Category: Art


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In case you were wondering what Christopher Nolan’s Inception would look like as an Ottoman miniature, the internet has come through yet again:

There are more here, including the likes of Kill Bill, Star Wars and GoodFellas:

Classic Movies in Miniature Style

They were done by a Turkish art student named Murat Palta. They’re all pretty clever; some are better than others. I like the Inception one because of the way it depicts the different levels of the film’s dreamworld on different panels. I also dig the Kill Bill one – love his interpretation of Uma’s signature costume. I do wonder about some of the choices he made – for instance, why is the van in this one a horse and carriage, but the snowmobile is just a boxy-looking snowmobile? Either way it’s fun to study the details in all of them. (Though I skipped over the Scarface one – I really hate that movie and wish people would stop treating it like a classic.)

For great insight into the history of this kind of art (and some brilliant storytelling), read Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s 1998 novel My Name Is Red.

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The posters for Wes Anderson’s latest film Moonrise Kingdom are brilliant. But you probably could have guessed that.

I remember being amazed by the art for The Royal Tenenbaums when it first hit, and whiling away many an hour poring over not only the poster, but the soundtrack album’s sleeve and all the great material that came with the Criterion DVD. Now I take it for granted. If there’s one thing Wes Anderson is good for, it’s design. His films themselves are rich feasts of design in and of themselves, of course. (Some would argue that’s a fault or a weakness – but not me.) And it extends off the screen too. Like few filmmakers (Tarantino is one of the others), and much more like a musician (the Beastie Boys are an an example that’s fresh in my mind) or a quality independent record label (SubPop, Warp), Wes is clearly invested in making sure every single thing, every bit of collateral, associated with his films is thoughtful, special and worth looking at. Nothing is prefab or half-done. Anyone can slap a film still onto a DVD package, but Wes is there to make sure there’s hand lettering and a drawing of the boat in cross-section – if only because the fanboys who think just like he does will go, “That’s awesome.” And it has a way of extending and enhancing the alternate universes he creates within his narratives. (That’s why I’m so psyched about Moonrise Kingdom getting all this attention as the opening film at Cannes this week – it’s like the revenge of the nerds.)

The campaign for Moonrise features more terrific custom lettering (but you knew that). Here’s the French poster:

Even better is the series of character-driven “motion posters” that were released as exclusives to various websites last month. (IndieWIRE compiled them all into one blog post.) If you don’t normally follow links when you’re reading online, do yourself a favor and make an exception this time – I can’t embed these motion posters and they are definitely worth checking out. Click on the stills at the top of each poster to rotate the images and see different quotes from the film. Normally this kind of thing is a really tedious marketing tool for big-budget blockbusters, but leave it to Wes to transform it into something fresh and exciting.

Moonrise Kingdom premieres in Australia at the State Theatre next month as part of Sydney Film Festival. There couldn’t be a better place to check out a Wes Anderson film than the State, with its red velvet, marble and crazy ornate mishmash of art deco, neoclassical and just about every other style dreamed of in 1929. I can’t wait.

Small Worlds

I first encountered Keith’s Loutit’s video art when this link was sent to me by my friend Chris about six months ago.

I was duly impressed. But Loutit’s stuff really impacted me for the first time when I saw it presented in an installation at Customs House in Sydney some time after that. The show was called Small Worlds and featured several of his works playing continuousy in the building’s splendid lobby. Most video installations are pretty naff — you know, shot and edited almost as an afterthought just to stick in a wooden fixture (spraypainted green) in some gallery. But these small worlds were very different. I was in a hurry to catch a screening at the Sydney Film Festival and it was hard to tear myself away.

Loutit is from Sydney, and he depicts aspects of life there in video altered by time lapse and tilt-shift (a specialized adjustment of the focus) so that the results seem eerily like animated miniatures. Tilt-shift is apparently an old technique, but it has seen new life in the digital age and Loutit is one of the artists taking full advantage of it. Just see if you don’t want to watch these more than once.

I really love these videos as I’ve just migrated to Sydney myself and they really capture something about life there for me. Though the whole point of tilt-shift is the creative use of blurriness, there’s ironically a kind of clarity in this work. Something about the weird quality of the antipodean light and the way it can make things (buildings, trees, rock formations, boats on the Harbour) seem otherworldly is distilled here.

On a simpler level, he seems to share my fascination for water and nautical things. And there’s something very sunny and refreshingly cheerful at work in this art, yet it’s too intricate and fascinating to be merely kitschy. He tends to make good choices with music, too.

Here are links to Loutit’s website and his Vimeo page.

Tilt-shift can also be used to express darker concepts. Thom Yorke’s haunting “Harrowdown Hill” (a choked cry of helpless rage at the suspcious death of UN weapons inspector Dr David Kelly) is matched by this fabulous video from director Chel White.

It’s one of the better pieces of video art I’ve seen recently; it takes the tilt-shift technique and stretches it to its artistic limits, abstractifying the song’s lyrics with very different and contrasting tableaux. The airiness and color of the soaring shots of sky and open wilderness are juxtaposed with the darkness and claustrophobia and violence of the urban protests and riots. The crystalline detachment of the tilt-shift is in this case quite melancholy. It’s a breathtaking and painful little epic.

Meanwhile, I’ve been having my own blurry fun with the TiltShiftGen app I just got for my iPhone, especially with all the excellent subject matter here in UAE. I just published a set of tilt-shifted snapshots on my other page.

The Barrier

After seeing Amreeka (Cherien Dabis, 2008), a narrative about a Palestinian woman from Bethlehem who moves to the United States with her teenage son, I was inspired to look more closely at the pieces Banksy, graffiti prankster supreme, did in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the West Bank in 2005.

Bansky’s been on my mind because his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, is playing at the upcoming Sydney Film Festival, and I can’t wait to see it. Apparently it’s a loopy instant classic, a savage commentary on art and commerce; it’s been getting explosive raves from everyone I know who’s seen it.

I have to admit that until I saw Amreeka and really looked at Banksy’s work, I hadn’t thought all that much about the security barrier that’s being constructed by Israel around the Palestinian territories. It’s an astonishing 430-mile-long wall of concrete and barbed wire, eight feet high in places. The barrier is controversial to say the least. Israel calls it a “security fence.” Opponents call it the “Apartheid Wall.” It’s considered illegal by the UN and the International Court of Justice, for what that’s worth, which is obviously not much.

The construction of the wall has resulted in the seizure of Palestinians’ private property and the destruction of farmland (a topic covered in the documentary Budrus, also playing at SFF). And of course it now greatly restricts the freedom of Palestinians. They’re basically enclosed in their territories by force.

I don’t have a partisan agenda here. My agenda is peace and justice. But the sight of that ugly concrete barrier speaks for itself. It can’t help but remind me of the Berlin Wall, or Children of Men. No good could come of such a thing. Banksy, with typical incendiary flair, called Palestine the world’s largest open-air prison.

The early scenes of Amreeka show how its main characters, Muna and her son Fadi, have to pass through a security checkpoint at the barrier every day to get home to Bethlehem. Muna’s commute home from work takes three hours because of the barrier. In one nerve-wracking scene, Israeli troopers harass the slight, bookish Fadi in front of her, pulling him from the car to search him.

The film doesn’t show us anything worse; it’s a character-driven story with comic touches, and its focus is on the daily lives of average Palestinians. But we’re reminded throughout of the trouble and danger in their home.

Amreeka makes a point of the fact that Muna and her family are Christians. They and their relatives are naturally assumed to be Muslims by the suburban Americans they encounter, and are frequently harassed. As Muna points out, they are minorities wherever they go.

As a Christian myself, I find the state of things in Bethlehem today more than a little disturbing. But this is the world we live in. Banksy’s use of a dove in one of his pieces in Bethlehem brings it home.

To my knowledge none of Banksy’s art makes it into Amreeka, but his influence is visible in other graffiti seen on the wall in the film, the most striking example being the huge block letters reading BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. I like that one. It’s worthy of the ferocious cynicism of the Sex Pistol’s landmark excursion to the Berlin Wall, “Holidays in the Sun.”

Hitting an oppressive structure with clever or outrageous graffiti is a universal impulse. It doesn’t signal some kind of great uprising. Think the architects and overlords of this wall are paying attention?

Yet there’s something special about Banksy. More than most other artists who are trying to say something about the world, his work has the ability to smash through lazy thinking, to attack the barriers we build around our day-to-day selves. At least for a few moments. Maybe it’s the way he often portrays children at play, pastoral landscapes, and other images of innocence and beauty cruelly juxtaposed with violence and greed. Or the way innocence often prevails, as with the stencilled little girl frisking an Israeli trooper. It’s by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Others can write slogans like “No Justice No Peace,” but Banksy has a lightning-rod ability to torment us with reminders of what peace actually looks like, to show us things we didn’t know we wanted to see. He seems to create according to the Situationist philosopher Raoul Vaneigem’s famous words:

People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.

Banksy has said, “I like to think I have the guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no one else believes in — like peace and justice and freedom.” I love the way this statement is embedded with contradictions and challenges to commonplace notions. Can you stand up anonymously? Well, if anyone can it’s Banksy. And don’t people believe in peace and justice and freedom? Actually, maybe they don’t.

And he certainly has guts; beneath the brutal sardonic wit, I think he has a huge heart and really believes in this stuff and is willing to risk a lot for it. It’s said he was confronted by Israeli troopers during his excursions in the West Bank, guns were pointed at him, shots fired in the air.

But the message is out. If you google “west bank barrier,” his images are among the first things you see, though that work was done five years ago. The whole thing is absurdly heroic. His art really has an effect on a broad spectrum of people, not just anarchists and hipsters, as proven by the amazing word of mouth on his film. As aggressively marginal and plain nuts as he is, people love him.

Well, not everyone. Apparently when he was working on the barrier, an old Palestinian man told him that he was making the wall beautiful. Banksy thanked him; but the old man’s reply was, “We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.”

To see more of Banksy’s work in Palestine you’ll have to do a Google image search, as his brilliant website has been updated with more recent projects.