Tag Archives: documentary

Anila Quayyum Agha’s ‘Intersections’ Sculpture Installed at Rice Gallery 

Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha has installed her impressive shadow sculpture Intersections at Rice Gallery. Inspired in part by her interpretation of patterns and images found in Islamic temples, the laser-cut 6.5′ square wood cube is illuminated from the inside by a blinding 600-watt light bulb that casts a dizzying shadow throughout the gallery. The piece becomes experiential as viewers who move through the space have the shadows cast on their bodies, incorporating themselves into the artwork. From Rice Gallery:

Intersections is inspired by Agha’s visit to the Alhambra, an Islamic palace originally built in 889 in Granada, Spain. Struck by the grandeur of the space, Agha reflected upon her childhood in Lahore, Pakistan where culture dictated that women were excluded from the mosque, a place of creativity and community, and instead prayed at home. As she explains, “To my amazement [I] discovered the complex expressions of both wonder and exclusion that have been my experience while growing up.” Agha translates these contradictory feelings into Intersections, a contemplative space of her own making that is open to all.

While we’ve shared photos of this piece before, Angela and Mark Walley of Walley Films were invited to do this insightful profile of Agha and her ArtPrize-winning installation, providing a deeper and immersive treatment than images alone. Intersections will be on view at Rice Gallery through December 6, 2015.

Photo by Nash Baker

Photo by Nash Baker

Photo by Nash Baker

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From 1975-1980 Activist Adam Purple Built a Circular Urban Garden in New York that ‘Knocked Down’ the Surrounding Buildings 

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

In 1975, artist and social activist Adam Purple, known for his permanent purple attire, looked out his window in the crime-ridden Lower East Side of New York City to witness two children playing in a pile of rubble. Struck by his own memories of a childhood spent barefoot in rural pastures and forests in Missouri, he suddenly wished these children could feel the dirt beneath their own feet in a safe, debris-free environment. Almost immediately he began work on the Garden of Eden.

Over period of five years, Purple worked continuously to build a concentric garden that would eventually grow to 15,000 square feet. As nearby abandoned structures were torn down the garden continued to grow, a process he metaphorically likened to a garden that knocked down the buildings around it. He physically hauled bricks and building materials away from the site, and hauled in manure from the horses in Central Park.

The Garden of Eden not only provided safe haven to the community, but also produced food in the form of corn, berries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. By the early 80s it had become a famous and beloved landmark in the Lower East Side.

Unfortunately the city of New York never officially recognized Purple’s garden. While other local parks were clearly marked on official city maps, the Garden of Eden space was always labeled as ‘vacant’. Despite pleas from the community, the entire garden was razed with bulldozers in just 75 minutes on January 8, 1986 to make way for development.

Purple himself narrates his story in this thoughtful video by Harvey Wang and Amy Brost from back in 2011. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at the age of 84, and there is currently a fund-raising effort to collect money for his burial and to erect a memorial near 184 Forsyth Street where the garden once stood. Donated.

You can see more photos and read more about Purple in this book, also by Wang & Brost.

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

After a decade of work and upkeep, the Garden of Eden was razed with bulldozers on January 8, 1986 by the City of New York in 75 minutes.

Adam Purple, 1930-2015. Still from Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden / Harvey Wang and Amy Brost

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Starting With the Earth as a Marble, This Is the First Timelapse of the Solar System to Scale 


When looking in a science textbook or a toy mobile of the solar system, it’s easy to depict the sun, planets and moon to scale in comparison to each other. What’s not so easy to visually comprehend the staggering distance that separates each planet on its individual orbit around the sun. Filmmakers Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet challenged themselves to build such a model and the result is this fascinating short film To Scale.

Starting with the Earth as the size of a marble, it turns out you need an area about 7 miles (11.2km) to squeeze in the orbit of the outermost planet, Neptune. The team used glass spheres lit by LEDs and some GPS calculations to map out the solar system on the dry bed of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Once nighttime arrived they shot a timelapse from a nearby mountain that accurately reflects the distance of each orbital path at a scale of roughly 1:847,638,000. Amazing.

If you have more questions about how they did it, here’s a brief making of clip. (via Colossal Submissions)



When standing next to the Earth in the scale model, the orb representing the sun appears exactly the same size as the actual sun.

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Meet a Completely Colorblind Man Who Uses Special Tech to ‘Hear’ Colors 

Produced as a part of The Connected Series, Hearing Colors, is a short film that explores the life of Neil Harbisson, a man who was born with achromatopsia that leaves 1 in 30,000 completely colorblind. Through an antenna-like object implanted into the back of his head, Harbisson is able to gain a comprehension of the colors around him by hearing distinct sounds.

Harbisson completely embraces the unusual technology and openly refers to himself as a cyborg. “I don’t feel that I am using technology. I don’t feel that I am wearing technology. I feel that I am technology,” Harbisson explains. “I feel no difference between the software and my brain.”

The five minute film, shot in black and white, gives the audience a sense of Harbisson’s artificially created one, letting us peer into how he sees humans, cities, and everyday life.

Hearing Colors was created by filmmaker Greg Brunkalla. You can see more of his films on his Vimeo page here. (via Swissmiss)

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Ricky & Doris: An Unconventional Friendship in New York City (with Puppets) 

Doris Diether is a former journalist and longtime activist in New York who is often seen strolling through Washington Square Park chatting with just about everyone. Ricky Syers is a musician and marionetteer who encountered Diether the first week he arrived in the park with his marionettes several years ago and was struck by her outgoing nature. He immediately created a puppet in her image and the two have since become staples of the neighborhood who frequently appear in photographs and interviews together.

Filmmaker David Friedman made this great documentary short for AARP detailing the roots of their friendship and how they first met.


Pulling her own strings, 2013, Victor Shoup

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The Reinvention of Normal: A Fun Profile of Whimsical Inventor and Artist Dominic Wilcox 

In this brief profile by filmmaker Liam Saint Pierre, we dive head-first into the strange mind of British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox who’s been entertaining the world for years with his delightfully impractical ideas. His recent off-the-wall inventions include a stained glass driverless car, shoes with built-in GPS that guide you back home, and a giant listening device called Binaudios that mimic tourist binoculars for the purpose of listening to a city. “Let’s do the ridiculous and by doing the ridiculous something else might come of it,” Wilcox shares in the film, perfectly encapsulating his entire artistic practice. He also just published a book filled with comic-like sketches of his most outlandish ideas, Variations on Normal, which is available on his website. (via It’s Nice That)







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Kaboom! A Couple Falls in Love While Skydiving and Spends the Next 30 Years Creating Pyrotechnic Shows 

For their latest Op-Doc, the New York Times traveled to El Salvador where they caught up with Rich and Dee Gibson, an unusual couple who have spent their entire relationship literally playing with fire. Sparks first flew when the couple met while skydiving. Rich (a Vietnam vet) was the pilot and Dee (formerly employed by the Army Corps of Engineers) was jumping. By 1981 they founded a pyrotechnic business out of Rockford, Illinois and for the next three decades designed orchestrated explosions for air shows.

If the story of the Gibson’s relationship isn’t enough, watch the short documentary above to see what extraordinary passion and love for your craft looks like. The Gibsons mention that in 30 years in the business “no spectator, crewmember, or volunteer has been hurt or injured.” You can read a bit more over on the New York Times.

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