June 23, 2017: A Hummingbird’s Heart Is Half It’s Weight
In the chapter on hearing voices, Madigan states:
As children, we’re allowed to create alternate realities in order to deal with emotions we have a hard time expressing. However, as an adult, if you hear voices, you’re immediately persecuted. Hearing voices can take many forms. Sometimes like Whisper, coming from somewhere outside of me. Sometimes an actual voice in my head. It can be something you’re seeing out of the corner of your eye, that may or may not be there. It can also be heightened sensitivity that’s providing you with new information for what may happen next.
As a backdrop to these reflections, I imagined an evocative, liminal space in which audio hallucinations could be considered as fluid, unfixed entities, free of corpus. I wanted Madigan to hover in mid-air, like a hummingbird, against a black background. So we filmed her jumping on a trampoline and positioned the camera so that she would reach the apex of her jump just beneath the top of the frame. On take after take, I directed her to look in one direction or the other, extend an arm, shake her head, or hold it between both hands.
It was an exhausting work out for Madigan, and particularly challenging for her to maintain her equilibrium while not looking at the trampoline. But she was a real trooper, sweating up a storm while leaping with endless combinations of gestures until she fell off the trampoline on the last jump, fortunately without injury. The camera was recording her in slow motion at 150 frames per second—more than six times the traditional analog film speed of 24fps—so we could preview via the playback monitor what otherwise appeared pretty ordinary to the naked eye.
However, to slow down the trajectory of Madigan’s leap to the point of appearing suspended without stuttering her movement like the motion studies of cinema pioneer Edward Muybridge, we needed to apply additional software in post-production. It was critical that her ‘flight’ appear as fluid as the gently fluttering hummingbird wings in my grade school science films. What a revelation! Madigan’s draped sleeves became billowy wings. And the fluctuations of her blouse became a canvas for the interplay of light and shadow as a metaphorical embodiment of emotional extremes, just as I’d conceived. Even the grimacing expressions of her physical exertion became more nuanced and emotive.
The following test image is slowed down to just 5% of the original filming speed. It is slightly soft when Madigan enters and exits the frame, and sharpens up as she reaches the apex of her leap. I will choose about six leaps from the dozens we recorded to dramatize her lived experience with hearing voices. Each and every one must embody a heightened sense of emotion, almost frozen in cinematic space, inviting us to listen with our eyes.