Liss Platt’s short films appeal to multiple perceptions
What is immediately striking about Liss Platt’s Requiem for Coney Island—a 61-second film made in New York at Coney Island’s Astroland amusement park shortly before its demise in September 2008—is that it has no sound.
Its opening shot of colorful, moving carnival rides is silent. As is the rest of the tiny movie, which Platt made for the 2008 Toronto Urban Film Festival. Where one would expect raucous noise—bells ringing and people shouting during the playing of arcade games, for instance—one gets only silence.
Interestingly, though, it is the lack of sound that forces the viewer to supply a soundtrack in her or his head. It is impossible to watch the scene in which people are raising their hands while descending the high point of a roller coaster without “hearing” in one’s imagination their chorus of screams.
This is precisely Platt’s talent—the ability to turn the everyday (as well as the more uncommon) on its head, pushing the viewer of her filmed pieces to consider things from a different point of view.
“I often say that I’m trying to open new possibilities for people and think of things in a new way,” offered Platt recently by phone from Boulder, Colo., where she was visiting her mother and aunt.
Platt, who self-identifies as a “butch” lesbian, and explores gender politics and sexuality in much of her work, was in the process of traveling to Chico with her partner from her home in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where she teaches digital video and image-making at McMaster University.
The amiable 44-year-old will be on hand at an upcoming showing of her work at 1078 Gallery, which will feature eight of her short videos and films. Platt’s work has been shown all over the world, including at the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos in Havana and at the Slovakia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Bratislava.
Her 10-minute-long Somewhere Between Here and There, the winner of Best in Show at 1078’s Film Festival 2009, will be among the films shown, as will her quirky, six-minute Purse, a campy exploration of the “threat” of purses. Then there’s Tongue in Chic, a 22-minute piece notable for its “Mary Faké character, a send-up of cosmetics diva Mary Kay Ash.
“She kind of hawks products that you would use to make your porn better,” explained Platt of the Faké character. “It’s very over-the-top.”
Platt’s Long Time Coming is also rather over-the-top, but in a different way. Made up of remixed audio and video footage from the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, the playfully sexualized, five-minute movie toys with viewers’ preconceived notions of the masculinity of the game of hockey.
“Mine’s totally gay,” said Platt of her interpretation of Canada’s national pastime. “I’m queering part of the fabric of Canadian life. … Some people are like, ‘Hmph, I watch hockey. I don’t see hockey like that.’ I’m imagining it the way I want it to be.”
Of her poignant You Can’t Get There From Here, a coming-of-age piece that includes Platt’s dealing with the issue of the death of her terminally ill sister, the artist had this to say, after conceding that the film is “a little bit messy”: “It’s about being 16, when everything from the catastrophic to the mundane all register with same intensity. My sick sister didn’t ‘register’ until she was dying. It’s all at the same volume in a 16-year-old’s life. The texture of the film reflects the texture of my 16-year-old life.”
Platt said she hopes viewers from all walks of life will see a little of themselves in the “mirror” of her work.
“My work is fairly personal, but it’s accessible even though it’s different,” Platt acknowledged, letting a little bit of her acquired Canadian accent slip out, “I don’t make the work that’s going to be on television, d’you know what I mean?”