Unreal Nature

October 29, 2015

And You Understand

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… It’s William Blake’s idea of seeing the world without filters, which many people would claim is impossible …

This is from the author’s interview with Pawel Wojtasik in Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema by Scott MacDonald (2015):

[ … ]

Wojtasik: … My sewage-treatment film — Dark Sun Squeeze — made itself, framed itself, and edited itself; it set all of the parameters, and everything was as it’s supposed to be.


MacDonald: Where was Dark Sun Squeeze shot?

Wojtasik: In West Haven, Connecticut, at Enthone Omi, Inc. The film was a result of a series of investigations, which began with supermarkets. Soon after we arrived in the States [from Poland], my mother dragged me to a supermarket; she was so excited about America and all these products. I was nauseated by her excitement, but I took my camera and filmed the shelves, the products, all in negative. After that, I wondered, “What’s next?”

[line break added to make this easier to read online] And I thought, “Trash!” — because all this stuff ends up as trash, so I went to a garbage transfer station where trucks came in and the trash comes out of their giant bellies. After filming trash, I thought, “What would be another good subject along these lines,” and I thought, “Shit.” I asked around and found out about this sewage treatment plant in West Haven. I called them, told them what I wanted to do, and they said, “Sure, why not?”

They gave me a tour of the plant, an amazing place. When I came back to film, they told me, “You’re on your own; try not to fall into the tanks, because we’re not getting you out of there” — there were no guard rails or anything. I said “Great!” and soon I was a man alone in a vast sea of sewage. Very existential. During the time when I was shooting, my girlfriend left me for someone else and I was in a lot of pain, but somehow the smell of this sewage and the experience of documenting this process were very healing. In my mind, that break-up and this film are related.

Dark Sun Squeeze is constructed very logically and builds in intensity. In the end this mass of shit feels unstoppable and it’s coming at you, but the film begins with close-ups of bubbling. The way the sewage treatment process works is that air is pumped into these thirty-foot-deep tanks: the solid excrement is sitting there and they dump tons of bacteria into the tanks, the same bacteria that process leaves in a forest. The bacteria are actually doing the work, but the process needs air, so they pump air in — that’s why there are bubbles

I made one or two hand-held shots, but everything else was shot on a tripod, very carefully framed. There’s a scene near the beginning of the film where I was shooting in wide angle, and you see an expansive image of this tank; you don’t immediately know what is in that tank, sparkling in the sun, then you begin to see these floating chunks and you understand.

[ … ]

MacDonald: There’s an unusual, mysterious sensibility behind your films, almost a frightening sensibility. The opening image of the version of Pigs I’m most familiar with is so visceral that for a while I couldn’t continue to watch it. Also, there’s a hysteria in the pigs’ voices.


Wojtasik: Especially during the feeding frenzy. The pigs normally make sounds like a dissonant symphony. In the film, we see them as individuals or in small groups for a time; then suddenly, at feeding time, we’re seeing a whole mass of them, piling up on each other with the sounds of their voices drowning out everything else.

MacDonald: Frightening

Wojtasik: Fear — you’re on the right track. That is the motivating force. And the counter-force to fear, the way I see it, is pure perception, or naked perception. It’s William Blake’s idea of seeing the world without filters, which many people would claim is impossible …

My most recent previous post from MacDonald’s book is here.




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