Environment

Located on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, Acoustic Ocean sets out to explore the sonic ecology of marine life. The scientist as an explorer and important mediator of the contemporary understanding of our planetary ecosystems is a central figure in this video. She makes her appearance in the person of a Sami (indigenous of northern Scandinavia) biologist-diver who is using all sorts of hydrophones, parabolic mics and recording devices. Her task is to sense the submarine space for acoustic and other biological forms of expression.

1.1 Acre Flat Screen is a 45-minute video about a year-long effort to improve a lot of 1.1 acres of desert land in Utah, which we purchased on September 4th 2002 on eBay. The video starts with ways of finding a lot in the desert, using satellite images, topographical maps, a compass and string. It displays ideas and plans on how to improve the land’s value and documents our preparations to face the unforgiving desert.

20 Hz, 2011

20 Hz observes a geo-magnetic storm occurring in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Working with data collected from the CARISMA radio array and interpreted as audio, we hear tweeting and rumbles caused by incoming solar wind, captured at the frequency of 20 Hertz. Generated directly by the sound, tangible and sculptural forms emerge suggestive of scientific visualisations. As different frequencies interact both visually and aurally, complex patterns emerge to create interference phenomena that probe the limits of our perception.

You live somewhere, walk down the same street 50, 100, 10,000 times, each time taking in fragments, but never fully registering THE PLACE. Years, decades go by and you continue, unseeing, possibly unseen. A building comes down, and before the next one is up you ask yourself "what used to be there?"  You are only vaguely aware of the district's shifting patterns and the sense that, since the 19th Century, wave after wave of inhabitants have moved through and transformed these alleyways, tenements, stoops and shops.

We asked 12 people to walk 4 identical routes through the course of a day and a night, always attempting to repeat the manner of the first time. As they moved they concentrated on their steps and their rhythm and the repetition immunized them from having to make sense of their movements. They moved as if consumed by a single thought. Unaware of the passage of time. They re-ran the night during the day, and mixed the darkness with the light.

— Flatform

For over two years we made it our business to document abandoned working gloves on the streets of NYC. The feelings and thoughts that surrounded this activity connected to the ways his family relates to Gregor Samsa as a cockroach, or whatever Franz Kafka intended him to be in The Metamorphosis after his transformation from a productive citizen to a useless insect. When Gregor can't grant them a comfortable life-style any longer, his family starts to resent and hate the once loved and respected provider, finds him disgusting.

Presented as a fictional documentary, the sound film All the Time in The World sees the millions of years that have shaped and formed the land, played out at the speed of sound.

Semiconductor have reanimated Northumbria's epic landscape using data recordings from the archives at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh. This data of local and distant seismic disturbances has been converted to sound and used to reveal and bring to life the constantly shifting geography around us.

American sculptor and land artist Robert Smithson made art as a meditation on transition and change. Perhaps best known for his Spiral Jetty, an earthen berm that sits, occasionally submerged, in the Great Salt Lake of northern Utah, Smithson understood that his earthworks would be subject to natural and human forces and processes: erosion, rising water tables, and changing land use.

Animal Attraction is a documentary about the relationship between people and animals that questions the way we project our hopes and desires onto our pets, and ascribe human qualities and attributes to their gestures. The video was inspired by the plight of the filmmaker who was frustrated by the obnoxious behavior of her cat, Ernie. As a last resort, she gave in to a friend's suggestion to contact an animal communicator. This is her journey with interspecies telepathic communicator, Dawn Hayman, from Spring Farm CARES, an animal sanctuary in upstate New York.

“The individual is not an autonomous, solitary object but a thing of uncertain extent, with ambiguous boundaries. So too is matter, which loses much of its allure the moment it is reduced to an object, shorn of its viscosity, pressure and density. Both subject and matter resist their reduction into objects. Everything is interconnected and intertwined.”

— Kengo Kuma

This absurdist, microscopic film noir follows the activities of an underground network of ill people, desperate to create alternative methods of self-care in a world where natural resources are disappearing. While examining the meaning of health, disease, and well-being in the post-industrial world, Apple Grown In Wind Tunnel imagines the development of a culture at the margins, linked by illicit radio broadcasts, toxic waste sites, the highway, and ultimately by the overwhelming desire to find a cure.

Filmed primarily in Alaska, The Aquarium contrasts the openness of the primeval Arctic landscape with the entrapment of captured sea mammals in aquariums. It speaks of the progressive destruction of these animals’ habitat, seeing beyond the alluring spectacle.

A documentary about Holt’s public installation work Dark Star Park in Arlington, Virginia, this video is about the process of developing and building the park. It includes commentary from the architects, contractors, foremen, and engineers who worked on the project, as well as with people who frequent the park. Holt transforms a site of urban blight into an aesthetically stimulating spot that addresses environmental issues.

Copyright Holt/Smithson Foundation.

Babeldom, 2012

Babeldom is a city so massive and growing at such a speed that soon, it is said, light itself will not escape its gravitational pull. How can two lovers communicate, one from inside the city and one outside? This is an elegy to urban life, against the backdrop of a city of the future, a portrait assembled from film shot in modern cities all around the world and collected from the most recent research in science, technology and architecture.

"It’s a complex architectural vision equal parts awesome and terrifying… This is a film – and city – to get lost in."

Black Sea Files is a territorial research on the Caspian oil geography: the world's oldest oil extraction zone. A giant new subterranean pipeline traversing the Caucasus will soon pump Caspian crude to the West. The line connecting the resource fringe with the terminal of the global high-tech oil circulation system, runs through the video like a central thread. However, the trajectory followed by the narrative is by no means a linear one. Circumventing the main players in the region, the video sheds light on a multitude of secondary sceneries.

Brilliant Noise takes us into the data vaults of solar astronomy. After sifting through hundreds of thousands of computer files made accessible via open access archives, Semiconductor have brought together some of the sun's finest unseen moments. These images have been kept in their most raw form, revealing the energetic particles and solar wind as a rain of white noise. This black and white grainy quality is routinely cleaned up by NASA, usually hiding the processes and mechanics in action behind the capturing procedure.

Bug Girl, 2003

Part science movie, part storybook, Bug Girl is an ecological fable. A young girl has lost her cat. While searching for it she accidentally swallows a bee--her journey suddenly transforms into a visual tumble through nature, biology, and consciousness.

This title is only available on Soft Science.

"...a rumination, a series of borrowed 'dialogues' out of an ongoing argument with myself. It meanders, mentally and physically, reflecting on the conditions of being human; on transience, consciousness and desire. It uses landscapes as provocations, as sites of contemplation. And between the landscape and the thought, i.e. between the radical presence of the physical world and the idea, there is, more often than not, a distance, disbelief or irony."

--Ken Kobland

Burrow-Cams features footage from cameras that have been placed inside underground animal habitats (dens, burrows, etc.). Animals showcased include: burrowing owl, black-footed ferret, porcupine, badger, prairie vole, swift fox, deer mouse, and black tailed prairie dog.

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.

"This film is closely related to my last feature-length project, Counting. I take the temperature of a neighborhood. In this case, the place is my New York. I think about street life and its threatened demise – a death ushered in as Big Money relentlessly re-makes cities in ever more categorical ways. I think with the camera, on the move, in fragments.

A weather diary of sorts where my mouth is pretty much shut but the window is wide open to various cloudscapes and local color tinged with a twang. Spring on the prairie with a sprinkling of Porky Pig pixie-powder on the lips of he who crunches in protein paradise.

Chain, 2004

As regional character disappears and corporate culture homogenizes our surroundings, it's increasingly hard to tell where you are. In Chain, malls, theme parks, hotels and corporate centers worldwide are joined into one monolithic contemporary "superlandscape" that shapes the lives of two women caught within it. One is a corporate businesswoman set adrift by her corporation while she researches the international theme park industry. The other is a young drifter, living and working illegally on the fringes of a shopping mall.

The Videofreex tape a group of young people working on a farm run by Chris Locke and his wife in Shandaken, NY.  After learning how to take care of the chickens, they are taught how to kill and pluck one.  Later they sit down for a communal dinner, and one of the group exclaims "Mmmmm, tastes good!"

 

China Town traces copper mining and production from an open pit mine in Nevada to a smelter in China, where the semi-processed ore is sent to be smelted and refined. Considering what it actually means to "be wired" and in turn, to be connected, in today's global economic system, the video follows the detailed production process that transforms raw ore into copper wire--in this case, the literal digging of a hole to China--and the generation of waste and of power that grows in both countries as byproduct.

In this 2001 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses the origins of his film philosophy, and the circuitous route he has taken in his pursuit of an anti-narrative film practice outside the mainstream. Cohen sheds light on the many influences that have impacted his sentiments towards conventional film, and his desire to eschew both classical avant-garde and theatrical filmmaking in favor of a model rooted in the tradition of the 1940s New York School of street photography. Cohen also locates his aesthetic as being impacted by the 1970s hardcore and DIY scenes he was exposed to as a youth in Washington, DC.