AFTERLIFE is a piece rooted in storytelling, and as such, the piece relies on strong symbolism and the use of concrete archetypes for guiding the audience through its narrative journey. Classic imagery and visual composition found in figurative art, painting and cinema served as blueprints for many of the scenes in the piece. AFTERLIFE plays with these archetypes and attempts to subvert them and playfully refer to them like elements stretched out on a big timeline of art history, colliding and merging with symbols from the contemporary here-and-now in the virtual game world. In the friction between ancient visual composition, and symbolism derived from a contemporary, post-internet visual language, the piece attempts to create psychologically interesting combinations and compositions, reflecting a contemporary notion where what is 'real' becomes increasingly harder to define, and a political landscape caught between rising conservatism and post-globalist idealism.
The Pokemon Haunter, here as the Oracle, holding two Dogecoin in front of a remote landscape and a vivid sky. In the back, greek temple ruins are dipped in neon green lights and frame the Sphinx of Naxos. Other pilgrims, derived from various computer games, are gathered in devotional prayer. The image intentionally references extreme use of shadows and light, as is often used in romantic landscape painting, mixed with characters and symbolism connected with both an ancient past and contemporary gamer culture.
Film directors like Lars Von Trier, David Lynch, Werner Herzog and Leos Carax have explicitly made us of and referenced classic visual archetypes in their films, as a tool for tapping into universal symbolism and commonly known cultural reference points. AFTERLIFE borrows some of the same strategies in its approach.
One major influence on AFTERLIFE are the paintings of Norwegian Kitsch painter Odd Nerdrum. Nerdrum broke with the contemporary art scene in the 70's and has since then, with his main inspiration in classic baroque painters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio, brought forward a school of painting which is rooted in conservative artistic ideals. His exclusively figurative style makes use of stylization, subtle use of shadows and light, and complex visual composition, to tell vivid stories within the still artwork. Nerdrum is interested in the spectator having a deep, emotional connection with the characters in the paintings and the stories told, and values identification with his subjects and a highly emotive painting style.
AFTERLIFE borrows many of these ideals as its main tool for 'pulling the audience' into its story, playing on the spectators' personal identification with the story's characters and their emotional journey. Although stylistically and philosophically completely different, AFTERLIFE and Nerdrum's art share an aesthetic ideal in trying to make the inanimate 'come alive' through exciting the inner world of the spectator with visual vividness, powerful symbolism and composition.
'Lunatics' by Odd Nerdrum (above) inspired the 'Oracle' scene in AFTERLIFE (below), where the two main characters meet a secluded group of pilgrims, surrounding the Oracle in a lifeless, rocky landscape.
'Night Jumper' by Odd Nerdrum (above) inspired the 'Ritual' scene at the end of AFTERLIFE (below), where the two main characters are summoned back into the world of the living. The transmitter-like machine in the middle is borrowed from Jonas Eika's short story 'Rachel, Nevada', in which a lonely man attempts to merge with a military-grade magical transmitter by transplanting a part of the machine into his own body.
In the 3 examples above, the narrative archetypes are well known and recognizable:
1. The 'Hero's (in our case the story has two heroes) meeting with a spiritually superior character, who sends them on a challenging path to illumination.
2. The hero finding themselves in a space where the traditional rules of their world are altered (gravity).
3. The energy or sacrifice of the collective to bring about a powerful, magical change for the hero.
Hieronymus Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (above) served as a blueprint for the 'GOD MODE' scene in AFTERLIFE (below), where the camera perspective reveals the physical relationship between the different worlds the piece unfolds in. In Bosch's painting, it is the contrasting relationships between the 3 different panels, and being able to see them all at once, which make the composition as a whole interesting. The corresponding AFTERLIFE scene is by no means as vivid and masterfully composed, but similarly to Bosch's triptych, we attempted to create a scene which tie all the different worlds of the piece together into a physical whole, creating an interesting friction in the relationships between the different universes, and how the audience might have imagined their relationship.