60 Elephants. Episodes of a Theory.
Yona Friedman´s architectural and urbanistic theories are famous, starting with those of "self-planning". While they date back to half a century ago, they seem to have become topical. Sasha Pirker and Michael Klein film in Paris, at home, but also in the streets, and while his voice supports the images, he will never appear on them himself. A fertile back and forth is set up between the urban landscapes and the provocative wisdom in the voice of this old elephant. (JPR, catalogue FID Marseille 2018)
In 60 Elephants, Michael Klein and Sasha Pirker portray the thoughts and work of Yona Friedman, a ninety-five-year-old French architect and humanist who was awarded the Friedrich Kiesler prize in 2018*. Friedman developed visions of an improvisation-capable, mobile architecture for a migrating global society as early as the 1950s and 1960s. His remarks on the current refugee issue, which are presented in the film, reveal his considerate and unagitated way of thinking oriented on social needs and their sensible fulfillment. Friedman´s rural and also urban living and working spaces are presented in insightful passages consistently accompanied by his own voice from off screen, providing a red line through the intrinsically clearly structured film.
The film begins with a shot of a space: from time to time light reflections from outside glide across the walls of a room that is nearly empty before being filled by Friedman´s voice from off screen. Reality inscribes itself into the space as though by chance, establishing it as a dynamic potential rather than self-contained entity. These shots thus possess metaphorical significance for the work of the architect. His life´s work comprises developing architecture as an offer that is not self-contained, but instead, gives inhabitants the opportunity to participate in its design, which is based, or rather, is first given sense by the necessity of communication and social behavior. In Friedman´s comparisons with the animal world, from which the film takes its title, he clarifies that social structures define and limit group formation. 60 Elephants, like Friedman´s work, is a plea for the realizability of utopias. (Rainer Fuchs)
Translation: Lisa Rosenblatt
* Yona Friedman has passed away on Feb.20th 2020.