Jesús Olmo in El Hierro, Canary Islands. Photo by Sebastián Álvarez
The Ballardian Video Art of Jesús Olmo
It is always an exciting and happy time to introduce and help disseminate the work of a young artist entranced with and influenced by the ideas of JG Ballard. Although it seems the dominant form of ballard-influenced expression has come from musicians and other audio artists, more recently the audio/visual joys of video has begun to attract the attention of new artists, most notably screenwriter and video artist Jesús Olmo.
For many years now Olmo has worked from his perch on the Canary Islands, creating screenplays, photographs and, of course, his highly imaginative and enigmatic personal videos. Many of his video shorts are influenced directly by Ballard, especially Ballard's ideas about surreal coastal areas, decadent beaches and tourist resorts, the automobile, heavy industry, and the psychosis of modern culture. "In reality my videos are not literally based on concrete paragraphs of novels or short stories by Ballard, but instead they are more or less, in one way or another, subtly inspired and influenced by a certain mood, a feeling, an atmosphere that can be found and felt in a significant amount of Ballard's prose -- especially his crepuscular and twilight novels and short stories in which the ocean, the beaches, (and, in general, the water) are a multifaceted symbol of the deep psychological and sociological unconscious. My videos can also be seen, in many ways, as inner landscapes of the mind, revealing the kinds of landscapes imagined in ‘Vermillion Sands’, ‘The Drowned World’, ‘The Drought’, ‘The Reptile Enclosure’, ‘Terminal Beach’ and many, many other Ballard works."
Many of Olmo's videos also feature music tracks by another long-time Ballard-influenced artist: the musician Cousin Silas, author of albums like Ballard Landscapes 1 and Ballard Landscapes 2. Silas, who wrote some of his tracks specially for these videos, has been creatively collaborating with Olmo for some time, and I think you'll agree their particular blend of video and audio is a collaboration made in, oh, Dealey Plaza. Or Wake Island.
Moody. Psychological. And certainly working on the same imaginative plane as Ballard's brand of free association at high noon. Scroll down and you, too, will discover Olmo has created a stunning visual cache of Ballardian short stories, each video mesmerizing in form and thought-provoking in content.
"Terminal Beach" by Maria Niro and Jesús Olmo
Camera and Cinematography by Jesus Olmo
Edit, Post Production & Sound by Maria Niro
"The only truly alien planet is Earth". J. G. Ballard.
In Terminal Beach, some of Jesus Olmo’s complex and sublime Ballardian video landscapes are appropriated by visual and sound artist Maria Niro who edits multiple sequences into a diptych accompanied by a soundscape she created specifically for the video. By juxtaposing several scenes together a third dimension is formed revealing some of the contradictions in our contemporary culture. The result is a video that departs from more conventional modes of storytelling and brings us closer to ideas that lie in the subconscious mind, which tend to reveal themselves in our dreams. The video conjoins pasts, present and future to reveal some stark realities that exist in our world and centers on the themes of the environmental urban spaces we inhabit and how they effect us on an individual and collective basis.
The video borrows the title from one of J.G. Ballard’s stories and it is largely a response to the feeling and atmospheres Ballard creates. Much like a Ballard story it begins light and ethereal and becomes progressively dark and mysterious of how things became the way they did. Scenes come near to connote how in our culture past dreams can create an uncertain future, at the same time depict an obscure chronicle of strange moments that take place in an imagined urban landscape where nature has rebelled against humanity. We see a world at the end of the road which leads us to consider the high toll of consumerism and its effects on the environment. Most is left to the imagination of the viewer but for certain in the end we are left with the question of how contemporary culture’s motivations and ambitions have physically challenged our landscapes and will continue to do so and in the not so distant future.
The collaboration was somewhat improvisational, as both artists did not plan what story they would convey or how they would appropriate the images in the video but would rely mainly on experimentation and responsiveness between one another. And since Olmo lives in the Canary Islands and Niro in New York City, and the artists never worked together before they depended largely on intuition. Perhaps the biggest commonality the artists share, and undeniably the most important elements for joining artistic visions, would be the deep admiration and understanding they have for each other’s art and of course for Ballard.
“I think the key image of the 20th century is the man in the motor car. It sums up everything: the elements of speed, drama, aggression, the junction of advertising and consumer goods with the technological landscape. The sense of violence and desire, power and energy; the shared experience of moving together through an elaborately signalled landscape. We spend a substantial part of our lives in the motor car, and the experience of driving condenses many of the experiences of being a human being in the 1970s, the marriage of the physical aspects of ourselves with the imaginative and technological aspects of our lives. I think the 20th century reaches its highest expression on the highway. Everything is there: the speed and violence of our age; the strange love affair with the machine, with its own death”.
Voice over by J. G. Ballard for the film “Crash!” (1971), written by J. G. Ballard and directed by Harley Cokliss.
Music: 'Lower Level' by Cousin Silas.
The sombre green-black fronds of the gymnosperms, intruders from the Triassic past, and the half-submerged white-faced buildings of the 20th century still reflected together in the dark mirror of the water... The brick houses and single-storey factories of the suburbs had disappeared completely below the drifting tides of silt. J.G. Ballard, ‘The Drowned World’ (1962)
Music: 'Black Blizzard' by Jeff Beal, from the original soundtrack of HBO 'Carnivàle' tv series.
As long as people are prepared to spend their entire time sprawled on a beach there's little hope of ever building up any other pastime. Sun-bathing is anti-social because it's an entirely passive pursuit... On the other hand, it does bring people together. In the nude or near nude the shop-girl and the duchess are virtually indistinguishable'… But I think the psychological role of the beach is much more interesting. The tide-line is a particularly significant area, a penumbral zone that is both sea and above it, forever half-immersed in the great time-womb. If you accept the sea as an image of the unconscious, then this beachward urge might be seen as an attempt to escape from the existential role of ordinary life and return to the universal time-sea...
J. G. Ballard, ‘The Reptile Enclosure’
Music: Hans Zimmer, 'Light", from the original soundtrack of the film "The Thin Red Line".
Footprints go down to the ocean shore. But beyond the ocean, there’s no trace left. Rumi.
Performed by and gratefully dedicated to Verónica Franco.
Music: 'IBM 1401 Processing Unit' by Jóhann Jóhannsson, from his album 'IBM 1401, a user’s manual'
Music: 'When I live by the Garden and the Sea', by Eluvium (Matthew Cooper).
Music: 'A Moment Of Reflection' by Cousin Silas, from his album 'Uncertainty', released by Just Not Normal NetLabel
Music: An excerpt from 'Symphonies of The Planets vol. 1 - NASA Voyager Recordings'. 'Symphonies of the Planets' are vibrational 'soundscapes' created by the complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind and planetary magnetospheres. This "music" was recorded by robotic probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 as they passed by the various planets and moons of our solar system. Although sound as we perceive it cannot travel in the vacuum of space, each planet and moon emits its own electromagnetic 'signature' that can be picked up by the right instruments, and those emanations can be converted within the range of human hearing.
Music: 'The Sign of the Radar' by Cousin Silas, from his album 'Ballard Landscapes II'.
Music: "South shore" by Cousin Silas.
Music: 'Black Reflection' by Cousin Silas.
Music: 'Himalayan Bowls" by Michael Askill.
Jesús Olmo in El Hierro, Canary Islands. Photo by Sebastián Álvarez
About Jesús Olmo
Screenwriter and Video artist Jesús Olmo is no beginner to the visual world. His education includes Media Studies (Image and Sound) at Complutense University and TAI film school (specializing in film direction), where he directed the short film ‘El espectáculo es uno mismo’ -- The Show is Oneself -- that won a Special Jury Award in 1994 at the Grenoble Film Festival, France.
At the Escuela de Letras (Madrid), he finalized the three year course and was awarded a degree as a teacher of creative writing. He is co-author of the scripts of the short films ‘Esposados’ -- Linked -- that was nominated for a Hollywood Academy Award in 1996 (directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo), and ‘Ruleta’ -- Roulette --, which was the official short film section at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999 (directed by Roberto Santiago). He is the author of the novels, ‘Esta historia ha terminado’ -- This Story is Over -- shortlisted for the Gran Angular Award for teenage fiction, ‘Jota de Corazones’ -- J of Hearts -- published by SM, ‘Cuentatrás’ -- Countdown -- and ‘Prohibido tener catorce años’ -- Being Fourteen is Forbidden -- these last two written in collaboration with Roberto Santiago and published by Edebé.
As a photographer and designer, his portfolio ‘Erosión’ was selected to take part in the “Descubrimientos” section in PhotoEspaña 2005. In 2006 he was a finalist in the 2nd International Foto Art Magazine Photography Competition. Many of his pictures have been on the covers of fiction and non fiction books published by SM, Destino and Losada. His most recent work as a script writer includes the TV-movie “Flores Muertas” -- Dead Flowers -- the feature film 28 Weeks Later, produced by DNA and Fox Searchlight and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, and the film adaptation of the novel “La piel fría” -- Cold Skin -- by Albert Sánchez Piñol, produced by Kanzaman Productions, currently at the pre-production phase, and to be directed by David Slade.
Jesús Olmo is currently at the post production phase of his short film Libi2, written and directed by himself and produced by Volcano Films. His video art piece Parabthi has been awarded the Jury’s Prize in the 1st National Videoart Competition, organized by the PhotoEspaña festival and Click Insurance. His occupations at present include photography and videoart, his work as an International script writer, and his teaching of script writing and film analysis at the Canary Island School of Creative Writing.