Jun. 23

What if Cinema was a Place? Singin’ in the Rain as an Imaginary Cityscape

The background to the whole project ultimately begins with my childhood experiences of visiting my grandmother and playing with a set of coloured wooden blocks - I’ve still got them in the original bag, though they’re looking a bit faded these days.

The smallest blocks were single white cubes and the rest of the blocks followed a strict sequence that linked colour, size and number as follows: two white cubes equalled red, a red and white equalled a green, a white and a green equaled a pink and so on. I would later discover that these blocks were designed by Georges Cuisenaire - a Belgian educator.

As a child the interlinking of these concepts of number, colour and form struck me with an intensity, that I now think of as a kind of synesthesia - in particular my sensitivity to the way that the colours of the blocks would interact with one another. It is not difficult to see how all this would later express itself in my work to create physical sculptural objects linked to cinematic memories - a means of materialising film.

Some of the themes behind this project echo the sculptural linking of motion and space by the Italian Futurist sculptor Umberto Boccioni (1913). Boccioni in turn was undoubtedly influenced by Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (1905) which amongst many other influences overturned the classical account of the relation of time and space such as those set out in Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687).

For this project I took the song Singin’ in the Rain from the film of the same name directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

I selected this film from results generated by an associated artwork, Top 100 Films of the Twentieth Century, where I aggregated a large number of ‘Top Films of All Time’ lists - from popular journals and sites such as IMDb, American Film Institute, BFI etc. The resulting list acts as a source for much of my work. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) appears at number six in the list - a testament to its status as one of the classic Hollywood musicals of the twentieth century.

Although the feature film was released in 1952, the song itself was written in 1927 by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown and is an early example of a song explicitly written for the medium of sound film, a medium that encompasses both sound and image.

By employing a large aperture camera, the images of this imaginary cityscape have the air of a detailed miniature - as though we were looking through a microscope at the very materiality of these pixels. At the same time the forced perspective viewpoints in these images makes each distinct visual element pile up against one another, creating a series of compressed, receding planes that stack, obscure, rise and jut like a giant causeway through space.

The accompanying images show the song transformed into an imaginary city of coloured blocks reminiscent of those coloured building blocks that I played with as a child.

Listen to “Singing in the Rain” here (Youtube)

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