what sounds like news anchors speaking about terrorism. She shows images of trains and factories that are lit up, and, as her title suggests, she means to show how much we rely on energy. Her deliberate choice of putting in videos of U.S. drones bombing, what we can imagine to be a country in the Middle East, near the end seems to suggest that Industrialization lead to terrorism. Our need for energy and lack of oil drove our government to find it somewhere else and take it by force. Stratman is exposing our politicians and even more so exposing us citizens as we indulge in energy without thinking about where it came from. Shots of a busy Wall Street flash, followed by clips of a chaotic ant hill, and then back to Wall Street, but an older version. These clips are most likely arranged by each other to show a passage of time, but a constant in behavior–stress. We see a very concentrated area/group of creatures very busily scurrying to do their jobs. One can also gather that the comparison of humans to insects is suggestive of people being vermin or a parasite.

Takahashi Ito makes a film, Spacy, by rephotographing each frame of a Gym. The film looks as if we are traveling through the film itself, as a sort of inception, evoked by repetitive stop motion clips zooming in and out of some sort of music stand-ish objects. The endlessness of the Gym showcases a familiar environment transported into an unrealistic world. All of these films contain some sort of man made methods of transportation as well as a chaotic, and almost evil framing of human-kind. “Film is capable of presenting unrealistic world as a vivid reality and creating a strange space peculiar to the media. My major intention is to change the ordinary everyday life scenes and draw the audience (myself) into a vortex of supernatural illusion by exercising the magic of films” (Takashi Ito, in Image Forum, Oct.1984). However, this film seems to be much more reliant on the aesthetics presented and how it makes the viewer feel as opposed to the other filmmakers. The content is comparatively limited and reminds me much more of structural film rather than the idea of an architectural kaleidoscope. The film relies on its camera work: the rephotographing of all frames continuing in a loop. Other than the obvious architecture of the Gym, the dependance on camerawork is evident and seems like it would make more sense to be viewed as a structural film.

In Marie Menken’s film Go! Go! Go!, we see a fast paced video of the New York City streets. Pedestrians are coming and going in crowds, mixing in with the traffic, and taking over the streets, somewhat reminiscent of the ants in the ant hill. The feeling that the video gives is very overwhelming and unnatural. It brings me to question the basic human motions and interactions as many of our everyday actions seem to be rather futile. While the people are walking fast, the shots stay in the same place. These time lapses show the repetitiveness and monotony of daily human life.

These experimental films showcase man made structures in an overwhelming manner. They seem to be made as a way to look down upon industrialization. The films by Menken, Startman, and Baillie all include images of mass transit, factory-like buildings, urban settings, and for some reason flashes of primary colors. It makes sense to group them in the category of an architectural kaleidoscope since we are presented with man-made architectural environments. However, Takahashi does not fit into that criteria as fully as the other films because of the meager elements.


How does the film Spacy by Takahashi Ito an architectural kaleidoscope experimental film?

Is the use of primary colors in every film significant?

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