Cinema + live theater, 7/23/11

Always the influential pioneer when it comes to moviemaking, Francis Ford Coppola returned to Comic-Con for the first time since Dracula with another horror flick, Twixt. But this one was a self-financed indie project, digitally shot and edited on locations near his Napa Valley winery. Professor Coppola gave the fans a history lesson about the wonders of live music and theater before the advent of recordings, and suggested that perhaps a little live theater at the movies would be a good thing in this canned, pre-marketed age. After showing one 3-D promo for Twixt, Coppola showed the footage again, controlled by his iPad, with different versions of the scenes, and live narration by him and music mixed by composer/musician Dan Deacon. At a later interview, Coppola explained how he wants to take this movie on the road and conduct a live band in the orchestra pit of seven or so theaters in key cities around the country - ideally with three screens, a la Abel Gance's Napoleon, which he helped to rerelease in this country. "I was an early proponent that the cinema had to be electronic, 40 years ago," he said. "The cinema utimately became electronic and digital." The road show would be used as a marketing tool, he said, "one of the problems today is no one knows your films exist."  Ideally the tour would take place a month before the film opens. The film is not interactive, in the sense that there are different plots to choose, but rather "more malleable," he said, with different lengths and versions of scenes to choose on any given night. "Cinema should become more like theater, with the live element. I feel everything is too canned nowadays," he said.


Ballet + Chinese acrobatics

The Daily Telegraph, 7/27/11

It was the moment that launched a million YouTube hits: a ballerina, pretty as a snowflake, dancing a pas de deux from Swan Lake on her partner's head. There are hundreds of bootleg video clips of this extraordinary feat, performed by two Chinese dancers, Wu Zhengdan and Wei Baohua, but all of them share a collective gasp of astonishment as Wu steadies herself, en pointe, atop her partner's head and then performs a pirouette, her legs in vertical splits, torso arched backwards in a gravity-defying arabesque. For one fleeting moment the hubbub of the auditorium is silenced. Wu holds the swanlike pose, picked out in a centre-stage spotlight, luminous and still as an ice-sculpture. And then, even before the dismount, comes the thunderous applause.  The fact that one of the top five Chinese state acrobatic troupes is performing Swan Lake is a testament to changing times, Gao Junsheng, the group's artistic director, says. "Originally, Chinese acrobats were just about spinning plates and a guy on a chair up a pole," he says. "But these days we have to try harder to attract a wider audience. This is why we created this revolution in Chinese acrobatics, combining them with modern and Western music."


Visual arts + science

Arthur I. Miller, May 2011

Today artists are bringing science out of the laboratory. Nowhere is this more evident than in biology-inspired art which necessitates collaboration between an artist and a scientist. This is the theme of the exhibition Merging Art & Science [in London, now through Sept 24th]. Some of the most innovative artists are fusing art and science to create a brand new art movement inspired by science. Striving to visualise the invisible and what it will mean to be human in the future, they create images and objects of stunning beauty, redefining the notion of 'aesthetic' and of what is meant by art. Artists and scientists have always tried to fathom the reality beyond appearances, but it was really only with Isaac Newton, and the onset of the Age of Rationalism in the 17th century, that a distinction was made between the two. In the centuries that followed, science and technology were seen as the real pursuit of truth, while art - which had the role of representing people and landscape - seemed like mere entertainment. With the onset of the avant-garde, and of modernity, the two began to merge with greater and greater intensity. Picasso's 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, which contains the seeds of Cubism, was strongly influenced by his interest in science (X-rays), technology (photography and cinematography) and mathematics (four-dimensional geometry). Einstein's famous equation E=mc2 was central to Kandinsky's creation of Abstract Expressionism; while in Nude Descending a Staircase, Duchamp reflected Einstein's notions of movements in space and time.

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