četvrtak, 21. studenoga 2019.

Jon Rafman - Dream Journal (2016-2017)

Slikovni rezultat za Jon Rafman - Dream Journal


excerpt on vimeo

Kad se jednom stopimo sa zlom Umjetnom Inteligencijom živjet ćemo vječno, neće nam dati da umremo, a stalne noćne more bit će naše jedino iskustvo.

You, The world and I:

Play // Dream Journal: An Interview with Jon Rafman

Article by Penny Rafferty in Berlin // Friday, Oct. 06, 2017

Shag carpet fills one room at Sprüth Magers in Berlin, and eight ambiguous, lounging foam figures recline in the darkness. Waiting for your own body to slip into them, or perhaps plug into them, they vibrate to every action on screen, sending a shiver up your spine that could almost be comforting. This elaborate set is the viewing station for Jon Rafman’s new work ‘Dream Journal ’16-’17’, an hour-long CG animated film, which is scored by the famously captivating musicians Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro. The video explores nearly every terrain Rafman’s visual landscapes have allowed us to visit over the years, including computer games like ‘the Sims’ and ‘Street Fighter’ and childhood cult classics like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Alice in Wonderland’, albeit in a strange, rough computer-generated imagery that is doused with sexual motifs, abstract blood splatters and comic couture allegories. Rafman grounds all this chaos in heroic figures like Joan of Arc, white-turbaned freedom fighters, cute hip amputees and anarcho-feminist insurgents. Rafman has the ability to lead every viewer into a world of play via his screened oracles, having often been dubbed the godfather of post-internet. He constructs the dreams and nightmares you have heard of, seen and will likely encounter in the future. Berlin Art Link caught up with Rafman before his opening to talk play, games, LARP and his never-ending schematics of reality.
Jon Rafman, ‘Dream Journal 2016-2017’, Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2017 // Photo: Timo Ohler, Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers
Penny Rafferty: I have always wondered if you have a gaming history or if you just stalk the net?
Jon Rafman: There’s some history. I was one of the top Yoshi’s in the tri-state area during the Mario Kart 64 days. And I did get back into gaming while conducting research for my film ‘Codes of Honor’, but I have to say that was in a more documentarian role. Throughout that time I went to Chinatown Fair arcade in NYC almost every day for months and months, I spent hours interviewing pro-gamers about the good old times.
PR: Seductive nostalgia?
JR: Yeah, I’m attracted to this particular obsession and dedication that gamers have, as well as the extremely ephemeral histories that gaming communities have built up. I can see both the Sisyphean quality and the tragic beauty they inhabit. Gamers attempt to master something that is always becoming obsolete. For me, this is an apt metaphor for the accelerated age we now live in.
Jon Rafman: ‘Dream Journal 2016-2017’, Video Still // Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers
PR: It’s funny you mention the age we live in, I’m always finding moments of déja vu in your work. I find myself questioning my internal mind’s eye. Did I hear/see that before or some remix of that image, clip, sound. Your work is ultimately impersonal, due to its nature. Of want for a better word, fishing (pulling images via the internet) hence personal to all with its chopped, glitched narratives. We have almost seen it all before.
JR: Well, the way we see the world is deeply affected by the media we consume, especially early on in life. My process really varies from project to project, but as a practice it usually begins with the “stalking” you mentioned before. I have enormous treasure troves of found material. Often there is either a central image, mood, or memory that is the guiding force that I’ll build the work around. And a lot of times that sense of déja vu, or a sense of the uncanny, is condensed into that particular image/narrative and I build onto that.
PR: So does that make you the protagonist, the anthropologist, or the director?
JR: I’d say I’m the director first. I have definitely been a protagonist in some early video works, usually in the form of an exaggerated obsessive version of a certain ideal. And yes, sometimes I take on the role of a very amateur anthropologist.
Jon Rafman: ‘Transdimensional Serpent’, 2016
Virtual Reality video installation, developed with Samuel Walker
Installation view Frieze London 2016 // Photo: Damian Griffiths, Courtesy of the artist and Seventeen, London
PR: You’re about to participate in the ‘Play Co Summit’, that Ed Fornieles and I are organising in London. I think Role Play is drawing in a lot of people in the arts who work in a cross disciplinary manner. What drew you to RPG, LARP and bleed (life and play crossover)?
JR: I’ve always been fascinated by Live Action Role Playing, which comes out of my love of fantasy, sci-fi, virtual worlds and gaming. Today it feels more relevant than ever: life itself has begun to feel more and more like a performance and so LARPing feels increasingly poignant as a way to reflect reality.
PR: ‘Sticky Drama’ is one work that stood out to me, as far as seeing bleed being explored explicitly with on and offline imaginariums in your work, and also its ability to explore notions of collective, cross-generational imaginations was really refreshing,
JR: All my work deals with those themes to some degree. The reason ‘Sticky Drama’ probably stands out so much is it was the first time that I worked in live action film and attempted to create my own virtual world in the flesh. Throughout my practice, I have tried to create different poetic universes, each with their own internal logic. In the case of ‘Sticky Drama’, Lopatin and I were pulling from everything from LARP culture to 80s and 90s body horror, to kid adventure films.
Jon Rafman and Daniel Lopatin: ‘Sticky Drama’, Film Still, 2015, Seventeen, London // Courtesy of the artists, Seventeen, London and the Zabludowicz Collection, London
PR: That makes sense especially as I see the death drive so fervently in that piece: the death drive becomes a sort of euphoria in the film, like the end of the game is the high you yearn for as a player and director. In the film the chords of Oneohtrix Point Never slash through the walls of this cd-clad-micro blonde girl’s bedroom, it screams 90s revival but in the same way total euphoria, like hearing the happy hardcore beats of ‘Fly on the Wings of Love’ or ‘Better Off Alone’ does. The walls start to drip with slime, the protagonist spins and swirls in ecstasy of her/our impending doom or salvation. End game your ultimate love?
JR: If you look at things from a certain distance the desire to save yourself and to destroy yourself start to merge into one another. I believe the only way to achieve liberation is to understand the nature of our entrapment.
PR: Hence why you often address the traditional role of the inactive viewer, instead providing immersive viewing scenarios such as ‘Still Life – Beta Male’, which allows the voyeur to sit in a ball pool of pearls to comfortably float as the found-imagery plays out; or slip into the soft, waist-clinching seats of ‘Mainsqueeze’. Is this about the gaze, or concentration, or a tactile suggestion to watch?
JR: All of the above. I try to create a formal, sculptural or architectural dialogue between the themes and content of the video, and how they are physically experienced.
Jon Rafman: ‘Still Life (Betamale)’, 2015, Installation view of Jon Rafman, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 2016 // Photo: GJ van Rooij, Courtesy of the artist
PR: Is your work was alluding to the past or the future or a timelessness?
JR: It’s about the present, which contains both past and future. Just as each new age requires a new confession, each era’s vision of the future reveals something about that particular present. In the recent modern past, Utopian visions of the future were prevalent and many were replaced by postmodern dystopian visions. I’m definitely curious what will come next, how our vision of the future will transform again.
PR: Will you make a wild guess?
JR: We will all be uploaded into an evil AI, tortured for all eternity, and never allowed to die. In this sense humanity will have finally achieved immortality, but it is a lot less fun than expected because we will all be endlessly suffering voiceless avatars.

‘Anxiety of Mutations’ Jon Rafman’s Dream Journal at Venice Biennale by Piotr Bockowski
Dream Journal, Jon Rafman, Venice Biennale (2019)
A mytho-digital journey has been conceived by Jon Rafman in which the most severe anxieties of the 21st century techno-society melt into an obnoxious 3D-animated atrocity exhibition. Here, CGI (computer-generated imagery) particularly performs as a form of indulgence in excessive transfigurations of mutant bodies. The post-industrial landscape of a deserted planet is presented to us inhabited by the progeny of disrupted monstrous wildlife and its synthetic architectural complexes. They serve as venues for obscure future-primitive cults or electro-toxic dance clubs entertaining the death fights of bizarre biotech creatures. This is the nightmarish Dream Journal of Rafman that breeds Xanax girl through mutant data-farming techniques employed by the labyrinthine school for her clones. “We are just the copies of copies,” they say again in a creepy deja vu.

The 2019 Venice Biennale presents Rafman’s 3 years of exploration into the 3D simulated environments (2016-2019) that form the feature film Dream Journal (94 minutes). Here Rafman radically experiments with imaginary worlds populated by the obscene diversity of biotech mutants. CGI reveals the dark vitality of techno-materialism that moulds post-human forms with chimeric beasts, monstrous insects and Japanese sexual perversions. BDSM Tokyo schoolgirls eaten out by giant snails cry sperm-milk from Janus faces growing inside their anuses. Their topsy-turvy bodies twist and collapse in an anti-dance of digital butoh and virtual shibari of phantom vectors. They date retarded half-hedgehog half-walrus boys who fight against each other in cage death-wrestling tournaments staged inside dubious techno clubs of tropical spacecraft decor. Xanax girl is sentimentally attracted to one (or two) of them. As she descends on a journey filled with platform computer games like booby traps and post-apocalyptic military bars, she allows for frequent penetrations of medical apparatuses, only to give away her body to techno-shamanist occult rites that disintegrate and transfigure her corporeality further still.

All the spaces and realms of Dream Journal seem to be connected with processes of mutant transfigurations that challenge the human form over & over. The database institution that extracts Xanax girl from amongst the forms of her clones also links distant events through networks of canalizations. Digital excrements become the most fertile media for mutant communications. The shit-hole orifices make sex with various enslaved bodies and feed on their inner organs. In effect, the produce of digi-excremental canal digestion is eventually served as pet food to giant caterpillars that swell and multiply into new energy sources.

Yet, in the midst of Rafman’s accelerating bizzare neo-savagery, he invites moments of gentle sadness. The absurdity of obscene mutations sporadically suspends the characters of Dream Journals in moments of nostalgic stupor. Out of a sudden, the computer game-like actions are interrupted when characters have to disintegrate or remain confined to particular local territories. They surprise us with expressions of disappointment and longing towards what could be described by the Japanese term mono no aware – the subtle contemplation of the transience of things. Those expressions are actually far from dominating the general mood of the narrative but nevertheless, they allow the real anxiety of lived experience to creep into worlds of macabre, detached and fantastical exaggerations. This unexpected and maybe even unwantedly grotesque closeness to unrealistic dreamy whims of biotech visions, imposed on us through sorrow, give the audience a vivid sense of their mediated bodies as processes in the making of unhuman materialities.

Dream Journal, Jon Rafman, Venice Biennale 2019

Why do all these mutant bodies populate Rafman’s computer screen out of a sudden? Seemingly, there is a certain realization behind Dream Journal that diagnoses digital media as increasingly and obscenely mutagenic. Strange it may appear since the year 2019 has witnessed a wave of censorship of major Internet platforms. Tumblr introduced their ‘safe & trust’ policies of removing pornographic and gore content, Vimeo started deleting many long-living profiles after accusing them of ‘activity primarily focused on sexual stimulation’ and Facebook increased cases of blocking computer-selected profiles in the name of digital ‘family values’. All those vague ethical algorithmic systems, many times short-circuit confused, nevertheless insistently express circular obsessions with human sexuality.
They aim at the suppression of raw drive and desire that may appear aggressive. Standing for controlled concepts of communities, mainstream media policies effectively erase the imagery related to human body reproduction – the infamous nipples, shameful genitals or even more abstract body presentations that happen to involve moist or tense expressions, perhaps suggesting the possibility of secreting glands within hidden orifices. Those policies of familiar communities become somehow uncanny as the meditated families insistently disconnect themselves from technicalities of sexual reproduction. As a reaction, the generative systems of contemporary Internet populations project digital mutant replicants without nipples nor genitals, welcoming monstrous deformities as long as they escape human biology features.

Rafman exposes the fetishistic spillage of repressed desire online, tapping into almost half-century-old Japanese hentai strategies of eluding censorship, which can be considered symptomatic for Internet aesthetics now. Since the 1970s Ero Guro movement in Tokyo, hentai answered to state prohibitions of portraying human genital intercourses by creating fertile subspecies of tentacle monsters that twist around no-longer human bodies and penetrate their dislocated orifices gaping in-between feverishly multiplying mamillae. Rafman created several side characters directly referencing abused by demons girls of Toshio Saeki and perfidiously manoeuvred the protagonist Xanax girl into bizarre interactions with rapey creatures of hybrid features, merging insectoid bodies with warty overgrowth or mollusc like pseudopods inspired by Horihone Saizuo. Eroticism becomes transfigured here into the primal relation of external digestion. Inside out guts performing pornographic figurations transgress the sphere of human sexuality and pull us into the desperate technological cannibalism of incestuous mutants. Asked in an online interview about his trans-species art of invasive eroticism involving sluggish soft bodies invasions into dehumanized squid women, Daikichi Amano described his desire as “a cockroach that had head and the body separated with the surprise and scary when having begun to run with the head and the body in separate directions.” The broken grammar of this Engrish quotation exposes hybrid nature of fragmented digital bodies in their hypermediated overexpressions. In the same vein, viral social media body performers like Aun Helden use their image manipulation art to castrate sex or ‘anything that presents them as men’, at the same time multiplying what’s considered to be anatomical anomalies. Instead, harmonizing with human forms their corporeal members bulge with black eggs that initiate no-longer-human replication. The shiny surface of the eggs reflects the mutagenic void of computer screens.

Ongoing project Dream Journal presents a feature-film length epic that reworks the traumas of the human body entering the Internet era media mutations. 3D-rendered are the monstrosities bred from the very desires projected by a culture of digital technologies. The plots fork into paranoid networks by pulling the viewer through severely methodic Role Playing Games of creaturely alienations. Jon Rafman made an extraordinary effort to collect spilt phantom limbs and chimerical flesh from all over the deep dark underbelly of the Internet. They are melted into a mythological journey of a near present that our addiction to technological stimuli eagerly evokes.

Legendary Reality, 2017
Poor Magic, 2017
Dream Journal, 2015 - 2016
Erysichthon, 2015
Sticky Drama, 2015
Neon Parallel 1996, 2015
Mainsqueeze, 2014
Still Life (Betamale), 2013
A Man Digging, 2013
9-Eyes, ongoing
Remember Carthage, 2013
Brand New Paint Job, 2013
Codes of Honor, 2011
Kool-Aid Man in Second Life, 2008-2011
You, the World and I, 2010
Woods of Arcady, 2010
PaintFX, 2009

some texts
The Refracting Eye On Jon Rafman by Bret Schneider, CURA, 2016 (pdf)
Interview with Michael Nardone, Vdrome, 2016
Introduction to catalog by Kevin McGarry, 2016 (pdf)
Infinite Lives: The online Anthropology of Jon Rafman by Gary Zhexi Zhang, Frieze, 2016 (pdf)
This Is Where It Ends: The Denouement of Post-Internet Art in Jon Rafman’s Deep Web by Saelan Twerdy, Momus, 2015
Artforum 500 words, 2014
Interview with Pin-Up, 2013
Interview with New York Times Mag, 2013
Frieze Review of A Man Digging by Galit Mana, 2013

Lauren Cornell on Remember Carthage, 2013
Interview with Creator's Project, 2013
Interview with Aids-3D (Dan Keller & Nik Kosmas), Kaleidoscope, 2011
Rhizome: Codes of Honor, 2011
'Brand New Paint Job' catalog by Domenico Quaranta, 2011 (pdf)
Interview with Lodown Magazine, 2010 (pdf)
Interview with Lindsay Howard, Bomb Magazine, 2010
'IMG MGMT - The Nine Eyes of Google Street View' essay, 2009
16 Google Street Views booklet, 2009 (pdf)

četvrtak, 14. studenoga 2019.

Rita Azevedo Gomes - A Portuguesa (2018)

Dok Ameri ekraniziraju Stephena Kinga, Portugalci ekraniziraju Barbey d’Aurevillyja, Zweiga, čak i Roberta Musila. Likovi "filozofiraju" o umjetničkim djelima, književnosti, mistici. I sve je to, naravno, uzaludno.
Užitak u tome da su karte davno podijeljene. Kostimirani mauzolej kao utopijski nihilizam. 

A Woman's Revenge (2012)

Roberto is one of those men to whom simulation has become the greatest art. He is an unmoved, inscrutable, mysterious man. But the truth is that Robert feels an intimate, deep tedium. The boredom of those who have already exhausted all the pleasures of life. The only thing still surprising him is the fact that nothing surprises him anymore. One evening he has an overwhelming encounter with a woman. For his own bewilderment, he discovers the sublime horrors in which the woman has sank.

The Portuguese Woman (A Portuguesa) (2018)

North of Italy, the von Ketten dispute the forces of the Episcopate of Trent. Herr Ketten seeks marriage in a distant country, Portugal. After their honeymoon journey back home, Ketten leaves again for the war. Eleven years elapsed… Rumours are running about the presence of that ‘foreign’ in the castle. Some say she’s a heretic. Until one day, the Bishop of Trento ends up dying and, with the signature of peace, falls the background of von Ketten’s life. Will the Portuguese win, where death seems to be moving in?

Correspondências (2016)

Jorge de Sena was forced to leave his country. First he moved to Brazil, and later to the USA. He never returned to Portugal. During his 20-year-long exile, he kept an epistolary correspondence with Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. These letters are a testimony of the profound friendship between the two poets, letters of longing and of desire to “fill years of distance with hours of conversation”. Through excerpts and verses, a dialog is established, revealing their divergent opinions but mostly their strong bond, and their efforts to preserve it until their last breaths.

Frágil Como o Mundo (2001)

An impossible love. Two young people who love each other. Vera and Juan can’t find in this life the space, time, or identity to resolve their love story.

Rita Azevedo Gomes: The Correspondences of Beauty
“It doesn’t really matter where things come from. What matters is picking things up again, mess them up, try to push them forward in a different way. All of us do it, we’ve all been doing it all through time, and things haven’t really changed that much since Greece. What we can try is to do something that seems to be new, or that is shown in a whole different way—even if not necessarily intentionally.”
In a way, that’s what Rita Azevedo Gomes has been doing through her career as a filmmaker. A career, avowedly, somewhat confidential—her latest fiction, The Portuguese Woman, is only her 9th film since her 1990 debut O Som da Terra a Tremer—but one that has been quietly snowballing since 2012’s The Revenge of a Woman, to her own surprise, became a firm festival favorite.  
Her 2016 poetic documentary essay Correspondences gained a main competition berth in Locarno. And, after premiering at Mar del Plata 2018, The Portuguese Woman was much acclaimed in the Berlinale Forum. Azevedo Gomes has also just premiered a new work in FIDMarseille’s official competition: Danses macabres, squelettes et autres fantaisies, a collaboration with filmmaker Pierre Léon and theorist Jean-Louis Schefer.
The collaborative nature of Danses macabres… is only the latest link in a chain of connections that at some point becomes a true rabbit’s den. Based on a 1924 novella by Austrian writer Robert Musil set in the Middle Ages, The Portuguese Woman was adapted for the screen by the legendary Portuguese novelist Agustina Bessa-Luís, a close collaborator of Manoel de Oliveira and someone whose writing inspired many of the late master’s finest works, like Francisca (1981) and Abraham’s Valley (1993).Bessa-Luís and Azevedo Gomes had already worked together in the 2005 short A Conquista de Faro, produced by another late Portuguese master, Paulo Rocha. 
These are only two of the many “correspondences” you can make between Azevedo Gomes and key names in Portuguese art cinema. Another stems from her “day job” as programmer and art director for the Portuguese Cinemathèque, where she was a close accomplice of João Bénard da Costa, the critic and programmer that ran the institution from 1991 to 2008 and influenced generations of Portuguese cinephiles. In 2007, Azevedo Gomes shot A 15ª Pedra, the record of a two-hour encounter between Bénard da Costa and Oliveira, and a film she described, smiling, as a “personal confessional”: “I wanted to catch those two beings that were so important for my life together, on film, as I saw them in real life.” Bénard da Costa—under his acting nom de plume Duarte d’Almeida—also acted in films by both directors; it’s no surprise that Oliveira often props up when discussing Azevedo Gomes’ output.  
Yet make no mistake: the filmmaker refuses all sorts of comparisons and prefers to see herself in a very specific lineage of filmmakers, both canonical and non-canonical. “I’m very honored to be compared to Manoel, but that would make me freeze,” as she said in Berlin, last February, while presenting The Portuguese Woman. “I’m also a lover of Ingmar Bergman, and, if I was Swedish, people would say I’m a disciple of Bergman… Yet I’m as much a disciple of Bergman as I am of Oliveira, of Carl Theodor Dreyer, of Werner Schroeter… and also of Titian or Caravaggio. All of them are present, but none of them are in my head when I’m shooting.”
Too many influences, she thinks, end up “poisoning the well”: “Every time I try to do something in the manner of someone else, Bergman for instance, it always turns out crap. And it’s terrible because that ruins you; it means that, obviously, I’ll never be able to make it like he did it. I don’t like the feeling, when I’m making a film, of suddenly remembering how somebody else did something, because I’ll never be able to reproduce it.”
A Woman's Revenge
Instead, Azevedo Gomes prefers to add something personal to those tropes—if you look at her filmography, you will find a peculiar desire for experimenting. Correspondences, for instance, is nominally an essay about the correspondence between two of Portugal’s greatest 20th century poets, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen and Jorge de Sena. But instead of doing a traditional documentary, Azevedo Gomes placed actors (regulars like Rita Durão, Luís Miguel Cintra, or Francisco Nascimento) and non-actors (including programmer and critic Boris Nelepo or writer and filmmaker Pierre Léon), reading from the poets’ letters in living rooms, kitchens, patios, even seashore caves, and using period footage to fill in historical blanks. The result is a series of tableaux that can seem carefully composed, but were actually shot “on the fly”—the film was built piecemeal from takes shot with friends and acquaintances over a number of years, like a series of personal home movie reminiscences assembled into a cohesive, heterogeneous whole.
Azevedo Gomes assumes that experimentation. “I love challenges, I love to experiment, to find out how you do something, to try new things. That’s something I’m always willing to do. Even in a film like The Revenge of a Woman, which had a very rooted starting point, with a lot of text, it worked as a foundation, a source over which I could experiment with something different: making a scene with a lot of cuts in a place in a film constructed mostly of long one-take shots… It’s not inside me to make a film that would be ‘correct.’ Other people do it so much better than me.” 
At the same time, part of the experimental nature of her work comes from the production limitations. In a film scene like Portugal’s, where budgetary issues make for a permanent struggle, Azevedo Gomes has made her entire career as an outsider scraping together the money for her work, either self-producing with the help of friends or collaborating every now and then with more established production houses.Her 2002 experimental fiction Altar was shot very much on her own, and the constraints imposed by the tight budget contributed to its austere visuals. Veteran producer Paulo Branco backed her second feature Frágil como o Mundo (2001), while Joana Ferreira and Isabel Machado’s CRIM Productions were behind Correspondences and The Revenge of a Woman.
This last work, based on the 1874 novella by French writer Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly and with a stunning lead performance from Rita Durão, was in fact the film that made Azevedo Gomes’ name known internationally. Its theatrical, distanced staging is a good example of her penchant for narrative experimentation. In The Revenge of a Woman you can already find the seeds of The Portuguese Woman: the idea of a narrator introducing the tale of a noblewoman fallen in disgrace has both a continuation and an inversion in the new film. Instead of an on-screen narrator (João Pedro Bénard in The Revenge of a Woman), we have Ingrid Caven, one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s (and modern art cinema’s) muses, playing a sort of “Greek chorus” that appears out of nowhere at regular intervals, as a ghostly, out-of-time presence that punctuates and silently comments on the work.
At times, Caven seems to be a distorted mirror image of the title character, an imperious dame in medieval times, played by fiery-haired Clara Riedenstein (the revelation of João Nicolau’s John From), unwilling to submit to the patriarchal society of the times. The German actress seems to be a flesh-and-blood portrait of Dorian Gray, showing the trials of time, while the real woman remains immaculate. Azevedo Gomes is intrigued by the connection—after all, her work has often referred to classic art—but hadn’t thought at all of Oscar Wilde’s book.
Instead, she speaks of contemporaries of Musil in early 20th century Europe, and especially of artist Paul Klee. “I was trying to explain to Ingrid something that was somewhat unexplainable: hers wasn’t exactly a role, it was more of a presence. And in the conversation something came up that helped us both: Paul Klee’s drawing Angelus Novus, the one that Walter Benjamin wrote an essay on. You know, the small drawing of the cutest angel with wings, being blown away by the wind, who, upon seeing all the world in ruins, all the rubbish that mankind shows us every day, wants to restart everything, rebuild everything from the ruins... That’s when everything started to make sense, and she had something to go on, something she could draw from.”  
Quoting from Benjamin and Klee comes naturally to a filmmaker well-versed in classical art and classical filmmaking. After all, the new work, Danses macabres, is a collaboration with kindred spirits, a sort of museological road movie as Azevedo Gomes, Léon, and Jean-Louis Schefer contemplate and discuss art. In Berlin, Ingrid Caven spoke reverently of the director’s knowledge of art and culture, “the old beauties” as she says, and of her painterly eye for framing and staging.  
But Azevedo Gones herself prefers to shy away from that. “It’s very difficult for us to define beauty, isn’t it?” she said. “Maybe there’s something about eternity, continuation… Beauty is a very personal thing. It’s not just about memory, it's about a state of enchantment for one another.” The exact state her films try to recreate in the viewer. - Jorge Mourinha

The 15th Stone / ‘A 15a. Pedra’, 2007.
Joáo Bénard da Costa, director of the Portuguese National Film Archives [deceased in 2009], interviews the dean of contemporaneous film directors [96-years-old then]. Two humanists of different philosophical backgrounds, both with their long, entire lives dedicated to culture in general (music, painting, literature) and to film in particular, discuss freely, sometimes haltingly, the director’s power as a creator or a magician, the philosophy beyond particular scenes in classic movies, film technique, the importance of color, sound and music to films, art versus entertainment, and much more. Their talk takes place in a museum room, seating in front of “The Annunciation” (a 1510 oil painting by João Vaz, a Portuguese artist), which eventually leads to a discussion of ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, and the relationship between a trend-setter master and his disciples

The Sound of the Shaking Earth, 1990.
Freely based on Gide (‘Paludes’) and Hawthorne (‘Wakefield’), this is a film about a writer who never wrote anything and who blows at nightfall the breath of frost. The poem by Carlos Queiroz to which the above sentences belong is not cited in ‘O som da Terra a Tremer’, but the atmosphere is that, between written letters never received. Fiction within fiction, stories within stories, like those Chinese boxes in which there is always one inside another. Or the two margins of the same river, always being lateral.

The Invisible Collection, 2009.
 A story about art and educated men, and how their art and culture reveal themselves useless in the face of the harsh realities of the 20th century life.

Review: The Portuguese Woman

“War is made of debt, and peace is the conduit of corruption and vice,” says the Bishop of Trent (Alexandre Alves Costa), eyeing his former enemy upon signing a peace treaty to end the long war between his episcopate and the family of the Lords von Ketten. Historically, it is unclear who these gentlemen really are, as many bishops of Trent have been immersed in wars with rulers of the surrounding territories during the course of history. But dry facts are secondary in The Portuguese Woman helmed by one of the key figures in contemporary Portuguese cinema, Rita Azevedo Gomes, who has taken on another literary challenge. After adapting Stefan Zweig’s The Invisible Collection (2009) and making A Woman’s Revenge (2012), based on a story from Jules Amedée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s anthology Les Diaboliques, followed by her acclaimed documentary Correspondences [+] (2016), she demonstrates her deep affection for classical literature once again. The Portuguese Woman is a take on Robert Musil’s second of three stories in Three Women, and the screen adaptation was written by Agustina Bessa-Luis.
The film opens with the poem Unter den Linden (“Under the Lime Tree”) by medieval German lyric poet Walther von der Vogelweide, sung by Ingrid Caven in her recognisably out-of-tune manner. She provides a contrast with the spirit of the period drama by being clad in a contemporary black dress. In a strong performance, stumbling through the ruins of the once-rich castle and wild greenery, she’s a kind of (mainly) singing narrator of the story surrounding the titular Portuguese woman (Clara Riedenstein) and her warrior husband Lord von Ketten (Marcello Urgeghe).
Respecting the generations-old custom of not tying the knot with a woman from the surrounding area, von Ketten – a man from the family “cruel as knives that always cut deep” – weds in Portugal and takes his young spouse on a year-long journey back to his family castle near the Brenner Pass, the official Alpine border between Italy and Austria. He is eager to get stuck back into battle over a question of territory, and his wife is left with the servants and the newborn baby to wait for his return. Fast-forward 11 years, and things have barely changed, except for von Ketten’s deteriorating health, caused by a banal insect sting, as well as the appearance of “another Portuguese heretic” – the woman’s cousin, Dom Pero Lobato (João Vicente), whose presence sparks rumours about her infidelity.
By embracing Musil’s deliberate mystification of the timeframe, space and characters to address the perpetual mistakes of humankind and its biggest passion – love – Azevedo Gomes captures the very essence of the original story. All five shooting locations across Portugal bear incredible similarities to the writer’s descriptions, such as the shabby von Ketten castle, for instance. The drab tones of the mist-shrouded landscape at the foot of the mountain imbue Musil’s metaphor for mankind’s dissociation from true values with an extra touch of mystique. In stark contrast with them are the colours of burnt amber, yellow ochre and Prussian blue inside the castle, all adding to the feel of early Flemish painting. Behind the film’s magical cinematography is veteran DoP Acácio de Almeida.
The often-intentional static nature of the actors turns them into powerful tableaux vivants, while the doors to mysterious background spaces gape discreetly, in the manner of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s hidden, out-of-focus details. The costumes by Rute Correira and Tãnia Franco, while not ostentatious, are masterful down to the smallest detail. Songs and ballads dating from the 12th to the 15th century, two of them composed by José Mário Branco, help keep the time and place fluid.
The Portuguese Woman is rich and varied in its characters, and sophisticated in its challenging dialogue, which is peppered with references to great works of art, literature and mysticism. -

četvrtak, 3. listopada 2019.

Joris Ivens & Mannus Franken - Regen AKA Rain (1929)

Slikovni rezultat za Mannus Franken & Joris Ivens: Rain (1929)

Možda bi svi dokumentarci trebali biti crno-bijeli i stari najmanje 50 godina.

Regen (Rain) is a black-and-white short film by Joris Ivens and Mannus Franken about a rain shower in Amsterdam. As a masterpiece of Dutch avant-garde cinema, it is an impressionist and lyrical example of a city symphony, a film form that organizes urban images according to musical guidelines by combining experimental, documentary and narrative techniques. In 1932 Ivens asked Lou Lichtveld to write a score for the originally silent film, and a second sound version was made by Hanns Eisler in 1941. The film shows the effects of a natural phenomenon on the modern city with its motorized traffic and crowds, and reveals the transforming and aesthetic qualities of this everyday event by depicting the city before, during and after the rain. In a poetic play of light and shadow, reflection and refraction, the film studies the urban textures and semi-transparent surfaces such as skylights, tram windows and canals. During the rain shower, the entire city is covered with a second, semi-reflecting surface, generating a new and modern mediated vision not unlike cinematic perception. Reflected images appear on rain-soaked streets, puddles and canals. The city becomes a screen that Ivens’s camera uncovers and doubles.

Joris Ivens (Georg Henri Anton Ivens), nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman” for his globe-trotting career, was a Dutch documentary maker. His political commitment and deft use of montage helped to shape documentary practice as he recorded and championed generally leftist political causes on every continent but Antarctica. Ivens was born in Nijmegen, Holland, to a prosperous Catholic family who ran a photographic supplies business. While studying to take charge of the family business, Ivens became both politically active and fascinated with film culture. In 1927 he helped to found the Amsterdam Filmliga [Film League], which brought him into contact with avant-garde films of the day and with visiting filmmakers, including Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. A Filmliga visit to Berlin experimental abstract animator Walter Ruttmann (1887–1941) allowed Ivens to see Ruttmann’s new documentary feature, Berlin, die Sinfonie der Grosstadt [Berlin, Symphony of a Great City] (1927), one of the first films to attempt to portray a city solely through edited shots of urban life and physical details. The film’s influence on Ivens persisted throughout his career.

Joris Ivens made his first documentary films in the late 1920s, working alone with a hand-held 35 mm camera. In 1945 he commented that the time of the one-man documentary was over, such were the complications of script, sound, cameras, editing, commentary and music. Even a team of two or three people could not manage it. By 1967 he had thought again, and concluded that technical changes made documentary something for a small team, “a collective of people who understand each other”. (1) Now, 16 years after Ivens’ death, we are back to his starting point, and one person can quite easily make a documentary on his or her own, from the images and sound to the editing and even the production and distribution.
But the idea of what a documentary should be has changed radically, and much of Ivens’ work sits uneasily with present ideas. Now that the camera can be grafted to the documentarist’s eye, with practically unlimited video time, anything other than recorded observation, with direct sound, is considered to be in bad faith. Such films are constructed from what is “seen”, during a lived experience. If there is commentary at all, it is personal, the subjects explaining themselves or the filmmaker voicing his or her thoughts and feelings.
In contrast, Ivens’ films were often scripted, with events reconstructed or acted out, the better to tell a story or to deliver a political message. More often than not, the sound was designed in a studio, with a commentary and score to explain or accentuate what is on the screen. If the story demanded, newsreel footage would be pressed into service, in some cases making up the majority of the film.
Technical and economic constraints meant that Ivens had to work in this way, and in order to embark on a film at all he had to make concessions to both his camera and the film’s “sponsors” (whether governments, unions, companies or political organisations). But in many ways Ivens was aiming for the same result as today’s observational documentarist: to put on screen what is seen or felt during a lived experience. That these experiences were frequently political in nature leads his films to be classed as either militant polemic or propaganda, depending on the political persuasion of the critic. But they are all faithful to the underlying idea that there is a human reality that can be captured on film and shared.
The people who make digital, observational documentaries sometimes appear to have forgotten that they are a part of cinema, and that they can draw on all of the techniques and strategies that cinema provides, without betraying the goal of objectivity. Ivens never forgot this, never ceased to experiment and update his repertoire. If he had lived to see the digital age, it is unlikely that he would have been content to press record and wait for something to happen.


George Henri Anton Ivens was born in 1898, in Nijmegen, a Dutch town close to the German border. His father owned a series of photographic shops, and it was with a view to joining the family business that Ivens – Joris to his friends – studied economics in Rotterdam, photochemistry in Berlin, camera construction in Dresden and lenses in Jena. When he returned to run the family store in Amsterdam in 1924 he was under the spell of the artistic life he had experienced in Berlin, of which the cinema was an integral part. During his time in Berlin he particularly recalled seeing the films of GW Pabst, EA Dupont and FW Murnau.
Amsterdam offered a rich cultural life, although it was not always possible to see the latest experimental films. Inspired by a private screening of Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Mat (Mother) (1926), Ivens and his friends started the Filmliga, a society dedicated to showing films that for artistic or political reasons were not otherwise distributed in the Netherlands. This included the abstract films of Walter Ruttmann and Hans Richter, René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924), Germaine Dulac’s La Coquille et le clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman) (1928), plus the films of Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein and Alberto Cavalcanti. Among the earliest documentaries, the Filmliga screened Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922) and, later, Victor Turin’s Turksib (1929). More importantly, carrying out the Filmliga’s business allowed Ivens to meet many of these directors in person.
In a family of photographers it is unsurprising that Ivens came early to filmmaking, and the beginning of his filmography is made up of intimate home movies, plus De Wigwam (Wigwam) (1912), a school-boy Western made with family and friends. His decision to make films of a more serious sort came from the combined experience of the avant-garde films being shown by the Filmliga and the work he had to do selling cameras for his father. Through 1927 and 1928 he embarked on a number of film experiments exploring techniques of subjective filming, including a bar seen through the bottom of a beer glass, and attempts to replicate the movement of walking and ice-skating. Alongside these experiments he also discussed fiction projects, although these never got beyond screen tests of an actress friend.

Stolen Hours

His first completed film is similarly a search for a visual language. De Brug (The Bridge) (1928) is based on a systematic analysis of the movements of a railway bridge in Rotterdam that can be raised and lowered to let a boat pass underneath. He chose this subject because it repeated the same action over and over, and would be the same every time he could snatch an hour from work (and a few metres of film) to go and shoot it.
The film announces its agenda from the very start, with a presentation of three different views of the camera itself, as if in a technical drawing. It then proceeds to examine the bridge from all angles, up and down its towers, along the rails, in amongst the winding gear. But alongside this inevitable, almost abstract mechanical process is a story: a train is speeding towards the city; it must stop and wait for the bridge to be raised; when the bridge descends, it can continue on its way. For all his analysis, Ivens cannot give himself up entirely to the abstract.
The same can be said of Regen (Rain) (1929). At the visual level it is an abstract exploration of water falling on water: rain on the wet streets of Amsterdam, on the canals, on the bonnets of cars, and so on (including, it seems, on the skylight above Ivens’ bed). As with The Bridge, the film was shot over many months, although this time the subject was not the same every time Ivens went back. Is it therefore a greater leap to construct from this material, as Ivens did, a film that tells the story of one rainstorm over Amsterdam? Perhaps, if the sole aim is abstract analysis. But if your aim is documentary, to represent the lived experience of a rainstorm, the leap is essential.
The result of the film club experience was that young filmmakers saw the great possibilities that the cinema had to offer, without being encumbered by conventions or genres. They had strong feelings about what was and was not good filmmaking, but almost no sense of anything being out of bounds. In a world where newsreels were made by cameramen standing a respectful distance from the event in question, it was obvious that a better film could be made by using close-ups, by moving along with the action, as in fiction films or in the purely abstract.
Ivens was no different, and it is possible to see his early films as a complete cinematic response to a particular situation. This approach can be seen in the fiction film Branding (Breakers) (1929), made between The Bridge and Rain in collaboration with Mannus Franken, who dealt with script and actors while Ivens took control of the camera. He adapts the dramatic camera angles of Soviet political cinema to a pair of lovers walking in the sand dunes, shoots “newsreel” footage of villagers going to church on a Sunday, and takes his camera into the sea to follow a suicidal fisherman who has lost his fiancée (and almost everything else) to the village pawnbroker. In this story one can also see the first stirrings of social themes in Ivens’ films, later developed in an account of poverty in the bogs of Drenth, a film now lost. (2)

Working and Not Working

The success of The Bridge, and later Rain, brought Ivens commissions to make films from the Dutch Building Workers’ Union and for companies in the Netherlands and beyond. He fulfilled these by setting up a film production unit within his father’s company and recruiting a team of collaborators from among his friends. This group included Helene Van Dongen and John Fernhout, who went on to have long careers in cinema in their own right.
For the union Ivens made a series of films known collectively as Wij Bouwen (We Are Building) (1930), which, when screened together, last for several hours. The aim was to promote the work of the union, celebrate the work of Dutch builders, and encourage a sense of solidarity pride among members. Some of these films simply show building methods, such as pouring concrete to make a floor in a building or driving piles, the various methods explored from all angles in the same way (and to the same effect) as in The Bridge. Others show the activities in the union’s head office, its summer camps, or surveyed recent Dutch architecture. While there are longueurs in this work there are also striking sequences, such as destitute workers queuing to receive union assistance.
Among these films one stands out, and has had the strongest independent existence. Zuiderzeewerken (Zuiderzee Works) describes the methods with which the Dutch set about reclaiming land from the vast northern inland sea, building dykes, pumping out water and creating new agricultural land. Its worth as a historical document is undisputed, the harsh manual labour it shows is clearly more shocking now than it would have been at the time. A key sequence shows the workers weaving a huge wooden raft, which is dragged out into open water and sunk as an anchor for a dyke – sunk with hundreds of rocks thrown by hand from the accompanying barges. Again Ivens wraps up the abstract examination of processes with a story, the race to close a particular section of dyke, man and his machines against the sea.
Throughout We Are Building, Ivens makes sure that the worker is shown alongside his work, that the camera shows his point of view. Ivens was always particularly gratified when workers told him after seeing the films that this was how they saw the work, and even more so when a Soviet worker accused him of lying when he claimed to have directed a scene of rock breaking, because a bourgeois could never have shown so well how it felt. (3) But it is also striking that Ivens includes the workers eating and sleeping, putting down their tools and leaving work as well as the work itself. His sympathy with his subject informs the images. -
read more here

četvrtak, 9. svibnja 2019.

Benjamin Bardou - Pointcloud film

Benjamin Bardou is a French Filmmaker, Visual Artist and Matte Painter, with a remarkable artistic history behind him.
His training as an artist takes place at the Georges Méliès School in Orly, an institute specialized in courses mainly devoted to animation and visual effects.
His art has often been inspired by the works of the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, from which he has mainly extrapolated the concept of historical materialism and visually re-adapting it to his works.
Among the categories in which Benjamin excels, we undoubtedly recognize compositing but above all matte painting, an area in which the artist is a true specialist.
He currently works as Matte Painter at Mikros Image, a digital post-production and visual effects company whose activities are mainly aimed at the feature film and advertising industry.
His last masterpiece is Shared Memories, created in collaboration with Ash Thorpanother great artist of digital art.
He has also participated, over the years, in various exhibitions all over the world.

petak, 12. travnja 2019.

Mu Pan - Garden Of Earthly Delight

Mu Pan

Kill them all, kill us all! Like it all!

Mu Pan’s work is filled with monstrous creatures, mythological or literary figures all taking part in some epic battle. Mu Pan loves epic movies and he even teaches a course about epic drawing at the Illustration Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. To him, war is a beautiful thing, it creates great characters and it also writes history. You got to be a great artist in order to fight a war as a commander. There is so much art you have to master in warfare such as formation, finance, time, strategy, geography, force, the art of brainwashing for loyalty and the sense of duty. It takes a great amount of patience and it also requires a high level of charisma and intelligence. “Whether it is for invading or defending, to me it’s beautiful to see how one person can unite all the individual strength to become one great power”, he claims. Every monster he draws is actually a self-portrait in his (not so much) made-up world.

Even though he is an American citizen, (he came to New York when he was 21 so he was never really accepted as an American) he still doesn’t feel like having a country, a home. “My family came from mainland China to Taiwan with the R.O.C. government in 1949. I was born and raised in Taiwan until I was 20, but I always consider myself Chinese. When in Taiwan, I was never a so-called Taiwanese-because of my family background-and of course, I do not have the citizenship of the People Republic of China. Maybe one day, if China and Taiwan are unified again, I will totally embrace that and shout out loud to the world that I’m a Chinese.” Part of his art is “Shit Myth and Shit History of China” where irony, anger and humour are displayed. It’s an homage, a dedication to people who sacrificed their lives for the Republic of China, to his people who are left in Taiwan, struggling under the conceptual political strategy from the current Taiwanese Government since 1949. Either as a propaganda soldier-artist of the Republic of China or as an art student he couldn’t stand following rules, classic formats and pretentious techniques. He uses his ideas like a gunshot, fast and maverick so a sketchbook and a pen are enough. If the story intrigues him, it just comes out naturally without much of an effort.

There is a strange calmness, a peculiar comfort when one looks at his sketches or paintings and that’s what’s important for Mu Pan-not the violence, not the grandly poetic bloodbath, not the truncation of soldiers, leviathans or even nations. Pan admits he owes a great deal to Tarantino and Looney Tunes as they established a comic shade at (their) violence-which is what he is trying to do as well. “I worship the strength of man and animals. I dream having the dominating power to rule and destroy, create fear to my enemies. Of course, that’s impossible, no one can have this kind of power in today’s world. So, I created my own world for myself filled with my images. I can be whatever I wanna be, I can eat whoever I hate.”
Text by Konstantinos Plakonas

Mu Pan’s massive painted battle scenes are teeming with both details and satire, humor and an introspective bleakness. The Chinese-American painter, based in Brooklyn, New York, reflects varying periods of art history in each work. And his newer paintings, rendered in acrylic on wood, reflect his fascination with Asian war history, pop culture, dinosaurs, and other topics.
“I love battle scenes; it’s my favorite subject,” the artist said in a past statement. “But it has nothing to do with my military service experience in Taiwan. In fact, I was just a propaganda soldier of the political warfare department—all I did there was poster-making and mural-painting. I couldn’t even dissemble a .57 rifle! Battle scenes excite me, especially the kind with swords and spears and people on horses trying to kill each other. I don’t know why—I just like it—in paintings, in movies. I enjoy producing images like that.”
“I love battle scenes; it’s my favorite subject,” the artist said in a past statement. “But it has nothing to do with my military service experience in Taiwan. In fact, I was just a propaganda soldier of the political warfare department—all I did there was poster-making and mural-painting. I couldn’t even dissemble a .57 rifle! Battle scenes excite me, especially the kind with swords and spears and people on horses trying to kill each other. I don’t know why—I just like it—in paintings, in movies. I enjoy producing images like that.”
The series “Dinoassholes” is its own narrative, showing humans and Mesozoic creatures interacting in both peaceful and, in true Pan fashion, a chaotic manner.


“Mu Pan’s work tells stories, which the artist attributes to his own childhood creating stories and narratives for comfort, while his parents were away,” a statement says. “Instead of asking questions about his world and human nature, the artist began developing his own answers with characters and allegories, a tool he uses today in his compositions. For Bright Moon Shines on the River, Mu Pan explores the violence and humor that drives us all, through a fictional universe that combines elements of Japanese culture with an embattled, nautical world.”

Joshua Liner Gallery's latest is titled Bright Moon Shines on the River, and is the gallerys first solo show with Brooklyn-based artist, Mu Pan. The exhibition will showcase new acrylic works, all based on one painting of a whale Mu Pan created and destroyed some 11 years ago. Revisiting this central figure, the artist expands his scale and uses the theme of the whale hunt to explore human nature through cartoon-like, but very dense, narratives.
Mu Pans work tells stories, which the artist attributes to his own childhood creating stories and narratives for comfort, while his parents were away. Instead of asking questions about his world and human nature, the artist began developing his own answers with characters and allegories, a tool he uses today in his compositions. For Bright Moon Shines on the River, Mu Pan explores the violence and humor that drives us all, through a fictional universe that combines elements of Japanese culture with an embattled, nautical world.
With their common ocean backdrop and a shared set of characters, collectively the works all seem to combine to tell a larger story. However, each painting is a unique and separate battle in this war between the animals we recognize and other monsters we dont. Morphed figures serve as visual adaptations of the artists influences: deadly and powerful dolphins morph with woman, sharks with Yakuza-tattooed warriors in their geta shoes. It is exactly this absurdity, woven amid the graphic scenes of blood and limbs, that crystallize Mu Pans belief that all humor is based in cruelty. A theme we see again and again in Mu Pans practice. Pulling from his memories of Looney Tunes characters endlessly hurting one another for laughter, this connection had a powerful influence on the artist. Exploring this connection in his work, the artist comments on our human nature, and considers the frequent violence in his work to be cute and comical.
The central work of the show, Big Whale, depicts one killer whale under attack by a fleet of boats, captained by monkeys. The illustrative nature of the all over composition is applied here with an almost cross-hatch rigor, exposing his homage to the Japanese woodblock masters (ukiyo-e). From Moby Dick to the Japanese wood-block artist, Kuniyoshi, whaling has been depicted in art and literature for centuries; a symbol for the power of nature. With his current body of work, Mu Pan exploits this concept of man versus nature, while questioning the seriousness of it all through his anthropomorphized characters.
Mu Pan is originally from Taiwan. He received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2001. In 2007, SVA’s Illustration as Visual Essay Department awarded him an MFA with honors. Pan has had solo exhibitions at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn and at KunstRaum H&H in Cologne, Germany. He had his own booth at Art Taipei in 2011. His work has been included in many exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad, including shows at the Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, California; La Luz De Jesus Gallery and Giant Robot 2 in Los Angeles; and the Musée de la Halle Saint Pierre in Paris.

petak, 15. veljače 2019.

Chou Ching-Hui - Animal Farm

Image result for Chou Ching-Hui - Animal Farm

Da, ljudski život je bonsai.


Zoo is a space full of imagination and conflict. It symbolizes joy (for visitors), yet it also symbolizes confinement and segregation (for animals). It symbolizes the convenience and marvels of modern life (a collection of rare animals from all over the world), and it also suggests a hint of the apocalyptic salvation of Noah’s Ark (protecting species on the verge of extinction). 
Animal Farm is full of fancy and realistic theater scenes, includes a lot of symbols, matching a familiar interior space with a artificial environment of the zoo, describes “the society is as a cage, where we are jeering at the people living in there”. Animal Farm was shoot by a full-focus camera allowing the audience to clearly see things happening in every corner of the photos and gaining the same feeling with Chou. Animal Farm includes 3 different themes: Body Existence, Life Boundary, and Social Environmental Frame. These themes let the audience rethink the situation, which we are living in.
Invested with a great amount of resources, Chou and his teammates spent for 5 years to plan and do the project, Animal Farm. The shooting of project took place in Hsinchu Zoo and Shou Shan Zoo in Taiwan, which has a very intimate relationship with the idea of the project.

With Taiwan in mind we head for Taipei’s Chini Gallery stand at Art Stage to meet artist Ching-hui Chou and gallerist Audrey Tu. Working initially as a photo journalist Ching-hui Chou soon began to develop and fund his own creative projects which included Frozen in Time, Images of a Leper Colony (exhibited 1995 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 1997 National Ching-Hua University Arts Center in Hsinchu); Vanishing Breed, images of Workers (exhibited 2002 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 2004 Quanta Building Hall, Taipei); Wild Aspirations, the Yellow Sheep River Project (exhibited 2009 Taipei Fine Arts Museum and 2010 Istituto degli Innocenti, Florence). The Yellow Sheep River Project was published as a limited edition photography book.
Not surprisingly given the dazzling quality and complexity of his work, Ching-hui Chou is the recipient of numerous awards including for The Yellow Sheep River Project the Golden Butterfly Award, the Red Dot Design Award, and the iF Communication Design Award.
We are especially here to view Ching-hui Chou Animal Farm series first exhibited at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The series of works named after George Orwell’s allegorical novel Animal Farm.

The series of complex tableaus were created over a period of five years. Two zoological gardens were used for the locations, Hsinchu Zoo and Shoushan Zoo, which were visited by the production crew on numerous occasions. The complex task of organising the shoots, working with the zoos, gaining permissions to use the sites, care taken not to disturb the animals, creating intricate sets, gathering together and casting the actors and organising the technicians required to complete the project was an immense task. The images were taken at dawn and dusk to create the required atmosphere.
The Animal Farm series is composed of 36 works, the complex tableaus and intimate portraits. The large works are just under two meters wide, the portraits just over a metre wide. So all the works are large in scale.
The complex and fable like tableaus are much more than just replacing the animals in the zoo with humans in the zoo. Chi-Ming Lin, Professor and Chairman Department of Arts and Design, National Taipei University of Education, describes the body of works being presented in three different stages of major social structures that modern humans have not been able to escape and are not realising this fact. The stages are, firstly the structure of body consciousness; secondly the structure of survival consciousness and thirdly the structure of collective behaviour and consciousness.

A Bonsai pine tree features in the works and it has a symbolic meaning and purpose. It is both the artist’s signature, a mark of identity but it also represents the need to adjust to obstacles in life, the bindings representing the tangible and intangible constraints that capture and distort people’s lives.

The work called Animal Farm No 1 was photographed at Hsinchu Zoo in the cage where the Brown Lemurs were kept. In the symmetrical archways Ching-hui Chou captures two sets of young couples working out. The image also includes a painting of classics beauties and a poster of contemporary stars.  Here the artist is telling us that the motive for the exercise has more to do with body image than improving one’s health. The couples are self absorbed, ignoring others while enjoying themselves, a reference to modern fitness centres, and the audience, as if watching animals in the zoo, the audience is guided to examine the contemporary trend of seeking beauty, so much part of contemporary fashion.

The work called Animal Farm No 2 was photographed in what used to be the living area for Muller’s Bornean Gibbons in Hsinchu Zoo. In the spatial setting of the main work, several elements were juxtaposed to compare and contrast the background from the foreground. At the farthest point are real woods spanning across the image, then, concrete buildings painted with jungle images that used to be a resting place for animals, and the temporary settings that mimicked supermarket and living spaces constructed by Ching-hui Chou. The foreground, which is meant to be a living space as well as a display space for the animals, is transformed into a diverse theatre of a modern consumer society and including domestic life. Humans perform a pantomime of daily life in this farm converted from a zoo. The scene appears poetic, beauteous Eden on Earth, seemingly satisfying and worry-free, quiet and peaceful, however, at the same time, the scene reflects the idea that humans are trapped in this continual tableau without being able to break free from their confinement.

The work called Animal Farm No 3 was photographed using a birdcage in the Shoushan Zoo. Ching-hui Chou constructed two spaces on left and right of the image which present a contrast of circumstances. On the left, the indoor space is fully equipped with domestic objects and filled with symbols of safety, peace, good fortune and longevity, such as the bodhisattva statue, an old pine tree, and a crane. However, the old man is sitting on the sofa like a patient as time passes by. To the right of the image is a contrasting balcony space where an old lady on a wheel chair is quietly appreciating the harmonious and glorious sunset. Aging is the inevitable fate that human beings must face, it is just like the net cast over the birdcage which allows no escape. Nonetheless, how one spends their twilight years all depends on attitude of mind and decision in life.

The work called Animal Farm No 4 was photographed at the Chimpanzee cage at Shoushan Zoo. Here Ching-hui Chou built two symmetrical rooms. The room to the right of the image shows an empty study where the work has paused. The distorted portrait of Francis Bacon and the staring animals suggest create an atmosphere of stress in the study. To the left is a bedroom, here the painting is of a holy mother who is breastfeeding a child. The husband watches his wife inject Progesterone. In this orderly space the idea of having a child adds content to their lives. These juxtaposed rooms speak of the dilemma. Particularly regarding the pressures in Asia, of being able to sustain the pressures of having a family and career at the same time.

In Animal Farm No 5 Ching-hui Chou transforms the Barbary Sheep enclosure in Shoushan Zoo into a silent theatre of “art of the market.” In the image, in addition to the gold and silver coins spilled all over the ground, the artist follows the terrain and arranges four painters to perform and display their works. Obviously, this is a world of art as well as a world of money. Taking a closer look, these four artists also represented different artistic preferences. The artist on the top right corner gazes into a modern architectural model in the birdcage, but the painting on his easel is something very different. The second painter in the lower left hand corner of the image is pondering about a sculpture, on his easel is an image of a documentary report revealing war and famine. The third painter in the middle of the scene uses a model, huddled up as if sleeping on the street. Nevertheless, the subject of his painting is a naked woman lying down at her ease. The fourth painter on the lower left hand corner of the image is not using any physical references; he simply composes his work with head portraits from the banknotes of different countries. However, the amount of coins around and under his feet, which represents market value and monetary gains for a work, outperformed all the other artists.

The work called Animal Farm No 6 was photographed at the viewing area for the Celebes Crested Macaque at Shoushan Zoo. The construction of a fashionable and contemporary domestic scene includes a patient like women, pale faced and wearing a robe. In the middle distance the woman appears again this time wearing an elegant blue cheongsam and stretched out on a clinic’s chaise lounge chair. In the front of the work our patient suggests that even the well off cannot eliminate their psychological struggles. A psychotherapist sits maintaining a similar stare, listening and jotting down notes, without interacting with the patient. The wire mesh can be looked through but the high wall at the back of the image excludes the outside view, enforcing a mood of frustration, the powerless psychotherapist and the helpless patient.

The work called Animal Farm No 7 was photographed in the area where the Black Panthers are kept at Shoushan Zoo. The image includes three distinct elements, a night sky with trees, symbolising natural surroundings; a concrete fortress symbolising and animal cage and a central area enclosed by metal bars that signifies a zone of civilisation. The most inner space is a jail with a jail, a cage within a cage. The woman is self absorbed and melancholy and she examines her bleeding nose. The stiches around her waist tell the viewer that the woman has recently undergone liposuction. She is surrounded by designer bags, high-heeled shoes, jewellery, couture clothing, cosmetics and Barbie dolls. Here Ching-hui Chou is telling us that the pursuit of beauty through only physical appearance and consumer fashion items is out of control and here it is compared to religious zealousness.

In Animal Farm No 8 Ching-hui Chou utilises the Orang-utan enclosure in Hsinchu Zoo. This is a natural setting, which merges real and virtual elements. Here the artist places six child actors in different places, four are connected to each other with hoses and seek out one another using flashlights, one girl is sending out communication signals via balloons, as the other girl sits on a platform calmly observing the on-going events. Today smart phones have become more powerful and the mass media continues to develop. New means of communication and Internet communities have replaced face-to-face interpersonal exchanges in a fast-paced and unbounded way. The visual presentation of this work provides strong evidence for “being able to be connected on-line but still feeling all alone.” This is a new social phenomenon felt by more and more people in an era where Internet communities can be formed easily through social media.

Animal Farm No 9 features the Hippo enclosure in the Shoushan Zoo, the image a wedding scene as well as a riddling drama. In the foreground, a male figure in a white wedding dress, is either entering the location or exiting it and is urinating into the pond. In the middle distance, a bride is calmly stepping towards a waterfall, the back of her dress is stained with blood, and the audience cannot tell whether she does not notice or simply does not care. Twins, hard to tell if they are male or female, hold flowers in their hands and are there to witness the ceremony. The Chinese antique chair at the back of the scene is empty, signaling the absence or disapproval of the elders. The artist employs the existing concrete wall and pond to form a third site that embodies “the private joys.” The inflatable doll, the lift ring and the float together create a scene of the lost paradise, representing the surfacing of lust from the subconscious.