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Martha Fiennes and Salma Hayek; ‘Yugen’

October 6, 2018

ArtsMixed Media | by Candid Magazine


The award winning director Martha Fiennes (Onegin, 1999 and Chromophobia, 2007) has teamed up with the Hollywood actress Salma Hayek to produce a new moving image artwork. Called Yugen, it premiered last night at the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park, as part of Frieze week, in an event sponsored by Gucci and hosted by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

The work, which takes its name from a Japanese understanding of cosmology, has been created by combining traditional film-making techniques, with cutting edge post-production technologies and a computer employing artificial intelligence.

To create the work, Fiennes feeds layers of action sequences of Hayek acting in front of a green screen into a speciality adapted gaming computer. The machine, which has been pre-programmed with music sequence blocks, lighting techniques, weather patterns, alternate backgrounds and more, then uses its AI to randomly layer up each element of sound and image. The result is an infinitely long movie, with no predetermined start or finish, which is projected on to a screen and directed by the computer.

The technology was first created by Fiennes and her producer Peter Muggleston in 2011 for her artwork Nativity, which was exhibited at Sotheby’s, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Salma Hayek in Yugen, by Martha Fiennes, 2008. Copyright SLOimage

The film focuses on the protagonist, Hayek, who adopts a shamanistic role, wearing McQueen style wedding gowns that sprout mushrooms, or smoking an Amazonian pipe. Through an infinite cycle of narrative she manoeuvres through space and time, with poetic results.

‘This word ‘Yugen’ popped out to me,’ Fiennes said ahead of the work’s premiere. ‘It refers to an awareness of a partially conceived universe. I also know that for some reason, I am always inclined to other dimensional realities going on at the same time as this one. I wanted to combine these principals – what is really running the universe? I have no idea but its interesting to contemplate…’ she said.

Salma Hayek in Yugen, by Martha Fiennes, 2008. Copyright SLOimage

‘I was first of all extremely fortunate to have an encounter with Salma,’ Fiennes replied to the question of how she came to work with the artwork’s star. ‘I provided her with the basis for the artwork to happen, but her presence and power is hers. I showed Salma my previous work and she comes from instinct, but there was an enormous level of trust and I felt her immediate understanding of what I was trying to do.’

The work, of which two ‘editions’ and two ‘proofs’ exist, was commissioned by TendertoArt, an incubator set up the financier Moreno Zani, who has worked with other artists such as David Lachapelle. It has already been screened at Venice Film Festival, and now in London. For future details of pubic screenings, check out the Yugen website.