Sunday, February 5, 2012

Eiko Ishioka Tribute

Eiko Ishioka was a goddamn genius, and she died on January 21st. I'm sure there have been a number of blog posts about her, but I wanted mine to be broad, sweeping, and image-heavy, analogous to her work.

While her designs are very distinct, they tend to defy classification. Most of her clothing was comprised of huge quantities of fabric and often included beautiful embroidery, masks and dramatic neck and headpieces. She also had a thing for armour. Lush, overwhelming, eerie, otherworldly and frightening are some other adjectives that come to mind to describe it. Personally I'd say that she designed on the dreamlike visionary level of a couple of my other favourites, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.

I'm now exceptionally glad that I bought Eiko by Eiko - the enormous hardcover coffee table compendium of her fashion, design and advertising work - from Goodwill Online about three years ago, despite the fact that it's been damaged by what appears to have been a small child with scissors. With shipping I paid about $20 for it; it retails on Amazon for $285 new, $80+ used. I really need to get back to NYC (where she ended up living) for a number of reasons, one of them being to see some of her work on permanent display at MoMA.

("There are no rails on the High Heel Express")

As you can see, I've just picked and shared some of my favourite Parco ads from the book, but what I enjoy most is the fact that she basically introduced the idea of selling emotions instead of tangible products. One wonderful example from her last campaign for the Japanese department store chain is a commercial in which she directed Faye Dunaway to carefully peel and eat a hard boiled egg. Her trained movements are alternately quick and sensual, creating a rhythmic and mildly erotic dance of sorts that compliments the background music. You can watch it here.

Ishioka designed costumes for opera and Broadway productions as well as Cirque du Soleil's Varekai.

Something else you've probably seen and been blown away by is the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. I remember watching it without moving and almost without blinking. It was completely befitting to her epic repertoire.

She totally ripped off Yayoi Kusama with these ones and I don't even care. 
They were probably friends.

She also directed Björk's Cocoon video.

And now the films. In chronological order. First, she designed the costumes in Bram Stoker's Dracula. I wish I had pictures of (1) Dracula's incredibly long cloak that looks like a pool of blood and (2) the flowing red shawl and corset Lucy wears when she's lured outside and subsequently ravaged by Dracula as a werewolf. I might watch the movie and post them later.

Then there was The Cell, the first of four films on which she would collaborate with director Tarsem Singh. It's just like the most elaborate and jarring nightmare ever, I love it. 
There are quite a few abstract postmodern art references within it that you can read a bit about here. That blog's not particularly well-written, but I'm not going to pretend I was savvy enough to have caught them myself.

Next was The Fall. It's worth mentioning that David Fincher presented it for its theatrical release. You should at least watch the trailer because these pictures don't do it justice.

Had I been aware that Immortals was a Singh/Ishioka flick I definitely would have seen it; I was able to contain my joy about Stephen Dorff getting his hair back so that alone wasn't adequate motivation. 

While I did finally see Immortals and was really not impressed by anything other than the visuals, I'm glad it wasn't the last Singh/Ishioka collaboration. 
In a couple of months Mirror Mirror, a Snow White story, is coming out. It's obviously going to kick the shit out of Snow White and the Huntsman, though that terrible Twilight actress who can't keep her mouth closed might dictate otherwise in terms of revenue. 

Having seen Mirror Mirror (this post, of course, was originally written five years ago), I must say that once again I was not impressed by anything but the visuals, though I do applaud the effort to create something quirky, weird, and totally different from what people expected. 
These later two certainly do not detract from the greatness of the former two, especially The Fall.

I think Eiko Ishioka created a dimension of reality all her own that can evoke any and all emotions with its mesmerising beauty and grandiose scale, the likes of which most wouldn't dare to imagine. The world is a less profound place without her.