Heaven Through the Backdoor

by Mirabel Pictures / WeOwnTV
Heaven Through the Backdoor

To our GlobalGiving Supporters,

This winter has been like no other. I’ve considered the merits of closing my eyes and holding my breath ‘till it’s over, but it’s going on a bit long for that. So instead I’m breathing in and out and writing to you lovely people -- which is making me feel better already. Thank you all for the support on this project and for taking the time to read this update. In truth, it hasn’t been all bad. For all the difficult things the pandemic has brought, it has shattered habitual patterns, opened up new ways of thinking, and shown us the importance of staying connected to the people we love. 

Yo’s semi-deconstructed house has taken up a central position in our workspace and continues to act as a spiritual touchstone. Our studio days are a mix of art-making, set building and production. In the studio, I started to collage my way through creative blocks. We put Yo’s house up on wheels which opened up a multi-dimensional way to interact with it. Banker tucked a shop pencil behind his ear and built the next set of pieces to film with, including the church from Yo's story about her childhood in Chiasso, Switzerland. 

On the editorial side of things, Banker just edited a scene recently shot scene called "I put myself through changes”.  It is a story Yo tells about the early 1970’s, when her path to find herself began to take it’s toll. On a journey accelerated by the influence of the counterculture movement, she could no longer live the life she found herself in. She drifted away from her husband and, before long, her children were taken away.  With that final tether cut, she wandered to the brink of insanity. Somehow, from that precipice, was she able to rebuild her life.  

For this re-creation, I play Yo at my current age. At this point, (in the film and in life), I'm is learning things from Yo that I was not ready to understand when I was younger and Yo was still alive. We look forward to sharing this and other clips form the film soon.

Stay Safe, take care, with gratitude

Anna and Banker

collage, January 2021
collage, January 2021
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As we approach this change in seasons we find ourselves reflecting on the changes in our individual lives, communities, and the planet itself.  On every level, things seem to be in unprecedented flux.  Something about the difficulty of these times allows a heightened sense of appreciation for the personal and community connections that we have.  On that note, we want to give a BIG thank you to the Sundance DFP, the NEA, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Flieshhacker Foundation, the Family Caregiver Alliance, The Creative Work Fund, and the individual donors who have made a special effort to support us through these uncertain times.  

And now for an update!  We have been deep in the editorial process for Heaven Through the Backdoor and are preparing for our next round of shooting.  This time we embark on a series of shoots with the puppet in the great outdoors on the eastern seaboard. We look forward to capturing the changing leaves and the dramatic shifts of autumn.  With eyes wide open we now move into an uncertain future.

Best,

Anna, and Banker 

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Anna and Banker prepping to shoot with new set.
Anna and Banker prepping to shoot with new set.

Hi Everyone,

Since our last report, much in the world has changed --  a global pandemic, months of sheltering in place, collective grief, another tragic death of a black man at the hands of police triggered a great social awakening. Covid-19 laid bare the truths we were all to busy to focus on. It highlighted the inequalities of race, gender, class, and age.  It made us confront death and loss. We even witnessed what it looked like when our relentless exploitation of the planet was paused for a moment.

Now we cautiously re-enter a different world. This liminal time holds great uncertainty and opportunity for needed change. Through this period we continue to think, listen, and use the creative process as a way to focus on the existential questions we are facing.  

And now - a brief project update.  We are honored to have just received an ArtWorks Grant from the National Endowments for the Arts for the Heaven Through the Backdoor.  During the last three months, we have been editing, building and shooting.  Here are some images of us at working from home during San Francisco’s Shelter in Place March - June 2020.

Take care,

Anna

Anna adding some life
Anna adding some life
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Anna set dressiing Yo's house
Anna set dressiing Yo's house

 

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself” - Henry Miller 

We just completed a three-month residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts. We were invited to the Project Space Residency, “a place of exchange among artists and visitors -  a place where ideas are germinated, conversations are shared and new work is made.” It was a great fit for the Heaven through the Backdoor project and we wanted to use this update to share and reflect on our experience. Project Space gave us the opportunity to observe over one thousand people interacting with these work-in-progress elements of the project and we learned a lot about how the work functioned. 

Yo’s House: The central sculptural element of the installation is Yo’s house at scale (measuring 16’Lx5’Wx7’H). In our Headlands studio, the house was positioned so it would be the first thing people would see and explore, often before engaging with the media. The little building seems to hover in space as if it is frozen in time. Everything inside and out is captured in great detail: the chipped paint, mossy bricks, junk mail, reading glasses, a tea cup. Despite the detail, there is an anonymity to the installation. Most participants do not have background or know who Yo is. Their first encounter has not been overly directed or framed. Peering in the bedroom window reveals an empathetic portrait of an older woman who, by being no one, can be anyone. From this place, the participant can connect what they see to their own personal experiences, to their own memories and emotions. 

Many visitors shared with us that they had had a powerful emotional reaction to the piece, often recalling specific memories surrounding grief, loss and remembrance. We observed how participants were in total control of how much time they want to spend with the variety of sculptural elements, and how that introduces a measure of agency to the interactivity. We saw that visitors would often walk directly back to the house after finishing watching media of Yo’s real house, exploring details and story elements in the house, cross-checking them with what they had just committed to memory. 

In our space, we had five clips totaling 24 minutes on a loop. People used headphones and watched for a long as they wanted. Headphones gave people a type of privacy. Then, they could take them off and interact with others. The ability to move between social and private spaces seemed to give people space to think and feel. Most people who would watch the media would return to the scale house for further exploration.

Project Space is open to the public and artists are encouraged to be in dialogue with visitors about their work. Many visitors would share stories of loss back with us after engaging with the material. For our final exhibition, we decided to formally invite visitors to participate in the creation of a Remembrance Wall (pictured below) and honor loved ones who have passed. Over a two week period, visitors added photo transfer images to a wall and wrote letters, brought photos, objects, and flowers. It added a very emotionally 

Project Format: The experience of loss and grief is deeply personal and we want people to meet the project in a place that they feel comfortable and are allowed to move at their own pace. Because of this, we have begun developing a multi-platform and experientially-driven format. The final format for our works will include a feature-length documentary film and an interactive gallery exhibition that features the one-third scale version of Yo’s house, made objects and media elements. 

 

Our project is fundamentally built around a series of stories that Yo tells about the formative events in her life. These epic tales are set against the backdrop of her failing health during the last year of her life. Her telling is presented virtually uncut to honor her “performance.” Our artistic interpretation, however, is indulgent: we use intricately built sets, animal actors and an archive of family photos and artwork. Before the portal to her magical world closed, we filmed Yo’s days, made audio recordings and collected objects and artwork from her home. 

Yo’s stories are told in chronological order against the backdrop of daily life and the trajectory of her declining health. The rhythm of this narrative structure pairs observational moments of Yo interacting with family and friends with her transportative storytelling. The narrative is built around Yo’s desire to make sense of and share her own origin story before she dies. In the gallery exhibition, the collection of dioramas, sculpture, photography, and media offer a different entry point to the narrative of her story and core project themes. The function of a more deconstructed narrative allows participants to see their own life experiences reflected in the Heaven Through the Backdoor storyworld. 

we want to thank the Headlands Center for the Arts for this amazing opportunity and look forward to sharing more with you all about when we will be premiering the project in the near future.

Here is a link to a media deck we made that documents our time at the Headlands:

https://spark.adobe.com/page/BdMEsq3KptGkW/

With Gratitude,

Anna Fitch

 

 

 

 

 




Remembrance Wall in Project Space
Remembrance Wall in Project Space
Anna & Banker in the Project Space studio
Anna & Banker in the Project Space studio
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Hello to our Global Giving Community,

Our time in the Headlands Center for the Arts this Fall has been magical. Banker and I have been Artists-in-Residence, working on our documentary / installation project Heaven Through the Backdoor since early September. The project is a multiplatform portrait of our good friend Yo who passed in 2013 at the age of 88. Our process blends intimate documentary footage with cinematic interpretations to explore the emotional complexities surrounding the death of those closest to you and facing one’s own mortality. During the residency we are building a 1/3 scale model of Yo's house and other art objects and diorama's inspired by stories she tells. We are proud to be partnering with the Family Caregiver Alliance to bring a diverse audience to engage in important conversations around aging, caregiving, the dying process and grief. 

Sunday, October 20th was the Headlands Center for the Arts’ Open House and this past Sunday we had a reception for our work in PROJECT SPACE

Across those two events, more than 600 people came through the studio, interacted with the house we have built, watched media and participated in a Remembrance ritual, sharing offerings to their loved ones who have passed. It was very affirming for us to observe and talk to many people of so many different ages and backgrounds, interacting with the material and offering beautiful insights about dying and grief. Banker and I are still in a bit of a daze recovering from it all, filled up with inspiration and new ideas and are so excited to dive back into the project. We still have some precious time at the Headlands and will begin to film in the sets we have built. We are feeling filled up with. Below are a few pictures from the day.  

With Grattitude,

Anna & Banker

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Organization Information

Mirabel Pictures / WeOwnTV

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @WeOwnTV
Project Leader:
Anna Fitch
San Francisco, CA United States
$18,100 raised of $18,000 goal
 
69 donations
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