Category: Movies/Film/Video

Costume Design: Katja Loher’s Video Planets

Just wanted to share some information about a recent costume design project I did for a Swiss artist named Katja Loher. Katja’s recent work involves video projected onto weather balloons and shown inside video sculptures, respectively called video planets and miniverses. The video depicts activity from a birds’ eye view, involving choreographed movements that spell messages to the viewer. In this newest work Sculpting in Air, human bodies form letters that when composed into words and then sentences communicate simple questions aimed at the viewer or some unknown observer. Their movement takes place on a spinning hard drive which occasionally abruptly stops, and we are informed of a system error. The questions posed by the arrangement of bodies go unanswered as the divide between virtual space and reality cannot be bridged. Or at least that’s my interpretation.

My job was to create the costumes for the piece based on the concept of a futuristic worker, keeping in mind that the work would primarily be seen from above. This meant that there was a greater emphasis on the shoulders and headgear to help shape the silhouette as seen from this vantage point. This was the first time Katja and I had worked together, as suggested by a mutual friend Gin, and we soon found that we were both space nuts and had a common understanding of the visual language of science fiction. Katja was great to work with and very inspiring as an artist and as a director. I had only a couple of weeks to design and execute the costumes before shooting started, but it all came together. Katja’s assistant Luke Emery was also incredibly helpful in gathering materials and completing the helmets. All in all, an excellent project that I feel super proud of.

The piece is now on view at the Maxxi Museum in Rome through December 2010. You can watch it online at maxxi.katjaloher.com. For a project description, the script, cast and credits, and more photos see Sculpting in Air.

Below: Video stills from Sculpting in Air and photos from the shoot taken by Marco Monti

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The Lounge – Online Exhibition

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Several of my videos are featured in an online show that opens today at No Commercial Value (.org) called The Lounge, curated by Natasha Chuk and Cat Mallone. The show will run for two weeks. Please check out the show description below!

This show is a presentation of work by six contributing creators and thinkers who uniquely probe the complexity of how we construct, inhabit, and share our living spaces. The body of work we selected collectively illustrates a collapse of one’s personal and private living spaces and the objects that occupy them. Individually, each work invites users to engage in a unique experience of mediated access and contemplation.

The term “lounge” was selected to describe a broadly defined space of relaxation, exploration, creativity, production, and domesticity, from which a range of activities and the allusion to a complex system of memory and objects emerge. The shifting contexts of living spaces are addressed through new and purportedly obsolete media as a means of channeling the dizzyingly abstruse notion of imagined and realized spaces of dwelling and habitation.

Participating artists include:
Amy Casey
Gregory Fenton
Brian Knauer
Erica Magrey
Hollis B. Thornton
Ann Toebbe

Best Worst Movie, Troll 2, and Nilbog finery

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photo courtesy of Kelly Sepulveda

For those of you who haven’t been blessed with at least one viewing of Troll 2, allow me a brief introduction: it’s a mesmerizing, god-awful, hilarious, bottom-of-the-barrel budget film of rare form. As kids, my brother Aaron and I screened it over and over, rewinding the tape to review favorite scenes of unspeakably bad acting, wardrobe malfunction, and the remarkably “special” effects. There are countless bad movies out there, but few are as captivating and bold. We felt we had discovered a secret little nugget of inept genius and that no one else had ever seen this movie; and yet, as it turns out, many, MANY kids had a very similar experience. Over time they indoctrinated others into the fold. And so began the rise of Troll 2 to cult status.

This past weekend, my pal Jen and I attended a screening of Best Worst Movie – a documentary about Troll 2 directed by its young star, Joshua (Michael Paul Stephenson). We were unaware that we’d be treated to appearances by members of the cast so were happily surprised to meet George Hardy (the dad) and Jason Steadman (Drew). (See photographic proof below.) At the center of the movie is Troll 2’s father figure George Hardy, a super friendly and likeable guy who has a successful dentistry practice in Alabama. He and some of his Troll 2 cohorts ride the wave of notoriety that’s kicked off by a Troll 2 screening at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in 2006, and we witness their unlikely celebrity. The movie truly was very touching and inspiring in addition to being incredibly funny, and I feel confident in saying that viewers new to the trash masterpiece will agree.

George Hardy a.k.a. the dad in Troll 2!Jason Steadman a.k.a. Drew from Troll 2

We also had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Sepulveda and Kris Lozanovski who made these AMAZING goblin costumes based on the creatures in Troll 2. They became a part of the documentary as well after attending a Nilbog Invasion event in Morgan, UT in full regalia. Kelly was kind enough to share some information about how and why the goblins came to be.

Troll 2 replica Goblin masks

I was surprised to hear that the soon-to-be pharmacists had never sculpted anything before this ambitious undertaking (though Kelly does some embroidery, sewing, and scrapbooking). They started their journey with a mask-making kit from Monstermakers.com that included basic instructions. Using still images from the movie for accuracy, Kelly tackled the heads and Kris made the hands using plasteline clay. Here are some excerpts from Kelly’s note about the process:

As far as a technique for figuring out the sculpting process, it was basically trial and error…The sculpting tools I had never used before, so I just had to get used to which tools would be best in working with any particular part of the masks I was currently working on. I am pretty anal about my art, so I did want the masks to look as close as possible to the originals with the time I had to sculpt them…I actually sculpted one of the ears and then cut it off in order to sculpt the other ear so they would both look similar. The hair, eyes, and teeth were all purchased from ebay. The hair is goat/llama hair, eyes are real WWII prosthetic eyes, and the teeth are real shark teeth. I also sewed two burlap sets of shirts and pants and a pillow-case sort of stomach that you could strap around your waist to help complete the costumes. We made spears from some fallen tree branches and bought spearheads from ebay.

The pair met while interning together during college and found that they shared a passion for B-movies, and so Troll 2 came to play a role in their developing romance. When they heard about the costume contest at the aforementioned Nilbog Invasion, they got to work.

I’m all for tackling totally new mediums and am inspired by their story. And their artistry! In addition to the trolls, the couple has also made a board game called Alley Cat inspired by a cat they adopted from the streets. If the pharmacy biz doens’t work out, I’m sure you guys will have plenty of other options.

The goblins are touring the country to help promote the doc and have been seen in Austin and NYC with an upcoming stop in LA. Go see this movie!!
Awesome process shots of the goblin masks below courtesy of Kelly Sepulveda.

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Metalmags and the Alien Ambassador: Synchronicity

Lo and behold, the long-awaited sequel to An Opportunity for Social Engagement has arrived. Join our alien friends as they get down in the outer reaches of space. As always, the characters are played by myself and by Collin Cunningham.

Watch the video on my youtube channel, Mags to Riches.

View the growing Metalmags and Alien Ambassador playlist on my channel.

Two more Metalmags and the Alien Ambassador projects are in the works, so you’ll be seeing more of us! Look out for a preview of the upcoming long form project on my website.

Stryx – 1978

While browsing Youtube’s fine selection of Grace Jones videos the other day, I came across this nugget from Italian TV show Stryx in 1978. It features Grace performing her song Fame while trapsing about in a heavily smoke[machine]-filled set and cavorting on leopard print divans. Note the tone set by the fantastical cape and perched birds as she appears in a bubbling pitcher.

My interest was piqued and I carried onward, determined to delve more deeply into the abyss of Stryx. Unfortunately, as the show only aired for one year, there were a limited number of clips to devour. The journey was short, but not without its high points. In addition to Grace, the show featured an eclectic international mix of songstresses, including Amanda Lear (French), Patty Pravo (Italian), and Gal Costa (Brazilian). Stylistically, the show had a decidedly glamified 70s take on the Middle Ages with dark imagery and characters, though catered specifically to each performer’s song. Each performer’s set of segments was classified by a particular Stryx-ian title – Grace Jones was featured in Rumstryx; Amanda Lear in Sexy Stryx; and Patty Pravo in Subliminal Stryx. (A full list of performers can be found in the Stryx Wikipedia entry.) I SO wish Kate Bush had been on this show. But I digress. The show was yanked from TV channel Rai Due in ’78 due to controversy over the devilish undertones and nudity. So unfortunate, but on the flip side, these fun discoveries remind me how very fortunate we are to have youtube in the first place.

Check out some more Stryx clips below. I promise human hand candle fixtures, a smattering of loud costumes, awkward chorus members, a LOT of smoke machine mist, and even – no exaggeration – a whole litter’s worth of adorable black kittens, not to mention several other animal species making appearances.

I’m not terribly partial to the song, but the giant head and hand on set alone make it worth a watch.

Kittens galore! Plus this one has amazing costumes all-around.

Great intro on this one, and great cape

An awesome very moody Patty Pravo performance

And finally, more Patty Pravo excellence including toplessness (turn it up as the volume is low):

Newest and Perhaps Greatest Symphony of Science

A few days after I posted about the two previous Symphony of Science videos I saw this third installment in the series. (It’s all very confusing to me because I feel like I saw them a year ago and wrote a post about them and then fell into a time warp and came out and there was a new video but I had neglected to write about it.) At any rate, Our Place in the Cosmos is a notch above the rest IMHO. In it, Carl Sagan speaks to our cosmic responsibility, the fact that we must push on to survive, not just for ourselves, but because we owe it to the cosmos from which we came. He also has a great line in the refrain: “One of the great revelations of space exploration is the image of the Earth, finite and lonely, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.” (Sounds more charming auto-tuned, oddly enough.) It probably sounds corny, but both points bring me to tears thinking about them, especially when presented by Sagan, a figure both familiar and nostalgic, as my friend Jeremy and I geeked out on Cosmos in high school. In the amazing documentary For All Mankind, a few astronauts comment on that view of the Earth from the moon as the ultimate reality check, the biggest and most beautiful gift of the big picture they could have imagined, and that always stuck with me.

Just realized all episodes of Carl Sagan’s amazing video series Cosmos (from which this video borrows heavily) can be seen here on Hulu. Yesss!!

Finally, an auto-tune experiment worth watching

“We Are All Connected” is the second in a series of auto-tune compositions by the Symphony of Science. The creator John Boswell used clips of Carl Sagan from the Cosmos series, as well as Bill Nye, Richard Feynman and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Cosmos in itself is an amazing series that should be viewed in all seriousness. Impressively, this video succeeds in making such observations jovial without casting an irritating ironic shadow over the whole production. Bravo! Go to Symphony of Science to download the songs and videos. As seen on Geekologie.

We Are All Connected

Also check out the first video A Glorious Dawn, mostly comprised of Cosmos footage, enhanced by a verse by Stephen Hawking.

Beautiful Decay

Fei over at Beautiful Decay recently wrote a post about my work and was kind enough to email me and let me know about it. I’ve stumbled across this site several times and felt honored to be called out, especially among recent posts about Tom Rubnitz’s Pickle Surprise and Whoop Dee Doo. Please check it out if you get a chance.

In the meantime, if you’ve not seen Pickle Surprise for yourself, do yourself this one favor:

Woven in Time – Evelyn Roth

Behold Woven in Time, the super-cool-in-its-own-right filmic showcase of the amazing work of Canadian textile artist Evelyn Roth. The film’s protagonists are costumed bodies engaging in animalistic rituals, acting and reacting on instinct and natural rhythms. Through costume and movement, these beings are transformed into mythical life forms, writhing playfully to an ambient soundtrack of clicks, creaks, pops, and the occasional whiff of a sweet little melody. This lil old piece of media proves that Roth is a verified goddess of wearable art, though surprisingly, there is not much readily available info online about her work. Thanks to Jen for sending Evelyn’s work my way, and look out for more goodies in the near future. Thanks also to John Stone Davis, whose youtube channel is the source of these videos and several related works as well. Such beautiful, poetic, and moving work should not go unseen! So go forth, my friend, and view the videos below.

First, first feast your eyes on this, and crank the volume, as the levels are rather low.

Woven In Time (1977)

Below are two videos featuring interviews with Roth from 1971 and 1974, respectively.

This one goes into detail about her work crocheting video tape to create car cozies, wearable art ensembles, and an interactive sculpture/costume titled The Video Trap.

Good stuff!!

Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip

I was searching the world wide web for pictures of Kate Bush the other day and stumbled into photos of this spacey lady:

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To my surprise, it turned out to be Sarah Brightman, one of my dad’s fave divas. She played the lead role in Phantom of the Opera – her husband Andrew Lloyd Webber was the composer and creator, and the role was written specifically for her. These days she enjoys success as a soprano siren-diva blending classical and pop influences. I guess when you look into the range of styles she has experimented with in her career, it should come as no surprise that she first met with success as a disco dancer – still, it kinda made me chuckle.

Sarah debuted as a member of Hot Gossip, a British dance troupe that was led and choreographed by Arlene Phillips. Their performances were super glittery disco numbers with a sci-fi tilt that were bursting with sexual energy. Hot Gossip was showcased on the Kenny Everett Video Show in the late 70s and the troupe released a few singles with Sarah as their songstress – see I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper below. I’m also including their video for Supernature by Cerrone.

See early-sarah-brightman.com for more info about Hot Gossip.

I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper

Supernature (includes a bit of footage of Kenny Everett at the end)