Project 4: Urban intervention

If someone says “give me five”, they want to hit your open hand against theirs as a way of congratulation or greeting.

Every year, there are new students come to school and some students graduated from school.

My vinyl sticker placed on the door is to show the greetings to new students and to celebrate the grads’ success. At the same time, when people pushing the door, they put their hands on the “give me five” sign, it will make them feel cheering and motivated. People can cheer up for things they have accomplished that day, and be motivated to learn more in the class and to achieve their targets.

In general, “give me five” means you are great, or you did a good job. When someone says this, it means he is pleased by the work you’ve done, or he is happy their you share the same idea.

And door is a starting point and ending point of a place. So I put it on the door is because people use their hands to push this door, by opening the door, they will hit the sticker, and this action will give them a psychological reaction.

Urban Intervention

This is one of the five seats in the library lobby. I’ll put this graphic mark on the  chair to see what kind reaction people have after noticing the graphic mark.

You guys wanted some different television from a different culture or something? How about Denmark? Or Sweden?

Lars Von Trier’s Kingdom (Riget):

Realism in the cinema

The Contrasting Impressions of Reality Held by Werner Herzog and Timothy Treadwell

Werner Herzog’s (2005) film, Grizzly Man, is as much a film about the real nature of bears as it is about the real psychological state of Timothy Treadwell, the self-proclaimed bear guardian, naturalist and filmmaker.  Throughout the film, one gains the impression that Herzog is searching for the truth about what compelled Treadwell to adopt such a unique, eccentric attitude towards observing and filming bears.  In particular, Herzog’s (2005) film describes the contrast in outlook that Herzog and Treadwell have regarding nature.  Treadwell depicts the persona of someone who is trying to escape from civilization, and become a bear; he expresses the sentimental view that nature is noble, pure, perfect and peaceful. It is as if Treadwell believes he has found a utopia in Alaska. Yet Herzog depicts the futility of Treadwell’s search for utopia since bears (and nature) exist in a universe where the common character “is not harmony but hostility, chaos and murder.” (Herzog, 2005) While Herzog maintains a sympathetic view of Treadwell’s accomplishments, he does not shy away from exposing some of Treadwell’s weaknesses or delusions.  As a result, the viewer is presented with a contrasting view of what constitutes the real state of nature and people’s place in it.

Herzog introduces the audience to both the bears and the amazing optimism of Timothy Treadwell.  Treadwell’s idealistic view suggests that he sees himself as a kind warrior who wishes to protect the bears from harm by living among them and adopting aspects of bear behaviour to do so; he believes he can dissolve boundaries between bears and humans, and thus treat them confidently like pets in some sort of modern day utopia.  However, even Treadwell must have realized the great risks he was taking in pursuing his dream.  At the beginning of Herzog’s documentary, Treadwell admits the degree of danger posed by the bears in the Alaskan wilderness: “If I show weakness, I’m dead.  They will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me up into bits and pieces.” (Burkeman, 2006, p. 6). It is even more astonishing that Treadwell’s admission is an accurate projection of his eventual fate in the Alaskan wilderness, under the claws and teeth of a savage grizzly bear.

For the most part, Werner Herzog’s film is composed of selections from the 100 hours of footage which Treadwell captured during his thirteen years in the Alaskan wilderness.  Evidently, Herzog has perused the 100 hours of footage in search of some explanation for Treadwell’s unusual approach to idealistic naturalism.  Herzog’s quest is certainly interesting since Treadwell’s outlook contrasts so sharply with the conventional beliefs which Herzog shares with the audience of his film.  For example, Herzog (2005) states that the essence of nature is chaos, hostility, murder.  In a number of instances, Herzog resorts to quoting other people who share a similar view of nature.   The helicopter pilot who helped to recover Treadwell’s body, and that of his girlfriend, says the following about Treadwell’s treatment of bears and his gross miscalculation about nature: “He was  treating them like people in bear costumes.  He got what he deserved.  The tragedy of it is, he took the girl with him.” Such a statement surely supports Herzog’s view that nature is dangerous, a point quite contrary to what Treadwell believed.  Moreover, when the statement is heard in the shadow of Treadwell’s death, it supports Herzog’s side of things and refutes Treadwell’s contention that bears are cute Disney-like creatures (Burkeman, 2005, p. 6).

Herzog’s cautionary tone is never far from the surface of the narrative.  At regular intervals, Herzog’s rational, unsentimental view of nature conflicts with the often irrational, unbridled ecstasy which Treadwell exhibits in the Alaskan wilderness. Treadwell depicts an optimistic, almost childlike tone when he is describing the bears, and is clearly using personification to create his preferable image of his bears (Charnov, 2005). However, Treadwell had considered his survival for 13 years in the bush with the bears as a testament to his ability to gain their respect, become a part of their community, and to achieve a degree of harmony beyond what most people could ever imagine (Charnov, 2005).  Certainly, such sentiments are highly idealistic, and Treadwell seems to believe these sentiments earnestly.  Film footage which shows Treadwell’s respectful, exuberant admiration of the bears is genuine, as are some of the actions he takes on their behalf.  For instance, Treadwell alters the flow of a drought-afflicted creek to aid the swimming of fish which are crucial to the food supply of the bears.  When the drought worsens, Treadwell even invokes the power of God to bring rains to save the bears from potential starvation.  If he lacked sincerity about the bears, he would surely not have gone to such trouble on their behalf.

To counter Treadwell’s sincere belief in a unified, peaceful nature – and certainly amiable bears having affection for a human – Herzog reveals a side of bear behaviour to which Treadwell was either blind or in denial.  Despite the many instances where Treadwell’s exuberant, adoring words and actions give the impression that he might be living in harmony with bears, Herzog’s close-up of one of these bears shows something else.  The eyes of the bear and its general body language show emotional indifference towards Treadwell; the bear may be tolerating the human presence, but that is about it.  The harsh reality of nature which Treadwell ironically shows in some of his footage seems to defeat any quaint notions that he might have about the bears.  The bears are genetically and environmentally programmed to survive in a harsh environment; their main object is to gather food and reproduce.  As long as Treadwell does not threaten their safety or ability to survive, they might tolerate his presence.  Herzog supports his view by showing some scenes where the brutal side of nature shocks Treadwell to his very marrow: the images of the head and shoulders of a chewed fox, and the leg and paw of a bear cub which had been eaten by a hungry bear.  Any notion that nature is somehow idyllic and peaceful is shattered by these images.  Indeed, the images fit in with Herzog’s bleak, but realistic, view of the world.  Harmony, as Treadwell would like to see it, does not exist in nature.

Nevertheless, Herzog does support Timothy Treadwell’s achievements where credit is deserved.  For instance, Herzog applauds the artistry of Treadwell’s intimate portrait of nature.  One must even respect the many hours of footage where Treadwell captures grizzly bears undertaking daily activities in their natural element.  Herzog offers the greatest admiration for some glorious improvised moments in nature, such as the scenes where he is running with a fox and later petting its head as if it is a pet dog.  Herzog does not intend to diminish Treadwell’s remarkable gift for getting close to nature, such as the priceless image of a bumble bee resting on a pink flower.  Rather, Herzog uses his film to distinguish between fact and fantasy with respect to Treadwell’s position on nature, and man’s potential relation to nature.  In fact, Herzog seeks reasons for Treadwell’s departure from a rational view of nature as a beautiful but often dangerous force.

Herzog uses far more than just his personal outlook about nature to determine the reasons for why Treadwell took such a dramatic departure from the conventional stance that nature is populated by ferocious predators which kill weaker creatures for the sake of survival.  Based on the investigation Herzog makes of Treadwell’s personal life, it is apparent that Treadwell was highly pessimistic about his place in civilization.  Herzog refers to some of Treadwell’s confessions about being a reformed alcoholic.  The discovery that Treadwell failed to become a Hollywood actor provides an extra reason for why Treadwell had to construct a utopia for himself.  Since he was unable to succeed in the conventional world through conventional measures, he would retreat from that world to nature and use unconventional means to achieve the recognition he craved.

How much of Treadwell’s unconventional behaviour was fabricated?  This is a question that certainly interests Herzog as a seeker of the truth.  In keeping with his prime mission as a documentary filmmaker, Herzog assembles evidence which suggests that a good part of Treadwell’s public persona was invented, such as his phoney Australian accent and his claim of being from Australia.  He also gave the false impression that during the last 2 expeditions he was alone with the bears, when some footage actually shows that his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, was with him.  Towards the end of the film, though, it becomes clear that these falsehoods were used like costumes and make-up in a movie.  Treadwell wished so much to escape civilization and his past by re-inventing himself.  As Herzog concedes, Treadwell became a star of his own invention.  By using his innate courage and recklessness, he was able to pursue his ultimate passion: his love of animals and nature.

The contrast between the rational, truth-seeking Herzog and the irrational, manic and sometimes paranoid Treadwell begins to widen at the end of the film.  Despite his clear devotion to the bears and the natural habitat in which they live, Treadwell has actually placed the bears in danger.  As noted by Charnov (2005), Treadwell’s presence in the bear’s habitat is what makes Herzog’s work a horror film. In some ways Treadwell does realise the danger, but his manic side and misplaced courage urge him towards destruction.  It is this aspect of the film which Herzog questions the need for Treadwell to be so close to the bears, and to habituate them to humans – a point which is described as being of harm to the bears by experts (Owen, 2006).  Moreover, the paranoid strain evident in Treadwell’s personality suggests that his concerns about the bears’ safety at the hands of poachers may be exaggerated.  Indeed, Treadwell’s presence contributed to the death of Amie Huguenard and also to the death of a bear he purportedly was trying to protect (Owen, 2006).

Ultimately, Herzog’s pessimistic, but rational, view of nature does prevail in the film.  Much of the evidence shows that man cannot cross the divide between humanity and wild creatures.  To do so is bound to lead eventually to death and destruction.  Bears do not possess human emotions or sentiments.  Their considerable contrast with humans results in a divide which should be respected and not crossed.  Accordingly, Treadwell’s idealistic portrayal of nature was seriously flawed.  While he may have presented many invaluable images of grizzly bears in their natural habitat, he failed to convey a realistic portrayal of bear behaviour with respect to humans.  The harmony he was so earnestly seeking in his imagined utopia could hardly have existed as the hungry bear chewed Amie and himself to death in 2003.  This is the poignant reminder that Herzog gives the audience lest others develop a manic idealism to live with bears.


References

Burkeman, Oliver. (2006, January 27).  Fatal Attraction.  The Guardian, p. 6.

Charnov, Elaine.  (2005).  Grizzly Man: Nature Documentary as Horror Film.  www.scienceandfilm.org

Herzog, Werner.  (2005).  Grizzly Man.  Lions Gate Films.

Owen, James.  (2006, Feb. 5).  “Grizzly Man” Movie Spurs New Looks at a Grisly Death.  National Geographic News.  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/news