© Brendan George Ko, Nine eleven (Detection), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Hoodlumz (New Tribe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, United, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Product Placement (Malthusian Catastrophe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Outer Body Experience (Shaman), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Allseeing (Eye of Providence), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Vampiric Empire (Preachers of Death), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
© Brendan George Ko, Shadow Figure, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.
Wanting to showcase Brendan George Ko‘s work We Soon Be Night! I realized it would be the third post about him. A first in this site (if I’m not mistaken). Doing it anyway and recommending (at least) a visit to his website.
Brendan’s statement about this project:
“The phantom continues…
The walls of time and space collapse and take on a formless entity that is able to drift through our sense of memory. In a landscape that holds a specific memory —often intense moments of hard-boiled emotion and grand tragedy, the human psyche is turned and provoked. There is an index that exists between the planes of reality in which we can see and feel.
In a time of cinematic Armageddon, endless documents of natural disaster and environmental shifts, and ancient wisdom foretelling of the Apocalypse, belief is not a necessary vehicle into a dry sense of doom. The future has always been uncertain but certain events have shifted the priority of this feeling into the foreground —it is all around us now. It has escaped its prison of our memory and has manifested itself into the medium.
Tracing my memory I look back to find the origin of this sense of uncertainty towards the future, this sense of, what’s going to happen next? and holding a pejorative view towards the future. We Soon Be Nigh! starts off at the birthplace of this phantom of doom and continues to reference both the past and the future, in visual storytelling that is both documentation and construction.”
And a text from his blog published on October 3rd, 2012:
“Contemplating the photograph, one which is based out of a constructed practice of image-making and another based out of an obsession to document experience traveling through the world and the everyday. How they relate to each other besides from being born out of the same author is that they are both seen as documents to me. The snapshot comes out of an obsession to document my everyday in order to expand but also complete my memory (which in turn can never be complete since the camera is flawed in perspective, the decision to photograph, and that the still frame is always, inherently out of context (without a beginning or an ending and within a frame)). The constructed image which is staged is an afterthought of a moment, or a collection of moments and is a contemplation of the significance of a particular memory, a feeling, and an idea. Where the snapshot is flawed in its aesthetics of being rough, out-of-focus, motion blur, mixed light sources, on-camera flash, and perhaps not the right focal length, the constructed image which comes from after the moment has passed is perfected in how the moment appears as a memory. The flaw of the constructed image is that it isn’t the moment that it is referencing and therefore is not real. The argument I propose here is that what is real? Reality is subjective, especially in a world that is divided by a social construction of reality which is in conflict with personal reality, one which is born from biographical experience.
I start my collection of images with a morning scene in a living room and in the center of the frame is a television set. It is large unlike the television sets of today and is more furniture than an illuminated wall-mounted painting, and has become a piece of the domestic landscape, having photos, VHS tapes, and ornaments on top of it. The television has the image of a CNN broadcast of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. The room itself has a smoky atmosphere, dim with a bright world outside. And though the photograph is completely staged it is as real as my memory of that moment is. And since the moment has passed I cannot return to that morning of September 11, 2001, where I woke up for school, and my parents readily themselves for their day jobs as they watched the television. Having just woke up there was a disorientating feeling when my parents tried to update me on what they had known from what they were given by the fanatic behavior of the broadcaster not knowing himself what had exactly happened other than the fact that one commercial airliner had crashed into the financial epicenter of the nation.
The photograph of the staged living room with a television playing a pre-recorded image strikes the viewer with not a question of is this image real but recalls their own memory of that moment. Even though it had been made ten years after reference point that image is still clear in the viewers mind, and what I claim to be as the clearest collective experience and image in recent memory. And this is evident in the effect of the viewer when they see this image they are able to place themselves within the context of the image, recalling what they were doing that day and even how they felt. This scene is not real, it is not the living room I had while I lived in Houston during the 9/11 attacks nor is it the viewers. It is a generic representation of a collective experience.
An event seen through the camera’s lens, then broadcast, and then seen through the television set we are perceiving an image out of context, through the frames of the camera, but ultimately through the ideology behind that broadcasting network. Just as reality television differs from network to network, with TLC’s obsession with abnormalities in our culture (ranging from conjoined twins, hoarding, large volume immediate families, and gypsies) to MTV’s youth in conflict with reinforcement of stereotypes of college kids, Italian-American middle class youth, washed-out celebrities struggling with drug addiction and the public eye, these ideologies differ but are all part of multi-faceted ideology of a culture at whole. Even though we are given the choice of view, from CNN’s more liberal approach to Fox News’ conservative view, both operate under the same system. They are all representing reality within a specific cultural and regional ideology. And this broadcast reality is not providing the lived experience but the simulation of it. Through studying history we experience the Vietnam War as much as we experience youth drinking in a hot tub by the Jersey Shore or what it is to live in a house full of boxes and too many cats (some being lost or dead hidden away in some dark corner). There is this remoteness that separates us from the moment’s true experience to a controlled and simulated experience. Cinema isn’t far from this simulated experience of the real as it often depicts real events through a singular perspective. Its heightening of the event is theatrical and relies on aesthetics, staging, and performance to create believability. It places the viewer in a controlled environment of the cinema, a temple or cave-like setting that instructs the viewer to sit and to pay attention to the center piece, the silver screen in this case, and slowly dissolves the reality outside of the room for one which possess a flicker of motion and the omnipresence soundtrack. And for two hours what is presented in front of our eyes is believed as a temporal reality, we start to interpellate ourselves into the characters and develop emotional connections as we start to “know” the characters, their scenarios, and the environments that surround them.
Rather than focusing on what is in focus, I would like to contemplate not the characters of the narrative but what is in the background. The background actor’s role is to be there, to camouflage itself to the background and to be commonly found object in the environment, such as trees in the forest. In a sense they are a kinetic background like graffiti jumping from the walls and possessing life. What they are meant to not possess is individuality, they are a mass of many, and are more caricature than character. In the contemplation of the background actor being a walking, breathing, and living background is to observed and brought into the foreground, –they now hold our conscious attention. Through observation they often create error to the simulated reality of cinema, as they are not necessarily trained professionals such as the main characters, but they are often real people there for volume and aesthetics. Occasionally a background actor can be seen doing a cycling movement that repeats in a shot, or they accidental or purposely look into the lens which gives way to the existence of a camera as our viewing point. And in some cases the background actors are real people that are untrained and are not volunteering to be background actors but are simply there in a real environment that is being used to represent one that is constructed. It is in these cases that the control of the filmmaker is removed and there are elements of the real the conflict with the simulation through comparison. The so-called, Fourth Wall, is breached and in these minor and often hidden nuances bring into question where the audience is. It is a lucid experience but rather gaining control one realizes the lack of control over the narrative.
In further contemplation of the background actor is questioning what they represent. If they are appointed to be a mass of many and are not to have individuality such as the characters of the narrative then they are representations. It is in their attention or rather their lack of attention that they fall back to a role, and this role being that of “type”. They are performing in the subconscious space of the film and are playing out roles based off of their appearance. There isn’t any introduction to the background actor and their character, they simply appear there in front of us on the screen, –the word, “front”, does not define their position within the planes of existence in the film. They are neither background as they are not affixed such as a wall of a building or a tree in a forest nor are they in same the plane as the characters of the narrative. If they are neither back nor fore then where are they?
They exist in the simulacrum removed from reality and exist as a sort of transparent being in the cinematic reality. Art directors in their pursuit to maintain the background actor in the background make them as real as possible, –the realer the less the contradiction is apparent to the viewer. The word seamless is an ideal description of their aesthetics but being as this is film their actions also must be as real to the viewer and as convenient to the filmmaker as their aesthetics. One could not imagine having to train individually each background actor to perform a specific role but rather an instruction via a megaphone addressing a mass or a second or third A.D. directing singular groups of background actors to perform a specific task. These task ranging anywhere from walking across the scene, to appearing to be reading, or talking amongst themselves set in a cycle. For example a background actor instructed to walk across the scene will perform this task identically for each take. Or a group of background actors dancing in a circle and to no rhythm in particular. The more real their everyday actions are the less apparent they become. They existence on an invisible plane which is right before us but we dismiss them from our attention as the individual is lost to volume and the volume is lost to representation of a representation. For what the background actor represents is a stereotype, a generality of a specific group of people”