INTERIOR: AN EXQUISITE CORPSE FILM IN TWO PARTS
Daniel & Clara
(Audio and Visual: Hans Lo // Text: Tara Langford and Matt Boyle // Narration: Chloe Bonfield)
Melanie Kat King
Michell St Michelle
E Sally Johnson OBE
Caroline Mawer (with special thanks to Hassan Akkad for the white cliffs film)
Interior: An Exquisite Corpse film will make its debut on Moving Image Artists Journal in November.
In the midst of lockdown I facilitated a film made by a group of participants from around the world. Interior (2020) is a collective project that brings together people with varied backgrounds and levels of filmmaking experience to create a collaborative film, a snapshot of a very particular and strange time. It took the form of an ‘exquisite corpse’ - a method invented by the Surrealists based on the parlour game ‘Consequences’. Words or images are created as a group sequentially but blind: each person only seeing the last fragment of what the previous person has made. Using this set of rules, people from around the world created video documents of their lives and homes - of their interiors and the world they see from them. The work migrates between forms, materials, genres and viewpoints, creating a polyphonic whole, a collective portrayal of the world in a time of flux and fracture.
The Exquisite Corpse has been used as an experimental technique since its inception to create work that uses chance and juxtaposition to create new forms and meanings. Historical variations include drawing, writing, collage and music based versions (such as Party Pieces, Sonorous and Exquisite Corpses c1945), and a film in which the script had been developed using this process (Exquisite Corpse Project, 2012). Having seen a music version advertised on Twitter, I floated the idea of doing an experimental film version. I got a positive response, the sparks flew and suddenly the corpse began to come to life. Some simple game rules were put into place. The volunteers were put in a randomly generated order. Each person received a 10 second prompt taken from the end of the preceding person’s film. From this stimulus (which was often very abstract) they made a 60-90 second film which they could take in any direction they wanted, choosing to hard cut or blend in from the clip fragment they are given. Each person created something blind that could veer off in a multitude of directions, creating a narrative of infinite possibilities. Those different parts from around the world were later stitched together into one body, a Frankenstein’s monster of a film.
As the project commenced under full lockdown in April I chose the overarching theme, ‘interior’, to give people a steer and make the possibilities less overwhelming (though it would be interesting to try it without this). This topic was chosen as it was relevant and important to people across the world and achievable under the constraints of lockdown. Any audiovisual format would be accepted from one shot on a mobile phone to animation. Instead of cameras and editing software, emails and other admin tasks were the tools used to gestate and birth this collaborative creation into existence. The closest thing to a script was some bare bones instructions, a random name picker and a spreadsheet. This is filmmaking as arranging and of admin, rather than of conventional directing!
Two simultaneous strands were started from the same prompt - partly for practical reasons i.e. to speed up the process which works as a sequential chain, and partly to see what different outcomes could occur from the same stimuli. It would be interesting to continue the project, perhaps adding more branches to make a spatial film form as well as linear and temporal, navigated by random generation or interactive choices. Maybe the film could go on forever.
An interesting outcome of the process of making Interior has been the interaction with this virtual global community of strangers assembled through social media. Many of the artists I have never met, and have never met each other, but have shared intimate snippets of their lives through the films and the interviews. The contributors span from video artists to filmmakers to teachers to people who have never made anything before, and the responses were just as varied. People facing tumultuous events in different ways and keen to participate and share creatively. One participant even had a baby!
In Interior, each person has also answered questions about the experience which when read alongside the film offer a fascinating account of a very strange time. The people who took part are from diverse backgrounds around the world and offer a multifaceted depiction of a unique event. Through the film and the interviews we can travel around the world and see a journey through different interiors at a specific point in time, limbs branching out to create a document of lives and different ways of experiencing and embodying the world.
A group of strangers from different countries who have never met each other came together to make Interior. It has been interesting to see how coherently the seemingly disparate parts hang together as a whole in a way I hadn’t predicted. Images recur from the expected (domestic: furniture, plants etc) to the more surprising (hag stones, portholes, hands). There are a range of styles from single shot tableaux to rhythmic montage, dreamy abstraction to 3D rendered scenes. Interior spans the intimate to the domestic to the sociopolitical - a hybrid-form film and a complex and polymorphous document of 2020 and the lives of people experiencing these unprecedented events. Can we find new ways of telling stories, find different ways of seeing the world, find new hope and new solutions if we break out of the islands of ourselves to create something new as a community?