Controversial art installation are common as most exist as an opinion to questionable topics. Some examples would be Aliza Shvarts “Abortion Art”, Milo Moire’s “Mirror Box” and Petr Pavlensky’s “Fixation”.
Abortion Art involved Aliza Shvarts tackling the issue of abortion by repeatedly artificially inseminating herself and conducting abortions by herself, while purportedly filming herself and collecting blood from the process. In Mirror Box, Milo Moire covered her lower private parts with a mirrored box that had a hole that allowed the public to reach through and touch her privates. Petr Pavlensky’s “Fixation” required him to nail his scrotum to the floor of the Red Square in Moscow.
The skills required in these performance art usually involves voluntary sacrifice of their bodies to create art. As the body is often seen as something private it’s usually the best medium to create a reaction in viewers. The art also requires expression from inside oneself, so the body is the best tool for it. As such, both current and past artists use their bodies. Usually there are additional tools to aid in this expression, such as the mirrored box.
Developments in video, sound and performance art have revolved around politics, controversial topics and technology. Politics and hot topics are typically because they reflect the type of content that is produced. Art installations usually are a response to politics or a hot topic. In 2008, there was controversy surrounding laws against abortions with pro-life and pro-choice groups which was why Aliza Shvarts created her performance art as her own answer to the situation. For Milo Moire, her Mirror Box was made in response to a case about the outrage in modesty. Fixation was in response to the increased surveillance in Moscow which to Petr Pavlensky is like getting nailed in the scrotum to the floor.
Audience with all of these performance art installations were met with public outrage. In Aliza Shvarts’ case, pro-life committees condemned her project and called her depraved and a serial killer. With some commenters describing it as gruesome and pornographic. However it was also met with praise as it demonstrated creativity and logic over the irrational. For the Mirror Box, it represented the consensual nature of sexual acts while the mirrors was a metaphor for the voyeurism that takes place on the internet. The response to this was vicious as it disrupted the male dominant power structure. But was also well supported in the industry as she supported feminine sexual self-determination along the boundaries of art and morality. She was arrested and spent a day in jail before paying a fine for her outrage in modesty. For Petr Pavlenksky, he was removed from the premises, given medical treatment before spending time some time getting questioned by the police. Many people praised it as it spoke about the disillusionment that existed over Russia and surveillance state it was becoming. It was also seen as an act of immodesty and public disturbance.
From this research, I find that performance art requires a thick skin and a willingness to sacrifice one’s body for art. Video and sound art externalise this and I believe is easier to achieve and something I am more comfortable about. So it is something I will try to explore more, but still keeping in mind the ideas that inspire performance art.
This sound piece takes place in a world overrun by the undead. A lone human runs through an infested location hoping to get to safety, but eventually gets caught and bitten. Through this piece I wanted to reflect the feeling of something slowly catching up with the listener, so that there is tension and an eventual release from it. There was also a growing sense of danger through the ragged breathing, zombie growls that grew closer and the heart beat that slowly speeds up. This adds onto the tension of this audio piece. Ultimately, this piece is meant to represent the feeling of inescapable fate and fear.
The original concept was actually about people who sounded like each other. But it was hard to without using dialogue. Eventually I decided to do something more action packed and after looking at my many deadlines for my many assignments, I also wanted to have something catch up with the listener. So I combined these two ideas into a zombie chase concept.
I researched into zombie sound effects and how to make them. I also looked into how to create the sound effects for bones breaking and flesh eating. Mostly I just went out with a H4 Zoom Recorder and tried to get the necessary sound effects, such as footsteps, ambience and breathing. Although the first recording of these wasn’t satisfactory, I broke down the elements I needed from that first recording and recorded in quiet environment using the original recording as reference.
As for the zombie growls, I was lucky to have talented classmates who could growl quite scarily. I used their voices for the base audio layer of zombies. However in order to increase the number of zombies, I recorded myself making zombies noises. I based the sounds from The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later. Layering these sounds together allowed me to create the feeling of many undead rushing over. The challenge was making each zombie sound unique and making sure the environment would not echo the growls.
The bone snap sound effects was made using some celery and quickly snapping them. It creates a nice crunch. The body slam was just me throwing myself against the wall. For the zombie eating flesh, heart beat and human scream sound effect, I found them on freesound.org as my attempts at creating these sounds did not sound realistic.
There exists a device that allows us to peer into other realities where different choices were made, resulting in very different people and personalities. This film is about a reality where King Lam grew tired of caring for others, perhaps through experience or upbringing. Over the years, King Lam had learnt that only weak people ask for kindness and the lazy make use of other people’s kindness. Being kind to others meant you were restricted in your actions because of society’s morals. It also meant that others would try to take advantage of you, which made you weaker compared to them. This film is a rejection of morals in the interest of taking care of oneself. It is about understanding that being kind was something for the weak and lazy, as well as how choices will slowly affect us. Therefore making choices for kindness was the same as making weak choices. It is statement that to be truly free, you must let go of kindness.
Character Exploration and Research
One of the first parts of making this film was to complete tasks to decide what character I was to portray.
TASK 1 – List 5 characters from literature/fiction which whom you have a special affinity.
Andrew Ryan (Bioshock)
Michael Scott (The Office)
Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher)
Rick (Rick and Morty)
Matt Trent (Black Mirror)
TASK 2 – List 5 Public Figures
Philip Wang (WongFu Productions)
TASK 3 – List 5 people I know or have known
TASK 4 – Explain why I have an affinity towards the first 2 characters from each task
– A good man who grew tired of socialism and collectivism in the world. He believed that one could only own what one earned and that science should not be restrained. He eventually created an underwater city with those values in mind. He called it Rapture and watched it fall apart because of those values. My affinity with him lies in the fact that I too understand how it feels to have something you earned get taken away, or be shared for the “greater good”.
– A regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin, a fictional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He used to be a salesman before being promoted to his current position and his normal tactic was to be friends with everyone. Unfortunately that doesn’t work all the time and he often fails to do his job. I can relate to this as I often try to avoid stepping on other people’s toes and end up making my own life more difficult.
– An Asian-American film maker who is best known for his work on his YouTube channel, WongFu Productions. He believes in the good inside of people and supports other Asian film makers. This is how I relate to him, as I try to find the good in other people’s actions.
– Youngest director to achieve 14 Oscar Nominations (The last film to do that was Titanic), best known for Whiplash and LaLa Land. His vision of nostalgia with modern elements as well as his focus on story has made him a visionary director. I hope to one day become someone as good as he is and that is what links us.
– If I didn’t have an affinity with my father, I’d be lying. Empathizing with others, a sense of responsibility and bad jokes are just some of things he taught me. That and more is what forms the affinity we have.
– A friend I made in Poly. Assistant producer at a production house and guitarist of emo-math rock band forest, Adam has always been a wild ride and generally fun to be with. He lives in his own world and genuinely does not care what others think. I try to remind myself to not care so much about others and that is what links us.
In the end I chose Andrew Ryan, antagonist of the video game Bioshock, because I felt it would be more interesting to portray a villain. So I started to do more research on him. I had played the game a long time ago and remember being very impressed with the character on how he manipulated others and tried to control his underwater city as it spiralled out of control. Most of the research was gathered directly from the game.
The main inspiration is the first time you hear his voice which is near the start of the game.
It starts around 54 seconds. Below is a transcript of the speech.
“I am Andrew Ryan, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? ‘No!’ says the man in Washington, ‘It belongs to the poor.’ ‘No!’ says the man in the Vatican, ‘It belongs to God.’ ‘No!’ says the man in Moscow, ‘It belongs to everyone.’ I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.”
My own monologue is largely based off this speech. It starts with a question and ends off with a positive answer. Of course, there are other famous quotes that define Andrew’s character.
“ No Gods. No Kings. Only Man”
“A man chooses. A slave obeys”
“We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us”
I could already get a sense of this idealistic man who believed in a better tomorrow. But something had caused his fall from grace and so I researched more.
Ryan’s philosophies stem from Objectivism and Meritocracy. The former being a philosophical system developed by Russian American writer Ayn Rand, which Andrew Ryan mainly followed one guideline, “Do not take what you do not deserve”. He was a young man who watched the Soviet Union destroy his family business and his country. This led him to believe that the world was created by great men who strove to make their own way and any time parasites controlled the world, they would ruin it. His impression of communism soured greatly. He fled to America where he felt great men could prosper and for a while, he did. But he saw more people who benefited undeservedly from the labours of others and finally when he witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima, he decided that was the final straw. Science and researched had been harnessed to create weapons for parasites to destroy anything they could not seize.
He created the underwater city of Rapture and filled it with the world’s best and brightest. It was a paradise of freedom and prosperity, where a culture of entrepreneurship was unrivalled. However, his own ideals did not allow him to place regulations on the market so illegal business started popping up and his own belief that they should not rely on the outside world created a hole in the market because people wanted things from the outside world. This was the beginning of Rapture’s slow descent. So it was a story of how one man, in an attempt to escape what he saw as constraints, started to destroy everything he owned.
Based on this research, there were certain characteristics of Ryan I could draw upon. Namely his idealism and anti-altruism. I linked this to the fact that I believe I may have been too nice at times and created a concept where I would be another version of me, one who did not believe in kindness and opposed it. With the speech as a base, I had my monologue roughly complete.
I based the visuals of the film on old 1960s films, with grainy film damage and sepia color tones as the world had largely started adding colour into their films. I could have gone with black and white but I enjoyed the dash of colour the sepia tones gave and the aged look it had. I researched how to create these film effects, such as the rolling offset, frame flickering, grain and the film reel melting.
Like many of the films in that period, I chose to leave the camera mainly stationary. I worked on the transitions as they generally showed what an old film really was like. However, I was also inspired by Satoshi Kon, a Japanese animator who’s transitions are very organic and followed into one another. Thus the scene with the suit walking towards the camera and then transitioning to walking away from the camera was created.
Challenges of the film process was mainly figuring out how to make the scene look nice with so many stationary shots. There was also the matter of voicing over the clips and making sure they fit within the time. It was also challenging to bring out that side of me and maintain it. Fortunately, I managed to overcome these challenges (at least I think so). I learned a lot about more transitional effects and how to find and properly realise a character during this project. Hopefully I can bring these over to my next project.
The last 2 parts were actually removed to cut down the film timing. But I felt this was fine as well because the message still stayed the same. I planned the rough framing, what would my VO be saying and any movements within the film. I did not remove the start because I felt it was interesting that while I explained how the device showed another world, the audience would be watching another world as well. It seems to be the basis of films because of the way we show audiences other worlds, personal or otherwise.
Here’s the film, hope you enjoy it. The password is “kindness”