“Cinematic poetry of epic scope and ambition — combining the poetic, political and critical in a new digital form”

Ken Anderlini

trance essay » speculative docu-travelogue

Cornell Environmental Film Festival

University of Toronto

DC Environmental Film Society

Pleasure Dome, Toronto

University of Florida | Harn Museum of Art

Embassy of Canada, Washington, D.C.

Ithaca University | Environmental Studies

Through the Looking Glass | Online

Melbourne International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival (Competition)

International Biennale Film & Architecture,
Graz, Austria (Competition)

International Festival of Films on Art, Montréal (Competition)

European Media Arts Festival, Germany

Architectuur FilmFestival Rotterdam as part of the Netherlands Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

Kerala International Film Festival, India

African Architecture Film Festival; Screenings in Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town. 2008/2009

“Filmmaker Oliver Hockenhull’s shockingly beautiful digital video essay on the philosophy of architecture.”

Mari Sasano

A challenging and ambitious mix of experimental drama, travelogue, and poetic personal essay from the maker of Aldous Huxley: The Gravity of Light , Building Heaven, Remembering Earth offers a cross-cultural, pan-historical reflection on how the spiritual and intellectual aspirations of self and society are expressed in, and confined by, the language of architecture. "Beginning with a glimpse of Brueghel's Tower of Babel, this wild and opinionated essay peruses some of the world's most resonant architectural sites, among them the Pantheon of Rome, Palladio's Rotunda, Renzo Piano's New Metropolis, Barcelona for Gaudi, then Mies van der Rohe, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, India.

Director Hockenhull makes exuberant use of digital video's ability to compose and fragment images. Towering, ornamental, and unyielding structures acquire distorted scale and unexpected malleability. The architect searches for man's identity, trapped between the unpredictability of nature and the rigidity of the constructed environment. Building Heaven, Remembering Earth suggests that somewhere in between chaos and form lies the space of our humanity and, perhaps, a new architecture" (Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive).

Other events include the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archives & the Siemens-Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Germany (for the VRML component).
 
Producer/Director: Oliver Hockenhull Music: Lisa Walker Produced with the Assistance of The Canada Council for the Arts, B.C. Cultural Council, The Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund. A co-production with The Banff Centre For The Arts

Architectural VRML Studies and Experiments Spotlighted By
Architecture E Zines:
DEATH BY ARCHITECTURE (1999)
http://deathbyarch.com

& IMAGE  ARCHITETTURA IN MOVIMENTO (1999)
www.architettura.it
 
An Architextural Journey Building Heaven Transcript.pdf

“A breath taking thesis, a bookish subject made delightful and absorbing.”

Adam Freeman

Oliver Hockenhull's voluptuous, textural, and thematically (and experientially) dense essay film is an intricately constructed, stream-of-consciousness meditation on architecture, memory, immortality, and transcendence.

Evoking the sprawling, trans-continental journals of the faceless, globe-trotting (metaphoric) time traveler and ethnographic filmmaker Sandor Krasna in Chris Marker's Sans soleil, Building Heaven, Remembering Earth: Confessions of a Fallen Architect is similarly infused with a certain wide-eyed curiosity and sense of adventure, thoughtfulness, and self-effacing humor.

From the film's introductory anecdote on the first book of architecture, a ten-volume documentation of buildings, machines, and timepieces, Hockenhull presents an implicit interconnection between architecture and time, both serving as materialized representations of projection, shadows, and geometric space. The analogy is subsequently developed in the filmmaker's exposition on the Pantheon in Rome as he reflects on the ancient structure's innate symmetry through negative projection for which the apparent structural complement - and therefore, its spatial negation - occurs at an intersection on an imaginary axis that is defined by infinity. The realization of imaginary intersections and approaching theoretical limits similarly provides the underlying concept for the Aquatic Pavilion in Neeltje Jans, Holland, an example of media architecture in which undulating, nodal mesh forms characterize the functional construct of the numerical data: the ideal form generated by a human-less, synthetic vision of empirical limits and discrete interpolations.

Hockenhull further correlates the process of architectural construction as an innately human quest for immortality - a mortal bridge to the divine (note the thematic correlation to György's underlying futile search for the harmonies of the gods in Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies) - a rapture. It is this ephemeral state of artificially induced transcendence that is thematically threaded to the juxtaposition of images between a heroin addict and the somber, forbidden architecture of New Metropolis, an asymmetric and aesthetically nondescript behemoth commercial space projecting ominously from the industrial landscape of an Amsterdam harbor town, both representing a depersonalization of the individual: the erasure of the human element (which, in turn, expounds on the idea of architecture as a means of achieving closeness to gods).

In correlating the confluence of structure and time, Hockenhull characterizes architecture as commemorations of history. From a statue immortalizing the commander of the Dresden raid (a personally traumatic episode for Hockenhull's father that the filmmaker revisits in the short film Mother, Father, Son) to an examination of the works of artist and architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Hockenhull illustrates the inevitable bifurcation between the conceptually ideal - the "glowing painting of a reconciled world" - and the ravaged artifacts of human history (most notably, in the bullet-ridden pillars of the New Watch Building and the variegated rubble used to line the perimeter of a summer house in postwar, suburban Berlin). It is this corruption and decay of the ideal that is encapsulated in the utilitarian history of the Prince Albrecht Palais, a stately residence later transformed as a headquarters for intelligence gathering and dissemination of propaganda by the Nazis.

Traveling eastward to Asia, Hockenhull then forgoes the inherent politicization of 20th century European history and returns to the more abstract theme of transcendence through architecture, remarking after a Sergei Eisenstein retrospective in Istanbul of the role of cinema as "time and aspiration of memory", and further concluding that architecture and memory are integrally correlated by the nature of their "pure constructions".

This idea of continuity through memory and architecture - the intertwining of the mortal and the immortal, life and death - is perhaps best represented in the Indian city of Kashi, known as the city of light - a cremation grounds where nature and structures represent, not only ancient relics of the past, but also a continuity and an afterlife.

In essence, the architecture serves as a place of ceremony and ritual: the human imperative to define the amorphous nature of God and consequently, find a path to transcendence. It is this complex interconnection of functionality and meaning that is inevitably embodied by the egg-shaped stone that punctuates the film, an eternal, indefinable object that curiously encapsulates the genesis, mortality, human imprint, and metaphysical enigma of a greater, and unfathomably more complex, immortal design.

Film Ref | Acquarello

"Electronic man has to train his perceptions in a relation to a total environment that includes all previous cultures — simultaneously" 
Marshal McLuhan



The work is very much about the reinvention of ourselves.  And certainly about the digital identity.   The content and formal aspects of the work could not have been achieved with out both technological achievements in digital technology in the past couple of years and the conceptualizations of the virtual body, the virtual world - the bounding together of  distances and spaces, of culture and nature — a vehicle of  transformative possibilities — a complex of references that speaks to the necessity of remembrance of the traditions of the past — and how we may honour the past only by a profound investigation of our present world. 



This 'new' questioning of identity, based on developments in technology that is being raised by the so many contemporary writers is not, of course something new. Pascal and Leibnitz speculated on much the same issues, and even earlier writers and philosophers blew apart the belief in the determining ego as the basis of 'identity'.  

The current belief in a continuing self or ego that is being challenged by the morphic  quality of the binary code is only a blip on the screen anyway in reference to the  history of this question...the question once again as to Who is the Self.

 Reflecting on identity as being ephemeral, linked to desire, and situated finally in nature (the nature of the human as a being driven by a future perfect - the technological utopia- and by the fullness of nature outside of individual identity)- there are tropes (such as the 'blatant' digital dissolving in the catacombs of Rome section and the manipulation of the Tower of Babel picture) which are visual clues as to this referencing of  the 'digital identity' - the identity of uncertainty, non-human, maybe immortal, anonymous.



The subject of architecture is the subject of the human built environment as it relates to human based problems, needs and desires.  These problems are ever new and greater, and these desires are continual reminders of human ingenuity and achievements. 

Through an understanding and appreciation of the cultural codes inherent within the built environment - and importantly- through a cross cultural and comprehensive historical approach we may come to understand ourselves and the completeness of our needs as they relate to our humanity, our human frailty, our spirituality, and the collectivity of our future.

My work tends to combine the political, the poetic and a critical analysis originating from a thorough immersion into the subject at hand.  I also like to play off of a narrative stream.   The tone of this work, its voice speaks from the position of individual mortality and social generation. 

The piece is pervaded by a sense of immediacy and question that engages the audience through the links of historical understanding, human initiative, and  human urgencies.

The intent of this art/essay is to provide emotional, conceptual, and resource tools for imaging a livable tomorrow based on a cross cultural historical and contemporary reading of architectural language.  The work reflects on the sense of unity as it is found in the built environment.  It is concerned about our intellectual and spiritual aspirations as they are bound to the confines of our naked needs in this particular time.

The work is also future focused, concerned with the quest for sustainability, and in referencing the ecological to allow for a deep study of the cultural impact of architecture in how it is we live.
 
A launch pad about the space of tomorrow and the prisons of yesterday.  An immersion on the history/future of architectural meaning inclusive of movies, stories, photos and worlds.
 
post-modern society: a secular form of eternal life -
 
Industrial society has been 'Building Heaven' since the Crystal Palace of London's Great Exposition of 1851. This modern trend reflects a long held human ambition - the construction of an earthly Heaven, - an architecture of Utopian proportions. From Olympia's Temple of Zeus, to the pronouncements of the Russian Constructivists,, to the skyscrapers of Chicago, much of architectural history is driven by a demiurge to bring the perfection of the sky and the geometry of the eternal, to the mortal earth.
 
— an architectural journey, weaving history, theory, and story to arrive at the reveries of evolution —
 
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“Building Heaven,Remembering Earth: Confessions of a Fallen Architect” is unequivocally the best documentary work to be produced in Canada in 1999.”

Peter Wintonick

Melbourne Review


"Combining the poetic, political and critical in a new digital form, Oliver Hockenhull's study of the confines of architecture and the self has been described as unequivocally the best documentary produced in Canada' in the last year. Cinematic poetry of epic scope and ambition, the film constructs and deconstructs a digital personality as part of a probing enquiry into the effects of architecture on consciousness and identity. Hockenhull's work traverses space and time, scrutinising ancient edifices, classic monuments and contemporary structures in a quest for an aesthetic pattern. Examination of Bruegel's Tower of Babel, the Pantheon, Schinkel's Berlin and Renzo Piano's New Berlin, the other-worldly temple of Bhubaneswar in South India and the erotic Sun Temple at Konark casts a wide net for Hockenhull to explore passion, inspiration and religious and philosophical motivation. Offbeat detours are made along the way to examine Amsterdam's singular prostitution industry and even gossip about Albert Speer's ignominious death.

A breath taking thesis, a bookish subject made delightful and absorbing."
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"Building Heaven, Remembering Earth: Confessions of a Fallen Architect" is filmmaker Oliver Hockenhull’s shockingly beautiful digital video essay on the philosophy of architecture. Not a documentary in any traditional sense, it refuses to explain, instead relying on image, poetry and music to meditate on the ideas and implications of buildings, time and existence. “
Mari Sasano, See Magazine.