A Conversation w/ Paolo Pennuti
The following email conversation took place in April 2015, upon the acquisition of Going to sleep is something absolutely certain in life (2007) directed by Paolo Pennuti for active Video Out distribution. This work will be presented at the fourth installment of Video Out’s New Additions Servies which will be held on April 16th 2015 from 7:30pm – 9:30pm at VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2625 Kaslo St.
Shauna Jean Doherty (Video Out Distribution Manager): What draws you to fragmented visuals and audio? How do you maintain a coherence in your work using distorted material?
Paolo Pennuti (Video Artist): I am very interested in cinematic tropes and tools like long sequence shots, camera cars, sounds, voice over, and subtitles. Studying the possibilities of these allows me to think about potential options when I use the fragments that I collect, this is like a rational side of my poetic practice. I tend to explore the concepts and emotions that are weighing on me for irrational reasons. This of course is very variable. At the moment I am feeling very connected with Going to sleep is something absolutely certain in life, with its hidden personal layer. The work uses a natural and collective catastrophe to express something intimate, not directly related to the depicted catastrophe.
SJD: What attracted you to this specific site of destruction? Had you been to Biloxi, Mississippi before?
PP: I was in New York at that time for a 6-month period of studies at NYU and I heard and saw some images from the destroyed area on TV. I was struggling a lot with my chronic disease and it was difficult to enjoy New York. I thought that going to Louisiana and Mississippi could be a way to project outside myself and elaborate on what I was experiencing inside. It was very selfish. There were so many TV crews. Even Spike Lee was filming to inform the world about this huge American catastrophe. Personally, I was trying to deal with my Crohn’s disease but at the same time it was really interesting to see the US in this state. It was like seeing the county after a war had taken place.
SJD: How does Going to sleep is something absolutely certain life expand on your previous video work?
PP: GTS starts from a shot that was meticulously prepared during a long period in which I was focusing on camera cars. Before going to Biloxi I was looking for a shot like that since I had already recorded similar footage in a completely different context. Except that, the poetic of GTS is very similar to that of other videos of mine: a documentary approach completely altered, putting together elements coming from different contexts.
SJD: Audio plays a major role in this piece, is that typical of your video works?
PP: Each of my videos implies a creative relationship with a sound designer. The audio is a sort of dark side of the images, something that complicates and extends their original meaning and mood.
SJD: How did you discover deep relaxation audio?
PP: Online, a friend of mine sent me a link and I immediately thought that it would be interesting to use with the Biloxi camera car footage.
SJD: How do you see the concept of sleep interacting with death and disaster?
PP: I think that the concept of sleep is very funny since it can be related to anything. If you sleep you dream so everything is allowed and even if you suffer from insomnia it is a pretty open experience about the connections you can make dealing with your insomnia. Ideas of death and disaster, were in my thoughts in New York because of my disease… I was scared so I couldn’t sleep and instead of spending time studying in a super cool place I needed something different.
SJD: Why did you choose to shoot the work at night with the aid of a light rather than shooting during the day?
PP: I was trying to evoke a specific emotion of fear and anxiety just using images (many people suggested I use the images without sound). I did some tests shooting with the lights during the night in other contexts and I was into this approach of nighttime camera cars with lights. I wanted to shoot, when it was dark, something that was constantly moving in a destroyed space. What is interesting about the spotlight and the night is that you can’t see the details and part of the frame is not completely visible. The cinematic dialectic between what is in the frame and what is out is constantly present within the moving frame of GTS.
SJD: How did the production process go? Did you shoot the footage and then Gianluca developed the audioscape after responding to the visuals you had produced?
PP: I had a general idea about the soundscape I wanted Gianluca to create. I had already thought about the dialogue between the deep relaxation audio voice and the voice of the insurance broker. I was editing it with Lorenzo while I was thinking of the soundscape for the video. I invited Gianluca to a little village on the Apennines where the snow was melting and he started to record. Gianluca is a sound editor for commercial movies and it was a great experience to work with someone so skilled under a technical perspective stimulating him to have a more creative approach when we were creating the soundscape for the video.