AnOther are proud to exclusively present Marco Brambilla's Evolution, a sprawling, immersive 3D world that depicts a pop culture at war with itself.
For the past decade Marco Brambilla has been carving himself a very specific niche in contemporary art, creating visually stunning and often provocative video montages that draw you into his unique vision of humanity. His work provides commentary on what he considers to be an increasingly fractured society that is all too wrapped up in the culture of spectacle, and his latest offering is the intensely seductive, multi-layered 3D Pop Art extravaganza Evolution, consisting of footage from 600 classic films.
In many ways, Evolution is the natural successor to Brambilla's much-celebrated previous work Civilization, which drew upon hundreds of films to create a montage that acts as a wry modern take on depictions of the Last Judgement, referencing everything from Ghostbusters to Metropolis. Evolution has the same Bosch-esque apocalyptic feel as its predecessor and a similar neoclassical aesthetic to his music video for Kanye West’s Power. It contains myriad high and low cultural references, yet it is a step closer to being truly immersive, being the first of his works to be rendered in 3D (a fact which can itself be seen as a comment upon big-budget cinema's increasing reliance on spectacle). In Evolution, Alex's menacing droogs from A Clockwork Orange saunter towards you in a hyper-visual, horizontally-scrolling environment that contains everything from the napalm-equipped helicopters that appear in Apocalypse Now, to a giant .44 Magnum-wielding “Dirty” Harry Callahan.
It is a timely comment on evolution as a product of conflict, and an ironic take on the Hollywood epic. Here, the artist talks to John-Paul Pryor about the potential psychological damage that a reality television-fuelled zeitgeist might have upon the collective consciousness, and the dangers lurking at the heart of our “post-human” society. Strap on the 3D glasses free with the latest issue of AnOther Magazine and prepare to dive into one of the most groundbreaking artworks of modern times.
AnOther: In some ways this seems like a natural progression from your earlier work, Civilization. What do you hope to achieve by drawing the viewer into these hyper-visual environments?
Marco Brambilla: In both works I wanted to superimpose pop culture onto a grand historic and deeply human theme in a very maximalist way. It does make for a rich kind of immersive visual overload that’s very candy-coloured and seductive, but at the same time there is an element of alienation and superficiality to what you are seeing, because there is no one thing commanding your attention. Hopefully, you’re drawn into the entropy of it, the idea of things being out of control and slightly anarchic, which is really important in my work.
AnOther: What comment are you making about the concept of evolution?
Marco Brambilla: The film deals with the history of mankind and the purging and re-purging of humanity throughout history. There’s a progressive timeline in the film that is strictly chronological, and through that chronology it emphasises the concept of conflict. The film is reborn and reborn, emphasising that through some very violent human instincts comes change. I think our legacy can be interpreted as being primarily about conflict, and this work represents a fairly pragmatic view of human nature. We're constantly struggling with ourselves. Flaming arrows are shot at the future from medieval times while ICBMs from the present-day are placed in the past. I tried to get weird, benign pop culture images because what we see in pop culture may not be so benign, you know?
AnOther: There is certainly something apocalyptic about the work. Do you think our era has a doom aesthetic?
Marco Brambilla: I think that’s definitely an undercurrent in so many things right now – reality television, for example, is very gladiatorial and based on the spectacle of humiliation. So many things have become about spectacle, and people’s attention spans have been degraded over the years. My work takes the concept of spectacle and has it penetrate through the clutter in a way that is hopefully subversive. I think that real-life has become filmic. The other day, I heard someone say that a situation they were experiencing felt just like a reality show – to me that demonstrates the abstraction of the way we see the world, and how deeply we've been influenced by media. The way we look at the world and ourselves has mutated into something else, something more self-conscious and calculated – we've lost our innocence.
AnOther: By placing the iconography of pop culture within the frame of classicism, are you drawing our attention to our degraded attention spans and the deluge of the information age?
Marco Brambilla: Absolutely. The idea is to present something that works within the system but also subverts it at the same time. I definitely feel evolution at this point is entropic and anarchic – there's no historical reference for the speed of change today and it's exciting to see how much we can assimilate this from a purely biological standpoint. We've become post-human in a way.
AnOther: What was the process in creating the work?
Marco Brambilla: In composing the canvas, I started with a straightforward chronology as I did with Civilization; then I added certain anachronistic elements that came from a stream of consciousness – the threading together of themes and icons so they would make sense in an abstract rather than literal way. These ripples in time underline the idea that the more things change the more they stay the same. The representation of the epic source material into a mega-epic is essentially about excess and it reflects the way we now absorb information. You are forced to pay attention to the images as they are so dense and chaotic… and hopefully sexy, in a destructive way.
AnOther: Do you think a great work of art can elevate our consciousness?
Marco Brambilla: I absolutely believe that. I think art can create a kind of sublime feeling from fairly mundane things, and there is a spiritual feeling or element you can get from looking at a great work of art that isn’t necessarily commodified. It does open up the possibility of something being more metaphysical than what we are used to, although it’s becoming more difficult for art to remain as relevant as it used to be because the media channels being used to disseminate information have become so sophisticated and instant. To stay relevant you have to adopt some subversive techniques. I think the goal for me is ultimately to create some kind of awareness that wasn’t there before.
Marco Brambilla: The Dark Lining runs May 21 – August 20, 2011 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art