The Most Exciting New Art Medium: Paper : The Picture Show The most exciting new art medium has actually been around for centuries: origami. In recent years, the paper-folding community has become obsessed with advancing the art and refining the math. A new documentary examines this cross section of scien...
NPR logo The Most Exciting New Art Medium: Paper

The Most Exciting New Art Medium: Paper

The extent of my origami experience consists of those little square fortunetelling devices from fourth grade, so I had my doubts about the prospect of an origami documentary. But Vanessa Gould's Between The Folds — and I risk sounding like a total nerd here — is awesome.

Folding paper seems like an unlikely vocation. Very few can look at a plain, two-dimensional piece of paper and see its potential as a complex paper sculpture. But the stars of this documentary, such as Erik Demaine, the youngest-ever MIT professor, and Eric Joisel, a former French sculptor, actually get excited about paper. To them, origami lies at the intersection of math, science and art.

Traditional Japanese paper-folding has been around for centuries. By the 1980s it became standardized with the use of instructional diagrams. But only recently did it become a serious art and scientific pursuit worthy of origami clubs, conferences and competitions. The small origami community has become obsessed with refining the math — certain sculptures require over 900 folds! There are even focus groups studying the scientific applications of origami in genetic sequencing and air bag folding, for example.

The most amazing part, though, is not the scientific application, but the art. With only one piece of paper — no scissors, no glue, no tears — origami artists can craft sculptures of unimaginable complexity. The documentary, which premieres on PBS on Dec. 8, shows how they do it. Here's a trailer to get you excited about paper, too:

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