Between the Gothic walls of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, with a choir intoning an ethereal soundtrack from all sides, Marco Brambilla’s “Creation (Megaplex)” revealed its vision of humanity from Big Bang to apocalypse in a swirling 3D film.
The one-night installation was part of the second Ideas City festival held by the New Museum this past weekend, and it followed the New York-based artist’s exhibition of another of his pop culture collages of film, “Civilization (Megaplex),” with the biennial’s inaugural year in 2011. “Creation (Megaplex)” is the conclusion to the trilogy of “Civilization (Megaplex),” and “Evolution (Megaplex),” and the film’s screening in a 19th century church, playing in a loop, had a nice ouroboros feel to it. Or perhaps it was more of a spiral, as Brambilla based the vertigo-inducing 3D film on the structure of the DNA double-helix.
With Brambilla’s collage films, it’s easy to turn it into a trivia contest to see who can identify the most film cameos in the vortex, with characters from The Sound of Music, Mars Attacks, The Big Lebowski, Superman, and Dr. Strangelove among hundreds of clips spliced from their worlds into this rampage of visuals. But that kind of misses the point, as the vivid films are less using the specific references as their focus than just acting as giant siphons of pop culture in general, with this residue of our culture the most ready way to show its growth and decay, from idyllic green nature to the end times.
The screening in St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral was quite similar to the 2011 installation of “Civilization (Megaplex),” with the modest projection screen (for the space) hanging in the dark as audience members filed into the pews with their 3D glasses. Compared to its predecessor in the trilogy, “Creation (Megaplex)” is a work where 3D effects are much more essential: whereas “Civilization” has a continuous descent from heaven into hell, the dizzying spiral in “Creation” pulls your vision forward in space. Nevertheless, the film would be more effective if projected on a larger screen, where richness of visual detail might provide some nuance to the transitions in the cycle.
The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus of around 70, playing with Guidonian Hand, added an immersive feeling to the experience, singing a Christopher Cerrone composition based on Prokofiev’s dance-of-doom “Cinderella Waltz.” The effect was not unlike Cammisa Buerhaus’ organ music in Brambillo’s Star Trek-sourced “Materialization/De-Materialization” at the recent After Hours event from Clocktower Gallery and Times Square Arts (Hyperallergic was a media sponsor of that event).
But the stone walls of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral made this installation feel almost like a new media sermon on our pop culture’s endless cycle of creation and destruction, mirroring our own human history. “Civilization (Megaplex)” was first shown at Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica and exhibited earlier this year at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in New York, yet the old 19th century nave of a church was the ideal place to experience Brambilla’s cyclical epic of cultural noise channeled into creation and damnation.
Marco Brambilla: Creation (Megaplex) was May 3 at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral (271 Mott Street, Manhattan), part of the New Museum’s 2013 Ideas City festival.