Art to Artillery, an absurd student-directed comedy short featuring an aloof designer artist couple that reveal their descent into international gun manufacturing, brought together a lively celebration of works by UAL students on one quirky film set this February.
The film, due for release in mid-May, will be available on the Nowness video channel as part of three films realised by Central Saint Martins students. Following the announcement of a new sustainable innovation initiative funded by the LVMH group in partnership with CSM, the films take on ideas surrounding the relationship between luxury and sustainability in three very different ways.
Art to Artillery is a loving parody of contemporary efforts to capitalise and fetishize noble causes: Everything from the endearing “natural” graphic design of an overly packaged Graze box, to a vlogger promoting green minimalist lifestyles that on closer inspection rather miss the mark. Anything, it seems, can be capitalised – even anti-materialism, or a “return to the earth”! The film explores what happens when the clean and serene aesthetic of an apparently liberally inclined, artsy interview video, is superimposed with the clearly abhorrent ethics of (albeit sustainable) weapons production.
Michie and Brian (or as his wife mistakenly refers to him, Bran) are a passionately creative pair who have managed to strike it big in the world of art design. Sympathetic in character and with seemingly the best of intentions, the ethical focus of their practice has gone fatefully awry. They have moved into “sustainable destruction”, and are excited about what the future of fairtrade, open source and eco-friendly weaponry might hold. Isolated in their designer eco-home on the beach of Bognor Regis, the pair’s obsession with the immortalising cycles of sustainability has seemingly caught them up in a loopiness of their own.
Raucously absurd and jubilant, this love-story-cum-twisted-manifesto raises questions surrounding possible hypocrasies in the campaign against climate change, through the prism of pleasing media aesthetics that we truly come to know and love.
Tom Cardew and myself (MA students of Fine Art at CSM) approached the brief by parodying the very platform we were to seek patronage from, by immitating artist interviews on the Nowness video channel through short improvised conversations on-the-go. Going for a walk in Hampstead Heath, with a phone recording us in hand, we tried out different characters like costumes before coming down to an approximation of Michie and Br(i)an. She, a well spoken and inspired Californian “hippie dreamer” with an abrupt and domineering corporate edge, and he, a potterer, a dabbeler, a posh Tunbridge-wells born sportive fellow, besotten with his tyrant of a bride. Equipped with these two characters contrived through performative storytelling methods borrowed from our independent practices, we knew little else about making a short film, and were in for a steep learning curve.
The four months it took for us to make the film were pretty much filled with our scrambling effort to take on far too many roles: producer, performer, director, editor; it would become painfully clear to use why these aspects of filmmaking are often distributed across a broader team of people. Yet perhaps more importantly than distributing workload, collaboration keeps perspectives aired and fresh; Tom and I were well into the project when we began to realise how our isolation began to match the nutty couple stranded in their designer home. Maybe this worked in our favour, I don’t know.
We’d struggled through a discouraging pre-production phase of trying to secure filming locations by contacting one holiday home-owner after another. At this point, everything feels faraway and hopelessly contingent upon distant stakeholders to the indie filmmaker.
But finally, a prime location appeared in Bognor Regis, just on the sea; an eco-home that resembled a designer space shuttle or time travelling capsule. When the filming dates were set and the possibility of a film began to feel like a reality, we called upon UAL students across colleges and disciplines, to help us construct our narrative and our characters through the film set. For this parody to work and maintain a feeling of suspended disbelief, it was important to butress their house and character with a great deal of personality and creative input. We shared our concept with students and invited reponses in the form of objects, wearables, furniture and art with which we could populate the space and Michie and Brian. The result was a stuffed minibus filled with fascinating submissions and crew, heading south to the location. The diverse and numerous works contributed offered perspectives and narrative opportunities we couldn’t have come up with, and which broadened the scope of our ability to respond and perform within them. The following images show these works in situe, each with their own history, each made with care and in their own time, that together hijack this film opportunity to piece together a wholly student-made film set.
A special thanks to the UAL Postgraduate Student Communities Fund for helping us realise this film, and to these students, to whom we are extremely grateful for working with us:
Click here to watch Art to Artillery, as well as the two other student films commissioned for the theme of Luxury and Sustainability: Cycles of Pleasure by Julie Schroef, Carla Benzing and Steffen Wendt Andrea and La Bicicleta, El Violin by Nicolas Canal.