Imagining Future Worlds

There are just a few days left to get to the Albright-Knox to see Kelly Richardson: Legion. If you haven’t seen this spectacular exhibition yet, now is the time! With the clock ticking, we wanted to give our readers one more behind-the-scenes look at Richardson’s work.

In 2009, Richardson was invited to do a residency with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery at the Gushul Studio in Canada. She had been thinking about doing a work that was set in a more lunar landscape, and when she asked the Gallery staff if there was a good place to start shooting footage, they directed her to Dinosaur Provincial Park in the Badlands. This proved to be the perfect setting, as it is currently eroding at a quicker rate than any other place on the planet.

Richardson edited her footage so that it was devoid of all traces of mankind, including her own footsteps. She replaced the sky with a digital version, one set at dusk, full of twinkling stars that move in opposite directions. The “trees,” created with CGI effects, were further altered to look holographic; in the final work, they all blow in unison with the wind’s movements. Building upon the theme of environmental decay, The Erudition represents Richardson’s lost planet—one that was colonized and then forgotten.

Richardson shared that the conditions during which she filmed the footage for this work were horrendous. Her husband Mark, who works closely with Richardson on her work, and son Finlay—both traveling with her—went for cover underneath a large mosquito net because the hungry bugs were almost Jurassic in nature. Richardson couldn’t shoot from underneath the net, so she had to forge on. Her first order of business after the shoot was most likely chamomile lotion—and lots of it! 

In that enchanted place at the top of the forest …

This week we continue to bring you behind-the-scenes insight into Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with the exhibition Kelly Richardson: Legion, on view through June 9.

In Twilight Avenger, 2008, viewers initially find themselves staring at what appears to be a nighttime scene of a forest. However, this tranquil setting is interrupted when a seemingly radioactive green stag meanders into the frame and pauses to nose around. By introducing incongruous imagery to a classic Romantic landscape reminiscent of forest fables and fairy tales, Richardson has created a scene that is more science-fiction film than Aesop’s Fables, cleverly challenging our preconceived notions of what is real in both nature and art.

The high technical level Richardson achieved in this work is nothing less than astonishing; it is especially evident when the reality of its creation is explored against the seamless experience the viewer has when encountering the work. Richardson actually filmed the components for Twilight Avenger in several settings across three continents, later combining the footage during the editing process. The stag was filmed in Jedburgh, Scotland; the background was filmed in Kielder, England; and the massive tree that holds the foreground was filmed in Algonquin Park, Canada. Richardson was kind enough to share images of each setting with us, which we are sharing here with you—a bit of a spoiler, we know, but sometimes it’s fun to peel back the layers of a work to its naissance.

No, really—the sky is falling!

This week we continue to feature Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion, a major mid-career survey exhibition that takes an extensive look at Richardson’s audio-visual installation works of the past fifteen years. So far we have made our way through works created between 1998 and 2005—and now for something completely different.

In many of her previous works, Richardson used humor as an entry point for the viewer. In 2006, she began to rethink this approach, deciding that it was too specific and, in her own words, “there was a risk that viewers may not get beyond the joke, which was integral to the work.” Filmed in the Lake District in England on Derwentwater between the very early hours of 4:30 and 5:30 am, Exiles of the Shattered Star, 2006, is the first work in which Richardson decidedly used beauty and The Sublime to peak interest from the viewer. Aside from this shift in thematic content, the work also represents another shift in Richardson’s working practice. She manipulated the video pixel by pixel, for the first time maintaining complete control over the aesthetics of the work, which enabled her to manipulate its mood and ambiance. For example, the setting Richardson filmed, and the resulting footage, was actually much brighter than it appears in the final presentation—to get the end result, the artist color-graded the sky so that it replicates a twilight scape.

According to Richardson, Exiles also touches upon numerous themes and interests she continues to explore, such as multiple realities and the shift toward an increasingly digitalized world; the conditional status of modern culture in relation to a natural world and the environment that supports it; contemporary cinema and a recent host of films that depict apocalyptic and end-of-the-world storylines, which she feels “describes a certain collective anxiety towards a very uncertain future”; and, above all, the psychological landscape—which is produced by a culmination of these themes—where the viewer is the sole character.

Next up: Dreams of nature and nocturne.

There is a first time for everything

image

This week we continue to feature Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion. According to Richardson, the impetus behind A car stopped at a stop sign in the middle of nowhere, in front of a landscape, 2001, was “arresting this moment in a sci-fi B-movie called Circuitry Man when a car, being driven by a cyborg through an otherwise empty desert landscape, stops suddenly at a stop sign, the placement of which has no function other than to serve as a one-liner within the film sequence.” Instead of merely editing the film clip and presenting it in a different context, Richardson created a video work that not only makes the filmic moment last forever, but carries the viewer through a number of conflicting sensations ranging from humor and confusion to serenity.

Sometimes, one idea can have significant impact on the course of an artist’s practice, as is the case with Richardson’s idea for A car stopped … . In order to capture and extend the moment from the film, Richardson had to combine the still image with a moving image, the sky, and the sound of an idling car. At the time, she did not own any equipment that enabled her to edit video at such a sophisticated level. But, where there is a will, there is a way. About that time, Richardson recalls: “I went to a production house in Toronto to have them quote for the job, which was $5,000. During the same time, Apple had just released computers for the home market which were the first pro-sumer machines capable of editing video. The cost to invest was a little less than $5,000. I chose to invest in my practice rather than a singular idea and set about learning basic tricks of the trade to produce this work.” And, just like that, Richardson’s ability to visually manipulate moving images was born. You can almost hear all the doors opening.

Next up: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Image: Detail of Kelly Richardson’s A car stopped at a stop sign in the middle of nowhere, in front of a landscape, 2001. Standard-definition digital video with stereo sound, edition of 5. Running time: 30-minute loop. Courtesy the artist and Birch Libralato, Toronto. Image courtesy the artist.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder
This week we continue to feature Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion. So far we have focused on works that incorporate special visual effects, straightforward video, and cinematic sound in unlikely places. Today we explore the suggestive nature of imagery.
Richardson shot There’s a Lot There, 2001, out a screen door, capturing a swarm of mosquitoes coming at the viewer against the backdrop of a scenic sunset. The video playback is unaltered, apart from the audio. According to the artist, “Despite being very loud at the time, the buzzing mosquitoes were not captured, so they were re-created electronically back in my studio.” When creating this work, Richardson was most interested in the “opposing sensations it offered.” Picturesque on the one hand and visually and aurally arresting on the other, this seemingly simple moment sparks conflicting sensations.
We see glimpses, here, of where Richardson is headed; it is not surprising that the natural environment becomes instrumental to her work. There’s a Lot There was filmed at a cottage on Round Lake in Ontario, Canada, where the artist vacationed with her family as a child. Richardson describes the location as “where my heart lives.”
Next up: Learning the tricks of the trade
IMAGE: Detail of Kelly Richardson’s There’s a Lot There, 2001. Standard-definition digital video with stereo sound, edition of 5. Running time: 2-minute loop. Courtesy the artist and Birch Libralato, Toronto. Image courtesy the artist.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder

This week we continue to feature Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion. So far we have focused on works that incorporate special visual effects, straightforward video, and cinematic sound in unlikely places. Today we explore the suggestive nature of imagery.

Richardson shot There’s a Lot There, 2001, out a screen door, capturing a swarm of mosquitoes coming at the viewer against the backdrop of a scenic sunset. The video playback is unaltered, apart from the audio. According to the artist, “Despite being very loud at the time, the buzzing mosquitoes were not captured, so they were re-created electronically back in my studio.” When creating this work, Richardson was most interested in the “opposing sensations it offered.” Picturesque on the one hand and visually and aurally arresting on the other, this seemingly simple moment sparks conflicting sensations.

We see glimpses, here, of where Richardson is headed; it is not surprising that the natural environment becomes instrumental to her work. There’s a Lot There was filmed at a cottage on Round Lake in Ontario, Canada, where the artist vacationed with her family as a child. Richardson describes the location as “where my heart lives.”

Next up: Learning the tricks of the trade

IMAGE: Detail of Kelly Richardson’s There’s a Lot There, 2001. Standard-definition digital video with stereo sound, edition of 5. Running time: 2-minute loop. Courtesy the artist and Birch Libralato, Toronto. Image courtesy the artist.

… And we danced by the light of the moon

This week we continue to feature Kelly Richardson’s work in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion.

Camp, 1998, is one of Richardson’s earliest video works. She filmed it while camping, from a vantage point behind the campfire, executing a simple and straightforward work that references cinematic sound. Amid the crackling fire, one can hear popcorn popping, setting a scene in which, according to curator Jessica Bradley, “The wonder of the wilderness shrinks like a plastic wrapper too near the fire.” Like many moments in slasher horror films, the majesty of nature takes a back seat to the plot, or, in this case, the soundtrack.

Moving images often warrant closer inspection and Camp is no exception. While filming, Richardson captured what she refers to as her “very own E.T. moment,” which many viewers miss: A silhouette at the top right of a frame (seen in the top video still). She assumed it was a plane, but could it be … something else?

Next up: You bring the sunscreen, we’ll bring the calamine lotion.

Exploring Science Fiction: Time TravelMarco Brambilla’s Evolution (Megaplex), 2010
Today is the day of the Science Fiction Film Festival presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY! Be sure to stop in and enjoy one, or all, of the five films being featured. But before that, let’s travel to the past, into the future, and then back again.
It’s no wonder that time travel is such a highly explored theme in science fiction; our longing to go back in time and to venture into the unknown future is fueled by our inherent desire to experience all the world (and perhaps other worlds?) has to offer. In 1895, H. G. Wells penned The Time Machine, which popularized the concept of time travel—so much so that the book has been adapted into feature films, two made-for-television movies, and numerous comic books. In the epic video work Evolution (Megaplex) by Marco Brambilla (Italian, born 1960), we are presented with a scrolling history of humankind that seamlessly combines the past, present, and future—all through the appropriated lens of box office cinema.
Image courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery.  

Exploring Science Fiction: Time Travel
Marco Brambilla’s Evolution (Megaplex), 2010

Today is the day of the Science Fiction Film Festival presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY! Be sure to stop in and enjoy one, or all, of the five films being featured. But before that, let’s travel to the past, into the future, and then back again.

It’s no wonder that time travel is such a highly explored theme in science fiction; our longing to go back in time and to venture into the unknown future is fueled by our inherent desire to experience all the world (and perhaps other worlds?) has to offer. In 1895, H. G. Wells penned The Time Machine, which popularized the concept of time travel—so much so that the book has been adapted into feature films, two made-for-television movies, and numerous comic books. In the epic video work Evolution (Megaplex) by Marco Brambilla (Italian, born 1960), we are presented with a scrolling history of humankind that seamlessly combines the past, present, and future—all through the appropriated lens of box office cinema.

Image courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery.  

Exploring Science Fiction: Apocalyptic SublimeBarnaby Furnas’s Flood, 2007
Just one more day until the Science Fiction Film Festival presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY. Today we turn our attention to a theme that has long been of interest to artists and science fiction filmmakers alike.
The Sublime has been a favored subject of landscape painters throughout art history. However, at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, John Martin (British, 1789–1854) painted large-scale depictions of Biblical tales that portrayed a more foreboding and destructive version of Mother Nature, which resonated with his contemporaries. Large crowds consistently waited in queues for blocks to see Martin’s work.
Fast forward more than two hundred years and the public continues to be fascinated with narratives depicting the eradication of life as we know it on Earth. From aliens and zombies to extreme weather, even contemporary artists have turned their attention to the subject. Flood by Barnaby Furnas (American, born 1973) calls to mind epic visions of nature overtaking land in a swath of red anger—a timely and alarming reminder of our place on Earth amid the destruction caused by recent natural disasters.
Image courtesy of Anthony Meier Fine Arts. © 2007 Barnaby Furnas.

Exploring Science Fiction: Apocalyptic Sublime
Barnaby Furnas’s Flood, 2007

Just one more day until the Science Fiction Film Festival presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY. Today we turn our attention to a theme that has long been of interest to artists and science fiction filmmakers alike.

The Sublime has been a favored subject of landscape painters throughout art history. However, at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, John Martin (British, 1789–1854) painted large-scale depictions of Biblical tales that portrayed a more foreboding and destructive version of Mother Nature, which resonated with his contemporaries. Large crowds consistently waited in queues for blocks to see Martin’s work.

Fast forward more than two hundred years and the public continues to be fascinated with narratives depicting the eradication of life as we know it on Earth. From aliens and zombies to extreme weather, even contemporary artists have turned their attention to the subject. Flood by Barnaby Furnas (American, born 1973) calls to mind epic visions of nature overtaking land in a swath of red anger—a timely and alarming reminder of our place on Earth amid the destruction caused by recent natural disasters.

Image courtesy of Anthony Meier Fine Arts. © 2007 Barnaby Furnas.

Exploring Science Fiction: Man vs. ManFranz Marc’s The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913
There are only two more days until the Science Fiction Film Festival that will be presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY this Friday, but we still have a few more themes to explore.
The Wolves (Balkan War) is based on the artist’s all too personal experience with the subject. War is a common representation of the theme of Man vs. Man and is often projected into the future in science fiction films—presenting a seemingly bleak outlook for man’s ability to resolve conflicts. Here, Franz Marc pits nature against itself, with the wolves serving as an allegory for mankind’s ability to inflict pain and suffering upon its fellow man.

Exploring Science Fiction: Man vs. Man
Franz Marc’s The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913

There are only two more days until the Science Fiction Film Festival that will be presented in conjunction with Kelly Richardson: Legion during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY this Friday, but we still have a few more themes to explore.

The Wolves (Balkan War) is based on the artist’s all too personal experience with the subject. War is a common representation of the theme of Man vs. Man and is often projected into the future in science fiction films—presenting a seemingly bleak outlook for man’s ability to resolve conflicts. Here, Franz Marc pits nature against itself, with the wolves serving as an allegory for mankind’s ability to inflict pain and suffering upon its fellow man.

Exploring Science Fiction: Man vs. NatureEdward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom, ca. 1848
Today we continue to focus on Kelly Richardson: Legion—and the Science Fiction Film Festival that will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY this Friday—by highlighting themes commonly found in science fiction films and their art historical counterparts. 
In the subgenre of sci-fi horror films, the theme of Man vs. Nature is prevalent, gaining pop culture notoriety through often cheesy “nature strikes back” films. Instead of the threat of Earth being invaded by life from outer space, man is pitted against frankenfish and arachnids on the attack. Edward Hicks (American, 1780–1849), however, aimed to depict a more peaceful existence between man and beast. The scene above—inspired by the Biblical Book of Isaiah’s prophetization of the coming of Christ to a peaceful world in which man and nature cohabitate in harmony—is more hopeful than its filmic counterparts.  

Exploring Science Fiction: Man vs. Nature
Edward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom, ca. 1848

Today we continue to focus on Kelly Richardson: Legion—and the Science Fiction Film Festival that will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY this Friday—by highlighting themes commonly found in science fiction films and their art historical counterparts. 

In the subgenre of sci-fi horror films, the theme of Man vs. Nature is prevalent, gaining pop culture notoriety through often cheesy “nature strikes back” films. Instead of the threat of Earth being invaded by life from outer space, man is pitted against frankenfish and arachnids on the attack. Edward Hicks (American, 1780–1849), however, aimed to depict a more peaceful existence between man and beast. The scene above—inspired by the Biblical Book of Isaiah’s prophetization of the coming of Christ to a peaceful world in which man and nature cohabitate in harmony—is more hopeful than its filmic counterparts.