Produced as a direct response to the isolation of lockdown and her own experience of anxiety, Lou Sarabadzic’s Joyful Journeys is a set of four short films exploring some of the challenges we experience inside and outside of home, how we can foster creative connections and find joy and/or support even under the most challenging circumstances.
The piece is one of a diverse series of micro-commissions awarded to local artists in partnership with Unlimited as part of our Reform the Norm programme. In our latest guest blog, Lou tells us more about her project and the process of creating the four films.
For my commission I have worked in collaboration with four participants to produce a set of short films focused on the theme of joy.
Initially, I held a public call-out asking people to submit audio or video recordings exploring things that brought them joy, and from the submissions I received, I selected four that I would eventually develop further into the films that make up Joyful Journeys.
When I first started work on this project, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what the final output would look like or what it would be about. Although I had this overarching theme of “joy”, like many people I felt a bit lost at the time, so it was really important to me to make it very clear that people could interpret this in whatever way they chose. I didn’t want it to be off-putting to people who perhaps hadn’t experienced a lot of joy in their lives recently.
The world has been so difficult to navigate over the last year and a half, especially for people who are disabled and/or neurodiverse, and I was very conscious that those were the voices I wanted to include in this work. In addition, I certainly didn’t want for this work to deny challenges and struggles, on the contrary. By talking about joy, you are also talking about how difficult it can be to even find, reach or access joy... so I was very moved that participants felt they could share the difficulties as well as the positives of their own journeys.
I always knew that I was going to produce a film for this commission, because I wanted to use its multisensory aspect to welcome as many people as possible. Since film combines audio and visual elements, and text can both be heard and seen, it can be experienced by people in different ways, ensuring that fewer people were excluded. But beyond that, my ideas developed organically in response to the submissions I received. Another important point is that due to OCD, I can find it extremely hard to go out, even when I really miss it, and the film sequences probably reflect that.
My plan was originally to create one film that would bring together submissions from the four different contributors. However, after the call-out, it soon became clear to me that it would make more sense to keep them separate – partly because turning them into one film would have resulted in a very long film, which would have been much more difficult to share online; but also because, each of the individual ideas was so strong that I wanted to make sure I did justice to them all.
Three of the four submissions I received were exclusively in audio and text format, although one of the artists, Emilie Lauren Jones, submitted visuals along with her audio poetry recording, which I have included in her film along with some contributions of my own. For the others, the visual content comes from my own daily surroundings – views from my window and front door, sequences shot in my garden.
But this wasn’t just about me illustrating pieces that other people had written. It was more about using those audio submissions as a starting point for something new – an act of translation, if you will, which is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time, both in terms of language and creative medium.
The central idea was to explore how we can foster connection in isolation, so this had to be a collaborative process where different perspectives and points of view intertwine. At the beginning of all of the films, and sometimes at the end, you’ll hear my voice linking them all together.
All four contributors, Emilie Lauren Jones, George Bastow, Nihal, and Philip (whose video comes with a trigger warning) help us, I believe, to question when, where and how to find joy in a world that can be intense, overwhelming, painful, oppressive. It can be thanks to friends, families, everyday interactions, yearly celebrations, going for a walk, activism, creativity, making and revisiting memories… There is just so much in what they say. I keep listening to their words over and over again.
This was a completely new way of working for me, and that’s one of the things that has excited me most about this project. I’m so grateful that receiving the micro-commission enabled me to try out something different. It was the first time that I’d ever made a project based primarily on film, which was really useful to me because film is a medium that I’ve continued to work in since.
I also really liked the fact that with these micro-commissions, we were allowed to take some time to explore different ideas and allow them to develop organically. I thought that was brilliant because so often when you apply for things like this, you have to go in with a very clear idea of what you want the finished product to be. Which in turn does dictate the kind of collaboration you are hoping for.
If I’d gone into this project that way, it would have resulted in something totally different from what I’ve produced, because it would have required me to impose my own ideas of what joy looks like from the start, instead of finding a way of representing and paying close attention to the ideas that other people shared with me.
TRIGGER WARNING: The video below includes references to mental health, grief and suicidal thoughts
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