Undergrowth


Rental Format(s): 16mm film

A blind predator dreams through its prey's eyes: an experiment in oneiric points of view.

The obvious predator is a Barred owl, but the film uses the image/notion of a "predator" as its ostensible main subject as a vehicle to consider the active role of the camera in image "capture". The prey is undefined, but suggested as a compendium of natural figures that the camera "captures". The film establishes visual (textural) similes between the environment and the predator, and a kinetic dialogue between the camera and its objects/subjects: gliding through the underbelly of the world, tunneling under the natural flora of a semi-urban setting, the camera is a presence within the grounds of nature, counterpoint to that which is examining the figure of the owl, whose head turns in slow drifting arcs that are in tune with the dance of the nature-seeing/-seeking camera.

The owl's blindness is revealed suggestively in extreme close-ups of the creature's cataract-encrusted eyes. Its blind state creates a stumbling block to an easy decoding of the nature-seeking footage as a representation of its own outer-directed sight, calling into question the nature of the camera's perspective(s), and consequently the nature of that which is "capturing" the owl.

This perspectival puzzle reflects my own problematized view of the act of film portraiture as a relational event that calls subjecthood into question, and, under certain conditions, can allow for interactivity (and potentially, to varying degrees, interchangeability) between subject, author and viewer, but can also raise our awareness of the limits of understanding between subjects in conversations such as those present (directly or implicitly) within the film.

Process notes: The film was originally a camera performance in the coming-spring environment along the edge of the subway line in southern Boston. I had an impulse to enter into the moving perspective of small animals living within the urban flora, slithering along the ground to find the darkest hollows, as well as gliding and pivoting within and along tree branches as nimble rodents or small birds might. The experience for me was otherworldly and dark, and the results on film seemed to reflect the strange sense of foreboding that permeated my travails.

I set the edited film of this performance aside for some months as an experiment that I did not think could stand as complete film, as if the dreamscape was only half realized.

Over the summer a friend hired me to shoot (on video) a blind owl that he had seen at a nature clinic, and I was struck by the similarities between the creature's motions (the turning of its head helping orient it aurally). We returned to shoot again, and in the midst of the video shoot, I shot the 16mm film portrait of the owl in motion that I intercut with the original cityscape-in-motion.

Chicago-based musician Julia Zinn and filmmaker Lori Felker performed a Theremin duet as they watched the final cut film, and sent me a recording of their concert. I intermixed a few figurative selections from their improvisations with three other more ambient pieces of audio to create the final soundtrack track for the film.

- RT

Rental Fees

  Fee  
16mm film $48.00  

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