Night Sea Journey

Laura Magnusson (Art & Design)

Collaborators: Phoebe Gloeckner, Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design; Anne Mondro, Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design; David Chung, Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design; Jamie Vander Broek, Research Support – Librarian for Art and Design, University of Michigan; Steve Eberle, Media Consultant, Digital Media Commons; Yazmon Ector, Undergraduate Student, Stamps School of Art and Design; Collin Leix, Animator, Little Hill Studio; Stamps MFA Alumnus; Paulino Castillo, Pelagic Ventures Scuba, Cozumel, Mexico; Guy Chaumette, Liquid Motion Film, Cozumel, Mexico

This research/creation program supports a visual thesis, a video testimonial, that includes underwater fieldwork in Cozumel, Mexico to record sound and capture video, the creation of a stop motion animation sequence, and partial post-production of the final work. I will use this space to provide a brief description of my overall visual thesis to contextualize specific components that concern this application, which are detailed in my longer proposal. My visual thesis is a video testimonial of my journey through trauma after sexual violence, conveyed through ocean imagery. The final video, which combines live action footage and stop motion animation sequences, will be comprised of dozens of short vignettes. While the vignettes will be designed in relation to one another, their sequencing will not form a cohesive narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, like the dimensions of trauma they signify, these vignettes will inhabit screen space as traumatic memories do my body: in discontiguity, reordering themselves in countless combinations. An algorithm may control sequencing, reconfiguring the vignettes in real time so that the video will remain in flux. In this sense, the work’s form will reflect the reality that traumatic symptoms and recall are often beyond the survivor’s control and change over time. However, agency of storytelling will not be relinquished; I will construct the vignettes and set the parameters of the algorithm, which will be informed by patterns of my own breath. Water courses throughout my video testimonial, which takes place on the seafloor of a vast ocean. I – part human, part clam – am the work’s protagonist. In one vignette, my protective shell is cracked open to reveal my naked human body. In another, I traverse the seafloor in search of my lost parts. I am thinking poetically about water as a medium to carry testimony. Under the sea, I am both vulnerable and empowered. Under the sea, I am able to speak. Will water swallow my voice? Or, might the ocean, through its associations with healing, the subconscious, and vast space, receive and carry my truth? Trauma is embodied. In developing relationships between water, trauma, and testimony, it is important that I directly engage with the site of my symbolism through embodied research/creation. Last summer, I traveled to Cozumel, Mexico to spend time under the sea in a research/creation capacity. Here, at depths reaching 70 feet, I embodied sculptural enclosures designed for my scuba-outfitted body and captured preliminary underwater video footage. This summer, with support from ArtsEngine, I aim to return to the seafloor of Cozumel to capture additional video and record sound for use in my visual thesis. Funding will also support the creation of a stop motion animation sequence to be used in my video testimonial as well as partial post-production of the final work.