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climate change expedition

Climate Change Expedition - Isaac Cordal

Found via 'Insitu', one of sculpture artist Isaac Cordal's 'Cement Eclipses', described as "small interventions in the big city". This one is titled 'Climate Change Expedition' (2010). See more of his London work.

idfa doclab: insitu

The Doclab program at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam provides an annual harvest of interactive documentaries from around the world, and is a great way to survey the state of the art.

Like last year, the productions show a great diversity in form and subjects - from coal to sex and from Goa to Chernobyl - but there seems to be less experimentation with interfaces and more emphasis on (relatively) straightforward storytelling. Using text, photos, audio and fullfledged video, the majority of the documentaries limit themselves to a few, by now conventional ways of ordering their nonlinear content, like chapters, maps and themes. One technological innovation is that this year sees the first HTML5-built online documentary ('Highrise: One Millionth Tower').

Also interesting to see is how Arte and Canada's NFB are emerging as the main platforms for interactive documentaries, alongside a fair number of independent and do-it-yourself productions.

One impressive documentary is the French 'Insitu', directed by Antoine Viviani, "an interactive film on ephemeral interventions in public space". In an essayistic, mildly surreal style, the film takes a modern situationist approach to urban activism, public art and recalcitrant philosophy - really any kind of provocative strategy to jolt the public of European cities out of their well-ordered complacency.

In one scene, a voice explains in Spanish over the loudspeaker in a subway (which in itself creates a tantalizing contrast with the bored passengers):

Your attention please. I remember the German baroque era. There were tombs in the churches with inscriptions. On some was written: 'Sta, viator' ('stop, traveller'). Watch out, you who pass by. Watch out, for life is a soft touch, life is catastrophe, life is love, revolution, to sense, a big confusion of things. And art is a 'sta viator'.

'Insitu' collects some great poetic examples, ranging from plans for a theme park in La Défense, Paris, to a pair of giants roaming the streets of Antwerp, and from a floating man on a street corner to another performing a dance with a bulldozer. It also nicely balances visual and narrated ideas.

The film's format is simple, with a linear presentation, but the various chapters contain playful extras while the website's map interface collects many more, user-contributed examples from all over Europe. Recommended to explore.

fog in the polder

Reeuwijkse Plassen - 1

Reeuwijkse Plassen - 2

Reeuwijkse Plassen - 3

Reeuwijkse Plassen - 4

(Photos taken around the Reeuwijkse Plassen.)

dekalog 1: i am ready

Over 20 years old, Krzysztof Kieslowski's famous modern interpretation of the Ten Commandments in 'The Decalogue' ('Dekalog', 1989) has lost none of its dramatic power and universal, humanistic appeal.

Made for television, the ten hour-long film cycle - as Kieslowski insisted on calling it, instead of a series - creates a mosaic of human life in one large concrete apartment block in Communist Warsaw. Each of the films represents a dramatic and philosophical exploration of one Commandment. This is nowhere made explicit, and the links between the stories and the Commandments are subtle and often ambiguous.

It is the genius of the stories, written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, that they pose these moral rules as dilemmas, or even as challenges. Thus monolythic, divinely inspired laws from Biblical times have in the late 20th century become complex social and personal questions to which many answers are possible.

However, while the Commandments have become ethical dilemmas, they are still associated with religion, if only because two of the Commandments (I and II) explicitly mention God. An interesting question, then, is what role religion plays in 'The Decalogue'.

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the guardian spirit of the waters

Odilon Redon - L'esprit gardien des eaux (The Guardian Spirit of the Waters)

The early works in charcoal of French painter and lithographer Odilon Redon gained notoriety after being admired by the hero of Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel 'Against Nature' ('À rebours', 1884), who recognizes in them "the feverish nights and frightful nightmares of his childhood".

In their narrow gold-rimmed frames of unpainted pearwood, [the pictures] contained the most fantastic of visions: a Merovingian head balanced on a cup; a bearded man with something of the bonze about him and something of the typical speaker at public meetings, touching a colossal cannon-ball with one finger; a horrible spider with a human face lodged in the middle of its body. There were other drawings which plunged even further into the horrific realms of bad dreams and fevered visions. Here there was an enormous dice blinking a mournful eye; there, studies of bleak and arid landscapes, of burnt-up plains, of earth heaving and erupting into fiery clouds, into livid and stagnant skies. (...) These drawings defied classification, most of them exceeding the bounds of pictorial art and creating a new type of fantasy, born of sickness and delirium.
Odilon Redon - L'Araignée qui pleure (The Crying Spider)

Inspired by Goya and Poe, Redon's horrific visions - which he called his noirs - became a source of inspiration not just for decadents like Huysmans but for the French surrealists, and he seems to prefigure especially the work of Topor.

The examples given here are 'L'esprit gardien des eaux' ('The Guardian Spirit of the Waters', 1878), 'L'Araignée qui pleure' ('The Crying Spider', 1881) and 'Homme cactus' ('Cactus Man', 1881).

Odilon Redon - Homme cactus (Cactus Man)

However, in a striking change of direction, Redon's later paintings would burst into vivid color and start showing more benevolent, if no less mysterious visions.