Participant presents a new Super 8 film by John Brattin. Shot entirely on location at PARTICIPANT INC, The Triumph of Night will be screened continuously within an installation comprised of the theatrical remains of Brattin’s sets, designed according to his drawings and storyboards, also on view.
Brattin’s project involves the conceptualization of settings, constructed as the locus of a semi-narrative experimental film, approximately twenty minutes in length. The Triumph of Night, whose title is derived from an Edith Wharton short story of the same name, involves a highly structured approach to script, an ensemble of actors, and the collaboration of set-builders, scenic painters, lighting and camera personnel. Without prioritizing one element of activity over the next, Brattin elaborates a self-perpetuating region through a variety of mediums, eliciting fears rooted in childhood stories of make-believe castles, forests, and shadowy interiors. These settings present a certain departure from the ordinary world to a place existing mostly in darkness. As artist Tony Oursler stated: “John Brattin is a creator of haunting mental locations. He moves with fluidity from video to installation to painting with astonishing exactitude… A Walt Disney gone bad.” (Station to Station, Artists’ Space, 1997)
The Triumph of Night begins with a group of people gathered to share ghost stories. An unknown guest recites a story involving a young woman who travels to a small town to take a domestic position caring for a sickly woman. From the moment of her arrival, the situation is unusual. The plot unfolds to reveal that the various characters who inhabit an old house are somehow complicit in a series of strange disappearances, particularly that of the town’s children. Through a dream sequence visitation of a ghost, the protagonist discovers the source of this unwholesome disturbance.
Drawing from sources ranging from Bambie to The Turn of the Screw, this morbid tale utilizes dialogue appropriated from characters including the Wicked Witch of the West and Vivien Leigh’s Emma Hamilton (That Hamilton Woman, Alexander Korda, 1941). Brattin crafts a story of stained innocence and sadness, set in an ambiguous Victorian past, somewhere between Oliver Twist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
As in his 1997 film, The Long Corridor, Brattin elicits fear and high drama from allusions to horror genre masterpieces. Perhaps not limited to fear in the traditional sense, Brattin also cites other references: “In 1970 I was a five-year-old suburban kid. Within that year or the next I had voiced my decision to become an artist. The inspiration being the annual television broadcast of the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.” In previous works, Brattin utilized miniature sculptures and tabletop models to fashion uncanny dream worlds in which artifice and the unconscious seemed to merge. Often, these idyllic childlike locations seamlessly curdle into unsavory nightmares, evoking fear, disorientation, and loss. His last film, The Season of Sadness (1998), involved a 3/4-scale façade constructed in the artist’s studio. The Triumph of Night furthers this ambitious trajectory, deploying the exhibition space itself as a series of fragmented theatrical settings in which the film will be presented.