Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
-Albert Camus

Epizootics! is the new ten-minute short film/music video recently premiered by avant-garde musical mastermind Scott Walker, a track from his forthcoming album Bish Bosch. Walker has accomplished the near impossible, showcasing an album that’s more ambitious, experimental and surreal than anything he’s created before. This first taste from his upcoming album is filled with dramatic artistry and shows promise that Bish Bosch will be considered one of the most thought-provoking albums released in years.

For those not familiar with Scott Walker’s work, Walker has been described as one of the greatest living avant-garde artists, with hardly any other American musician having had greater influence upon rock music, while at the same time remaining almost completely unknown to his countrymen. Walker grew up in Texas, New York City and Southern California, but he became a celebrity in England during the mid-1960s as part of the Walker Brothers band. The Walker Brothers was a vocal trio, which wed soaring vocal harmonies, lush soundtrack arrangements and a patently somber worldview into a uniquely theatrical package.

Scott Walker’s voice has been described as perhaps the most beautiful male non-soul voice of that era, and an increasingly free-thinking “Beat” attitude was at the core of the group’s appeal. Although the Walker Brothers became huge in Europe, Scott Walker’s eccentricity cast a dark cloud over the band’s public image. Scott began to write increasingly complicated interlaced music, and its sense of bleakness was intensified by his mix of translated Jacques Brel tunes with distinctly arty and pained original numbers. By 1969, his works were failing to appear on music charts at all.

An increasingly elusive Scott Walker slowly withdrew from public view. His voice began to lose some of its former pop-music sense of majesty, a reflection of his new interest in the experimental synth-driven avant-garde, which he helped revolutionize to major critical success, but only minor public attention. Walker seemed to vanish, while artists as diverse as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Julian Cope, Bryan Ferry, Ultravox and Marc Almond became fiercely ardent supporters of his unique body of work, citing him as a primary influence on their careers. Gale Harold (the actor in Queer as Folk) served as an Associate Producer, along with David Bowie as Executive Producer, of the acclaimed 2006 documentary about the influential artistic vision of Walker’s experimental musical work, Scott Walker: 30th Century Man.

Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man

Scott Walker is celebrated as an influential musical visionary by a roster of superstars, including Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, David Bowie and Brian Eno. The enigmatic and notoriously shy former pop idol is the subject of Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, the revealing 2006 documentary by Stephen Kijak. Walker was born in Ohio and sang with Fabian on television as a teenager. However. after achieving immense popular fame in England as the lead singer of the boy band The Walker Brothers, he has lived mostly in seclusion, while creating avant-garde compositions and releasing critically acclaimed, idiosyncratic albums.

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man

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Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a finalist in The Wrap’s 2012 Short Films Festival, a new festival presenting 12 award winning short films selected from this year’s top international film festivals. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared screened at the 2012 Sundance and 2012 Sundance London Film Festivals and the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, where it received the SXSW Midnight Jury Award.

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a wonderfully bizarre three-min. animated short film created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling from the London-based This Is It Collective. The short begins innocently enough, with a small cast of sort-of identifiable characters sitting around a table and sing-talking about being “creative.” Then again, it looks like a rather lame children’s video, telling kids how to do what they do really naturally anyway, use their imaginations. But suddenly, it turns into a extremely disturbing free-association sequence, hinting at some very bleak psychological states, more like Black Swan than Sesame Street.

The filmmakers zero in on adult insecurities about self-expression, then delve into the perils of creativity. Such dangers quickly lead to terrifying glitter-covered animal organs (real, bloody ones, not made from the felt everything else in this video is made of), seizures and death. But just as quickly as the characters are served a gory meat cake, everything goes back to normal. And, just like any other children’s television show, the lesson learned is repeated at the end of the segment. And just what is that lesson? Never, never be creative. Unless you want to die.

Watch this video to the very end and you won’t regret it. Or will you?

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

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Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Terrifying Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Terrifying Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a wonderfully bizarre three-min. animated short film created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling from the London-based This Is It Collective. The short begins innocently enough, with a small cast of sort-of identifiable characters sitting around a table and sing-talking about being “creative.” Then again, it looks like a rather lame children’s video, telling kids how to do what they do really naturally anyway, use their imaginations. But suddenly, it turns into a extremely disturbing free-association sequence, hinting at some very bleak psychological states, more like Black Swan than Sesame Street.

The filmmakers zero in on adult insecurities about self-expression, then delve into the perils of creativity. Such dangers quickly lead to terrifying glitter-covered animal organs (real, bloody ones, not made from the felt everything else in this video is made of), seizures and death. But just as quickly as the characters are served a gory meat cake, everything goes back to normal. And, just like any other children’s television show, the lesson learned is repeated at the end of the segment. And just what is that lesson? Never, never be creative. Unless you want to die.

Watch this video to the very end and you won’t regret it.  Or will you ?

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Terrifying Bloody Mess!

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Thinking Outside the Box: The Mad Professors’ Tea Party

Thinking Outside the Box: The Mad Professors’ Tea Party

The hoary exhortation to “think outside the box” means something like “think creatively” or “be original,” but the phrase has become so cliched that it long ago lost any real meaning and has turned into the conversational equivalent of an “ummmm.”  Nevertheless, gaining new ideas and becoming creative within a short period of time is a task we always have to deal with.

The phrase “thinking outside the box” looks pale when you watch Joseph Pelling’s 1 1/2 min. animated short film, which is bloody hilarious!  Pelling’s Outside the Box is about two nutty English professor-types discussing the phrase “thinking outside the box,” all the while trying to one-up each other.  It’s reminiscent of  Steve Martin’s classic 1979 comedy The Jerk, an inspiration for people short on brains but big on ideas.  Martin’s character strikes it rich after randomly designing a way to keep people’s glasses on their face.   And so it with the big ever-expanding ideas of the two mad professors at  their little tea party, which lead them from “the box” into ever more uncharted fantastical territories.

I am in love with this.

Thinking Outside the Box: The Mad Professors’ Tea Party

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Mindplotter: Dueling States of Hardcore Metallic Brutality vs. Peaceful Inspiration

Mindplotter: Dueling States of Hardcore Metallic Brutality vs. Peaceful Inspiration

Mindplotter (2007) is a 1/2 min. hardcore animated motion design short film by Directors Ilija Brunck, Jan Bitzera and Tom Weber, with sound/music by dAdA iNN and Roman Jungblut. Mindplotter received an Honorary Mention Award at the 2008 Ars Electronica. The directors are part of the Polynoid collaborative of digital workers; other animated short films by Polynoid filmmakers reviewed and posted here previously have included: Jangwa! (2005), 458nm (2006) and FlapFlap (2009).

Of special note is the acclaimed animated motion graphic short film 458nm, which has received more than thirteen awards at international film festivals. 458nm has been described as one of the most darkly savage films, both literally and figuratively, ever seen in any extra-terrestrial movie. The action in 458nm is performed by two biochemical snails who have dual characteristics: they are authentically organic in their behavior, but mechanical in their appearance. Seen from his perspective, Mindplotter is a precursor to 458nm, a harbinger of the aggressively dark, hardcore approach in some modern motion design films.

The directors describe Mindplotter as a symbol for what they believe is the essence of the creative process for every filmmaker in the field of animation. For them, the act of emerging creativity involves being able to switch between two stages, inspiration and creation. In Mindplotter emerging creativity is portrayed as both organic and mechanical, soft and hard, relaxed in the inspirational state of mind and brutal in the act of plotting and carrying out new artistic ideas. In the film, creativity is represented as the duality and interpenetration of internal and outer worlds, consisting of both the beauty of a sea creature and the menacing violence generated by a metallic fighting machine. Mindplotter conceives of creativity as the mutual interaction of peaceful introspection with aggressive acts into the external world, violently and destructively staking its claims to artistic innovation.

However, while it professes to understand creativity as a mutually interactive duality, rather than in terms of polar opposite states, the film’s view of artistic creativity as one that aggressively establishes itself by destroying the old order of things is in fact a polarized one. Mindplotter disregards the many possibilities of more peaceful declarations of creative discovery. In this way, the film fails to pay attention to or recognize the fact that by choosing to go down one road, the course of dark and destructive aggressiveness, there were an infinite number of other paths not taken, paths that might well have turned out to be as good or even better.

Mindplotter: Dueling States of Hardcore Metallic Brutality vs. Peaceful Inspiration

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The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

The psychological capacity to be alone, as opposed to feeling lonely, is said to be the foundation for a sense of the self or of who we are. In addition, it nourishes growth promoting introspective thought, imagination and creativity. The media composition presented here today, which is comprised of photographs, a short film and a photo-gallery, represents the beginning of developing a small composition that portrays the differing experiences of loneliness, solitude and being alone. The piece will be modified each day, with a final set of writings, photographs, a short film and a photo-gallery appearing here by January 1st.

Alone, All by My Self

The Capacity to Be Alone, All by My Self

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The Danish Poet’s Pilgrimage Through the Uncertainty of Life

The Danish Poet’s Pilgrimage Through the Uncertainty of Life

The Danish Poet: Questions about the Meaning of Life

The Danish Poet won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The film follows the pilgrimage of a poet named Kaspar who has lost his talent for inspired creativity. In his desperate search for help, he travels to Norway to meet a famous writer. As the Danish poet’s journey to recover his sense of inspiration unfolds, he has to deal with bad weather, an angry dog, a fair damsel, a careless postman, hungry goats, a broken heart and other seemingly unconnected circumstances.

Although the tale of The Danish Poet proceeds with a sense of unexpected humor, it is also an allegory for deeper questions about the meaning of one’s life. If we look to the past for meaning, can we really gain such an understanding by tracing the little, seemingly trivial things in the particular chain of events in our lives back to our earliest years? Or, on the other hand, is existence and the course of our lives simply a matter of coincidence.

Learning to Become Prepared to be Unprepared

There is, of course, an alternative perspective about attempting to achieve some understanding about the meaning and course of our lives. If we focus on the present, rather than upon the past, we are faced with acknowledging that human choice always involves choosing one particular course of action while abandoning others, some of which may have turned out to be in some respects equally, or even more preferable. Furthermore, our choice of a particular course of action is always complicated by the unknowingness or ultimate uncertainty about where the path or paths not taken actually might have led.

While life’s ambiguity ultimately is irreducible, learning to embrace the ambiguous and uncertain nature of our lives can vitalize and enrich our experiences of surprise. In other words, focusing upon the present can expand our capacities to become engaged in depth with the ongoing, day-to-day events in our lives.

This in turn calls for us learn how to become prepared to be unprepared for new experiences.

The Danish Poet: On Becoming Prepared to be Unprepared

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