Bart Hess’ new art film series for Aesop transforms the body into a digital interface
Crisp winds whip down Melbourne’s Bourke Street mall where locals rugged up in their winter armour stop in their tracks to absorb the warm kinetic glow emanating from retailer Myer’s street-level windows. All seven, spanning over 60 m in their entirety, unveil a theatre of the senses as footage of male and female dancers interact rhythmically with tactile hybrid skins and emotive scenography. It marks Aesop’s fifth Myer Bourke Street window display and its first digital collaboration with an artist, Bart Hess, who in the past has worked with a roster of visionaries including Lady Gaga, Nick Knight and Iris van Herpen.
Epistēmē (the Ancient Greek term for knowledge and understanding) serves a dual purpose: to evoke the sensory experience of Aesop’s product offering (including skin, body, hair and personal care, alongside fragrance and ranges for travel and the home) and to distil the notion of absorbing knowledge through the senses, the skin being the interface between the body and the environment it inhabits. ‘I imagined the body as a canvas for the sensations felt and information absorbed. The figures undergo some kind of transformation based on the attributes of the products,’ notes Hess, whose work expresses his ongoing fascination with the human form using instinctive and futuristic textiles. In this case, they include the digitally manipulated material properties of foils, paper, PVC, latex and water colour patterns to create impressions of envelopment and volume.
Each window framing the imagery (ranging from 38 seconds to 3 minute loops) is dedicated to the aforementioned product categories against a backdrop of melodic futuristic soundscapes created by Ricky van Broekhoven that ripple with recordings of the materials used. ‘The films talk to the qualities of our products and the transformations which occur as they nourish both the physical and sensual being,’ clarifies Aesop’s creative director, Marsha Meredith.
The sequence commences with skin care. Folded and concertinaed golden translucent veils morph over the upper body. ‘Visually, it talks to intense vitamins nourishing your skin and the ritual of daily skin care routines,’ adds Marsh. The home (room sprays) window is fluidly expressed with women unfurling swathes of cape-like aromas that billow around the body like puffs of smoke. Representing fragrance, splintered paper-thin feathers taking their inspirational cue from origami adorn the limbs of figures like a Boccioni sculpture in motion to represent the crispness of the Tacit aroma. A woman magically floats in the travel window suggestive of Aesop’s approach to nurturing the skin and senses during journeys. ‘Satin-like ribbons support her body playing with the idea of material time,’ offers Hess.
Presented on variously sized grids, each sequence is uniquely self-contained, yet together with their heightened colour palettes (alluding to Aesop ingredients) and cinematic expression, they possess the mesmerising effect of drawing viewers in to experience the tactile sensations themselves. ‘As they’re deeply set from the street, the challenge was to communicate from a depth,’ adds Hess. Mechanical precision (so refined and precise) and organic fluidity co-exist harmoniously to portray liberated states and the confidence each product offering instills.
The windows at Myer Bourke Street will remain in motion until 29 July, whilst film stills will also be presented in the windows of Myer Queen Street in Brisbane and Myer George Street in Sydney during this time.§