George Tooker – Landscape with Figures (1965), egg tempera on pressed wood
This semester I am taking Dance Film I with Professor Mitchell Rose. So far, we have done several assignments focusing on camera shots and angles, musicality, and editing skills in DaVinci Resolve. Our latest project was our first attempt at a fully conceived dance short film inspired by a 2D artwork of our choice.
For my first armature short film I used George Tooker’s Landscape with Figures as my inspiration. Pictured above, it is a poignant social commentary piece that depicts the isolation and dehumanization of a capitalist, bureaucratic society. Though it was painted in 1965, it still holds relevance in our 21st century world of fast technology and instantly gratifying social media apps that increasingly divide and segregate humanity.
In my film Descent Into Madness, I imagined the life of Tooker’s figures. What if one of these characters became aware of their status: trapped in a cube, unable to escape the tedious, daily monotony of a corporate prison. I tasked myself with showing the progression of someone realizing their station and the frenzied, panic-stricken recognition that there is no escape. Likewise, human beings also have the innate ability to feel like we are trapped in our own head. In many situations, the only thing keeping us from escaping our thoughts is the inability to see beyond ourselves.
Still, there is a plenitude of mental health issues which allows individuals to feel trapped in their thoughts and unable to process our emotions. I feel this is especially prevalent in 2020 as we face a global pandemic, increased severity in natural disasters due to climate change, and escalating political divides across the world. While I did not create this piece in response to COVID-19 or our current political and environmental climates, I think it is a testament to the age-old thought that art reflects life and life reflects art. Indeed, this is what Tooker’s original 1965 painting embodies. Art can inspire art, life can inspire art, art can inspire life. Our experiences in life inform our interpretation of art, and for the artist, their art is their interpretation of their experiences and observations in life.
I hope you enjoy my short film. Please remember that it is my first attempt in choreographing, directing, and editing a dance film. However, I’d love to hear your feedback and constructive comments!