Set in the dark world of the Monotropa, a plant known as 'ghost pipe' or 'Indian pipe', the seemingly amphibious characters portrayed in Bartos' latest film seem to be in an embryonic process of taking form, merging, or splitting, as if trying to form a hybrid, dual form of creature. Moving through plant infested lakes and puddles of mud, the symbiotic movements of Bartos characters remind us of the sensual and mysterious ballets often seen in early documentaries on cell reproduction, or fungus and insect life.
The Monotropa plant is often mistaken for a fungus, due to its white, ghostly appearance. It lacks chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color, hence it does not feed using photosynthesis. Monotropa can grow in dark, dense forest floor covered by leaves and debris. It creates a hybrid relationship with fungi that produces sugar by parasitizing on photosynthetic plants. It tricks the fungi into feeding them, effectively reversing the traditional food-chain.
Shot on Super8, the film Monotropa Terrain is a continuation of Bartos' former series Spider Monkeys I & II, a series equally showing dualistic beings, half human half animal entangled in psychological landscapes.
Where her choice for expired Polaroid film was a deliberate choice of medium to re-create childhood memories in the artist acclaimed photography series Family Portrait, the choice for Super8 film as medium to shoot Monotropa Terrain again proves to be in line with the film's subjects.
The film's blurry panning, the slowed down scenes which cause images to almost "split", the changing in and out focus all seem to be consistent with the apparent changes its characters are going through. (At times it feels as if watching something alive in a still developing Polaroid.) Meanwhile the women on screen all seem to be versions of a common self, as if they are performing different versions of the same persona.
Monotropa Terrain: Testimonies I-V
For centuries the notion of paranormal and non-physical forces have been regarded as dark and often been hidden and this corresponds to our own dark and hidden parts of ourselves.
These 'supernatural' abduction' testimonies feel as if the characters are testifying to situations they can no longer relate to themselves, trying to investigate the nature of their own existence by putting themselves outside of the memory they are describing. It is as if they are trying to describe their own hybrid co-other by distancing through a dark mirror. The testimonies indirectly allude to childhood trauma, brainwashing, addiction and perceptions of mental illness whilst being peppered throughout the narration with humor and abject absurdity.