At the invitation of Inspace Gallery, Edinburgh, I was asked to submit proposals for one or more film titles that could be presented in a live, expanded context with immersive elements as part of an ongoing series entitled Atmosphere during the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In response to cinema auditoria built in the early 20th Century that used elaborate architecture, art and design to create a fantastical setting, Inspace are re-imagining this concept using networks of sensors, algorithmic software and embedded art devices as part of a wider, immersive approach to film presentation.
To my surprise and delight, both of my pitches were accepted. First was an expanded screening of artist and seamstress Christiane Cegavske‘s hauntingly beautiful stop-motion animation for adults, Blood Tea And Red String (Saturday 19th June). Thirteen years in the making, Christiane’s dialogue free film with an original score composed and performed by Mark Growden tells the tale of the struggle between the aristocratic White Mice and the rustic Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak over the doll of their heart’s desire.
Part of my reason for deciding to pursue freelance production and curation was a desire to form genuinely collaborative partnerships and work with others to share in the delivery of a project on an equal footing. On this occasion I was in luck: not only in the form of Inspace and the support of Creative Director Mark Daniels of New Media Scotland, but the shower of talent that threw themselves across my metaphorical windshield. I found some lasting friends and co-conspirators with whom I’d very much like to work with again.
I chose to approach Blood Tea And Red String by responding to key motifs within the film, namely the colours red, white and black together with the central character of the doll herself. A tea party installation brought together the delicious cupcake skills of Lizzie Colman and her company Lizzie’s Tea Party, who concocted frosted towers and glazed platters of insect-bedecked edibles, including tasty bundles of knotted red liquorice whips in reference to the title.
Illustrator Emma Rios, whose work features as part of The Enchanted Palace exhibition in London drew the fabulous flying, growling and crawling 2-D tea service designs that were subsequently mounted onto foamboard and even animated to make use of the gallery projectors. Once complete the table adopted the appearance of a pop-up storybook due to the concentrated profusion of colour and delectable treats in the otherwise frosted icing-white setting.
Edinburgh-based prop maker Kev Thornton responded to my request for a vintage kissing-booth type structure to perfection, adding a mounted replica mask of the deathly beauty for make-up artist Jak Morgan to reside within, painting the faces of our audience members with giant lashes and pursed lips. In my role as ringmaster it was Jak who transformed me into a ventriloquist dummy! Apologies to those present who harbored deep fears of hinged jaws and 360º rotating heads.
Generous members of Magpie Market and maker Mandy Tolley hand-stitched, knitted and crafted a selection of unique anatomical hearts which then hung from an overhanging bough of The Tree of Unrequited Love. Audience members were given a free raffle ticket on arrival with the winners drawn at the close of the evening and able to choose a plump organ to take home and pine over (once I’d scampered up and down the ladder on their behalf!)
Approximately 30 minutes into the film during a dreamy, peculiar sequence in which the White Mice take an extended tea break, we leapt into action and distributed complementary cups of Blood Tea to all those gathered, concocted from lashings of Hendrick’s Gin, rose-hip tea, Madeira wine, Rose’s lime cordial plus both cranberry and raspberry juice. At least, I *think* that’s what we threw into it.
The exact recipe remains a complete mystery as gallery assistant Lucy and I got a bit carried away with our ‘measurements’ and couldn’t see properly for laughing, which is just as it should be. Let’s just say it involved a large bucket. Inspired by George’s Marvellous Medicine (but without the horse tranquilizers), it slipped down a treat, while some naughty patrons hung about after the show to knock back a couple of spares.
As requested, many of the audience came dressed in red and white, sitting drenched in Finnish artist Sara Bjarland projection piece Blossom (2008) which featured brightly coloured carrier bags crumpled into balls which slowly unfurl to mimic flowers in time-lapse documentation. Further deckchair-stripe projections and water droplets falling from leaves upon the Puffafish spherical display enhanced this wonderfully creepy tale as it unraveled like a ball of wool from Christiane’s fecund imagination.
Aided by the photographic skills of our snapper Darren whose work appears above and below – and who prefers to be known as the enigmatic Judy Cabbages – we were able to capture a great selection of snaps that reflect what a magical night it was. Thanks Judy! For a description of our second event, The Call of Cthulhu, follow the sound of muffled moans…