landscapes of aeon flux

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hi peter,

where do you get your inspiration for the landscapes of aeon flux?

one of my favorite things about the show (i have the DVD box set) is how you use these totally arid, depopulated landscapes that are both dirty (in the sense of dusty and run-down) and sterile (they are mostly empty).

i particularly like the landscapes in "the purge": the huge, empty train station and the empty construction lot bambara escapes into and the vast cabbage farm complex are striking images that come to mind even before the characters or the action when i think of aeon flux. other examples might be the monican base at the very end of the pilot, the desert landscapes in "gravity", the weirdly empty military complexes in "tide" and "leisure".

on one level, it's interesting because cyberpunk stories (and espionage stories in general?) usually happen in these very dense areas, like urban centers. and your stories have urban centers, and space stations, and military complexes and so on, places where you'd expect to see 1000s of people, but they're totally empty for some reason.

i wonder how much of these landscapes come from your experience at calarts. i'm always reminded of aeon flux when i'm driving in orange county and i take CA route 73, or when i'm exploring the back ways of san diego county - one second you'll be in a dense suburb, then you'll turn a corner or take the wrong freeway exit and you'll be in a totally empty flat plain of desert, which has been landscaped into total flatness and dotted with enormous concrete slabs and pillars in preparation for future building.

appreciate your thoughts.

moonship journey to baja, Friday, 4 January 2008 06:24 (fifteen years ago) link

the toll booths on CA route 73, especially striking because the 73 is usually more or less deserted ... i've *never* seen more than one other car at the tollbooth

moonship journey to baja, Friday, 4 January 2008 06:26 (fifteen years ago) link

also why are the landscapes so BIG compared to the characters? sometimes it's more like watching mice in an obstacle course or insects in a dollhouse. everything is weirdly out of scale ... i just watched "night"/"mirror" and the frank lloyd wright mansion she breaks into looks built for a hundred people, and the maintenance tunnel looks big enough to accomodate a fighter jet.

moonship journey to baja, Friday, 4 January 2008 06:35 (fifteen years ago) link

I'll use this opportunity to mention Tom McClure, who did a lot of the background design for the show starting with the second season of LTV shorts. I did all the backgrounds for the Pilot, as well as designing the architecture in Tide, both of which were conceived and staged around those specific spaces. Other episodes in which architecture plays a critical story element are Thanatophobia, Ether Drift Theory and The Purge. In each of those cases, I laid out rough plans which Tom translated into solid, structurally sound designs. Tom's experience was in architectural rendering and drafting, so he provided drawings that were well grounded in realism. I often had to push him to incorporate more fantastical elements.
For example, I'd tell him I'd need a train car without a floor, a swing in the middle and a metal door with a coin lock topped by a shelf holding a transparent piggy bank-- he'd look at me oddly for a minute, then do a perfect rendition of the image with all the mechanics looking like they could actually work.

Tom did the military base in War, the house in Mirror, Trevor's tower exterior, street scenes in Monica, Aeon's conapt in the Demiurge, the factory and broken border wall with moving railcars in Thanaopobia (a very specific and difficult design to make convincing) plus too many more to mention.

I did Trevor's office and bedroom, Aeon's B&D chamber, the general exterior plan of Sybil's and Aeon's apartments with the border wall between them (the most difficult of all the design problems for me, since so much had to happen there).

The food bank in the Purge required such precise measurements and needed to provide very specific views from certain angles that it was one of the more challenging designs in the show. I ended up doing it myself (since trying to explain all the requirements was impractical), with some help from Roger Dondis. The other artist who contributed backgrounds was Eric Canete.

The sparseness is partly due to wishing to avoid animating crowds of people in the background, but partly to give focus to what is important in a given scene. I have many books on architecture and for the most part, the images in them depict buildings with few or no people in them. I've always liked that idealized fantasy of the architect-- the order of their structures unsullied by the messiness of human infestation.

I prefer architectural environments on film to natural ones because they subliminally reflect the will and personality of a designer. They are potentially psychologically complex. Many of my dreams take place in modern megastructures like hotels, and airports. Much of my childhood was spent travelling, so I'm sure that's part of the reason.

Peter Chung, Sunday, 6 January 2008 18:48 (fifteen years ago) link

I've always liked that idealized fantasy of the architect-- the order of their structures unsullied by the messiness of human infestation.

haha you sound like trevor

moonship journey to baja, Monday, 7 January 2008 20:22 (fifteen years ago) link

Many of my dreams take place in modern megastructures like hotels, and airports

i have the same experience - i have lots of dreams that take place in shopping malls, maybe because i worked in one for like six years (i'm a teacher and grad student now). it's always the mall i worked in, but sometimes it's up high over a dark forest on stilts, sometimes it's built into the side of a deep canyon range in the mountains (like macchu picchu), sometimes it's buried under tons of dark clouds and it's always dark. at other times i have dreams in huge empty spaces that are like giant airport-sized versions of the public libraries that i spent time in as a child.

anyway thanks again for the thoughtful reply!!

moonship journey to baja, Monday, 7 January 2008 20:26 (fifteen years ago) link

This is all really interesting about who did what background in Aeon Flux. Those backgrounds were so magic to the scenes. I used to know an architect, Paul Yaeger. Was a really intense guy, deep. His work was beautiful. Designed Goldwater's home. His home was all about architecture, and it looked like Trevor's bedroom to some degree. That touch of Ayn Rand.

The whole thing brings to mind North by Northwest. I guess because that movie featured architecture so prominently.

Barb e., Tuesday, 8 January 2008 21:57 (fifteen years ago) link

I know what you mean Barb, I especially liked the background in the last scenes with Aeon from the Pilot where she goes to heaven and get her feet licked by that blue guy (Plus i loved the music and the sound in that scene). Some really beutiful stuff.

nalle, Thursday, 10 January 2008 03:16 (fifteen years ago) link

Speaking of architecture I recently came across a book, or a book that was rather recommended to me by an acquaintance called Super Potato Design, with works from architect Takashi Sugimoto. It was absolutely stunning to see some of the spaces that were taken and transformed into something magnificent. Some of the spaces I thought were a bit Aeonish, futuristic so to speak or fantastically out there. It’s not something I’m accustomed to seeing, it was really quite wonderful to view. It’s funny the day to day tasks that one goes through and is reminded of Aeon Flux in some way. :O)

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