Robert Todd’s Human Nature Series

Título: Robert Todd’s Human Nature Series

Resumo:  “To err is human.” This phrase is used to describe a component of human nature. In the era of the Anthropocene, it is abundantly clear that the error of our ways, of our nature, is the error of nature at large, or rather “nature” as humanity continues to remake it. The flaws in our design(s) are at issue in this series of works that examine the interplay between Western ideas regarding the “natural world” and our species’ inclinations and designs.

1. Emerald Necklace
A presentation of contiguous landscapes that wind around Boston and Brookline, MA, designed during the Civil War by Frederick Law Olmsted to create an aesthetically pleasing environment within the city. This monument-garden serves as an ostensibly permanent nineteenth-century art exhibition promoting a romantic philosophy that positions “natural” elements as spiritual commodities, and furthers the notion that nature exists in service to humanity, subject to its aesthetic designs and principles. The film also suggests a philosophy jointly held by the landscape architect and the cosmetologist.

2. Over Water
A film that connects scattered pieces of an archaic architecture of water-related infrastructure in the Northeast, including piers, bridges, and canal locks; designs for mastery over water that was once a hallmark of civil construction in past centuries, here conjoined with an archaic ideology that drives Western commerce, an ideology that sees nature as inherently chaotic and in need of our mastery, a mastery that typically centers on, if not requires, commodification of nature as a pool of “resources”.

3. Artificial Atmospheres
Formulated in collaboration with artist and sibling Deb Todd Wheeler, this video displays a variety of mediated representations of layers of atmospheric penumbra, with sources for these miasmas ranging from plastic bags to power plants. These displays make reference to what makes up the “atmosphere”, whether visible or not, that defines the world we continue to create. We used a varied palette of cameras to construct the layers, creating separate levels of mediation that collide, overlap and dissipate in artificial rhythms as they meet within the digital imaging realm, with digital compressions from cameras and computer forming their own atmospheric complications. This artifice is met with a voice that describes terms for measurement and action suggestive of cybernetic respiration, suggesting that our atmospheric machinery is perhaps another example of our anthropocentric designs for regulating the world we live in.

4. The Hills
Distance is at issue in this final chapter of the “Human Nature” series, which speaks of our postioning of the landscape as a source for contemplation as being a form of consumption and thereby invoking claims of ownership. These hills, found within the coal ranges of Eastern Pennsylvania, are marked by our vision as both “nature” and “territory”, subject to varied forms of reverence and exploitation. The film continues OVER WATER’s theme of controlling elements of nature, here complicated (and obviated) by the use of the grid as a trope serving as a reference to not only the literal introduction of powerlines (the energy grid), but more generally to the utility of image in relation to function, the epistemological goals of mapping, and the aspects of control that are intertwined with ownership and consumption.

Autor: Robert Todd
Robert Todd (born 1963) is a Boston-based American filmmaker, known primarily for his short poetic experimental films. He teaches film production at Emerson College. His films have screened at international film festivals including The Rotterdam International Film Festival, The New York Film Festival, The Ann Arbor Film Festival, Media City Festival, and others.



Emerald Necklace
(23:40, 2016, Color 16mm, sound, USA)


Over Water
(31:40, 2015, Color and Black & White 16mm, sound, USA)


Artificial Atmospheres
(19:30, 2016, Color Video, sound, USA)


The Hills
(26:50, 2016, Color Video, sound, USA)