Watching Science: Films For Experiments

The moving image began as a phenomenon—a rift in time, suddenly and radically re-presenting the constantly fleeting movement of life, opening it up to both appreciation and scrutiny. The subjects of the very first movies bear testament to that novelty: analyses of human and animal movement revealing, for instance, how a horse completely leaves the ground at a gallop. While cinema has developed both for commercial and artistic expression, the very same cameras, film and lenses also spawned a purely practical lineage as tools of rote observation, helping us to look at the world in a way that our own eyes don’t allow: a mechanical vision, not a human vision. These two breeds of moving image have been in constant intercourse through the evolution of their mechanical technology—high speed cameras, macro-photography, and advanced recording media, for instance, developed for one “movie industry” and taken up by the other—yet the rest of their lives (viewership, function and appreciation) remain distant and distinct. In this program, we transpose some of these scientific films into the cinema they were never invited to—along with some of the avant-garde films that seek to span the gap between art and observation—to take another look, ourselves, at what this re-seeing tool is really good for.