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This film took 300,000 photos, riots, wildfires, paintings in abandoned houses, two years and zero graphics to make. It changed my entire life.
Circle of Abstract Ritual began as an exploration of the idea that creation and destruction might be the same thing. The destruction end of that thought began in earnest when riots broke out in my neighborhood in Anaheim, California, 2012. I immediately climbed onto my landlord's roof without asking and began recording the unfolding events. The news agencies I contacted had no idea what to do with time lapse footage of riots, which was okay with me because I had been thinking about recontextualizing news as art for some time. After that I got the bug. I chased down wildfires, walked down storm drains on the L.A. River and found abandoned houses where I could set up elaborate optical illusion paintings. The illusion part of the paintings are not an end in themselves in my work. They're an intimation of things we can't physically detect; a way to get an ever so slight edge on the unknowable.
Early in the process I mapped out a very interconnected narrative structure. It took a long time to fill that narrative structure in, and when I finished editing the film after seven solid weeks of being holed up in a dark room I had no idea if it was something anyone would want to watch. I almost cut the film into pieces before realizing that outside influences were pressuring me to make that decision, and that I was happy with it as it was.
It took a long time to come to the creation side of the original premise. It finally took form in a collaboration with sculptor, Steve Shigley, as well as 15 amazing volunteers who moved full sized tree sculptures 450 times over two nights to create the stop motion climax of the film (see the behind the scenes film, Story of Abstract Ritual for the tale of their monumental effort:
The idea I wanted to explore was the creation of culture as a conscious creative act, but without the trappings of dogma from institutions or even from ways of thinking. The circle of inverted trees became a small piece of the world with personal meaning where I could mark significant events, contemplate and reflect. That circle still stands, and I still visit it regularly. Several people who have been there have told me that it's come to mean something special for them as well. They each have their own fascinating way of interpreting the power inherent in those trees.