Filmmaker @andrewthomashuang on His Work with @bjork, Her MoMA Exhibit and His Childlike Love of Geology
To see more of Andrew’s work with Björk and photos of Iceland, check out @andrewthomashuang on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.
Andrew Thomas Huang (@andrewthomashuang) is ready for some summer relaxation. While the Los Angeles-based filmmaker is working on a new short/video installation featuring Brooklyn flex dancers, he’s mostly hoping to take it easy after the 18 months he spent working with Björk and doing the dream sequences for Joe Wright’s upcoming Peter Pan prequel Pan, which stars Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Rooney Mara.
The high-profile gigs are perfect for Andrew, whose breakout came with 2012’s Solipsist, a 10-minute experimental short fantasy/sci-fi film featuring actors and puppetry adorned in beautifully colored ornate costumes enhanced by surreal practical and CGI effects. A winner at the 2012 Slamdance film festival, the short ended up catching Björk’s eye. “She contacted me to do a music video for her song ‘Mutual Core’ from Biophilia,” he says. “It was kind of the onset of her break-up with Matthew Barney, but the song was about trying to merge two continents together. You could tell it was a personal song through proxy, so I took the aesthetic from my film and lent it to this song. It kind of worked perfectly because it’s a geological song, so there’s a lot of striations in it and it kind of meshed.”
The look of the video was a natural fit for Andrew, who grew up in the Southwest hating the arid climate before learning to love the natural rock formations he saw during family trips to Bryce and Zion national parks. “You’re confronted with the landscape here,” he says. “I don’t know anything legit about geology from a scientific standpoint. I’m by no means a Shinto Japanese craftsman that cuts rock. It’s more of like a disposable fascination with it.” That love of natural history is reflected both in the “Mutual Core” video and his photos from Iceland. “You can tell where the moss was turning red in the fall,” says Andrew. “You get all these dark, burgundy colors. When I come home, it’s both a shock and familiar to me, the palette in the desert. Going from places so lush and moist to a place that’s so arid, I’m constantly taking photos of the nature that I find on either continent. Nature is the one thing that inspires my work all the time, so I’m often documenting that.”
After working with Björk on “Mutual Core” and letting her get a feel for his artistic process, he was asked to come back and work with her on the visuals for the Vulnicura tracks “Black Lake” and “Stonemilker.” “It’s kind of intimidating working with someone who’s worked with so many people in her career. She’s like the hub of a wheel around which so many people revolve,” he says. The latter video features a 360-degree spherical view of her dancing in a yellow dress on an Icelandic beach, a concept they came up with the evening before. “Something I learned from working with her is not to be afraid to be spontaneous,” says Andrew. “These pieces are more performance heavy. They feature her and they’re very naked and it’s not something I would typically do but that’s also why I wanted to do it. Each one was an act of spontaneity. A lot of it was being out there and happening to capture these amazing things she would do in the spur of the moment.”
Andrew also ended up working on Björk’s infamous Museum of Modern Art retrospective, which received mixed reviews from critics. Right from the start, they ran into a major roadblock: “We wanted to take her music and 3-D print the sound waves along the wall. It hit us very hard what the real budget was and just how many teams of people were involved. Each team was isolated, which is why I think maybe the final product generated so much controversy. There was no single vision behind it.” Eventually, Andrew stepped back and decided to focus just on the portion devoted to “Black Lake,” which involved showing the video in a space that resembled an Icelandic cave.
Though their concepts for the installation didn’t quite pan out, Andrew has nothing but high praise for Björk. “I know it’s stupid to say but when you work with a celebrity, it always comes as a shock when you feel how human and natural that interaction with them is,” he says. “She’s so versatile. She can talk about object-oriented ontology and crazy intellectual stuff, then turn around and put on Chaka Khan and rock out. She can be really funny and dry. Sometimes she’ll say things and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, you’re hilarious.’ Something that I’ve also learned over time is how strong her political stance is, just championing women and people of color and queer people of color, in particular. That’s something I really admire about her, the way that she generously supports other artists out there who sit outside of the norm.”
Now, with a bit of time off to work on his dance-centric short and sketch at his leisure, Andrew says he’s “ready to cleanse my palate a bit” with a bigger dream. “I want to make a feature but the state of the movie industry is so weird right now. It’s so stratified economically. My stuff is very expensive to make. It’s very visual, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to accomplish that feature in a way that’s consistent with my work. I want to make a movie but I don’t see it as the be-all, end-all. That’s more of a long-term goal.”
XREZ Studio reveal their part in putting together a music video for Bjork and her MOMA restrospective, utilizing various digital capture techniques such as drone-assisted photogrammetry, laser scanning, and dome projection.
First, they tested some techniques to combine landscape and film capture:
In this video, we see more material that was formed specifically for the finished video:
And here, released today, is the ten minute final version which was shown at MOMA:
xRez Studio had the great pleasure of providing digital terrain capture
for Björk’s recent special venue film “Black Lake”, featured at MoMA NYC
in her retrospective exhibition in spring 2015 and directed by the
gifted designer and director Andrew Thomas Huang . The
effort consisted of capturing several locations shot for the film,
including a dark, narrow lava tube cave, a volcanic ravine, an open
moss-covered plain, and various set pieces on stage. The creation of
digital facsimiles of these locations allowed the post work done at Wolf + Crow
to allow more flexible CG backplates, integration with Houdini effects
elements, and direct use for subsequent VR pieces. Every method xRez
employs was used, from carbon pole and UAV photogrammetry, laser
scanning with Faro scanners, spherical gigapixel panoramas, time lapse
fulldome skies, etc.