Monthly Archives: April 2012

Critique of Bruce Nauman, Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk) (1968)

I went to see “Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image”, December 10, 2010 – Indefinitely Rotating Exhibition, American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

“In this rotating permanent gallery dedicated to the media arts, the museum takes stock of the cutting-edge tools and materials used by video artists during the past 50 years. This installation features key artworks from the history of video art and works by a new generation of artists on the cutting edge of new media art practices.”

 There, on your right when you enter this little exhibition room, the second screen displayed will show you Bruce Nauman”s, Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk). It is a 60 minutes single channel video, in black and white, with sound.

The film shows Nauman in is studio, tracing the space of the camera’s frame. The camera is fixed, turned on its side and records the artist repeating a laborious sequence of body movements: Hands clasped behind his back, he kicks one leg up at a right angle to his body, pivots forty-five degrees, falls forward hard with a thumping noise, extends the rear leg again at a right angle behind, and begins the sequence again. The movements of the body resemble exercises repeated unendingly. Sometimes, he walks off-screen completely while the sound of his footsteps continues on the sound tracks. Progress, even by a meter, seems to be a tiresome and complicated process.

The film creates a kind of tension and some suspense, because Nauman always risks to loose his balance and fall (which also happens). I was attracted to this film because of its title, which explains the work: The walk is meant to echo the repetitive, futile, meaningless behaviors of Samuel Beckett’s characters.

I love Beckett’s bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, which is often coupled with black comedy and gallows humor, so I was curious to see how it could be conjured up through an avant-garde film. And I think this performance is very interesting, as the artist perfectly successes in recalling the writer’s silent, precise, and absurd language. Indeed, as he executes his movements with deep concentration and conviction, he emulates Beckett’s highly obsessive characters. Using banal everyday movements in such a raw way, he give them back the interest and power which they had lost through habit.

Overall, the result is as powerful as it is absurd, just like Beckett’s language.

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The Great Metamorphosis

Final Project Development – Pitch/Proposal 

The Great Metamorphosis

The Great Metamorphosis will be a 3 minutes long movie in color with sound and still camera. It will be both a story and a performance, telling about a woman (who I will act) who transforms through makeup and masks.

The first image will be a white screen. A girl arrives, sits in front of the camera. The framing only takes her face. She starts putting on some makeup. Lipstick, mascara, powder, etc. It is just as if the camera is her mirror, and the public is behind the mirror. After 30 seconds, she starts going into a crazy makeup series. She will embody several characters, making-up her face and taking off the makeup, with accelerations and slowing down. The two first characters will be Marilyn Monroe and a geisha, two opposite representations of women. She will make a contrast between sadness and happiness, transforming into a sad mimic followed up by a clown. After this, she will embody death and life. The end will play with the public’s mind, through an intricate change of faces and masks, until the completion if the great transformation: when she will take off the last mask, erase the last makeup, she will not be the same girl (literally speaking).

I want this movie to be an aesthetic accomplishment. The transitions should be very smoothed and invisible (and I will try to avoid having to cut the movie as much as possible, but to change the girls behind the mask it will be necessary), so that it will really seems like there was not cut done, that it was shot in one scene only. It is very important to me that the result seems the closest to professional films. I want it to be beautiful. Also, this film will require me to be a makeup artist, a director, and an actor at the same time. And I want to accomplish a true performance.

The second purpose is to entertain the public. The game through masks, changing figures and features is meant to be fun, surprising, unexpected. It should amaze the viewer and makes him smile. I want to bring the public into a poetic, magical, surrealist atmosphere.

I intend this film to be ambivalent just like the masks and makeups: This project also has a “serious” side, because it is supposed to raise questions about identity, transforming the self, about the representation of women in society, about what is shallow and what is deep inside us.

Finally, it is also meant to be a  “mise en abyme” around the media and the nature of creation in art, as it will appeal to different art-forms such as cinema, circus, painting, poesy, drawing, magic, and even music.

Two artist have been (consciously or unconsciously) influential in this project. The first is Arturo Brachetti, who is an Italian world famous quick-change artist (he is the best and the fastest in his art). As a teenager, I went to see his show and loved both the performance, and the poetic message and story into it. More recently, I went to see Cindy Sherman’s exhibition at the Moma, in New-York, and it triggered again my fascination for transforming artist. It inspired me into using transformation in front of a camera, as I could not do it directly in front of a public. Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. To create her photographs, Sherman shoots alone in her studio, assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress—and, of course, model. And this is how I get the idea of making a movie where I would makeup.

Production Plan:

Pre-production will takes place from the 19th of April to the 27th. I will gather the material, learn about making-up and train to do the makeups.

Material needed:

  • A professional makeup palette
  • Wigs: blonde, black (Geisha style), red/orange (clown)
  • Masks: Venetian, white mask, anonymous mask
  • Hat (Charlie Chaplin style)
  • For shooting: Tripod, mirror, white screen, lamps.

I will shoot the 28th and 29th.

Post-production, such as editing and making a soundtrack will takes place from the 19th of April, to what time is needed for the movie to be the best possible while finished before the deadline.

Script :

  • First image: a white screen. Music starts, with a circus-like introduction.
  • A girl arrives, sits before the camera. The framing only shots on her face on the white background. Camera is still.
  • She starts putting on some makeup. Lipstick, mascara, powder, etc. It is just as if the camera is her mirror, and the public is behind the mirror.
  • After 30 seconds, she starts putting a lot makeup. Like erasing her eyebrows with white, and drawing new eyebrows.
  • The video accelerate, music changes, and in 10 seconds her face is transformed. She puts a blonde wig, and she’s Marilyn Monroe. The video slows down, she does a Marilyn face, says “poupoupidou”.
  • She starts taking off everything, the video accelerate again.
  • She puts on some new makeup, a new wig and 10 seconds later she is a Geisha (the video slows down to let the public watch the new transformation). She join hands and bow her head down down, eyes closed.
  • She takes off the makeup (the video will continue accelerating and slowing down with each transformation), and makes up as a sad mimic. When it slows down, she mimics crying and sadness, but then she burst out in laugh as if she is making fun of the public.
  • She takes off the makeup and makes up as a clown. When it slows down, she laugh and makes funny faces, but then she suddenly look very tired and sad.
  • She takes off the makeup, turns so that the camera only films one side of her face. Then she starts making up, but only off-frame side of her face. When it slows down, she turns to face the camera. Half of her face is a skull, the face of death. She takes a sheet of paper or a book, and hides/shows one face and the other alternatively.
  • She takes off the makeup and draw a Venetian-style on her face. Then she puts a mask on, and this one is exactly like the one she painted on herself.
  • She takes off the mask, and her face is painted as an anonymous mask
  • She puts a white mask on , and paint it as an anonymous while it is on herself.
  • When she takes off the mask with slow motion, she stares right in the camera: it’s not the same actress than in the beginning. The Great Transformation is complete.

And here is the storyboard: Story Board Great Metamorphosis