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Temples of Time

The National Film Board of Canada was founded in 1939 in part as a way to distribute World War II propaganda throughout the Great White North, but went on to become a bastion for experimental animation, “socially relevant documentaries” and other film projects “which provoke discussion and debate on subjects of interest to Canadian audiences and foreign markets.” In particular the NFB is known for producing some of the dreamiest nature documentaries of modern times — it’s where Boards of Canada got their name and a lot of their soft-focus naturalist vibes. And now the NFB has started posting their library of films online.

A lot of these docs are wordless montages of natural imagery accompanied by droning Eno/Tangerine Dream-style synthesizer soundtracks — our favorite so far is William Canning’s 26-minute short Temples of Time (1971), described by the NFB as follows:

A mountain is a living thing; it has an ecological balance, a process of evolution manifested in slow, subtle ways; but it is also subject to the ravages of human intervention. Filmed in the Canadian Rockies and in Garibaldi Park, this picture brings to the screen magnificent footage of mountain solitudes and the wildlife found there, of natural splendor in all its changing moods. The film carries the implicit warning that all this may pass away if people do not seek to preserve it.

Hook your computer up to your stereo for the full effect of Edward Kalehoff’s warbling synth drone soundtrack. Who needs to figure out the whole new digital TV upgrade chip whatever thing when we’ve got this treasure trove to explore? More to come …

Note: I’ve cross-posted over at the Arthur Magazine blog along with the embedded video.

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The photographs in this series were on display at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA from December 7-11, 2008.

Urban outdoor lighting produces enough spectral pollution to turn the city’s night sky into an orange-grey dome, smudging out all but the brightest stars. Of the myriad organisms affected by humanity’s colonization of the darkness by way of electromagnetic radiation, plants are of particular interest. Plant life cycles revolve according to their light environment: Photoreceptors tell them when to extend stems or broaden leaves; when to germinate and when to die.

These images are an examination of photosynthetic organisms as painted with the palette of artificial night lighting. The viewer’s attention is drawn away from the horizon — where the natural light has disappeared — to emphasize the industrial lighting on the organic textures. Tree limbs are framed against the night sky, nebulous clouds of leaves reflecting the glare of sodium vapor security lamps; groundcover is shot from directly above, micro-landscapes rendered in the orange halide tones of residential streetlights.

All of these images were made after civil twilight — when the sun is six degrees below the horizon — using available light with exposures from 20 to 696 seconds.

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