Vicki Bennett is a visual artist and sound collagist.
Bennett, who works under the artist name People Like Us, has been crafting intriguing audiovisual compositions since the early 90s. Her People Like Us project is defined by a boundary-pushing stance, one that sees Bennett repurposing and layering found footage, music and archives in order to create immersive collages and, oftentimes, witty mixed media mashups that engross all who interact with her creations.
Interaction, or at the very least immersion, continues to play a leading role within Bennett’s work. (Her latest piece as People Like Us, entitled Gone, Gone Beyond, is even billed as such.) Debuting this month, and currently out on tour, Gone, Gone Beyond is a spatial cinema experience comprised of edited collage. Utilising 10 screens and eight speakers, plus wraparound project and surround sound, audience members are encased within the feature-length piece itself, with its title and underlying concepts inspired by the Buddhist text Heart Sutra.
In this film list, Bennett walks us through other sources of creative inspiration – be it a David Lynch classic (or at least one season of it, anyway) or a film so pivotal that it inspired Bennett to quit her job and pursue a full-time career as an artist back in 1991. What they all have in common is a boundary-less approach to filmmaking and genre. Scroll down for her five top picks.
Twin Peaks: Season 3Developed and written by David Lynch and Mark Frost
David Lynch was a big part of the transformation where TV could present 16-hour-long movies. People often say Episode 8 [of Twin Peaks‘ third season] was the most mind-blowing in terms of moving across scenes, jumping genre and time, and narrative techniques – and I agree. There is the added bonus in that the episode is based in a radio station where they broadcast a song over the radio and it sends listeners into a trance-like unconsciousness, a bit like a scene in Village of the Damned. The record played was My Prayer by The Platters and I sampled that in Gone, Gone Beyond as a tribute to David Lynch.
I had the pleasure of playing sections of this episode on my own radio show on WFMU and also on BBC Radio 3 when I guested on Late Junction. (We had to get permission from David Lynch to play the audio from the scene and he said yes.) I am not a fan of things that are just dark, but I trust David Lynch because of his philosophy in life – he’s why I took up transcendental meditation.
Twin Peaks wasn’t such a big thing for me but Season 3 blew my mind. Existential wondrousness full of dark humour, and great light and beautiful visions. Lynch makes compelling existential work with a really interesting take on time; he is often inconsequential in his narrative, using concepts of long-windedness and boredom in the same way that Warhol did, but mixed with an incongruous humour like Jacques Tati. He also has an analogue aesthetic – although some animation and extended CGI is used, Lynch is hands-on with the way he works and uses more ‘old fashioned’ techniques to get the effects he wants.
Doctor StrangeDirected by Scott Derrickson
A brilliant journey into the world of wonder with stunning special effects. I was a big fan of Sherlock and so was really interested to see Benedict Cumberbatch play this role. I wasn’t particularly a fan of Marvel before this point, but it hooked me into it and I very much liked WandaVision for similar reasons – great visual effects and cubist angles as he navigates the folding world and multiple doors of perception. Tilda Swinton, ‘the ancient one’, pushes him through dimensions and teaches him how to penetrate time and space. Something I’m trying to do too, but without the huge roll call at the end of the movie!
Jodorowsky’s DuneDirected by Frank Pavich
The movie is about a movie called Dune. Once I saw this movie, I never want to see that movie – I just want to hear Jodorowsky talking about it. The endless potential and boundless ambition and vision of this man is better than any movie he has done! That is not a criticism – this is a movie too, and therefore equally inspiring. Watching him show us his huge book of ideas and illustrations and his plans for this movie, with Dali, Welles and goodness knows who else (as well as a great visual effects and illustration team), it was just as well he never made it since thinking about it is enough. A truly conceptual art movie in itself and, if anything, I would love to have a copy of the book he was pawing through.
Sonic OutlawsDirected by Craig Baldwin
A movie by Craig Baldwin about artists who use sampling in their work. It’s hugely energetic and inspiring, and meant a lot to me a few decades ago when it came out. I’m glad to say I know a lot of the people in it now. The film revolves around a lawsuit against the group Negativland and features other people in the scene which I’ve been part of for the past 30 years: Douglas Kahn, The Tape-Beatles, Barbie Liberation Front, Emergency Broadcast Network, John Oswald and more. A great deal of my learning about issues around this area come from Don Joyce from Negativland who I corresponded with intensively in the 1990s. I have since worked a lot with Jon Leidecker (Wobbly), who is now in Negativland, too.
My Dinner With AndreDirected by Louis Malle
This movie is one long conversation in a restaurant, and by the time it got to [the dessert scenes] I’d decided to quit my job (the only one I’ve ever had), move town and be an artist forever. The whole film is just two people sitting in a restaurant and catching up on the time spent since they last saw each other. It’s the kind of conversation that I might have had myself; very reflective, but seeing it on a screen somehow highlighted the importance of thinking and communicating this way. It made me realise in 1991 that the only ‘job’ job that I’d decided to do was not how I wanted to live.
Gone, Gone Beyond is screening at Spill Festival Ipswich (28-30 Oct), Brighton’s Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (4-6 Nov), London’s Barbican Centre (10-13 November) and Gulbenkian Canterbury (21-23 April)