nysun.com

The Team Behind Björk’s Warped Wonderland

Only Björk, that Icelandic songstress of the strange, could star in a music video featuring a yak, a river appearing to be made of hair, and a character called Painbody Backpack — all of which require 3-D glasses for viewing. And only filmmakers Isaiah Saxon, 25, and Sean Hellfritsch, 24, known together as the video production team Encyclopedia Pictura, could create it.

For the past nine months, the Bay Area-based creative team has worked with Björk to create a stereoscopic 3-D music video for "Wanderlust," the fourth track on her Grammy-nominated album, "Volta." "Björk had viewed our last video, and she called us up and asked if we’d like to do a video," Mr. Saxon explained, sitting in front of a computer screen in a lower Manhattan post-production facility, the UV Phactory.

Tonight, the resulting seven-minute piece will have its premiere at the new Long Island City gallery space of Deitch Projects. The studio space formerly belonged to the artist and Björk paramour Matthew Barney, and it was in this space that the video was shot.

The event will feature a 3-D screening — in a specially built cave-like theater, where viewers will watch it wearing polarized 3-D glasses — as well as a display of the large mechanical puppets, props, scale models, costumes, and sets that were used to make the video.

Mssrs. Saxon and Hellfritsch had a mainly volunteer crew that assisted them. With that help, they employed techniques including green-screen shooting, stereoscopy, and computer-generated imagery to achieve a psychedelic visual aesthetic.

In the video, Björk is dressed as a nomadic Mongolian-looking primitive who goes on a mystical journey down a river. She is aided by special allies — a herd of yaks with lolling tongues, slow-blinking eyelids, and earth-toned fur. The yak puppet was shot, then duplicated to look like many yaks, using a computer imagery process called compositing.

As Björk travels down the treacherous river, riding acrobatically along on the animal’s back, she sprouts a character called Painbody Backpack, meant to be a second self, before she is finally drawn forth to a waterfall and a river god who provides a dramatic denouement.

It was no easy feat to create the yak. Inside, it fits three people and hand-operated mechanical pull devices that control the movements of the eyes, tongue, and other parts. The team used found materials — including moss from Björk’s country home upstate, and shaved wool, which was glued to foam pieces — to give the coat an organic quality.

"A major tendency that developed with the art direction was that materials, forms, and surfaces would be fractally and psychedelically informed," Mr. Saxon said. "Our intent was to augment, remix, and amplify a set of patterns that were observable to us in nature as a way of making nature speak to the eye."

Many of the found objects were used to create the appearance of other objects. On video, moss can look like grass. Rotted wood can look like giant fractured rocks. Hair can be made to appear as if it is a flowing river.

The creative process started with hand-drawn concept art and costume-making, then it turned to more technical endeavors, eventually fusing art and technology. "Sean designed and built a 3-D camera system and a 3-D display box," Mr. Saxon said. Mr. Hellfritsch designed these systems using computer software, and had custom aluminum parts made for the camera rig.

In addition to the events at Deitch Projects, the duo will show the video at a meeting of the New York Stereoscopic Society and at the American Museum of Natural History, which, Mr. Saxon said, "has been like a holy temple of wonder for us in the last few years." The forced perspectives in the 3-D video are, in fact, inspired partly by the museum’s dioramas. The video captures all the wonder of a child’s imagination in the same way.

STEPHEN DIGNAN

publié dans nysun.com - 13.03.2008

 

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