For Fans Of: Michel Gondry, MC Escher
It’s easy to mistake Roel Wouters for a filmmaker. “[What I do is] more about creating a certain circumstance or a certain condition,” insists the 32-year-old Dutch artist who works under the moniker Xelor (a lawsuit-avoiding variance on his more natural nickname, Rolex). Though his creations encompass graphic design, web conceptualizations and performance art, Wouters’ videos for zZz’s “Grip” and My Robot Friend’s “Robot High School” are the fullest realization of his “machines” yet, each a one-take mindbender based on a Gondry-like series of inventions.
In “Grip,” an overhead camera captures trampolinists springing across the frame, recreating a computer desktop with impeccably choreographed humor. A rainbow umbrella substitutes for a Mac’s spinning Beachball of Annoyance while a man in a black bodysuit paints a real-time progress bar across the screen’s bottom. At the end, the camera angle changes, exposing a rapt audience watching it all happen live.
“I think it has to do with these worlds we live in, where people are so skeptical about everything,” Wouters says of the big reveal. “They don’t trust it immediately, because they think everything is Photoshopped. They don’t trust their eyes anymore.” Working in a home studio in Amsterdam, Wouters collaborates with his brother Job on posters—“We do that with all our hearts, sometimes we work for three days on [one], the two of us,” he says—and multimedia artist Luna Maurer on broader installations, including a series of argyle sweaters with hallucinatory grid variations.
“I never intended to become a director,” Wouters reiterates. “I have a hard time with all this categorization in media.” And though he recognizes a kinship with Michel Gondry, he denies the French filmmaker is a direct influence. Wouters has no desire to expand his work beyond the creativity-producing constraints of videos, let alone make features. “Maybe when I’m 40, I’ll think about it,” he says.