Saturday, 30 June 2007

Featurette: JULIEN MARTINIÈRE


Born in Chatellerault, France in 1978, Julien was spent his childhood in his parents' restaurant and went on to attend L'École supérieure de l'Image de Poitiers learning film and animation. He has built an interesting portfolio of child-like, fresh and surreal imagery that's worth a look.

Links:
Julien Martinière
Julien Martinière Blog
Julien Martinière MySpace
Drawn! article (source)
L'École supérieure de l'Image

Friday, 29 June 2007

The Cycle of the Salmon


Very soon, I will be returning for an extended sojourn to my hometown of Olympia, Washington, USA. In the time running up to this, I will be somewhat preoccupied with making the necessary arrangements so postings may become somewhat haphazard (or at least more than usual).

From the Alaska Department of Fish & Game:
(Commercial Fisheries Management and Development Staff)
Sockeye salmon are anadromous: they live in the sea and enter freshwater systems to spawn. After hatching, juvenile sockeye salmon may spend up to four years in fresh water before migrating to sea as silvery smolt weighing only a few ounces. They grow quickly in the sea, usually reaching a size of 4 to 8 pounds after one to four years. Mature sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles from ocean feeding areas to spawn in the same freshwater system where they were born. Little is known about the navigation mechanisms or cues they use on the high seas, although some evidence suggests that they may be able to use cues from the earth's magnetic field. Once near their natal freshwater system, sockeye salmon use olfactory cues to guide them home.

And in this short, an important question is asked. "Do you love me, Olympia?"

Introducing TARA DONOVAN


Tara Donovan uses everyday materials such as styrofoam cups, drinking straws, sticky tape, and paper plates in her sculptures which feel incredibly organic. Learn more about Tara and see more of her fascinating work at the links below.

Links:
Hammer Gallery UCLA
ACE Gallery
BBC Collective feature
Saatchi Online
ArtCritical.com
Tara Donovan Wiki

MIKA BRZEZINSKI makes a stand for journalism


It is about time a journalist actually stood up against the skewed balance of fame in favour of real issues . Mika Brzezinski refused to lead on the story of Paris Hilton and in turn came in for repeated criticism from her colleagues who actually look rather villainous and vacuous.

Her colleagues also seem to be in denial about the impact of her actions particularly in the digital age. It's an inspiring act of integrity.

Introducing CAM ARCHER

Cam Archer has created several shorts, music videos and collections of photographs over the years. His feature debut, Wild Tigers I Have Known premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2006 and was executive produced by Gus Van Sant. It's story of adolescent longing has been well received and comparisons have been made to Kenneth Anger's debut, Fireworks.

In his earlier shorts, American Fame Pt.1: Drowning River Phoenix and American Fame Pt.2: Forgetting Jonathan Brandis, he explored fame and its pressures on youth. Lydia Lunch narrates on both.

His other short films include Godly Boyish, The Cold Ones, and bobbycrush. His long time collaborator Aaron Platt shot all the films and was nominated this year for the Independent Spirit Awards for "Best Cinematography" for his work on Wild Tigers I Have Known.

Here is the trailer for Wild Tigers:


Links:
Cam Archer
Cam Archer Pics
Wild Tigers blog
IndieWIRE interview
GreenCINE interview
Cinemad interview
Wild Tigers I Have Known
Aaron Platt (cinematographer)
Wild Tigers MySpace
Stephanie Volkmar (costume designer - Wild Tigers)
Lydia Lunch
Gus Van Sant wiki

Thursday, 28 June 2007

DAVID CRONENBERG's "Eastern Promises"

From scriptwriter Steven Knight(Dirty Pretty Things) comes another tale set in the dark underbelly of contemporary London which will be director David Cronenberg's follow-up to A History of Violence. Eastern Promises follows Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife trying to ascertain the identity of a dead patient which leads her into the criminal underground.

Here is the trailer:


Links:
David Cronenberg - Senses of Cinema
David Cronenberg Wiki
Steven Knight IMDB
Naomi Watts Wiki
Viggo Mortensen Wiki
Film Ick (video source)

SANTAMARIA's "Don't Walk Alone"


Design duo, Santamaria, created "Don't Walk Alone" a short animation for Sony. Combining minimalism, a varied colour palette, Saul Bass aesthetics, retro-gaming sensibilities, and multiple layers, this somehow manages to feel fresh despite all its marked influences.

EDIT: Here is the flash version...



Links:
Motionographer (source)
Santamaria
"Don't Walk Alone"
Huma-huma (music)

FOUR EYED MONSTERS


Arin Crumley & Susan Buice originally posted their independent film Four Eyed Monsters in its entirety(71 mins) on YouTube for a week, but that has since been extended to August 15, 2007. It's received endorsements from The Village Voice, The New York Times, and Variety though I found it a little disconcerting and something of a mixed bag.

See the trailer and the full length film below:

Four Eyed Monsters - trailer


Four Eyed Monsters (70 mins)

Links:
FourEyedMonsters.com
FourEyedMonsters YouTube

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Mega-Imagery and New Forms


The following is from the TED(technology-entertainment-design) Talks series of lectures and features a Photosynth and its various applications for handling, arranging, and compositing imagery. Whether you work in tech or not, this is absolutely fascinating.

As well as posting on art-specific subjects, I also like to keep everyone up-to-date on technologies that I feel have strong potential in creative expression.

CHRIS ATKINS' "Taking Liberties"


I lived in London between 1992 through to 2003 and witnessed the key political events of the nineties. In retrospect, a couple memories stand out. The first is the death of Labour leader John Smith and his replacement by Tony Blair. I remember seeing Blair for the first time and immediately disliking him, but as he gained a foothold against the Conservatives, I thought I'd give him a chance.

The next memory is that of the Labour landslide in 1997. It was incredible watching the worst of the Conservatives fall, but in time it became all too clear that things were not nearly as rosy(no pun intended) as it seemed.

Given Blair's relationship with Bill Clinton, there was a prevailing assumption that he would be a thorn or at least a balance to the incoming Presidency of George Bush. In the early days of Bush's presidency there were two pessimistic premonitions: he will start a war in the Middle East and he'll renew the Cold War. Now where are we today? And even harder to imagine at the time was the possibility that Blair himself would capitulate and stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush.

Even more worrying was the escalating deterioration of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11. Thankfully, director Chris Atkins has created Taking Liberties as a response to the increasingly farcical policies of Blair's government which rather worryingly have been supported by the incumbent Gordon Brown.

Here is the trailer:


Links:
Taking Liberties
Guardian Unlimited review

Favourite Scenes: LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG


It took a long time for me to get around to seeing Jacques Demy's Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). The bright colours and musical concept just didn't appeal looking far too optimistic for my liking, but it is a perfect gem and as surprising as a butterfly with the weight of a brick.

With music from Michel LeGrand and dialogue/lyrics from Jacques Demy, the film flows effortlessly. My favourite scene in question is the ultimate and being the final scene, I don't wish to spoil proceedings aside from saying that every detail in the film supports it as if the entire narrative were a pyramid and at its' apex stands this scene.

If you have yet to see this film, it is essential viewing and I recommend avoiding background research as everything I have found has focused on the scene with which I reference. It's been years since I've seen this film, but it still lingers.

Here is the original trailer:

Anders Rønnow Klarlund's STRINGS


With Anders Rønnow Klarlund's live action film How to Get Rid of Others due for release this year, I have been looking for something new to post about his previous film Strings which is set in a world of marionettes and created entirely with marionettes. Dek at No Fat Clips! has obliged with a nice post including a poignant scene from the film. See it HERE. Released in 2004, Strings was well received by critics and audiences, and is a compelling work bursting with metaphor.

Here is the trailer:



Links:
NoFatClips - Strings post
Trust Film Sales - Strings
Interview - Anders Rønnow Klarlund
Danish Film Institute - Strings

JOSSIE MALLIS' "Bendito Machine"


This short from Spanish illustrator and animator Jossie Mallis is a modern parable of power, religion, commerce, and society. It has a simple and surprisingly effective narrative that is well worth its 4:42 minute duration.

Monday, 25 June 2007

By way of whales... SWIM!


Swimming alongside the craft,
It tipped the raft
And the bottom of the sea
was like snow in moonlight

Putting these posts together, researching for interviews, seeking out new artists, answering questions, aimless wandering, and random links... I see patterns or reoccurring subjects. This week whales have been a regular marker on the path.

Not that I'm superstitious but I like to find some meaning in coincidence if only as an exercise in piecing together random parts. It's a means of looking in a different way. The found elements could each make for a post on their own but as a group, I'm presenting them as chance presented them to me albeit in an organised line-up.

Swim No. 1: Man & Whale

Swim No. 2: Drawing Restraint 9 from Matthew Barney

Here is the trailer for Drawing Restraint 9:


Swim No. 3: Moby Dick from Orson Welles

Kenneth Tynan described Orson Welles' interpretation of Melville's Moby Dick as follows:
Mauled by a whale: On Orson Welles' Moby Dick
At this stage of his career, it is absurd to expect Mr Orson Welles to attempt anything less than the impossible. Mere possible things, like Proust or War and Peace, would confine him. He must choose Moby Dick, whose setting is the open sea, whose hero is more mountain than man and more symbol than either, and whose villain is the supremely unstageable whale. He must take as his raw material Melville's prose, itself as stormy as the sea it speaks of, with a thousand wrecked metaphors clinging on its surface to frail spars of sense. Yet out of all these impossibilities, Mr Welles has fashioned a piece of pure theatrical megalomania: a sustained assault on the senses which dwarfs anything London has seen since, perhaps, the Great Fire. (June 19, 1955) - source: Guardian Unlimited
And here is a clip of Orson Welles...




Swim No. 4: The Collapse of Intelligent Design


Swim No. 5: Enjoying the Etymology of Whales


.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Interview: KLAUS OBERMAIER

Klaus Obermaier is a media artist, director, composer, and lecturer. Working in dance, music, theatre, new media and creating interactive installations, video art, web projects, computer music, radio plays, and large scale outdoor performances, his work has innovated, inspired, and has been well received by critics and spectators.

On Tuesday(26.6.07), Klaus with conductor Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a 21st century rendition of Igor Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring'(Le Sacre du Printemps) at the Southbank Centre, London. Dancer Julia Mach will perform within the virtual spaces created by Obermaier and interactive designers from the Ars Electronica Futurelab. Wearing 3D glasses, the audience will see Julia within the virtual world and her body itself will expand beyond reality.

I am extremely grateful to Klaus for sparing some time in the run up to this performance to answer my questions.

You have found ways to fuse and extend performers bodies. First, how do the performers themselves approach these fusions and how much control do they maintain in their performance? Second, is it important to you that the result looks natural(organic) and/or is an aesthetic of artifice an important part of the interpretation?

Both questions depend on each particular piece, as there is a big difference in the approach of for instance VIVISECTOR, APPARITION or Le Sacre du Printemps.


In Le Sacre du Printemps, I was doing the choreography and therefore was able to create my own kind of balance between real body (natural) and virtual. I was going for an aesthetic, where the human can interact with the realtime generated digital environment in a very natural way. The dance should work by its own, but also seamless fuse and interact with the digital environment. There is plenty of space for improvisation, but also the more strictly choreographed parts don't restrict the dancer regarding her performance, not more than in any conventional piece - Julia Mach keeps control.

Friday, 22 June 2007

"The walls became the world all around"


When has adapting a children's picture book into a film ever succeeded? Certainly Dr. Seuss hasn't fared well in recent years with The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And is there a point?

The above image is from Spike Jonze's upcoming adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. The image looks wonderful and there is a lot of talent behind the production. Jonze is a great choice as director, going with Jim Henson's Creature Shop is a wise move, and Dave Eggars knows his way around a typewriter but a lot of questions arise into the premise of adapting a picture book. Writers Spike Jonze and Dave Eggars have quite a challenge.

Much of the charm of picture books is their ability to distill big ideas into small, simple packages with enchanting imagery. While I'm sure Jonze will get the imagery right, the question remains: how does one preserve the charm and simplicity of a picture book over the course of a feature length film? I hope that we will have the answer when Where the Wild Things Are is released in October.

Links:
Legendary Pictures
Where the Wild Things Are - Wiki
Maurice Sendak - Wiki
Spike Jonze - Wiki
Dave Eggars - Wiki
MTV Movies Blog entry
Jim Henson's Creature Shop
McSweeneys
IMDB - Entry

Interview: STEFANIE SCHNEIDER

Another archived interview from the Ramble Rocket project, this brief interview with photographer Stefanie Schneider was conducted in early 2005 and never published. Stefanie is a German photographer who splits her time between Berlin and Los Angeles. Her images make use of sequential panels, expired film, and desert locations to create a washed out, cinematic quality.

She is currently working on a film and her book Stranger Than Paradise is published by Hatje Cantz Publishers.

Would you give a little bit of background to you and your work?
I grew up in a little sea resort in Northern Germany. In the late eighties I moved to San Francisco where I started to take pictures. When I had a motorbike accident I had to move back to Germany where I studied photography at the University Folkwangschule, Essen before I moved back to California in 1996. Than I started to work with instant film...


Is there a particular reason/philosophy behind your use of multiple images?
Multiple images are like fragments of a storyline or a bigger picture. They leave a lot of room for associations and they invite the viewer to draw assumptions. These activities of the observer are crucial to any art form.

I'm intrigued by the titles of some of your exhibitions (I love you so much it hurts, Rough Cuts, Instant Dreams, gasoline, stay, VOID...) How do you approach titling your works?
Titles should - at their best - pose questions, invite the viewer to draw assumptions and clarify what the artwork might be all about. Titles should also be force full and poetic at the same time. Most of my titles refer to feature films and myths created by the pop culture.


What equipment do you use for your work?
I work with Polaroid instant cameras. All past and present formats depending on the look I want. Recently I also started to work with low resolution web cams.

What are your feelings about film and digital photgraphic work?
The means are not very important for me. After all they are only tools to communicate things about the human condition. Any medium has a certain quality that might suit the intentions or not.

Who are the photographers that you admire?
I'm more interested in Film and Art than Photography. One of my favorites is - of course - Andy Warhol. But there are also many contemporary photographers I like but none that I would point out in particular.

What artists outside photography inspire you?
Günther Grass, John Steinbeck, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Mallick, Sam Shepard, Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, Lars von Trier.

Aside from photography, are there any other artistic endeavors which you pursue?
I've been working on films - features, experimental and documentaries alike..

As a photographer, film editor, director. Currently I'm preparing a feature film project with a couple of friends which will be shot in California.


Can you explain a little bit about the process you use to create your images?
Trial and error is my method of working. I tend to do many instant pictures on location with a rough idea in my mind. Later on I do a lot of thinking, editing and reassembling to put together the sequences. The pictures I have chosen are than re-photographed on negative film. Than I do regular analog C-prints.

Finally, what projects are you/will you be working on in future?
At the moment(2005) I'm in 29 Palms, CA working on A new series entitled Sidewinder with J.D. Rudometkin (writer, musician, actor)

Thank you, Stefanie.

Links
instant dreams
Stefanie Schneider Wiki
Hatje Cantz Publishers

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Twenty120


20 artists, 120 seconds each working with the theme "change". Like many collections, this is a mixed bag and nothing really pushes the envelope. I think I've spotted a couple things that I use in my work that now look incredibly banal so there is a silver lining to viewing some of the lesser pieces.

Matt Tragesser does some interesting things with negative space and perception in Soup to Nuts (see the first example below) and Scott Matz and Justin Meredith's TR-98 is deliciously absurd(second example). Larry Morris, Bran Dougherty-Johnson(organizer of Psst!), and Ben Radatz(co-founder of MK12) also raise their head above the parapet.

Here are a couple examples:






Links:
Twenty/120
20120 YouTube

JONAS ODELL's video for THE HOURS' "Ali in the Jungle"


Jonas Odell's video for two-piece The Hours incorporating album cover work from Damien Hirst(recognize that skull?) is an enjoyable diversion playing like an intricate automaton. Worth a look.


Introducing ANNIE POOTOOGOOK


Annie Pootoogook is an up and coming Inuit artist who comes from a multi-generational family of artists. In 2006, she won the Sobey Art Award and is currently one of the featured artists at the influential Documenta 12, in Kassel, Germany.

Her works are an honest presentation of a culture in transition portraying modern Inuit life with a detachment that brings a freshness to her work which ranges from the sublime to the horrifying.

Links:
CBC - "Culture Clash"
Culture Canada Profile
Nunatsiaq News article
Marcia Connolly's documentary
Feheley Fine Arts profile
Sobey Art Award
Documenta 12
Annie Pootoogook Wiki

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The weathervane points north but that doesn’t make it a compass


The concept of opening oneself to new things has been presented regularly through the Wire both in terms of introductions and specific expositions on the subject, but I have noticed that too little attention has been paid to critical thinking.

This isn’t entirely surprising as “being open” and “being critical” can make for strange bedfellows. It's down to timing, the reservation of judgment until such point that contemplation has been given some room to breathe, and some introspection.

As an extreme example, I recall going to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a cinema in Florida and when the first subtitles appeared, some people exclaimed, “It’s not in English?” before walking out and presumably asking for their money back. I have heard similar comments in regard to films in black and white. But it goes deeper than just sitting through the duration though that is obviously important.

Now, at this point, it may seem like this is all a means of stifling gut reaction but this isn’t so. That would equate a “knee jerk” with the “gut reaction” and there is, or rather, there should be a difference. To clarify, let’s define them. A “knee jerk” reaction makes no effort to strip away preconceptions and outside influences whereas as a “gut reaction” is entirely personal and does not succumb to paradigms.

My feeling is that if the circles of “knee jerk” and “gut reaction” overlap then some effort needs to be spent in separating them unless the individual concerned is from a Utopian society where outside influences are entirely benign. So really, in my own roundabout way, I am stating that to be an effective critical thinker, aim should not solely be squared against the target for which one observes but the actual observer as well—oneself.

Returning to the “knee jerk”, it may seem as if it has no useful purpose but it is quite the contrary. Many of my own observations are an evaluation of these reactions. To experience properly, one should also look within themselves to understand the feelings (or lack of) evoked by an experience be it reading the newspaper(or blog), watching a film, listening to music, visiting the ballet, reading a book, or looking at a painting, particularly when the reaction is strong.

And sometimes, the "knee jerk" reaction is right. It's just foolish to put much weight on it until tested.

This is the first of some of my notes that I have mercifully divided and will continue in serialized form in the coming weeks.

Associated Links
Cognitive Psychology (@simplepsychology)
Perception (@simplepsychology)
Cognitive Bias Wiki
"The Critique of Judgement" - Kant (search for "Fine Art")
Immanuel Kant
Aesthetic Wiki

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Interview: GRANT BARNHART

Grant Barnhart's works are intricate orchestrations of fragments marrying contemporary, historical and mythical elements into cohesive narrative images. Being given the opportunity to interview Grant at this stage of his career has been a privilege as his work moves into uncharted territory.

In this interview he provides both abstract and practical insight into his work as well as his own observations on art in general.

How much planning and preparation goes into your work?
At times I feel like all I do is plan and prep for future projects. My house and studio are littered with random scribbles and notes that should guide me to the next painting or project, but at times look like nothing more than random notations and scribbles. On the quick end of things it can take a few days to comprise the ideas with my reference on hand.

And do you approach your personal works differently from commercial projects?
The commercial work is completely different. I get an assignment emailed to me and usually have 1-4 days to complete from start to finish. Most of the time is spent looking at low res. Images on my computer screen. The quality is so bad that it is pointless to print off because the ink will bleed together on the paper.


Your works seem to have strong narrative qualities. Is this deliberate and would you consider it part of your ‘style’?
Yes the narration in my work is extremely deliberate. I’m trying to form a conversation with an audience that may or may not even be there. I’m giving the viewer the opportunity probe inside my head and ask questions about what they are seeing.

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City"

Even after the years of absurdity in Iraq, the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and his book, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" somehow manages to surprise and horrify in equal measure.

From the official site, here are a couple of excerpts from the book's description:
"The Washington Post’s former Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran takes us with him into the Zone: into a bubble, cut off from wartime realities, where the task of reconstructing a devastated nation competed with the distractions of a Little America—a half-dozen bars stocked with cold beer, a disco where women showed up in hot pants, a movie theater that screened shoot-’em-up films, an all-you-could-eat buffet piled high with pork, a shopping mall that sold pornographic movies, a parking lot filled with shiny new SUVs, and a snappy dry-cleaning service—much of it run by Halliburton. Most Iraqis were barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up."

And insight into the work of Paul Bremer:
"In the vacuum of postwar planning, Bremer ignores what Iraqis tell him they want or need and instead pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions—a flat tax, a sell-off of Iraqi government assets, and an end to food rationing. His underlings spend their days drawing up pie-in-the-sky policies, among them a new traffic code and a law protecting microchip designs, instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity production. His almost comic initiatives anger the locals and help fuel the insurgency."
Here is the VBS tv interview with Rajiv:



The book has recently won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction and is published by Random House.

Links:
Official Site
Excerpt from the book
The Washington Post
BBC Article
Guardian Article
Random House

Monday, 18 June 2007

COLLIN ORD's "Magic Moving Images: Animated Optical Illusions"


A new optical illusion book from Colin Ord is demonstrated in the clip below. The concept of adding an ingredient to an image to make it come to life is fascinating. I wonder what could be achieved by taking it a step further?

Saturday, 16 June 2007

P.T. ANDERSON's "there will be blood"


P.T. Anderson has a collection of ecclectic and intelligent work to his credit with films like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love. His latest is a loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel "Oil". Starring Daniel Day Lewis and with music from Aimee Mann, this looks to be the darkest of Anderson's films to date.

Here is the trailer:



Links:
Cigarettes & Red Vines (info)
Little Boston News(production photoblog)
Paul Thomas Anderson Wiki
Upton Sinclair Wiki
Daniel Day Lewis Wiki
Aimee Mann
YouTube Link(trailer)

Interview: ICELANDIC LOVE CORPORATION


The Icelandic Love Corporation are enigmatic and their colourful, life affirming works are transient or anonymous. Because of this and having read numerous other interviews, I knew that this would be a challenge; a bit like catching smoke with a net or a scooping up the same piece of river more than once.

Their work spans a wide range of mediums including performance, sculpture, installations, music, film, television, painting, and literature. While certainly emotive, like their creators, the works are resistant to analysis. Trying to do so is rather pointless; a bit like trying to create a specific blueprint for how to run the rake through a Zen garden.

What I will say is that I find their work honest and refreshing with a seriousness that isn't cumbersome. As a whole, their body of work is like an ornate diary, a window into their own personal journeys with the most incredible, enlightening outlook.


In regards to the name of your group, would you explain the importance of the trio of words from which it is made: Icelandic, love, and corporation? And aside from the name itself, what changed between the group being known as Gjörningaklúbburinn and The Icelandic Love Corporation?
Well, we never thought about it as a trio of words, per se. When this name was first used, we were actually a quartet. Dóra Isleifsdóttir was a part of the group from 1996 - 2001. Why we chose those three exact words is both easy and hard to explain. Icelandic, well that's a fact. We are icelandic. Love. we like it. it is a strong idea. It is both a redeeming, creative and destructive element. but most of the time a very good thing. corporation.
"Some people seem to automatically connect the word love to something kitschy or childish. We really don't understand that."
Probably the megalomania in us back then was pretty strong. but also we thought it was funny. to be a corporation of four girls. We did not really sit around contemplating about this name for a very long time. it just seemed right. through the years we have thought about it from time to time and have grown to like it more and more. Some people seem to automatically connect the word love to something kitschy or childish. We really don't understand that. well partly we do, but we think that's unfair to love.

Favourite Scenes: THE ENGLISH PATIENT

The English Patient is one my favourite books and films. To me, it is incomprehensible that anyone would find the film boring. It's one of the most engaging, visually stunning, tense, erotic and rich stories in cinema preserving the strongest themes of the book from which it is sourced. Indeed, Michael Ondaatje worked closely on the film and was happy with the result.

Having experienced the divisive and cretinous use of national borders as a means of distinguishing people, I can empathize strongly with Count Almásy(Ralph Fiennes) as he struggles to comprehend the idiocy of nationality which is brought to a head by the onset of war. Friends and lovers are separated, sinners who stand under the right flag are canonized and saints with the wrong passport are demonized. It's a unique perspective that is typically overlooked.

In this key scene(48) early in film, the Patient introduces the audience to his perspective while Hana(Juliette Binoche)'s perspective lays down the starting point for her character's journey.

48. INT. THE PATIENT'S ROOM. DAY.

Hana carries in a tray. There's OMELETTE on the plate.

HANA
There's a man downstairs. He brought us eggs.
(shows him the omelette)
He might stay.

THE PATIENT
Why? Can he lay eggs?

HANA
He's Canadian.

THE PATIENT (brittle)
Why are people always so happy when they collide with someone from the same place? What happened in Montreal when you passed a man in the street - did you invite him to live with you?

HANA
He needn't disturb you.

THE PATIENT
Me? He can't. I'm already disturbed.

HANA
He won't disturb us then. I think he's after morphine.
(she's cut the omelette into tiny pieces)
There's a war. Where you come from becomes important. And besides - we're vulnerable here. I keep hearing noises in the night. Voices.

The Patient says nothing. She puts a spoonful of the omelette into his mouth. He grunts.
**From the screenplay by Anthony Minghella adapted from Michael Ondaatje's novel.

Links:
The English Patient (Book) - Wiki
The English Patient (Film) - Wiki

Friday, 15 June 2007

THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT: Love Smiles

A sci-fi western from Cory McAbee, The American Astronaut has been warmly received on the film festival circuit. I haven't seen the film but I thoroughly enjoyed the musical routine (which you can see below) and the write-ups have perked my interest.

The New Yorker describes it as being "filled with psychotic Astaire-style musical sequences, Three Stooges-esque humor, slimy nightmare imagery, and hilarious Flash Gordon-inspired space scenes" while Filmmaker Magazine say it's something "virtually unique in American independent film". Not that I put too much weight on the opinions of critics, but they are so wildly varied in their descriptions. See them HERE.

The film is now available on DVD. Here is the trailer and the aforementioned musical clip:



Thursday, 14 June 2007

Interview: NIKKI McCLURE



Another artist from my hometown of Olympia, Nikki McClure's works have a Zen simplicity that is both thought provoking and soothing. She is known for her intricate paper cuts painstakingly crafted with a knife as opposed to a brush or pencil. Community, motherhood, work, and nature play a prominent role in her work.

Her latest book 'Collect Raindrops' is a calming celebration of the little and important things in life and along with her other work is available at BuyOlympia.com.

What would you say is the influence of your environment and Olympia in general on your work?
It is the influence. Everything that I make is informed by the air I breathe and the trees and birds and soil. The physical environment is most important to me. And the human/built/cultural environment- this is important too, though less so now than in the past. Too many people I care about have moved away and I am so busy making my family strong and healthy that I have become a bit of a hermit.


And what reasons would you say lie behind the number of artists who are either from or who have settled in the area?
The foggy mornings and tidal smell and the feeling of co-operation and altruism.
"I like that I can't erase, that I have to find a solution that works with the mistake, rather than erasing it."
Would you tell us about your process of creating your paper cuts? And how would you say the process adds to your work?
I sketch ideas- from memories and photographs and staged photos of poses remembered by my muscles. Then I make a larger- to-size sketch, transfer this to black paper with pencil, and then start cutting. Make a mistake, fix it somehow, and keep cutting. The mistake part is very important. I like that I can't erase, that I have to find a solution that works with the mistake, rather than erasing it.

Also the flow of the blade, cutting is different than drawing. You can't draw a line over and over till you get it "right"- you just have to go for it with the knife in hand. There is a necessary confidence in the line.

PETER GREENAWAY Lectures - 2006 EGS

For an upcoming interview with the creators of Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel of AmbientTV.com, I read a fascinating interview by Manu with Peter Greenaway while doing background research and in turn discovered the following series of lectures by Greenaway at the European Graduate School in 2006.

It's a fascinating lecture on filmmaking. These are parts 1-3 of 8. You can find the additional installments as well as further lectures at EGS's YouTube page HERE.







Links:
EGS YouTube Page
European Graduate School
Peter Greenaway.co.uk
Peter Greenaway Wiki
BFI Early films of Peter Greenaway

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

THE GRAND TOUR + Outdoor Printing Technology


London's National Gallery is showcasing some of its permanent works as full size reproductions complete with frames around Soho, Picadilly, and Covent Garden in The Grand Tour. This in itself is novel, but the technology behind it is especially interesting.

Imagine Ansel Adams prints on permanent display in Yosemite, Van Gogh's prints in rural France, or outdoor galleries in your garden or city centres. There's so much potential. My examples don't do justice. Already, the juxtaposition of classical paintings on display beside Soho's sex shops is wonderfully topsy-turvy.

Printing onto a material called Epiflex, Electronic Printing Services(Leeds) printed the life size reproductions using a Hewlett Packard DesignJet 10000 with solvent-based inks which were then combined with a waterproof laminate which stops colours fading. Initial lab tests suggest the prints will look the same after a decade. The largest of the images cost £200 to print.

An alternative method using the Epson Stylus 9600 makes use of pigmented inks which are not tied to a single material or manufacturer.

Links:
Guardian Unlimited Article
BBC - Bringing Art to Life
PrintWeek Article
National Gallery - The Grand Tour

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

VALÉRIE PIRSON's "Pistache"


This is Valérie Pirson's graduation work which led to her collaboration with Michel Gondry on The Science of Sleep. It fits in nicely with several recent posts on balance.

You can download the animation HERE or watch it below in low quality flash video. Additional work from
Valérie is available HERE.



Links:
YouTube Link
Valérie Pirson - Pistache
Partizan - Valérie Pirson
Interview (subtitled)

The Best Restaurant in New York


When I lived in Greenwich Village, there used to be a little restaurant a block away from where I lived called The Princess' which had a single table and served great, homemade food prepared and served by the titular owner. For $10 back in 1991, you not only had a mouth watering meal made with a heap of love but good company as well.

It was a long time ago. Despite visiting once a week for nearly a year, I have trouble remembering the place and for all my repeated attempts at finding some online artifacts of its existence or some hint at whatever became of the Princess, I've always come up empty.

What I do recall is that it felt more like a home. It was small and quite dark save for a couple of small lamps and a candle. Even on the sunniest days, it hardly felt like daylight and to me, it always felt like 2:00 am with a kindly landlady serving up a supper for the kid without time to eat.

Just over the road at an angle was Katz's which was always polished and bustling. At the time Katz's was fresh off the publicity of the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, but it was always busy, shiny, and stressful.

The Princess'
without a sign or any hint that it was a restaurant sat like the Princess herself across the road quietly waiting. There's a scene in Wayne Wang's Smoke where Harvey Keitel has a Christmas dinner with a blind black woman who thinks he's her son. That is exactly how the Princess made me feel every time I visited except she wasn't blind--just extremely kind, wise, and a sublime cook.

And the food; there was no menu. You had to submit yourself to the Princess' whim which if I recall correctly hardly ever changed. Traditional southern style dinner is what was promised and that's exactly what was delivered and every bite melted in my mouth. I can't recall ever having a meal quite so surprising and delicious since and anything that came close was tragically encased in starchy formality.

I don't think she made much money and she certainly wasn't in it for financial gain. She had a talent and she quietly shared it with anyone that bothered to look. Sadly, I don't think I'll ever find a place like it. A single woman, a single table, no menu, and a small room hidden among the skyscraping metropolis of Manhattan.

And if anyone out there knows whatever happened to the Princess restaurant of Houston Street or have their own recollections, please post a comment or get in touch.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Introducing JESCA HOOP


It's hard to pin down Jesca's music. It's like looking at a forest through an old aquarium with milk swimming into it. It's rhythms are askew and the lyrics are like vines and should my description (I'm terrible expressing music in words) be too vague, that's a compliment.

Tom Waits describes her and her music as follows:
"Jesca Hoop's music is like a four sided coin. She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night."

Hear her music at the links below or watch Linda Serbu's video for Jesca's single "Big Fish" below:


Big Fish (d
ir. Linda Serbu)

EDIT: The video for Money...


Money

Sunday, 10 June 2007

The "Quiet" Week is officially over


After a very hectic week working on a personal project and several interviews, things are back online and there's a lot of posts coming in the next few days. Apologies for the hiatus, but I am told on good authority that it is summer(in this hemisphere anyhow) and that there are better things to do than sit in front a computer.

Complete the sequence


In the short time that I've written this blog, I've learned quite a lot. The juxtaposition of elements occasionally makes a connection and bingo! A unique idea is born. And in a way, it's like the game bingo and like you, I'm following along with my own unique card waiting for the right sequence that will complete the circuit and bring an idea to life.

Obviously, it's not a conscious thing beyond being open minded. It's a little bit frightening really how the brain works. To put it into perspective, look at the Stroop Effect, SNARC, or look at the image below from MIT. Square A and B are the exact same shade of grey. (Explanation HERE)


The point that I'm putting forward is that by putting a wide variety of stimuli into your sensory diet, you give your brain more stimulation and a greater range of building blocks with which to generate ideas. Common sense really, but contrary to how people generally seek out stimulus.

Typically, we fall into patterns guided by preferences forged by experience, but what I would like people to do more is to go past initial reactions of dislike or critical judgment and broaden their experience. Again, it sounds simple but in practice, we need constant reminders that sometimes our knee jerk intuition is not always our friend.

Links:
MIT - CheckerSquare Illusion
Institute of Neuroesthetics
26 Reasons What Think is Right is Wrong (source: Conscientious)
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