TITLE: Lucy, the First Human by Sylvia Toy (remastered in 2017)
SPECS: 23:44 minutes, 16:9, H.264, AAC, Color/Stereo, Silent/No captioning
COUNTRY: United States
On Tuesday November 24, 2015, the 51st anniversary of Donald Johanson’s discovery of Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) at the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, my ‘Lucy, the First Human’ trailers on YouTube got a total of five hours of airtime. That means my Lucy came up in searches and someone probably shared her. That is a real thrill.
LUCY, THE FIRST HUMAN is video art/microcinema crossing genre into nonlinear science fiction fantasy. The subject matter is paleoanthropological. The setting is a barren, shadowy, womb-like or cave-like environment. There is only one character in the movie. She is based on the hominid, Australopithecus afarensis.
This movie is composed of a series of improvisations of what the first human would do, think, feel, and how it would develop. The solitary female character is like an infant, mostly sleeping in the beginning. In her waking hours, her primary interest is herself until things begin to suddenly and surrealistically appear in her “cave.” She gradually is drawn out of her self-absorption into the real world.
THE SPINSTER (2013) is a performance art/video art single-channel movie about an office worker who lives to draw in the classical style. I used Method acting to develop the character by drawing every day for two months so that I could draw on camera without cues, diagrams or even anatomical models. Except for a few minutes of documentary style footage taken my husband, this is a one-man movie. The movie was shot on first-gen Canon Vixias, except for the street scenes, which were shot on a Flip.
THE SPINSTER is obsessed with the Mannerist painter, Jacopo Pontormo. ‘Pontormo’s Diary’ is the only thing she has on her IPod. The words seem to put her in a trance.
The Spinster lives alone, sleeps wrapped in a blanket on the floor of her apartment in the only space that’s not covered with art supplies, rolls of paper, monographs of Renaissance art, and her own drawings. She lives mostly on eggs & salad, just like her spiritual mentor, Pontormo.
This project was inspired by a painter Back East who bought gallons and gallons of Cerulean oil paint at a closeout sale in Chelsea way before Chelsea was cool. A huge sheet of paper covered with Cerulean figures reminiscent of Pontormo’s and Michelangelo’s drawings hung permanently in his living room. He could not go a day without drawing. The Spinster can’t go to the bus stop without drawing.
I discovered something very interesting about this character during my late shoots. She is not unhappy and she is not having a midlife crisis – so, that could not be the theme of this story! After drawing almost every day for months, and being in character on camera for 40 minutes straight drawing life-sized versions of what’s in my Moleskins, I re-discovered true contentment. The only thing that could cause The Spinster to have a midlife crisis is a pencil lead shortage. She lives in joyful existential oblivion.
“Sylvia Toy St. Louis is a true artist, struggling the same struggle every artist has fought. I’m right there with her. Her characterizations are true to heart and she fills the screen with words that hone toward the truth that she finally reveals.” Review by Tess Collins Ph.D.
THE SPINSTER (Color/Stereo 26’32” USA 2013) is available on signed/dated, plain label DVDs.
QUEEN (2014). A Butoh inspired performance art short film by African-American filmmaker, Sylvia Toy. A mute, solemn priestess dressed in white conducts a birth ritual in a room draped in white to an unseen congregation, while strains of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 fill the stark room. 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.
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.
Reviewed by Stella Brown: “This is the new film maker to watch!”
Signed/dated plain label DVD (Color/Stereo 9′ USA 2014)
#performanceart #videoart #audiovisual #Sylviatoyindustries #montage #Butoh #AfricanAmericanArt #ritual #limitededition #DVD
“before chill” (2014) was selected for 2016 Creative Arts Film Festival, won Honorable Mention for cinematography and was nominated for Best Director. This movie is a video poem about aging/the changing of the seasons. It was inspired by the signs that winter is about to happen here in San Francisco, this town that “has no seasons.” Just like everywhere else that I’ve lived, however, there is a pungency, a dryness in the whispering breeze that will grow into a raging wind in a few weeks, a stillness and a beautiful pearlescent sky. I shot this movie on my way home from dayjob as I the scenic route through San Francisco’s beautiful Civic Center. I edited this movie in first-gen Splice on my IPhone. What a lovely way that was to begin twilight.
Exploring “being human” through improvisational acting means finding my throughline as a character forms and tells its story on camera. It is boggling how often that character is not who I planned for it to be before I turned on the camera. That speaks volumes about “what is humanness.”
Available in a limited edition of 10 plain label, signed/dated DVDs.
#text #san francisco #performance art #experimental film #video art #dvd #iPhone #african-american #Sylviatoyindustries #Sylvia Toy #video poem #disposable film #DVD
THE BLUE LADY (2015). What happens in an 1830s South Carolina farmhouse between two house slaves and their mistress during Master’s final, horrible hours of dying a painful death. A one-woman movie by African American filmmaker, Sylviatoyindustries, who created the script through improvisation, played all three characters, designed and sewed by hand the Romantic era gown worn by the plantation mistress. Most of movie was shot in front of green screen and the background montages were based on months of research about the Antebellum (pre-Civil War) era. The set included handmade heirloom objects and authentic replicas of household furnishings from the period.
Reviewed by Tess Collins, PhD: “I had the privilege of watching early versions of character development for this film, and now, the final product gives me chills. SylviaToySt.Louis plays the virgin/mother/crone in 1830s South Carolina as the hateful Master Henry who has violated all three women either physically or mentally lays dying in the next room. His screams background the women as they contemplate their “place” in this life. The innocent and fanciful Lolly whose child-like movements are like a dance through life. There’s no hint of the horror of her life. The narcissistic Missy plays as much to the mirror as to other characters as if her reflection is a confirmation of her existence, only moving away when her long held secret is finally revealed. Long suffering Elizabeth is the bedrock of the household, putting Henry in his place at the expense of her own body. The three women weave a spell of what women must do to survive this life and what they will do to live it on their own terms. Brava, Sylvia!”
Screened at Eisentrager-Howard Gallery, 2016.
Signed/dated plain label DVD (Color/Stereo 40′ USA 2014).
PASSAGES, A MYTH. Three sibling deities rule the world from the firmament. When the king of the god’s youngest sister kills a Human for using language, the king absorbs the corpse into his body and becomes pregnant.
The setting is the firmament from which Sum’o the King of the Gods, Sum’i the Arbiter and their younger sister Sum’a the Enforcer rule the world. There has been ongoing conflict about the Humans between Sum’o, who spends his time in meditation, and Sum’a, who has an ego and temper more like a Human. When Sum’a kills a Human during a dispute over the Humans using language in violation of the laws of the gods, Sum’o, in his grief over the loss of a life, absorbs the Human’s corpse into his body and becomes pregnant.
There is no dialogue. There are inter-titles preceding each scene.
Reviewed by Tess Collins, PHD: “Performance Art at its finest. In this 25 minute film Sylvia ToyStLouis tackles the Gods/Goddesses. We all suspected they were just another dysfunctional family who comes together in the end for the greater good. This time humanity plays its part in changing the Gods rather than the other way around. It’s a nice reversal. Other than the terrific characterizations, there are some cool special effects and killer mummys in the background that I hope make future appearances in her films. Watchable, intriguing, and keeps you wondering what will happen next. Gods and Goddesses are an unpredictable lot. Passages, a Myth shows how they grow. I almost say “roll”, that too.” Soundtrack, “Birth of the Incarnate,” https://soundcloud.com/sylvia-toy-st-louis/birth-of-the-incarnate.
An excerpt of “Passages, a Myth” was selected for Fest Miden (Greece) in 2016 and screened on Visual Container TV (Milan) in 2017.
Signed/Dated plain label DVD (Color/Stereo, 24′ USA 2015).
#performanceart #chromakey #videoart #audiovisual #Sylviatoyindustries #AfricanAmericanArt
THE HARPY (2016) is an “invented” mythology about a goddess who was put in a coma by her sisters for disagreeing with them about the governing of The Humans. This is the first in an ongoing series of films (Vimeo playlist @ https://vimeo.com/album/4126992. The ongoing story of The Harpy is, ultimately, an exploration of what “peer” status is in society and how that status is affected when a member of society rejects decisions or standards that have been agreed upon or accepted by their peers as a group.
In the Harpies’ world, law and punishment are relentless – in the end, the offending sister is condemned to a 10,000 year coma; when she awakens, her entire species including her sisters have become extinct. The story is also an exploration of whether in the big picture society allows itself to be affected by dissension/protest, and if so, whether the result is a positive or negative impact.
This split screen improvisation was created in front of a green screen and shot in a 2 stationary camera setup.
THE HARPY is discussed in this essay by Cathrin Gordon, Artist Retrospective: The Unsung Genius of Sylvia Toy, bit.ly/0711SToyReviewAtMed.
Selected for Bucharest ShortCut Cine Fest in 2016. Selected for The Videoperformance, Art Web Gallery, in 2017. An multimedia, live adaptation of “The Harpy” has been streamed in 2nd Online Performance Art Festival, Budapest, (2016) and Rewind Performance Festival, Jakarta, (2017).
Signed, dated plain label DVD. (Color/Stereo 09’45” USA 2016).
#performance art #chromakey #splitscreen #videoart #audiovisual #Sylviatoyindustries #montage
The Cape Experiments by Sylvia Toy (2016-ongoing series) are performance art events improvised in a large, greenscreenable cape. These scenes were shot in Cold Creek, Nevada USA, which is located in the Toyabe National Forest near Mt. Charleston. Music in this video was created and sung by Sylvia Toy.
The Toyabe National Forest is outside Las Vegas and my in-laws have a summer home in Cold Creek which is surrounded by the forest. It is dry, clear, clean and crisp. It is the desert; and for me, the most beautiful place on earth. We have such a short time to be on this planet; and that that time is, relative to the universe, the blink of an eye; and that, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we are mystifyingly oblivious to how marvelous it is to have the rare experience of being alive in such a cold dark place as the universe. Spending a week in the forest refreshes me and my perspective on my place in the universe.
Signed, dated plain label DVD (Color/Stereo, 02′ 05″, USA, 2016)
#performanceart #chromakey #videoart #audiovisual #Sylviatoyindustries #montage
THE VICTIM (2017). This is a monologue about abuse, fear, bullying and courage.
My parents were friends with a couple who had terrible things going on in their home: the husband molested all five of their daughters on a regular basis as soon as they could walk. He was a former opera singer who had become a chef after the opera company disbanded. He died peacefully in his alcoholic sleep when he was in his sixties.
He tried to molest me several times, I think. But I only remember one specifically. It was on a holiday in the summer, the kind of holiday when we were at their place for a barbecue. He was cooking – it is true that he made the best barbecue sauce in the universe. I was five and my mother finally would let me go alone to the bathroom at their house. I was on my way down the hallway when he caught me from behind and stuck his hand down my pants. I am my parents, Mr. & Mrs. Clean Freaks’ daughter; and I did not think about danger; instead I was worried whether he was going to wash his hands before making the sauce after he stuck his hands down my pants.
He asked me if I swore not to tell. I said “No.” He asked me again. I said “No.” He asked me why. I said “Because my mother won’t let me swear.”
My mother never could keep her mouth shut – especially when people were trying to push her around or if she thought they were going to try to push her around. I am sure she knew that man couldn’t/wouldn’t keep it in his pants, and I knew she yelled at him all the time.
That man let me go and never touched me again, to the point of acting like he couldn’t stand me in front of my parents. My parents had made, and were keeping, that world safe for me. We should all be vigilant all the time about keeping the world safe for children and any other vulnerable people.
Signed and dated plain label DVD (Color-Stereo 04’04” USA).
#performanceart #chromakey #videoart #audiovisual #Sylviatoyindustries