Saturday, 31 October 2015

An exclusive interview with the Spanish film director David Victori, winner of the Youtube Your Film Festival 2015

by  Flora Alexandra  I

What if the earth suddenly lost its gravity intermittently and progressively?

Produced by Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender, Zero is a new film written and directed by the winner of the Youtube Your Film Festival. The international competition was organised by YouTube and won by the emerging Spanish director David Victori. Exploring Youtube as a new platform for film - which bypasses cinema - Victori’s film is being gradually released as a web series. Produced by Michael Fassbender and Ridley Scott, Zero is a both heart-warming and immensely powerful science-fiction film, which explores themes like gravity, faith and loss.

The writer and director David Victori has previously been cited as one of the ten Spanish directors to watch by Variety Magazine. In the past he has been celebrated for making award-winning films like Reaccion, 2008 and La Culpa, 2010. The Los-Angeles based filmmaker shot to fame when his win of the Youtube Your Film Festival was announced at the Venice Film Festival by Michael Fassbender. His subsequent film Zero explores the simple question of what would happen if the world were to lose gravity and it's immensely beautiful with highly emotive scenes in which both objects and people float into the sky.   

The film follows the story of a father and son in America who find themselves emotionally and physically separated by the world’s loss of gravity. Starring Ryan Eggold as the boy’s father, we watch him search the city for his son in an attempt to console him amidst the death of his mother. The musical score is powerful, as we're carried on their journey, experiencing its highs and lows. The film begins with delicate underwater shots entwined with vignettes of microscopic matter, which immediately give it a scientific feel. In the opening scene the manipulation of light and shadow creates an intensely emotive atmosphere, which continues throughout. Check it out the first episode at and see for yourself.  

In one sentence, how would you summarise Zero?

Anything is possible, so how can you be sure that gravity won’t fail us tomorrow?

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for filmmaking?

After watching my family cry at one of my early films being shown in the cinema, I knew that I wanted to follow this path as a filmmaker.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

Beauty can give you a sense of inner peace from one second to the next.

As a film director, what has been your most inspiring travel experience? 

Living in the middle of nowhere in the Netherlands with a friend changed me a lot. I moved there to write a script, whilst he wrote a book. To be in the middle of the countryside without the distractions of our social lives allowed us to focus only on the writing, which was transformative.

How do you think the film industry will change with YouTube as a new platform for young filmmakers?

It will change in a way that we can’t even imagine, because Youtube is a universal theatre where your creations can be broadcast all over the world. 

There are religious undertones throughout in continuous references to ‘heaven’ and ‘belief', does this reflect your own exploration of faith?  

Yes, Zero for me is my own exploration of faith. When you are face to face with the death of somebody who you love, this always opens a door for exploration. I entered this room to explore and the result is my film Zero.

What message do you hope your audience will take away from Zero?

That we must not take anything for granted.

As a fellow director, what impact did Ridley Scott have upon the realisation of your creative vision for 

Although I had the freedom to pursue my own creative vision, Ridley Scott was an inspiration, motivating me to overcome my limits and do my best.

Do you have a scientific background, which inspired you to explore the theme of gravity in Zero?

Nothing, but an unlimited curiosity about how the Universe works. Not knowing anything allowed me to ask those elemental, stupid questions like ‘what would happen if gravity failed?

Social media as a digital platform has changed the film industry, but how has it had a positive impact on your work? 

Social media changed my life, because the votes of strangers won me the Youtube Your Film Festival – it changed my life. 

As it’s a science fiction film, what technical challenges did you have to overcome whilst directing Zero?

We were trying to reach a high level of aesthetic quality without an unlimited budget. In order to have both actors and objects flying over the city, we needed to think creatively.

What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps as a film director?

Shoot, shoot and shoot. You will only be able to learn and understand yourself as a director if you shoot enough to be able to show the world your inner universe.

Social media as a digital platform has changed the film industry, but how has it had a positive impact on your career as a filmmaker?

Social media changed my life, because the votes of strangers won me the Youtube Your Film Festival – it changed my life.

As both an experienced actor and producer, how did Michael Fassbender contribute to the writing and directing of Zero?

Over one lunch we were looking over the script together and he passed on so much good advice from his experience of working with amazing directors.

How did you manipulate both the natural and artificial light to make the cinematography within Zero so evocative?

I had the honour of working with one of the best directors of photographers in Spain, Daniel Aranyó. We had a lot of conversations about the light and the emotion in every scene. As an artist, he really understood the heart behind the story. He was responsible for the beautiful fusion of natural and artificial light.

What film do you think every child should watch as they come of age?

Inside out, Stand by me or Cinema Paradiso.

Following your collaboration with Scott and Fassbender, who would you most like to collaborate with next and why?

There are so many people I could learn from, so let’s see what life gives me next.  

On your journey thus far, have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?

No, not yet, I think it’s too early in my career.

The musical score is particularly evocative, but how involved were you in that aspect of the filmmaking process?

The musical score is a very important part for me. The composer Miquel Coll and I have had a long relationship, because he’s worked on me with all of my projects. He’s just as emotional as me and we both invest a lot in the process, working on every detail, movement and sound.

Despite being LA-based, how has Spanish culture influenced the films you make?

On a conscious level, I’m not sure, but there’s something there. I will start to understand that slowly over the next few years.

In the final video, Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is referenced in the touching of hands, how influential has fine art been upon the rest of the film?

Most of my references are made on a subconscious level, because I like not knowing where ideas come from. I trust my intuition and like to let it work without any interference.

Interview by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, the London-based art journalist and founder of 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Highlights of the Frieze Masters Art Fair in Regent's Park, London

by  Flora Alexandra  I

As always, Frieze Masters was an elegant affair. Each stand was carefully curated and painted in delicate hues of charcoal, dove grey and white. Despite the regulated colour palettes of the walls, the fair couldn’t be accused of monotony given the juxtaposition of both classical and contemporary works composed before the millennium. With immersive installations like Gallery Hyundai’s Untitled (TV and Stone) and Helly Nahmad’s Mental Asylum imbued with opera music, there was an unexpected spotlight on conceptuality. I was particularly impressed by the efforts of multiple galleries to make their artwork multi-sensory as they combined both visual and aural experience. Inevitably we immersed ourselves in the curiosities of Frieze London too, but Frieze Masters was arguably more distinguished in terms of both caliber and aesthetic experience. Although, perhaps as intriguing as the works themselves were the swathes of art world glitterati, wandering its aisles in ceaseless black as if fashion week had never ended.

Given my fascination with the representation of female sexuality in art, I was captivated by Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude 31 at the Aquavella Gallery. With the symbolic Mona Lisa juxtaposing the erotic figure in the foreground, Wesselmann entwined elements of both classical and modern art in his celebration of the female nude. Illustrating the eclectic nature of Frieze Masters, this provocation was followed by a stroll in Netherlandish fields as we visited the Dutch Old Master dealer Johnny Van Haeften. Our host challenged the boundaries of the Old Masters by consolidating visual and aural stimulation within the music he commissioned to accompany Van Cleve’s Wedding Procession. As with the National Gallery’s offbeat Soundscapes exhibition, the audience stood hypnotized by the charm of the church bells, blowing wind and laughter. I was also taken with the Dutch painter Simon Pieterz Verelst’s kaleidoscopic Still Life of Flowers in a Case, reminiscent of the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge’s wildly romantic flower room.

As a fierce defender of Egon Schiele and his violent contortions, I was besotted with the collection of his works exhibited by the Richard Nagy gallery. As if we’d strolled into an ancient schloss, they’d adorned the walls of a makeshift Austrian dining room with the painter’s perverse studies of the female form. Continuing the figurative theme, we crossed into Marlborough Fine Art’s beautifully curated stand, which reminded us that the wonder of Frieze is the proximity of so many of the world’s leading galleries. Their intimate collection of Frank Auerbach’s expressionistic portraits aligned with Tate Britain’s critically acclaimed exhibition, almost challenging it. Having spent the morning inside the Elephant Hotel studio of the young British artists Jack Penny and Hugo Hamper Potts - both influenced by Auerbach’s aesthetic - I was all the more captivated by the intensity of his heavy brushstrokes. Evocative as ever, his melancholic portrait of Charlotte Porto, 1982 caught my attention along with J.Y.M seated II, 1996, which was somewhat reminiscent of a serene Richard Diebenkorn landscape.

Reflecting the abstraction we experienced at Connaught Brown’s compelling Afro Barsadella show a few days ago, I was moved by the Hungarian artist Simon Hantai’s Tabula, 1980 at Mayfair’s beloved Timothy Taylor Gallery. It was a simple, but emotive piece, bursting with energy and colour. As we wandered into Axel Vervoordt’s Belgian gallery, we were bewitched by the dynamism of the Japanese painter Kazuo Shiraga’s Seiku Sacred Dog. Painted by the artist’s feet as he hung suspended above the canvas, you could visibly see the movement, which he’d pushed into the paint. As Florentine potter Jenny Min and I progressed towards the Hellenic sculptures from antiquity at the Cahn gallery, we were distracted by the sentimental paintings of porcelains hiding amongst the old masters, which took us back to Tuscany. Although many people would question my preference for Frieze Masters, I must say that as we paused in the reading room amongst the art magazines and catalogues, I felt so appreciative of the relaxed atmosphere of this side of the fair. The subtlety of its splendor is something that competitors like Art Basel, Maastricht or Masterpiece can only dream of achieving.

Our contributing writer is Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, a London-based art journalist 
and founder of the

Monday, 19 October 2015

The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, London

by  Flora Alexandra  I

The cultural reality today evinces a far more protean social and cultural condition and it seems that such impositions curtail artistic, cultural and theoretical production, which are largely complex in terms of provenance, identification and history.’ Koyo Kouoh, curator of FORUM. 

This autumn is the 1:54 Contemporary African Art fair’s third edition, with a staggering 14 of the 38 galleries coming from Africa to celebrate the multiplicity and diversity of contemporary African art. Led by Touria El Glauoi, the fair has worked to build provincial art scenes in African countries, promoting artistic production and a sense of cultural identity amongst those artists. Touria and I met at a TED talks conference early this year and though I was disappointed to miss the fair being launched in New York, its arrival in London was worth the wait. Designed by the award-winning architectural studio RA projects, the fair was beautifully arranged with a sense of space and fluidity unseen at Frieze or Masterpiece.  

We began our exploration of the fair at the Magnin-A Gallery, immersing ourselves in the work of the Congolese artist Jean-Paul Nsimba Mika who focuses on kaleidoscopic narrative scenes, which critique the political system. Currently featured in the Fondation Cartier's Beauté Congo exhibition in Paris, I was seduced by their centrepiece Kiese na Kiese, 2014. The spirited painting captured a couple dancing against a backdrop of kitsch floral wallpaper, imbued with a sense of movement that brought rhythm to the canvas. Hypnotized, I was soon transported back to the Kirstenbosch gardens of Cape Town, where we had danced to the Afro-fusion band Freshlyground.

I thought that the American-born artist Ayana V Jackson’s work was particularly poignant, because I was captivated by the highly political, yet intensely beautiful image Dictatorship, 2012 from the Poverty Pornography series. Both her reportage and studio-based photography depicted constructions of African and African American identities as she sought to consolidate the experience of contemporary Africa and the African diasporic societies, which she hails from as a descendent of the slave trade.

The Tunisian artist Yasmine Ben Khelil exhibited her collages with the Selma Feriani Gallery, exploring a range of characters from different socio-political and circumstantial origins in works like Untitled II. Her ink and pen interventions on paper incorporated marine patterns, glitter and felt tip pens to parody dictatorship, reflecting the underlying sense of political insurrection seen throughout the fair. The contrast between her polychromatic textures and the timeworn black and white photographs beneath was both beautiful, and highly original. For me, there was a personal sense of nostalgia to her work, as I remembered searching for late 19th century portraits in the flea markets of Paris.

Jack Bell’s gallery exhibited the Beninese photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou whose imaginative work captures the experiences of a generation caught between tradition and progress. I first saw his dynamic work at the National Portrait Gallery’s Photographic Portrait Prize and was enraptured once again as I stood before his Muscle Men series. I admired the juxtaposition of the intensely male physiques with symbolic and blossoming African patterns more likely to be associated with a more effeminate subject.  

Namsa Leuba examined African Identity from the perspective of the Western imagination through fashion, performance and film. In partnership with Art Twenty One, her work combines her anthropological interest in the traditional customs of New Guinea with an aesthetic influenced by the fashion industry. Her series African Queens was bright and engaging, reminiscent of the luminescent pages of an indie art magazine like Dazed and Confused or Interview. Having been overwhelmed with stereotypes of what African art should be, I was pleasantly surprised by the eclectic nature of the works on display, which defied convention and challenged the norm.

1:54’s educational and artistic programme featured films, lectures and panel debates curated by the Cameroonian cultural producer Koyo Kouoh. Before departing, I caught the FORUM curator’s conversation with Zoulikha Bouabdellah, in which they discussed Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the work of African artists with the phrase, ‘tu crois que vraiment que parce que je suis noire je baisee mieux’ glowing above them. Beautifully introduced by Poppy Field, Koyo and Zoulikha went on to contemplate the sexual projections placed upon African women, the concept of the body as a conduit of artistic expression and the relevance of feminism in African art. Unsurprisingly, we left feeling invigorated and energized by their conversation.

Flora Alexandra Ogilvy is a London-based art journalist who founded the art and culture website in 2014.