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Eames Films as Meditations on Objects

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Charles and Ray Eames are among the most renowned 20th Century designers. Their influence on the field of design in immeasurable, and their furniture is iconic.

In addition to designing furniture, the Eames were also prodigious film makers. For them, these films were not separate from, but very much an integral part of, their design oeuvre. They are perhaps most well known for their film Powers of 10, which begins with a view of a couple picnicking in Chicago, and then zooms outward and then inward by orders of magnitude, presenting us with perspectives ranging from the outermost galaxies to the innermost regions of human cells.

What stands out about their films is their treatment of objects. Indeed, many of the films focus on a single object or a collection of objects. For example “Blacktop: A Story of the Washing of a School Play Yard” (1952) is a short film that is nothing more than the camera following soapy water as it moves across an asphalt surface, encountering various bits of debris along the way. “Tops” (1969) is a 17 minute poetic documentary on the wide variety of tops and their spinning motions.

These films are delightful meditations on objects. To be sure, these meditations are highly structured and mediated by editing, soundtracks, and in some cases narration.

Unfortunately, few of these films are available to view online. (They can, however, be purchased.)

One of the few Eames films available on line is “Lounge Chair Assembly” (1956), shown below.


Written by cdisalvo

February 13, 2010 at 1:41 am

Posted in design, film