Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bill Viola - Artist Biography


Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For 40 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video installations—total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound—employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published, and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.

Bill Viola received his BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University in 1973 where he studied visual art with Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris. During the 1970s he lived for 18 months in Florence, Italy, as technical director of production for Art/Tapes/22, one of the first video art studios in Europe, and then traveled widely to study and record traditional performing arts in the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, and Japan. Viola was invited to be artist-in-residence at the WNET Channel 13 Television Laboratory in New York from 1976-1980 where he created a series of works, many of which were premiered on television. In 1977 Viola was invited to show his videotapes at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) by cultural arts director Kira Perov who, a year later, joined him in New York where they married and began a lifelong collaboration working and traveling together.

In 1979 Viola and Perov traveled to the Sahara desert, Tunisia to record mirages. The following year Viola was awarded a U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship and they lived in Japan for a year and a half where they studied Zen Buddhism with Master Daien Tanaka, and Viola became the first artist-in-residence at Sony Corporation’s Atsugi research laboratories. Viola and Perov returned to the U. S. at the end of 1981 and settled in Long Beach, California, initiating projects to create art works based on medical imaging technologies of the human body at a local hospital, animal consciousness at the San Diego Zoo, and fire walking rituals among the Hindu communities in Fiji. In 1987 they traveled for five months throughout the American Southwest photographing Native American rock art sites, and recording nocturnal desert landscapes with a series of specialized video cameras. More recently, at the end of 2005, they journeyed with their two sons to Dharamsala, India to record a prayer blessing with the Dalai Lama.

Music has always been an important part of Viola’s life and work. From 1973-1980 he performed with avant-garde composer David Tudor as a member of his Rainforest ensemble, later called Composers Inside Electronics. Viola has also created videos to accompany music compositions including 20th century composer Edgard Varèse’ Déserts in 1994 with the Ensemble Modern, and, in 2000, a three-song video suite for the rock group Nine Inch Nails’ world tour. In 2004 Viola began collaborating with director Peter Sellars and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen to create a new production of Richard Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde, which was presented in project form by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in December 2004, and later at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York (2007). The complete opera received its world premiere at the Opéra National de Paris, Bastille in April 2005.

Since the early 1970s Viola’s video art works have been seen all over the world. Exhibitions include Bill Viola: Installations and Videotapes, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987; Bill Viola: Unseen Images, seven installations toured six venues in Europe, 1992-1994, organized by the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Kira Perov. Viola represented the U.S. at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995 with Buried Secrets, a series of five new installation works. In 1997 the Whitney Museum of American Art organized Bill Viola: A 25-Year Survey that included over 35 installations and videotapes and traveled for two years to six museums in the United States and Europe. In 2002 Viola completed his most ambitious project, Going Forth By Day, a five part projected digital “fresco” cycle, his first work in High-Definition video, commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Bill Viola: The Passions, a new series inspired by late medieval and early Renaissance art, was exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles in 2003 then traveled to the National Gallery, London, the Fondación “La Caixa” in Madrid and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. One of the largest exhibitions of Viola’s installations to date, Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream) (2006-2007), drew over 340,000 visitors to the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. In 2007 nine installations were shown at the Zahenta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and Ocean Without a shore was created for the 15th century Church of San Gallo during the Venice Biennale. In 2008 Bill Viola: Visioni interiori, a survey exhibition organized by Kira Perov, was presented in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. In 2014, twenty works were shown at the Grand Palais, Paris, in his largest survey exhibition to date, and a few months later, part one of the St. Paul’s commission was installed in the London cathedral, Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water).

Viola has received numerous awards for his achievements, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1989), XXI Catalonia International Prize (2009), and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2011).

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Andre Breton - Philosopher, Artist, Publisher, Author, Editor, Journalist, Poet, Literary Critic

French writer and poet André Breton is best known as one of the founders of the Surrealist movement in literature and art.

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality.” —André Breton


 André Breton was born on February 18, 1896, in Tinchebray, France. After a brief medical career and military service in World War I, he settled in Paris and joined the city's artistic avant-garde. In the early 1920s he became one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. He wrote a Surrealist manifesto encouraging free expression and the release of the subconscious mind, followed by the novel Nadja and volumes of essays and poetry. He died in Paris in 1966.

Early Career and Influences

André Breton was born into a working-class family on February 18, 1896, in Tinchebray, a small town in Normandy, France. As a young man, he attended medical school, taking a particular interest in the study of mental illness. When his education was interrupted by his service in World War I, he worked in the psychiatric wards of military hospitals. He also read the writings of famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whom he would meet in 1921.

Breton was also interested in the work of Symbolist poets like Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, and in the political theory of Karl Marx. He soon came into contact with other aspiring writers who shared his interests, including Guillaume Apollinaire. In 1916, Breton joined the group of artists associated with the subversive Dada movement in Paris, including Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

The Surrealist Movement

By the early 1920s, however, Breton had shifted his allegiance to another group of intellectuals who would become known as the Surrealists. In 1924, he published Le Manifeste du Surréalisme (The Manifesto of Surrealism), a document announcing the new movement's embrace of all forms of liberated expression and its rejection of social and moral conventions. The Surrealists were fascinated by the fine line between reason and irrationality, especially as manifested in dreams, erotica and mental disorders. They encouraged writers and artists to adopt spontaneous means of expression such as free association and a stream-of-conscious method called "automatism."

Breton was one of the co-founders of Littérature, an influential journal that featured the first written example of automatism, titled Les Champs magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields). He also promoted visual artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Max Ernst by reproducing their work in the journal La Révolution Surréaliste (The Surrealist Revolution).

In the 1920s and '30s, Breton composed two more Surrealist manifestos and other texts about Surrealism, including Les Vases Communicants (The Communicating Vessels) and Qu'est-ce le que le Surréalisme? (What is Surrealism?). He also wrote poetry and fiction. His most famous novel, Nadja (1928), is a fantastical love story between the narrator and a mysterious, possibly insane, woman. L'Amour Fou (Mad Love), published in 1937, is a poetic meditation on obsessive love.

Breton's commitment to Marxism led him to join the French Communist Party in 1927. Although he left the party in 1935, he remained dedicated to Marxist philosophy. In 1938, he traveled to Mexico, where he and revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky collaborated on "Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art," which examines art's connection to social upheaval.

Travels and Later Work

Breton emigrated from France in 1941 in order to escape World War II. He lived in New York City for several years, and in 1942, he organized a groundbreaking exhibition of Surrealist art at Yale University. After his return to Paris in 1946, Breton published more poetry collections and essays on Surrealism.

Breton married three times, to Simone Kahn, Jacqueline Lamba (with whom he had a daughter named Aube) and Elisa Claro. In his later years, he divided his time between a country house in southwest France and an apartment in Paris. He died in Paris on September 28, 1966.

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Surrealism - Examples and Definitions

Definition of Surrealism

The term surrealism indicates a specific thought and movement in literature, the arts, and theatre, which tries to integrate the confused realms of imagination and reality. The proponents of surrealism endeavor to mix up the differences of conscious and unconscious thought through writing and painting by using irrational juxtaposition of images.

 Initiated by André Breton (1896-1966), surrealism is a kind of artistic movement started in the French capital, Paris, during the 1920s. This movement lasted until the 1940s. Breton, a famous writer as well as a philosopher, boosted this movement further by publishing his manifesto, “The Manifesto of Surrealism.”

 Although it gave new dimensions to art, it was not a political manifesto. The manifesto states that, horrified by the destruction caused by the world wars and subsequent confusion, art and literature faced numerous political challenges in resolving those confusions, the reaction of which emerged in the shape of surrealism. This movement rather aimed at preventing bloody revolutions by breaking the limitations placed on arts and literature by the politics of that time.

 Examples of Surrealism in Literature

Example #1: Freedom Of Love (By Andre Breton) “My wife with the hair of a wood fire With the thoughts of heat lightning With the waist of an hourglass With the waist of an otter in the teeth of a tiger My wife with the lips of a cockade and of a bunch of stars of the last magnitude With the teeth of tracks of white mice on the white earth With the tongue of rubbed amber and glass My wife with the tongue of a stabbed host.” (Lines 1-8) This is one of the best examples of surrealist poetry by Andre Breton. These lines have been taken from his poem “Freedom of Love.” See the irrationality in images about his wife and a wood fire, an hourglass, and teeth of a tiger. None of these images have any relation. They have been just irrationally put together to demonstrate the mind of the poet, and a situation of the reality in which he is living.

 Example #2: Dark Poet (by Antonin Artaud) “Dark Poet, a maid’s breast Haunts you, Embittered poet, life seethes And life burns, And the sky reabsorbs itself in rain, Your pen scratches at the heart of life.” (Lines 1-6) These lines have been taken from poem “Dark Poet” by Antonin Artaud. This poem juxtaposes the poet with the breasts that is quite irrational and hence surreal.

 Example #3: A Season in Hell (by Arthur Rimbaud) “A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing. One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up. I armed myself against justice. I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure’s been turned over to you! (Lines 1-5) Just check the images presented in the first few lines of this poem by Arthur Rimbaud. These are contradictory and irrational images. That is why “A Season in Hell” is one of the best surreal poems. 

Example #4: Hidden Faces (by Salvador Dali, translated by Chevalier) “Then an unheard-of being, unheard-of beings, will be seen to rise, their brains compressed by sonorous helmets, their temples pierced by the whistling of air waves, their bodies naked, turned yellow by fever, pocked by deep vegetal stigmata swarming with insects and filled to the brim with the slimy juices of venom, overflowing and running down a skin tiger-striped and leopard-spotted by the gangrene of wounds and the leprosy of camouflage, their swollen bellies plugged to death by electric umbilical chords [sic] tangling with the ignominiousness of torn intestines and bits of flesh, roasting in the burning steel carapaces of the punitive tortures of gutted tanks.

 That is man! Backs of lead, sexual organs of fire, fears of mica, chemical hearts of the televisions of blood, hidden faces and wings — always wings, the north and south of our being!”

 This excerpt has been taken from “Hidden Faces,” a novel by Salvador Dali. it uses irrational images to describe a person.

 Function of Surrealism
Life became topsy-turvy after two world wars. Literature and art faced the dilemma of presenting this topsy-turvy state of mind in words or colors. The artists and writers of that time tried to resolve this situation by presenting strange and shocking images in their writings and paintings. This technique of presenting images helps the readers and the audiences connect with the confused state of mind of that time, and of the people living after the two world wars. Surrealism is a representation of this confusion. It makes people aware of bizarre reality around them. They connect themselves with this reality and become familiar with it.
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Surrealist Writing Techniques

The dream narratives, the exquisite corpses and writing under hypnosis are all the others techniques used by the Surrealists to combine happenstance and unconsciousness into writing.


 Practiced by most surrealist writers, automatic writing is about leaving free field in the brain, writing every spontaneous thought down on paper before logic takes over and rephrases it. The more passive the writer is, the more automatic the writing will be – that’s at least what Breton, who experimented with this process in 1913, affirms, almost a decade before the beginnings of Surrealism. His text Magnetic Fields, published in 1920, was also almost completely written according to the process of automatic writing. Closely linked to the interest André Breton has on psychoanalysis and Freud's theories, automatic writing must make the subconscious speak, and even the unconscious, before the Id, ego, and super ego, psychic portion of each man subject to pressures and social restrictions, take over it. The resulting writing, sometimes transcendent, does not remain at least without an absurd side, which defies logic. In this sense, it approaches the 'Pataphysics of Alfred Jarry, science theorizing reconstruction of reality in the absurd. Jarry, held in high esteem by the Surrealists, and especially by André Breton - who said the playwright was a real surrealist, because of his absinthe consumption but also because of his vision of the world – it’s not so far from the surrealists in his deliberately absurd writing, which claims, for instance: "God is the shortest path from zero to infinity, in one way or another."


As automatic writing, the dream narratives, under hypnosis, or even under the influence (of drugs, alcohol) are intended to eliminate the possible control of the flow of writing. The writer finds themselves completely unrestricted in their possibilities. Several surrealist authors, again intrigued by the psychoanalytic theories of the time, were interested in the relationship between dream narratives and the "common thread" connecting them to reality.


The only rule of this playful writing technique, widely adopted today as a game, in all contexts, is to follow the grammatical form: noun, adjective, verb, and direct object, adjective.. On a folded sheet, where participants cannot see the word written by the previous player, they must write a word of their choice that respects the order shown above. Wacky phrases are obtained, such as that which gave the game its name ("The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine") or even "White bread will shake the oblong breast laughing." This exquisite corpse is also one of the first obtained: in the first meeting of the Surrealists where the game is played, André Breton, Jacques Herold, Victor Brauner, Yves Tanguy, Peret and Elsie Houston are present. Behind this "objective chance" seemingly harmless, obviously hides a pleasing deeper reflection: opposite to automatic writing, where the writer plays alone with their unconscious, and therefore closer to psychoanalysis, the exquisite corpse allows both real intrusion of chance in writing as well as the discovery, purely poetic, of new combinations of unthought words.


The automatism, the role of chance and the unconscious are not exclusive features of the surrealist literature: they are also found in all other types of art that affect this movement. Automatic writing finds its equivalent in the automatic drawing, practiced for example by André Masson, French painter of the years 1920-1950. The exquisite corpse, too, is as well practiced with words as with body parts! Max Ernst's collages or the photosensitive works of Man Ray also recall the patched appearance of the exquisite corpse.
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A Brief Guide to Surrealism

Surrealism emerged as the direct result of the publication of André Breton’s first Le Manifeste du Surréalisme (Manifesto of Surrealism) (1924). In this manifesto, Breton presented two definitions of surrealism: SURREALISM, noun, masc., Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express, either verbally or in writing, the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations. ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association heretofore neglected, in the omnipotence of the dream, and in the disinterested play of thought. It leads to the permanent destruction of all other psychic mechanisms and to its substitution for them in the solution of the principal problems of life. The first definition speaks to the surrealist methodology—the use of techniques, such as automatic writing, self-induced hallucinations, and word games like the exquisite corpse to make manifest repressed mental activities. The second definition lays out the surrealist view of reality and expresses the surrealist’s desire to open the vistas of the arts through the close observation of the dream state and the free play of thought. The roots of surrealism can be traced back to Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Isidore Ducasse, also known as Comte de Lautréamont. Surrealists also found inspiration in the poetic methods, such as calligrammatic poetry, used by Stéphane Mallarmé and Guillaume Apollinaire. The first text that took up the banner of surrealism and used automatic writing as its methodology was Les Champs magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields), penned collaboratively by Breton and Philippe Soupault. The surrealist coalition that formed around Breton included such young French poets as Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, René Crevel, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Michel Leiris, Benjamin Péret, and eventually the Dadaist Tristan Tzara. The group’s membership fluctuated due to changes in ideology and personality clashes. During this time several journals served as a space for the expression of the growing surrealist ideals, journals such as Révolution surréaliste (1924-29), Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution (1930-33), and Minotaure (1933-39). A second generation of surrealists included René Char, Aimé Césaire, and David Gascogne. The final stage of surrealism began after the end of World War II. By this point surrealism had disseminated around the world in various diluted forms. The far-flung practitioners were held together by their use of personal juxtapositions, placing distant realities together, so that the interconnections between them were only apparent to the creator.
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Surrealist Writers

Surrealism is a movement in literature and art whose effective life is generally assigned the years 1924-1945 by historians. In 1924, André Breton's first Manifesto of Surrealism appeared, defining the movement in philosophical and psychological terms. Its immediate predecessor was Dada, whose nihilistic reaction to rationalism and the reigning "morality" that produced World War I cleared the way for Surrealism's positive message. (Other precursors and influences are listed below.) Surrealism is often characterized only by its use of unusual, sometimes startling juxtapositions, by which it sought to trancend logic and habitual thinking to reveal deeper levels of meaning and unconscious associations. Thus it was instrumental in promoting Freudian and Jungian conceptions of the unconscious mind. Throughout the 1920s and '30s, the movement flourished and spread from its center in Paris to other countries. Breton controlled the group rather autocratically, annointing new members and expelling those with whom he disagreed, in an effort to maintain focus on what he conceived as the essential principals or the fundamental insight which Surrealism manifested (a conception which changed, to some extent, during his life). In the early '30s the group published a periodical entitled Surrealism at the Service of the Revolution (Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution, 1930-33). Communism appealed to many intellectuals at this time and the movement flirted briefly with Moscow; but the Soviets demanded full allegiance and the subordination of art to the purposes of "the State." The surrealists sought absolute freedom and their aim was a profound psychological or spiritual revolution, not an attempt to change society on a merely political or economic level. (The full history of surrealist political involvement is quite complex and led to dissent and the formation of various factions within the movement.) With the advent of World War II, many of the Parisian participants sought safety in New York, leaving Paris to the Existentialists. By the war's end in 1945, Abstract Expressionism had superseded Surrealism as the western world's most important active art movement. "Ab Ex" grew out of both the tradition of Abstraction (exemplified by Kandinsky) and the "automatic" branch of Surrealism (exemplified by Joan Miro and André Masson) with Roberto Matta and Arshile Gorky as key pivotal figures. But Surrealism did not die in 1945. Though the attention of the fickle art world may have shifted away, Breton continued to expound his vision until his death in 1966, and many others have continued to produce works in the surrealist spirit to the present day. The ongoing impact of Surrealism cannot be underestimated and must be granted a distinct place in the history of literature, art and philosophy.
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Capturing Ideas: The Surreal Photography of Erik Johansson

Swedish and Berlin-based mixed media photographer Erik Johansson has created astounding work that is perhaps only surpassed by his remarkable process. We featured an image of his earlier on. At first glance, his surreal images – essentially landscape photographs transformed into something more magical – rouse wonder in people, and upon closer inspection, they are dressed to impress, with every minor detail considered and perfected. It’s his process, however, that really had us at hello. While many Photoshop artists use stock images to create their art, Erik is going out of his way to make his photographs more realistic and entirely his own. He meticulously draws, paints, creates miniature sets and cardboard cutouts, and shoots different spots and locations himself, all the while paying great attention to every single detail, before blending all these aspects together in a single photograph. Erik tells the Phoblographer: “To me photography is a way to collect material to realize the ideas in my mind. I get inspired by things around me in my daily life and all kinds of things I see. Although one photo can consist hundreds of layers I always want it to look like it could have been captured. Every new project is a new challenge and my goal is to realize it as realistic as possible.” Erik’s dedication to the craft is something we don’t see every day, which makes his work all the more inspiring. And with his painstaking creations, he actualizes images in his mind and molds them into something real for others. As he points out, “I don’t capture moments, I capture ideas.” See Erik Johansson’s breathtaking work and his behind-the-scenes videos after the jump. To see more of Erik’s work, visit his website.
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Surrealist Photographer Erik Johansson Bends Reality Without Photoshop

Even if you’ve never heard of Erik Johansson, chances are that you’ve already come across one of his surrealistic masterpieces online. The Swedish-born photo artist uses both physical objects and special retouching techniques to create fantastical worlds in which everything seems possible. Erik currently lives in Berlin where he’s steadily working on his amazingly creative photo projects, producing an astonishing amount of work and giving an incredible TED Talk before hitting his thirties. The Creators Project: Can you tell us about the creative process behind making these photos? Erik Johansson: For me, it's basically just problem solving when I’m trying to make a picture. It always starts with an idea and then I just have to sort of figure out how to translate that idea into an image. Every image consists of different parts and because I always want my work to look as realistic as possible, I shoot all of those parts individually with my camera and never use CGI. So in my work, I’m constantly trying to find out where and how I can capture all the various elements that make up a work. It takes just as much time to do something in real life as it does trying to "fake it" in Photoshop, so I just thought it would be more fun to do it for real. And because you use actual images, no one can ever tell you it doesn’t look realistic, which to me is very important. Finally, I really like the contrast of being in the countryside taking the photos and then coming to the city and putting it together. I like to combine both parts. Apart from the stunning visual effect, what other messages are you trying to convey with your photography? There's not some hidden meaning or something that you can figure out by looking at the images. It’s more about the visual aspects of it all, and the images reflect what I am thinking. So I guess it’s more up to the viewer to see the message in that sense. When I would read children's books as a kid, I rarely read the text. I just wanted to look at the pictures and create my own story. People should be able to do the same with my pictures. I merely want to give it a title and not talk too much about the message of the picture. "Let's Leave" "Face Fist" What inspires your work? Any specific sources, in particular? Inspiration can basically come from anywhere. It’s about seeing connections between things that normally don’t fit together. For example, I have this work where you see high-voltage cables that run into a guitar. That idea came simply by looking at it and thinking: Hey, those could be guitar strings. That was how the idea was born. It can be that simple sometimes. On your website there are a lot of instructional videos on how you made your projects. Can you tell us about offering these tips and encouraging people to possibly make similar work? I really enjoy seeing behind-the-scenes videos from other artists, as well. I think it’s very interesting to see how others work and how they create something. But if I had to give beginning artists a piece of advice, I’d say: Trying is the best way of learning. Just go out there and do stuff. With photography you just have to take pictures, you don’t need a fancy camera or know how to retouch something. You can learn a lot with very little. When I don't know something, I just Google it and find a solution for what I need. In the end, it's all about imagination and what you can come up with. I would really like to see more people doing this sort of thing. I think that would be very interesting. The scenes in your images are so specific that it's clear they come from one person's control and vision. Would you describe yourself as a control freak? I think you need to be a little bit of a control freak in order to do this kind of work. I always try to make it look perfect. And although I think it is impossible to actually achieve perfection, I hope I’m getting closer all the time. At some point you’re so tired of working with the pictures that you just have to leave it for a while and then later on you have to force yourself to go back to it. It’s good to have that kind of perfectionist goal. With regards to your photo, Iron Man, I once met someone who actually tried to iron her clothes while wearing them because she was in a hurry. Of course she burned herself: Do you think surrealism can encourage some regrettable ideas to people? [Laughs] Well, I don’t think that people should try the things that I do in my pictures. But maybe I should add a warning label or something. That could be important. "Fishy Island" "Vertical Turn"
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Photography and Surrealism

Surrealism was officially launched as a movement with the publication of poet André Breton’s first Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924. The Surrealists did not rely on reasoned analysis or sober calculation; on the contrary, they saw the forces of reason blocking the access routes to the imagination. Their efforts to tap the creative powers of the unconscious set Breton and his companions on a path that carried them through the territory of dreams, intoxication, chance, sexual ecstasy, and madness. The images obtained by such means, whether visual or literary, were prized precisely to the degree that they captured these moments of psychic intensity in provocative forms of unrestrained, convulsive beauty. Photography came to occupy a central role in Surrealist activity. In the works of Man Ray (2005.100.141) and Maurice Tabard (1987.1100.141), the use of such procedures as double exposure, combination printing, montage, and solarization dramatically evoked the union of dream and reality. Other photographers used techniques such as rotation (1987.1100.49) or distortion (1987.1100.321) to render their images uncanny. Hans Bellmer (1987.1100.15) obsessively photographed the mechanical dolls he fabricated himself, creating strangely sexualized images, while the painter René Magritte (1987.1100.157) used the camera to create photographic equivalents of his paintings. In her close-up photograph of a baby armadillo suspended in formaldehyde, Dora Maar performs a typical Surrealist inversion, making an ugly, or even repulsive subject compelling and bizarrely appealing (2005.100.443). But the Surrealist understanding of photography turned on more than the medium’s facility in fabricating uncanny images. Just as important was another discovery: even the most prosaic photograph, filtered through the prism of Surrealist sensibility, might easily be dislodged from its usual context and irreverently assigned a new role. Anthropological photographs, ordinary snapshots, movie stills, medical and police photographs—all of these appeared in Surrealist journals like La Révolution Surréaliste and Minotaure, radically divorced from their original purposes. This impulse to uncover latent Surrealist affinities in popular imagery accounts, in part, for the enthusiasm with which Surrealists embraced Eugène Atget’s photographs of Paris. Published in La Révolution Surréaliste in 1926 at the suggestion of his neighbor, Man Ray, Atget’s images of vanished Paris were understood not as the work of a competent professional or a self-conscious artist but as the spontaneous visions of an urban primitive—the Henri Rousseau of the camera. In Atget’s photographs of the deserted streets of old Paris and of shop windows haunted by elegant mannequins, the Surrealists recognized their own vision of the city as a “dream capital,” an urban labyrinth of memory and desire.
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Man Ray, The Gift

The American artist Man Ray (born Emanuel Radnitzky) arrived in Paris in 1921. Within a year, the artist had his first solo show at a Parisian gallery. Among the works he exhibited was one unlisted sculpture: the object, which he called The Gift, was an everyday flatiron with brass tacks glued in a column down its center. According to Man Ray in his autobiography Self-Portrait, the object was made quickly, in a bout of inspiration, the day of the gallery opening. What do we make of Man Ray's relatively simple, yet subversive act of presenting a modified household Samuel Kravitt, A Sister's Hands Ironing, c. 1931-36, photo, Hancock Shaker Village, Massachusetts (Library of Congress) Samuel Kravitt, A Sister's Hands Ironing, c. 1931-36, photo, Hancock Shaker Village, Massachusetts (Library of Congress) appliance as a work of art? The flatiron – intended to smooth wrinkles from fabric – has been rendered useless with the addition of a row of brass tacks. We are perhaps expected to react the way the store owner supposedly did when Man Ray purchased these items, by exclaiming, “But you'll ruin the shirt if you put tacks there!” Dada, or the nonsense of the everyday Before arriving in Paris, Man Ray was associated with the New York Dada group, which included the artist Marcel Duchamp. As a loosely-affiliated group of like-minded artists, they were particularly interested in using humor and antagonism to question the definition of a work of art. Re-defining art was prevalent in Duchamp's Readymades, such as his Bicycle Wheel, a sculpture made by conjoining a bicycle wheel and a stool, two utilitarian objects. The Surrealist object Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913), metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool, 129.5 x 63.5 x 41.9 cm (The Museum of Modern Art), © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913), metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool, 129.5 x 63.5 x 41.9 cm (The Museum of Modern Art) Although made in the spirit of Dada, Man Ray's The Gift prefigured by several years a key artistic practice that would develop within the Surrealist movement: the “Surrealist object,” a type of three-dimensional art work that included found objects, modified objects, and sculpted objects. The Surrealist object—one of many literary and visual practices in the movement—became prominent beginning in 1936, after its association with a series of extravagant international expositions organized in London and Paris. Surrealism had been first publicly announced in 1924, with the publication of André Breton's first "Manifesto of Surrealism." Stridently activist, Surrealists sought to release society from cultural constraints and the need to conform to social norms, which they felt curtailed people's desires to live as they wished. Function/Dysfunction Of the many types of Surrealist objects that were produced, two important features are present in Man Ray's The Gift. First, an everyday object has been changed so that its original function is denied. Indeed, the artist's relatively simple addition of tacks transforms a useful device into a destructive one. Second, Man Ray's alteration gives a common object a symbolic function. The flatiron, associated with social expectations of propriety and middle-class values, becomes a subversive attack on social expectations. Even if Man Ray's tack-lined iron is no longer used for pressing clothes, the object resonates with ruinous, violent possibilities. Denial and destruction While denial and destruction are qualities are not intrinsic to all Surrealist art, there are striking examples, like The Gift, that show Surrealists working with banal objects to question the viewer's expectations, and force us to re-evaluate the function of those objects in our lives. Wolfgang Paalen, Articulated Cloud, umbrella in foam, 1938 Wolfgang Paalen, Articulated Cloud, umbrella in foam, 1938 Wolfgang Paalen's work from 1938, Articulated Cloud, an umbrella crafted from spongy foam, denies the object's intended function by causing water to be absorbed rather than repelled. It also makes the umbrella rather useless for anyone seeking shelter from rain. Another object by Man Ray—a metronome with a photograph of a woman's open eye clipped to it—adds an ominous sense of relentless observation to an ordinary musician's timing instrument. Man Ray's title of the piece, Object to Be Destroyed, seems mysterious at first. But when we consider the psychological effects of such obsessive observation—and think about what kind of impulses such regulations might evoke - the artist's title becomes easier to understand. Man Ray, Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1964 (replica of 1923 original), metronome with cutout photograph of eye on pendulum, 22.5 x 11 x 11.6 cm (The Museum of Modern Art) © 2014 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris Man Ray, Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1964 (replica of 1923 original), metronome with cutout photograph of eye on pendulum, 22.5 x 11 x 11.6 cm (The Museum of Modern Art) No longer a simple time-keeping device, Object To Be Destroyed summons feelings of irritation over being watched, and powerlessness in the face of endless time. There is no means to stop the cycle, except to destroy the object itself. Don't touch the art! The violent implications of The Gift and other Surrealist objects by Man Ray came to fruition in 1957 when Object to Be Destroyed was lost during a Man Ray retrospective. Varying stories exist as to the fate of the sculpture. In his autobiography, Man Ray recounts that a group of students visited the exhibition and caused a scene, during which one of them walked off with the sculpture, and it was never seen again. Numerous historians, however, state that during the exhibition one of the students took the title literally and smashed it with a hammer. Whether stolen or smashed, Object to Be Destroyed no longer existed. This compelled Man Ray to remake the sculpture, but he pointedly changed the title to Indestructible Object. Essay by Josh Rose
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Camera-less Photography Techniques

The essence of photography lies in its seemingly magical ability to fix shadows on light-sensitive surfaces. Normally, this requires a camera, but not always. Several artists work without a camera, creating images on photographic paper by casting shadows and manipulating light, or by chemically treating the surface of the paper. Images made with a camera imply a documentary role. In contrast, camera-less photographs show what has never really existed. They are also always ‘an original’ because they are not made from a negative. Encountered as fragments, traces, signs, memories or dreams, they leave room for the imagination, transforming the world of objects into a world of visions. Processes & techniques Camera-less photographs can be made using a variety of techniques, the most common of which are the photogram, the luminogram and the chemigram. These techniques are sometimes used in combination. Many involve an element of chance.


 Chemigrams are made by directly manipulating the surface of photographic paper, often with varnishes or oils and photographic chemicals. They are produced in full light and rely on the maker's skill in harnessing chance for creative effect. Documented experiments are often an important part of the process.

 Digital C-print

 A print made from digital images using digital printers. Inside such printers, chromogenic (or 'C'-type) photographic paper is exposed to red, green and blue lasers. The paper is then processed in the traditional, chemical-based manner. Images created by camera-less methods can be digitised and turned into C-prints. When processed in this way, camera-less images can be retouched, enlarged and reproduced as multiples.

 Dye destruction print

 A print made using direct positive colour paper. This paper was originally introduced in 1963 for printing colour transparencies or negatives. It is coated with at least three layers of emulsion, each of which is sensitised to one of the three primary colours. Each layer also contains a dye related to that colour. During development of the image, any unexposed dyes are bleached out (hence 'dye destruction'). The remaining dyes form a full-colour image.

 Gelatin-silver print

 A print made using paper that has been coated with gelatin containing silver salts. Where light strikes the silver salts, they become dark. The image is then developed out using chemical developer. The paper itself can have a matt or gloss surface, and the image can be toned. Introduced in 1871, the gelatin-silver print is still in general use today.


 A variation of the photogram (see below). In a luminogram, light falling directly on the paper forms the image. Objects placed between the light and the paper (but not touching the paper) will filter or block the light, depending on whether they are transparent or opaque.


 Photograms are made by placing an object in contact with a photosensitive surface in the dark, and exposing both to light. Where the object blocks the light, either partially or fully, its shadow is recorded on the paper. The term 'photogram' seems to have appeared around 1925. The photogram artist is not able to predict the results in the viewfinder of a camera, and often works in the dark. The final image is only apparent after physical and chemical manipulation or development.

Reading list Luis Nadeau, Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic and Photomechanical Processes New Brunswick, NJ (Atelier Luis Nadeau), 1989, and the related website, Gordon Baldwin, Looking at Photographs: A Guide to Technical Terms Los Angeles and London (J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Museum Press), 1991 This text was originally written to accompany the exhibition Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography, on display at the V&A South Kensington between 13 October 2010 and 20 February 2011.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

How a Humble Pineapple Became Art
LONDON — How did a pineapple become a postmodern masterpiece? The aesthetic merits of tropical fruit inadvertently entered Britain’s national cultural conversation after two students jokingly placed a store-bought pineapple on an empty table at an art exhibition this month at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, a port city in northeastern Scotland. When they returned a few days later to the exhibition — part of the Look Again festival, which aims to highlight Aberdeen’s cultural heritage — they were shocked to discover their pineapple protected by a glass display case, instantly and mysteriously transformed into a work of art. After one of the students, Lloyd Jack, 22, who studies business, put a photograph of the pineapple on Twitter, along with the words, “I made art,” the image was shared widely on social media, turning the fruit, fairly or not, into a cultural sensation. To some, though, the stunt was a self-promoting social media prank befitting the digital age. Mr. Jack’s post received nearly 5,000 likes on Twitter. Before long, the work, which the two students titled “Pineapple,” had been deconstructed on art blogs and social media worldwide; parsed in Paris, Texas and Tokyo; and even featured on Canadian television. Some on Twitter lauded its “genius,” while others ridiculed it as the latest example of conceptual art’s plodding banality. Mr. Jack said he and the other student, Ruairi Gray, also 22, had been stunned by the attention afforded the pineapple, which he said the two had put on the table in a moment of lighthearted whimsy, slanted slightly to the left to give it a bit more gravitas and flair. He said the “work” was on display for nearly a week before it was removed. “We weren’t sure how the glass case got there, and initially assumed it was bungling curators,” he said. “We couldn’t believe our eyes, and didn’t expect our lowly little supermarket pineapple to become a global star.” The fruit cost one pound, or about $1.30. Nevertheless, he said, the pineapple, alone in its display case and destined to rot, was a poignant symbol of Britain in the era of “Brexit,” the nation’s decision to leave the European Union. (Unlike England, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain.) “The pineapple symbolizes the U.K. leaving the E.U., standing alone, attempting to survive, cut off from the outside world,” he said. Others saw hidden meaning in the pineapple, including an art professor at the university who, Mr. Gray said, enthusiastically lauded the “purposeful way” in which the display case had pressed down on the fruit’s leaves. “It just goes to show the ludicrousness of conceptual art and how anything can become art,” Mr. Jack said. Others were not altogether amused, including the organizers of the Look Again festival, who found their exhibition suddenly hijacked by a fruit. After investigating the renegade pineapple, they discovered that the glass case had been placed at the exhibition by a janitor — though it was unclear whether the act had been motivated by humor, artistic sensibility or both. “This pineapple was nothing more than a prank,” said Hilary Nicoll, an associate director of the festival, with amusement tinged with slight irritation.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Most Successful Virtual Band: Gorillaz "Adding Substance to Pop"

Most Successful Virtual Band: The Gorillaz “Adding Substance to Pop”

Genre: Avant-Pop, Experimental Pop, Alternative Rock, Brit Pop, Trip Hop, Hip Hop, Electronica, Indie, Dub, Reggae and Pop.

Awards: Grammy Award, Two MTV Video Music Awards, NME Award, (New Musical Express) Three MTV Europe Music Awards, Nominated for Nine Brit Awards

Studio Albums Gorillaz 2001 Demon Days 2005 Plastic Beach 2010 The Fall 2010 Humanz 2017

Tours Phase One Tour (2001-02) Demon Days Live (2005-06) Escape to Plastic Beach Tour (2010) Demon Days Festival (2017) Humanz Tour (2017)

Permanent Band Members Damon Albarn- Vocals, Keyboard, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums, Percussion, Melodica (1998-Present) Jamie Hewlett- Illustration, Visuals, FX (1998-Present)

Live Band Members Mike Smith- Keyboards (1998-Present) Jeff Wootton- Lead Guitar (2010-Present) Seye Adelekan- Bass guitar (2017-Present) Jesse Hackett- Keyboards (2010-Present) Gabriel Wallace- Drums, Percussion (2010-Present) Karl Vanden Bossche- Drums (2005-2007, 2010-Present)

Animated Band Members 2-D Murdoc Niccals Noodle Russel Hobbs

    The british virtual band Gorillaz was created in 1998 by “Blur” Musicians named Damon Albarn, and Graham Coxon. During a Blur interview Albarn and Coxon met Jamie Hewlett of Deadline Magazine. Hewlett began to hang out after the interview in with Damon sharing common interests. One evening they had a conversation at Albarns while he and Hewlett were watching MTV and Hewlett remarked…

 “If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell, there's nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, and something that would comment on that.” [1]

    MTV during 1998 would have shown the Backstreet Boys, Third Eye Blind, Usher, Matchbox Twenty and other popular artists. These contemporary 1998 pop artists provided good jumping off contextual building points for the two to start creating their ideas and begin their Avant-Pop directed approach. Originally after formation the Gorillaz identified as singular “Gorilla” without the “z” and released their first song “Ghost Train”.

   Which lives on the second side of the single “Rock the House”, and the second side of compilation “G Sides”. The “Ghost Train”collaboration included Albarn, Del The Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala. The same producers that worked on “Time Keeps on Slipping” by Deltron 3030. Although Albarn still claims, “The first ever Gorillaz tunes was the Blur 1997 Single “Own Your Own”. [2]

    Jamie Hewlett was the artist to bring alive the 4 animated members that would eventually populate the Gorillaz media. This was the first virtual band that the world had ever seen. Hewletts previous comic work “Tank Girl” served as a jumping off point for the aesthetic of the animated members of the captivating virtual band. The virtual band consists of, 2-D who’s the lead vocalist that plays keyboards. Murdoc Niccals that plays bass guitar & vocals. Noodle plays guitar and keyboards. Russel Hobbs is the Drummer & percussion sounds. The four characters are completely fictional and are intended to not resemble any real contemporary musicians or themselves. At this point in time it was extremely avant-garde and experimental in the music video world to be using cartoon characters. It’s even more avant-garde in the sense that the cartoon characters were not resembling any real life musicians. What was really evocative was Albarn and Hewletts creation of a fictional universe for which these characters lived. Viewers can find characters in the video pieces jump from, 2-D book art to 3-D engineered characters side by side with non cartoon footage to create a realistic and non realistic surrealist landscapes. Fantastic revolutionary imagery that really grounded their work arises as being different than other MTV pop. You can find the band currently contributing the creative media on their website, and music videos, social media, and DVDs. Their website ( provides instant interaction for visitors and has an open video during the duration of a surfers visit. The only places to click on the site include the tabs, News, Store, Fan Club Sign Up, and social media links. They currently use a disappearing sidebar that holds the band's visual and audio releases.
    For every Gorillaz release since “Blur’s 1997 Single, Own Your Own” (Albarn's proclaimed original Gorillaz song.) Damon Albarn has served as lead composer. Although every piece of their work serves as a collaboration between a variety of musicians responsible for covering such pop genre avenues. Most would classify the Gorillaz genre as Alternative Rock, Trip Hop, Hip Hop, Electronica, Indie-Dub, and Reggae. Arguably they set out to purify the pop genre itself in all aspects.     Albarn's and Hewlett’s success amongst others have continued to impress. However it’s more appropriate to label their content and visual delivery systems in a bundled critique in which they are extremely Avant-Pop with new ideas of visuals and performances that no one in their time has been releasing.
    The first Gorillaz album “Gorillaz” was a 15 track project released in 2001 and sold 7 million copies, and the Guinness book of world records awarded them the,

 “Most Successful Virtual Band.” [3]

   This award comes without question as they have continued to shape their own intermedial practice throughout their discography, visualizations, and merchandising. Not to mention avid attention to contemporary technological times allows them to develop amongst application releases and virtual projection performances all using the building block fictional characters in artistic environments. This avenue continues to propel their success as an avant-pop artist. The 2001 album “Gorillaz” included 4 very popular singles:

Clint Eastwood (first album release, memorable hit, back side containing song Dracula, vocals performed by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, the genre is electronic dub and hip hop, when Clint Eastwood released in early March, it landed at number 4 on the UK charts.)


 19-2000 (used for EA Sports FIFA video game 2002 [4], most memorable as “get the cool shoeshine” vocals by Damon Albarn, with a video of the Gorillaz riding around in their Geep, and mimicking MTV cribs).


 Tomorrow Comes Today (the first EP, including Tomorrow Dub, Tomorrow Comes Today Video, and Film Music.) Tomorrow Comes Today was co-produced with Hip Hop producer Dan the Automator, featuring Phi Life Cypher (UK Rap Group) and Del the Funky Homosapien (US Rapper).


 Rock The House (a hit amongst United Kingdom charts, vocals by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, during the time being sued by Doppelgangerz for stealing the idea for the “Gorillaz” the video had visuals associated with emotions the band was having, and portrayed some of the characters as satanists in kong studios)

   The same year as the September 11th attacks, D12 (Hip Hop band commonly in collaboration with rapper Eminem) was stranded in England without Eminem and Albarn invited D12 to the studio to start collaborating on a track on September 13th [5]. This project Albarn felt extremely appropriate as he was experimenting with middle-eastern music at the current point in time. [5] This would be an appropriate project to release to promote working together. This approach would be rather experimental in regards to western pop culture's current view towards the middle east as perpetuated through the media. This release titled "911" debuted in December of 2001.

   Gorillaz swung into 2002 performing February 22nd at the Brit Awards in London. This performance included 3-D animations on 4 large screens and included Phi Life Cypher rapping during the event. That year they were nominated for four Brit Awards, Best British Group, Best British Album, and Best British Newcomer. However they didn't win any. Dan the automator (Dan Nakamura) added in an Interview about the event...

 "You can't determine in advance how well a thing like this is going to do, It was done for fun, so it's always a surprise when it takes on a life of its own." [6]

     More importantly this notes the artistic vision of the Gorillaz, and processes that Gorillaz and their collaborators kept in common throughout production. Their next visual project built off of the Gorillaz 2001 album. They released the DVD. “Phase One: Celebrity Take Down”. This project included 4 visual pieces, “5/4”, “Charts of Darkness Documentary”, “Gorilla Bitez (Which included multiple skits with the band's virtual characters)” and “MEL 9000 Tour of the website” [7]. They even designed the DVD menu like the band's website starting to depict Kong Studios an important part of the virtual characters environment and personal story development involving Murdoc and Russel, 2-D, and Noodle. The media DVD release propelled the ideas of a film project that was soon abandoned by Albarn and Hewlett after multiple studio meetings with Hollywood executives amounting to Albarn saying,

 “Fuck it we'll sit on the idea until we can do it ourselves and maybe raise the money ourselves.” [8]

     Generally artists that venture down this lane of approach find more reward and control in production. Albarn and Hewlett are addicted to control and sometimes barely agree with each other let alone would be successful taking orders of direction from a studio that doesn't share the same building block vision. It also reinforces the logic of working with what you got. Which is a common theme of production for the group.
     In October of 2004 the Gorillaz released “Rock It” a website video to get fans ready for the album release of Demon Days in 2005.

   Demon Days hit Japan May 11th, May 23rd United Kingdom and May 24th the United States. The album debuted landing at number 1 and top of the UK Album Chart. Two of the more recognizable tracks:

   “Dirty Harry” was charted No.6 in the UK in its first week as a single release. Referencing “George Bush’s Mission Accomplished” speech, with an image for the cover resembling the film Full Metal Jacket’s.


    “Dare” was a number 1 United Kingdom hit and is sung completely by Damon Albarn, more memorable the lyrics “its coming up, its coming up, its coming up, its dare.” In this video 2-D walks around Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays live real head.


     Demon days sold 1 million copies in the UK in 2005. Since it has gone 5 Times platinum (platinum = selling 500,000 copies) in the UK, Double Platinum in the United States, Triple Platinum in Australia, selling a total of 6 million copies worldwide. [9] The 2005 MTV Video Music Awards gave the Gorillaz two awards for “Feel Good Inc”, Breakthrough video and best Visual Effects. They continued to perform “Feel Good Inc” in concert using music video parts in their performance.
     In 2005 Gorillaz also coordinated the Demon Days release with “Gorillaz Figurines” released by designer toy maker “Kidrobot”. The sets varied in editions and had sets of anywhere from limiting 1,000-60,000 limited issues in circulation. Quite genius approach to bringing sculptured on screen characters into fans hands. They released figures simultaneously with videos like “Dare” where character Noodle was sold in limited edition, amongst others. During the 2006 Brit Awards in London they performed “Dirty Harry”, and were nominated for Best British Group and Best British Album. They took the virtual characters a step further and created a fan frenzy when they did holographic performances at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards and the 2006 Grammy Awards.

   Their April 2006 announcement of Demon Days american tour, sold out in the begining hours. They then announced a plan for a holographic world tour in 2007. Where the cartoons would actually appear on stage using a technology called Musion Eyeliner. Musion Eyeliner would captivate audiences bringing colored lifesize and larger than life holograms moving across stage using the live stage illusion referred to as “Pepper’s ghost. The illusion is not truly a hologram because it places reflective material at an angle in front of the audience that is illuminated by a LED screen below so characters appear to 3D volume. 2006 was a visual high point for the group when Hewlett and Albarn started collaborating with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein from Weinstein company and Miramax films. September 2006 Albarn announced...

 “the band has been a fantastic journey which isn't over because we're making a film. We’ve got Terry Gilliam Involved. But as far as being in a big band and putting pop music out there it's finished. We won't be doing that anymore.” [10]

Little did they know about the projects to come… October 27 2007 the official Gorillaz fansite announced documentary film “Bananaz” would be released. A Film directed by Ceri Levy would document the previous band years. It was released on Babelgum Website April 20th 2009, and on DVD June 2009. Albarn & Hewlett began work on Carousel a visual project that actually birthed the band's third album Plastic Beach, shortly after commenting by Albarn that Gorillaz were done making music. Meanwhile Gorillaz simultaneously etching out the ongoing avant-pop adventure throughout his and Hewletts artistic practice. They didn't know they had a project to start until they were already working in their artistic practices of visuals and DVDs. More importantly they weren't ever done when they thought they were done. Reinforcing experimentation through process at its root. It was also important to their history in understanding that by staying on course they were able to extract and start to work with new ideas and stimulus for creation of new projects.
    Albarn takes a leap when talking to the public saying Plastic Beach, “is the biggest and most pop record I've ever made in many ways, but with all my experience i’ll try to and at least present something that has got depth…” [11]
    They planned on having Plastic Beach collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Gruff Rhys, Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Kano, Bashy, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, sinfonia ViVA, the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. Here’s some notable popular tracks from the 16 track project.

 On Melancholy Hill (was a synthpop production that had Damon Albarn's charismatic lyrics that helps listeners become pulled out of a gloomy day, and focus on the brightening up the listening session with catchy lyrics “Up on melancholy hill, sits a manatee, just looking out for the day, when you're close to me!)


 Stylo (was a electro funk song that collaborated with Mos Def and Bobby Womack “convinced by his granddaughter”[12] to be on a Gorillaz track. You can also hear Damon Albarn through the back up vocals. The visuals use most real life footage of Bruce Willis driving a red Chevy El Camino, while Murdoc, 2-D, and Noodle find time to cause a fast pace car chase.


    January 18th they announced that they would be headlining the final night of Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival. The same year Damon Albarn made statements in an interview to defend the integrity and direction of the avant-pop work they have been making. During the same time he was under the impression that the cast of Glee wanted to cover the group's recent songs. To which Albarn said, “The Fox tv show is a poor substitute for the real thing.”[13] At this point the pop media industry can't expect anything less of a response from Albarn given they were soon to be releasing their idea to “Reject the false Icons” emphasizing thinking for yourself and more importantly to have ideas about power of self development and an anti popular culture ideology.
     December 8 2010, “Plastic Beach” was announced to be released for download for free to website fan club members on Christmas Day. The same day they released the album “The Fall” which was recorded on the American leg of the "Escape to Plastic Beach" tour. The Fall ended up being in collaboration with a release of the application iElectribe by Korg. A software development company developing for the iPad, and Apple Platforms. The application had Gorillaz designed interface, including 128 sound samples that were created by the band. Including 64 ready to use loops made by Gorillaz sound engineer Stephen Sedgwick and Korg designers. This is a big leap for any music group in the 20th century to jump into application collaboration and development. Reinforcing ideas that anyone can be an artist and to let fans become composers as well. Shortly after the iElectribe release the Gorillaz announced:

 Do Ya Thing (was a song that partnered with Converse in February 2012, on a project called Three Artists One Song project and included James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem and Andre 3000 of Outkast. The single included a visual by Hewlett and animated versions of 2-D in 3D using green suits to map the directions of the character.

   In April Albarn told The Guardian [14] that Hewlett and Albarn had a “fall out” and future projects were unlikely due to tension building during Plastic Beach and The Fall. Word spread quickly through the fanbase. By the time it does however Albarn and Hewlett had already had their arguments worked out by the end of the same month. It’d be hard to believe Albarn and Hewlett would let a fall out occur at this point, but it was actually weird timing being after “The Fall” Album. This does however nail home the fundamental idea in collaboration, being sometimes you just have to take a punch for someone else's idea or not be afraid to let another collaborators idea weigh heavier than your own. Nevertheless to jumpstart the fanbase and kick things off they started scheming a follow up to Plastic Beach. They planned releasing new content in 2016 with so called upbeat humorous and positive melodies. [15] All the tracks contained nothing less than 125 bpm. One hundred and twenty five beats per minute is comparable to nodding your head repeatedly for .75 seconds up and down.

 “I'm starting recording in September for a new Gorillaz record, I've just been really, really busy so I haven't had a chance. I'd love to just get back into that routine of being at home and coming to the studio five days a week”[16], Albarn states.

    Reinforcing the concept of working in a present place in time conducive to completing projects and building off of pieces to make paths for new ideas. Not to mention the previous Hewlett, Albarn April argument has been referred to as making their collaborative friendship and relationship a lot stronger. In April 2016 Hewlett showed life of a new project on social media platform Instagram showing work on album featuring content from Liam Bailey, Albarn Himself, Twilite Tone, Vic Mensa and Jean Michael Jarre. They also jump started their media worlds and fan base by releasing interactive media stories about what the fictional band members have been up to sense the last project. They featured Noodle, in “The Book of Noodle” where she ended up in Japan tracking down a demon crime boss. Russel featured in “The Book of Russel” which had him on the shore of plastic beach in North Korea, and starved to point he shriveled back to normal size. Murdoc, in “The Book of Murdoc” was captured by the label EMI at sea and told to make another album. 2-D in “The Book of 2-D was swallowed by a whale named Massive Dick and washed up on an empty part of Cabo San Lucas surviving by eating the whale's blubber. They then gave Noodle her own instagram in October of 2016 augmenting her character personality in further clips. This marks a huge milestone for the virtual band as they continue to pave their own road through captivating their fan base and creating new relationships with viewers using compelling character stories on social media.
   This year (2017) has already been a big year for the Gorillaz. A new horizon is born as they are creating a unique festival called “Demon Dayz Festival” to start the 10th of June 2017 at Dreamland Margate, in Margate, England. Now becoming the first “virtual band” to have their own festival. The festival will feature virtual characters Noodle, 2-D, Murdoc, and Russel and other animations new and old, using new lights and installations and more Musion Eyeliner technology.
   The new 2017 project “Humanz” tracklist was initially leaked as one would expect given today's digital age. The actual “Humanz” album was said to drop via instagram on march 23rd saying the scheduled release date was the 28th of April 2017. Showing features of, De La Soul, Popcaan, Vince Staples, Pusha T, Rag n Bone Man, Anthony Hamilton, Kilo Kash, and Kali Uchis... Leading up to the release date singles started appearing on the band's youtube page.

"Saturnz Barz" (a hip hop, trip hop dancehall song with a music video came out in 360 view and normal view. This was a huge release and powerful hit featuring jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan and Abarn. The 360 video was named across the internet by Billboard and NME (New Music Entertainment) most successful debut of Virtual Reality music videos thus far. [17] Which is nothing short of surprising given the band's project history. It defeated the previous VR music video record that achieved 1.3 million plays total. Saturnz Barz actually got 3 million views in the first 48 hours.


“Andromeda” (was a visual and audio release on youtube that had an animated planet in galaxy featuring american rapper D.R.A.M. & Albarn is something one would consider post-disco, and alternative dance mixed with synthpop as it is a song one would find accompanied in an 80s club.


 “Ascension” was along the same type of visual, where the camera moves along a street on a left to right continuous pan through a dark city scape featuring american rapper Vince Staples. Marking the first of a Gorillaz, and a Vince Staples collaboration. This song would fall into the genre of alternative hip hop and alternative dance. Staples vocals on this piece fit the tempo very well and is extremely evocative.


 “We Got the Power” featured Jehnny Beth of english rock band "Savages" and Noel Gallagher of "Oasis". This visual was a stationary shot of the animated traffic jam on a multiple leveled highway. This amongst other pieces serving as a visual metaphor to go with the lyrical message. This track is a synthpop genre and actually has back up vocals by D.R.A.M for a second album collaboration.


 “Let Me Out” a trip hop and alternative hip hop track featured Vince Staples and Pusha T american rappers. The visual was the 4 animated band mates over a checkered visualizer that would move blocks around the video. To spread the message that the content doesn't have to be changing too much to be entertaining, that sometimes people just want something familiar, like social critiques on the inauguration of Donald Trump.


    Who knows what's next for Albarn, Hewlett, and Coxon, only time will tell as they meander through their upcoming performances and collaborations. One things for sure there's no argument that the Gorillaz are one of the most influential avant-pop experimental collaborative and revolutionary virtual band making compositions beyond music, in applications, merch and festivals. They constantly deliver beautifully melodic yet beneficial social criticisms for listeners, to disrupt the content that normally populates the pop industry and more so western culture through their lyrical content, instrument content and artistic process.
    Throughout their history they operated on foundational conceptual building blocks. Such blocks continued to propel projects based on their day one goals in 1997 since the have been "adding substance to the pop world". There’s plenty of hints and obvious pieces of content that lean us toward understanding Albarn, Hewlett and their collaborators aim. They're continuing to set the bar higher for themselves and every album release so fans and other artists are able to experience music in a visual and audio world that had yet to be explored since the Gorillaz came into the pop scene.
   The past two decades of pop have Albarn and Hewlett and their collaborators to thank for really beautiful pieces of music and virtual/live performances that will help carve out societies concentrations in a new mass communicated light and set forth new methods to approach and talk and communicate on current environmental & social problems, Gorillaz truly serve as revolutionary twentieth century Avant-Garde artists.



[9] “Artist Profile - Gorillaz” . EMI. 2006.

 [13] Associated Press (10/12/2010) “Gorillaz: We Won’t Let ‘Glee’ Cover Our Songs”

[15] Book, Ryan. “Damon Albarn Writing A Musical While Flirting with Blur and Gorillaz Comebacks” The Music Times. The Music Times. July 2014

[17] Britton, Luke (March 30, 2017) “Gorillaz Break Record with ‘Saturn Barz’ VR video” NME,

[5] Brown, Cass; Gorillaz (2 November 2006). Rise of the Ogre United States: Penguin. p. 43. ISBN 1-59448-931-9

[3] Cooper, James (19 November 2007). “Gorillaz: D-Sides”

[16] “Damon Albarn: New Gorillaz Album Coming, Recording Starts in September . Billboard, Retrieved 31 July 2015

[4] David Roberts (2006). British Hit Singles & AlbumsRoberts, David. Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums. Guinness World Records Ltd. 18th edition (May 2005). ISBN 1-904994-00-8 London: Guinness World Records Limited

[1] Gaiman, Neil (July 2005). “Keeping It (Un)real”. Wired.

[6] Grant, Kieran (23 February 2002). “Gorillaz come out of the mist”

[12]  Greene, Andy (9 April 2009). “Gorillaz Attempt to Draft Bobby Womack For Upcoming Album”

[8] Joseph, Michael (2 November 2006). "Gorillaz in the Midst". The Big Issue in Scotland (604):

[7] Mitchum, Rob (5 February 2003). “Phase One: Celebrity Take Down DVD” Pitchfork.

[11] Morley, Paul (27 November 2009). “Paul Morley’s Showing Off… Damon Albarn”(MP3). The Guardian. 29 November 2009.

[10] Williamson, Nigel (November 2006). "West London Calling". Uncut: 88.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hi-tech art that talks back.

Hi-tech art that talks back. By: Driedger, Sharon Doyle, Maclean's, 00249262, 4/24/95, Vol. 108, Issue 17
Academic Search Complete

In a bold new show artists express joys and fears about cyberspace
Portraits by Montreal artist Luc Courchesne do not hang quietly on a gallery wall. They chat and, occasionally, argue with each other. They talk to viewers and, if they like someone, will share their feelings and perhaps even confide a secret. If not, they become moody, abruptly ending the dialogue. Courchesne creates this dazzling illusion of art-with-an-attitude in his interactive work, Family Portrait: Encounter with a Virtual Society. The artist's ``virtual beings,'' who respond to the click of a mouse, are stunningly lifelike. They appear suspended in space, as if separate from the computers, video monitors and laser discs that generate them. But electronic wizardry is not the point of Family Portrait, says Courchesne, whose work has been exhibited at the National Gallery in Ottawa and New York City's Museum of Modern Art. ``I'm like an alchemist,'' he says. ``I try to do crazy things--like turn technology into experience.''
Courchesne, 42, is one of six Canadian artists represented in Press Enter: Between Seduction and Disbelief, an international exhibit on art and technology that opens this week at Toronto's Power Plant gallery, part of the beleaguered Harbourfront cultural centre. This timely show focuses on artists' fascination with cyberspace as well as their skepticism about an increasingly wired world. A strong undercurrent of technology has flowed through the art world for more than a decade with the proliferation of microcomputers. ``Then, in '94, there was an explosion as the Internet brought everybody together,'' says Derrick de Kerckhove, director of the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto. ``Now, art and technology is literally taking off.'' An array of new computer technologies is transforming culture, as musicians perform ``live'' on the Internet, museums offer tours via modem, and virtual reality plays on the stage. ``Technology is evolving our traditional notions of art,'' says Mark Jones, publisher of CyberStage, a new Canadian quarterly devoted to art and technology. ``It's also creating new forms of its own.''
Artists are applying their new electronic palette in surprising ways. ``They are stretching the use of these technologies,'' says Jean Gagnon, associate curator of media art at the National Gallery. ``They can be playful and ironic and give a humoristic twist to them.'' They are also addressing serious issues. De Kerckhove theorizes that artists express the collective unconscious of a society, and ``there is a great deal of fear of computers out there.'' That anxiety about cyberspace and individual identity is one of the main themes of Press Enter. And, according to Louise Dompierre, chief curator of the exhibit, most of the artworks are interactive, so people can experience them ``in a real, visual way.'' Some deal with issues of privacy, notably American Jim Campbell's Untitled (for Heisenberg), in which, through an ingenious use of computers and video, the viewer's image pops up in bed with a naked couple. Others, such as German artist Christian Moller's Electronic Mirror, which unexpectedly erases a visitor's reflection, illustrate a lack of control over technology.
It was the potential for interaction that first attracted 34-year-old David Rokeby to the electronic medium. ``I wanted to repair the rip that had appeared between the audience and contemporary art,'' explains Rokeby, originally from Tillsonburg, Ont. Behind him, in a corner of his studio in the heart of Toronto's Chinatown, two color-splashed canvases lean casually on a bookcase. They were art school projects, painted before Rokeby switched to an experimental program. Since then, Rokeby, who was recently featured in Wired, the U.S. magazine about hi-tech culture, has immersed himself in computers, circuit boards and cables--the tools of his chosen medium. Now, there are signs that he has realized his art-school dream of ``making art that connects with people.'' Acclaimed internationally, Rokeby has participated in the prestigious Venice Biennale. And at an exhibit in Hamburg in 1993, visitors lined up for hours to see his latest work.
Silicon Remembers Carbon, the art that drew crowds in Europe, also appears in Press Enter. In the installation, Rokeby's ``canvas'' is a bed of sand enclosed by a narrow walkway, on the floor of a darkened room. Sounds and images of flowing water, blowing winds, fire and shadows are projected onto the sand in ever-changing patterns. The effect is compelling and one that allows Rokeby to play with viewers' perceptions of art and of their own bodies. If visitors, for instance, dip their hands into the convincing video ``pools of water,'' they will feel dry sand. That is, if they dare to touch it. ``There is no barrier except people's fear,'' says Rokeby. ``The question is, `what is the art here?' '' Silicon Remembers Carbon presents an unspoken challenge for viewers to literally cross the line into the sand--and into the artist's illusion. ``An interactive work creates a radically different situation for an audience,'' says Rokeby. ``There are no rules.''
The medium presents challenges for artists as well as audiences. Sylvie Belanger once sold some of her cherished antiques to finance her ambitious electronic art projects. The petite artist with an international reputation works on a grand scale. Some of her early installations traversed rooftops and covered towering church walls. But Belanger, born near Montreal, has kept enough pine armoires and ladder-back chairs to lend a distinctly Quebecois flavor to her studio home in a converted factory in Toronto's west end. After 10 years in the city, the 44-year-old artist has also retained her French-Canadian sensibilities. ``As a Quebecer,'' says Belanger, ``the question of identity has been part of my upbringing.'' Now, the artist is exploring the issue in the context of technology and how it is affecting human identity--the theme of The Silence of the Body, her complex installation in Press Enter. There are three parts to Belanger's interactive photo-video artwork. One wall has a dramatic, back-lit mural of a pair of eyes. The adjacent wall features a huge ear. On the floor beneath them is a mouth. Each organ is enhanced, literally and metaphorically, by electronic technology, and exaggerated to superhuman dimensions. Taken together, the three elements suggest a face. But they are physically fragmented, not quite human. ``Technology disembodies us,'' suggests Belanger, ``but it also allows us to create a new self.''
While Belanger focuses on the future, Alberta artist George Bures Miller looks at how existing technologies, like television, affect personal communications. And, indeed, his work space over the old Woolworth's in downtown Lethbridge looks more like a TV repair shop than an artist's studio. Miller is convinced that the artwork he rigs out of cables, monitors and cameras ``can humanize technologies that aren't very human.'' He adds, ``Man, there's all this stuff happening with computers and TV and we don't think much about it.''
One of his pieces, Conversation/Interrogation, shown in Press Enter, provides what he describes as a ``rude and scary'' awakening to the fiction of television. The installation is simple and spare. A wooden office chair sits in front of a blank TV screen. Off to the side, a surveillance camera focuses on the chair. But this art, unlike a painting or a sculpture, is incomplete without a viewer. Only when a visitor accepts the posted invitation to ``please sit down,'' does the artist appear on the screen. In a tone that ranges from suggestive to intimidating, he draws in the viewer, whose own image appears on the screen--but without sound. ``You remind me of your lover,'' Miller intones. ``You know all of my conversations with you are recorded.'' The viewer becomes the viewed, and the experience is, at once, amusing and unsettling. ``I wanted to make the viewers physically aware of how TV leaves us voiceless,'' says Miller. ``A painting would not have the same emotional impact.''
But is it art? ``There are people who still don't think that it is a valid medium,'' says Rokeby. ``But then there are people who still don't think photography is a valid medium.'' Gagnon, de Kerckhove and other experts say that resistance to electronic media is rapidly disappearing as the art form gains critical legitimacy. Still, few private galleries display the works, which often fill entire rooms, and even fewer collectors purchase them. ``Most buyers for that kind of work are museums,'' says Gagnon. Part of the problem lies in the technology itself. Equipment can be difficult to operate, sometimes breaks down and quickly becomes obsolete. ``It's a very expensive medium for collectors and artists,'' says Courchesne. He, and others, survive through grants, teaching jobs and sheer determination. ``Electronic art is particularly pertinent right now,'' says Rokeby. ``Like it or not, we are surrounded by technology and we need to understand how it transforms the way we experience the world.'' As long as there is a cyberspace, artists will be exploring it with cyberart.
PHOTO (COLOR): Silicon Remembers Carbon: `making art that connects with people'
PHOTOS (COLOR): The Silence of the Body -- Belanger: artistic inquiries into the ways that `technology disembodies us, but also allows us to create a new self'
By Sharon Doyle Driedger

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Chicago Style Citation
Driedger, Sharon Doyle. "Hi-tech art that talks back." Maclean's 108, no. 17 (April 24, 1995): 60. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 10, 2017).