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In Features, Issues

SUPER 8


clockwise from top: "May Dav IV," 2000, by Andreas Gursky; Thai Elephant Orchestra; Takashi Murakumi's "The Lonesome Cowboy"


1. SUPERFLAT. This enlightening aggregation of all that’s new and ancient in Japanese visual culture concludes its run at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art on May 27 and then moves east. It’s a megamix of cherry blossom branches, Akira exploding orbitals and current Tokyo art sensation Takashi Murakami’s signature sculpture: a buxom anime waif who jumps rope with an unbroken stream of her own breast milk.

2. THAI ELEPHANT ART. Russian art-pranksters Komar & Melamid’s intriguing (though, for animal-art lovers, insufficiently illustrated) volume, When Elephants Paint (HarperCollins), and ethnomusicologists Dave Soldier and Richard Lair’s haunting and mostly inhuman CD, Thai Elephant Orchestra (Mulatta Records, mulatta.org), suggest that some of the world’s most intriguing contemporary art may be locked away in trunks. Pacydermically speaking, that is.

3. FLYING HIGH. First The Matrix had people diving off buildings, then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Charlie’s Angels took flight with characters spinning, diving, whirling and sometimes falling in midair. Now the flying craze continues with Christopher Walken dancing himself into an aerial ballet in Spike Jonze’s new video for Fatboy Slim’s "Weapon of Choice." And to remind us where it all began, on April 8 Walt Disney is presenting a once-only screening of Herbert Brenon’s 1924 silent classic Peter Pan at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.

4. ANDREAS GURSKY. Currently featured in a mid-career retrospective at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Andreas Gursky’s large and expensive color photographs are both seductive and disconcerting in their capturing of the sociological forces at work in our globalist culture. But it is the German’s selective use of digital retouching – sometimes arranging individuals to form a crowd, other times compositing architectural forms – that nudges our synapses and provides the photos’ eeriest pleasures.

5. WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM. Director Dusan Makavejev has lived in exile ever since his groundbreaking 1971 film, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, was indicted as "ideologically harmful" in his native Yugoslavia and he was officially banned from making films there. Thirty years later, with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic stewing in a Yugoslav prison, WR has lost little of its incendiary power, as Facets’s recent rerelease of the film (and five other equally astonishing Makavejev titles) demonstrates. Alternately standing for World Revolution and for Wilhelm Reich, the controversial psychoanalyst who believed that suppression of the orgasm leads to neuroses – of which fascism is but an extreme variation – WR remains one of history’s most subversive films both in form and content. Deftly intercutting documentary footage from a variety of sources with a more traditional narrative about a Yugoslav woman’s obsession with a frigid Russian figure-skating star, WR is a classic example of intellectual montage.

6. BERLIN: CITY OF STONES. Jason Lutes’s Berlin: City of Stones, Book One, (Drawn & Quarterly, $15.95, drawnandquarterly.com) collates the first eight of 24 installments of the Seattle-based comix artist’s epic, tender undertaking: a provisional topography of the German capitol at the onset of Nazi rule, painstakingly rendered in delicate pen strokes, lovingly embracing the quotidian disparate characters from many social strata, slipping through the lives and dreams of everyday souls in an incendiary time and redeeming them from history’s most banal clichés.

7. MAJESTIC. In a world in which the concept of privacy is subjected to its own digital relativism, gaming behemoth Electronic Arts this spring premieres the game of the future – or, perhaps, 1997. Loosely based on David Fincher’s The Game, Majestic is an online entertainment that, for $9.99 a month, takes players through a narrative adventure by bombarding them with e-mails, Instant Messages, faxes and even threatening telephone calls. Players can preset the game’s "adjustable realism settings" to make its communications clearly "game-like" or else, like the Michael Douglas film, of creepily indeterminate authenticity. For more on Majestic, visit Electronic Arts’s Web site (www.majestic.ea.com), which thoughtfully answers such questions as "Majestic will know a lot about me – is my personal information secure?" and "What if I’m nervous about getting threatening phone calls and mysterious faxes from the game? Can I turn it off?"

8. AESTHETIC NIHILISM. Follow a link from famed filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s Web site (kennethanger.com), or go directly to Aes-Nil Productions (holyterror.com/aesnihil), and delve into the "mass schizophrenic breakdown at the end of the second millenium A.D."

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