Friday, July 14, 2006

Making Sausage

In this post, I'm going to write about what I was thinking about when I made Sausage in 1996. Sausage is a 12 minute experimental video, which I will try to make available for download on one of the free file hosting sites on the web. It was shot on a consumer Video8 camera, and edited on a pair of consumer-grade VCRs, no computers, no nothing. I will be talking about the subject and structure of the video, and so spoil most of it for anyone who might want to watch it afterwards. I don't like this idea, (especially since it seems to be successfully traumatizing Filipino catholics to this a little robot that escaped from the lab to scuttle around the city, biting someone in the ankle every month or so), but A) most people wouldn't be able to watch it anyway, B) All readers are free stop reading now and download/watch the thing first (yeah, right) and C) almost no artist writes about this stuff, and I, for one would love to read about it. So I am publishing this in the hope that others might do the same. Now: to the chase.

The core idea for the video came when I noticed that "Jesus" said backwards, sounded a lot like "sausage." I don't know why, but the conjunction seemed fascinating. It seemed credible that this relationship between the sounds were not a trivial accident, but the perceptible sign of some secret and essential relationship between Jesus and sausages, between Jesus and pigs. A wealth of facts that seemed to corroborate the idea, to resonate with it.

In the first place, the pig is considered a dirty animal. It's a term of opprobium, even if we eat a lot of it. It would be in keeping with the "the last shall be first" stuff for Jesus to incorporate something of the reviled in him. Second, pigs are slaughtered without thought or mercy. This is in keeping with the theme of sacrifice, the dying for your sins stuff. Third, there is something terrible and nightmarish in the shapeless-ground-meatness of sausages. Unspeakable additives and obscene organs buried in the blandness of the stuffing. Urban legends of human fingernails turning up in hotdogs. Then there is the ritual cannibalism that is the core metaphor of Communion. Many, many centers of energy twinkling away in the dark. (I wonder if this kind of thinking is what Dali called his "paranoiac-critical method"? Even if he didn't, it appears to me that paranoia --seeing looming patterns in the universe-- is a good methodological foundation. For art, anyway.)

However, I was sure I didn't want to make some kind of strict parallel, something that said "pigs are like Jesus, we kill them everyday, barbeque is just like the Host." In the first place, that's about a bath away from some kind vegetarian plea which I am very far from making: I love pork. In the second place, I abhor that kind of "committed art" messaging. Politics and programs are such scrawny universes. An artwork is most fascinating when the images seep into the everyday world, and vice versa. Tufted fragments from the work parachute into the folds of the brain, lying in ambush like little nano-commandos, jumping out and performing hit-and-run surgery on our perceptions when we least expect it. Things in the real world we never noticed before suddenly seem part of a conspiracy. Things in the artwork seem to be hinting at something about a person we just met this afternoon. What I love is when the artwork and reality invade and modify each other, and it is precisely this process of seepage and epiphany that an explicit message stops dead in its tracks.

The premise was: would it be possible to make a film that did not "explain," or give a meaning to the Jesus/sausage sonic artifact, but which amplified the implications lurking in it? Would it be possible to make a film that attracted meaning in such a way that more and more Jesus things seemed like pig things, and more and more pig things seemed like Jesus things? THAT was the problem/goal. How to set up something that would promote the cross-contamination of the ideas we had of Jesus and pigs. (Of course, I did not actually put these ideas into words. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I was able to state what I had been aiming for. At the time, I could only have verbalized what I did NOT want to do. )

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