Robert Gerard Pietrusko & Courtney Stephens resurrect lost ecologies

 A nostalgic video collage featuring music from Robert Gerard Pietrusko’s latest album, Elegiya.

“What if humans used the media archive to resurrect former ecologies?” asks designer and composer Robert Gerard Pietrusko and filmmaker Courtney Stephens, who have come together in collaboration for The Room: Restoring Eden, a beautiful, quietly probing video collage featuring ‘The Room’, a track from Robert Gerard Pietrusko’s latest album, Elegiya. Stitching together footage lifted from 20th century Soviet archives, Stephens ruminates on what he terms the “hyper-natural beauty” of the natural world caught on film in an exploration of our changing biosphere. By charting a through-line between 16mm archival footage, early video and computer graphics, Stephens seeks to enact a filmic resurrection of our fallen world, reconfiguring our focus through the magic of light and sound.


“Scientists now estimate that human-induced climate change was underway by the mid-19th century. This means that the entire history of non-fiction cinema, regardless of its original intent, has also been a documentation of  our changing biosphere,” explains the collaborators. “As film scholar Jennifer Peterson has noted, the early documentarists who filmed frogs and glaciers thought that they were capturing elements of an ever-renewing world, but within these recordings we now find  evidence of extinct species, fleeting ecological niches, and not-yet-spoiled landscapes. The Room is not about these lost ecologies but about future world-building through the evidence they offer.”


“The nature footage that appears in The Room was drawn from mid to late 20th century Soviet archives, and includes 16mm documentary footage, early video, and computer graphics,” they continue. “In its marginalia—from color palette, to set design, to pixel  resolution—it reveals the many micro-eras of 20th century media. Artifacts of a vanished state, the films presented  visions of a future that never came, with nature and humans harmoniously entangled. The Room uses these collected moments of natural, and sometimes hyper-natural, beauty to resurrect a fallen planet through the magic of cinema. It is through these magical properties that the video promises some kind of remastered Eden. Fitting, as the Eden story has always been about framing nature for human consumption, and losing it irrevocably.”


Elegiya sees Robert Gerard Pietrusko considering the meaning and form of the elegy, specifically the extent to which the creation and performance of an elegy functions as an always-accumulating repetition of the original sorrow experienced during the death that inspired the elegy in the first place. “Similarly, Elegiya is based on five piano motifs that are repeated with constant variation and extrapolation across the album’s nine tracks,” explains Pietrusko. “In structure, harmony, and timbre each piece attempts to capture the contradictory condition of a macro-level stasis versus a tumultuous interior, rigorous movement but no progression, and a threat of its own undoing.”

‘The Room’ is taken from Elegiya, which is out now on Room40. You can find Robert Gerard Pietrusko on Instagram and visit his website. For more information about Courtney Stephens and her work you can visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

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