The Powers Project is an effort to re-imagine Charles and Ray Eames’s seminal 1977 video, Powers of 10, with contributions by 40 contemporary artists.

Each was given a particular power of 10 and given free-reign to do as they pleased.

Says Andy Rohrmann, a co-producer: "We wanted as broad a representation as possible, in style, regional origin, 'pure artists’ vs commercial professionals, individual artist vs studio, etc."

Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray and the current head of the Eames Office, gave them the official okay for the project.

Rohrmann, like many others, consider Powers the perfect intersection between science and art.

Though Eames Demetrios says not to consider it a science film, but rather "a film about scale."

The exquisite corpse-style piece is nearly 95% complete, with just a few outstanding segments left to sew in.

Rohrmann and his co-producer, Peter Lucas, hope to take the film on the festival circuit next year.

Co.Design

The Eames's "Powers Of 10," Re-Imagined By 40 Artists

With contributions from 40 artists, the Powers Project is assembling an exquisite corpse-style homage to the seminal clip.

Trying to convey the enormity of all existence, from the remote reaches of the universe to the invisible depths of intercellular life, is a pretty bold undertaking, especially when you’re trying to cram it all into a 9-minute film. Yet, Ray and Charles Eames took on that very challenge, and hit it out of the park (and the stratosphere, and the solar system …) with their 1977 clip, Powers of 10.

That seminal video not only illuminated the grandeur of the universe for generations of viewers but also proved that Eames’s brilliance for understanding and communicating transcended subject matter and media. Now, 40 artists are nearing completion on a 21st-century ode to the original, each contributing a segment in their own unique style.

Segment by MRK

The producers, Andy Rohrmann and Peter Lucas, refer to it as the Powers Project. Though there are, in fact, already several versions of the film aside from the widely seen 1977 one--a few early, rough cuts, a Morgan Freeman-narrated IMAX version, and countless homages, to name a few--Rohrmann and Lucas thought their idea was suitably unique: A tribute that focused on the clip’s huge influence on contemporary artists and filmmakers, more of a "re-imagining," Rohrmann says, than a remake or a re-creation. Eames Demetrios, Charles and Ray’s grandson and the current head of the Eames Office, eventually gave them the okay, and they set out to find their roster of contributors.

Segment by Jordi Pages

Sadly, the globe-crossing, team-assembling montage I had in my head wasn’t exactly how it played out. It was "about as unglamorous as you can get," Rohrmann recalls, "lots and lots of sitting in front of a computer watching Vimeo and writing emails." Eventually, however, he and Lucas managed to get a diverse assortment of artists on board. "We wanted as broad a representation as possible," Rohrmann says, "in style, regional origin, 'pure artists’ vs. commercial professionals, individual artist vs. studio, etc." Each was assigned their own power of 10 and given free rein to do with it what they wanted.

Segment by David Lobser

As for Rohrmann, he first saw the film as a kid at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. "It stuck in the back of my mind," he says, and he traces its influence to his current work in macro videography. As it is to so many others, Rohrmann considers it the perfect intersection of science and art, though he points out that Eames Demetrios urges fans not to consider it a "science film" but rather "a film about scale." And in a way, so is this exquisite-corpse-style homage--proof of just how wide-ranging the original clip’s influence was on today’s filmmakers, the world over.

The re-imagining is currently about 95% complete, with just a few segments outstanding. The duo has been showing a rough cut of the clip periodically at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, and they’re hoping to hit the 2013 festival circuit once they’ve got the final cut, before eventually making it available online through their site.

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5 Comments

  • Vermelho

    The film was made and released in 1968. I saw it in 1972, and it wasn't a "rough cut". Maybe a niggle about those 9 years, but I'm surprised how this later date gets so propagated. 

  • the powers project

    "powers of ten: a rough sketch" was produced in 1968. the content is very close to the "official" version which was released officially in 1977. they are two separate versions.

  • kimballk

    The idea for "Powers of 10" was first developed by Kees Boeke, in a children's book "Cosmic View", which was published in 1957. There may have been an earlier publication in Dutch.  Eames, and others who copied (or plagiarized) Boeke, followed his script very closely.  See Wikipedia: "Cosmic View". Nothing in the Eames film except for its continuous nature, departs from what Boeke did.   Eames contributed his sense of design, but made no contribution to the idea. 

    Kimball Kramer
    kk@kimballkramer.com 

  • GentleStove

    Cool project! Can't wait to see the finished film. Btw, it should be "free rein".