Friday, 24 June 2011

Quay brothers at Manchester International Festival

Won't be missing this one:

Within the atmospheric spaces of Chetham’s School of Music, violinist Alina Ibragimova will perform a programme of musically connected works given a beguiling new visual context by legendary filmmakers and stage designers the Quay brothers. The performance will lead audiences of just 100 around the building and will feature a newly commissioned stop-motion animated film as a counterpoint to Bartok’s masterpiece, Solo Violin Sonata.

The Quays have long been favourites of mine, and I can't recommend their short films collection highly enough. The accompanying booklet includes a "Quay Brothers Dictionary" of their obsessions and influences, through which I discovered Polish posters, Bruno Schulz (who wrote Street of Crocodiles, on which the Quays based an astonishing short), Robert Walser (author of Jakob Von Gunten, a novel they adapted as the live action feature Institute Benjamenta), and the puppet films of Jiří Trnka.

Originally from a town near Philadelphia, the brothers moved to London in 1969 to study illustration at the RCA, and they worked as illustrators for a while before moving into animation. Their work from this time is hard to track down, but you can see some of their designs for Italo Calvino covers at feuilleton (1, 2). According to Wikipedia, they also did covers for Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a book on Andrei Tarkovsky by Mark le Fanu (this one?), and the Simon & Schuster edition of Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer (possibly this one), as well as a series of drawings for an Anthony Burgess novel. And from the catalogue for the recent exhibition Uncanny: Graphic Design and Surrealism, below is their poster for a 1983 album by Duet Emmo (Wire's Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert plus Daniel Miller). It appears to have been at least partly inspired by this poster by Roman Cieślewicz. You can order the Uncanny catalogue here, if you don't mind paying through the nose for postage.

Finally, there's a new book on the Quays by Suzanne Buchan, which Sight and Sound describes as a "bold but doomed attempt to decode [their] work."

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