One of the most fascinating and intriguing VR experiences, They Dream in My Bones – Insemnopedy II, that mixes the power of shapes and a poetic storytelling imagining a futuristic possible science. We talked with artist and creator Faye Formisano about her inspirations drawn from expressionist artist Jean Epstein, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; about DNA and a future science, how to stage dreams, what will women in science do in 3022, and …. A Red Dream 🙂
TVA: You were at Sundance for the first time, I guess – an online Sundance, this year – what were your impressions from the Sundance Film Festival?
FAYE FORMISANO I was so happy to be part of the festival and especially honored to be selected with this film, my first VR, in New Frontier, questioning the gender and human limits in a poetic way and a dark fantasy atmosphere.
My movie is about a dream, and it’s a bit like this dream of getting out of a binary system started to come true with the support of Sundance.
Yes of course when the festival turned online, we were disappointed, because I think VR needs to be also a physical experience but quickly, I discovered great features and XR works and I plunged myself in the Spaceship to meet the others.
The craziest thing was to screen a 2Dversion of my virtual movie in the Cinema House that I have seen with my headset!
TVA: What is the significance of Insemnopedy?
FAYE FORMISANO: Insemnopedy, doesn’t exist, is a barbarism that I invented to name a cycle dedicated to dreams of fictional heroes in late 19th and early 20th century literature.
On one hand I would like to explore Insomnia subject, about what keeps us up at night and on the other hand, as music is also narrative than images in my movies, I was inspired by Erik Satie’s ” Gymnopedies”, so I mixed them and “insomnia-pedy” become INSEMNOPEDY, a kind of rhapsody to enter into dreams.
TVA: This is the second VR on the topic of dreams. The first was about Victor Frankenstein, after he finishes creating his creature, a dream filled with hallucinations troubles his sleep. And the second is about fictional scientist Roderick Norman, who tries to extract dreams from an unidentified skeleton.
What draws you to this topic?
FAYE FORMISANO: Insemnopedy I : The Dream of Victor F. was a short film for screen, and They Dream in My Bones – Insemnopedy II is my first film in virtual reality.
are between the past and the future, in dreams we are living things never experienced before and at the same time we still know some people sometimes, it is the perfect place to meet our ghosts, people we have lost.
propel us forward, even if they are not always pleasant, they have the capacity to be innovative and in that they interest me more than the memory which is confined in the past.
When I discovered the ten lines that depict Victor Frankenstein’s hallucinated dream in Marie Shelley’s novel, just after he had finally given birth to his creature, the genesis of his entire problematic appeared appeared to me with all the fulgurance proper to the material of dreams.
have the force of a poem, they say a lot of things in a very short form, as images can do.
: For me, it is an interesting piece that mixes science and art, the idea of immortality is present, DNA that carries our dream, imagines a future science, and VR was used to visualize and feel the body from inside; you mixed surprisingly (the possible) science, the story, the visuals. Immortality was tackled from science, but also in literature by Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, authors that inspired you inspiration. Which is your perspective on it?
FAYE FORMISANO: Behind Victor Frankenstein, is Mary Shelley’s dream, and this dream is a pure fiction.
When I started to work on Insemnopedy II, I wanted to invent my own scientist character, Roderick Norman and his own scientific field: onirogenetic.
Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf are like my ghost goddesses, I admire both of them a lot because they anticipated the main changes of their times.
So, I really wanted to know what they could think about our world, our recent discoveries, in science and social topics, So my question was how to access to their dream? Dream of dead persons !dead persons!
I collected a lot of information about DNA, new tool of sequencing, in paleo genetic and epigenetic researches, and I tried to explore my subject with scientific rules, to rationalize something of course a bit irrational from the beginning.
Then, I discovered our genome and our skeleton was able to mutate in relation with our kind of living, our needs and that for our brain, there is no difference with what we are doing awake or asleep, in dreaming, so between imagination and real life.
So, I imagined there would be a place, and a trace somewhere in our skeleton where we can find information and answers about our lost dreams.
I loved also Jean Epstein, expressionist master very known for this great fantastic movie “the Fall of Usher house” and later I discovered that he was one of the first scientists who became a filmmaker, and he was obsessed by establishing relation between imagination, poetry and science, and besides he wrote a book titled “Lyrosophia”, (Jean Epstein – Goldsmiths Research Online ) the name of his thinking which consist in believing science and art are quite similar, because science needs intuition – also than art- to make discoverings…
I was very inspired by Orlando by Virginia Woolf to write They Dream In My Bones.
What kind of transformation could Orlando undergo in the 21st century, is it enough to have a double vision of man and woman today? and the other living beings? What new frontier must be transgressed? Vertebrate to invertebrate?
So I dreamed of a skeleton who dreams of becoming an invertebrate, free from their bones, able to mutate, to change their skin, so I’ve chosen to explore Arachnid kind of living.
a vertebrate, is like to have a fossil inside us, our bones contain traces of all the humans before us.
an invertebrate, is a bit like the fusion between bones and skin, inside and outside, there is no separation and maybe one of the reasons to explain arachnophobia.
Also, isn’t this absence of separation inherent to the conditions of immersiveness?
Versatility icon, spiders are never the same, they change their skin constantly, they are like ghosts, transparent, quick and undead. Maybe that’s why they need to create more, and to offer another trace to the world than their skeleton which is materialized by a prodigious spider web, a precious silk more resistant than steel.
All my work as an artist, filmmaker and before that as a textile designer is haunted by the textile matrix, so it was time for me to confront the figure of the spider and everything I am still learning about them never ceases to fascinate me.
TVA: Each artist evolves and transposes knowledge and ideas in a certain style. What kind of style, and what kind of message characterize you the best?
FAYE FORMISANO: I believe in fiction, poetry and the power of shapes.
My universe is worried by the effects of different types of violence we can receive in our body, I believe our body could give us some answers if we listen to it, and most of the time is a vacarm inside!
I’m influenced by the beginning of the cinema, silent movies and experimental movies to transmit these feelings, a time where theater and cinema were really brother and sister, crossed by a form of phantasmagoria, not afraid by the power of imagination, black and white, body expressiveness, occult believes, also seriously considered as science. At some point, even if I like to start with a narrative story, and to define a clear situation, then I’m looking to create a hypnotic dialogue with the viewers, a kind of ghostly meditation.
My stories look like minimalistic tales able to express emotionally some questions.
Virtual reality, strangely helps me to reconnect with this period of cinema and its origins, because originally more hybrid somewhere because more confident with the expressiveness of the body and mental visions. (Debut Vr debut du cinema)
I play a lot with surimpositions effects through this tunnel of screen-veils, not only by aesthetic, because it’s always very efficient to stage mental space or perception of life as I see it and as I think it truly is, I mean not separated but made of multiplicity.
TVA: The opening scene is very interesting; it is like a curtain hiding as a stage, and then slowly it unveils kind of an experimental laboratory where you see this skeleton. I admit, that entering the body tunnel, was kind of ‘spooky’, but in a positive and interesting way. For me it’s like a dissection of stereotypes historically formed and rooted in our bones. (The idea of body, corporality, gender, and immortality.)
What are the Main Themes of the visual construction and in the same time symbolic deconstruction of this emblematic travel through yourself?
FAYE FORMISANO: This opening scene unveils the shadow of the skeleton and the scientist figures. It’s the first “draping scene” inspired by the shadow theater, and the expressionist cinema.
Here the veil announces a secret, something forbidden as in “Warning Shadows” by Artur Robison (1923). The veil plays different roles in my movies, I use it to shake boundaries between the viewer and the subject behind, also to announce that something disturbing will happen, to stimulate also the sense of touch of the spectator who is going to live a kind of forbidden by entering in the bones of this skeleton, and especially in its intimacy through the dreams that we are going to discover in the tunnel.
HOW TO STAGE DREAMS?
I try through this tunnel of living screenveils where live shots are mapped on it to transmit the fulgurance in which the images reach us in dreams, and escape us instantly.
Here the viewer is always in between, has the possibility to turn themselves back even if the camera tracking in is going on.
TVA: It is very interesting the choice to make the whole experience black and white. Because different materials can have different meanings. For example, the man walking in the water-type of element- that you can be water, but also some residual materials, or blood vessels… (without definite color it can be everything) And as a whole, it gives a certain type of aesthetics. Why this choice?
FAYE FORMISANO: Thank you. Yeah, Black and White is really important in this Insemnopedy cycle, to create some kind of “mind bridge” without to be constrained by color informations not necessary in this project.
The spectrum of value between black and white is large enough, and helps to open minds, to feel the expression of the light and shapes, prior to recognize an object as this object.
In this way, more connexons are made possible. “Stringles figures” inspired by Donna Haraway thinking are present at different chapters, trying to relink ourselves with each other, alive or dead, human or not human in this web.
Concerning the water element from the movie, it’s true I preferred that instead of seeing water or blood, we are first in contact with a fluid element, and fluidity is a value I hold dear.
TVA: The choice of the curtains, and textiles with different elements, as if each contains a different chapter you are passing by or through. Also, it is interesting the textile, which is a kind of dead material, but artists can give life to ‘materials.
Can you develop a little bit about the expressiveness of the material used?
FAYE FORMISANO: Before making movies and new media art, I worked a lot as a textile designer. I had the chance to work for great designers for fashion and haute couture. Also, as an artist I create installations with fabric, like in ,.
I know very well the silks particularly, mousseline and organza silk. It’s interesting you said is a dead material, maybe but that’s why since always fabric is magically efficient to create ghostly scenes, to express invisible spirits. Mousseline and charmeuse express the best fluidity to appear and disappear very fast.
I watched a lot of movies where fabric plays an important role in dramaturgy to create a plot, to express trouble manifestation.
To work on Fabric in They Dream In My Bones, we created with my key collaborator and 3D artist– Ludovic De Oliveira on a catalog of virtual veils like a vocabulary. Every veil has a different expression and different movement more or less slow or quick, light or heavy.
I used them like an emotion palette to accompany my Orlando Extended character’s quest in the tunnel of dreams. Fabric and curtains expressiveness are a metalanguage staged like a wandering in an abstract haunted house.
Also using fabric in cinema is to summon the sense of touch, something archaic in us. Very often when it appears on the screen it is to address untouchable subjects, subjects that scare us. It’s also the subject of research for my thesis that I’m still working on.
Here, in VR, I really wanted to transmit this feeling of crossing the film, by crossing these veils-images which sound spatialization (Thomas Rouvillain), sound effects (Jérôme Petit) and fabric foley (Christophe Burdet) increase the sensation of touching them and being struck by a mysterious wind
TVA: The spider from the final part of the experience… That was unexpected! 🙂 Arachne in Greek mythology was a weaver who challenged Athena and was consequently transformed into a spider.
There are different versions of the myth, which one is your ‘version’?
FAYE FORMISANO: Thank you for this question. Arachné is one of the most inspiring figures in Greek mythology, and she has a long story which haunted the fantastic literature that I like very much too. I could do a movie only around this figure and this strange conflict between her and Athena.
Arachne is a rebellious and impetuous figure in Greek mythology, and behind her pride is hidden a feminist rage.
I don’t think Arachne only wanted to prove that she was better at weaving than Athena, I think it was a pretext to challenge her and expose in her face her angryness against the power of abuse and violence of the gods.
During this weaving duel, in valorising the power of metamorphosis of the gods, Athena denied at the same time that she herself was born of an abuse of Zeus who himself challenged Metis, his first wife and Athena’s mother to transform herself into a drop of water to make her disappear by swallowing her.
Zeus didn’t know Metis was pregnant, that’s why Athena was born from a terrible headache that pushed Zeus to ask his son Hephaistos to open his head with an axe!
Athena is certainly a warrior, Zeus’ favorite child but born without a mother and from a murderer father, therefore she is also similar to Arachné, motherless, that’s why according to me she is unable neither to face the truth, (she changes her appearance to trap Arachné) nor to admit what Arachne was depicted so finely under her eyes. Unable to kill her, she decided at least to transform her into a spider even if Arachne, afraid by the power again decides before to hang herself of her own free will…what a sad story!
The Spider figure in my movie is a figure of power and a tribute to invertebrates.
Power of mutability, resilience, power to contribute to the balance of our ecosystem, power to connect things because spiders spend everyday to repair themselves, their web with a material that they creates themselves, and they incarnates a 360 vision, and in my opinion if we are afraid of them is for the same reasons that we are afraid (or not) of ghosts because it is the fastest moving species in the world, that we can see appear and disappear the next moment like the ghosts.
As we have become accustomed at the end of the dialogue, TECHVANGART asked some Crazy Questions
The world is ending, we have to leave Earth, and you can save just one book, which one would be that?
FAYE FORMISANO:: Metamorphosis, Ovid
3 advantages and 3 disadvantages of VR
• 360 vision
• New cinema’s perspective
• The possibility to democratize some inaccessible knowledge
• the possibility of malicious control of users personal and physical data
• the heavy workflow to make it and the energy consumption
• the risk of becoming mad with the renderings!
You work both with sounds and textiles. favorite sound from which textile comes? 🙂
FAYE FORMISANO: If you try to tear up a mattress cloth, you will hear a terrifying scream coming out of this stuff.
It’s amazing because I really have a sound fabric recorded of ripping fabric!!!
One day I recorded with a friend a kind of mousseline very thin with a bit of elasthane inside and the sound was not continuous but shivering as if somebody was scratching the strings of a violin or a guitar!
In 3022, women in science will study….(Continue the sentence. Or destroy it ….)
FAYE FORMISANO: In 3022, women in science will study...bat female how to use menstrual blood to repair some society disease and create new potions of love.
What is your next dream?
FAYE FORMISANO: I’m working on a new VR interactive project which tells the story of Bianca, a biology researcher who invented the world's first implant that allows women to ovulate without menstrual blood loss and without pain.
One morning, Bianca wakes up in her bed, with the sound of rain, a red rain that challenges her as much as the vision of her sheets stained with blood…
The Dream In My Bones was selected at SUNDANCE FESTVAL 2022
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Flee, CODA, Passing, Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute. 2022 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, AMC+, Chase Sapphire, Adobe; Leadership Sponsors – Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, DoorDash, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, WarnerMedia, XRM Media; Sustaining Sponsors – Aflac, Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, IMDbPro, Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, Rabbit Hole Bourbon & Rye, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Shadow And Act, Variety, Vulture. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. sundance.org/festival
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