[ISEA2016] Artist Statement: Ian Flitman — Jane

Artist Statement

Single/two-channel installation, 2015. Videos between 3 and 5 minutes each

“Jane” is a series of films comprising of six conversations between John and Jake about a woman they share; both are married to a woman called Jill. Each is replete with options for dialogue and camera angles that are initially randomly selected. The work also allows for user selection through navigation of the interactive master script for each selected conversation. Films last between over three minutes to a little over five. Form follows function as the vagaries of desire that the chimera of Jane embodies finds its perfect expression in the deliberately pliable text. Jane is a siren, a masterful mistress and wholly beyond normal expectations. She is the figment of the male imagination that exists only to haunt him. Jake and John the protagonists are ambivalent too. They can be read as individuals or the same person separated by the attrition of time. Taken as individuals, John is the older, more jaundiced and stoic of the pair. He is also probably the happier or at least more accepting of his marriage and its inevitable compromises. Jake is the more idealistic and yet the more troubled too. He bears the burden of a sexual ambiguity both in himself and the troubled relation his wife had with her father. Meaning and signification in ‘Jane’ is carefully modulated though its script in both its global structure and in its individual sets of more local variations. Globally each conversation consists of three parts each beginning with a pause of varying length, followed soon after by one of three key works spoken by either character, namely ‘last night’, ‘tonight’ and ‘fantasy’; thus the six conversations are formed. The overall schema then is:

Old Films, New Endings (Last Night Jake)
last night: John watched a film on TV last night.
fantasy: John makes up different endings to the film he watched.
tonight: Jane recommends an interesting film

Bedtime Stories (Last Night John)
last night: Jake’s wife tells him bedtime stories under certain circumstances
tonight: Jake describes the kind of bedtime stories his wife tells him
fantasy: The kind of stories that Jane tells.

Married Too Long (Fantasy Jake)
fantasy: John talks about the dream life he would like to lead.
last night: John has an argument with his wife.
tonight: John resolves to work things out with his wife

Sexual Conundrum (Fantasy John)
fantasy: While John is jealous of Jake’s married life, Jake is not so sure why.
tonight: Jane, her gay entourage and Jake’s sexuality
last night: Jake seeks a solution to his double life with Jane and his wife

Eat in Eat Out (Tonight Jake)
tonight: Jake has dinner cooked for him again tonight.
fantasy: John warns Jake about the perils of kitchen politics
last night: Farting and going to restaurants with Jane.

Filmic Fantasies (Tonight John)
tonight: John watches TV with his wife in silence, while Jake talks with his
fantasy: John observes his wife’s televisual fantasy. Jake cannot talk to Jane.
last night: John’s wife calls out for another man and the allure of screen sirens.

  1. The script internal variants manage to maintain credible meaning in each combination of their very many compound possibilities. The variant types used include:
    default lines that do not change except for camera angles; these are like fixed way-points in the sea of flux
  2. change of camera angle from a two shot to a closeup on the vast majority of lines
  3. groups of alternative lines where one alternative replaces another
  4. groups of alternatives lines that are linked to another group where changing one will change the others
  5. groups of groups with a two tier level of variation available to the user
  6. sequence sets used in the pauses that start each part where combinations of one to four shots are selectable
  7. a closed loop of lines where each line and variation can be spoken by either character

Film is a one-way street where the viewer is pacified as the largely submissive onlooker. “Jane” attempts to extend this paradigm as there is no definitive or privileged cut, no variation worthier than another. It is rather the sum of its manifold possibilities. The same goes in fact for its eponymous heroine, “Jane”. She is whatever the male characters fear and desire whatever their situation. “Jane” is simultaneously a daydream and a nightmare. Shape-shifter extraordinaire, she is the constantly mutating remainder of male desire. Whatever men crave and fear in the female sex, “Jane” exemplifies and amplifies. “Jane” eschews branching narrative. Instead variants that have localized polyvalence propagate semantically across neighbouring content. These maintain credible meaning in each combination of the very many compound possibilities available. Hence there is no definitive version, no directors cut. It is rather the sum of its manifold possibilities. The work in many ways belongs to the theatre with its black box setting. And it owes probably more to work of Samuel Beckett than anyone else. At its strange heart the piece is a writing automaton. It chooses what the algorithms decide for it against the carefully calculated script. “Jane” is also self-reflective about itself, film and narrative in general. It refers to old films and gives them different endings. It evokes the names of actors and actresses to conjure the clouds of narrative allusion associated with each. Elsewhere fairy tales are retold to Jake reflecting the couple’s sometimes disturbing psychology.

Niclas Reed Middleton: DOP, Donald Bousted: Sound, Colin Mace: John, Paul Downey: Jake

Full Text and photo p. 106-108