animortis composite 01.jpg

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.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


Escaping the city and Dark Light


I escaped city living through a temporary house swop, a friend who had built her dream home away 3 hours outside of cape town needed to return to the city for work and medical treatment, I wanted out of city life. It was a wonderfully mutually beneficial arrangement that lasted for two and a half years before we managed to extricate ourselves from each other’s houses. It enabled me to without major financial commitment establish a life away from a city dependence.

I have not looked back and seven years later, I still live a rural life. My reason for leaving the city were many but the driving force was that I was changing careers from a documentary filmmaker back to my first love, art. I studied fine art formally at university but found that other interests and adventures pulled me in directions I had never anticipated. Studying art is both a blessing and a curse. It enables you to situate yourself within an art history context expanding your visual and cultural references and for this I am grateful. But it also stifles spontaneity and for me it severed my trust with my instinctual creativity because, so I was taught, there was a “”right and wrong” way of going about things according to lecturers biases. It took me five years of an chaotic, anarchist, experimental life in Berlin to undo my formal art education. And by that time I was more interested in filmmaking.

Filmmaking led to photography and that was a big reason why I left the city. I began an intense series of transformative self portraits using a photographic technique called “light painting”. The technique enabled me to transcend the solid flesh of my body and capture elemental energy forms. In all the portraits I am completely naked. Clothing felt too restrictive and identifying. I became immersed in discovering ancient, inner, mythological archetypes which were re-interpreted through my 21st century perspective. In order to access these much deeper layers, I needed intense focus, a lot of wild space, and quiet, exploration I found impossible in the pressure, noise and congestion of the city.

The mythological self portrait series I termed ‘Dark Light’ for I felt I was making the unknown visible, through (my own) embodied form in a way that could be captured on camera. It was immensely liberating as I felt I was finally freeing myself from a voyeuristic male gaze I had inadvertently internalised my whole life and was. It turned out to be a full time three year project, discovering and presenting myself through my own eyes.

During this time, I was taking long walks through exquisite fynbos which I was fortunate enough to be living in the midst of. It felt very organic that I transferred the same light painting technique and intense vision into exploring flowers. In fact one Dark Light sub series is the mergence of my female form with various proteas. So began my fascination with flowers, plants, expanding to insects and animals.

Escaping the city and Dark Light

reality is a personal and collective story

Oliver Roberts,  Senior Features Writer Sunday Times, came to visit and to interview me about my work. Jackie Ruth Murray, photographer, filmmaker, curator and friend made the connection between us when she contacted various different media sources to publicise my beyond Beyond exhibition which she curated.
From our very first communication with each other, I felt a level of comfort with Oliver. I can’t say what it was, his informal way of communicating, his level of interest and a straightforwardness, his gentle ability to enter into your world? He was unable to publicise the exhibition because he explained that he likes to meet up with people personally and get a sense of them and their lives. What a relief in this virtually mediated world, the documentary filmmaker in me really was liking him more and more. Then I read a few of his articles and got a sense of the very visceral way he approached an interview and felt truly honoured that he had an interest in me as a creative being, besides the fact that he had written about the great of the greats like William Kentridge.
Then one day after a certain amount of backwards and forwards e-mailing, Oliver made the long journey to come and visit me in the middle of nowhere.  We got on like old friends and nattered for an afternoon, a night and the following morning (don’t read anything in here, its a long way to drive and one needs to overnight). It was a great honour to be seen in such an in depth way going a long way to heal my invisibility wound. He reminded me a lot of my intense documentary filmmaker self.
Now I pity him as he has to go away and makes sense of all my blah blah blah. But I also feel rather nervous as to what will emerge … did I reveal too much … I wonder what details he will put in and what he will leave out as he constructs the story? It’s a familiar process to me from the documentary edit space – where a story is created and presented like reality but is really just a story.
Then I remind myself to let it all go, not be too attached to my image, to my story, it’s all  concocted anyway,  what I chose to reveal, the language and concepts I chose to clothe the revelations in, even the notion of a self is constructed.
In truth I felt I made a friend from another part of South Africa from a different generation who lives a different life. He also loves animals and creatures and is imaged here in empathic interaction with the donkey family on the farm, father Pablo, mother Ariel and child Puck.
As I await the revelation of my “self” through another’s eyes, (print journalists will not let you see the article before publication), there is some aspect of what I call “me” who is watching from a distance with just a hint of a smile as I wriggle like a worm that has been taken out of the earth and placed under a bright light.
reality is a personal and collective story