“Small groups are engines of change.”
In the year 2020 that brought us global quarantine, comes a doc about a 1991 experimental quarantine, timed to perfection by some chronological deity or a prophetic team of filmmakers and marketing experts, tracing a group of truly extraordinary individuals constructing and sealing themselves up in a self-engineered replica of the Earth’s ecosystem, with earnest sixties commune ethos, quirky scientific eco-vision, pioneering determination, and free-spirited publicity feels for the late 20th century zeitgeist.
And that’s how director Matt Wolf‘s entertaining, warm, and well-researched Spaceship Earth (2020) seems, equally amusingly eco-trendy and genuinely gob-smacking saga about the ingenious two-year experiment (dubbed Biosphere 2, with Biosphere 1 being Earth itself), its triumphs and failures, and the long road that led to it. What I found strange (and somewhat ironic) is that I was genuinely enthralled by how biospherans got to where they ended up, rather than what happened inside the sphere, no matter how curious and revealing it was. And that journey is truly fascinating. It has it all, sixties solidarity, commune dynamics, green entrepreneurship, actual building of a sailing ship, globe-trotting activism, experimental theatre, art and dance therapy, rumors of cult-like behaviour, a charismatic leader, cosmic consciousness ethos, doomsday contingency plans, a dialectic experimental mindset, and an eco-friendly billionaire to back it all up by funding, until that symbiosis soured, entirely. Bizarrely enough, with a Steve Bannon, entering stage right. Of course.
The group’s continued influence on the current sustainability and environmental protection movements is profound, as well as throughout the green ethos of many branching disciplines, but their trippy inspiring presence is felt on so many other levels, and in seemingly random places, as well. For example, if you ever stepped into London’s transcultural avant-garde October Gallery, one of my favourite places in town, you might be surprised to find the bioshperans built and founded it. In the last decade it has been the venue for high voltage interdisciplinary lectures in a series (and community) called Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness. How’s that for being the proverbial seed that sprouts a (r)evolution?
And it all started with a discussion John Allen and Kathelin Gray had on René Daumal’s Mount Analogue, in a hallway of a building, in mid-sixties San Francisco.
To (aptly) conjure Hunter S. Thompson here with a quote, and wrap it up as concluding sentiment: buy the ticket, take the ride. Definitely.
Best doc I’ve seen in a long while.
Author: © Milana Vujkov