In college, I took a film class (can’t remember which one) that required us to read Andrey Tarkovsky’s book Sculpting in Time. I found this book, more so than his films, revelatory. Not just of ideas on cinema but on art in general. A lot of my work now, at the intersection of art and film, is heavily influenced by some ideas articulated by him. It’s nice to revisit his text every once in a while to remind myself what “sculpting in time” is all about. Here are some excerpts:
He starts to be an artist at the moment when…his own distrinctive system of images starts to take shape—his own pattern of thoughts about the external world—and the audience are invited to judge it, to share with the director in his most precious and secret dreams. Only when his personal viewpoint is brought in, when he becomes a kind of philosopher, does he emerge as an artist, and cinema—as an art.
What are the determining factors of cinema, and what emerges from them? What are its potential, means, images—not only formally, but even spiritually? And in what material does the director work?
I still cannot forget that work of genius, shown in the lasat century, the film with which it all started—L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de La Ciotat. That film made by Auguste Lumi``ere was simply the result of the invention of the camera, the film and the projector. The spectacle, which only lasts half a minute, shows a section of railway platform, bathed in sunlight, ladies and gentlemen walking about, and the train coming from the depths of the frame and heading straight for the camera. As the train approached panic started in the theatre: people jumped up and ran away. That was the moment when cinema was born; it was not simply a question of technique, or just a new way of reproducing the world. What came into being was a new aesthetic principle.
For the first time in the history of the arts, in the history of culture, man found the means to takes an impression of time. Once seen and recorded, time could now be preserved in metal boxes over a long period.
Film took a wrong turn…
The worst of it was not, in my view, the reduction of cinema to mere illustration: far worse was the failure to exploit artistically the one precious potential of the cinema—the possibility of printing on celluloid the actuality of time.
Time, printed in its factual forms and manifestations: such is the supreme idea of cinema as an art.
…the essential principles of cinema, which have to do with the human need to master and know the world. I think that what a person normally goes to the cinema for is time: for time lost or spent or not yet had. He goes there for living experience; for cinema, like no other art, widens, enhances and concentrates a person’s experience…
What is the essence of the director’s work? We could define it as sculpting in time. Just as a sculptor takes a lump of marble, and, inwardly conscious of the features of his finished piece, removes everything that is not part of it—so the filmmaker, from a ‘lump of time’ made up of an enormous, solid cluster of living facts, cuts off and discards whatever he does not need, leaving only what is to be an element of the finished film, what will prove to be integral to the cinematic image.
There is a term which has already become commonplace: ‘poetic cinema’. What is meant by it is cinema that boldly moves away, in its images, from what is factual and concrete, as pictured by real life, and at the same time affirms its own structural wholeness.
‘Poetic cinema’ as a rule gives birth to symbols, allegories and other such figures—that is to things, that have nothing to do with the imagery natural to cinema.
Here I feel on more point needs clarification. If time appears in cinema in the form of fact, the fact is given in the form of simple, direct observation. The basic element of cinema, running through it from its tiniest cells, is observation.
I met writer/journalist Roopa Chauhan in Créteil, France last april when I attended the International Women’s Film Festival for the screening of Roberta’s Living Room. She interviewed me there and then wrote this beautiful, insightful article on it.
RMHC (Ronald McDonald’s House Charities) is a charity organization run by McDonald’s, providing housing to families of ill children in need. There are some ~300 houses around the world, and Korea’s first RMHC is being built right now, near Busan, S. Korea.
For this new house, I was asked to create a projection-mapped donor wall, incorporating Korean elements into the modern design of the house. I decided to use animated Minwha (traditional Korean illustrations) on handmade ceramic plates, to bring two crafts that really shine in Korean art.
Here’s a little snippet of the content ->
The building interior is still under construction, and therefore the artwork cannot be revealed yet in its full environment.
Here’s a bit of the installation process, behind-the-scenes:
It was already back in September 2018 that we shot this brand video for new sparkling water company Seasons Sparkling. I pitched a concept, directed it, and edited. And finally, just a couple weeks ago we finished this video. It was a long time coming in the process—music especially being a tough part that we stumbled through together.
But finally, it’s finished and I’m waiting for it to be released.
Here are some shots from behind the scenes.
This is a timelapse look into how we installed the Shadow Exposed piece at iLight Singapore this past january. Of course this video doesn’t actually capture all the nitty-gritty process that went into it. Both the technical and physical challenges were hard and we had to fall on some plan B’s, but we had plan B’s so we didn’t have to panic. Working against the backdrop of such gorgeous skyline of Marina Bay was a privilege.
It’s been a long time coming since Eddie (Visual Feeder) and I first proposed this project to iLight, and then got selected to show…and now in full motion for creating content.
It’s a project called Shadows Exposed, a large scale, lo-fi interactive installation that will be revealed in Singapore at the end of January 2019. More info to come about that.
Last weekend we did a green screen shoot of a bunch of video portraits to incorporate into our cityscape. There’s a lot of work left to do, but I’m excited about how these are looking so far.
So much happened in 2018 in my life that I hadn’t updated since Jan. 7 this year.
But to jump right into current events, this is the most recent job I did, and one very different from what I usually do. I mostly work with installations or video pieces, and rarely in a live event setting. But I wanted more experience and exposure in that area, so I took up a gig assisting the Artifice NYC team building the video content for the Park Avenue Armory gala.
The video team was co-designers Katy Tucker and Brad Peterson, and associate designer Lisa Renkel. I served as the assistant designer, being on site throughout tech, assisting any content creation, revision and rendering. It was a strange shift going from mostly being my own boss or directing or working directly with clients to being an assistant in a team. An intriguing experience for sure, to witness how the world of live events go down. Revisions happened down to the last minute before house opened.
The contents were a mix of abstract, artistic video contents to glorified presentation slides and sizzle reel videos. And also the use of IMAG. In the end, all things went smoothly and lasted all too short compared to the enormous hours poured in. Such is a live event.
Here's a timelapse of the installation and showing of this piece.
Shown at Illumination 2017 on Halloween in the VIP room. Chicago!
Tech support: Vincent Naples of DMBT and Reese Murdock
Installation support: Tina Abraham
I wrote the following short story for my friend Andre Uhl's new album, "I hope my roof flies off and I get sucked up into space." He asked 13 different writers to each write a short story paired with one of the tracks in his album. Those stories were compiled into a booklet, included in the vinyl set. I chose to write for a track called Cover, which was a piece I heard throughout its making. If you'd like, listen to the track while reading the story.
The ceiling lamp hanging off the cord sways back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to the breeze. The window is cracked open. The curtain flies softly in a helpless effort to escape from the windowsill. The shadows around the little girl’s bedroom dance around the wall in perfect sync with the swaying lamp. The bulb is dim.
The girl looks up at the lamp, or perhaps past the lamp into the ceiling from her bed. Blanketing the dancing walls is the infinite abyss of the black ceiling. She is calm or terrified or occupied with many thoughts. There’s no way of telling. Her unruly, short hair exists at free will. Planets and cake slices and whales pattern her emerald pajamas—no doubt a collection of her favorite things.
A sudden urge to protect herself from the pull of the infinite darkness overcomes her. She pulls the covers over her head. It is murky under the cover. She stays silent for what may have been moments or eternity. The lamp light seems to penetrate through the covers. But no, it is a light from within. There is a glow spreading under the covers, and the space within it widens around her. The glow is coming from her. A soft, pastel, emerald glow. She finds herself floating. Like an astronaut in space. Or a diver underwater. The delicate boundaries of the covers continue to recede, giving way to the glow. She tumbles, very slowly, without orientation. Her movement slows down, like wading through water. A sense of safety and comfort engulfs her. She listens to a beat, a rhythm. Twice every few seconds.
Whispers of the breeze circle outside the covers. Distant voices, muffled, perhaps yelling at each other also echoes.
She grasps around her to catch the air or water, whatever it is that’s surrounding her. She can only create elongated shadows from her fingers dividing the murky glow. Shadows onto nothing. As it retreats into gentle disappearance. She has lost her way out of the covers.
Andre is an electronic musician based in Berlin. We met at an artist residency in a small town in eastern France, in 2016. He recorded in the music studio next to my studio, where I installed a projection mapping piece. It's exciting that the work I saw him create came to fruition as an album a year after the residency.
This is a very overdue sharing of a project some friends and I did together, a couple years ago.
We decided we'll do a one-day project with very minimal preparation. We set very limited boundaries around the project. Decided to use a drone not as a flying camera, but as the character itself. And it would be the thing making music as it flies around.
So we got five people together: Chris doing the coding of an Xbox Kinnect reading the drone, Aaron creating the music scales that the drone can draw from, DS & I sourced footage and set up the projections, Maggie dressed the drone and set.
And this is what came out of that day.
the challenge is having to work in the inverse colors
"One could say that a beginning has the shape of an idea."
"Where do ideas come from, and what is that space? What is it like, out of which things grow? We should treasure it. It's like a treasure room."
The You Are Beautiful project by Matthew Hoffman meets The Bright Side, and 100 artists.
That was this show that took place this September. 100 artists, of various heritage, received a wood board that says "You Are Beautiful" in the language of their choice, and were asked to interpret and create what they will with it.
I received the board in Korean. Then I decided to create a board that lays out the color scheme commonly found in Korean traditional outfit, Hanbok, particularly in the sleeves of women's dresses. I used Korean paper on the outer ring, and gold paint for accents and texture.
Roberta's Living Room is now a few rounds into the edit. Post is turning out to be a very international, remote process. I've got my editor and college bestie Stacy editing in LA. She's currently with the final season of Portlandia. I've got my composers Perrin & Kelly of the band Beirut, each writing music respectively from New York & Portland (when not on tour). My VFX guru Ang is cranking out shots from here in Chicago. And it looks like my sound designer is going to be working from Madrid. It's not easy working so remotely, but it's coming together... slowly but surely.
Here's a teaser trailer I cut together right after the shoot.
We're shooting in less than 3 weeks. That's crazy to me.
Roberta's Living Room is a short film I've been preparing for a very long time. It took me very long to write it, first of all... It's only 9 pages, but I wrote it and rewrote it over 4 years. Every several months, I'd open up the script and always find the same places problematic. So I fiddled with it for a long time, and also just waited for the opportune moment to make it happen. I knew it was an ambitious project, and not something I could do with some friends over a weekend.
I suppose the timing all aligned when I left my day job in advertising. In that last month at my job, I won Best Screenplay with it at NFFTY, and the super positive feedback from the jury members really gave me the courage to start taking some actions.
While I was in Europe for artist residencies, I went to Portugal for FEST Training Ground. And by sheer stroke of luck, I met my now-EP there. She happened to sit next to me one day, and casually asked if I had a project I'm working on. And I told her the story. She and the people around us seemed intrigued. So I gave her the script. Two weeks after the festival, when I kind of dismissed it all, she called me and said "Hey, it's Ursula from Spain. I like your script, let's do this." That was the first real thing that set it in motion.
From there, a whole year went by, things starting up slowly when I returned to Chicago... then things getting very complicated with budgets and producers, and too many producers, and me just being an amateur indie filmmaker. They were all frustrating, but necessary steps, I suppose. And I learned so much in that process, to say the least. And in that meantime, I was also away in Korea for a couple months for my solo exhibit.
Things really started happening in the beginning may. The right people came onboard, I found great locations, casting session happened, the first pre-pro meeting happened... I got BEIRUT members to write me music.. we have people building a mechanical coffin for us.. Some money is in the bank. Found more potential investors. It's a whole thing. I'm amazed it's all happening.
Right now, I'm making the crowdfunding video. I kinda hate it. I don't like crowdfunding to begin with, but then I have to be in it and talking too. It's miserable, but I can't complain because I'm otherwise living the dream, plus I'm asking people for their money so..
I can't wait to see how all of it unfolds. I hope I can deliver to all the people I promised it'll be good. Most of all, myself.
After 3+ weeks of a whirlwind, my first solo show finally opened at a small private art museum in Gimpo, Korea.
It's a small show, consisting of one major installation piece made last year, and two new pieces, all of them combining video mapping & object installation. I debated long and hard on which pieces to show. There was a big part of me that wanted to be ambitious and show more since it's a hard-to-earn opportunity of a first solo show at this age+experience. But considering the small space and the fact that they are mostly installation pieces that require mapping, three was already more than enough. Plus I was only given two days of installation. And certainly.. when time came to install, mapping three pieces in two days (including physical installation) was a big challenge. And to my disappointment, I feel I left a lot of details and craft not perfected.
Truly it was an immense learning experience. First solo show, anywhere even back home, would be a tough thing. But trying to pull off a first solo show overseas proved a whole new set of challenges. At first I didn't know where to find some of the most basic stuff like... wire! I was so so lucky to have many friends and relatives here willing to help me.
Here's a little glimpse into the first 2/3 of our installation process. Unfortunately the last 1/3 was such serious, intense crunch time that there was no time to swap out the GoPro battery. It's too bad, because that's really when all the mapping magic happens...
It came and went like a mini storm. I installed To the Moon and Back for Voyager 2017, third time in total, first time in the US. A Chicago premiere!
Canvas puts on an epic New Year's Eve party every year called Voyager. The story is that NASA, in 1977, launched a spacecraft called Voyager with a golden disk containing an introduction to humanity for outer-space beings.
In light of this theme Voyager, I incorporated a gold color scheme into the piece this time. I also used the Voyager golden disk in place of the original teal colored planet behind the moon. The major new element was the upgrade on the Muybridge horses. I used little horse toys to make the horses in the Muybridge images jump out into 3D space. And they curve around a golden record, again referencing the Voyager disk, but also referencing the zoopraxiscope, which was an invention by Eadward Muybridge. It's considered the first movie projector, and the images go around a disk that rotates. On the next install, the challenge might have to be to make this disk actually turn...
It took five days to install this, including a few long nights. There's the physical install, and then the digital install afterwards, so it goes in two parts, both bringing different sets of challenges.
I was grateful for a lot of help coming from Canvas staff members and volunteers.
Here are some photos from work in progress.
I visited Vitra Design Museum twice this past summer because I loved it so much. The main exhibit was on Alexander Girard.
From the exhibit:
Alexander Girard (1907-1993), an American with Italian roots, was one of the twentieth century's leading modern fabric designers and interior architects as well as a passionate collector of folk art.
Girard conceived of design as a means of injecting beauty and pleasure into daily life. For him, designing could even involve creating worlds of his own. He recognized a similar impulse in folk art, based on a universal human heritage of patterns, motifs, and design techniques that transcend the limits of time and place and continue to inspire ever-new individual interpretations and variations.
The interior as stage | Girard thought of interiors in terms of a stage. He reated narrative spaces that employed murals and decorative objects to provide glimpses of other worlds. In doing so, he artfully combined the old and the new as well as objects from a variety of epochs and cultures. The private interiors that he designed--such as the Miller House in Columbus, IN, or his own home in Santa Fe, NM--were envisioned as works in progress in which the "stage set" varied with the seasons and over the course of years to come. His commercial interiors, in contrast, were conceived as worlds of their own for which Girard himself took care of everything--from the overall look down to the smallest of details.
I'm starting some research for a new piece I'm working on for my upcoming solo show. Somehow I wandered into MoMA's interactive exhibit on Salvador Dalí and stumbled upon this writing on his perspective on film. There's something strikingly similar to my view of the new practice I'm developing based on video.
Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
In his practice, film served many purposes: Its modernity was a weapon in his struggle against tradition; its position in mass culture gave him access to new audience; its combination of the real & the imagery demonstrated that the marvelous could be rooted in the banal; and its camera-eye offered new modes of seeing.
Suffused with the cinematic, his work, Dalí believed, would intoxicate viewers, sending them into a revelatory dream state. "The best cinema," he declared, "is the kind that can be perceived with your eyes closed."