Date Archives October 2010

‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

If when watching a film I am confronted with a character who spontaneously breaks into song, I decree the film over. My toes start to involuntarily curl and any investment that I had in the plot is completely destroyed. To be honest, I feel embarrassed. I can’t help but think, “Why are you singing? Do the hills really need to be alive with the sound of music?” I have just never been able to accept the embedded logic of film musicals that utilise singing interludes to develop and punctuate emotionally heightened scenes. There is, however, an exception to this rule: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Yes, it’s camp, kitsch, over the top and burgeoning on tacky, but if you’re going to sing in a film I figure you may as well do it in fishnet tights, lipstick and suspenders (I should stress that this only applies to men so Liza Minnelli’s performance in Cabaret [1972] cannot be included).

“What is Rocky Horror anyway? It’s just some rock and roll music, a little foot tapping, a few jokes, a bit of sex.”

– Richard O’Brien

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which began life as a musical stage production, couldn’t be more perfect for midnight screenings and fervent audience participation. From the opening number “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, the film sets itself up as deliciously self-reflexive, uninhibitedly bizarre and rather enamoured with schlocky B-grade movie clichés. Following the newly engaged Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), the film centres on their encounter with Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and the crazy band of misfits staying in his castle. The birth of gold spandex-wearing Rocky (Peter Hinwood), a handful of murders, an appearance by Meat Loaf, singing, sex, dancing and general madness ensue.

Jim Sharman, who both directed the film and wrote the screenplay with Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien, is predominantly known for his role as a theatre director and this is reflected in his rather straightforward filming style. However, given the film’s blatant homage to British Hammer Horror cinema, Sharman’s approach to film direction can be viewed as a pastiche of the naïve, gothic visual look of these films. From the costuming (Victorian corsets for men, anyone?) to the props to the settings, Rocky Horror gives postmodern appropriation and parody the tongue-in-cheek treatment it deserves.

Looking beyond the fact that the performances are brilliant and the songs are insanely catchy, the film is also a wonderful exploration of subversion – it is sexually subversive, aesthetically subversive and certainly a huge contrast to the majority of saccharine musicals that had previously been cinematically released. I am aware that there are a number of people out there who really don’t like this film. Perhaps they have yet to enjoy the fun of doing the “time warp” or maybe they are unable to appreciate the beauty of Tim Curry dancing around in heels proclaiming that he is a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.”


Loop City Film by BIG

This video starts in 1947, when Danish Urban Planners traced a giant hand over a map of Copenhagen and the Finger Plan was born: each digit becoming a means of connecting the city to the suburbs. Fifty years after someone felt up the map, BIG has introduced a plan for the next fifty years: LOOP City.  LOOP City develops around a future rail line and addresses some of the biggest challenges facing CPH by combining this infrastructure with architectural programming. Bjarke Ingels (founder of BIG) talks about LOOP City briefly here, and longer here.

Even if Danish Urban Planning doesn’t get you too excited, the animation is great: projected on two perpendicular walls with a 3-D bridge form connecting the two. If you have trouble reading the bubbles, try watching these versions of the video, which BIG created with help from Kollision and Cavi.


Red Beacon by Arne Quinze

Red Beacon is a recent work by Arne Quinze, a Belgian artist widely known for his chaotic wooden public art installations. Sited within a public park in downtown Shanghai, Red Beacon aims to “lure” passers-by into the park from the city. Quinze believes that “we live in an era where direct social interaction has been almost completely diminished.” His ambition is to create work that sparks public conversations… perhaps conversations under red canopies of aggregated wooden sticks.

The installation is made of 55 tons of wood which seems crazy and wasteful at first. But for every tree cut down for this project, a tree was planted. And when this installation is disassembled, the 55 tons of wood will be distributed to 26 different construction sites.

Can you imagine being a structural engineer assigned to this project?


Nina Lindgren

It was love at first click when I happened upon the portfolio of Swedish artist Nina Lindgren. Overflowing with lovely illustrations and other pieces, Lindgren’s work is inspired by “things inside and surrounding.” From her amazing architectural structures made from cardboard to her imagery of nature, Lindgren’s work has an almost mythical quality that is mediated through the everyday. Addressing her creative approach, Lindgren made the following statement:

I search for sudden glimpses of unreality: preferably unforeseen and unpredictable to make virtual both real and pretend. If I draw a house balancing on one tiny piece of plank it will never fall, unless I want it to. In these own worlds you are the one to decide what reality is and what to be part of another’s consciousness.

In my opinion, the subdued palette and special details utilised to construct her imaginary worlds are just begging for further exploration.

Lindgren also has a rather wonderful blog that I recommend you check out.


Philippe Baudelocque

Over the years I’ve gotten more accepting of posting foxes on the blog, though it was always a concern of mine that I would end up being the equivalent of a crazy cat lady, only with foxes. But this giant fox mural by Philippe Baudelocque in Paris. The mural is made up of dozens of complex patterns all working together to create an amazing fox jumping through the air. This is such a welle executed idea and I love that he chose to go light on dark instead of the other way around, it really allows your eyes to focus in on the patterns. Philippe also has a great octopus image up as well as a show going on at the Since Gallery which runs till November 6. Thanks to KN reader Haley for the tip.

Images from Unurth


West Fest Pavilion by Gramazio & Kohler

Probably more widely known for their robot-stacked bricks, Gramazio & Kohler turned their attention to stacking wooden slats last summer for the West Fest Pavilion. All of the wooden pieces of the pavilion were cut and placed by a robot, or at least a robotic arm (see above).  Because the length of the wooden pieces doesn’t change, or doesn’t change as much as the curvature of the columns, the slats de-laminate toward the roof, and when lit from within, each of the 16 columns becomes  a sort of lantern.

Gramazio & Kohler describe their work as “the direct implementation of material and production logic into the design process, establish[ing] a unique architectural expression and a new aesthetic.” However, their West Fest Pavilion looks (er… looked)  more evolutionary than revolutionary; more like the progeny of a gothic arch and the Memphis International Airport. Who knew their baby would look so good?


Hanna Werning’s Interior Design for Biograf Ugglan

Exploring the portfolio of Swedish designer Hanna Werning is a real delight for anyone who is enamoured of colour. Her work encompasses just about every tone in the spectrum and is employed in gorgeous patterns on various surfaces. Quite understandably it was her recent interior design and identity for Biograf Ugglan that really caught my eye. Although I have been to my fair share of stunning art deco cinema houses, Werning’s concept for Ugglan (which means owl in Swedish – how perfect!) visually captures the idea of the film medium as a form composed of colour, light and movement. The kinetic wall display and brightly-coloured chairs make up one of the most dynamic uses of cinematic viewing space that I have seen. It’s so good I can imagine that design fans would be waiting for the house lights to come back on after the film so they could take another look at the interior. I would love to visit one day.


Jenny Odell

My friend and Afterzine creator Hamish pointed out these great images by artist Jenny Odell. Jenny’s medium in these images were actually Google Maps, oddly enough. What look like random shapes or abstract dots are actually manmade structures. The image at top is “Approximately 1,376 Grain Silos, Water Towers, and Other Cylindrical-Industrial Buildings”, the image below that are swimming pools, both a large and small, and the last is “195 Yachts, Cargo Ships, Tankers, Barges, Riverboats, Hospital Ships, Cruise Lines, Ferries, Military Ships, and Motorboats”. it’s amazing how great these random images look when thoughtfully placed together.