89 Seconds at Alcázar
The Rufus Corporation’s 89 Seconds at Alcázar, inspired by the Western masterpiece Las Meninas (Maids of Honour) painted in 1656 by the Spanish painter Diego Velasquez, is a fluid choreography that brings together visual atmosphere, performance and process. In Eve Sussman and The Rufus Corporation’s interpretation of the painting, Las Meninas is a ‘film still that predates photography by 200 years’. With this in mind, 89 Seconds at Alcázar was realized as a ten-minute high definition video piece that allows the eternal moment depicted in the painting to exist as a fleeting gesture and continue as if the movement had occurred in daily life.
Considered by Sussman to be the ‘first cinéma vérité moment’, the painting Las Meninas historically has been revered as groundbreaking for its ambiguous photographic quality, its use of perspective, and engagement in a dialogue about representation of the image. Various motives within the work successfully capture a moment as in photography, such as: the reflection of King Philip IV and Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain, in the mirror; the self portrait of Velasquez; the famous gaze of the Empress, Infanta of Spain; and the frozen gestures of the maids and Jose Nieto, the Queen’s Chamberlain, caught half in the doorway.
360 steadicam cinematographer Sergei Franklin worked in collaboration with Rufus Corporation company members, in particular choreographer Claudia de Serpa Soares. Initial improvisation explored how the characters might have entered the room, their underlying motives, psychological tensions, and emotions, out of which was eventually created an implied narrative for the piece. Velasquez scholar Jonathan Brown provided insight into the life and etiquette of the characters.
To re-create the salon in the Alcázar as closely as possible, the set was conceived by architect Robert Whalley and Master Scenic Rebecca Graves, and built in 4 weeks. Costume designer Karen Young recreated the baroque wardrobe through research at The Costume Institute and the exhibition ‘The French Taste for Spanish Painting’ organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The composer Jonathan Bepler developed the score with over 64 tracks of ambient, foleyed, and vocal recordings, in an atmospheric soundtrack that makes the room come to life.
89 Seconds at Alcázar offers a close panoramic look at the famous Velasquez painting as a point of departure: the piece takes on a unique direction of its own through the collaborative process of improvisation and non-verbal discourse of body language and performance.
89 seconds at Alcázar is a Rufus Corporation Production and has been made possible with generous support from: HD Cinema, Smack Mellon Studios, University of Hertfordshire Galleries, Microsoft, Panasonic, New York State Council on the Arts, Digital Society Computer Inc., Black Magic Design and Atto Technologies.