ON SCREEN from
"Lamina," from the May 2019 issue, "Body Images"
By Allison Palenske, contributor
Lamina is a seven-minute experimental film directed by artist and designer Christian Tschanz. Set to a meditative soundtrack, the film opens with shifting images of a barren landscape with a luminous haze lingering in the center of the frame. The background and foreground pan in and out of focus, revealing various geological features in an otherwise motionless environment. In this desolate scene the viewer is introduced to the film’s first character, a personified mass of dark peat-colored rubble. Appearing to have materialized from the earth, the character slowly treads across the volcanic sands.
The character, wearing what the artist refers to as an “earth costume” made of over 900 “earth chunk pieces,” emerges from the desert to travel across varied terrain. The earthen figure is seen clumsily plodding through grasslands, bogs, and spongy moss-covered mounds. The costume resembles a suit of armor, as if the character is attempting to create a barrier between themselves and the surrounding environment. However, the line between human and nature is blurred as the textural quality of the character’s rock-like epidermis reflects that of the landscape.
Midway through the film, viewers are introduced to two additional characters, who are portrayed in a more familiar human form. A woman’s mouth becomes home to a group of bumblebees and a warm light is seen glowing from beneath her skin; a man’s skin resembles wet mud, which quickly dries and forms desiccated cracks. Again, the line between human and nature is blurred with the organic textures and ecological functions expressed through these characters.
The film then meets the earthen character back at the seaside, where their mineral composition meets an aquatic element, falling into a latter phase of the geologic cycle with the character’s form eroding into the sea. The film’s sequential plot, in addition to its location in Iceland, speaks to the cyclical qualities of life in both human and non-human forms. Viewers watch the protagonist travel from young lava-formed landscapes through to more complex ecosystems and thriving habitats. In drawing a connection between these environs, largely devoid of sentient life, and the materiality of human life forms, the film expresses a connectedness between the individual and the natural world.
Rather than pitting man against nature, the film envisions the possibility of man becoming Nature.