Millie: Justus, are we on the brink of disaster?
Justus: I will need to be in quarantine for 40 days and then I will come back.
Millie: 40 days is excessive.
Justus: It’s symbolic. Quarantine, from Latin quaranta. 40 is the numeric symbol for purification.
Millie: Like the 40-day flood in the Book of Dawn that washed away every human who defiled the earth, which was every human, to purify the earth. Like that?
Justus: In 40 days I will come back to you purer than I have been.
Kirsten opens the Cloud digital playbook. Her application of colour bars as a visual motif is significant. A filmmaker like herself faces a season where she can’t work in ways she usually does - in collaboration, on location. Alone, she strips back the motion picture to its essence, colour bars. Then, as she peels back the layers of her medium, she exhales a narrative that’s deeply reflective and personal, illuminating notions of perception and seeing, crystallising artistic confession and revelation. Kirsten was also responding to another kind of plague as she witnessed how the deep wounds of the historically marginalised saw monuments come tumbling down and the world up in smoke bringing disquieting resonance to her refrain “Colour bars are now calibrating. Are we seeing the same colours? ”
Taking in Kirsten's piece is akin to having a metaphysical dialogue with her. It is a kind of communion that is liberating and empowering because no one dominates, no one dictates. In our private and personal responses to her work, our own introspections reveal hidden things to us and we are allowed to untangle our thoughts, connect with ourselves and reflect. The pandemic put us in the wilderness, but a way to cut through barrenness is to spend time in reflection, deep reflection.
On a recent drive home, I was hit by another kind of wisdom - Joni Mitchell intoning Oh I am a lonely painter I live in a box of paints I’m frightened by the devil and I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid… you are in my blood like holy wine you taste so bitter and so sweet…I could drink a case of you darling and I would still be on my feet… When the song ends, I understand that Kirsten’s gift to us is the invitation to look within because she fearlessly and with great vulnerability, does so first.
In these unusual days, I have been dreaming
about creating in a vacuum. Filmmaking is a communal act; I am a filmmaker in isolation. How do I create within/without this solipsism, and what comes before a film? Technically speaking: colour bars. They’re meant to calibrate our eyes, so we can individually adjust variances on our monitor, to ensure that we’re collectively seeing the same thing. Solidarity in castellated shades of green, red, magenta, cyan, yellow, and blue. When I can’t step outside, I dream of creation at its most granular: my latent emotions pinned down on the axis of six SMPTE colour bars and a 1kHz sine wave tone.
Solidarity in castellated shades of green, red, magenta, cyan, yellow, and blue.
A Color Bar Calibration for the Legally Blind in One Eye
by Kirsten Tan
With our socio-physical limitations, I am intrigued more than ever to explore visual and aural-making (essentially filmmaking) in its most essential state. When there is nothing to record, no visuals or sounds to play with, my mind went to the barest technical possibility on recorded medium – the film before a film – colour bars.
The colour bars and her accompanying tone typically serve as a reference or target point for the calibration of colour and audio levels during transmission. The colour bars are presented at 75% intensity. The audio tone is a 1kHz sine wave. We use them on our screens to calibrate the monitors and speakers, to see and listen almost as closely as the filmmakers intended. I don’t need that technical exactitude, but I like the unifying idea behind it, to see and listen collectively, as things are meant to be.
In the absence of recorded material, I will use colour bars as my sole creative palette. I will create film from the manipulation of colours from the colour bar, using it as a springboard for the visuals. I will splice and create sounds from the accompanying 1kHz tone, that will mirror the undulations of my emotional landscape. Overlaid will be re-enacted audio conversations I’ve had with others — and myself — in self-isolation during the coronavirus circuit breaker period, voiced by an automated text-to-speech engine, centering on my thoughts, trigger points and anxieties. My only tool of expression will be the colour bars. Without any unnecessary excess and with just the barest of minimum to create with, I hope it forms the purest of connection.
is a New York-based Singaporean filmmaker whose debut feature Pop Aye premiered as an opening night film of Sundance Film Festival 2017, and was awarded a Special Jury Prize for Screenwriting. The film picked up other accolades along the festival circuit and was invited to represent Singapore at the Oscars. Her short films 10 Minutes Later, Fonzi, Sink, Cold Noodles and Dahdi have collectively received over ten international awards. A Sundance Institute, Cannes Cinéfondation Atelier and Cinereach Film Fellow, she was accorded the Young Artist Award by NAC in 2015 and was nominated as a Singaporean of the Year by The Straits Times in 2018.
Artist SANTHA BHASKAR