MARCO BRAMBILLA at NXT Museum, Amsterdam

Still from Heaven’s Gate

For the first time, NXT Museum in Amsterdam presents London-based Italian visual artist Marco Brambilla and his two perplexing moving image works: Heaven’s Gate (2021) and Creation (2012).

Previously working on films in the 1990s, Brambilla left the business after he felt “it wasn’t as creative as it could have been” and “went back to making personal experimental films’  bringing him the production of motion collages. Part of his Megaplex series which started in 2008, Brambilla investigates the idea of mainstream cinema in the 21st century. With the increasing inundation of CGI, movie remakes and saturation of mass media culture, his artwork explores how the aesthetic of visuals have conquered and ‘put aside’ the narrative of modern day films. Only sampling images and subjects from several Hollywood iconic films, such as Jurassic Park (1993) and The Great Gatsby (2013), the spliced pieces in the motion video manifest an overwhelming, immersive and over-stimulating 3D-esque video experience.

Inspired by Neo-Renaissance themes and ideas, Brambilla purposely chose a symmetric composition which is remarkably noticeable in Heaven’s Gate and is in fact based on the seven levels of Dante’s Purgatory. Densely packed and layered with music, the motion collage not only perfectly depicts contemporary cinematic productions but also mirrors our daily and constant mass media consumption. From Instagram, YouTube, FaceBook and to all other colossal social media platforms that crave our attention, Brambilla’s installations hauntingly transcend our own experience with ‘doom-scrolling’ before bed.

Using theories from Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle he explores how images commodify human experiences, “Films have become more about spectacle” Brambilla explains. “They are about content, and that’s been moving in that direction for some time, including now, which was really interesting to me.” In particular with the current rise of artificial intelligence seeping into our lives we start to observe a disconnect from reality and “emotional connection”.

In Creation visitors are seemingly seduced by the video installation illustrating an “abstract cycle of life.” With several Hollywood icons interwoven within a single endless vortex that loops “back to the moment of origin” in combination with Prokofiev’s Cinderella Waltz in the background we are sucked into the madness much like how we are devoured likewise by algorithms and the saturation of media.

Although a video installation, Brambilla tells me that his creative process first begins with a drawing concept that later becomes filled in using Photoshop and screenshots from films “and then it moves from there into moving image software, where we start to create the loops of the characters that you see in the pieces, and then it goes into 3D software.”

Although Heaven’s Gate and Creation do not use AI and took several hours to create in several programs (Photoshop, After Effects and Flame, a 3D compositing software), Brambilla is interested in experimenting the depths of AI in the future. While he intends to make visually appealing works he also holds “a cautionary tale about technology, and more of a caution of what technology can do if we’re not careful.” This concept will extend to his other works and possibly the next chapter of his Megaplex series “which will use more AI, and also by using AI in a way that exposes its own danger.”

Brambilla’s phenomenal motion collage is profound however one cannot help feel a sort of heavy depressive realization come to fruition: the over-stimulation of visuals and music is a disturbing yet accurate definition to the ever growing virtual world that we live in today. In the era of technology one cannot help but wonder what lies in the future when being confronted by Brambilla’s monumental installation: Where is the bridge between fallacy and authenticity when cinema and even life itself becomes a “spectacle”? And when will we know if we have crossed and have gone too far beyond distinguishability? We leave the questions up to you and invite you to see his motion collages.  Anja Herrmann    2nd March 2024

Brambilla’s works can be viewed at the NXT Museum until 28th May