For many years, the work of the painter, constructor, photographer and graphic designer Rodchenko was under-rated. It is almost as if we had to live through at least part of our current multimedia aesthetic environment before we could fully appreciate the importance of Rodchenko and his other eminent contemporaries, Tatlin, Klucis, Chashnik and Malevich. The Living Badge from 1923 is a parade float extolling the health and beauty of the Russian people.
With choreography by Javier de Frutos, scenography by Matthew Dunster, and an electronic score by the Pet Shop Boys, this is a highly contemporary weaving together of (Hans Anderson’s) fairytale, of classical and modern forms, inspired visually by Russian constructivist graphics and art (especially a flavour of Alexander Rodchenko (see The Living Badge post). Click on the image for the complete BBC4 broadcast of June 2011.
Faber was diagramming the impact of Pre-Viz software on the typical feature film workflow. PreViz is software that combines and replaces several creative stages in Film Pre-Production – storyboard and animatic capabilities to calculate and visualise suitable camera angles, positions, movements, and to sketch the basic mise en scene and actors positions and movements. Nowadays, pre-biz software – easy to use 3d modelling and rendering software based on the production of animatics – such as Frame Forge Studio, Mesh, Moviestorm – point the way to new film-making workflows more in tune with the digital world.
This (offset-litho/paper) catalog was the ‘World Wide Web’ of the late 1960s – a repository of content linked by the zeitgeist concerns of the counter-culture: ecology, environment, counter-culture, anti-war etc… contributions from hundreds of people, edited by Brand (later to write The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT). The Catalog was a mail-order catalogue (note that the civilisation of the American West was based on mail-order catalogues, such as Sears Roebuck (from 1894). But it was a mail order catalog aimed at and created by a younger generation who were exploring a different curriculum – a counter-curriculum – to the conservative, capitalist, military-industrial world of the older generation. Typically the Whole Earth Catalog had sections on ‘Understanding Whole Systems’, Farming, Husbandry,Self-Suffiency, Shelter, Arts and Crafts, Surfing, Sailing, Music, Computing, Philosophy – in fact the whole gamut of areas of interest to the counter-culture. Brand was seminal in the San Francisco counter culture, and after WEC went on to found the first electronic community (the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL) in 1985 (8 years before the WWW really got going). Fred Turner has documented his life and work in From Counterculture to Cyberculture – Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (2006).
Svoboda was a brilliant scenographic artist and stage designer. He founded the Laterna Magicka group and the Diapolyekran (multi-screen array) was invented for the Brussels World Fair of 1958, and had a major impact at the Canadian Expo67 in Montreal.
“Polyekran offers the possibility of free composition, a free shaping and creation on several screens. Images of real objects and people are projected, but the relationships among them are not realistic, but rather supra-realistic, perhaps surrealistic. Essentially, it’s the principle of abstract and pure collage, which is an old and basic technique of theatre. “Op art” is perhaps simply a more recent name for it. In any case, the contrast of varied things on stage is basic to theatre; the objects thereby acquire new relationships and significance, a new and different reality.”
In comparison with Polyekran, which is totally a film spectacle and technically a concern of film, Laterna Magika is theatre with living actors, singers, dancers, musicians. . . . On the one hand we used familiar scenographic techniques such as slides and film projection. New expressive possibilities were added by panoramic film and projection with multi-exposure on several screens at once. A second feature is the use of mobile screens that are joined to the performance of a live actor.
(Svoboda, quoted in “O svetelnem divadle,” Informacni Zpravy Scenograficke Laboratore (Sept. 1958), P. 5.)
Of all the stylistically exaggerated Sixties movies (including Losey’s delicious Modesty Blaise) it is Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme that does it for me. Written by Michael Moorcock, Notting Hill Gate’s omnipresent sci-fi author and eccentric, it stars Jon Finch as Jerry Cornelius, Jenny Runacre as Miss Brunner, and a phenomenal cast of the best of British at that time. The film is an example of how the underground – the counter-culture in which Moorcock played a leading role – inspired mass entertainment. Other movies around this time that transmuted sci-fi and comic-book characters to the big screen included Vadim’s Barbarella, Losey’s Modesty Blaise, Michael Elliot’s The Year of the Sex Olympics and McGoohan’s The Prisoner (both for TV).
Twenty years before Scott McCloud’s brilliant insight into digital comics, Reinventing Comics, Bob and Aileen Stein’s The Voyager Company began to explore the territory of ‘interactive comics’ – migrating the page to the screen and using the hypermedia tool Hypercard to add features such as hyperlinked context, interviews, video, indicing, bookmarks and other features entirely new to the general public in 1994 – a couple of years before these became part of the expectation of the media experience after the Web. The best of the current ibook tools (such as Apple’s iBook Author) are only just starting to catch up (in form, and in content-design tools) with what the Voyager creative team did 20 years ago.