Category Archives: Russian Art

Чужие города Strange Cities: A Russian bandleader in Shanghai – Sergei Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll)

Чужие города Strange Cities: Serge Ermoll Jr. Сергей Ермолаев birth certificate Mother of God, Russian Orthodox Cathederal French Concession, Shanghai, 1944.
Чужие города Strange Cities: Serge Ermoll Jr. Сергей Ермолаев birth certificate Mother of God, Russian Orthodox Cathederal French Concession, Shanghai, 1943, interface image from an interactive work.

This work is the transformation of a chapter my doctoral thesis, UTS, BLACK BOX www.strangecities.net. This interactive paper, an 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.

An examination of the documents left to me by my grandfather Sergei Lukyanovich Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll) born 2 June 1908, Harbin Manchuria, reveals a rich insight into the cultural milieu of the Russians in Shanghai, (see V. D. Zhiganov Russians in Shanghai (1936), in particular the Chinese jazz world. Prior to his death, Sergei recorded an historical list of many significant acts (Russian, Chinese, Philippino, Japanese, American etc.) that performed in the nightclubs, cabarets, and ballrooms of quasi-colonial Shanghai.

Like Chinese cinema, Chinese jazz was a hybrid form. “Chinese cinema of the 1930s is believed to be a synthesis of indigenous art and foreign modes of production. (1) This point is best demonstrated by Ma Ning’s influential piece on a famous leftist classic, Street Angel (1937). (2) Ma argues that Street Angel exemplifies the practice of sinification among Chinese leftist filmmakers. During this period, Chinese filmmakers tended to view cinema as a specifically Western invention, yet they also felt compelled to incorporate indigenous forms appropriate for Chinese audiences.”

Yeh Yueh-yu , “Historiography and Sinification: Music in Chinese Cinema of the 1930s”, Cinema Journal, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Spring, 2002), pp. 78-97


SHANGHAI: Eastern Hollywood ?

Serge Ermoll Сергей Ермолаев and His Orchestra, the Astor House 礼查饭店 Hotel Ballroom/ Bandstand with peacock fan half shell and Pathe label collage – Peacock Hall the cities first ballroom, Shanghai, China,1930.

Serge Ermoll and His Music Masters was managed by Dick Hamilton-Mills Vaudeville Entertainments, Shanghai located in Hamilton House and enjoyed residencies at establishments such as the Tower Nightclub in The Cathay Hotel with trio, The Paramount Ballroom (1934-36), Ladlows Casanova, Lido (1936) Astor House Hotel (1930), the big band at Cercle Sportif Français (1938-1943 French Club) and signed with Dick Hamilton for exclusice cabaret the Arcadia club in the French Concession. It is at the Arcadia club (1937) that Sergei met the celebrated crooner, poet and singer/ composer Alexander Vertinsky, during his Shanghai sojourn. The collision produced the immortal A and B side of a record – Чужие города Strange Cities (Chuzie Goroda – music and words by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, and Над розовым морем Over The Rosy Sea/ The Pink Sea – (Nad Rosavuim Morem), music and words by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and George Ivanoff, [Registered Copyright Agency USSR & APRA]. Sergei claimed to have played with Whitey Smith’s band at Chiang Kai Chek’s wedding to Mei-Lie Soong, and held a residency at the Majestic Hotel

Strange Black BoxCharlie Chaplin’s sojourn in Shanghai visiting the Paramount Ballroom pictured with Russian jazz orchestra leader Sergei Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll) c.1936 Paulette Goddard & mother in background.

Strange Black Box
Vertinsky was the originator of black Russian cabaret, where he embodied the figure of a dark Pierrot. His sojourn in Shanghai 1935 – 1943 via Harbin, China, before his return to soviet Russia (USSR) was a fertile ground. Vertinsky published in the Russian journal RUBEZH рубеж News of the frontier, Harbin, Manchuria, 1939, his great poem ‘Shanghai’.

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Чужие города Strange Cities a portrait of Xenia Vladimirovna (Ermolaeff) by Josepho Schick 1935.

This is a portrait of my grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna Ermolaeff. Xenia was a Russian émigré in China. She arrived with her mother Evgenia and sisters in Harbin after the Boshevik revolution in Russia. There are family stories that she met my grandfather Sergei in the Hotel Modern, or was it the Fantasie cabaret, Harbin where she was performing as a singer and dancer, early 1930s. The portrait was taken later in Shanghai by Josepho Schick, a photographic studio that documented many in the Russian émigré community living in Shanghai and Hong Kong. 

In 1996-97 I won a development grant to produce a script Чужие города Strange Cities, from Screen Australia, the Australian Film Commission (AFC). I traveled to Shanghai and Tokyo to conduct research and write an interactive script. In search of Xenia’s Shanghai, I became a voyeur, walking the city, writing and shooting photographs/film with Geoffrey Weary. We stayed in the Peace Fairmont Hotel, the former Cathay Hotel, Room 314, I was searching for traces of the old decadent jazz culture. The Чужие города Strange Cities digital media documentary work, was based on a tune by by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, a musical illustration, an imaginary vision of old Shanghai (looking back to motherland Russia – St Petersberg), composed and played in the old cabaret’s of 1930s Shanghai. I had found a vinyl record in Sergei’s music collection and the original musical score.

In 1999 with funding from Screen Australia, the Australian Film Commission (AFC), our team photographed the interior of the Peace Fairmont Hotel, the former Cathay Hotel, interior and architecture. We photographed the sound stage, Level 7, where Serge Ermoll and His Orchestra had played as resident band leader  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 淞滬會戰 the Japanese war ships in the harbour. A decade later these audiovisual fragments were shaped into a film Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel, 2008.

The interactive work would ultimately be Чужие города Strange Cities , as reviewed in Asiaweek based on the tune composed by Alexander Vertinsky, Ira Bloch and 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) and (2) Whitey Smith and L. McDermott, I Didn’t Make a Million, Manila, 1956.

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 jewelery 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. [sic] ” (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.

SHANGHAI NOSTALGIA: Old Shanghai Mood Board

Film star & songstress Li Xianglan (李香蘭) a hybrid matrix of Japanese and Chinese modern girl. Born Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) to Japanese parents in Manchuria, Remembered for 1940s film Shanghai Nights 上海の夜), the tune The Evening Primrose 夜來香

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/

Hui Fei (Anna May Wong) and Marlene Dietrich (Shanghai Lily) in Jospeh Von Sternberg’s SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932).

Image source MOTO Nostalgia campaign 2004

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. These evoke director Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture, 1941 an American film noir starring Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, and Ona Munson. It is based on a Broadway play of the same name by John Colton.

Reminiscent of a 1930s Shanghai calendar girl, an evocation of the legendary film star Ruan Lingyu (阮玲玉), or perhaps Hollywood’s Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai or Anna May Wong in Josef Von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932) or Street Angel 馬路天使 (1937) 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 plethora of contemporary Hollywood, Hong Kong and Chinese films devoted to the Shanghai gesture. Academy Award winning director Ang Lee’s offering Lust Caution (2007), a case in point, Merchant Ivory’s The White Countess (2005), to touch the tip of the iceberg.

The “Motorola advertisement appearing on billboards and in glossy magazines… means ‘MOTO nostalgia’ or ‘MOTO era’, highlighting the Shanghai 1930s feel of the image.” 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.

Another 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 www.hongkonghustle.com/shopping/389/cosmetics-vending-machine/#more-389.

Shanghai! …during the 1930s and 1940s was referred to internationally as the “jazz mecca” (1) of Asia, the Paris of the East, conjuring in the Western imagination a romanticised landscape of coolies, opium, and spies. In reality Shanghai was the pearl of China’s orient, occupying a unique political and cultural place as China’s modern Metropolis. Historically, China had granted concessions to the international powers in Shanghai, British, French, and Americans occupying colonial settlements in the treaty port.

At the level of representation, Shanghai was an appropriated “exotic” location, an orientalist back-drop, and the subject of a plethora of Western novels, literary and cinematic creations. The allure of Shanghai as a mysterious cultural locale wove its way into American Hollywood cinema and popular song as an orientalist fantasy and landscape upon which the West imagination could play out illusions. Shanghai as a colonial International settlement was inhabited and visited by passing Western entrepreneurs, government officials, tourists, traders, and entertainers. American actor Charlie Chaplin’s tour in Shanghai 1936 with actress Paulette Goddard and stay in the Fairmont Peace Hotel (Cathay Hotel) in Shanghai is well documented. He visited the famous Paramount Ballroom where Serge Ermoll and His Orchestra were the resident Russian jazz orchestra. A personal collection of family photographs pictures band leader Ermoll with Chaplin and Goddard. The first exhibition of cinema in China occurred in the Yu Yuan teahouse in Shanghai (2) , eight months after the “…Lumiere brother’s epochal unveiling of their new Cinematographe…December 28, 1895, in the basement of the Grand Cafe in Paris.” (3) The Yu Gardens was a place that I wanted to visit, and would take many photographs.

The black American jazz trumpet player Buck Clayton’s legendary journey to Shanghai was “precipitated by brisk trans-Pacific traffic in record music. Gramaphone records of the music of Duke Ellington and other artists had already reached Chinese shores, spurring a rage for black bands in the city’s nightclubs and dancehalls.”(4) The playing of this black American jazz and its local idiom performed by Russian, Filippino émigré and Chinese bands heralded the circulation of a hybrid trans-Pacific culture. Until very recently, the Chinese academies viewed “yellow music” and its Russian, black American and colonial precursors as not worthy of scholarship. Colonial modernity as articulated in pre-revolutionary Chinese film with its jazzy Chinese popular screen music was understood by its leftist critics as “decadent sound” (mimi zhi yin) (5) and opposed to the modern Republican ideology.

Sergei Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll) Russian Jazz Orchestra leader on the cover of RUBEZ News of Harbin, Manchuria, 1937

In the contemporary context, this trans-Pacific culture and music is experiencing considerable attention and re-discovery by the Chinese government and international community, as Shanghai overtakes Hong Kong as China’s major trading port city. The cover of the American Time magazine proclaimed “Shanghai! Inside the most happening city in the world” and the accompanying article “Shanghai Swings! The long slumber is over, and Shanghai is grooving to an exuberant beat”(6) Hannah Beech, “Shanghai! Inside the most happening city in the world” and the accompanying article “Shanghai Swings!”, in Time magazine, September 20, 2004. The image of the contemporary Shanghai Bund skyline glittering with electric lights evokes the former glory of Shanghai’s jazz age when the colonial façade of the Bund housed China’s wealthiest banks and trading houses. Indeed it is no mystery a musical metaphor has been woven to paint a picture of the re-emergence of Shanghai as a global destination. The article chronicles the restoration and the re-opening of Shanghai’s most legendary nightclub the Paramount Ballroom. Another Time magazine article “Cholera, Cables, Piano’s”(7), alludes to a Chinese symphony of chaos to evoke the human crisis of colonial modernity in Shanghai. The dischord between images of extreme opulence and wealth, manifest in the architectural spaces of the colonial dance-halls at their zenith: the Paramount Ballroom, Majestic Hotel, the French Club, the Cathay Hotel, Astor House, the Canidrome, Ladlow’s Casa Nova et al – juxtaposed with the struggle of the underclass of Russian émigrés working inside these spaces and the exclusion from these spaces of the desperate and displaced Chinese refugees, reveal the economic, class, and gendered dimensions of Shanghai’s urban metropolis, a cultural entrepot forming the ‘modern’ Chinese man and woman.

In most historical and popular accounts of Shanghai nightlife (post 1930s) the White Russian émigrés, who fled the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, are notoriously depicted as desperate refugees finding work in the bars, clubs, and nightclubs Shanghai as either “taxi-dancers”, “body-guards”, or prostitutes. The project argues that the affinity between “yellow music”, foreign jazz, specifically the Russian émigré jazz and its interpretation as “pornographic” and decadent evolved from the social spaces where this music was performed. The contribution of Russian émigrés to the cultural modernity of Shanghai is considerable. The Russians, many stateless and without citizenship, occupied a liminal place in the city below the oppressed and poor Chinese. The construction of the “White Russian” refugee stereotype founds its way into trans-Pacific popular media culture and has long been associated with “Sinified jazz music”.(8)

This brief account of Shanghai’s history and the role of Russian émigré jazz shows that this underclass of refugees were central to modern notions of urban Chinese identity. Scholarship in the field of musicology, ethnomusicology, media, history and sociology in China, America, Britain, and in Europe has not previously focused on the remarkable contribution made by Russian émigré jazz during the pre-revolutionary period in China, precisely because this cultural history was erased with the formation communist Republic in China.



The recuperation of this history through Russian émigré sources abroad, Chinese scholarship, archives that were moved from mainland China to Taiwan, Hong Kong, France, England, Russia and the United States and an existing archive of material in the possession of this project could recover an inform through interdisciplinary, cultural studies method a new historical case study. (9)

_________________________________________________________

NOTES

(1) Andrew F. Jones, Yellow music : media culture and colonial modernity in the Chinese jazz age, Durham [N.C.] : Duke University Press, 2001, p1.

(2) Yingjin Zhang, “Teahouse, Shadowplay, Bricolage: ‘Laborer’s Love’ and the Question of Early Chinese Cinema”, in Zhen Zhang (Ed), Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, Stanford University Press, USA, 1999.

(3) Jones “Listening to the Chinese Jazz Age”, op cit p11.

(4) Jones “Listening to the Chinese Jazz Age”, op cit p1.

(5) Jones “Listening to the Chinese Jazz Age”, op cit p8.

(6) Hannah Beech, “Shanghai! Inside the most happening city in the world” and the accompanying article “Shanghai Swings!”, in Time magazine, September 20, 2004.

(7) Foreign News, “Cholera, Cables, Pianos” in Time magazine, September 27, 1937.

(8) Jones op cit p73.

(9) Andrew Field, “Chapter 5: Selling Souls in Sin City: Shanghai Singing and Dancing Hostesses in Print, Film, and Politics, 1920-49 inZhen Zhang (Ed), Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, Stanford University Press, USA, 1999. See forthcoming publication Andrew Field, Shanghai’s Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919–1954.

Black Box: a digital media work

Exerpt from Tatiana Pentes, DCA thesis, BlackBox: Painting a Digital Picture of Documented Memory, UTS, VDM Verlag, Germany 2009.

Black Box: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory. Written & Directed by Tatiana Pentes, Digital Sound & Moving Image: Geoffrey Weary
Black Box: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory. Written & Directed by Tatiana Pentes, Digital Sound & Moving Image: Geoffrey Weary

Launch BlackBoxv3 online

“It is inscribed as on Pandora’s Box…do not open…passions…escape in all directions from a box that lies open…” from Bruno Latour’s “Opening Pandora’s Box”, in Science in Action: How To Follow Scientists & Engineers Through Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987, p1-17.

Abstract

This work investigates and records the production of a digital media artwork blackBOX: Painting A Digital Picture of Documented Memory, generated through the media technologies of interactive multimedia, exploiting the creative potentials of digitally produced music, sound, image and text relationships in a disc based & online (Internet) environment. The artwork evolves from an imaginary electronic landscape that can be uniquely explored/ played in a non-sequential manner. The artwork/ game is a search for the protagonists hybrid cultural identity. This is mirrored in the exploration of random, fragmentary and non-linear experiences designed for the player engaged with the artwork. The subjective intervention of the player/ participant in the electronic artwork is metaphoric of the improvisational tendencies that have evolved in the Greek Blues (Rembetika), Jazz, and Hindustani musical and performative dance forms. The protagonist Nina’s discovery of these musical forms reveal her cultural/ spiritual origins. As a musical composer arranges notes, melodies and harmonies, and sections of instruments, so too, the multimedia producer designs a ensemble of audio-visual fragments to be navigated.

Dance also becomes a driving metaphor, analogous to the players movement in and through these passages of image/ sound/ text and as a movement between theories and ideas explored in the content of the program. The central concern is to playfully reverse, obscure, distort the look of the dominating/colonialist gaze, in the production of an interactive game and allow the girl to picture herself.

One of my objectives is to explore the ways in which social research can be undertaken by the creation of an interactive program in the computer environment utilizing interactive digital media technologies. The study reveals that, through the subjective intervention of the player/ participant (user)* with the digital artefact, a unique experience and responsiveness is produced with the open-ended text. The work is comprised of a website http://www.strangecities.net; an interactive CD-ROM; a gallery installation; digital photomedia images: and a written thesis documenting and theorising the production.

Classical Indian dance music: Bharata Natyam

Nirmal Jena & Odissi Dance Co.

* The term player/participant (user), while widely debated has been in usage from the 1980s to refer to the unique human interaction with the digital artefact, electronic screen work, and computer interface.

Read the research paper: BlackBOX : painting a digital picture of documented memory. Published University of Technology, Sydney UTS ePress Institutional Repository
Australasian Digital Thesis Program http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/dspace/handle/2100/357

Black Box interface still by Tatiana Pentes
Black Box interface still by Tatiana Pentes

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night: A Jazz feature

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night

Blowin At The Rocco: Photography: Tatiana Pentes & Geoffrey Weary
Blowin At The Rocco: Photography: Tatiana Pentes & Geoffrey Weary

An Australian Jazz Interactive Treatment for Broadband funded by Screen Australia (AFC/ Screen Australia)

New Media Writer/Director TATIANA PENTES
Photography/ Cinematography GEOFFREY WEARY
Original Jazz Music SERGEI ERMOLAEFF
Dramaturg Prof BRUCE JOHNSON

1. STORY OUTLINE

Expermimental Online Documentary

BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night is an experimental interactive work that seeks to exploit and enhance the creative potentials of digitally produced music, sound, image and text relationships in an interactive online Broadband environment. In this context, the delivery of interactive work online provides an innovative approach to the conventional narrative & documentary forms. In BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night, the participant/player will experience new possibilities produced through the slippage across a series of interactive screen surfaces, engaging the participant/player in a spatial relationship with the program. The participant/player discovers the origins of Sydney Jazz milieu through the eyes of Serge Ermoll Jr. (Jazz Pianist/ Private Investigator) during, smoky sophisticated bohemian, Sydney circa 1968. In addition the user is revealed eight tracks of original Australian jazz, recorded live at the El Rocco Jazz Cellar, 1968.

2.1 COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
Serge Ermoll Jr (Sergei Ermollaeff) owns the copyright on all original compositions and recordings of his music. The production Budget would incorporate research fees and broadcast fees for the use of all other archival image, sound, text materials.

3. THEMES OF THE PROJECT: Pathway Elements
BLOWIN’ AT THE ROCCO: Saturday Night is composed of eight storylines, a series of interactive immersive screen environments, characterising the narrative structure of the program. The pathways are named by eight musical movements recorded by Serge Ermoll Jr (Sergei Ermollaeff). The recurrence of musical allusion and composition (a) in the form of musical iconography and (b) in the rendering of musical score in sonic fragments – will resolve in each storyline as the realisation of these eight jazz tracks. From the surface of the computer screen each story unfolds inside a series of frames, inspired by (Black American) Blue Note modern jazz album covers and early Russian constructivist assemblages. The jazz tracks name each storyline expressively, evoking the emotive state of the compositions and shaping the narrative structure of the pathways.

OVERVIEW Story (Musical) Tracks
Opening Titles
Each story pathway is triggered by an visual icon in the music cellar. The Detective foregrounds each pathway with an image/text sound transition

Pathway (1) Movement # 1 – VALSE Kings Cross & Bohemian Sydney

Pathway icon: montage of Alamein fountain & a trumpet
Visual trigger: : movement across a cappuccino coffee cup

This story conjures the memories of the musicians, music entrepreneurs, and patrons. The pathway is inspired by written texts by Bruce Johnson, John Clare, Kenneth Slessor, statements by jazz musicians remembering the milieu, and news stories reporting on the phenomena of the jazz cellar.

Pathway (2)   Movement # 2 – FREE KATA Crest of freedom

Pathway icon: montage of Free Kata group
Visual trigger: movement across a Karate figure                                                                  

This story explores the FREE KATA jazz ensemble of the 1970s, evolving from the seeds of El Rocco jazz culture. This pathway is composed of photographic portraits of the musicians, album artwork, record labels, music publicity material, text from news article coverage of the ensemble, and locates the music in the context of images of urban Sydney in this period and references the larger jazz picture.

Pathway (3) Movement # 3 – JUNGLE JUICE International Influences on Australian Jazz 1968

Pathway icon: montage of Uluru & Wattle matches
Visual trigger: movement across a portrait of a soldier

This storyline contextualises Australian Jazz & the era in archival moments that iconicise the sixties and world events shaping the Australian spirit: (i) the anti-Vietnam war protests (ii) the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, (iii) Robert Kennedy’s campaign against Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war. The imagery evokes the generational complexity & tension that produced the fresh and vital early Australian jazz. This pathway is composed of original photographs, digital reconstructions, news articles, archival photographs, digitized moving image and sound.

Pathway (4) Movement # 4 – CLOUDS Australia 1968 – Iconic cultural imagery

Pathway icon: montage of hands on a keyboard (piano)
Visual trigger: a framed portrait of a blonde tourist in the red centre

This story evokes Sydney circa 1968, and juxtaposes the Eastern seaboard city with imagery of the Australian red center, (white tourists) a family visit to Uluru in a light plane, in the context of political movements (the anti-Vietnam war protests – students) and populist imagery – Shrimpton wears the legendary mini-skirt. This pathway is composed of original photographs, digital reconstructions, news articles, archival photographs, digitized moving image and sound.

 Pathway (5)  Movement # 5 – PASSION DANCE Serge Jr. & Stamatia meet on the Patris Ship

Pathway icon: montage of young Serge & wife Matina)
Visual trigger – black & white portrait of an emigre couple on the deck of a Greek ship

This story is personal and exposes in a series of black & white photographs and interviews two immigrant Australians broadening their horizons and making the journey back to Europe.

Pathway (6) Movement # 6 – RASPUTIN Diasporic Music Memories

Pathway icon: black & white montage of parents
Visual trigger –movement across a portrait of Rasputin

This story charts the movement of Serge Ermoll’s forbearer’s diaspora from Russia in revolution through to Harbin, Manchuria and then international capital of the East – Shanghai, China where his father worked as a jazz bandleader. Serge and his Russian parents then immigrate to Australia with assistance from the International Refugee Organisation. Serge Jr reflects on the influence of his China born father on his contemporary jazz endeavors in Australia. This pathway is composed of dramatized interviews/statements & original photographs.

Pathway (7) Movement # 7 – FALLEN FLOWERS
Private detective – Sydney underworld

Pathway icon: montage of a dancing girl over Kings Cross
Visual trigger –movement across a portrait of a dancing girl

This story envisions Kings Cross and Sydney, 1968. The participant/player enters into the space of clubs and strip joints, café culture at night. The participant/player is provoked to uncover a criminal situation, revealed through the character of the detective (Serge Ermoll Jr/ jazz pianist) in a series of reconstructed & simulated photographic & filmic sequences that expose Sydney’s underworld.

Pathway (8) Movement # 8 – SERGERY

Pathway icon: young Serge with band on piano
Visual trigger –movement across a keyboard

Blowin’ At the Rocco 1968 – Serge Ermoll Jr Quintet
Visual trigger; movement across the keys of the piano

This story is a temporal montage of Serge Ermoll Jr music career from his emergence as a musician to 1968. The pathway is composed of news material – newsprint articles, magazine reviews

Resolution Sequence

 

The CosmoShanghai Project

The CosmoShanghai Project
http://www.cosmoshanghai.net/

The CosmoShanghai Project: Image Tatiana Pentes
The CosmoShanghai Project: Image Tatiana Pentes

The CosmoShanghai Project
http://www.cosmoshanghai.net/

CosmoShanghai is a growing online portal that launches digital research projects exploring Shanghai’s re-emergence as the cosmopolitan metropolis from its glorified memorial status in the 1930s – part entrepot, part settlement, part escape- that finds expression in the multiple contradictions of the struggle over the preservation and development of Hongkou and other districts of the cosmopolis.

In one online documentary projects The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu –  Dee Lay Jao Police district, becomes the focus for the local and international and diasporic forces seeking to define what the Jewish heritage of the city means in the current era. Set against an examination of a number of preservation and renewal zones, current Chinese modernity encompasses an historicised cosmopolitanism that accounts for the variegated social histories of the city and its global positioning as part of the New China on the one hand, and as a city state on the other. However to be effective this will require cross-cultural collaboration over the meanings of cities’ pasts and futures.

In another interactive BlackBox: Painting a Digital Picture of Documented Memory the artwork evolves from an imaginary electronic landscape that can be uniquely explored/ played. The artwork/ game is a search for the protagonists hybrid cultural identity. This is mirrored in the exploration of random, fragmentary and non-linear experiences, where the protagonist Nina’s discovery of musical forms reveal her cultural/ spiritual origins. As a musical composer arranges notes, melodies and harmonies, and sections of instruments, so too, the multimedia producer designs a ensemble of audio-visual fragments to be navigated. Dance also becomes a driving metaphor, analogous to the players movement in and through these passages of image/ sound/ text and as a movement between theories and ideas explored in the content of the program. The central concern is to playfully reverse, obscure, distort the look of the dominating/colonialist gaze, in the production of an interactive game and allow the girl to picture herself.

ABSENCE PRESENCE: Kotlin Island, RUSSIA

Lara O’Reilly’s ABSENCE PRESENCE installation on the Kotlin Island, St Petersburg
site specific installation 2007, International Body Navigation Festival, St Petersburg, Russia http://www.bodynavigation.ru

Text by Tatiana Pentes

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

Lara O'Reilly's ABSENCE: PRESENCE installation Kronstadt, Russia
Lara O’Reilly’s ABSENCE: PRESENCE installation Kronstadt, Russia

Documentary photo Lara O’Reilly’s ABSENCE PRESENCE installation on the Kotlin Island (2007)

Lara O’Reilly’s ABSENCE PRESENCE installation on the Kotlin Island, an abandoned built and natural environment is a doorway into present and the past, and between the visible and the invisible. Upon encountering site-specific multimedia performance and moving image installation, a dialogue between the psychological states of abandonment (a remoteness) and seduction (an intimacy) is opened inside and outside the architectural spaces – mirroring our interaction as visitors/viewers with space and memory in a site-specific environment.

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 within the Chapel of the Naval Hospital Kronstadt, (built 1717), the earliest medical establishment in Russia.

Screenshot 2014-05-01 11.11.10

Map of St Petersburg & Kotlin Island

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.

The Kronstadt work integrates real-time 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 radio-phonic 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 tragic and violent Kronstadt Revolution of 1921, the sailors of Kronstadt staged an uprising and issued demands for free elections. The Red Army was sent in and crushed the rebellion: thousands of people were killed.

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

O’Reilly transcends this confrontation with death through her cinematic mediation and documentation of the reality of this past. She does in the articulation of her feminine subjectivity through the representation of Russian performer Olya’s presence in these spaces. These dissonant montages of film footage evoke Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Eye cinema experiments “…as slow motion vision (reading thoughts in slow motion)…The Kino-Eye is conceived as “what the eye does not see”, as the microscope and the telescope of time, as telescopic camera lenses, as the X-ray eye, …cinematic images…processes capable of revealing and showing truth.” (Written 1944). In these ‘island’ experiences, the visitor/ participant must cross a psychological threshold upon entering the work, because like Eurydice’s mythic journey to the underworld, we must re-play the allegorical journey across the river styx from the mainland onto the island and into a simulated nether-world.

This cinematic imagery is projected in the first dark room of the installation, providing a threshold between the outside (real) world and the (imaginary) dance/performance work. Upon viewing the film projections, one enters through a doorway and looking into, an interior space where lived memory is a present state.

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 O’Reilly’s 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 lies 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, an Admiral in the Tsarist Russian Navy, my grandmother Xenia emigrated from St Petersburg 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).

In a world saturated by mass communications delivered via mobile device, cable, PDA, Internet, television, radio, and virtual experiences, ABSENCE PRESENCE grounds the visitor through the stillness of wandering through a physical space, where live performative theatrical, musical and filmic elements are apprehended in a real time spatial location. As media consumers, we can be likened to the shackled slaves mistaking the representations/shadows on the walls of Plato’s mythical Cave as reflections of a real world. The truth is always mimetic and portrays the outlines of puppets projected from the shadows of the fire – not of the Real as articulated in Plato’s philosophical Cave myth. Illuminated from their shackles those imprisoned in the Cave raise the truth of their situation and are liberated by the light of the Sun. The simile of the Cave is apt in the contemporary context, while it needs to be complicated. The Real and the Imagined have collapsed into the Virtual. One could argue that virtual engagement is a lived and real experience, whilst mediated by digital technology. Frederic Jameson’s argument that pastische, or empty parody (mimicry) is the order of the day. Thus representations, virtual reality, 3D animations, text chats, and Internet collusion’s – in traditional media terms would be considered fake, artificial, a lie…. in post-modern terms equal a real hybrid experience.

The opposition between the artificial and the natural have also collapsed in the same way. Jean Baudrillard espouses after Jameson in his texts Simulation, and Seduction, that the post-modern condition articulated in contemporary art, technology & communications have enabled new cultural forms/practises and have influenced the way in which we view our environments. In the famous words of Jacques Derrida

“…Disenchanted simulation: pornography – truer than true – the height of the simulacrum. Enchanted simulation: the trompe-l’oeil – falser than false – the secret of appearances. Neither fable story or composition, nor theatre, scene or action. The trompe-l’oeil forgets all this and bypasses it by the low-level representation of second-rate objects. The latter figure in the great composition of the time, but here they appear alone, as though the discourse on painting had been eliminated. Suddenly they no longer represent, they are no longer objects, no longer anything. They are blank, empty signs that bespeak social, religious or artistic anti-ceremony or ant representation…they describe a void, an absence, the absence of every representational hierarchy that organizes the elements of the tableau, or for that matter political order….”

The emptying out of representation of any original meaning creates the situation of the inability to comprehend the difference between the original and the copy. Which is the fake? O’Reilly’ s installation defines a lens through which perceive nature and suggests the way in which this understanding tames ‘nature’ for us. ABSENCE PRESENCE calls attention to the way in which we think, represent and conceive of ‘the natural’ as construction site. The artificial and the natural exist in a dialectical relationship to one another and the post-modern project is to create a third term outside this dialogue produces a meaning supplementary or in excess of this duality. ABSENCE PRESENCE simultaneously explores the gender/ sexual subjectivity relationship, which can be viewed through the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud (Vienna 1930s). Freud’s theory of the ‘unconscious’ and the psyche revolutionised conceptions of human behaviour and theories of human sexuality. His posthumous text “Three essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (trans. 1949) pinpoint the significance of sexual subjectivity and factors influencing the anxiety and neurosis in the individual and the cultural. The implication being that the individual repressed experiences that were intolerable and these formed an unconscious ‘well’ of experiences that come back to haunt as memories, their very repression necessitating their return, unannounced and triggered by certain signposts and expressed in slips of the tongue, psychosis, sexual subversions, creative articulations (poetry, painting, literature etc.) or escaping as dreams and un-realised wishes…but the return of that which had been repressed particularly in childhood. ABSENCE PRESENCE is like a return of that “well” of memories re-surfacing and haunting.

Lara O’Reilly’s ABSENCE PRESENCE installation on the Kotlin Island, an abandoned built and natural environment is a doorway into present and the past, and between the visible and the invisible. Upon encountering site-specific multimedia performance and moving image installation, a dialogue between the psychological states of abandonment (a remoteness) and seduction (an intimacy) is opened inside and outside the architectural spaces – mirroring our interaction as visitors/viewers with space and memory in a site-specific environment.

“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 sound-scape allude to….” Lara O’Reilly artist

Absence Presence:

Кронштадт, РOССИЯ
Лара О’Релли

Acknowledgement and special thanks to all who assisted me with the making of Absence Presence: Kronstadt. I am most grateful for all your support and assistance with the project

Special thanks to:
Podberjozkin Igor Vitaljevich / Подберёзкин Игорь Витальевич –
Chief of the Naval Hospital, Kronstadt
Stupar Michael Petrovich / Ступар Михаил Петрович –
Deputy Chief of the Naval Hospital, Kronstadt
Kuzhel Alexander Michailovich / Кужель Александр Михайлович – Deputy Chief of the Naval Hospital, Kronstadt and everyone from NCCA (National Centre for Contemporary Art) St Petersburg, Russia

Valeria Korotina and Rowan Ainsworth from Australia Embassy, Moscow. Lara O’Reilly’s exhibiting of ‘Absence Presence’ in Body Navigation III is supported by the Commonwealth through the Cultural Relations Discretionary Grant Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Performer in film imagery:
Olga Amromy / Ольга Амромы

Editors:
Yuri Elik
Viola Vorobyova

Performers in installation:
Olga Amromy / Ольга Амромы
Tatjyana Luzai / Татьяна Лузай
Olga Ivanskaya / Ольга Иванская
Darjya Khlapova / Дарья Хлапова
Alexandra Aksjonova / Александра Аксёнова

Video memory of installation with assistance:
Viola Vorobyova and Anna Kolosova

Cellist:
Philip Gulidov

Prop Builder/ Install Team:
Ruslan Atrokhov / Руслан Атрохов
Alexander Stadnik / Александр Стандин
Ruslan Shohirev / Руслан Шохирев
Denis Dzubin / Денис Дзюбин

Catalogue text:
Tatiana Pentes

Assistance with Photographic documentation of installation:
Marina Goulyaeva with assistance Nikolay Vladimirsky

Quoted from http://www.laraoreilly.com/russia/

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

9b50e-xeniafeathers
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

5bf5f-li_xianglan

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/

0d10c-shanghaiexpress-1
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]

c3046-moto_cosmo0630s
“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

cosmetic_vending_machine_HK

“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

Strange Cities: An interactive digital work

Strange Cities: An interactive digital work

Strange Cities CD-Rom: Prima Volta from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.


SYNOPSIS

An interactive digital work/ Musical CD-Rom by 
Tatiana Pentes (Writer/Director) & Geoffrey Weary (Co-Development/ Cinematography & Photography), Eurydice Aroney (Producer), Roi Huberman (Sound Design), Glenn Remington (Interface Design). Produced in association with Screen Australia (AFC). Online exhibition Australia-Japan New Media Gallery, Australian Embassy, JAPAN  http://newmedia.australia.or.jp/artist/info.php?name=tatiana

AWARDS

Strange Cities CD-ROM has been exhibited inter/nationally & winner of Best Arts/Cultural Title/Site, AIMIA Awards, 2000, and Most Innovative/Creative Multimedia Title, ATOM Awards, 2000, Australia. Acquired by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) Multimedia Collection, Australian Film & Television School Library, University of Hawaii, University of Sydney, UTS, the National Library Australia and many inter/national archives.

Strange Cities was selected for Dart 99 dLux Media Arts in partnership with Sydney Film Festival, the 1999 Experimenta Media national travelling Exhibition, The Red Room, & promoted  New Talent Pavilion, MILIA Games, Cannes, France in February 1999

Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)
Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)

Strange Cities is an experimental interactive multimedia work authored for CD-Rom release and exhibition. Through the disclosure of evidence, Sasha dreams, discovers and remembers the exotic identity of her grandparents Xenia and Sergei Ermolaeff (a composer and orchestra leader) in fragments and traces of their music and struggle to survive the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions. The dulcet tones of the legendary voice of ABC Radio – Tony Baldwin as Newsreader deepen the nostalgia of this interactive drama/history.

The inspiration for the work is a tune of the same name – a musical illustration, an imaginary vision of old Shanghai, Chinese metropolis and international settlement which conjures mythic, filmic, musical and personal images of the city port.

Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)
Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)

Strange Cities CD-Rom: Mordente from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.

Coined capital of the international underworld, the city of Shanghai became a seductively strange locale symbolized in the Western imagination. In reality however the city was most often the final port of call for political refugees. The visual imagery for the project was shot in St Petersberg, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Sydney and involves found photographs, film footage, simulated radio archives, and original musical compositions.

Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)
Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)

Strange Cities experiments with performance, sound, image and text and their dramatic representation in the interactive environment. Providing a challenging approach to traditional modes of story-telling and music in the interface design, the user is provoked to discover the Strange Cities tune in the graphic portrayal of its musical script, sonic perception of its vocal lyric, and orchestration through user interactivity.

Strange Cities CD-Rom: Lacrimoso from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.

In the exploration of Strange Cities the user will experience a questioning of the relationship between fictional, biographical, historical and musical narrative possibilities produced through the slippage between and across a series of interactive screens. Participation with the interface provides for the user an experience which challenges traditional modes of narrative in audiovisual presentation, the perception of musical structure, storytelling and in historical, biographical and fictional texts in the multimedia environment.

Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)
Interface still Strange Cities: A musical CD-Rom (2000)

Strange Cities was selected for the 1999 Experimenta Media Art CD-Rom Exhibition and has been promoted at the New Talent Pavilion, MILIA Games, Cannes, France in February 1999.

NEW MEDIA AWARDS FESTIVALS
Best Arts/Cultural Title/ Site, Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) Awards November 2000, AUSTRALIA
Most Innovative/Creative Multimedia Production, Australian Teachers of Media, (ATOM) Awards May 2000, AUSTRALIA
This project has been produced in association with Screen Australia (Australian Film Commission)

Strange Cities has been curated as part of the Australia-Japan New Media Gallery, Australian Embassy Japan http://newmedia.australia.or.jp/artist/info.php?name=tatiana

Cast
Xenia – Xenia Wayne; Sergei – Peter Tartarinoff; Newsreader – Tony Baldwin; Sasha (Voice) – Katya Rozenblit; Young Sasha (Visuals) – Isabella Manfredi; Rose Tsing (Visuals) – Rose Tang; Tango Dancers – Katya Rozenblit & Evan Darnley-Pentes.

StrangeCities: Xenia Vladimirovna
Strange Cities: Xenia by Tatiana Pentes

Ultimately this project led to the production of a film produced in association with
Screen Australia (AFC), Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel (2008)

Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel by Geoffrey Weary from Strange Cities Productions on Vimeo.

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

Xenia’s journey to Shanghai, CHINA 1923

strangecitiesImage: Film poster for Strange Cities Чужие города – Russian film poster (AFC) my grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna & Sergei’s musical score

My grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna was born in Russia 1908. Her father was in the Tsarist Russian navy. After the Bolshevik revolution 1917 he did not return from sea. After a brief marriage to a widowed vet surgeon with five sons, Xenia told me, her mother Eugenia and three sisters Helena, Galya, and Marya made the journey by Trans-Siberian railway to Harbin, Manchuria in 1923 to find husbands in China. As a singer and dancer at the Modern Hotel, Harbin across the ballroom she met my grandfather Serge Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll and His Music Masters). “I didn’t think Serge would notice but he did, we Russian girls wore beautiful gowns because at least we got paid, not like my Chinese friend Rose, who had to make money in other ways….” she told me half her life lease later in Sydney. Later in Shanghai she married Serge 1933 where they re-met at the majestic Hotel. My father Serge Jr was born 1943 in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation in China. After a successful career as a jazz orchestra leader in the big clubs and hotels of Shanghai: Paramount, Cathay Hotel, Ladlow’s Cassinova, the French Club, Wagon Lits my grandfather Sergei accepted passage on the Chan Cha ship to Hong Kong and then Sydney Australia 1951. Decadent jazz music became unfashionable with the Chinese Communist revolution, but he managed to continue working at the Russian Club, in Pitt Street Sydney. He brought with him my father Serge, his wife Xenia, his musical scores, and one Trumpet. The Australian government gave them a peppercorn lease on a Deco house on Monterey Street in Sans Souci. My grandmother always told my father a young jazz pianist also……”don’t dream about Melbourne “its such an old fashioned town!”…her sister Galya married a British businessman from the Shanghai Texaco Company and relocated there….Xenia and Sergei made the train trip on the Sydney-Melbourne over night express many times.

Xenia Vladimirovna, Harbin, Manchuria, China
Xenia Vladimirovna, Harbin, Manchuria, China

Xenia a Russian Lady from Shanghai

This is a portrait of my grandmother Xenia Vladimirovna Ermolaeff

Eugenia and Vladimir an Admiral in Russian Tsarist Navy, c. 1920

https://cacoo.com/diagrams/LdW6TSyMXa4ZNv19