The Museum of Arts and Design

Godfrey Reggio: Movies With A Message

Saida Santana

The Museum of Arts and Design in New York presents a retrospective of iconic American filmmaker Godfrey Reggio.

New York’s Museum of Art and Design (MAD) presents an exhibition of the oeuvre of experimental filmmaker Godfrey Reggio. The retrospective of his visual work will be on view from January 16th through March 14th. This is a great opportunity to discover Reggio’s enigmatic movies or to view them for the first time.

Godfrey Reggio

Life with Technology: The Cinema of Godfrey Reggio is a celebration of this unique American artist and activist, a cinematic pioneer of the effects of digital technology on our convoluted lives. The brilliant scores by Philip Glass are always present in Reggio’s poetic films. Among the pieces in the exhibition, visitors will be able to view two of his less known documentaries: Anima Mundi and Evidence, in addition to a screening of his latest film Visitors. To complete the curatorial agenda of MAD’s show, Reggio will impart a master class on January 23rd.

Godfrey Reggio was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Beyond his documentary work, his life has been marked by community projects such as the People’s Clinic, the Young Citizens for Action Project, which helps youth gang members in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or the Institute for Regional Education, a nonprofit foundation focused on the development of media, art, social organization and research.

In addition, the artist was part of the order of the Christian Brothers, and devoted himself to silence, fasting and prayer for 14 years. No doubt, these events have contributed to Reggio’s development as a director whose films challenge traditional narrative structures to become true visual poems.

As a director, Godfrey Reggio has been a leading force in cinema for the past 30 years. His Qatsi trilogy is a reflection on the complex relationship between human beings, modern technology and the natural world. Qatsi consists of three films with titles in Hopi language and seasoned by the music of Glass.

Godfrey Reggio

Koyaanisqatsi, which means “life out of balance,” is the first film of the trilogy and the one that won international acclaim for the filmmaker in 1982. In this documentary feature, Reggio interweaves various events around the world in a series of collages: a demolition, bustling cityscapes, detonating bombs, an assembly line, and a curated selection of striking images delivered with poetic lyricism.

Reggio secured his place in cinematic history with Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002), which complete the Qatsi trilogy. In both works, the images are accompanied by the Philip Glass‘ extraordinary scores, which enhance and highlight the sensory experience.

Powaqqatsi, which means, “changing life”, focuses on the overall effect of industrialization in the southern hemisphere, as well as the impact of technology on our spiritual traditions. Meanwhile, Naqoyqatsi, the final chapter of the trilogy, is perhaps the strongest and most provocative, a warning, evident on the movie’s title “life as war”. Through different film techniques, this feature presents a world that has completed the transition from natural to artificial.

Godfrey Reggio

Also on view at MAD, the last joint work from Reggio and Glass, Visitors (2013), a portrait without words of modern life filmed in black and white and presented by filmmaker Steven Soderberg. This film offers a meditative look at the relationship between human beings and technology.

His short film Anima Mundi (1992) is a 28-minute journey without words or text that explores, one more time, our intrusion in the natural environment through 70 animal species. The short showcases the amazing variety and beauty of wildlife all over the planet. Evidence (1995) is only seven minutes long, but it is enough to carry shocking images filmed in Rome. The images of children watching a TV set the audience cannot see, provoke a disturbing reflection on the effects of modern life in the youngest amongst us.

To Reggio’s credit, we should mention that the auteur’s intimate portraits of life with technology, long precede the availability of phenomena such as twitter, 3d printing and Google glasses, to name just a few. This exhibit brings us, through epic images, the privilege of questioning our evolution in the digital era.


© | 2019