In 1930, Ralph Steiner made one of the best examples of pure cinema.
Mechanical Principles, a Short Film by Ralph Steiner
The films of Ralph Steiner can be categorized as pure or absolute cinema, a term coined by French director Henri Chomette. A brother of René Clair, Chomette defended cinema based on purely formal elements, such as rhythm, composition, and movement. Today films, entirely based on crystalline forms that appear, spin and disappear, would appear extravagant but, in essence, these first experiments were closer to the essence of cinema than the majority of films that flood our movie theaters these days.
Toward the end of the 1920s, after some time dedicated to commercial photography due to financial needs, Steiner met Paul Strand. Steiner was greatly impressed with Strand’s work and he freed himself from the constraints of commercial photography to dedicate himself fully to artistic production. Steiner’s ideas were to fall on fertile ground in a century flourishing with the artistic avant-garde, and the recently invented genre of cinema emerged as the ideal medium for his experiments.
In 1929 Steiner completed what would be considered one of the first art films of the US, H2O. In the film, Steiner not only created an inventory of the multiple manifestations of the liquid but rather made H2O a contemplative itinerary of the small miracles that water produces in its various sources: nervous in a river’s current, flowing through a pipe, reflecting elements foreign to its nature in its surface… an elegy to the essential liquid of life.
A year later, in 1930, and in a 180-degree shift regarding his previous work, Steiner made Mechanical Principles, a film based entirely on the movement of mechanical elements. With great delicacy, Steiner captured the sensual movement of hard and inert components built for productivity and lacking any esthetic features. Through his perspective, what appears indifferent to life becomes soft and organic, capable of imitating the voluptuous movements of animal intercourse. Cogs and pistons move with graceful fluidity, making their geometric forms become living and functioning organs. The hypnotic dance of the gears is masterfully captured by Steiner and effectively underscored by the music of Eric Beheim. Before our eyes, the camera performs the conjuring act of giving real life to artificially created movement. As if cinema itself saw itself in a mirror for self-validation.
Despite their apparent disparity, H2O and Mechanical Principles appear to obey one governing idea, perhaps inherited from the Futurists’ obsessions: in movement is the secret of life, and in the capturing, representing and reproducing of movement is the future of art and the progress of humanity.
Pictorial spiritism (a woman's drawings guided by a spirit)
There are numerous examples in the history of self-taught artists which suggest an interrogation of that which we take for granted within the universe of art. Such was the case with figures like
Astounding fairytale illustrations from Japan
Fairy tales tribal stories— are more than childish tales. Such fictions, the characters of which inhabit our earliest memories, aren’t just literary works with an aesthetic and pleasant purpose. They
A cinematic poem and an ode to water: its rhythms, shapes and textures
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. - John Keats Without water the equation of life, at least life as we know it, would be impossible. A growing hypothesis holds that water, including the
Watch beauty unfold through science in this "ode to a flower" (video)
The study of the microscopic is one of the richest, most aesthetic methods of understanding the world. Lucky is the scientist who, upon seeing something beautiful, is able to see all of the tiny
To invent those we love or to see them as they are? Love in two of the movies' favorite scenes
So much has been said already, of “love” that it’s difficult to add anything, much less something new. It’s possible, though, perhaps because even if you try to pass through the sieve of all our
This app allows you to find and preserve ancient typographies
Most people, even those who are far removed from the world of design, are familiar with some type of typography and its ability to transform any text, help out dyslexics or stretch an eight page paper
The secrets of the mind-body connection
For decades medical research has recognized the existence of the placebo effect — in which the assumption that a medication will help produces actual physical improvements. In addition to this, a
The sea as infinite laboratory
Much of our thinking on the shape of the world and the universe derives from the way scientists and artists have approached these topics over time. Our fascination with the mysteries of the
Sharing and collaborating - natural movements of the creative being
We might sometimes think that artistic or creative activity is, in essence, individualistic. The Genesis of Judeo-Christian tradition portrays a God whose decision to create the world is as vehement
John Malkovich becomes David Lynch (and other characters)
John Malkovich and David Lynch are, respectively, the actor and film director who’ve implicitly or explicitly addressed the issues of identity and its porous barriers through numerous projects. Now