experimental structure

Croatian multimedia artist Igor Grubić will be exhibiting his 2015 film ‘Monument’ at Kudos Gallery opening next Tuesday. ‘Monument’ is a poetic-experimental documentary, structured as a series of nine meditative portraits of the stunning concrete memorials commissioned by the former Yugoslav state. These sentinel forms were originally built to honour the Second World War victims of fascism.

Morphology (‘14-'15), Anna Oldakowski, Hayden Minick, Charlene Leung, Hillary Flannery, Zherui Wang, Ardon Lee, Diane Juarez, Vincent Zheng. . A preliminary model of an experimental alucobond structure destined for OMI Architecture, Ghent, NY. . photo courtesy: @cesmorphology

If Attack Of The Clones remains the least satisfying of Lucas’s four Star Wars films on a dramatic level, it’s made up for by its being the most formally inventive of the entire series, and the most experimental structurally.  Furthermore, it represents perhaps the peak of Lucas’s skills as inventor.  While The Phantom Menace was still shot on 35mm, on locations and studio sets, AOTC is filmed almost entirely with green-screen, rejecting a filmed ‘reality’ for fully integrated CGI spaces and characters.  Whereas the prior film integrated artificial characters into ‘real’ spaces, this second film now integrates ‘real’ people into artificial worlds.  Taken in this sense, Attack Of The Clones is not only a revolutionary work, but one of the single most influential films of the 21st Century.  

But more than simply being an outlet for Lucas’s unfettered imagination, AOTC is the most vivid demonstration of Lucas’s adoration of silent cinema, particularly the works of F.W. Murnau.  At the films most liveliest it resembles a kind of 21st century, digital expressionism.  One of the most striking examples comes in the middle of the film:  

Real shadows against a CGI backdrop -

Followed by real actors in a real landscape:

Anakin walks to his vehicle - the next shot is full CGI, charging forward:

This cut from a still composition to a moving one turns Anakin’s rage into kinetic energy, and coupled with a significant shift in colour palette, Lucas attempts a expressionistic device to convey Anakin’s interior state.

One difference here again - ‘real’ Hayden Christensen racing through an artificial/emotional backdrop.  The following shot isn’t ‘real’ or CGI, it’s a matte painting!

Another expressionistic tactic, this time closer to Ford than Murnau: the sharp edges of landscape once more are for the purpose of visualizing psychology.  The final shot of this sequence is back to ‘real’ landscape, but with the colour denotations of all these ‘artificial’ shots, a ‘real’ sunset takes on the formal implications deigned by the preceding shots - quite a sophisticated achievement!

Lucas seems equally inspired by Ford as he is by Murnau, including a deliberate callback to Ford’s The Searchers:

Anakin’s character seems very deliberately designed after Ethan Edwards - he massacres an entire village in pure emotional rage - in the Ford because of the fear of miscegenation, in the Lucas because of the loss of a mother.  Again, Lucas continues visualizing emotions: note the purple skies of Anakin’s massacre: (and Christensen’s 1920′s acting)

There’s even a classic Ford graveyard scene:

While the films romance take us back to 1927:

Already there is difference - while both Lucas and Murnau are manipulating the image with visual effects, Murnau is doing so to visualize the transition from a literal space to an emotional one, while Lucas is quite simply creating his world. Yet both ‘compositions’ serve the same purpose: reclamation of love in opposition to the world around them: both Anakin and Padme are about to engage in a literal game of death.  

I’m making a mistake if this piece only focuses on the visual aspects of Attack Of The Clones and not the development of the politics Lucas develops in this world.  In fact, there are perilously few set-pieces in this work, most of the film devotes itself to the development of the political elements first shown in The Phantom Menace and the growing romance between Anakin and Padme.  TPM ends with Padme’s thwarting of a military coup manipulated by a Trade Federation:

But as history has taught us in both our world and theirs, all things in relation to trade will not stay solvent for long.  Not unlike another notorious happening of the infamous 2016:

Odd as it may be, it’s only possible to fully understand the politics of Episodes 1-3 by having already seen 4-6, even though 1-3 ends up recontextualizing 4-6!  However it is necessary to understand Palpatine’s position in the later films to  be aware of the cloak-and-dagger ‘democratic’ coup going on here.  In the face of uncertainty and chaos, Palpatine plays his cards perfectly to appear the most suitable candidate for the Republic, even as he openly states his intention:

Like Adolf Hitler, he is granted emergency powers placing him in full command of a military which he can (and will) easily turn against the Republic for his own means.  This is applauded:

What is interesting about Palpatine’s character (and the idea of the ‘Force’/’Dark Side’) is that it returns to simple moral questions of good and evil.  However these ‘spiritual’ concepts manifest both by being outside of the centre (centerist) government, and worm their ways in.  Jedi (good) serve to (misguidely?) protect the Republic, Sith (evil) worms their way into the power of centre government itself, so Good inadvertently defends Evil.  

Obi-Wan is the only character who becomes aware of this through the film, while Anakin feels it.  The character of the latter is already tortured, facing the repercussions of the Jedi’s tearing him away from his family as a child, more and more having to face repressed emotion.  The only solution he sees is to become more powerful.  But still, the Jedi are right (but the council misguided) - to put emotions above logic increase the chances of your being manipulated.  

What struck me most is that this films narrative structure is almost…non-existent.  It’s a fully experimental work made with the budget of a major studio film (remember that Lucas is a complete independent, all the prequels were self-funded) and being such, things do not always match.  But it’s in the films final moments where Lucas has found a way to fully merge his political content with the aesthetic choices he has been making, leading to an engagement far beyond anything in the film prior and delievers the syntax he will use for Revenge of the Sith:

A gradual shift from Purple to Orange to Red for Dooku’s successful escape:

Dooku then meets with Palpatine himself:

A wipe back to landscape - as though the colors are reacting to the deception:

Before Obi-Wan and Mace Windu stare out the window, sensing the deception by reacting to the colors:

Obi-Wan confirms this in dialogue:

And the next time we see Sidious, he is once again as ‘Palpatine.’  The costumes have changed, but the colours haven’t:

Palpatine is now in full control:

As Godard said in Goodbye To Language: “Hitler was elected democratically.”  Fascists stand with centrists, victims stand with abuser.  This finale is exceptional: Lucas succeeds at making a political statement through expressionistic means.


Experimental structural geology at Virginia Tech. These researchers created a simulated set of sedimentary rocks on a table that could be moved horizontally to observe how basins can form and then be reactivated. They first pulled the layers apart, forming a basin, then turned the forces around to watch the formerly normal faults be bent upwards into thrust faults.

Computer Technology Factory, Hemel Hempstead (1970) by Foster & Associates.

Research and Development facility built for the Computer Technology company in Hemel Hempstead. This flexible, single storey building replaced the experimental inflatable structure Foster had previously designed for the company.

Image from Foster Associates by Reyner Banham


Coming MARCH 2016 from Image Comics!

MARCH 23 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99
Our first arc comes to its brutal, bloody end.

MARCH 9 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99
“ALL ROADS” Part Two
The Kristopher siblings’ secret past threatens their present.

RINGSIDE is yet another over-sized cover-to-cover comic book, much like issue one. It wasn’t the initial plan, but it’s working out well. Nick’s already doing the best work of his run thus far on an issue which reveals a whole lot about ole Dan Knossos, further setting up the rest of the series in the process.

SHUTTER features the series’ most experimental structure to date, which is saying something. Three different narratives play out all at once – set across decades – all revealing things about the other, all playing off each other. It can be read in almost any order, but I advise to just read it from beginning to end, then go back however you want to catch all the criss-crossing. Some of the series’ biggest reveals are in this issue, but you need to dig in for them.

More to come.