Concept, direction, cinematography, montage, sound design: Christina McPhee 2009-2010 christinamcphee.net
Ambient site sound composition remixed to Pauline Oliveros, Ghostdance, ©Deep Listening Publications, ASCAP). paulineoliveros.us/
Tesserae signal supersaturated carbon and methane topographies of our sister planet, Venus. In California, large scale energy landscapes, from natural gas and geothermal plants to water control, dominate huge landscapes. Could it be here that the first poetics of a future landscape of carbon saturation appear? What does living in a landscape of massive ambient atmospheric threat and beauty feel like? What is the deep connection between our footsteps, our voices, our machines, our breathing and our planet? How are we finding ourselves in these places both beautiful and dangerous, slipping on the sticky tiles of the tesserae, slimed with carbon-laden air, strange brews, and luscious sunsets...
Sites: Salton Sea Geothermal System, Imperial County, California; Ballona Wetlands, Los Angeles.
A tribute to Carolee Schneemann's MEAT JOY (1964) set in the oil fields and dipped in red paint.
a film by Christina McPhee
Shot at the San Ardo Petroleum Fields, Monterey County, California; remix/appropriation of clips from MEAT JOY;
Concept, sound, photography and montage by Christina McPhee christinamcphee.net
" I had never seen "Meat Joy" until I happened upon it at the Tate Modern in November 2007. I like to shoot video under the radar (as it were ) guerilla style so I stole a few shots on my little Canon camcorder-- as much as I dared (lest a guard stop me).. Later in post production I was working on combining footage of my own performances pouring toxic (but very pretty, dayglo) paints-- with my shots from a nearby petroleum field. I am interested in the 'pharmakon' meaning poison, drug, antidote, paint, etc. There, too, at the oil fields, it is difficult to shoot- often security guards will stop me from filming at these kinds of sites, even from a public road. So the 'stolen' or 'stolen kisses" aspect of the shooting is important both at the Tate and at the oil fields-- an illicit look of love. In post production, I was working with effects of doubling and tripling a shimmering repetition of frames shot at the oil field. The montage increasingly intensified around multiple stacks of frames of the moving 'limbs' of the well heads. The limbs movement reminded me of Meat Joy... and that footage I had archived from 2007. Now, the performance footage of your work would reverb in the strange almost zombie repetitions of the body-like pumps. An aura or echo of Meat Joy could act as a touchstone or point of entry, or even a pharmakon itself--as people begin to be able to think about consumption 'as' bodies -- meat R us-- oil R us. Even the color associating flesh and blood-- each of my energy field films in the Tesserae of Venus series tends to move towards its own signature dominant colour, and in this case, it was the shared deep reds of the pouring paints with your film's colors of flesh and thrown meat-- how our 'meat' is invaded by the 'paint' of petroleum-- or as if to say we are painting in oil on a cellular, inside out level, within and without....)
On a more personal level, "Meat Joy" has inspired since that cold day in London- because of the courage and finesse that it took Caroleeto create this work-- it has infected me as well, it has reminded me of how necessary it is to make outrageous claims through powerful forms. " -cm
Direction,camera, editing, sound design: Christina McPhee
a naxsmash group production 2010
Ambient local sound with additional recordings from the series “Temporal de Santa Rosa,” by Brian Mackern netart.org.uy/xtcs/archivos.html
from the project “Tesserae of Venus” by CHristina McPhee 2009/10
HDTV 1080i 1920 x 1080 16:9
3 minutes 20 seconds
In the Sacramento River Delta, amidst high tule reeds and exurban towns clinging to the edges of the vast flat waters, levees cache new alternative energy plants--natural gas. Shot at the Medanos plant, ludb.clui.org/ex/i/CA3463/ near Antioch and Pittsburg, California in spring 2009. Steam vents open breathing lungs, expanding and contracting, while water streams to cool the superheated turbines. Tesserae drawings spring from steam, lace, or laser-trace. Droplets like cilia explode from the center, tiling outwards, Fibonacci lilies. Volumes from a deep center, birth from turbines, white clouds placenta.
I film on the fly at high tech energy installations. They are often under surveillance so you have to shoot at dawn, dusk or after hours on weekends, and never more than for a few minutes at a time. I shoot the video as a a kind of drawing. I use the camera as an on the fly editing tool by taking careful note how long to shoot. I work within a sense of the rhythm of the site, for example, in response to the rich sound rhythms from turbines. The shoots -- guerrilla-style as they are-- involve a poignant gesture or kairotic moment, which in urban slang may mean, not only the ‘perfect time or apt moment of luck,’ but in a strange reversal also “is used to express gayness or queerness or just to make fun of people who you don’t like as in “You are very kairotic” or “go away you kairotic bastard” “ (urbandictionary.com). You can find the alternative and petroleum energy extraction going on, usually, in rejected or neglected natural areas, especially littoral or marginal streambeds, riverbeds, and swamps or sloughs in estuaries near the ocean-- usually because of the need for large amounts of watter for cooling (at geothermal and natural gas extraction sites). Waste or trashy places--often, where sensitive micro-ecologies involving cleaning and sifting wastewaters is a natural process. These sites are 'trash' or bastard-- hobody wants to think about them. But the bird, animal and inasect life there proliferates despite the technological incursion . Thus an assemblage of disconnected elements= things that shouldn't be together-- are thrown together-. At the point of contact is a kairotic moment--
Tesserae of Venus: a science fiction project imagining the 'arrival' of carbon-saturated atmosphere on Earth
Jamming the liminal sites where biosphere meets big scale energy technology-- a dream of Venus arriving tectonically in tesseracts, squishing time, mixing toxins in hopes of a cure, deliriously overheated-- our hothouse landscapes move into a new space/time..we montage shelters out of transverse tents, we signal with solar powered warning lights in the midst of parking lots, shopping malls, geothermal plants and oil fields--…
Jamming the liminal sites where biosphere meets big scale energy technology-- a dream of Venus arriving tectonically in tesseracts, squishing time, mixing toxins in hopes of a cure, deliriously overheated-- our hothouse landscapes move into a new space/time..we montage shelters out of transverse tents, we signal with solar powered warning lights in the midst of parking lots, shopping malls, geothermal plants and oil fields-- we immerse in prosaic and secret assemblages, while daily dream life morphs into clouds and flocks of birds: migrations of the spirits..of things seldom seen, coming out from invisible spaces, moving in the wake of complex waves--
“...Tesserae of Venus... explores the buckling or folding of skin: the skin of the body, the skin of drawings of technological landscapes as these drawings buckle and fold over time in the weather, the skin of the photograph documenting this deterioration over time, the skin of the earth as it submits to processes of energy extraction and other kinds of technological deformations, the skin of the buckling surface of the carbon-saturated landscape of Venus, the cultural/architectural buckling that occurs as biological systems clash and meet with technological landscapes at the urban edge. -Sarah Drury