Category Archives: animation

David Blandy, Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark (2013)

edo wonderpark

Japan has multiple ways to say “I”. Artist and multiple-self David Blandy tells us this half way through his new film Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark, a film itself part autobiography.

The Japanses have a dynamic way of speaking in first person, which relates to the present company; and what artist keeps such interesting company as gamer and hip hop geek Blandy?

But despite immersion in these cult-like worlds, an artist will always report back to an art audience, as embedded reporter from a land some would rather ignore.

Perhaps Edo Wonderpark is the first time that hat tips like Ulysses 31 and MCM Expo have made complete sense. The artist has long demanded you give them some attention.

And so we come to his latest assimilation: the “I” of 16th century explorer William Adams. Yes, this figure was a well paid European samurai. But no, he was always an outsider.

(Some modern comparison with Japanese footballers who sign up for the PL. It is not clear what the gaffer has in store for them. Perhaps the marketing departments know.)

It has been said that artists must be outsiders. But in a networked society with mass media and hives of trade and blockbuster exhibitions, this tradition maybe on the wane.

Blandy has found an imaginary land, somewhere that, on account of his height, his looks, his tongue, he cannot fit in. His art, in that sense, is really outsider.

Another strong point made by the film in question is the discovery, “300 years after the Renaissance”, of Japanese prints. Blandy is one who credits them with the birth of modern art.

If that be true then our ignorance about Japan is an ignorance about our own visual culture. Seen thus, the confessional script of Edo Wonderpark says is of urgent importance.

The least that might be said is that all artists need a Japan of the imagination, an uncanny home from home. “A cypher, a receptacle”, says Blandy, who may yet be as captive there as Adams.

Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark can be seen at Rose Lipman Building, 43 De Beauvoir Road, N1, until October 26. See Create London website for more details.

Read my 2010 interview with David Blandy here and/or a post about an early video work here.

Tabaimo, yudangami (2009) at Parasol Unit

Tabaimo’s animations are without doubt unsettling. But the more you watch yudangami (2009) the more you want to watch and the same can be said for her entire show at Parasol Unit. It would be rational to look away, but the films deal in revealing the hidden. No wonder they are compelling.

In yudangami the hair becomes a living curtain which is parted, glimpse by glimpse, to allow us to witness scenes of increasing strangeness. Disembodied hands caress this screen, building the sense of tension and of promise. They may belong to us. They may belong to the artist. Either way we are involved.

By the end we have taken part in a mystery with no obvious cause, meaning or solution. Tabaimo has enshrouded us. We succumb to the fascination of what unfolds as if to death. So the film’s very watch-ability is a problem.

But not a problem for the artist. She demonstrates that art can transport its subjects to the very edge of consciousness, or to the other side of human knowledge. You do not have to wonder why people make art when it appears to offer its users such powers.

yudangami features in Tabaimo – Boundary Layer, at Parasol Unit, London, until August 6 2010

Feature: Soundtracks for an Exhibition

Ron Terada, Soundtrack for an Exhibition, video still. Courtesy of Ikon

Art is getting noisier. Galleries echo with moving image installations. The quieter ones provide you with audio-guides. Sound is now such a vital dimension of art, some artists are making art about that very phenomenon.

In a boxlike construction at Ikon in Birmingham, you can pull up a beanbag and enjoy some music. On a giant screen ahead a retro turntable plays a selection of vinyl LPs. It reconstructs the type of experience you might have at home, yet you are sat in a sculpture.

This is Soundtrack for an Exhibition (2000-) by conceptual artist Ron Terada. It features a selection of his favourite tunes from the last ten years and celebrates his first major show in Europe. Pavement, The Magnetic Fields and The Walkmen are among the bands included.

Curator Helen Legg explains the popularity of the work: “Ron likes making mix tapes and people like having mix tapes made for them . . . so people are working out whether there is a narrative to the work.” This particular mix tape has also been pressed up as a free record that gallery goers can take home with them.

The melancholy tunes can be heard throughout the exhibition, and it should be mentioned that this show is called “Who I Think I Am”. This personal selection of music seems a direct way of getting to know the artist, or is it?

“I think that Ron is very smart guy,” says Legg. “He’s very self aware, so the music is both the kind of music he would listen to – they are his favourite songs quite genuinely – but he is also very aware of impression they give of him, so that’s why the show is a self portrait and the music too.”

Either way, Terada has good taste, which makes this a contender for the best sounding show of the year. It makes you wonder why so much art is still looked at in silence.

“I think its just a cultural habit, which I guess comes from the history of exhibition making and the way museums and galleries have operated historically,” explains Legg. “But I think with moving images becoming more prevalent within galleries that’s starting to be challenged and fade away. I think curators are increasingly becoming aware of the uses of sound, and artists too.”

Not content with soundtracks, many creative arts shows are now developing audiovisual idents. A recent example can be found at Life in 2050 at Proud Central in London.

Most of the work in the future-focussed exhibition, which runs in support of the 9th Sci-Fi London Film Festival, is comprised of relatively quiet illustration, photography and design. So the ident, projected from the mouth of a sculptural robot onto the white wall, sets the atmospheric tone.

Visually, it is a code-generated animation, which appears to map the evolution and dissolution of an entire world. It is abstract, cerebral and, like the Terada piece, hypnotic. Meanwhile the ambient techno backing provides an unofficial soundtrack to your visit and indeed the entire film festival.

Creative Director Andrew Jones and his agency Future Deluxe set out to find music that could bear repeated listening. “Some of the first pieces we looked at were quite electronic and quite structured, with too much emphasis on the beat, but when we heard Quadrant 3 [by Harmonic 313], it matched the animations because you could keep listening to it again and again,” he explains.

Jones says that in the world of digital arts, it is now standard practice to develop an ident: “In terms of promotion and the online element it works very well, getting people talking about it, building up a bit of hype before the exhibition starts.”

Yet he admits there is a historical precedence for silence before the work of art. “There’s definitely some things that are carried forward from the past with art galleries. There is I think an element of ‘That’s how we do things in an art gallery, because that’s how we’ve always done it.’”

“I don’t know why,” he adds. “I don’t agree with it.” And as he demonstrates, shows with added music leave a powerful impression. Anyone might come round to Jones’ way of thinking.

Written for Art & Music.