Marvel Stadium, the seductiveness of villains and the quest to overcome ads - in this interview, Philippe Le Miere talks all things BLOCK-BUSTER. Discover the spark behind his series, how Hollywood is nesting in Australia and what Le Miere learnt from the other side.
The largest Marvel exhibition ever staged right in the heart of Brisbane. At the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art - 'Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe'.
How you would describe the experience of creating ‘Block-Buster’?
It began by asking a simple question - “what are the mythic stories we tell each other today?”, and ended as a series of paintings of movie posters - the most succinct way I could express an answer. The experience included learning that the Wikipedia entry for ‘Darth Vader’ is one of their most clicked pages; that George Lucas is implementing plans to build the largest private art museum in the world; that Queensland’s Art Gallery of Modern Art showcased Marvel; and that one of Australia’s largest stadiums will be renamed ‘Marvel Stadium’. This is the contemporary world you and I live in. Art’s unending role has been to express this.
Set to be the largest private museum in the world, marvel at George Lucas's plans for The Narrative Museum.
What do you think the function of blockbusters are in contemporary culture?
Most of all, the blockbuster measures culture. It links statistics to a cultural product - measuring relative success. We now live in an era where marketing budgets for films, exceed production costs. The success of a film hinging upon immediate impact. The blockbuster is like a seismic cultural earthquake, rippling through our minds. A viral meme, designed to spread. I think of my paintings as a ‘mutational’ aftermath.
A lot of your work features the antagonists of blockbuster films. Why do you think we’re so captivated by villains?
Stories reveal group psychology. They reflect what we value, but also express our anxieties. The ‘Tragedy of Darth Vader’ has captivated many lives. A universal story that redeems a father, with a lost son. The best villians will always play out the greatest strength, toward the hero’s biggest weakness. The tyrannical strength of Vader, powerfully plays out the naive, young farm boy Luke. Villains, done well, evoke the greatest emotional response from a viewer - potentially creating the most immediate response.
In 2012, James Holmes opened fire in a midnight screening for 'Batman: The Dark Knight Rises' in Colorado. Armed with a sawed-off shotgun and dyed orange hair, the self described 'Joker' killed 12 people and injured 58.
Pictured - Philippe Le Miere 'Dark Joker Knight superhero Batman dc'.
If culture is informed by blockbusters, why do you think genres like horror are the most popular? Especially since these kind of films are often the least ‘pleasant’.
My favourite genre is sci-fi - I just love imagining the future. I enjoy the best examples of the horror genre, but rarely seek it out. We are attracted to a particular genre, based on how it makes us feel - even scared witless. What Aristotle called ‘Catharsis’ - or a release from strong or repressed emotions - is what artforms have done for centuries. That horror today is the biggest genres, says something about who we are - what are we afraid of?
At the heart of your exhibition, is the suggestion that rather than indulge or reject Blockbusters, we should temperately engage with them - what does that look like? And why is it important?
I’ll be honest - I hate ads. I’ve mostly mastered the art of avoiding advertising because it makes me feel numb. Anaesthetic is its effect on me - which is why I reject it. However, looking up the latest movie release tweets, reveals a contagious euphoria of excitement. I’ve learnt through painting the ‘Block-Buster’ series, that ignoring such a dominant culture is not a solution. Nor is slavishly mimicking a culture - just because everyone else is. A temperate engagement with culture is more ‘critical’. Questioning why. Why does it affect us? Why is it culturally important? This is what a temperate engagement with culture looks like.
The Avengers at Flinders Station. Hope they have their Myki.