Text: Oliver Georgiou Images: Kris Moyes
Director and artist Kris Moyes is best known for his unique and dynamic music video projects for artists such as Sia, Beck and The Presets. While spending a couple of weeks in Sydney recently I got together with Kris to, amongst other things, create some Strata-cut animation. When the time came to shoot, Kris created a lighting rig by precariously placing a lightbox, on top of a cardboard box, on top of a chair, clamped to a half-full 1.25 litre water bottle sans lid, situated next to a $10,000 camera on a tripod. It was at this time I realised that Moyes takes a refreshingly resourceful and intuitive approach when it comes to navigating his projects.
Walking the streets of Darlinghurst late one night we got talking about the bones of his work.
Kris Moyes: When I was young I broke our home stereo by ripping out the guts and accidentally breaking the circuits before our mum came home from work. I didn’t get a chance to put the broken circuits back inside the box by the time she came home so I had to store it under my bed and place the empty shell in the cabinet to give the illusion that nothing was missing. I forgot about the parts under my bed until the following week but luckily she never turned it on in that time so I never got into trouble. To this day she doesn’t know I did that.
Oliver Georgiou: Was it a curious or destructive intuition that bought you to do that?
KM: Well, I like to know how things work. I have never liked to look at manuals when I get a new program or piece of hardware. I like interacting with things intuitively.
OG: Tell me how that intuition stems into your work.
KM: You and I were talking the other day about copy stands. I know enough about copy stands to know their basic design and function. With certain things, once you get the fundamentals down you can change it to suit you. I did this small commercial for Ministry of Sound which features artwork represented as pixels, only, the pixels were the ends of coloured match sticks. So I had to design a specific copy stand to allow the match sticks to stand upright.
For me the end result was not as interesting as the process. Working with the model maker that built the stand was far more interesting as well as lacing it up with fishing wire. It was essentially a base made out of metal that had perforated holes at two-millimeter intervals. There were two layers of holes, one on top of the other, to allow the match sticks to stand completely vertical. I had to string it up like a tennis racquet. My girlfriend at the time helped me out and that whole process, it was very entertaining. The fishing wire had to be poked through one hole and in order for it to lace it all the way through we had to open up the apartment door and my girlfriend had to walk all the way down the stairs with a 25 meter long piece of fishing wire. The process of lacing up just one hole required two people and a shit load of walking to avoid the wire from becoming entangled. We had this joke where the moment that she walked out the door with the end of the string she would be like “goodbye” and I wouldn’t see her for ages, then she would come back and say “I’m home”. That was very funny.
OG: When you are dealing with an agency, producer or client, do you let them in on what you are doing as far as creating these things? I’m sure a lot of people would start to freak out if they didn’t exactly understand what you were doing.
KM: I guess there are clients that would rather not know (laughs). It really depends on the mind of the person and how much involvement they would like. Some just want to know what the idea is and whether or not it’s going to look good. If I can convince them that it will then I gain their trust and they leave me alone to get on with the job. In the case of Ministry of Sound commercial I had a lot of conversation with my client Andrew Jackson because he was actually really fascinated with the whole process and understood the technical complexity. I think you interviewed him before. He totally understood what I wanted to achieve and even went as far as offering help, but I couldn’t really do that to him. I thought it might be crossing a line.
OG: Yeah, I guess turning your client into the gofer isn’t a good way to go.
KM: Yeah (laughs). Also, I did a series of petri dish experiments, which was pretty much a science experiment. I assembled a retort stand with a clamp that held a funnel, which had a rubber tube attached to it which travelled down a glass dripper that I used to control the size of the flow of liquid, whether it be a drop or a full gush. Below the dripper was a Petri dish and underneath the dish was a camera point directly up. That apparatus was used to create a series of chemical reactions with an array of painting products.
These experiments were initially intended for an Iron and Wine video, however, I fucked that one up after spending five months perfecting the technique, making mistakes and discovering new ways of improving the actual technique. After that job sadly died, I put the experiments on the back burner but later found a way to pitch it to Franz Ferdinand. I got to use the experiments in a different way but because Alex Kapranos didn’t feel it represented the band the way he imagined, the video was shelved after it was fully completed. I suddenly found I had the freedom to represent my work in the way I felt most happy so I exhibited them as a series of photographs for an exhibition at Monster Children last year and later turned the footage into a two minute film with a score made by my brother for an exhibition in Los Angeles called Main Street held at Space 15 Twenty. From that exhibition I was contacted from this woman in San Diego who was running a screening and invited my to have that work and the Cut Copy ‘Going Nowhere’ video screen alongside the work of John Baldessari for an exhibition that’s focused on the concept of the role that colour plays in art.
OG: Going back to curiosity and the way that you research and discover things, the first clip you made was ‘Are You The One?’ right?
KM: Yeah, before that happened I discovered DIVX compression in .AVI files and when downloading a Jet Li film. If you open up an .AVI file in quicktime in that codec and scrub along the timeline with your curser, the image will disintegrate like a… err… like a…
OG: Digital splat?
KM: Ha! Right. But when you stop doing it and suddenly hit play, that splat which is a frozen image will somehow managed to stick itself onto the contours of whatever the form is underneath so when the form moves it will have this frozen splat attached to its contours. Suddenly you will see a head turn or a hand move across the screen but the splat will be attached to the contours like textured skin. It was crazy when I first saw it and no one had thought to capitalise on this technique, so it ended up as a motif in Are You The One? But more than that, this video was essentially me trying to make a showreel that the world could see. It was a montage of the best things I could do. I shot, stopmotion, 2D animation, this image disintegration technique, live action etc.
OG: There was also, I don’t know if it was stock footage or not, but footage of reel to reel machines, transmitters, surveillance cameras, it felt almost like the history of moving visual transmitting media.
KM: Yeah man, I shot it all. The over arching concept was if you could explore all the possibilities of who the “One” is, then this video is the result of that investigation. Are YOU the one? As in are you a golden child represented by the 3D ultrasound baby? Ha! That is actually stock footage. I didn’t shoot that. I got it from a doctor in Israel. I emailed him and he gave me the rights to use one of the clips off his website. I sung the lyrics myself, cut out my lips and motioned tracked it on the child. Are you the JUAN? The Hispanic car jacker played by my friend Felix with a fake moustache, or are you the ONE? A graphic representation of the number one using an array of thin objects from a cow bone to a tie. It was really fun.
OG: Along your travels have you found a personal favourite medium?
KM: I don’t have a personal preference to a way of making things. I feel like if I do the same thing often I end up losing respect for my work. I learned early in the game the value of the work is in the concept, so I focus on that first and when I am really happy with it I focus on carving an interesting creative pathway to navigate through the project. The architecture of a project is really fascinating to me. If you start at day zero and it takes 30 days to finish a project you are traveling through time on a particular path to reach the end destination. Most people choose the fastest way, a straight line. But where is the fun in that? It could be a curve or box steps or an elephant. You can determine what the outcome is by the way that you navigate through the creative path. I think I experience buildings in a similar way. There are so many amazing types of buildings. There is one that I think is only ever going to remain a concept but it would be amazing if it was ever built. They are planning to build a rotating tower in Dubai which has independently rotating floors, like a helix.
OG: I guess Dubai has the money to make it happen but I like the doing attitude when it come to architectural projects over there, like the Palm Project, a wildly insane project when you consider that it’s just sand in the ocean.
KM: It’s so cool that things like that can exist in the world, whether or not the Palm Project actually does sink or the Helix Tower is a failed project, you’re never going to know until you try. I guess that’s also the thing that excites me about approaching the creative process in different ways; you could fail but so what if you do? The results that you could get from a failed project could be more dynamic and interesting than a safe project where the results are pre-determined. You and I both know from the sausage animation we are doing right now is full of mistakes and it’s all beautiful. It’s really incredible considering neither of us have done something like this before.
OG: You have to cut the sausage to know what’s inside.
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Text: Oliver Georgiou Images: Kris Moyes