Digital Jesus: Marco Brambilla

Anyone who has ever been to the nightclubs at the top of the Standard Hotel in New York will tell you that the view from the bar is only matched by the view from the elevator. It’s on the way up that the Standard’s proprietor, Andre Balasz, commissioned artist Marco Brambilla to make a surreal, Hieronymous Bosch-like video, Civilization, that’s initiation for the surreal and perhaps Biblical experiences to follow upstairs. The artist combines 300 pieces of looped video from Hollywood films to depict Heaven and Hell. His next project involves another icon unafraid of comparing himself to Jesus Christ—Kanye West, whose August 2010 single, “Power,” Brambilla has created a video for.

“I like to play with the idea of visual overload, and use it to ­ create the feeling of spectacle,” says Brambilla as both a description and a preview. “[The videos] are baroque in terms of density and information although they deal with different subjects matters. For Civilization, my inspiration came from the giant murals at the Natural History Museum [in New York].” Kanye saw the videos (perhaps at the Boom Boom Room), and more history was made.

“It was a dream commission,” says Brambilla. “Working with themes I like to explore with someone like Kanye, who loves to experiment and isn’t afraid to take chances.” Brambilla says the key line to the video was, “No one man should have all that power”: “I’m interpreting that idea as a moment of transition, showing an icon of power at the tipping point. The idea of celebrity, sexuality, and excess… the psychological toll that can take on an individual.” The hyper-saturated result involves 24 layers of imagery combined into a seamless video, to create the effect of “characters, painted in frescoes and come to life.”
If with “Power” Brambilla gives life, his next video collage work takes it a step further. Evolution is a sister piece to Civilization, in 3-D, and will feature in his retrospective at the Santa Monica Museum in early 2011.