The Tony Albert exhibit at the Sullivan+Strump is a juxtaposing display of Aboriginal and Western culture in the playful yet meaningful arrangement of triangular card structures. Utilizing prominent symbols of Western pop-culture and anthropologically rich icons of indigenous Australian motifs, Albert examines the social and fundamental roots that resonate with different human societies. Interrogating the essence of culture, the exhibition surveys the impact of colonization on indigenous Australian traditions and values.
Parading the cultural symbols as the rear sides of playing cards, the exhibition is constructed as a series of six triangle structures made of cards dispersed around a well-lit, empty white room. Maintaining consistency, all six structures retain the identical formation of a thirteen-tiered house of cards.; yet, each edifice utilizes unique motifs to get at the same over-arching theme of the discrepancy between Aboriginal culture and Western pop culture.
The first structure at the forefront of the exhibition is “Space Invaders,” furnished with text of the title written boldly with large decorated lettering and surrounded by images of arcade space invaders. The backs of the cards that form the structure consist of vintage Coca-Cola and 70’s video game icons. The connotation of Western culture’s forced takeover of Australia is practically explicit in the piece’s title, both serving as an emblem of Western technological achievement and the direct invasion of place that erupted from Australian colonization.
To the right, two house of card structures, “We Come in Peace” and “Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder” sit on a white platform. “We Come in Peace” is colored with boomerangs on the backs of cards and portraits of an Aboriginal woman trim “Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder.” Again, large bolded lettering states “we come in peace” on the front of the first work, appearing to personifying both an ironic and satirical take on Australian colonialism. A large Looney Tunes’ road-runner is pasted onto the second tower, surrounded by bulls-eyes, denoting the flee of Aboriginals as colonization pushed them out of their targeted land.
Set in the back of the room is “Forgotten Heroes,” which, unlike the others, seems to draw primarily from Aboriginal values and culture. Firstly, the font scribing “forgotten heroes” is not of the bubbly, brightly patterned pop font as exhibited by “We Come In Peace” and “Space Invaders;” instead, the font is a simple serif, patterned with images of indigenous art of Australian animals. Likewise, the backs of the cards are of Australian historical context, showcasing images of nature, native animals, Aboriginal dot art, and tools of Indigenous peoples.
The last cluster of works, are “We Can Be Heroes, Forever and Ever” and “I Am, You Are, We Are.” Drawing on the theme presented in the first works, “We Can Be Heroes, Forever and Ever” mines imagery from Western pop culture, specifically an icon of Spiderman. Both the title and the Spiderman icon embody cliché, overly idealistic archetypes. A more abstract piece, “ I Am, You, Are, We Are” displays a compellation of both Aboriginal and Western culture, and as the title suggests, points to the shared over-arching identity of Australian culture that both groups of people resonate with. The name of the “I Am, You Are, We Are” again maintains the bold graphic font and is constructed of bright cards of Western pop culture theme.
The layout and grouping together of certain pieces is apparently assigned randomly and changed around often, as was informed to me by the exhibition curator. If fact, the exhibition at Sullivan+Strump holds only six out of the 108 works of Tony Albert’s full room installation and the selection of the six installed was also allocated arbitrarily. As explained to me through the catalogue supplied, the exhibit seems to be presented in a didactic fashion as well as a “fine art” context; the exhibit is meant to be appreciated aesthetically as well as inform audiences about the contemporary legacies of colonialism and its implications on cultural identity.
Though Bright and colorful, the exhibition plays with paramount and even dark themes of colonialism and how it’s impending culture was pushed onto Aboriginals as Australia whitened. The exhibit expounds a condition in which humans in their natural state and home were forced into a foreign civilizing society. Assimilation was not an option, Western culture boldly compelled compliance and many Aboriginals revised their behaviors to fit Western standards. Forced into a culture that values people and functions according to monetary value, Aboriginal culture is often sold out for profit and does not always maintain its original sacredness.
The use of playing cards to tenuously sustain the structures symbolizes the fine line indigenous Australians face between maintaining sanctified glory in their cultural customs and selling out to mainstream culture for profitable gain. The choice to frame the works using playing cards, prominent symbols of Western game culture, also speak to illustrate the societal structures exerted on the Aboriginals by Western ideals. Even still, the term “house of cards” is an expression that implies an argument or structure likely to collapse because it is built on a shaky foundation. A structure of this method relies on strong balance as well as friction in order to stay upright, symbolizing the abrasive relationship between Aboriginals and colonials -often characterized by opposition and the difficult equipoise Aboriginals faced between maintaining their own culture and taking on that of the British in order to stay afloat in their own land.
Overall I strongly believe that the exhibition fulfills an insightful and profound weight of artistic and educational appeal. The themes presented in the work acutely describe the struggles of the Indigenous people as Australia was more and more affected by Western culture post colonialism as well as seemed pertinent to modern difficulties of Aboriginals to strive to maintain sanctity in their culture as a minority within another, very different, culture.
• ITP is a two-year graduate program located in the Tisch School of the Arts whose mission is to explore the imaginative use of communications technologies — how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives. Perhaps the best way to describe us is as a Center for the Rece
I thought the exhibition was awesome and it is too hard for me to chose just 2 that I liked best. The smartest inventions that I saw were the app to help you get ready in the morning and the oyster card reader that donated extra change on the card to charity. I have a tough time getting out of the house quickly and often am late so the app to get you out of the house would be very helpful to me. I thought the oyster card idea was genius and cant belive that no one has thought of it before and that so much extra change goes wasted! Aesthetically, I loved the puppet piece. I thought each of the puppets had such strong and amazing characters; I wanted to look at each and read about all of them. They were made of such cool materials and I could totally resonate with many of the characters. I also thought the magnetic instrument was cool. He was able to make an instrument using the vibrations that come off of a magnetic pull.. very cool. Another piece I liked was the fitbit mirror that was able to detect and project back to you your overall well being. I use fitbit and thought it was very innovative to create a visual representation of the way that we are feeling. Overall I really enjoyed the show. Thank you for assigning us to go!
- center for the collection, preservation, study, and display of contemporary handmade objects in a variety of media,
- The museum was founded in 1956 by the American Craft Coucil. Together with the philanthropist Aileen Osborn Webb as the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. In 1985, the museum was relocated to 40 West 53rd Street and was renamed the American Craft Museum. In 2002 it changed its name again to the Museum of Arts and Design. And Finally In 2008, the museum moved to 2 Columbus
- It includes: four floors of exhibition galleries for works by established and emerging artists; a 150-seat auditorium in which the museum plans to feature lectures, films, and performances; and a restaurant.
- It also includes a Center for the Study of Jewelry, and an Education Center that offers multi-media access to primary source material, hands-on classrooms for students, and three artists-in-residence studios.
Architecture of the MAD Museum:
- small, trapezoidal lot on the south side of Columbus Circle in Manhattan
- 1874 – John D. Voorhis, a carriage maker, builds the seven-story Pabst Grand Circle Hotel on this irregular plot. Designed by William H. Cauvet, the hotel was made of brownstone with a mansard roof.
- 1964 – A&P Heir Huntington Hartford hires Architect Edward Durell Stone to build a museum for him at 2 Columbus Circle. Hartford has one of the world’s greatest art collections with a Rembrant, Claude Monets, Manet, Turner, Salvador Dali to paint a painting called The Discovery of America by Chrisopher Columbus for the opening. Hartford poses in the lobby in Black Tie with a Camel.
- The building at Two Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durell Stone, opens as the Gallery of Modern Art. It displays the collection of Huntington Hardford, heir to the founder of A&P Supermarkets.
- June 2002 – The Museum of Arts & Design is designated as the site developer of 2 Columbus Circle by the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
- Term that points significantly to our rapidly changed and changing relationships with digital technologies and art forms.
- Digital technology is clearly here to stay, and the phrase Post Digital looks forward not to its end, but to its ubiquity; in fact, to the point where it becomes so ubiquitous that it ceases to be interesting.
- In The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age Mel Alexenberg defines “postdigital art” as artworks that address the humanization of digital technologies through interplay between digital, biological, cultural, and spiritual systems, between cyberspace and real space, between embodied media and mixed reality in social and physical communication, between high tech and high touch experiences, between visual, haptic, auditory, and kinesthetic media experiences, between virtual and augmented reality, between roots and globalization, between autoethnography and community narrative, and between web-enabled peer-produced wikiart and artworks created with alternative media through participation, interaction, and collaboration in which the role of the artist is redefined.
- In Art after Technology Maurice Benayoun lists possible tracks for “postdigital” art considering that the digital flooding has altered the entire social, economical, artistic landscape and the artist posture will move in ways that try to escape the technological realm without being able to completely discard it. From lowtech to biotech and critical fusion - critical intrusion of fiction inside reality - new forms of art emerge out of the digital era.
- The notion of postdigital is emerging as a term that describes the exploration of our relationship to the computer age as a dominant paradigm in a time of global mixing, intertwined economies, population certainty and planetary limits.
- The postdigital is a paradigm but an understanding of postdigital does not aim to describe a life after digital, but rather attempts to describe the present-day opportunity to explore the consequences of the digital and of the computer age.
- While the computer age has enhanced human capacity with inviting and uncanny prosthetics, the postdigital may provide a paradigm with which it is possible to examine and understand this enhancement.
- Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, is a collection of fantastic shapes and visions realized by artists using the tools of modern design and manufacturing.
- The show offers museumgoers the opportunity to ogle some of the more stunning achievements of digital design since 2005, the year when Patrick Jouin and Materialise began employing 3-D printing as a commercially viable manufacturing method.
- computer assistance has allowed for the creation of previously impossible-to-make forms.
- The exhibit focused on experimental uses of materials and technologies in art and industry, rather than products designed for the mass market.
- The show as a whole is a reassuring affirmation that our creative industries are not just taking changes in the means of production in stride, but using them to more fully realize their ideas. For a closer and more intellectual look at our shift toward the digital, there’s the exhibition catalog, bolstered by first-person accounts from the designers.
Fully Articulated 3D printed Gown for Burlesque Icon Dito Von Tesse by Michael Schmidt
- Designed by Schmidt and generated by Bitonti, the floor-length nylon gown was made using selective laser sintering (SLS), where material is built up in layers from plastic powder fused together with a laser.
- The rigid plastic components are fully articulated to create a netted structure that allows for movement. Spirals based on the Golden Ratio were applied to a computer rendering of Von Teese’s body so the garment fits her exactly.
- Draped over a nude silk corset, the black-lacquered dress is cinched in at the waist and exaggerated at the shoulders, and embellished with 12,000 Swarovski crystals.
- Personally, this piece was my favorite work of art at the exhibit. I was mezmorized at both its beauty and delicate intricacy. The style and elegance of the dress floored me but knowing that the dress was fabricated using 3D printing technologies only served to further mezmorize me.
- wardrobing and jewelry designer who has garnered the attention of the world’s top entertainers, stylists, photographers and directors for his expertise with a variety of innovative materials and techniques.
- Known for creating elegant yet edgy clothing and accessories, his list of clients includes Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas, Janet Jackson, Deborah Harry, Dita Von Teese, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne and many others.
- In 1991, Michael Schmidt was nominated for an Emmy Award for Costume Design for a Variety or Music Program, “Cher… At The Mirage” CBS.
Liquid Glacial “Smoke” Coffeetable
- Resembling a frozen sheet of ice, the table is essentially a swirl of water on vortex legs.
- CNC-milled from polished plexiglass,
- illustrates the functional role of digital design.
- I was immediately gripped by the “Smoke” Coffetable. I thought its simplicity and unique water essence was incredibly innovative and cool looking. Where the legs spur out from the table, it appears that there are mini tide pools which I also thought was awesome. It looks like it could dissolve into a puddle at any second. Would love to call this piece my own!
- an Iraqi- British architect
- Her buildings are distinctively futuristic, characterized by the powerful, curving forms of her elongated structures
- won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 and is known worldwide for her theoretical and academic work.
- Her projects build on thirty years of exploration and research in urbanism, architecture and design.
- Liquid Glacial Smoke Coffee Table is a wonderfully playful and organic outgrowth of her previous work.
- Freelance journalist with a focus on science
- was meant to write about the USA memory competitions and decided to train for it to get a better story but ended up winning the contest in 2006
- 2006 memory champion
- set a new USA record in the “speed cards” event by memorizing a deck of 52 cards in 1 minute and 40 seconds
Moon Walking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
- sold to Penguin for publication in March 2011
- the book describes Foer’s journey as a participatory journalist to becoming a national champion mnemosist under Ed Cooke, British Grand Master of Memory
- delineates the capacity of the human mind
- investigates the scientific basis of memory creation and historical attitudes towards memory
- explores mnemonic tools for improving memory : some of which are techniques of Roman rhetoricians and tannaim of Judea
- PAO system for memorizing numbers and cards
- Mind Mapping –a notetaking teqnique
- method of loci: data is stored in a sequence of memorable images that are decomposable into their original form.
- supports that practicing these methods can make anyone’s memories better
- the hardest obstacle is psychological barriers
- "Our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by … not paying attention?”
- "If you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.”
- site of curious and wondrous travel destinations
- celebrate a different way of looking at the world
- My favorite place discovererd on the site was the Mosaic Tile House
- large-scale artwork-in-progress
- tiles of every color
- almost every square inch of the home is covered in mosaic tiles
- Cheri Pann and Gonzalo, a husband and wife team, are responsible for this local masterpiece
- Cheri is an artist who creates oil-paintings
- Gonzalo creates canvasses
- Cheri creates the tiles and Gonzalo shatters them and distributes them over every square inch of their home
- captures the effervescent essence of Venice
William Kentridge is a South African artist who works in prints, drawings, animated films, production, and, more recently, multi-media installations. Noted for his remixed aesthetic, Kentridge constructs his art by filming a drawing, making changes to it, and then re-filming it. Born and a current resident of Johannesburg, William Kentridge finds much of his inspiration from South Africa’s socio-political atrocities committed during the Apartheid. Kentridge’s work is incredibly expressive: his form often alludes to uncomfortable and poignant content meant to resonate with the viewers.
This is the case with William Kentridge’s installation, The Refusal of Time, considered one of Kentridge’s most complex and ambitious works to date. The installation is a thirty minute meditation on time, space, the effects of south American colonialism compromised of five separate video channels that are projected around a remixed room with a automaton at the room’s center. Probing explorations of time, history, culture, globalization, and human understanding of all mentioned, Kentridge skillfully integrates moving image, sound, sculptural elements, and theater to provide the viewer with an immersive time study experience His multimedia work synthesizes a number of visual and filmic themes, performance art, and incorporating Kentridge’s oeuvre of his stop-motion animation of charcoal drawings, paper cutout figures, original live-action film, and remixing techniques of reversing image and speed.
The multi-projection environment incorporates sculptural and kinetic elements, forming a truly boundary-pushing immersive art experience. The video projections in the installation touch on studies of the nature of time by Albert Einstein and Henri Poincaré, who both faced the notion that time is relative, not absolute. Throughout the exhibition, Kentridge refers to these scientist’s experiments with the measurement of time and a number of other historical accounts of theories of times –displaying his own rejection to the imposed certainty of sense of order, understood as time.
The video projections draw from choreographers, filmmakers, and stage designers, creating animations and live-action sequences totaling the 30 –minute work of art. The exhibition is layered in soundscape by South Africann composer, Philip Miller, which is emitted from various megaphones around the room. In the center of the installation is a large kinetic sculpture –a “breathing” organ-like automaton. The “elephant” was inspired by a 1870’s copper pneumatic mechanism that was meant to pump air to calibrate Paris’s clocks; this vision reminding Kentridge of a passage from Charles Dicken’s Hard Times describing a factory machines moving about resembling the head of an elephant swallowed in madness. He saw this image as a metaphor for technological developments of human culture as well as the mania triggered by the impossible and vain attempt to control time – a concept that inspired deep reflection within myself.
In The Refusal of Time, artist William Kentridge explores the ways in which time has been utilized as means of control. Human nature’s yearning to make sense of values that govern us led to systems of measurement to be exact and standardized – but yet still remain complex, elusive and arbitrary. Noted physicist, Peter Galison concludes that presently, time and the rational frameworks which it is understood to be a part of are vestiges of an “obsolete science,”a mere illusion. Kentridge’s installation contemplates Galison’s notion and also displays time as physical and spatial, therefore demonstrating that time does not stand alone but is interconnected with space and other human forms of measurement.
Director of SFMOMA, Neal Benezra sums up the experience of Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time nothing that it “offers viewers a powerful multisensory experience that builds upon Kentridge’s history of creating humanistic, politically urgent, and truly extraordinary hybrid work.” I would highly recommend this installation, suggesting a thorough introduction to Kentridge’s themes to further appreciate his work.
- Emily Short is the pseudonym of an interactive fiction (IF)
- best known her use of psychologically complex NPCs, or non-player game characters
- She has been called “one of the most renowned authors in the IF community”
- she is widely respected as an authority in the field and has presided over numerous IF contests.
- her work has been described by reviewers in terms that range from “mesmerizing” to “frustrating
author of over fifteen works of IF in addition to being chief editor of the IF Theory Book the XYZZY awards is an annual popular-choice award for interactive fiction.
Interactive Fiction (IF)
- a software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control charaters and influence environment
- basically, interactive fiction tells you the beginning of a story then it puts you in charge and lets you decide what your character should do. You type commands for the main character to carry out, and the story replies by telling you what happens next.
- Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives and as video game
- Part of the player’s role is to help the main character overcome obstacles to his progress: solving problems, working out what is going on in the story, discovering ways to reach new locations and tools.
- part of the player’s role is also to help the main character make decision
- IF is like a story in that it may have multiple endings, subject to your choices.
interactive fiction reached its peak in popularity from 1979-1986 Text adventures are one of the oldest types of computer games and form a subset of the adventure genre The player uses text input to control the game, and the game state is relayed to the player via text output. Interactive fiction shares much in common with Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) rely on a textual exchange and accept similar commands from players as do works of IF Versu, the system for interactive fiction with dynamic, AI-driven NPCs currently under development at Linden Lab
- Story by Chris Landreth
- an American animator working in Canada
- was an engineer at first and then moved onto animation as his second career
- in 1994, he was hired to define, test, and sometimes even abuse computer graphics software products.
- uses standard CGI animation in his work, with the added element of what Chris calls Psychorealism
- often puts a surrealist styling into his work
- Karan Singh described Chris Landreth’s use of psychorealism as, “the glorious complexity of the human psyche depicted through the visual medium of art and animation.”
- Co-produced by Copper Heart Entertainment and the National Film Board of Canada
- nominated and won the 2004 Academy Award for Animated Short Film and the 25th Genie Aware for Best Animated short
- the short uses computer generated animations as descriptive qualities to illustrate the character’s personalities, their thoughts, desires, troubles and as metaphorical extensions of their own minds.
- peoples’ psychological traumas are represented by twisted, surreal lacerations and deformities
- Computer animation software used in Ryan is build upon the rules of linear perspective, yet these rules were broken in subtle ways to express how the characters see the world.
- A nonlinear projection system was developed in the film that allows animators to create multiple points of view and combine them in various ways to achieve desired affect
- Ryan is an animated interpretation of an actual interview with Larkin
- Ryan Larkin (1943-2007)
- Canadian filmmaker and animator
- used to be a rising star in the world of animation
- creator of several short films, at least 2 of which have secured his place in the history of film making
- animated the 1969 Oscar-nominated short Walking, as well as Syrinx (1965), Cityscape (1966) and Street Musique (1972).
- lived on skid row in Montreal following a history of drug and alcohol abuse in his later
- apparently emotionally fragile
- Ryan offers to explore how different states of mind affect our perception of the space around us
- My personal take on the film was that it was incredibly well-made but I wasn’t that into the plot or dialogue of the film. Although i did find it interesting to focus on a real animator who fell of the band wagon after a drug and alcohol problem, I would have liked to see a bit of an alternate uplifting ending ilke in the true story of Ryan Larkin who was able to drop many of his bad habits to further his animation career after his skid row incidents. I thought that the use of digital manipulation was mind blowing and really told the stories of the characters, developing them far more than if they were normal animations, however I was a bit weirded out by many of the chosen character manipulations and exaggeration of mental issues. I guess this was the point, so the filmmakers in that way fulfilled their goal, but nonetheless I didn’t love the actual film nor would I recommend it to anyone for any reason but to check out the animations.
- the chief executive of Upworthy
- Upworthy = a website for “meaningful” viral content
- political and internet activist
- his career as a political activist began when he and David H. Pickering launched an online petition calling for a nonmilitary response to the attacks of September 11.
- half a million people had signed the petition.
- concerned about the development of web personalization
- personalization of information content based on relevance to a specific internet user
- developed the concept of a “filter bubble” which he defines as a danger that people do not get exposed to viewpoints different from their own
- In 2013, Pariser joined the board of advisors for tech startup state.com, creating a network of structured opinions
Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”
- web based on relevance
- internet is meant to be a connection to the outer, greater world
- ideals that it could be a great way to disperse information online
- instead though, are editing what you see based on relevance to you
- invisible algorithmic editing of the web
- used by Facebook, Google, yahoo news, Huffington post, Washington post, New York Times
- different search results will come up depending on who you are, what computer you are using, what kind of browser you are using,
- personal tailoring
- no more standardized Google
- different people get different results
- this type of personalization moves us very quickly toward a world in which the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see but not necessarily what we need to see.
- problem because all of these filters and algorithms create a filter bubble where you get your own unique universe of information that you live in online
- what’s in your bubble depends on who you are and what you do
- you don’t have control as to what you see or, more importantly, what gets out
- it is important to hear other people’s viewpoints
- its important to have a balance between your information – between dessert information i.e. Justin Beiber and information vegetables i.e. political news
- algorithms do not have embedded ethics
- they need to show us things that are important, challenging, other points of view as well as relevant or fun
- need a better flow of information
- we need the internet to connect us all together, introduce us to new ideas, different perspectives, and it won’t do that if it leads us isolated in our filter bubbles.
Paul Kolker is an American artist living and showcasing his work in New York City. Viewing his work at the Chelsea Gallery, I was moved by his ability to fractionalize images, moving and still, and transform the mundane photo or film into a beautifully elusive work of art. Kolker employs geometry, light optics, one-way mirrors, and LED light screens to perform observational experiments that embody the pixilated world of digital information transfer. He utilizes an algorithm for a sequence of minimal shapes, such as a dot or square, in elemental colors where the photographic image or repeated film scene transcends the grid of the algorithm to create a beautifully geometric but ambiguous image. One must concentrate and purposefully ignore the image obstructions to understand what the primary picture is portraying.
Many of the pieces at the chelsea galleries depict scenes or stills of miscellaneous people crossing a busy tenth avenue. Capturing the energy of the bustling city street, the artwork showcases the mobbed masses of people crossing as the work itself is busy with grids of shapes, bright colors, and framed with mirrored images of the primary picture. Speaking of this sensation, Kolker describes, “Because of biases of color, shapes, parallax and perspective relative to where we stand as the observer, a dot may be a universe; and a universe may be a dot.”
Kolker’s new media artwork test our perceptive faculties as the twelve light sculptures in the Crossing Tenth Avenue series simultaneously play the same video of pedestrians, cyclists, cars, cabs, and trucks crossing Tenth Avenue. Each depict the narrative that the crossing of a busy street is a celebrated ceremony, both real and imaginary, literal and symbolic.
Frida (2002) is a biographical film depicting the professional and private life of surrealist and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, famous for her grotesque self-portraits, feminism embodiments, communist political involvement and unconventional life. Headed by acclaimed director, Julie Taymor, the film explores Frida’s difficult life journey and ability to channel the pain of her physical and emotional injuries into her artwork.
The film begins just before the traumatic accident Frida suffered at the age of 18 when she was impaled by a metal pole from a terrible trolley bus accident. Causing her a broken spinal column, collarbone, pelvis, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder, and compromising her reproductive capacity, the incident emotionally and physically infected the remainder of Frida’s 29 years of life. The crippling accident left her in a great deal of pain while she spent three immobile and isolated months recovering in a full body cast. To help her through convalescence, her father set up a mirror and a canvas to paint on to occupy her time; this set up induced Frida to embark on self-portraits, saying herself, “I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best.”
Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and what she called studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits, which capture her own personal emotions and feelings about events or crises in her life: her physical condition, her inability to have children, her turbulent relationship with Diego Riviera, and her philosophy of nature, Mexican culture, “Gringolandia” (America), and life generally. Because many of those life events were tragic and unpleasant, her works often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. Speaking of her Frida, director Julie Taymor exclaims “She survived by transforming her emotional and physical pain into art.”
The brutality of her work depicts the harsh reality of Frida’s life. Drawing inspiration from her personal experiences including her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, her numerous miscarriages, and abundance of operations, Kahlo’s works are often characterized by their suggestions of pain. In some, she stares out, willfully impassive, her face mask-like; in others, graphic depictions of her internal bodily organs reveal corresponding states of mind. She shied away from nothing, revealing the indignity of heartbreak, as well as the gut-wrenching pain of abortion and miscarriage. Containing violent, disturbing, and gory imagery, her paintings can often be considered grotesque and appalling, especially because of her unusual folk art style, created out of a lack of formal artistic training.
Following the beliefs of Mexican philosopher and artist Adolfo Best Maugard, Kahlo’s paintings reflect the elements and form of the 19th Century Mexican painter. This style of painting, referred to as “folkloric” or “Mexicanism” is endorsed with deep roots in indigenous Mexican culture, showcasing clothing and jewelry attesting to pre-Columbian and colonial cultural influences. Apparent in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism and primitive style, her paintings ingeniously incorporate elements of Mexican pop culture and pre-Columbian primitivism that, in the 1930s, had never been done before. Kahlo identified with Mexico so much so that she allegedly changed her birthdate to coincide with the year of the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution and the overthrow of President Porfirio Diaz so that her life would begin with the birth of modern Mexico. This sense of revolution, renaissance, and self-identified truth lived on in Kahlo’s life and self-portraiture.
Along with being labeled as Folkloric and Mexicanism, Frida Kahlo’s paintings were also considered by others to be surrealist. Following the surrealist template of fantastical symbolism actualizing the creative potential of the unconscious, Kahlo’s unhinged emblematic style of artwork led its viewers to penetrate the inner workings of her mind. Nonetheless Frida eschewed labels; she did not consider herself to surrealist nor did she follow the accepted conventions of the “Surrealism” movement. She simply used her own style of surrealistic elements to paint her own reality. “I really don’t know if my paintings are Surrealistic or not”, Frida once wrote, “but I do know that they are the most honest expression of myself, never taking into consideration the judgments or prejudices of anyone.” Her work was her own, and if anything it was, as Diego titled it, “realist.”
The truth of her paintings allowed for the filmmakers of her biopic, Frida, to sequentially implement Kahlo’s original works into the movie. Using Kahlo’s paintings, her struggles, and her undying joy for life, the filmmakers -principally director Julie Taymor- mimic Kahlo’s style of painting in the representation of her life story in the film. To convey to the audience a combined sense of Kahlo’s subjectivity, artistry and biography, Taymor employs digitally altered scenes to recreate her paintings which then come to life within the narrative. Throughout the film, a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live- action scene with actors, further bringing Kahlo’s work to life. The camera would focus in on a painting and then the painting would start to move, exposing Frida’s emotions towards her realities in a very moving way.
One of the most powerful scenes to me was when Frida breaks down after Diego has an affair with her sister. She sinks into despondent anguish and haphazardly cuts her long feminine hair, loved by Diego, both to spite him and recreate herself. In the scene, Frida stands in front of a mirror and gazes at a large painting of herself, starring back at her, almost as if it is someone in another room watching her. The acting Frida breaks the eye contact, lowering her head and walks away from the painting of herself in disappointment. The camera scales back and the Frida in the painting, sitting up with strong poise, suddenly moves, taking a large breath, and then sighs it out, sulking down in defeat.
Sadly collapsing in her chair completely down casted after the countless struggles she has been through, it was moments like this where my heart stopped, and I was completely moved. The bringing to life of the paintings is an incredibly poignant touch to Taymor’s special effects of the film, driving home the passion and emotion of Frida Kahlo. The use of this type of special effect powerfully embodies the real despair of Kahlo, and her feelings towards her emotional states.
Kahlo’s biographical film is also able to convey her turbulent journey through the use of incredible color choices, and lighting. Taymor uses black, white, and metallic tones when Frida and Diego are in New York City to embody the harsh aggressiveness of the city life and the difficult time Kahlo had adapting to the might, energy and loneliness of city life. Contrarily, She uses vibrant shades of red, green, yellow, and blue in Mexico to show Frida’s lust for life in her hometown and admiration of Mexican culture. Soft pastel colors and sepia tones are employed in Paris to exhibit the both the Romantic city and her undying love for Diego as she writes a note of adoration to him in a Parisian café. The use of these germane colors alongside the dramatic shading and light direction of the film expose Frida’s emotional states as the bold, lushly photographed film chronicles Kahlo’s life.
Taymor also deliberately chose to employ a crew of primarily Mexican filmmakers so as to represent the culture of Frida and Mexico correctly. Because Frida is a Mexican icon, and the film is in English directed by an American, Taymor saw it vital to bring in Mexican filmmakers to smooth out notions of foreign stereotypes, possession over a cultural icon, and help to create a film that would be celebrated by cultures universally. Rather than bringing in a Hollywood crew, plopping down in Mexico and creating a gringo adaptation about an icon of a different culture, 95% of the crew was Mexican, bringing an incredible excitement and proprietary to the long awaited film about Frida Kahlo. The combination of the outside and inside view made possible the wonderful collision and balance of perspectives, creating the beautiful Frida film.
I do not think that a better director could have been chosen to direct an autobiographical film of the astoundingly diverse and talented Frida Kahlo.Creating a film that conveys Kahlo’s life in an artistic expression as rich and resonant as the life and artwork of Kahlo herself, Taymor’s directing choices bring to life the immense struggles, strength, and fearlessness of Frida Kahlo. In the words of Jay Polstein, the producer of Frida, Kahlo and Taymor “share a visual sensibility that combines fantastical imagery with the macabre.” Capturing Kahlo’s passion, inventiveness, and strong will, Taymor depics a story of a woman who transcended such odds both physically and emotionally by matching Frida’s audacity on canvas with her own daring images on the screen.