Analog photographer and surrealist artist Brittany Markert’s four piece short film Fragments exemplifies the visual prowess of past surrealist icons. Shot and hand-developed on a Bolex camera using black and white 16mm film, Fragments explores hysterical psychosis and the repressed desires of our subconscious. Accompanying the ocular distortion is a harrowing whimsical score by sound explorer Leila Bordreuil. Markert masterfully churns the dark matter of our psychology and our dreams into shivering bursts of creativity and expression.
Like trying to retell a dream, giving any kind of thorough scene by scene analysis will only disturb the fragile memory of Markert’s powerful hypnosis. Instead, I will account for the theatrically surreal experience of attending the screening.
Traveling over an hour along the Gulf Coast at night to watch a film in New Orleans was special, considering that the presentation is an experimental film by a photographer whom I personally admire. It is also the first film I’ve seen in theaters since the start of the pandemic.
I knew judging by the warm and unusual invitations promoted on Markert’s socials that attending the screening would be a magical experience in itself. Those who came out to The Broad for Fragments were a beautifully diverse and eclectic group of people. Everyone dressed amazingly, in their own unique and individual style. Because I was coming alone from outside of New Orleans, I felt an air of unease about attending. It was the same level of anxiety that I would feel when I attended concerts by myself in high school. But luckily this feeling of discomfort would turn out to be a positive addition for my journey.
When I arrived, after walking into the lobby, I immediately noticed the eloquently spooky cast of attendees mingling at the bar. But going against instinct, I accidentally walked straight ahead into an occupied room three. I saw a crowd watching something on screen and got out of there as quickly as I walked in. A guy working at The Broad lent me a hand and directed me to the line for Fragments, which was at the bar near the entrance. I wait in line and a woman comes rushing in behind me. “I’m late! I took all the side streets like I was on my bike, but I was driving so I got super confused, ya know?” After sharing where I drove from and mutually expressing my confusion when navigating an automobile in a city after primarily using a bike for transportation for a long period, we respectfully waited with the others for the projectionist to set everything up.
High and lightheaded, I got lost browsing on my phone, until I saw the fantastic posse at the bar move quickly up the ramp behind me and into a corridor. Some people stopped at the first door in the corridor, others walked up towards the room I walked into earlier. “They said it was room one.”, an attendee shouts to the group that continued down the hall. “Oh!” replied one wandering Fragments viewer. It was funny to see others gleefully walk into the wrong theater, the same way I did earlier.
“Hey Mississippi”, the stranger from the line approached me again. She asked me for my name as we squeezed through the doorway. “Cameron”, I chuckled. “Pandora”, she responded. Upon entering the room, I stood to the side to scope out a good seat. I find a spot, high and centered with only one or two rows behind me. “I’m going to sit with Cameron.”, Pandora says to someone, as they shimmy their way into the row behind us. “The back is where people who smoke and masturbate go, right?” , said someone sitting directly behind me. I didn’t dare turn around but I did laugh out loud. Brittany Markert comes into the room and introduces herself and the film, and welcomes us to the event. Markert exits, the lights dim, and the Fragment begins.
Going against my word, I see it worthwhile to mention a scene or two in particular. During the midst of some psychological break, we see a character on screen see an aberration of himself sliding a dagger or some slim blade around the inner circle of his nipple ring. Leila Bordreuil’s audio disturbances perfectly matched the action of the blade gliding around in circular motion along the nipple ring and was so jarring that I jolted from the sight. Even when I recalled this scene in my mind before the film had ended, my body flinched again just at the thought. The scraping sound and the silvery and bloodless monochrome footage totally shocked me. Then there was this eternal plummet of a synth drive that when played along with flickering images of mental enchantments and dizzying camera movements, made me feel as if my head was tilting, just about to slide off the base of my neck. In between psychological blows, Pandora would laugh at the characters as they gawked in disbelief at what they were seeing and experiencing. Laughter and psychosis are good for the mind, I thought to myself and laughed again. And before I knew it, the hypnosis ended and the lights came on. Markert returned to a cheerful audience and thanked us for partaking in this mental adventure. Not long after that, the Q and A session began and the magic continued. Completely giddy from the spectacular night, I drove back to Mississippi in a daze.
Check out Brittany Markert work on IG and their website: https://www.inroomsgallery.com/