Watch M.C. Escher Make His Final Artistic Creation (1971)

I first encoun­tered the world of Mau­rits Cor­nelis Esch­er where many oth­ers do: in school. A poster of his 22-foot-long Meta­mor­pho­sis III hung along the walls of my fourth-grade class­room, where I spent many an idle minute or ten star­ing at its intri­cate geom­e­try through which squares became birds, birds became lizards, lizards became fish, and it all some­how arrived at the cliff-like edge of a three-dimen­sion­al chess­board. It came as the last of a tril­o­gy of wood­cuts Esch­er made between 1937 and 1968, and a jour­ney through its 1940 pre­de­ces­sor Meta­mor­pho­sis II ends the 1971 doc­u­men­tary above, M.C. Esch­er: Adven­tures in Per­cep­tion.

Esch­er him­self seem­ing­ly had no hap­py class­room mem­o­ries. “I hat­ed school,” the nar­ra­tor quotes him as say­ing. “The only class I liked at all was art. That does­n’t mean I was any good at it.” Though his work has no doubt inspired many young­sters to take up draw­ing, wood­cut­ting, and print­mak­ing them­selves, it’s sure­ly dri­ven even more of them into math­e­mat­ics.

Obsessed with per­spec­tive, geom­e­try, and pat­tern (Esch­er described tes­sel­la­tion as “a real mania to which I have become addict­ed”), his images have, by the count of math­e­mati­cian and Esch­er schol­ar Doris Schattschnei­der, led so far to eleven sep­a­rate strands of math­e­mat­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic research.

The twen­ty-minute Adven­tures in Per­cep­tion, orig­i­nal­ly com­mis­sioned by the Nether­lands’ Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, offers in its first half a med­i­ta­tion on the mes­mer­iz­ing, often impos­si­ble world Esch­er had cre­at­ed with his art to date. Its sec­ond half cap­tures Esch­er in the last years of his life, still at work in his Laren, North Hol­land stu­dio. It even shows him print­ing one of the three tit­u­lar ser­pents, thread­ed through a set of elab­o­rate­ly inter­lock­ing cir­cles, of his very last print Snakes. He nev­er actu­al­ly fin­ished Snakes, whose pat­terns would have con­tin­ued on to the effect of infin­i­ty, and even says here of his offi­cial­ly com­plete works that none suc­ceed, “because it’s the dream I tried for that can’t be real­ized.” But those unre­al­ized dreams have kept the rest of us dream­ing, and think­ing, ever since.

Adven­tures in Per­cep­tion will be added to our col­lec­tion of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our list, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meta­mor­phose: 1999 Doc­u­men­tary Reveals the Life and Work of Artist M.C. Esch­er

Inspi­ra­tions: A Short Film Cel­e­brat­ing the Math­e­mat­i­cal Art of M.C. Esch­er

M.C. Escher’s Per­pet­u­al Motion Water­fall Brought to Life: Real or Sleight of Hand?

Back to Bed: A New Video Game Inspired by the Sur­re­al Art­work of Esch­er, Dali & Magritte

David Bowie Sings in a Won­der­ful M.C. Esch­er-Inspired Set in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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