Thursday, January 8, 2015



By Louise Mackenzie & Sarah Breen Lovett

This article originally appeared in the Australian Insitute of Architects NSW journal Architecture Bulletin

In the Cinecity Project participants are asked to submit one minute films exploring spatial ideas. It exists in both cyber space and physical space. This year the theme is MAKING [1]. Over seventy films were submitted which the curators shortlisted to thirty. These 30x 1 minute films make the touring 2014 Cinecity Project. In the following text the curators, Louise Mackenzie and Sarah Breen Lovett, discuss the representation of architecture and different ways that MAKING architecture can be thought through the moving image.

The representation of architecture is often taken, it seems, for the thing itself; that is we profess to know and even to love buildings we have never been to, but we speak of them as if we have. This is the power of the image, both the representative and mental. We are able to create buildings in our minds through representative images, such as photographs and drawings. The moving image, contributes another layer of complexity to representation, continuing and extending relationships between the physical and the fictive.

The Oxford dictionary’s definition of representation suggests, that an object being represented described “in a particular way.” [2]  This is an instance of the real and ‘not yet’ real intersecting. That is, each particular representation adds another layer to our understanding, of the thing being described.  The moving image, itself allows for this exploration.  Typically, one might understand exploration of space/land in a colonial context, but here we can also think about it as an exploration through the time and space that the filmmaker constructs for us, in this case we’re “travel[ling] through,” [3] time and space, not only to experience the film but to understand something more, or different about architecture and city, in terms of our relationships to it and our experience of it.  This is taken in its broadest possible sense, to quote sociologist and film theorist Lorraine Mortimer,

“But we do not get far if we do not try to understand what we call the political, economic, cultural and the historical are intertwined with what we call the imaginary, the emotional and indeed the somatic.” [4]

Here Mortimer is discussing conflict between and within nation states, but this can also extend to other kinds of understanding. In understanding architecture one must necessarily, in this view consider, amongst other things the rational and irrational, the material and immaterial, the imaginary and indeed the very human body. It is this diversity of representation and understanding of MAKING architecture that The Cinecity Project produced in 2014.  This can be seen in films where various aspects of making architecture were explored, such as an interchange between building materials and the reflected image; making life; light making architecture; architecture making social constructs, and the making of cinematic architectural space.

The winning film from this years’ Cinecity Project was SOUND AND VISION by Francis Matthews. This film explores how the architectural environment is made up of layered, reflected and refracted images. How we are unconsciously embedded within, and constructed by these images, caught in a cross-fire of their existence. The intrigue of the ‘making’ of architecture in this way, is communicated in the ‘making’ of the image, where ones mind enters the representative space, but in the end one is sharply returned to the image space, and the construct of the representation.

A more personal, absent and off camera experience of architecture making life is evident in DUNWICH FISHING by Eleanor Suess. In this film, the stillness of the camera highlights the slow and timely movement of the fisherman. The lone fisher suggests contemplation. This architecture without architecture also suggests conviviality, if any fish are caught,  which set against the redundant looking wench and up turned boats points to a past industry – making a living this way is no longer sustainable, against the fished out sea. This film implies a solace and through the colours, especially, a beauty, in this life lived. The shed we see is a kind of architecture but to this film it is not as important as the architecture which remains unseen - that which is off screen where the fisher lives – the buildings and town which makes his life and memories, that which works with both a material and immaterial context.

In contrast, Sabine De Schutter, in SENSING SPACE, also uses a still camera, but with an ‘un-changing’ scene. The image appears to hum in its stillness, pregnant with potential. A representation of this kind alludes to the thick, dense experience of light in architecture, which, while transient and temporal has a heaviness. The fact that ‘nothing happens’ in Sabine’s film is the beauty of it, like architecture itself, appearing static, unchanging and un-moving conversely is full of movement imperceptible by the human eye.

Through a sea of yellow raincoats and orchestrated movement TWINNING by Lena Obergfell alludes to a more ‘active’ and socially constructed architecture.  How people and their relationships across space and time can create the experience of architecture. How the transient, temporal aspects of urban environment have just as much hand in creating our urban and architectural environment, as the bricks and mortar of its physical construction.

Using the moving camera, SPINE by Susan Chan at once shifts the representation of a ‘bridge,’ to be an image space experience for the spectator. Through camera movement spines of the bridge pass overhead, wrap around the viewer, making one simultaneously aware of the construction of the bridge, and the construction of the moving image in relation to the space of the spectator. In this way, SPINE, and many other films in The Cinecity Project: Making, are not only the representation of architecture, but the construction of architecture, through the reception of the moving image. In doing this, through these explorations, the films make new ideas, bringing new understandings.

The films can be view via:

[1]The Cinecity Project is a fringe event aligned with the theme of the National Architecture Conference and in 2014 the Creative Directors theme was MAKING.

[noun] 2. The description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way

[verb] 1Travel through (an unfamiliar area) in order to learn about it:

[4] Lorraine Mortimer Terror and Joy: The Films of Dusan Makavejev, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2009 (Page 188).

Cinecity 2014_Eleanor Suess_Dunwich Fishing

Cinecity 2014_Francis Matthews_Sound and Vision

Cinecity 2014_Lena Obergfell_Wasteland Twinning

Cinecity 2014_Sabine De Schutter_Sensing Space

Cinecity 2014_Susanne Chan_Spine