Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Still from "I Got Life", copyright by Vivi-Mari Carpelan 2014
This was another fiddly project to finish, lots of technical issues that stretched this project over a period of a couple of months rather than weeks. I have vowed never to make anything similar again with somewhat unsophisticated software! I wanted to create something ironic around the song "I Got Life" from the musical "Hair" (1967) and then decided to combine it with my latest sound piece, "A Long Way to Heaven", mostly based on machine sounds that represent the mechanised, industrialised aspects of our lives that we have clearly not yet come to terms with. At the time, I was losing a lot of hair and ended up cutting it all off. Hair is, of course, a strong symbol of individuality, confidence and strength. I also didn't feel I had much life to speak of, as my condition and the insomnia was getting the better of me.

I decided to make an emotional film about the modern age conundrum of surviving inhuman amounts of stress. I used some footage of my own to express feelings of stress in our modern lives, yet mostly looked back to old footage of WWI and WWII, for an authentic document of war related stress. Since I have no way of using modern war footage, this was a self-evident choice that also fits in with the 2014 commemoration of the Great War. There is an obvious correlation between day-to-day stress in modern times and war related stress. Stress affects most of us in one way or another.

Stills from "I Got Life" copyright Vivi-Mari Carpelan 2014

Warfare defines our life on Earth. The war mongering mentality that gives rise to this regrettable fact pervades all of society and poisons every aspect of the human life experience. There is nowhere to escape from the feeling of being targeted, chased, threatened and hunted down. The unconscious stress reactions that follow aren’t confined to the battle field or the besieged city, but arise everywhere and anywhere throughout our lives. The majority of illnesses are generated by stress, and over time, they are increasingly likely to become chronic. It isn’t just our immediate physical survival that is at stake, it’s also the body’s ability to sustain life in the long term. The mental and emotional repercussions are disastrous and the survival of the authentic self is eventually also at stake. Severe disability will no doubt soon become the norm within the framework of society as we know it today.

In the film “I Got Life”, war is presented as a fact as well as a metaphor for a stressful life that has undertones of constant warfare. Life has become a traumatic struggle to manage the invisible forces that manipulate our bodies and mind, and the joy of being alive is gone. Moreover, when humans do break down from the effects of chronic stress, society is quick to jump on more guns to finish off the ones they consider weak and useless. The irony is that it’s often the shallow and dull individuals who are able to withstand stress the best. Are these the people who should lead our world?

“I Got Life” is based on old footage from the World War I and World War II, as well as footage of myself as the civilian narrator. The circular shape is indicative of the feeling of being targeted. The black and white, as well as negative effect, underline the timelessness and starkness of the affects. The film has been constructed around a sound collage I made called “A Long Way to Heaven”. It features machine sounds, radio sounds from the Cold War and other war related sounds. I performed the song “I Got Life” from the musical “Hair” from 1967 and added it to the track. It was sung on a day I felt quite tired in the same tempo as the song in the 1979 film version. As it is fast and quite a tongue twister, it makes the performance sound shallow and panicky. At the time, the musical was a radical criticism of religion and warfare that met with a lot of resistance until entering pop culture for good. By using this highly energised song about the good things in life in the context of stress and war I was hoping to further reinforce the sense of irony and how difficult it is for severely exhausted and ill people to feel that joy of having a body and being alive. Yet this should surely be everyone’s birthright?

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