A two-channel video installation
Duration: 18 minutes, 40 seconds, loop
Both channels are HD Video with sound, 2014.
On Poppies is a two-channel video installation about the cultural significance of the poppy flower within historic and contemporary contexts. There is no other flower that has generated such a rich and controversial sociopolitical history. Across the ages, humans have used the poppy as a mechanism to ease pain and create pleasure in the body, and since World War I designating it as a symbol of remembrance of the loss of life in war.
For the centennial anniversary of World War I, I recorded the intimate fabrication of commemorative red poppy flowers at The Poppy Factory in London. I paired this projection with the quiet, yet chaotic video of a field of poppy straw from the Papaver somniferum plant, the opium poppy, which is being cultivated in Great Britain. This crop is grown in response to the world’s shortage of opiate-based prescription pain medications. The poppy has ties to some of the most epic and difficult passages in human history. On Poppies reflects upon this powerful botanical in terms of its medicinal and commemorative power, wherein one variety of the poppy is used to treat the body in pain while the other serves to mark and ease cultural pain.
In recent performance projects, I have been working with American folk, worker, and dance songs as a way of reanimating these sonic threads from our history within a new context. For On Poppies, I chose a folk song by Pete Seeger called Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, as it is an important link to my American cultural heritage. For this project I wanted to manipulate the sound so that this well known song became almost unrecognizable. I worked with musician, Yoni Mizrachi to record the music on banjo, mountain dulcimer and guitar. We slowed the music down to meet the pacing of the moving images in the project. We took this iconic song and found the dissonance in the music to echo the gravity and complexity of the subject. By extending the chords, we created a nearly trance inducing soundscape that relates to the effect that opiates have on the body. The sound for this video is unique in that it is not synced to either video channel specifically but has been designed to accompany both videos as a sonic environment for the installation.
On Poppies was commissioned by Fourth Wall / Pedwaredd Wal CIC for the Outcasting : Fourth Wall Festival 2014.