ZS: QUALIATIK’s art career is one of endless experimentation and research. When I first met the young musician through the vast Twitter-verse of emerging artists, her bio immediately struck me; “When I was a kid I discovered the renaissance man and realized that my life’s purpose is to become mediocre at as many things as possible.” This quote resonates with me because I have a wide variety of interests and it’s hard to pigeonhole myself into just one role, QUALIATIK is the same way, except exponentially more impressive. Over the past few years she has developed her many interests in vocalization, production work, art and video design, among many other disciplines into skill-sets I would shudder to consider mediocre. The rest of this article is written by the artist herself – and for that we are extremely thankful.
AH: I started working on the video while living in Austin, TX for a few months after SXSW. I was living in a house made of shipping containers in rural East Austin, where my bed was a futon and my desk was a slab of wood nailed to the wall. The house was surrounded by several suspicious and questionably legal facilities, and a cat breeder lived down the road (notably, on a cul-de-sac called “Breedlove Court”), so there were sus vehicles and a considerable number of cats roaming the street at all times. I didn’t have any transportation, and spent the majority of my time isolated and stir crazy in that room, so the whole vibe of my time in Austin was quite strange and surreal.
At first, I was super overwhelmed by everything it seemed to take to make a video. I didn’t know where to start, and it took me a few months to chill out about it enough to actually start working on it. During those months (May through June), the work I was able to do for the video was effectively brainstorm barfing into a notebook in the form of bubble letters and arbitrary adjectives.
As my time in Austin was running out and my flight back to NYC was approaching, I realized I would probably never feel totally ready to tackle the filming, so I just had to start. It was the first week of July; my friend Alexander Luna offered to film the scenes I needed a cameraperson for, and we got to work.
The footage was shot in three days, and it all happened really fast and was both deeply intense and tremendously corny.
We shot first in Alex’s garage at 1 AM, where it was miraculously still a sweltering Texas 90º, and we used a projector to shed some light on the wall, as the only light source in the room was a single light bulb on a pole.
The next filming was outdoors, where we went to two nature reserves in one humid, stressful day. The first stop was McKinney Falls State Park, which started out rather awkwardly as I stepped out of the car in full garb as bathing suit clad spring-swimmers and dog-walking hikers strolled past and tried—very Texanly—not to direct puzzled stares at us.
We quickly discovered the challenges of filming outside; we had to work around sunlight, wind, park-goers, and general scorching temperatures. It was 106º and my makeup was melting off my face, and I had a couple pounds of metal jewelry on my body and way too many layers of clothing. Alex realized that he had no idea what he was getting into, and became understandably unenthusiastic about holding a camera for hours on a mountain midday in Texas.
Eventually, we realized it was pointless to spend any amount of time in this much discomfort not actively capturing footage. After a moment of physically pained and mutually sympathetic eye contact, we were just like, “okay, let’s just do this now so we can get the F into the spring already”.
We braved the heat for a few more hours, and then bolted to the springs to cool off. I felt a great sense of liberation as the makeup dissolved from my face, closing the page on that afternoon’s shoot.
After McKinney, we drove to another nature reserve called Jacob’s Well, notoriously one of the most dangerous diving spots in the world. We were stoked on the idea of having a peaceful evening swim at another spring, but learned when we got there that it is actually 50º fresh spring water fed straight out of the ground (a.k.a. the “well”).
After jumping (non-fatally) off the cliff into the swimming hole, we learned that, although crystal clear and definitely cleaner than tap water, fresh spring water is really cold to swim in, and that this round of filming was going to be even more painful than baking in the mountain sunlight at McKinney. The ground underwater was also covered in slippery algae and rocks, so I ended up with many bruises from taking cold, wet tumbles into the spring.
We decided to go thrifting on the way home to blow off some steam.
The next day, Alex kindly allowed me to spend five hours covering a corner of his living room with shiny miscellany and lights. It felt great to make something physical rather than digital. I got so carried away by the arts & crafts vibes that I spent three more hours covering a wooden posing doll with tape, gems, and holographic ribbon, creating a weird and unexpected voodoo doll effect.
Alex’s cat, Chesterfield (seen below), kept me company for the eight hours of makeshift decorating.
By the third and final day of filming, I was starting to understand the general masochism of the filming approach thus far. Surrendering to the ruthless call of imagination, I filled a bucket with hose water and glitter and proceeded to dunk my head into it repeatedly, lip syncing and staring into the water toward the camera.
The clip below is a candid outtake of the horror one may feel when performing voluntary self-inflicted water torture “for art”.
We concluded the sadistic filming process with a rewarding meal at Ramen Tatsu-Ya, America’s #1 ramen restaurant. Moral of the story, ramen cancels out self-abuse, so go to town.
Once I got back to New York, it was time to begin the production and animation. I had never worked with film before, so I ended up staring, sleepless and baffled, at Final Cut Pro for a solid month and a half (mid-July through August) before it started to come together.
I wanted to juxtapose two versions of the self and show the conflict between them, so I put my decades of Sims experience to use and made a 3D version of my own “physicality” to face off with another version of myself. Once you’re deep enough in the absurdity of your own melodrama, no holds are barred, I guess.
Almost all of September was sucked up by render time, lol. Here’s a 3D model of one of the figures used in the video.
It seemed fittingly over-the-top to make the cyborg character dance, and kind of served as a way to put the personal drama the video was actually about in perspective. Unexpectedly enough, making a laughably intense piece of film about your own internal conflict does wonders in transcending it.
The last step was creating the world for this relationship, which felt isolated on its own unpopulated planet. Here’s a still from the design process of the planet the video enters in the intro.