Previously: Japan Media Arts festival - The Art Division.
Last and overdue notes from the Japan Media Arts Festival which took place last month in Tokyo. You'll have to forget my laziness, today i'll just gloss over the entertainment and animation categories and then go back to that mountain of books i'm supposed to review before 2010 shuts down.
Some rather good projects were submitted to the entertainment division. I often think that there's much confusion between the entertainment and art categories in many media art festivals but it didn't seem to be the case in Tokyo this year.
Two of the excellence prizes went to:
scoreLight, the electronic musical instrument designed by Alvaro Cassinelli, Daito Manabe, Yusaku Kuribara and Alexis Zerroug. The prototype generates sounds in real time from the lines of drawings and the contours of 3D objects nearby. A modified laser scanner works like the pick-up head that searches for sounds over the surface of a vinyl record. The difference is that the groove is generated by the contours of the drawing itself. The result is a light beam that dances on the surface of the drawing, while singing its secret score.
Director Naoki Ito created a documentary style web advertisement. A real couple in long distance relationship was selected to run the 1,000 km distance that separates Tokyo from Fukuoka. It took them one month (only!??) The run was broadcast live on the web and it was not until they reached their goal that it was announced that Love Distance was to be turned into a TV advertisement for the world's thinnest condom.
I spotted many gems among the Jury recommended works for this entertainment category:
daruman, by Mari Matsumoto, is a daruma otoshi that changes facial expression as it loses his body pieces, becoming frightened or angry of being dismembered by players. If anyone has other links or maybe a video of the projects, that would be more than welcome.
Rather unsurprisingly some of the entries are best enjoyed if you understand japanese. I haven't got much clue about what is going on in the video below but that shouldn't prevent me from posting it:
The animation, called Here comes the Gyorome Alien, was created by Yosuke Kihara. The stories are told using hand knitted stuffed toys in stop motion animation.
What would a Japanese media art event be without the presence of Maywa Denki?
Designed by KAYAC Inc. and Maywa Denki, YUREX is a device that improves your concentration through Binbo-Yusuri, or twitching leg. It will be released on April 24th.
Now for the Animation category!
The charming stop-motion animation Elemi by Hideto Nakata got an Excellence Award. The short movie follows the romance and struggle of a telephone pole standing in a downtown area.
Ryo Okawara's Animal Dance, which only received an Encouragement prize, narrates the dynamism of life through charcoal strokes on a vibrant orange background.
A young man is struggling with a Deadline while the post-it notes he had stuck on the wall begins to move and morph. A stop-motion animation by Yao Liu Bang.
In Chisato stared, by Wataru Uekusa, a line is used to reflect emotion, and the theme is the sublimation of a complex and continuous moment, like following one phrase of a song.
The image on the homepage illustrates the work of Yoshinori Kanada who passed away last year. The festival awarded him a Memorial Achievement Prize. Looking through his amazing works i was reminded of my favourite tv programme when i was a kid (i don't think Kanada ever worked on that one though) and i'll leave you with Goldorak, or whatever you call it in your language, until tomorrow.
Who would have thought i'd end up blogging about a splatter movie on wmmna? I'm not talking about any horror flick, i'm talking "gay-porn zombie film", a genre which i assume is under-represented in contemporary art. Written and directed by Bruce LaBruce and starring porn actor François Sagat, LA Zombie is on view at the Peres Projects gallery in Berlin, along with a dozen new works on canvas.
It was a bit of a hard core spectacle for someone like me who has no interest nor experience in the genre(s). I'm still wondering how i'll manage to convey the happiness and sense of beauty that the film gave me. There's something respectable about a porn movie that you watch inside a renowned art gallery. You might be shocked but you're never ashamed. Bruce Labruce's other queer cinema horror film Otto; or Up With Dead People debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the artist has contributed to magazines such as Vice, Index, and BlackBook,
I doubt LaBruce bothers much about making you and me and other art lovers comfortable. Just like Murakami delights in selling his art in both prestigious art galleries and shops merchandising fugly brown monogram bags, LaBruce doesn't seem too eager to drawing a line between art and porn. He told Salon: "All of my work has been about that line. You can situate yourself on either side of the line without really altering the work itself. I could take a picture for Honcho magazine, but can take the same image and put it in a frame in an art gallery, and it becomes art. For me that speaks to the arbitrary nature of those labels." A soft-core version of L.A. Zombie will tour film festivals this year. You can expect to find the hard-core DVD gracing the shelves of your favourite sex shop in the spring.
LA Zombie was shot in Los Angeles. Guerrilla-style. With almost no budget. The main protagonist rises from the sea, with as much clout and allure as Ursula Andress herself in that famous Bond scene. He's a zombie or maybe he's just a bit deranged and fancies himself as an undead creature. He sports canine teeth and is dressed like a homeless. Good looking young guys get killed or die in accidents. He finds them, gives them the fuck of life right into their wound, they open their eyes. They have become zombie too and lead the life of tramps around LA. People don't seem to even notice their presence.
Bruce Labruce LA Zombie: The Movie That Would Not Die runs at Peres Projects in Berlin until April 24, 2010.
This exhibition explored the way photographic images and videos represent reality as much as they can construct and betray it. One of its section was dedicated entirely to the treatment of images in the context of war.
As James der Derian notes in his essay for the exhibition catalog: No State or state of mind can exercise full authority in the contemporary infosphere - which of course does not stop many from trying.
Images and politics are of course intimately intertwined. A clamorous example is offered by the German and Italian fascist movements in the 1930s. Inspired by the techniques of agitprop of the Russian Revolution, both governments used the relatively new media that were photography, radio and film to bolster their power through visual messages where propaganda and reality appeared to be one and only.
The issue was brought to the public attention more recently when the Pentagon imposed a strict blackout on media coverage of US soldiers' coffins returning from Iraq (a censorship which seemed to extend to art portraits of living but reclining soldiers.) The ban, in force since the Persian Gulf war, was eased last year.
Artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin followed the British army in Afghanistan as embedded photo reporters in June 2008. Embedded reporters are expected to 'document' the conflict while complying with the rigid directives of military command. Only the images that make it through their censorship process are published.
Instead of running after bullets and casualties, Broomberg and Chanarin exposed a roll of 76.2 cm wide and 6 m long photographic paper to the sun for twenty seconds every day. The result, titled The Brother's Suicide, is a series of abstract, mostly white images, with colourful marks where the light and the heat triggered a chemical reaction on the paper.
The next step of their work in Afghanistan is The Day Nobody Died, a video that traces the return of the cardboard box containing the roll of photographic paper. The artists followed the soldiers and filmed them as they had to load and unloading the roll of photographic paper from one military base to another. The same gestures are repeated as the soldiers and the box step inside on Chinooks, planes, buses, tanks and jeeps. The object bore no meaning nor probably any sense for the soldiers who become the involuntary protagonists of an absurd performance encapsulating the repetitive nature of military life outside the battleground. A touching and quirky moment in the video sees the soldiers watching the reality show Big Brother under a military tent, with the big cardboard box 'sitting' among them.
The choice of communicating their experience on the war front through abstract and formalistic representation might seem almost irrational. When it is impossible and even forbidden to faithfully communicate the pain and horror of the personal tragedy of soldiers waiting for the moment to fight or die, The Brother's Suicide and The Day Nobody Died force us to reflect and imagine what we do not see and what we are not told.
What Broomberg and Chanarin seek to demonstrate with this paradoxical work of "anti-documentation" is that their images are equivalent in terms of truth content to the photographs of embedded reporters approved by military censorship. Their abstract painting of light bears witness to the reality of the conflict in the same almost paradoxical way as the work of the war photographers, which in any case does not present the truth.
While in Athens, i checked out the Mark Amerika retrospective at The National Museum of Contemporary Art. How could i miss it? I knew so little about Amerika, an artist who, as the press release reminds, had been described as one of the "Time Magazine 100 Innovators" of the 21st century.
Amerika describes himself as a "thoughtographer", an "artist-medium", a "fictional philosopher", a "remixologist", a "network conductor", a wonderer who constantly changes identities and roles in a fragmentary world where time acquires an a-synchronic and non real dimension. By trying to express the complexity and the interest of contemporary digital reality, he delves into different aspects of himself and draws on elements and traits that he transfers to the characters of his works, by using the media the technological platforms of our time. Developing projects on the net, filming with mobile phones, remixing common moments and figures of today`s culture in an VJ-like audiovisual rhythm, Amerika redifines the characteristics of today's culture and opens up the possibilities for new interpretations and thoughts from the audience itself.
What is sure is that he's probably the only net artist who is not only responsible for a publication that Publishers Weekly described as "the literary publishing model of the future" but also the director of a feature-length film shot entirely on mobile phone. After having seen the digital videos -Society of the Spectacle (A digital Remix) is particularly good- and internet artworks on show at the museum, i feel more puzzled than ever. It's one of those shows that require a second viewing (at least in my case) because everything doesn't come to you at the first visit. Just like the OK TEXTS printed on stickers and hidden under the steps of the stairs when you go downstairs to see the Amerika retrospective. I only saw them on my way out of the museum.
I copy/pasted a couple of them below:
We cannot process your information. Your information is corrupt and needs cleansing. Erase brain?
An error has been detected in your consciousness. All source-code is corrupt. Continue?
Revolutionary double-speak has engendered a new information war. The system is about to crash. Download drugs now?
The application could not be opened because your genetic code is dysfunctional. Abort?
A cyborg orgy is not valid. Only digicash transactions are available at this time. Would you like to pay for the privilege?
The network is monitoring your Digital Being. Create alias?
This document wants to blow you. Go to finder?
A transfer of $247,789.40 is about to download. Are you sure you want to disconnect?
At least, I'll get a second chance with the online works which EMST has listed on one of its webpages and made accessible to visitors in their Media Lounge.
P.S. You can also see Immobilité Remixes at the Vivo Arte.Mov festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 12 - 15, 2009.
Nathalie Djurberg looks like a porcelain doll. She makes candy-coloured plasticine puppets who have orgies, who torture each other and suffer alien, abusive relationships. Sometimes they have fun but that involves a tiger licking a girl's bottom or a father who will eventually be killed by his own daughter. Djurberg, who won the Silver Lion award for best young artist at the Biennale, was the super star of Venice. I went to see her video installation three times and the room was always jam-packed with people drooling over her animations and taking photos of her monstruous sculpted flowers as if their lives depended on it. Not that i acted any differently.
Experimentet is an installation recreating a Garden of Eden from hell. It's a garden covered with creepy flowers. They are so big they dwarf visitors, their colours and shape are nauseating. Sun never lights up the garden, it's set in a perpetual crepuscule, in the basement of the Padiglione delle Esposizioni (the ex-Padiglione Italia in the Giardini of the biennale.)
A music composed by Hans Berg contributes to the uncomfortable atmosphere. On the screens, 3 merciless and erotic stop-motion animations.
One tells the story of a puppet who battles her own aggressive limbs. The second one features puppets who resort to all sort of brutishness in order to escape a hostile forest environment and the third one follows the sexual foreplay of various puppets, some of them Catholic ecclesiastics. Their sexual and sacrilegious encounters are just pretexts to highlight perverse games of power and submission.
As the catalog of the biennale says: Through these minutely composed sequences of stop-motion animations, Djurberg toys with society's perceptions of right and wrong, exposing our own innate fears of what we do not understand and illustrating the complexity that arises when we are confronted with these emotions.
Related: Nathalie Djurberg solo show at the Fondazione Prada.
Finally! I made it to the Venice Biennale. My dislike for a city i associate mostly with plastic gondole and unreasonably-priced limp panini takes a short break in mid-October. The weather is pleasantly cool and sunny and that's usually the time for me to visit a fairly quieter Biennale (until you step inside the always sardined room showing Nathalie Djurberg's wonderful little videos and creepy flowers but more about this one really soon.)
I'll kick off the Venice reports with the show MADDESTMAXIMVS at the Australian Pavilion. I wasn't expecting to like that one as much as i did. A 1:1 'sculptural' replica of the V8 'Interceptor' car driven by Mel Gibson in Mad Max and parked at the entrance of the show almost made me run in the opposite direction.
The vehicle started to make sense when i entered the pavilion. MADDESTMAXIMVS reflects Shaun Gladwell's addiction to extreme sports such as skateboarding, BMX bike riding and break-dancing. Instead of exploring the urban backdrop he has used his public to, the artist ventures into Australian hinterland and desert regions. All Gladwell knew about the location until then came from cinema and in particular the Mad Max movies.
The first video i saw in the pavilion was mesmerizing. A motorcyclist seemed to be surfing a running car as if he were on a wave. Although the car is following a seemingly endless road at very high speed, the images are shown in slow motion. "Slow motion gets away from the high-speed, high-impact imagery of MTV that was also part of the 'Mad Max' films. I'm more interested in distilling, slowing down," explained the artist.
A second video features the corpse of a kangaroo on the side of highways (one never thinks of kangaroos as roadkill, right?) The same motorcyclist appears again. He never removes his helmet, he takes the marsupial in his arms and carries it like a pieta to a more dignified place for burial.
The location to the Australian outback confers a haunting dimension to the videos. A political dimension too i suspect. It's hard not to think about the suffering of indigenous Aboriginal inhabitants, in particular the fate met by the Stolen Generations. Last year, the Australian government issued a formal apology for the mistreatment that the traditional owners of the land featured in the videos had been submitted to in the past.
Not only is the Mad Max-style car parked at the entrance of the pavilion (who would steal it anyway? The only vehicle you can drive in Venice is a boat), the motorcycle that stars in one of the videos has been implanted in the outer wall of the building. The videos were so good i think i should just ignore the vehicle antics.
Downstairs, a tower made of monitors - Centred Pataphysical Suite (2009) - shows performers spinning on the spot either skateboarding, break-dancing, dancing on hig sticks or BMX riding.
The Arts Newspaper tv has a video interview with the artist, Australia Council for the Arts has another one featuring a journalist with a super quirky accent and Vernissage.tv had a long look inside the show.
The Venice Art Biennale runs until the 22nd of November 2009.