Independent Lens: Between the Folds

Independent Lens: Between the Folds

Tue, 12/22/2009 - 10:00pm

Expressive French master, Eric Joisel, has a moment of inspiration on camera.

Credit: Vanessa Gould/ITVS

Follow ten very different people as they explore science and art through the ancient practice of origami.

Independent Lens: Between The Folds, airing Tuesday, December 22 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11), chronicles ten people whose lives have been transformed by paper folding. From artists to physicists to educators, many have abandoned careers and hard-earned graduate degrees—all to forge unconventional lives as modern-day paper folders.

While they may have come to origami through different experiences and for a variety of reasons, common threads emerge; paper folding consumes them, they talk about it in musical terms and many of these provocative and highly intelligent people practice paper folding because, well, it’s fun!

The film opens with three of the world’s foremost origami artists—a former sculptor in France folding caricatures rivaling the figures of Daumier and Picasso; a hyperrealist who walked away from a successful physics career to challenge the physics of a folded square instead; and an artisanal papermaker who folds impressionistic creations from the very same medium he makes from scratch.

However, as the film progresses, the artists become less conventional, and the post-modern concepts of abstraction, minimalism, deconstruction, process and empiricism take root —mirroring modern art itself. Abstract artists emerge with a greater emphasis on process and concept, rattling the fundamental roots of realism that have long dominated traditional paper folding. Eventually science emerges as another front in the exploration of folded paper—featuring advanced mathematicians and a remarkable scientist from the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT who won the MacArthur “Genius” Award for his computational origami research.

While debates arise on issues of technique, symbolism and purpose, the film ultimately culminates with the notion that art and science are two different interpretations of the very same world around us.