Constellation Tatsu has pulled out all the stops for its latest release, an LP/DVD set that features six cinematic enhancements of Jonas Reinhardt‘s Ganymede suite. As long as copies are available, we highly recommend the physical copy. (Every once in a while, it’s important to note that we don’t say such things unless we actually have the physical copy. It looks, smells, and sounds amazing. Ah, the scent of new vinyl!)
Jonas Reinhardt (Jesse Reiner) is no stranger to the art of the music video. To date, his most famous is “Smoky Jotus” (2011, directed by Sean Curtis Patrick). This video work likely laid the groundwork for the current collection, with its swift edits, layered imagery and sharp explosions of color. One can also trace the artist’s sci-fi fascination back to “Tandem Suns”, from his self-titled debut; his Tangerine Dream influences and Moog moods slot perfectly with his themes. The new album “imagines unknown extraterrestrial life forms engaged in ritualistic aquatic dance beneath a sky of ice”. But don’t worry, this isn’t a video of people in skin-tight rubber suits frolicking against a green screen; it’s a series of abstract offerings that lends itself to multiple interpretations. The closest comparisons include Graham Wood’s Underworld videos and Jonathan Dueck’s In Transit Presents: 16MM, each of which used symbol and abstraction to mesmerizing effect. Those who enjoyed MTV’s electronic mix show, Amp (1996-2001) will also enjoy Ganymede, which hearkens back to that era in presentation and sound. Hints of K7’s X-Mix, which featured strongly on Amp, are present in the wet synthesizers and trancelike textures.
The six Brooklyn-based directors are of varying fame, and are used to working together. Antonia Kuo’s 16mm work has been touring the country in numerous exhibitions and festivals; a collaboration with Ganymede contributor Lily Jue Sheng, Seeing Double, is a stellar example of both artists’ work. Josh Lewis is the curator of the Mono No Aware collective, as well as an active filmmaker. Kenneth Zoran Curwood’s Embrace Comfort (MAYa, 2011) demonstrates a keen sense of color, layer and decay; the new work is a greater elaboration. Shona Masarin made an impact with split-screen videos “Intimate Machine” and “Feedback”, but her best work until now can be found on her 2010 Documents of Discovery, which introduces the single-screen layering that later features so strongly on Ganymede. Ben Mosca’s “Through Fall” (2012) is gorgeous, but his 19-minute buried-canister Dust in the Wind is downright stunning. Ganymede calls attention to the work that such artists have been doing in a remarkably unrecognized way; each is deserving of wider attention.
Now to the present. The video begins with a first century quote: “Out beyond our world there are, elsewhere, other assemblages of matter making other worlds. Ours is not the only one in air’s embrace.” And then the fun begins. Reiner’s music swiftly rises to a pulse, and in Kuo’s black and white beginning, 16mm galaxies are born. Scratches on the screen pass like dust motes, the debris of fallen stars. Then Lewis’ study in blue, first seen on the trailer, packed with cracked acrylics and backed with a lovely growing ambience, like splitting cells. Mosca’s “Destruction of a Ghost” is a tight edit of his own “Dust in the Wind”; the heart beats faster at every change in speed, every splash of vivid color, every camera pullback. It’s the longest track and video, and arguably the best, inhabited by layers of drumless drone and a visual style that alternates between macro photography and Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Earth From Above. A face appears momentarily in the blue section (15:00), causing a slight scare: the artist, looking into his work? Curwood’s entry (seen in part in the preview video) features mandalas of color and light, like kaleidoscopes of fireflies. The percussion fades as the spiritual elements of the video increase. Masarin offers a return to the black-and-white, but the presence of birds in the music implies color; the rapid-fire, painted finale is gorgeous. And then, water: Sheng’s presentation of life, true life, no longer alien or abstract. The liner notes proclaim that this is another planet, but we know it to be our own: radiant jade and resplendent gold.
After multiple viewings, the video continues to hold an intense fascination: a tribute not only to the power of the abstract, but to the vision of the directors and the timeless quality of the music. This audio-visual experience is highly recommended, and won’t stay a secret for long. (Richard Allen)