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Skeletons, Dancing and Literature

Following on from last week's reflection, this week I've been making short video pieces that play more closely with absurdity and mortality, directly responding to them in a Fluxus inspired format. I invested in a new friend and flat-mate, Solomon the Skeleton, who I created two piece of work with: 'Skeleton Waltz' and 'Skeleton Monologue' (working titles).


Watch full 'Skeleton Waltz' video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHphRTsLnmY&t=33s

Watch full 'Skeleton Monologue' video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys5eQvHd_X0&t=26s


'Skeleton Waltz', video still
'Skeleton Waltz', video still

The first depicts me waltzing with the skeleton very badly, playing on absurdity by being unable to dance. The style of the piece is inspired by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton slap-stick silent films, with the actions sped up a little, in black and white, failing to do

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin

something rather simple and also dressed smartly but slightly scruffily. The piece is paired with a classical waltz music piece to really emphasize the action as waltzing, to show that the dancing is out of time and also to play on the music used in early twentieth century silent films. By dancing with the life-size skeleton, it is as though the performer is dancing with death, making a fool out of mortality, but also always having it attached to their body, a dancing partner throughout one's existence.


The second is a subtitled video of the performer reading my favourite section from 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus. I felt it was time to incorporate my research more explicitly into my work, and play with making those references clear, almost like a love letter to absurdist art, literature and philosophy. The pages from the book that are being read really highlight Meursault's (the leading character) blase attitude towards life for me, seeing it as utterly meaningless, displayed by his discussion with Marie, who asks him to marry her and whether he loves her, to which he states that it doesn't matter but to keep her happy they shall. If you actually look at the book cover, I'm not actually looking at the pages of 'The Outsider' but rather 'The Myth of Sisyphus', which adds the absurdity, opening a book not to actually read what is on the pages but something else completely. I am reading this to the skeleton, as we sit opposite eachother, I liked the idea of monologuing to something that will never take the information in and will never respond to it, that it is too late for. I cut the sound on this, used the same formating as the previous video, and also added subtitles, which I think even more closely references silent films. The subtitles chop and change between what is being read and utter nonsense that I wrote as part of an experiment, playing with the absurdity of language, the fact that we give man-made labels to things, why shouldn't the meaning of the book come across the same with different words if words are ultimately meaningless

'4'33', John Cage
'4'33', John Cage

constructions? If I say that is what it means then that is what it means! Over the video there is music, the Moonlight Sonata but in reverse, because again, who says it should be played the write way around, read from left to write, starting at the beginning and ending at the end? I also liked how the sound becomes quite sad and almost eerie, which, when the lighthearted play of the gumbled words come across the screen, becomes quite contradictory. This was partially inspired by John Cage's 4'33, the completely silent piano concert piece, still turning the pages of the music and opening the piano top.


These pieces worked well to play more directly with the absurd in my work, whether I continue on this path I'm not sure, but they were particularly fun to make and quite liberating. Maybe now that I have experimented with this, I can find a balance between the overtly absurd and the more abject side of things that I have been worknig with in previous work. I feel that these videos would be a good series to be played next to each other and is something that I could keep growing. I am enjoying the theatrical element of them too, especially after seeing the Tim Walker exhibition, where everything looks like a theatre set, it makes me want to make more of a spectical of my work. Although I am itching to get back to making some sculptural work, so lets see what happens next, maybe I can incorporate my sculpture further into my video work.

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