Archive for September, 2008

BLUE at the Textile Museum, Washington DC

September 24, 2008

The exhibit, BLUE, at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC was indeed a reflection of its title and location; it was a historical, cultural and artistic survey of the use of blue in fabrics around the world.  The entrance hallway showcased several pairs of jeans, which we learn are original Levis from the turn of the century.  The denim fabric, perhaps the most iconic of all blue textiles serves as an appropriate introduction to the world of blue.
If unknown before entering this exhibit, the virtues of indigo are most certainly engrained into our minds upon exit. It is thanks to indigo, one of the few naturally occurring sources of blue coloring, that ancient peoples were able to recreate scenes and ideas of sky and water.  Through the process of harvesting the plants, fermenting the oils, and dying the fabric we see the intricate process needed to create the vivid patterns and colors found in this exhibit.
The art of textile creation, too often considered craft rather than veritable art, was defended throughout this exhibit.  The seemingly floating Japanese tea room, created from translucent blue mesh, showed a zen balance indicative of the artist’s background.  Although the installation would be put to practical use, its separation from similar cultural artifacts allowed it to be a freestanding sculptural piece that echoed the lightness of the sky with the protection of water.
The kain panjang, hip wrapper, from Indonesia was an excellent example of textile not just being used in art, but art itself.  The abstract cloud patterns, stratified gradients of blue to white are both horizontally and vertically vertical, perhaps encompassing the goal of an artist to control and give form to an otherwise formless nature.  The fractal quality of the batik gave depth and dimension to the flat fabric.  It demands a closer look, as we expect the detail to be painted or printed on the fabric, not dyed.  Even the physical texture of the cloth is juxtaposed against the large repetitive nature of the textile, furthering the never-ending fractal-like quality of the fabric, the dying, and the cloud subject.
While an interesting piece to look at and study against a wall, we forcibly wonder about the beauty that would be generated in wearing this garment.  How would putting the fabric in fluid motion, against a human subject alter our perception of the pattern and color in natural light.
Clothing textiles are in a sense, wearable art. Their creator becomes part of a process introducing a give and take between the ink and fabric, while the wearer forms a relationship wearing and presenting the piece.  Hiroyuki Shindo explored this relationship between creator, product, and user during the video footage of his tending to the mulching of the dye.  Daily, he tended to the mulch much like a parent to a child. He smelled it, he turned it, he watered it, he thought about its future. His worry over the long-term quality of his ink displayed the unbreakable bond between artist and oeuvre.
If nothing else, the gallery full of hand-dyed textiles elicited a degree of surprise and wonder.  We enter the gallery in machine-made clothes without a creation story.  We examine cloth that is hundreds of years old.  We witness the relationship between dye and light, between dye and wear, between dye and artist.  We are opened to the realization that the creation of textiles, a craft and skill now taken mostly for granted, was once a labor of love and genius.  Creating a story or pattern on a piece of fabric was not always as simple as inserting a picture on a website and clicking buy; it was a true process understood and cherished by all those who took part.

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Film and Realism

September 24, 2008

Task 1:

This frame, from the film Perfume seems to portray a crowd of peasants exclaiming their glee towards their ruler.  In their faces, though we see a semblance of obsession and almost lust.  While the ruler has his back to the camera, his extended arms give the impression that he is thoroughly enjoying the attention, and is even instigating it.   These two points of view are probably explored further in the film. Perhaps he is granting the peasants’ freedom, or is allowing only one person to live, killing all the others – forcing them to beg for his saving.  They almost seem to be fighting and scrambling over each other; their love is directed only towards him, and they are willing to destroy each other for his attention.  The sadistic nature of the prince basking in the extreme lust and reverie suggests a more sinister nature of the prince previously overlooked in the sun-drenched scene.

Prince: My People! My People! It is I, your prince and savior

People: Hail! Prince!

Prince: My beautiful people!

People: Oh how we love you, love us back prince, oh prince.
The crowd of people falls into screaming and calling out without direction

Prince: My people. Listen to me on this day. Today is indeed the day of reckoning. For today, you must indeed place your trust in me.
With this declaration, the crowd settles a bit, wondering what he is talking about.

Prince: You see, today we must eliminate the weak from our masses. Today only the capable will survive. And it is I, your humble servant, who will chose who among you is worthy of life.
The crowd grows restless, clearly searching for more information.

Prince: So, it is with your love and affection towards me that you will survive. That is all. Prove your worthiness. Prove your loyalty. Prove your life.
One by one, and then in huge waves, the surrounding crowd realizes their salvation rests in his hands, and begin to throw themselves in a frenzy of lust towards him.

Task 2:
58 minutes into the film Perfume, Grenouille, the main character leaves Paris to go to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.  He leaves Paris on foot, young, in decent clothes, no facial hair, clean, and full of excitement.  Upon arrival in Grasse, in southern France, we see Grenouille extremely thin, with cuts and bruises all over his body, wearing tattered rags, with a full beard, long hair, and a fatigue witnessed by his deep set eyes and longing expressions.
In between these two distinct visuals, a narrator describes his journey in obtuse philosophic language. His trek is at one point documented by his silhouette climbing a mountain in front of a gorgeous yellow sunset.  The passage of time is documented by a slow fade to black followed by a flashback scene, where he has an epiphany about his existence. When he wakes up from his dream, he is suddenly fully bearded, and no longer shows his naivety, but instead a determined, and rugged self.
Without us witnessing, we essentially saw Grenouille change from an adolescent full of wonder, to a full adult with ambitions.  We do not witness the growth of facial hair, nor do we watch him starve in the mountain cave; but, we are left with this distinct feeling that he has changed, he has a mission, and knows how to complete it.
This sequence also uses a narrator, which allows the viewer to connect mentally with Grenouille, but keeping an omniscient distance.  The music, which changes from an airy soundtrack with chimes, deepens into a dark chorus, which echoes Grenouille’s own personal angst.

Task 3:
The film The Mission, is one that serves very well to haunt the minds of its viewers and serves to educate the viewer on a horrible side of humanity one is oft to forget.  It is based on a story of a Jesuit mission in South American during the 18th century. The Jesuits attempting to convert the natives end up being the native’s saviors when the secular governments attempt to enslave the natives.  This film allows the viewer to grasp the relationship between missionary work and colonization.  The missionaries, though working under their own prerogative, were expected at the same to answer and acquiesce to the King and the Vatican administration.
Throughout the film, the Jesuits are portrayed as bringers of peace, education, and love while the colonial representatives and soldiers bring slavery, pain and hardship. This duality serves to attach the viewer to the Jesuits and natives, while despising the others.  The hatred reaches its dramatic, and heartbreaking, pinnacle when the near defenseless Jesuits and natives are slaughtered by the hands of the soldiers.
The film could have devoted more time to the reactions and feelings of the natives. While the film does portray the anguish and loss of the native population, it does so very much through the eyes and lens of the Portuguese and Spanish invaders.  It is appalling to see the natives shot down with guns, when they could only defend with their primitive weapons, but the most dramatic and pivotal deaths are of the white men who tried saving – both religiously and eternally.
History is told through the stories of the victors.  Often, the portrayal of history in film and art, too,  is biased towards the vanquishers, forgetting those who cannot speak for themselves.  This film, while obviously attempting to shed light upon the plight of the natives in a colonized South America, it still commits itself to the traditional views and values of the colonizer saving the indigenous people – as if they were incapable of defending themselves.
As a resource for historians, this film serves best as a reminder and perhaps launch pad for discussion of the ethics of missionary work and colonization.  It could serve as a vehicle to motivate activists against modern-day slavery and exploitation in developing countries. This film, though, as a source of historical material is prone very much towards the director’s biases and artistic interpretation.

it all came crumbling down

September 24, 2008

a Lumière inspired film.

Lumiere Film Idea

September 17, 2008

For my Lumiere film I would like to film a group of people eating dinner in TDR.  This camera would be sitting on the table, providing a nice low-angle shot coupled with a study of scale of the cups, plates, etc. in the foreground and people in the background.  With everyone seated and eating, someone realizes that there are not enough cookies left for everyone to eat one. So, that person sneakily takes a cookie and hides it.  Then, someone else realizes the tragedy of the dearth of cookies, and so they take away a cookie. This continues until there is only one cookie left, and in a show-down between two people opposite each other, the cookie is broken and half and falls into a soup, making it inedible for everyone.

Same Film with Shot Explanations

September 17, 2008

Dirty Chase

September 16, 2008

Scavenger Hunt Film (without labels)

Hirshhorn Museum

September 10, 2008

Hollywood has long been a land of fakeness. Its images of the unreal are projected nightly across the nation and world in movie theaters and televisions. Perhaps it is this escape from reality that draws people in.  Some of the most decadent periods of cinema occurred when this nation itself was experiencing the worst economic depression in modern history.  Celebrities are created from people not being themselves, not projecting their own reality, but by assuming a role, becoming someone-something else.
The Cinema Effect: Realisms exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum explores the relationship between viewer and video, between artist and art, and perceived reality and projected reality.  Through short films, visual productions and images, the international artists force the viewer to not only question the reality of what they are watching, but also their own reality.
In stark opposition to the sun-drenched lobby and courtyard of the circular Hirshhorn, the Cinema Effect exhibit immediately draws the viewer in a world of darkness lit only through the ambient light thrown from the monitors and projection screens. In this muted existence, the viewer loses sense of himself.  The reality of his attire is lost to the solemn empty voids of the gallery.  Quite easily does the viewer lose track of his location within the museum, and even more easily does the want to know where he is fade away.
Film, whether in an art gallery, on television, or in a theater is able to temporarily transport the viewer out of his world and bring him to a different time, place, and land.  In the near silence of an art gallery, this transport produces an eerie realization that one is lost and at the will of the cinematographer. The viewer is tethered to the whims and direction of the artist with little opportunity to escape.
This realization is akin to the culture shock one feels when entering a new land. It is the knowing and dealing with the fact that one is not at home.  The images one sees are not his own. Very little belongs to him. In a sense, his reality has been taken hostage by a new culture, a new environment, a new scene, a new script.
The piece New York, New York, New York, New York, by Mungo Thompson, questions this idea of being away from home and the usual. Images of New York are projected on four walls, effectively bringing us from the National Mall in Washington, DC to the gritty pavement, cement, and buildings of New York. Our Metro is replaced by the subway; our tree lined capitol boulevards are replaced by seemingly endless, tree-less, litter filled streets.  Mimicking our natural tendency to look up at the stories seemingly perched one upon the other, the camera too, tilts up towards the roofs.
In the split second before the next segment, we second-guess ourselves with the actual lack of roofs. Through the upper level windows, instead of a ceiling or roof, we see but clear blue sky.  Instead of the expected bus or taxi, we follow a golf cart turn the corner and disappear down a street.
Slowly, through the examination of details – aided by close-ups of fake fruit, and even a palm tree in the background – we become aware that perhaps, this “real” depiction of New York City, is hardly real at all.
This famed East Coast metropolis has been recreated in the always-sunny West Coast Hollywood. We as viewers, having already been transported and given reason to question out location and reality are suddenly forced again to be moved to this land of fakeness which our own reality has tried to hard to escape.  Even though, but for an instant, this fake reality did transport us, the building facades represent the complete exterior of Hollywood which serve to do nothing but hide the empty, roofless interiors.
The disappointment caused by the constantly shifting and unknown reality surprisingly draws a continuous audience of followers, both artists and viewers alike.  We are drawn to celebrities and fame like moths to light.  We lose sense of reality when projected upon us is the make-up, lights and editing of Hollywood.
As a video artist, Kerry Tribe went to Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, in search of her next project, her next opportunity to reflect and represent reality to the world.  What she found was not a real existence. She found a continual struggle in the people of Hollywood to become something they are not.  Before being viewed by the public, the actors are nothing but objects being judged on their beauty and their look.
In creating her piece, Tribe found five actresses that looked like herself, and cast them to represent her thoughts and emotions.  She is able to blatantly respond to the question of whether creating art – and specifically film – is creating an image, an introspective of oneself.  Her piece, is her. She is the subject of the film, the actresses in the film are playing her.  Her own unique sense of identity is multiplied and we become unable to pinpoint what about Tribe makes her herself.   Can a real subject be achieved by recreating many copies of the original?
The subtle repetitive music reflects the sense of doubling of human thoughts Tribe has afforded us.  Tribe alternates between interview documentary segments and everyday life settings to further enmesh the actors with their subject. The subject portrayed in the interior frame of the rear-view mirror is still the actor playing the subject during the interview.   It becomes impossible to distinguish actor from subject as this Hollywood reality is muddied to the rhythmic beating of the background music.  Even as the melodic pattering rises at the end of the film suggesting a positive future different from the intertwined past, we are left wondering if we can indeed escape a created reality to find our own.
I guess that is what I was left with after these two pieces. Witnessing the scenery of Hollywood and the continually questioning reality of Hollywood acting, I was left wondering if I could indeed escape this created reality.  I found myself questioning still what is real about this reality, what makes it more real than any other.   Is realism and reality a constant? Or does the observer give the reality legitimacy?
One of Tribe’s actresses portraying Tribe describes Hollywood as a consuming collective and magnetic bubble of people. In a way this makes realism unify. It is only through coming together and sharing experiences, through art, music, stories or film, that our realities can align, and we can see the world as others do.  The Cinema Effect exhibit challenges the viewer to choose a reality as his own, and interpret what he sees through that reality. What is real is only real to those who see it, and it is the filmmaker’s job to record those realisms for others to enjoy.

Hello world!

September 2, 2008

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