Anything but still

 

Moving us into heightened states of observation and bringing attention to everyday narratives, as well as wider historical implications, the works in the exhibition ‘Still Life Now’ and accompanying ‘Still Lives’ film program consider how contemporary artists and filmmakers draw on the ideas of the still-life tradition to explore issues of consumerism, beauty, power, postcolonialism and gender politics.

When we think of a picture created in the still‑life tradition, the image that comes to mind might include freshly cut flowers, fruit and vegetables or manufactured objects, frozen in time. Captured in near-perfect detail, these artfully arranged inanimate objects appear to be examples of domesticity; in fact, they are often coded with symbolic references, the artists having used sumptuous imagery to reflect on nature, wealth, exploration and, importantly, mortality. Artists today continue to share, and reject, the concerns of traditional types of still life, such as the memento mori (the stoic visual reminder of the inevitability of death) and the vanitas still life (the use of elaborate spreads to highlight life’s transience) by using strategies of repetition, appropriation and transformation across media, from painting, printmaking and sculpture to performance and time-based works.

Contemporary artist Jude Rae disrupts the illusion of realism with SL447 2021 (illustrated) by adding small visual clues in the form of dripping paint marks and brightly coloured haloes. Conversely, Cressida Campbell’s carved woodblock painting The lithographic studio (Griffith University) 1986 (illustrated) transforms a busy print studio — an environment specifically created for the production and manufacture of images — into an image itself.

Jude Rae ‘SL447’

Jude Rae, Australia b.1956 / SL447 2021 / Oil on linen / 122 x 137.5cm / Purchased 2021. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Jude Rae

Cressida Campbell ‘The lithographic studio (Griffith University)’

Cressida Campbell, Australia b.1960 / The lithographic studio (Griffith University) 1986 / Watercolour pigment paint on carved woodblock / 68.5 x 98 x 5cm (framed) / Gift of the Margaret Olley Art Trust through the QAG Foundation 2009 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Cressida Campbell/Copyright Agency

Reproduction and representation haunt the still life, almost as much as does its relationship to time. The genre’s popularisation in seventeenth-century Europe transformed image-making into a commodity, imbuing these pictures with heightened material value. Known for his audacious embrace of the art market, artist Damien Hirst plays on the currency of images to emphasise the futility of wealth: the print For the love of God, laugh 2007 (illustrated), of a real skull covered in over 8000 diamonds, and which is itself embellished with diamond dust, transforms this classic motif of death into a glittering object of desire.

Damien Hirst ‘For the love of God, laugh’

Damien Hirst, United Kingdom b.1965 / For the love of God, laugh 2007 / Silkscreen print with glazes and diamond dust on paper / Purchased 2008 with funds from the Estate of Lawrence F. King in memory of the late Mr and Mrs S.W. King through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Damien Hirst/DACS/Copyright Agency

DELVE DEEPER: Damien Hirst’s ‘For the love of God, laugh’

Artists such as Michael Cook’s ‘Natures Mortes’ series (illustrated) and Salote Tawale, who reclaim historical imagery to consciously reflect on contemporary states of being, create new commentary through works that take the troubled colonial past of the still life and its relationship to trade as their subject. The featured works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye ( Yam dreaming 1995 illustrated) combine ancestral knowledge with rich painterly forms to explore intangible connections to food and Country. The strength of contemporary voices is similarly shown in the collaborative piece Carving Country 2019–21 by Brian Robinson and Tamika Grant-Iramu, who use the process of carving as a way of celebrating life and First Nations cultures through visual storytelling.

Michael Cook ‘Nature Morte (Agriculture)’

Michael Cook, Bidjara people, Australia b.1968 / Nature Morte (Agriculture) (from ‘Natures Mortes’ series) 2021 / Epson UltraChrome K3 inks on Hahnamühle Photo Rag Bright White 310 gsm paper / 122 x 172cm / Purchased 2021. QAGOMA Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Cook

 Emily Kame Kngwarreye ‘Yam dreaming’

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Anmatyerre people, Australia b.c.1910-1996 / Yam dreaming 1995 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / 122 x 91cm / Purchased 1998. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency

DELVE DEEPER: Michael Cook’s ‘Natures Mortes’ series

The moving image can also use stillness to bring attention to the passing of time and the fragility of life. Accompanying the ‘Still Life Now’ exhibition is the ‘Still Lives’ cinema program, the selected films in which reflect many of the concerns of the genre on screen. ‘Slow cinema’ is style of filmmaking that uses long shots to create broad narratives that offer space for visual contemplation. Oxhide 2005, directed by Liu Jiayin, and Abbas Kiarostami’s final feature, 24 Frames 2017 (illustrated), each use structured static frames, reminiscent of still‑life imagery, to move us into a heightened state of observation and bring attention to the everyday narratives that unfurl through the experience of living. The darkly comedic films A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence 2014 (illustrated) (director Roy Andersson) and Meanwhile on Earth 2020 (director Carl Olsson) feature suites of vignettes, presenting experiences of death that confront its macabre associations. The still-life tradition of displaying extravagant, excessive spreads of luscious foods is explored in Peter Strickland’s latest feature film, Flux Gourmet 2022 (illustrated), and in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover 1989, both of which deploy visually lavish, gluttonous depictions of food, ultimately creating a sense of revulsion and disgust.

RELATED: ‘Still Lives’ film program

In the present, the still life is a space for creative experimentation. Consumerism, beauty, postcolonialism and gender politics are addressed through the contemporary still life, in both the gallery space and on screen, proving that life is anything but still.

Victoria Wareham is Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

’24 Frames’ Dir: Abbas Kiarostami

Production still from 24 Frames 2017 / Dir: Abbas Kiarostami / Image courtesy: CG Cinéma

‘Flux Gourmet’ Dir: Peter Strickland

Production still from Flux Gourmet 2022 / Dir: Peter Strickland / Image courtesy: Arcadia Films

‘Still Life Now’ is in Gallery 2.1, GOMA, until 19 February 2023. The ‘Still Lives’ film program is screening at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA, until 12 March 2023.

Featured image: Production still from A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence 2014 / Dir: Roy Andersson / Image courtesy: Madman Entertainment
#QAGOMA

5 still life artworks and their film counterparts

 

Running alongside the exhibition ‘Still Life Now’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 19 February 2023, the ‘Still Lives’ film program from 9 October 2022 until 12 March 2023 screening at the Australian Cinémathèque in GOMA, presents a selection of films that speak to the core exhibition themes of life, death and transformation. Here are five artworks and their filmic counterparts that take a fresh approach to the still life tradition.

#1
Deborah Kelly Beastliness 2011
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos The Lobster 2015

Left: Deborah Kelly, Australia b.1962 / Beastliness 2011 / Digital animation shown as HD projection, DVD, 16:9, 3:17 minutes, colour, sound / Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Deborah Kelly/Copyright Agency / Right: Production still from The Lobster 2015 / Director: Yorgos Lanthimos / Image courtesy: Sony Pictures

Ideas of desire and transformation underpin the works of Deborah Kelly and Yorgos Lanthimos. Deborah Kelly’s mind-boggling collage animation Beastliness creates fantastical creatures from the pages of old encyclopaedias and textbooks to make riotous commentary on the nature of life, death, and reproduction. In a similar vein, director Yorgos Lanthimos’s darkly comedic film The Lobster is an absurdist take on the future of love and relationships, where candidates who fail to find their perfect love match are transformed into an animal of their own choosing.

The Lobster 2015

The Lobster 2015 / Director: Yorgos Lanthimos / Now screening in ‘Still Lives’

#2
Marc Quinn Portraits of Landscapes series 2007
Director: Jessica Hausner Little Joe 2019

Left: Marc Quinn, United Kingdon b.1964 / Portraits of landscapes 01 & 05 2007 / Pigment print on 330gsm Somerset Velvet Enhanced paper / 100 x 75cm / Purchased 2008 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Marc Quinn / Right: Production still from Little Joe 2019 / Director: Jessica Hausner / Image courtesy: Rialto Film Distribution

Combining ideas of art and science, nature and artifice, life and death, Marc Quinn’s vibrant ‘Portraits of landscapes’ series uses highly saturated, hyper-realistic colours to bring attention to the scientific practices of genetic modification and cryogenics that are used to alter the natural life-span of plants. Jessica Hausner’s tense paranoid thriller, Little Joe 2019, takes a similar stance, and imagines an alternate future where a genetically engineered plant named ‘Little Joe’ emits a mood-altering pollen, resulting in some sinister consequences.

Little Joe 2019

Little Joe 2019 / Director: Jessica Hausner / Now screening in ‘Still Lives’

#3
Anne Noble Dead Bee Portrait #1 2015
Director: Jan Švankmajer Insects 2018

Left: Anne Noble, Australia b.1954 / Dead Bee Portrait #1 2015, printed 2018 / Pigment on archival paper / 91.5 x 116.5cm / The Taylor Family Collection. Purchased 2019 with funds from Paul, Sue and Kate Taylor through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Anne Noble / Right: Production still from Insects 2018 / Director: Jan Švankmajer / Image courtesy: Athanor

Using electron microscope images of dead bees, New Zealand artist Anne Noble attempts to reanimate the deceased bees through the vehicle of photography, to draw attention to their threatened existence and imagine their secret lives and untold histories. Comparably, the master of modern Czech surrealism, Jan Švankmajer, combines stop-motion animation with live action footage to create a wonderfully bizarre take on the lives and minds of insects.

Insects 2018

Insects 2018 / Director: Jan Švankmajer / Now screening in ‘Still Lives’

#4
Michael Cook Natures Mortes series 2021
Director: Pedro Costa Vitalina Varela 2019

Left: Michael Cook, Bidjara people, Australia b.1968 / Nature Morte (Agriculture) (from ‘Natures Mortes’ series) 2021 / Epson UltraChrome K3 inks on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Bright White 310gsm paper / 122 x 172cm / Purchased 2021. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Cook / Right: Production still from Vitalina Varela 2019 / Director: Pedro Costa / Image courtesy: Pedro Costa

Michael Cook’s deeply moving, and highly emotive photographic tableaux, Nature Morte (Agriculture) and Nature Morte (Blackbird) from the ‘Natures Mortes’ photographic series emphasise the importance of culture and identity in the wake of grief and past trauma. Similar in tone and in subject, director Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela is a visually striking portrait of a widow embarking on the rediscovery her identity following the loss of her husband.

Vitalina Varela 2019

Vitalina Varela 2019 / Director: Pedro Costa / Now screening in ‘Still Lives’

#5
Chen Qiulin Garden 2007
Director: Jia Zhangke Still Life 2006

Left: Chen Qiulin, China b.1975 / Garden 2007 / SD video (DVD format), single channel projection: 14:45 minutes, stereo, colour, continuous loop SD video (DVD format), single channel projection: 14:45 minutes, stereo, colour, continuous loop / Purchased 2010. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Chen Qiulin / Right: Production still from Still Life 2006 / Director: Jia Zhangke / Image courtesy: Memento Films International

Still Life 2006 by renowned Chinese director Jia Zhangke and the video work Garden by multidisciplinary artist Chen Qiulin both take the Three Gorges Dam hydro-electric project — a major engineering endeavour responsible for the displacement of thousands of residents living along the banks of the Yangtze River — as their focus but take two very different approaches to storytelling. Jia Zhangka’s Still Life focuses on the lives of two individuals whose stories take place around the project and, like the cities affected by the dam, are going through a similar process of self-deconstruction. Chen Qiulin’s video work Garden, depicts a group of migrant flower sellers moving through the streets of Wanzhou to deliver bouquets of artificial peonies (a flower which in China represents the fragility of life and its potential for renewal), to make comment on the movement of people in favour of economic progress. Both works are incredibly compelling, and explore notions of displacement, memory and social injustice to make comment on the scale and pace of change in contemporary China.

Still Life 2006

Still Life 2006 / Director: Jia Zhangke / Now screening in ‘Still Lives’

Still Lives

View the program

A Bucket of Blood 1959
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover 1989
Death Becomes Her 1992
Coffee and Cigarettes 2003
Niu pi (Oxhide) 2005
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu 2005
Carnivore Reflux 2006
三峡好人 (Still Life) 2006
Taxidermia 2006
Parque vía 2008
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence 2014
The Lobster 2015
24 Frames 2017
Hmyz (Insects) 2018
Little Joe 2019
That Cloud Never Left 2019
Vitalina Varela 2019
Samtidigt På Jorden (Meanwhile On Earth) 2020
Flux Gourmet 2022

Victoria Wareham is Assistant Curator,  Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

‘Still Life Now’ is at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 24 September 2022 until 19 February 2023, the ‘Still Lives’ film program is at the Australian Cinémathèque in GOMA from 9 October 2022 until 12 March 2023. View the ongoing Cinema Program.

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

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5 films I borrowed from my friends (and never gave back)

 

Looking over my film collection recently, I realised there are some films I’ve been holding onto for way too long! For starters, there’s the VHS tape of Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles (1989) that I borrowed from my New Zealand flatmate; the unreturned copy of Heathers (1989) that’s probably still accruing library fines; The Rules of Attraction (2002) DVD that was loaned to me after a second (and last) date; the copy of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) that I borrowed from a girl at school (who also just happened to be going through a Johnny Depp phase at that time); and the Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) DVD I accidentally (on purpose) forgot to give back after a bad break-up. 

Anyone else checked their collection lately?

RELATED: More 5 FILM SUGGESTIONS to watch

Victoria Wareham, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

#1 Meet the Feebles

Meet the Feebles 1989 / Director: Peter Jackson

#2 Heathers

Heathers 1989 / Director: Michael Lehmann

#3 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? 1993 / Director: Lasse Hallström

#4 The Rules of Attraction

The Rules of Attraction 2002 / Director: Roger Avary

#5 Coffee and Cigarettes

Coffee and Cigarettes 2003 / Director: Jim Jarmusch

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Feature image: Heathers 1989
#QAGOMA

Pink foam, macaroni and cat paw puppetry: 5 Miranda July moments

 

Miranda July is an exciting, multidisciplinary artist who moves between film, writing and performance to create narratives that speak to the strangeness of the everyday and the human desire for connectedness. As we celebrate the work of this ground-breaking artist and filmmaker in ‘Miranda July: Me and You and Everybody‘, here are five memorable moments to watch out for.

Head to the Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to explore the films of this genre-defying director.

#1 The pink bubbles in ‘Kajillionaire’

New to Miranda July? Her latest feature Kajillionaire is a great place to start. A comedic twist on the heist-drama, this is the story of a family of con-artists who survive off ludicrous small-time scams. In downtown L.A. where cheap rent is almost impossible to find, the Dyne family live in an apartment where at certain times of the day, the walls are flooded with oozing pink foam; caused by some questionable plumbing in the bubble factory located on the floor above. Joyful and strangely beautiful, mysterious pink bubbles never looked so good!

Kajillionaire (2020) / Director: Miranda July

“If you’re watching this…just call this number…and say macaroni”

#2 Macaroni in ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’

What better way to test if someone is paying attention to your film than to give them an instruction to follow at the end? Head to one of the screenings of Me and You and Everyone We Know to find out the true meaning of “macaroni”.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) / Director: Miranda July

#3 Paw puppetry in ‘The Future’

In Miranda July’s second feature film, The Future, a thirty-something couple decide to adopt a cat named Paw Paw who has been given six months to live. Originally developed by Miranda July as part of her stage performance, Things We Don’t Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About (2006), July’s cat paw puppetry brings to life one cat’s story of patience, loneliness, and unrequited love. Who knew puppets could be so moving?

The Future (2011) / Director: Miranda July

#4 It’s clearly a 4: decoding secret relationship symbols in ‘The Amateurist’

Have you ever over analysed the wording of a text message or an email? Miranda July’s experimental short The Amateurist is the story of an analyst who interprets the physical gestures of a woman that she observes through a television screen as secret symbols of affection and longing.

The Amateurist (1998) / Director: Miranda July / Screening before Me and You and Everyone We Know

#5 “She’s always creating” Amy Adrion on working with Miranda July

Half the Picture is an eye-opening documentary that features interviews from influential directors, including Ava DuVernay, Mary Harron and Miranda July, to highlight the challenges faced by women filmmakers trying to break into an industry that is stacked against them. Before the screening, the film’s director Amy Adrion introduces the film and regrets to inform us that Miranda July really is as cool and as smart and as funny as she seems.

Amy Adrion on working with Miranda July / Director introduction to Half the Picture (2011)

Struggling to stay focused when you’re working from home? Follow Miranda July’s five-step program from ‘The Future’ to avoid distraction

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Feature image: Miranda July on set for Kajillionaire (2020) / Courtesy: Universal Pictures Australia
#QAGOMA

5 films about the Masters and The Met, New York

 

As QAGOMA opened its doors to the exhibition, ‘European Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York‘, the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA curated a selection of insightful and playful films that delve into the history of the Masters and the modern-day museum with ‘The Met: The Masters and the Modern Day‘.

RELATED: More 5 FILM suggestions to watch

LIST OF WORKS: Discover all the artworks

DELVE DEEPER: More about the artists and exhibition

THE STUDIO: Artworks come to life

WATCH: The Met Curators highlight their favourite works

Fanatical collectors, the world’s most prestigious fashion event and a painter scorned

#1 Caravaggio 1986

A fictionalised re-telling of the life of painter Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio, Derek Jarman’s award winning 1986 biopic of this master of chiaroscuro rivals the visually sumptuous nature of the paintings themselves. Featuring the debut performances of Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean, Caravaggio 1986 is a haunting cinematic portrait that reimagines key events in the life of this Italian Baroque Master.

Caravaggio 1986 / Director: Derek Jarman

#2 Mr. Turner 2014

Mr Turner 2014 is a detailed and visually sumptuous account of the last twenty-five years in the life of the romantic English painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner. Actor Timothy Spall creates a rich and austere portrait of one of the world’s most well renowned (and eccentric) recluses and the events leading up to his eventual passing.

Mr. Turner 2014 / Director: Mike Leigh

#3 The First Monday in May 2016

Once a year on the first Monday in May, the steps of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are filled with celebrities dressed in the latest couture from the fashion houses of McQueen, Versace, Dior and many more. Established in 1948, ‘The Met Gala’ is one of the most prestigious events in the Museum’s calendar and is an opportunity for the world’s most renowned designers to showcase their latest creations and raise funds for the Costume Institute. The First Monday in May 2016 directed by Andrew Rossi, follows Costume Institute curator, Andrew Bolton as he prepares for the exhibition opening of ‘China: Through The Looking Glass’, a major design survey exploring the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion.

The First Monday in May 2016 / Director: Andrew Rossi

#4 At Eternity’s Gate 2018

How did Vincent Van Gogh really die? This beautifully filmed biopic of one of the world’s most enigmatic painters draws on the revisionist theory from biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith that proposes a new cause behind this iconic painter’s untimely death. William Defoe delivers an Oscar nominated performance as Van Gogh and interestingly, is also the artist behind a number of the in-progress paintings featured in the film.

At Eternity’s Gate 2018 / Director: Julain Schnabel

#5 My Rembrandt 2019

Can you ever have enough Rembrandt? Not according to some of the world’s leading art collectors. My Rembrandt explores the passion and obsession of Rembrandt fanatics from around the world by delving into the relationships that they have with the paintings that they own.

My Rembrandt 2019 / Director: Oeke Hoogendijk

Was that set in The Met, New York?

Despite strict protocols regarding filming, The Met has a rich history of on-screen appearances. Whether that’s Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan walking through the Egyptian galleries in When Harry Met Sally 1989; Pierce Brosnan’s Magritte-inspired escape sequence in the 1999 remake of the Thomas Crown Affair or the elaborate jewel heist in Oceans 8 2018, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a modern day muse that’s as iconic as the artists in its collection.

Victoria Wareham, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

When Harry Met Sally 1989 / Rob Reiner

Thomas Crown Affair 1999 / Director: John McTiernan

Oceans 8 2018 / Director: Gary Ross

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

This Australian-exclusive exhibition was at the Gallery of Modern Art from 12 June until 17 October 2021 and organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in collaboration with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and Art Exhibitions Australia.
#QAGOMA #TheMetGOMA

5 films to rave about – Sound systems, acid-house and the yellow smiley

 

Grab your glow sticks and don the fluro with these films that celebrate the rave phenomenon as a sweet-harmony of escapism, hedonism and self-expression. Immerse yourself in these techno vibes, jungle beats and smooth synth that will have you throwing shapes.

RELATED: More 5 film suggestions to watch

1 Everybody in the Place 2018 15+

In this brief visual history of the British Rave scene, 2004 Turner Prize winning artist and director Jeremy Deller invites us into a London classroom where a group of year twelve and thirteen students explore rave as a united movement that redefined the social, cultural, and geographical landscape of Britain.

2 Beats 2019 MA15+

“Rave to the grave, the biggest night of your life Scotland”

In this end of an era film, Beats 2019 pairs the coming-of-age experience of two friends in central Scotland with the death rattle of the 90s rave scene. Largely filmed in black and white, Beats channels the films La Haine 1995 and Rumble Fish 1983 to echo the national delusion of 90s Britain, with the brief bursts of colour paying tribute to ravers as the accidental freedom fighters of the decade.

3 If It Were Love 2020 15+

If It Were Love 2020 centres on the dance piece ‘Crowd’ by choreographer Gisèle Vienne and re-enacts a slow-motion 90s rave in real time. Beautifully captured for the screen by director Patric Chiha, the skilful combination of cinematography and choreography transforms the cinema into an underground rave, celebrating what it means to be alive.

4 Climax 2018 R18+

Climax 2018 is a cinematic dance party that descends into a drug-fuelled nightmare. In this Fame 1980-meets-Trainspotting 1996 visual feast, Gaspar Noé’s beautiful but haunting film is inescapably enthralling, and is guaranteed to stay with you long after you’ve seen the film.

5 Bring Down The Walls 2020 15+

Born out of Chicago’s post-disco underground club scene in the early 1980s, house music has a longstanding history as a voice for repressed and marginalised communities across America. In this politically engaged, discursive documentary, 2006 Turner Prize-nominee Phil Collins (and no, not that Phil Collins!) invites us into the “Bring Down the Walls Project”; an anti-incarceration movement that transforms the dance floor into a space of connection and liberation to bring down the physical walls of the prison–industrial complex.

Art and Rave

If you’re starting to notice a pattern forming between Turner Prize artists and the Rave scene, 2008 Turner Prize winner Mark Lecky’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore 1999 is a must-see video work that captures the essence of the UK underground rave scene through a visual collage of raw footage and animation.

Victoria Wareham, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA


Rave cinema program

The Rave cinema program (30 January until 10 March 2021) explored the rave scene as a site of connection, release and transformation. Born out of Chicago’s post-disco underground club scene in the late 1980s, rave counterculture continues to be a significant global movement, providing a space of liberation for repressed and marginalised communities. In periods of radical social, political and economic change, raves are energy-filled zones of autonomy that offer alternative spaces of freedom, hope and unity.

Dip into our Cinema blogs / View the ongoing Australian Cinémathèque program

The cinema program is accompanied by a new setlist developed by UK DJ Ben Hawkswell.
Program curated by Victoria Wareham, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

QAGOMA is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.

Featured image: If It Were Love 2020 / Director: Patric Chiha
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