Katerina Athanasopoulou’s animation film Apodemy was created in 2012 and it has a very impressive record so far. It won the international Lumen Prize for animation, it has been screened in many festivals and a lot of articles have been written about it. Its creator is Greek and I accidentally met her in the street, in London where we both live. We ended up chatting that whole evening but she told me nothing of her admirable achievements something which retrospectively I hugely appreciated. When she gave me her card to keep in touch I stumbled upon Apodemy and I was left truly speechless.
The reason for writing about this film now after all the press it has received already is partly that it will be screened in a few days at the University of Sussex for the ‘Chronicles of Crisis’ conference. The true reason is that it touched me deeply and I wanted to say something about it. After all it is very architectural.
Leaving aside for a minute the film’s artistic implications I wanted to discuss the architectural representation which is one of its main features. Currently most architectural practices in the world produce 3d drawings and animations. Usually the clients require them in order to understand better the buildings since physical scale-models are very expensive. Even though many young architects are very familiar with producing this sort of drawings and animations, what they come up with is not necessarily any good. In fact most 3d representations look wrong but they still seem to be a necessary evil. Apodemy is a shining example of quality and a glimpse of what good aesthetics in 3D CAD can actually look like. I cannot really put my finger on the particular details that make Apodemy beautiful compared to most architectural 3d renderings which (to say the least) are not very beautiful. Maybe it is the colour and texture palette or maybe it is the fact that this film was not produced by an architect and especially it was not meant to sell a building to a client.
Its atmosphere is dystopian and retro-futuristic. It could be placed in the past, the future; in a dream or a nightmare. This city is abandoned by anyone who has a head because even the birds which fly around the cage-vehicle in order to set it in motion, are just pairs of loosely feathered wings. Still, regardless of the absence of life, there is motion. Darkness and decadence are infused with a strange feeling of hope which is not at all obvious. The buildings rotate around themselves similarly to the way we (as architecture students) were warned that our buildings would after an earthquake if they had only one central column. Bare concrete slabs and columns emerge like plants from something which is not exactly earth, water or clouds but a combination of the three. The flyovers are broken at places and reminded me of cities that have endured natural catastrophes, or films that predict the end of the world.
I grew up with comic books and these images brought to my mind illustrated cities by Enki Bilal and Moebius that my imagination inhabited when I was younger. Watching Apodemy though, when the cage-car appeared there was no doubt in my mind that this was Athens, the city where I was born and grew up.
A concrete city, a modernist-architect’s dream, tragically claustrophobic but still promising. A city that wants to ´grow up´ and become Le Corbusier’s City of 10 thousand people. The cage is a yellow trolley bus, a weird means of public transport so intrinsic to my city of origin that it really could not be from anywhere else.
This film touched me deeply because I am also an Athenian who chose to migrate years ago, not yet pressured by destroyed economies and global crises. I wanted to leave because I felt suffocated by something I cannot put words into but somehow is narrated in Apodemy. This film encompasses the wanderlust that brings people to new lands and it spoke to me in particular in my language, that of concrete and rust. However this is a work of art that speaks fluently about the dissociation of modern cities that both pregnant and empty urge us to travel to places that seem far away, but in reality exist inside our own selves.
Apodemy was created by Katerina Athanasopoulou with original music by Jon Opstad .
It was commissioned by Onassis Foundation for Visual Dialogues in 2012 and it was awarded the Lumen Prize for best fine art created digitally in 2013.
It will be screened at the University of Sussex on the 30th of May 2014. Find more information here