I collaborated with a musician friend, R.M Isaiah, and created this audio-visual meditation on the forces that drive our creativity. I am so grateful, his talent is deep and true and that he entrusted me with so much of his music and allowed me to paint my pictures – has been an honour and a blessing.
Film critique below, written by @Giano
Who am I?
What have I become?
What does it all mean?
Sooner or later there is a moment in everyone’s life – when we stop and questions arise in our minds. A particular event, something we saw, even just a glimpse breaking out of our everyday frantic life. Sometimes just a whisper in the deepest layers of our minds, sometimes background music in our day, and other times a shout that rings in our ears, that makes us wake up in the middle of the night, haunted by our dreams.
With these questions that we recognise as ours too, we feel at once that David V Barron wants to take us on a new journey with his film, Janus. We let him take us with him because we know that his journey will be the journey of us all -that his questions are our questions because we are aware that art can take us deeper into research of the most profound truths.
And the first thing we are led to reflect upon come right through the choice of the title: Janus.
Janus brings us back to the cradle of civilisation, back to ancient Latin. Janus was the God of duality. It was the beginning and the end, the youth and the old age, the opening and the closing of doors…
And duality is what we live through all the days of our lives: darkness and light, laughter and tears, pleasure and pain, desire and despair and it is the duality our deepest self, our soul.
But David takes us a step further. We see Saturn, in all its magnificence. And we know that Janus is also a satellite of Saturn’s. One of the smallest. And we are taken back to ancient wisdom: he was the God of time. Another duality, that smoothly blends space and time.
As we stare at that canvas, something is taking shape. Our journey can begin. And we know by now that something will change with the haunting words, ‘the future is not what it used to be’.
David uses the language of art to lead us. His art is images, sounds, words… And he skilfully models and shapes all of them to take us into the folds of the video he created for RM Isaiah’s song ‘Gone Beyond’.
Here we have the meeting of two souls, RM Isaiah and David, with their music and images. We have two voices which can be seen as an inner dialogue between two sides of the same soul – the two faces of Janus, that unveils the deep meaning of the song, displaying it for us and soon we understand that duality pervades each single nuance we are surrounded by.
The duality between the way people see us, and the way we see people: what we grasp and how we are perceived is often so very far from what the truth is. And we realise that the line that divides darkness and light is never so sharp and defined. They often melt into each other, in such a way that sometimes it is quite hard to separate what is black from what is white or, to even distinguish them from one another.
And the same happens inside of each of us, above all when we come to face our darkest side. By instinct, we might try to hide it, but it is so entwined within our being that we ought to accept it as a part of us, and get through it the best that we can, like Siegfried walking through fire and quenching it as he passes, letting it make him stronger.
The images in the video powerfully draw this contrast, and Don-Pedro embodies them in a vivid way. We can see the angel and the demon, sin and redemption, the heaviness of the shed blood, and the levity of the feathers, the dark mask of the judging Anubis, and the vulnerability of man in his innocent nudity.
A somehow jarring opposition that paves the path of this man towards his journey through The Weighing of the Heart ceremony to the bliss of the Fields of Hetep and Iaru.
Within this main frame, we can see another dialogue: quite no words needed, but gestures and looks. Between David and Don-Pedro, the artist, and his piece of art. The artist’s hands gently mould his raw clay, and he blows life into him, slowly he gains awareness, deeper and deeper, until they almost became one. Tied with the invisible bond drawn by the jackal-headed ring, flying through the scene, from the artist to his creature.
And following the fil rouge of art, we find ourselves projected into a dreamy and visionary garden, with daring symmetries, and surrealistic perspectives.
It almost dazzles us, as we are coming from the vision of a painting that was taking the murky tones of darkness, coloured quite only by the red of blood, and the light of whirling white feathers.
The garden is full of colours, with saturated shades, that only the sun is able to paint upon the canvas of nature. We know that art can take us further than our everyday perception, but here David is able to open a chink on the artistic process, to let us have a glimpse of the turmoil that sometimes shakes the artist’s soul and we feel trapped in the same spiral as David, while the voice of RM Isaiah reveals his troubles in creating his works. It’s interesting that they both say they usually work alone, whereas in this film they started a duel collaboration.
And on these words, David finds his way out of that spiral and starts walking along an open and inviting path – following the light. Then he stops. Time seems to freeze for awhile, but we have the feeling that a twist is going to come: something calls him, attracts him and he resumes his walk along this path, but he is not alone.
We can see a surreal coloured butterfly by his side that seems to guide him to a new part of our universe that is opening at the other side of this portal.
We don’t know, perhaps we have already passed through the portal because Saturn is there, Janus is there… and the calm they conceive with their silent presence in the immensity of the universe is stunning.
There is a harsh contrast within the frantic images David is allowing through, and they take us down into the darkness of a blue nightmare. We can see the anxiety, the suffering, the anguish on David’s face, and realise it is just a mirror of our own reflection.
We soon slip down into a dungeon, finding ourselves completely disoriented, with neither place nor time, with no way out. We are living his dream, feeling his fear, sensing his solitude against the hostile menace he perceives but cannot see.
Then we are captured by a whirlwind of images, and we can see the torment of our world, and give it a name, and a face. Power, violence, religion, sex, terrorism, dehumanisation, control…in all of their facets and ambiguity.
And in this crescendo of dark beauty, we can just about take a breath within those powerful glimpses of peace, brought by the vastness of Saturn and Janus, we can see it, the duality – hunter and prey. Those adverse forces seem to be so mighty as to snuff out our last trembling light.
But now, while the images of JFK’s last parade the haunting words of his speech seem to lock every breach, we recall the words David spoke before letting us fall down the vault:
‘It is important to keep in mind that no matter how dark it gets, we will always find out our way back to light.’
We are beginning to see: that duality is always there, but we walked through its fire. We burned, blurred and let its flame shape and feed us into a new born Phoenix. The day is born, and light rules once again – the nightmares seem to have gone, turned into daydreams, premonitions and callings to understand the construct of life…
David still seems to feel that something is calling him, showing itself to him. He senses the darkness anew now and while searching for a meaning to all of that thorough knowledge – he gets up and goes out towards the force that is capturing him in its orbit.
Within a kind of daydreaming about a strange black cube, which seems to recall the black stone of the Kaaba, the journey takes us onto the magnificence of the Monumental Cemetery in Milan, where we can see the inner struggle in David’s soul.
His wounds are bleeding, while he is walking in the peace and light of the graveyard, surrounded by the suave and symbolic faces of marble art statues, wandering in his research of the road in a garden that will take him towards the light.
Throughout his quest, he began to see, and, as an artist, he feels the need to convey his experience, and we can see both the desire and the responsibility of his task, as he writes it down, and listens to the words of his friend, urging him to go on. The blood stains on a written page perfectly symbolise this struggle between the curse and the blessing of being an artist.
But the path is there, the light is calling, David is beginning to see through it, and wants to share it with all of us. He had crossed that stargate, and like a modern Prometheus, he feels the mission to bring that fire back.
The nightmares dissolved, and also death seems to be a long lost friend. No matter when we are going to meet her again: an instant, a day, years…If we are ready, that won’t scare us anymore.
And, as we have seen – duality is at the core of his film, we can’t miss the eternal twine that builds the essence of art: Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death. These two elements are very touchingly resumed in the moving declaration of love towards David’s life companion, Stuart.
Now David is taking us near to the end of the journey: an initiation towards a new kind of knowledge and awareness. The majestic sight of the Ashton Memorial is breathtaking.
It’s an unclear perception, but it’s getting sharper and sharper, as he gets closer to it. He starts his ascension of the long stairway, at first with a visible effort in climbing, yet he seems to gain strength while approaching the top. He stops, raises his eyes, and gets to the straight final part of the stairs: now that he can clearly see his destination, his gait is more determined and the music of RM Isaiah blends perfectly in writing the scene.
During the ascent, David gives us some glimpses of what is beyond the door. Inside the calling is sharply clear: a black cube, right in the middle of an elaborate floor of symbols, recalling the black stone of the Kaaba. We can see four alive and breathing characters: David, his double, the black cube, and the building. His double seems trapped and stuck in the room on a loop, while David walks towards the cube, that is almost on the edge of an abyss.
We found ourselves there, in the middle of a surreal world, shaped in black and white, where space and time curve, in a hypnagogic painting. David grabs the black cube and picks it up, knowing that we are at a turning point that attracts and scares at the same time.
And, as he walks out with the cube, we can see that the double moves towards the centre of the room, about to repeat every action, in a loop, leaving us the question: will it begin again? Is it a glimpse of a parallel universe, one of the many in a manifold multiverse?
Then we are outside, on a balcony. The call is definite: the eye of Janus takes life on the cube in a powerful manifestation. Now we can see it, we can hear its voice.
We now have the answers to the questions that crowded our minds. In a beautiful recalling of Revelation 22:13: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’ Janus himself revealed the truths that underpin our lives, and it is quite startling, lifting up the veil and allowing us to realise that we are only just beginning to see.