NOWNESS Experiments: Ultraviolet

Unnerving interspecies entanglements that come with a sting

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Inspired by a philosophical Chinese poem about a man dreaming of being a butterfly, French filmmaker and visual artist Marc Johnson reimagines the ancient fable and its epistemological skepticism in a new film. World-renowned scorpion handler Kanchana Ketkaew and several venomous arachnids approximate collaborative survival in a non-narrative experimental project filmed under ultraviolet light.

“Ultraviolet, as a color, was very important for me in reference to painters I admire”

“This film develops a political position in which the human has been removed from any particularly privileged position in the world to experience another understanding of interspecies relations,” says Johnson, whose work to date is centered on the Anthropocene era, Earth’s current geological period of human activity.

“Exploring the intersection of the human and non-human fosters that narrative of the posthuman,” the filmmaker continues. “It supports the need for biodiversity, ethnodiversity and nature preservation within climate change.”

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Guillaume Brault (DOP), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Guillaume Brault (DOP), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew and a scorpion, courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew and a scorpion, courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), Chatchai Tepun (Camera Assistant), Dontr Hadjarauy (Camera Assistant), courtesy of Marc Johnson and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), Chatchai Tepun (Camera Assistant), Dontr Hadjarauy (Camera Assistant), courtesy of Marc Johnson and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Bunthawee Siangwong (Scorpion Handler), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Bunthawee Siangwong (Scorpion Handler), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Guillaume Brault (DOP), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Marc Johnson (Director), Guillaume Brault (DOP), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

"ULTRAVIOLET" short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

“ULTRAVIOLET” short film set photograph, featuring Kanchana Ketkaew (Actress), courtesy of Marc Johnson, UMOON Production Thailand and Fulldawa Films, photo credit: Martin Reeves

It was only after reading a scientific article on why scorpions glow under particular lights that Johnson had the idea to explore this phenomenon on film. His unnerving close-ups of scorpions crawling out of Ketkaew’s mouth and across her body take on an almost zoological fascination and demands a state of suspended animation from the audience.

“Ultraviolet, as a color, was very important for me in reference to painters I admire such as Sigmar Polke and Mark Rothko who made several works based on that color to express the limits of human perception,” says Johnson. “I am also inspired by many generations of filmmakers who used close-ups in their works such as Maya Deren, Jean Epstein, and Steve McQueen. I am trying to engage with peers that I have a kinship with.”October 21, 2020

EDITORS

Katie Metcalfe
Katie MetcalfeAnanda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin

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