In his book titled Digital
Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds, Timothy Murray
writes about a concept of time inspired by new media art,
describing time as always “in-between,” always split between past
and present, with one side twisting toward the past, the other
launching itself toward the future. “To be 'in' the machinic state
of time,” Murray writes, “is to be confronted with the touch, turn,
vision, and thought of the interval, the in-between, as the
recombinant turning of time.”
A compelling embodiment of this “recombinant turning of time”
occurs in a lovely new music video by Vanessa Marzaroli for the
Orchestra's “Lilac Wine,” a song originally written in 1950 and
performed by artists as varied as Eartha Kitt and Nina Simone, and
more recently by Jeff Buckley. The three-minute video opens with
sweeping pen strokes as a camera glides backwards, words gently
appear, and then a bird takes shape, crafted also by lines of black
ink. Flowers, branches and delicate designs gradually come into
clarity and then disappear, a peacock's massive feathers shimmer,
and the piece unfolds in a swirl of time as hints of story take
Still from Vanessa Marzaroli's video for “Lilac Wine” by the
Cinematic Orchestra. (click
“As I was reading the lyrics,” explains Marzaroli, a director at
the Los Angeles-based multimedia design studio Blind, “it really
felt like a love song, with someone expressing his or her thoughts.
I liked that expression of the inner self, and it seemed like
something that could be written in a journal, and I wondered, if
it's handwritten, how can you push this even further?”
Marzaroli has been trying to push things further for a long
time. She grew up in a musical family in Los Angeles, where her
family moved from Thailand in order to support the musical
education of Marzaroli and her sister. She attended the LA County
High School for the Arts. “I had always studied classical piano,
but by high school, I was bored out of my mind!” she says.
Marzaroli explains that the classical musicians in her school spent
a lot of time alone practicing for hours and hours. The visual
artists, on the other hand, would hang out together having fun:
“They were always socializing, and they looked really cool, and so
I switched to visual art. I just knew right away that I wanted to
do some kind of graphic design.” She tried illustration for a
while, and static design, but motion intrigued her the most. “I
think I just have a short attention span. I wanted to work on
things that were fast and exciting. I wanted to work with moving
images, and I wanted to direct and work with other people.”
While her description of her interests would suggest a body of
work filled with frenzied imagery, Marzaroli's videos and motion
graphics tend to be far more subtle. She served as creative
director on the music video for “Crazy” by
Gnarls Barkley, for example. The piece is similar to “Lilac
Wine” in working through a specific premise— ink blots, from which
images appear and disappear—and in allowing the semblance of a
story to unfold slowly in time. With a promo for “Worst
Case Scenario” for the Discovery Network she melds live action
and graphic illustration, nicely using typography to annotate the
footage. Indeed, Marzaroli's use of type is often dazzling.
Frames from Gnarls Barkley's “Crazy” video, for which Vanessa
Marzaroli was creative director.
“At Blind, we do a lot of commercials, which are driven by
images, but I really like working with typography, so if there's a
project with type in it, I gravitate toward it,” she says. Asked
what interests her about type, Marzaroli answers succinctly.
“Fundamental design skills depend on core skills with typography,
layout and composition. Anyone can come up with imagery, but good
design depends on really core skills.”
A frame and storyboards from “Lilac Wine,” directed by Vanessa
Marzaroli was invited to create the music video for “Lilac Wine”
by the agency Exposure for a project dedicated to the celebration
of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martens. The agency was looking for
10 visual artists to make videos for 10 songs suggestive of the
brand, and the version of “Lilac Wine” by the Cinematic Orchestra
was one of the selections.
“What's nice about this piece is that it's not over the top with
3-D or greenscreen,” says Marzaroli. “It's not super dense or super
fantastic. Instead, it's is just an appreciation of the fine lines
and core elements.” She admits that it was a challenge to find the
appropriate kind of fluidity for the piece. “It took us a while to
find the right voice, tone and rhythm because we were just dealing
with lines,” she explains. “The lines had to meld with the
Spenserian calligraphy, and I worked hard to connect the story
together in a seamless way, and I also worked hard to direct the
team. I had a vision, but to articulate that to a group of people
working with me, making sure that they're seeing the same vision,
can be hard on a project this specific.”
The resulting video does boast a kind of seamlessness, and it is
perhaps this quality —of continuous unfolding—that makes it
resonate as an apt depiction of a contemporary notion of time as
described by Timothy Murray. The piece takes us through the usually
unnoticed intervals of time, and crafts a series of visual
vignettes that are evocative both of the lyrics that tell of being
“hypnotized by a strange delight,” and of a sense of hovering,
suspended between past and future as it unspools around you.
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