Having completed my reflection of the life and works of Susan Sontag in appropriation video 1, I turned my attention to ideas for appropriation video 2.
In doing this I wanted to draw in some of the surreal images I had experienced in the last few months both at the Paris Photo show and Joan Fontcuberta’s exhibition at the Science museum. A further influence also had to be the marvellous surreal paintings of Dean Reynolds which so reminded me of Alice in Wonderland with its strange landscapes, beings and incredible looking plants.
Additionally the fantasy like images of Tim Walker, the films of Tim Burton and the grand daddy of Surrealists, Salvador Dali.
In trying to follow my current theme of myths, miracles and legends I also decided that there was one other area I had yet to explore – fairy stories. From Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm comes a wealth of folk tales woven into moral stories delivered to generations of children.
In blending the work of these artists and the fairy tale authors, my initial idea is to bring these fairy stories up to date. The tale of Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Humpty Dumpty, to name but three, could all be re told in a much more dark and sinister way by appropriation video. Inspiration for the latter comes from the Pixar movie, Puss in Boots (starring Humpty) recently shown over Christmas on television, a distinctly different Humpty from the childhood rhyme.
Taking this idea further I started to do some you tube searches on Grimm’s fairy tales and discovered several examples where this idea had been exploited before. The most interesting of these suggested that the goody – goody image of the Disney versions of these tales hides a dark truth. The original versions of these fairy tales were very dark and in many cases quite gruesome.
My task now was to link this with an art context and to develop the idea to meet the appropriation brief.
The idea was to have the words of the tale appearing on the bottom of the screen with images, video and stills complimenting what was being said. I wanted the mood of the piece to be gothic in style, but using imagery not directly associated with that genre. A good example of my aim would be the Chris Marker film ‘La Jetee’. Many of the stills in this film when viewed singularly and out of context appear benign but when viewed in context generate a tension. Its this tension I want to create in my appropriation film from apparently benign stills and video.
Once I reviewed La Jetee I found it offered a complete set of visuals that could be reinterpreted to tell a different story. So I made the decision to use this film as a base but to marry it with another source.
Another element I also explored in an effort to creating tension is the addition of instrumental music.
I have found a company called AKM which provide (for a fee) incidental music for movie makers. The fee includes a licence to use the music on the supplied CD’s, in any videos I create and the right to broadcast the sound track.
Trawling through a number of You Tube short films for audio recordings of the Grimm fairy stories revealed a few interesting conclusions. Firstly the Americans dominate the animation market in relation to fairy stories for children. Whilst this dialogue maybe amusing for a minute or two, to tell the whole story would take on average 7-8 minutes. The child like way the story was told in many of these films frankly made them unusable. I wanted a more edgy and dark telling of the tale so that it matched the edgy atmosphere of La Jetee.
Broadening my research I started to look at gothic tales and celtic and norse mythologies. My research also led to poems and my thoughts were of a spoken poem by someone whose voice added a level of tension. Alas the Americans were present in this field too. I found a possible poem but the audio was of an American voice who was just about as far removed from Viking as you could get.
Continuing my search I came across this particular poem which was on a website where the film only played music allowing you read the poem as it scrolled through. Alas the ‘music’ was once again American and in the style similar to the annoying music derogatorily called “Lift Musac”
The Norsemen ( From Narrative and Legendary Poems )
by John Greenleaf Whittier
GIFT from the cold and silent Past! A relic to the present cast, Left on the ever-changing strand Of shifting and unstable sand, Which wastes beneath the steady chime And beating of the waves of Time! Who from its bed of primal rock First wrenched thy dark, unshapely block? Whose hand, of curious skill untaught, Thy rude and savage outline wrought? The waters of my native stream Are glancing in the sun’s warm beam; From sail-urged keel and flashing oar The circles widen to its shore; And cultured field and peopled town Slope to its willowed margin down. Yet, while this morning breeze is bringing The home-life sound of school-bells ringing, And rolling wheel, and rapid jar Of the fire-winged and steedless car, And voices from the wayside near Come quick and blended on my ear,– A spell is in this old gray stone, My thoughts are with the Past alone!
A change! — The steepled town no more Stretches along the sail-thronged shore; Like palace-domes in sunset’s cloud, Fade sun-gilt spire and mansion proud: Spectrally rising where they stood, I see the old, primeval wood; Dark, shadow-like, on either hand I see its solemn waste expand; It climbs the green and cultured hill, It arches o’er the valley’s rill, And leans from cliff and crag to throw Its wild arms o’er the stream below. Unchanged, alone, the same bright river Flows on, as it will flow forever! I listen, and I hear the low Soft ripple where its water go;I hear behind the panther’s cry, The wild-bird’s scream goes thrilling by, And shyly on the river’s brink The deer is stooping down to drink.
There are 5 more verses to this.
The essence of the poem was of the right feel but the content was too long and not quite right for the stills from La Jetee. I then moved onto looking at other ‘dark’ poems.
During a presentation by a visiting artist Will Jennings, a reference was made in his presentation to poems by Rudyard Kipling. I decided to explore this avenue to see if a Kipling poem might fit.
A search on the internet revealed Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’ and one version I found of this I believe may work. Its spoken by Michael Caine and has the ‘Batman’ atmospheric movie music in the background. (Caine played the part of Batman’s butler Alfred in the ‘Dark Knight’ series of Batman films starring Christian Bale).
A merging of La Jetee, Rudyard Kipling, Michael Caine and Batman, must surely be the most surreal appropriation mixture anyone could have thought of.
Trails of the Caine audio recording merged with La Jetee footage have begun and the results are looking promising. The most difficult part is in trying to choose a still from La Jetee which accurately reflects each specific mood portrayed in each line of the poem. Some images work better than others but my plan is to make a rough draft first with the most obvious images then review it again to see if a better image can be found which aids the flow of the piece and doesn’t just become a series of non connected stills despite all being from the same source.