CLEAR LANGUAGE: A FILM TRILOGY by CLAIRE COTTRELL
Soon after Balmorhea finished the work on the music for ‘Clear Language’ they began thinking about how they wanted to represent the music visually. They turned to LA-based artist Claire Cottrell. They were attracted to her visual work for her rich use of color, her ability to communicate depth with simplicity and her distinct visual language. Through a series of conversations the group decided that Cottrell would embark on a trilogy of films reflecting the unspoken themes of ‘Clear Language’. The images from these films would provide the source material for every visual aspect of the album. Shot entirely on the iPhone and with no script or outline, the director would explore locations not often thought of as rich in beauty or visual value.
Film Nº3: Dreamt
"Humanity is an ocean."
— Mahatma Gandhi
It was decided that "Dreamt” seemed the most fitting song choice to complete the trilogy; rounding out the more terrestrial and social themes of the first two films with a more dream-like interpretation of the loose concepts we were trying to explore with this project. In many ways, this album is about the ways that music moves people and Cottrell's third entry is a perfect expression of how mysterious and beautiful that communication can be.
Cottrell adds, "The Malibu Hindu Temple is one of those rare collisions of culture. It’s traditional Southern Indian Chola architecture in Las Virgenes Canyon are only a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway. Anyone is welcome, and you take off your shoes to walk on marble, around the altars, under the stars. There’s an ideal and a magic that’s in line with the feeling of Dreamt, and the ideas we’ve explored in response to the album as a whole. The blurring of lines, cultures and the wholeness of humanity."
Film Nº2: First Light
"And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.”
— Pablo Neruda
As Cottrell says, "The trilogy explores the idea of borders — the blurring of borders — the blurring of cultures — the Goutte D’Or in the 18th arr. of Paris has a large Algerian and North African population within a very European quartier. The piece is pure observation in a format that so many of us use to see and share the world today — it’s shot entirely on an iPhone and was captured over the course of a few days."
The band adds, "Claire’s choice of the 'Goutte D'Or' (drop of gold) neighborhood was the perfect selection to represent “First Light.” The music lies some place in between the melancholic and hopeful; with her images beautifully capturing the tone of the song. Our society is as fragmented as it has been in decades and this piece helps us to remember the ways that people of different backgrounds thrive and live together every day."
Film Nº1: Sky Could Undress
“There are no clear borders, only merging invisible to the sight.”
― Dejan Stojanovic
The political climate of early 2017 weighed heavily on the group as they discussed how to proceed. Balmorhea’s music for many reflects a deeply emotional and human landscape that touches a wide range of emotion that is often subject to individual interpretation. Throughout the years the group has been approached by many listeners with deeply personal stories of how their music served them in a time of suffering, healing or celebration; it seems to be a truly unifying force. At a time in the world where there seems to be a never ending stream of conflict and anger, the group decided that they wanted to set each of the three videos in a location that was both beautiful and politically relevant. The first installation of the trilogy was shot in the area surrounding Zona Norte, CA, just north of the Mexico-US Border and the walls that separate San Ysidro from Tijuana.
As Claire saw the project, “It was an opportunity to create a body of work: photos, moving image, printed matter, a complete narrative. I wanted to shoot it all on my phone. It feels like the language of our time, definitely of my generation, and it’s become such a familiar way to observe a place. The piece is one extended snapshot - a lot of it was shot out of the window of my car.” She adds, “I was born about 10 miles from the border and growing up it didn’t mean what it does today. More people should see it with their own eyes, and take the time to learn the history.”
The series as a whole intends to subvert stale dialogues and a chance for the music to open a window to a deeper measure of understanding and a new-found intimacy.