Columbus is a short film that explores imagining life in extreme environments through cinematic and other forms of production. In doing so, it responds to the settler myth—embodied by historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Robinson Crusoe—that further stabilises the vision of outer space as the natural and necessary destination for the progress of humankind. The film itself is a montage of filmed and found footage, where otherworldly landscapes reframe the artificial environment of the botanical gardens as an analogue for a habitat on another planet.
The three primary film sources are original footage from the University of Basel botanical gardens, found camera-phone video from a region in Sumatra affected by rainforest fire, and the 1964 science fiction film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, directed by Byron Haskin. The work plays upon visual associations in colliding fragments of the different films together. A greenhouse is animated with the voice of a Crusoe character, while roadside imagery imbue Martian landscapes with a sense of mundanity.