ISOLATED EXPERIMENTS-Julie Orlick
During this period of global public health-sanctioned isolation, Millennium Film Workshop, like many other organizations has sadly had to postpone many of our planned events for the Spring season. We’ve decided to continue to showcase in the meantime, great work from great artists here on our own website, in a new weekly series we’re calling “Isolated Experiments,” accompanied by comments from the artists themselves. Sign up for our mailing list via our contact page to get email updates about new films as we post them weekly.
This week, “Trauer Natur,” a 3 minute 16mm film made by artist Julie Orlick.
MFW: Let’s start with the image sat play here–a woman that might be Eve, or Mother Nature, her double, the goblet–where do they originate, and do you see their succession as linear or nonlinear?
JO: The idea behind the film is that the character is a Nymph, who lives solely in Nature. “Trauer Natur” translates from the German to English as ‘Mourning Nature.’ So, the original idea my actress and I discussed at the time before we started filming is that she, being a Nymph, craves to be in nature, and is her happiest self when she is surrounded by nature, but she is confined and stuck in city-life. Being inside the glass is essentially the idea of being stuck. The doubles are the idea of having two selves, anxiety, one side wanting one thing, and the other side being, another part of yourself. I organized the shots to be sort of linear, like “here she is, this nymph, wanting so badly to be in nature, but she is stuck and she needs a way out.” She is dreaming of being in her happy place. Her emerging from the hand is kind of like a hopeful moment, but also more of a dream.
MFW: My favorite edit in the film is a brief shot of the nymph’s reflection in a goblet, followed by the double profiles–to me it resembles one of those old novelty cartoons where faces are drawn into the negative space. Do you have any particular relationship with illustration?
JO: Oh yes, I love that shot! It’s truly my favorite and I didn’t even plan for it, I think it was at the tail end of something else I was trying to get. So that entire shot that’s in there is all that survived. It has no correllation to illustration necessarily. Most of my images are greatly inspired by French surrealism of that sort and photographers who experimented with collages and things in the early 1900s.
MFW: It’s good to see some of those techniques from that period in play, not enough people employ them even though they’re totally great and viable. Do you work in film for some of the same reasons?
JO: For sure, I agree. It’s honestly one of the most fascinating time periods in film for me. The very beginning with all the in-camera effects using film cameras. Yes, working in film has many limitations, which I really enjoy because of all the ways you have to figure out how to implement them; it’s kind of like starting all over again especially now that film is rarely taught in schools or even practiced at all. It’s like going back to the beginning and working the way they did 100 years ago.
MFW: That seems, ironically, kind of timely, given these post-apocalyptic vibes. What do you think about placing now and then in conversation, aesthetically?
JO: I think my work is very of our time even though so many people tell me it reminds them of the past. I have always worked in the present moment with present ideas–i understand it’s the medium that I use and the characters I portray that give it a feel of “the past,” but I actually think my work is modern! Because it is literally being made right now. I do have an affinity for vintage, hence the way I choose to make my films/art, but what I am conveying is what is happening to me currently. Also, a lot of the people I film tend to have an affinity for the past, so everything I make kind of fits this aesthetic of the 1920s and 1930s vibe…but it is the 2010s and the 2020s, and a century later, these are my feelings being portrayed the only way I see fit. This is a question I get a lot and it’s always confusing for me to answer–I just feel my work is representative of what is now with a deep affection for the early film era– I hope that all makes sense.
MFW: Makes sense to me! I can definitely identify with feeling trapped in glass and deprived of nature right now, you? It’s eerie just how current that feels.
JO: Definitely, very representative of what’s happening. Kind of bizarre. I mean, the film was also made during a pretty isolated experience I had while I was in Berlin, but it’s totally the vibe right now too.
MFW: As a last bit, are you finding parallel inspiration from today’s isolation?
JO: Honestly, right now I feel like I have a lot of hope. It’s a bit different foor sure. I haven’t made anything in a few months, but my perspective has changed in terms of inpiration. Berlin was a super dark and sad and I had no friends, and it was the dead of winter. But right now even though we’re all isolated I have so much hope for the future and have formed a lot of strong bonds with people, and I’ve gained a whole new perspective and understanding of life/the world. The work I’ll make during and after this won’t have the same feeling of anything I’ve made before.
Julie Orlick (b. 1990, Los Angeles, CA) is an American film-maker, photographer, director, poet, and artist based in Brooklyn, NY.