Okay…so…I’m no science major, but “Grid: An Intersection Of Cognitive Science, Art, And Agnes Martin” is pretty much about everything and nothing simultaneously, right? First of all, I’m always of the mind that anyone out there should have ten minutes in them to learn about something new or watch something they’ve never seen before - so pull up a chair and check this short documentary out because it’s neat and it’ll make you think. Secondly, I generally think it’s really cool when you can make an introduction interactive, which “Grid” goes on to do right away through its opening scenes. You’ll become an active participant in this experiment and instantly be able to draw your own conclusions about your own level of “scaffolded attention” - and our tendencies as humans to hallucinate in everyday moments. Thirdly, and this is probably telling you more about me than you’ll need to know, I’m always curious about why we hear the phrase “suffers from hallucinations.” Because personally, I’m always like, bring that shit on in as 3D, colourfully, and continuously as possible.
Anyhow. Look. “Grid” is about one of those uniquely niche and somewhat nerdy subjects that actually does apply to just about everyone under the sun. You’ve seen squares before in your lifetime, yes? Ok – how about a whole bunch of’em? Aka, a “Grid” – you’ve seen one or two of those too in your time, right? Heck, I bet if you look around at this very moment, there are probably at least forty percent of you reading this - that are in the vicinity of some kind of smattering of squares RIGHT NOW! “Grid” deals with the fact that when we look at them, we see more than there is to see. Somehow, our brains draw the (beautiful) conclusion that there are patterns, shapes, and designs – all inside of what is basically a plain lumping of squares that, when examined objectively, is nothing more than repetitive shapes. Yet, for some unknown reason, our “scaffolded attention” starts to see things that just aren’t there. How cool is that? To think that as a teenager, I used to have to pay good money to achieve the same effect!
In “Grid,” you’ll find the expert analysis of Joan Ongchoco, who is a scientist at Yale and a far smarter human being than I’ll ever be – especially when it comes to squares! You’ll also find Cynthia Zhou, who is a wonderful person and a far better artist than I’ll ever be – especially when it comes to squares! Hey – it’s not JUST squares that contain patterns in life; words & my sad attempts at humour can also contain them. The point is that you’ve got two people who are directly in the field of work that pertains to “Grid” coming at you from both a scientific and artistic perspective, which is seriously cool to me. You don’t often find those two things overlapping all that much in life; it’s usually a case of one or the other. You’ll also learn about Agnes Martin, who is actually quite pivotal in bringing minimalism and abstract expressionism to the forefront of the art world…and yes, of course, she’s darn good at doin’ squares, too.
Overall, the bulk of the information you’ll get in this film, directed by Julia Ongchoo, is concise, relevant, and interesting. For real – when was the last time you had a conversation about squares or thought about them directly? Obviously, there’s more to this film than that, and I’m somewhat making light of a serious subject that incredible people like Joan and Cynthia have spent their lives dedicated to, but make no mistake – I sincerely was interested in this and their own individual stories as to what got them involved in this crazy cubic world we’re livin’ in. I really do think a lot of the pull towards this film starts right from the get-go in that experiment we all take part in at the very start - in examining a grid up close – that makes this subject so much more relatable and real than most folks would assume it would be if they were to read about it on paper. Do I think that “Grid” is going to appeal to everyone or keep the attention of the masses affixed to every moment of this short film, whether scaffolded or not? No, not really – but I honestly think that’s fine. Those who are interested - and become quickly engaged with “Grid” through its opening scenes will happily sit for the rest, and you’ll learn a lot about how our minds work.
“Grid” is ultimately more educational than it is entertaining, I’d say, but if someone as resistant to learning as myself can enjoy this, I’m 100% positive that you’ll be able to as well. It’s a small snapshot of what is clearly a much larger subject, but Julia has done a solid job of giving us a glimpse into this world through the examples and artwork we see, in addition to the details she gets from both Joan & Cynthia. I also thought the use of split-screen filming was clever of Julia to add in, which shows the extra level of thoughtfulness she applies to her craft and how she wants to present the information to you. As in, it’s a film about squares…so to have things shown to us that way onscreen was a great way to go about supporting the information on a visual level.
It’s probably fair to say that with it being largely driven by its educational content, it’s gonna be a bit on the dry side for some, but it’ll prove to be fascinating to others and likely relatable to all on some level - I’m sure. I feel confident that four stars out of five are well deserved for a film like “Grid” – especially when you consider that it’s easy to make four of anything into a square. Seems fitting if you ask me! For real, though…it’s a well-done short film that I highly recommend finding and watching.