“Let the wisdom of the old guide the buoyancy and vitality of the youth; let the buoyancy and vitality of the youth sustain the wisdom of the old.” – Stanislavski
I had a conversation last night with a friend about Stanislavski, how his ideas where an influence on some of my previous work. I had developed a character to embody for the creation of four of my videos. The characters name was Sandor21, he was a rough and tough hard drinking hard living cowboy, who roamed the intestates of America. I created the character after my divorce from poet Karla Kelsey. I am not sure why I created the character other then I felt a need to somehow deal with some of the darker sides of myself, and hell method acting and developing that into the process of making art was a hell of a lot cheaper then therapy.
Stanislavski believed that one should approach the process of acting in creating parts of the character that stood out, so there was no method other then if it works do it. I created the character Sandor21 out of a combination of a Denver country singer named Denver Joe, who played here in Denver with a band called Denver Joe and the Saddle Tramps, a little bit of the comedic duo Coyle and Sharpe (where the name Sandor21 came from), a Drifter who used to sleep in my grandparents basement who went by the name Crowfoot, and touch of George W Bush and his ignorance.
I started developing the character on the website flickr in group forums, mainly a group called DMU that was about being mean and rowdy to each other about our work. I spent hours and hours writing to people in the forum as the character, getting his life story, manner of speaking and eccentricities down. Then I bought some clothes that Sandor21 would wear and started dressing in character. You can see a photo below of how he dressed. Cowboy cool always with a cigarette in his mouth or in his hand, a guitar always at the ready to sing a country tune about drinking and loves labours lost.
Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
This was the path of my life as the character of Sandor21, a path where I sought illumination and transcendence. To look for a way to make artwork with at the stale wart vision of myself. Sandor21 became a way for me to see the darker self that inhabits all of us. During my time as him I drove a taxicab, that is where I culled most of my dialogue and stories of his life, from my passengers. The riders in my cab would open up their hearts, minds and souls to me as I drove them from barroom to night club to acquire cocaine at 3am or bottle of vodka at 10 am. The drunks and the druggies and the pimps and prostitutes where my favorite passengers, I never knew what to expect, but would always be given ample material from them. One of my passengers complained to me of how he had to deal with a court case because he urinated on someone’s car and then out or retaliation he returned to the persons house the next day and pour gasoline on their yard to ruin their lawn. I picked up a woman from an alcohol/domestic violence class because she was kicked out on the account of she was drunk, she told me how she beat her husband because he complained about her drinking and then she asked me if I would like to come up to her apartment. It was all just too creepy, scandalous and all too real.
I had the character fine tuned with his walk, his own mannerisms and his own speech. He had a drawl, held his arms like he had been at the gun range all day, always held his head slightly down on the account that he was in a constant state of being drunk or hung over. Stanislavski believed that emotion came from the subconscious mind, he believed that if an actor held their bodies in a certain way it would induce emotion that the actor could use for that character. So I carefully modeled my characters movements based on the movements that would help me navigate a character who was essentially all ID. He was driven purely by a desire for physical pleasures as long as they suited his end game. He was like a drunken infant craving sex, drugs, and honky-tonk women. He was virtually without superego in that he was cut off from all family relations and forged his self out of pure desire to maintain himself as a selfless child, wanting only gratification.
In the end I had to stop being the character, the benefits of inhabiting his persona were becoming dangerous to my own well being and more importantly my artwork. I started to become self destructive like the character and making poor choices in my life. But what I did learn from the character was that the darkest parts of myself are not the places that I want to inhabit, I don’t want to do away with them, I want to use them in my life as a means of being productive as an artists. Once a hot stove is touched by a child they never touch it again, I feel that way about Sandor21. I will miss being the rebel cowboy, but I enjoy so much more being kind and gentle and interested in the world outside of myself much, much more.