Rule of Three II

2017 Roundup


Rule of Three articles feature a trio of artworks that share an association with a single word. This roundup is a summary of half of the artworks featured in the Rule of Three column in 2017, from the words Moribund to Zodiac.

M to O

110 years on from her birth, Frida Kahlo’s influence only continues to grow. For Moribund, her swansong Viva La Vida was featured alongside the parting gift from another of the past century’s most iconic artists: David Bowie’s track ‘Blackstar’. Needlecraft includes Tracey Emin’s incendiary textile work Hate and Power Can Be a Terrible Thing and the tranquil video game, Journey, in which the player guides a robed figure through the desert.

Charles Alston’s Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. became a news story in 2017, when it was reported that the sculpture – placed in the Oval Office by Barack Obama on his inauguration – had been removed by the incoming President, Donald Trump. Though relocated to make space for a bust of Winston Churchill, the bronze work remains in residence, with the material’s magnetism recalling the preacher’s oratorical charisma.

P to R

Cerith Wyn Evans’s In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni takes its name from a Palindrome in Latin, the phrase’s cyclicality paralleled by the circular neon sculpture. The young protagonist of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible enjoys creating her own palindromes, making ‘a plaything of sentence and syntax’, while the musical palindromes in Anton Webern’s composition Variations for Piano may go unnoticed.

Coughs and splutters dominate the opening scenes of Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s film about a global pandemic. Acclaimed video game The Last of Us picks up after a similar incident, with its protagonist living in a Quarantine zone. The premise of Stacking sounds just as gloomy – a young boy must save his siblings from child labour – but all characters are Russian dolls, able to hop inside other dolls and use their unique skills to solve a series of humorous puzzles.

S to T

At the turn of the twentieth century, artists of the Vienna Secession sought to reclaim art from academia. Gustav Klimt created the monumental painting Beethoven Frieze for the group’s own exhibition hall. In Matteo Garrone’s mobster film Gomorrah, ‘secession’ refers to a turf war between gangs, while the game BioShock Infinite sees an airborne city secede from the United States.

Anne Patterson’s installation art is designed to simulate Synaesthesia; in Graced with Light, coloured ribbons trailed from the ceiling of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco while a cellist played nearby. Sensology, an animated film by fellow synaesthete Michel Gagné, reimagines a jazz composition as abstract visual patterns. The artworks in our article on Tintinnabular take inspiration from that onomatopoeic word, invented by Edgar Allan Poe to describe pealing bells.

U to V

The inhabitants of the Underworld are invoked in Sylvia Plath’s vivid poem ‘Two Sisters of Persephone’ and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ rollicking song ‘The Lyre of Orpheus’. The video game Grim Fandango is also preoccupied with the land of the dead, though it draws from Mexican tradition rather than Greek mythology. The player acts as Manny Calavera, a skeletal travel agent who must investigate the dodgy dealings cheating souls out of eternal rest.

Virtual reality may be on the cusp of entering everyday life, but the technology has been around for decades. Pioneer Char Davies was experimenting with VR over twenty years ago, in works such as the immersive Osmose, where audience members travel through twelve graphic worlds in turn. In celebration of the return of Twin Peaks, we revisited David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, exploring its theme of Voyeurism.

W to Z

Like Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, released in 2017, Lucile Hadžihalilović’s film Innocence takes place inside a remote boarding school for girls – albeit one where all is not as it seems. The school is located in Woodlands, as are Ali Smith’s sound story ‘The Green Stuff’ and the video for Björk’s song ‘Human Behaviour’. Artworks featured in Xhosa pay tribute to anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, musician Miriam Makeba, and the mother of poet Gcina Mhlophe.

Youth includes three stories of teenage experience: Céline Sciamma’s coming-of-age film Girlhood; Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World; and X-Ray Spex’s song ‘Germfree Adolescents’. Yuletide, meanwhile, comprises a trio of festive films: Todd Haynes’ romance Carol; Jalmari Helander’s alternative take on Santa Claus, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale; and Sean Baker’s riotous comedy drama Tangerine.

Last but not least is Zodiac, which includes S. D. Chrostowska’s short story ‘Gemini’, about two inseparable lovers, and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a game in which a boy must fight his way through the hordes of monsters in his basement. Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens – a possible 2018 Oscar winner for his work on Luca Guadagnino’s film Call Me By Your Name – showcases his experimental electronica side with ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’.

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