Powers of Ten
February 26 – June 11, 2011
A documentary short film by renowned American Designers Charles and Ray Eames.
When Powers of 10, the celebrated film by Charles and Ray Eames, was completed in 1977, the world was a very different place. But, even with the introduction of the cell phone, the internet, and the technology that has dramatically altered our contemporary lives, this nine minute film remains profoundly applicable today.
Whether revisiting this classic or viewing it for the first time, to watch Powers of 10 is to become a traveler in a strange land. The film takes the viewer on a thrilling and unnerving journey to the outer edges of our scientific knowledge, with cosmology on one end of the trip and particle physics at the other. Ultimately, the film addresses scale and the relative size of things, a concept that powerfully extends across disciplines. Eames Demetrios, director of the Eames Office, explains the importance of thinking about scale in practical terms. He writes, “So many of our challenges today are ultimately matters of scale. To be a good citizen of the world and have a chance to make it a better place, a person must have a real understanding of scale.” By presenting images in scales we can barely begin to fathom, Powers of 10 pushes the boundaries of how we think about our relationship to everything around us.
Based on a 1957 book by Kees Boeke, Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps, the film enlisted scientific advisors from disciplines including astrophysics, biology, genetics, physics, and particle physics. In order to achieve the smooth and realistic motion, the photographs were arranged frame by frame on a 40 foot long animation stand, an incredibly innovative process for its time.
In addition to the Powers of Ten, the husband-and-wife team of Charles (1907-1978) and Ray (1912-1988) Eames embarked on an astounding array of enterprises during their lifetimes. While their name is most famous for Charles’ design of the Eames Chair, together, they were visionaries ahead of their time. Pushing the possibilities of design and materials, Charles remarked that their approach was to “bring the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.” Powers of 10 is an important example of their values and practice. Using spectacular imagery, the film breaks down complex ideas into a format that is accessible, exciting and most importantly, relevant.