Japanese school children have folded boxy paper cranes and animals for centuries. Akira Yoshizawa (1911-2005), considered the father of modern origami, opened up a whole new world, bringing gestural qualities and emotion to his creations. And he ushered in revolutionary levels of complexity by diagramming figures. With a vaguely pretentious narrator and new-age music, Vanessa Gould's Between the Folds jumps right into a Pynchonesque proposition that something about folding things will unlock secrets of the universe, even suggesting that form is more important than substance.
Since Yoshizawa created a wet-folding technique and started diagramming, designs have exploded from 30 to 20 folds per piece to hundreds and even thousands. In the 1990s, designers initiated the "Bug Wars," in which they bested each other by folding spiders, scorpions, centipedes and all sorts of multilegged and tentacled creatures from single pieces of paper. Robert Long (www.longorigami.com) walked away from a prestigious academic career in physics to fold paper. He pioneered ever more complex figures and also applied the technique to engineering projects. He created the design for a collapsible telescopic lens to be sent into space in compact form and unfolded on a satellite. There also are mathematical applications. At the end of Gould's film, MIT wunderkind Erik Demaine (homeschooled, entered college at 12, tenured as a professor at 20) talks about collaborating with scientists on how protein molecules fold, questioning if properly folded synthetic proteins can be used to attack viruses.
There is a sense of Zen to the complexity that can be achieved from the simplicity of folding a single paper square. In terms of both art and science, the figures in the film alone are mind-boggling, including dragons with hundreds of scales, human figures with fully articulated fingers and faces, etc. There also are pieces by the anarchic French paper crumplers known as Les Crimps. The screening is followed by a reception with guests from the New Orleans Japan Society. Free admission. — Will Coviello
Between the Folds
6 p.m. Sat., Nov. 21
Antenna Gallery, 3161 Burgundy St.;