“Video art is like pornography. In pornography anything goes as long as there’s sex, just as anything filmed can be video art,” said Niles Atallah, one of the three creators of Lucía, Luis y el lobo (“Lucia, luis and the wolf”)
With the awareness that not all video art is good, the three artists of this stop-motion film, Niles Atallah, Joaquin Cociña and Cristóbal León, went to work. It is difficult to explain the exact premise of the story as it is not a literally definitive piece. Basically, the first segment, named “Lucía”, involves a young girl who is recounting her past experiences with Luis, in monologue form. Luis had loved her at one point and yet she feared him because she believed him to be a were wolf. In the first few seconds of the film a tidy, sunlit room is revealed. As Lucía whispers in her raspy, young voice her charcoal image begins to appear and move around the room like a ghost’s shadow. Meanwhile, some of the furniture moves around and breaks, reflecting the experiences Lucía speaks of. The second segment is Luis’ side of the story. Like Lucía he is also appears in charcoal form in another room. The first few moments of the film reveal a disheveled room full of broken furniture. As he breaths the furniture trembles as if blown by his very breath until eventually the room finishes with the furniture put back together. He speaks of his experiences with Lucía and although the voice is by the same actress, Paula Florencia Navarrete, his voice is much more melancholic. Besides these two films being projected onto a wall, there is an installation in the middle of the room made of dirt and furniture. Within this sculpture many more short animations are shown simultaneously. There is also a large drawing along the wall of the gallery, as if it is a scene from Lucía, Luis y el Lobo.
In an interview with Atallah and Cociña (León was unable to attend unfortunately as he is creating over in Berlin at the moment) some insight was given into the decisions of this work of art. As mentioned before, Atallah and Cociña were explaining how there is plenty of video art everywhere simply because anything may be considered video art so long as it is filmed. As Niles put it, a person could film a girl walking for 3 seconds, loop it for 9 hours and project that on a gallery wall.
Although throughout the entire process of production they worked in an organic and flexible fashion, they did have some ideas beforehand of what they wanted the film to be. Joaquin explained how many people using stop-motion animation tend to make it too much of a spectacle simply because it is possible. However, he wanted to take a more limited approach to the film as he doesn’t “like this surprise effect that people use stop-motion for”. Niles backed him saying that “just because something looks nice doesn’t mean it has a reason to be there.” In a means to control the scope of the project, they inflicted upon it various limitations. For example, the premise of the individual films takes place in one room, with one character, one sequence, in black and white and using natural light or regular lighting fixtures. Niles also wanted the project “to be something that begins and ends.” Therefore, unlike some stop-motion films, there is a narrative component added to what is already visually stunning frame by frame.
However, not every creative aspect of the film was pre-determined. Unlike the usually rigid film industry, with only three people doing most of the work, a true collaboration was able to take place. They explained how at the beginning of the project they each had their parts to play with Cociña doing the drawing, Atallah filming and León serving as the art and object director. As time progressed, however, they began to work outside of their usual fields and were able to share in the creative process. The childish, yet dark, tone of the film was also something not completely pre-meditated. The stories are somewhat inspired by the old fairy tales, which have always been sugar coated in the past hundred years or so as to not give children nightmares before bed. These fairy tales naturally have a relation to children, but as Atallah said, “they have this dark quality that is not only for children”. They also explained, as they were using mainly charcoal and dirt to create the mise-en-scene, the darkness of the images was “not always intentional”. However, overall they agreed that “it was a tendency” to create this dark tone.
Unlike some short films that come up with a gruesome story line and morose images simply to put an esthetic up an a pedestal, Lucía, Luis y el Lobo is refreshingly dark. That is to say, the obscure tone is not there simply to be there or overdone in any way, rather it is there as a natural inclination within the story and the styles of the artists. Although dark, every moment of the piece is beautiful in it’s own way and inspirational.
Although it is a bit of a trek to get to Galería Animal it well worth it. Although at the moment it is possible to view the part “Lucía” online, going the gallery is a different experience. The darkness of the room envelopes you, the furniture, dirt and animations lie directly is front of you,Lucía’s voice whispers in your ears and her tale dances on the wall.
“Video art is like pornography. In pornography anything goes as long as there’s sex, just as anything filmed can be video art,” said Niles Atallah, one of the three creators of Lucía, Luis y el lobo (“Lucía, Luis and the wolf”).
With the awareness that not all video art is good, the three artists of this stop motion film, Niles Atallah, Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León, went to work. Stop motion animation, a frame-by-frame video created with individual, distinct photos, is produced in a similar fashion to pornography, Attallah and Cociña said in an interview, and this realization helped them make Lucía, Luis y el lobo what it is.
Like pornography, Atallah said, video art is too general. Anything can be considered video art so long as it is filmed. A person could film a girl walking for three seconds, loop it for nine hours and project that on a gallery wall. For this reason he wanted the project to be “something that begins and ends” rather than something that carries on forever with no change or apparent meaning.
Hence, Lucía, Luis y el lobo is a series of two short videos, each three to four minutes in length, accompanied by some shorter animations. They each have a beginning and an end, forming a story of sorts that can still be viewed and appreciated for each individual moment.
In the first segment, named “Lucía,” a young girl recounts her past experiences with Luis in a monologue. Luis had loved her at one point and yet she feared him because she believed he was a werewolf. The second video in the series, “Luis,” is Luis´side of the story, where he speaks of his time in the woods and his relationship with Lucía. What happened between them is not entirely clear, though, since his words are expressed like passing, inconclusive thoughts.
As these two videos are projected onto the gallery wall, several shorter films are shown on screens embedded into a pile of dirt and furniture in the middle of the gallery floor. Visually, the films resonate a dark tone as charcoal images of Lucía, Luis, the wolf and a nighttime forest appear on the walls of the rooms on screen. Meanwhile furniture moves throughout the scene and breaks, as if being smashed by invisible hands like a metaphor of the story being told. A particularly stunning effect is shown in “Luis” when as his charcoal face exhales, the furniture in the film trembles as if blown by his very breath.
While the entire work is visually poetic, the images’ true merit is its restrained approach that doesn’t put aesthetic style up on a pedestal. As Cociña explained, many people using stop motion animation tend to make it too much of a spectacle, simply because it is possible. With stop motion animation, any object can move and, as he described, sometimes this excessive freedom in turn can cause that spectacle. Limitations were put in place to help prevent Lucia, Luis y el lobo from evolving into something merely aesthetic: the artists decided to keep it black and white, with only one character and one room in each video, and to use only natural lighting, charcoal, dirt and furniture. The simplicity of these limitations granted them the freedom to create without overdeveloping the effects.
Although at the moment it is possible to view the “Lucía” part online, the experience of going to the gallery is something altogether different. Walking into the gallery is like entering an old fairytale (which partially inspired the style of the videos) or witnessing a dream transitioning into a nightmare while sleepwalking in a forest on a cool night.