The bicycle’s first century

4 minutes

Ins holz (In the woods)

13 minutes

H₂O

12 minutes

Live streamer

6 minutes

Furniture poetry

5 minutes

From ‘running machines’ to penny-farthings – the wild ride that gave us the modern bicycle

This short French film from 1915, seen here with Dutch intertitles, charts the development of the bicycle over the course of the 19th century. The film begins with a man riding a draisine – invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun in 1818, this was a forerunner of the bicycle that was propelled by walking. From there, we take a wobbly ride through bicycle history, showcasing the evolution to modern, pedal-driven contraptions that have remained mostly unchanged since the 1890s.

The following are translations of the intertitles as numbered in the film:

1. The draisine was invented only a century ago, in 1818 by Baron Drais de Sauerbrun.
3. The vehicle that lies between the draisine and the 1850 bicycle has an improved steering wheel and a fitted brake.
4. In 1863, Pierre Lallement invented pedals that worked on the front wheel.
5. Around 1868, a third wheel was added. Although these tricycles were heavier than the two-wheelers, they were safer.
6. Between 1867 and 1870, various improvements were made, including the increased use of rubber tyres. 
7. In 1875, following an invention by the engineer Trieffault, the frame was made of hollow pipes.
8. Following the fashion of the day, the front wheel was made as large as possible.
9. In 1878, Renard created a bicycle with a wheel circumference of more than 7 feet. Just sitting down on one of these was an athletic feat!
11. At the beginning of 1879, Rousseau replaced the large front wheel with a smaller one, and the chain was introduced on the front wheel for driving power.
12. The bicycle of today.

Editor: guy jones

Surgeons with chainsaws – the breathtaking craft of logging on a Swiss mountainside

In most of the world, logging is now largely the work of massive machinery. But in the steeply sloped woods above Lake Ägeri in Switzerland, a combination of chainsaws, jacks, muscles and gravity is still the most effective means of bringing down trees for lumber. Once every four years, skilled loggers travel to the area to collect mature trees in a sustainable harvesting tradition that, in turn, allows saplings to take in sunlight and flourish. After felling the trees at careful angles, the workers send them careening through the woods with spectacular speed and force until they reach the water below with a satisfying splash. From there, the timber is floated downriver into town. The loggers’ confident expertise masks the immense dangers of the job, which could easily turn deadly in an instant. With stunning cinematography, Ins holz (In the woods) offers a rare look at this nearly extinct practice and the culture that surrounds it, making for a deeply visceral and visually stunning celebration of a hard day’s work.

Directors: Thomas Horat, Corina Schwingruber Ilic

Website: Mythenfilm

A meditative cinepoem from 1929 captures the reflective, ethereal wonders of water

The US photographer and filmmaker Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) is widely considered to be a pioneer of both media, celebrated for his century-spanning work in modernist photography and documentary and avant-garde film. H₂O (1929), his debut short and one of the earliest US art films, is a meditative, visual ode to water in its many forms, focused on the liquid’s various textures and shape-distorting reflective qualities. In a series of static yet dynamic shots, water-spewing pipes and fire hydrants, waterfalls, raindrops, slow-flowing streams, and the shimmering surfaces of near-stagnant bodies appear on screen, with the visuals gradually becoming more abstract as Steiner transitions to closeups of water surfaces. This version of the film features a new original piano score from the Illinois-based composer William Pearson, commissioned by Aeon. H₂O is frequently mentioned alongside another documentary touchstone of the same year: Regen, by the Dutch directors Joris Ivens and Mannus Franken, which celebrates Amsterdam in the rain.

Director: Ralph Steiner

Composer: William Pearson

When being watched is your work – life inside a Chinese live-streaming company

On China’s state-controlled internet, live-streaming fills a role similar to YouTube in the United States, allowing young people to keep up with, and even interact with, their favourite internet personalities. It’s also boomed into a multibillion dollar industry, driven by ‘gifts’ – small amounts of money sent from viewers to streamers – and brand partnerships. Live Streamer chronicles a day in the life of one Beijing-based web personality, Jing Zi, as she offers beauty tips, sings songs and, most popularly, eats for her young fanbase. The work is challenging, requiring her to entertain viewers for up to seven hours a day, but she also says it feels good to be cared for by so many fans. Live Streamer is part of the Shanghai-based US filmmaker Noah Sheldon’s Work-is documentary series, which ‘sets out to catalogue the labour force of China in a more intimate and granular way, using voices and personal histories to colour the notion of what it means to be working in modern China’.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

Playing peekaboo with Wittgenstein: what do objects do when we’re not looking?

Warning: this film features rapidly flashing images that can be distressing to photosensitive viewers. 

‘What prevents me from supposing that this table either vanishes or alters its shape when no one is observing it, and then when someone looks at it again, changes back? But one feels like saying – who is going to suppose such a thing?’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein in On Certainty (1969)

Inspired by the Austrian philosopher’s posthumously published words above on the limits of human perception to account for the outside world, the UK filmmaker Paul Bush constructed the experimental short Furniture Poetry (1999). The stop-motion animation brings to life a universe where fruits, furniture and tableware shift colour and shape when we’re not looking. The result is a simultaneously jarring and amusing visual poem – a dizzying, madcap meditation on our uncertain reality and the limits of knowledge.

Director: Paul Bush

From ‘running machines’ to penny-farthings – the wild ride that gave us the modern bicycle

This short French film from 1915, seen here with Dutch intertitles, charts the development of the bicycle over the course of the 19th century. The film begins with a man riding a draisine – invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun in 1818, this was a forerunner of the bicycle that was propelled by walking. From there, we take a wobbly ride through bicycle history, showcasing the evolution to modern, pedal-driven contraptions that have remained mostly unchanged since the 1890s.

The following are translations of the intertitles as numbered in the film:

1. The draisine was invented only a century ago, in 1818 by Baron Drais de Sauerbrun.
3. The vehicle that lies between the draisine and the 1850 bicycle has an improved steering wheel and a fitted brake.
4. In 1863, Pierre Lallement invented pedals that worked on the front wheel.
5. Around 1868, a third wheel was added. Although these tricycles were heavier than the two-wheelers, they were safer.
6. Between 1867 and 1870, various improvements were made, including the increased use of rubber tyres. 
7. In 1875, following an invention by the engineer Trieffault, the frame was made of hollow pipes.
8. Following the fashion of the day, the front wheel was made as large as possible.
9. In 1878, Renard created a bicycle with a wheel circumference of more than 7 feet. Just sitting down on one of these was an athletic feat!
11. At the beginning of 1879, Rousseau replaced the large front wheel with a smaller one, and the chain was introduced on the front wheel for driving power.
12. The bicycle of today.

Editor: guy jones

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