Katharina Swoboda: Zoological Architecture and Empty Frames


1 intro


2 living images


3 framing as praxis


4 architecture


5 frames within frames


6 nozootopia


7 references

When architecture is captured in the cinematic image, it transforms into lines and two-dimensional shapes. Later when spectators watch the presented film, they sense experiential space created by the cinematic images (Pallasmaa 2013: 86). This translation of three-dimensional experienced space into pictorial space and back forms a key point and intersection in discussions on film and architecture.


In Zoographics, I focus on traditional zoo architecture that maps clear contours in my cinematic composition. In contrast to immersive environments, the edges of the enclosures are well defined. My camera framing adjusts to the buildings and follows their provision. In this video I join together different European zoos that were all established in the second half of the nineteenth century. Following Meuser’s claim that all animal housing uses similar building structures, it really does seem they look very much alike. Does the location change in the video matter at all? 


While filming I aligned the composition of the images to the architecture. Then I waited for something to happen. Denis Côté perfects the act of waiting in Bestiaire (2012), a documentary about a Canadian safari park. He employs long static shots and creates a perfect example of ‘slow animal cinema’, as Laura McMahon puts it (2021: 3). Some shots are composed in relation to the built environment and foster the ‘architecture-centred’ look I care about. Animals move in and out of this filmic frame. Human eyes generally track movement, but the camera resists these impulses. This effect can be transfixing. The cinematic image becomes a tableau vivant that I like to carefully observe.

click on image to play video

Katharina Swoboda, Zoographics

video, hd, colour, 10 mins, 2014. Sound: Sara Pinheiro 

Architectural typologies from different zoos in Europe merge into one ‘video zoo’.

from physical experience to two dimensional image