Carly Mark: "Know Nothing"
Mark’s horror short, called Know Nothing, features an interaction between two demon-like creatures: one powerful, the other cowering. Mark and Daniela Lalita star, and yet they’re completely unrecognizable, covered in masterful prosthetics. The film is creepy and somehow gooey—it certainly satisfies the artist’s desire to make people uncomfortable, which is of course a compliment. She screened Know Nothing back in December at the Public Hotel, alongside an exhibition of her intricate sculptures and costumes; and the film was shown in a retrospective of all the artist's video work since 2012, a format that allowed the audience to see a truly impressive evolution (and she does plan on directing more in the future). In the Q&A below, Mark explains the concept behind her film, points of inspiration, and what we can all learn from horror.
Without giving too much away, how would you describe the plot of Know Nothing?
It’s pretty abstract. It's about survival, parasitic behaviors, power play. Two characters meet in a space between worlds and they have to interact. It's not dissimilar from animals meeting in nature, or humans interacting in a city, relationship, workplace. There's an element of horror, but it's also reality.
Video work has been part of your practice for quite some time. The screening at Public showed everything from lo-fi explorations of tumblr girls to your twisted take on a Haribo commercial to a fully polished horror short film. How would you describe the evolution of the work?
When I started making videos I had no idea what I was doing. The goal was just to get it done, somehow get my idea out there. The early work is lo-fi because I was making it blindly, on my own, via Photobooth, iMovie, any platform that was accessible and easy to use. As time went on, I figured out how to execute in other ways. I brought skilled people in to help me make the work. I've become less afraid of production and asking for help.
What prompted the decision to create more of a narrative film?
I'm a good storyteller. Narrative comes very easily to me in that way. I also write a lot. When you apply writing to video you're left with narrative.
The costumes and prosthetics are really impressive. Was there a particular point of inspiration for their design?
They're an amalgam of every movie I've ever loved: Legend, Lord of The Rings, The Wiz, Alien, The Dark Crystal. My assistants, Leah James and Ayla Argentina, are also a point of departure for me. They'll show up at the studio wearing something great and I'll say, “Let's use that somehow in the work.” I'll walk through Search & Destroy on St. Marks and get an idea, or be shopping in the garment district with Ayla and get an idea. Images I’ve bookmarked on Instagram make it into the work. It's a big mix.
Elements of horror have been present in your work for a long time, but I've heard you discuss how, in the wake of the 2016 election, you've been exploring the nightmarish and grotesque even further. Could you elaborate on that?
Times are grim— politically, environmentally, socially. In past work, there was always a sense of humor. It's not funny anymore. It's become very real.
In times of strife, what do you think people can learn from horror?
Not to overlook it. To face it.