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Film Scratches: Conditioned Responses – Recent Short Work by Steven Lapcevic (2014-2018)

Objectophilia

Objectophilia

Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

In the mesmerizing and terrifying worlds created by 3d animator Steven Lapcevic we’re all just puppets, hyper-conditioned by the media into knee-jerk reactions which only serve to strengthen the media further. His dense, multi-layered collages of images and sounds may seem overwhelming on first viewing, with their interlocking levels of poetic references. The best way to appreciate the poetic power and terrifying insights of these short works, most of which are 5 minutes long or less, is with repeated viewings

Lapcevic_LowbrowLowbrow Utensils (2014), a meditation on the many ways people use each other, is set in a sepia toned world where an old-fashioned puppet stage presents grotesque Punch and Judy shows. A naked woman shoots an arrow into a haplessly aroused man, and the couple become conjoined into a monstrous double organism, devouring itself with forks and knives while smoking like a volcano. A faceless puppeteer is revealed behind the stage. We descend deep into the earth, where a subterranean devil strokes gonads, fueling the whole enterprise from below. When we next see the couple, they’re married and in the family way, endlessly enslaved to the drives of their genital-puppets. The camera pulls back, to reveal a vast landscape of hell, with storks overhead, delivering thousands of baby monsters. This only describes a portion of the 5 and a half minute video; the level of visual inventiveness never slows down, as Lapcevic’s extremely dark and twisted, but compelling vision of a life ruled by our hormones unfolds before us.

Salt of Man, a 3 and a half minute work from 2016, is set in the snowy, grainy world of a salt mine, where the machinery never stops rolling, as men toil ceaselessly to earn their salaries. Two figures with guns for heads are locked in battle. A chorus of men in suits is seen outside, chattering nonstop. A politician with a salty nose for a head makes a speech, while the arms of workers stretch desperately towards him, and missiles fire into space behind him.

Lapcevic_SaltThe music in this piece is a hauntingly beautiful but typical example of post-minimalism, with overlapping loops of melody that intertwine, but, interestingly, the images in the piece are structured in a similar way. All the visual layers in the image, the distant landscape, a reflecting globe, the layers of action within the salt mine, are looped into repeated patterns of motion. There would be far too much visual detail to take everything in at once, but the looping allows our eyes to dart back and forth, observing the changing relationships, and marveling at the way that the different layers keep subtly transforming themselves over time.

Lapcevic’s latest work, the 4 minute Objectophilia, is a miniature masterpiece, a dizzying, dense landscape of materialism gone wild, filled with dogs, televisions, and cars. The dogs in Lapcevic’s videos all seem to be Pavlovian dogs, hapless slaves to their trained responses, endlessly salivating on cue whenever a bell rings. The TV images are dominated by a man with a “snarly happy face” for a head, a stock character for Lapcevic, a dominating figure who demands obedience, but disguises his orders with a thin veneer of pleasant friendliness. TVs and broadcast towers continuously emit signals, priming the dogs to consume more goods. Pieces of meat with legs run endless races; guns which are also penises go off in the background. Occasionally the “Idiot King,” Lapcevic’s Trump character, a baby wearing a crown made of pizza slices, floats by, supervising the machinery. The dogs compulsively gobble down pills, which they get from Happy Face bottles, and the entire machinery rolls happily along in the visually dazzling but devastatingly bleak and cynical world of Steven Lapcevic.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact lakeivan@earthlink.net.

Read also:

Film Scratches: A Stroll with Mickey and Marcel – Promenade Mythanalytique: Logotype, Parole & Empreinte (2017)

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