Sydney College of the Arts
Opening Tuesday, 4 – 29 September
SCA Galleries Sydney College of the Arts
Crn Cecily & Darling St, Rozelle
PORTRAITS 2005 – 2014
Production Company: Strange Cities Productions
Director/Producer: Geoffrey Weary
Cast:Tatiana Pentes, Leakhena Sy, Rose Tang
PORTRAITS is an experimental digital work that explores three contrasting experiences of war and conflict in the middle and late 20th century. A woman living in Shanghai is expelled from China after the Communist Revolution in 1949. The ghosts of the Cold War appear and disappear in the crumbling ruins of the Berlin Wall in 1990. A young woman suffers a crisis of identity around the circumstances of her birth at the end of the war in Cambodia in 1978
SCENES FROM A SHANGHAI HOTEL (2007)
An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary
A Russian woman living in Shanghai is expelled from China after the Communist Revolution in 1948. Her story begins in a hotel room in Shanghai and ends on a suburban street in Sydney, Australia. Performative, fictional, and documentary elements are blended into a work that is suggestive and open to multiple readings. Extensive use of film leader and scratchy film surfaces add to the sense that what we are seeing resembles something that is illusive, dream-like, just beyond grasp…..or is it just a newsreel playing in someone’s head?
An experimental film by Geoffrey Weary
CAPTIVE explores the themes of repression, confinement and escape. These themes are expressed through the incorporation of grainy VHS footage shot in Berlin at the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, hand-held camera sequences shot in a maze-like forest and slices of footage composited out of archival Cold War films. As the real historical Wall crumbles under the blows of street hawkers and souvenir hunters, ghostly specters from the past appear then dissolve back into the scratchy surface of a long forgotten newsreel.
A young woman tells the story of her family’s destruction during the war in Cambodia, 1975-1978. Later as a refugee living with her mother in Sydney, Australia she suffers an identity crisis that is linked to the unexplained circumstances of her birth and the mystery of the father that she has never known.
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
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.
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)
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.
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!”.
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?
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/
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.
“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.
“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?
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)