five parallel universes—
a bout with homemade psychedelics transforms an already warped dynamic between a couple into a police investigation. the forensics are stymied: a neural surge that created an explosion, traces of honey in the blood— what was in that bindi spot?
a first date in Central Park. fireflies, deathbirds and vertigo…
a radio broadcast seems to intercept the reality of the new couple, who become susceptible to the information transmitted via the airwaves…
next, they discover a corpse…
a wedding night that turns out to be a nuptial flight. the blushing bride is really a black widow…
radio waves at war! a live broadcast from Central Park intercepted by the rantings of one from beyond the grave; a bee documentary, infected becomes infested with dark prognosis. in a living room ,a listener lays dying: theorizing the venomous nature of her death…
a funeral service for the young woman found dead in Central park: the friend who missed it, waylaid by the mysterious railings of a strange young man. he claims his mind is pure glitch. and finally the one who presides over her own funeral assures us that her death was caused by neither murderer nor executioner. it was an ecstatic glitch— in a split split second, she finds herself flitting over her own body, like so many fireflies…
Inspired by equal parts fascination with sacred erotic texts, neurological disorders and Hitchcock-ian suspense, <> is a cinematic love story in five parallel universes. Written and directed by Onomé Ekeh, this ←sound-cinema event→ is modeled after old-style radio plays and the narrative unfolds in linearly progressed loops.
The initializing concept behind this project was the idea that the first cinema we experience is in vitro. As fetuses, we are awash in sound waves, via amniotic fluid, that create our first virtual reality.
In Vermillion>> we are introduced to Franz & Maya. The myth about Maya is that she is the bastard offspring of an Indian Bollywood star, cut off from her family when she drops out of pre-med Columbia and opts for a “bohemian lifestyle”. The truth may be that she is dark Italian or Latina from Long Island. Or even Jersey. The myth about Franz is that he is Maya’s whipping boy, completely beneath her spell; escaping reality by watching TV all day. The truth is that he watches TV all day.
Whatever Maya’s enigma, one thing is for sure—she has a talent for transgressive pharmaceuticals. The night Maya comes home with a new improved version of Vermilion, a profound mischief of another kind ensues. Vermilion is a bindi spot that disappears into the Third Eye—but actually activates the lower, more sensual centers of the body. Vermilion makes her horny. Vermilion makes her levitate. Vermilion makes Franz shoot her.
Or so it seems.
Forensics are stymied by whatever device has killed Maya. Perturbed because of the molecular alterations in her body: a beehive seems to be forming out of her cell structure. Franz lays claim to guilt and is interrogated, but makes no sense. A simulation of the incident is run—with the use of Vermilion. What happens next is too unintelligible for any police report. Franz is released, free to wander to wander the streets: the screen between him and reality torn forever. And the truth revealed about Maya is that she is the Bewilderer in this World.
written & directed by onomé ekeh
featuring dave simonds, okwui okpokwasili, tami dixon, christian rummel
excerpts from “primal image” by alan lamb © 2001 dorobo
A gramophone: the needle touches the surface of the record, it crackles and the enchantment begins— first a lilting tango that transforms into a tropical breeze and carries us out into the rumbling bass of the high seas (radio waves of pirates and muezzin calls) and then into the space of <> our first stop in the realm of <>
I add to my perfection,
Segueway: a jazzy riff speeds up accompanying the narrator. Beneath him and the music is a muted TV show with a laugh track.
Narrator : There is a myth about Maya that she perpetuated by herself. In it she is the scion of a wealthy Bombay family– but disowned, because she dropped out of Pre-med at Columbia , moved downtown and opted for a “Bohemian Lifestyle”. The other story is that she is the bastard love child of a famed Bollywood star (disowned for his bohemian lifestyle) and an Italian makeup girl, tainted by her promiscuity.
Who knows? For all we know she’s from Long Island, or better still New Jersey.
The truth about Maya is that she has a talent for illusion— not just in the myth making department: Maya understands something about pharmaceuticals.
The girl is gifted
And full of surprises.
The Myth about Franz is that he is Maya’s whipping boy. Nobody really understands the reason for his existence—
The truth about Franz is that Franz always sits at the screen,
sometimes its a computer screen,
other times it’s a TV screen. Sometimes its a neural screen between him and reality.
It’s always an escape route.
Franz checks out daily,
Maya comes home and hauls him in,
She’s wearing red, again,
In more ways than one
We hear the TV, fighter planes dives, broadcaster voice, documentary noises, The March of Time:
Maya: Hey baby—
Maya: TV, Franz?
Franz: There’s this is a great special on Hungarian fighter planes
Maya: Turn it off
moment of silence, a minute of Hungarian fighter plane noise and commentary. Then a click. Silence.
Franz: Fuck Maya, what did you do that for?
Maya: Get up. Time to play
Franz: Come on, not now. Turn it back on—
Maya: Don’t be an idiot.
Franz: I’m not in the mood (clicks TV back on)
Maya: Franz! Don’t make me turn that off again
Franz: (mumbling) fuck you Maya, fuck you
Franz: Alright dammit!
TV clicks off, muted spirally music and beneath it, laugh track
Maya: Much better. Guess what I have for us–
Franz: I can’t wait.
Maya: The new improved Vermillion. They come in Bindi spots, come here baby–
Franz: Maya I really don’t want this—
Maya: Shut up. There, You look super pretty. Alright we’re ready to go. I want you to take a walk around the block
Franz: Why? Do I have to—
Maya: You know the rules, get going Franz, there’s my pet (door slams)
Maya laughs ferally for a minute that seems like eternity , the soundscape shimmers and spirals
And now I adorn myself
New and Improved as a bindi spot
fits perfectly over the third eye, but that’s not what we’re getting to
the trick is to use counterpoints
to attract each other
I am aiming for that lower end of things
where the lovegod inhabits
he is vermillion
and I see vermillion
He flashes like young lightning
and I am the lightning
luminous as ten million suns
I am resplendent as his radials
He resides as a whirlpool
and I am the whirlpool
like a new leaf
I am the bud
a four petaled lotus
I float above surfaces
I look down and survey
And see the world
the streets outside my door
He walks round the block
he comes up the steps
and now my lover enters the room
is that a gun?
or are you just happy to see me?
Franz: It’s a gun.
(Gun shot amplified into full-scale EXPLOSION)
Forensics expert: The body is completely crystallized by the effects of radiation from a blast which seems to have emitted from the victim’s cervix. The molecular structure of the cells strike me as unusual: hexagonal in shape and secreting a substance that seems to be amber colored, sweet viscose and sticky. Like honey.
Hypothetically, judging from the scar tissue on the victims cervical ganglia– an excitatory state created a neural surge that flooded the cervix with electrical activity. However the electro-chemical emissions are anomalous to that region. It would seem the neural activity created a radioactive explosion.
This is pure conjecture.
Overall assessment: cause of death UNKNOWN.
The ocean rumbles into a Police interrogation
Interrogator #1: Let’s go over this one more time. You say you’re at home watching TV, your girlfriend comes in, tells you to take a walk, you go round the block, come back in and shoot her, right?
Interrogator #2: Alright Franz, what did you shoot her with?
Franz: My gun.
Psychologist: The patient is speaking metaphorically, in his psychosis his penis has become a weapon.
Franz: Fuck you.
Interrogator #1: Hey watch the language!
Interrogator #2: Freak—
Psychologist: I demand the release of this young man into the care of clinical specialists! He is obviously suffering from the shock of his girlfriends death—
Franz: Fuck you.
Interrogator #1: Hey! I’m warning you— What are you talking about doc? How the hell are we supposed to release a self confessed criminal? He murdered his girlfriend!
Psychologist: Did he now? With what?
Franz: My gun.
Interrogator #2: See!
Psychologist: Have you lost your minds, did you see the forensics report? Cause of death UNKNOWN! What is the murder weapon? Show me a murder weapon!
Interrogator #1: Oh I can tell you about murder weapons— that crazy drug they’re all running around with on their foreheads. In case you didn’t notice Doc, we’re charging him with criminal use of the Third Eye—
Psychologist: That’s preposterous
Interrogator #2: Yeah well maybe— you should stick around for the simulation—
Psychologist: Simulation? A simulation of what?
Interrogator #1: Our friend Franz over here gets to wear his bindi spot again, we wanna see what he can do—
Psychologist: You have crossed the line here. I completely oppose it—
Interrogator #2: Nothing you can do Doc, he goes on in half an hour—
Psychologist: I can’t believe my ears! I am going to stop this right now– this man is in need of medical care—
Franz: Fuck you.
Interrogator # 1: That’s right Franz, you tell the Doc. Crazy ass shrink.
Narrator: And so they did run a simulation of the events of that fatal night.
Franz was given another Vermillion bindi spot.
And what happened next,
no one in the police department would ever mention again.
Perhaps some pondered it in their hearts
Those wounded in the experiment were given new reasons for their existence.
Those killed— were awarded posthumous medals for their bravery in the line of duty.
And now Franz is a free man.
He roams the streets
The screen between him and reality torn forever,
High seas. Howling wind, pirate conversations intercepted the sound of Muezzins
Maya: And what ever they might say about me and my origins
they will always be wrong
For I am Maya
the Bewilderer in this World,
Highseas, foghorn: One bell tolls–a signal for the demise of one narrative and the birth of <>
The static radio waves move from pirate cat calls to BBC world reports, finally one broadcast strand dominates the others