Animation : Cyril Gfeller and Igor Kuzmic
“A map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.”
For ‘To Be Sky’, our third video of songs taken from, I Dreamed An Island, I wanted to come up with a story that captured the essence of what had inspired me to write the album. As I wrote ideas down and exchanged with my co-director Cyril Gfeller this summer, I kept thinking of the beautiful and unique ancient Roman city of Palmyra in Syria and of its tragic vandalism by Isis. Somehow those images lingered in my mind and we decided to build a dramatic narrative, in some way inspired by that horrific footage.
We imagined a series of mini theatre sets made out of paper upon which we would project real and filmed silhouettes. As well as an ongoing fascination with animation using paper cut outs, I felt there was something about its nature that captured the nature of memory that the video’s story revolves around. Torn up, burnt or rewritten, a paper world seemed the right metaphor for our fragile times.
In ‘To Be Sky’, a lone protagonist arrives on a deserted island and as the song unfolds, we see him wandering through the different landscapes that he discovers; shorelines, forests, deserts and vast canyons. What is it that he seeks as he intones; “Found an ocean but it dried away, found a rock but it crumbled to dust..”
The climax of the video comes with the third verse when our lonely seeker finally stumbles upon what he’s been searching for. “To the gates of the temple I rode, I saw the ruins of the kingdom and wept”
But ruins are far from tragic if they’re looked after, like memories they must be dusted down and preserved. The price of forgetting them is too high to imagine! And for the video’s silhouetted protagonist, although he finds himself alone, walking through the ruins and the civilization that he’s been so desperately seeking is now long gone; at least with the ruins, he has the proof of its existence!
Those who want to destroy the trace of history do so because it can be proof of a shared multi-cultural past. Revision of memory is the first step to whitewash history in order to re-write it. When Trump defended far right protesters after the events in Charlottesville, when many were marching under Nazi banners, he trod on the memory of Americans who died fighting Nazism in the 2nd world war as well as the memory of six million Jews who died in the Nazi concentration camps. There’s vandalism of another kind there too but no less shocking or dangerous.
For the complicated and slow process of making the video, I followed proceedings from a distance as Cyril Gfeller assisted by Igor Kuzmic used detailed paper cut stages sets combined with back lit projections. The multi-layered three dimensional sets where created with paper, using a vinyl cutter. The various scenes were captured in camera with a motion control system in order to create smooth and repeatable sequences with different passes. The small silhouetted character was filmed on green-screen and integrated in postproduction matching the style of the paper-cut.
“Last night, I dreamed an island and as I slept, I heard the music playing. On her golden shores, I heard the blend of languages and traditions conversing and of voices joyfully sharing the dance. All night and through until the dawn, her graceful island music filled the air.”