Boothe Carlson’s fantastick is a meditation on the creative challenges facing artists in this time of isolation caused by the global pandemic. The film begins with a bleary haze of interlaced scenes before settling on an ominous phrase emblazoned on a church marquee: “WHEN THE TEMPLE SHUTS DOWN.”
A montage of surreal health advice follows, set to a loop of Carlson’s own hypnotic melodies and rhythmic clicking. “Soak ur TampOns in hand Sanitizer” flashes across the screen, while a pair of blue-gloved hands pantomimes for the camera. A tampon transforms into a glue stick. The artist pulls down her paper face mask and smears the glue stick across her lips.
The parade of images mined from our present makes fantastick a truly pandemic work of art. As recently as two months ago, items like hand sanitizer, nitrile gloves, and face masks occupied far less space in our cultural imagination. Now they have taken on a new life, symbolizing the responsibilities foisted upon us in the interest of public health.
The film’s playful humor introduces some much-needed nuance to the dialogue around the current crisis. fantastick neither disparages these new safety measures, nor is it wholly deferential to them, but rather exists somewhere in between. Carlson recognizes the value of masks and social distancing, while acknowledging the mental whiplash caused by the quantum shift in our understanding of what is normal.
Following Monday’s premiere, join the artist and Lino Kino in conversation on Wednesday, August 19.