Wholly Aware: My Thoughts and Inspirations
My creation of Wholly Aware is the direct result of three different artistic influences - the poetry of Gil Scott-Heron, Adrien Sauvage’s This is Not a Suit, and the 1980’s independent, New York art film Downtown 81.
I’ve often told people that my poetry took a radical change when I started writing it to be heard instead of read. Gil Scott-Heron, with his debut album Small Talk on 125th and Lenox, is man that inspired this change.
Most people know of Gil-Scott Heron from the vocals he lent to Kanye West’s latest album on Who Will Survive in America. But in true hipster fashion, I was listening to Scott-Heron before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out. Released in 1970, Small Talk on 125th is one of those dynamic works of art that has the power to change the way you perceive a certain medium; that’s certainly what it did for me. Gil Scott-Heron’s rich voice is set to poems of youthful rage and passion, presented with the wisdom of an old sage. His unique sound works as the perfect vehicle for delivering these tokens of sincerity.
Wholly Aware is one of the first poems I wrote after I changed my writing style. On top of this, Scott-Heron inspired me to pay attention to the feel of my voice when I made the short film version. Simply put, without Gil Scott-Heron’s Small Talk on 125th and Lenox, there would be no Wholly Aware, poem or film.
Adrien Sauvage’s This is Not a Suit
This is Not a Suit has been a favorite of mine for some time now. I posted about it back in October.It’s a surrealist and minimalist piece that delves into the idea of the “creative designer,” all while serving as Adrien Sauvage’s debut lookbook for his eponymous line.
The narrator’s voice and tone for the short film is what I looked to when trying to figure out how I wanted mine to sound in Wholly Aware. I was also influenced by the way that This is Not a Suit attempted to delve into the creative process of the mind.
Or New York Beat Movie, as it is sometimes called, is 72 minutes of pure artistic energy. The film chronicles the hip New York downtown scene of 1980-81 from the eyes of rising artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Essentially, it’s a loosely fictionalized, youthful and romantic portrayal of Basquiat’s early New York life and the people around him: Fab Five Freddy, Glenn O’Brien, Maripol, and tons of other iconic figures.
jean-michel basquiat as samo
Downtown 81 was dubbed over due to the fact that the original sound was lost. The incongruous audio gave the movie a dated and nostalgic feel. It inspired me to do the same with the audio in Wholly Aware. I was also originally going to put the film in black and white, but the vibrant color in Downtown 81 convinced me to do otherwise. The edited color treatment in my short film was directly inspired by this.
Amazingly, on the surface Wholly Aware may not deeply resemble any of the three influences I cited as inspirations. But that’s the way creativity works I suppose, "the spectacular fail" that the Blue Scholars talked about.
I felt the need create this post because I wish that artists explicitly talked about their thought processes and influences more often. My thoughts are that surely I can’t be the only one that feels this way. If nothing else, this post should serve as a way to better understand Wholly Aware, for those who wish to. For all who have yet to see it, or would like re-watch it, it can be viewed here.