We're at the end of the road, and this last part is by far the most chaotic and challenging in terms of its length, unique form, and diversity of musical material. Kudos to Ben for writing such groundbreaking material…but Ahhh why you make so hard!!! (jk) Anyways, ever since turning my attention to the last video, I've been obsessively asking "what is this all about??" I'll just be honest and confess that I had no idea how this story was going to end the entire time. Ben and I had explored various endings, and met throughout filming to revise the ending…but it always ended up feeling like the mushy stuff inside the exoskeleton. I think this is because I hadn't yet found my own "solution" as the young artist being portrayed. I was just as lost as she was, and while she went inside her painting, I delved into the computer screen asking relentlessly--"what is art?"
This brings us back to the very beginning, Part 1! The subconscious is always a good place to start because you can do all kinds of crazy shit and it's okay. It's also an accepted fact that artists dream up their creations and that their art just "comes" to them from thin air. (I hope after watching the entire saga you now know that that is not the case). I guess when we started writing the story, we played safe and decided that art is 1.) inspired by an unattainable ideal that the artist can sense somehow, in this case subconsciously, but cannot grasp in reality. It's color that floats around mimicking aquatic life and dance seen through a kaleidoscope. From a technical standpoint, my visual art work makes up most of the video, (besides the beautiful dancing in the first section); I had been very intrigued by the idea of animating paintings or making art move, and this proved a great opportunity for me to make use of (literally) all the artwork I had made in the previous months. Whether it ended up supporting the narrative or not, it was an interesting experience just seeing all my art working together trying to make visual sense.
Answering the question in Part 2 leads to 2.) self-reflection, going deeper into the psyche to see "what's there". I had originally made a big emphasis on her painting a self-portrait, but then I felt it was redundant as every artwork is essentially a self-portrait of sorts. In this part, not only do we get to see where she is internally, but more importantly, we see her curious determination to keep going-- from the abyss-like darkness with sporadic movements and random scary art to the blank yet extremely anxiety ridden and suffocating vast unexplored space--(I'd say that's guts right there).
I should interject here that the painting featured in this segment was the product of one crazy afternoon when I totally abused the canvas while listening to this particular section of the music for hours. I didn't think, I just reacted to "you are nothing" over and over and over and over again. We all feel it, sometimes more than other times, and for those few hours I summoned all my "you are nothings" and slashed, scribbled, madly dueled with the canvas.
Part 2 happened while I was very obsessed with form, it isn't something new because I'd always struggled with the idea of form and how or why it is a necessary part of composition. Around this time, I noticed that I had begun to take a great interest in performances of Beethoven piano sonatas at my friends' recitals. I noticed how each of them played it so completely differently and how those who made sense (to me) brought out very clearly the structure, like the steel infrastructure of massive bridges. In my own (piano) practicing, I'd taken a keen interest in being accurate in rhythm-- trying to get the downbeats and pick-ups especially extremely precise. I think this was because I realized that the rhythm was the infrastructure that held the piece together, and if you could draw straight lines when required, your building would hold during earthquakes. ----How on earth does this relate to the second part? Well it's in several sections, and there is a specific narrative that I had to maintain. So how do I clearly lead the viewer through stages of the narrative and maintain flow throughout the whole video? There is no Form with a capital F… so I had to just feel my way into it, much like her journey in the dark. Who knows if I succeeded, or if that even matters, but I do know that it was worth the trip.
In Part 3, we're at the calm after the storm…or are we…she is 3.) acutely aware of her self and environment, not only where she is, but where she wants to go. Ben describes this stretch of the journey as the "acid trip", but in pg-13 land, she is just taking a walk with a forest spirit. Interestingly enough, the mask I made for the forest spirit character gave me a lot of insight into what she is supposedly doing in this whole section-- the mask, made of many fragments of mirrors, represents a distorted view of herself, who wisely guides her and also creeps the crap out of her (or so I hear). She lets this part of her intuition guide her into the unknown, which leads to a chair-- which should lead to some miraculous inspired place that gives the ultimate answer-- but instead leads her to confront the dread that she has been putting off this whole time. Well what do you know, as soon as she acknowledges and accepts that that is part of her, she wakes to the glorious sight of lights in the woods! Times two-- she has actually been imagining it and painting in her apartment this whole time!!
My favorite shot is of Murie smiling for the first time. And it's not a smug smile, it's (surprise!) 3.5.)quiet appreciation for just painting. It transcends all existential turmoil and is the realest thing I can think of.
The technicalities of the third part has to do with a fascination with the idea of language and vocabulary-- the idea that language is not words or pictures or whatever, it's your personal collection of meanings in whatever form shape or medium that fits. So that meant-- the props, the characters, the location (winter and spring), the lighting, and the movement of the camera-- more specifically: an expression, a tilt of the head, these particular branches under this moment of light, that particular spot in the woods, the sudden breeze of snowflakes in the sun on this wide angle shot, etc. The constant goal was "visual phrasing": the focus became emphasizing the "subject" of phrases and being aware of visual "downbeats". Therefore also separating other footage into being supporting visual material making sure that they created flow and movement, and lead to the next sentence. Contrary to all of the other segments, this is the most traditional of the three-- which meant that everything depended on the footage itself.
Finally, we've arrived to Part 4, 4). Art is everywhere if you look for it. I've found my ending, and it's been around me all along. I've lived in Rochester, NY for about five years now, at first hating it but having no choice to live elsewhere because of attending Eastman, until now, feeling as if I found the place to call my city (unfortunately only for two more weeks). Throughout this entire project, we've found such magical places all around the city and have seen it transform throughout the seasons. But Part 4 is where Rochester came to my aid in the form of the city's plethora of street art and Wall Therapy; for several consecutive years, Rochester's Wall Therapy project has hosted many many amazing artists to paint giant murals all around the city. The poster boy mural is that of a rat-bear couple doing a 69 on a giant brick building-- I don't agree with this interpretation, but that's not the point. There are simply amazing pieces of deeply thoughtful and creative, and extremely well done art all around the city, what other place has this?! Using filming as mostly an excuse, we drove to my favorite murals and had Murie :) lead us through.
So what is art? Art is unbound imagination. Art is deep self-reflection and internal confrontation. Art is courage to walk into the unknown. Art is trusting yourself. Art is letting go of the need to know. Art is finding yourself through a brushstroke. And, art is everywhere if you look for it.
The entire project is an effort to unite many different ways of looking at art, (e.g., through dance, abstract art, cinematography, acting, narrative, etc.), and this last video is in a sense, a condensed version of the whole. From the uncomfortably intimate first section where Murie is painting quietly, brushstroke upon brushstroke, her intent gaze never leaving the canvas; to loud graphic design with definite lines and perfect shapes in a tangle of abstract rhythm and form; finally into the outside world-- her active searching and admiration for the art she finds births new art: the eyes watering the plant which bursts into fireworks.
This project has made me confront my own forest spirit-- the camera/computer screen has been the mask, much like piano has been for most of my life. It's ironic that it's hard to know what is real until you see it up on the screen, or that it doesn't feel right unless you really actually mean it. I don't know why that is, but it's the only way I have been able to "see with my own eyes".
I also reflect on whether or not it was "worth it" to spend the last 8 months totally immersed in this project, filming and editing throughout with intermittent breaks in between. While all of my friends and peers have been much more responsible with their lives, studying in school and working outside of school…I have done neither. All of my time was consumed, even when it wasn't, by trying to do the best I can to make the most of this project. I tried my best, and I really learned a lot. But no one other than me can understand what that means or justify its worth. At the end of the year, some of my friends have received a fifth year acknowledgement in studying a subject outside their major, while others have graduated with Artist Diplomas and Master's Degrees, going on to their PhD's… I have none of that. This is too a forest spirit I am confronting…what am I doing, and is it worth it?
I grew up being taught to have immense respect for the institution, specifically those who make up the institution. For the first time since I was four, it was me and not my teacher who decided what is right and wrong, and what is good or bad. It's hard for me to express how colossal a thing this is. I grew up believing what I had to say was of little importance. After all, people have said much greater things much better than I ever can, and ever will… taking the time to figure out my own personal role in all of this is probably the most meaningful thing that came out of this project for me. It isn't that what I say needs to be important, but just that it is somehow relevant-- much like the beautiful murals I got to see. All I want is to be a part of the never-ending dialogue that connects and inspires all people who feel the need to be creative. As a person, that is enough for me.
Thanks for reading :)