First of all, a hearty recommendation. It is elegant, smart, and precise without missing the playfulness and humor of its subjects. It has to do with paper-folding, mostly origami but not exclusively so, and the way it has become incorporated into artwork, physics, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and more.
What strikes me most clearly is that with all the attention to physicists and mathematicians experimenting with origami, they don't touch often on descriptions of the universe that depend on membranes. Theoretical physicists, who sometimes seem to change their theories once a month, have at one time or another described the universe as a series of membranes in contact and concert with one another. Or, if I recall correctly, that the universe is part of a whole symphony of interacting membranes that seem to have manifestations in one another's realities. Why, for example, is gravity such a weak force in our universe? Sure, as a human being, an organism, and coherent matter, I am rather pleased to be constituted of more than just blobs of plasma or disparate clouds of gases. When compared to the intensity of electromagnetic waves that can fry a brain or stop a heart nearly instantaneously, or the way massless photons can give me cancer or power a city, gravity comes up a little short. Sure, it might get me if I'm thirty or more feet up and falling, but even that only happens at a rate of 9.8 m/s/s. (Sounds like gobbledygook, but it is the case. Look it up.)
Anyway, what Between the Folds feels like to me is a rich articulation of how our universe might just function. Without a doubt it does this through ingenious artistic and mathematical examples, the "postmodernist's" simplicity, and "les anarchistes" delight in chaos and degradation, but doesn't that sound, well, perfect? Our universe is so richly composed of strange, serpentine dragons that coil around themselves and form proteins in our cells; the peculiar human molding and folding of minerals for our own devices; the aeon's long uplift of tectonic plates as they pass over, under, and across one another; and the terrors of stellar decay and reconstitutions in living tissue. As is put in the documentary, these are transformative processes; origami is the transformation of a simple plane into something else without losing that initial coherency of the plane itself. Most visual arts are subtractive (sculpting) or additive (pottery, painting), but our world as a whole is neither additive nor subtractive (excuse the black hole for a moment); transformation is what our universe seems to be best at.
In Virtual Light by William Gibson (I try to avoid spoilers here), one of the protagonists - a bicycle messenger named Chevette - saves her income to eventually purchase a Japanese bike made from laminated paper. Simultaneously, the plot arises from an attempt to refashion a post-quake (referred to as the Little Grande) San Francisco with an impressive, privatizing facelift. This is revealed in the artifact from which the title is drawn. For anyone who is familiar with augmented reality (AR) programs, well, it has to do with that. What AR does is it allows someone to place digital objects in the analog/material world. With a program such as Layar, one might peer through one's phone at a restaurant down the street and see a series of reviews from Yelp or Google; toggle the phone a little and you can see the menu, specialties, seat availability, and more. If you turn your camera down the street, someone may have just coded in a Chinese dragon to undulate down the street for Chinese New Year or a digitized clown filling balloons and releasing them into the air for a child's birthday. AR creates a reality or series of realities for us to peek into through a digital mediator.
(Note: I have misgivings about AR, but they are not immense. In addition, I think it functions similarly to magical perception in which one perceives the analog/material world and acknowledges and can eventually become sensitive to the layers unseen. Then again, that sounds an awful lot like how a cellular phone or radio transmission works, or even meteorological and geological processes. Heck, even political boundaries function as unseen layers until one is made aware of them.)
The connection here, and it may be thin, is that we have already blanketed our world in an additional layer of information beyond the traditional realities. We have an informational, a digital layer that surrounds us, saturates us, infiltrates us. And this layer is composed of only 1s, 0s, and spaces! Wait, couldn't that also be interpreted as + marks, - signs, and spaces? That sounds just like a plane that is folding up, folding down, or laying smooth. How strange is that? And then another line from the documentary comes to mind, that a fold in a paper cannot be undone; the paper "remembers" the fold, the fold is teaching the paper to exist in particular way. Now we do see a difference, a sort of inherited richness that evades AR: Paper, and I think substance, does not forget what it has been taught; what one does afterward is dependent and controlled by the past.
Though on a more fundamental level, that may sound strained, even paranormal. What comes to mind first, though, is an ecological example. Aldo Leopold journals the exploits of he and his family to restore a Wisconsin farm to like-wild conditions. They plant trees and clear invasives, they deconstruct old buildings and open up corridors for wildlife, and they make space for more-than-human world to reintegrate itself into the place. The space was taught to be a farm, one that wore down the soil and killed or warned off wildlife. The Leopolds and Aldo's students worked to teach the land to be something else, something it once was; those creases and plains remained, but had been transformed and submerged. The project was to reawaken memory, to recall what had been forgotten.
In Waking Life - recently revisited with Miss Becca Taylor - Timothy "Speed" Levitch declares, "Before you drift off, don’t forget, which is to say remember. Because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting." And I include this for two reasons: First, I love this line; and second, if paper remembers, if the membranes of our world remember, then that says something of them. Remembering, as it is usually considered, is a process of an intelligent - not necessarily aware - entity. A child remembers to come home before dark, a dog remembers a hand that feeds and pets it, even some single-celled organisms "prefer" those places where they previously found optimum conditions (food, light, shelter). But a crystal can be "taught" to form in different ways (see super saturation) - which is a plot point in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. What I intend to say is that, if Speed Levitch is right, that remembering is a psychotic activity, and that remembering is also a process of paper or minerals, let alone the stuff the sculpts our world, then these psychic processes are going on all around us all the time.
My friends and I have more than once felt dispirited by the difficulties of getting things "right." As Martin Sheen has said on drilling in ANWR, but descriptive of environmentalists' fight the world over,
To this point we've won every fight. But environmentalists must win every fight, for the opposition only has to win once and we could forever lose this incomparable ecosystem that is home to hundreds of bird species, polar bears, muskoxen, grizzles, wolves, caribou, and more.I hesitantly, rather than enthusiastically agree with this statement. We are at a point in our planet's history where a loss is a loss forevermore. Except where that's not the case, where the land can still remember what it was and where we human beings can uncover, to remember what has been asphalted over with the land. Leopold demonstrates this, but also learns to identify with the wolves and that without the wolves, the mountains have no one to protect them. The mountains remember the wolves, they require their protectors from the mule-deer who would, unknowingly, strip the mountains bare. He writes, "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf," and I think where we can, we need to learn to listen for the recollections and wisdom of the great folding immensity of our mountains (and rivers, oceans, plains, winds...).