A sci-fi noir thriller comedy (of sorts) – concerns agent Kupa
, an extra-terrestial alien investigator who is sent to earth to try and find a taoist ‘master’ who is said to be a descendent of Pedanius Dioscorides
, a Greek army doctor at the time of the Romans, who it is alleged knows the secret of the hibiscus and a cure for a virus known as ‘tarantulism’
or the ‘dancing virus’ as it would be known as – referencing the Tarantela dance of Southern Italy.
Agent Kupa’s search takes him first to Kuala Lumper then to New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Kuala Lumper again Greece and finally to Italy. Along the way an un-named narrator relates various adventures, stories, facts and fictions pertaining to the various locations Agent Kupa passes through on his journey.
Hotel Hibiscus City.. Is an improvisation made in collaboration with the internet and world wide web.
It started life as a much shorter simple video travel diary of a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to share with friends. Completing the editing I watched it and a story began to emerge sparked by a short clip made in Clovelly near Sydney in Australia of a couple practicing 1950s style jive dancing in complete silence on the cliff top – no music – just them dancing. As I watched this clip I had the idea that dancing had perhaps become some kind of virus that this couple had caught somehow and that it was pandemic worldwide.
As well as being a favorite flower of ours the hibiscus is the flower of Kuala Lumpur city which boasts a huge municipal hibiscus garden containing hundreds of specimens. A clip of a neon sign shot in Kuala Lumpur announcing the existence of the Hotel Hibiscus City gave me a title and I decided to investigate the origins of the hibiscus flower via the internet.
I discovered it had been named by Pedanius Dioscorides a Greek doctor/pharmacologist in the Roman army, who had named it the hibiscus (hibiskos) and apparently discovered it had medicinal and hallucinogenic properties. He also discovered similar properties in marijuana.
Another clip was of Byron Bay on the east coast of Australia. I looked up the origin of its name thinking, wrongly, that it was named after the poet Lord Byron. Not only was I delightfully wrong but the whole, to me as yet unknown, story of Lord Byron and Italian anarchism unfolded before my eyes. I proceeded from there adding stories and facts, if not drawn from my own experience, culled from various sources on the internet or simply made up. Always intentionally unclear.
Places visited along way include the beach at Piha in New Zealand where Jane Campion filmed The Piano; an ex WW2 concrete bunker/scout hut now a folk music club in Auckland; a buddhist temple in Bangkok devoted to animals; Place names are investigated to reveal unsuspected origins and mysterious historical facts. Byron Bay in Australia, for example, is named after the grandfather of Byron the poet who, it turns out, was a member of an Italian anarchist group. A seagoing balsa wood raft is discovered in the sleepy retirement town of Balina on Australia’s north east coast which drifted with 12 crew members from South America across the Pacific Ocean in the 1970s. Homer the epic poet, Homer Simpson and Dante are encountered in one of the worlds largest shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur. Surfing and skate boarding philosophy are discussed as is the politics of the Returned Servicemen’s League of Australia and Japanese manuals on The Art Of War. The fate of indigenous peoples is contemplated as well as Fibonacci numbers in nature; Joseph Conrad is remembered in Bangkok and the Greek Rembetika singer/musician Markos Vamvakaris mysteriously appears on t.v. along with an Alevi Sufi musician, on the island of Syros in the mediterranean before Agent Kupa’s mission comes to an end on the beach in Anzio in Italy. Time travel and futuristic digital technology are also examined in this lo-fi / surrealist / sci-fi / film noir – thriller / comedy which pays homage to (amongst others) Chris Marker, Raul Ruiz, Borges and Juan De La Ponce the explorer who ‘discovered’ Puerta Rica, Florida and searched for the fountain of eternal youth … before Johnny Depp.
In 2008 my friend and fellow documentary film maker/composer Robert Iolini released an audio visual work titled ‘The Hong Kong Agent.‘ I was in Hong Kong for some performances at the same time when Robert was working on this piece and we shared some drifts around the city taking photos and shooting video. The Hong Kong Agent is an enigmatic alien figure who visits HK and engages us in a vertical narrative (as opposed to a horizontal one) over 18 ‘chapters’ of stories and experiences set in Hong Kong. I decided to borrow Roberts ‘agent’ and re-name him Agent Kupa which references one of my own on-line names and Agent Cooper in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
A fact that I didn’t know at the time and has been revealed to me only recently is that there actually was in the middle ages a dancing epidemic in Europe.