Talking about My Bed with Lauren Vroegindewey
By: Darida Rose
Today we’re speaking with the very talented Lauren Vroegindewey, who wrote, directed and starred in the experimental short, My Bed. She also created the sound design. This is quite a thought-provoking film. Thank you for being here with us.
Thank you for having me, providing the opportunity to share, and facilitating a platform where my genre of film can grow. What a joy to be here.
Darida Rose, Phoenix Journal (PJ): This film is, if I’m not mistaken, based on two pieces of performance art. One , 24 hours long, is Asbury Park, NJ, and the other in the Ethan Cohen kuBe in New York. Could you describe what that experience was like? What was the audience reaction?
Lauren Vroegindewey (LV): Correct. Initially, my installation and photo still of the 24 hour performance from the jetty was to be included in the show. Curators, Ethan Cohen and Raul Zamadio invited me to perform for the opening of their show Art in a time of Uncertainty: Darkest Before the Dawn. It was an honor to be able to perform in real time with an audience, especially living in an era of a global pandemic. The performance at the KuBe consisted of recreating the scene of the 24 hour performance within a gallery setting while continually having cold water poured on me for five hours biting into pomegranates. It was after I had the footage from this performance, where I combined the two performances creating the experimental short “My Bed”.
This piece was inspired by this concept of endurance and duration performance training and pushing the limits of the mind and body; so in both performances, there was the state of feeling uncomfortable and yet a state of liberation. I think with any of my performances you’ll get mixed reactions from the audience, some positive, others negative, and then the questioning of why but I think that’s the point, challenging conventional perception and an invitation to look inwards. One woman at the opening at the end of the show was in tears, shaking, thanking me and explaining the ways in how it spoke to her. I think experiences like that make it all worth it.
(PJ): What inspired you to make this film?
(LV): The global pandemic with the state of isolation pushed me to create this body of work. I was pushing the boundary of body and earth and how they relate. I wanted to push the limits of my art, exploring the potential for inner healing in the midst of social isolation due to Covid-19. I felt compelled to bond in empathy with others who have also experienced trauma and awaken a peripheral awareness that engendered some sort of connectedness despite feeling isolated that could potentially become a catalyst for inner healing. I had to remind myself within the pandemic to do something for myself: self-care, reflection, heal and sometimes as simple as breathing deeply. The decision to embark on this impulse was quite spontaneous, not necessarily knowing all the answers, but knowing I needed to do this for myself. I did not expect this piece to grow and expand in the ways in which it did and perhaps still is.
A reocurring thought throughout was reflecting on the hardships of experiencing homelessness and menstruation and I’ll share how other artists became a huge source of inspiration such as reflecting on Naomi Uman’s powerful film REMOVED. I knew I wanted to incorporate old hand making techniques within the film. Uman had removed the imagery of the woman in her film with bleach and nail varnish and speaks volumes to the obsessive gaze at the female body. Other artists “My Bed” is inspired by entail Artists, Li Xinmo, Marina Ambrovich, Tracey Emin, and Sarah Lucas. Common threads throughout all artists entail culture, sexuality, feminism, and gender stereotypes.
(PJ): The sound design is quite remarkable, and you made it. Could you tell us what it was like putting that together?
(LV): Thank you. The sound design for this piece is composed of recordings of stream of consciousness writings and poems I wrote.
I record myself or send a script to voice actors asking them to record themselves. I’ll cut up sections, layer, and manipulate the clips. I’ve been recording sounds the past couple of years that I find interesting such as playing the keyboard, echos in tunnels, waves of the ocean, birds, light fixtures breaking, etc. and stretch the tones and pitches through either a synthesizer or Adobe’s Audition.
(PJ): I couldn’t really understand anything anyone was saying in the background. I thought I heard some words and phrases, but even rewatching, I couldn’t be sure. but I found myself building interpretations on what I thought I’d heard. Was this your aim with the sound? That it would spark multiple interpretations?
(LV): Yes, the sound design was very intentional. Within the narrative, it’s chaotic and perhaps even disturbing at times as you get a taste of what’s inside the mind of the vulnerable figure but never the full meal. Trauma looks different for all so I wanted to inspire varied interpretations from the audience.
(PJ): Did you have a particular interpretation of this film in mind? Would you be willing to share it with us?
(LV): My Bed explores a personal in depth concept of insomnia where the shelter that should be a place of rest is not. Rather than a resting place, My Bed is positioned on sharp rocks in the midst of crashing waves where the focal point is a vulnerable figure. Throughout the duration, the menstruating woman tackles the storms of past traumas relating to the #metoomovement, biting into a piece of fruit to relieve the discomfort. Our culture teaches us that bodies are dirty, to be ashamed of, and for sexual pleasure. In reality, our bodies are immaculate creatures and are not to be ashamed of or belittled. Within the body of work, we see the underlying themes of trauma, death and morality, dehumanization, sexism, sexual assault, and feminism. It is the concept of inner healing through art and confronting the viewer to counteract the male gaze.
(PJ): Could you talk about the title? My Bed seems pretty straightforward, but on reflection, it’s a bit ambiguous. There isn’t really a bed in the interior or exterior shots. I found myself wondering if the earth was her bed? There’s an expression, ‘I made my bed, I’ll lie in it,’ and I wondered if the bed here was whatever situation brought her to this state of suffering.
(LV): I love that you say that because so much of my work is relating our ecosystems to the human experience. The trauma a human feels, but also the trauma the earth feels due to human intervention. So often when a woman is menstruating, we have the comforts of our own home; where in this specific case, the aspect of comfort is omitted. I reflected on my own personal experiences of not always having a place to rest my head or even trauma experienced in a bed. I think when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and leave a state of comfort and complacency, a door opens to change, healing, and growth. This piece speaks to being restless and the healing process of change. The “bed” is continuously shifting throughout the film as the vulnerable figure seeks rest but struggles to attain it.
Within the video, I combine the analogue with the digital content using 16 mm film. The films that appear overlaid are handmade originals constructed out of clear film acetate and double-sided tape that alternate between sewing stitches and collage on single frames; and double frames of direct animation involving painting with menstruation blood, dead skin, onion skin, human hair, and cut brillo pad. The materials used and how it translates to screen speaks to that sense of being restless and disturbance with a montage of decay; perhaps a narration of oppression, turmoil and the hope of recovery. Projected continuously over the digital, these flickering patterns appear overlaid and create an ephemeral textural experience.
(PJ): For me, the dominant theme in My Bed was mortality. Was death one of the themes you had in mind while making this?
(LV): Absolutely. Living and dying and the trauma one experiences while living. The process of letting things go, knowing how to let a dying thing leave the body and become new. The woman menstruating was an important aspect as menstrual blood is central, the wellspring of emotional and mental activity; that relationship with body and femininity that is powerful, sacred medicine. It holds the energy to create life. The pomegranates used in both performances spoke to these underlying themes as well. The mythology of ancient Greece regarded the pomegranate as a symbol of life and rebirth in the abduction story of Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. The condition of the depicted fruit is often allegorical. Like human life, the pomegranate is ephemeral and perhaps a representation of the painful transient nature of our existence.
(PJ): Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
(LV): I am currently working on a new film entitled The Dirt Still Remains through a residency as well as working with two very talented collaborators, Kasia Skorynkiewicz and Charlee Swanson on a piece entitled The End. This is the first of a Trilogy, executing an experimental video art piece dealing with social and political issues that influence our future and bring to light the negative impact the consumer culture has on our environment. This project will be a call to action.