Tatiana Pentes, WORSHIP SCULPTURE DANCE, Master of Art (Media Arts), CoFa, UNSW, 1995 [download paper]
Figure 1 Digital montage from A Few Small Snaps digital film artwork by Tatiana Pentes
This study documents the production of a set of digital film artworks installed in the College of Fine Arts gallery as the culmination of the Master of Art (Film, Video, Sound, and Computing), Media Arts. The digital film artworks are comprised of : (i) Worship Sculpture Dance: Odissi : Movements in Stone, the imaging an ancient devotional classical Indian dance form Odissi, from the state of Orissa, India; (ii) Zang Tumb Tumb 1, inspired by the Futurist sound poetry of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and the Luigi Russolo and The Art of Noise; (iii) A Few Small Snaps, the digital animation of a series of autobiographical self-portraits stimulated by a study of the Mexican self-portrait painting of Frida Kahlo; and (iv) Strange Cities2 an interactive CD-Rom new media script. Strange Cities script (writing) has been included to the Worship Sculpture Dance study as blueprint for potential future research and development. The aim of this creative research has been to focus on new technology as a contribution to a questioning of traditional (analogue) modes of art production.
The approach has been to explore & image traditional classical Indian forms of representation (dance, choreography, & music) and to re-interpret and translate these ancient forms as a new form of engagement. At the same time, the objective of this creative research has been interrogate transforming notions of the filmic, televisual, radio(audio)phonic, sonic and the (digital) computer medium, and to investigate questions of authorship and to challenge the uniqueness of the art object. This creative work is the outcome of conceptual and art historical research, focusing on the potential of an articulation of the philosophical, historical, cultural, formal and spiritual in a digital (computer) landscape.
Technological and Conceptual Framework
These digital films that have been produced and installed in the gallery context: (i) Odissi : Movements in Stone; (ii) Zang Tumb Tumb; and (iii) A Few Small Snaps, for the Worship Sculpture Dance forming a major creative artwork exhibition.
The objective of this creative research has been to question traditional (analogue) modes of art production, and the approach has been to explore & image avant garde European sound poetry, self-portraiture and traditional classical Indian sanskrit forms (dance, choreography, and music culture) and to re-interpret and translate these (analogue) forms (using a new stylus, pen & glue-stick) and to produce a critical engagement with these representations of Other. Simultaneously, the objective has been to interrogate transforming notions of the filmic, televisual, videographic radio(audio)phonic, sonic and moving image (animation) in the (digital) computer environment; to investigate notions of ‘self’ in a cross-cultural environment; to question the Western concept of authorship and to challenge the uniqueness of the art object.
These digital film artworks have been generated in the new multi-media environment of the computer. The installation of these digital films in the gallery context has provided the context for social interaction and engagment with the artworks in the form of an exhibition. The artworks have been produced using Macintosh computer software and hardware, and the following
software digital imaging and editing programs.
Image 2. Digital film still Chitritta Mukerjee, Odissi Dance Company performs Konarak Kanthi at The Performance Space, Sydney 1993, by Tatiana Pentes
The articulation of ‘self’, ‘identity’ and the creation of an innovative feminine vocabulary in the self-portrait paintings of Frida Kahlo.
A dissertation submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Letters (Art History & Theory/ Gender Studies), University of Sydney, 1998 (with Merit), book published VDM Verlag Germany, 2009. [download book Sydney eScholarship Repository]
Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column (1944), oil on tin, Source: Herrera, Hayden, Frida : A Biography, Harper and Row, New York, 1983.
Feet what do I need them for
If I have wings to fly. 1953
Frida Kahlo’s Diary 1
Abstract: The Self-Portraits of FRIDA KAHLO
This book examines the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo and explores the way in which they articulate a ‘self’ and ‘identity’ through creating an innovative feminine vocabulary. The aim of this creative research is to explore the way in which Frida Kahlo represented her sexual subjectivity in the body of self-portraits she produced in her short life time. The self-portraits, some of which were produced in a state of severe physical disability and chronic illness, were also created in the shadow of her famous partner- socialist Mexican muralist/ revolutionary Diego Rivera. An examination of the significant body of self-portrait paintings produced by Frida Kahlo, informed by her personal letters, poems, and photographs, broadens the conventional definitions of subjective self beyond the generic patterns of autobiographical narrative, characteristic of an inherently masculine Western ‘self’. In Kahlo’s self-portraits the representation of the urban Mexican proletarian woman-child draws stylistically from the domain of European self-portraiture, early studio photographic portraiture, and the biographical Mexican Catholic retablo art, with its indebtedness to the ancient Aztec Indian
symbology of self.
The Impulse to Represent the Self: Narcissus
The first image was a portrait. In classical mythology, a lovely youth named Narcissus lay beside a pool gazing in adoration of his own reflection…In the Bible St Veronica compassionately pressed a cloth against Christ’s face as he stumbled to Calvary, and found His true image miraculously printed on the material…St Luke became a painter because, having experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary, he was inspired to produce a faithful portrait of her. 2 The self-portraits of Frida Kahlo significantly open up a new horizon in twentieth century painting. The works, created in Mexico in the 1930’s and 1940’s intersect with and extend the tradition of self-portraiture in the West. Contemporary modernist Mexican concerns to conserve, celebrate, and resurrect indigenous Mexican Indian culture were likened to the classical re-discovery of Greco-Roman antiquity in Renaissance Art. The portrait genre existed in Western antiquity and the early Christian world in the form of statues, busts, coins, sarcophagi and wall paintings. 3 The re-discovery of portraiture has been considered a definitive feature of the Renaissance, as exemplified by the artist Albrecht Durer’s project to represent the self. Durer fashions his 1500 Self-Portrait as an emblem of the powers of the individual creator, with the visual allusion to the vera icon of Christ.
“ Durer mythicises the identity between image and maker …endowing his likeness with the “omnivoyance” of a holy icon, he celebrates himself as a universal subject, whose all-seeing gaze is subject to none.” 4
Strikingly, there are parallels with Kahlo’s own impulse to represent the self in a period of Mexican history that has been termed the Mexican “Renaissance”. The legacy of Durer in Kahlo’s art is manifest in the close analogy between (i) bodies and texts, (ii) the artist’s self-portrait and the holy image (in the case of Durer, the body of Christ); and (iii) the Renaissance painter’s ascent from craftsman to artist, celebrating the artist’s art as the vera icon of personal skill. The Renaissance humanist notion of Man as created in the image of God is envisioned in Durer’s idealised 1500 Self-Portrait, where he is both created in the image of God and through artistic production creates as God. Kahlo’s repeated imaging of her incomplete barren body, a suffering and wounded body, places the woman-child at the centre of the universe, as universal all-seeing subject, yet corrupted and incomplete, as in Durer’s later self-portraits. Kahlo’s self-portrait works such as The Broken Column (1944); The Wounded Deer (1946); and The Two Frida’s (1939), recall the representation of the body in pain in Durer’s Self-Portrait as Man of Sorrows and Self-Portrait of the Sick Durer (a. 1512). In these works there is no illusory sense of self mastery in depictions of the wounded and incomplete body.
A shadow flickers across the history of the self-portrait, from Durer’s art in the Renaissance to twentieth century modernism – the original founding myth, the desire for self knowledge and the Fall. Transcending the Biblical manifestation of this myth and at the heart of the desire to regain the paradise lost of immortality is ever-present tyranny of the flesh – Death. Durer analogises his body and self in his self-portraits to the divine emblem of Christ, whose ability to transfigure Death in the Resurrection image and his eternal life, is reiterated in Kahlo’s self- portrait’s which iconocise her suffering body, expressing the interior landscape of the artist, and a psychological space of sensation, emotion, and memory.While these qualities are present in traditional masculine self-portraits, in Kahlo’s self-portrait work it is perhaps for the first time that Western painting has represented the specificity of feminine sexual subjectivity.
Frida Kahlo’s Jewish/German immigrant father Guillermo Kahlo was introduced to photography by his second wife (Frida’s Spanish/ Indian mother) Matilde Calderon de Kahlo, whose own father was a photographer. Matilde encouraged Guillermo to take up her father’s profession. This resulted in Guillermo Kahlo’s first major Commission – by the Secretary of the Treasurer under dictator Porfirio Diaz – to record Mexico’s architectural heritage for the 1910 celebration of the centennial of Mexican Independence. This won Guillermo the accolade of “first official photographer of Mexico’s cultural patrimony”. 5
Modern photographic portraiture had a profound influence on Kahlo’s self-portraits, which she often used as the basis of her paintings. In the work My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (1936) there is visual evidence to suggest that the portraits of her parents are directly based on their wedding photograph. 6
This highlights the legacy of the recent photographic medium upon modern painting, a medium with a tradition spanning centuries. As Roland Barthes writing on photography articulates… ” Painting can feign reality without having seen it. Discourse has signs which have referents… Contrary to these imitations, in Photography I can never deny that a thing has been there. 7
The self-portraits represent Kahlo’s reality, like the folk retablos in which the village artisan pins objects from the accident to the votive offering (a victims hair, samples of a vehicles wreckage), she symbolically rather than physically incorporates traces of imaginary and material objects. In all the roughly fifty five self-portraits produced the lens is turned back upon the viewer who is forced to apprehend the dominating subjective gaze of the model Kahlo, thus the surveyor becomes surveyed.
2. The Bus Accident, “Assassinated by Life”
Figure 2. Frida’s drawing of her accident in Herrera, Hayden, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, Harper and Row, New York, 1983, plate 10
Central to the Frida Kahlo narrative of self is a tragic bus accident, the injuries incurred of which she never physically or emotionally recovered. Indeed the physical injuries sustained in the accident when she was eighteen
years old prevented her ability to hold a pregnancy, and in later years, of being able to walk. Kahlo remembered the bus accident on the afternoon of 17 September, 1925: The accident took place on a corner in front of the San Juan market exactly in front. The streetcar went slowly, but our bus driver was a very nervous young man. When the trolley car went around the corner the bus was pushed against the wall…It is a lie that one is aware of the crash, a lie that one cries. In me there were no tears. The crash bounced us forward and a handrail pierced me the way a sword pierces a bull… 8 Frida’s lover Alejandro Gomez Arias described her situation:…Something strange had happened. Frida was totally nude. The collision had unfastened her clothes. Someone on the bus, probably a painter had been carrying a packet of powdered gold. This package broke, and the gold fell all over the bleeding body of Frida…and then I noticed with horror that Frida had a piece ofn iron in her body.” …They thought she would die on the operating table… The steel handrail had literally skewered her body at the level of the abdomen; entering her left side…“I lost my virginity”, she said. 9
The images of suffering, wounds, loss, grief, and barrenness appearing in much of her work could be derived from this fateful accident, an event scarring her body for life. The tears that she claims she never shed on that day seem to be endlessly reproduced in her pictures. The pain that she suffered throughout her short lifespan necessitated the long term and perpetual use of pain-killers and morphine. Indeed, all medical evidence pointed towards this substance as the cause of Kahlo’s suicide 13 July 1954. 10
1 Kahlo, Frida,The Diary of Frida Kahlo, Bloomsbury, London, 1995, p134.
2 Woodall, Joanna (Ed), Portraiture: Facing the Subject, Manchester University Press, New York, 1997, p1. (via the translation of Arabic texts into Latin)
3 Woodall, Joanna (Ed),op cit p1.
4 Koerner, Joseph Leo, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, The University of ChicagoPress, London and Chicago, 1993, p242.
5 Herrera, Hayden, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, Harper and Row, New York, 1983, p5.
6 Herrera, Hayden, op cit p8.
7 Barthes, Roland, Camera Lucida, Flamingo, Great Britain, 1980, p76. [my italics]8 Herrera, Hayden, op cit3, p48.
8 Herrera, Hayden,op cit p48.
9 Herrera, Hayden,op cit p49.
10 Kahlo, Frida, The Diary of Frida Kahlo, Bloomsbury, London, 1995, p134.
“…landscape architect and film-maker, Gavin Wilson, was researching the artistic heritage of Hill End and the region for his 1995 exhibition The Artists of Hill End: Art, Life and Landscape for the Art Gallery of NSW. Aware of Bellette’s bequest, and withthe support of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Evans Shire Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Wilson invited a third wave of artists to respond to Hill End. Contemporary artists including Richard Goodwin, Anton James, Tom Spence, Wendy Sharpe, Peter Wright, Geoff Weary, Peter Kingston, Mandy Barrett, Emma Walker and James Rogers participated in a series of pilot residencies at Haefligers Cottage in 1994 and 1995. Works from these residencies were exhibited alongside historic works in The Artists of Hill End exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.
“The historic Haefliger Cottage at Hill End and the spectacular surrounding scenery are prividing an ideal location for artist in residency, Geoffrey Weary, who is finding it a welcome respite from Sydney. Mr Weary, who describes himself as a video artists also working with more ‘traditional’ mediums, is the latest participant….Hill End artist in resident, Geoffrey Weary and Tatiana Pentes who are, living and working with the spirit of Paul Haefliger and Jean Bellette in the famous Haefligger Cottage…The house has all their things still intact, the cottage is pretty much as they left it…” in Inspiration For Visiting Artist: Hill End Artist Residency: Geoffrey Weary: Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Advocate, 24 January 1995.
Photograph: Geoffrey Weary & Tatiana Pentes
The foundations of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program were laid. In 1999, under the auspices of Bathurst City Council and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, the Program was officially launched. In 2002 Murrays Cottage was refurbished with the assistance of the NSW Ministry for the Arts and added as a new studio residence alongside Haefligers Cottage in 2003.Since 1994, a total of 283 residencies have been awarded to artists from a diverse range of disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles, new media, writing, animation, film, sound and performance. Over 150 works by 70 of the artists participating in the Program have entered the collection through donation and purchase. The selection presented here represents just a small portion of the work produced in response to the landscape, history and heritage of Hill End.”
“Celebrating 20 years of the Hill End Artists in Residence Program,works in this exhibition are drawn entirely from BRAG’s permanent collection. Featured artists include Jean Bellette, Ray Crooke, Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Ben Quilty, David Strachan, Rosemary Valadon, Greg Weight and Nicole Welch. A Bathurst Regional Art Gallery exhibition.”
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…And the eyes of them both were opened… Old Testament, Genesis Chapter 2: 6 & 7
A sublime female body descends from the heavens, illumined upon the black painterly digital surface. These selected prints from Geoffrey Weary’s photographic series
TIME WAS…emerged from his residency at the British School at Rome, in 2000.
Exploring notions of the flow of time through cinematic representations of the human form, the artist presents and reveals both the precious object and the visceral shape of the corpus. The images represent the flow of time in the photographic realm. Time passing through and enveloping the body in frozen motion. The concealed female form transforms and reveals a knowing subject. The dualism of the clothed and the unclothed woman allegorise for the viewer the Biblical myth of the Fall. However, the artist transcends this idea through the repetitive exploration of these motifs, exemplified in this series.
Weary’s practice in the field of video art has shifted in the taking up of creative new media technologies and multimedia processes, to incorporate digital media, photomedia collage, where photography alchemically mingles the interplay of historical visual traditions: referencing sequential narrative film, modernist expressionist picture space, and the dark void of mannerist aesthetics. In a self-reflexive mode, Weary calls attention to the materiality of the paint on canvas
and pixels, the legacy of early avant-garde experiments. However, in true multimedia fashion, the fusion of stylistic impulses coalesce on his electronic surfaces, forming both abstract and figurative motifs, the convergence of art historical traditions, media types and knowledge.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Old Testament, Genesis Chapter 1: 3 & 4.
From the darkness emerges the virtual play of light sources, signifying the shift from perspectival representation to the creation of an imaginary horizon, floating world.
Tatiana Pentes Doctor of Creative Arts (Digital Media) Communications, University of Technology, Sydney, 2006.
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.
Explore the world of HOME through the eyes of Frank, Jason and FAE. Frank’s memories overwhelm him as the shop he has lived and worked in for the past 50 years crumbles around him. Jason lives with his grandfather, He photographs Frank, and what is left of the shop. Meanwhile he dreams of escape. To where he isn’t sure. Fae often comes to visit her uncle Frank. They share an obsession with the city, street maps and the places that Fae loves to wander through.Frank remembers June, Vera and Fae’s mother Clare.
Frank:: Jim Palmer
Jason:: Eric Warburton
Fae:: Patricia Werleman
Japanese Performer:: Kazuo
Photography, Cinematography & Timeline Montage:: Geoffrey Weary
Interface Design and Development:: icemedia
Sound Design & Music:: Michael Bates with thanks to Mark Gardiner
Online and Social Media:: Tatiana Pentes
HOME is navigated across the Frank, Jason and Fae timelines with a touch to screen movement from right to left. Backward movement is optional at any time.
A double touch on any frame will bring the timeline selected to full screen. Touch again will return to three timeline screen display.
When navigating HOME we recommend the use of iPad headphones.
HOME was produced as part of a University of Sydney ICT initiative Faculty-specific Research & Education Program (2012). The program helped sponsor this proof of concept. Extensive consulting & procurement services were provided by the team as a part of this initiative.
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
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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
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.
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
“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
China Heart is a partnership with dLux Media Arts , the Powerhouse Museum, Gallery 4A, The Project Factory written/directed by Annette Shun Wah & sound design Kingston Sound – exploring the effectiveness of engaging new audiences with existing archives using fictional entry point- in the creation of a innovative iPhone application, interactive website & mobile web interface to explore a social & cultural history of Chinatown, Sydney. Tatiana Pentes’ participation includes brand logo design, graphic interface design, look & feel of iPhone app, visual research, and editing & digital effects for the moving image & sound sequences.
A love story, a puzzle and a challenge
Lian is a young woman whose plans to marry are stalled when she receives a mysterious engagement present with a strange message. Will she ever be able to marry her beloved David?
Players help Lian solve the puzzle of her family’s past and her cultural history guided by dramatic clues, oral histories and historic re-enactments downloaded on their own mobile phones so her wedding can take place as planned
Image: 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 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