Reign of Winter by Rokni Haerizadeh (2016)
directed, edited & original music by Adrian Lo
photographed by Fred Cheung
commissioned by Yallay Gallery
special thanks to Rokni Haerizadeh
Yallay Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition on the work of Iranian artist Rokni Haerizadeh centers on the singular rotoscope video Reign of Winter (2012-13). The animated film—based on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton—is made from image stills downloaded from the Internet and over-painted by hand. In Reign of Winter, as in his greater body of work, Haerizadeh examines the idea that as we indulge in lavish, choreographed rituals, we also succumb to sordid, animalistic tendencies, both of which are exploited in mass-media spectacles.
The rotoscope video format—based on thousands of hand-painted images—allows Haerizadeh to work in a newly-created medium, which he calls moving paintings: "A painting is usually received by the viewer and by the critic as a fixed and static object, with the entire process of generating the work far removed from the final piece. It’s important for me to add this element of ‘time’, to slow down the process and to make that process visible. In this way, the painting unfolds before your eyes and transforms gradually." The movement, pulse and vibration in the video’s succession of individually painted drawings differentiate this medium from both painting and video art. Haerizadeh’s physical, bodily engagement as he sketches a line of drawings in front of him in a rhythmic style—alike to the practice of Pollock and Fontana—is echoed in the sequencing of his animations.
Reign of Winter (2012-13) takes inspiration from a poem of the same title by the late Iranian contemporary poet Mehdi Akhavan Sales, which describes the cold cruelty of winter and the colorless existence of those left outside. Fittingly, Haerizadeh’s animation features snowlike white dots that fall along the perimeter of the frame. The scene follows two headless figures, one in a white wedding dress with a long, trailing veil-wig of black ink and the other in a red uniform that morphs between breasts, genitals, and horse legs. The hybridized couple, together with an array of animal-human characters, transition from a fur-frenzied ceremony at Westminster Abbey, to a rabbit-headed carriage-cum-bathtub ride down the Mall, to the balcony of Buckingham Palace which been replaced by the fabled Crystal Palace.
Haerizadeh’s farcical, shape-shifting imagery gives an account of the event that is antithetical to its coverage by the press. His mockery of the wedding emphasizes not only the hysteria of the occasion but also its manipulation by the media. The facelessness of the participants, and their supplanting with fantastic creatures, renders Reign of Winter not about the wedding of Kate and William, but rather about an elaborate and voyeuristic spectacle forged by the media.