The Prostrate Christ

Colour Me Dead - Chapter 6

The Prostrate Christ (excerpt) 5 minutes, silent © 2013

Background

The Prostrate Christ is the 6th production in the 18-part series of films, animations and prints collectively titled Colour Me Dead. All the productions in this project are based on research which is forming the basis for the in-development book Colour Me Dead: Art, Sex & Psychos.

The Prostrate Christ is a single 20 minute take of a performance of 2 'nudes' being positioned into 13 tableaux vivants by 2 'assistants'. Each tableau vivant references a painting which advanced the idea of depicting the human form in a prostrate, unconscious or dead position. The film is silent, and is projected onto the gallery floor. Viewers ascend a 2m high platform to watch the work from above.

Installation - Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2013

Credits

Nudes: Charlotte Claire & Lauren Russell
Assistants: Kat Henry & Annie Last
Cinematography: Michael Williams
Script, direction & editing: Philip Brophy
Lighting desk: David Murray
Camera assistants: Andrey Walkling & George Stajsic
Playback: Simone Lau
Thanks: Rebecca Manger, Artshouse, Michael Quinlan (RMIT), Olaf Meyer (Multimedia Events), Chris Gooch, Bala Starr (Ian Potter Museum of Art), The Vizard Foundation
Commissioned for the Vizard Foundation Contemporary Art Project

2013

Colour Me Dead, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (Curated by Bala Starr)

The Prostrate Christ - Scene 1 © 2013

Overview

When Greek athletes of ancient times froze in heroic poses for artisans to sculpt marbles, little did they realize how long their poses would be frozen. Fragmented marbles became perceptual guides for seeing the human body in idealized and elevated form, in turn delivering instructional manuals to art academies for centuries. Like an enlightened chimp, the academic nude was forever caught in aspirational poses, mimicking archaic well-toned Greek bodies. The artist’s model performed pantomimes of bodily deportment, leaving us with a bevy of male and female nudes voguing their natural beauty.

Yet the human body is also the opposite: a slug, a drooping branch, a spilt mass. Gravity and other worldly forces would render its form in decidedly un-Grecian ways. Unintentionally, a terse hypernaturalism of human form occurs in religious art depicting the Christ body in his narrow window of mortality while he lay dead for seventy-two hours. For the way to prove Christ’s mortality prior to godliness was to paint him at his most human—as a sunken lump on a slab. Famous paintings performed radical perspectival draftsmanship in picturing Christ in the tomb, signposting how the nude could be rendered not as posed, but as a life force independent of its muscular control and gravitational gravitas.

In line with late nineteenth-century developments in anatomical science, artists were interested in how the body presented itself in somnambulistic and unconscious states. The Prostrate Christ acknowledges how the nude brimming with life and composure would eventually become a vessel of necrotic decomposition.

The Prostrate Christ - Scene 5 © 2013

Technical

Production

The Prostrate Christ was shot across two days at the Artshouse in North Melbourne. The first day was spent setting up the large rear-projection screen, assembling the stage and lighting rig, and testing lenses and camera positions. Tests were carried out to reconfigure the spatialization and framing of each painting so that a single fixed lens position could adequately recreate each of the 13 referenced painting (chosen from around 40 influential paintings). As some of the original paintings were landscape in orientation and others portrait in orientation, the framing for the film was shot in square format. Light readings were gauged out to ascertain the contrast levels of the rear-projected images (all sourced from the Internet) in relation to the lit performers. Two lighting modes were developed: a low light set-up for when the performers were getting into position, and a more defined theatrical lighting set-up for the tableaux vivants.

The second day was spent rehearsing the 4 performers with the script onstage. Discussion and direction centred on ensuring the relationship between the 'nudes' and the 'assistants' was not like puppets with puppeteers, but more like the 'nudes' would be conscious of the positions they had to achieve for each tableau vivant and the 'assistants' were like automaton-extensions of the 'nudes' physiology (an idea based on the doll/controller relationship in Japanese bunraku theatre). Changes were incorporated to facilitate flow of movement and consistent bodily rhythm, and lighting directions were fine-tuned and programmed into the lighting desk. 3 dress-rehearsals were then undertaken. The final shot was accomplished on the second take.

Minimal grading was performed on the shot footage. No editing was required due to the film being a single shot lasting 20 minutes.

The Prostrate Christ - Scene 11 © 2013

Script

Scene 1

1. Kat enters stage left with table
2. Charlotte enters stage right and gets atop the table lying with head facing up
3. Kat positions Charlotte on the table
4. Lauren enters stage left and stands behind table
5. Annie enters stage right with shroud
6. Annie dresses Lauren with the shroud
7. Kat moves around to front of table and positions Charlotte’s head to face camera
8. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right.

Scene 2

1. Kat enters stage left, moving to the back of the table
2. Annie enters stage right, moving to the back of the table
3. Kat positions Lauren at the front of the table
4. From behind the table, Annie tilts Charlotte's head to the camera
5. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 3

1. Annie enters stage right, moving to the centre front of the table
2. Annie helps Charlotte off the table
3. Charlotte stands facing stage left (looking at Lauren)
4. Annie moves the table off stage right
5. Kat enters stage left
6. Kat positions Lauren’s arms to her side, then pushes the table out stage left
7. Lauren stands facing stage right (looking at Charlotte)
8. Annie enters stage right with the bench + seats Charlotte on the bench
9. Kat enters stage left and helps Lauren to drape

Scene 4

1. Kat enters stage left and helps Lauren stand up
2. Annie enters stage right and helps Charlotte stand up
3. Kat pushes table off stage left
4. Annie dresses Charlotte in sarong and turban
5. Kat pushes in couch from stage left
6. Kat prepares Lauren and helps her lay upon the couch
7. Annie helps Charlotte sit upon the floor
8. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 5

1. Kat enters stage left and helps Lauren off the couch
2. Annie enters stage right and helps Charlotte off the floor
3. Kat helps Lauren onto the floor
4. Annie pushes the couch off stage right
5. Charlotte places herself on the ground over Lauren
6. Annie enters stage right and drapes the sheets around Charlotte
7. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

The Prostrate Christ - Scene 9 © 2013

Scene 6

1. Annie enters stage right and helps Charlotte up
2. Kat enters stage left and rotates Lauren on the ground about 180º
3. Annie dresses Charlotte and positions her at the left-rear of stage
4. Kat dresses Lauren lying on the ground
5. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 7

1. Annie enters stage right carrying Charlotte’s dress and walks over to stage right
2. Kat enters stage left and helps Lauren up
3. Annie helps Charlotte change into draped orange fabric
4. Kat exits stage left, leading Lauren off stage
5. Kat enters stage left with the couch and puts it in position
6. Annie helps Charlotte onto the couch
7. Annie attends to Charlotte’s hair & head; Kat takes care of Charlotte’s legs and fabric
8. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 8

1. Kat enters stage left; Annie enters stage right
2. Kat helps Charlotte up and exits with her stage left
3. Annie pushes the couch off stage right
4. Kat enters stage left with Lauren (dressed)
5. Annie enters stage right with the table (and mask)
6. Kat helps Lauren onto the table
7. Annie attends to Lauren’s hair and mask; Kat attends to Lauren’s body and sheets
8. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 9

1. Kat enters stage left and helps Lauren off the table
2. Annie enters stage right and leads Lauren off stage right
3. Kat exits stage left and returns stage left with Charlotte (undressed)
4. Annie enters stage right with the balloons and affixes them to the table
5. Kat helps Charlotte onto the table
6. Both Annie and Kat tie red ropes to the balloons
7. Kat exits stage left with Lauren; Annie exits stage right

Installation - Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2013

Scene 10

1. Annie enters stage right and helps Charlotte off the table and moves her stage right
2. Kat enters stage left and exits stage left with the table
3. Annie dresses Charlotte
4. Kat enters stage left with Lauren (dressed) and carrying the chair
5. Kat places the chair centre stage
6. Annie seats Charlotte on the chair
7. Kat positions Lauren across Charlotte’s lap
8. Annie attends to Charlotte’s clothes and hair; Kate does the same with Lauren
9. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 11

1. Kat enters stage left and helps Charlotte stand up and move slightly stage left
2. Annie enters stage right and helps Lauren stand up and move slightly stage right
3. Kat exits stage left with Charlotte
4. Annie exits stage right carrying the chair
5. Lauren move to centre stage and starts disrobing
6. Kat re-enters stage left and Annie re-enters stage right carrying the sheet
7. Kat and Annie spread the sheet on the ground and help Lauren lie down
8. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 12

1. Annie enters stage right and helps Lauren stand up
2. Kat enters stage left and gathers up the sheet and exits stage left
3. Annie exits stage right with Lauren
4. Kat enters stage left with Charlotte (dressed)
5. Kat positions Charlotte on the ground
6. Kat exits stage left; Annie exits stage right

Scene 13

1. Kat enters stage left and helps Charlotte up
2. Annie enters stage right and picks up the pillows
3. Kat exits with Charlotte stage left
4. Annie exits stage right with turntable and pillows
5. Lauren enters stage right (dressed) carrying the small framed canvas and tin of red paint
6. Lauren kneels centre stage, places the canvas on the ground and pours the red paint
7. Charlotte enters stage right (dressed) and helps Lauren up
8. Lauren and Charlotte each hold one edge of the canvas and present it toward the camera