AND THIS FOREST WILL BE A DESERT; C&A Projects (Carolyn Radlo & Alanna Simone); music by Wardruna; TRT: 2.33
Glittering plastic, toy polar bear and the beauty inherent in the things we’re conditioned to be afraid of.
An art film about the state of the world: it’s all about plastics, panic and paradise.
A translucent landscape, a sparkling pile of trash, is inhabited by a wry polar bear. Rapid text appears over the images – condensed versions of three different mythologies, three different fires: the battles of Ragnarök, the Nordic end of the world; an account of a recent forest fire caused by changing weather patterns; and Muhammad’s ascent to the highest fiery heaven. Each layer reiterates the background source of our worried fantasies and fears of destruction despite the beauty to be found right here, right now.
The film features awe-inspiring music by Nordic-roots band, Wardruna.
And This Forest Will be a Desert developed organically out of a fascination with plastic, spontaneously after the gift of a toy polar bear, and thoughtfully in response to world events and inflamed news reportage about massive forest fires, suicide bombings, acts of violence and destruction.
Q: You two worked together on this film, how did that come about?
C: I’ve known Alanna for a really long time! [laughs]
A: We’ve been working together on collaborative video projects for just over ten years. Our first project together started while I was still in film school. I was so eager to work on an art project—something so different from all the Hollywood-infused work I was surrounded by. We learned how to work together as we went along.
C: Yeah, unlike feature films, our artworks aren’t scheduled and composed beforehand. Linearity is not the point. But the technical know-how you bring to our projects is so valuable, but you had to adjust to my amorphous approach!
A: Our work reflects our relationship to each other. There are so many layers, starting from being mother and daughter, we are friends and confidants, we engage together with ideas—politics, mythology, psychology, history—so much of our lives are intertwined that it was a natural evolution to do creative work together.
C: We are like a Venn Diagram—we are both artists interested in many of the same things but with different inflections and different strengths.
A: Yes! You can read poetry!
Q: What was your creative process to make this film?
A: We were participating in Papergirl Berlin—we spent an afternoon walking around San Francisco with a little plastic polar bear toy, taking photographs of it in different contexts
C: —like in a bar where the polar bear dove into an icy cocktail!
A: Right, then later we paired two images with small excerpts of text from two different articles, both first person accounts, one of a devastating forest fire in the Rockies and the other about an archaeological site where it appeared that the people had used up all of their natural resources until the city was no longer viable.
C: It looked like fun to be working with this plastic bear—people even commented about that when they saw us on the street—but actually it was serious. The polar bear is the poster child for global warming and this was a plastic bear.
A: We’d also been collecting up the plastics from our daily lives—wrappings from a florist, packaging from crackers, water bottles and so on. We made a landscape of crinkled, translucent material and then there was that little polar bear. Everything was shot as stills and combined in post.
Then the three texts came together. (The Norse story of the battle of Ragnarök, that same description of the forest fire and Muhammad’s ascent to Firdaus, the uppermost level of heaven.) It was hard to escape the irony of the plastic landscape and the plastic polar bear with their implications about climate change and fossil fuel use. We had been discussing all the different ideas of apocalypse, the final battle which allows for a new world order.
C: The end of times. Environmental disaster. Behind it all are ideations, mythologies of sin and retribution, the gods destroying creation, and death, of course.
A: We were interested in the idea that no matter what happens to the infestation of humans, our planet will go on evolving and the atmosphere will heat up or cool off and either way something different will take our collective place. And then there was always so much beauty to be found in the sparkling, mutable pile of plastics.
C: The sunlight streaming through the glassine material sparkles and makes rainbows. And even as I say that, I am reminded that in the bible, the rainbow is the symbol Yahweh gives as promise never to destroy the world by flood again (but he reserves the right to fire!)
A: Following a convoluted chain of impulses, Carolyn discovered that one of the musicians in this Norwegian Black Metal band (Gaahl, the singer of Gorgoroth) had a side project called Wardruna, founded by Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik who was building and playing traditional Nordic instruments. The music is amazing, and Einar was gracious enough to allow us to use two songs from their first album.
C: The music is awesome and really gives dramatic punch to the film, it’s a perfect soundscape for the notions the film is all about.
A: We always seem to work with text. We wanted to do something graphically interesting with the words on the screen and I experimented with how fast text could appear while still being legible.
C: and it is just barely—which is the point! These apocalyptic ideas are hovering just under consciousness—in individuals, in the culture. But we are driven by these ideas!