At any one point in time, there are trillions of things happening in a person’s life on many different levels – internal, external, conscious, unconscious, subconscious. I went through a period of obsession with trying to show this phenomenon, which affected my work in such a way that I began shooting reflections and reflections of reflections. Shooting reflections led to layering clips. Layering clips led to greenscreening.
During an improvisational shoot yesterday to experiment with the new backdrop for my project, CREATION in these scenes, I had one of those improv experiences when I felt like I was shooting in the dark and had no idea what I am doing. The only thing I was sure of was that the camera was recording and, good or bad, I would at least be able to see whatever was happening. These scenes are rough, but I feel good about creating my CREATION in a world full of light instead of darkness. “Nothingness is everything.” The Universe at the beginning of creation is nothingness until the creators start creating – but nothingness does not necessarily mean darkness. Nothingness in CREATION is light. This mythology is based on Mbombo, the creator god in the religion and mythology of the Kuba of Central Africa, who created the world by vomiting various parts of it. Stills and video, CREATION: The Source (in-progress in 2017).
(I thought about this essay yesterday after an improvisational shoot for my new project, CREATION, during which I felt like I was shooting in the dark and the only thing I was sure of was that the camera was recording and, good or bad, I would at least be able to see whatever was happening.) The first thing was choosing to fall through the trap door, which was bound to happen anyway because I had already made up my mind that I was willing to fail. Riding with Dada, 2014. Based on a real-life bus incident.When, like I was, you are born with the gift for knowing the limits of your talents (except writing, which took until now for me to realize in me is a skill not a talent – there’s a difference), when you instinctively know your limitations, you grow up with the anxiety that you will run out of what you can do and that you will be found out and in the end, you will be a disappointment.However, I was not born with the gift for knowing sooner or later there should be a trap door, which is different from just not having the facility for doing something, for example, not grasping perspective in drawing or just not having any pitch at all – which is why I have hit the wall four times as a writer (ages 17, 27, 52 and 57). That is a long story and not what this essay (or, as it turned out, my life) is about, and I’m over it anyway. The Samurai Scientist Haunts the Hall, 2011. Improvisation.I was not born with a gift for knowing that if you do not come to a trap door as an artist, a door in the floor of consciousness and self-control through which, if he is lucky, one falls into terrifying depthlessness and never catches one’s breath again until he accepts that if he wants to be good at what he wants so badly to do, he will have to be willing to risk failing and most certainly, falling into the unknown over and over again.Simply stated, if you do not come to a trap door, whether you ultimately choose to fall through it or not, there is probably a limit to your ability to grow in whatever you are doing. I did not come to a trap door as a sculptor, and because I know and can accept my limitations, I would have been content to keep doing variations on the same theme until I died. I did come to a trap door as a painter and simply couldn’t go there. That is a long story that I’m still trying to unravel except for the common knowledge that every sculptor wants to be a painter, anyway. Dr. Grossman’s Testimony, 1996. Solo play.My trap door was where trap doors are supposed to be, on stage (literally on stage one night at Brava! for Women in the Arts in 1994, when I was still a dreadful actor and thought I never would be any good). I keep falling through that trap door and bumping into characters and stories, so many that I will not live long enough to do anything about most of them.Simply stated, if you are lucky as an artist, you keep falling through trap doors into something that eventually makes you look good.Banner, Still, TYFTB (thank you from the bottom), 2012.I originally published this post on LinkedIn, April 13, 2015.
Still, VOICE, A PERFORMANCE ART MOVIE (2016)One of the reasons I am skeptical of even the most current approaches to mental health care is that for the most part, providers overlook the natural resources that any psychotic adult has (MUST have) who survives her/his illness into middle age. My 9 to 5 since “retirement” two years ago is making experimental films. However, there were thousands of strange days after bipolar manic sleep (i.e., 3 hours or less) when I went to paralegal/legal editor/legal secretary jobs out of focus like the character in this video; and full of anxiety, dread, and hyperbolically negative thoughts. I have spent most of my summers, sometimes beginning in April or May, like this ever since my thirties. I was finally diagnosed in my forties. I used to write briefs and demand letters like this. Yesterday, too crazy to go outside, I edited video instead. I am mystified how I went to dayjob like that. I am even more mystified why it seems to have occurred to only one of my mental health care providers (who was bipolar himself) to teach me how to use my own natural resources to manage my illness better. Until I learned to do that, summer was a nightmare for me, and a complete wash. You really do never know what another person might be coping with in her/his inner life. However, bipolars are over 2% of the population – maybe you should know. We have excellent survival skills. Banner and first video: VOICE, A PERFORMANCE ART MOVIE,2016Second video and remaining images: TYFTB (thank you from the bottom), 2013, remastered 2017Previously published on LinkedIn.
I am thrilled to have finally remastered this experimental short with my own original vocals. QUEEN is one of my favorite artworks of my whole life. Constructed of soil, eggshells, cotton, nylon, makeup, acrylic, acrylic latex, egg cartons, rice paper, freshwater pearls, water, Jojoba oil, porcelain cup, tape, felt, craft paper, light, human, bamboo, it is cinematic theater. A mute, solemn priestess dressed in white conducts a birth ritual in a room draped in white to an unseen congregation, while an invisible choir fills the stark room with sacred music. As she silently performs her sacred duty, her actions are projected in a split screen by a shadow of herself. This video was improvised on camera without any rehearsal period after being planned for about 13 months, during which I collected eggshells and designed the set. The original release was 2014. The soundtrack was remastered with original music in 2017. Thanks for watching.
What an interesting adventure CREDO: A Pilgrim has been so far. Last winter the curator of DEMOCRACY SCRABBLE (” … video artists from all over the world [were invited] to pick one word from the “democracy scrabble” list and one word from the “most used d-words” list and produce to each of this words a small film, each film not longer than 4 minutes. …” ). “Credo” was the word that I picked from the first list – no idea why, since I’ve been an atheist since I was 8 1/2 despite studying Catechism for two years in school and also despite my mother creating her own religion when I was in middle school. In fact, I didn’t know I had unresolved feelings about religion until I conceived my first character for CREDO, a homeless drifter who sometimes works as a gardener but also is amateur singer who sings Negro spirituals for spare change. Before I began improvising his character, I made a series of “personal story” talking head monologues about my mother and her church, The Church of the New Man. After all that and living with A Pilgrim for six months, I believe he sings spirituals purely and simply out of faith in the Christian God and trying in his small way to be what he believes is a good Christian. I never understood faith until the gut-wrenching that I had to do in order to understand my own religious roots. This story is incomplete and does not contain what probably is the final scene of the movie, i.e., the movie that I made specifically to premiere in DEMOCRACY SCRABBLE this summer. Except for that scene, all of the other scenes will be re-shot after some rehearsal. The storyboard scenes are all too long and need to be tightened up. My goal for length is 25-27 minutes. Thanks for watching.