Visualising empires decline

4 minutes

Random events

31 minutes

Las del diente

5 minutes

The river

4 minutes

The story of government cheese

7 minutes

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Colonialism as mitosis – the rise and fall of empires, rendered as cell division

During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, Great Britain, France, Portugal and Spain controlled vast territories across the globe through a combination of seapower, economic control and brute force. This video from the Portuguese visualisation designers Pedro M Cruz and Penousal Machado charts the rise and fall of these four largest maritime empires, from 1776 and the American War of Independence, right up to 2009, when the once-expansive land claims of these nations barely extended beyond the European continent. The duo illustrates the centuries-long process of decolonisation as a kind of mitosis, with newly independent nations splitting off from the colonial powers. According to Cruz, the soft, cellular bodies used for the visualisation are meant to convey the ‘volatility and dynamic nature’ of these empires over time.

Video by Pedro M Cruz and Penousal Machado

Composer: CHOP WOOD

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A classic film finds order in randomness with the aid of some improbably elaborate sets

The Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) was formed in 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the mission to create science-education materials for US high-school classrooms. In this PSSC film from 1961, the physics professors J N Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey of the University of Toronto deploy their expertise – as well as some seriously elaborate sets – to demonstrate how, with enough data, highly predictable patterns can emerge from unpredictable events. This version of Random Events has been visually and aurally enhanced by the Aeon Video team. For more elaborate educational wizardry from the PSSC, watch Frames of Reference.

Director: John Friedman

Visual restoration: Tamur Qutab

Audio restoration: Adam D’Arpino

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A magical mystery trip through the complex connections in women’s bodies

‘Girls are weird. Babies are weird. Bodies are extra weird,’ says the Spanish animator Ana Pérez López. In Las del Diente, she uses excerpts from candid conversations with three women as a canvas for a refreshingly honest and unapologetic meditation on modern womanhood. The anecdotes are enriched with hallucinatory animated sequences and percussive interludes, transforming their conversations about social pressure and biological anomalies into a surreal celebration of being female, in all its multitudes – from having your body treated like a business to contending with deeply conflicted feelings about having children.

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‘Where is it that we are?’ A poet conjures a journey along the waters of the afterlife

The short film The River evocatively adapts the US spoken-word poet Anis Mojgani’s performance of ‘To Where the Trees Grow Tall’ from his book In the Pockets of Small Gods (2018). Mojgani invokes a surreal scene of confusion, mystery and casual conversations between newly deceased strangers in a piece that envisions its listeners in their coffins, ‘clanging down the river, with all the other coffins in the water of the next world’. The US filmmaker Kristian Melom pairs this performance with split-screen images of the poet navigating a cityscape and a journey down a serenely flowing river. Through Mojgani’s words and Melom’s images, death – like life – is rendered as at once mundane and deeply enigmatic.

Director: Kristian Melom

Producer: AIR Serenbe

Executive Producer: J Brandon Hinman

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Before ‘government cheese’ was a punchline, it was an experimental economic plan

Today, the term ‘government cheese’ is perhaps most commonly associated with the late US comedian Chris Farley and his 1993 Saturday Night Live sketch in which a motivational speaker warns a couple of wayward teens that, if they don’t get their act together, they’ll soon be ‘living in a van down by the river’ on a steady diet of the stuff. But before it became well-worn comedy fodder, the dairy surplus was the result of a 1977 US government initiative to support farmers and assure the country’s control of its own food supply. However, as this charming (or irritating, depending on your lactose tolerance) cheese-filled explainer from NPR’s Planet Money details, the whole endeavour went a bit haywire. And although the ‘government cheese’ programme effectively ended in the 1990s, its legacy has left the US a bit milk-bloated ever since.

Producers: Bronson Acuri, Ben Naddaff-Hafrey

Website: Planet Money

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Colonialism as mitosis – the rise and fall of empires, rendered as cell division

During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, Great Britain, France, Portugal and Spain controlled vast territories across the globe through a combination of seapower, economic control and brute force. This video from the Portuguese visualisation designers Pedro M Cruz and Penousal Machado charts the rise and fall of these four largest maritime empires, from 1776 and the American War of Independence, right up to 2009, when the once-expansive land claims of these nations barely extended beyond the European continent. The duo illustrates the centuries-long process of decolonisation as a kind of mitosis, with newly independent nations splitting off from the colonial powers. According to Cruz, the soft, cellular bodies used for the visualisation are meant to convey the ‘volatility and dynamic nature’ of these empires over time.

Video by Pedro M Cruz and Penousal Machado

Composer: CHOP WOOD

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