TO SEE AND TO BE SEEN
Suburban RED begins with a scene that takes place in San Francisco but can really take place in any metropolitan city that contains a community of artists and or art going enthusiasts. An opening is one of those events where people come out to look around them while sipping a drink or chomping on finger foods like cheese and crackers or cut carrots and grapes. People dress up to be seen to be noticed, to look sophisticated or like an artist, occasionally dressed down in a frumpy way to reflect their disdain for the formalities, but still seeing to be seen. At the art opening to see the art goers is half of why one attends this kind of thing. Then there is the want to be seen and finally the art itself.
There are cinematic possibilities with this kind of scene. The characters, in the act of seeing. Eyes darting, bodies lingering about the space. What better way to show the architectural properties of a space than to have figures milling about slowly and looking at walls. Then there are the presentations of artists, the performances, the "happenings" that, while childlike in energy and execution can also come across as self-important and serious.
CITY TO SUBURBS
The bulk of Suburban RED takes place in the suburbs, a mostly bedroom community. It was important to me to show a contrast between the offerings of a place like San Francisco and a place like Sunnyvale. I'm mostly talking about the Sunnyvale I grew up with before the Starbucks moved in and all you could find for cafe visits and late night conversations was a Denny's open until 2am. What I wanted to do in this scene was to pin down some aspect of San Francisco so that when one saw the opening scene they would think "Only in San Francisco."
THE ART OF THE DRESS UP
The man in the wolf mask holding a "for sale" sign is something I came up with very naturally. The objects and ideas slipped into place and the image or performance became to represent something about how our bodies are stolen from us and sold back to us. Our connection to nature has been stolen and it is sold back to us through products and patches of real estate.
For this scene, I studied photographs through internet images searches with titles like art opening, art happening, Andy Warhol Factory, 1960s party, beatnik party, and various other variations and verbiage.
(Claire Bain as Annabella, in red wig, and as Rick, to the right of the wolf masked character.)
In a way, the scene is an homage to my friend a co-collaborator on performance video type work - Claire Bain. The biggest thing I learned from Claire is, while dressed up in any costume or character, if you just relax, be yourself and not even think about the costume the character will become real. The reality is created by the relaxed energy of the person dressed up. It is something I remember to bring to any character I decide to play. The outside dress of the character says a lot about who the person is on the inside. The fact that they are relaxed in the garb means that they are comfortable with this inner/outer aspect of themselves and what comes across to the outsider is the feeling that this person is always this way, has always been this way and will always be this way. It's similar to Halloween in San Francisco and you see someone wild and weird and you have to wonder whether they are dressed up or whether they always dress like this. As soon as the person walks around, self-consciously, displaying the costume as if drapage hanging from their frame the illusion of a true self is gone and they are merely the man in costume.
In this scene Claire and I had the opportunity to indulge in the powerful art of dress-up, an activity that I held onto since childhood. We descended on the studio space with bags of wigs and clothing of artistic possibilities and other accessories. Many of the mingling art goers milling about came about quite spontaneously. Throw on a jacket, pull on some pants, don a wig and glasses and see what happens. Something always happens and it works.