With each "chapter" of Suburban RED I am working with a different color motif. I say chapter because the video is divided up as if in different segments. Each segment has its own scenes and concerns and even characters (or different aspects of the same character). This is different than a scene. The current color is purple. With each chapter, my mind will be on the color and I start seeing it everywhere. When I walk through an art supply store, or a "dollar store" (where I find inexpensive items like wrapping paper of different colors) I will see the color and move toward it, no matter what the item. I will also see the color being worn on others, and I will see it out in nature. The jacaranda trees, for example, are in bloom. They are rare in Sunnyvale, but have that beautiful canopy of lavender color.
Undressing and Dressing
After I finished chapter three, what I refer to as Suburban GREEN, I pulled the green down from the walls and in two days the bedroom set was left with bare walls. Then the task became to fill the room with purple. Two things immediately factored in to the decor of the new set, one, was that the new wide angle lens that I started to use for GREEN is so wide that the floor or the ceiling often become part of the composition. Neither the floor nor the ceiling were factored in to the decor. For the new set there was an opportunity to factor in the scope of the wide lens, this time, and allow the decor to stretch up onto the ceiling. The other thing that I wanted to do was to change the lines on the walls so that they aren't only straight - horizontal and vertical - but curved. For GREEN I thought of the room as being like the plaid shirt that the character wears with grid-like lines and square patches of green shades. With this in mind, the first things that I put up in the new set were the lines that swoop up and curve around the ceiling. I thought of the shapes as being like giant flower petals or the globular shapes within a lava lamp. PURPLE, I decided was going to have something to do with the psychedelic 1960s and the curved lines would express this breaking out of the box. Similar to how I like to draw, these initial lines informed the rest of the design and I then built on them.
When I think about 1960s decor, I think, of course, about the "hippie pad” with colorful tie-dyed fabric hangings and peace signs and lava lamps etc. This aesthetic has been embraced by the current culture of hippie-like young people and sixty year old hanger-ons. But this chapter, Suburban PURPLE, isn't only about the hippie, it is about the 1960s pop culture that I grew up in and it was more than hippie. There was an embrace of modern art and pop art that was cleaner and more plain and simple than the hippie aesthetic. I wanted this to come into the decor of the bedroom so that the room reflected the 1960s that I think about, both hippie counter culture but also the swinging sixties of London, for example. Since I started with the lines of the black tape, I suddenly thought of the possibility of creating large size graphic images on the walls like the work of Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol. This lead to the ears.
I was born in 1963 and so my formative years were lived in the 1960s and early 1970s. Psychedelic rock was what was played on the mainstream radio stations that my family listened to. Several of my brothers were Beatles fans and had large record collections with music by the Beatles, the Turtles, the Byrds, the Monkees, Dylan, Hendrix, and all that psychedelic imagery and pop art that went with it. Though we didn't partake in psychedelic drugs we were definitely pulled by the Surrealism and dreamlike imagery and soundscapes that made the mind soar. I remember my older sister once sitting with me as we looked through the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour picture booklet that came with the LP and listened to I Am the Walrus. Although the music was kind of strange and scary to me, it also had a Wizard of Oz -like quality that I felt was meant for young ones like me. I remember my sister saying something like "these things are real." I didn't understand what she was talking about and I knew she was even putting me one as she had done before. It was the same as when one of my brothers had told me to look into the sky saying, "Look, there's Mrs. Brooks, in the sky! Flying on a hamburger!" Mrs. Brooks was my kindergarten teacher. I remember looking up and for a moment there was that suspension of disbelief that children have more readily than adults, and I thought that I might actually see her. I knew he was playing with me but the image was still created in my mind as was the wonder that the world might actually work this way.
My interest in Surrealism has always meant that the artwork be influenced by processes that tap into the unconscious. Many of the techniques in Surrealism include ways of working with "happy accidents." A happy accident is when you stumble onto something accidentally, or that thing you are working on, let's say, falls and breaks and then you look at the broken pieces and there is suddenly something new and better to work with. The artist works with the accident and brings in a whole new meaning and approach to the piece that wasn't there before. For Surrealists these accidents became part of the process. Decalcomania is one of the processes used by Surrealists, especially Max Ernst. The paint is spread randomly on a surface and then squished by another surface, a board maybe or a sheet of plastic, and then when the sheet of plastic or board is removed the painted surface is now filled with all types of blotches of color and shapes with vein-like textures and lines. Like a Rorschach test, these random shapes can then be looked at, as we can do with clouds in the sky, and identified as objects that they remind us of. Just like seeing faces in the moon or horses and poodles or angels in the sky.
In this way a movie can be made. Most people think of films as being written first in screenplay form and then broken down into storyboard images that then inform the look and design of the sets and costumes etc. But films can also start with the costume or the set or a prop and the whole story worked around them or built to give them context and meaning. In RED, which I call chapter two, the story was mostly written and then storyboarded but my main cue was "Red things in the sky. Red things in the ground." With BLUE, it was actually a photograph I took of myself in a costume that I developed that spawned the whole story. That story developed as I was shooting. With PURPLE the color seemed to have certain connotations - psychedelia, spirituality, femininity, and so these aspects will become part of the story process though I don't fully know what that story will be. With traditional narrative movie making this is somewhat backwards, as story usually dictates what the design and decor and costumes will be.