Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Thumbnail picture for "Insomnia"

So here it is finally, the multi media project that was supposed to only take a couple of days... in fact, the biggest issue was the sound, as my original recordings weren't really good enough. Martin has a mike that borrowed, and I used some free software to do the recording with. The quality wasn't fantastic. After a lot of fiddly tweaking in Premiere Elements I had a soundtrack that Martin then worked on to remove crackle and other disturbing elements with software that he already has, since he's recorded his own music in the past and enjoys creating soundscapes. He also added a bit of ambience to the words.

Martin said he was surprised I tackled this subject matter intuitively rather than literally. I guess I feel a different kind of freedom to be expressive through this medium. I think it's liberating and makes a change from the fixed nature of a 2D image. I do get very tired from editing, but hope that in time I will become more fluent in using this and find it easier. Martin encouraged me to go on when I was being despondant, feeling it wasn't good enough. I realise I can't compete with people who have been to film school or are being paid a lot of money to create fantastic moving images with expensive software. My projects have to be about the atmosphere and the message. I want to talk about things that I really know about, through and through. That's my excuse for making art.

I put my soul into this project, it was really a "gut feeling project". Someone said it reminded them of a scene from "Fight Club", in which it's being said that with insomnia, nothing is real; everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. That was an interesting view point, because it's true that there are reverberating echoes going through your mind when you start panicking about not sleeping, everything is magnified and there's often a kind of terror that becomes a waking nightmare. I think most people can relate to this feeling of layers of anguish and a distorted sense of reality. I think I instinctively decided to go down that route rather than talk about it more literally from my own experience of a medical disorder (which is very real). This I tried to do in my biopic "Vivi-Mari in a Day" (though I still feel I may not have been succesful in getting the message across sufficiently well).

This is no longer "just" a slide show, but uses both video clips, stills and my own sound. It really is a lot like collaging! I voted for simplicity rather than adding too many effects. Effects for the sake of effects is just empty. I ask myself, is this effect really adding to the message, and only use it if I think it is. I was using some old film effect here, part of it is to cover up the garishness of indoors photography (I use floodlights). But on the other hand, a touch of vintage is in line with my other work so I think it's justified in many ways. In some ways, when you're lying awake, you exist in a kind of timeless space that I wanted to enhance with this effect. It's not easy to convey a sense of horror without cheap effects these days... movies are packed with such effects. The aim is instead to portray a very personal experience and hope that has a different tone that captures other people's imagination in a different way.

This short 4 min film in which I have staged myself, is an evocative artistic expression and vision of insomnia, which is sometimes part of serious health conditions, or one all on its own. Though it's not meant to be just a medical document, but also a vision of despair in general, the medical aspect and my concern is obviously at the forefront. The lack of good quality sleep also leads to many other medical problems such as the worsening of the primary health issue (e.g. fibromyalgia and ME/CFS), depression, anxiety, cognitive problems and memory loss, inability to cope with life's normal challenges, and to focus during the day. With this video I've sought to create a representation of the kind of problem that about 25% of the population allegedly experiences in one form or another, though mostly only periodically. I hope and believe that most people can identify with this situation at least on some level, and that it also helps understand what serious insomnia can feel like. 

This is a document, but not a literal documentation, and shows only part of the problem as I experience it myself, as in reality there's more to it than this. It seemed more important to me to create a film that might strike a cord in most people who watch it. It's about the emotional response to a problem, rather than the problem itself.

I'm no doubt influenced by minimalist music, notably Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and some of my inspiration may very well come from them. 

"Managing an illness that's happening when you're not looking is like walking a tightrope" (From the description of "The Impossibility of Sleeplessness and Damien Hirst doesn't Exactly Make it Better"). It's a problem that is hard to cure since sleep happens when we're not in control.

I got the old film effect here. There are a few options. They work but you will need to be able to unzip them first.

Read how I found that this work resonates with Vito Acconci's work from 1971 in this article.