Studio Smack has created a truly provocative animation based on Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights three-piece painting.
Not to be mistaken as light-hearted due to its bright colours, Paradise explores the religious themes of corruption, temptation and debauchery of the Fallen World in Bosch's painting - in a seething mass of chaotic severity.
Studio Smack is the Netherlands animation trio - Ton Meijdam, Thom Snels and Bela Zsigmond – behind De Staat’s Witch Doctor music video and an animated short exploring the relationship between advertising and dream manipulation using Coca-Cola as an example.
The MOTI Museum commissioned Studio Smack to recreate the middle panel of Bosch’s original triptych – a broad panorama of socially engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations.
The two other original panels include scenes of God presenting Eve to Adam, and a hellscape portraying the torments of damnation. Art historians have interpreted the complete painting as a didactic warning on the perils of life’s temptations, but twentieth century musings debate whether the panel is a panorama of a paradise lost.
Studio Smack emptied the original landscape of the middle painting and made a widescreen version, maintaining the positions of the buildings but replacing them with symbolic industrial towers representing sex, power, entertainment and food.
“The Power Tower for example is a mash-up of fictional architecture. A combination of the Sauron Tower, Emerald City, the Tower of Babel, Metroplis, the Blade Runner police stations and building from Game of Thrones,” says Ton Meijdam from Studio Smack, whose job title on LinkedIn is Minister of Propaganda, “but director would also be okay”.
All characters, once finely painted dream figures, have been reconstructed into hallucinatory 4K animations that embody the excesses and desires of 21st Western culture – consumerism, selfishness, escapism, vanity and decadence.
All characters are symbols for a society where loners swarm their digital dream world, Studio Smack explains. They each were rendered in Cinema 4D and later composited in After Effects. Each have their own animation loop.
“Throughout the painting we used the classical medieval perspective which can be found in all of Bosch’s paintings. Where no vanishing point is used, but all elements seem to be stacked above each other,” says Ton.
“Geometrically incorrect, but beautifully alienating.”
Ton explains some of the characters in more detail. See if you can spot them in the animation.
TM: Our relationship with food has changed very much throughout the centuries. Back in the Stone Age we used to be hunters chasing wild animals on the Savanna and gatherers collecting berries from bushes.
Nowadays we are still hunters and gatherers, with the difference that the Savanna has made way for the supermarket. Today rarely anyone sees a pig in real life. Yet we visit supermarkets almost every day where we see meat stacked on shelves, which means we are more closely related to the product than the animal. Could this readymade pig re-establish our relation wit h the pig?
TM: Fake nature is a replica of old nature. Where ‘authentic’ nature is organic, genetic and alive, fake nature is not. It projects the illusion of life, be it plant or animal, on man-made and inanimate objects. This surveillance camera has disguised itself as a harmless bird, making our surveillance era look like a natural phenomenon.
Venus of Willendorf Update
TM: The feminine beauty ideal has been subject to a lot of change through time. From full-figured women [painted by Peter Paul Ruben] to ultra-skinny anorexic models; from the Marilyn Monroe hourglass figure to the athletic supermodel.
The Venus of Willendorf is the oldest and most famous sculpture of a female figure. Parts of her body associated with fertility and childbearing have been emphasized, big breasts and large hips.
Even if you’re not a media junkie you've probably heard about Kim Kardashian’s butt. And in all probability you’ve seen it too. Cosmetic surgeons who have shaped and carved Kim Kardashian into what she is today might be considered our modern day sculptors and artists - making Kim Kardashian our own physiological version of the Venus of Willendorf.
TM: I believe this one needs no explanation.
Paradise was commissioned for MOTI Museum's exhibition New Delights, as part of the Hieronymus Bosch 500-year anniversary. The animation will remain as a video installation at the museum until December 31.