Wasteland Utopias explores the intersection of two radically different utopian thinkers: mega-developer Del Webb and outsider psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich. Each found his way into southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert in the late 1950s—Webb building his colossal, panoptically-planned retirement community Sun City and Reich conducting his weather manipulation experiments using Orgone Energy. This unlikely pairing provokes a hallucinatory, magic-conceptualist examination of the disintegrating fabric that connects man with nature, evoking questions about both ecological and social sustainability. Using found footage, documentary interviews, and narrative tableaux, the film interweaves contradictory narratives and critically poetic observations. By juxtaposing these two thinkers—who represent ostensibly opposing visions of a still-undefined future—Sherman asks viewers to consider a multiplicity of perspectives on our endangered natural and social environments.
Wasteland Utopias by David Sherman
USA, 2010, 91 minutes, Digital projection
This cine-essay probes the unlikely 1950’s meeting of outsider psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich. and mega-developer Del Webb in the Arizona’s Sonoran Desert prompting a contemporary examination of environmental and psychological sustainability.
“It’s rare to see a film whose aesthetic principles so elementally parallel the subjects they intend to depict.”-Owen O’Toole, Wide closed Cinema
Ann Arbor Film Festival
Chicago Underground Film Festival
Hidden Cinema of the Southwest
European Media Arts Festival
David Sherman is a filmmaker and media artist, whose appropriation and collage based, experimental films and videos have been exhibited extensively at film festivals, museums and alternative venues throughout the world. Sherman’s 2010 feature cine–essay Wasteland Utopias premiered at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. His 2002 experimental documentary To Re-edit the World premiered at the San Francisco International Film. Sherman’s Tuning the Sleeping Machine was included in the 1997 Whitney Biennial and The New York Film Festival. He co-founded Total Mobile Home the world’s first microcinema in San Francisco in 1993. Sherman has been Administrative Director of Canyon Cinema and was a Professor of Media Arts at California College of the Arts. He currently resides in Bisbee, AZ.
Paul Roth is the Executive Director of the Richard Avedon Foundation. Prior to that, Roth served as senior curator of photograph and media arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, one of the most respected American institutions for the exhibition of photography since the 1970s. During his 14-year tenure at the museum, from 1995 through 2009, he served as assistant and associate curator before becoming the Corcoran’s lead photography curator in 2006. While there Roth helped to organize more than 50 exhibitions. His recent projects include American Falls: Phil Solomon (2010), Edward Burtynsky: Oil (2009), Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power (2008), and Sally Mann: What Remains (2004). Roth previously held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where he was archivist for the Robert Frank Collection, and at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, where he was the Ansel Adams Fellow. He has organized film series for the National Gallery of Art, including the major retrospectives I…Dreaming: The Visionary Cinema of Stan Brakhage (2002), and The Films of Gordon Parks (1997). He has also been a teacher of film history at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Roth has written on photography and film for The Nation, The Washington Post, Katalog, and Photo Review, among other publications.