Running along side the amazing RCA end of year show, the Parallax event aimed showcasing upcoming and established talents involved in moving image. Put together by artist and filmmaker Stuart Croft, the one off programme included screenings and Q&As by Miranda Pennell and Ben Hopkins.
If the 60s model of capitalism was about a commodity culture of manufactured goods, I think the current model is far more about services and access to information
One of the leaving RCA students chosen for the Parallax event was Thomas Yeomans. His short film 'Promotional Video' is a wry Chris Morris-esque take on corporate videos and the dark arts of rhetoric in visual imagery that is both hilarious and terrifying. At the event, Dazed Digital spoke to Thomas about men stroking corn...
Dazed Digital: Where did the initial idea for the video come from?
Thomas Yeomans: I was looking at contemporary consumer behaviour. If the 60s model of capitalism was about a commodity culture of manufactured goods, I think the current model is far more about services and access to information. It was apparent to me that utility companies, service providers or luxury brands are all using material that seems increasingly to rely on sensory impact and eliciting emotional responses from consumers to direct their attention. And I noticed this trend where this marketing material is far more about form over content, so it’s not what’s being said but how it’s being said.
DD: Where did you find the footage?
Thomas Yeomans: I was coming across the various stock footage databases on line that I realised there were masses of this material and it’s really quite curious. At first you’re quite moved by it, it’s incredibly seductive. What the video tries to do is slow those things down and play them in their entirety so that you’re suddenly confronted by a bloke standing in a field stroking corn, which might appear as a two second clip in a cornflake advert and appear plausible, but slowed down and watched it’s incredibly I guess poetic and abstract in it’s way, but also a little dangerous because it’s actual content is ill defined, it’s a very retinal experience.
DD: The ending’s quite bleak, almost apocalyptic…
Thomas Yeomans: I guess it is quite cynical in its way. There’s a pitch I like to use, more as a strategy with a lot of my work, which is that if something takes itself incredibly seriously, it’s both at once incredibly bleak, but there’s also a moment when that flips and it becomes something quite hilarious. So there is certainly quite a serious and depressive feel about the work in one respect, but there’s also the moment where you realise the pomposity of the material. And I hope there’s a reformation moment for the audience where they realise they’re more in control than if they saw it in its original context.
DD: Is the voice over also a collage?
Thomas Yeomans: It was very contrived in some respects, many of the sentences are pre existing, so the script was certainly collaged and took a few months of collating and bringing together these slogans that in many respects promise lifestyle for an access to ease, again like the moving image stuff it refuses specificity and instead makes these quite broad claims connecting people world wide with electrical orbs and. It seeps again into the situationist rhetoric as well; similar to ‘68 slogans, it’s very sloganistic, it offers something ideal but not grounded or pragmatic.
DD: Was the voice itself something that interested you?
Thomas Yeomans: I think the power of the voice is far more authoritative when you don’t know who’s speaking, it becomes slightly more trustworthy when it has this ambiguity about it, it doesn’t need an identity it is self-sufficient. I employed the services of Sally Dunbar, who’s a professional voice over artist. The slogans that appear throughout vary from mundane existing corporate and advertising slogans also moving to radical leftist militant points as well, but it was really important for the sake of the hypnotic form to have this trustworthy voice.