Here are the things I saw last Friday night at a church in New York City’s Soho: Fireworks, unicorns, cowgirls with lassos, an astronaut, fiery rings of Hell, the starry galaxy, the Von Trapp Family Singers, the German nihilists from The Big Lebowski, bubbles, the Big Boy Burger mascot, mermaids making out, strands of double helix, the Statue of Liberty’s head, some brutal warrior’s head, and, for good measure, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This near-hallucinatory experience happened at the hands of Marco Brambilla, a video collagist whose 3-D trip of a project is called Creation. It’s the third and final installment in his Megaplex trilogy, and it screened for the first time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday, in tandem with last week’s Idea City Festival, hosted by the New Museum. Viewers sat in pews, with 3-D glasses on, while the composer Christopher Cerrone and Gareth Williams/Human played a deconstruction of Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella Waltz. The first of the trilogy, Civilization, was bought by the Standard Hotel in New York City, and is on display for guests and partygoers in the elevator.
Creation takes you inside a swirling DNA double-helix that kicks off with an implosion of galactic imagery, and then gradually spirals into scenery of embryonic inception, earthly and heavenly landscapes, and, finally, annihilation. In Brambilla’s version of things, the world begins and then self-destructs in about four minutes. Then the loop begins anew. His main métier is snapshots from films and mainstream media (which helps explain Schwarzenegger’s cameo). By repurposing thousands of images that we’ve probably seen before, Brambilla is perpetuating a sense of “hyper saturation,” in which we reconsider what we know and think twice about these icons. Brambilla’s feelings aren’t subtle: Signs of his apocalypse include a decapitated Statue of Liberty and Bob’s Big Boy, floating through space.
Brambilla’s works are an in-your-face explosion of sensation, meant to overwhelm. But the artist also cites the Charles and Ray Eames Powers of Ten video series as the inspiration for making the motion in Creation one long pullback. By comparison, Civilization moves along an upward scroll, and Evolution pans the screen horizontally. The spiral of Creation allows for a much more graceful loop effect, which means that as soon as the earth implodes, it simply starts over, from the beginning.
Creation shows next at Site Santa Fe from June 8-30, 2013.