THE CAPITOL OF THE MULTIVERSE

This fun, fascinating short by Van MacElwee is made entirely from old, colorized photos (presumably from postcards) of a large number of capitol buildings, always shown with the big round dome in the center. McElwee uses a morphing animation technique to smoothly meld one dome into the next, so the domes are constantly growing and shrinking, fattening and thinning, in a smooth but uneven rhythm. One amusing aspect of this imagery is that the morphing domes look like they are breathing or slowly pulsating, accentuating the penis/breast symbolism which underlies the dome as the symbol of local power and authority.

The video made me aware of how ubiquitous this particular trope of architectural language is, with each municipality, parish, prefect, county and national capitol having its own domed building. Some are green, some are silver, some are red, some are gold, and they have a bewildering variety of ornaments, but the stronger impression is of how repetitive the basic formula is, with the circle of classical columns and windows forming the bottom layer. (Only one of the domes has a square base.)

At the end of the video, the entire buildings are morphing, not simply the domes, and the image becomes much more abstract, with rows of columns breathing outward, like a great stone butterfly opening its wings. It seems like we are looking at a capitol, to paraphrase St. Augustine, which is “like the center of a circle which is centered everywhere.”

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