The New Monuments

Science fiction is full of flights of fancy, not in the least in its designs of spaceships and futuristic cities. Often, those designs seem more monumental than they are practical. Their ambitions are not to appear realistic or functional, but to create a sense of wonder. That makes these designs more akin to artistic creations than to scientific conjectures.


This video essay by Conor Bateman zooms in on exactly that aspect of mid-century science fiction cinema. His collage is filled with wonder and wonders: film characters marvel at outlandish and incomprehensible designs, guessing what their function and structure might be. Their gaze and their remarks resemble that of visitors to an art gallery or museum: they seem to regard the spaceships as works of art. (No wonder, since this collage was supported by the UQ Art Museum and by the Monash University Museum of Art).


Bateman plays up the formal and artistic qualities of these science fiction designs by disconnecting the footage from its original storylines. His superbly executed montage rearranges shots from eleven films into a new narrative, one that recasts the alien artefacts as objects of beauty more than of danger. The resulting mash-up plays elegantly effortless and that is perhaps the greatest compliment one can make it because the match on action cutting and perfectly flowing dialogue are obviously the result of hard work and detailed viewings.