Anxiety can generally be counted on to inspire the most affective art, since in our fear, we tend to retreat to a place where we can make sense of it, so as to then regroup and return to confront it head on. And, of course, artists retreat to making art.
Artist Brian Alfred and filmmaker/photographer Ben Radatz did exactly that, as a way of dealing with the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic lockdowns this past spring—many of which are still in force. The latter was wandering the deserted streets of Los Angeles, capturing the endless emptiness with his camera; the former was quarantined in his studio. And together they conjured the idea to make illuminating animations of this eerie new reality.
Alfred, also an Associate Professor of Art at Penn State and host of the Sound & Vision podcast, recalls, “I loved the idea of being able to create something with others in a time when you have to be separated physically. And during the process of me drawing images from Ben’s photographs, we then started thinking of music. I had been listening to a mix that Four Tet had done from isolation during the shutdown, and thought his sounds would be a great match.”
And so the Four Tet track “LA Trance” became the soundtrack, as Alfred believed it perfectly suited the final video—which might actually be classified as a short film of sorts, since there is a loose but discernible narrative. It’s also a curious mix of the apocalyptic and the utopian, if you will—as the animations reverently exalt some of Los Angeles’ great architectural sites, whilst also stopping to capture some of its essential kitsch. Yet the feeling of desolation overwhelms the proceedings, making for a hauntedly meditative journey.
Still Alfred insists that, “Collaborating in a time of isolation becomes a creative lifeline.”