An Exquisite Agony

A short documentary which focuses on the work of an artist called Laure Van Minden. Laure’s work is a study of words and languages, how they are represented visually, and how their meaning might be interpreted or influenced.

The film focuses on the relationship between image and sound, as Laure discusses her work using multiple languages.

  • Kellen Playford
  • Laure Van Minden
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Art
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 13 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 10, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    0 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
    English, French, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Kellen Playford

I am currently a student at Norwich University of the Arts, studying an MA in Moving Image and Sound.

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Director Statement

This film is an artistic documentary piece which focuses on the work of an artist called Laure Van Minden. Laure’s work is a study of words and languages and how they are represented visually, and how their meaning might be interpreted or influenced. The film focuses on the relationship between the visuals which Laure creates and the way in which she talks about her work in multiple languages. Laure’s recent work is all about layering words, reversing them, and manipulating them, and the visuals of the film attempt to reflect this. The extreme close-ups through the film really bring audiences into the work and force them to focus on what is being created.

When considering ways in which to edit the audio of the film to reflect the visuals, the approach that interested me most is the ‘cut-up technique’, used by a wide range of artists from William Burroughs to David Bowie. This usually involves taking writings such as newspapers, diaries, books, or other physical works, cutting up words and phrases, and randomly rearranging them into something new to inspire a new poem or song or novel.

What I find interesting about Burroughs’ approach to the technique is his view that it ties into a theory on addiction and control. He believed that drugs, sex, and power can control a man’s body, but language, time, and space (or our perception of them) will control a man’s mind. By using the cut-up method in art, we are able to expose the control which language (and time, and space) has over our mind, free ourselves from it, and ultimately alter the consciousness of both the writer and the reader of the text. In essence, this cut-up technique creates a montage which allows us to alter our perception of reality. This is a complex theory which deserves much more than a paragraph to explore and explain, but it highlights the power an artist has when selecting certain words or images to present to an audience. It questions the link between artist and audience, asks if audiences always see what artists want them to see, and queries where the ultimate ownership of art lays – in the creation or in the viewing?

I was intrigued by the idea of cutting up Laure’s interview in the edit suite and using individual words or phrases in different languages to see if the meaning of the speech still comes across to the viewer. Although the concept of cutting up dialogue and rearranging it to my own needs begins to stray away from the authenticity of the documentary genre, I think from an artistic point of view, the idea does tie in well with the subject of the film. My thoughts are with communicating with the audience, so if I have a message in three languages, cut it up and rearrange it into an unrecognisable language (but with potentially recognisable words), does the message still get communicated, or does it become corrupted and lost in translation? From a visual point of view, I did not put all the recorded shots in the temporal order of which they were filmed – they were edited into a montage sequence, which is a version of the ‘cut-up technique’, so without even realising, I had already considered this approach at an early stage of pre-production.

There are two main reasons that I worked on this piece: Firstly, the film is a portrait of an artist, Laure, and a celebration of her work. Having worked with her at university I became interested in her work and enjoyed the way she was so passionate and eloquent when talking about it. It seemed like an obvious idea to film it and try to capture some of that passion and emotion so that others might also enjoy it. Secondly, the film is a study of the relationship between sound and image, and an experiment in how one can reflect the other. My interest in Laure’s work lays partly in her play with words, and how she uses them as images, how she manipulates them, changes them, and deconstructs them in various ways. I was intrigued by the fact that she can speak multiple languages and how her choice of words in each language might subtly affect what she ends up saying. I wondered if I could play with the sound of her words to reflect what she was creating on paper.