Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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

Colourful jazzman packed more than punch on keyboards

Serge Ermoll Jr on trumpet age 14
Serge Ermoll Jr : have trumpet will excite

Serge Ermoll in iTunes

by Gerry Carman and Damien Reilly
The Age, October 18, 2010

SERGE Ermoll, one of Australia’s greatest and most colourful jazz pianists who played with many of the best exponents of the jazz idiom, has died of a heart attack in his flat at Parramatta in Sydney, aged 67. Given to expressive outbursts not just on the keyboard, he had talents ranging beyond music to martial arts as well as the dark art of private detective.
 But it was music that elevated him far beyond the fifth-dan black belt that he held in karate. For nearly 40 years he pushed boundaries with his exceptional musical skills, refusing to conform. He featured on 29 internationally released albums and was nominated for an Aria award for his album, Jungle Juice.

His group, Free Kata, which he formed in the 1970s, ”ripped open the heart of music aesthetics in Australia”, John Shand wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald in August 2003.
 Earlier, in the late 1960s, while visiting Britain, he was invited to fill in with the Dudley Moore Trio when the musician-comedian went to Hollywood. In no time he was an integral member of the group, which included Chris Karen, the drummer from Melbourne, and bassist/vocalist Peter Morgan.
 He also either collaborated, recorded or performed live with a who’s who of jazz artists such as Richie Cole, Lester Bowie, Don Moyee, Phil Woods, Art Pepper, Joe Henderson, Eddie Moore, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Sonny Stitt, Ernestine Anderson, Odeon Pope, Banford Marsalis, John Lee and others.
Ermoll, in fact, was destined to be a jazzman.

He was born in Shanghai to White Russian parents Xenia, a singer and dancer, and Sergei Ermolaeff, a Manchurian-born Russian jazz drummer and famous orchestra leader in Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s.
 In 1951 the family fled China for Australia in the aftermath of the communist revolution and his demanding father made him practise the piano for hours a day from age five; he also learnt to play the trumpet.

In his late teenage years he heard Dizzy Gillespie for the first time and was hooked on jazz, to his father’s disgust. Years later he would lead the support band when Gillespie toured Australia.
 An incredibly complex man with a mercurial temperament, Ermoll, a recovering alcoholic, could be difficult, yet was also incredibly kind.
 Martin Jackson, who worked with and promoted Ermoll, recalled how he had a certain persuasiveness about him: on one occasion while he was working as a private detective – he was licensed to carry a gun – the wife of a Sydney musician paid him to find her bounder of a husband. Ermoll tracked him to Melbourne, grabbed him out of the clutches of his girlfriend, bundled him into his Monaro and drove him back to Sydney with firm advice not to stray from home again. He didn’t.

And, on his last gig in Melbourne in Bennett’s Lane, Ermoll threatened to shoot the owner with the gun he carried – but apologised later. However, even Ermoll knew when to be prudent.
 His detective work so angered one of Sydney’s biggest gangsters that he was ”firmly advised” to leave town. Luckily for him, he took the trip to London – and found fame with the Dudley Moore Trio.

Serge Ermoll Jr: The Patris ship to UK 1964
Serge Ermoll Jr: The Patris ship to UK 1964

Tribute to Serge Ermoll 1943-2010 by SIMA
Spontaneous Improvisational Musicians Association
by John Clare
date: Wednesday 10 November 2010

The death of pianist/composer Serge Ermoll late last month came as no surprise to those who knew him. He was very overweight and had been warned by his doctor that one more drinking binge would most likely be his last. In fact it was a cancer which many of us were unaware of that killed him. While the end was no surprise, it came as a shock. Serge’s erratic energies, his rages, exuberance, friendships, vendettas, deep glooms and high elations were like the elements. Surely they would never go away.
If it was hard to believe that Ermoll had gone, it was almost as hard to believe that the latter day Serge was the same fit, seemingly disciplined, trim and quite handsome, hip young bebop pianist and seventh dan black belt karate player who had appeared at the famous El Rocco, Kings Cross, in the late 1950s and again, after a sojourn in Britain, in the late 1960s, leading a trio that was to some extent modelled on the popular American piano trio The Three Sounds. Sometime back in those days, Ermoll, in his karate outfit and already sporting a Stalinesque moustache, was featured in a short interlude on ABC TV, working out on the grass in the Sydney University Quad. In black and white. Ermoll seemed to live several lives, sometimes simultaneously. He was also a private detective. This element would have made the ABC spot even more intriguing.
Ermoll was born in Shanghai of Russian parents. His father was a trumpet player and band leader. Serge studied the piano from five years of age, but when the family moved to Australia, they could not afford to buy one. Nine year old Serge was given a trumpet instead. Still very young, he played in a father/son duet with Ermoll senior. The two wore black trousers with cummerbunds and shirts ruffed at the cuffs. They played popular Spanish and Eastern European melodies.
After playing with British drummer Jackie Dougan (whom I had befriended when he was playing at Ronnie Scotts before he migrated to Australia) in its very last days, Serge returned to London and played with several notable British musicians. Back in Australia in the 1970s, he embraced the Free Jazz movement, drawing from its American and European aspects to create a highly distinctive piano approach – explosive, fiercely fragmented and turbulent, but also encompassing a singular lyricism and a sustained rolling power. In 1974 Ermoll teamed up with expatriate Russian tenor saxophonist Eddie Bronson, bassist Graham Ruckley and drummer Ross Rignold to form the first edition of the band Free Kata. They made an album of that name for Phillips. At this point they were playing themes by Ermoll and Ruckley but improvising on them very freely. Soon the themes disappeared and everything was freely improvised. And the level of energy and seeming abandon rose dramatically.
After one or two personnel changes (bassist Richard Ochalski figures somehwere along the way) the most successful edition of Free Kata coalesced: Ermoll, Bronson, and very young drummer Louis Burdett. Successful is the operative word. Arguably the most successful musically, it was also surprisingly popular for such free and sometimes violent music. The power and fierce intensity – and the complete absence of any concessions or compromises – drew some quite large audiences, including full houses at The Basement (in its earlier location further along Rieby Place). At this point I joined the band, intending to read some poetry with them. Ermoll insisted that I improvise, as they did. Improvise words, sounds and shapes that is. I pulled back at first from this, having no confidence in my ability to do it. Following threats and urgings from Serge I took the stage at The Basement and discovered an unsuspected facility to invent at high speed – a facility I also used in collabrations with Roger Frampton, Bernie McGann, Jon Rose and others. Even the major free jazz artists, when they used words, read poems with minimal improvisation. Our verbal/instrumental interaction was completely improvised and may well have been unique. It was Serge’s idea, not mine!
In that period, Serge, Eddie and Louis were among the very few in this country who had a real grasp of free, non-metric time. It was conducive to improvising with words as well as notes. The American saxophonist Howie Smith (then head of jazz studies at the Conservatorium) asked if he could appear with the band and, after an extraordinary “reharsal” at the Con (someone left an abusive note on the door of our rehearsal room) we all appeared at The Basement, where we had drawn a full house. The place was packed with fans as well as those who had come to jeer. The pro faction steadily drowned the anti claque and we finished to a standing ovation. On one occasion we actually played at a poetry reading and were enthusiastically recived. A very successful tour of melbourne followed, with the band playing at universities and at Brian Brown’s club. That is Brian brown the musician.
Free Kata made two more albums (on the Kata label) featuring Ermoll, Bronson and Burdett on the first and adding myself on the third. Both were recorded without re-takes or rests on the same day. At the height of Free Kata’s popularity, the erratic Serge temporarily abanded the concept and formed a series of largely indifferent fusion and bebop bands. Later he reformed Free Kata with Burdett, bassists dave Ellis and Steve Elphick alternating, plus my son Mathew on alto saxophone. He also performed some solo improvisations. Some of these were powerful. During others he spoke in a maudlin and/or abusive fashion to the audience. Ermoll’s prodigious drinking was having an obvious effect.
That some of Ermoll’s problems seemed to be self-inflected makes them no less tragic to the onlooker.
It is tempting to shrug Serge Ermoll off by saying “he had something.” In fact he had a considerable talent and, at the time, a definite influence. An influence I can still hear in some of the free improvisers today. A further account of my involvement can be found the 2nd edition of Extempore magazine.