Stories from the Casting Couch
The issues of verbal, physical and sexual assault have been so prevalent in the Performing Arts industry for more years than I want to even try to contemplate. Even with the Harvey Weinstein et al. scandals, this is something that needs to be continually surfaced, acknowledged and talked about because it’s so embedded in this industry. This problem is not only happening to the 'famous' actors and actresses; there is a huge chunk of the industry experiencing some awful assaults too frequently as well. I worked in the industry myself and had too many encounters or people with power attempting to take advantage of me --- too many that I would like to recall.
I wanted to anonymously collect the stories of the individuals that were willing to share what they have gone through from all sides of the gender spectrum. I created an anonymized poll and was flabbergasted, but unfortunately not surprised, by how similar each experience was, how so many individuals in the performing arts community have experienced the same uncomfortable situations or new a friend that had.
I wanted to collect the audition tapes of the individuals that came out against physical, vocal and sexual assault of the actors and actresses that are well known and juxtapose these with the audition tapes of some of the friends that felt comfortable being included in this art piece because of their experiences.
I chose the format of audition tapes because when you walk into an audition, it is such an uncomfortable and vulnerable state you are putting yourself into. You need to put your insecurities and innermost demons out into the air in front of a panel of people that may not even make eye contact with you --- after the anguish of putting yourself out there, you may be told that you aren't right for the role and you go home feeling rejected again.
With that said, I felt as if the audition tapes were a powerful way to show how we all are vulnerable, and the text that is displayed on top of the audition tape are the similar stories that were provided to me.
For this assignment, we were to create a random, automated video bot using Python, a coding language, to create a video that would never be the same no matter how many times it was run; the content would always be different. This posted video is one example of many that I have already created. The only component that is consistent in every video created is the beginning countdown and last static frame. I don't think there's a need to post all, but this example should give you the idea of what I'm trying to say.
With the realization, after receiving the results from my survey, it didn't matter what quote was displayed over which actor's face because all our experiences are all so similar! This is the scariest part of the piece to me, but again, it doesn't surprise me.
I want to bring more awareness to this issue. This isn't something that is new with the newly highlighted Harvey Weinstein scandal. The origin of 'Casting Couch' speaks for itself: “The term casting couch originated in the motion picture industry, with specific reference to couches in offices that could be used for sexual activity between casting directors or film producers and aspiring actors.”
For things to change, pieces like this need to keep coming up. I hope you enjoy my little art piece made with love and code.