In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Thus begins the first chapter of the book of Genesis. God is the great differentiator, the separator of what had been united: chaos. Not only in the Old Testament, but in most ancient cosmogonies, the principle of the world is presented as an undifferentiated mass awaiting a divine act to obtain its essential structure: above/below, heaven/earth. The principle of creation therefore appears as an ordered act.

This same differentiation seems to take place within the microcosm, too. Or at least, so it seems in the short film Becoming by Jan Van Ijken. Using time-lapse photography, Ijken makes us witness to the very miracle of life. His camera has captured the preliminary divisions of a single cell, palpitations in which the undifferentiated begins its process toward order. We watch the transition from unity to the progressive structuring of a grid in which, little by little, we can see its projection into the epithelium. Although we can’t yet guess the rudimentary form of the body —as yet there are no organs or nervous system— matter seeks through movement the organization that enables the living being to emerge.

Once the body takes shape and one can differentiate eyes, mouth, beating heart, we begin to feel that instinct obeys force, programmed to make its way through to the hard sphere in which it was conceived. A nervous system, equipped with sensory organs to communicate with the world, must begin this process of displacement. From there, life is to be just as enigmatic as at birth: struggle, effort, resignation, danger. We still don’t know if there was a purpose. Becoming invites one to be content with the beauty of that mystery.

Image: Susan Daly – Creative Commons

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Thus begins the first chapter of the book of Genesis. God is the great differentiator, the separator of what had been united: chaos. Not only in the Old Testament, but in most ancient cosmogonies, the principle of the world is presented as an undifferentiated mass awaiting a divine act to obtain its essential structure: above/below, heaven/earth. The principle of creation therefore appears as an ordered act.

This same differentiation seems to take place within the microcosm, too. Or at least, so it seems in the short film Becoming by Jan Van Ijken. Using time-lapse photography, Ijken makes us witness to the very miracle of life. His camera has captured the preliminary divisions of a single cell, palpitations in which the undifferentiated begins its process toward order. We watch the transition from unity to the progressive structuring of a grid in which, little by little, we can see its projection into the epithelium. Although we can’t yet guess the rudimentary form of the body —as yet there are no organs or nervous system— matter seeks through movement the organization that enables the living being to emerge.

Once the body takes shape and one can differentiate eyes, mouth, beating heart, we begin to feel that instinct obeys force, programmed to make its way through to the hard sphere in which it was conceived. A nervous system, equipped with sensory organs to communicate with the world, must begin this process of displacement. From there, life is to be just as enigmatic as at birth: struggle, effort, resignation, danger. We still don’t know if there was a purpose. Becoming invites one to be content with the beauty of that mystery.

Image: Susan Daly – Creative Commons