A Curious Cephalopod

Jean Painleve's "Love Life of the Octopus" screens at Studio for Urban Projects

“I believe that the totemic image for the future is the octopus. This is because the squids and octopi have perfected a form of communication that is both psychedelic and telepathic; a model for the human communications of the future.”
(Terence McKenna)

Octopuses and giant squids have captivated humans for centuries. Big head, predatory beak, prominent eyes and many dexterous limbs. They sprawl in myths and nightmares. (Medieval sailors got their rum bottles in knots just thinking about them.) They undulate, fold, change appearances and make jet-propelled getaways with smokescreen just like a James Bond movie.

Learn more about these amazing animals tonight. A Curious Cinema: Love Life of the Octopus is an one-of-a-kind workshop designed for “6 to 106 year-olds”, aiming to induce wonder and demystify. Presented by curator Marina McDougall and educator Bryan Welch, the Friday evening program includes rare short films, a squid art project and dissection of a large squid. (Vegetarian dinner included).

Monster or myth? Those eight-armed aliens (some with suckers that glow) are really soft sociable folk. Smart, too. Allover. Two-thirds of their neurons hang out in their limbs.

Participants from previous "A Curious Cinema" workshop (Dec. 2009)

Participants from previous "A Curious Cinema" workshop (Dec. 2009)

“They’re interesting, noble and personable aquatic animals,” says Welch.
Welch has been working in alternative education and outdoor education for thirteen years. Martial arts, media literacy, environmental science and sociology of gameplay are some of the diverse courses he’s taught.  He’s currently directing a documentary chronicling the history of the Modern School movement, a 50 year experiment in educational freedom and communal living.

McDougall and Welch also run A Curious Summer, a summer camp program that explores urban environment by integrating sophisticated laboratory work with creative play. Welch hopes to supplement kids’ education through interdisciplinary workshops, whether they are homeschoolers or students attending public schools affected by increasingly drastic budget cuts.

Tonight’s cephalopod themed event is the third workshop of A Curious Cinema series which began last December. It takes place at the Studio for Urban Projects, an artist collaborative and venue co-founded by McDougall. The film “Love Life of the Octopus” (1967, 14 min.) will be screened. Filmmaker Jean Painleve´ was one of the first to shoot underwater. McDougall is also the co-editor of the book “Science is Fiction: The Films of Jean Painlevé”.

Also showing is Steve Haddock and Brad Seibel’s “Baby Squid, Born Like Stars” (2006, 6 min.). Biologist Brad Seibel was the first to capture images of a broody species of squid that carries thousands of its eggs in its arms for six to nine months until exhausted.  Local publishing house McSweeney’s included this film in their quarterly DVD magazine Wholpin.  (Read Seibel’s liner notes here.)

Like its feature creatures, the tonight’s workshop is kaleidoscope of many arms working in concert together. Justin Holl and Peter Winch from Gulf of the Farallones Visitor Center will guide participants in exploring cephalopod adaptations through the dissection of a Humboldt squid. Artist Julie Whitcomb will teach Gyotaku printmaking using squid ink.  Natural sepia dye is obtained from ink sacs harvested from squid or cuttlefish.

Psychedelic researcher and ethnobotanist Terence McKenna speculated, “In the not-too-distant future men and women may shed the monkey body to become virtual octopi swimming in a silicon sea.”

All the more arms to hold you with, my dear. Jet on over and check it out.


A Curious Cinema: Love Life of the Octopus

Friday, January 29 at 5:30pm
@ The Studio for Urban Projects
3579 17th St. (at Dolores)
$10-$30 sliding scale
All ages welcome; children over 6 need not be accompanied by adult
Please reserve a spot by e-mailing rsvp@studioforurbanprojects.org. Space is limited.

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