Tuesday, December 14, 2021

James Seawright and Mimi Garrard


"Mimi Garrard was a dancer with Alwin Nikolais. He produced her concerts at the Henry Street Playhouse for ten years and then she toured under the National Endowment Touring Program for many years. In collaboration with James Seawright, her work was commis­sioned for CBS Camera Three and WGBH Boston television. She created more than ninety works for the stage that were performed throughout the United States and in South Amer­ica." - https://mimigarrarddance.com/

                                                    Music by Emmanuel Ghent


longer excursion


Sunday, December 5, 2021

Alwin Nikolais - Noumenon (created 1953; this performance 1992)


One of the great modernist choreographers of the 20th Century, Alwin Nikolais used light design, costume, make-up, electronic sound and the moving human form to create enthralling spectacles that hovered somewhere in-between ballet, kinetic sculpture, avant-garde fashion, and ritual ceremonies from the far future or from some alien civilisation.

"It is impossible for me to be a purist; my loves are too various for that," Nikolais wrote in 1966. "I look upon this polygamy of motion, shape, color and sound as the basis of the theater." The multi-sensory impact of his work is conveyed in titles like “Fetish (ritual of shadows and blades of light),” “Prismatic Forest (maze of colored bars before infinite vista)”and “Glymistry (parts of people and things illuminated in glows of colored light).”

Born in Connecticut in 1910, Nikolais pioneered the use of side-lighting in ballet, as opposed to the traditional way of illuminating from above. He deployed “shinbusters” to bounce light off the performers’s bizarrely costumed bodies, pushing the spectacle towards abstraction. Some of his pieces involved dancers carrying flashlights or little lanterns, or wearing internally-lit tubes that sheathed the dancer’s arms and legs.

As well as inventive light-design, Nikolais devised the sci-fi garments, masks, wigs, and head-bands that his dancers wore, some of which anticipate Bowie’s more outlandish costumes of the early Seventies. If that wasn’t enough, Nikolas also composed his own music, using tape-editing and a variety of sound “conditioning” techniques to transform percussion and other acoustic instruments. Later, he would be an early adopter of the Moog synthesiser.

Webbing a troupe of dancers within a cat’s cradle of elasticated ribbons, “Tensile Involvement” (1953) is probably Nikolais’s most famous piece and can be seen in recreated form as the opening credit sequence to Robert Altman’s 2002 ballet film The Company. Also created in 1953 but here performed in 1993 as part of a posthumous Nikolais retrospective, “Noumenon” is less kinetic than “Tensile Involvement” but even more disorienting. The dancers are completely encased in a cocoon of Lycra fabric, which kinks and ripples as they gyrate and contort sightlessly within. The human body becomes a generator of planes and folds of abstract texture. The title “Noumenon”, incidentally, comes from philosophy and refers to objects that reason can conceive but which are not knowable by the senses.

This excerpt from “Noumenon” belongs to a longer survey of Nikolais’s oeuvre that can be found on YouTube. As for his music, look out for Choreosonic Music of the New Dance Theatre of Alwin Nikolais, originally released in 1959 but reissued a few years ago on the Cacophonic imprint. A 1993 collection of Nikolais’s later purely electronic and digital scores can be found on streamers like Tidal and Spotify. 

There is an extensive tradition of experimental composers who worked closely with avant-garde choreographers, from John Cage’s partnership with Merce Cunningham to musique concrete visionary Pierre Henry’s collaborations with Maurice Béjart. But Nikolais appears to be unique in creating his own electronic scores. Before moving into the dance field, he worked as a musician, providing keyboard accompaniment to silent movies. When he started to create his own dance pieces, Nikolais recorded his own scores, always creating the sounds after the choreography was written, as a series of “motion-cues” timed for short sequences of dancing. Sound generated from acoustic instruments or from materials and objects (“tubes, pipes, pieces of wood, aluminum, steel and tin containers, glasses, elastic bands, coils of wire”, according to the Choresonic liner note) were subjected to various processes using the tape recorder: “speeded up or slowed down, interrupted, ‘pulsed’, reverberated, reversed [and] superimposed.” Just as his choreography, costumes and lighting worked to break up the human form into abstract motion-shapes, Nikolais was keen to avoid the “identification of sound sources” and strove to encourage listeners to hear “the sound itself divorced from its initial derivation.”

A true polymath seeking to create total art experiences, Nikolais was – as Jack Anderson wrote in his 1993 New York Times obituary – “not merely a choreographer” but also “a wizard… a prophet, and a wonderful entertainer.”

— SR

Friday, November 12, 2021

Scott Bartlett - OffOn (1968)


"To shoot this masterpiece — the most beholden to San Francisco’s psychedelic subculture in this series — Bartlett and some pals took film loops and liquid light-show projections designed for hippie concert halls and ran it through TV gear, creating the first experimental marriage of video and film. To add that artisan touch, he hand-dyed the film strips with food coloring. A close-up plunge into a cosmic eye opens into a nine-minute smorgasbord of analog cybernetica, whose loop-de-loop of form and emptiness culminates in spooky insectoid squiggles and hyperkinetic Roschach blots. 

"The edgy electronic soundtrack, crafted by Manny Meyer on a Buchla 100, is equally far-out."

- TechGnostic guru-not-guru Erik Davis, first installment of  a series called Distended Animations - on experimental animation and trip films, mostly out of the West Coast -  he's doing for HILOBROW

Friday, November 5, 2021

Peter Roberts - The Jellyfish (1974)


This experimental animation from the Amber Film Collective stands apart from the documentaries and social realist films, mostly concerned with life and work in the North East, that would become the collective's usual stock in trade. It was the third release to appear under the Amber banner, and the second of only two animations (the other being 1969's A Film).

Jellyfish employs a variety of experimental approaches, combining stop-motion and pixilation techniques, freely mixing black and white photography of beach landscapes, objects and people - along with some drawings - to build a poetic, very textured montage, eliding the real and the surreal, the beautiful and the eerie, the spirited and the deadly. Figures and objects are isolated, linked together only by their presence on a beach, all exposed to direct or indirect threats. The different jellyfish are as much at threat - washing up dead, stranded in the desolate landscape - as they are a threat - appearing suddenly and making people vanish.

Jellyfish resonates with a sense of unseen menace prevalent in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War. With its mushroom cloud shape (providing the film's most direct image), stinging tentacles and alien appearance, the jellyfish makes a potent symbol for the atomic bomb. The film makes at first implicit, and later explicit, references to nuclear threat: the emblematic jellyfish, a woman disappearing in a toxic cloud, anonymous suited politicians around a table, a recurring image of a man running (in terror?). The mood of urgency and anxiety is enhanced by the soundtrack and editing, which grow faster and more staccato as the film goes on.

In 1973, at the time of the film's making, the Vietnam War was still in progress, while the full extent of the risk of a full-scale nuclear war following Russia's intervention in that year's Egypt-Israeli war only emerged later.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Rocky Morton + Annabel Jankel - "Accidents Will Happen" promo - 1979


Jankel also did this wonderful promo for Tom Tom Club 

And this one for her brother Chas Jankel

"She started her career in the late 1970s at the UK-based film production company Cucumber Studios which she founded with her partner - fellow director Rocky Morton. Jankel and Morton specialized in creating music videos, TV commercials and TV title sequences using a combination of live action, animation and the then emerging art of computer graphics. In this period the duo directed several music videos for performers including Rush ("The Enemy Within"), Elvis Costello ("Accidents Will Happen"), Talking Heads ("Blind"), Tom Tom Club ("Genius of Love", "Pleasure of Love", "Don't Say No"), Donald Fagen ("New Frontier") and Miles Davis ("Decoy").

"In 1985, Jankel and Morton won an Emmy Award for their title sequence for the NBC show Friday Night Videos. And that same year their innovative TV commercial for the newly launched soft drink Quatro gained recognition at the British Television Advertising Awards.

"In 2003, their 1978 music video for Elvis Costello's "Accidents Will Happen" was one of only 35 videos selected for inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art's prestigious "Golden Oldies of Music Video" exhibition. Their music videos are found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

"In 1984, Jankel and Morton co-authored a book titled Creative Computer Graphics that detailed the history of the craft and essayed its future.

"Jankel co-created Max Headroom, a cult cyberpunk character that evolved into multiple TV productions and became very influential in science fiction TV and impacted popular culture in the 1980s. Jankel and Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show - an entertainment program that featured comedic sequences, interviews conducted by the Headroom cyber-character and music videos. (Channel 4 - UK and HBO - US). This led to the TV film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future, also directed by the duo. The TV film in turn inspired the ABC Max Headroom US TV series.

"Subsequent to the success of Max Headroom, Jankel and Morton moved to Los Angeles. They were considered to co-direct the 1988 horror film Child’s Play, the first film to feature the character of Chucky, before Tom Holland was hired. They together D.O.A, a remake of the 1949 film of the same name, starring Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid. The film received critical acclaim in The Washington Post''[10] and from film writers such as Roger Ebert who described it as "a witty and literate thriller".

"Following D.O.A., Jankel and Morton directed the film, Super Mario Bros., a film loosely based on the video game of the same name starring Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper. The film was set in a dark post-apocalyptic interpretation of the Mushroom Kingdom, as distinct from the colourful cartoonish setting of the game. It was panned by critics, receiving almost universally negative reviews....." - Wiki 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Peter Donebauer + Simon Desorgher + Ernest Berk - In Earnest (1979)


Peter Donebauer (born 1947) is an English video artist known for designing and building the Videokalos video synthesizer.... He is best known for his video artwork 'Entering', part of his seven-part 'Creation Cycle'. This was the first video piece to be commissioned and nationally broadcast by the BBC on 'Second House'. It was created in real-time at the Royal College of Art television studio and transmitted via a live microwave link to Broadcasting House where it was recorded for later broadcast.

In 1975-76, Donebauer partnered with Richard Monkhouse to develop the Videokalos colour synthesizer. It decoded the video signal into its red, green and blue components allowing for complex mixing and interlayering of colours and images. The device allowed “video” to be “played live” like a musical instrument.

Utilising the Videokalos synthesiser, Donebauer founded the Video And Music Performers (VAMP) delivering live interactive performances created between video and music performers. VAMP toured the UK in 1978-79 and had a retrospective performance at Tate Britain in 2006.

Donebauer created other commissioned works within The Creation Cycle, including 'Struggling', a part of his Arts Council award produced in 1974, and three works commissioned by the British Film Institute: 'Circling' and 'Teeming' in 1975, and 'Dawn Creation' in 1976. In 1980 he produced 'Moving' for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and in 1980-81 'The Water Cycle' for Thorn-EMI. Later works include the 'Mandala' Cycle, 1991, and 'Thames Reflections', 2003.

- Wiki

"Donebauer collaborated over a two year period with the electronics engineer Richard Monkhouse to build the Videokalos Colour Synthesiser, a portable image processing instrument. He explored performance, improvisation and the spontaneous real-time recording of video as an abstract art form, investigating its similarities to music. He formed ‘Video and Music Performers’ (VAMP) in 1979 and presented video in live video-music concerts, often collaborating with musician Simon Desorgher.

“Frequently described as an electronic painter, I have sought to extend the possibilities of the television screen as an arena for the presentation of coloured imagery of the widest range of types.” (P. Donebauer, Video Artists on Tour programme notes, February 1980). Donebauer’s processing of video – his experimentation with abstraction synthesised video and live performance were clearly innovative of their time. Evidently, Donebauer was working with the painterly moving-image, and a scientific/engineering oriented research process; “I have been using this equipment to attempt to create an art form that is simultaneously sound, colour and visual pattern. Video is unique in allowing degrees of visual and aural spontaneity not possible with film. Thus in conjunction with an electronic music composer, I produce work that is neither music nor visual art but a combination of created sound with created vision.” -  Rewind


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Overton Loyd - Parliament TV commercials


"Overton Loyd is a American caricaturist, comic artist, animator and illustrator, best known through his association with funk legend George Clinton. He created the comic book inside the sleeve of Parliament's album 'Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome' (1977) and illustrated the covers of the band's subsequent three albums. Together with Pedro Bell, Ronald P. Edwards and Diem Jones, he contributed to Clinton's P-funk philosophy and wacky public image. And together with these artists and people like Cal Schenkel (Frank Zappa), Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd) and Lemi Ghariokwu (Fela Kuti) Bell was one of the best known album cover artists who gave one specific musician or band a visual identity. 

"He refers to his style as "funk aesthetic" and/or "bop art." His fine art paintings go by the monicker "urban expressionism". The artist is convinced that art can ignite a breakthrough in communication, allowing people to shift their consciousness, embrace their humanity and access the eternal, which he summarizes in the slogan: "Transform the Norm". 

"Overton Loyd was born in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. Among his graphic influences are Salvador Dalí, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas. He started his career making caricatures at state fairs and illustrations for magazines....  Loyd got in touch with George Clinton, the eccentic brain behind the legendary bands Parliament and Funkadelic. Funkadelic was known for their psychedelic rock sound with funky grooves parodying that very same genre. Parliament combined outer space-themes with catchy dance music. Both bands promoted peace, free love and black consciousness, but with a sense of humor. Clinton's shows were full of funny lyrics, wacky wigs and costumes, complete with giant UFO's landing on stage. The looniness never got in the way of breathtaking musicianship, performed, among others, by guitarists Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel, which sometimes went on for three hours in a never-ending party. At that point Clinton already had a home illustrator, Pedro Bell, but Loyd was just as welcome. Bell and Loyd are often confused with each other and it's not hard to see why. Both were the most productive illustrators George Clinton ever worked with, helping out designing album covers, concert posters and other associated merchandising. The main difference is that Bell had a more amateuristic style, while Loyd was more professionally skilled. Also, Bell was mostly preoccupied with artwork for Funkadelic, while Loyd was the main illustrator behind Parliament's records.

"One day Loyd hung out with Parliament in a hotel room when somebody handed out clown noses for the next stage show. He sketched Clinton with one of these noses, which gave him the idea of a Cyrano de Bergerac-like character. Clinton suggested dressing this character like a stereotypical black pimp and named him Sir Noze D'Voidoffunk. On the concept album 'Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome' (1977) the evil Sir Noze tries to fight funk music, personified by the heroic characters Dr. Funkenstein and Starchild. But in the end even he can't resist the groove. Loyd turned this story into an 8-page comic book, printed inside the album's sleeve. The sleeve also featured a poster by Loyd depicting Sir Noze.

"Bell designed the covers for Parliament's next three albums too: 'Motor Booty Affair' (1978), 'Gloryhallastoopid (Or Pin the Tale on the Funky)' (1979) and 'Trombipulation' (1980). Apart from the cover of 'Motorbooty Affair' Loyd created cardboard cutout figures and illustrations of the characters who played a role in the lyrics, including 'Mr. Wiggles' and 'Rumofsteelskin'. He also sang backing vocals on the record and designed costumes for the accompanying tour. To top it all off, Loyd also created a TV commercial to promote 'Motorbooty Affair' , which was his first experience with animation. Inside the sleeve of 'GloryHallaStoopid' (1979) was a comic strip inspired by the album's concept, presented in the shape of a flower bud. Each bud featured a comic strip panel, which one could read in clockwise fashion.

"Over the decades Loyd remained involved with Clinton's entourage, designing costumes, stage shows and album covers for his various musical endeavours. By the 1980s Parliament and Funkadelic were disbanded, and Clinton embarked on a solo career. In 1982 he released the hit single 'Atomic Dog'. The computer animation in the music video by Peter Conn was created by Loyd. Although the single was recorded in 1982 it still took until 17 February 1984 until the video aired on MTV, because at the time the network only gave rock and pop music airplay, thereby excluding all other genres. Thanks to Michael Jackson's monster success in 1983 MTV had to abandon this policy, giving musicians like Clinton airplay. The video won Billboard's "Best Use of Computer Graphics" award. 

".... "While the artist is closely associated with George Clinton, he also designed album or single covers for other musical acts, among them 'With Respect' (1990) and 'Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly' (2003) by Mr. Fiddler. He furthermore livened up the covers of 'Love Sign' (1973) by The Counts, 'Zapp' (1980) by Zapp, 'L.A. Connection' (1982) by L.A. Connection, 'Packet Man' (1990) by Digital Underground, 'Lil Trig' (1991) by Hen-Gree & Evil-E, 'Television, The Drug Of The Nation' (1991) by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, 'Funkology' (1994) by Dazz Band, 'Jazzonia' (1998) by Bill Laswell's Jazzonia, 'Journey To Anywhere' (2000) by Ugly Duckling, 'Weapon of Choice' (2005) by Nutmeg Party and 'Fish Feet' (2009) by Ron English....

"Inspired by Keith Haring, Loyd started to paint citizens of the Homeless District in Los Angeles and posted these acryllic paintings all through the neighbourhood. His intention was to transform the dilapidated district into a kind of secret popUp gallery, though clear in sight. After noticing some people took them away, he added messages of empowerment for the collectors to carry with them. Over the years Loyd has also collaborated with Gustavo Alberto Garcia Vaca, ManOne and Jim Mahfood. Since the early 1990s his artwork has often been exhibited.

"Overton Loyd, Pedro Bell, Ronald P. Ewards and Diem Jones provided George Clinton's music with a cartoonish visuality in a time when music videos were still rare and most advertising had to be done through tours, radio airplay and record sleeves. Their funky album covers were precursors of the cartoony album covers by some hiphop artists in the next decades. Loyd was a huge influence on comic artists and designers Gerone Spruill, Anya Davidson, Tim Fielder, Dawud Anyabwile and U.S. graffiti artist and muralist Stephen Powers, aka ESPO who once said: "Overton Loyd is as important to me as Henri Matisse."

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Chel White - Choreography for Copy Machine (Photocopy Cha Cha) (1991)


(via Andrew Parker)

"Choreography for Copy Machine (a.k.a. Photocopy Cha Cha) is a four-minute animated film by independent filmmaker by Chel White. All of the film's images were created solely by using the unique photographic capabilities of a photocopier to generate sequential pictures of hands, faces, and other body parts. Widely considered the first noteworthy animated film using this technique, the film achieves a dream-like aesthetic with elements of the sensual and the absurd. The Berlin International Film Festival describes it as “a swinging essay about physiognomy in the age of photo-mechanical reproduction.[5] Filmfest DC calls it, "true art in the age of mechanical reproduction; a rhythmic celebration of a photocopier’s cinematic potential." The Dallas Observer says, "(The film) takes a game we've all played with our hands, faces, and other body parts and raises it to the sublime." The Austin Chronicle writes, "(the film) pulses with a grinding sort of ghostly sexuality.” Alive TV says, "Your relationship to your copy machine may never be the same.” And The Washington Post describes the film as “(a) musical frolic which wittily builds on ghostly, distorted images crossing the plate glass of a copier.”" - Wiki 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

WALTER RUTTMANN, Lichtspiel Opus I (1921)

First shown in Frankfurt in 1921, “Lichtspiel Opus I” was hailed as the birth of a new art form,  christened as “Visual Music” by one critic and “Absolute Film” by another. Ruttmann created his abstract animation – “Lichtspiel” translates as “game of light” –by daubing oil paint onto a glass plate, then wiping it clean or augmenting the pattern for the next frame he shot. Informed by his studies of painting and architecture and his work as a graphic designer, Ruttmann’s swelling and shifting colour-shapes recall Matisse’s cut-outs. The gravity-defying movements resemble a kite-dance and the biomorphic forms sometimes suggest the deep ocean’s fantastical creatures.  There’s a sequence that’s like waves released from the tide’s lockstep rhythm and reveling in free expression; another that looks like a sun rocking in a child’s swing; and a section where falling leaves seem to have acquired the ability to flock like birds.

Despite its restless invention - every second a new canvas of minimalist abstraction – Ruttman was dissatisfied with his debut effort, much preferring later instalments in the series:  the twilight swirl of Opus II, the rectilinear fantasia of Opus III, the stark grid patterns of Opus IV.  Alongside these abstract short films, Ruttmann created more figurative animations for adverts, the non-animated masterwork Berlin-Symphony of a Metropolis and – bizarrely – a sound-only film, Wochenende.  He also contributed a dream sequence to Fritz Lang’s movie Siegfried.  But taking a less salubrious turn, Ruttmann’s later career saw him working with Hitler’s favorite film maker Leni Riefenstahl on The Triumph of the Will and making propaganda reels. He died in 1941 from injuries incurred as a war photographer on the Russian front. 

- SR

Friday, August 13, 2021

Walerian Borowczyk / Chris Marker / Andrzej Markowski - Les astronautes (1959)


Posted before as a secondary video, but deserves a spotlight in its own right - as much for the score (Andrzej Markowski) as the visuals. It's one of the most enjoyable stretches of musique concrete / radiophonics I've heard. 

Kazimierz Urbański's Igraski (1962) is another great Markowski score / sound-effects montage 

This also

Sound effects on these 

Scores + FX done for many more films - this one looks amusing (the story of a racing driver who has so many transplants it can no longer be determined which people have contributed to his make-up - from a Stanislaw Lem story) 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Jacques Lejeune - Le Cantique des Cantiques (1992)

Another musique concrete composer who also worked with animation and video. 

Check out his audiovisual uuuuurv

His pure audio stuff is magic 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Jacques Drouin - Le paysagiste / Mindscape - 1976


"Pinscreen animation is not well-known among most animation fans, understandably: not very many films have been made using the painstaking medium to begin with, and even then they are far removed from standard mediums of animation aesthetically and thematically.... 

"The pinscreen is a device consisting of several (as in, up to over a million) small pins in holes; with some effort, the pins can be pushed into and out of their holes. The screen is then lit from an angle such that the pins create varying shadows, depending on how much they protrude from the screen; taken together, the shadows can create images that resemble engravings, complete with chiaroscuro (striking use of light and dark shadings). As the images are viewed directly at the front of the screen, the pins themselves do not affect any one given image more than they do another, no matter how far out they stick.

"There is one big problem, though: it is difficult and time-consuming to manipulate the pinscreen in order to create the desired images, let alone animate them. The device was created by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker in the early 1930s, and they would create a number of interesting films over a span of several decades, two of the most notable being Night on Bald Mountain (set to Mussorgsky’s famous piece as arranged by Rimsky-Korsakov) and The Nose (from the Gogol short story of the same name). In 1972, the National Film Board of Canada acquired a pinscreen, and Alexeieff and Parker were invited to demonstrate the device to the animators there.

"However, only UCLA-returned newcomer Jacques Drouin, who had been acquainted with pinscreen animation since seeing The Nose at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 60s, would use the pinscreen regularly and explore its capabilities. Carrying on Alexeieff’s legacy, between 1974 and 2004 Drouin made six films at the NFBC using the pinscreen (one, Nightangel, in collaboration with Czech stop-motion animator Břetislav Pojar), as well as a segment for Kihachiro Kawamoto’s collaborative film Winter Days.

"Perhaps his most well-known film, if not his masterpiece, is Mindscape, released in 1976....."

- from On the Ones (excellent animation blog) 

Here is the workshop in pinscreen animation given at Canada's NFB by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, as handily documented by Norman McLaren

Another Jacques Drouin pinscreen work "Imprints"

A documentary about pinscreen animation 

An interview with Jacques Drouin (en Francais) 

Examples of completely different styles of animation from Jacques Drouin

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bernard Parmegiani - "L'Ecran Transparent" (1973)


sound and vision by Bernard Parmegiani

"The makers of the films are seeking out music that is appropriately abstract and futuristic – or strange.  Sometimes from established composers, sometimes from lesser known people  of their acquaintance who have institutional access to synthesisers or studios. One example is Bernard Parmegiani, the great musique concrete composer  - who did the soundtrack for Piotr Kamler’s The Spider Elephant

"Before he got into making music, Parmegiani had another artistic past-time : photomontage. He'd cut out a large number of image-fragments from magazines--human limbs, machine parts, etc--and then glue them into surreal assemblages. His music-making would follow a similar process, starting with the building-up of a sound-bank, an inventoried miscellany of noises, before embarking on composition. 

"Photo-collage is like a non-animated form of a particular style of stop-motion cartoon that involves cut-outs – the most famous exponent would be Terry Gilliam of Monty Python, but he was actually influenced by people like Jan Lenica in Poland . What  musique concrete has – and what stop-motion animation has – is this extra quality that  Parmegiani’s photo-collages lacked – life, or at least the queer, unheimlich life of animation.

"Parmegiani also made an animation / experimental film himself, L’Ecran Transparent

"That’s a rare example of the composer moving into the visual field"

- SR, Tate Modern lecture on Visual Music 

me on Parmegiani's musique concrete

interview with Parmegiani by ÉvelyneGayou

"Later on, I wrote and co-produced L'Ecran Transparent wth José Montés-Baquer of the WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) in Cologne.

"I then tried one final experiment at the Research Service called Jeux d'Artifices. As its name implies, it's an illusory sound display which goes together with an illusory visual display to make a video about 12 minutes long. It was a very interesting experiment that I would've liked to take further, but I just didn't have the technical means."

Parmegiani's Photomontages, via the Parmegiani site

“Before making music, I made photomontages following a surrealist process where an accompanying text emphasizes the image’s absurdity and highlights its funny or derisive aspects. Much to my regret, I’ve almost given up these picture-games altogether – I could no longer find the time to cultivate any more images, although others put it down to the austerity of the press’s changing photographic standards…”

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Wiktor Stribog - Kraina Grzybów / Mushroomland TV aka Poradnik Uśmiechu / Smile Guide (2013)

"KrainaGrzybowTV (also known as Mushroomland (or Land of Mushrooms) TV, KGTV, or just Kraina Grzybów) is a Polish YouTube channel, which features a series of 1980’s themed videos revolving around a mysterious place called Mushroomland. The videos (so far) include: Smile Guide (Poradnik Uśmiechu) episodes 1, 2, 4, and 5, several Smile Guide OST videos, and one episode of Mushroom Melodies (Grzybowe Melodie). Six definite characters have been thus far established: Agatha (in Polish, Agatka), Maggie the Squirrel (Wiewiórka Małgosia), Caroline (Karolina), the Jeansman (Dżinsowy Człowiek), Hatszepsut,and Agatha’s unnamed mother.

"Smile Guide takes the appearance of an ’80’s or early ’90’s-era Eastern Bloc children’s educational program which, as the specific video progresses, descends into chaotic madness. Much of its style consists of footage made to look like it was shot on VHS, grammatically incomplete sentences, absurd humor, nostalgic-sounding music (mostly played on synthesizer and designed to evoke Polish television soundtracks from the 1980’s ), and, of course, disturbing imagery.

"The show is hosted by Agatha, a young girl always seen wearing a blue sweater with red flowers on it. She also wears paper eyes over her actual eyes (as do Caroline and the Jeansman). The premise of each episode is that Agatha is going to teach the viewer how to do something grammatically nonsensical (“how to effectively apple,” “how to make from paper”), but this pretense generally gets dropped about half-way through as the video descends into chaos. She is usually joined by Maggie, a talking cartoon squirrel, who acts as something of a co-host. The two generally seem to be friendly, although Episode 2 sees both of tem snapping angrily at each other at one point, perhaps to imply everything is not as it seems...." - Knowyourmeme

Surely the perpetrator of  Kraina Grzybów and (subject of previous postMagiczny Świat Ani are one and the same: Wiktor Stribog. 

The music is good too. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Magiczny Świat Ani (Magical World of Ania) (2017)

"The eerie storyline revolves around the disappearance of a beautiful young Polish woman named Ania Slowinska and the dark, seemingly supernatural forces behind it. As the tale unfolds it becomes apparent other women have fallen victim to the same forces, with one having had all her teeth removed after being murdered. Among the many suspects and supporting characters in the drama are Ania’s mother Kristina, who seems to be morbidly enjoying the attention her daughter’s disappearance has brought her. Others include Ania’s birth-father – whom she never knew – plus her step-father, an infatuated stalker, a jealous female friend and a faith healer with a very strange band of disciples. Organs and limbs seem to be stolen for transplant use and replaced with porcelain or papier mache substitutes. This practice extends even to the heads of the victims … sometimes while they’re still alive."- Glitternight

Magiczny Świat Ani channel here but for your convenience, the whole remainder of the series presented below in sequences: 

This perpetrator is surely the same Polish man (Wiktor Stribog) behind Kraina Grzybów / Mushroomland TV aka Poradnik Uśmiechu / Smile Guide 

The subject of the next post... 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Walerian Borowczyk + Jan Lenica - Dom (1958)

                                                                                                        Music by Wlodzimierz Kotonski

"Those of a certain age will remember the Eastern European cartoons that appeared regularly on British TV during the hours assigned for children’s programming.  Their mood, colour-scheme, and graphic style was totally different from American or British fare, and so was the music: herky-jerky jazz or whimsically abstract electronic music.  Most nations in the Communist Bloc had their own state-run animation studio, but Czechoslovakia and Poland were the leading country.  Associated with Warsaw’s Studio Miniatur Filmowych, Jan Lenica was a giant of Polish animation whose graphic design talents also extended to postage stamps, movie posters, children’s book illustration, and the creation of sets and costumes for the theatre.   

"Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk  are two giants of Polish animation  - Poland probably was the leading country in the world for animation for much of the post-War period in fact, the number of talented directors and designers and amazing films is staggering.  Lenica and Borowczuk use stop-motion and cut-outs: photographs and illustrations from the 19th Century, moved around in a deliberately stilted and non-naturalistic way. The atmosphere is very Central European, a macabre absurdism that’s equal parts Eugene Ionesco, Franz Kafka, Max Ernst, and Bruno Schulz. Everything works according to dream logic. The music plays a vital role in the creation of this distinctive mood -  Wlodzimierz Kotonski, like his compatriot Eugeniusz Rudnik, contributed frequently to the animations pouring out of Warsaw animation houses like Studio Miniatur Filmowych - SR

"Lenica took an interest in many arts. A noted director of animated films, he stood out as one of the finest artists of the Polish school of posters, and made satirical drawings and book illustrations and designed theatre costumes. His posters, prints and drawings were shown at exhibitions in Poland and abroad....  No record of the top international achievements in animated film would be complete without mention of two Polish artists, Borowczyk and Lenica. Their joint film from 1957, Był sobie raz / Once Upon a Time, followed by Dom / House from 1958 and Lenica's individual films triggered a revolution, turning this peripheral genre into an art capable of communicating the most complex, difficult and serious messages.

"Lenica said that 'I have always liked to move at the periphery of Art, at the crossing of genres. [...] I have enjoyed [...] combining elements which were seemingly distant, if not quite foreign, blurring the borders between adjacent areas, transplanting noble qualities to "lower" genres, in other words - quiet diversion".

"Before Borowczyk and Lenica's films appeared, the animated film was such a less valuable genre in Poland. Considered to be addressed to children, it was devoid of major artistic let alone philosophical aspirations, and was ideology-driven in addition. Marcin Giżycki writes that, 'Lenica and Borowczyk's brilliance did not reveal itself in technical innovation or inventiveness; on the contrary, it was demonstrated in their nonchalant approach to existing techniques and conventions. [...] Their films made no secret of the simplicity of means they utilised, camouflaged nothing, their movement and montage as simplified as possible. Just a few pieces of coloured paper, old photographs, junk objects, fragments of found drawings'."

"When asked about the innovativeness of their first joint films, dubbed experimental by critics, Lenica ascribed it to their unfamiliarity with previous achievements in the genre. The fact is that the cutout technique used by Borowczyk and Lenica in their first films, and then by Lenica in several of his subsequent film, successfully produced effects that were funny and satirical, surrealistically grotesque, and as absurd and horrific as Ionesco and Kafka. Lenica did not find this formula satisfying for long, however, and having parted with Borowczyk, he went on to make combined films, live films, films with photographic stills and, finally, cartoons."
                                        - Culture.Pl


"Borowczyk... was an accomplished visual artist, scriptwriter, stage designer, director of animated and feature films, and writer....  Beside animated films, short feature films that the critics hailed as masterpieces, and interesting full-length productions, he was one of the main creators of the Polish poster school and, first and foremost, of artistic erotic cinema. He made satirical drawings, sculptures and film sets, and exhibited his works in Poland and abroad. 

"Marcin Giżycki was accurate when he wrote that 'in animated films ... there were two eras: before and after Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk'...   The presence of humour deserves to be stressed, both in Borowczyk's animated films and his feature films. This was often black humour, in many cases absurd, grotesque and not without reason evoking associations with surrealism. This was the case with The Magician (1959) and School (1958). Sometimes, though, a film, even an animated one, had an air of peril.... It is also worth noting the way Borowczyk used photographs in his films. Even as a young man, wrote Urszula Czartoryska (Fotografia 11/1961), Borowczyk took a lot of photographs, and liked putting together pairs of photos in such a way as to give the impression of movement when you looked at them. He used photography extensively in the film House (1958). Here, he and Lenica even used photographs made by the pioneer of cinema, Jules Marey, stripping Marey's shots down to their constituent parts and introducing jerky movement akin to the first ever films. In School (1958) Borowczyk used almost exclusively his own photos (taken with Lenica), made specially for this film. After filming on a trick-table, 400 photos turned into a 9-minute film, a grotesque protest against military drill which strips people of personality. 

"Marcin Giżycki noted that both artists headed toward Melies in their animations. Lenica was closer to Feuillade's films about Fantomas and Chaplin's burlesques. Borowczyk, though he made the colourful, Melies-style The Astronauts (1959), moved towards trick film. It is a fact that photographs often played a more important role in his animated films than drawings. With time, actors appeared as well, treated - as the critics emphasised - just like animated characters."

Jan Lenica posters for movies etc