Documentary

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Art Documentary History

A New Hilma af Klint Documentary Explores the Abstract Artist’s Historical Legacy

April 15, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Kino Lorber

An effort to rewrite art historical timelines predominately shaped around men, a new documentary spotlights inventive Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944). Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint considers her colorful, abstract artworks that predate those of widely recognized male artists, like Vasily KandinskyKazimir MalevichPiet Mondrian, Paul Klee, and Josef Albers. Directed by Halina Dyrschka, the corrective documentary follows the Guggenheim’s 2018 retrospective of the artist’s spiritual work that since has secured af Klint’s position as a pioneer of 20th-century art.

Dyrschka discovered the revolutionary artist’s work in 2013, quickly realizing that “here was a woman who consequently followed her own path in life that led to a unique oeuvre. A strong character and despite all restrictions Hilma af Klint explored the possibilities that go beyond the visible.” In addition to art history’s tendency to ignore women, the artist’s groundbreaking projects have been absent from historical discourse in part because she asked that her work not be shown until 20 years after her death.

Having interviewed af Klint’s relatives, historians, artists, and critics for the documentary, the German director is hoping to offer a comprehensive and amended version of af Klint’s legacy that transcends her bold paintings. Her “oeuvre goes even beyond art because she was looking for the whole picture of life,” Dyrschka said. “And with that she comes close to the one question: What are we doing here?”

Beyond the Visible will be available for streaming starting April 17. (via Artnet)

“Altarpiece No. 1” (1915), Altarpieces: Group X

“The Dove No. 2” (1914-1915), from Group IX

 

 



Animation Documentary

Bloomers: An Animated Documentary Recounts the History Behind an Undergarment Business

March 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

Consumers are paying closer attention to the ethics and business practices behind the products they buy, and animated documentarian Samantha Moore is shining a light on one company creating everyday essentials. Last year, the Shropshire-based creator released “Bloomers,” a short film that chronicles the history of the Manchester-based lingerie company Ella and Me, which began production in the United Kingdom before moving abroad and back again.

From flowing silk to lace-trimmed underwear strung up only to be snipped apart, the detailed project colors mostly the garments, swaths of fabric, and spindles of string. The workers and machines remain black-and-white line drawings throughout the film as it walks through the manufacturing cycle from design to consumer purchases.

Moore helps illuminate the impacts rising production costs had on Ella and Me since its beginning as a mom-and-pop business. She documents its inception and even the employees’s familial connections to the textile industry. The animation is set to a diverse soundtrack that includes interviews with the company’s team, in addition to noises commonly found on the production room floor, like scissors slicing through soft cotton and the repetitive tick of sewing machines.

Since its release, “Bloomers” was nominated for the Best Short Film at the British Animation Awards 2020, was the winner of the Best British Film at London International Animation Festival 2019, and took home the top prize as the Best Documentary at ReAnima International Film Festival 2019. Keep up with Moore’s animated documentaries on Vimeo and Instagram.

 

 



Documentary Science

Fantastic Fungi: A New Film Explores Earth’s Vast Network of Mycelium and Mushrooms

December 17, 2019

Grace Ebert

A new film considers how mycelium and mushrooms have created an often-unseen network, similar to an underground internet, that has connected all living beings for the last 3.5 billion years. Featuring conversations with food journalist Eugenia Bone, mycologist Paul Stamets, and writer Michael Pollan, Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us dives into how the diverse underground web creates the soil necessary for plants and trees to root. “It’s amazing what we don’t know about mushrooms. They really are a frontier of knowledge,” Pollan says in the film.

Fantastic Fungi explores seven benefits of the organisms, including those dealing with biodiversity, innovation, food, arts, and mental, physical, and spiritual health. Screenings are scheduled worldwide through February 2020. Follow updates on the film directed by Louie Schwartzberg and the broader fungi movement on Instagram. (Thnx, Laura!)

 

 



Documentary Food

Déguste: A New Short Film Showing the Beauty and Brutality of Commercial Kitchen Work

November 1, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Alternating between sensual, almost biological macro shots of raw ingredients and the harsh, dully-lit environs of a commercial kitchen, Déguste captures the dual reality of working as a professional chef. The majesty, beauty, and limitless potential of natural ingredients—mushrooms, red meat, fresh greens—are right at hand for the commercial cook. But the unrelenting pace of orders in, orders up, dishing out multiple copies of the same meal at once, and juggling the dangers of sharp and hot tools cuts in again and again. Déguste gives viewers a glimpse at how the sausage gets made, so to speak, in the restaurant world, with an electrifying soundtrack of atmospheric sounds. Created by Paris-based studio Insolence Productions, the short has been lauded at multiple film festivals. See more from Insolence on Vimeo

 

 



Documentary

The Last Honey Hunter: One Man’s Quest to Gather Honey From the Cliffs of Rural Nepal

October 1, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

The Last Honey Hunter was released in 2017, but is new to us at Colossal and is a powerful story worth a watch at any point. Set in rural Nepal, the half hour documentary chronicles the Kulung culture’s traditions of honey collection. Using precarious methods to scale treacherous cliffs, the Kulung seek to harvest a particular type of psychotropic honey that has spiritual significance to the community. We won’t seek to paraphrase the intricacies of the tradition; when you have some time, go into full screen mode and sink in to the story.

Written and directed by Ben Knight, The Last Honey Hunter is a co-production of Camp4 Collective and Felt Soul Media, in association with National Geographic and with the community expertise of dZi Foundation. You can also read about the Kulung honey rituals in a National Geographic article.

 

 

 

 



Documentary History

Watch Art Conservator Diana Hartman Painstakingly Re-Weave and Patch a Century-Old Canvas

September 30, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Step into the conservation and restoration studios at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in this short documentary following the restoration of a 1907 painting. Featuring conservator Diana Hartman, the video follows Hartman’s problem-solving, tool acquisition, and hands-on work. The hundred year-old canvas, painted by Paula Modersohn-Becker, is unusual in that it is still on its original wood stretchers, and was presumably stretched by the artist herself. This also presents some complex logistical hurdles, as normally a canvas on non-original stretchers would simply be removed from its wooden structural support for repairs. After several months of planning the repair, Hartman re-weaves the canvas using eye surgery needles and tones a custom-shaped canvas patch with precisely matched watercolors.

MoMA reopens to the public on October 21, 2019, after several months of extensive renovations and expansions, including two new ground-floor galleries that are free to visit. (via The Kid Should See This)

 

 



Documentary

A Look Inside the 45,000-Piece Collection of Trashed Treasures Curated by Sanitation Worker Nelson Molina

September 11, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

If, like me, you live in New York City, you’re confronted on the daily with mounds of trash on the sidewalk. While the appliances, antique furniture, clothing, and houseplants are a passing novelty for pedestrians such as myself, for Nelson Molina, the trash was his daily focus for 34 years. The veteran New York Sanitation worker, who retired in 2015 from his East Harlem route, has collected over 45,000 items of interest, all culled from his professional immersion in what New Yorkers discard.

His curatorial efforts have been widely chronicled over the years, including a 2012 profile in The New York Times, and particularly at inflection points when the collection’s future is uncertain. A new short documentary film by director Nicholas Heller meets up with the contagiously enthusiastic Molina for a look inside his curatorial process and the present state of the collection. There is currently a fundraising effort to create a permanent home for Molina’s ‘Treasures in the Trash,’ which you can contribute to here. If you’re interested in more anthropological trash projects, check out Jenny Odell’s Bureau of Suspended Objects, an archive created out of Odell’s time as an artist in residence at a San Francisco dump.

 

 

A Colossal

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Artist Cat Enamel Pins