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Or more accurately 3D animation, real time computer graphics and projection mapping interacting with electronic music to create something that merges theater set design and production, cinema, live music and virtual reality. One could imagine a character out of say, Blade Runner, walking into a concert or nightclub scene resembling what I saw in this performance. Unfortunately it wasn’t live but on YouTube, though it would be quite an experience to see it at the Sydney Opera House in person. As usual, my discovery was out of tune with any sequential time sequence as I’m busy bouncing all over the place.

I first stumbled upon it while looking up Amon Tobin, the Brazilian electronic musician who collaborated on this project with director Vello Virkhaus, media production collective V Squared Labs, Leviathan and set designer Vita Motus. The music was originally from Tobin’s album ISAM (which has been a part of my lounge room ‘ambience’ lately), an Acronym for “Invented Sound Applied to Music”, the record was: ‘an experiment in synthesizing field recordings and transforming them into new physically playable instruments to create unique sound palettes.’

The set itself at various times looks like a dystopian city of the future, a mass of broken T.V. sets, a giant game of Tetris or some kind of self conscious but irrational space ship with Tobin embedded in the structure as the captain. It’s at times a disorienting 21st century version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis assembled from musique and video concrete sources, filtered through Kraftwerk’s industrial elegance and finally interpreted by the mix, match and fusion of DJ culture. This is a one of a kind audio/visual spectacle and definitely worth your time dear reader. Let it paint unique pictures in your own mind.



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You might not be familiar with the name but Karl is a Canadian experimental filmmaker whose videos, projections and stills have been an integral part of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Me and a few friends got to witness them perform together last summer, an event I can only describe as a post-apocalyptic yet poetic requiem for the decline of western civilization. A doomed sense of helplessness but with a few hints of sunshine here and there, or as fellow Canadians No Means No put it: ‘In every defeat, there will be a victory’.

What was fascinating was that the projectionist was situated in the middle of the dance floor with actual rolls of film dangling everywhere. Lemieux was as busy as the group onstage and his imagery seamlessly blended with the music and in fact became the visual focus and served to obscure the players themselves. One could draw parallels here with the psychedelic 60’s ‘happenings’ but really the projection of improvised imagery is where it ends. I’m not sure the kids were really ‘grooving’ to this multi media spectacle. But you could connect this to other film and music collaborations such as Jem Cohen/Fugazi and Ge.Sus/Crass, where imagery takes part in the process rather than just documents it.

Karl Lemieux: ‘I’ve never been a musician or seriously learned to play an instrument, but, to some extent, I prefer music to film. It’s something I wish I could share in. Especially the improvisational part, where the musicians get together and communicate by sound. They respond to each other and create this whole thing all together. I think that’s what brought me to performance, because it involves controlling an instrument. But instead of sound rhythms or sound vibrations its light rhythms and the physical experience of light.’

The key figure for the filmmaker seems to be one Pierre Hébert, whose projection work dates back to the 70’s but that’s all I know at this stage. This character warrants further investigation in another post, and it will be interesting to see their similarities and differences in approach. Karl’s loops of 16mm film are bleached, burnt, hand-painted and god knows what else until they resemble a lost home video tainted by some kind of radio activity. A bleak, post-industrial-grey, abstract expressionist, dream-logic travelogue of the damned. Or something like that, you dear reader, may see it from another angle.

Incite Interview

Karl Lemieux on Vimeo

Ah the joys of surrealism, my go to cure whenever the well runs dry. Blending or juxtaposing together sometimes completely unrelated images, words or sounds to come up with something neither the maker or the audience is ready for. What I wasn’t ready for is the seemingly simple beauty of the work of Susana Blasco, graphic designer, illustrator, collage artist and junk hunter based in Bilbao, Spain. Don’t know about you dear reader but that description just ticked a whole lot of boxes for me.

As much as we all may be bored by even the words ‘vintage’ or ‘antique’ at this point, Blasco’s montage of decades old photographs and quite random objects is at times funny, ridiculous, bizarre and dark but somehow always appropriate. Sense in nonsense, a kind of inner logic where the brain fills in the missing parts for us. The juxtaposition of photograph and three dimensional object is where the unexpected magic happens.

www.susanablasco.com

 

Eric’s light paintings first caught my eye when I bought the ‘Games’ LP by electronic composer Larry Fast aka Synergy. The cover fits the music quite well, his contemporaries were Isao Tomita and Jean Michel Jarre among others in case you’re interested. This is quite fitting actually, as both Staller and Fast are considered pioneers in their respective fields. Much of the work presented here was done at night in late 70’s New York City, which adds a very sci-fi/ film noir quality to the proceedings. It made me think of everything from War of the Worlds and Odyssey:2001 to the Philip K. Dick based Blade Runner, here was something mysterious, elemental and alien.

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Utilizing various light sources as a brush or pen as it were, the drawings were photographed over long time-exposures in deserted urban landscapes. There is something very eerie about these uninhabited spaces, as though these lights were the only living organisms left roaming our cities. Or could it be that these signals, waves and objects are the signs of an oncoming alien invasion? For some reason, I can now hear a John Carpenter soundtrack coming on ha ha

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ericstaller.com

 

Continuing on from the last post, here are some pagan costumes from rituals still practiced today across the European continent. Magnificently documented by French photographer Charles Freger for his ‘Wilder Mann’ series, it’s people dressed up as animals or monsters. The creations look like something out of a dadaist or surrealist play but actually date back to the neolithic times. These traditions mainly mark the winter solstice and the beginning of spring, stemming from a time when appeasing nature (various gods) was the difference between life and death. I’d say that in modern times its mainly a chance to get drunk and celebrate our animal half, to let our hair down for a few days or hours before going back to our respective cubicles. It’s the equivalent of New Year’s, Halloween, camping with friends or surviving a particularly wild gig.

 

Some of these costume designs are used to bestow fertility, scold naughty children, chase away evil spirits and for parades and ritual dancing. There is design which stemmed from our modern times and needs but there is a different power inherent in ancient objects, costumes and tools which have been reiterated over many centuries. Japanese design often features objects that have been modified over lengthy periods of time, always the same but always slightly different in response to the changing environment, technology, society etc. Short shelf life or built in obsolescence just doesn’t have the same emotional or intellectual pull no matter how shiny it is or how much press one gives it.

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So I tend to see these costumes as ‘Organic Design’, fulfilling real and imagined needs and having a clear message without any academic market researched psycho-analytical mumbo jumbo. Its not selling the latest trend, it operates on a whole other time scale. We are never going to know which board of ancient hipsters decided on the size of the horns, the colour of the cloth or the choreography of the dance moves and that’s OK too. It’s our instincts which keep us coming back for more.

www.charlesfreger.com

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Well this post comes out of the blue, a flash of inspiration if you will. One of my favorite hidden little bars The Coffee Pot puts on a fantastic movie night once a month, so you get to see gems such as Suspiria, Turkey Shoot, Cat In The Brain, Creepshow and The Wicker Man on a slightly larger screen. Now, for a variety of reasons, The Wicker Man is one of those films you just have to ‘experience’ in all its creepy, slightly sleazy 70’s folk pagan horror glory ha ha. There’s plenty of naked dancing, psychedelic folksy sing-a-longs and Christopher Lee in one of the leading roles. You get to see him prancing around in white makeup and a wig, a precursor to Death Metal? Really, what more do you need??

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When the locals start wearing ceremonial masks during the second half though, I was reminded of the fact that in some regions of Eastern Europe (this is as far as I know, it probably includes most of the continent)  a lot of these traditions have remained from pre-Christian times. Halloween is an offshoot of these practices, for example. Basically its the difference between worshiping god (ourselves really) and worshiping our planet (hoping our environment doesn’t kill us). A lot of the pagan costumes, masks and ‘magic’ objects were a big inspiration to modern artists in the early 20th century. They have a force you cant learn in art school, it comes from something non-intellectual and has been made and remade over many centuries. It reflects our animal self and is ever present. It exposes us to War, Sex and Death, all the things we’d like to shut off so we can safely watch it on TV. I’ll be exploring a photographer who’s been documenting European ritual costumes in the next post.

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Popular or urban culture has always had a link with folk horror and so it continues today, from Giallo/Slasher film and soundtrack revivalists such as Death Waltz Recording Company, Zombi and Umberto to the Sci-Fi/Folk Horror revival or rather re-imagining by the Ghost Box record label I’ve posted about before. Ghost Box artists such as The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle at times sound like they formed specifically to soundtrack films like The Wicker Man. Recent films The Babadook, Berberian Sound Studio, Where The Wild Things Are, The Ring and Pan’s Labyrinth all draw from our pagan myths and rituals too.

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Leading on from my last post about French street artist Invader, here is a local offshoot (Adelaide, South Australia, to be precise) and he works under the name of Tyler Mario. Most of the information I could find is in the article I scanned above, because I’m old school like that ha ha. Below are some examples of pixelated versions of characters the artist likes, and now I wonder how many other people have put their own spin on this idea around the world?Photos taken during the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Mario pieces being only a small part of a whole street makeover called Little Rundle Street Project, and believe me a lot of streets in this town need more colour!

 

Taking his inspiration from 70’s and 80’s video games (his name is derived from the ‘Space Invaders’ arcade game), French artist Invader is interesting in a variety of ways, not least in the fact that he uses mosaics instead of spray paint. He has also used Star Wars characters, Pink Panther and Popeye. Like Banksy and many others, Invader protects his identity and refers to himself as an Unidentified Free Artist and has been ‘invading’ city spaces all over the world since 1998. In true video gaming style, he’s also kept score: 3280 Invaders / 65 CITIES ha ha. And speaking of identity, he’s one the artists who appears in the film ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, itself an interesting and often funny look at celebrity and the art world.

If you’ve ever had to remove tiles you’ll know that its easier to break them than to save them as some collectors have found out with Invader’s work. One of his solutions is to offer ‘invasion kits’ for sale, so you too can build-your-own Space Invaders ha ha ha. Alternatively you could go to your local home-depot-bunnings-masters-whatever monstrosity you have in your town and purchase some construction strength glue and cheap building material and invade space with your own creation! Anyway, I like the approachable nature of this project and the fact that its industrial nature has the potential to make it almost invisible. ‘Why would you want to make it invisible?’ I hear you say and my point is that quietly altering a highly regimented and controlled environment is more important than getting arrested, banned or being famous for 15 minutes.

I don’t think I’ve written much about street art previously, but this process, along with old-school DIY book/zine/record publishing and the still largely decentralized internet, seems to be the last frontier of free expression and speech. Wanting to side step the museum and gallery system, Invader sees himself as a ‘hacker’ of public space, displaying work at street level for everyone to enjoy. Working in public spaces also rearranges a city’s architecture to an extent, at least giving it a much needed splash of colour. We already have our head and physical spaces invaded by all kinds of junk so why not Space Invaders or Shepard Fairey’s Andre The Giant?

www.space-invaders.com

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While the film genre generally known as ‘Euro-Spy’ was largely a low budget spin-off of the James Bond franchise, much of it goes well beyond the spy theme and European borders. This also includes other trilogies, franchises and the like such as ‘Agent OSS 117’, ‘Fantomas’ and the ‘Harry Palmer’ films starring Michael Caine. There are films focusing on assassins, cat burglars, master criminals (some made in the U.S.A., Brazil and Japan for example) and anything else the writers or directors could throw in! One often gets the impression that they could get away with more sex, bizarre subject matter, political in-correctness (ha ha ha some of it is truly cringe worthy!) and violence than most mainstream films. Some are really awful while others such as ‘Danger: Diabolik’, ‘Our Man Flint’, ‘Tokyo Drifter’, ‘The Ipcress File’ and ‘Girl From Rio’ are definitely worth your time!

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I’m posting on this subject matter because a lot of the sets, graphic design, fashions as well as the soundtracks from this era (roughly spanning the 60’s) are a wonder to behold. The poster designs usually offer that uniquely 60’s mix of cheese, style and danger in equal measure that I don’t think has been replicated since. There is also a cartoon like quality to some of it and its not surprising since Modesty Blaise and Diabolik were well know comic book characters. I’ve spent a bit of time searching out a few good examples of posters to include here, and who knows, you might even seek out a few of these films!

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Featuring surely one of the most famous literary creations, these two sets of Ian Fleming novels published by Pan Books are great examples of one style evolving into another. The illustrated covers are from 1960 to 1963, and were created by Sam Peffer, a commercial artist whose work also includes film poster and home video covers. I think these covers are holdovers from the pulp novel era of the 40’s and 50’s, and he was apparently paid about £40 for each one! Wow.

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The later more minimal, harder edged, photographic work dates from 1963 to 1969, mostly featuring graphic design work by Raymond Hawkey (his editions lasted until 1965). He was already known for his groundbreaking cover design of the ‘The IPCRESS File’ novel. He insisted that the name ‘James Bond’ should be above the title and double the size. This was partly due to the fact that the novels were by this stage tied to a film franchise. Good examples of the different approaches are the two editions of Goldfinger.

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