Yugen Merges the Arts of Imagery and Filmmaking at LACMA


Named after a Japanese aesthetic concept, Yugen tackles heady ideas of universal awareness and beauty. Debuting in the U.S. at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) this month, the moving-image work explores the space between art and artificial intelligence (AI) in both its form and content. Creator Martha Fiennes—director of noted features Onegin and Chromophobia—took an experimental approach to devising Yugen, in which an ethereal world leads the viewer in and out of distinct vignettes. The actress Salma Hayek Pinault is the central figure in the AI piece, drawing together the work’s diverse and intersecting moments as her muse floats through the dimensions without a defined beginning, middle, or end. The result is computer-generated imagery, film sequences, and musical scores fused into a hypnotic art piece.

Yugen’s narrative is decided by computer algorithms that become the film’s “directors” so to speak. Each selects the music and scenes, and because these the video and audio successions are non-repeating, the storyline is constantly changing and each viewing experience of the work is wholly unpredictable and unique. Yugen’s parallel spaces imply shifting levels of consciousness, and the story drifts fluidly between the imagination and dreams. Here, CR speaks with Fiennes about Yugen’s meld of art and AI, the alchemy between the artwork’s visuals and philosophy, and how the piece’s open-endedness allows for viewers’ own stories.

The name Yugen references Japanese conceptual philosophy. How did you visually translate and universalize these deeper themes?
“In any creative expression, ‘form’ is importantly aligned with content, so the nature of the medium must be somehow aligned with ‘the message.’ I’d like to think this connection is expressed both in the form and content of the work. The title Yugen is taken from Japanese aesthetics and refers to this idea of a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe. We live in a three-dimensional world in this lifetime, and yet our lives are only one piece of the full reality of being conscious. There is a vast further dimensionality above and the material ‘bodily’ lives we live, and this is the area of contemplation that I am most passionate about.”

Yugen is your second moving-image artwork, following your first project, Nativity. How did the experience of your sophomore work differ?
“When the moving-image art and pictorial frame of reference idea first came to me, I wanted to hang it on something that had come before. Nativity is partly a nod to many magnificent Renaissance paintings created in the ‘tableau’ form. For me, it is not a ‘religious‘ piece, it is more esoteric and speaks to mystery and mysticism—the opposite of cultural materialism. This is part of the message bound up within the piece.”

The background music is a closely-intertwined element of Yugen. What is the significance of the music and its relationship to the imagery?
“The music was created by my brother, the composer Magnus [Fiennes]. There is a strong degree of trust and creative alignment between us, and the level it happens is intuitive and actually ‘understood.’ The music is an important complement of the film’s ideas.”

How is creating an experimental art piece like Yugen different from traditional filmmaking?
“I think that you can have incredible mainstream movies as well as incredible experimental art films. It is the director’s voice, the creative voice, that matters most, not the marker of a genre. The joy of making this work was being given 100 percent creative freedom, working with this medium, and of course within the budget and delivery schedule. There was no fear about not meeting expectations because there were really no benchmarks. But in the ‚wide open space‘ of opportunity, it can be daunting at times to decide how to best guide the project. A fantastic crew of people offered excellent support in realizing the project. Each day, you apply every fiber of your creativity to figure out what will work, to manifest and express the ideas within in this generative media.”

Relative to Yugen’s U.S. premiere, how do you feel the artwork speaks to American culture specifically?
“As an artist, you want to be able to create and there is deep gratitude for that, when you are enabled. In our culture at large, there is a strong emphasis on materialism and on accumulating things, as well as being a culture that is strongly identified with the body. But there has to be a huge level of consciousness beyond the body-self and the so-called ‘consensus reality.’ Yet alongside this materialism, the 20th and 21st century American/Western culture has also brought forward many more alternative, expanded ways of thinking that are big influential drivers for me. There is also the forging of my own interests and influences—everything from computer coding to dreams, out-of-body experiences, multidimensionality, mysticism, hermeticism, theosophy, fractals, and the visual, mathematical environments they express. I feel I am a bit of a magpie, taking ideas and influence from this and from that and it comes through in the scope of the work.”

At the center of Yugen is the role of Pinault as the lead, priestess figure. How does the art piece correspond to the broader social moment championing women?
“For a long time, part of me did not want to buy into this idea of the repression and resistance of women’s place in culture being so pervasive. When I was eight, my mother explained what ‘women’s liberation’ was to me. I remember thinking, ‘Well, whatever these injustices are, they will obviously all be sorted out by the time I’m grown up.’ I remember a movie producer once saying to me that I had to understand that, ‘No (female) actress would ever open a movie.’ My immediate response was, ‘That cannot be true,’ but actually, at the time, it was. It was depressing to hear the absolute certainty in his voice. I am an artist/filmmaker, and I guess I create according to my choice of belief.

Salma Hayek Pinault was incredible to work with. She was receptive to the ideas driving the generative media and of working in this way. She herself is multidimensional—prolific as an actress, producer, and activist. She has a powerful innate energy, a great ability to capture and conjure the ideas in the roles—reflecting the piece’s expression of the duality of light and dark. She was absolutely the muse for the artwork.”


prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/celebrity/a26517986/yugen-art-filmmaking-lacma/
createdAt:Mon, 25 Feb 2019 17:47:31 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article