As I sit in my studio at the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, things from my productions speak to me. For one of my recent films, a feature titled A Man Full of Days, I had to create a number of different props and costumes that now hang on shelves and lie on floor space like creatures in an artful zoo. The seem to peer at me from above or move ever closer from below. They retain their intended meanings as players in the film, while also developing a kind of historical patina and even an afterlife.
Perhaps my favorite invention was the Light Wig. It worked perfectly. The materials were very simple. Chicken wire. Christmas lights. But the effect is wonderful. The focus was to create the impression of a self-appointed reverential moment as personal performance art where the main character in the film (Man, played by Brandon Nagle) vigorously dances on a stage in an abandoned resort with the Light Wig bouncing on his head. Inspired by "visions in the night," which is a quote from the Book of Job and is the opening quote of the film, Man takes it upon himself to define his own art and his own spirituality. But by individualizing what is expected to be a communal experience, an experience of communitas, he finds his efforts lacking and emptiness fills him.
Erin West, the costume designer for the film, made a spectacular leather outfit for the main character. It now hangs from the ceiling above me like some kind of effigy.
This leather suit was the most important costume in the film and it took Erin and I some time to strike on the right style and technique. Ultimately the suit proved to be fragile in places, which was perfect because Man could then authentically repair the costume in scenes that called for it. It's a heavy piece weighing around 30 pounds, which also helped the scenes feel more real.
The glass jars below were used to simulate the creation of an alchemical potion from Paracelsus called Mercury of the Moon. (One of Paracelsus' middle names was Bombastus.) I worked with Prof. Mark Kobrak at Brooklyn College to attempt an emulation of the process with the hope that the science would appear as real as possible. We used heated various faux element to avoid danger, but retain the appearance of the real thing.