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The Tulse Luper Suitcases - Multimedia performance by Peter Greenaway

This avant-garde film maker is famous for his works of great significance in the history of cinematography. The most renowned of them are The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Drowning by Numbers,  Prospero's Books, The Pillow Book and The Nightwatching, the latter only recently shown in cinemas in Russia. Their story concentrates upon classic art and architecture images, including art critics’ concepts and film theory, uses Japanese calligraphy and multimedia technology to realize the multidimensional author’s message and is transformed in Greenaway’s oeuvre into an idea for a completely different way of creating art work.

Rejecting the cinematographic narrative, the director travels the world creating multimedia installations, mystery-like audio-visual performances while displaying his mastery as a VJ artist. It is in this role that he will appear before the festival’s audience.The film director is using VJ language for his artistic purposes in creating a live multimedia performance. Using a giant sensor display Greenaway chooses video fragments which accompanied by the cult  DJ Serge Dodwell musical themes are mixed into the story told simultaneously on four screens. It is the story of Tulse Luper, a traveler and prisoner, who turned his own life into a continuous art project including his life’s twists and turns and the images of roads from all continents. The 92 suitcases in which all evidence of his travels and finds are collected contain the whole history of the XXth century and the strange features of its memory, the most dangerous element of Uranium, all wars and catastrophes from the time of its natural deposits discovery to the fall of Berlin wall.

The world famous avant-garde film director Peter Greenaway runs no risk of losing his job while telling every journalist the cinema is dead. The exact date of this unpleasant event is September the 31st 1983 when the remote-control was invented - embodiment of the triumph of a lazy and passive stare at the screen. This tragic date is repeated by Greenaway to everyone while he himself creates multimedia installations, carries out his light performances at the major museums and world's largest exhibition spaces, presents a video trilogy comprising VJ-sets, CDs and books, a interactive game and on-line materials.

That's why the author of the well-known films such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The Pillow Book, The Belly of an Architect and Nightwatching is coming to Moscow not as a film industry representative but as a media artist, a special guest of the Media Forum 2008.

It seems that the characters of all his moving pictures belong to all arts simultaneously; they are created by an author who balances finely on an edge between cinema and painting, new media art and theatre.

 In his diatribes against the remote Greenaway asks, no, actually demands to lead a dialog with the audience; he craves interactivity and a most effective work of the mind, an exchange of ideas, not emotions. The director explores all ways of contact with the audience, praising new communication technologies in which he sees the future not only of the cinema but of the visual culture as a whole.

For example Peter Greenaway states that he is drawing links between the eight millennium experience of art and the hundred year existence of the cinema. He started working on Rembrandt's Night watch about which he made a feature film in 2006 when the Rijksmuseum invited Greenaway to make a video installation of the painting for the artist's 4000 anniversary. And Greenaway realized this project providing a soundtrack for the painting and projecting on it "live pictures" to give an additional plot to it. Major gallery owners and museum directors have strewn Greenaway with proposals of the same kind. Now the Louvre Veronese, the Prado Velázquez and Picasso and maybe even Michelangelo's Last judgment in the Vatican are queuing for a screening version.

Greenaway's attention towards the outstanding works of classic and contemporary art is dictated by his desire to transform The Night Watch, the Last Supper or the Guernica into works of actual art. On April 15th 2008 on the Good Friday in the refectory of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Della Grazie Peter Greenaway's light installation of the Last Supper was unveiled.

The director chooses perspective as a formal base for Leonardo's fresco and clearly shows the audience how the space of a painting becomes a continuation of the physical space.

This work is not the only one by far in Greenaway's oeuvre. But the most famous production of Greenaway the artist are The Tulse Luper Suitcases, on which the VJ performance Greenaway is now bringing to Moscow is based. 

Visual imagination - Peter Greenaway's VJ-performance

In June 2005 Peter Greenaway as the Moscow International Film Festival guest of honour has mentioned in his interview for the Echo Moscow radio that he was fascinated by the then novelty - VJing and suggested the Muscovites to invite him to their discos in order to show his new ideas, which he was going to realize in Amsterdam. Today Peter Greenaway's dream has come true as he brings here his VJ program. His VJing is of course different from what we are accustomed to on music TV channels. It's rather using a genre to his own artistic ends to create a special kind of art work - a live multimedia performance. 

The VJ apparatus which Greenaway uses is a sensor control plasma display panel constructed by the BeamSystems company. Pressing the video fragments' icons form the 92 stories about Tulse Luper the performer transfers their images on several screens, mixing them and contrasting with the DJ's - Serge Dodwell (aka Radar) - musical themes.

Tulse Luper himself is Greenaway's favourite character. Greenaway has dedicated a whole epic to him, parts of which the Russian audience has already had a chance to appreciate in movie theatres and on DVD, and  also to access information on the project's official web-sites.  Now we will see a live story with a plot created before the audience's very eyes guided by the laws of music, not literature.  

The hero we mentioned collects into his 92 suitcases the story of his life and also documents on the lives of other people, thus forming a catalogue of the 20th century. From 1928 when the first uranium ore natural deposits were found in Colorado to 1989 when the Berlin wall has fallen Tulse Luper transforms his life into permanent art where one art project spills into another.

The story of Tulse Luper suitcases is problematic for distribution -its overall length being more then 7 hours and it contains also texts and hypertexts, DVDs and a video game played daily by 15 hundred people. Greenaway assesses this work as an extraordinary success in adjacent media.

If Tulse Luper were a real person we could find information about him in various sources. A TV channel would make a serial documentary of his story, an avant-garde film director would make a cinema trilogy in his own style, a library dweller would write a monograph, or maybe several. Various websites would have Luper fans posting photographs or descriptions of his journeys. Later an ambitious VJ would probably make a multimedia show about Tulse Luper.

This is precisely what's happening now, but the man behind all this projects is Peter Greenaway and Tulse Luper never existed. It is also true that the director's idea helps make Tulse almost alive as in many years since nobody would be able to prove a character whose life is so well documented, to be unreal.

The VJ version of these extraordinary adventures and ideas was for the first time presented on June the 17th 2005 in the Amsterdam «VJ temple» "11" on the invitation of No TV. The live video created during the show allows Greenaway to achieve the contact and dialogue with the audience he looked for in each of his art projects. The clubbers who come to the performance can't allow themselves to gaze passively, that's why the performance travels with its creator from Milan to Barcelona, from Zurich to Sao Paolo, and now at last finds itself in Moscow.

"The cinema is dead...Long live the cinema!" lecture - Monday June 23, 21.00
(Nijnij Susalnyj per., 5/ 3а, tel. 226-33-40)

Multimedia performance "The Tulse Luper suitcases" - Tuesday June  24, 22.00
Gazgallery (Nijnij Susalnyj per., 5/ 3а, tel. 226-33-40)