Sunday May 4, 2008, 7:00 pm
At the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Southern California Video: Bruce and Norman Yonemoto
Filmforum highlights the work of four artists whose work cries out for more exhibition – significant pieces by fine artists of their media. In the second evening of four, we host Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, the Yonemotos will present several works, old and new.
California-based artists Bruce and Norman Yonemoto deconstruct and rewrite the hyperbolic vernacular with which the mass media constructs cultural mythologies. Ironically employing the image-language and narrative syntax of popular forms, such as soap opera, Hollywood melodrama and TV advertising, they work from “the inside out” to expose the media’s pervasive manipulation of reality and fantasy.
For more on the Yonemotos, click here or here.
Kappa (1986, 26 min, color, sound) By Bruce and Norman Yonemoto in collaboration with Mike Kelley. Kappa
Filmed in Cuzco, Peru, Yonemoto’s video recreates the opening sequence from The Sound of Music, replacing the Austrian Alps with the Peruvian Andes, the village of Salzberg with Incan ruins and Julie Andrews with a young Andean boy. Sweeping aerial views and a solitary figure accompany the soundtrack, sung by the Andean boy. His song is a translated version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s infective melody into the indigenous Incan language of Quechua, spoken by 13 million people throughout the Andes and South America. Yet the language is probably best known through its place in popular culture; George Lucas’ villain Jabba the Hut (an icon of “Orientalized” evil; a late-Twentieth-Century Godzilla), spoke this disappearing language.
Yonemoto’s work further complicates binary approaches to expressing post-Colonialism by incorporating many ingredients: escapist Hollywood cinema and aspirational Broadway musicals; youth culture and optimism; landscape and cultural artifact; indigenous voices and melodic universality; Europe, Asia, and the Americas; Pre-War, Post-War and Cold War. The resulting mixture is equally complex: beauty and romance, memento and memorial, personal and political.
The Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh has been called his first masterpiece. Painted in 1885, Van Gogh, like the French master Jean-François Millet, wanted to be a true “peasant painter.” This meant Van Gogh tried to paint his subjects with deep feeling, but without sentimentality. He spoke of them leading “a way of life completely different from ours, from that of civilized people.” He strove to paint the faces, “the color of a good, dusty potato, unpeeled naturally,” and to convey the idea that these people had “used the same hands with which they now take food from the plate to dig the earth […] and had thus earned their meal honestly.” (excerpted from the Van Gogh Museum catalogue)
Frederic Jameson in his writing The Deconstruction of Expression wrote that “in Van Gogh [the painting], that content, those initial raw materials, are, I will suggest, to be grasped simply as the whole object world of agricultural misery, of stark rural poverty, and the whole rudimentary human world of backbreaking peasant toil, a world reduced to its most brutal and menace, primitive and marginalized state.”
Following, the model of Luis Bunuel’s landmark 1932 surrealist documentary, Land Without Bread (Las Hurdes), Papa (the original potato eaters) attempts to parody the discourse typically adopted by the ‘voice of god’ documentary form, simply by bringing the underlying elitism of such formalism to the foreground – the distance that is inherent to ‘objectivity’ is revealed merely as cynicism.
Yonemoto has written, “For the great Irish potato famine to Van Gogh’s dark painting, the potato has represented misery. Why should a life of living from the land be one of misery? The prevalent documentary content of ‘marginalized peasant misery’ will be the central image under scrutiny. Does a documentary made in the West always have to portray people of the third world as being unhappy? Papa (the original potato eaters) presents a contemporary Peruvian family whose modest lives contrast with Van Gogh’s representation of stark rural poverty and Jamesons’ whole object world of agricultural misery.”
Video teaser can be viewed here.
A Norman Yonemoto Clip Joint (2007, 20 minute clip of a 45 minute video), by Norman Yonemoto. Clip Joint is a video assemblage of clips and short sequences from motion pictures mostly produced before 1964. Yonemoto isolates these clips from their predominantly Hollywood movie context and creates a new narrative with its own unique logic and meaning.