While undertaking some background reading on neon installation artist Kristin McIver for a post last week, I discovered the work of Matsuri Yamana, who is also exhibiting as part of the upcoming Penthouse Mouse project. It the above installation, aptly titled The Cloud, that took my fancy in particular. I mean, who hasn’t, at one stage or another, wanted to know what a cloud feels like? Beyond this rather basic and tactile appreciation of Yamana’s installation is a nicely conceived idea to explore the “spatial notion of the boundaries between public and private spaces as well as metaphors for the organic and spiritual domains of life. The work arouses viewers’ curiosity and allows physical experiences through touching and playing.”
I am always thrilled to see work of this vein in art spaces that consciously break the rules of touching, thereby transforming the gallery space into an interactive arena that embraces play and participation. Indeed, Yamana advocates allowing viewers to “slip into their private imaginations or own memories through the physical immersion of my work.” Now, that is an artist’s statement that I can definitely get behind.
I have always had a fascination with how colour works in film: how it effects the viewer’s emotional reactions, the symbolic meaning behind the use of certain coloured filters and the overall visual impact. It’s not something that receives a lot of critical attention; however, it has become the unconscious focus of Moviebarcode. Condensing the action of entire films into an abstract bar code, the images on Moviebarcode cleverly reveal the chromatic design of diverse cinematic gems. From the dark woodsy tones of The Social Network (2010) to the synthetic greens of The Matrix (1999), the site showcases each film’s unique palette.
Perfect for film students or those interested in chromatic design, it is amazing how addictive going through the archives of Moviebarcode can be. And, if you’re a bit of a nerd like me, you can try and guess from which film each bar code comes. Unfortunately, I don’t think I got one right.
The bar codes featured above are from Jaws (1975), Hero (2002), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and In the Mood for Love (2000).
I am pretty certain that my love affair with all things typographical began with a calligraphy set that I was given when I was around 10 years of age. I recall spending hours trying to perfect the curls at the end of each letter, but to no avail. Although I love beautiful cursive writing, my hands are certainly not made for it. I have no doubt that the lady (somewhat anonymously named Mrs. Eaves) behind For the Love of Type has beautiful handwriting; however, a large focus of her blog is finding interesting typography in the everyday.
Indeed, some of my favourite posts feature “typespotting”, in which photographers capture unusual fonts embedded in neighbourhoods and streetscapes from around the world. The blog also focuses on type-related news and events, cataloging all manner of typographically-inspiring delights. So inspiring that it almost makes me want to unearth my old calligraphy set.
Kristin McIver’s neon text installations are the sort of artworks that make you stop in your tracks. On the surface they are extremely gorgeous, but they also require the viewer to consider the context and meaning of each carefully chosen word. In one work the “good life” is ironically placed behind hanging chains, while another sets the word “ordinary” against the lush backdrop of the woods. These usual juxtapositions work to defamiliarise the meaning of the text and establish new associations.
Indeed, McIver claims that her work is a “study of aspiration, desire and consumerism” and that her installations “invert borrowed phrases from domestic marketing, emblazoning them in neon to seduce the viewer, and then exposing them to the irony and falsity of their message.” I must admit, I find this concept very clever: there are few things more enticing to the rampant consumer then the sexiness of neon.
For many, the Oscars this year were a disappointment. While most of us could not get past the hideously inept hosting by “Young Hollywood” stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the hardcore cinephiles were bemoaning the results of two awards in particular: Best Picture and Best Director. Awarded to The King’s Speech (2010) and Tom Hooper, the director of that very same film, it seemed that Darren Aronofsky’s psychologically complex direction for Black Swan (2010) had been robbed and that certain contenders for the top award – most notably The Social Network (2010) and Inception (2010) – had been seriously overlooked. It does make one wonder what determines “best”. After all, films that are highly acclaimed by both critics and audiences do not always take the ultimate prize. One such example is Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941).
The best thing commercially, which is the worst artistically, by and large, is the most successful.
- Orson Welles
Despite being declared by many to be the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane did not win either of the Best Picture or Best Director awards for which it was nominated (losing out to How Green Was My Valley  and its director, John Ford). Based on the persona of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane centres on the life of the enigmatic Charles Kane (Welles), as the media enters a frenzied search to unveil his past following his death. Having uttered the word “Rosebud” before passing away, the film is concerned with discovering the mystery of this final murmur. Is Rosebud a woman? A place? A thing? This question propels the narrative forward while it paradoxically flashes to the past through a series of mnemonic epiphanies.
Citizen Kane is undoubtedly one of the most ground-breaking films released in the early 20th century. Welles revolutionised the visual and structural texture of film – introducing film goers to a structure that follows an emotional chronology, chiaroscuro lighting that produces visual contrasts and shadows, deep focus and grandiose camerawork. The almost omniscient camera penetrates architectural structures as though it is a ghost, while also maintaining divisions that heighten the suspense. Although this is a film about Kane, his true identity remains shrouded in mystery, as he is recollected through subjective fragments that are less illuminating than elusive.
I don’t know if I would refer to Citizen Kane as the best film in history; however, no one could dispute the impact it has made on the development of cinematographic artistry. It is a film that reveals different visual angles and quirks with every viewing. Which brings me back to The King’s Speech: should the Academy be awarding the Directing Oscar to films that clearly evidence the trace of the director or are they looking for something less tangible? It’s not a question to which I personally have a definitive answer. Sometimes I think it all comes down to politics.
NB: The clip does not feature audio due to copyright – get the fu