Elevator to Heaven or Hell

Videontology may seem a little focused on online video, but I ♥ all aspects and mediums of moving images. Italian video artist Marco Brambilla has a daunting body of work behind him. He recently collaborated with design studio Crush on an installation called “Civilization” that is staggering in its lavish aesthetic, complex application and simple execution.

A visual depiction of Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Civilization” is installed in the elevators of the Standard hotel in NY, synchronously panning up and down with the movement of the elevator. At street level you get Inferno and the penthouses are Paradiso, subtly encouraging premium bookings.

In keeping with Dante’s self-referential flourishes, Marco Brambilla selected familiar images from films like Zack Snider’s Dawn of the Dead and 300, Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not To Be, Star Wars, Dark City, Jacques Tati’s Playtime, Ghostbusters and too many more to mention. Along with stock footage and stills, he collated materials over three months and worked with Crush for another 6 weeks (after hours given the budget of the project) to create a 2D draft that would subsequently be rendered into a 3D vertical plane by Flame artists. CGI like fireballs and lighting were also rendered in Flame.

Its by no means perfect; some of the loops are distractingly clunky, the train and rollercoaster just disappear or fade out, the depth ascribed to 3D planes occasionally looks unconvincing and composited elements’ colour grading is inconsistent. But these are minor quibbles, given Civilization’s epic scope and visual opulence, not to mention its novel application.

You can read more from Marco Brambilla and Crush on “Civilization” here.

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