Scheltens & Abbenes: Block Party

The Photography Duo Celebrates 100 Years of Minimalist Design from Pastoe

Photographer Maurice Scheltens and his artist partner Liesbeth Abbenes harness their signature style to fashion graphic compositions that transform their subject matter in their latest series, Pass Through. Having previously turned their gift for abstraction towards everything from soaps to shirts and coat hangers, here they pay colorful homage to Dutch furniture manufacturer Pastoe on its 100th birthday. To create the images, Scheltens & Abbenes took to the factory floor, where semi-constructed parts on the production line inspired the subversive geometric forms they conceived. “The functional black-and-white documentary photography from the 50s and 60s triggered the abstract, rhythmic installations we made,” explains the duo. “Our thought was to show the ‘half product’ as a whole, displaying the inside instead of the outside.” Pastoe has a long history of collaborating with Dutch creatives to interpret their celebrated pieces, and Scheltens & Abbenes join a new stable—including the likes of graphic design Studio Laucke Siebein, artist Krijn de Koning and architect Anne Holtrop—to celebrate the centenary in advance of next month’s Object Rotterdam contemporary design fair. 

What is the process behind your meticulous photographic compositions? Are you very patient by nature?
Scheltens & Abbenes: We shape the full idea for the picture on set. During the making of the images, we are constantly testing things, to see if they are visually true. This slowness is important, and working in this way has made us more patient—but we’re also eager, restless and impatient to find out the result. 

Is any kind of object a viable photographic subject for you?
S&A: Objects that are timeless are maybe more desirable to us. But in the end everything could work, as long as we can see the objects as building blocks in the composition.

Do you see your work as part of a long history of Dutch still life?
S&A: This is the world we know. Our nationality is not something that we deliberately cultivate in our work, but it becomes clear time and again to us during our travels. It’s not only the aesthetics of the Dutch still life, but also a way of approaching and solving a creative “problem.”

Pass Through will be previewed during the Object Rotterdam fair from February 7-10. The full series will be shown from February 23 until  June 2, 2013 at the Kunsthal Rotterdam as part of Like Pastoe, 100 years of Design Innovation.

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    The Painted Lady: Jena Malone

    Liz Goldwyn Directs the Award-Winning Actor in a Dark Burlesque Portrait

    Perched in a dreamy rose garden, a seductive and melancholic Jena Malone narrates this poetic 19th-century-inspired short by filmmaker and author Liz Goldwyn. Part of a series of works devoted to demystifying the sex industry, The Painted Lady casts the future Hunger Games: Catching Fire star—who made her name in Donnie Darko and Saved!—as a young woman who recalls an encounter with a lushly powdered call girl. As Malone's distinctive voice glides over the hazy footage, intercut shots transform her baby-faced ingénue into a defiant, colorfully made-up femme fatale against a floral backdrop. Only 21 when the vignette was filmed six years ago, the actor’s performance was informed by her own personal transformation at the time. “I was definitely a girl on the verge," explains Malone. "Liz had the sense to see the woman that was crystallizing inside of me. It felt comfortable and somewhat voyeuristic—like the woman I was to become was having a muse’s sitting with my younger self, asking her to remember things." Much like Goldwyn's acclaimed HBO documentary Pretty Things, an exploration of American Burlesque culture, The Painted Lady and its sister project, Sporting Guide, spark discussion of broad social issues, such how our view of the body impacts feminine identity. “In all the work that I do I'm promoting an intelligent conversation about sex,” the director explains. “Jena might look glamorous, but there's a lot of darkness in these stories.”

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    United Visual Artists: Reinventing the Wheel

    The London-based Collective Teams Up with VANDEYK for this Hypnotic Short

    A bicycle wheel is transformed into an homage to early op art in this mesmerizing collaboration between United Visual Artists and Stuttgart-based VANDEYK Contemporary Cycles. Inspired by the likes of Bridget Riley, the London-based collective UVA used LED strips and motion control systems to create a hypnotic vortex that momentarily threatens to suck the viewer in. Known for sitting at the intersection of sculpture, architecture, live performance, moving image and digital installation, UVA devised the film's surging soundtrack using audio effects of the bike company’s latest limited-collection release, Purple Blast (a nod to the color of solar flares). The result is a crafty reference to Marcel Duchamp’s early 20th-century notion of the readymade.


    The dark bunker underneath the UVA studio.

    A Canon 5D MKII, to shoot stills.

    Hours on set

    Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley were obvious influences, but also the phase experiments by Steve Reich and John Cage, linking visual feedback and movement with sound.

    Helmet worn

    Happy accidents
    During testing the LED strip was installed on one of the director’s bikes. They forgot to take it off and were soon riding around the city looking very bling indeed.

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