Artefact Critical Analysis – CW1 Submission (Imagine)

The title of my creative artefact responding to the word ‘Imagine’ is ‘Musca Domestica’ which roughly translated is the scientific name for Housefly in Latin. This is a Surrealist short which I experimented with after researching into the movement and the impact it had on film and art as a whole. For this artefact, I wanted to examine obsessions and fetishes, how humans can hide something that is often a huge part of who they are as individuals. In this case I examined an obsession with houseflies, their bodies, their movements, their eyes. The characteristics of a fly are demonstrated in different ways throughout the short. It is about the human’s transition as he looks to reclaim his obsession, this time it is far more intense as his fascination takes over his conscious state. I wanted to experiment with the concept of Surrealism and create not just a video but a piece of art that makes people question it’s contents. They may be shocked, they may not like the video, they may love it. This doesn’t matter to me, my aim is to get them talking, looking deeper into the meaning of the artefact.

The inspiration for this idea came from a variety of Surrealist films and my knowledge of the movement through research and personal interest. I had recently watched the film ‘Conspirators of Pleasure’ (D. Jan Svankmajer, 1996) which identifies peoples secret passions, their desires, to an extent their fetishes and their obsessions. The images can be considered ‘shocking’ but this is more in the way that they are constructed. Objects are sexualised and certain sounds can conjure thoughts of a sexual nature.”Svankmajer is a poet of the physical. There almost no nudity in Conspirators, and no explicit reference to genitals, but this is a most sensuous (as opposed to sensual) movies.” (Smalley, 2016) I wanted to show such an obsession in my own work but not through explicit material but through visual exploration that represents the sexualisation. The idea to showcase a human’s obsession was clear but I developed the idea over time as I couldn’t decide what would be the subject of this obsession. I wanted to use a USB Digital Microscope and record certain actions as it recorded in a lower frame rate and at a 4:3 ratio. This would direct the attention to the centre of the screen and thus providing an opportunity to alter the content in the background, relating to transition. The video shows the human’s obsessions with houseflies growing deeper, darker and almost controlling him at times. The edit was a crucial part of the development of this artefact. I had spent time looking at some work by Kenneth Anger and the Avant-grade and Surrealist shorts he had produced over many decades. One interesting project ‘Rabbit’s Moon’ (D. Kenneth Anger, 1979) which was actually shot in 1950 but wasn’t completed until 1972, then re-released again in 1979. The final version was completely different, the cut was a lot shorter, the soundtrack had completely changed. The short had entirely new meaning, transformed from a style that befits almost Italian neorealism with the music used, into a darker avant-garde experimental style film. The power of the edit has always been clear. I wanted to ensure that the cuts I was making in my artefact were fluid at times as emphasis builds and harsher towards the end as we see the human’s obsessions almost spiralling out of control. One shot shows the rapid eye movements of the central character as he is almost overcome with his fetish, overpowered by the thoughts swirling through his head. Colour changes throughout to alter focus on different areas of the screen and different subjects. The screen is like a canvas where you can build up different layers over time that all bear significance to the final piece. There were trial and error processes through filming and editing but this was the best bit. Experimenting with different equipment and techniques that I wasn’t used to ensured that I was out of my comfort zone, the best place to be for any creative looking to create something special.

In order to fully realise this idea, I did some more research into the Surrealist themes of love and obsession. According to Richardson (2006, p.174) “Love in surrealism is never simply an intensity of passion or attraction”. It works far deeper than just the obvious feeling. The reasons for the character’s fetish, how he has come to understand and realise this, how it has almost taken over his life. I wanted the audience to come away wanting to know more, they may be confused but this will lead to questions which may have no answer. Every interpretation of my work will be different. I also spoke to a number of my colleagues and peers about insects that they like, if any, sparking a number of confused and odd responses. Many said how they disliked flies as they are always present in their lives. Around the house, in the garden; pretty much wherever you go there will be flies. I wanted to focus the obsession on houseflies as there was such a negative response towards them. One person even claimed that flies made them feel sick. Surrealist film uses shocking imagery to capture the attention of the audience and make them feel a certain away about the subject matter. There wasn’t exactly one emotion or one feeling I wanted to evoke from my piece. I wanted to generate a reaction whether it be positive or negative. Many people said they felt disturbed after watching my artefact and that the piece was slightly unnerving as it progressed. It was essential that I spoke to people before starting my artefact as it helped me realise the potential of the video, how I could maybe shock these people, surprise them with the direction I was taking. Otherwise I may not have delivered it in the right way and the idea would never have been fully realised.

This wasn’t my first attempt at Surrealist film but it was a technical and theoretical change to before. I really spent time identifying my idea, understanding how people could react, researching into the themes and how they have been explored over the years through this movement. These films have a far deeper impact on us as it covers aspects of life that are often sheltered away. It explores subjects that aren’t traditionally a part of the media world, that aren’t ‘ok’ for mass consumption. Not to say that this is entirely the case as Surrealist films can include topical events and aspects of popular culture but they are delivered in an entirely unique way that gets to the very core of the subject and it’s true meaning(s). “Surrealism reaches to the bottom of reality. We feel it. It knocks the breath out of us…” (Kuenzli, 1996, p. 202) We experience something so different it can shock us, it can confuse us, it can even scare us. Humans are scared of the unknown, scared of change. Many of us find it difficult to embrace it but that is one of the core reasons why the Surrealist movement started. To force us to watch. To force us to think differently about any given subject and examine deeper meanings that we may have previously ignored. My artefact exists as a Surrealist short that in a nutshell looks at human love and obsession for something non-human. It is more than just that though as it explores transition and how our desires can control us, taking over our conscious state. It works on different levels in response to these themes but as I previously mentioned, it can also depend on the interpretation of the audience. My intentions are only a part of this piece as it’s bigger than that. It’s about the viewers reactions, questions, feelings and how they look at what I’ve produced. I may be happy with the video but my efforts are for the feedback. I do not yearn for positive comments, I look to understand how the video makes a person feel, how they may relate to it, how they may not? This is the beauty of film; the level in which it can possibly impact a person and their entire being.

Through my research and development for this artefact, I have a better understanding of how Surrealism works and how the movement impacted the arts and specifically film. It inspired a number of creatives to work differently with a whole new way of thinking and looking at the world with fresh eyes. Juxtapositions, the use of shocking imagery to make people think harder, to stand up and question things instead of remaining quiet and obedient. I have used new equipment that worked extremely well and I may even use the Digital Microscope again for a future project. I was happy with how the video developed and how the idea came to light. To improve this piece I would possibly remove some of the background content as at times you could say there was too much going on. The intention still was to show certain characteristics of the fly acted through the human as well as perspective shots of the world. In the future I may look to focus the overall look of the video to one specific grade instead of the combinations I had included. I’d like to make a surrealist film in black and white, possibly shooting on 35mm film or at least using older equipment. I have learnt that the themes, the story, the messages in the film are more important than anything technical especially in terms of a Surrealist piece. Going forward I look to further explore this approach to filmmaking and delve deeper into human behaviour and different relationships we have with the world around us.

Bibliography:

Conspirators of Pleasure. (1996) Film. Directed by Jan Svankmajer.

KUENZLI, R. (1996) Dada and Surrealist Film 1st Ed. MIT Press.

Rabbit’s Moon (1979) Short Film. Directed by Kenneth Anger

RICHARDSON, M. (2006) Surrealism and Cinema 1st Ed. Berg Publishers.

SMALLEY, G. (2016) 226. Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) [Online] January 20th, 2016. Available from: http://366weirdmovies.com/226-conspirators-of-pleasure-1996/ [Accessed: 11th November 2016]

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