Nick Ballon: Ezekiel 36:36

Finding Beauty in the Remnants of a Once-Flourishing Airline

Nick Ballon’s evocative, softly lit photographs tell the story of the crumbling South American airline, Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB). The photographer, who has shot for Port, Intelligent Life, Monocle and Ferrari, reflects on the once-glamorous airline, documenting the two remaining aircraft—including the eponymous Ezekiel 36:36—and its motley crew of employees. He captures the absurdity of LAB’s grounded and decaying fleet and the men and women who keep the airline active—though many have not been paid in almost two years—portraying a reality that seems, at times, stranger than fiction. “The story of LAB is in many ways the story of the Bolivian people, caught between past glory and grandeur, and a promised future that never seems to arrive,” says Ballon. “It is the story of an airline waiting for a miracle.” An elegant and emotive tribute to his Bolivian roots, Ballon’s project, which also drew on the talents of writer Amaru Villanueva Rance, is imbued with a distinct sense of hope. The upcoming book and exhibition are accompanied by an interactive site which will, he says, encourage “LAB employees past and present to submit content” and tell their own story. “On the second trip, there was fresh news of a $30m investment from Russia, so there was excitement about the possibility of flying by Christmas. I couldn’t help but get caught up in their yearning to fly again.”

Ezekiel 36:36 goes on sale on August 1. The work will be on display at KKOutlet London from then until the end of the month.

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    Jean-Charles de Castelbajac: Phantoms of Eden

    The Cartoon-Inspired Paintings of Fashion’s King of Pop

    Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s whimsical collections have encompassed Lego sunglasses, Obama-print dresses and outfits for Pope John Paul II; now the designer and artist showcases a new series of paintings on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Inspired by its infamous boutique hotel, Eden Rock, his paintings are bright and bold, with references to cartoon characters alongside the iconography of death, religion and revolution. Earlier in his career, de Castelbajac befriended Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Malcolm McLaren. But in contrast to the knowing, urban work of his late friends, Castelbajac’s Phantoms of Eden is a response to a tropical, hedonistic playground. “In my paintings I combine elements of normality, elements of history, elements of pop culture,” he says. “I combine them to create accidents and inspire a kind of mystery in the eye of the spectator.”

    What drew you to Eden Rock, St. Barts?
    Jean-Charles de Castelbajac:
    Eden Rock is a place where a lot has happened, from its discovery by Rémy De Haenen, his friendship with Howard Hughes, and Greta Garbo and the fact that treasure sank there in the 17th Century. It is a place where the past encounters the contemporary, and that clash is extremely inspiring.
    Cartoon characters feature several times in Phantoms of Eden. What was the thinking behind them?
    : The subjects I chose, like the Disney or Charles Schulz characters, are like little ghosts embodying what our childhood was. I also like primary colors. They seem very happy and childish, but they are a reference to the history of painting. They are the colors of Calder, of Picasso, of Mondrian, but they are also linked to medieval flags and coats of arms.

    Your work in both art and fashion often combines high art with popular culture. What is it about this combination that interests you?
    I don’t see the difference between taking a picture for Instagram or starting work on a new painting that I spend weeks on. In art, the main preoccupation is to crystalize new images. I like the power of images in our society—I love the fact that they can appear very fast, but I also love that you can spend seven days on one painting in the hope that it will be treasured in the future.

    Phantoms of Eden is on show at Eden Rock Gallery through August 4, 2013, supported by the Association Art Saint Barth

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    Michel Gondry: A Cinephile's Labyrinth

    The Acclaimed Director Gives Us an Insider's Glimpse of His Favorite Video Store

    Michel Gondry takes us on a tour of his local Parisian haunt in A Cinephile’s Labyrinth, a new work directed by Larry Clark alumna, actress and filmmaker Tiffany Limos. The Academy Award-winning director reminisces on time spent wandering the aisles of La Butte Video Club, the small VHS and DVD store to which he has made pilgrimages over the years. “I watched all the early Wim Wenders films from La Butte when I was preparing for The Science of Sleep,” says Gondry of this old school answer to Netflix. In his forthcoming L’Écume des Jours (Mood Indigo), the French auteur adapts Boris Vian’s 1947 cult novel of the same name—a satirical story of young love set in jazz-infused Paris. “I tried to avoid ‘Rive Gauche’ clichés,” he says of the upcoming feature, “but I used the music of Duke Ellington.” Similarly, La Butte is a relic of Paris’ past and one that continues to inspire—not just during the making of 2008’s homage to video, Be Kind Rewind, but in providing the director with regular interaction with other film lovers. “Out of all the directors I work with, Michel is the most fun,” muses Limos. “He makes me laugh out loud constantly.” Here Gondry reveals just how important his encounters in the video aisle have been to his acclaimed oeuvre. 

    Was the video store a big part of your early experience with film?
    Michel Gondry: We had a video player at home since the early 80s so the video process was part of my adolescence. I used to shoot little sketches with my brothers and our friends. Sadly, I don’t think there are many places like La Butte left where I live in Brooklyn.

    Do you ever think about whether your film will end up on the shelves of somewhere like La Butte when you are making it?
    MG: Yes. In fact it’s one of the reasons why we as filmmakers have to define the genre that we want our film to belong to. We know that people will put them on specific shelves. It doesn’t make things easy when your genre is not well defined. 

    Have these films also influenced your collaborations with other artists, such as the musicians for whom you’ve made music videos?  
    MG: Yes, sure. I remember the first time I collaborated with Björk—we discussed all our favorite movies. We discovered that we had lots of favorite films in common. Like The Night of the Hunter (1955) for instance, which became an inspiration for the video for [her 1993 single] “Human Behaviour.”

    Do you still watch films as much as you used to before you began making them?
    MG: I don’t see them the same way. Unfortunately, I can’t take myself out of the equation. Most of the time I’m watching a movie, I’m thinking, “I could never achieve this!”

    Your latest adaptation takes on a work of satire. Is it important to have a sense of humor in filmmaking today?
    MG: Humor helps to swallow the harshness of life.

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