Joyce Campbell (2015) Flightdream

“This Monster first approached me through a dream. I was the monster, or so it seemed. I was flying as one flies through the air in dream. I did not know I was under water…And then I saw myself.
Unseen, it may be accurate to call the Monster beautiful. Full of the beauty of nakedness so secret it might as well be dead. It has no arms, no legs. It extends a nervous system into pure volume. A sensory flowering, delimning the currents as they stream deep through the frigid hydrosphere.”
Mark von 
Schlegell, Flugtraum (excerpt)


I find it hard to describe how mesmerising I found this moving image work and the accompanying soundtrack by Pete Kolvos. The changing, disintegrating forms flow in slow motion within a landscape that could be equally the depths of space or the bottom of the ocean. It could be a journey through a nebula, an encounter with an intergalactic entity, or the birth of a diaphanous sea beast. The forms are suspended within a blackness so deep that it’s volume is unknowable and the light that illuminates them shifts and pulses with the scrape and groan of the soundtrack.


The 25min looped video was inspired by the short story Flugtraum (Mark von Schegell) which was in turn inspired by Campbell’s Marianas (2002-2003) photographic series – interesting to see an artist and a writer reflecting back and forth upon each others work. Flugtraum is apparently about a diver plummeting into the ocean’s depths onboard a bathysphere in search of a ‘monster’ and with the knowledge that his own end will be found within the belly of the beast. The formless strangeness of the beast is conjured in Campbells ephemeral shapes and movements, tendrils and uncurling systems. I was even more excited to discover that the process of creating these forms was by electrochemical corrosion within a liquid bath. Knowing how much I love chemical (and alchemical) processes the whole idea of the creation of forms through the destruction of other forms through a chemical reaction was very appealing to me.


Yang Fudong at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

When I went see Yang Fudong’s show at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki I had no prior knowledge of his work. It turned out to be very helpful for my own practice as well as very enjoyable as an exhibition. In this blog entry I’m not going to not going to examine so much of the content and meaning of the works, but how the works are constructed and the affect that produces.

All three works in the show were filmed within theatrical, constructed environments designed to mimic the exterior world but with no attempt to disguise their artifice; artificial light, artificial sound, artificial worlds that mimic our own. Costumes and characters that are unashamedly being ‘played’ and filmic techniques manipulating duration and speed all calling into question notions of authenticity – something I have been examining in my own moving image work.

IMG_1975Yang Fudong (2011) ‘Yejiang/The Nightman Cometh‘. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

Yejiang/The Nightman Cometh‘ (2011) is a surreal, otherworldly trip through a frozen landscape with mute characters who express their interior worlds through exaggerated gesture and emotion. The unapologetically theatrical staging of the environment, lighting,  costumes and props were tantalising to me because this is something I have been exploring in my own work. I’m still trying to unpack the reasons behind its importance to my work, so observing it in Fudong’s work stimulated my thinking around its usage. ‘Yejiang/The Nightman Cometh‘ seems to be an alternate world that exists within the bounds of a giant snow globe. Its relationship to the real world is tenuous and there is definitely the feeling of an alternate, or internal, reality. The use of theatrical staging and point of view of the camera – it only once moved from being directly in front of the scene, as if watching from the audience – heightened these otherworldly qualities. I also enjoyed the lighting which produced a deep chiaroscuro effect and the false perspective created by the set. The soundtrack evoked tragic string-based soundtracks from early 20th, and this added to the Film Noir vibe. Funnily enough I’d been toying with the idea of using a snow-effect in some of my own work, so I really enjoyed seeing it being used here! So quiet and strange.

IMG_1982Yang Fudong (2014) ‘The Coloured Sky: New Women II‘. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

The Coloured Sky: New Women II‘ (2014) is a multi-screen video installation that exists on all 4 walls of a darkened room. The work portrayed lithe young women frolicking in a manufactured tropical beach environment with both fake and real flora and fauna. The stage-set beach has structures of brightly coloured perspex that divide and illuminate the scene, while the ‘sky’ and lighting are in rich, tropical tones rather like the physical embodiment of a fruity summer cocktail. There was something about the work that reminded me of Lars Von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’, not in subject matter, but in aesthetic.

There were a number of things within the work that I have been considering within my own work. Seeing them working within a piece of video art gave me a lot to think about:
– The use of still life shots; intense colours, chiaroscuro, still objects but on moving image
– Imagery of people that appears still, a portrait, a moment in time except that the slight shake of the hand or movement of the chest gives away the fact that it is video.
– A soundtrack that swells and recedes creating different tensions and moods
– A narrative with no set start or end
– Changes in film speed
– Notions of the authentic/inauthentic

IMG_1981Yang Fudong (2014) ‘The Coloured Sky: New Women II‘. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

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