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Essays on Reality

London-based Swiss director Greg Barth premieres his latest work

by Gaspard Nemec in Culture on 11 January 2013

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There's a good chance you have come across Greg Barth's work recently. In the past two years, the Swiss multi-disciplinary art and video director has gotten noticed among enlightened circles, as well as the general public, for his clearly identifiable aesthetic combined with audacious choices of content. After graduating from University of Art and Design of Lausanne (ECAL), Barth moved from Geneva to Montreal where he studied 3D animation for cinema, and established his studio. With clients ranging from record labels such as Sony Music Entertainment to humanitarian organizations like United Nations Geneva, Barth set himself apart for the diversity of his projects.

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Among his most notable projects is the critically acclaimed music video Barth recently directed for Passion Pit, "I'll Be Alright," which depicts the psychedelic experience of a depressed art museum guard on medication. His impressive re-branding of 7TV Russia, featured in the well-respected Gestalten publication, HIGH TOUCH 2012, also showcased the extent of Barth's abilities in the realm of art direction and advanced camera techniques.

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When not taking part in design competitions or working for renowned clients, Barth enjoys devoting his time to personal projects where he can let his imagination run free. In this respect, Greg Barth created Essays on Reality, a series of short clips exploring societal themes that have made an impression on him throughout the year. "I want to express how I relate to our humanity," says Barth. "Its themes, situations, cultures, events. Reading the news regularly, an inspiring event would often spark a quirky visual interpretation of it in my mind, a caricature of its existence." Political and cultural events provide the art director with the opportunity to draw caricatures of our contemporary society, ourselves included. Released a year ago, Essays on Reality Chapter I, the first of the series, is available on his website. The project gathers three short essays interpreting themes ranging from the Arab Spring to our consumer society.

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By combining colorful and simple imagery with meaningful symbols, Barth offers an off-beat representation of those issues by giving them a quirky and absurd character that's at the same time infused with understandable logic. The Essays on Reality series avoids all computer generated animation—all effects are done through camera tricks, live action special effects and stop motion animation. "I like working with real materials, people and physical sets," says Barth. "It's much more fun and challenging, but it also gives a texture and feel that is impossible to simulate in CG." For the music and sound design, Barth collaborated with composer Nookaad who provided the project a soundscape skillfully following the tone of the essays.

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Along with a micro website and an exclusive making-of, the Swiss art director is today releasing Essays on Reality II, the second part of the series that we're thrilled to be premiering on Cool Hunting. Essays on Reality II is divided into three parts. Under the umbrella of Generation Y, the themes of hardcore pornography, ambiguous relationships with social technologies and the collapse of European Union are subsequently addressed and satirized.

Like the first episode of the series, Essays on Reality II is characterized by "naive and minimalist" yet meaningful aesthetics. "I have always liked the correlation between simplicity and meaningful," explains Barth. "This contrast is what I love about the series, finding complexity and meaning in the simple, and the absurd in logic." Barth's concepts and their interpretation stem from existentialist and surrealist art figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Marcel Duchamp or Salvadore Dali while his aesthetic influences lay among artists like Jeff Koonz, Maurizio Cattelan, or Matthew Barney. Whether we agree or not with the vision of the society depicted by Barth, the disturbing and intriguing nature of his work won't leave you indifferent.

Visit Barth's website to see his work, and visit his blog, Polygonal Matters, for a good source of daily inspiration.

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