The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (2008). A wonderfully written overview of the men (and women) of science in the 18th century. Especially the parts on Joseph Banks’ anthropological explorations on Tahiti and Herschel’s stellar discoveries are amazing. For some reason the excitement feels very romantic and personal, because of this (and the intriguing characters) the book really reads like a novel rather than a non-fiction work. Also, I am very fond of all things that are about the pleasure of finding things out; exploration and experimentation, especially so when it deals with archaic technology (for today’s standards).
I love short films, here are four I really love: Brumes d’automne by Dimitri Kirsanoff, Street of Crocodiles by the Brothers Quay, The Intimate Stars by Makino Takashi and Early Abstractions by Harry Smith. Four works that are interesting to me, because of the experimentation, the craftsmanship and the romantic aspects. ‘Brumes d’automne’ is an avant-garde film from 1928, a wonderful impressionistic work about melancholy. It is very moving without being particularly narrative, which I find quite exceptional. It is one of those very few films I can watch over and over again, without getting bored by it, probably especially because it is more similar to a poem than to a story. ‘Street of Crocodiles’ is eerie and romantic at the same time, I’m addicted to the stop motion work and the weird universum the Brothers Quay create within their films. Although this isn’t meant to be about music, I must just mention that the soundtrack for this work is stunning too. ‘The Intimate Stars’ is one of the early works of the Japanese film maker Makino Takashi (who I believe used to work for the Brothers Quay). Although very experimental, Makino’s work is also very personal at times. In this work, which is way less abstract than his newer (also brilliant) films, he explores the things that are truly yours; the things you see when you close your eyes and things going on the the subconscious. It’s a treat for your eyes. Another treat are the early experimental film works of Harry Smith (best known for his ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’), the early abstractions are just that, abstract experiments on film. Even though there is no meaning to the film, it is utterly beautiful, all kinds of textures and forms are shown in this exploration of the possibilities of working with film. As with Kirsanoff’s work, I can watch these over and over, simply because it is so wondrously beautiful.
Radio Kootwijk, the Netherlands. This place combines things I really love: old industrial buildings, open space and nature. Located in the middle of a nature reserve there is this colossal building, a concrete cathedral which used to be a longwave radio transmitter for communication with Indonesia (which was then a colony of the Netherlands, a part of Dutch history which isn’t without controversy to say the least…). From the giant hall within the building one has a wonderful view over the surrounding grasslands. A truly amazing place to be and walk around, especially in silence.