Cinemathequetonics

The following is a Statement from Aaron Taylor Harvey about his Video Project, Cinemathequetonics:

I came to Graduate School after a Bachelor's in Cinema and four years spent in Los Angeles working in the film industry as a storyboard artist. When applying to grad school, I went out on a limb and submitted a great deal of that work, expanding on the potential of the intersection of Film and Architecture in the accompanying essay. Once school had begun, I discovered I was hardly the first to see this copesetic relation. I dug deeper and found a richness of research and discussion that I could leverage across many semesters of output.

I created this film as a substitute for my "thesis talk" in the penultimate semester of Graduate School. I surprised the room when instead of standing before them with prepared notes, I simply hit "play." The film was well-received but what I didn't realize at the time is that it was less of a thesis statement for a specific execution and more of a personal design manifesto, an articulation for space-making and architecture's relationship to the visual culture. These ideas continue to motivate me 10 years later as the Executive Creative Director of the Environments Team at Airbnb, designing offices and events. I hope others can find inspiration in the film and I welcome further discussion.

Place Echoes Being: Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger

To leave architecture out of a conversation about Michelangelo Antonioni’s films would be like discussing Alfred Hitchcock’s form without acknowledging suspense. These frameworks are what govern the characters’ behavior and psychological state, forming a narrative through which we can see their personal worlds. For Antonioni, the setting and the background becomes the subject, or perhaps more accurately, the character that shapes the world of his films and gives the audience insight into the deeper meaning of Antonioni’s films. The Passenger (1975), starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, is the first of Antonioni’s films to take place in multiple countries. Africa, England, Germany, and Spain are the subjects here, illuminated to reflect questions of mortality and the loss of individuation with the need to overcome oneself.

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The observational camera allows characters to enter frame and dissolve or disappear so that the last frame holds on an empty space. At the same time, the camera seamlessly crosses between locations—from his past life in London to his filmed documentary footage and his present travels. The viewer becomes ‘a passenger’ in the surrealistic journey of Nicholson’s character, David Locke. Locke is a respected reporter known for his ‘objective views’ as he creates media related film documentaries, presently working on capturing post-colonial Africa. He hopes to come in contact with guerrilla fighters in Northern Africa oppressed by the current civil war, drawn to the same freedom they are fighting for. In the revolutionaries’ ‘tangible’ war, the enemy can be defeated, paradoxical to Locke’s internal battle against the intolerable monotonies of reality.

Internally, Locke is creeping on despair. Tired of being unable to rid himself of old habits, he begins his mission, already awaiting its end. Within the first ten minutes, the golden-pink sand of the Sahara swallows the tires of his light blue Land Rover in its vastness. As Locke falls to his knees, he stretches his arms as wide as the landscape, and yells, “I don’t care!” He surrenders his identity and his reality, finding autonomy and strength through resignation.

The camera moves from a medium side shot, then pans right to his gaze of never-ending sand and sky—nothingness. The notion for individual transcendence, “Not transcendence in the philosophical sense but rather as the ego’s passage beyond the limits of the self, its merging with, or dying into, the larger world, the ‘other’ that lies beyond the ego.” [1] Locke is not interested in passively participating in the commonplace world, which brings him to both boundless landscapes which he can not overcome and crowded, suffocating architecture of large cities.

The landscape–the space around him–becomes a direct reflection of this internal state. Locke’s hotel in Chad supports his feeling of insignificance by hinting at primitivism—the basic need for water parallel to interior sky blue walls and sand colored doors. Depleted, Locke finds a dead man in the adjacent room by the name of Robertson. He sits on the bed next to him, in shadow, discovering this chance to gain a new identity, to live out a ‘new’ destiny just by borrowing Robertson’s passport and planner. The ceiling fan blows above–time passing. Locke fades into the blue walls as he puts on Robertson’s blue coat.

Leaving behind his camera, tape recorder, and luggage, Locke is one step closer to freedom by escaping himself. Antonioni points to the fact that modern machinery and electronics of the present cannot negate the struggles of the past (history), which are reoccurring. Man is bound by his belongings—without them he has no identity to others or to himself, but with them he is boxed into an identity that does not fully encompass the vastness of his true self.

Following Robertson’s schedule, he finds himself in a new setting contrasted by sharp red and white architecture of the Munich Airport. Papers in a luggage locker that resemble a black hole show that Robertson was an arms dealer on behalf of a terrorist group. The next meeting is with gunrunners in Barcelona, where a majority of the film is located.

Antonioni frequently uses bars or birdcages–literal and metaphorical–emanating the restrictions of mankind that modernity tends to mask: history repeating itself, unable to break out of natural or cultural boundaries, or even how the physical architecture of buildings and streets create social habits limiting us to the space we can use. In a scene where Locke rides in a cable car over the port of Barcelona, he emerges his upper body out of the window. In the next frame, he is entirely surrounded by blue water. He flaps his arms like wings, feeling the unbounded freshness of his ‘new self’ if only for a moment. The next shot cuts to a low angle inside the Umbraculo located in Parc de la Ciutadella; we are deceived by the tall, vibrant, green palm trees and natural light which are entrapped under a roof. Panning down, children run around and Locke sits on a bench, arms stretching, looking up. The sites and architecture are deliberate but it is only through the sequences–the juxtaposition of characters within limited frames versus immense, natural landscapes–that visually express inner mentality, which words cannot.

In Barcelona, Locke’s destiny as Robertson becomes threatening and forces him to go on the run. Followed by his past and government officials, he unknowingly hides in a famous Gaudi building, Palau Guell, where he meets the Girl (Maria Schneider). Also a lost soul, she wears floral attire that blends in with nature while, ironically, studying manmade architecture. This inconsistency is at the center of both her and Locke’s discontent and creates the same longing for freedom that Locke is destined for. Palau Guell reflects the immediate anguish of Locke by its dark, neo-Gothic essence, medieval details, and heavy textures of stone and wood. A birdcage hangs over a sleeping guard while the bodies move through a grander cage: the mansion itself. The interior is an imprisonment of self: the dim light peaking through the slotted lateral windows gives little solace and instead of bringing in the outside world, only demonstrates to Locke how far removed one is from it, thus forcing him to exit the building in haste.

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Naturally, his mentality craves the opposite of Palau Guell and brings him to the fantasy-like rooftop landscape of Gaudi’s Casa Mila. Wide shots of abstract sculptured chimneys form a deep horizon, echoing desert dunes with its dips and line curvature. This ‘imaginary’ world indeed projects Gaudi’s influence of the desert from his trip to Africa—the unleveled, mountainous rocks against sky blue and earth tones. The structure of Casa Mila is based in natural forms with its wave-like stair walkways accented with serpentine curved iron rails, however designed to be a functional apartment complex that provides shelter and seclusion from the exterior world, yet not fully closed off from it. Also mimicking curves of the human body, the work of Gaudi is an attempt to connect nature with manmade structures. Panning down, a couple fights below on a balcony, grounding us in a reality of incommunicability.

He sees the Girl here and when they find each other, they sit in a low shot with a background of triangular, monochrome tiles extending to the sky—hopefulness. This setting establishes a harmonious balance which Locke and the Girl share, at a moment where their relationship progresses. While the two find comfort in each other, The Passenger differs from earlier Antonioni films whereas here, neither relies on each other for ‘salvation.’ The Girl enjoys her solitude although she has become a passenger in Locke’s convertible, while his intent is to find ‘beyond.’ In Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2: The Time-Image, he analyzes the movement of body alongside the brain, maintaining that attitude is a result of thoughts; a concept that Antonioni visualizes through space and architecture.

They travel south further into rural Spain until trees become fewer, leaving only highway and dusty, desolate land. The sound of the sea grows louder as they reach the Hotel De La Inglesia, almost as if the closer one gets to civilization the more apparent it is how far we are from nature. The camera shows us the architecture of the hard, geometric lines of minimal white buildings spread out, then finally cuts to Locke and the Girl juxtaposed against a background of the empty land. Although a few people wander about, the buildings feel abandoned—again calling to mind a time in the past, present and maybe even future. Tired, Locke keeps moving to escape the past and present events in part of the Girl’s interest to not give up—she is balanced and adaptable in nature in contrast to his low spirits.

They are seen in several scenes after eating in cafes overly full of plush, green vegetation, yet the dialogue and body only support Locke’s weariness and admission that he lives one life—headed towards death. Here it appears that Antonioni is highlighting how the immortality of nature makes one realize their own mortality. To Deleuze, cinema requires this interaction between abstract and concreteness. On a road chase, their convertible breaks down in the middle of the earthy, empty land—a second instance where modern machinery fails.

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Locke needs to proceed on his own, but arranges to meet the Girl at Hotel De La Gloria for the final scene and destination. By this time, he checks in with nothing other than his sunglasses, shielding him from the sunlight; he sits on the curb in front of a textured white wall, with one window covered by green blinds and a green hanging plant to the left. He squashes an innocent bug, smearing its blood on the white wall. Italian novelist Alberto Moravia wrote a piece in 1961, discussing how Antonioni’s visual world is static, “composed of objects bound together by no rationally perceptible links. For these reasons, the contemplation of a wall carries more weight than a carefully worked out dramatic action…oppressed by a nameless, formless anguish.” [2]  

Locke lays face up—glasses off, fully aware, open to the natural world—and transcends reality. Meanwhile, the camera observes everyday life in the plaza through the gated window of his hotel room. Known for its seven minute tracking shot, the camera escapes through the bars out into the action of all those in search of Locke arriving at the hotel. With the sound of the ocean in the background, the arena is composed of a dirt ground and analogous towering, aged stonewall. Again we see the desolate, bleak emptiness of the land, like the desert, surrounding Hotel De La Gloria, which mirrors that interior void in Locke. A reddened, blue dusk overtakes the sky as the ordinary world continues in its tragic habits that one must either adapt or conform to. At the corner of the hotel entrance, a white light emanates from within.  

[1] William Arrowsmith, Antonioni: The Poet of Images (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1995), 148.

[2] Alberto Moravia, “A New Feeling for Reality,” L’espresso Magazine, (Rome: Feb. 1961).

2018 Oscar Predictions

It's no fun watching the Oscars when you know, or have a pretty good idea, of what'll win. This year, it's a different story. There is no clear frontrunner for Best Picture. There are a handful of films that have a legitimate shot at winning the big prize - including The Shape of Water, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird. Let's just be thankful that Paul Thomas Anderson is in presence - and that Kobe Bryant will (likely) be an Academy Award winner.

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour

Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Phantom Thread
If I picked my favorite of the year: Phantom Thread

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
If I picked my favorite of the year: Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
If I picked my favorite of the year: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Francis McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Marogt Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Will Win: Francis McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Francis McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
If I picked my favorite of the year: Haley Lu Richardson, Columbus

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Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
If I picked my favorite of the year: Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Should Win: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
If I picked my favorite of the year: Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

The Big Sick
Get Out

Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will Win: Get Out
Should Win: Get Out
If I picked my favorite of the year: Phantom Thread

Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly's Game
Mudbound

Will Win: Call Me by Your Name
Should Win: Call Me by Your Name
If I picked my favorite of the year: Call Me by Your Name

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water


Will Win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
If I picked my favorite of the year: A Ghost Story

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Baby Driver
Dunkirk

I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


Will Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
If I picked my favorite of the year: Dunkirk

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour

Dunkirk
The Shape of Water


Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
If I picked my favorite of the year: Phantom Thread

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Will Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
If I picked my favorite of the year: Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk
Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Phantom Thread
If I picked my favorite of the year: A Ghost Story

Lost Highway: A Home is a Man’s Castle

“What struck me about OJ Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did those deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term — ‘psychogenic fugue’ — describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, Lost Highway is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever.” — David Lynch (“Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity”)

 LOST HIGHWAY (2017)

LOST HIGHWAY (2017)

It’s often said that OJ Simpson’s post-acquittal nonchalance was possible because, throughout the trial, Simpson lied so much that he grew to ‘believe his own lies.’ When we say someone ‘believes his or her own lies,’ we give colloquial testimony to the existence of Lynch’s term ‘psychogenic fugues’, something that if phrased otherwise (try ‘you can erase a memory if you lie it away’) would seem pretty unlikely. But it becomes more fathomable if we think of fugues—the inability to assimilate the truth; insistence on subjective reality—as a peculiar cocktail of trauma, paranoia, and confirmation bias.

Lynch knows that we need lies so desperately that, ironically, we’re even willing to rewrite our own backstories to defend our self-image. His 1997 film Lost Highway explores how a saxophonist, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who murders his wife, René Madison (Patricia Arquette), re-imagines his identity after the murder. Interestingly, he implies that this fugue occurs more in response to the humiliation of his wife’s indiscretions than the horror of her execution. We lie more to protect our egos than strengthen our alibis. But, as the film demonstrates, nothing we suppress “can stay hidden forever” -- and because of the connections we make between our egos and environments, the places we haunt prevent us from forgetting away our worst memories. Lost Highway shows us how egos and environments impact each other, either facilitating or foiling the selective amnesia we rely on to construct personality.

Waiting on a death sentence for the murder of his wife, Fred Madison transforms into another man, Pete Dayton. As soon as Fred thinks Pete into existence (and thus becomes Pete), the film switches from cinematic third to first person, depicting events as experienced within Fred’s ‘fugue-state’ re-imagination of events. Through Pete, a teenage auto mechanic, Fred can both erase memories of the murders, gain a new identity, and re-imagine his virility as so irresistible that a woman would cheat for him rather than on him. In this alternate scenario, the contested woman remains René save for a name change (now Alice) and change in hair color (now blonde).

Before Fred retreats into his alter-ego, we see why he needs an alter-ego in the first place. This is explained in the scenes leading up to the murder. Most take place in the Madisons’ home, where Lynch stages a semiotic exposition of Fred’s psyche. Using peculiar architectural details and color coded visual rhymes, Lynch creates a network of associations that visually represent the nature of Fred’s violent insecurities and unstable perceptions.

MADISON HOUSE

Windows at Madison House vs. Concrete Bunker Embrasure

The Madison home is an embodied mindscape. Defensive and introverted, the house’s exterior is homologous to the Madisons’ marital struggles. With slit-like windows that resemble the fortress embrasures shrouding cannon-fire, the exterior features a noticeably lopsided wall-space to window ratio. The house reads as self-consciously—even comically—protective.

Highlighting these windows, Lynch connects the home’s stylistic oddities and Fred’s psyche in the film’s opening. Prematurely awake and visibly troubled, Fred lies in bed smoking and watching his window shades rise (presumably connected to a morning alarm clock system). The light shines on Fred through a single-pane window, the only ordinarily sized window in the house. Red stage curtains flank the shade on this window. Introduced with a curtain rise opening, Fred’s room is clearly figured as a place of performance and visibility.  

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

Here, as he does in so many films, Lynch evokes performance anxiety with stage curtains and a spotlight. Throughout the film, he connects Fred’s professional and domestic lives using the red and black colors found in both his bedroom (red walls, black bed sheets) and the nightclub he performs in (black unlit club with red stage lights). This emphasizes the contrast between Fred’s superior musical performances and subpar sexual performances. His sex life is so brutally disappointing that, after the film’s first sex scene, René pats him on the back and repeats, “it’s okay”.

Contrast this with Pete’s robust virility, which is on display in either a red car with black vinyl upholstery (his car) or a black car with red vinyl upholstery interiors (Alice’s car).

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

While lying in bed, the message “Dick Laurent is dead” comes through Fred’s intercom, revealing the ease with which uninvited messages creep into his house—and even his bedroom. Fred rises to identify the intercom speaker, then goes to look through the embrasure-like window. Since it’s too small to see through, Fred walks over to the larger window, only to discover the area by the intercom vacated. Someone’s menacing Fred’s house (and mind) but he can’t tell who.

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

Later on, René opens a package on their doorstep containing videotape footage of the two of them lying asleep in bed. The footage is filmed using a high angle shot, a perspective often used to evoke a sense of omniscience. Similar shots are used throughout Lost Highway, creating visual rhymes suggesting memory and moral judgement. Appropriately, Scorsese calls these ‘Priest’s Angles’.

Detectives inspect the house. They surmise the intrusions were made possible by their discontinued alarm system. Visibly off put by the question, Fred and René do not respond in a manner that suggests the alarm may have been turned off to ease René’s nighttime ventures in and out of the house. Cleverly, Lynch establishes a connection between René’s infidelities and the porousness of their home: her infidelities violated the literal and metonymic sanctity of their bedroom, “opening the door” to interlopers.

When the detectives suggest installing security cameras, Fred dismisses the idea: “I like to remember things my own way… How I remember them, not exactly how they happen.” However tech-averse, Fred tells the detectives that he has soundproofed the bedroom. This way, he can practice his saxophone and reclaim the bedroom as a place for something he’s good at.

Lynch further highlights the interstices of the house’s interior and exterior in one of the film’s most famous sequences, where we meet both of the Madison’s “home-wreckers”. After Fred realizes his wife is sleeping with the host of a party they’re attending, Fred heads over to the bar to order two drinks. A little person with a white-painted face, black hair, and rouged lips approaches Fred. He tells Fred that not only has he met him at his house before (Fred doesn’t remember him), he’s at his house right now. He hands Fred a phone and tells him to call his own home phone. On the other end of the receiver, the “mystery man” answers and tells Fred that he’s at his house because “you invited me. It is not my custom to go where I’m not invited”.

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

The videotapes and “the mystery man” scenes evoke and (quite literally) perform the definition of “the uncanny” as Freud storied it. Appropriately, the term also conflates domestic spaces and psychic phenomenon. An antidote to heimlich (‘belonging to the house’), unheimlich (“the uncanny”) describes the experience of something outside the house, alien, that feels familiar, like what belongs to the house. Freud famously uses the experience of ‘being robbed of one’s eyes’ (gauged eyes being the form of Oedipus’ “castration”) to explain the uncanny. Blinded by sleep but observed by others, René and Fred are robbed of their eyes by the intruder’s camera, a seizure of subjectivity that Fred (as he tells the detectives) already associates with cameras.

The Madisons’ seem weary of light bulbs as well. The home is filled with meager space lighting that continually impairs our ability to locate the characters in the house. Paired with a variety of non-right angles and full length mirrors, the house has a lost-in-space quality. Often lit from only the waist up, the characters seem to wade through the house, dissolving from one room to the next as if passing between states of consciousness.

While the Madison home is almost medieval in its lack of light and exposure, it is exceptionally technologically equipped. However, this technology is only featured when aggravating Fred’s anxieties (the invasion footage, his calls home to see if René has lied and left the house, the news of Dick Laurent’s death, the ‘mystery man’s’ phone call). This reinforces the home’s sense of slippage between exterior information and interior security, mirroring the quarrels between Fred’s conscious and unconscious realities.

The film’s Hollywood Hills home invasions evoke the uniquely uncanny home invasions the Manson family staged to prepared for the Tate-LaBianca murders. Calling them “creepy crawleys”, the family broke into homes and re-arranged furniture and various household item. Like Fred and René, victims of “creepy crawleys” would experience the unique fear of realizing people roamed around their house while they slept. Also like the videotapes, the idea is not to enter the victim’s house, but to get into their heads by getting into their house.

But Fred’s mind had already been trespassed. Since Fred repeatedly unknowingly invites intruders, its implied that he’s actually the source of his home’s vulnerability. Seeing as his home’s vulnerability is linked to his marriage’s and his own, it’s implied that his jealousy (and resulting bad husbandry) brought about his wife’s infidelities, instead of the other way around. As he let people get into his house, he let people get into his head.

LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

“This may in fact be Lynch's true and only agenda—just to get inside your head.”

In an article recounting his visit to the set of Lost Highway, David Foster Wallace offers an academic definition of ‘Lynchian’, which he argues, "refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." The macabre elements of Fred’s personality—his potential for violence—are muted by mundane, domestic feel of the film’s first act. After the murder, we can look back and bestow irony and violence on episodes that felt ordinary on first-viewing. This reinforces the sense that, when the film’s violence occurs, it feels simultaneously shocking and oddly familiar.

Lost Highway shows how a man’s failure to maintain a self-contained home causes him to lose his mind and his memories. Since maintaining a home’s safety is a job customarily bestowed upon men, this convention feels ordinary and unthreatening. But since this expectation is the same grounds upon which Fred goes crazy, murders his wife and loses his sense of self, failing to meet this duty has explosive consequences on his ego. Playing with the idea that ‘a home is a man’s castle’, and a mind is a man’s battleground, Lynch reveals the violence concealed within convention.

Choreography: "Planets"

Musician Emily Haines multiplies herself in the music video for “Planets,” directed by Justin Broadbent. Perceived as one “continuous” shot, the rigid architecture of the space frames an evolving narrative that reflects on the role of chance, choice, and change in our lives.

As Art Director of Emily Haines + the Soft Skeleton’s album Choir of the Mind, Broadbent curated the visual artwork and music videos for the album’s four singles. His work on the project explores themes of feminism, fame, false idolization, and rebellion through different characterizations of Haines. Broadbent expands on the contemplative lyrics of “Planets,” with multiple versions of Haines echoing the “multiple dimensions of one’s internal monologue.” A raw and clinical background provides a stark contrast to her blue dress and bright orange hoodie.

 Plan Diagram of Entry/Exit points, turns, and stops relative to the grid over the course of the Music Video.

Plan Diagram of Entry/Exit points, turns, and stops relative to the grid over the course of the Music Video.

“Planets” consists of seven versions of Haines entering and exiting a fixed frame. Broadbent notes that the video was filmed serendipitously; the simple structure and staging of the video involved minimal guidance, intervention, or scripting. Broadbent’s simple instructions—enter the frame, cross the center of the frame, turn five or six times, and exit the opposite side—yielded a complex field of paths and processions. Haines intuitively responds to the architecture of the space: she guides her movements by reacting to the gridded tile floor, her proximity to the room’s walls, and her relation to the camera.

Broadbent’s graphic design interests influence his organization of the video, exploring how things overlap and come together through spatial formations. His improvisational filming was organized in the editing process: he curated the processions so that “Haines did not intersect with herself,” never wanting “more than two images of Haines on screen at the same time.” She enters and exits the frame “faster than humanly possible.” The resulting seven versions of Haines do not respond to each other—they float and orbit across the frame in a meditative, isolated manner.

Frequency and overlap of the steps taken, Entry/Exit points, and the baseball bat as it is dragged across the grid.

The layered structure of Broadbent’s video is hierarchical, growing in complexity as time passes. The viewer’s anticipation similarly grows when two versions of Haines appear at once, when she pauses at the wall, and when she nearly crashes into another version of herself. Haines passively drags a black baseball bat throughout the video, implying, as Broadbent says, "a nonchalant potential to use force." Overall, her movements are inconclusive, with no clear climax or resolution. Starting and ending in the same location, the video could be viewed as an infinite loop, reflective of each of our own meditations and inner monologues.

 Screen Captures of the same path stopping/turning points at various points of the Music Video.

Screen Captures of the same path stopping/turning points at various points of the Music Video.

Whether by chance or by choice, there is an organization of patterns and repetition to Haines’ paths and stopping points. Mapping each path illustrates that there are two pairs of repeated paths, with five stops and turns on the same location of the grid. In one case, Broadbent used the same shot twice; in the other, Broadbent chose two similar shots. Overlayed together, Broadbent establishes an undercurrent of orbits and seasonality, much as the song’s lyrics allude to how a person grapples with the cosmic and cyclical way people enter and exit our lives. These moments of intersection and overlap reveal our conscious and subconscious tendencies—in Haines’ choice of routes, Broadbent’s choice of edits, and our awareness of the choices we make as we experience change.

Each procession is isolated and notated to indicate duration, change in direction, and Entry/Exit relative to other paths.

More drawings inspired by “Planets” can be found below. Gabriela O’Connor is a designer in Boston. Justin Broadbent (Keith Dungeon) is an artist in Toronto, Canada. Choir of the Mind by Emily Haines + The Soft Skeleton is out September 15th, 2017.