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By Patrick Samuel • January 6th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Institute for Regional Education

Original release: April 2, 1983
Running time: 85 minutes

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Composer: Philip Glass


I first saw Koyaanisqatsi in the unlikeliest of places. It was a Saturday night and I was out with friends who decided to head off to a club after a few hours of drinking. I offered to join them on this occasion, instead of going home. We ended up in an alternative club that played darkwave, EBM, goth rock, industrial, and noise.

It wasn’t my first time there but I could hardly say I was a regular. I only went 3 times in the brief period between September 2001 and October 2001. It was an extreme environment, an assault on the senses really and you had to be in the mood for self destruction to get anything out of it. At the time I was in the mood for neither destruction nor company and as I wandered the club’s many levels I eventually found myself in its basement.

I’d never been down that far before and the atmosphere there was much more appealing. Although I could still hear the thumping noise from the floors above and smell the club’s assortment of odours, ranging from the smoke machine and poppers to beer and vomit, this makeshift screening room was where I’d spend the next hours.

There was chanting against the sound of church organs and pipes, and slowly the images of what looked like an ancient wall painting dissolved to show a rocket lifting off in slow motion. Scenes of deserts, rocks, cliffs, mountains, quarries, canyons and deep valleys followed. As the sun moved from east to west, the only changes perceivable were the shadows it cast.

Clouds danced and raced across the Earth, but this ballet of movement was broken with the arrival of man and machinery. Pipe lines, power grids, oil fields, and the detonation of an atomic bomb with its black smoke rising into the clear blue sky marks the departure from nature to culture.

Skyscrapers, planes, military tanks, fighter jets and our elite’s favourite pastime – war – gave way to the sprawling metropolis of New York City. It faded to show inner city slums, abandoned buildings and the industrious but soulless apartment blocks that looked more like state prisons.


Time-lapse photography was used to capture the hustle and bustle of daily civilian life, watching it this way gave rise to a sense of hopelessness and despair with the realisation of what we would really do if we reclaimed our freedom.

Faced with such an existentialist crisis as I watched this, it dawned on me that this was Koyaanisqatsi, the film I had heard so much about but was never sure if I could sit through its non-narrative structure.

Yet, it didn’t strike me as a non-narrative film. It was more like a poem; its meaning is what you give it. Sitting there in that cold basement, feeling out of balance with everything that was going on there, in my own life and the world at large, Koyaanisqatsi, to me, represented a world that is so many things, but in the end, something we’re responsible for.

I left that dingy club in the early hours of Sunday morning and I’ve never been back since. As I rode the number bus home, the sunrise was beginning to peek through the horizon. I remember staring at it as it became brighter, and thinking about the balance of things – ultimately feeling hopeful it could be put right.

It was October 7th, 2001. Within the next 12 hours the war in Afghanistan would begin.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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