MOBO Spotlight on Art: Noush Like Sploosh
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.” This memorable sentence lends itself to vivid imagery of a young girl locked in a tower, lowering her long golden hair out of a window; in the minds of those who are familiar with the classic. Fairytales such as ‘Rapunzel’ by Brothers Grimm have been read by most of us during our childhood. From ancient Persia’s dastans to 19th century Denmark’s Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, stories and storytelling have been an integral component of culture for time immemorial. Moral guidance, education, preservation of culture to sheer entertainment, their purposes have remained very much the same over time.
With the age of innovation and technological advancement, there comes another type of storytelling- that of transmedia. Transmedia storytelling is the technique of conveying stories across multiple platforms through the embracement of technology. In the digital age, this type of storytelling diffuses the lines between types of media whether traditional or new, processes involved, the resulting product; art and reality. Some of the finest examples of transmedia storytelling are ARGs or Alternate Reality Games which use an interactive narrative and user participation to define and deliver stories which optimise user experience. Nine Inch Nails 2007 concept album Year Zero accompanied by an ARG based on the album, is considered to be a highly successful transmedia project.
Such artistic synthesis is not altogether a new phenomenon. One can see semblance of it in the works of Aeschylus and its notion later propounded by Wagner through his term 'Gesamtkunstwerk'. In the modern context, transmedia is still a new concept and its artists, few in number and not so easily identifiable. I serendipitously came across one such artist- Noush Like Sploosh.
It was in early 2011 that I stumbled upon ‘3 Act Circus’ and was instantly captivated. The experimental collaborative project is the brainchild of Dubai based transmedia artist Noush Like Sploosh who is joined by award winning artist Fathima Mohiuddin and acclaimed photographers Mansoor Bhatti and Sherif Mokbel.
‘3 Act Circus’ is a stop-motion animated video for Noush’s single entitled the same, where stunning visual art deliciously courts music. The audio musical story, vaudeville enriched with interjections of film noir; revolves around three forgotten circus characters- a detective, a vamp and a court jester. Unloved and directionless, the three characters are confronted with existing in a world where they are now mere shadows of their former selves; devoid of applause, devoid of acceptance. ‘The Animal’- live illustrations painstakingly hand drawn by Mohiuddin, creeps on characters, props and narrator Noush. The avant-garde video is an osmosis of artistic disciplines with a narrative compelling from the very outset, providing sensory fodder that cerebrally delights as scenes unfold. Dualistically melancholic and playful, artistry is exemplary leaving viewers with food for thought as any great story should.
A continuation of the ‘3 Act Circus’ narrative is the short film ‘The Sleepless Love Project’ documenting its meticulous making. The documentation of the artistic journey entered the Gulf Film Festival in 201, where it was well received.
Embracing multi-dimensional storytelling, Noush’s work encompasses music, theatre, animation and illustration. The striking singer, songwriter, stage designer and animator has worked as a production designer in the realms of dance and theatre in Canada followed by working on feature films and graphic design in India. The artist’s clientele includes FTV, Warner Bros and Philips to name but a few. As a musician, Noush has been nominated twice for the Jack Daniel’s Rock Awards and was voted the Best Alternative Act by triplew.me in 2010. With such diverse skill sets, convergence into transmedia is an organic process for the spirited artist.
Noush Like Sploosh gives an insight into her artistic journey thus far…
MOBO: Tell us about your childhood…
Noush: I accidentally read Little Birds by Anaïs Nin when I was eight.
MOBO: Who are your artistic influences?
Noush: William Kentridge, Robert Wilson, Tim Burton and Tom Waits are probably the most prominent story tellers I've absorbed in awe, over the past few years but I'm seeing artists every day that are definitely having an impact on the way I work and want to work. tUnE-yArDs blows my mind both with her music and the visuals that accompany her songs. Artists that I meet, or whose work I see online- the "shit, why didn't I think of that" factor which always inspires me to keep exploring my instincts. I really love David Shrigley's illustrations and look through a book of his when I'm feeling hopeless about the universe and it always cheers me up.
MOBO: You worked as a theatre designer and analog animator in Canada. What was the experience like?
Noush: Wonderful because it gave me practical skills that apply to a lot of different creative tasks. I gleaned a surprisingly large amount of information on adhesives; more useful than I expected.
MOBO: As a graphic and scenic designer, your clientele has included FTV, Philips, The Climate Project India and Warner Bros. How difficult is it to be commercially credible as an artist?
Noush: I think commercial credibility has to do with some pretty common sense logistical practicalities and remembering that your shit needs to be accessible to connect with people- which I believe in regardless of commercial viability. The swing about clientele is a pretty rocky ride for me personally because I'm really terrible at pulling the bullshit card; and somehow no matter how it's cut, pitching to a client usually requires some degree of bullshitting, or talking a really simple albeit sometimes genius, concept into some grandiose answer to all their market share dreams. I'm discovering that my favourite clients are basically other artists- doing artwork for musicians and music for filmmaker-visual types because we're speaking the same language and the rocket science is left to the rocket scientists. Saying all that though, when a commercial commission comes up, creating a viable pitch, staying on budget and meeting a deadline and following through with quality product is the bottom line I think in any industry.
MOBO: Total artistic synthesis delineates your artistic philosophy. Has Wagner’s ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ been a point of reference?
Noush: Robert Wilson's work totally has, and I wrote an essay on 'Total Art: the Synthesis of Film & Theatre' for my final in Film Aesthetics 101, and got a B for it. It's been in my head forever, this fuzzy vision of fusing fashion shows and ice skating and elegant disco lights with fake snow and fake fur. I keep running into weird projects where different mediums bleed, converse and argue and collaborating artists are down with this total encompassing sensory extravaganza. It’s really vital for me that each portion of a whole resonates and echoes with the essence of the whole and this isn't just an artistic philosophy; I believe that this is how our multiverse operates and in order to connect with other beings in our species, we need to communicate using this essential tongue.
MOBO: You are a transmedia artist embracing multiple disciplines. ‘3 Act Circus’ is a product of this. Could you tell us more about the piece and the collaborators?
Noush: '3 Act Circus' was my heart piece and freaky coincidences occurred at every stage of the project. The song was written kind of by accident when my brother and I were recording a demo of my acoustic stuff, released incidentally in its first scratch version on a compilation called ‘Stupid Ditties’ and somehow got heard by people and noticed, which was all a bit "huh?" for me and my bro. I wrote the script for the video building upon the images that were there when I wrote the lyrics about these three washed-up circus characters with no one to love and nowhere to go. I met the other artists accidentally as well. Fathima Mohiuddin, who did the illustrations and scenic art that we animated; and I fell deeply deeply in love with her work. Mansoor Bhatti and Sherif Mokbel, whose work I'd been courting from a distance, finally got connected too and who showed up the week we were shooting and saved the shoot by actually knowing how to shoot. I'd very naively thought my brother, eighth month pregnant sis-in-law and I could somehow shoot this with three lights in my parents' garage in the middle of Dubai summer. By the grace of the circus angels, the four of us that were pretty much creative strangers to each other, discovered some far-out synergy I've not experienced before even after years of working in theatre, even explicitly studying collaborative dynamics. It was a really lovely, efficient shoot because we kept things simple, each had our respective variables that were crucial to the final product and could focus on our own shit while still having a lot of trust to give input to the bridges between our disciplines.
MOBO: What role does technology currently play in art and what do you envisage for the future?
Noush: 'Works of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' is possibly the sexiest sentence I've ever read and stuff like 'Remix Manifesto' is the right-now offspring of the digital access syndrome. Technology's primary functions, as I see it, are to unify the tiny subgroups to generate obscure cultural movements, diversify content so that the mainstream stories aren't predictably suburban white American, decentralise the entire concept of the "mainstream" into a multitude of streams- streaming, real-time, just-happened happenings. Connection, Access, Skill-Share and Innovation; and that’s just YouTube. Don't even get me started on 7D's. I'm excited about learning the newer technologies for performance design and art.
MOBO: Which music artists are currently on your radar?
Noush: Kimbra, from New Zealand, she has madly got her shit together. tUnE-yArDs, CocoRosie, Björk, Foreign Beggars, Sridhar/Thayil. Fiona Apple and The Roots never leave the radar; they're the centre bull’s eye thingy that everything else beeps around.
MOBO: What does the future hold for Noush Like Sploosh?
Noush: Hopefully pursuing my different skills to a level of serious shit-blasting mastery, travelling freely to uncensored, lagoonesque coastal cities, collaborating with artists who teach me NASA type technology and getting paid for it.
"My music teacher used to tell me about how musicians are just like radios and it's their job to tune into the divine airwaves..." Noush’s ‘3 Act Circus’ narrative continues with a charismatic TEDx Talk in Dubai. Accompanied by a cellist with projections of her animations emblazoned behind, the artist speaks and at times sings about her heartpiece and the transmedia process. The artist captivates the audience just like all great storytellers; and leaves discerning listeners with much food for thought.
From ‘3 Act Circus’ to the recent Anarchy Pop collaboration Man Eats Women, Noush’s zest for creativity seems ceaseless as the talented transmedia artist continues to diligently explore the Arts. "Singsongalonging, harmoniqueen, guitarchitecture, animastation, shoot wisely, pack lightly," is the artist's own axiom encapsulating her work, her life. Every great story needs a grand ending; Noush's interactive narrative continues to be jovially documented chapter by chapter and in the future perhaps even, volume by volume.
For information on Noush Like Sploosh please click here.
Photography: Mansoor Bhatti and Sherif Mokbel.
Reema Kumari Jadeja ©