Sunday, April 29, 2007

Music is Music

Last night was the first night of Vinyl Junkies new residency at the Light on Shoreditch High Street, JP played an epic 7 hours+ session of soulful, funky and jazzy house music. An appreciative crowd of sofa loungers, music lovers and great dancers created an unpretetensious and friendly vibe with the ever enthusiastic JP keeping the floor filled. Watch this space, this could turn into the must visit session to match the likes of Gilles Peterson's "That's How It Is!" and "Off Centre".

Friday, April 27, 2007

London Heart Beat

Annika Eriksson’s film at the Cubitt Gallery shows a lone drummer at his kit, under railway bridges and adjacent to a large road junction he makes the city his stage. In this typical backdrop of London’s urban fabric the drummer plays varying percussive elements as trains rumble overhead, road traffic moves past and a varying assortment of people walk by. In the adjacent light box sculpture Eriksson’s photos detail many potential open air stages defined by street furniture and a differing selection of small elements of the built environment, in the accompanying film the final stage for the drummers performance is the defined space of this intersection with its rushing and roaring movements and sounds of London.

We can speculate on the drummer’s environment and his place within it. At one and the same time this lonely but active figure remains untouched by interaction with his fellow city dwellers, there is no crowd to observe this performance except the occasional glance of a passer by, he is a man in search of accompaniment and audience. The camera gazes on as his performance unfolds and as he remains seemingly unwatched we can only guess at the hidden other eyes that may be observing this lone figure. How long can he continue either through his own will or through the will of others? The actions of the city around him isolate him as the noise and movement pass him, in a rush to and from our own destinations we all seek our own stage no matter how large or small the audience.

London absorbs us all into its mass, this unique player is as we are, one amongst many. In this small part of the vast urban sprawl of London that he has claimed for his performance he creates his own beat and like the millions creating their own beat and rhythm in our city he is both a part of the city and apart from it.

Two Films

In front of me a ghostly figure moves through and around the black and white screen, in a pixellated world of shadows Takeshi Murata’s digitally distorted take on the Italian film ‘Black Sunday’ plays in front of my eyes. The ghostly female figure glides smoothly through the screen and with changing clarity and a rising and falling intensity Murata’s manipulations of the film move from the recognisable figure and features to a black, white and grey mix of pixels which slide, jump, contract and condense into a variety of movements and effects. The black & white film’s smoky feel is enhanced by these digitally manipulated sweeps and bursts, blocks of deep black or harsh white degrade to give way to streaks of grey as the animated elements change the background of this 1960’s horror film. Before my eyes faces and background’s become individually animated sweeps of smoke or water. The sense that Murata is making the original solid film liquid is further heightened by the ambient bubbling sounds of the Robert Beatty and Ellen Mollé soundtrack.

The film is an exercise in digital animation but unlike the clichéd manner of much digital film and video Murata has added depth to the already stunning existing visual material, much the same as a DJ manipulates existing recorded material or a jazz musician takes a standard and through indiviual stylings of improvisation makes it their own so Murata has enhanced the original film to create his own ‘Untitled (Silver)’, this digital visual remix becomes a powerful film experience in its own right.

The second film of Murata’s on show here in The Reliance Gallery in East London’s Old Street is ‘Untitled (Pink Dot)'. An intense pink dot burns brightly in the middle of the screen, around the edges of this single piercing dot of colour are movements of colour film. The colour flows from cloudy to sharp bursts of cinematic action, as time passes the pixels clear to show the recognisable figure of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo, the main character bursts through scenes of murder and violence only to disperse into Murata’s warping manipulations, in this digital world the human figures meld then spread into loose shapes and movements, as clarity is lost the film shifts into shapes and colour reminiscent of clouds of slowly expanding dust, these powdery colours then subside into slicks reminiscent in movement and shape of oil on water.
Occasionally the action returns to the recognisable film only to move back into dreamlike, shifting, abstract animations. Filmic references give way to the abstract animations, then painterly sweeps of colour, oil on water becomes oil on canvas.

It appears that with these films Murata is playfully speculating on the contemporary battles between the analogue and digital worlds. In both films Murata creates an animated battle between the existing film material and the powerful actions and possibilities of the digital, the film moves through Murata’s processes of digital degradation and reforming. The breaking and reshaping of the cells and pixels give the impression of a film fighting for literal and metaphorical resolution. Perhaps what we are seeing is the final battle between the past and present of film, the last wars between the analogue and digital tribes, to a view of the possible future of cinema.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


In the darkened shopfont gallery of the ID:I gallery in Stockholm are two video animations by Daniel Westlund titled “Kartongmannen”.

On the screen in a room not dissimilar to the room in the gallery a pile of brown cardboard boxes and white wooden chairs dance around in a poltergeistic animated dance, they rotate, slide and bump their way backwards, forwards and up and down through the room in never ending motion. The scratching, sliding, grating sounds of the objects emanate from the speakers. It is an amusing but somewhat baffling spectacle.

It is hard to tell what Westlund’s intentions were in the creation of this film. Is this clever digital tweakery?, real classic style 3d animation on a grand scale, and if so where are the strings? Does Westlund have some deep neurotic fear of moving, has some psychological damage occurred in the process of him moving house or studio? Is this is a cathartic exercise of control over some lost or damaged items from a previous removal from the past? Perhaps Westlund hates boxes and chairs and has embarked on this film to gain control of these poor objects and is making them dance in a never ending pirouetting hell? or is this just a rung on Westlund’s career ladder to whimsical animation director status?.

Whatever the case it is a capturing spectacle, pained or whimsical, lightly humorous or deeply significant it is entrancing. It is Westlund’s second video which makes the doubts creep in, an upturned coffee cup tiptoes its way on slim spoon legs in the middle of the screen with a gentle clip clopping sound of metallic feet, this is far too kitsch, it is fun for an animation short film but it is too light of touch. We want the bold and hard edges and threat of the boxes and chairs, we want poltergeists and neurotic shamblings of the inanimate coming to life and careering round rooms in an unpredictable and menacing fashion.

It is peculiar to see Westlund’s films in the confines of a gallery and it will be interesting to see which direction he takes, will we see more menacing poltergeists in galleries or cute and kitsch animated kitchenware on the big screen?.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Arctic Circle Back Country