I’m going to take this chance to lay out my thinking behind the work I’m making for Rip It Up this month.
In my painting I have always had trouble representing monsters, because when you paint from an image of a real cinema monster it looks a lot like it would if you had painted it from your imagination. So it seems like a piece of horror art rather than a piece about horror. Also the monsters from cinema are so well known that it’s hard to make a painting of King Kong or the Gill-man look like it’s about anything at all except the film it’s from. However, puppetry provides the chance to make real monsters which are right there in the room. Making a puppet for an art exhibition always seemed like an inappropriate thing to do, but Rip It Up seems like the right environment to take a risk and see where it can go.
Puppets are a big part of what brings the impossible to life in film. They are monsters, aliens, creatures which represent fantastical or terrifying urges. Live action puppets and animated puppets have been filmed alongside actors, green screened into shots, performed in front of rear projection, mirror reflected, or otherwise super imposed into scenes with real actors to create a sense of the otherworldly since the beginning of cinema.
Film puppetry is very much alive, and modern techniques are sophisticated to the point that they often go unrecognised or are mistaken for CGI. As well as having one puppet sitting with the audience, I’ll be trying to use a version of the Schufftan Process (used in Metropolis and later by Hitchcock) to combine a miniature puppet with live footage of the audience.
There’s a school of thought says that a monster should remain unseen, because it is scarier to imagine something than to see it in life.
Sometimes the monsters in film don’t live up to their terrifying reputation and instantly they seem ridiculous and non threatening. I don’t know how mine will come across.
The puppets themselves are made from plastic bottles, lollypop sticks, string, wooden skewers, foam, elasticbands and a healthy supply of lx tape and hot glue. The methods I’m using are crude compared to the final results of film puppetry, but they are similar to the mock-ups often made before hand to test out how they will interact with actors.
This production shot shows an original test for the Alien Queen made out of bin bags, compared with the final puppet.
From here it’s about making the work I have fit with the work of the other members and bridging our ideas to make something which is united, but has a range that fairly shows the many approaches that have gone into making it.