If Luis Buñuel had somehow detoured into a life making promotional lookbooks, they might have ended up something like the stop-motion video filmmaking duo Grave of Seagulls recently put together for our friends at Fredericks & Mae. The video was conceived to celebrate Fredericks & Mae’s 2012 collection, which is based loosely on the Mayan idea that 2012 marks the end of the world, and includes things like worry beads, backgammon and dominoes sets (with which to bide your time waiting for the apocalypse?), and a special edition of their signature arrows, featuring black feathers on dyed-black dowels. Says Lauryn Siegel of Grave of Seagulls: “I randomly saw their work over a year ago and immediately knew it would be great on film no matter how it’s seen — as a commercial, as a documentation of work and process, as a stop-motion, or as a piece of design.” We recently spoke to the filmmakers and to Fredericks & Mae to get the scoop on the film, which debuts below, today on Sight Unseen.
The video has this dark, Black Narcissus vibe going on, which in a way runs counter to the cheerful nostalgia Fredericks & Mae’s work evokes. Why did you choose this direction?
Grave of Seagulls: “The video was meant to highlight the color and beauty of the products themselves and show them in a gallery-like environment to show their innate artistry and craft. We were inspired to go darker mainly to play off all the color and humor of the objects themselves. A lot of their pieces — while they look fun and quaint — are actually instruments of destruction or competition, which is an interesting dichotomy to set up in the first place.
That’s true, and many of the items in the new collection have a darker palette. What were your visual inspirations?
Fredericks & Mae: “Inspiration comes from all over the place. The black-and-white graphics on the backgammon and checkers sets came out of a fascination with rugs — or I guess broadly with textiles. The Reversi set is based on an old board my grandmother brought with her when she left Berlin. The celestial dominoes are a loose play on our logo, which is rooted in the language of flags, heraldry and star charts.
Why do a video lookbook at all rather than some other form of promotion?
Grave of Seagulls: “Every aspect of Fredericks & Mae’s work has so much life in it. Stop-motion seemed like an amazing way to bring inanimate objects to life in a more tangible way. Simple photography can only capture so much of an objects’ power, especially with something like dominoes, which is a game that’s intended to move and be touched.”