Between the Folds premiere on PBS


Origami is as ephemeral as art gets - delicate paper, with no more than creases and physics to maintain its shape. It's also the ideal art form for blurring the boundary between art and science, because it's all about geometry. You could argue that the origami medium is math, just as much as it's paper.

That's why Between the Folds, a documentary film by Vanessa Gould about origami-happy artists, mathematicians and scientists "working in the shadows between art and math," is such a success: the connections between math, science, art and paper aren't strained at all, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Check out the PBS promo teaser (less than a minute long):

The filmmakers spend a surprising amount of time on interviews with the origamists, rather than slideshows of their work. And that angle makes sense, because while the work will leave you impressed (and hitting rewind/pause on your TiVo), it's even more interesting to watch how the eccentric personalities of the origamists are expressed in their diverse styles of folding. Eric Joisel is a French artist whose tiny elfin sculptures involve thousands of folds - he admits his dedication to the art form makes him "le masochist". Vincent Floderer, an "avant-garde" origami artist who uses "the crumpling technique," sees his form of paper-folding as "abandoning the imposition of order." No sequential numbered diagrams for him!

The other end of the order/chaos extreme is represented by Chris Palmer (no relation), who creates rigorous and complex geometric arrays, used to live in a cave in Grenada, and is joined by a friendly squirrel during his interview. Then there's MIT's youngest professor ever, the ponytailed computer scientist Erik Demaine, who was homeschooled in math, computer science, and origami by his dad (who looks disturbingly like an older version of him, ponytail and all). Between the Folds is an eccentric and unpredictable little film, full of eccentric, fascinating souls.


I enjoyed this film very much, and highly recommend it. The only real downside is that the film's narration leaves a bit to be desired, reaching a bit too often for the kind of easy platitudes we've all heard about science and art. (Where is Stephen Fry when you really need him?) My advice is to ignore the narration, because the visuals and the interviews do the heavy lifting. Just enjoy the origami - it's well worth it. Best of all, the supporting PBS website includes a handy list of the artists featured in the film - like physicist and "hyper-realist" Robert Lang, responsible for the scorpion below, and many other detailed insects - which makes it easy to get online and go straight to more of their work. Trust me, you're going to want to!


Between the Folds premieres on PBS this Tuesday at 10pm in most areas. Thanks to the folks at Independent Lens for giving me a chance to preview this great little film!

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Will watch. Adrian, Robert Lang's video is a good introduction.

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By Scott Berg (not verified) on 09 Dec 2009 #permalink

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