"Sustainable Cinema" is a series of kinetic public sculptures that merge natural power with visual illusions to create a moving image. The artworks combine references to both the optical illusion toys that led to the invention of movies and early energy sources. By referencing the histories of both film and industrialization, these sculptures explore a possible future of environmentally responsible media—looking forward by looking back.
As an artist who mixes cinema with sculpture, I often focus on optics and how the moving image is created. "The Book of Film Care," a 1983 publication by Kodak, boasted that their film was "animal, vegetable, and mineral"—bragging that all the materials used to make the celluloid of the movie industry came from the natural world. The term "silver screen" derives from the actual embedding of silver into silk fabric, and even earlier shadow puppet shows projected onto opaque animal skin. This series of artworks considers alternative systems to create a moving image as if cinema had continued to evolve with sustainable elements instead of being influenced by the industrial and digital ages.
Culture’s spreading audiovisuality means that we are surrounded by screens, yet we rarely understand the technology behind them; few people could explain how a movie appears on an iPhone. These sculptures offer a moment when the mystery of the moving image can be grasped. They are simple illusions created with simple energy to make us reflect on how removed we are from the original magic of the moving image. It is a primal media experience, which, due to the rapid development of cinema technologies, is no longer an oxymoron.
Additionally, the source of their power changes the effect of the moving image in the sculptures. These machines directly and visibly capture the energy of the Earth. As a result, the animations seem to be channeling a life force. While part of the intrigue comes from the automaton element that is intrinsic in the work, their natural power source acts as a voice for the living Earth.
An irony of the green energy movement is that the oldest energy forms, for example wind and water, are considered new replacements for more recently developed ones, like oil and coal. Sustainable energy is a re-imagining of the old, and these works aspire to do the same by re-imagining early cinema systems.
Additionally, they have been designed for public spaces, so they can stimulate general awareness and conversation about sustainable development. The cinematic elements first entertain and then inform the public about the fundamentals of sustainable design. The sculpture takes the abstract principles of sustainable energy and makes them tangible; by simplifying the processes, it becomes more accessible.
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Scott Hessels is an internationally recognized filmmaker and media artist who merges cinema with new technologies to create innovative media experiences. Over the past 30 years, he has released artworks in media including film, video, web, music, broadcast, print, kinetic sculpture, and performance. His films have been shown in hundreds of international film festivals and his new media installations have been presented in exhibitions around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, CiberArt in Bilbao, The Ford Presidential Museum, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, and Japan's Media Art Festival. They have also been included in several books on new media art and magazines like Wired and Discover. His recent projects have mixed film with sensors, robotics, GPS systems and alternative forms of interactivity and have included partnerships with NASA, The Federal Aviation Administration and Nokia among others. He is currently with City University at the School of Creative Media.