Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
At the Tel Aviv Opera: Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child
born artist Gottfried Helnwein hosted the wedding ceremony of Marilyn Manson
and Dita Von Teese, presided over by Alejandro Jodorowsky. That fact alone sets off plenty of alarm bells. Nonetheless, Helnwein has produced an
impressive body of work, largely informed by the horrors of the Holocaust. It was the themes and sensitivities of his oeuvre
that inspired the Israeli Opera to commission Helnwein’s designs for an ambitious
new production. Lisa Kirk Colburn documents
the visual artist’s sometime dramatic collaborative process in Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
a telling historical irony, Helnwein was accepted by the art academy that
famously rejected Hitler. Coming of age
at a time the Holocaust simply was not discussed in Austria, Helnwein
discovered the truth on his own. The
revelation profoundly influenced his work both as a student and a mature
artist. Images of children in various
states of vulnerability reappear over and over in his photo-realist paintings. Not surprisingly, Helnwein had a deep
affinity for Hanoch Levin’s allegorical play, The Dreaming Child and its Helnweinesque title character.
Helnwein designs a stage production, he does not dash off a few set decorations
and call it a day. Essentially, he takes
over the show, at least to judge by the evidence of Dreaming Child. Director and
co-librettist Omri Nitzan comes across like an evenhanded mediator, but some of
the Opera’s creative crew clash repeatedly with the celebrity artist. That’s just what you get when you bring in a design
up to the premiere of Dreaming Child,
Helnwein also mounts a new showing of his large scale public installation
piece, Selektion. Frankly, the story behind that piece (and its
rather rocky debut in Cologne) might be even more documentary worthy than the Dreaming Child production.
Colburn’s film shows us more than Helnwein puttering about his studio. In fact, he is an artist with something to
say and he takes advantage of the opportunity to do so. To her credit, Colburn does not leave any
obvious questions unaddressed, showing her subject’s high-handedness as well as
his passion and empathy. Viewers should
note, there is also a brief but humanizing post-credits stinger. It looks like a cool shot Colburn fell in
love with, but could not figure out any other place to put it.
An engaging art documentary comparable to recent
releases like Bel Borba Aqui and Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, Dreaming Child also offers additional social-historical
significance by forthrightly exploring the themes of Helnwein and Levin’s
work. Recommended for Helnwein’s fans
and patrons of Israeli culture, Gottfried
Helnwein and the Dreaming Child opens this Friday (11/23) in New York at
the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Gottfried Helnwein