Remember being taught origami in school when you were a child? You were pretty crappy at it, weren’t you? Marvel, then, at those who are far more at home at the intersection of art and math; with this compelling, new-to-DVD, hour-long documentary, PBS gives audiences an amazing look at artists who have abandoned their ordinary, mundane jobs in favor of turning paper-folding into not only art, but also their new life’s work.
Directed by Vanessa Gould, Between the Folds chronicles the stories of 10 fine artists and intrepid scientists who have alternately abandoned their careers and scoffed at hard-earned graduate degrees — all to forge unconventional lives as modern day paper-folders. As these offbeat and provocative characters converge on the unusual medium of origami, they reinvent an ancient art and demonstrate the innumerable ways that ingenuity and expression come to bear.
Delving into the math involved in some of the intricate work, but not to an unpleasant degree, the documentary paints an arresting portrait of the remarkable artistic
and scientific creativity that fuels this ever-changing art form —
fusing science and sculpture, form and function, the old and the new. The creations on display are of course arresting; perhaps most so is MIT mechanical engineering student Brian Chan’s single-sheet mock-up of his school’s seal, complete with blacksmith and hammer on one side, and scholar and open book on the other. Also interesting is a discussion of the so-called “bug wars” that defined public origami showcases of the 1990s, when one competitor’s six-legged beetle was later trumped by spiders (eight legs!) and scorpions (eight legs, plus pinchers). These aren’t tossed-off creations, obviously; the most complex efforts take weeks to design, and sometimes up to 100 working hours to fold into shape.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Between the Folds comes to DVD presented in anamorphic widescreen. Unlike many PBS titles, there’s also a nice smattering of supplemental content, in the form of the program’s two-minute trailer, and a collection of seven deleted scenes. In these, Erik Demaine talks about the future influence of computer programming on the art, and Paul Jackson lays into an analysis of, well, what’s wrong with paper as a medium. There’s also an eight-minute short film, Origametria, which centers around Miri Golan and the Israeli Origami Center, where paper-folding is used as a tool to teach kids geometry’s more abstract principles. American charter schools take note. To purchase the DVD, call (800) PLAY-PBS. Or to purchase via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) B (Disc)