A feature length narrative written and directed by Stephanie Barber in 2017.
The musical essay film In The Jungle is an hour long, single channel video written and directed by Stephanie Barber, starring Cricket Arrison (of Wham City) and M.C. Schmidt (of Matmos) as well as a spate of snakes and tigers.
A piece of expanded poetics which combines written and spoken text with music composed with the found and created sounds of birds and insects. The collision of human civilization and wildlife is both a contemplation of extinction and environmentalism as well as a metaphor for the wild in our psyches and imagination.
Leo Goldsmith at The Village Voice wrote "...Barber’s overabundance of language and logos — her insistence on the artificiality and constructedness of the Scientist’s natural environs — positions the jungle as a space of subconscious play rather than a lost paradise. To return to the jungle — to wrap herself, as the Scientist does, in her serpentine sleeping bag and become a snake with her “snake friends” — is about generating a space of comfort and self-care: a habitat."
In The Jungle works in the porous spaces between theater and cinema; essay and fiction; music and poetry. The composite nature of the video extends my exploration of hybridization and multidisciplinary text work in the field of expanded poetics.
In The Jungle, playfully and sorrowfully tells the tale of an unreliable narrator in a self-imposed exile. Given a grant to study the equivalent of animal cries and whines in jungle flora our heroine has lived for 1, 612 days deep in an unnamed jungle. The piece opens with a musical journal entry through which we discover that she must return to "civilization" to deliver a lecture on her discoveries to the board which funds her work. The typewriter on which she impresses her thoughts about this upcoming journey is turned into a melodic instrument and accompanied by an antique toy piano and Berg-like vocal punctuations so that the entirety feels like a circuit bent atonal opera. What becomes clear is an encroaching madness and reluctance to leave the sheer terror of thousands of square miles of rapid life and growth.
The sets are composed of video images of jungles collaged and projected through and onto the sculptural structures of trees and vines and mosses. The sets so clearly avoiding naturalism call into question our heroine's sense of reality; in this way the form of the piece suggests the unreliable nature of the character and her situation.
The jungle serves as an extended metaphor for excessive and continual growth and death and fear and sustenance; a metaphorical space of chaos in which the scientist finds solace and which stands in contrast to the human jungle of "civilization" to which the scientist must return.
A lecture on the epiphytic and resiniferous vegetation of the jungle is then delivered. Or rather, it is skillfully, strangely and poetically side-stepped and whipped into an emotional, philosophical frenzy. The lecture folds a poetic narrative into a roving philosophical inquiry and botanical primer.
The scientist then returns to the jungle just in time to listen to her favorite radio show which provides the courage and fortification of a direct god line to the jungle floor through a mellifluous dj and prescient pop songs.
Mostly she is terrified and interested in being terrified; thinking of all the implications of fear and understanding...the way these two ideas are constantly referenced, metaphorically, in the flora she set out to study.