Category Archives: Animation / Video Art

Contempotary Art (8) Chris Marker

Chris Marker (b. Neuilly-sur-Seine, France 1921) – actual  name: Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve – multimedia artist, photographer, film director, writer. Lives in Paris and does not grant interviews. When asked for a picture of himself, he usually offers a photograph of a cat instead (so far as the gossip says). His cat is named Guillaume-en-egypte. (See more details in my previous post here: http://wp.me/p8s8b-66)

Creator of: La Jetée (1962), A Grin Without a Cat (1977), Sans Soleil (1983) and AK (1985) a documentary on Akiro Kurosawa. From the recent projects: in 2005 Marker created a multimedia piece for The Museum of Modern Art in New York titled Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men (influenced by T.S. Elliot’s poem); in 2008: Immemory – an interactive video produced  by Centre Pompidou, created out of fascination by digital technology. 

Marker is as enigmatic, brilliant and witty in his collages above as he would be behind his directorial camera viewfinder. One simply cannot get enough of this artist’s vision – it escapes one’s full comprehension and intuitive potential. It’s a one-man world-view, a singularity which resists any thorough penetration. A beauty and power of human uncanniness captured into a compelling, enthrilling  visual extravaganza. Just keep exploring…

Site about Marker’s view of the world:  Chris Marker

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Czeslaw Mozil – just smile a little…

I’ve just come across this artist and I think it’s worth to introduce him to the wider public.

He is charming, free-spirited, playful, original, talented. He was born in Poland, yet brought up in Denmark. He speaks English, Dutch and Polish – all with an adorable accent. He plays to the accordion and piano with a considerable fluency. Here we can see a video made in his pub in Denmark – all the concept, realization, music, text, performance are the creation of Czeslaw (tcheslav) and his friends… One can obviously spot some influences, both Scandinavian and generally – European from different video artists, filmmakers, signers, poets…but I would say – as for a debutant – not too bad at all!

Lyrics are both bizarre and thoughtful – honestly – in moments beyond any translation… It tells an apparently light-hearted, random story about a lady, who found an old, broken little machine (a camera – presumably) and – out of a sentiment and tender love she decided to make it ‘working’ again… At the end, the sweetest of all choir signs:

We will be beautiful like we used to be…/And we will operating proficiently again…

O, yes – we will… Don’t try to understand or ‘explain’ anything – just enjoy and smile a little…

Official video uploaded on Youtube by the artist himself – thank you.



“The Lullabies of the World”

One of my last treasures ‘dug up’ at the You Tube (I believe the idea-giver for this service should be awarded with the Peace Nobel Price – for allowing millions of people to share audio-visual emotions). Looking for work by Paul Driessen (more about him on different occasion) I found some animations from Russia; having an immediate comparison I have to admit that I did like more the work by those completely unknown individuals (though some of them seemed to be influenced by the Dutch master). Driessen is a class in himself, with an unique sense of humour; yet, at the same time, he appears to strum self-indulging strings – being over-cynical, over-stylish (if not manneristic) and relying too much on the ‘tricks’ he’s invented… And here (above) we have a Jewish lullaby made by a Russian artist, whom I’ve never heard about- as fresh as a child’s smile and just as innocent. Above that – its imaginary is brilliant, neat and original, delivering an emotional message (“too many things put momma on her little fledgling/ her love didn’t allow me to become a bird”) in a poignantly successful, artistically pleasing way.

But, that is not all. Russian animators (with Arsen Gottlieb fathering the idea) have launched a multi-cultural project “The Lullabies of the World” (“Kolybelnye Mira”) trying to visualize what Russian, Turkish, Swedish or Jewish children may dream about hearing their mothers’ loving songs over their beds. With original lyrics and authorial (usually one particular artist is responsible for one piece) these animated visions (twenty so far, but work is in progress) are simply beautiful and quite often unusually inspiring. They tell more about the cultures presented than many documentaries do – it seems that if one wants to really meet a different civilization, one has to go to visit its graveyards and its nurseries… There is a profoundly deep connection between a cultural/national identity and the way particular nations take care of their dead ones as well as of dreams of their young ones.

I found the whole experience incredibly rewarding, if not mind-blowing – I – being fed with Disney’s and generally – “Western” monopoly on ‘telling’ fairy-tales, on carving dreams of childhood (and enjoying that too – to be honest). It’s like to discover the other side of the Moon, a completely neglected world of that ‘other’, so distinctive, yet – for god’s sake – my own, “Eastern” spirituality. That is how an innocent ‘surf’ – a virtual journey has evolved into a serious, introspective identity self-exam. I’m going, from now on – to pay much more attention to the phenomena, which make the lands East of the former Berlin wall unique as they still are.

P.S

‘Duratrub’ has uploaded the video to the youtube, together with the other animations mentioned above. Thank you. Please, double-click on the ‘screen’ to get the access to the service. You can also use the link above to find out about the project.


Master and Nostalgia

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (1983) is one of those timeless pieces, classical in a moment of their birth. First movie of this director to be shot outside Russia and first dealing (at least, by the title) with the intense longing for the homeland. There are numerous interpretations of this picture, one of these most self-evident is that focusing on a possible autobiographical aspect (the protagonist – poet Gortczakov as Tarkovsky’s alter-ego), but one has to accept that artworks of this caliber do escape any explanation; I’ve read few critical evaluations and each of them gave a different and more or less acceptable set of concepts as a ‘reading-key’ for this movie. What’s striking, the author’s interpretation, expressed in a brilliant documentary made on ‘battlefield’ of Nostalgia, is yet another cup of tea. Tarkovsky speaks beautifully about the complexity of the human relationships he tried to portray, that is much easier to meet someone and to get to know him/her than to forget that particular person. That we are all in a nostalgic mood because of that – because of the impossibility – firstly – to meet in truth and secondly-to keep all those, whom we are fascinated with, for ourselves.

But for us, more mortals than him, it’s the visual power of his work that keeps us under a hypnotic spell for hours. And this Russian’s imaginary abilities and sense of beauty is stunning. The more breathtaking when one watches ‘the work in progress’ – how virtually from scratches, from mud and forgotten, ruined places, carrying and setting up that old-fashioned, clumsy equipment, how battling with people and objects, light and space this artist carves out the perfectness. And only those who tried to portray beauty – in poems, paintings, movies know how incredibly difficult it is – to capture the sense without killing the ambiguity, mystery and interest. But, it is not that difficult to reject it all… You are certainly not doomed to believe in a world by Tarkovsky – that hopelessly romantic, dreamy, melancholic sur-reality of empty Roman pools, lit candles, ruined churches and misty landscapes haunted by those poor, so intensely living souls… Just like when reading Kafka’s or looking at Chirico’s one has a forceful desire to leave, to escape the created world due to the unsettling feelings and thoughts it evokes – “Tarkovsky’s tension” (as I would call it) is a quite natural phenomenon and not for everyone to cope with successfully.

That tension arises due to a demand, which genuine art makes on an individual. It’s well pointed in our master’s view of it: “The purpose of art is to help man improve himself spiritually.” It’s not to be merely consumed or enjoyed, is not to be pleasing and evocative for its own sake. I find it quite a good lesson applicable to all sorts of artistic activities. And yet another quote – on the ethics (who, on Earth, speaks today about ethics in art!) of an artist: “too many artists take their work as a special position, given to them by destiny, and simply exploit their profession. That is, they live in one way but make movies about something else. And I’d like to tell directors, especially young ones, that they should be morally responsible for what they do while making their films.” Writers should be morally responsible for what they do while writing, painters should be morally responsible for what they do when painting… What else shall I add to that…

P.S.
Fragment of A.Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalgia’ has been uploaded to the Youtube service by “0EyeOfDawn0” – thank you. It’s only a ‘teaser’ promoting this great art and, hopefully, encouraging those, who haven’t met with the director’s work yet to do this. As with any other original material (not being my own property) I have no intention to go against any copyright law – anyone interested, please do respect the artist and buy (loan) a certified copy. Thank you. K.S.


The Art of Deception


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I’m strangely attached to those photos I’ve made few weeks ago in a one gorgeous day when traveling by a train from an island when I live to the ‘mainland’ (frankly speaking – what a silly idea, to connect an amazingly wild part of an island with the rest of the land by … the railway; you can see the steel construction cutting up the waters of the harbour in half…)

They display clearly what an art of deception may be – what you are most likely to spot immediately in those images is the reflection of a view from an opposite window (which is, obviously, not visible there), the actual view being seen and photographed is either too evident or too blurry (as in a case of the last photo) to catch our eye and attention.

My intuition for today is that the art of deception understood in the above-mentioned way is probably the Art per se. Because what the Art is suppose to ‘show’ is that ‘something’ and ‘everything’ that tends to remain invisible and unaccessible in an immediate contact. That art projects what is the most important onto that what is plain to see and undisguised, and more significantly – it makes that invisible so clear and attractive that we lose ourselves – our perception and feelings just for that. Why is it deceptive, why the art of the ‘deception’ ? I’m not that sure – maybe we are not able to accept some aspects of our humanity and the world around in their absolute pureness and strength, maybe they will ‘blind’ us once seen or endanger our sensible powers and the rational sense ? … Maybe we naturally adapt self-defensive psychological mechanisms to protect ourselves from going ‘too deep’ , to not to struggle too much? So we make our way through our life convincing ourselves and/or letting others to convince us that, once our existence is more or less ‘meaningful’ and comfortable we are not bound to look for anything more, we can just ‘enjoy’ being mothers, husbands, lawyers, artists, farmers (whomever)… All sort of condensed spirituality and throwing oneself into deep waters almost on a daily basis is the ‘job’ of monks, priests, mystics, madmen… Indeed, the entire existence of an average contemporary man is ‘the art’ of deception – but – but this skill conceals rather than reveals, simplifies instead of looking for a fuller view. There are deceptions that make invisible visible and those which shut up the entire worlds.


Studying Art – Diary (4) – ‘Enfer’

This video introduces a new term of the second year of my study. The first term has been quite an emotionally and mentally challenging period. Suddenly, all confidence I naturally possessed had vanished almost without a trace. And all due to simple questions I was expected to answer: ‘what’s the meaning?’, ‘what are you trying to convey?’. And my immediate, the most honest answer-question: ‘Do I have to communicate anything?’, ‘Is that communication really that important at all?’. Obviously, I’ve been ensured that, in order to ‘survive’ as an artist one has to have a strong, attractive idea-concept and should be able to put it eloquently in words… Just like a soldier on a mission – know your password and be ready to recite it each time of day and night to everyone asking for it.

And I’ve been grumpy consequently denying the ‘revelation’ of what I’m exactly having on my mind; sensing that I have the right to do this. I don’t want and need to be led by any concept, any cluster of words or -isms. I need freedom of balancing between different possibilities, different semiotic universes. In this very reality, being stuffed like a Christmas turkey with self-assuring, cocky and terribly empty messages I have my right to reject being communicative at all. In a fact, I can make my art an art of anti-communication playing only with popular, culturally fertile imaginary and symbols – just as I’m doing here, in this video.

“Enfer” was much easier to make than to explain, the same can be said of most of my work to date. There is a rich metaphorical layer behind it, but I haven’t invented it, I just keep on projecting my cultural/educational background which I’ve been, quite naturally, immersed in. You can read some of the clues yourself, another may be a sort of a riddle:

– the title – is meant to be ‘too big’ (Tuymans’s tutorial…); ‘Enfer’ – ‘Hell’, I’m not going to clarify what it means to you… It’s quite personal…

– the soundtrack by Z. Preisner to K. Kieslowski’s ‘La double vie de Veronique’ – abstracting from the Polish, my native-land references, the movie is a powerful elegy that can be interpreted on many ways, one possible is that of a role of an artist/creator as a puppeteer manipulating, deceiving and playing ‘god’, the shaky montage of images I’ve employed here may be read as ‘pulling the strings’ activity.

– the canary in the cage is called ‘Birdy”- a meaningful name for readers of W. Wharton’s book (actually, I named the bird having that book – ‘Birdy’ – on mind), in itself is a loud representation of a state of not-being-free, and not being truly conscious of that

– the dancing girl called Miriam – my four-years-old daughter; she is perfectly free – and again, not truly being aware of that; she looks almost the same as I used to being her age; she is an embodied innocence enjoying her dance which I’ve turned into a marionette’s performance (or – did I manage? isn’t it innocent enough to go beyond all sort of manipulation?); she’s dancing among pictures and there is a blank board by a wall – without going too esoteric – the presence of paintings in that performance is a self-ironic detail – they look dead comparing to the actual life going on, the blank space is- for me- the most perfect image

– deliberately blurred imaginary, being in some points almost completely ‘washed out’ or reduced to a negation of itself can be read as the symbol of a vanishing meaning, also as a visualization of feeling of isolation/detachment from the portrayed dilemma, from the reality in general; it can be also a mental, dreamy image being recored from the memory/imagination

– there’s a long black gap at the very end of the video; it continues for about two minutes; while I haven’t meant it it suits the overall message perfectly as ‘Enfer’ functions as a sort of a void, where there is nothing or almost nothing and life is being reduced to a caricature of itself


Katarzyna Kozyra – asking for identity

Katarzyna Kozyra (b. 1963, Warsaw) is one of the most internationally acclaimed Polish contemporary artists. She works as a sculptor, a video/media artist and an installation artist. In 1999 she represented Poland on the Venice Biennial where her video-installation Mens’ Bathhouse has been awarded with the special prize.


She had shocked the wide public right on a start of her career presenting as a graduation piece The pyramid of animals (1993) – an installation (sculpture?) of four stuffed animals and a video piece documenting a scene of killing and skinning a horse.

The artist had used found skins of a dead dog and a cat and bought skins of two remaining animals, which were meant to be butchered. By doing this she had broken at least two important stereotypes about art – that it is meant to be…fine, spirit – uplifting, ethically pure and that it is a representation/imitation rather than a presentation of a thing per se. Would the artist be able to achieve the same effect simply by carving the animals out of marble (stone/wood/plaster)? Scarcely, since the meaning of the work is touching the chilly dilemma how living creatures present themselves after their death (the pyramid of animals is actually the pyramid of death as Kozyra’s teachers comment on it).

She made butchers to drug the animals rather than to perform the usual practice of killing (with an axe, knife, hammer or any other violent tool), she can also be seen weeping over their bodies. But all what the general public had manged to get (some fellow-artists too…) was a scandal of an artistic abuse, a profane piece of insensitivity… Well, it wasn’t the first case when the audience proved not be able to follow an artwork at all…Was it?…

The label controversial/scandalous has been stuck to her to be never removed (not in Poland, at least), which seriously limits any deeper reception of her work for a layman. Katarzyna’s outspoken, non-compromising works are reaching far to the challenging dilemma which contemporary humanity is dealing with; first and foremost – dilemma of human identity in general and the artist’s (as an individual) own identity – how humans function here and now, how they face death in health-obsessed/death-indifferent reality, their complex relationships with other living creatures (ie. moral questions about killing animals) and their genre identity – well-explored in Kozyra’s latest work.

Her Boys (2001-2002) video series is just a witty comment on masculinity – the eye-pleasing boys are left for themselves to behave as they wish but they are dressed up in a vaginal sort of devices. We can see how they try to play the attractive male role, but look just boyz_sexy-1.jpghilariously. This work can be interpreted as a study of today’s androgynous vision of the sex, where the boundaries between male/female characteristics and the social roles are being blurred. It’s also a clear message that the appearance of the human body is the most deceiving phenomenon under the sun, the simplest (yet meaningful or/and symbolic) device is able to put it totally out of the commonly accepted context. That body identity concept appears to be Kozyra’s artistic signature for she’s been using her own (mostly naked) body as a medium, subject and object in one and a living sculpture (here we are coming back to The Pyramid of Animals – rejecting mere imitation, looking for real, tangible experience).

One of her latest works is a huge multimedia project started in 2003 and still being continued – In Art Dreams Come True.
It functions as a traveling (around Europe) performance-act, video art and even opera all in one exhibition…Katarzyna uses herself to render very different representations of female roles, being accompanied by masters she learns how to identify with an opera star, transsexual, femme fatale or a fairy tale princess. By doing this she explores how the modern times transformed woman into an artificial dolly creature forcing her to play throughout her life different social roles – not only these of being a mother/homemaker but also these of being good-looking, emotional (or over-emotional), sweet, irrational and so on, and so on.

I’m probably one of those people who has to set their sights on an impossible goal. That’s how I give myself chance, because I really believe in it, and take it seriously; I really give myself a chance to explore things that are completely new for me. Kozyra is one of those artists who with an amazing ease makes us see those completely new things, which become strangely familiar once we have a chance of fresh reflection on them.


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