I think it’s not just important to have an active imagination, but a unique one. Far too often, you find those with remarkable creativity vetting it through cliche, established outlets. And that bothers me. To me, that feels like laziness on the part of one’s imagination. Why play in the box, when you could create a shape that doesn’t even exist yet? Creation isn’t about coloring within the lines.”
That’s one of the things I respect most about Bjork Guðmundsdóttir — throughout her entire career, she has been creating a new landscape to work in, rather than settling for the prescribed singer-songwriter course. Whether it is creating an album with only voice-instruments, or starring in a movie-musical, or making 3-D short films about mythical buffalo-creatures, you know that Bjork has no concept of the box. She threw it away along with any and all instructions ages ago, and the results have been wonderful.
Recently I came across a photo of an extremely young (and extremely handsome) Sir Ian McKellan, of Lord of the Rings fame. I was so smitten with this angelic, dapper depiction of one of my favorite actors, that I took it upon myself to do some further exploration for images of Sir Ian in his youth. The results, I am happy to report, are just as lovely.
It is with a heavy heart that I report that Nagi Noda, a brilliant art director, grand imaginer, and my personal hero, passed away on September 7, 2008, from surgical complications due to injuries sustained in a traffic accident last year. Nagi Noda was just 35 years old – it’s always terrible when someone so young dies, but when that person is so full of talent and inspiration, it is all the more upsetting. Nagi was at such an exciting moment in her career, her work reaching a broader audience and receiving greater acclaim than ever before. The work she would have created in the next decade I am sure would have been even more brilliant and inspiring than anything that came before it, and it saddens me deeply to know that we will never be able to experience it.
As a designer, Ms. Noda followed the path that is every designer’s dream: from her humble beginnings in print advertising, Nagi’s work won her such acclaim that it wasn’t long before she was working with larger company’s, such as Nike and Laforet Harajuku. But it wasn’t until Nagi took the step into directing commercials and music videos through her self-created production company, Uchu Country Ltd., that the world got to see just how much talent and creativity this petite girl could conjure up.
By far Nagi Noda’s most popular and recognized work is her viral video entitled “Ex-Fat Girl,” which Nagi both directed and starred in. In the video, Nagi plays the part of a spunky, formerly overweight aerobics instructor, who guides the viewer through a series of exercises guaranteed to give you a perfect “poodle-like” figure, complete with round pom-pom growths on your arms, calves and even hair. Her students in the video are disturbingly human bipedal poodles in leotards, who mystify the viewer as they go through the exercises with Nagi doing squats, arm-crunches, and bends.
Nagi Noda’s work captured magic, plain and simple. It expressed an innocence and delight in the simple illusions we can create as individuals, teasing and tantalizing us with the potential for surreal in things we took for granted. Nagi Noda’s work never tried to dazzle with the complexity of its effects, but rather used simple methods that were never hidden or obscured. The “how” of the process would be visible to the viewer, and add to the wonder and art of the work. For instance, in the music video “Sentimental Journey” by the artist, Yuki, Noda captures Yuki’s entire day of actions through the remarkably effective yet utterly simple trick of positioning dozens of girls posed in small gestures; when panned across, each girls actions relate to the ones beside her, and simulate activity. It is clear to the viewer from the very start that these are girls wearing wigs to resemble Yuki, and a close up shot at the beginning even proves that many of them don’t even particularly resemble the singer. However, there is almost a tangible moment when the illusion takes hold in the work, and the viewer “sees” the magic, even with the strings in view. In fact, the strings make the magic far more believable and captivating.
We can count ourselves fortunate that Nagi Noda did leave us with one final piece of art. Noda’s final completed project was a music video for J-pop star, MEG, for her song “Precious.” The video utilizes an old Japanese theatre technique called kuroko, in which objects are manipulated by actors completely hidden in black. It is a video that culminates all the great aspects of Nagi Noda’s work: whimsy, the surreal, simple effects and fantastic dose of imagination. I personally can think of no better piece to leave us with.
Nagi, we will miss you so much. And I hope wherever you are now, it is filled with hair tigers and dancing cats.
Let me tell you a little bit about Nagi Noda. Nagi is a Japanese designer, and dominating nominee for “Person I Would Most Care to be When I Grow Up.” An art director who became known for her cutting-edge work in print design, Noda was soon drafted by the big boys, specifically, Nike and the famed Laforet. More recently, Noda has moved into video, where she has proceeded to sweep awards with her music videos and commercials.
Nagi Noda’s work is simply stunning: based deeply in surrealism, she makes whimsical works that are as beautiful as they are mind-bending; whether it’s costume bags or poodle aerobics or carnivorous flower bunnies. She is also so prolific with these new ideas it is liable to make ones head spin. I could fill this blog for a month with her awesome projects and achievements. But I’m here to talk about my favorite project of hers, HAIR, and the wondrous things Nagi Noda has done with it…
These hair styles are so amazing. I long for a world where we all sculpt our hair into the animal we feel most inclined to that day. Feeling freaky? French braid a ferret. A bit bland? Bouffant a toucan. Full of pity? Plait a kitty.
I am totally in love with the work of BLU right now. Blu is an Italian artist, who works mostly in murals and urban landscapes. His work is characterized by larger than life figures that tease the eye with perspective and size. The things he can do with white paint is amazing. All Photos Property of BLU
This short film by Blu is amazing. An animation painted on public walls in Buenos Aires and in Baden, BLU’s work surpasses simple grafitti, and turns the cityscape itself into a giant morphing canvas. The entire effect is breathtaking.
BLU’s most recent project has been a larger-than-life mural on the exterior of the Tate London, aptly entitled “Headquarters.”
Zena Holloway is a UK director and master of underwater photography. Her clientele has run the gamut of industries: from fashion brands (Nike, Olay) to ecological organizations (National Geographic, Greenpeace). Throughout all, Holloway’s style shines through: otherworldly beings, moving through a realm apart. Holloway’s ability to blend the human form with fabric is simply irresistible, creating effects that long for you to reach out and touch them. There is a grace about her work that goes beyond simple liquid immersion – an eye for texture and movement that creates pieces that feel almost sacred.
Andrew Bird is a Chicago singer-songwriter, violinist, guitarist, and self-proclaimed professional whistler. If you haven’t heard his latest album, Armchair Aprocrypha, I suggest you do, as I consider it a personal favorite from last year. Bird has this warm, holistic sound that I think can only be the result of someone who has a thorough knowledge of every piece going into a song.
Andrew Bird has an article in the New York Times this week on life inside the studio. As someone who has never been inherently musical, and extremely jealous of those who are, I found this a great read. It really shows the amount of care that goes into creating a fine piece of music.
“In the studio, a number of things can conspire to turn the natural act of making music into an awkward dance. First there is no audience, no one to impress. Second is the temptation to be too careful, to isolate every sound and not let it mingle with other sounds. The third deals with the voice, the most personal and vulnerable instrument. Recording vocals can be fraught with aural illusions akin to the weirdness of hearing your own voice on your answering machine. ‘That’s not me, is it?’”
I have been an enormous fan of Bjork since I was a wee girl of twelve, when I first caught her music video for “Human Behavior” late one night on MTV. It still stands as possibly my favorite music video of all time.
I not only love her music, but feel that what really separates Bjork from the crowd is her dedication to an aesthetic that is uniquely her own. In everything she does – music, movies, projects and dress – she infuses an essential part of herself, radiating a confidence and uniqueness that is simply breathtaking.
Her latest work is no exception. Recently, Bjork teamed up with Encyclopedia Pictura to create an amazing new video replete with puppets, computer-generated animation and magic. Shot with a custom made stereoscopic camera rig, the result is a video that is not only awesome, but 3-D (the old school kind, with the glasses)! It is featured on a DVD accompanying the new “Wanderlust” single (3-D glasses included!), available through One Little Indian.
However, thanks to Wired.com, you do not need to purchase the single in order to see the video in all it’s three-dimensional glory. Wired.com is hosting the video on their site here, IN 3-D, and even gives you directions on how to mock-up a pair of 3D specs from used CD cases you have lying around.
By far, my favorite professional artist in the field today is James Jean. I have been a die-hard fan since I picked up the first edition of his art book, “Process Recess”, on a whim at the MOCCA comic art fest several years ago. I was immediately captivated by his style – an ability to make drawings that combine the immediacy of a chaotic sketch with some of the cleanest drawn lines I have ever seen. The man simply cannot put down a stray line. Add to that the fact that he is a pop-whiz at digital editing, and I was smitten.
That he also happens to make the covers of my favorite comic book, “Fables,” is simply the icing on the cake.
Recently, James Jean paired up with Prada in the creation of their Spring 2008 line. The results are nothing short of wonderous.
Along with apparel and illustrations, Jean created a wallpaper for Prada (I believe to be used as the background for the product line). It is currently hanging in Prada’s Beverly Hills and Soho Epicenter stores, and is a whopping 17 x 200 feet. NotCot has the entire incredible wallpaper in digital format on their site, here.
Excerpt of the wallpaper James Jean created for Prada. Click here to see the whole piece.
If all this wasn’t enough, Jean and Prada put together this short film promoting the line, featuring the music of the sister duo, CocoRosie. One of my favorite bands, backing my favorite artist, and collaborating with one of my favorite fashion houses. Someone please get behind me – I feel a swoon coming on…