Film is a collaborative effort and although I am here representing the film ANIMORTIS, but there is no way it would exist without the brilliant genius of Simon Dunckley who was my main creative collaborator on this project. Simon dealt with the mind boggling tech, animating in 3 dimensional space sometimes up to a hundred layers deep. He also brought his immense diverse creativity as an artist, animator, image projector, puppet wrangler, robotics engineer, designer, graphic artist, sculptor and tireless three dimensional puzzle solver.
I also need to thank noise artist Jacques van Zyl aka hashtag blacknoise who engineered all the imaginative creature noises. I am grateful to him for being flexible and working outside of his preferred work methods and allowed me to give him a whole lot more direction than he normally allows. Thanks for trusting me Jacques.
I would also like to thank Warrick Sony for licensing his music to this project. Warrick’s music was so synchronous to ideas I had to for the project that I couldn’t believe my luck coming across his sonorous resonant compositions which set the tone for the film.
I would like to thank Centre for Curating the Archive and Iziko Museums for initiating this ground breaking project and supporting it to come to this stage.
My creative work is very much centered on death. Everything I photograph sculpt with and animate is dead. One cannot focus on death without merging into life, it’s a continuous cycle. With my creative work, I am wanting to bring people into awareness of the rich diversity of life that we share this earth home with, to remind people that we are interdependent on each other for survival. If anyone can come away from viewing my work with a sense of wonder, then I consider my work successful.
I have used roadkill as my subject matter. I come across dead wild animals on the roads of the wild remote area where I live all the time, especially when the sand roads were tarred and cars could drive faster. I began picking up the bodies and photographing them at night with a long exposure technique I use termed light painting. In the process of photographing I would position the animals in different poses to try and find an essential expression of the animal being. I became aware that I was actually doing a crude stop motion animation with my multiple photographs. I then began exploring animation more consciously and this film is the result of various animations over a 3 year period.
The animations are crude, hampered by rigor mortis, decaying stinking flesh, the length of the night during which I work. I am a lessor god, trying to bring my Frankensteins to life, only succeeding with jerky imitation. It is important to note that my ground rule is never to kill in the name of creativity. I rather allow serendipity and chance to shape all of my creativity. With this project I followed an intuitive gut instinct to make so many choices in a process that was new and unfamiliar to me. I have a roadkill intervention project RIP to raise awareness with motorists and try and prevent roadkill. If anyone is interested they can speak to me further about it.
It was these very basic, automaton zombie like animations that I brought to Simon. It was together with him that their trajectories in 3 dimensional space were created and their story arc developed. Simon edited in a 3 dimensional ball shape which was such a mind stretching experience. I don’t think I can go back to just to flat screen filmmaking anymore. The immersive virtual reality space is seductive with its infinite possibilities.
Death is the one thing common to all of life, it is our shared destiny. Death is the nothingness from which everything emerges. Death is the place before birth, a place of infinite possibilities. As living beings we experience death as loss of the physical form, so it can be a tragic and fearful experience. Yet death is transformative with a form of consciousness that continues. In multiple high dosage psilocybin journeys, I have experienced a death of the personal self while an universal awareness continues without a connection to a specific body. This is so bizarre and antithetical to our everyday reality consciousness that even expressing this in words makes no sense. In this film I have brought in certain elements I experienced on these explorative high dosage journeys and its this immersive medium is a wonderfully effective technology to bring you along into that space where the whole universe expands and contracts, breathing you and you breathing the universe.
At present in the Anthropocene on this earth, the abyss is of our own making and it is our own monstrosity of destruction that stares back at us.
In the greater eternity, we are in the great abyss which is in the very centre of every cell, each atom.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”