Category Archives: film

Roots Reloaded: Culture, Identity and Social Development in the Digital Age

Ayman Kole, Martin A. M. Gasinger (Eds), Roots Reloaded: Culture, Identity & Social Development in the Digital Age, Anchor, Hamburg, Germany, 2016.

Tatiana Pentes chapter ‘BLACK BOX V3: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory’ http://bit.ly/RootsReloaded (Shockwave Player and Safari browser)

Abstract: ‘BLACK BOX V3: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory’ is a digital art film where the protagonist Nina’s discovery of symbolic objects, ethnic dance, & musical forms (Hindustani, Rembetika, Chinese Jazz) reveal her cultural/ spiritual origins. The digital film is a documentary archiving an interactive version for download & play. LAUNCH: http://bit.ly/BLACKBOX_V3

blackBox interface still

Keywords: Interactive Media, Digital Art, Identity, Cultural Memory

Pandora’s Box

It is inscribed, as on Pandora’s Box…do not open…passions…escape in all directions from a box that lies open… (Latour, 1987, p. 7)

This article is an examination and critical positioning of my current digital media project blackBOX – Painting a Digital Picture of Documented MemoryblackBOX is an interactive CD-ROM ‘game’ and also an internet work. blackBOX seeks to exploit and enhance the creative potentials of digitally produced music, sound, image and text relationships in an interactive and online environment. This work seeks to reverse, obscure and distort the dominating/colonialist gaze in a playful manner. blackBOX is produced through the hybrid meeting of visual arts practice, digital film production and documentary dance performance. It also interacts with the notion of ‘electronic’ (image/sound/text) writing, that was in fact prefigured in early Russian avant-garde practices. In the words of El Lissitsky:

The new book demands the new writer. Inkstand and goose quill are dead… The printed sheet transcends space and time. The printed sheet, the infinity of the book, must be transcended… (El Lissitsky, 1923)

The protagonist of the blackBOX digital media work, Nina, undertakes a journey, a struggle and search for virtual objects. The idea of mobilising a series of myths cross-culturally is at play both in the inner workings of the game device and in the computer interface strategy. The visual screens are composed of the virtual surface fragments of the archival materials and objects. These spaces form an electronic stage where the narrative elements unfold as part cinema, part computer arcade game.

blackBOX has been devised for gallery installation. The digital story first emerges from the textile surface of heroine Nina’s (a Russian/Greek girl) red velvet dress, adorned with roses, through a bed of oriental cushions, where she writhes in her chrysalis. Sanskrit, Greek and Russian text are projected across her body. Images of the girl move into representations of a modern urban metropolis. The player/participant is invited to explore this interactive metropolis, as filtered through the digital experiences and sensations of the girl, and to discover three metaphorical ‘Chinese Boxes’, which contain three symbolic performances.

The key interface design metaphor at this stage is a Chinese ornamental window, and interaction with this interface frames the central narrative. Inside this framework, the girl discovers performances from three ‘imagined’ Australian diasporic communities; Rembetika (the Greek blues); classical Indian dance and music (Odissi and Kuchipudi traditions); and fragments of Australian jazz performed by musicians with Russian origins.

Interface design metaphor

The interface design metaphor for blackBOX is an electronic stage/screen surface where performances appear as if conjured from the imagination, or a dream. The participant/player moves around the digital surface of the stage, exploring through opening boxes, musical and dramatic performances, interviews with the musicians and dancers, documentary fragments of performances, statements by artists, text documents, newsprint articles, archival radio fragments, televisual and other related material. The action/performances appear within the immersive environment of a series of Byzantine (Greek), Sanskrit (Indian) and 1930s’ Russian jazz in Chinese diaspora.

Chinese-inspired screen frames combine electronic text and images in various assemblages trigger embedded material, a visual/audio hypertext (Hockey, 2001). Traditional modes of storytelling and music are challenged in this interface design, as the player/participant is provoked to engage with the music and performances.

As the player interacts with the screen, they consider the ways in which (traditional) musical and dance forms mix in various ‘compositions’ to create a hybrid of different cultural forms. This ‘game’ also acts as a digital archive and documentation of the metamorphosis of traditional cultural and musical forms, through the creative potentials opened up for cultural producers in the digitally manipulated performance, sound, image and text environment of interactive media.

These ‘compositions’ provide perspectives on the emergence of a uniquely Australian contemporary sound/culture that is an amalgamation and integration of three diasporic genres of music achieved through the creation of ‘electronic writing’, the assembling of an ensemble of fragments into image/ sound/text ‘compositions’.

Through the looking glass

The heroine, Nina, is the character with which the player identifies and observes through the unfolding of the digital media text. Screen events unfold through her eyes, revealing her projected/imaginary dreams and creating a narrative. The areas of interactive program content are mediated through Nina’s voice (Lou-Lou Sy), the voice of an Indian woman (Devleena Ghosh), fragments of a Chinese woman singing (Zhou Xuan recorded in the 1930s) and fragments of a Greek musician talking/singing (John Conomos and Rebetiki Ensemble).

These voices are integrated with archival documents, voice-over material and sound atmospheres, which gives the stories a space for reflection. Visual and sonic devices form signatures marking out the areas of program content. These sonic devices denote both the present (time) and the recollection of previous events. Areas of program content map the music/dance archive: a set of pathways; chineseBOX, which plays a form of jazz music that migrated to Australia with Russian refugees from China; jewelBOX, the dance music culture that has more recently emerged from Indian communities in Australia, people who migrated from Indian diasporas in Fiji, Singapore and Malaysia as well as from the Indian sub-continent; pandora’s BOX, Greek economic migrants/refugees, playing Rembetika, a politically engaged ‘blues’; and two conclusions, an electronic poetic reverie and a visual/audio collage of the various music/dance genres that speak of mixed origins.

Once the player/participant has entered an interactive ‘composition’, the program content is divulged through a series of virtual artefacts. These artefacts become icons that trigger  areas of the program content, and through the exploration of these configurations, ideas about the music/dance forms are revealed. Inside the jewelBOX story pathway, the narrative is revealed through interaction with the virtual dance jewels, which become icons representing the different levels of the narrative. Interaction with these dance jewels triggers performative spaces, revealing a number of classical Indian dances and artefacts, embedded into stylised electronic stages…. Read chapter http://bit.ly/RootsReloaded

Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown

Artist: Tatiana Pentes

Plasma display 1920 x 1080 pixels at 1080 dpi
Digital print 1920 x 1080 in a vintage gold bamboo frame

Highly Commended Award Burwood Art Prize 2022
View online 2022 Burwood Art Prize Catalogue
Watch ceremony https://youtu.be/qRXINGtz9gI

Exhibition

Friday 25 – 30 March 2022, Burwood Library and Community Hub (Level 1)
2 Conder St Burwood, Sydney, Australia.

Artwork


Artist Statement


“Self-portrait with A Lady From Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown” is a digital homage to my émigré (refugee) grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna from Shanghai  1930s. A contemporary self-portrait (Tatiana) collaged with a vintage portrait of Xenia by Josepho Schick in La Concession Française de Changhai juxtaposed with a classic Shanghai Calendar Girl poster pinup. Xenia’s ghostly image haunts the trompe-l’œil wall in Burwood Chinatown, outside an imaginary Paramount ballroom 上海百樂門 Shanghai, and oriental lanterns that light up the modern alleyways, serving traditional Chinese Street Food. An old Shanghai Seagull camera floating over the electric neon reflections illuminates rain.”

Coquette: Shànghǎi 上海 : Grandmother

a vintage portrait of Xenia by photographer Josepho Schick and a classic Shanghai Calendar Girl poster pinup

TATIANA PENTES


Further reading
Coquette: Shànghǎi 上海 : Grandmother
https://strangeblackbox.net/coquette-shanghai-grandmother


Burwood Art Prize 2022 Judges:

Danella Bennett
Manager Strategic Projects, Public Art
Create NSW, Department of Premier and Cabinet

Amrit Gill
Artistic Director/CEO
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Louise Zhang
Artist – a Chinese-Australian multidisciplinary artist


Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022
Xenia Vladimirovna Shanghai French Concession 1936
Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022
Digital print special thanks The Print Lab National Art School (NAS)

an imaginary Paramount ballroom 上海百樂門 

TATIANA PENTES
Artist Tatiana Pentes digital painting Self-portrait with A Lady From 上海 Shanghai in Burwood Chinatown won Highly Commended Burwood Art Council Prize 2022

“A digital homage to my Russe émigré grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna from Shanghai 上海 1930s.”

Tatiana Pentes

Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel (Film)

Contact Us

PO Box 78
Glebe, Sydney, NSW, 2037, AUSTRALIA

Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel: cabaret neon

Image from SCENES FROM A SHANGHAI HOTEL
An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary. Production Company: Strange Cities Productions
Director/Producer: Geoffrey Weary
Produced in association with Screen Australia (AFC)
Cast: Tatiana Pentes, Rose Tang

SCENES FROM A SHANGHAI HOTEL
An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary

TIME WAS…….
Geoffrey Weary 


SCA Galleries
Sydney College of the Arts
University of Sydney, AUSTRALIA


PORTRAITS 

Production Company: Strange Cities Productions
Director/Producer: Geoffrey Weary
Produced in association with Screen Australia (AFC)

Cast: Tatiana Pentes, Leakhena Sy, Rose Tang

PORTRAITS is an experimental digital work that explores three contrasting experiences of war and conflict in the middle and late 20th century. A woman living in Shanghai is expelled from China after the Communist Revolution in 1949. The ghosts of the Cold War appear and disappear in the crumbling ruins of the Berlin Wall in 1990. A young woman suffers a crisis of identity around the circumstances of her birth at the end of the war in Cambodia in 1978


SCENES FROM A SHANGHAI HOTEL

An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary

A Russian woman living in Shanghai is expelled from China after the Communist Revolution in 1949. Her story begins in a hotel room in Shanghai and ends on a suburban street in Sydney, Australia. Performative, fictional, and documentary elements are blended into a work that is suggestive and open to multiple readings. Extensive use of film leader and scratchy film surfaces add to the sense that what we are seeing resembles something that is illusive, dream-like, just beyond grasp…..or is it just a newsreel playing in someone’s head? Cast: Rose Tang and Tatiana Pentes


CAPTIVE

An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary

CAPTIVE explores the themes of repression, confinement and escape. These themes are expressed through the incorporation of grainy VHS footage shot in Berlin at the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, hand-held camera sequences shot in a maze-like forest and slices of footage composited out of archival Cold War films. As the real historical Wall crumbles under the blows of street hawkers and souvenir hunters, ghostly specters from the past appear then dissolve back into the scratchy surface of a long forgotten newsreel.

Captive by Geoffrey Weary from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.


My Mother Told Me

An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary

A young woman tells the story of her family’s destruction during the war in Cambodia, 1975-1978. Later as a refugee living with her mother in Sydney, Australia she suffers an identity crisis that is linked to the unexplained circumstances of her birth and the mystery of the father that she has never known. Cast: Leakhena Sy

My Mother Told Me by Geoffrey Weary from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.
My Mother Told Me

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online Australian Screen http://aso.gov.au/titles/shorts/my-mother-told-me/

A Song of Ceylon – dir. Laleen Jayamanne

A Song of Ceylon, Sydney Film Festival #SydFilmFest Feminism & Film Sun 18 June 2017 @ 10.30am AGNSW http://bit.ly/SongOfCeylon_SFF Jayamanne, Laleen. (Director), Weary, Geoffrey (Film editor), Parr, Adrienne. (Producer), Finnane, Gabrielle. (Photographer), Australian Film Commission. Creative Development Branch – The narcissistic, masochistic, hysterical body in exquisite tableaux. A formally rigorous, visually lush study of gender and possession, referencing a classic British film. Australia | 1985 | 51 mins | In English and Sinhala with English subtitles.

“A formally rigorous, visually stunning study of colonialism, gender and the body. The title echoes the classic British documentary and evokes a country erased from the world map. The soundtrack enacts a Sri Lankan anthropological text observing a woman’s ritual exorcism. Visually, the film brings together theatrical conventions and recreations of classic film stills, presenting the body in striking tableaux. This remarkable film is a provocative treatise on hybridity, hysteria and performance.” WMM Women Make Movies

JuanDavila

Film still: Juan Davila

SongOfCeylonFilmPoster

Fim Poster: A Song of Ceylon

“The anthropological text is performed both like a musical score and a theatrical ritual….The film engages the viewer in the cinematic body as spectacle…”
Trinh T. Minh-ha

Interview with director Layleen Jayamanne in Senses of Cinema

Hysteria and the hybrid body in Laleen Jayamanne’s a song of Ceylon
Priyadarshini Vigneswaran, online: 18 May 2009

C. Berry, A. Nicholson & L. Jayamanne, The Filmmaker and the Prostitute: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok, Power Publications, Sydney, 1997

Barrett Hodsdon, Straight Roads And Crossed Line; The Quest For Film Culture In Australia, A Bernt Porridge Group Book: Western Australia, 2001C. Berry, A. Nicholson &

L. Jayamanne, The Filmmaker and the Prostitute: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok, Power Publications, Sydney, 1997

Barrett Hodsdon, Straight Roads And Crossed Line; The Quest For Film Culture In Australia, A Bernt Porridge Group Book: Western Australia, 2001

Geoffrey Weary’s video art: ‘Failure To Materialise’ featured in book

Image: Failure To Materialise by Geoffrey Weary, Video: Art From the Archive, Monash University
Image: Failure To Materialise by Geoffrey Weary, Video: Art From the Archive, Monash University

Geoffrey Weary’s video and films: Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel, Failure to Materialise, and MUSEUM, collected by AVAA Australian Video Art Archive whose aims are to continue building an on-line video archive and a research collection of new and historical Australian video and performance art works http://www.videoartchive.org.au/gweary/shangai.html.

Geoffrey Weary’s video art was curated 27 September – 8 October 2010 in an exhibition VIDEO: Art From The Archive, Faculty Gallery, Monash University, Victoria, AUSTRALIA. The exhibition catalogue was published with a curatorial essay in MADA (Monash University Art Design & Architecture) an online portal of Monash publications.

View online Video: Art from the Archive (2010): Monash Essay by Leonie Cooper, Elena Galimberti, Matthew Perkins; list of works in Gallery; 7 pp. 3 illus. ISBN: 978-921179-79-2

Image: Failure To Materialise by Geoffrey Weary, Video: Art From the Archive, Monash University
Image: Failure To Materialise by Geoffrey Weary, Video: Art From the Archive, Monash University

 

WORSHIP: SCULPTURE: DANCE

Tatiana Pentes, WORSHIP SCULPTURE DANCE, Master of Art (Media Arts), CoFa, UNSW, 1995 [download paper]

Figure 1 Digital montage from A Few Small Snaps digital film artwork by Tatiana Pentes

Tatiana_AFewSmallSnaps

ABSTRACT
This study documents the production of a set of digital film artworks installed in the College of Fine Arts gallery as the culmination of the Master of Art (Film, Video, Sound, and Computing), Media Arts. The digital film artworks are comprised of : (i) Worship Sculpture Dance: Odissi : Movements in Stone, the imaging an ancient devotional classical Indian dance form Odissi, from the state of Orissa, India; (ii) Zang Tumb Tumb 1, inspired by the Futurist sound poetry of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and the Luigi Russolo and The Art of Noise; (iii) A Few Small Snaps, the digital animation of a series of autobiographical self-portraits stimulated by a study of the Mexican self-portrait painting of Frida Kahlo; and  (iv) Strange Cities2 an interactive CD-Rom new media script. Strange Cities script (writing) has been included to the Worship Sculpture Dance study as blueprint for potential future research and development. The aim of this creative research has been to focus on new technology as a contribution to a questioning of traditional (analogue) modes of art production.

The approach has been to explore & image traditional classical Indian forms of representation (dance, choreography, & music) and to re-interpret and translate these ancient  forms  as a new form of engagement.  At the same time, the objective of this creative research has been interrogate transforming notions of the filmic, televisual, radio(audio)phonic, sonic  and the (digital) computer medium, and to investigate questions of authorship and to challenge the uniqueness of the art object. This creative work is the outcome of conceptual and art historical research, focusing on the potential of an articulation of the philosophical, historical, cultural, formal and spiritual in a digital (computer) landscape.

Technological and Conceptual Framework
These digital films that have been produced and installed in the gallery context: (i) Odissi : Movements in Stone; (ii) Zang Tumb Tumb; and (iii) A Few Small Snaps, for the Worship Sculpture Dance forming a major creative artwork exhibition.

The objective of this creative research has been to question traditional (analogue) modes of art production, and the approach has been to explore & image avant garde European sound poetry, self-portraiture and traditional classical Indian sanskrit forms (dance, choreography, and music culture) and to re-interpret and translate these (analogue) forms (using a new stylus, pen & glue-stick) and to produce a critical engagement with these representations of Other. Simultaneously, the objective has been to interrogate transforming notions of the filmic, televisual, videographic radio(audio)phonic, sonic and moving image (animation) in the (digital) computer environment; to investigate notions of ‘self’ in a cross-cultural environment; to question the Western concept of authorship and to challenge the uniqueness of the art object.

These digital film artworks have been generated in the new multi-media environment of the computer. The installation of these digital films in the gallery context has provided the context for social interaction and engagment with the artworks in the form of an exhibition. The artworks have been produced using Macintosh computer software and hardware, and the following
software digital imaging and editing programs.

Worship: Sculpture: Dance: a digital film by Tatiana Pentes: special thanks Geoffrey Weary
Worship: Sculpture: Dance: a digital film by Tatiana Pentes: special thanks Geoffrey Weary

Image 2. Digital film still Chitritta Mukerjee, Odissi Dance Company performs Konarak Kanthi at The Performance Space, Sydney 1993, by Tatiana Pentes

 

Geoff Weary’s film ‘An Eye for An I’, The Third Wave: Two Decades of the Hill End Artists Exhibition 1 Aug – 28 Sept 2014 Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Hill_End_BRAG2014‘An Eye for An I’, film on video 3mins
Writer/Director/Producer: Geoffrey Weary
Model: Tatiana Pentes

The Third Wave: Two Decades of the Hill End Artists in Residence Exhibition 1 Aug – 28 Sept 2014 Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

1 AUGUST – 28 SEPTEMBER 2014
http://www.bathurstart.com.au/images/stories/2014/slot_4/3rd_wave_Room_Sheet.pdf

“…landscape architect and film-maker, Gavin Wilson, was researching the artistic heritage of Hill End and the region for his 1995 exhibition The Artists of Hill End: Art, Life and Landscape for the Art Gallery of NSW. Aware of Bellette’s bequest, and withthe support of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Evans Shire Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wilson invited a third wave of artists to respond to Hill End. Contemporary artists including Richard Goodwin, Anton James, Tom Spence, Wendy Sharpe, Peter Wright, Geoff Weary, Peter Kingston, Mandy Barrett, Emma Walker and James Rogers participated in a series of pilot residencies at Haefligers Cottage in 1994 and 1995. Works from these residencies were exhibited alongside historic works in The Artists of Hill End exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

“The historic Haefliger Cottage at Hill End and the spectacular surrounding scenery are prividing an ideal location for artist in residency, Geoffrey Weary, who is finding it a welcome respite from Sydney. Mr Weary, who describes himself as a video artists also working with more ‘traditional’ mediums, is the latest participant….Hill End artist in resident, Geoffrey Weary and Tatiana Pentes who are, living and working with the spirit of Paul Haefliger and Jean Bellette in the famous Haefligger Cottage…The house has all their things still intact, the cottage is pretty much as they left it…” in  Inspiration For Visiting Artist: Hill End Artist Residency: Geoffrey Weary: Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Advocate, 24 January 1995.

HillEndResidency002Photograph: Geoffrey Weary & Tatiana Pentes

The foundations of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program were laid. In 1999, under the auspices of Bathurst City Council and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, the Program was officially launched. In 2002 Murrays Cottage was refurbished with the assistance of the NSW Ministry for the Arts and added as a new studio residence alongside Haefligers Cottage in 2003.Since 1994, a total of 283 residencies have been awarded to artists from a diverse range of disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles, new media, writing, animation, film, sound and performance. Over 150 works by 70 of the artists participating in the Program have entered the collection through donation and purchase. The selection presented here represents just a small portion of the work produced in response to the landscape, history and heritage of Hill End.”

http://www.bathurstart.com.au/exhibitions/current/39-exhibitions/current/352-3rd-wave.html

“Celebrating 20 years of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program,works in this exhibition are drawn entirely from BRAG’s permanent collection. Featured artists include Jean Bellette, Ray Crooke, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Ben Quilty, David Strachan, Rosemary Valadon, Greg Weight and Nicole Welch. A Bathurst Regional Art Gallery exhibition.”

345The studio at the historic Haefliger Cottage

SHANGHAI: Eastern Hollwood ?

SHANGHAI: Eastern Hollywood ?
Digital Research

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 11.50.51 AM
ChineseBOX
Serge Ermoll & His Music Masters, the Majestic Hotel
prior to its demolition Shanghai, CHINA, c. 1930 (image above)

This work is the transformation of a chapter my doctor of creative arts, UTS, BLACK BOX http:www.strangecities.net for peer review in a forthcoming eJournal interactive paper – the ensemble of image, sound, and textual research emerges from the ChineseBOX passage in BLACK BOX, exploring my hybrid cultural origins through discovery of the Russian jazz music culture from pre-revolutionary Shanghai and the Japanese occupation in China.

A re-examination of the documents left to me by my grandfather Sergei reveals a rich insight into the cultural milieu of the Russians in Shanghai, in particular the jazz world. Sergei wrote down every significant act that performed in the nightclubs, cabarets, and ballrooms of quasi-colonial Shanghai before his death.

ca03d-xeniacig02
This is a portrait of my grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna Ermolaeff. Xenia was a Russian emigre in Shanghai (a singer and dancer). The portrait was taken by her husband my grandfather a Russian jazz orchestra leader Sergei (Serge) Ermolaeff circ. 1940. Serge Ermoll & His Music Masters were managed by Vaudeville Entertainments, Shanghai and enjoyed residencies at establishments in Shanghai such as The Cathay Hotel, The Paramount, Ladlows Casanova, Wagon Lits, Astor House, and the Red Rouge. He played with Whitey Smith.

In 1996-97 I had support to develop a digital media work, with funding from the Australian Film Commission (AFC), and travelled to Shanghai & Tokyo to conduct research and write a script. In search of Xenia’s Shanghai we walked the city, writing and shooting photographs/film with Geoffrey Weary. We stayed in the Cathay Hotel, Room 314, I was searching for traces of the old decadent jazz culture. We photographed the interior of the hotel, ceilings and architectural nuances. I walked on the sound stage, Level 7, where Serge had played, and many photographs were taken, the golden dragons & pheonix design haunting the interiors. Looking out of the exquisitely ornamented window panes onto the Bund and across to the Pudong district and the oriental Pearl Tower, I imagined James Ballard’s bloody descriptions of the Battle of Shanghai or Battle of Songhu the Japanese war ships in the harbour. A decade later these audiovisual fragments were shaped into a film SCENES FROM A SHANGHAI HOTEL (2007). The interactive work would ultimately be STRANGE CITIES, [Reviewed Asiaweek [http://www-cgi.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/magazine/99/0910/shanghai.html] based on the tune composed by Alexander Vertinsky, Ira Bloch and my grandfather Serge Ermoll. Independent radio broadcaster Eurydice Aroney produced the work and Roi Huberman created the interactive sound design. This song and the lyrics, which spoke of the longing for motherland St Petersberg (Russia), encapsulated my search for origins. Later, another film score composed by the Vertinsky/Ermoll would be the signature tune in the Merchant Ivory Hollywood classic The White Countess (2005). The strange music Serge played, a mix of Russian cabaret, Chinese pop, and American jazz, I would later understand to be the treasured hybrid genre of trans-pacific contemporary music, the renaissance of which is making many a million! (1)

In my grandmother Xenia and the portraits she would show me, I saw a cosmopolitan Eastern woman of urban sophistication, paradoxically at odds with the Australian life we were surrounded by in the Sydney suburbs. Her black coiffured hair and gold jewellery provided endless fascination, she looked so different from the ladies at the local RSL. I wanted to be like her.

“The favoured past of shanghai is that of the ‘modern girl’ in a qipao, the feminine city of exquisite Russian refugees, decadent European expatriates, Chinese gangsters and marlene dietrich in Shanghai Express (dir. Joseph von Sternberg, 1932). These are clichéd character sketches of the city, but they resonate powerfully with the international imagination. Dietrich, in the person of Shanghai Lil, continues to produce affect in cinema-goers worldwide as a persona for shanghai…. if cinema has done nothing else for shanghai, it has convinced the world and the city itself that they are, simply and utterly, superior to any others. Shanghai woman is the epitome of modern China, and the image of 1930s is the enduring foundation of the magnetism of shanghai’s identity. ” (2)

(1) Donald, Stephanie and Gammack, John G. Tourism and the Branded City: Film and Identity on the Pacific Rim, London: Ashgate, 2007. http://www.iis.uts.edu.au/research/Shanghai_Ch6_Extract.pdf

(2) Whitey Smith and .L. McDermott, I Didn’t Make a Million, Manila, 1956.

Image source. Photograph of Xenia Vladimirovna Ermolaeff n a Shanghai hotel by Serge Ermoll (Ermoll’s photos) circa 1940 (Shanghai).

“Shanghai Nostalgia” as a Cultural Industry by Pan Tianshu

Shanghai Nostalgia: Historical Memory, Community-Building, and Place-making in a late Socialist City

Pan, Tianshu. “Historical Memory, Community-Building and Place-Making in
Neighborhood Shanghai.” in Restructuring the Chinese City: Changing Society, Economy, and Space, ed. Laurence J. C. Ma and Fulong Wu, 122–37. London: Routledge 2005.

“For the first time in post-Mao Shanghai, the local people found their colonial past was no longer baggage to carry but a rich resource to be fully utilized. “Shanghai nostalgia” thus “became entangled with a (dys)utopian fervor to embrace global capital and its ideology, the appearances and normalcy of the Shanghai modern entered intellectual and commercial circulation at the standard version of historical memory” (Zhang 2000: 354). Shanghai quickly became a “re-colonized” site for various kinds of joint ventures in film production. Old buildings in the Municipal Concession and small villas in the west end were renovated in order to attract more Spielbergs and boost the tourist industry. Those sinified cafes and European restaurants that somehow managed to survive communism changed their names back to their original western names. The famous Red Mansion Coffee House, for example, was once again Chez Louis. So did the theaters, movie houses, department stores, and dance halls. The Old Man Jazz Band, who had a brief appearance in Spielberg’s movie, started to perform all year around in the Peace Hotel (Sasson House, previously owned by a famous Jewish billionaire). Colonial Shanghai rekindled collective memory and in the process of remembering, itself was re-invented. With its success in the colonial past in setting trends, finding opportunities, and witnessing miracles, Shanghai provided a somewhat “infectiously decadent, but alluring background and setting” (Dai 1997: 158) especially for those working in the film industry.”

Zhang, Xudong. 2000. “Shanghai Nostalgia: Postrevolutionary Allegories in Wang
Anyi’s Literary Production in the 1990s”, in Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, pp. 348-387. Duke University Press.

Asja Mercoolova::Russian Ballerina Shanghai

db9a0-asjagirl
This is a portrait of Asja Mercoolova as a girl, my grandmother Xenia’s goddaughter. Xenia wanted me to be a dancer like Asja. She wanted me to be on the stage. She would ask me to sing and perform songs for her in the old fashioned lounge-room with the radio on in the background. They sent me to dance classes – modern, jazz, tap and later I studies Flamenco. I still wear Flamenco shoes every day to work (!) I grew up listening to my grandfather Sergei’s jazz. He would practise in his music room on the trumpet, at the piano and at his vibes. One day in the future I would be packing away his musical scores, piled high on top of his piano, and he would be gone and buried. River Lights club in Sans Souci is a vivid memory, staying up too late, and watching him play. He wore exquisite tailored suits and painted on his eye-brows, cabaret style. The music was a melange of Russian folk ballads, American jazz, and Chinese pop. The compositions were for a famous crooner he remembered, Alexander Vertinsky, writer of the legendary tune “Immortal Road”, that world sings today as “Those Were The Days My Friend!”.

Xenia Ermolaeff::Shanghai

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Before my grandmother (Xenia Ermolaeff) died, she gave me a set of hand painted studio portraits she had produced while living in Shanghai (1923-1951). Wrapped in tissue, when she was feeling sentimental, she would produce these from the musty old wardrobe that was filled with beautiful dresses and shoes. When she went out to the club for lunch, I would try these on and pretend I was her, standing in front of the large oval mirror. In the noirish light through the blinds in her bedroom, wearing her oversized patent-leather shoes, I painted on her lipstick. These portraits conjure the decadent life of a a beautiful young Russian woman living in Shanghai at its zenith. The mystery in those eyes reveals suffering a life of extremes. In Sydney, in the Holden, we would sit waiting for Serge, as she sipped sherry from a silver hip flask, telling me about her feelings. As a young girl in Russia, she was the daughter of a wealthy Tsarist naval officer, but was reduced to stateless person seeking refuge in Harbin, Manchuria after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (1917). Later she married my grandfather Sergei, a wealthy Russian big band leader in Shanghai (husband No#2). The Shanghai sojourn was a wild ride, until she was made refugee once more with the Chinese Revolution. Her life ended in the Sydney suburbs with a three acre block and hills hoist – and a moonshine plum orchard. I was a great joy in her later life – the daughter she longed for. When she pointed to photographs of her god- daughter Asja the ballerina, she told me that she had married a Broadway musical director, and would I be a dancer like her?

Vertinsky::Serge Ermoll & His Orchestra::Shanghai

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SHANGHAI NOSTALGIA:: Motorola’s MOTO

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Film star & songstress Li Xianglan a hybrid matrix of Japanese and Chinese modern girl.
Born Yamaguchi Yoshiko to Japanese parents in Manchuria,
Remembered for 1940s film Shanghai Nights, the tune The Evening Primrose
Image source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Xianglan
MECCA cosmetics corporation
has recently launched its “Shanghai Lil” make-up range, a homage to the high fashion
(haute couture) & make-up used in Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932)
Image source http://www.meccacosmetica.com.au/

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Hui Fei (Anna May Wong) and Marlene Dietrich (Shanghai Lily) in

Jospeh Von Sternberg’s SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932)
Image source http://www.imdb.com/media/rm711432192/tt0023458
Image source MOTO Nostalgia campaign 2004
http://www.danwei.org/advertising_and_marketing/motorola_shanghai_nostalgia.php
The Parisian wave (coiffure) and the fur coat over the shoulder evoke the Shanghai gesture, a powerful imaging (and re-imagining) of the Shanghai advertising lady, her urban face charmed the packaging of a plethora of mass products from face powders to cigarettes. She is the face of Motorola’s 2004 mobile phone campaign. Reminiscent of a 1930s Shanghai calendar girl, an evocation of the legendary film star Ruan Lingyu (阮玲玉), or perhaps Hollywood’s The Lady From Shanghai (dir. Orson Welles), or Anna May Wong in Josef Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932) http://www.theauteurs.com/films/432, or Street Angel (馬路天使) (1937) http://www.archive.org/details/street_angel starring Shanghai songstress Zhou Xuan (the “golden voice”) and pre-revolutionary film star. Perhaps Motorola’s Shanghai lady resembles the famous Li Xianglan (李香蘭) a hybrid matrix of Japanese and Chinese modern (modeng) girl (!) She was born Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) to Japanese parents in Manchuria, and became a famous Chinese and Japanese film star. She is remembered for 1940s film Shanghai Nights (上海の夜), made by Manchuria Film Productions and singer of the immortal tune The Evening Primrose (夜來香). Nostalgia for decadent old Shanghai and its hybrid brand of quasi-colonial East meets West is articulated in the the plethora of contemporary Hollywood , Hong Kong and Chinese films devoted to the Shanghai Gesture. Academy Award winning director Ang Lee’s latest offering Lust Caution (2007), a case in point, Merchant Ivory’s The White Countess (2005) http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/whitecountess/, to touch the tip of the iceberg. On this note, the multi-national MECCA cosmetics corporation http://www.meccacosmetica.com.au/ has recently launched its “Shanghai Lil” make-up range, a homage to the high fashion (haute couture) and make-up used in Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express.

According to DANWEI: Chinese media, advertising and urban life blog http://www.danwei.org/advertising_and_marketing/motorola_shanghai_nostalgia.php [Accessed 28 March 2008]

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“This is a new Motorola advertisement appearing on billboards and in glossy magazines. The copy means ‘MOTO nostalgia’ or ‘MOTO era’, highlighting the Shanghai 1930s feel of the image.” [Posted by Contributor, July 2, 2004 1:09 PM]

The evocation of the Shanghai lady in this MOTO campaign contains echoes of a contemporary Ballardian neo-landscape, the Bladerunner megalopolis that is Shanghai. This kitsch, pastiched, noirish sophistication is a parody without the humour and articulates Jameson’s postmodern and consummerist project of futuristic nostalgia (Jameson, 1985, p116).

Frederic Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumerist Society”, in (Ed) Hal Foster, Postmodern Culture, Pluto Press, Great Britain, 1985.

I recently stumbled upon this article in a blog – a confirmation of the currency and commodification of the old Shanghai lady as an aesthetic still capable of marketing a dream about a city that has entered into the postmodern vernacular in “Selling Cosmetics by vending machine ?”, Hong Kong Hustle: Hong Kong nightlife, streetculture, and cool http://www.hongkonghustle.com/shopping/389/cosmetics-vending-machine/#more-389
Selling cosmetics by vending machine?

April 19th, 2008

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“In Japan you can find all sorts of things for sale in vending machines. Since I’ve lived in Hong Kong however, I’ve never seen an explosion of this sort of retailing in the city. So it came as a surprise to encounter a lonely looking vending machine while walking through Silvercord shopping center last week.

“The vending machine had a traditional 1920’s era graphic of two girls covering the outside.

“The image looked like a cigarette ad from old Shanghai, the type that tourists purchase on “antique” posters featuring beauties from the time period. On closer inspection, the image actually represented the logo of a brand of cosmetics, Two Girls.

“This sort of vintage look doesn’t really match a vending machine. Vending machines typically denote a sort of modern, mechanized and impersonal shopping experience. You don’t normally associate this type of experience with female shoppers. Further, a product like cosmetics would usually require the purchaser to read the labels and check the ingredients, which isn’t possible from inside a machine. Typical products that are sold in this way are ultra well known products. Perhaps the cosmetics are well known, however if I were a shopper unfamiliar with the brand, not being able to read the label and study the product would be a major impediment to sale.

“The location of the machine was also somewhat off. It was buried near the side of an escalator in an alternative entrance to the shopping center.

“Yet another factor to consider, does the product match the target consumer of the youth-oriented Silvercord mall?

“So in essence, the product, the brand image, the target consumer, the location of the machine and the technology all need to be considered when selling a product by vending machine. In this case, the factors appear to be a bad match.”
http://www.hongkonghustle.com/shopping/389/cosmetics-vending-machine/#more-389

LAUNCHED: HOME iPad artwork by Geoffrey Weary

Still from HOME iPad artwork by Geoffrey Weary
Still from HOME iPad artwork by Geoffrey Weary

HOME iPad interactive artwork Written, Produced & Directed by Geoffrey Weary ©2013, Interface Design & Development: icemedia, Sound Design & Music: Michael Bates with thanks to Mark Gardiner, Online & Social Media: Tatiana Pentes

Download APP from iTunes. Like us on Facebook!

Description
Explore the world of HOME through the eyes of Frank, Jason and FAE. Frank’s memories overwhelm him as the shop he has lived and worked in for the past 50 years crumbles around him. Jason lives with his grandfather, He photographs Frank, and what is left of the shop. Meanwhile he dreams of escape. To where he isn’t sure. Fae often comes to visit her uncle Frank. They share an obsession with the city, street maps and the places that Fae loves to wander through.Frank remembers June, Vera and Fae’s mother Clare.

Explore HOME iPad artwork website.

CAST
Frank:: Jim Palmer
Jason:: Eric Warburton
Fae:: Patricia Werleman
Japanese Performer:: Kazuo

PRODUCTION
Photography, Cinematography & Timeline Montage:: Geoffrey Weary
Interface Design and Development:: icemedia
Sound Design & Music:: Michael Bates with thanks to Mark Gardiner
Online and Social Media:: Tatiana Pentes

Written, Produced and Directed by Geoffrey Weary©2013

Still from HOME iPad artwork by Geoffrey Weary c.2013
Still from HOME iPad artwork by Geoffrey Weary c.2013

INTERACTION
HOME is navigated across the Frank, Jason and Fae timelines with a touch to screen movement from right to left. Backward movement is optional at any time.

A double touch on any frame will bring the timeline selected to full screen. Touch again will return to three timeline screen display.

When navigating HOME we recommend the use of iPad headphones.

HOME was produced as part of a University of Sydney ICT initiative Faculty-specific Research & Education Program (2012). The program helped sponsor this proof of concept. Extensive consulting & procurement services were provided by the team as a part of this initiative.

ABSENCE PRESENCE : The Body Navigation, Dance/Video/Performance/Music, 14-18 of July, 2007, St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

Lara O'Reilly's Absence/Presence Installation
Lara O’Reilly’s Absence/Presence Installation

ABSENCE PRESENCE : The Body Navigation, Dance/Video/Performance/Music, 14-18 of July, 2007, St. Petersburg, RUSSIA by Lara O’Reilly (website)

Text by Tatiana Pentes

http://www.russia.embassy.gov.au/mscw/LaraReilly.html
Lara O’Reilly, an Australian installation artist, residing at National Centre of Contemporary Art in June, 2007 and her works installed at Body Navigation III International Festival of Contemporary Arts on 14 – 18 July, 2007.

Lara O’Reilly

A film & performance installation in the Chapel of the Naval Hospital, Kronstadt, forming part of III International festival of contemporary arts, The BODY NAVIGATION, DANCE/VIDEO/PERFORMANCE/MUSIC, 14-18 of July, 2007, St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

http://www.bodynavigation.ru/en/about/

“Anyone who wants can look at my films as into a mirror, in which he will see himself.” Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time, p. 184.

“The installation was intended to be a highly experiential encounter with the space and with oneself. For the viewer to experience their own sense of the space and find themselves in a world between worlds…blurred between interior and exterior realms of built and natural spaces and the interior and exterior states of mind that the performance and the soundscape allude to….” Lara O’Reilly artist

In the contemporary convergent global media environment of digital networked technology, and pastische, empty parody (mimicry), O’Reilly’s ABSENCE PRESENCE returns us to the traditional notion of “multi-media”, suggestive of the shadows reflected on the walls of Plato’s allegorical Cave. The spectacular installation of ABSENCE PRESENCE, is staged on three levels and Chapel of the Naval Hospital, Kronstadt, Kotlin Island, Russia, 48km east of St Petersberg. The naval hospital was built 1717, and is the site of the earliest medical establishment in Russia. The Russian staging follows an Australian site-specific manifestation of the performance on the abandoned industrial Cockatoo Island, Sydney Cove.

O’Reilly creates for us a highly experiential and dramatic encounter, with her spatial, temporal and theatrical exploration of the rupture/suture paradox between marine and terrestrial, past and present, the outside and inside, the remote and the intimate, of seduction and abandonment, experience and the underworld. ABSENCE PRESENCE is infused with the resonance and mystery of what we feel but cannot see. In Lara’s words:

….[I felt] Kronstadt should have a very slowed choreographed movement piece. There was something about the spaces of the Chapel, the ascending movement through the spaces –I imagined that while the viewer ascended through the space, that they passed through these empty spaces as a slowed dance, a rhymic and sensual play between their own existence in the space and the lived memory of the place, a Chapel that functioned as a final farewell for the recently departed…”

The Kronstadt work integrates realtime and the simulated (cinematic) representations of the performances/movement of the bodies of five young contemporary Russian female dancers, professionally trained in classical western ballet and Japanese Butoh dance. The filmic (technological) cinematic sequences of the woman are juxtaposed with the live performance of female forms (reminiscent of netted mermaids) suspended in cocoons from the rafters, and released to move, dance and wander. The chrysalised women are “veiled and lit in a sensuous light, conjuring emotions of sadness, loss, loneliness and reverie and yet a gentle sense of security of our own stilled existence within the incredible space where we find ourselves..on an island….” The installation successfully plays with our notion of place, identity, communication, sexuality, the personal and the political, specifically with the cinematic and radiophonic allusions. The haunting tones of a live music (a cello sound piece) conjure the ghosts of the past, the dispossessed, and those who have passed from this life to the next, in these spaces, the site of the Kronstadt Revolution in the Finnish Gulf. Ironically, the waters off Kotlin Island are also the location of a modern tragic ship collision and indeed the invention of radio-location after Alexander Popov, the lauded Russian scientist (reported to have invented radio).

The filmic sequences are primarily performed by O’Reilly’s Russian model /dancer/muse Olya, in the locations of Konstantin Fort; the 300 year old Kronstadt Cemetery; and Summer Gardens. These cinematic performances are overlayed with film sequences of the ascending movement through the interior space of the Chapel and military hospital (closed in 2005), conjuring the bodies (victims) of the revolutions that passed through.

ABSENCE PRESENCE installation Kronstadt Island RUSSIA

My first collision with a previous staging of the ABSENCE PRESENCE multi-media installation in a deteriorating industrial complex, located on the isolated Cockatoo Island in Sydney Cove, Australia (the indigenous Australian Aboriginal name for this island is Wa-rea-mah). I was touched by her ability to deeply engage those visiting the location. The piece resonates with the dis-location of Indigenous people during the colonial period, when their island home was transformed into a convict prison for those transported across the seas from Britain. Later this place was a colonial & industrial shipping dock.

Therein lyes the connective thread – through the ghosts of the displaced – between the Cockatoo Island (Australia) and Naval Hospital Kronstadt (Russia) re-enactments. My engagement with both O’Reilly’s work and the sites are complex and intertwined. As daughter of Vladimir, a Admiral in the Tsarist Russian Navy, my grandmother Xenia emigrated from St Petersberg with her mother Eugenia & two sisters during the Revolution, they never saw Vladimir again, but found refuge in Harbin, Manchuria, then Shanghai, China & later Sydney Australia. As a child I grew up with these memories and on the Balmain peninsula, my primary school opposite Cockatoo Island.

The dialectic relationship between these two island spaces (curt by sea), both scarred by waves of industrialisation (modernity), migration, military/colonial abandonment – they share a depth of history and speak to each other, as O’Reilly’s work speaks to me (the child of a Russian émigré).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

ABSENCE PRESENCE installation cockatoo island

When encountering Lara O’Reilly’s multi-media installation I was touched by the work’s ability to deeply engage those visiting the location – a deteriorating industrial complex located on an isolated island in Sydney Cove. The indigenous Australian Aboriginal name for this place is Wa-rea-mah, and these people were dis-located during the colonial period, when their home was transformed into a convict prison for those transported across the seas from Britain. Later this place was a colonial & industrial shipping dock. The work resonates with ghosts of the displaced. As visitors/participants in O’Reilly’s work we must replicate the journey [across the river styx] from the mainland and step over a psychological threshold to apprehend the installation. Dissonant digital film/video imagery of a woman walking through spaces of ‘nature’ and water are projected on multiple screens within the massive space, juxtaposed with female forms (reminiscent of mermaids) suspended in silken cocoons from the rafters. The haunting tones of a live cello sound piece, conjure the ghosts of the past, the dispossessed, those incarcerated, and mingling with the feathers from a million birds and industrial detritus.

absence presence installation cockatoo island

A site-specific performance and moving image installation infused with the resonance and mystery of what we feel but cannot see. It is a meditation on space and memory and the ways in which the two constantly interact at specific sites. Composing filmic worlds moving between the abandoned architecture of Cockatoo Island and the remote Australian bush and how this collision of built and natural worlds can mediate between the present and the past – between the visible and the invisible. Rooms with suspended female bodies, veiled and lit in a sensuous light, conjuring emotions of sadness, loss, loneliness and reverie and yet a gentle sense of security and of our own stilled existence within the incredible space where we find ourselves.. on an uninhabited abandoned island that is richly embedded with the history of our colonial and distant past.

“The installation was intended to be a highly experiential encounter with the space and with oneself. For the viewer to experience their own sense of the space and find themselves in a world between worlds…blurred between interior and exterior realms of built and natural spaces and the interior and exterior states of mind that the performance and the soundscape allude to…. Above all it was to be enjoyed and to be taken on a journey to a faraway place…” Lara O’Reilly artist

Special thanks: Geoffrey Weary