London-based artist/filmmaker Marco Brambilla repurposes and recontextualizes the imagery of popular culture within complex and painterly video collages.
Emerging as an internationally exhibited video and installation artist after transitioning from commercial filmmaking, Brambilla is known for his technically ambitious approach to video production and editing. He has created pioneering 3-D works that push the bounds of new technologies, conflating past, present, and future in a fluid stream of consciousness. Brambilla’s films explore ideas of physical displacement and the psychological dislocation of the digital world, in which familiar characters are completely transformed within new contexts.
Brambilla’s work has been internationally exhibited and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum (New York); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; ARCO Foundation (Madrid); and the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington DC).
He is a recipient of the Tiffany Comfort Foundation and Tiffany Colbert Foundation awards. His work has been featured at the Venice Film Festival and Sundance Film Festivals, as well as Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland.
For the second installment of their 2019 video art program, Westfield and Art Production Fund displayed a dynamic excerpt from Brambilla’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3’ across the large-scale screens at Westfield World Trade Center in New York City and Westfield Century City in Los Angeles, measuring up to 4 stories tall.
‘Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3’ moved the iconic Duchamp painting into the dimension of time. The illusion of movement in the painting was explored as the figures inhabiting the digital canvas constantly reconfigured themselves to cascade down an unseen stairway. The figures, shapes and color palette are pure cubism, expanded into three dimensions using state-of-the-art computer technology. ‘Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2’ is a rare case where an artist drew from a “new” technology (Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic time-studies) as an inspiration for a painting. By taking the original Duchamp painting back into the technological realm and adding the dimension of time, Brambilla aimed to complete the circle and pay homage to the deconstructed image using a wholly contemporary visual language.
“Brambilla’s interpretation of the iconic painting affords the public the opportunity to experience and contemplate ‘Nude Descending A Staircase’ like never before.”
This new incarnation of Claude Debussy’s only opera, staged on the 100th anniversary of his death by Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet Flanders, presented a new concept in abstract staging from an all-star creative team. Based on the 1892 play by Maurice Maeterlinck, Pelléas at Mélisande describes how innocence is able to transform into a dramatic – and deathly – love triangle.
Lending an epic element to a minimal stage concept, Brambilla used original NASA footage manipulated from real photography taken by the Hubble Telescope as brushstrokes to emphasize the opera’s rhythm in a series of eclipses that travel deeper and deeper, inspired by the classic, psychedelic ‘stargate’ sequence of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Having worked with NASA on a commission in 2015, Brambilla had access to a vast library of high-resolution imagery, with which he was able to render familiar shapes and objects as mesmeric, terrifying, and artful, adding dimension and advancing the narrative.
“The music of Pelléas et Mélisande has always conjured up images of the cosmos in my head. Since the text deals with the recurring theme of the eyes and sight, the set design becomes a portal into the subconscious where my videos unfold and heighten the tension and drama unfolding onstage.”
Heaven’s Gate is the fourth artwork in Marco Brambilla’s ongoing video collage series entitled Megaplex. In this colossal montage we levitate through a panoramic landscape of sampled film clips from movies, both obscure and familiar, collaged into an elaborate digital canvas. The work speaks to the language of the Hollywood “dream factory”; a glossy reflection of humanity’s perpetual quest for the ultimate fantasy. Its visual melodrama mimicking the silver screen spectacles once produced by Walt Disney and Cecile B. DeMille.
Heaven’s Gate is a video monument to Hollywood’s veneration of glamour while retelling the history of the world in seven distinct phases. Employing spectacle to describe a familiar and universal story, the digitally assembled images generate a hyper-realistic landscape of clouds, meadows and cityscapes, against which humanity oscillates between enlightenment and production. With each cycle and succeeding level of the
work, Heaven’s Gate engulfs the viewer in a level of density in imagery almost impossible to sustain.
The work premiers at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on June 17th, 2021 and is on view until January 2022. It was previously previewed at The Shed, Hudson Yards during Frieze New York, 2021
The countdown to a planned (but never launched) 1973 NASA space mission was reconstructed in Brambilla’s ambitious multimedia work, Apollo XVIII – a multi-channel video installation that interpreted man’s relationship to space exploration and presented an imagined mission to the moon; a mission born in the virtual age. For one month, Times Square was transformed into a virtual launchpad as Apollo XVIII played across dozens of electronic billboards from 11:57pm to midnight.
In collaboration with NASA, footage was filmed at Cape Canaveral, combined with Hubble imagery, rare material from the NASA archives and original computer-generated imagery to fabricate the fictitious mission. Combining iconic moments from past and present with the wholly synthetic, Apollo XVIII presented a new collective viewing experience, calling into question the nature of fact and fiction, reality versus perception and context.
"Marco Brambilla's mythical mission combines the memory and romance of past space travel with the frightening velocity of the rocket and the futuristic landscapes of new, undiscovered territories. Only in Times Square can one recreate the scale and magnitude of such an experience.”
Presented in the glass atrium at New York City’s Time Warner Center by Hugo Boss in association with Art Production Fund, Brambilla’s ‘Anthropocene’ is a site-specific video installation where the view of Central Park from Columbus Circle is spectacularly reimagined from multiple angles.
The geological term ‘anthropocene’ describes the extent of influence human activities have had on Earth’s ecosystems. Brambilla’s ‘Anthropocene’ consists of two intersecting cinematic chapters that he created after meticulously exploring the park’s design with the Central Park Conservancy’s official historian.
The ethereal, yet scientifically accurate simulation highlights the fissure between nature and technology; the man-made and the pastoral; the subjective and the objective; and the paradox that one of New York City’s largest natural spaces is in fact man-made.
“I'm very obsessed with the energy of New York and the idea of the way people behave in the city versus the way they behave in a natural environment. That inspired me to find a way to visualize Central Park in a different way.”
For his immersive site-specific video installation, ‘Materialization/De-materialization,’ Brambilla used video samples from the ‘transporter room’ effect from the original Star Trek television series, where the characters were ‘de-materialized,’ then teleported through space and ‘re-materialized’ at their destination. Groupings of hundreds of characters were introduced using this effect, each edited into a motion loop where they were never fully revealed, and always appeared on the verge of departure or arrival, trapped in a perpetual state of transition.
To produce this work, Brambilla sampled each instance where this effect appears in the 27 episodes of the original Star Trek television series (1966-69), then removed each character from the original background, leaving only the outline of the person appearing and disappearing in a shimmering curtain of floating sparkle.
The characters appeared grouped into discrete rings on a black The characters appeared grouped into discrete rings on a black field; they gradually grew in size and multiplied endlessly before dissipating back into the black field. Characters seemed to migrate from ring to ring randomly forever trapped in this constantly regenerating moment of flux.
“I see his work as a sort of tapestry, weaving together so much visual information. ‘Evolution’ is only a few minutes long, but it has so many layers of meaning you can see it over and over again. Your sense of time is totally different — you never see enough.”
The first video collage in Brambilla’s ‘Megaplex’ trilogy, ‘Civilization,’ was featured as an immersive installation on screens across three walls of each 18 story elevator at The Standard Hotel. The epic video mural, based on Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ was created specifically for The Standard High Line in New York’s Meatpacking District.
‘Civilization’ is a continually looping, multi-layered tableau of images, illustrating a contemporary Boschian take on the afterlife. The sequence, generated by an overhead projector, brought ascending guests from the depths of hell through purgatory and into heaven, letting them out at the top floor club, the exclusive Boom Boom Room. As the elevator descended, the video ran in reverse, ending in hell.
“All the people who entered seemed to enjoy themselves, almost like children in a tree house. They remarked on characters and scenes scrolling past in the animated tapestry.”
‘Legion,’ based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, was one of the most provocative and compelling comic book adaptations to ever appear on television. To garner buzz and anticipation for Season 2, boutique marketing agency Industria Creative commissioned Brambilla to create an immersive audiovisual art exhibition on behalf of FX Networks, taking inspiration from the series and delivering a work in his signature style.
Reimagining a collage of scenes from the previous and upcoming seasons of ‘Legion’ along with found footage in Brambilla’s signature, highly-Instagrammable kaleidoscopic style, the mesmerizing video was presented in a 360-degree micro-theatre designed in the Legion aesthetic that felt like an elevator in motion while the immersive video played. The visual experience left visitors questioning what was real, and what was not, as they were transported to a mind-bending, reality-shifting world.
"I think the physical experience of walking into the room is a psychological experience as much as a visual experience."
Described as a ‘spring awakening’ by HUGO BOSS womenswear artistic director, Jason Wu, Brambilla’s film THISISBOSS finds women in an untraditional, glowing forest. Set to a distorted version of Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ with added synth, the film was captured in a Canadian nature preserve and stars model Suvi Koponen. In addition to uniting nature and technology, it fuses classical and hi-tech imagery in Brambilla’s crisp, hypnotic style.
Donning a floor length, white silk dress, Koponen eerily pirouettes as replicated images of herself begin to fill the surrounding forest. The visuals were inspired by the theatricality and tone of the music, a part of the piece itself as opposed to a score, and this waltz suggested a continuous orbiting camera. Brambilla built the set of a forest within the real forest, and then interfered using LED lighting, which removed it from nature.
"I wanted to present a completely different take on BOSS. This film expresses a marriage of nature and technology, classical versus hi-tech."
Kanye West enlisted Brambilla to visualize the first single from his ‘Good Ass Job’ album, ‘Power.’ The video depicts Kanye as a quasi-religious icon paying homage to Salvador Dali’s famous collaboration with photographer Philippe Halsman.
‘Power’ shows a continuous camera move from extreme close-up of West revealing a neoclassical video tableau showing characters and creatures surrounding him in an abstract environment – all moving in extreme slow motion.
Inspired by Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, the piece depicts a faux historical moment – an empire on the brink of collapse from its own excess, decadence and corruption. The hyper-saturated result, which also played in the immersive environment of the Standard Hotel elevator, involves 24 layers of imagery combined into a seamless video.
“No one man should have all that power: I’m interpreting that idea as a moment of transition, showing an icon of power at the tipping point. The idea of celebrity, sexuality, and excess… the psychological toll that can take on an individual.”
Brambilla created an immersive video work called ‘Crystal Observatory’ to welcome visitors into esteemed watch retailer Watches of Switzerland’s prestigious selection of luxury timepieces at the brand-new Hudson Yards retail center. The abstract work takes viewers through a journey inside an intricate crystalline space of flux, where the unique properties of a crystal and its capacity for infinite reflections and refractions are visualized using a state-of-the-art computer graphic simulation.
Brambilla was inspired by a series of electron microscope photographs, which looked like an electronic image, but at the same time looked very organic. Taking inspiration from Cubist art and early light artists, Brambilla used computer-simulated crystals carved into increasingly complex geometric patterns to demonstrate its capacity for reflection. The work displays through motion picture the ways in which patterns emerge from movement, light and color.
“The piece isn't a literal relationship between the brand and watches—it's very abstract. Watches of Switzerland were very open to having a standard art piece that doesn't really necessarily tie into the watches or the brand, but rather reflects some of the aesthetics of the brand.”
‘Kino’ is a seamless scroll comprising more than 200 original elements combined using visual effects techniques, enabling viewers to choose from three different points of view, all with a simple tilt of the head.
This film, developed for Hugo Boss, reveals a highly stylized, and elegant vision of an impeccably dressed man making his way through a surreal and magical night.
In celebration of Ferrari’s automobile marvel, the 458 Spider, the car manufacturer commissioned Brambilla to create a Formula One-inspired 3D video loop.
Brambilla carefully crafted the 3D film from footage taken at the Italian Formula One Grand Prix in Monza and from the Scuderia Ferrari video archives. A self-proclaimed F1 enthusiast, Brambilla presented a compelling psychological portrait of a driver’s point-of-view during a race in a densely hypnotic and kaleidoscopic style. The idea of man/machine came from a quote from legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna, who often said that he enters a state where his consciousness becomes ‘one’ with the car and the circuit in order to win.
There is no beginning or end in RPM, just an accelerating trajectory that has no specific destination, compressing time and reflecting the elevated mental state necessary to maintain control under extreme pressure. Brambilla also pushed his personal boundaries with this piece, as he used 3D editing tools to enable multi-planing the foreground, midground and background for an exceptional 3D experience.
RPM premiered during Miami Art Basel at an event hosted by Ferrari, Peter M. Brandt and Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer.
“I wanted to capture the sense of being on the very threshold of the limits of control – the feeling of euphoria and danger which are equally present in the mental state of a driver during a race.”
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