August 23, 2012
Fay Kleinman Retrospective
Courtesy of Joel Kleinman
From August 17 - September 14, 2012, Slusser Gallery at the University of Michigan School of Art & Design is presenting the paintings of Fay Kleinman (1912-2012).
The artist studied in New York City and her paintings were exhibited in that city, Massachusetts, and Europe. Not until some 16 years after moving to Ypsilanti in 1987 was her work shown in Southeast Michigan. Kleinman subsequently became quite popular in local venues.
This Slusser Gallery exhibit covers a range of Kleinman’s work — both in subject matter and media. It is a wonderful and possibly final opportunity to see her corpus, as her family will likely store the works in New York.
Read more about this exhibition at University of Michigan School of Art & Design.
May 04, 2012
"A Walk into the Sea" (video review)
Still photo of Danny Williams
Film still courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum. © 2006-8 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved.
Filmmaker Esther Robinson goes on a quest to find out what happened to her uncle, Danny Williams, who disappeared from his family home at 27. When his family began their search, only his car was found parked by some cliffs overlooking the ocean. As Robinson hunts for her uncle, many new things come to light, such as his excellent films and experimentation with lighting at The Velvet Underground concerts. A member of Andy Warhol’s Factory, Danny was involved in numerous artistic endeavors, and interviews with Chuck Wein, Billy Name, Brigid Berlin, and The Velvet Underground’s John Cale relate Danny’s personality and relationship with Andy. Robinson discovers more of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, as well as more about his life, work and personality, but exactly what happened to her uncle remains a mystery.
April 20, 2012
"The Venetian Dilemma" (video review)
City of Venice
© G. W. Willard
Source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
The Venetian Dilemma
Produced and directed by Carole Rifkind, Richard Rifkind
While tourism rapidly increases every year, Venice's population, like the city itself, has been dramatically sinking. Little shops and businesses have been pushed out for shops and bars that cater to tourists, and the residents of Venice worry that the Venice they’ve known is disappearing. Mayor Roberto D’Agostino has great plans for pushing Venice forward with new industry and the proposal of a subway to the mainland. However, native inhabitants of the city worry this will only increase tourism, and argue that more should be done to provide better housing and services for those who already live there. Presenting both sides, the film explores the tension between the conflicting desires for modernity and the preservation of culture in Venice.
April 05, 2012
"Robert A.M. Stern" (video review)
15 Central Park West, New York
© AP Photo / Richard Drew
Source: AP Images
Architect Robert A.M. Stern expresses his lifelong interest in New York City, and takes us on a tour of its unique apartment buildings from the past and present. Contrasting them with traditional Parisian apartments, Stern demonstrates how early 20th century apartments in NY redefined what apartment housing was. In the early 1900’s NY was growing rapidly and row houses were no longer enough. Architects Philip Hubert, and James Pirsson had the idea of building apartments that were essentially part of a large home and community. They provided dining, laundry service, and communal rooms for entertaining. This new approach to apartment styles lead to the popularity of apartment living amongst the wealthiest members of society. Stern examines these elaborate apartment buildings such as the Dakota Apartments, 998 Fifth Ave., and 740 Park Ave and describes how they were influential to his own work, 15 Central Park West. Through this comparison, Stern highlights how he drew from the early 1900’s to create a modern apartment building that retained the spirit of the original grand New York City apartments.
March 22, 2012
"The Sprawling of America" (video review)
Alex MacLean, Highway interchange, Detroit, Michigan, 1995
© Alex MacLean / Landslides
Source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
This excellent two-part documentary takes an in depth look at the early beginnings and increasing drawbacks of suburban sprawl in Michigan. The film particularly studies the example of Detroit, covering how the 1940’s housing crisis and racial tension in the city led to the depopulation of Detroit and the expansion of the suburbs. Aggravated by government policies that supported suburbs and the lack of public transportation in Detroit, the suburban way of life has become increasingly unsustainable and detrimental to the city. The growth of suburbs has also affected rural areas and farming in negative ways, rapidly decreasing the availability of land for food production. Yet, all is not lost. While Detroit is not the only city in the U.S. to be suffering from these problems, there are cities that are working to make their city centers vital, living communities and to reduce the suburban sprawl. From the east coast to the west coast new policies are being explored that value sustainable land use and the increasing walkability and livability of a city, and provide valuable ideas for the city of Detroit and other U.S. cities suffering from sprawl.
March 08, 2012
"Mustang" (video review)
Mustang: Journey of Transformation
Will Parrinello, producer/director; Sarah Kass, writer
PBS Home Video
Situated in the north of Nepal and just south of Tibet, Mustang is a region that is technically part of the country of Nepal, but shares closer cultural ties with Tibet. Once a major trading site on the Silk Road, Mustang experienced its Golden Era during the middle ages and spent much of its wealth building its grand Buddhist monasteries. The monasteries, with their exquisite decoration, became crucial centers for education and tradition in the culture of Mustang. However, during the 18th century the wealth and trade of Mustang began to decline with the onset of conflicts and wars that eventually led to the region being closed off from the rest of the world. In 1991, the southern border of Mustang was finally re-opened, and conservators were welcomed to begin restoration projects for their ancient monasteries. John Sanday, a conservation architect, worked four years to repair and stabilize the structures with the approval of Mustang’s king, Jigme Palbar Bista. Luigi Fieni, an Italian conservationist, then began a ten-year project to restore the elaborate mural programs within the monasteries. Fieni worked to train local villagers in restoration work, thus involving and reconnecting the people of Mustang with their rich heritage. Featuring interviews with the conservationists, the Dalai Lama, and the people of Mustang, the film documents the truly inspiring efforts of a society to preserve their culture and identity.
February 23, 2012
"STASH" (video review)
Stash Media Inc.
What do whales, pigs, undercover agents and carousals have in common? Easy, they’re all part of the latest from STASH. With DVD volumes 49 through 67 (subsequent issues are available online), our STASH collection features a wide range of projects including short films, advertisements, and video game graphics. Ranging from humorous to sorrowful, each clip features the best in animation techniques and a variety of styles. So stop by Imageworks to check out what we have featuring the latest in animation, motion graphics and VFX.
February 16, 2012
"Eames" (video review)
Charles Eames, Lounge Chair and Ottoman, 1956
Photo: Davis Digital Images
Source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
Eames: The Architect and The Painter
Narrated by James Franco
The works, lives, and abundant creativity of Charles and Ray Eames, the iconic couple whose work became the pinnacle of mid-20th century design, are examined in this film. Charles and Ray met while working at the Cranbrook Academy of Art here in Michigan. Subsequently they moved to L.A. with the dream of creating quality furniture for everyone, starting with their mass-producible plywood chair. They set up their studio in Venice, CA, and the rest is history. Their studio became known as the “Eamery” where creative artists and designers worked around the clock. Not limiting themselves to furniture, Charles and Ray explored a wide range of media including painting, architecture, film, and photography. Their amazing lives and the many accomplishments they achieved to re-create the very idea of design are still highly influential in the design world today.
February 01, 2012
"Vermeer" (video review)
Vermeer: Light, Love, and Silence
Directed by Michael Gill
He is one of the most famous Dutch painters of all time, a master of capturing light and quiet, reflective moments, yet so little is known about Vermeer himself. Almost no documentation of his career or life remains and only 35 paintings survive him. However, through analysis of the artist's techniques this film pieces together what can be inferred about him from his paintings. Vermeer's interest in science is superficially evident in his paintings such as The Astronomer and The Geographer, as well as his friendship with the scientist Anthony van Leyden. This interest in science is clearly deeper when it is seen how Vermeer applied the use of inventions such as the camera obscura to help him create his masterpieces. The film also reveals more about Vermeer through the history of the Netherlands and the contemporary events of his time, proposing how that context along with the work of other artists may have been influential to his work. Discover more about this Dutch master today by checking out Vermeer: Light, Love, and Silence.
January 19, 2012
"Beijing Taxi" (video review)
A taxi waits near the Beijing Railway Station, Saturday, July 26, 2008, in Beijing.
© AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty
Source: AP Images
a film by Miao Wang
Miao Wang documents a rapidly changing city beginning two years before the 2008 Summer Olympics held in China. These changes are examined through the views of three taxi drivers who know the city and its ins and outs better than anyone else. Taxi driver Bai Jiwen shares the struggles of being a driver in the current economic situation and his dreams of retiring and traveling the world as a photographer. Zhou Yi also recognizes the affects the alterations of the city have on the taxi business and decides to change careers. Wei Caixi is a restless mother who went into taxi driving because the freedom of the job appealed to her. Even so, she becomes disillusioned with the practicality of the job as the whole nature of the city is transformed, and decides to open her own shop. Culminating with the start of the Olympics, the opportunities as well as the detriments to local businesses and shops are presented along with the reshaping of the lives of three taxi drivers in Beijing.
January 12, 2012
"Annie Leibovitz" (video review)
Following her to different photo shoots as she goes about her work, this film documents the life and profound photography of Annie Leibovitz. Annie describes her early childhood life and family, relating how she first became interested in photography. After taking a photography class in college, Annie’s childhood interest blossomed, and from there she began her career with the Rolling Stone magazine. While she built up a reputation for being the best photographer in Rock n’ Roll, Annie left after 13 years to work for the magazine Vanity Fair, which allowed her a wider range of subjects. From her personal photos that help tell the story of her life, to her professional ones that push the boundaries of photography, the film provides an excellent illustration of Annie’s oeuvre and absolute passion for her medium.
December 20, 2011
"The Tugendhat House" (video review)
Mies van der Rohe, Tugendhat Villa, Brno, Czech Republic, 1928-1930
Street facade, 2001
Photographer: Mark Weber/World Monuments Fund
Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat, a member of the family that originally owned Mies van der Rohe’s famous Tugendhat House, wrote a book on her family’s experiences there and for this film shares photos and stories about her family home. At the time of its construction, the argument made by many critics was that it was inhabitable and would serve better as a museum building rather than a home. However, Daniela portrays the Tugendhat House as it was when her family owned it and argues it was ideal in its architectural design as a living space. Added as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, the film also portrays the unique architectural features Mies van der Rohe created for his masterpiece as well as its turbulent history as a family home, soldiers barrack during WWII, dance studio, hospital and finally a public museum.
December 15, 2011
"No Hop Sing, No Bruce Lee" (video review)
No Hop Sing, No Bruce Lee: what do you do when none of your heroes look like you?
Produced and Directed by Janice Tanaka
In her film Janice Tanaka addresses and examines Asian stereotypes upheld in movies and television and the often hurtful or one-dimensional nature they have. Asking the question “What do you do when none of your heroes look like you?” she examines the two limited extremes that Asians are often portrayed as: the servile and obliging character exemplified by Hop Sing in the television series Bonanza; or the mystical martial arts master portrayed in films by actors such as Bruce Lee. Interviews with Asian businessmen, actors and artists present their views and understandings of what it meant to be Asian growing up in America and how the portrayals they saw in the media affected them. All in all the film aims to present a wider view of Asian culture and peoples and to denounce the limited media stereotypes that have been imposed upon them.
December 01, 2011
"Two Square Miles" (video review)
© Filmakers Library
Source: Filmakers Library
In the small town of Hudson, N.Y. many are adjusting to the changes that have occurred over the years. Having gone from an industrial town, to a mostly abandoned one, and finally to the present with local businesses on the rise and new residents moving in, Hudson citizens must decide what they want the future of their town to look like. When the city council presents a bid by Saint Lawrence Cement to put a cement plant on the outskirts of the town, there are many divided between the jobs it would provide and the environmental and health problems it would cause. However, the majority of the town’s citizens decide against the cement plant and work together to convince the city council that this is not what they want, despite the council’s eagerness to accept the plant deal. Ultimately the film asks the question: Can the citizens of a small town work together to build and shape their desired community or will corporate America win out?
November 16, 2011
"Athens Subway" (video review)
A tourist walks past ancient pottery artifacts decorating the Metro station of Acropolis in Athens, August 11, 2004
© AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis
Source: AP Images
Produced by Flashback Television for the History Channel
With air pollution from traffic congestion damaging ancient monuments and the 2004 Olympics around the corner, an expansion of the single line Athens subway was desperately needed. But the subway would pass under the most ancient heart of the city! There was tension between engineers and archaeologists as the engineers had deadlines to meet and the archaeologists wanted to carefully go through everything unearthed. Fortunately a system of cooperation was developed which opened up new opportunities for both the engineers and archaeologists. By building the subway beneath the city the engineers provided access to areas for archaeologists that would never have been available before, allowing for the largest scale archaeological project ever conducted in Athens. The various and delicate tunneling techniques the engineers used to preserve ancient buildings in the city above are shown in detail. When the subway is opened the ancient is incorporated with the new as artifacts found during the subway’s creation are put on display in the stations. This film shows how the engineers and archaeologists worked together to protect Athens’ rich cultural heritage and to balance the needs of the living with the preservation of the past.
November 03, 2011
"Citizen Architect" (video review)
At left, the Music Man and Rural Studio instructor Jay Sanders oversee the construction of a handrail on the back steps of the "Music Man House" in rural Hale County, Alabama, May 20, 2003.
© AP Photo/Michael E. Palmer
Source: AP Images
Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio
directed and edited by Sam Wainwright Douglas
Instructor Jay Sanders and his students from the Rural Studio work to create a new home for Jimmie Lee Matthews, also known as the "Music Man", in Newbern, Alabama. Begun by Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee in 1993, the Rural Studio has worked to give architectural students of Auburn University hands-on experience in building the structures they design as well as the opportunity to help and make a difference in poor, rural communities. While Sambo passed away in 2001, his legacy continues with the Rural Studio. Family, friends, students, and co-workers comment on Sambo’s groundbreaking approach to architecture and how he sought to make architecture something for everyone. The film also covers some of the many different architectural projects conducted by the Rural Studio such as the Yancey Tire Chapel, the Butterfly House, and at the end the results of the Music Man’s new house.
October 27, 2011
"Building with Awareness" (video review)
While you may have learned in your childhood from the story of “The Three Little Pigs” that building your house with straw is not the best idea, Building with Awareness will refute that lesson and demonstrate how practical building a straw bale home can be. Designer Ted Owens aims to build his own hybrid home in New Mexico using low tech building materials, such as straw and adobe, along with such high tech materials as solar panels. Not only is his goal to create an environmentally friendly house, but also to create an aesthetically pleasing one. The film covers each of the steps, methods and materials Ted Owens uses: the laying of the foundation, the placement of the rainwater cistern, adobe construction, straw bale insulation, electrical wiring, earth plaster, and the final finishing touches. As an in-depth look at the building process the film serves as a helpful hybrid building tutorial. By the end Owens, along with other experts, have contributed to build a beautiful green home that no wolf would be able to blow down.
October 20, 2011
"Objectified" (video review)
A Swiss Dots Production
Produced and Directed by Gary Hustwit
From mass produced chairs to a Japanese toothpick, Gary Hustwit presents a detailed look at the design process and how design is behind most of the objects we use everyday. Hustwit interviews designers from companies such as Smart Design, Braun, and Apple who provide their inside views on design, its ever-changing nature, and the exploration of concepts such as mass production and the democratization of design. Parisian designers such as Erwan Bouroullec, Ronan Bouroullec, and Marc Newson talk about their inspiration in materials and how they conduct their design projects. Hastwit also further addresses issues of sustainability and the shift in importance to form over function to illustrate the main challenges designers face today.
October 13, 2011
"Frank Lloyd Wright" (video review)
Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois,1889-1898
Original house, close side view of the west elevation
© Scott Gilchrist, Archivision, Inc.
Source: Archivision Architecture Images
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio
IN-D presents a Planet Architecture series production
Charting the course of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, this film focuses on his ever changing home and studio in Oak Park, Chicago and how it reflects the architectural innovations of his career from Taliesin to the Guggenheim. It provides a more personal look at Wright by examining how he created his own living and workspaces. Wright’s expression of ideas in architecture is covered including the importance he placed on family, nature, beauty and culture, music and surrounding oneself with these things. With this detailed presentation the argument is made that all of the elements for understanding any of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural feats can be found by studying his home and studio.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois,1889-1898
Detail of wall lamp in barrel-vaulted room
Image date: 1969
© Edward Olencki CC-BY-SA
Source: AAEL Digital Images
October 06, 2011
"Waste Land" (video review)
Jardim Gramacho: February 10, 2011
© AP Photo / Felipe Dana
Source: AP Images
Directed by Lucy Walker
Vik Muniz, a contemporary artist based in New York and originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, takes on one of his largest projects at one of the world’s largest landfills, the Jardim Gramacho of Rio de Janeiro. In this film, Muniz photographs and interviews the people of Jardim Gramacho, who are known as the "Pickers" for their job of collecting recyclable materials from the landfill. Their individual personalities emerge as Muniz works with Tião Santos, the leader of the Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho, to understand the conditions at Gramacho and what is being done to improve them. Working with Muniz and providing their own creativity and inspiration, the Pickers help create their own stunning portraits from the photos Muniz takes and the materials of the landfill. Throughout the film Muniz addresses the question “Can art change people?” and by the end both he and the Pickers have their own answers to this question.
Jardim Gramacho: woman collecting recyclable material, February 10, 2011
© AP Photo / Felipe Dana
Source: AP Images
Jardim Gramacho: workers collecting recyclable material, February 10, 2011
© AP Photo / Felipe Dana
Source: AP Images
October 04, 2011
Pictures of Resistance
Shish Detachment Field Operating Table, Forests around Pinsk, 1943
© Faye Schulman
Source: JPEF/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photographs of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery in Room 100
With her leopard print coat, camera bag slung over her shoulder and striking features, Faye Schulman looks out of place holding a rifle in a exhibited photograph of resistance fighters. Yet as a partisan, nurse, and photographer, Faye fought for her own survival as well as the survival of others during WWII. Having helped her brother in his photography studio, Faye was chosen to take ID photos for the Nazis after the invasion of her home in Lenin, in Southern Poland. However, Faye escaped into the forest and became a member of the Molotova Brigade, a Soviet Union resistance group, and documented her experiences with her camera. The exhibition features the photos she took of the partisan members along with captions written by Faye describing the hardships they all endured, their will to survive and fight, and their tremendous courage.
The exhibition runs from September 6th - November 27th, 2011, with the Exhibit Opening scheduled for October 5 from 4:00–5:30 pm, and related lectures and films thereafter.
September 22, 2011
"To Market To Market" (video review)
To Market To Market To Buy a Fat Pig
PBS Home Video
Travel across the U.S. with Rick Sebak as he tastes food, searches for a fat pig and has fun exploring the farmers’ markets of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lancaster Market in Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Asheville, North Carolina; Decatur, Georgia; Santa Monica, California; Hilo, Hawaii and the West Side Market in Cleveland. Each market claims to be the best but what they all share in common is fresh food and a friendly, social environment. Yet at the same time each market has something different to offer, from Decatur market with its wealth of international foods and people to the market in Hilo with its abundant pineapples and coconuts. Sebak discovers how these unique markets have developed, their important role in their communities and the traditions they carry on through generations of farmers and market goers.
September 16, 2011
"Engineering Connections" (video review)
National Geographic Channel
Follow Richard Hammond as he links the engineering innovations of the Airbus A380, Hawaii's Keck Observer, Norway's Troll A Platform and Taipei 101 in the captivating first series of Engineering Connections. Hammond explores the surprising elements such as Mongol bows, sand blasters, racing cars and bamboo, that were used to achieve these engineering feats . Conducting experiments involving everything from chicken guns to electric guitars in order to demonstrate how construction designs and materials work, Hammond has fun presenting complex ideas with creativity. And most fascinating of all are the unusual connections drawn between history, nature and everyday items with engineering design.
September 01, 2011
"Japan: 3 Generations of Avant-Garde Architects" (video review)
Japan: 3 Generations of Avant-Garde Architects
Michael Blackwood Productions and Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Six architects from Japan share their inspiration and the ways they have influenced each other in this film on the Avant-Garde of Japan. The architects include Tokyo based Kazuo Shinohara, Itsuko Hasegawa, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Arata Isozaki, and Osaka based Tadao Ando. While there are similarities in their designs, the differences between the architects emerge from their educational backgrounds, generational gaps and choice of materials as each architect combines aspects and mediums to create unique architectural forms. In addition, Itsuko Hasegawa presents the perspective and challenges of a female architect working with a mostly male cliental, and Tadao Ando presents his views and experience as an architect without formal training. The extraordinary works and contributions to Japanese architecture of all six are highlighted throughout the film.
August 18, 2011
"Ajanta" (video review)
Cave Temple, Ajanta, India
© Robert C. MacLaurin
Source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
Ajanta: Written in the Stone
Laurence Castle Productions
Laurence Castle presents the work of Univerity of Michigan’s professor emeritus Walter M. Spink who studied and proposed an entirely different dating system for the caves of Ajanta. Re-discovered after years of abandonment in 1819 by British officer John Smith, the Ajanta caves are richly decorated Buddhist temples located in the Sahyadri Mountains of India. From the time of their re-discovery the cave temples were the subjects of a great debate concerning the date they were created. Over time general consensus held that the majority of the caves were from the 7th century. However, Spink refutes this theory and supports the much earlier date of the 5th century. He provides evidence by examining the dedicatory inscriptions of figures such as Varahadeva, the prime minister of Emperor Harisena and the events of Harisena’s reign. Details in the caves such as candle soot, unfinished works and the style of door hinges also provide clues for the dating of the caves. The film, set amongst the caves themselves, presents detailed footage of everything from the construction to the elaborate decoration of these incredible temples.
August 09, 2011
"Alice Neel" (video review)
Andrew Neel, the grandson of Alice Neel, creates a portrait of his grandmother by exploring the events of her life with the people who knew her. Throughout this film he raises the question of why artists paint and the guilt that Alice felt throughout her life about the impracticality of painting to make a living. In interviews, Alice’s sons share the difficulties of growing up in a transient environment but also the balance their mother achieved between her work and supporting her children to pursue their own dreams. Andrew also includes footage of interviews with Alice Neel in which she relates incidents in her life and her creative process. She expresses how she creates portraits, what it is she wants to portray about mankind and the importance of psychology in her paintings. Finally art historians such as Jeremy Lewison and Robert Storr assess her work and its place in the contemporary events surrounding her life as well as her final recognition as a great artist in the later years of her life.
August 04, 2011
"Unfinished Piece" (video review)
Unfinished Piece for the Player Piano
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, Written by A. Adabashian, N. Mikhalkov
Based on Anton Chekhov’s works, Nikita Mikhalkov’s film adaptation is set at a summer party in the lush countryside of Russia where a gathering of gentry play out their games of love, intrigue and politics underneath the glamour of wealthy entertainments. Amidst their lively games a drama unfolds as the teacher Platanov meets a figure from his past and fights to reconcile who he was with who he has become. With Platonov’s struggle the illusions of the party members’ happy and rich lives fall apart as they question each other’s values and address issues of class difference and the changing world around them. The film also features a forward with the film writer Alexander Adabashian explaining their vision and development of this project.
July 28, 2011
"Renzo Piano" (video review)
Source: AP Images
Renzo Piano: Piece by Piece
Written and directed by Christopher Tuckfield
The unique architect Renzo Piano, whose every work is dedicated to taking on new challenges, expounds upon what architecture means to him and what it is like to be an architect. Part of the challenges he faces are factors that need to be considered for any building: its purpose, security and relation to nature. Piano stresses the interdisciplinary nature of architecture while talking about his numerous projects including the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Menil Collection Musuem, San Nicola Stadium, Tjibaou Cultural Centre, and the Potsdamer Platz Reconstruction. He describes how he draws inspiration from the building practices and collaboration between workers in the Middle Ages and how this fits well with the importance he places on teamwork and the creation of models in his working method. Yet Piano also recognizes that buildings cannot be made to suit the ideas of everyone as according to him, “you cannot make architecture like you make cakes,” and he discusses how to focus on what is truly important in order to create an expressive, functional building.
"The Ball", Genoa, Italy
© AP Photo/Marco Di Lauro
Source: AP Images
July 25, 2011
"Things That Move"
Nicole Deschamps-Benke, Biofuel
Be sure to catch U of M’s School of Art and Design Alumni Show, Things That Move, before it closes August 5. The show is featured at the Slusser Gallery in the Art and Architecture building and explores movement through different media and themes from sculpture, photography, sports, dance and technology. Participating artists include alumni graduating as early as 1948 to the most recent. This range of exhibitors demonstrates the development of the School of Art and Design and its many students over the years, as well as being a fascinating investigation of movement.
July 21, 2011
"Off the Grid" (video review)
Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa
Still Point Pictures
Off the Grid documents the life of a community connected by their desires of having no boundaries and living by their own rules. The community’s location in the isolated desert area of New Mexico known as the mesa makes achieving this lifestyle difficult, and the inhabitants must aid each other in developing innovative ways to gather food and water. The documentary also covers the tricky balance the inhabitants maintain in keeping their own laws and the run-ins they have with the authorities. Yet their laws are also capable of dealing with the different situations that arise, such as teenage runaways stealing from their community. While still in the United States, the mesa is its own realm created by the strong-willed nature of the people who choose to live there.
July 14, 2011
"Vancouver" (video review)
© AP Photo/Odd Andersen
Source: AP Images
Vancouver: Level 2
Life in a Great City Series
Take a tour of Vancouver with this film that presents the many exciting opportunities the city has to offer from all hours of the day and night. Known as the Gateway to the Pacific, Vancouver’s harbor is bustling with many seaside activities presenting beaches, fresh fish, an aquarium and a commuter ferry from downtown to the North Vancouver area. The beautiful mountains of North Vancouver are excellent for the outdoor enthusiast with activities such as hiking and paragliding. Interviews with gardeners, chefs, artists and shop owners provide insight on the diversity and culture that contribute to creating this great city.
© Scott Gilchrist, Archivision, Inc.
Source: Archivision Architecture Images
July 06, 2011
"The Sand Castle" (video review)
The Sand Castle: Building a City in the Desert of Ras al-Khaimah
Director Eirin Gjørv
This documentary follows the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta and their experience designing a city for HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi of Ras al-Khaimah. Snøhetta competes to create a city that will attract international business and rival neighboring Dubai, but their concept for a city is declined in favor of the plan developed by Rem Koolhaas and architecture firm OMA. However, the Norwegian firm is given the task of envisioning the city’s convention center, a major site for international traffic to be visible from the planned highway. Yet Dr. Khater Massaad, the Sheikh’s special advisor, must approve all designs first, and he proves a tough critic. Thus the film documents Snøhetta at work developing models and concepts using different tools until they reach a design for a convention center that both Dr. Massaad and the Sheik are pleased and excited about representing their city.
June 16, 2011
"The End of Suburbia" (video review)
Cul-de-sac housing development, Gaithersburg, Maryland, ca. 1995
© Alex Maclean, Landslides Aerial Photography
Source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream
Electric Wallpaper Co.
The End of Suburbia travels back in time to the rise of the suburb and its place in the “American Dream”, examining life in the suburbs from its origins to the present day. The suburbs were posed as an alternative and even an escape from living in the industrial city, yet the problems and difficulties surrounding such a lifestyle are becoming ever more apparent. Furthermore, as the world’s oil supply decreases so does the ability to live in the suburbs. After bringing these issues to light and recognizing that more sustainable living styles need to be adopted, the film proceeds to explore the question of “what next?” Urban planners, scientists and economists present measures of alternative energy resources, examine the development of desirable urban living, and seek to draw awareness to how the American lifestyle will need to change and adapt to the future.
June 09, 2011
"Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig" (video review)
Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig vols. 1-4
Gnomon Workshop and Design Studio Press
Iain McCaig leads us through the art of visual storytelling, creating a space age version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” in a re-telling that captures all the enchantment of the original. McCaig gears his presentation for all levels of skill and experience from beginners to advanced artists. He stresses that the basic elements for creating a story can be implemented in composition and placement regardless of the level of drawing ability one has.
McCaig guides us through the process for developing character concepts beginning with the creation of a storyboard. He demonstrates his techniques with both traditional drawing and digital media, and the transitions between the two going from paper to Photoshop. Throughout he relates the importance of using references from nature and one's everyday surroundings to achieve accurate anatomy and lighting effects. These effects are essential to creating believable representations of even the most fantastical or mythological creatures. In each lesson McCaig relates his work and process to both the previous and the next step in order to never lose sight of the story he is trying to tell and how this affects his visual choices.
June 03, 2011
Shakers stand in front of the Meeting House at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, N.H., circa 1888.
© AP Photo/Canterbury Shaker Village
Source: AP Images
The Shakers: I don’t want to be remembered as a chair
A BBC-TV Production
This documentary thoughtfully examines the last remaining Shakers in America who are overshadowed by the popularity and perceived value of their quality furniture and crafts. While these Shakers prefer to be known for their faith and simple way of life, it is their material goods that have drawn the most attention. In interviews addressing their problematic identity, the Shaker members tell humorous anecdotes about their encounters with the general public. Yet the trend for anything Shaker amongst wealthy collectors, including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, and the exorbitant prices they are willing to pay leave open the question of how the Shakers will be remembered.
Bell Tower Building, Shaker Village, Canterbury, N.H.
© b givens
Shaker Village in Canterbury, N.H.
© Miles Davis
Shaker Village in Canterbury, N.H.
© E. Christopher Clark
May 26, 2011
"Up the Yangtze"
© National Film Board Of Canada and EyeSteelFilm
Up the Yangtze
This documentary covers the flooding of the Yangtze River with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, and the changes bought about not only in the landscape but also in the history and traditions of China. Filmmaker Yung Chang narrates the story of this transformative period, with ongoing comparison to the stories and legends surrounding the Yangtze that were passed down to him by his grandfather.
Woven into his narrative on the river is the experience of a family living and farming by the river in Fengdu, also known as the Ghost City, one of the many cities that would be flooded. The oldest child in the family, Yu Shui, is sent to work on the ship tours known as “farewell cruises” that travel down the Yangtze River before the completion of the dam. Her journey is paralleled with the movement of her family and of thousands of others who have to form new lives. Through interviews with Yu Shui, her family and other employees of the cruise ships, the varying views of loss and opportunity in the changing world around them are portrayed.
May 05, 2011
"Future by Design" (video review)
© Doug Drexler/concept and design by Jacque Fresco
Future by Design
Produced and directed by William Gazecki
Jacque Fresco, the artist, social engineer and industrial designer, is compared to Leonardo da Vinci in the versatility of his work and his exploration of technology in this documentary on his life and creations. From inventing surgical tools to designing underwater cities, Fresco elaborates on his passion for the use of future design and technology to improve the world.
Fresco also shares his early inspiration and fascination with the future drawn from films such as Metropolis and his encounters with Buckminster Fuller and Albert Einstein. Giving a tour of his home in Florida, he introduces what is known as The Venus Project, a full-scale model of homes surrounded with natural environment that he designed for future living. In his studio Fresco describes his dreams, designs and innovations for homes and cities, exhibiting the workplace and models he has created for his captivating vision of the future.
April 28, 2011
"Detroit Collaborative Design Center" (video review)
© Sou International Ltd
Source: Sou International Ltd
Detroit Collaborative Design Center
Sou International Ltd.
This film profiles the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and its working philosophy of "participatory design". The non-profit organization, based at the University of Detroit Mercy, works closely with its clients to create architecture and community projects most beneficial to everyone involved.
To illustrate the DCDC design process, the film covers their collaboration with the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, for whom they were commissioned to create new offices. The inclusion of in-depth interviews with the clients and with Dan Pitera, the Design Center's Director of Design, provides a full picture of the approach.
The DCDC employs innovative methods to include and help their clients understand the design process. Scavenger hunts familiarize the clients with the design and architectural features of a building; Play-Doh models allow the clients to work out the location of rooms and how they want them to function within the spatial limits; and clients provide a project statement to assist designers. This active engagement leads to informed opinions and clear statements of what they need and want in a new building space. As a result, the clients feel more satisfied with the end design.
Throughout the film the potential difficulties of this collaborative method are raised. And, how the DCDC comes to resolve such problems as costs or clients inhibiting the design is documented. By addressing these complexities, Detroit Collaborative Design Center provides a persuasive model of how other programs can reach out and apply the principles of "participatory design" with their clients in the community.
April 14, 2011
"The Artist Toolbox: Isabel Allende" (video review)
© AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Source: AP Images
The Artist Toolbox: The Secrets of Creative Genius: Isabel Allende
WTTW National, American Public Television
In this volume of the series "The Artist Toolbox", hosted by John Jacobson, author Isabel Allende is interviewed about her experience as a writer and her creative process. Allende shares her passion for writing and her early beginnings as a writer working as a journalist in Chile. She discusses how her life experiences influence and inspire her novels and expounds on her writing techniques and working methods. Overall this engaging interview expresses the theme of this series: creativity and its expression through the arts.
April 07, 2011
"Big Blue Bear" (video review)
"I See What You Mean" by artist Lawrence Argent
© Annette Haines
Big Blue Bear
Just Media Presentation
When the Denver Convention Center held a competition for a public artwork that would encourage visitors to the center to explore the rest of the city, artist Lawrence Argent won. His commissioned work "I See What You Mean", more popularly known as "Big Blue Bear", is profiled in this eponymous documentary.
The film covers the development of the large scale art project, from its initial inspiration and the making of a model to its final creation and installation. Interviews with Denver public art director John Grant and fabricator Bill Kreysler provide a full description of their roles and assistance in the making of Big Blue Bear. Throughout this engaging film Argent displays the sense of fun and the collaboration involved in his creative artwork.
March 31, 2011
"Building Alaska" (video review)
A welcome army of invasion is the great force of United States soldiers now cutting the wonderful Alcan Highway through Canada's wilderness to Alaska. A former lithographer, Sherman Gardner of Midvale, Utah, is working as surveyor
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-08554
Written and produced by Daniel B. Polin
Charting the history of Alaska through its transportation development, Building Alaska explores the innovative techniques people used to settle and adapt in the Alaskan wilderness. From the Gold Rush and the resulting railways to the installation of the first telegraph, the film covers the various people who made it happen, including ambitious engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians, writers and schoolteachers, and the difficulties and disasters they overcame. Alaska’s historical role as a provider of natural resources to the United States from gold and copper to oil, as well as its important role as a military base during WWII is shown. Prominent figures who worked towards Alaska’s eventual statehood, including Judge James Wickersham and Governor Ernest Gruening, are recognized, and the film then describes the development of Alaska into the state we know today.
March 25, 2011
"Beyond the Moon" (video review)
Astronaut Bruce McCandless during EVA
Source: NASA Images
Beyond the Moon: Failure is not an Option 2
A&E Television Networks
The History Channel
Covering the development of NASA and its space program from the moon landing to the present, this film addresses the major question of "what next?" Various projects launched by NASA, from the sky lab launched after landing on the moon to the first space shuttle, Columbia, are presented. Problems are addressed: the changes and developments in the technology and understanding of space missions as well as the changing goals; difficulties such as politics and funding as well as tragic failures such as the Challenger mission; and the difficult decision making process at mission control. Yet the recent successes are also related: from the creation of the International Space Station (ISS), to the repair of the Hubble Telescope, and the 2005 launching of the Discovery. Overall the presentation seeks to focus on the questions NASA faces today and how these shape, challenge and develop their historical and present drive for future space exploration.
March 10, 2011
"Palmyra" (video review)
Triumphal arch of temple at Palmyra, Syria
Digital ID: 88482. 1860s-1920s
Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Source: NYPL Digital Gallery
Palmyra: Venice of the Sands
Part of the Living Stones: Where Archaeology Begins series
Presented by Alpha Line Productions
A look at the ancient city of Palmyra in the Syrian Desert, this film covers the history and fall of a once prosperous desert oasis. Originally known as Tadmore, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great and then later by the Roman Empire, which gave the city its current name Palmyra. The wealth of the city, visible in the ruins of its great monuments, was due to its location on major caravan trade routes. The impact of the consequent diversity is seen in the temples to various deities as well as its varied art and architecture. Also covered is the city's rebellion against Roman rule under Queen Zenobia and the resulting destruction of the city by Emperor Aurelian. Using archaeological evidence and computer models the filmmakers explore the layout and plan of the city and attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the once flourishing Palmyra. In less than half an hour, this video provides a fine overview of the economic, political and multicultural history of this city.
March 04, 2011
"The Master Techniques of Marquetry" (video review)
Writing Table [detail], Jean-François Oeben, ca. 1761-1763
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Reproduction of any kind is prohibited without express written permission in advance from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Master Techniques of Marquetry
By Silas Kopf
This how-to video also covers the history of marquetry and the various techniques employed in its creation and design. In his studio, Kopf first explains the difference between inlay and marquetry with their various advantages and disadvantages. He then displays the making of Parquetry, Boulle, Chevalet, and Piquage, explaining the differences in technique and the technological innovations that brought them about. With patterns ranging from simple checkerboards to elaborate pictures Kopf demonstrates the processes step by step, including the materials and tools he uses in the work. At the end of the video is a gallery displaying many of this artist's accomplished works.
February 25, 2011
"Isamu Noguchi" (video review)
Isamu Noguchi: The Sculpture of Spaces
Sapporo Television Broadcasting and Alternate Current
This biographical film presents the unique understanding sculptor Isamu Noguchi brought to his works and examines his renowned sculptural projects. With numerous clips of Noguchi expounding upon his art and his early vision of the earth as sculpture, the film persuasively shows how he incorporated these thoughts into his own innovative work. Documenting his vision and the inspiration he drew from Japanese stone gardens are some of his commissions throughout the world: the UNESCO Garden of Peace, Bayfront Park in Miami, the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden in Jerusalem, and his final project, Moerenuma Park in Sapporo. The working methods Noguchi employed, such as his use of 3-D models rather than drawings for plans, as well as the difficulties and controversies surrounding such large-scale sculptural projects are also addressed. As a whole, the film shows that Noguchi's sculpture continues to be a longstanding testimony to his life and vision.
February 10, 2011
"Sustainable Urban Living" (video review)
November the 15th Street - also known as Flower Street, Curitiba, Brazil
© Mathieu Bertrand Struck
Sustainable Urban Living: A South American Case Study
Produced by Peter Beeh
This narrated, straightforward presentation focuses on the urban development of Curitiba, Brazil and the tactics the city has employed to remain an environmentally friendly city despite its industrialization. The film relates five aspects that serve the city and its residents, and features interviews with Jaime Lerner, the architect who played a major role in implementing them.
Beginning with the recycling and garbage system in place since the 1980s, Curitiba has brought an open and innovative approach: for example, creating things such as libraries with thrown away books. Other innovative features include the Solution of the Parks, which helped the city's flood problem by turning riverbanks into park areas and creating lakes; the Integrated Transport, which includes a bus system with Curitiba and Volvo's joint invention of the bi-articulated bus; and the Green Exchange, a program designed to aid lower income residents. The final aspect covered is Curitiba's urban planning, and the inclusion of a mall at the heart of the city that is strictly a pedestrian area, encouraging life at the city center beneficial to shop owners and residents alike. Overall this brief film examines Curitiba as a healthy and vibrant urban center.
February 03, 2011
"Firenze Scomparsa-Forgotten Florence" (video review)
This DVD presents a look at medieval Florence through history, architecture and its leading families; available in Italian and English. The history is centered on the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore and the uncovering of the preceding structure. Using CG models the film recreates the old cathedral, Santa Reparata (ca. 4th-5th century), which was replaced by Santa Maria del Fiore, beginning in 1296. CG models are also used to recreate the surrounding city as it would have looked in the medieval period. This is done using evidence from excavations of the old church underneath Santa Maria del Fiore as well as surviving frescoes that depict the church in its contemporary settings. The history and the original structure of the adjacent Baptistery of St. John is also examined, covering its beginnings as a small hexagonal building to the larger marble baptistery known today. The structures of other city buildings and city streets are also recreated with an emphasis on the abundant towers of the medieval city and their various functions and relations to the leading families of Florence. Overall the film aims to present the look and feel of medieval Florence through the recreation of its architecture.
January 20, 2011
"The Way Things Go" (video review)
The Way Things Go
Directed by Peter Fischli and David Weiss
A presentation by the artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, the film documents a work in which everyday objects are used to explore the properties of physics and chemistry. Their elaborate 100 ft. structure demonstrates objects and movement in fluid arrangements of slow to quick action in a fascinating combination of science and art. With no narration and only the sound of the objects themselves as they undergo motion catalyzed by water, gas, fire and chemical reactions, Fischli and Weiss allow the objects to tell their own mesmerizing story. Bonus features include biographies on the artists and information on their work.
January 13, 2011
"Colosseum" (video review)
Secrets of Lost Empires: Colosseum
A NOVA production
NOVA presents the latest exploration of theories on the Colosseum and its long lost roof. In a bullring in Barcarrota, Spain architectural historian Rainer Graefe and structural engineer Chris Wise conduct an experiment to test their ideas. Using materials contemporary to the Colosseum (with a few adjustments and substitutes where necessary), they base their recreations upon images of the Colosseum depicted on coins, evidence of a roof at a Roman arena in Nîmes, and frescoes of an arena with a canvas roof in Pompeii. Presenting the technicalities and difficulties they come across in their construction process, they compare them to similar challenges Roman engineers potentially dealt with. In the end Graefe and Wise construct two canvas roofs with different rope, mast and beam structures in an engaging attempt to come to a closer understanding of the roof of the Colosseum.
December 16, 2010
"Codec/X: New British Video & Sound Art" (video review)
© Lee Patterson and Pharmakon
A compilation of the latest work in video and sound, Griffiths and Jordan have created a straightforward presentation of the latest works of artists working in northwest Britain. With no narration or explanations, they allow the unique combinations of videos precedence. Progressing steadily from one clip to the next in a mesmerizing sequence of sound, image and light everything from film to photography to animation is used in conjunction with musical instruments, sounds from nature and machinery. Featured artists and musicians include Carl Turton, Suki Chan, Joe Devlin, Happy Fingers, Mark Pilkington, Illuminati and others along with the curators themselves. Some fun and some abstract, the clips involve sparklers, balloons, and baby dolls, often pairing the discordant with the rhythmical for distinctive explorations in art.
December 09, 2010
"The Techniques of Ryan Church" (video review)
© Ryan Church and Gnomon Workshop
The Techniques of Ryan Church: Volume 3: Hi-Tech Architecture
A joint production of The Gnomon Workshop and Design Studio Press
A digital illustration lecture given by Ryan Church as he creates a digital painting using Corel Painter, this film gives useful insight into the illustration process. For this volume Church focuses on the mood and the appearance of an architectural scene, designing a painting resembling a film shot and demonstrating his techniques step by step. He explains the tools he uses as well as the differences between them, his drawing methods and compositional tactics. A clear and comprehensive look at digital art production, Church sets a good pace for the film, working within the realistic time constraints common to his field and demonstrating the quick and effective techniques necessary for such situations. The film is an excellent resource for beginners and experienced alike, providing useful tips and ideas. Bonus features include notes from the lecture, information on various digital media resources such as Gnomon, DV Garage, and Design Studio Press, and a gallery featuring other works by Ryan Church.
November 30, 2010
"Yinka Shonibare" (video review)
Illuminations Production, part of theEYE series
This film is a brief, informative look at the work of Yinka Shonibare presented by the artist himself sharing his creative process and means of inspiration for his art. Shonibare elaborates on how he first became interested in working with fabrics and fabric designs popular in West Africa and how he is also influenced by 19th century European art and culture. As an example of his creative process, he relates his experience with an invitation he received to create a work of art for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Shonibare describes how he explored the city of Stockholm to get a feel for its culture and to incorporate his impressions into his artwork. He especially noticed the prominent influence of the sea, and so decided to do a piece on the famous ship Vasa, a great 17th century ship displayed in Stockholm that sank not long after its first departure. In designing Vasa in a Bottle, essentially a bottled model of the Vasa, he added his own distinctive touch by incorporating African fabric for the sails. Similarly he describes other exhibition pieces and artworks he has created, and how as an artist having been raised in London and Nigeria he incorporates the cultural and political backgrounds he has experienced into his art, often with a humorous touch.
November 18, 2010
"Yuri Norstein" (video review)
© Yuri Norstein; Films by Jove in association with Soyuzmultfilm Studio
A Jove Film in association with Soyuzmultfilm
A companion to Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey by Clare Kitson
Featuring six of Yuri Norstein's works including 25th - the First Day, The Battle of Kerjenets, Fox and Rabbit, The Heron and The Crane, Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales, this video shows the breadth of his style and masterful storytelling capabilities. All are moving stories, at times intense and at others quietly graceful in their exquisite animation: Norstein creatively combines drawings, paper cut-outs and film footage along with color and music. The animations include historical events, Russian folk tales, times of war and peace, and all of these elements come together in Norstein's most acclaimed work, Tale of Tales. At the end a clip from Magia Russica, a documentary on Russian film by Yonathan and Masha Zur, includes an interview with Yuri Norstein and director Fyodor Khitruck. Norstein gives a tour of his studio showing the techniques he uses for animating and describes his inspiration for Tale of Tales. Along with Clare Kitson's book the film is an excellent introduction to Norstein's brilliant animation.
November 04, 2010
"Echoes of Forgotten Places" (video review)
© Carlos Osorio
Source: AP Images
Echoes of Forgotten Places: Urban Exploration, Industrial Archaeology and the Aesthetics of Decay
Presented by Scribble Media, written and produced by Robert Fantinatto and Leesa Beales
The exploration of abandoned buildings is portrayed through quiet film shots, narration, and the presentation of the archaeologists and photographers who explore these spaces sharing their views and experiences. The film records various trips with photographers who seek to capture the poetic nature of these buildings and their ruined state. Attempting to portray the fascination with these spaces, many photographers aim to show the hold they have on the visitor as well as to bring awareness to the loss of historically significant buildings and the need for their preservation. Bonus features include an image gallery which provides various photographers' works with abandoned buildings, and the 1936 film, Steel: A Symphony of Industry (produced by Audio Productions on the American Iron and Steel Institute). A short, narrated film, it depicts the various techniques of steel production including the Bessemer converter, electric furnace, and open hearth as well as showing the forgotten vitality of these industrial buildings.
October 28, 2010
"Movable Steel Bridges" (video review)
London's famous tower bridge lifts its bascules for giant ship to pass,
© AP Photo
Source: AP Images
Movable Steel Bridges: Historical Survey: Draw, Bascule, Lift and Swing Bridges
H. de Jong & N.G.M. Muyen, program of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Delft University of Technology
An excellent film for demonstrating the mechanics of how bridges work, "Movable Steel Bridges" provides an in-depth look at various types of bridges, their technical features, and designs. Beginning with a basic introduction on movable bridges and their origins, it traces the development of bridges used for everything from defense to transportation. The major focus is given to four main types of bridges, namely the drawbridge, the bascule bridge, the lift bridge, and the swing bridge. Incredibly detailed diagrams are utilized to show the lifting process and technicalities for each bridge as well as the various advancements in bridge construction. On the whole it is a fabulous resource for understanding the engineering behind movable bridges.
October 21, 2010
"Bridges: Design and Function" (video review)
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Kobe, Japan
© AP Photo/Kyodo News
Source: AP Images
Bridges: Design and Function
Presented by Discovery Channel
This video provides an inclusive look at the construction of bridges, examining successful bridges as well as disasters and why these bridges fail. Footage of the construction of the new Crooked River Bridge in Oregon, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan, and the expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, as well as interviews of the engineers and construction workers are included. Weather conditions such as wind, saltwater and earthquakes and their effects on bridges are presented along with the techniques in bridge design that are used to combat such factors. The video is divided into two segments, each preceded and followed by comprehensive questions that provoke further thought on the material presented.
October 14, 2010
"Babel 2015" (video review)
© Eloy Celaya
Babel 2015: The Revolution in Architecture
A Films for the Humanities and Sciences Production
With a look at the plans for Shanghai's Babel, a skyscraper intended to house a city within itself, Babel 2015 presents the development and utilization of bionic architecture. As cities such as Shanghai are rapidly expanding the need for such grand-scale buildings is evident, but problems people experience from living at such great heights, including dizziness and a removal from nature, need to be taken into consideration. Interviews with architects such as Javier Pioz and engineer Chris McCarthy relate the elements of bionic architecture and the desire to build environmentally inspired buildings not only to help solve these living problems, but also for the practical elements gained from studying and implementing nature in architecture. They consider the problems and challenges to Babel's design from wind to earthquakes, but also discuss how elements of nature can be effectively utilized to overcome these difficulties.
October 07, 2010
"Who Gets to Call it Art?" (video review)
Who Gets to Call it Art?
Produced and Directed by Peter Rosen
Rosen presents the life of Henry Geldzahler, curator of contemporary art at the Met from 1960-1977, through the art and artists he helped define. Henry was not just a curator, but also got involved with the artists and the creation process. Rosen conveys this interaction with interview clips with artists such as David Hockney and Frank Stella who relate their experiences with Henry. Also the film provides footage of interviews from the 1960s with William de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and Mark di Suvero among other artists talking about their work, along with a discussion of the movement from abstract expressionism and artists such as Pollock and Rothko to pop art with Lichtenstein and Warhol. Rosen also covers Henry's major work, the exhibition "New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-1970" relaying the controversy and the triumphs resulting from the show. Overall the film aims to get a sense of Henry and his eye for art and how his work and personality helped to further and to define the pop art movement. Painting a picture of his life, with images, interviews and a soundtrack featuring artists from The Velvet Underground to The Monks, the film tries to match the feeling of the art of the 1960s at the same time as present it. Special features include further interviews with artists relaying amusing anecdotes from Henry's life, the film happening "Fotodeath" by Claes Oldenburg in which Henry participated, as well as an interview with director Peter Rosen and artists James Rosenquist and Larry Poons.
September 24, 2010
"Cantilever Bridges" (video review)
El Alamillo Bridge, Seville, Spain
Santiago Calatrava, 1992
© Mary Ann Sullivan
Source: Digital Imaging Project
Shopware Videos: How Did They Build That? Series
A brief, informative video that examines cantilever bridges using a variety of examples including the Kingsgate Footbridge, Forth Bridge and Puente del Alamillo. Scott Steedman narrates the video providing an interesting and straightforward explanation of how each bridge works and the history of their construction. Overall a good introduction to the topic with basic bridge engineering concepts and vocabulary covered along with the use of creative demonstrations. One in a number of series that covers other architectural features including everything from suspension bridges to domes and concrete.
September 17, 2010
"Nowhere Fast!" (video review)
Image source: AAEL Digital Image Collection
Discovery Communications Inc.
Nowhere Fast! examines traffic congestion across the U.S. and the problem solving solutions being proposed and implemented. The film presents various traffic dilemmas through coverage of different routes with commuters from California, Ohio, and Texas driving from rural areas to cities or from one suburb to another. Interviews with experts on traffic and road construction offer the differing opinions over what should be done from building more roads to completely halting the construction of new roads. Other solutions are covered including Boston's Big Dig, or the congestion pricing implemented in London in 2003, a toll to drive into the city which has decreased the amount of traffic. The film also examines TranStar in Houston, a traffic and emergency center that watches over major roads with cameras while employees make reports on any traffic backups or difficulties as they happen. An ongoing problem, Nowhere Fast! presents a look at the development and the potential of various tactics to manage traffic congestion.
August 18, 2010
"The Lost City" (video review)
Source: AP Images
In light of China's preparation for the 2008 Olympics this video presents the problems of balancing cultural heritage and city development with a look at the hutong, the traditional courtyard home, and its disappearance in Beijing. Many of the homes were destroyed to make way for roads to help relieve the problem of traffic congestion or to provide room for more modern housing developments. This demise of the hutong and its conflict with modernization is examined within its historical context from city planning under Mao to the destruction of cultural landmarks during the Cultural Revolution. Interviews with the homeowners express the difficulties of their displacement and the importance of preserving the hutong as an example of traditional architecture and the history of Beijing.
August 05, 2010
"The Architecture of Mud" (video review)
Shibam, the Hadramaut Valley, Yemen
View from south in 2003
The Architecture of Mud
An Anonymous Productions presentation of a project by Caterina Borelli and Pamela Jerome
Set in the Wadi Hadhramaut region of Yemen, The Architecture of Mud introduces the production and creation process of mud brick buildings and the architectural accomplishments achieved with mud brick from comfortable houses to grand palaces. The long standing tradition of mud brick architecture is expressed in interviews with the masons that provide not only details of construction covering practices for foundations, walls, and roofs but also insights into the lives of the masons and how construction practices have changed over time. Ample footage of the building process is incorporated presenting the creation of mud brick, the mud plaster used to cover the bricks once they are in place, and finally the methods for producing lime plaster for waterproofing. Also addressed is the rise of cement as a building material despite its disadvantages such as retaining heat and its higher expense as a building material. Yet for now masons remain positive that mud brick is still the more popular building material. Overall a quiet film with very little narration that provides coverage of workers and construction in a profound visual storytelling.
July 13, 2010
"How Art Made the World" (video review)
How Art Made the World: How Humans Made Art and Art Made Us Human
A BBC production presented by Dr. Nigel Spivey
This documentary explores the nature of art and the use of images in the modern world by tracing its origins in ancient history. There are five segments, beginning with "More Human than Human" which takes a look at the representation of the human body today and in the past. Using scientific research on seagulls and figures such as the Venus of Willendorf and the Riace Warriors, Nigel presents innovative theories on the love of exaggeration and unrealistic depictions of the human body. The following segment, "The Day Pictures were Born", utilizes the cave paintings of Altamira, Spain as well as more recent cave paintings in South Africa in the Drakensberg mountains to understand how the human concept of creating images first developed.
"The Art of Persuasion" involves politics and the use of images from Darius' palace at Persepolis and Alexander the Great's advanced idea of a life-like political portrait to the continued use of imagery in the elections of political leaders today. In "Once Upon a Time" Nigel examines the phenomena of film and visual storytelling and its formation from a long tradition ranging from the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's depictions of himself as the hero Gilgamesh, to Trajan's Column and its visual account of the wars against the Dacians. However Nigel argues it is the Aborigines who first developed the concept so crucial to film, that of the combination of imagery and music.
Finally, the segment "To Death and Back" provides insight on the desire for images of death. Nigel compares photo albums of ancestors to the ancient reconstruction of human skulls to create portraits of the dead, such as the ones found by archaeologists in Jericho. Nigel also examines the other side of death and its more gruesome depictions found in art such as that of the Aztecs and their depictions of sacrificial practices.
Not afraid to use special effects or to get a little silly, "How Art Made the World" is overall an engaging documentary that poses compelling questions about how we understand and employ art.
August 25, 2009
Video review: Berlin Babylon
Berlin Babylon is a 2001 film focusing on the changing urbanscape of Berlin after the fall of the infamous Wall in 1989. The film opens with the following text:
“The future of Babylon was in the hands of craftsmen who were not afraid to tackle a burden of any dimension. They were determined to finish what they had started even though their tongues became confused during construction (…).”
This opening text outlines both the context and the spirit of this beautiful photo documentary made by Hubertus Siegert with industrial music by Einstürzende Neubauten. The film is a collage of sites, conversations, nostalgic memories, people, aspirations, concerns and general hullabaloo concerning tonnes of new projects on the once touted longest and continuous construction site in Europe.
The overall sequence is non-linear, moving between sites and time with time-lapse photography and stock footage of post-war demolitions. The actors include local builders, developers, construction workers and site managers standing as equals among and around notable architects like I.M.Pei, Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano and Helmut Jahn. What's appealing about this film is that it does not seek to profile individual architects through their winning projects. Instead, it weaves together the popular with the everyday, the persona with the real and the grand conceptions with the on-ground challenges: creating a rich and rather melancholic tapestry of urbanism, both conceived and lived.
The film is loud and yet for most part, seemingly quiet and surreal. Einstürzende Neubauten's music adds to this paradox - moving from construction clamour to more elegant compositions and back. The camera and the sounds help enliven the moment when the Wall fell, and the prospect to build a bigger and a brighter tomorrow, arose. It captures the spirit of architecture and its inherent responsibility of building hope and aspiration. Siegart has produced a masterpiece of a documentary. A collectable and a must watch!