Our resident critic, Matthew Radcliff is back with a new review, this time of Vanessa Gould's Between the Folds. Radcliff from Paignton Pictures, who updates the Documentary Round-Up list of docs screening around the DC area, will be providing occasional reviews of documentaries you should know about.
A critical and much argued question of documentary filmmaking is how closely a film depicts reality. How can a film, patterns of light projected on a screen, be measured against actual events? For that matter, what about the non-concrete reality, the thoughts and emotions of a film? These questions are applicable to any art form, and are what director Vanessa Gould tackles in Between The Folds, her film about origami.
Gould considers a number of accomplished origami masters, which she categorizes as Artisan, Artist, Engineer, Post-modernist, Choreographer, Anarchist, and the Father of modern origami, Akira Yoshizawa. Using origami as her lens, Gould examines how artists push against and exploit the limits of their technical medium. Limited to one sheet of paper, which is then folded, origami can still be rather complex, incorporating large numbers of folds or intricate folding patterns. Yet does focusing on technical challenges sacrifice the emotion of the piece? Are technique and emotion necessarily exclusive goals?
Between The Folds introduces us to origami artists who make their own paper, giving the viewer insight into how the quality of the paper (the €œmedium) influences the artistic choices. We meet a sculptor who switched from clay to paper and makes a lot of origami people and faces. He uses a technique called €œwet-folding to soften the creases, making the figure more organic. Japanese master Yoshizawa invented wet-folding, and it was Yoshizawa€™s work in the mid-20th century that raised origami from child€™s play to an art.
But origami is not just for making artistic objects. It is also a way to study a number of scientific questions. For young students, it is an engaging way to learn geometry. For researchers, origami is a way to study how things fold, whether that is automobile airbags or protein structure. Engineering skills can be used to enrich origami art and the art of folding can be used to solve problems in math and science.
Through out between the Folds, the viewer is treated to sequences of beautiful and amazing art. Some of the pieces directly addressed the central question of imitating reality. These were called €œPost-modernist and were abstract constructions, some limited to only one fold. €œWhat can you do with only one fold, asks the artist? It turns out there is quite a range of expression available even with only one fold. At the opposite end, a French collective has pioneered a style with millions of folds; or, depending on your perspective, they use no folds at all. They are known as €œLe Crimp, a name that truly describes their style of crumpling the paper to produce remarkable forms, which can be used to study various mechanical properties of the natural world, such as the structure of seeds and leaves.
The fields of art and science are often assumed to be contradictory, but Between The Folds shows them to be completely intermingled in the practice of origami. The limitations of one€™s tools, rather than impeding technical possibilities, actually can spur the artist and scientist to new heights of creativity.
Between the Folds will be screening this Thursday, December 3 at 6:30 pm at the Mathematical Association of America€™s Carriage House (1781 Church Street NW Washington DC) and this Saturday, December 5 at 4:00 pm at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (8519 Georgia Avenue Silver Spring, MD). Both screenings are organized through ITVS' Community Cinema Program. The film will also screen on PBS' Independent Lens beginning next week.